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New holiday encourages spending

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NATIONAL (WCIA) — It’s not a “Hallmark holiday” but it is a retail revival of sorts. A new holiday, National Use Your Gift Card Day, launches Saturday. It’s to remind consumers to use 2019’s most requested gift before they end up misplaced, forgotten or lost.

Consumers were projected to spend $27.5 billion on gift cards. Retailers and restaurants around the country joined forces with UseYourGiftCard.com to remind consumers of incentives and offer deals to use their cards. Annually, $3 billion in gift cards is left unused.

National Use Your Gift Card Day Deals

  1. AMC Theatres: Access AMC exclusive offers by using gift card.
  2. BurgerFi: Get a free order of fresh hand cut fries by downloading BurgerFi App and using gift card.
  3. Chipotle: Join Chipotle Rewards and use a gift card to earn points towards free Chipotle.
  4. Kohl’s: Use gift card and earn $10 Kohl’s cash for every $50 spent.
  5. LifeisGood.com: 10% off when gift card is used.
  6. Red Lobster: Use gift card to create individualized ultimate feast; pick four of more than 10 craveable creations.
  7. Regal: Receive one free refill with a purchase of a large soft drink and/or large popcorn on the same day of purchase when using gift card.
  8. rue 21: 15% off total purchase when using gift card, which is valid from January 18 – January 26, 2020.
  9. Saks OFF 5TH: Use Saks Off 5th gift card to shop in store or on saksoff5th.com and take advantage of the Extra Cut Clearance Event January 18.
  10. Simon Malls: Use gift card at more than 200 centers nationwide and treat yourself to no purchase fees on American Express® Simon Giftcards® January 18 only.

For more information, click here.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Better Ask Barry: Another national shopping day?

Better Ask Barry: Another national shopping day? 2000 1545 admin
Better Ask Barry

gift card and wallet
Over $3 billion in gift cards will go un-redeemed this year

(KION) Americans love gift cards. In 2019, they were the most requested holiday gift, but many end up lost or forgotten somewhere in our wallets and never get used.

According to estimates, about $3 billion in cards will go un-redeemed this year.

To remind us that we’re leaving money on the table, Tracy Tilson established National Use Your Gift Card Day.

“I was going through my wallet and I found three unused gift cards. It was one of those things where you go ‘oh, my word, I forgot all about that,’ and it was one of those aha moments,” said Tilson.

Tilson found a suitable date, created a website, and partnered with a number of national retailers and restaurants, some who will be offering special deals to gift card shoppers.

This is a list of national retailers that are offering Use Your Gift Card Day deals:

AMC Theatres: Customers can access AMC exclusive offers as long as they remember to use their gift card.

BurgerFi: Get a free order of fresh hand cut fries when customers download the BurgerFi App and use a gift card.

Chipotle: Join Chipotle Rewards and use a gift card to earn points towards free Chipotle.

Kohl’s: Use your gift card and earn $10 Kohl’s cash for every $50 spent.

LifeisGood.com: 10 percent off when you use a gift card.

Red Lobster: Use your Red Lobster gift card and create your own ultimate feast; pick four of more than 10 craveable creations for a feast that’s all your own.

Regal: Receive one free refill with a purchase of a large soft drink and/or large popcorn on the same day of purchase when you use your giftcard.

rue 21: 15 percent off total purchase when using a gift card (valid from Saturday, January 18 until January 26, 2020).

Saks OFF 5TH: Use your Saks Off 5th gift card to shop in store or on saksoff5th.com and take advantage of the “Extra Cut Clearance Event” on January 18, 2020.

For retailers it’s a win/win. They’ve already been paid by the card’s buyer, and gift card users tend to overspend the amount on the card by as much as 35 percent.

National Use Your Gift Card Day is this Saturday January 18th.

Tilson says is it is less of a shopping day, and more a reminder to use what’s already been paid for.

“It comes from a place to remind people to use their gift cards,” she said. “This is going to be a year-round website with tips and reminders throughout the year…and have tips and tactics on there.”

There are other times when you will never use a particular gift card because it’s for a store or website where you never shop.

You can sell those, or exchange them for another card, at websites like Cardpool and Card Cash. Both sites claim you’ll get up to 92 percent of the card’s original value.

Business / Top Stories

10 can’t-miss deals for National Use Your Gift Card Day

10 can’t-miss deals for National Use Your Gift Card Day 2000 1545 admin

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) – Do you have gift cards that have gone unused for too long? If so, we have good news for you!

National Use Your Gift Card Day launches Saturday, January 18. And to remind shoppers to take advantage of the new holiday, UseYourGiftCard.com has joined with numerous retailers and restaurants to help you celebrate.

 

You can take advantage of the following deals on January 18:

1. AMC Theatres: Customers can access AMC exclusive offers as long as they remember to use their gift card.

2. BurgerFi: Get a free order of fresh hand cut fries when customers download the BurgerFi App and use a gift card.

3. Chipotle: Join Chipotle Rewards and use a gift card to earn points towards free Chipotle.

4. Kohl’s: Use your gift card and earn $10 Kohl’s cash for every $50 spent

5. LifeisGood.com: 10 percent off when you use a gift card.

6. Red Lobster: Use your Red Lobster gift card and create your own ultimate feast; pick four of more than 10 craveable creations for a feast that’s all your own.

7. Regal: Receive one free refill with a purchase of a large soft drink and/or large popcorn on the same day of purchase when you use your giftcard.

8. rue 21: 15 percent off total purchase when using a gift card, which is valid from Saturday, January 18 until January 26, 2020.

9. Saks OFF 5TH: Use your Saks Off 5th gift card to shop in store or on saksoff5th.com and take advantage of the “Extra Cut Clearance Event” on January 18, 2020.

10. Simon Malls: Use your Simon Giftcard® at more than 200 Simon centers nationwide and treat yourself to no purchase fees on American Express® Simon Giftcards® on January 18th only.

 

For more information, visit www.useyourgiftcard.com.

 

Copyright 2020 WBRC. All rights reserved.

How to Avoid Elder Fraud

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Kiplinger’s associate editor Miriam Cross offers tips on how to protect your loved ones from falling victim to elder fraud. Also, our hosts Sandy Block and Ryan Ermey delve into the results of Kiplinger’s market volatility poll.

Episode Length: 00:33:23 | Links and resources mentioned in this episode

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Listen to more Your Money’s Worth Podcasts

Ryan Ermey: Our main topic today is elder fraud, which you may think doesn’t concern you, but your parents or grandparents may be more vulnerable than you think, and it may be up to you to protect them from scammers. Kiplinger’s associate editor Miriam Cross tells you how in our main segment.

Your Money's Worth podcast logoListen to More Your Money’s Worth Podcasts

Ryan Ermey: On today’s show, Sandy and I discuss the results of Kiplinger’s recent poll with Personal Capital and talk gift cards and fun names in a new edition of Financial Fact or Fiction. That’s all ahead on this episode of Your Money’s Worth. Stick around.

Ryan Ermey: Welcome to Your Money’s Worth. I’m Kiplinger’s associate editor Ryan Ermey, joined as always by senior editor Sandy Block, and, Sandy, we did a poll.

Sandy Block: Yes, we did.

Ryan Ermey: Not the two of us personally…

Sandy Block: No, we didn’t make the phone calls.

Ryan Ermey: … but Kiplinger’s did a poll with Personal Capital— a national poll about the impact of market volatility on retirement planning. We conducted it in October and who the hell are these people? They were screened for age, household income, investible household assets, and it was an equal split between males and females. To participate, you had to have a minimum age of 40, a minimum $50,000 annual household income before taxes and a minimum $100,000 combined household net worth, excluding, of course, your…

Sandy Block: Your house. Yes.

Ryan Ermey: … primary residence, and all of that is pertinent because it colors the results here — and one of the interesting things that sticks out to me is that respondents are currently holding about 18% of their portfolios in cash. That’s about six times the national average of three to 5%, and more than half said that they would increase holdings in traditional savings accounts to combat market volatility. Now, as you pointed out, you and I didn’t actually go about asking the questions, and so…

Sandy Block: Because if we had, we would say why do you have so much in cash?

Ryan Ermey: Yeah, it’s an awful lot, and I’m not sure. Combating market volatility, it’s one of these things. I don’t know exactly how this was phrased, but… so if you participated in the poll, then I’m about to scold you, and this isn’t how it is, I’m sorry, but you really shouldn’t be trying to take such proactive measures to combat market volatility. We’ve talked about on this show before that you want to set out with a plan that should include a certain level of market volatility baked in, which is about investing in line with your tolerance and capacity for risk.

Ryan Ermey: Now, if you’re someone who’s extremely close to retirement, it might make sense to have a big cash holding or a really conservative portfolio with not much equity in it, but we really would discourage people from trying to time the market, as it were, if they are afraid of upcoming volatility to make a drastic move like that into cash.

Sandy Block: Right, and what strikes me about it is if you have money in cash, you’re basically earning nothing right now. So all this money that these people have in cash, they missed out on a lot of gains last year. I mean, we’ve had a really roaring bull market, so I understand people wanting to be conservative, and maybe some of them are waiting for stocks to drop so they can buy some, but I suspect that’s not what’s happening here. I think that just reflects fears of an upcoming bear market.

Ryan Ermey: This is right in that line, too, in that just about half of respondents — some 47% — would consider reducing their stock investments to combat market volatility and, of those, four of 10 would consider reducing stock holdings to 25% or less of their portfolio.

Ryan Ermey: Now, once again if you started at 30% and you want to go below 25%, because it’s going to help you sleep at night, sure. There’s no reason for you to be tossing and turning, because you’re invested beyond your tolerance for risk, but, I mean, if you had a 60/40 portfolio and, now, you’re going to take it down to 25%, it goes back to what our colleague Anne Smith said, I think, in maybe the second episode of the showever. I’m going to paraphrase it poorly, but you shouldn’t let the market drive your investing decisions. You should drive the market. You should be the one who is setting out with a goal and an investment plan, and you can end up losing an awful lot of money trying to time the market, and most people do.

Ryan Ermey: Now, another interesting part about this survey or about the results, it comes down to when people claim Social Security, and these results I think surprised you.

Sandy Block: Yeah. What they found was that if portfolios declined by more than 25%, more than 40% of respondents who are 55 to 64 said they would delay retirement, which is not a bad idea, but one in five, about 20%, said a downturn would cause them to consider claiming Social Security earlier than planned. Now, when you claim Social Security at 62, which is the earliest you can claim it, you get your money, but you bake in a permanent 30% reduction in the benefits for the rest of your life.

Sandy Block: Now, I understand why some people in the face of a market downturn would think, “I’ll claim Social Security so I don’t have to sell stocks at a loss,” but if you are in this age group, you should have prepared for that already by putting enough living expenses for at least two, as many as five years in cash so you don’t have to sell stocks to pay the bills, and if you claim Social Security early, eventually, this market downturn is going to end, but the haircut to your benefits will never end, so I think this is generally a bad idea.

Sandy Block: If you lose your job because of a market downturn or recession, you may not have any choice, and that’s actually what happened after 2008. During that recession, we saw a big uptick in people claiming Social Security. Many of them were forced into early retirement because they had no choice, but if it’s just an asset allocation issue like where am I getting my money, I really would think twice about claiming Social Security early because that is an irrevocable decision that will have a permanent impact on the amount of benefits that you can claim.

Ryan Ermey: Now, some good news from the survey results is that about seven out of 10 of the respondents did say that they had a longterm financial plan. Two out of three say they are dealing with market volatility by staying diversified and waiting it out. This is very much along the lines of what we would tell you to do, but only two out of 10 investors say they are currently seeking the advice of a professional advisor to address market volatility. Now, not everyone can afford a financial advisor or not everyone feels like they need one, but if you are among the people who are without a plan, I mean, seven out of 10 is good, but that means 30% of the people don’t have a plan for volatility and hiring an advisor, I talked to a cousin of mine over Christmas. He and his wife have been married for a couple of years, and they really… they have complicated finances. They both work for themselves as freelancers, and they’re not really sure how to save for retirement and how to deal with some of the financial obstacles that are coming up, and I was telling them that you don’t really have to spend an arm and a leg for financial advice, and one of the models that make sense to me for someone who say he doesn’t want to spend a lot on financial advice is a robo advisor.

Ryan Ermey: Now, a lot of people are uncomfortable with getting all of their investment advice from an algorithm or from a robot, but what’s cool, and this is in our colleague Nellie Huang‘s story in the February issue of Kiplinger’s, is that a lot of these robo advisors have what we call a hybrid model, so you can get the automated advice, but you also have access to a financial advisor, who’s often a licensed broker or a certified financial planner. Now, you’ll likely need a little bit more of a minimum to invest in one of these, although the people in our survey generally qualify.

Ryan Ermey: For instance, Fidelity’s offering is $25,000. Vanguard’s is $50,000. I mean, these aren’t backbreaking amounts of money for people who might have a complicated financial situation, and once you get past that threshold, the fees are really, really reasonable, well below 1% in most cases, and so it’s something I think a lot of people should really consider, so, anyway, be on the lookout. I’m sure we are going to be publicizing the full results of the poll. These are just a smattering of the results, and, of course, we have magazine polls in the magazine quite a lot and in front of the book, so be on the lookout for those. We always want to hear your feedback and, hey, give us some feedback on the podcast, too. Shoot us an email at podcast@kiplinger.com. We don’t have to poll you. Just tell us. Just tell us what you think. We’re happy to hear it. Up next, our interview with Miriam Cross on how to protect your loved ones from elder fraud. Don’t go anywhere.

Ryan Ermey: We are back, and we’re here with Miriam Cross, an associate editor for Kiplinger’s magazine, who has a story, a fantastic story, on elder fraud in the January issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, so, Miriam, thank you for coming on.

Miriam Cross: Thank you for having me.

Ryan Ermey: We’re talking elder fraud, and the podcast audience tends to be young and hip, but this isn’t like a case of Murder She Wrote, where the demographic is. Why is this something? First of all, what’s the scope of the problem that we’re talking about and why is it something that a lot of people should care about?

Miriam Cross: Many of us have aging parents or grandparents and there are plenty of things we should do and really need to be doing to protect them especially as they get older. Also, when I say aging parents, it may not be as old as you think because cognitive decline starts… can start appearing as early as your 50s, which… yeah, which affects your ability to judge risks and that leads to diminished financial capacity. You lose the ability to handle your own money.

Sandy Block: One of the really startling things you report in this story is just how under-reported elder fraud is. Why is that?

Miriam Cross: There could be all kinds of reasons. It’s estimated that only one in 44 cases of elder financial abuse are even reported. That could be because the victims don’t understand what happened. They’re embarrassed about it. Oftentimes, the perpetrator is a loved one, and that is very complicated…

Ryan Ermey: Yeah, that’s a whole other Judge Judy can of worms.

Miriam Cross: Yeah, or they just stay… they don’t want to lose their independence if someone finds out.

Sandy Block: Right. I mean, you mentioned the diminished capacity, but what makes older adults particularly attractive to scam artists, because it seems like they seek them out.

Miriam Cross: There are a bunch of reasons. Older adults may have accumulated significant assets over their lifetime, so people go where the money is. Older adults can be lonely or socially isolated, which makes them more vulnerable to schemes, especially ones that tug at your heartstrings, and the cognitive decline is also a big thing. We still maybe mentally sharp in many ways, but once we start losing the ability to handle our money, then we become susceptible to all kinds of scams.

Ryan Ermey: If you’re going to visit your parents or your grandparents and spending time with them, what might be some warning signs that they might be a victim of something like this?

Miriam Cross: Look for things that are out of the ordinary. Is there a demeanor, unusually secretive or are they unusually giddy? Look at what’s around their house. Are there weird pieces of mail? Are there stacks of gift cards? Gift cards are actually a huge give-away, because that’s the number one method scammers use to get money. They ask you to go to the store, buy a bunch of gift card, prepaid gift cards and then read you the numbers off the back because you can’t trace that.

Ryan Ermey: Oh, I see.

Miriam Cross: Mm-hmm and if you have access to their finances, such as their bank accounts, look for unusual activity or missing check numbers.

Sandy Block: What can you do to ward this off? I mean, if you’re worried, you’re hearing this and you think, “I should be paying more attention,” what can you do to protect your parents or grandparents from fraud?

Miriam Cross: The first step is education, but education only goes so far, so you want to keep up on scams. We have a slideshow on the website that covers six scams that affect us, seniors in particular. You want to bring this up very sensitively. You don’t want to feel like your parents or grandparents… you don’t want them to feel like they’re losing control, so you can say something like, “Hey, I read this really interesting article in Kiplinger’s about elder fraud and they talked about this grandparents scam. Have you ever received a call like that? What would you do if you got that kind of phone call?” but education only goes so far because, especially as people get older and they experience mild cognitive impairment, they can know a scam, something as a scam one week and then they forget the next week.

Ryan Ermey: What are some of the really common ones that you mentioned? Then we’ll put that slideshow up in the show notes so everyone can print a copy out and bring it with a magnifying glass.

Miriam Cross: The grandparent scam is a big one, and, it’s funny, when I was reporting the story and I was… I told people what I was writing about and a bunch of people I know had parents or grandparents who’d received phone calls like this.

Sandy Block: Including one of our editors.

Miriam Cross: Including one of our editors, yes.

Ryan Ermey: Did they call up and say, “It’s your grandson. I’m in trouble?”

Miriam Cross: Yeah, by, “I got into an accident,” or, “I’m in jail. Please don’t tell mom and dad, but I need you to wire me $9,000 immediately.”

Sandy Block: What’s really disturbing about this, and this is what we talked about with our editor whose parents experienced this, is these people use information they get on social media, so they’re able to be very convincing. Not only do they say the name of the grandchild, but they’ll provide enough details so the grandparents think, “Oh, yeah, that really is my son in jail in the Bronx and he needs to be bailed out,” or something like that.

Miriam Cross: Right, and they’re preying on a grandparent’s love for their grandchild. They impulsively think, “Oh, I need to do this to help my grandchild.”

Ryan Ermey: I did take a look, so romantic schemes seem to be one that… the ones that come up.

Miriam Cross: Yeah, so this involves either an online dating site or on social media. Someone will contact you. Maybe they pretend they know you’re from a long time ago or just… they strike up a conversation on an online dating site. It’ll only be over email, text or phone and they can’t meet you in person yet because they need you to send them money so they can meet you. Or, they’re having some sort of medical procedure and they need money and what happens is they end up milking even hundreds of thousands of dollars from the victim.

Ryan Ermey: It’s like your regular old catfish right there.

Miriam Cross: It’s funny, I feel like these are things. Maybe we are more up on these types of scams, but older adults who didn’t grow up with this kind of technology are not as aware of it as we are.

Sandy Block: Right. I think one thing that gets a lot of seniors in trouble is the rest of… younger people don’t answer the phone anymore. We have caller ID. We just don’t bother, but a lot of older people do answer the phone, and, once you’re on the phone, that makes you vulnerable to all kinds of somebody saying that your Social Security account was closed or they’re…

Miriam Cross: … or they’re an IRS agent.

Sandy Block: … an IRS agent, yeah, all kinds of things, answering the phone, and in a lot of times I think older people aren’t as savvy about social media either. They don’t realize that there’s all this kind of fakes on Facebook.

Ryan Ermey: Oh, I mean, that you could take someone else’s pictures and make a whole profile. We’ve all seen that. Have you seen the MTV Catfish TV Show?

Miriam Cross: No.

Ryan Ermey: The whole premise is, people… they call these two guys, because people are in some virtual relationship that they suspect might not be real and that it might be too good to be true and it takes some sophistication to suss out what’s a real profile and what’s fake. I mean, some things are like common sense. Do they never video chat you? Is it always sketchy? Can they never talk? Are they always in the dark? These can be technologically sophisticated things that people aren’t aware of, even young people.

Miriam Cross: Right and the crazy thing is, some of this stuff, it sounds so obvious when we talk about it, but, when you’re in the moment, it’s not.

Sandy Block: One other thing I wanted to touch on, Miriam, because this is a… you mentioned that, oftentimes, these people are victimized by people they know and you mentioned caregivers. What can families do who need to hire a caregiver to protect their parents or grandparents from being ripped off by somebody who has really access to them every day?

Miriam Cross: Right, so the first thing, you want to know about the caregiver as much as you can. If you’re hiring from an agency, make sure they’re licensed, insured and bonded and they’ve undergone a background check. The thing is though, and I learned this from speaking with one person from my story whose father was victimized by his caregiver, you can still trust this person completely, and they can be opportunistic.

Miriam Cross: In this case, their caregiver had cared for his mother and they trusted her completely. She was with her in her final days, so then they used the same caregiver for her father… for his father, and, at that point, she had convinced the father that her child needed surgery, and he wrote her a check for about $5,000, but she said she wanted… she encouraged him to keep it a secret, that this was between them, so you have to be… even… so even if you think you trust the caregiver, you should still take other measures. That means protecting your smartphone and computer with a password when they come over, locking up your checkbooks. That’s a big thing. They will take checks intermittently from the checkbook, not the top one. Shred personal documents. Make sure anything, any valuables are either locked away in a safe or in a safety deposit box.

Ryan Ermey: If you do eventually suss out that something is up, something is going wrong, that someone in your family has been a victim of one of these schemes, where do you report it? What recourse do you have?

Miriam Cross: See, that can be so complicated, and it depends on what exactly it is. Sometimes, the answer will be obvious. If it’s a Social Security scam, then you call the Social Security office and report it. In general though, you want to call your local law enforcement and you want to call your local Adult Protective Services agency. A couple of good websites that will list resources by state are eldercare.acl.gov and the website for the National Center on Elder Abuse.

Ryan Ermey: All right. Anything else that people should definitely be keeping an eye on?

Miriam Cross: Especially when your parents get older, you want to get together with them and discuss with their banks and brokerages what sort of tools they offer to help you keep an eye on their accounts without interfering too much. Maybe the bank can give you a read-only access or send you alerts every time certain activity occurs. Maybe you can be made an interested party in the brokerage, meaning, you get to see statements, but you can’t actually move money around. The thing is these benefits are not often advertised, so you need to speak with the financial institutions to see what they offer and also ask them how they monitor for suspicious financial activity.

Ryan Ermey: All right, so it seems like the advice is to stay vigilant and when it comes to people who deal with an older relative of yours, trust, but verify. So, look, we’ll put Miriam’s excellent, excellent story up in the show notes along with the slideshow of the key scams to watch out for, resources as well, and, yeah, Miriam, thank you so much for coming on.

Miriam Cross: Thank you for having me.

Ryan Ermey: Do you have unused gift cards? Do you own mutual funds or ETFs? Do you just like the sound of our voices? If the answer to any of those is yes, come back after the break.

Ryan Ermey: We’re back, and before we go, a quick new edition of Financial Fact or Fiction, Sandy, what have you got?

Sandy Block: Here’s my Fact or Fiction, Ryan. More than 1 billion, maybe as much as 3 billion gift cards go unused every year.

Ryan Ermey: Yeah. Why? I know the answer, because you and I went back and forth on these numbers. Whether it’s one or three, there’s a lot of them.

Sandy Block: There’s a lot, and I think this shouldn’t come to… as a surprise to people, because I’m guessing that if you’re listening to this right now, you have a gift card tucked away in your wallet that somebody gave you, that you haven’t…

Ryan Ermey: Yeah, I have two in my desk drawer.

Sandy Block: … that you haven’t used yet, so the reason I’m mentioning this is because January 18th, and, unfortunately, this did not make our calendar because it’s new, but January 18th is National Use Your Gift Card Day, and it’s a special day that the retailers have designated to encourage people to use these unused gift cards, and a whole bunch of retailers are offering special incentives to get you to come out and use your gift card, and the list is long, but it ranges from everything to AMC Theaters to Saks Fifth Avenue.

Ryan Ermey: There you go.

Sandy Block: I mean, the takeaway here is, yes, use your gift cards.

Ryan Ermey: What kind of perks are we talking about?

Sandy Block: It doesn’t really say. I think it just says they’re offering incentives or encouraging people to use their gift cards, so I don’t know. I’m sure if you go to their websites, they’ll tell you.

Ryan Ermey: Just come and spend your money please.

Sandy Block: Yeah, please spend your money, and, here’s the thing. Most gift cards these days don’t expire, but they could be… if you lose them, it’s like losing cash. If you haven’t registered a gift card and you lose it, you’ve lost cash and that’s just money you’re carrying around that you haven’t used.

Sandy Block: I think one reason people don’t use them, and maybe these incentives will help, is I have gift cards that have $2 on them and… because it’s hard to zero out a gift card, but you really should. This is money. This is something somebody gave to you. As we’ve mentioned before on the podcast, if this is a gift card for a retailer that you really would not darken the door of, there are lots of gift card exchange sites where you can get, exchange your gift card or even get cash at discounted amount, but it’s still something.

Ryan Ermey: Right, you’re not going to get the full amount. It depends. If it’s like a Visa gift card, you can get pretty damn close to the full amount, same with Amazon, but if it’s for something very niched, Bob’s Discount Fishing at an outlet, you’re probably not going to get quite as much, but it’s better than nothing.

Sandy Block: You could get something, yeah, better than nothing. Even if you get 50 cents on the dollar, that’s 50 cents that you’re not using, so, I guess, we’re coming off the holidays here. We talked last week about the importance of exchanging early. I think it’s important to use your gift cards early, too, and one other reason is this has happened in the past. If you happen to own a gift card for a retailer that goes out of business, your gift card could be worthless, and this has happened to people when we’ve had big closings, so this is probably not going to happen if your gift card is for Starbucks, but better safe…

Ryan Ermey: That would be fantastic.

Sandy Block: That would be really interesting, but it could be if it’s for a store. A lot of retailers are tenuous, so, whether you do it on January 18th or January 19th, make a note to yourself to use those gift cards and enjoy the benefits of the gift.

Ryan Ermey: Here’s mine, and it’s mutual funds and exchange-traded funds must have names that accurately describe what they invest in.

Sandy Block: I hope that’s a fact.

Ryan Ermey: Broadly. Broadly, it is, so there…

Sandy Block: Fact-ish?

Ryan Ermey: Yeah, so there are SEC rules in terms of naming your fund. You have to invest 80% of your fund’s assets, and, what you say you invest in, it can’t be deliberately misleading, so you can’t call it… I can’t call my fund Ryan’s Best Large Company Stocks and then invest everything in tiny companies, but… or I can’t do Ryan’s Grade Bond Fund and then invest in stocks. You’re not allowed to do that, and the SEC has recently cracked down on ETFs, because the thing with ETFs is that a lot of them are based on themes because…

Sandy Block: Right, or they’re really niche-y. Yeah.

Ryan Ermey: Right, because they want to give investors access to something very specific and hot that they can sell right now, and, recently, the SEC has been telling a lot of these ETFs at the 11th hour like, “Maybe take blockchain out of the name.” I know it’s like buzz-y and it’s going to come up in a Google search, but are you really… Are there really that many blockchain companies in the portfolio there? The thing is fun names can get squishier than Ryan’s Bond Fund. Maybe it’s Ryan’s Contrarian Funds. How exactly do you define contrarian?

Sandy Block: Yeah, but that’s… yeah.

Ryan Ermey: The point is this. You need to be checking on funds when you invest in them and as you hold them, and Kyle Woodley wrote a little bit about this in the January issue in ways to size up an ETF, and the first question he tells you to ask yourself is, “Does the ETF have legitimate investing theme or just clever marketing?” and he points out that the local shares Nashville area ETF invests in companies headquartered in Nashville, but which the idea is that Nashville is this big, booming…

Sandy Block: Happening, yeah, everybody wants to move there.

Ryan Ermey: … up and coming city, but the thing is like Dollar General, which is based near Nashville, doesn’t really get their earnings from Nashville. They have locations in 44 states.

Sandy Block: They just have a building there.

Ryan Ermey: That’s exactly right. They have a post office box there maybe. Just because you’re incorporated somewhere, it doesn’t mean that you’re deriving your profits from the profitability of that place, so, in terms of the ETF, really take a minute to look under the hood to make sure that it’s invested in the things that you actually want to be investing in.

Ryan Ermey: Just quickly, another example that Kyle brings up, the Global X Social Media ETF (SOCL), which invests in stocks like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, they used to have NutriSystem in their portfolio because the argument was that the firm used it as part of customer support and you could use Facebook or Twitter or whatever. It’s tenuous, right?

Sandy Block: Very tenuous, yeah.

Ryan Ermey: If you’re investing, you’re paying an expense ratio to own these things. You’re paying a company to give you what you want. You have to make sure you’re getting what you want, and this was a point that we bring up with mutual funds, too, especially the ones that have been around for a very long time. There’s different managers. There’s different flavors.

Sandy Block: They may not match, yeah.

Ryan Ermey: Our colleague, Nellie Huang, wrote a story about when to sell a mutual fund that we’ll put in the show notes, but she points out that Fidelity low-priced stock, which is still a fantastic fund, but it used to be a domestic fund, only-US stocks, and now they have a big chunk of international holdings. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a better or worse fund, but it’s not necessarily what you bought it for, so it’s worth reviewing. Go through your portfolio, and, especially if you’ve held a fund for a long time, it could just be easy as a fund got really big, and they had to start investing in some bigger companies. Something that started out maybe as a mid-cap fund a few years ago might look more like a large-cap fund now, but maybe you bought it to boost your mid-cap holdings, so it’s worth checking out. Morningstar is a good resource for this. It’ll break down mutual funds or ETF holdings by market size, by country, by sector. Just make sure that you’re invested in something that you paid for.

Ryan Ermey: That’s it for this episode of Your Money’s Worth. For show notes and more great Kiplinger content on the topics we discussed on today’s show, visit Kiplinger.com/links/podcasts. You can stay connected with us on Twitter, Facebook or by emailing us at podcast@kiplinger.com, and if you like the show, please remember to rate, review and subscribe to Your Money’s Worth wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening.

Retailers, restaurants team up with deals for inaugural ‘National Use Your Gift Card Day’

Retailers, restaurants team up with deals for inaugural ‘National Use Your Gift Card Day’ 414 217 admin

Check the back of your wallet and the bottom of your drawers — you may want to use those dust-collecting gift cards this Saturday for the inaugural “National Use Your Gift Card Day.”

It’s being dubbed a “shopping holiday” with the goal of getting consumers to shop with their gift cards. Every year, $3 billion is wasted in unused gift cards.

UseYourGiftCard.com is teaming up with retailers and restaurants to offer deals for people who use their gift card this Saturday, January 18.

Gift cards were the most-requested gift this past holiday season with consumers expected to have spent $27.5 billion on gift cards in 2019.

NATIONAL USE YOUR GIFT CARD DAY DEALS:

  • AMC Theatres: Customers can access AMC exclusive offers as long as they remember to use their gift cards.
  • BurgerFi: Get a free order of fresh hand-cut fries when customers download the BurgerFi App and use a gift card.
  • Chipotle: Join Chipotle Rewards and use a gift card to earn points towards free Chipotle.
  • Kohl’s: Use your gift card and earn $10 Kohl’s Cash for every $50 spent.
  • LifeisGood.com: 10 percent off when you use a gift card.
  • Red Lobster: Use your Red Lobster gift card and create your own ultimate feast; pick four of more than 10 craveable creations for a feast that’s all your own.
  • Regal: Receive one free refill with a purchase of a large soft drink and/or large popcorn on the same day of purchase when you use your gift card.
  • rue 21: 15 percent-off total purchase when using a gift card, which is valid from Saturday, January 18 until January 26, 2020.
  • Saks OFF 5TH: Use your Saks Off 5th gift card to shop in-store or on saksoff5th.com and take advantage of the “Extra Cut Clearance Event” on January 18, 2020.
  • Simon Malls: Use your Simon Giftcard at more than 200 Simon centers nationwide and treat yourself to no purchase fees on American Express Simon Giftcards on January 18th only.

National Use of Your Gift Card Day

National Use of Your Gift Card Day 1386 936 admin

2020 Melha Shriners sworn in!

Lancaster correction officer assaulted by inmates.

First ever National Use Your Gift Card Day™!

Wurst Haus restaurant opens in Northampton!

Boar’s Head Festival Sunday at Trinity United Methodist Church Springfield.

3rd Annual Sparkle Havdallah in Northampton.

UMass Amherst Five College Federal Credit Union is running a winter coat drive.

Preventing an electrical fire in your home.

National Use Your Gift Card Day 2020 Deals and Special Offers

National Use Your Gift Card Day 2020 Deals and Special Offers 2000 1545 admin

This new shopping holiday (Jan. 18) give shoppers extra savings if they use a gift card. See deals from Kohl’s, Rue21 and more

Did you receive a gift card over the holidays? Or have a few that have been collecting dust in a drawer for months?

In 2019, about $3 billion in gift card dollars (about 3% of the amount loaded nationwide) went unspent, according to estimates from Mercator Advisory Group, which provides analytics and advisory services for the payments industry.

A new holiday aims to encourage you to go out and spend those gift cards.

National Use Your Gift Card Day debuts on Jan. 18, 2020, and will take place on the third Saturday of January every year going forward.

Founded by public relations professional Tracy Tilson in 2020, the holiday encourages retailers and restaurants to offer discounts and freebies to those who use their gift cards on Jan. 18.

As the first annual National Use Your Gift Card Day approaches, more merchants are confirming their offers. Here are some of the best ones.

AMC Theaters

Get exclusive offers at AMCtheatres.com when you pay for tickets with a gift card.

BurgerFi

Get a free order of fresh hand-cut fries when you download the BurgerFi app and use a gift card online on Jan. 18.

Kohl’s

Earn $10 in Kohl’s Cash for every $50 you spend with a gift card on Kohl’s.com on Jan. 18.

Life is Good

Get 10% off when you use a gift card online at LifeIsGood.com.

Rue 21

In stores only, get 15% off from Jan. 18 to Jan. 26. The coupon code for this offer is 050992.

We are curious to see how many more offers become available, and we’ll update this article with new ones.

Simon Malls

On Jan. 18 only, pay no purchase fees when you buy American Express Simon Giftcards.

Kristin McGrath

KKristin McGrathristin is a savings and deals expert at Offers.com. Her great loves are travel, shopping, and shopping while traveling, which has made her a bargain hunter out of necessity. In addition to finding ways to save money, Kristin is an avid credit-card rewards maximizer who thinks about every purchase in terms of the free travel and cash back it will earn.

Off The Menu: National Use Your Gift Card Day approaching

Off The Menu: National Use Your Gift Card Day approaching 2000 1545 admin

We’re all familiar with the lineup of holiday season retail occasions – Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday – but this year we might be witnessing the addition of a new shopping holiday to the calendar.

On Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, America’s consumers are being encouraged to observe the first “National Use Your Gift Card Day,” an occasion dedicated to cashing in gift cards and preventing them from becoming part of the estimated $3 billion in card gifts that go unused each year.

Use Your Gift Card Day is being promoted by an Internet startup, Use Your Gift Card LLC, based in Boca Raton, FL, and the idea is already gaining traction in the retail community, with several major chains using the tag line as a tie in with January sales and promotions.

Regardless of National Use Your Gift Card Day’s potential for establishing itself as a commercial occasion, the idea behind the promotion is a sound one – consumers who receive gift cards should use them.

With more restaurant gift cards representing more than forty percent of the overall value of cards gifted, the creation of a special day for gift card redemption can only be beneficial, especially with that day occurring in the traditionally slow month of January.

If Use Your Gift Card Day catches on, it could have the potential to become as busy a time as some of the other peak restaurant industry days.

Use Your Gift Card LLC is hosting a web site, useyourgiftcard.com, that offers tips for smart gift card spending as well as links to various retailers and restaurant chains.

Already a number of major chains have allowed themselves to be linked to the site – Applebee’s, Chipotle, Panera Bread, and Red Lobster, for instance, although none has created promotions specifically linked to the occasion.

Use Your Gift Card Day is nonetheless a marketing effort worth keeping an eye on.

Hugh Robert is a faculty member in Holyoke Community College’s hospitality and culinary arts program and has nearly 45 years of restaurant and educational experience. Please send items of interest to Off the Menu at the Republican, P.O. Box 1329, Springfield, MA 01101; Robert can also be reached at OffTheMenuGuy@aol.com.

Real estate boomed in 2019

Real estate boomed in 2019 2000 1545 admin

The Owensboro real estate market continued to boom in 2019.

Karen Gross, president of the Greater Owensboro Realtor Association, said the community saw record sales for the third consecutive year.

“Inventory remained low,” she said, “yet 2019 sales volume exceeded 2018 by over $18 million.”

Gross said, “108 more homes were sold in 2019 than in 2018. The average and median home price were up from 2018, while the selling price ratio and days on market remained steady.”

Last year, 1,729 homes were sold — up from 1,621 in 2018 and 1,549 in 2017.

Total sales were $276 million — up from $257.6 million and $237.1 million.

The median price was $142,000 — up from $135,000 and $129,900.

• On another positive note, unemployment remains low.

Daviess County’s unemployment rate in November was 3.4%.

That was up slightly from 3.3% in October and 3.2% in November 2018.

Hancock’s was 3.3% — up slightly from 3.2% in October and 3.3% in November 2018.

McLean’s was 3.9% — up slightly from 3.8% in October, but down slightly from 4% a year earlier.

Ohio’s was 4.6% — up from 4.2% and 4.3%.

And Muhlenberg’s was 6% — up from 5.7% and 5.1%.

• Owensboro’s Macy’s is far from the only one being closed this spring.

By Friday, the national count was up to 28 Macy’s and one Bloomingdale’s.

And the company wouldn’t say if more closings are coming.

Owensboro was the only Kentucky location on the list — so far.

• Swedish Match picked up a permit recently for a 17,380-square-foot addition to its packaging building at 1121 Industrial Drive.

The cost was listed at $4.3 million.

• Retailers and restaurants are promoting “National Use Your Gift Card Day” on Jan. 18.

The idea is to remind people to use their Christmas gift cards before they expire.

An estimated $1 billion worth of cards go unused every year, they say.

• U-Haul says Kentucky was the No. 37 growth state last year.

That’s based on people renting U-Hauls to move to Kentucky.

It was No. 45 a year ago.

But it was No. 29 in 2017.

The report said Newport and Somerset topped the list of Kentucky cities people were moving to.

But Winchester, Owensboro and Hopkinsville are among “other notable cities to see a net increase of U-Haul trucks.”

NATIONAL USE YOUR GIFT CARD DAY: SPECIAL OFFERS FROM KOHL’S, CHIPOTLE, AMC CINEMAS AND MORE

NATIONAL USE YOUR GIFT CARD DAY: SPECIAL OFFERS FROM KOHL’S, CHIPOTLE, AMC CINEMAS AND MORE 2000 1545 admin
BY

A new shopping holiday will debut on January 18, 2020—National Use Your Gift Card Day—in an attempt to encourage people to use their holiday gift cards before they are forgotten.

According to Mercator Advisory Group, in 2019 consumers spent $98.6 billion on holiday gift cards, but the organization says that as much as three percent of these will never be redeemed. This means that $3 billion will go unclaimed.

Speaking on why people don’t use their gift cards, National Use Your Gift Card Day founder, Tracy Tilson, told Newsweek that it’s not just a case of people forgetting.

“When it comes to receiving a gift card, there is always a chance that it’s from a brand where you wouldn’t usually shop or dine or possibly the amount isn’t large enough to warrant an immediate spend,” said Tilson.

“I have three gift cards in my wallet right now that have been there for over nine months… and that’s why National Use Your Gift Card Day was created.”

The holiday was put forward by online hub UseYourGiftCard.com and has been recognized by the 2020 edition of Chase’s Calendar of Events as well as the Registrar at National Day Calendar. It will be observed on the third Saturday in January every year.

To encourage shoppers to use their gift cards before they enter spending limbo, retailers across the U.S. have joined forces with UseYourGiftCard.com and reminded customers of incentives and deals they can get if they use their pre-paid plastic.

National Use Your Giftcard Day Deals

  • AMC Theatres: Customers can access AMC exclusive offers as long as they remember to use their gift card.
  • BurgerFi: Get a free order of fresh hand cut fries when customers download the BurgerFi App and use a gift card.
  • Chipotle: Join Chipotle Rewards and use a gift card to earn points towards free Chipotle.
  • Kohl’s: Use your gift card and earn $10 Kohl’s cash for every $50 spent.
  • LifeisGood.com: 10 percent off when you use a gift card.
  • Red Lobster: Use your Red Lobster gift card and create your own ultimate feast; pick four of more than 10 craveable creations for a feast that’s all your own.
  • Regal: Receive one free refill with a purchase of a large soft drink and/or large popcorn on the same day of purchase when you use your giftcard.
  • rue 21: 15 percent off total purchase when using a gift card, which is valid from Saturday, January 18 until January 26, 2020.
  • Saks OFF 5TH: Use your Saks Off 5th gift card to shop in store or on saksoff5th.com and take advantage of the “Extra Cut Clearance Event” on January 18, 2020.