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Tuesday, 16 December 2014 05:28

Barbara Daroca: Spend to Save - on your Car

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Yep, as funny as it may sound, sometimes you need to spend some money in order to save in the long run; this is especially true when it comes to your car!

1. Routine maintenance
It’s the key to keep your car running well. Some of it you can do yourself (like checking the oil level) and some is scheduled by your manufacturer (based on mileage or time). The point behind these check-ups is to clean and/or renew certain parts that deteriorate with use and time. Skipping one of these appointments can have fatal consequences for your car! For example, failing to change the timing belt in time might cause its rupture, the result of which can be so damaging for your engine that you might be looking at a total loss.

2. Clean inside out
Keeping your car clean is not just about appearances. Washing your car periodically, also the inside, will avoid odors, rust and other problems. A thorough wash can help you discover corrosion issues with the bodywork, which is typically covered by the manufacturer in the paint and bodywork warranty during the first few years. Additionally, keeping your car clean and in good general state will enhance your chances to sell it at a good price should you decide to part with it. A car that hasn’t been tend to for a long time will be more costly to bring “in shape” for sale, and once clean you might discover defects that are expensive to repair.

3. Insurance
There are different types and levels of insurance coverage. The one where nobody should try to save on is the basic, mandatory third-party vehicle insurance – the repercussions of being caught driving a car without proper insurance (points on your license, monetary fine) outweigh whatever you saved. This insurance provides financial protection for damage caused to other vehicles and property in case of traffic collision, and it covers any liability for injury to others. Again, it’s the bare minimum you must have, but check all options (fire and theft, full coverage) as the final decision will depend on your personal situation and your car’s value.

4. Tyres
A big source of disagreement in many couples! The truth is that worn tyres are a real danger on the road and can cause terrible accidents. They need to be changed every so often, and this will vary depending on the car and its use. If you cannot tell whether they are worn or not, ask your garage during a routine maintenance check. And, finally, remember that appropriate winter tyres are mandatory in Luxembourg and despite the nice warm October we had this year, ice and snow are around the corner!

5. Bumps and bruises
Believe it or not, this last point is about fuel consumption. Dents change the shape of your car, and dislodged parts (as a consequence of a collision or bad repair) will move and vibrate when in motion, all of this causing that your car is no longer aerodynamic, the way it was conceived and constructed in order to decrease the “force of friction” when moving – making it as energy efficient as possible.

Taking good care of your car is a form of saving. Even if you have to spend a little money on it!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014 10:54

Barbara Daroca: Pay Online – Safely

 

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Well, believe it or not, the holidays season is upon us again. It seems like it was merely a couple of months ago I wrote an article about online shopping for Christmas!

Whether for shopping for your loved ones or booking a flight, paying with a credit card online can be scary. The only way I could convince my mother-in-law that it was safe was with a Visa CyberCard with a very low credit line.

How it works

We’re all familiar with how a credit card works: you have been a client for some time and have a certain income, according to which your bank grants you a credit line. This allows you to pay for things before the money (your salary, rental income or pension) arrives in your account. Your bank knows you’re good for it. And since you don’t yet have the money you pay with a piece of plastic that tells the retailer or service provider your bank will pay for the goods, whilst your bank gets the message that now you owe them money. You can do this exercise as long as you have not exhausted the credit line granted to you.

The Visa CyberCard is also a credit card, but with two major differences: it does not come in plastic, rather it’s just a series of numbers for your to fill in when shopping online; and it has a reduced credit line, it often amounts to just over EUR 100. With the reduced credit line both you and the bank limit the risk of your card being “hacked” while online shopping and both you and the bank losing money. Look at the online shopping you usually do in a month’s time and you’ll realise that iTunes and Amazon Kindle downloads rarely amount to much more.

But what if I want to book my holidays?

Also my online expenses increase around Christmas and other holidays. I still pay with my CyberCard to limit the risk and to do so I do not need to increase my card limit. That would defeat the purpose! At ING Luxembourg every credit card is opened with an account. Effectively this means that you can “load” that account with any cash amount you wish and “spend” it with your credit card, as if it were a prepaid card. The credit line of your card which is what the bank has agreed to advance for you stays the same. And so the risk for you and the bank doesn’t have to change.

An example might make it clearer: let’s assume your CyberCard has a credit line of €100. And one day you want to buy something that is worth €200 online. Without any action from you, your CyberCard can only pay for max. €100 (assuming you haven’t used part of the credit already!) because this is how much credit the bank grants you. But if you put €100 of additional funds in your CyberCard account you can pay €200, the sum of the credit the bank grants you plus the amount of cash you put in the account. Once the money is spent, the balance of your CyberCard account will be €-100 and the credit line will be used until you pay it back on the established due date (at which time your balance will go back to €0 with a credit line of €100). This can be very helpful this time of the year. Word of caution, however: only “load” your CyberCard amount when you are about to pay online, and only put in the needed amount of cash! If you keep a constant balance and your card does get stolen on the Internet you stand to lose that extra cash!

And the cherry on the cake

If you own an ING Luxembourg Visa Cyber Card as well as a Classic or Gold Visa Card your CyberCard enjoys all the extra guarantees too – very interesting when buying appliances and booking trips!

Safe shopping!

 

Tuesday, 04 November 2014 16:49

Barbara Daroca: Solidarity with the Community

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The ING Solidarity Awards 2014 are currently in full swing; with nominations closed, the voting phase is now in progress, with the awards themselves being held on Wednesday 19 November.

In accordance with our active policy in terms of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), ING Luxembourg is organising the ING Solidarity Awards for the 3rd year in a row. All associations (non-profit organisations and foundations) established in the Grand Duchy are invited to participate.

The novelty of the awards gained a lot of publicity when first announced and over the past couple of years this as certainly not been diluted - ING Luxembourg's connections with the local community has been strengthened considerably by this innovation. With it, we are giving back to the community and becoming closer in the process.

The concept of the ING Solidarity Awards is that we award cheques of €1,000 each to a total of 40 volunteer organisations; these are voted on by the public, with the top 40 organisations benefitting. In addition, we award up to €6,000 to a few organisations whose specific projects are selected by the jury, for BOTH 100% volunteer organisations and also part-volunteer organisations.

As the voting process is currently underway, it is up to you to vote for your favourite association on  http://goo.gl/5D8AFX

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You have a decent household income. You make wise shopping decisions. You lead a normal lifestyle... and yet there's not much left on your bank account at the end of the month? Don't worry, you're not alone. Try googleing "tips for saving money"; you'll get thousands upon thousands of articles.

Why? Because most of us forget the basics. You need to get the basics right.

The truth about saving

Saving doesn't happen on its own. Ask around. Unexpected extra money on your bank account at the end of the month always has a reason: an additional allowance, a delayed invoice, interest/dividend due on an invesment. If you want to save money for unforeseen costs or special projects, like buying a house or going on holiday, you need to actively, consciously decide to save money.

And when you do so, be realistic about it. Remember that how much you save is the result of  the amount you put aside, how often you put it aside and for how long. Play around with those variables to come up with the right plan. Overreaching will only frustrate you down the line. Ask your financial advisor or your bank for help if you're not sure.

1, 2, 3... Go!

Once you've taken the decision to start saving and you know how much you want to save and for how long, don't wait for the right moment to get started. Start now.

1- Start with the basics: little habits around the house and your daily routine can have positive effects on the health of your finances. Turning off the lights of empty rooms and hallways; keeping a steady temperature in the house to avoing heating spikes; buying certain groceries in bulk and when on sale, like toilet paper or pasta; taking your lunch from home instead of going to a restaurant; taking the bus or car-pooling with co-workers...

2- Set up a budget and stick to it: for all your expenses, including groceries, clothes and leisure. Look at your spending habits to assess how much you need each month, and here also be realistic. If one month you need to spend a little more than allotted, make sure the next month you make up for it.

3- But allow for seasonalities: there are certain times in the year where we need to spend more. Back to school clothing (not just for family with children!), Christmas shopping, Easter holidays... At the risk of sounding like a broken record: be realistic! If you know you're expecting a seasonal payment, like the annual fee of your car insurance, make room in your budget for it to avoid frustration when the time comes.

So, what are you waiting for?

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Another great article published on ezonomics.com this time about things to think about when using price comparison websites….

Price comparison websites can be a quick way to compare insurances and other products.

But a new report prepared for the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) highlights potential pitfalls of these online aggregators – with the FCA’s chief executive reportedly telling Parliament many of the websites are “gamed”. An FCA consumer study tells how thinking traps – including framing and herd instinct – can help explain why shoppers don’t always get the best from price comparison websites.

The research highlights some traps and offers tips that may help give more power to shoppers.

1. Do you still need that extra? People who have had a particular level of excess or an insurance add-on in the past find it easier to carry on doing so, rather than questioning or changing their decision, the research says. The research calls it a “non-decision” and tells how it is a symptom of the status quo bias. It can pay to examine add-ons and excesses to see if they still suit your needs.

2. Does a website really know better? When shoppers logon and see numbers already appearing in the online field for an insurance’s excess amount, there can be “an assumption these are the right levels”. A similar dynamic can exist if search results don’t deliver the expected results – users might question if their expectations are wrong rather than the website. Known as authority bias, the research tells how it is the tendency to overvalue the opinion of an “authority” – whereas shoppers may have a better idea of what they want.

3. Beware the green tick If an insurance quote is accompanied by a green tick or a red cross, the icon alone can be used to gauge the quality – “often without looking beyond this surface level”, the research found. It is a type of framing, when the way in which something is presented skews our view of it, or can be symptomatic of limited attention bias. A better idea may be to try to ignore the green tick and see if the policy suits you.

4. “All those people can’t be wrong” Even if shoppers are dissatisfied with using a price comparison website, they may persist because so many others are using the online tools, the research says. A type of herd instinct or social norm, it taps into the idea that crowds are wiser than individuals and that “all those people can’t be wrong”.

5. Is last year’s premium the best benchmark? Shoppers often use the cost of last year’s insurance premium as the reference point when renewing and try to “match” it for the next year, the research says. Paying more than the previous year can feel like a loss and – particularly given our loss aversion tendencies – it says many seek to avoid the loss “at the exclusion of other factors such as the quality or range of cover”. Remembering what’s important to you for an insurance may make more sense.

6. I’ll take the quick option We tend to love immediate gratification – finishing a dreary job quickly so we can go for coffee with friends or play sport. Known as present bias, it can be evident with shoppers using price comparison websites if they chose to “get the job done quickly” rather than fully engaging with the product or its implications.

A personal tale of using a price comparison website
ING senior economist Ian Bright 
blogged for eZonomics back in 2011 about his personal story of renewing car insurance using a price comparison website.
Bright told how the process took his spare time over several days, reading the small and fine print of contracts. Like the FCA, Bright wrote that the complexity of financial products makes them difficult to compare and states that understanding the terms and conditions is key.
“It is also important to note that cheaper is not always the best in these circumstances,” Bright wrote.

You can find the original article here: http://www.ezonomics.com

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With Luxembourg's Grande Braderie next Monday fast approaching, here are 10 tips to get the most out of a shopping spree during the sales:

1. Keep your sales receipts: too small, too big, wrong colour? You never know...

2. Make sure that you are aware of the return policy. Sometimes, during sales periods or a braderie, there are special conditions – even no return! 

3. Compare prices from different shops to get what you want at the best price and check if the applied reduction is correct.

4. The tag has to indicate the old price as well as the reduced price, or the percentage of reduction applied to the item.

5. Evaluate the item's price and quality by having a look at the tag. You'll find everything you need to know about its composition. For example, items in natural fibres are more expensive than synthetic ones.

6. Be careful with reductions above 50%. Often these items are from previous seasons or have defects.

7. Be careful not to overspend just because you’re paying with plastic instead of cash.

8. Pay attention when you look for items on sale: they have to be separated from new collections.

9.  If you have the feeling that you've been cheated, refer to the consumer protection association; in Luxembourg, it is the Union Luxembourgeoise des Consommateurs (ULC), www.ulc.lu.

10. Even if it may be difficult, be careful at the excitement of shopping: have a look at several shops, compare prices and buy only items that you really need!

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You are concerned about our planet? Waste is driving you crazy, especially at work? You want to play your part and contribute to protecting the environment while at work?

Keep reading and you will discover that your small contributions can build towards achieving a greater purpose for the future of the planet.

1. When you are leaving your office, shut down your computer and turn off your screen. You will save some electricity.

2. Set up your printer in double-side mode. This way, you can print on both sides of your paper and save our trees.

3. Put an empty box close to the printer for used single-side printed paper: these papers could be used to take, notes for example.

4. Shut down all peripherals and electronics (scanners, computers, TV, etc.) when they are not in use.

5. Keep copies of your important emails and files on your desktop. This way, you will avoid having to print them.

6. If you bring your lunch from home, use a reusable lunch box and cutlery.

7. Organise carpooling with your colleagues. You will save money and you can spend more time with your colleagues.

8. Recycle your coffee cup, your toner, etc. - many companies offer a wide range of recycling possibilities.

9. Replace your marker pen and highlighting pen that contain toxic solvent with more eco-friendly writing materials.

10. Don’t forget to get a plant for your desk/office: Plants can absorb pollutants present in the air and make it cleaner! 

 

Friday, 25 July 2014 22:01

Barbara Daroca: Tell Me About Money...

 

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Our blog, MyMoney.lu, covers a wide range of issues in relation to personal finance; browse the following topics and click on the link at the end to discover what the experts are advising...

- Does “savings vs. Borrowing” equal “Head vs. Heart”: It’s time to discover some financial habits in Luxembourg

- How to prepare the future of your children? Studies last longer and joining the professional life is harder which lead parents and grand-parents to save for their children. It’s never too soon to think about the future especially when it concerns our loved ones.

- The devil is in the detail… also of your savings! Have you started eating more salads and taking the stairs rather than the elevator? With the first rays of sun most of us get “in action”  to prepare for the upcoming summer season – the short sleeves, the short skirts, the beach… Some people don’t bother: to get (back) in shape and be on a diet takes effort and, most importantly, endurance.

- Tax deductible pension savings plans: Everybody knows they should do something for their pension, but more often than not we seem to think that our pension is still a long way away and that providing for it can wait another day. In this article I will explain you a bit more about pension savings plans. These plans not only help you prepare your financial future, but also allow for a nice tax reduction via the money you are saving.

- The ups and downs of interest rates: A few weeks ago, Bloomberg announced that “Draghi unveils historic measures against deflation threat” and shortly thereafter there were headlines in all respectable news outlets announcing a decrease in interest rates. Did you wonder why that was newsworthy in the midst of your summer holiday preparation?

- How to save for your real estate property? According to our last poll, 44% of respondents save to acquire a house or an apartment. To help you, we wanted to put in perspective the tax deductible home savings plans (Bausparvertag).

- Inflation: Will you be a winner or a loser? Inflation has been a top of the agenda discussion item for a while now, but it is mostly treated from a macroeconomic perspective. But inflation basically hurts people’s purchasing power and there can be huge differences with regards to its impact on individuals. Who would be the winners and losers in case of an inflation kickoff? What is the impact of inflation on different people? Let’s consider the impact of an increase of the inflation rate in some typical life situations in Luxembourg

- What is an Automatic Savings Plan? If you don’t need your full salary/pension or pocket money to cover your monthly costs you should consider the Automatic Savings Plan. Do you want to find out why ?

- 5 tips for creating a good password: Finding a password which is easy to remember and effective against hacking is not always easy. So here are a few tips for creating a password which is easy to remember and very secure.

- Step 1: Savings accounts for different purposes: A bank can attach more than one savings account to one current account and open more than one standing order.

Click here to explore the above topics and discover what the experts are advising...

 

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The summer has arrived and the preparations for a well-deserved holiday have started. Before you leave, I would like to give you some tips to help prepare the financial side of your trip.

Using your debit card at your destination: Check in advance if you can use your debit card for payments and withdrawals at the local ATMs; don’t forget to look up any possible costs linked to using your debit card abroad. In general, withdrawals and payments in another currency than the Euro imply higher costs. Most banks publish their tariffs on their website, so it is easy to check.

Using your credit card at your destination: Like with debit cards, check for any costs linked to the use of your credit card. Also make sure your card is activated for the country you are visiting. In order to combat credit card fraud, some banks, like ING Luxembourg, have limited the use of credit cards to certain countries. Contact your bank to activate your card for your destination.

Foreign Currency: Luckily for us, the Euro is accepted in banks and foreign exchange agencies pretty much everywhere. Nevertheless, if you want to take some local cash with you, check if your bank offers this service for the currency you need, and if they do make sure you order your foreign currency on time. There is also a foreign exchange office at Luxembourg's Findel Airport.

Checking your finances: The best way to keep an eye on your finances when travelling is by downloading the mobile app of your bank. Most apps allow you to check your balance and to check your latest operations (like your credit card expenditures). Checking your balance on your own phone is safer than doing it with the computer in the lobby of your hotel!

The advantages of your credit card: Check the insurances offered by your credit card. In some cases you get an extra protection by just using your credit card for the payment of a product or service.

Emergency Contact numbers: Prepare a document (online or on paper) with the most important phone numbers, including the numbers for blocking a lost or stolen card.

These are just a few simple tips, but they can really prevent some nasty surprises. At ING Luxembourg we have prepared a page with all the useful information needed to fully enjoy your trip. See www.ing.lu/ING/EN/Personal/Topay/haveanicetrip/index.htm

Have a good one!

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With all the football going on, the choice of topic is easy! Here are some handy tips on picking the World Cup’s winner!

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