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August 11, 2010     The Ortonville Independent
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August 11, 2010
 

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Money Management New credit card rules and what they mean to you Did you know that there are new rules governing the fees and penalties that credit card companies can charge you? The provisions in the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Dis- closure (CARD) Act of 2009 should save consumers at least $10 billion a year, according to the Pew Foundation. The Minnesota Society of CPAs (MNCPA) explains why the changes are important, and offers some advice On dealing with credit cards. A response to consumer concerns In recent years, many consumers have complained that it has become more and more difficult to understand how many credit card deals work, since companies sometimes seemed to raise their rates without notice or imposed surprise fees on bills paid even a few hours late. Consumers felt the contract terms were often not satisfactory ex- plained or were difficult to understand. New disclosures The new rules are intended to change all that. For example, with some exceptions, the terms that you agree to when you sign up for a card must stay in place for at least one year, and even promotional rates for new ac- count holders must last a minimum of six months. Once the credit card com- pany raises rates, it can only apply them to new charges for cardholders in good standing. Rates cannot be applied retroactively to existing balances. And your payments must be applied to your highest interest-rate balances first. In addition, payment due dates must be clearly indicated and consistent from month to month, and the bill must be sent at least 21 days before the payment deadlines. Consumers will be told when they're about to exceed their credit limit, enabling them to avoid over-limit fees. Knowing where you stand It should also be somewhat easier to understand your credit situation. Your monthly statement will now include in- formation on how long it will take you to pay off your outstanding balance if you pay only the minimum due or if you pay off your debt in three years, and how much you will pay in interest in each case. These disclosures may be a valuable wake-up call for many con- sumers who don't realize what their outstanding balances are costing them. Just say no When credit card compames are set to raise rates or impose a new fee. they must now ask customers in advance if they will accept the new terms or would like to cancel the account before those increases go into effect and pay off their balance at the old "lower" interest rates. In the past. some consumers only real- ized months later that their rates had been raised, but you can now opt out of any unattractive deals. Read your mail Even though the new law contains many consumer protections, it's still important to be alert to changes in the contract terms that could cost you money. That should be easier to do. be- cause your credit card company in most cases must now let you know 45 days in advance before it can raise its inter- est rates, charge you certain fees or im- plement other significant changes. Turn to your local CPA The average credit card debt per households that have cards is around $16,000. That means that many people are still racking up too much consumer debt and spending much of their hard earned money on interest rates.. If you are having trouble handling your credit card debt. or would like sound advice on managing your money, be sure to turn to your local CPA. He or she can help you find the right answers to all your financial questions. Information and resources are avail- able to the public on the MNCPA Web site (www.mncpa.org/information) in- cluding tax and financial planning in- formation for individuals and small businesses. A free CPA referral service is also available on the Web site or by calling 800-331-4288. The MNCPA is part of the national 360 Degrees of Fi- nancial Literacy campaign to help Americans' improve financial literacy; information and resources are available at www.mncpa.org/360. Attracting next generation focus of rural assembly Rural leaders from Minnesota and throughout the Midwest meet this month to discuss the future of rural economies. Central to the discussions at the upcoming Midwest Rural As- sembly will be the issue of attracting and retaining young people in small towns. For generations, rural populations have dwindled as younger residents moved away for school and to seek job opportunities in more urban areas, ac- cording to Jonathan Beutler, a program associate at Renewing the Countryside. He says this has impacted the v~tality of rural economies and resulted in an aging workforce. "The average farmers in this coun- try are now approximately 60 years old, so it's really critical that we find effective ways to transition farmlands to the new generation." In order to make such transitions work. says Beutler. rural communities must find ways to help young people earn what he calls "a real living" in agriculture. And. while the growing in- terest in sustainable farming is a key area of opportunity, Beutler notes it is equally important to foster a greater sense of community. The feeling of isolation is one of the most common challenges he hears from those who have moved to small towns. "I think if we want to attract young people back to rural communities, we need to really reinvent them as a place that is friendly to young people and will make them feel at home." He notes some of the more success- ful rural communities have supported youthful entrepreneurs who opened coffee shops, and developed local arts and cultural opportunities that attract other young people. Passion for sustainability and entre- preneurship creates another growth op- portunity for rural economies, m the form of green jobs and green industry. One critical step toward this trend is an educated workforce, according to Teresa Kittridge, executive director of the Minnesota Renewable Market- place. "What we've really tried hard to do in Minnesota is have our education in- Family Living, Focus Balancing caregiving and work Are you one of the 65 million Americans who care for a family mem- ber? Are you one of the 20-50 percent of employees who tend to a loved one before going to work, then return to care again after a long hard day on the job? Are you feeling torn between both "jobs" and trying to perform well at each. causing so much stress that working caregivers are often plagued with more mistakes, conflicts, and stress-related illnesses? These simple tips will help ease that stress: Talk to Your Employer Honestly: Tell your supervisor about your care- giving demands at home. Make an ap- pointment to discuss this at a time when you are better rested and feeling your strongest so you can state the sit- uation in a professional, emotionally- controlled manner. Don't offer excuses, but instead reasons for changes he or she may note in your at- tendance, work schedule, or attitude. Explain why you may need te decline additional hours, a promotion, or trans- fer. Reassure him or her that you are committed to the company and its peak performance and will remain account- able tO your duties. Ask For What You Need: Once you've reinforced the above commit- ment, your employers will be more re- ceptive to ideas to make the workplace and schedule more manageable for you. Come prepared with suggestions that will help such as. coming to work early, staying late. working from home, or taking longer lunch hours to check on your loved one. make personal phone calls, (or take a nap!) Brain- storm with him or her about other workable options. Often employers allow flexibility in the use of comp time. sick days and vacations. In many organizations fellow Employees are al- lowed to donate accrued time off to help a caregiver during a crisis period. Take Care of Yourself: Caregivers have higher than normal incidents of illness and those taking care of some- one with a chronic illness have a 63 percent chance of dying early: another Celebrate Ortonville., MN Fri. & Sat., Aug. 20 & 21 Lakeside Park Ortonville, MN National Recording Artist Andy Gibson formerly of Eclipse Lakeside Park Ortonville, MN | price includes sales tax 7pm - Boss Grant & The Johnny Cash Revue 9pm - 6 Wheel Drive Rain backup: Ortonville Armory. No Refunds Not responsible for lost or stolen items. If concert is canceled refunds will be given EH_ASSLEN o INDEPENDENT stitutions really listen to industry, about what their needs are for skills to sup- port these new businesses and new ventures in renewable energy." Kittridge says keeping wealth local is also another huge factor in ensuring future economic stability in rural America. "A good example is owning the wind farms that are built in rural Amer- ica. To be able to own the assets and to be able to then, of course, reinvest in the communities is a big piece of keep- ing wealth local.'.' Both Beutler and Kittridge are among the featured speakers at this ...... Midwest Rural Assembly in South Sioux City, Nebraska. Registra- tion is accepted up to the start of the event on Monday, August 16. For more information, visit www.midwestru- ralassembly.org. I 63 percent spy depression is their most common emotion. Caregivers often become so depleted they cannot main- tain the stamina to continue caring for another. Therefore, you must take time daily to nurture yourself physically, mentally and spiritually. Physically: Eat well-balanced meals on a regular schedule. Take a daily multivitamin. Exercise regularly, even if it's simply taking a walk. As difficult as it may be, strive for a rmn- imum of seven to eight hours of sleep a night and nap when possible. Get r~gular medical checkups and treat- ments of aches and pains before they turn into something more serious. Mentally: Pay attention to your own feelings and emotions and seek coun- seling if needed. While it's impossible to always leave the stress and heartache in the parking lot, try to keep emotions in check at work. Vent feel- ings to trusted family members or friends, not coworkers. Schedule time , for yourself. Use relaxation or stress management techniques, such as med- itation, visualization, biofeedback and yoga. Stay actively involved with friends and hobbies. Create a support network and/or join a support group. Spiritually: Take time, even as little as 15 minutes per day, for prayer or meditation. Read or subscribe to in- spirational magazines or books to up- lift your spirits. Seek the counsel of a minister or religious leader you trust and respect. Seek Support: Ask for help. Friends. family, and church groups are often eager to assist and are only wait- ing to be asked and directed. Find respite care so you can regularly take time out for yourself. There are count- less community, county, state and na- tional resources to support you not only at work, but at home. Many com- munities have programs to offer assis- tance to the caregiver. Your local Area Agency on Aging is a great resource. With the passage of the National Family Caregiver Support Program in 2000, all AAAs have a mandate to address the needs of fam- ily caregivers. Finally, if needed, you may be able to utilize The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a national policy that guarantees covered employees 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year to care for a newborn baby, a newly adopted child, a seriously ill family member, or to recover from their own serious health condition while ensuring their job security. Visit with your em- ployer about this option. , Following these tips will help you better tend to your job, your loved one, and yourself. If you would like more information on "Balancing Caregiving and Work" feel free to contact Gail Gilman-Wald- ner. Program Development and Coor- dination - Minnesota River Area Agency on Aging, Inc. and Professor Emeritus - University of Minnesota at 507-389-8869 or e-mail Gail at gg- waldner@rndc.org. Additional re- sources are available by contacting the Senior LinkAge Linea at 1-800-333- 2433 or visiting the Minnesota- Help.lnfo website at www.MinnesotaHelp.Ihfo. Be sure to watch for more Family Living Focus information in next week's paper. CLICKIT OR TICKET , Support our roops! Page 14 INDEPENDENT Tuesday, Aug. 10,2010