Shopping Online During the Holidays? Part 2

Protect Your Money from Scams 

Part two of this short series provides additional information about the many common scams designed to steal your money as you do your online shopping during the holiday season. 1

Package Delivery Confirmation Scams

This scam is especially popular during the holidays when people receive gifts through the mail that they may not be expecting.

The scammers call or email claiming to be from the U.S. Postal Service or a major shipping company and state that you have a package waiting for delivery. To ensure the package is meant for you, you are asked to provide personal information, which the scammers steal to use to open credit accounts in your name.

The US Postal Service Response

The U.S. Postal Service does not call or email people and ask for personal information if there is a problem with a delivery. 2

Don’t let these scams dampen your holiday spirits

Instead, take the following precautions to protect your money while shopping online:

 • Always use difficult-to-guess,   unique passwords on every account.

 • If you’re using shopping apps, focus only on official retailer apps found   on the retailer’s website or are putable app marketplace, which offer   stronger security.

• Never provide your credit card    information unless you are on a secure   site, showing “https” at the beginning   of the URL and the lock symbol.

 • Use two-factor authentications on your accounts. Two-factor authentications require you to provide two pieces of evidence when logging into an account. It presents an extra layer of security to make it more difficult for someone who isn’t you to log into your account.  3

• Monitor credit card bills and bank statements as well as app and other online transactions for unauthorized purchases or withdrawals. Immediately contact your bank if you see anything suspicious. Also, you may want to consider signing up for alert services.   Many credit card issuers, banks, and mobile app providers offer services that notify you about certain account activities, such as recent logins from unrecognized devices.

###Larry Marvin
LifeCrafter – Money $ense


For more help or information, go to or call the FDIC toll-free at 1-877-ASK-FDIC(1-877-275-3342).  2

  1. ©2018 Larry Marvin, Image Credit: Shopping-online 27903971268_4aaacda0d3_b.jpg
  2. consumer/CrimeAlert-DoNotTaketheBait.pdf for more information
  3.   https: //

Shopping Online During the Holidays? Part 1

Protect Your Money From Scams

During the holiday season, we tend to make a lot more purchases online for travel and gifts.  It is especially important to be vigilant about protecting your money. Here are some of the most common scams to watch for:  [1. ©2018 Larry Marvin, Image Credit: Paying-or-Shopping- online8716835510_8ba11c7b30_o.jpg 

Fake Websites and Apps

Scammers often create fake websites that are so similar to the sites of popular retailers; it easily tricks consumers into providing payment information. The scammers take your information and your money, but you never receive the products.

Scammers have also developed fake apps that contain malware. When you download the app, the malware steals personal information from your device or locks it, holding it for ransom until you pay the scammers.

Be careful of apps or websites that ask for suspicious permissions, such as granting access to your contacts, text messages, stored passwords, or credit card information. Also, poor grammar or misspelled words in an apps’description or on a website is a red flag that it is not legitimate.

Other types of fraudulent apps ask you to log in using your social media or email accounts that could expose your personal information for the scammers to steal.

Email Links

Avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails or emails from unfamiliar sources. The links may lead to an illegitimate website attempting to get you to enter your credit card or other personal information.

Some links may download malware (malicious software, such as computer viruses) to your computer when you click on them that can steal your banking information, including login identification, passwords, and credit or debit card numbers. These emails typically look very similar to ones sent by well-known retailers, banks, and other entities.

Be on the lookout for emails that have typos or other obvious mistakes. In addition, be skeptical of email attachments described as coupons, rebates, or payment forms – they could include malware. And avoid email offers that seem “too good to be true.” If an email promises popular items for free or a surprisingly low price, it is probably a scam.

Making Payments on Unsecured Sites

Before paying for a purchase online, make sure the website you’re on has “https” at the beginning of its URL with a lock symbol:

This means the site has a protected network connection. Websites with “https” at the beginning of the URL with no “s” are more vulnerable to attacks by scammers who steal credit card information by monitoring network traffic.

Also be aware of pop-up windows that appear while you are on a website asking for your credit card information to receive coupons or to win free items. Legitimate companies do not ask for your personal information for those purposes.

Using Public Wi-Fi to Shop or Access Sensitive Information

Wi-Fi allows your laptop, PC, or mobile device to connect to the internet without a physical wire connection. Many restaurants, hotels, libraries, and other places offer free public Wi-Fi, which is convenient when you’re on the go.

Many of these networks may not be secure and may expose your personal  and banking information toscammers looking to steal names, social security numbers, and bank account numbers.

Avoid using public Wi-Fi to make purchases online, log in to your financial accounts, or access other sites that have sensitive information about you. It’s also a good idea to stick with websites that have “https” encryption(discussed above) when in public places.

See part 2 of this series for additional information.

###Larry Marvin
LifeCrafter – Money $ense


For more help or information, go to or call the FDIC toll-free at 1-877-ASK-FDIC (1-877-275-3342).

What to Do If You Can’t Afford Your Student Loan Payments

Student loans are a debt you have to pay back, even if you don’t finish your degree. However, depending on your situation and what kind of loans you have, you might be eligible for a different repayment plan or to get your loans forgiven. Moreover, when it comes to qualifying for these programs, there’s nothing a private company can do for you that you can’t do yourself for free. 1 

Do not ignore your loans if you’re having trouble making payments. The government offers several options that can help keep your loans in good standing, even if your finances are tight.

3 Ways You Can Keep on Track With Loan Payments

  • Change your payment due date. Do you get paid after your student loan payment is due each month? If so, contact your loan servicer and ask whether you’d be able to switch the date your student loan payment is due.
  • Change your repayment plan. What you ultimately pay depends on the plan you choose and when you borrowed the money. If you need lower monthly payments, an income-driven repayment plan is based on how much money you make.
  • Consolidate your loans. If you have multiple student loans, simplify the repayment process with a Direct Consolidation Loan—allowing you to combine all your federal student loans into one loan for one monthly payment.

If the options above don’t work for you and you simply can’t make any payments right now, you might be eligible to postpone your payments through a deferment or forbearance. However, depending on the type of loan you have, interest may still accrue (accumulate) on your loan during the time you’re not making payments.

How to Manage Your Student Loans” Video

Check out this video to learn more about changing repayment plans, postponing or reducing your payments, or combining your federal student loans. 2.

 View accessible version (WMV)


###Larry Marvin

LifeCrafter- Money $ense


Beware: Private companies may contact you with offers to help you with your student loans for a fee. Remember, you never have to pay for help with your student loans. The U.S. Department of Education and their loan servicers for free help. Learn more about avoiding paying for help with your student loans.
  1. ©2018 Larry Marvin, Image Credit:32671790441_dbc0255096_o.jpg

Government Going Mobile With Financial Aid Form

On August 16, 2018, the government introduced two new ways to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form: a mobile-friendly version of the website and a mobile app.12

These two improvements will make it easier for students and parents to access and complete the FAFSA form on the device that works best for them, with a particular focus on improving the experience on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Redesigned, Mobile-friendly FAFSA® Website

The website has an updated look with new colors and has been redesigned so that the site pages will fit the screen size and shape of any device, including desktop or laptop computers and mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets. You can now complete the FAFSA form on a mobile device with the same ease as on a desktop or laptop computer.

The new design of also offers the following features:

  • The “Help and Hints” display box has been replaced by “tool tips” that provide information about each FAFSA question.
  • While the number of questions on the FAFSA form remains the same, the questions are displayed in a more user-friendly way, with some now grouped in a different order to ease navigation through the site.

Now Available: FAFSA® Completion on myStudentAid Mobile App

Federal Student Aid announced that students and parents may now download the myStudentAid app from both the Apple App Store (iOS) and Google Play (Android). The myStudentAid mobile app will provide the following functionality:

  • myFAFSA: complete the FAFSA safely and securely from your mobile device
  • Profile: edit/manage an FSA ID
  • myFederalLoans: view federal student loan and aid history
  • gov: access FSA’s signature source of information on student financial aid products, processes, and services
  • Contact information for FSA’s contact centers

Making the FAFSA form accessible through a mobile device provides students and their parents with improved options for completing the form. myFAFSA’s ability to customize the experience based on a specific role also makes it easier for students and parents to understand and complete the form. Also, students and parents will have the ability to complete the FAFSA form on any device that they prefer.

Note: This beta version of myFAFSA does not offer all of the same features as An enhanced version of myFAFSA will be released this fall and will include additional functionality.

###Larry W. Marvin

LifeCrafter- Money $ense



In the future, Federal Student Aid will post an announcement including a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation containing information and screenshots about myFAFSA.

To download the app, visit Google Play or the Apple App store at the links provided below.

Google Play:

Apple App Store:



Federal Student Aid, a department of the U.S. Department of Education:




  1. ©2018 Larry Marvin, Image Credit:screen capture-play-google-store-apps-details-2018-09-13-14_23_29

Paying for College

One of the most significant challenges facing parents today is paying for college. Jacob Gold, in an article he wrote for HuffPost, said: “We constantly see headlines about the increasing cost of education and the strain it puts on family finances.” He went on to say “There is no question that funding a child’s college education is one of life’s most significant investments. So how can you keep junior’s undergrad years from undermining your own retirement savings?”  1 2

The Best Way to Pay for College

The best way to pay for college is to use money from brokerage accounts,  40l(K) or other retirement accounts, 529 state-sponsored education accounts, and other traditional savings accounts. All of these methods of saving require time and planning during the younger years of the future college students in your household. If you do not have the cash set aside, then you will have to investigate the numerous types of financial programs that are available.

Several Types of Aid

There are several types of aid available to help you pay for your education beyond high school, including grants and scholarships, federal work-study jobs and student loans. The first step is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form at We will discuss the important details of FAFSA in another blog post. 3

Grants and scholarships

Grants and scholarships are free money. They should be your first choice to finance your education. Why? Because you don’t have to pay them back. An excellent way to apply for a grant is through your FAFSA form. You also can check your financial aid office at the college you want to attend, U.S. Department of Labor’s free scholarship search tool, federal and state agencies, your parent’s employer or even with your current employer, to name a few possible sources to find grant and scholarship opportunities.

Federal work-study jobs

Federal work-study jobs are another way to help pay for college. Work-study is a need-based grant that requires you to work part-time while you’re in school. To qualify for work-study, you’ll need to fill out the FASFA form and meet the needs-based criteria of the program. You are only paid for the hours that you work.

Student Loans

Student loans fall into two categories: federal loans and private loans.
Federal student loans come from the Department of Education. These include:
Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Direct PLUS Loans, Direct Consolidation Loans, and Perkins Loans. The specifics of the Department of Education loans will be discussed in a future post.

Private loans sometimes called “alternative loans,” are offered by private lenders, like banks and credit unions, and do not include the benefits and protections that come with federal loans. 4

Seek Professional Advice

Get help to make informed financial decisions about how to pay for college. Start by comparing financial aid offers or understanding student loan repayment options.

###Larry W. Marvin
LifeCrafter- Money $ense

  1. ©2018 Larry Marvin, Image Credit: Piggy-Bank-with-graduation-hat-tassel-and-money-sticking-out-of-slot-e1534873438869.jpg.
  3. Student Loans | Consumer Information.
  4. Student Loans | Consumer Information.

So You Want to go to College?

The cost of a college education is higher than ever, and there is no relief in sight.  College expenses range from tuition, room, and board, to books, supplies, fees and travel expenses.  The bottom line is that the sooner you start planning for college, whether for your children or yourself, the better prepared you should be to handle the “sticker shock” associated with getting a college education. 1 

There is no doubt that the sooner you start the conversation about college and how it will be paid for, the more realistic the family’s expectations will be about what the family can afford to pay.  In the real world, many families do not start these discussions soon enough. So in the end, the challenge of going to college, to even the least expensive local college, results in great disappointment and even embarrassment for family members.  In fact, it may be impossible for anyone in the family to attend college at all.

Average Cost at Public Colleges

The College Board recently reported that “a moderate college budget for an in-state public college for the 2017–2018 academic year averaged $25,290. A moderate budget at a private college averaged $50,900.” 2  Keep in mind that the $25,290 average cost reported by the Board is for resident students at public colleges.  However, most public colleges charge almost double of out-of-state residents.

Don’t “Plan to Fail”

There is an old adage that says, “If you fail to plan you plan to fail.”  Establishing a plan for the aspiring college students in the family early on is essential to help reduce the challenges, anxiety, and the expenses that the family will incur in obtaining the desired college education for family members.

The Longer You Wait

So don’t give up on the desire to go to college just because of its seemingly unaffordable cost. The longer you wait to make a plan the fewer the options you’ll have when the time comes.

Numerous Aid Options Available

There are several types of aid available to help you pay for your education beyond high school, including grants and scholarships, federal work-study jobs and student loans.  Don’t wait until tomorrow to establish a plan for your college education.  Do it today!3

###Larry W. Marvin

LifeCrafter Money $ense



  1.  ©2016 Larry Marvin,College-Campus-Pic-2.jpg, August 16, 2018, 1 MB 2048 × 1536
  2. © 2018 1st Financial Bank USA, “What’s the Price Tag for a College Education?”
  3. Additional sources include the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-FDIC and The US Department of Education

The 1.5 Trillion Dollar Crisis- Student Loan Debt

According to the latest report from the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors, consumer credit outstanding grew about 4.5% in the second quarter of 2018 to another record. Total consumer debt now sits at $3.91 trillion, which is nearly 50% higher than the previous credit-cycle peak of $2.67 trillion in the summer of 2008.  Second, only to mortgage debt, student loan debt is now $1.53 trillion and is higher than both auto loans and credit cards. 1

Student loans jumped to a new all-time high

Student loans surged to a new all-time high of $1.53 trillion. This level of debt is a new record for the second quarter, and second only to the fourth quarter of last year – which tends to see a seasonal spike due to holiday spending.

According to Make Lemonade, “there are more than 44 million borrowers who collectively owe $1.5 trillion in student loan debt in the U.S. alone. The average student in the Class of 2016 has $37,172 in student loan debt.”2

The Student Loan Reaches Across Age Groups

The latest student loan debt statistics for 2018 show how serious the student loan debt crisis has become – for borrowers across all demographics and age groups. This trend can’t go on forever. Sooner or later, this boom will turn to bust, as they always do. A considerable amount of this debt will go bad, and another crisis will likely follow.

Borrowers Need to be Cautious

Of course, what is far less sure is when. It’s incredibly difficult to predict the timing of these events. And while there are plenty of reasons to be cautious today, most measures of credit-market stress remain relatively low to date.

If you are a student loan borrower, my future blog posts will provide you with the information that can help you make more informed decisions regarding student loan refinance, student loan consolidation, student loan repayment, and student loan forgiveness.

Contact LifeCrafter for More Information

For more information and educational materials on Crafting Wealth and Self, return to the home page for details.


###Larry Marvin
LifeCrafter – Money $ense

  1. ©2018 Larry Marvin, Image Credit:Student-Debt-picture-for-blog-e1533946727827.jpg
  2. ©

My Money Rules to Live By “Part 3-My credit rule to live by”

About money rules to live by

Just like lane markers on a highway, your money rules to live by are guidelines that keep you moving in the right direction. You might have to speed some things up, slow down others, or change lanes from time to time, but your money rules can help you reach your financial destination. 1  2 

This worksheet is part of a series that focuses on three common rules to live by that may help you make good financial decisions in your life. The other two worksheets are on credit reports and saving. To read the research that helped inform this worksheet, and to hear about how other consumers think and feel about rules of thumb, read “Consumer Voices about Financial Rules to Live By”. Visit for these resources.

A common rule of thumb

“Check your credit report at least once a year.”

Many consumers have said that they sometimes find common financial rules of thumb—like “check your credit report once a year”—hard to apply to their own circumstances. Don’t feel discouraged, you can decide on your own personal rule to live by that works for your financial situation. You may know that you can get a free credit report from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies once every 12 months—but did you know that you can request the reports at different times to monitor your credit files throughout the year?

Instructions: Use this worksheet to create your own personal rule to live by that will help you meet your savings goals. Breaking your goals into small actionable steps will keep you from feeling overwhelmed. Writing down your goal will make you much more likely to stick to it.

My credit rule to live by

Step 1: Create a rule to live by to help you check your credit report

  • Choose an easy-to-remember a date to check your credit, like your birthday.  Or, choose up to three dates to check throughout the year.
  • Put the date(s) on your calendar ahead of time to remind you to check your credit.
  • Write down your date(s) below, sign this worksheet, and keep it where you can find it.


I will check my credit report:

Once a year on this date:  _________________________


Throughout the year in the months of:  _____________________________

Step 2: Make a promise to yourself- and take action on your rule

I will use my unique rule to live by to help me achieve my credit goal.


(sign here)

Step 3: Take action  on your goal

  • Get a free copy of your credit report from each of the nationwide credit reporting companies. Visit, call (877) 322-8228, or download and complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form from and mail it to the address on the form.

Tip: Beware of other websites offering free credit reports. Some companies offer free credit reports, but you may have to buy another product or service to get it. ¨ After you get your credit report, visit and click “Credit reports and scores” to learn more about your credit report, how to fix errors on your report, and more.

  • After you get your credit report, visit and click “Credit reports and scores” to learn more about your credit report, how to fix errors on your report, and more.


###Larry Marvin

LifeCrafter- Money $ense


  1. ©2017 Larry Marvin, Image Credit26787351554_d349c3d321_o.jpg

One Step to a Better Marriage – Keeping a Confidence

better marriage keep confidences

One thing you can do to have a better marriage is to make your marriage a safe place to share. Agree with one another that whatever you share with each other will be kept confidential unless your spouse gives you express permission to share it. Confidentiality in marriage builds confidence in your marriage relationship.1

DO THIS: Say to your spouse, “I will not repeat anything you tell me without your permission.”

One of the biggest threats to a marriage is the little tongue. Repeating what your spouse shared with you in confidence or in a moment of intimacy rips the fabric of the marriage relationship and that rip takes months of trust building to repair – if it can be repaired at all.

Easy to Rationalize

It is easy to rationalize talking to a trusted friend or family member about the details of your marriage for advice to “make it better.” The fact that your motive for sharing is well intentioned is not an excuse to share without your spouse’s permission.

When you Just Need to Tell Someone

Sometimes when you are arguing with your spouse, the need to talk with someone without your spouse’s permission is overwhelming. This feeling is magnified because you often feel alone and by talking with someone else at least remedies the feeling of abandonment. Sharing the details of a fight with others, however, comes with special hazards. Couples usually reconcile. The outsider who knows the details of the argument, who is not part of the reconciliation process, often harbors resentment to the spouse that “hurt their friend.” Over time, this may create an outside stressor on the marriage.

Building a Better Marriage

There are many reasons why keeping marital confidences build a great marriage. Certainly it builds trust – which is the foundation of any great relationship. A more subtle benefit is that couples share more truth about themselves where they feel safe. Great relationships are possible when couples don’t hide pieces of themselves from the other.

A Notable Exception

The notable exception to this rule is abuse. If you are the victim of abuse, get help. Otherwise, the best practice is to keep confident what is shared in confidence.

### Brandon Blankenship
Brandon-Blankenship Writing


Brandon L. Blankenship is a continuing legal education presenter and business educator. He is the author of Unmasking Hour. He writes weekly posts on the legal industry and is a contributor to the Nobility Academy. He and his wife Donnalee live on their hobby farm south of Birmingham, Alabama.


  1.  ©2016 Brandon Blankenship, Image Credit: tell me a secret by Senia L CC flickr 2AUG2008.