Faithful readers know by now that I love to open my mail to find your thoughtful, interesting questions. And when a question includes the words “cheap tickets” or what is the Best Inexpensive fill-in-the-blank, it makes my heart sing!
Any situation—like how to find a good financial advisor without getting ripped off—gets my engines revved up. Helping you, my awesome readers, find more ways to save time and money is right up my alley.
Dear Mary: We are hoping to take a short vacation in May. Universal Studios in Orlando would be great if I could find a way to afford tickets. Do you have any ideas for how to find cheap or free tickets to the big amusement parks? Linda
Dear Linda: Head over to MouseSavers, a wonderful website that is, without a doubt, the best source for discounts at all of the Disney Parks as well as the others in the area including Universal Orlando.
At MouseSavers, type Universal Orlando into the search box. Another option is to check Costco, which often has special discounts available to its members for major theme parks.
AAA offers its members a nice discount on parks like Universal, as does the Entertainment book (use promo code SAVE5 to get $5 off plus free shipping.) for that area. Check out these sources to find the best deal for the time you plan to visit.
As for landing free tickets for Universal Orlando, and other amusement parks, they’re out there but you’ll have to be super clever and willing to work hard to bag them.
Various timeshare properties in the area are anxious to present their sales pitches to people, like yourself, who will be in the area looking for every way to save a buck.
If you’re willing to sit through hours of sales presentations, you could walk away with free tickets to your park of choice. Just keep in mind that if you end up falling for the pitch, you’ll go home much poorer than when you arrived.
It takes nerves of steel and a willingness to dig in your heels while kindly saying “No, Thanks!” over and over again. And again.
Dear Mary: Which do you believe is better for regular, everyday banking and savings: a traditional bank or a credit union? I am currently shopping around and I have found some great deals at credit unions in my area. I’m also impressed that the credit unions offer more products and services in comparison to my current bank. Will my money be as safe in a credit union? Laura
Dear Laura: I am a huge fan of credit unions. The main difference between a bank and a credit union is who owns it.
A bank is a for-profit corporation owned by the shareholders who buy stock in the money-making entity. Shareholders like to make money, so banks are understandably profit-driven. They make profit by charging higher interest rates and lots of fees.
Credit unions, on the other hand, are not-for-profit organizations, owned by the members of the credit union—the people who have accounts there. Credit unions typically have much lower fees, charge lower interest rates and are more customer friendly.
Accounts in banks are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Accounts in credit unions are federally insured by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF). The amount and quality of insurance are the same whether a bank or credit union.
Credit unions are absolutely as safe as banks, but better in my opinion because they operate primarily for the benefit of the account holders.
Dear Mary: I recently requested my children’s medical records as we are moving out of state. For this, I received a bill of $17.77 each, plus five cents a page. And to think I need to get these from several doctors, it will cost about $60 total. Is this the going rate for getting one’s own medical records? It can’t take more than ten minutes to make these copies. I don’t mind paying for paper or postage or such. But come on! Thanks for your help and advice. Amy
Dear Amy: According to the Patient’s Bill of Rights created by the American Hospital Association in 1973 and revised in 1992 you have the right to access yours and your children’s health records.
And as you are learning, you may be asked to pay a reasonable fee, such as 10-cents a page, for those copies. So far, I can find nothing that says what an unreasonable fee would be, but a nickel-a-page sounds like a bargain to me. I believe you will have to bite the bullet and pay the fees.
In the doctors’ defense I would suggest it is a labor-intensive operation to locate, verify, un-bind, photocopy, replace and refile records. And nothing is free—even the photocopy machine.
In the future, you may want to take the advice of Drs. Michael F. Roizen and Mehmet C. Oz., both M.D.s and authors of YOU: The Smart Patient (Free Press, 2006) who suggest:
“Every time you go to the doctor or see a specialist or get a test done, ask for a copy of your record from that day’s visit right then and there. It’ll cut down on later phone calls and faxes and aggravation trying to dig up data after the fact. Before you leave, always get a receipt of what you had done that day. And just like at a fast-food restaurant, remind them that all services are free if you don’t get a receipt. Don’t push for a smile, though.”
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Dear Mary: My daughter has been out of work for about one year. She cannot find a job that pays the wages that she was making before she was laid off, so now she is looking at jobs that pay less.
I am thinking about taking my savings and paying off her home for her because she wants to withdraw her retirement to pay it down.
This would take all of my savings, but she can rebuild my nest egg when she gets a job, instead of making mortgage payments. I’m 72, and I live comfortably on my income. My daughter will inherit my estate when I pass away, so why not help her out now? Donna
Dear Donna: This sounds like a really bad idea to me, but don’t take my word for it. Make an appointment to speak with a reputable financial planner who specializes in estate planning, who can look at your current situation, help you project what you will need over the next 25 years for your own care and security, and then advise you accordingly.
If you do proceed with this plan, you will need a professional to help you create a legal note and deed of trust or other documents that give you a legal position in the property so that in the event of her death, the property immediately reverts to you.
Generally, there are three reasons to hire a financial advisor:
- You feel “lost” in planning for your financial future; you need a roadmap.
- You just don’t want to deal. When it comes to money, you’re not the DIY type, and you just want a professional to take care of it.
- You like managing your money, but realize that your financial plan would benefit from an impartial and unemotional third-party opinion.
Your situation seems to fall well somewhere within those reasons. It would be worth your time to read How to Hire a Financial Advisor Who Won’t Rip You Off, a super helpful article at Lifehacker.com, that will take you step-by-step through the process to finding an advisor near you who will meet your needs, while charging you a fair, per-hour fee for his or her professional services.
Dear Mary: I find it humorous that I picked up a copy of your book, Debt- Proof Your Marriage, at a Rite Aid store while waiting for a prescription. I hope to use the principles in the book as the “right aid” to improve the financial picture in my home and marriage. Thanks! Cheryl
Dear Cheryl: You are clever, for sure. I hope you enjoy the book. Be sure to write back once you’ve finished it. I’d love to know what you think. Thanks for the chuckle!
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