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Pearl Harbor Fees and Reservations

Admission to the USS Arizona Memorial is free. There is no entrance or activity fee, nor is there a fee for the visitor’s center or the museum. Complimentary tickets for the timed programs to the memorial are given on a first-come, first-served basis at the front desk of the visitor center. These tickets are non-reservable, so visitors are advised to try for tickets early in the day. Queues are often fully formed by 8 am, and during the busy summer months, tickets oftentimes run out by noon.  Visit a tour operator such as Pearl Harbor Tours to arrange reserved tickets through them for the memorial.

Once visitors receive their tickets, they will be assigned a program time. The Navy shuttle boat that take visitors out to the Arizona Memorial accommodate around 100 people, so guests should expect some delays.

In addition to the free tickets for the USS Arizona Memorial, visitors may also wish to purchase passes to visit the America-the-Beautiful–National Parks and Recreational Lands. These passes are available at the Honolulu Regional Office, as well as at most National Park sites and allow visitors access to all federal land management areas. For more information on the land passes, visitors can visit:  http://www.nps.gov/fees_passes.htm

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Financial Channel Created

Our distribution and syndication of site news is increasing to now include a financial feed. This feed at https://www.matt2.info/category/financial/feed will be a collective of news articles provided by a custom Google feed at https://www.google.com/alerts/feeds/08199508906193694917/13173428272531262996

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Disaster and Financial Planning Guide

Disasters often strike quickly and without warning. Whether it is a weather emergency, natural disaster or personal crisis due to illness, unemployment or disability, most families will experience some form of disaster that leaves them with little or no time to think before making important decisions.

This guide can help you make informed, thoughtful decisions about your family’s present and future financial activities.

Click here to download the guide.pdf

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How to Navigate Volatile Markets

So far this year, the U.S. stock market has been a financial roller coaster. It has not been unusual to see the Dow swing in both directions by hundreds of points.

The risk associated with an investment opportunity is crucial to understand the difference between investing and speculating. Investing is usually considered lower-risk and longer-term focused, whereas speculation is high-risk and short-term focused. An investor’s understanding of their own risk tolerance, the potential amount of money they can endure losing, is essential when building a balanced portfolio. The time over which an investment is expected to be held before it is liquidated (time horizon), your net worth, income and the ease in which an investment can be bought and sold (liquidity) all impact risk tolerance.
In addition to knowing your own risk tolerance, investing involves carefully researching business fundamentals such as quarterly financial earnings, profit margins and market positioning to make sure the opportunity fits your portfolio. 

Before you invest your hard-earned money, it’s important you take control of your financial future and do some research. While no one can say with certainty whether an investment will go up in value, taking the time to evaluate past performance can give some insight into future possibility. A well-researched and diversified portfolio that matches your risk tolerance can give you the confidence you need to stay focused on long-term strategy and protect from temptation to sell during short-term price swings. 
Check out this AICPA survey for more info. 

Invest_vs_speculate

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18 Ideas for a ‘Fiscally-Responsible’ Wedding

Do you have a fairy tale wedding in mind? Before those wedding bells drown out common dollars and sense, let’s ground that big day in reality. 

That means sitting down with all of the financial parties involved – including your future in-laws, if you plan on hitting them up to fund your big day. Give each person a say in… 

  • What they can afford
  • What they are willing to spend
  • How prepared you are to do the rest

Then it’s up to you and your intended to pull it off – this, the biggest collaboration in the history of your relationship. Thismeaning not just the wedding, but a marriage based on shared values, dreams and financial goals.

Here are 18 ideas to help you prioritize that ever after, starting on that one perfect day: 

  1. List your five most important ‘wedding day priorities’. Does it include the dress, the fête, the feast? Use this list to determine how to distribute those finite financial resources.
  2. Resist the urge to invite everyone you know. Limiting the guest list could save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, on food and alcohol.
  3. Get married with a little help from your friends. They’re talented people, after all. Put that font fanatic friend to work on your invitations. Enlist the help of your favorite cousin/DIY-fiend on centerpieces, favors and place-cards. She’s going to have an opinion anyway…
  4. Negotiate with your vendors. Ask them if they’re willing to carve 10% off their quote. And never underestimate the value of your vows, especially when it comes to hotel facilities. Weddings typically involve guests; guests typically require rooms, food, and other revenue-generating amenities. 
  5. Opt for low or no-cost locales including parks, botanical gardens, backyards. Or go for an all-inclusive resort package to transform your wedding into a stress-free vacation for everyone.
  6. Take advantage of the seven-day calendar. Saturday is the most popular day of the week when it comes to weddings, but don’t forget about Friday and Sunday. Monday? Okay…a little weird.
  7. Take advantage of the four seasons. The calendar is rife with other opportunities to get married. Schedule your wedding between November and April to avoid the peak season.
  8. The word “fiancé” does have a nice ring to it, but if you’re serious about heading to the altar without paying a premium for it, consider exchanging vows within 30 or 60 days of your engagement. You might luck into an open date on the vendor’s calendar and negotiate a better price because of it. Ultimately, a vendor is more interested in a full venue than an empty one – even if it means at a lesser charge.
  9. Consider limiting your alcohol offerings to only wine, beer and signature cocktails to help cut down on bar costs.
  10. When it comes to buying a gown, shop for a dress that’s gently-used, never-used, vintage or on consignment. This goes formen’s attire too. You can even rent dress apparel through a number of websites or from boutiques in most major metropolitan areas.
  11. Rent or borrow your baubles instead of buying them. Start by asking family and well-accessorized friends for bedazzling loaners. Or if you’ve worked with a jeweller before – like on your engagement and wedding rings – propose an arrangement with them.
  12. Host a luncheon, brunch, cocktail reception or afternoon tea. You can get away with serving less expensive food, finger foods, appetizers and crumpets instead of a five-course dinner.
  13. Ultimately, cake is cake. Have your baker prepare a smaller cake for you and your wedding party, andserve cupcakes or pre-cut sheet cake to your guests.
  14. Flowers can be costly, but what you’re really paying for is labor. Instead of costly bouquets and arrangements, go for simplicity. A singleorchid or lily can go a long way. It’s also a good idea to use in-season flowers, which are typically much less expensive
  15. Skip the favors…or choose favors that actually do something – like those DIY place-holders you and your crafty cousin put together.
  16. Hire a high-school band or quartet from the local music school to score your wedding. They’ll be grateful for the experience; their parents will be grateful to you for providing such a productive Friday night.
  17. Because if you and your spouse decide to have kids one day, you’ll understand that one day they’ll return the favor. And you’re not just setting the date…you’re starting a precedent. 
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How to Prevent the Effects of ID Theft

According to this AICPA survey, nearly half of Americans say ID theft is likely to cause them financial loss in the next year. Here are some tips from the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission to help Americans prevent and mitigate the effects of identity theft. 

Monitor your credit report & set protections. You can request a free credit report from all three major credit reporting agencies once a year, including TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. Additionally, some monitoring services allow you unlimited access to your credit information year-round. These services are there to help you spot inaccuracies, potential fraud and more on your credit report. This should also be done for children. Theft of a child’s ID may go undetected for many years such that by the time they are adults, the damage has already been done.

Don’t provide your Social Security number unless it’s necessary. A space for it on a form doesn’t necessarily mean that it is required. For example, your doctor’s office may use a unique number issued by your insurance company to enter your claim but their form may have a space for SSN anyway. Don’t be afraid to ask if they really need it.

Make sure your WIFI network at home is secured with a password. A skilled data thief can access information on an unsecured network. Additionally, when away from home, avoid providing credit card or other personal information on unsecured Wi-Fi networks like those in airports or coffee shops.

Don’t provide personal information in response to any unsolicited communication. Even if the caller, text or email claims to be from a bank or credit card company needing to “verify” your account to “prevent fraud.”  If in doubt, call the number on your bank statement or the back of your credit card. 

What to do if it happens? Act quickly to limit the damage. Call your credit card company and report it to them. They will close your card and issue a new one. File a police report to ensure that you are covered for any damages that you may incur. If your Federal return is affected, call the IRS 800-908-4490 and file Form 14039 Identity Theft Affidavit.

For more information about what to do in the event of identity theft, check out this aticle here.

AICPA ID Theft Infographic REVISED (003)

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4 Questions About Bankruptcy

Why Bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy is designed to be a fresh start that allows you to develop a court-approved plan to pay off or erase debts. If you are having difficulty paying your debts, declaring bankruptcy is one (but not the only) approach to finding alternative ways to handle them.

How Does Personal Bankruptcy Work?

There are two types of personal bankruptcy, each one named after the section of the law that governs it. In each case, you receive protection that generally prevents debtors from demanding payment of your outstanding debt while you’re in bankruptcy. This protection can allow you a measure of stability while you work out how your debts will be paid. While it can be used to address a variety of outstanding debts, bankruptcy does not end your obligation to pay outstanding taxes, child support or alimony and, in most cases, student loans.

  • Chapter 7 bankruptcy can allow you to pay off what you can with your available cash (or liquid assets) and be released from paying all or some of the rest. To qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must pass a means test that evaluates whether your income is below certain limits. If you don’t pass, you can file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
  • Chapter 13 bankruptcy lets you use your monthly income to pay off some or all of your debts under a repayment plan that spreads payments over three to five years.

How Do I Get Started?

Before filing under Chapter 7 or 13, you must receive credit counseling from an approved agency. Part of the point is to determine whether you have other options besides bankruptcy. Bankruptcy can also involve taking required debtor education, or a personal finance management course. Once they decide to declare bankruptcy, an individual or a married couple file a petition and other paperwork with the bankruptcy court. The court appoints a trustee to review your documents and direct the process. Both types of bankruptcy also involve a meeting of creditors, in which you answer questions about your finances and related topics. The next steps can vary based on the types of bankruptcy involved.

What Happens After a Bankruptcy?

Once your bankruptcy is completed, generally you are either released from paying debts (in a Chapter 7 case) or you have finished with your repayment plan (under Chapter 13). It’s a good idea to get a confirmation letter that your debt has been discharged and to check your credit reports after about three months to see if they record the end of the bankruptcy. While both types bankruptcy may remain on your credit reports for several years, you should be able to raise your credit rating gradually if you avoid accumulating new debt and pay your bills on time. If you have trouble qualifying for credit, try getting a secured credit card, in which you deposit money in a bank account as collateral for your purchases. Using and promptly paying off this card over time can help repair your credit rating. “Credit repair” companies that offer to help you get a new start on your credit history and rating are actually scams, so don’t fall for them.

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Damage Control for Identity Theft Victims

You receive a call from your credit card company inquiring about a large purchase in progress using your account that you know nothing about. Or perhaps you get a bill from a debt collector relating to an account that you didn’t open. These are some of the ways that people learn they have been the victims of identity theft. If it happens to you, it’s important to act quickly. Here are some of the steps you should take.  

  • Report the problem. If you know that your identity or account has been misused with a certain retailer, financial institution or other organization, or that a credit or ATM card has been stolen, call the related organization immediately to report it. Change any PINs, passwords or logins related to the card or account.
  • Go online to the Federal Trade Commission’s site at www.IdentityTheft.gov to report what’s happened and create a report you can use to demonstrate that you’ve been a victim.
  • If fraudulent bank or investment accounts or lines of credit have been opened in your name, close them and ask the organizations involved to remove any inappropriate charges.
  • Place a fraud alert on your credit reports. This step, which is free, will make it more difficult for new accounts to be opened in your name. Contact one of the three credit rating agencies—Equifax, Experian or TransUnion—with your request and ask them to pass your request on to the other agencies. The initial alert will last 90 days, but you can choose to extend it.
  • Ask the credit agencies to send you a free copy of your credit report. Check for other signs that your identify has been misused—such as bogus accounts set up in your name–and let the related organizations know that fraud has been committed. Ask the agencies to correct your reports.
  • Carefully review other account statements for unauthorized activity.
  • Consider a credit freeze. When you make this request to the credit rating agencies, they won’t share your credit report with new creditors, which prevents thieves from opening new accounts. There may be a fee for this service, but it could be waived if you have experienced identity theft.
  • Consider contacting the police to report the fraudulent activity. Get a copy of the police report in case you need it later to document the crime.
  • Replace any identification that was stolen. For your Social Security card, request a new one by calling 800-772-1213. Report and replace a missing or misused driver’s license to your local motor vehicle bureau. For a missing passport, contact the U.S. State Department at 877-487-2778 or complete a Statement Regarding a Lost or Stolen U.S. Passport Book And/Or Card (Form DS-64) and submit it as noted on the form.
  • Keep a record of these and all the other steps you take in case you need proof of any fraudulent activity and your steps to address it.
  • Remain vigilant and continue to review your credit reports and account statements for signs of misuse. 
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