Business Digest - September 2008

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Assistance for the Elderly    Ten Common Resumé Mistakes

Are Credit Card Rewards a Rip Off?

Consumers have long been told that credit card reward programs are a great deal. After all, you are using your card anyway, so why don't you get something back? Well, it turns out that for most consumers, they are not such a bonus.

Over 85 percent of U.S. households are enrolled in at least one rewards program, according to consumer reports. The most popular programs are those that give a certain percentage of your expenditure back as cash. The downside to these types of cards is a higher interest rate on average or an annual fee. If you don't pay off your balance each and every month, any benefit from the cash back can quickly be erased by paying interest on your balance. Even if you do pay off your balance each month, an annual fee could end up being more than your cash reward.

So, what about those consumers who are savvy enough to make these programs work for them? According to studies, consumers who use cards linked to a reward program tend to spend more than those who don't. Even more surprising, almost 42 percent of reward cardholders rarely or never use their rewards. Since many programs place expiration dates on their rewards, these consumers are missing out on the very benefits that compelled them to get the card in the first place.

Consumers can make the most of these programs, however, with some practical approaches to their credit card use strategy. You are more likely to benefit from these programs if you find a credit card that offers points for where you shop most often. Figure out how much you would have to spend to get the rewards you are interested in. Be sure to subtract any fees for using the points and your credit card's annual fee. If this amount is larger than what you normally spend, it is better to find a card that offers rewards more suited to your lifestyle.

If you are able to find a card with no annual fee that offers a cash back program, opt for that over any points program. In general, a rewards program is only a good deal if you pay your bills in full each month. If you carry a balance, you may wish to skip a rewards program altogether; instead find a card that has as low an interest rate as you can find.

Finally, if you do have a card with a reward program, be very aware of how this might tempt you to spend more than you've budgeted. Credit card companies offer these programs for a reason--not only do you remain loyal to that company, but you will also on average spend more on your purchases. Resist the temptation to spend above your budget just because you'll get the points. It is better to spend less and save the money to pay for that airline ticket or magazine subscription yourself.

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Assistance for the Elderly

If you are a senior citizen, or have an elderly loved one, take a moment to review whether you are getting all of the benefits to which you are entitled. Over five million elderly Americans are not taking advantage of benefits provided by state and federal government programs. These benefits range from health care coverage to supplemental income to help paying utility bills.

Check out www.benefitscheckup.org. This website, sponsored by the National Council on the Aging, offers a way for seniors, their families and their caregivers to access information on over 1,500 federal and state programs. All states are covered and the information is easily accessed over the Internet. You'll find information on prescription drugs, nutrition, energy assistance, health care, Social Security, housing, transportation, employment, volunteer services, and more.

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Ten Common Resumé Mistakes

Any job search involves a resume. To ensure that yours gets the attention it deserves, be sure to avoid these common mistakes.

1. Don't write your resume to just sound like a series of job descriptions. Instead of focusing on the duties you were responsible for at your previous jobs, include your accomplishments along with statistics to back up your claims.

2. Don't write in the first person. Words such as "I," "my," and "me" should not be used.

3. Don't include unrelated and personal information. This is partly to save valuable room in your resume, but also to avoid information that might distract your potential employer.

4. Don't use passive language or omit action words. Use a thesaurus to choose words that are bold and strong and make a good impression. Using action words adds interest to your resume.

5. Don't get repetitive. Be sure to have variety in your resume, both in sentence structure and words used. Again a thesaurus is a good tool to have nearby as you prepare your resume.

6. Don't use poor formatting. Your resume should not use too many fonts or type sizes. It should be arranged in a clean, organized manner. Use consistent formatting for headings and bullets. Avoid unconventional fonts or graphics.

7. Don't send your resume without a cover letter. Your cover letter is a tool for you to really sell yourself and to customize your application to the exact job you are seeking.

8. Don't send a generic or unfocused resume. Your resume should be tailored to suit the exact position for which you are applying. Your resume should include details that are different for each type of job you are seeking.

9. Don't include typos or grammatical errors. Your resume should be proofread several times by you and at least once by another person. Many hiring professionals will toss a resume without further consideration if they see a typo or other error.

10. Don't send your resume to a company without having a name to send it to. Sending it to the company's "Hiring Manager," or "To Whom It May Concern," will not get it the attention it deserves. Take the time to find a real person at the company who is responsible for hiring in the department you are targeting.

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