Travel insurance warning in the busiest week for holiday bookings

Delaying arranging your travel cover could prove a costly mistake

Over five million* people will make their summer holiday bookings before the end of February with the third week in January traditionally being the busiest for those wishing to combat the winter blues**. However, is warning holidaymakers not to leave arranging their travel insurance to the last minute or risk losing some valuable cover.

Although many travellers would say their main reason for buying travel insurance is for the medical cover or to protect their luggage, travel insurance can also provide protection against events affecting you before you even leave your home. Around 34% of travel insurance claims made by UK holidaymakers in 2012 were for costs related to cancellations with an average claim value of around £700, second only to the average medical costs claim of £900***.

However, because travellers are only covered for events they didn’t know about before buying their insurance, the sooner they buy the policy, the more likely it is they’ll be covered if something goes wrong before their holiday starts. found that cancellation cover is standard on 96% of the 452 single trip travel insurance policies with some comprehensive policies covering up to £10,000, with some even offering unlimited cover per insured person. Cancellation cover would allow the holidaymaker to reclaim the costs of their holiday, up to the cover limit and minus any excess, should certain circumstances arise before taking the trip. These may include a serious illness or injury affecting someone in the travelling party or a close relative, such as a parent, child or sibling, who isn’t travelling but with whom they would like to remain at home.

Having a major incident such as a serious fire or flood at home may be another genuine reason why you might want to cancel or postpone your holiday, but may be covered for under your travel insurance policy. Also, being called up for jury service isn’t something you can usually turn down just because you’re off on your holiday but if you didn’t know about it before you arranged your insurance you may be able to reclaim some or all of the costs of cancelling or postponing your trip.


Caroline Lloyd, travel insurance expert at, said: “Holidaymakers have to bear in mind that they cannot insure themselves against an event taking place or circumstances arising which they were already aware of. If a family member becomes seriously ill in the lead up to your holiday you cannot then take out travel insurance with the intention of cancelling your trip. Likewise you cannot hear about potential serious disruption to your travel plans, such as that caused by striking airline staff and expect to be able to claim if you subsequently decide to change your plans. The insurer will check when you could have first become aware of the potential disruption to your holiday before deciding whether your claim is genuine.


“So even though it may be several months from when you book your holiday to when you actually travel, it’s a good idea to take out your travel cover soon after you book your holiday rather than leaving it until just before you go. That way you’ll benefit from any cancellation cover provided by your policy as soon as you buy it, giving you several months of valuable protection in the lead up to your trip rather than just the week or two of your actual holiday if you leave it late. It’s a false economy to delay arranging your travel insurance.

“Cancellation cover is a frequently overlooked benefit of travel insurance compared to say medical costs cover. But as figures from the ABI show, it helps hundreds of thousands of consumers reclaim cancelled holiday costs every year. Cover levels vary greatly from policies offering no cancellation protection at all to unlimited cover per insured person so make sure you choose the right travel cover for you based on the protection you want rather than the policy with the lowest premium.

“One final money saving tip – don’t be so rushed that you buy your holiday operator’s packaged cover though. It’s usually one of the most expensive ways to get travel insurance and you should be able to find a better value deal quickly by comparing policies online.”

Trade school days for cheaper holidays

Nearly a quarter of UK families with school age children have or are considering a holiday during school term and could save an average of £664.00 on their holiday spending



Up to 1.8 million* UK families with school age children have or are considering taking them out of school for some or all of their holiday leading to millions of missed school days for British youngsters. The new research, commissioned by, also found that on average, parents willing to take their children on holiday in term time were happy for them to miss up to 6.3 days of teaching.


The research also found that 93% of parents willing to take their children out of school feel that travel companies and airlines unfairly push up prices during the school holiday periods and 65% say they simply can’t afford to take a holiday when schools are closed.


Brit families will spend an average of £1982.00 on their annual holiday but those families taking some or all of it during term time estimate that it knocks an average of £664.00 off of the cost of their holiday.


  • British families spend an average of £1982.00 on their annual holiday
  • Families taking some or all of their holiday during school term time estimate they save an average of £664.00
  • 75% of families taking their children out of school would take the whole holiday in term time to get a better deal


Of the British families which have already booked or are considering taking some or all of their holiday during school term time:


  • 65% say they can’t afford to have a holiday during the school holiday periods
  • 73% would be happy for their children to miss 5 or more school days
  • 23% would be happy for their children to miss 10 or more school days
  • 74% ask the school’s permission to take their children out of school
  • 70% take their children out of school anyway even if the school refuses permission
  • 39% have lied to the school about their children’s absence in order to have a holiday during term time


Just 14% of parents said they only have holidays with their children during school holiday periods. In the survey, 60% of parents who would take their children on holiday in term time said that their children’s school was sympathetic to requests for term time holidays. However, 70% said that they take their children out of school regardless of the school’s decision. More than a third (39%) have lied to the school about their child or children’s absence in order to have a holiday during term time.


Plans to ban term time holidays and impose automatic fines on parents who take their children on holiday during school time were floated by the Government in February 2012 but later dropped for fear of a backlash from cost conscious parents.


Jeremy Cryer, head of travel at, commented: “It’s an unfortunate fact that the cost of holidays and flights increase substantially during school holiday periods. This leaves many parents with the difficult decision of whether to take their children out of school to take advantage of lower prices or to bite the bullet and pay the school holiday rates. With an average cost saving of over £600 it’s clear to see why many parents choose to take the saving over the schooling.


“Many parents would also argue that a child’s education should be more than just time spent in the classroom and that travel broadens a child’s horizons, gives them valuable family time and adds to their life experience. If it comes down to a choice between their children missing a few days of school or the family missing out on a holiday altogether, our research shows that millions of parents would choose to take the holiday.”


How Rich People Think

report released this week from the Pew Research Center says the middle class is falling backwards in income and wealth, and has lost a lot of its faith in the future.


Steve Siebold, author of the book How Rich People Think, who went from being broke to becoming a multi-millionaire, says what the middle class doesn’t realize is that now is the best time in America to acquire wealth – and he predicts more self-made millionaires will emerge in the next five years than in any other time in history.


Here’s how Siebold debunks the report:


  • ·         The masses are looking at money from a fear and scarcity point of view and hoarding their money in these tough times.  The rich get richer because they see a world of problems right now, and they know that problems equal opportunity. It’s about thinking outside the box and coming up with the solutions to the many problems and you’ll be rewarded nicely.


  • ·         The majority of people right now are worrying about what they’ll do if they lose their jobs, get sick or exceed their budget, and they’re buying into the news of a possible new recession next year.  Instead of worrying about running out of money, start thinking how to make more of it.  World-class performers are finding problems that are profitable to solve.  They know that just because a solution hasn’t been discovered yet doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.


  • ·         Many psychologists recommend in the current economy that most people set their financial expectations low so they’re never disappointed.  This is borderline criminal advice.  The millionaires who will emerge shortly know no one ever strikes it rich without setting their financial expectations high and getting excited.


  • ·         World-class thinkers have the guts to be optimistic right now in these shaky times and reject the middle-class cynicism that plagues the masses. It’s not comfortable for a millionaire in the making to forge ahead when everyone around him or her is negative, cynical and unsupportive, yet the great ones push forward and are rewarded with riches for the rest of their lives.


Siebold believes it’s not about intelligence, IQ or highest level of education completed.  He says start looking at money in terms of freedom, possibility, opportunity and abundance.  He says money flows like water to great ideas; the key is turning on the faucet.


Getting Confidence in Investing

Investor confidence has been going downhill since the commencing of the recession in 2008.  A recent SmartMoney article recently told the story of three men who became full-time day traders after becoming unemployed.  It is popular belief that the life of a day trader is volatile much like the markets that they’re trading in.  Some people even believe that these traders are unsuccessful and are not only gambling away their money but their livelihoods.  Dr. Woody, Online Trading Academy instructor and psychology professor, says this is usually only true for the untrained/uneducated trader and investor who allow their emotions to rule their actions in the financial markets.

How can traders and investors master the mental game?

1.      Check your ego at the door, so you don’t let your emotions rule your market moves.

2.      Make a plan and stick to it, just like mapping out a road trip, stick to your plan so you don’t drive off course.

3.      Look at supply and demand and forget the buy & hold mentality, it doesn’t work for the current volatile markets.

4.      Track your daily market moves in a journal to help improve your next trades and investments.

5.      Get educated!  It doesn’t have to be at Online Trading Academy but the better trained and educated the investor the more successful they’ll be.


If you want to learn about investing, visit

Housing: Rent or Buy?

According to news sources last month, the share of empty U.S. homes for rent fell to its lowest level in a decade during the second quarter. The residential rental vacancy rate declined to 8.6 percent from 8.8 percent in the January-March period, according to the Commerce Department. The second-quarter reading was the lowest since 2002.

With a poor economy, now new cuts in federal assistance for affordable housing and record foreclosures – demand for rental housing units are on the rise and landlords are now more than ever imposing higher standards — such as better credit scores and more cash down to secure a rental agreement. Does renting make more sense than homeownership?  What are the tax advantages of either option? What are some of the steps consumers can take to secure rental housing in a tight market?


Tip One: Look at the overall cost vs. benefit argument.

In the short run, renting can make more financial sense than buying, in terms of how much shelter you can afford for a given price.

But the long-range view is different. Over time, rents tend to rise. On the other hand, if you have a fixed-rate mortgage the monthly payment of principal and interest stays the same. This relatively stable cost, combined with price appreciation, is what makes homeownership financially attractive in the long run.

Until the “long run” arrives, however, you may have to make some sacrifices as a homeowner.

You may have to put up with less space if you have to pay more to own a small home than to rent a larger one. To find a house you can afford, you might have to move to a location farther from your job and favorite haunts; that means extra travel cost and possibly two cars when one used to suffice.

Tip Two: Consider the power of leverage:

Buying a home offers you the opportunity to magnify the purchasing power of your money through leverage.

Normally, you buy property with some of your own funds plus a long-term mortgage. That use of borrowed money enables you to profit from price increases on property you haven’t yet paid for.

Using maximum leverage — with a very small down payment and very large mortgage — isn’t prudent or advantageous for everyone, but most first-time buyers will need all they can get just to open the door.

Tip Three: Consider appreciation of your investment:

If your home is worth more when you sell it than when you bought it, that’s appreciation. You can use the profit as a springboard to a better home. Or you can tap the equity (what your home would sell for minus what you owe on the mortgage) to pay college tuition, to buy a vacation hideaway, or turn it into a source of retirement funds.

Tip Four: Consider tax breaks:

Homeowners benefit from the tax deductibility of mortgage interest and property taxes and can keep up gains when they sell.

Tip Five: Consider risk in the decline in value:

The value of your home is not guaranteed to go up, and it could go down. The leverage that is so alluring when real estate values are on the rise can act to magnify losses as well as gains.

Tip Six: Consider risk of lost opportunity:

You lose, too, if you invest in a home that money could have been invested elsewhere for a better return. If alternative investments — such as stocks or bonds — are rising in value faster than homes in your area, you might do better, in the short run, as a renter/investor rather than a homeowner.

Tip Seven: Consider risk of maintenance cost of the home:

Homes cost money to maintain. You have to be prepared to pay for routine maintenance and for the inevitable replacement of big-ticket items.

Tip Eight: Consider risk of reduced flexibility:

Homeowners have less freedom of movement; it’s not easy to pack up and move for a change of scenery or a new job. Real estate is not a liquid asset. You can lose if you have to sell in a hurry — because of a divorce or job loss, for example. And a hefty mortgage payment may make it hard to maintain savings and investment programs for retirement, vacations and other things.

If after weighing all of this you’re still intent on buying a house, then it’s time to take a close look at your finances.

Consider additional research:

Check out the California Society of CPAs’ free Web site on this and other personal finance topics. This Web site can be accessed at: Check out the “Dollar & Sense Program.”


For more information check out the property articles on Magical Penny.

8 Wise Ways to Spend Your Tax Refund

For more tax advice visit Tax On Tax Off Dot Com!


Tax season is upon us, and however much you dread completing your return this year, there’s always solace to be had in the potential of a sweet reward: the refund.

The average tax refund in 2011 was over $2,900, according to CNNMoney. Receiving such a large check typically feels like free money, and the desire to spend it on a big-screen TV or perhaps a plane ticket to Vegas is often difficult to overcome. However, there’s nothing “free” about your refund–it’s still you’re hard-earned money! To avoid wasting the potentially lucrative lump sum, consider these eight tips for spending your tax refund wisely.

1. Adjust Your Withholdings
If you consistently receive a large refund, it’s a sign that you’re withholding too much from your paycheck.The money you get in one lump sum every April could be saved, invested or used to pay down debt throughout the year, so update your W4 and strive to “break even” with the IRS. Use the IRS Withholding Calculator to help you determine how much to withhold.

2. Pay Down Debt
Paying down existing debt like student loans or credit card balances may not seem like much fun now, but doing so will lead you to guilt-free fun in the future. In addition to improving your credit score, you’ll have more money each month once minimum payments are behind you instead of throwing away money on interest rates.

3. Invest in Your Home
Now is the time to tackle those home improvement projects you’ve been putting off. Such improvements will ultimately lead to an increase in your home’s value so it’s a wiser investment. Extend the value of your refund by purchasing discount gift cards to Home Depot from sites like, where you can save an average of 15 percent instantly.

4. Donate to Charity
Remember, what goes around comes around. That’s why I recommend donating part or all of your tax refund. It is actually a tax write-off, so you can deduct your donation for next year’s taxes. Find a list of eligible organizations within the IRS Publication 78 and be sure to itemize your deductions.

5. Open a Roth IRA
Roth IRAs are all the rage these days, and for good reason. In addition to being more flexible than other retirement plans relative to investments, Roth IRAs grant tax breaks when money is withdrawn during retirement and won’t penalize you for withdrawing early either. Not convinced? Read this article from Kiplinger on why it’s a smart investment plan.

6. Improve Yourself
Whether you brush up on your networking skills or learn the basics of social media, continuing education is the key to better job prospects. Look for courses at your community college or find out when and where the next regional conference in your industry is happening.

7. Fund Your Emergency Fund
If the contents of your savings account is comparable to that of your childhood piggy bank, consider using your refund to raise it to a more adult-worthy level. Travel snafus, car accidents and medical emergencies are inherently unpredictable, and having the peace of mind to pay for the unexpected expense during such stressful situations is priceless. For more information, check out “Why You Absolutely Need an Emergency Fund” from Investopedia.

8. Stretch Your Spending
If you’ve been saving up for a big purchase or simply looking to use the tax return to supplement your income in the short term, consider how to stretch those dollars. Purchase discount gift cards for various stores to reduce everyday costs and use coupons to trim expenses whenever possible.


Andrea Woroch is a consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc. As a nationally recognized media source, Andrea has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. She is available for in-studio, satellite or skype interviews and to write guest posts or articles.

Last Minute Christmas Shopping Tips

Not quite finished your Christmas shopping? Here are some tips!


1.     Visit Stores Off the Beaten Path: If you still have a lot on your list but want to avoid the major crowds, check out stores in less congested areas. Use SaleLocator to map the sales and identify stores in less populated neighborhoods or less traffic-prone towns.


2.     Shop Really Early or Really Late: Most stores have extended hours through Christmas Eve and Toys R Us stores are open 24 hours this week. SaleLocator offers store phone numbers to confirm holiday hours.


3.     Review New Discounts Daily:  Prices are still dropping and will continue through Christmas Eve. SaleLocator is adding new sales daily – check out the highlights for your area under the Most Recently Posted Tab on


4.     Check the Boxes: For any gifts that need to be assembled, check the box to make sure you have all the parts. You may need to make another trip but this is key to avoiding a Christmas Eve panic because you are missing important parts for a bike, kitchen set or other high profile Christmas gift.


5.     Confirm Your Gift List: It is common to overlook or miscount the number of smaller gifts needed for neighbors, extended family or friends. Stock up on items that make good small gifts like candles, ornaments, or picture frames. Kohls, Joann Fabric and Yankee Candles offer great options for these gifts.


These tips were inspired by SaleLocator – a free iPhone/Android app and shopping search engine that helps consumers find the best in-store local sales and comparison shop for hot holiday gifts. Based on holiday SaleLocator search activity, this year’s hot ticket items include the iPad, Kindle, Keurigs, Uggs and the gaming systems, Xbox, PS3 and Wii. GameStop, JCPenney and Macy’s were the top SaleLocator retailer destinations in November. 


Welcome to Money Advice HQ!

Money Advice HQ is your Head Quarters on the internet for money advice.

You’ll find money-saving tips, new perspectives on personal finance, and I hope ultimately you leave inspired to improve your financial situation.

Launching soon.