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Question of the Week • 07-25-12 | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 25 July 2012 09:08

 

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How to Search for Lost or Forgotten Money Left Behind by Loved Ones | Print |  E-mail
Tuesday, 17 July 2012 15:18



By Jim Miller
SPECIAL TO THE FORUM



Lost or forgotten money is actually quite common in the U.S. In fact, according National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, nearly $33 billion in unclaimed assets is sitting in state treasuries and other agencies just waiting to be found.


These unclaimed assets are from some 117 million accounts that are inactive or whose owners or their heirs cannot be located. Unclaimed assets can include things like lost or forgotten investments or bank accounts, Social Security payments, utility deposits, tax refunds, life insurance proceeds, stocks, un-cashed dividends and more.


This typically happens because of a change of address (the owner moved), a name change (the owner got married or divorced), or the owner dies and the estate was unaware of the money or the heirs could not be located.


By law, companies and financial institutions that can’t find the owner or their next of kin within two to five years must turn the property over to the state where it’s held indefinitely.

 


Where to Search

It’s very possible that your deceased parents, or you, have some unclaimed assets out there and you don’t even know it. To start your quest, go to missingmoney.com or unclaimed.org, both of which contain records from most state unclaimed property programs.


Check every state in which you or your parents have lived, worked or conducted business. Also search using maiden names and any previous names, as well as middle names and middle initials.


Every state can tell you immediately if your parents or you have some unclaimed property, as well as how to go about collecting it. If you don’t have a computer, you can call the state treasurer’s office for assistance.

 


Look Here Too

Beyond state treasuries, here are some other agencies you should check for lost loot, along with a few resources that can help you search.


IRS: Each year thousands of refund checks totaling millions of dollars are returned to the IRS by the post office. To look for lost tax refund checks go to IRS.gov and click on “Individuals,” then on “Where’s My Refund,” or call 800-829-1954.


U.S. Treasury: To find out if there are any savings bonds your parents didn’t claim dating back to 1974, go to treasurydirect.gov and click on “Check Treasury Hunt to see if you own matured savings bonds.” For older bonds or those still drawing interest, use form 1048 which you can download at www.treasurydirect.gov/forms/sav1048.pdf


Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.: If you or your parents worked for a company that went out of business or ended its defined benefit pension plan, you may be entitled to some of their benefits. Check at pbgc.gov and click on “Missing Participants Search.”


The National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits: To search for lost 401(k) plans, try unclaimedretirementbenefits.com where plan sponsors, administrators and custodians register missing participants who have unclaimed retirement funds.


Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.: Search for unclaimed bank accounts at firms that were shut down between 1989 and 1993 go to www2.fdic.gov/funds. State treasuries hold assets from shutdowns after 1993.


Social Security: To find lost Social Security benefits, including the $255 death benefit, call 800-772-1213.


American Council of Life Insurers: If you think your parents had a life-insurance policy try missingmoney.com, or for more tips go to acli.com and click on “Missing Policy Tips.”

 


Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.



 
Adopt-A-Pet • 06-27-12 | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 27 June 2012 16:00

 

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Question of the Week • 06-27-12 | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 27 June 2012 15:56

 

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The Possibilities are Endless! | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 27 June 2012 15:43


By Paula Evans
SPECIAL TO THE FORUM




The demand for healthcare services grows greater every year, and the ever-increasing number of patients, insurance claims and hospital admissions means more work for Medical Claims and Billing Specialists, particularly if you have a goal of starting a small business.


The idea of being your own boss can be very empowering, but as with any new business endeavor, there are things you must consider before striking out on your own.


Professional training or experience in medical coding and billing is the first step to creating a home-based business. The second is gathering information and establishing a plan.


Learn what is involved in starting a medical billing home business along with the realities of pitfalls and profits. Castro Valley Adult and Career Education is offering a new two-day workshop to  provide valuable resources and tips on how to get started in setting up and running a small home-based business.


Course content will also touch on such topics as selecting a specialty area to concentrate your medical coding and billing business on, the importance of marketing, three main ways to charge your clients, and more!


Each class will host an “Ask the Expert” session featuring former students who have successfully launched their own business. This is a great opportunity to hear how they started their own business, and ask questions accordingly.


The Start Your Own Medical Billing & Coding Business Workshop is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on the Saturdays of July 21 and 28,  for only $59 – a bargain investment in your future!


If you are not sure which medical career path to take, consider attending the free Medical and Computer Information Night from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 21,  in Room 16.

 


For detailed information on the educational programs and services offered through Castro Valley Adult and Career Education, call 510-886-1000, or visit us in person at 4430 Alma Ave., Castro Valley, or visit www.cvadult.org or on Facebook.



 
New App Saves Contractors Time, Money | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 27 June 2012 15:30


Real Estate Reality


By Carl Medford, CRS
Special to the Forum


 

 

I recently helped two of my kids buy homes — one in San Diego, the other in Roseville. Both are loving homeownership; however, they each want to make some improvements. And, since dear old dad is a licensed general contractor, they’re constantly after me for advice from fixing a frozen shower faucet to extensive framing modifications.


That’s all and good, but I’m here in Central Alameda County and their new digs… are not. Rather than fly or drive for hours, we’ve come up with innovative solutions that work for everyone.


It started with emails and text messages with pictures attached, but the need for more clarity and quicker lead times migrated us to Apple’s FaceTime app. Both kids have an iPhone 4s and as long as I have a Wi-Fi connection for my iPad 2, all is good.


Case in point — while driving recently, one of them pinged me. “Dad,” he said, “We’ve got the ceiling torn apart and we need you to have a quick look.”


I turned down a side street, grabbed my iPad, turned on my Verizon 4G hotspot and, within moments, was staring at his ceiling from a Hayward curb hundreds of miles away.


He walked me through the problem, I asked him to move his phone closer to a few specific spots, took a close look at my screen, then made my recommendations. The call took 5 minutes, the problem was solved, my son was delighted and I was quickly back on the road.


Driving away, it occurred to me that this could be a huge asset to potential homebuyers as well.


Like most Realtors, I have go-to contractors and trades persons in my queue. Add flooring installers, painters, designers and the like and I have a veritable arsenal of wonderful, gifted persons willing to give advice in the hopes of getting work. Many of them, like me, carry an iPad and/or iPhone with them. (For non-apple devices, Skype’s app provides a very similar functionality.)


Instead of a contractor driving up to an hour to get to the property, I can just FaceTime them for a few minutes. It provides a real-time benefit to a buyer wondering if they want to buy any specific home and can help a contractor land a new job once escrow closes.


It’s a new virtual Real Estate Reality, and I’m beginning to like the feel of it… very much.

 


Carl Medford is a licensed Realtor with Prudential California Realty in Castro Valley and a licensed general contractor. This article is sponsored by the Central County Marketing Association at www.ccmgtoday.com.



 
Beware of ‘Mystery Shopper’ Scams | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 10:59


 

By Jason Alderman
SPECIAL TO THE FORUM


 

 

Getting paid to go shopping may sound like a dream job, but buyer beware: For each legitimate mystery or secret shopper opportunity, probably hundreds more are scams.


In fact, the National Consumers League (NCL) says complaints regarding fraudulent mystery shopper and work-at-home schemes were up nearly 9 percent during the past six months.


Why the increase? It’s due in part to our nation’s high unemployment rates and how desperate people are to earn money while seeking full-time employment. Plus, many people are lured by offers that sound too good to be true.

 


Here are tips for spotting bogus mystery shopper programs:


Many retailers hire marketing research companies to gauge their employees’ quality of customer service. Those companies in turn hire mystery shoppers to make purchases anonymously and fill out questionnaires documenting their experience.


Many research firms belong to the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (www.mysteryshop.org), a trade organization that links businesses with mystery shopping providers and also provides a search engine where people can register for mystery shopping assignments.


Unfortunately, scammers increasingly are using Internet job ads, emails and phone calls to snare unsuspecting consumers with promises of quick, easy money for minimal effort.

 


Here’s how a typical mystery shopping scam might work:


You answer an ad and are “hired” as a mystery shopper to evaluate its clients’ businesses. The company sends an official-looking employment packet containing the business evaluation forms you’ll supposedly use.


But first, you’ll be required to complete a so-called “training assignment” to make sure you’re a suitable employee. That’s where the fraud comes in:


The company claims it’s evaluating a money transfer service like Western Union.


They send you a large check with instructions to deposit it in your personal checking account.


You are told to keep a certain amount as your fee and then to pose as a customer by wiring the balance to a third party – usually within 48 hours.


You then submit a report about your customer experience.


What you may not realize is that the original check was fake. Scammers know that by law, banks generally must make deposited funds under $5,000 available within a few days. They count on your completing the transaction before the check has been cleared by the issuing bank, which may take several weeks.


Once your bank discovers the fraud, it will bounce the check and you are on the hook for the whole amount you wired – plus your wasted time.

 


Important points to keep in mind:


Legitimate companies will never ask you to send a money transfer for any purpose.

Legitimate companies don’t charge shoppers a fee to work for them.


Be suspicious if you’re hired on the basis of an email or phone call without any interview or background checks.


Companies that promise you can make a lot of money as a mystery shopper are almost certainly scams.

 


Good resources to learn more about bogus mystery shopper and other fake check scams, include the FBI (www.fbi.gov/scams-safety), the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov), the Consumer Federation of America (www.consumerfed.org), and the National Consumers League (www.fakechecks.org/index2.html).



 
Recent Market Increases Now Open Door for Move-up Sellers | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 10:55


By Carl Medford, CRS

Special to the Forum



As any given market swings up and down, the participants change.

 


As an example, investors typically avoid high markets but, in contrast, stampede in hordes to buy when the market declines.


It’s the same with sellers: with real estate prices in the dumps, those selling properties have been limited to banks liquidating foreclosures, financially distressed owners unloading short sales, estates divesting themselves of probates/trusts or those who’ve been packing up and heading out of the area. A significant group has been missing.


Move-up sellers.


In a normal market, move-up sellers constitute a high percentage of actual market activity. It’s different, however, when the market is down.


Truthfully, the best time to sell your existing home and move up is when the market is at the bottom. While you may sell at a discount, you’ll get the home you’re moving up to for a lower price as well. It’s all about “the spread.”


“As an example,” informs Gary Marciel of Marciel Realty, Castro Valley, “if you are selling a home for $300,000 and buying a replacement for $400,000, the spread is $100,000. If the market increases 10 percent, you’ll be able to sell your existing home for $330,000, but your move-up property will also have increased in value to $440,000. The spread will now be $110,000. Obviously, the maximum benefit comes to those who can sell when the spread is the lowest.”


Unfortunately, it’s not a perfect world and hope is frequently overruled by reality.


Depressed market values of the past few years come with a caveat that actually limits move-up potential. As prices drop, equity decreases as well. Usually, equity from a seller’s current home is required for the down payment on the move-up digs. As equity declines, the ability to move up simply evaporates like an ice cube in a hot skillet.


It’s a true Catch 22 scenario. Many who would love to capitalize on the current spread are being held captive in their existing homes by either a very low equity position or, worse yet, a minus equity situation.


Good news appears to be on the horizon: Current market increases means that equity is trending upward as well. And with each market advance, the door is opening a crack wider for those in a poor equity position to being able to sell and move on up.


It’s just a matter of time until the door is fully open.



Carl Medford is a licensed Realtor with Prudential California Realty in Castro Valley and a licensed general contractor. This article is sponsored by the Central County Marketing Association at www.ccmgtoday.com

 


 
Local Seniors Brief California Legislature on Nutritional Needs | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 10:42


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By Barbara Cullinane
SPECIAL TO THE FORUM


 

 

 

Castro Valley residents Bess Chin and Carol Sugimura recently joined 61 other California seniors who have been named “California Senior Leaders” to help educate State Assembly members and encourage appropriations for Assembly Bill 1560 – “Food for Health: Aligning Medi-Cal and Nutrition Assistance.”


To draw attention to their numbers and mission, before visiting their district representatives, members of the California Senior Leaders Alliance donned bright blue tee shirts with their title and logo. Steering Committee member Frank Rose provided the slogan on the back of the tee shirts: “I don’t think outside the box...I think outside the warehouse.”


Chin and Sugimura and four other members of their delegation met with staff members of District 18 to deliver their own talking point and answer questions about the legislation and felt the staff members were “receptive, knowledgeable, and supportive.”


The Alliance members had spent six hours the previous day reviewing the legislation, underlying concerns about nutrition and healthy eating opportunities for the poor, and effective ways to convey their concerns.


Baywood Court’s Bess Chin says the experience was “stimulating and educational.


“It is important to know how laws come to be, to get in on the grassroots level, before it gets to the floor for voting,” she said.


Bess had been nominated to be a California Senior Leader in 2005 for her work with Japanese Services of the East Bay.


She has formed a “Heart Warmers” group at Baywood which began knitting shawls for resident friends in the Health Center and has expanded to knit for veterans in the hospital in Livermore and the Family Emergency Shelter in San Leandro.


Carol Sugimura was a 2010 California Senior Leader awardee, nominated for her work with United Seniors of Oakland and Alameda County. She is a former member of the Castro Valley Municipal Advisory Committee.


Carol says she was “equally inspired not only with this year’s topic, but also the significance it would make to the population at large.”


“Older people have so much to offer and so much wisdom. I feel that this program really highlights what an older person can offer, and they are doing that all over the state.”



 
Gardening for Mind and Body | Print |  E-mail
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Wednesday, 20 June 2012 10:40


By Mark Underwood
SPECIAL TO THE FORUM



It’s long been known that gardening is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and connect with nature in a tranquil environment. Just taking a walk in a garden can help improve your mood. This is why gardens are often an integral part of retirement living communities – so older adults can easily interact with the ever-evolving landscape as the seasons change.


Gardens can keep you grounded, quite literally by forcing you to slow down and smell the roses. When you are doing repetitive garden tasks like weeding, digging, pruning, and pushing wheelbarrows around, you also benefit from low impact exercise.


Research has shown that whether you are caring for flower gardens or fruit or vegetable gardens, you may be doing more than keeping your plants healthy and productive. You may be improving your brain health.


It’s been found that gardening has a positive influence on the mind. In studying two gardening groups, the first in their 60s, the second group in their 70s, it was concluded that both groups experienced cognitive benefits from gardening. These studies found that 36 percent of 60-year-olds and 47 percent of 70-year-olds had lower risk for dementia than those who didn’t garden on a regular basis.


Gardening has also been shown to improve your mood and alleviate stress.  No matter how big or small your garden may be, the sights, smells, and sounds of being outside simply watching your garden grow, can give you needed relief from stress.


Stress reduction has been studied in the Netherlands by comparing reading indoors with 30 minutes of outdoor gardening. The gardeners reported they felt less stress than the people who took time out to read during the same time frame. The sensory experience of gardening can also help improve depressive symptoms.


Keep in mind that gardening for pleasure is good for downgrading stress, but only if you’re not too invested in the outcome. Gardening is only as stress-free as you make it. If you’re constantly worrying about whether your new plants will thrive or produce the best looking flowers and best produce in the neighborhood, you won’t gain healthy benefits that many people experience when they “play outdoors.”


If you plant a garden, you’ll also likely gain nutritional benefits from the fresh food you’ll glean from your own endeavors. But even if your garden plat is focused on flowers instead of veggies, it’s been shown that people who garden tend to eat healthy.

 


Mark Underwood is a neuroscience researcher and president of Quincy Bioscience, focused on the discovery and development of medicines to treat age related memory loss and the diseases of aging.



 
Question of the Week • 06-20-12 | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 09:58

 

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CV Adult Education Spotlight | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 13:47


By Paula Evans
SPECIAL TO THE FORUM



Have you ever wondered how we know that heart disease is the number one killer in America?


Medical coding is one of the primary ways that data is collected for medical research. Coders translate medical diagnosis into electronic data so that health care providers are reimbursed and statistical data is collected.


This data is used for a wide range of purposes like tracking diseases and helping Administrators determine if a hospital’s facilities are being used effectively and if they are adequate for the needs of the community. Understanding coding opens up a new way to understand the world around us.


In recognizing the growing demand in the local medical industry for qualified Medical Coders, Castro Valley Adult and Career Education is offering two sequential 8-week Beginning and Advanced Coding courses.


• Beginning Coding: Learn the foundational skills of a Medical Coding Specialist who assigns a universal numeric code to each symptom, treatment, diagnosis and medical procedure for the purpose of payment, notifications and statistical data. Fridays, 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., July 13-Aug. 31.


• Advanced Coding:  This course takes the precision skills of coding to the next level adding specific rules and compliance issues for each specialty area of medical codes.

Instruction includes the use of ICD-9, CPT and HCPCS coding books. Upon completion of both sections, students are prepared to take national certification. Fridays, 8:30 am-2:30 pm, Sept. 14-Nov. 2.


Students who take the Coding courses may also take Medical Billing, Insurance & Office Procedures to enhance valuable knowledge that add to their complete package of skills and competitive edge for employment.


Other medical training courses offered by Castro Valley Adult to consider include Medical Terminology, Anatomy & Physiology, Clinical Medical Assistant, Administrative Medical Assistant, Certified Nursing Assistant and Home Health Aide, and Pharmacology.


If you are not sure which medical career path to take, consider attending the free Medical and Computer Information Night from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 21 in Room 16.


For detailed information on the educational programs and services offered through Castro Valley Adult and Career Education, call 510-886-1000, visit us in person at 4430 Alma Ave., Castro Valley, check our website www.cvadult.org, or visit us on Facebook.



 
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