morning...and Happy Christmas Eve! Here's your
Dose of Dover
for 2002...the only
reliable source for un-common
sense advice, insights
cover-your-backside strategies you
won't be able to find anywhere else.
your best shot? Try to put me out of a
e-mail to everyone in your Address Book...
with any luck
we'll make 'em just a little smarter
maybe even free up some of my weekends while we're at it).
December 24, 2002:
reduce your chance of being burglarized over the next few
weeks. Here's how:
Don't tip off the bad guys by leaving boxes (for
eventual pick-up by local sanitation engineers) at the curb.
Empty computer, VCR, DVD, stereo component or other
electronics boxes are not-so-subtle invitations to burglars
working your neighborhood to stop by and help themselves
while you're out working on a hangover on New
Year's Eve. Evidence that Santa was good to residents
at your address needs to disposed of properly: Either load
it up and take to an authorized dumpster (or the nearest
landfill), or watch closely for the sanitation crew working
your street and walk these items out for pick-up right
before they pull up to your house.
thought they had a better idea...until
the Attorneys General from around the country gotta hold
of them. They just agreed to stop advertising that their
SUVs handle like cars, as well as disclose the potential
risk of rollover. Read
more about it.....
a good chance the credit bureaus are putting
cyber-bullets in your back. Now what do you do?
The study says a
third of us are at risk, but in reality, we're all
at risk. Sooner or later you're gonna find something's
not right, and it's gonna cost you...
- Either higher interest rates,
the inability to close on a loan in a timely manner
(causing unnecessary stress and heartache, in
addition to the potential of higher fees and even
higher interest rates)...
- Potentially higher property,
life or even health insurance premiums...
- A new job or a promotion
because of inaccurate garbage on your credit report.
Get off your butt and check all three credit bureau
reports at least once a year. If you're married, get a
copy of your spouse's reports while you're at it. Wanna
your home burns to the ground, there's a
pretty good chance your insurance company
isn't going to pay what you think you're
owed...and it's your fault!
Christopher Oster, one of my favorite writers
Wall Street Journal, had
a great article on December 18, 2002 that's worth
reviewing; here are some
"The good news is
that your home price has doubled over the past
five years. The bad news is that now your
insurer wants you to double the amount of
insurance you're carrying on the home.
Insurance companies, which have lost billions
of dollars on their homeowner's insurance
business in the past few years, are pressing
their customers to boost their coverage.
Already, homeowners have been hit with rate
increases averaging 15% or more in many
states. Now, they're also facing pressure from
their insurance companies to raise their
coverage limits, which will result in even
As recently as five
years ago, chances are you didn't need to
worry about insurance-assessment updates. Back
then, more than half of all policies included
provisions that guaranteed full replacement
costs. If your house burned down and you had
that kind of policy, the insurer footed the
bill no matter what.
But after getting
hammered with big losses on those policies in
the early '90s, insurers have all but
eliminated those guarantees. Today, fewer than
10% of policies still have them, according to
Robert Hartwig, chief economist of the
Insurance Information Institute, a trade
group. That may come as a big surprise
to some homeowners. While insurers are
required to notify state regulators of any
changes to their policies, consumers often
don't notice such subtle changes, particularly
when a change happens in an annual renewal.
As a result, a
reassessment-and a higher premium-may be all
but inevitable. Still, the payout may be worth
it to make sure you don't wind up an apartment
dweller if your home goes up in flames.
Typically, for every $1,000 increase in a
home's insured value, the premium rate rises
about $4, according to John L. Ward, a
Cincinnati-based consultant to insurance
companies. A $100,000 increase in value means
a $400-per-year jump in premium."
much is enough?
If you answer yes to any of these three
questions, you should re-appraise:
Has it been more than a
year since your insurer last appraised your
Have you made any big home improvements (eg:
new kitchen) recently?
Have home values-or building costs-in your
area risen or fallen dramatically in recent
you're considering increasing your coverage,
here is guidance to help pick the right
your homeowner's and auto policies with the
same insurer? If no, you might be able to
switch to a single carrier and get a discount.
Do you have a home that would be considered
historic or unique in some way? If so,
consider one of the few insurers that still
offers full replacement value.
Does your homeowner's coverage include the
value of the land under your house? If yes,
you may be over-insured: Land value shouldn't
are some questions to ask your insurance agent
to get a good price:
Is your homeowner's
deductible lower than $1,000? If yes,
ask how much you could save by raising the
Do you have any discounts based on age? Some
companies offer cheaper rates for retired
policyholders older than 55.
Do you offer discounts for smoke detectors,
burglar alarms, dead-bolt locks and similar
doctors are going to turn away patients in 2003
because it's just not worth it if they're not
getting paid: Before
you turn your head and cough, you might
more about the dark cloud on the Medicare
the way: I really do feel sorry
for doctors. Between HMOs and Medicare, doctors
must feel like they're working for the Mafia.
Think about it-when the insurance companies began
ramming "managed care" down the throats
of consumers and health care providers alike,
doctors were faced with what sounds like a typical
Mafia "protection" racket. "We're
gonna take all of your customers and all of your
accounts receivable, you're going to do all of the
work, and we're gonna tell you what we'll pay you,
and we'll pay you when we're good and ready. How's
that? And by the way: All of your expenses will
continue to rise...from paying office support
staff to overhead-related expense items like rent
and electricity and-let's not forget-malpractice
insurance. Even though your expenses are gonna go
up, we'll keep your income at the same level, or
maybe even cut it if we see fit. Okay with
you?" You've really gotta love what you
do to be involved in the health care world these
There are still
several financial moves you can make to lower your 2002
IRS tax bill:
January house payment by next Tuesday:
Your January 2003 mortgage payment actually reflects
interest expense accrued for December 2002; get that check
dated and "in the mail" by next Tuesday and pick
up this nice little deduction this tax year.
make your attorney or accountant happy?
(No, don't take your business somewhere else...) If
their fees are business-related, pay their bills in 2002
(or at least pay down the current balance you owe them) in
the remaining days of the year to add to your growing
deduction list. Tack on professional memberships (I doubt
your health or country club memberships qualify, but you
might ask your accountant now, just in case), work-related
magazines and newspaper subscriptions and just watch the
tax bills shrink.
lose your job in 2002? Don't leave those
potential job-hunting expense deductions on the table:
Stuff like resume preparation and travel costs may be
deductible, depending on whether you itemize or not. (And
no, I don't think that "trip to the Caymans" in
search of a job will pass the smell test if you ever get
never sleeps: Are we worn out with the
holiday giving theme, yet? Plenty of charities are open
today to accept your donations...especially area shelters
that can benefit from all of the clothes you need to clean
out of your drawers and closets to make room for your
newest acquisitions. All of that "junk" in your
garage or storage unit can be turned into gold, in the
form of charitable donation receipts over the next few
you do in the stock market over the last couple of years?
Sorry to bring up a sore subject, but CPA and investments
advisor Gerald "Kep" Kepner of www.bizcoach.com
says maybe it's time to donate some of those "dog
investments:" "Charitable contributions are
made at "Fair Market Value," (or FMV) so the FMV
of the donation can be deducted as a charitable deduction,
and the taxpayer will have a capital loss between what
they paid (for the dogs) and what they were worth when
donated. For many investors, it's better to either sell or
donate what's left of their "great investments"
and stop worrying about their performance. They don't
realize that when an investment loses 75% of its value,
it's going to take a 400% increase to get back to
a great resource that'll help you make sure you're not
taking too big-or too small-a write off for all of
those clothes or other items you're donating to
charity: 40 million Americans donated
household items to charity last year, but 80% of them
(32 million) didn't maximize the total write-off
benefit of their donations! Ben's
Bottom Line: Like practically
everything else out there, you're gonna have to pay a
reasonable fee for the expertise of the folks behind www.itsdeductible.com. Just
because it's on the Internet doesn't mean it's always
free...(if you don't like their software, return it
for a full refund!).
you pursue deductions before the end of the tax year,
make sure you don't do something that'll trigger an
audit by our pals at the IRS: I know you
wanna chop some dollars off of your tax bill that will
be due 114 days from now (sorry to bring them up during
the holiday season) on April 15th, 2003. Before you get
too excited about donating your car or boat or other
type of vehicle (running or not) to charity during the
next 9 days, you might wanna check
out this article on Edmunds.com.
In fact Edmunds.com has
an entire section devoted to helping you compute
the TMV (True Market Value) of your vehicle.
Getting accurate information ahead of time will not only
help you determine if it's financially advantageous to
make this donation, but hopefully help avoid triggering
an IRS audit from taking a whacked-out deduction.
got hosed by her movers recently. Here's what she did
wrong, and here's what you can do to avoid making the same
tsk...never rely on the size of a Yellow Pages ad
as a measure of credibility,
legitimacy or success, like Rosalyn did.
because a company has a big ad doesn't mean anything-take
a look at all of the ads in the "Massage" or
"Modeling" sections of any metropolitan area
the best resources out there is the Better
Business Bureau's website. Their
site allows you to do a cursory search to see if there's
anything negative being reported about the company you're
contemplating doing business with. (It's quick and the
price is right.)
Take the cheapskate route and skip the extra
insurance-just don't come crying to me when they rip you
off or break your stuff! The
minimal insurance the moving company includes will barely
pay for a trip to McDonald's. Don't rely on the minimum
coverage required to be carried by all moving companies.
While 60 cents a pound may sound good, do the math! That
32" inch TV set that weighs 60 pounds but cost $800
would only realize a $36 settlement from their insurance
company. Only settle for Full-Value Protection; it'll add
about $200 to the total cost of an average move, but is
the only coverage that insures your possessions properly.
know more? Here you go, Bekins-Breath.....
the holidays with Fluffy or Fido? I hope it's not their last!
If you've gotta pet, the holiday season could prove fatal if
you're not careful. Here's what you need to know to keep
your pets healthy, your carpets clean and your sanity
intact, courtesy of our Aggie friends from the School
of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M,
and the Fort
Christmas trees pose numerous problems for pets, from the
decorations to the pine needles.
If you've gotta natural tree, make sure there's some type
of covering or skirt that will keep your pet from drinking
water from the tree stand/base. It can cause digestive
problems that you really don't want to experience,
especially if you're planning on having house guests
around during the holidays. (Murphy's Law dictates that
your wonderful pet will develop a screaming case of
diarrhea and leave all sorts of prizes around the house in
time for holiday entertaining.)
can be toxic to dogs and cats...as
can holly berries and some types of ivy.
everywhere, and it can be fatal to your pets.
Chocolate contains substances that can cause seizures and
even death; hard candy can cause choking.
you've gotta think like a dog: Never
place presents that contain food items under the tree or
you're gonna get a real holiday surprise when you come
will not only shred the wrapping paper to get inside, but
will eat himself sick in the process...and proceed to
really decorate your home for the holidays.
ornaments are natural toys for many dogs and cats;
flashing lights can be tempting targets for
Those wonderfully-realistic "icicles" are
natural targets for dopey cats. Don't blame Toonces
if you come home to find your tree knocked over. They're
not smart enough to know what they're about to do-but you
finally: Many dogs (especially the puppy variety) love to
chew on electrical cords.
If they don't electrocute themselves and end potential
future problems, they may gnaw on the cords long enough to
cause an electrical short that could make your tree flame
up faster than a joint at a Grateful
know how to do a Reverse Phone Number look-up?
It's easy if you know where to look. Joel [see article
above] received a suspicious phone call, but instead
of blindly calling the person back, he ran their number
through one of the numerous free websites which perform
this function. Here's
my favorite that's worth bookmarking.....