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Do you need Flood Insurance?

Do you need flood insurance?
That's a hard call. But, if you live in an area that can have large rainfalls and you own a basement which houses nice things, you may want to consider it.

If you buy a house in a designated high-risk flood zone and receive a mortgage loan from a federally regulated or insured lender, your lender is legally bound to require you to get and maintain flood insurance.

When flood insurance is not required
If you have a home of business in a low-or-moderate risk flood zone, flood insurance is not required. However, flood insurance is still available and you may be eligible for a low-cost Preferred Risk Policy.

Keep in mind that a typical homeowners insurance policy won't cover everything. You may need separate flood insurance, which ranges in cost from several hundred to several thousand dollars a year, depending on coverage and risk levels.

Everyone in the US lives in some type of flood zone. These are geographic areas that FEMA defines, based on studies of flood risk. Check out the FEMA website for more information.
The FEMA website can help you determine your flood risk and flood risks according to seasons.

As far as purchasing flood insurance, keep in mind that it is kind of like earthquake insurance, in that both are a form of “single peril” insurance, sold separately from homeowners insurance. Flood insurance protects against losses to buildings and their contents, not the land surrounding them. The coverage applies whether the flooding results from heavy or prolonged rains, coastal storm surge, snow melt, blocked storm drainage systems, levee dam failure, or other causes. To be considered a flood, the waters must cover at least two acres or affect at least two properties.

Flood insurance is available both within and outside of floodplains. Different types of policies are available depending on your flood risk.

If you live in a high-risk area, you will need a Standard Policy. Most mortgage lenders will require that you have such a policy before they will approve your loan.

Outside of high-risk areas, flood insurance is also available, usually at lower cost. While you aren’t federally required to have flood insurance in a low-to-moderate risk area, that does not mean you won’t ever need it. Large floods often extend beyond the boundaries of high-risk areas and smaller floods occur outside high-risk areas as well. In fact, a quarter of all flood insurance claims come from low-to-moderate risk areas.

Flood insurance is sold and serviced by private insurers, and backed by the federal government. More than 85 companies sell flood insurance. Flood insurance covers both homes and businesses. Different types of policies are available based on your property’s location and flood history.

Standard Flood Insurance Policies - If you live in a community that participates in the NFIP, your building and its contents can be covered. You must apply for building coverage and contents coverage separately.

Preferred Risk Policies - If your home or business is in a low or moderate risk zone, your building may qualify for a low-cost Preferred Risk Policy. Premiums for both building and contents start at just under $119.

Things to consider about flood insurance;

* Does my community participate in the National Flood Insurance Program?
* Can you confirm which flood zone I live in?
* Does my community participate in the NFIP Community Rating System (CRS)?
* If so, does my community's CRS rating mean that I qualify for a CRS rating discount?
* What exactly will be covered in case of flood damage? What won’t be covered?
* How will my premium costs be affected by choosing coverage for building only, contents only or building and contents?
* How will my premium costs be affected if I choose a higher deductible?
* What is the policy fee?
* Are there additional expenses or fees I should be aware of?
* What is covered by Replacement Cost and what is covered by Actual Cash Value only?

* If your lender requires flood insurance in connection with the making, increasing, extending or renewing of your loan.
* If an additional amount of insurance is required as a result of a map revision.
* If flood insurance is required as a result of a lender determining that a loan, which does not have flood insurance coverage, should be protected by flood insurance. The coverage will be effective upon the completion of an application and the presentment of payment of premium.
* If an additional amount of insurance is being obtained in connection with the renewal of a policy.


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Auctions on eBay: A Dying Breed

Businessweek has published an article "Auctions on eBay: A Dying Breed"

The thought that the former internet auction powerhouse may have to tweak it's approach is intriguing. Apparently, eBay buyers are short attention spanned when it comes to the longevity of enjoyment of the thrill of the hunt. That is, once you've outbid the competition and received the high, bid winners are ready to move on to their next purchase high.

Currently, EBay's "Buy It Now" business, where shoppers can purchase items at a set price even when the merchandise is also listed in an auction, makes up 42% of all goods sold on eBay. It's growing at an annual 22% pace, the fastest among eBay's shopping businesses.

Ebay has a new CEO who is spearheading changes to make eBay more friendly to users who favor one-click shopping. The former CEO Meg Whitman ended was successful with the ad campaign that championed auctions, urging consumers to "Shop Victoriously . In May, eBay announced a partnership with to sell a large swath of the retailer's inventory for set prices.

But as eBay has recently appeared to be focusing with the plight of buyers, sellers have been outraged by changes in pricing structures.EBay sellers organized a weeklong sales boycott in protesting the changes . EBay's site has nearly 90 million active users. Other auction sites such as (ubhi.ob.OB) have far fewer visitors. Ten-year-old Ubid had 181,000 active bidders in the first quarter, according to its quarterly report.

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Social Security benefits

Social Security benefits are based on earnings averaged over most of a worker's lifetime. Your actual earnings are first adjusted or "indexed" to account for changes in average wages since the year the earnings were received. Then they calculate your average monthly indexed earnings during the 35 years in which you earned the most. They apply a formula to these earnings and arrive at your basic benefit, or "primary insurance amount" (PIA). This is the amount you would receive at your full retirement age, for most people, age 65. However, beginning with people born in 1938 or later, that age will gradually increase until it reaches 67 for people born after 1959. For more information, see The Full Retirement Age is Increasing.

There are several ways you can determine an estimate of your retirement benefits:

1. Request a Social Security Statement. Make your request over the Internet and we will mail you a detailed report of your lifetime earnings and an estimate of retirement, disability and dependent benefits.
2. Compute your own benefit estimate using a program that you can download for your PC. A version for the Mac is available.
3. Use our online calculator.
4. See examples of how benefits are computed at Benefit Calculation Examples.
5. See the Social Security publication, Your Retirement Benefit: How It Is Figured.

The maximum benefit depends on the age at which a worker chooses to retire. The amount for 2008 for a person retiring at full retirement age (65 years and 10 months) is $2,185. This is based on earnings at the maximum taxable amount for every year after age 21. You can see the maximum amount of taxable earnings for each year at Contribution and Benefit Base.

Some people who get Social Security will have to pay taxes on their benefits. Less than one-third of our current beneficiaries pay taxes on their benefits.

You will have to pay federal taxes on your benefits if you file a federal tax return as an "individual" and your total income is more than $25,000. If you file a joint return, you will have to pay taxes if you and your spouse have a total income that is more than $32,000.

For more information, call the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) toll-free at 1-800-829-3676 and ask for IRS Publication Number 915, Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits. People who are deaf or hard of hearing may call the IRS toll-free number, 1-800-829-4059.

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