Biz Bits: Take control of your finances

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

Tip of the Week

Here are some ways to take control of your finances this year:

- If you haven't done so already, start saving more. Stretch your annual savings goal a bit further than last year. Take advantage of any savings opportunities that might be available through your employer, such as group rate discount programs at local merchants and retailers. Develop a month-by-month budget and plan to allocate a slightly larger amount each paycheck. This will help you track spending and provide a realistic vision of how much you can save. Allow for both "known" expenses such as a new baby in the family, and "unknown" expenses such as unexpected car repairs.

- Review your retirement plan and make adjustments. Take another look at the status of your 401(k), IRA and pension plan and sign up for any automatic increases offered by your employer. It may be time to reallocate some of your funds to account for needs at your current stage of life. For example, if you are starting to raise a family, you might have more long-term investment needs, but if you are nearing retirement, you may need to plan for more short-term financial needs.

- Make tax adjustments. Review the withholding on your paycheck and adjust it if necessary. Take time to gather and sort out your receipts from the past year to identify tax deductions. This is also a good time to determine what charitable contributions you are able to make this year and how best to allocate your available dollars.

- Review life insurance needs. As your life changes, so must your life insurance. Review your current policy, especially if your family has experienced recent life changes such as a marriage, an addition to the family or a divorce. Determine if more coverage is needed to ensure your family will be able to keep the house, send your kids to college or sustain the family's livelihood should something happen to one or both income providers.

- Seek candid and unbiased advice from a finance expert. Leverage other forms of assistance that might be available from your employer, insurance provider or other organizations you are already involved with, as they often extend money-saving support services as a complementary benefit to employees or members.


BBB Watch

The Better Business Bureau offers the following advice to timeshare owners who are looking for help in selling their timeshare:

- Use a business you can trust: Make sure the timeshare reseller you use is a BBB Accredited Business or at the very least has a good rating with BBB. You can check out a business’s BBB Reliability Report at

- Confirm licensing requirements: Some timeshare resellers will use fake addresses or P.O. boxes in order to mislead timeshare owners. Confirm where the company is located and in what states it does business. Ask if the company's salespeople are licensed to sell real estate where your timeshare is located. If so, verify this with the state licensing board.

- Get the facts on the figures: Find out if the business charges a commission. Do they handle the entire closing and provide escrow services? Do they charge an up-front listing or advertising fee? What does it cover and is it refundable?

- Be wary of upfront fees: Many complainants to BBB were burned by companies charging an advance "appraisal" fee for services or were told that they just had to pay closing costs and the timeshare would be taken off their hands. Consider opting for a company that offers to sell for a fee only after the timeshare is sold.

- Don’t fall for the hard sell or an offer that sounds too good to be true: Don’t agree to anything over the phone but instead ask the salesperson to send you written materials; take the time to think it over and don’t be pressured. 

For more advice, go to

The List

According to’s annual Business of NASCAR report, here are NASCAR’s most valuable teams:

1: Hendrick Motorsports

2: Roush Fenway Racing

3: Richard Childress Racing

4: Joe Gibbs Racing

5: Richard Petty Motorsports

6: Penske Racing

7: Stewart-Haas Racing

8: Michael Waltrip Racing

9: Earnhardt Ganassi Racing

10: Red Bull Racing Team

Number to Know

$7.5 billion: The amount of money the Treasury Department believes it can make by selling its shares in Citigroup, which it plans to start doing soon.

Tech Talk

If you didn’t pre-order an iPad, you’ll likely have to wait a bit to get one even though they come out Saturday. Pre-orders were so high, you might not see Apple’s new device on the shelves until April 12 or later.

GateHouse News Service