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    Good Tuesday morning...and Happy Christmas Eve!  Here's your next-to-last
    Dose of Dover
    for 2002...the only reliable source for un-common sense advice, insights 
    and cover-your-backside strategies you won't be able to find anywhere else.  
    Wanna take your best shot?  Try to put me out of a job!
    Forward this e-mail to everyone in your Address Book...
    with any luck we'll make 'em just a little smarter next year,
     (and maybe even free up some of my weekends while we're at it).
    Spread the word and share the wealth of information on our award-winning website.

     

    Tuesday, December 24, 2002:

    Let's 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.

    Ford 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.....


    The chances of your having something stolen whenever you fly have just skyrocketed, beginning today...and it's just one more thing you can thank Osama bin Chicken Sh** and Saddam Hitler for: The federal government's behind the latest rules that open all of us up to rifling and pilferage whenever you check bags the next time you fly.


    You're probably at higher risk for incorrect credit reporting information than the industry cared to admit in the past! But of course if you've listened/watched/read me over the last 12 years, you'd already know this, wouldn't you? Revelations from the credit reporting world only confirm what I've been saying for years.....
    Okaysofine...there's 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.
    Solution? 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 know more?


    If 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 from The Wall Street Journal, had a great article on December 18, 2002 that's worth reviewing; here are some highlights:
    "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 heftier bills.
    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."
    How much is enough?  If you answer yes to any of these three questions, you should re-appraise:
        1.     Has it been more than a year since your insurer last appraised your home?
        2.     Have you made any big home improvements (eg: new kitchen) recently?
        3.     Have home values-or building costs-in your area risen or fallen dramatically in recent months?
    If you're considering increasing your coverage, here is guidance to help pick the right policy:
        1.     Are 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.
        2.     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.
        3.     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 be included.
    Here are some questions to ask your insurance agent to get a good price:
        1.    Is your homeowner's deductible lower than $1,000?  If yes, ask how much you could save by raising the deductible.
        2.    Do you have any discounts based on age? Some companies offer cheaper rates for retired policyholders older than 55.
        3.    Do you offer discounts for smoke detectors, burglar alarms, dead-bolt locks and similar items?

    Many 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 wanna read more about the dark cloud on the Medicare horizon.....

    By 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 days.....


    There are still several financial moves you can make to lower your 2002 IRS tax bill: 
    Make your 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.
    Want to 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.
    Did you 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 audited.)
    Charity 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 days, too.
    How did 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 even!"


    Here's 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.comJust 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!).

    While 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.  

    C'mon ya cheapskate...it's not too late to give the best gift of all this holiday season.  How about a weekly shot of Dover attitude?  The price tag [free!] will even fit into your budget...(here's another chance to guarantee the top spot in that rich relative's Will!  Don't waste your time sending them the link, click over and sign 'em up yourself!

    Poor Rosalyn got hosed by her movers recently. Here's what she did wrong, and here's what you can do to avoid making the same mistakes:
    Tsk, tsk, tsk...never rely on the size of a Yellow Pages ad as a measure of credibility, legitimacy or success, like Rosalyn did.
    Just 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 phone books.
    One of 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.)
    Go ahead! 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.  Wanna know more? Here you go, Bekins-Breath.....

    Celebrating 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 Worth Star-Telegram:
    Real 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.)
    Poinsettias can be toxic to dogs and cats...as can holly berries and some types of ivy.
    Candy's everywhere, and it can be fatal to your pets. Chocolate contains substances that can cause seizures and even death; hard candy can cause choking.
    Sometimes 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 home. Cujo 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.
    Tree ornaments are natural toys for many dogs and cats; flashing lights can be tempting targets for pets...especially cats. 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 should be!
    And 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 Dead concert.


    Wanna 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.....


    I've got some simple tips that will help you dodge financial disaster and (quite possibly) save your life during 2003: It's yet one more compelling reason why you can't afford to miss the next installment of the smartest two-hours in the history of talk radio. The final edition of The Benjamin Dover Show for 2002: Sunday, December 29, 2002, so synchronize your watches and put it on your calendar: 6-8a (Hawaiian Time)  8-10a (Pacific Time)  9-10 am (Mountain)  10 am-12 noon (Central)  11 am-1 pm (Eastern)  4-6 pm (GMT)  9-11 pm (Baghdad Time...assuming it's still there) on KFI-AM/640, Los Angeles!

     
     
     

     

     

     
     

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