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November 2, 2009

Paying back student loans

Posted: 10:54 AM ET
HLN Money Expert Clark Howard.
HLN Money Expert Clark Howard.

HELP ME CLARK!
From HLN's Money Expert Clark Howard

KIM:
I have student loans, a Stafford subsidized and Stafford unsubsidized, that were consolidated to lock in a low interest rate. I have heard that after either working for the government or in law enforcement for 10 years you can ask to have your loans forgiven. I work for my state's government and am considered law enforcement. It will be 10 years in November. My loans are current. In fact I pay more than the minimum payment very month. Can I ask for my student loans to be forgiven if they have been consolidated?

CLARK:
Okay, here's the story. Under the income based repayment plan you are eligible for forgiveness of the remainder of your student loans after 10 years of payments if you're working for a non-profit or for government, or 25 years if you work in the traditional private sector. But you have to go in to the income based repayment plan first for the clock to start ticking. Believe it or not the years you've already been paying don't count toward the 10 years so get yourself converted to income based repayment and get that clock running.

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Filed under: Clark Howard • Finance • Money Coach • Uncategorized


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October 29, 2009

Changing life insurance

Posted: 09:35 AM ET
HLN Money Expert Clark Howard.
HLN Money Expert Clark Howard.

HELP ME CLARK!
From HLN's Money Expert Clark Howard

NATASHA:
My husband is 50 years old and a smoker. We are looking to increase our life insurance to $300,000 plus. Should we get term life insurance or whole life insurance?

CLARK:
Term life insurance is almost always my choice for someone, although there can be rare circumstances where another type of insurance would be the right one.

With term insurance you can buy level term that will cover pretty much the rest of a working lifetime, a 15-20 year term is probably appropriate. As a smoker, the rates will be surcharged and you'll pay quite a bit more than you would otherwise, although some companies discriminate against smokers more than others which is why it's really important to shop multiple companies.

Level term is a very simple product. You pay the same premium through the 15 or 20 years and all it does is pay if you die.

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Filed under: Clark Howard • Insurance


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October 28, 2009

What should I do with my 401Ks?

Posted: 10:54 AM ET

Money Coach with HLN’s Money Expert Clark Howard

Having trouble managing money? Do your money goals seem impossible? Clark Howard wants to help you!

We’re looking for individuals or families who are willing to be profiled on HLN. Those chosen will get money advice and information from Clark Howard. This week’s question comes from William Hickey of Arlington, Virginia.

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Filed under: 401K • Clark Howard • Finance


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October 26, 2009

"Floored" by home improvement debacle

Posted: 12:28 PM ET

HELP ME CLARK!
From HLN's Money Expert Clark Howard

RONALD:

I had some floors put down in my home for about $7,000. From the beginning, I have had nothing but problems. They sent out a "floor doctor" at their expense, who stated that the floors were installed incorrectly. They then offered to sell me a new floor at cost and the installer would install it for "free." I consulted an attorney who wants $7,500 to begin any action. I wrote my senator who sent it to my state representative who won't get involved. Where do I turn now?

CLARK:

You have to turn to yourself. In a situation like that where you feel that they have failed to deliver, you have a report from an expert that says they failed to deliver, that is made to order for you being your own lawyer, or the equivalent of a lawyer, representing yourself in small claims court.

Now, the limits on what you can do in small claims court vary from state to state. There's a great guide at nolo.com that will walk you through what the rules and requirements and limits are in your state.

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Filed under: Clark Howard • Home repair • Living


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October 5, 2009

How to pay for flood damage

Posted: 08:34 AM ET

HELP ME CLARK!
From HLN's Money Expert Clark Howard

HLN Money Expert Clark Howard takes your questions.
HLN Money Expert Clark Howard takes your questions.

CARLA:
We have flood damage to our home. We have no flood insurance. Both my husband and I have major health problems and can't afford a loan. Would it be advisable to take out the cash value from a life insurance policy we have to make the repairs we need?

CLARK:
Borrowing from the life insurance policy would be a viable option after the fact, not up front. If it were me, I would take advantage of the SBA loans that are being granted in disaster areas that carry ultra-low interest rates. Plus, if your county has been declared a disaster area, there may even be some grant money that will be available to you. You want to get an appointment with a FEMA inspector and they’ll write up a report and see what eligibility you have. If you take out an SBA loan and you find that even making the payments on it – because they’re ultra-low interest loans – are too burdensome for you, at that point, yes, you could borrow from a life insurance policy.

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Filed under: Clark Howard • Finance • Home repair • Insurance


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September 30, 2009

How should I put extra cash to good use?

Posted: 08:23 AM ET

Money Coach with HLN's Money Expert Clark Howard

Having trouble managing money? Do your money goals seem impossible? Clark Howard wants to help you!

We're looking for individuals or families who are willing to be profiled on HLN. Those chosen will get money advice and information from Clark Howard.

This week's question comes from Ginny Wilkey of Reno, NV.

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September 25, 2009

How criminals target small businesses

Posted: 11:58 AM ET

HLN Money Expert Clark Howard

I want to talk about criminals who break and enter without a gun. They’re thieves who have steadily become more sophisticated in techniques that allow them to raid your accounts and run off with the money.

Well, big companies tend to have the resources to block criminals.  They have their own I.T. departments.  They have a group of people who protect the corporate network and deal with “Trojan horse” attacks.

HLN's Money Expert Clark Howard.
HLN's Money Expert Clark Howard.

So, who are the criminals targeting? Smaller companies. Because smaller companies may have significant cash flow, but they lack the resources or the ability to have an I.T. department, or a person whose job is to block websites or tell you what you can’t do on the computer.

So what do the criminals do? They crack into your system, quite often through e-mail, where they will find a list of people in the company; figure out how e-mail addresses work in the company; send e-mails; and in those e-mails, they will have Trojan horse programs.

But I was really excited when I read an article from USA Today about a no-brainer solution to reduce - not eliminate but to reduce the chances of a criminal stealing funds from a business bank account.

The article suggests you buy a separate computer at your business for a single purpose; not to surf the web, send or receive e-mail, nor go on Facebook, MySpace or LinkedIn.

You dedicate this brand new computer to solely financial work: payroll, accessing bank accounts, bill pay and other financial accounts.

Now, I know there will be techies that will call up and say, “That is a worthless defense”.  I always hear it.  And if you have a better defense than what the USA Today technology writer has suggested, I would love to hear it.

Today, computers are so dirt cheap, and a computer to access the Internet under $300 can be an ultra-inexpensive insurance policy.

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Filed under: Clark Howard • Living • Small Business


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September 23, 2009

Clark Howard: Money Coach Diaries

Posted: 06:00 AM ET

Having trouble managing money? Do your money goals seem impossible? Clark Howard wants to help you! We're looking for individuals or families who are willing to be profiled on HLN. Those chosen will get money advice and information from Clark Howard.

This week's question comes from Carmen and Ray Zych in Des Plaines, IL.

One of the things that I'm concerned about is that we don't have enough money to put aside.

I currently have a Roth IRA through my employer, and my husband and I each have one through our bank. What we are trying to do is sort of play catch-up. So I work part-time at a second job, and most of that money I'm putting into a retirement fund.

My husband thinks that putting everything away is foolish because if you are saving and saving and saving, you are not enjoying your life now and he has a good point. We would like to get a small little house, live in a small little town and just quietly spend the rest of our life relaxing.

We need a Money Coach!

Hear Clark’s advice for Carmen and Ray this weekend at noon on HLN

Do you need a Money Coach? Send us an iReport video with your money questions and tell us why you need the Money Coach.

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Filed under: 401K • Clark Howard • Living • Money Coach • Retirement • Uncategorized


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September 7, 2009

Help me with home energy savings

Posted: 05:48 AM ET

HLN Money Expert Clark Howard

For more tips, visit CNN.com/ClarkHoward

STEPHEN:

The heating system and air conditioning in my house is 21 years old. A contractor has told me that I can spend $5,700 on a new gas furnace that will be 90% efficient and a heat pump that will be 15 seer. This will qualify me for the $1,500 tax credit for energy savings. Is it worthwhile for me to make this investment?

CLARK:

If you plan to stay in your house for a lengthy period of time, it will pay off for you right now with the bonus of the tax credit. And it will definitely pay off for you over the long haul in what you'll save on energy in winter and summer. But you have to patient, because it is "eventually". You're not going to make this money back in two or three years. Depending on the climate where you live and the relative cost versus the energy bills you're paying now, it could be a 10-year payback. If you want to get a feel for that, go to energystar.gov and look at their calculators to see if the payback is a reasonable period for the length you plan to own your home.

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Filed under: Clark Howard • Economy • Environment • Home repair


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September 4, 2009

Criminal minds: How to confuse them

Posted: 09:09 AM ET

HLN Money Expert Clark Howard

When I was 12 years old I had to deal with burglars, twice. Both times I was at home. One night these burglars broke down the door at the entrance to our home that was directly adjacent to the bedroom that I slept in. My parents had a burglar alarm and when the alarm went off, the burglars left. But I became very aware at 12 the dangers that can come with a burglar.

HLN's Money Expert Clark Howard.
HLN's Money Expert Clark Howard.

The now-bankrupt Reader's Digest wrote up an article about the 13 things a burglar won’t tell you. The sub-headline is, “Should you spend money on a home security system? A look inside a burglar's mind might help you decide.”

Number one: A burglar might say, “Of course I look familiar. I was here just last week cleaning your carpets, painting your shutters, or delivering your new refrigerator.” There are people in all lines of work who might not be honest and could have access to your home.

Number two: “Hey, thanks for letting me use the bathroom when I was working in your yard last week. While I was in there I unlatched the back window to make my return a little easier.” You should never let anybody into your home to use the bathroom. But, again, these are from convicted burglars.

Number three: “Love those flowers. That tells me you have taste, and taste means there are nice things inside your home. Those yard toys your kids leave out always make me wonder what kind of gaming system they might have.”

Four: “Yes, I really do look for newspapers piled up on the driveway and I might leave a pizza flyer on your door to see how long it takes you to remove it.”

Five, and this only applies to people who live in areas where this could happen: if it snows while you're out of town, get a neighbor to create car tracks in the driveway and foot tracks into the house. If there are no impressions in the snow, it's a dead giveaway you're away from home.

And one other suggestion is leaving a loud TV or radio on. Now I’m sure environmentalists will be very unhappy with me saying to leave the TV on, but is a great deterrent. It makes burglars think that somebody is home when they didn't think anybody was there.

You can check out the whole list at cnn.com/clarkhoward.

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About this blog

Clark Howard helps you become a wise consumer. We know you're busy, and that's why Clark's tips are quick and effective. He'll arm you with the information you need to make smart choices. During these tough economic times, Clark wants to help you save more, spend less and avoid getting ripped off!