What the experts say
Why insurers love smart homes
Upgrading your home with smart devices could help you snag a deal on insurance premiums, said Stacey Higginbotham in Technology Review.com. State Farm, for example, offers discounts for homeowners who install a Canary home-security monitor. New policyholders with Liberty Mutual can receive a free Nest Protect smoke detector, worth $99, as well as get a discount on their fire coverage. Insurers hope to use smart-home gadgets to obtain data that could help them make better underwriting decisions as well as prevent losses. Internetconnected moisture sensors, for instance, could help companies warn homeowners when a pipe is about to fail. But there’s a privacy trade-off, too. The same technology might be used to identify riskier customers, “and their premiums might quietly be raised.”
How to invest $1,000
Even for a market newbie with $1,000 or less to spare, there are plenty of savvy investing options, said Jonnelle Marte in The Washington Post. If you already have an emergency fund set aside, start by funding your retirement account, such as a 401(k) plan or IRA, especially if your employer offers matching contributions. Having $1,000 in the bank is also enough to open a do-it-yourself brokerage account with a firm such as E*Trade or Charles Schwab, so that you can invest in individual stocks. Most rookie investors, however, are probably better off investing in a mutual fund or exchange-traded fund. Online roboadvisers such as Acorns or Stash can also build a personalized portfolio with a starting contribution as small as $5.
Medicare shopping season
It’s time to review your Medicare coverage, said Mark Miller in Time.com. Medicare open enrollment runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, “yet very few Medicare beneficiaries bother to re-shop their coverage during annual enrollment.” Just 10 percent of Medicare Advantage enrollees do so, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. But those who did change plans between 2013 and 2014 saved an average of $190 annually on their monthly premiums and lowered their out-of-pocket limit by $401. Shoppers, however, “should not base their selection on premiums alone.” They should also take into account deductibles, co-insurance, and any restrictions on covered medications, all of which can change from year to year. To comparison shop plans online, use the Medicare Plan Finder at the Medicare website.
Charity of the week
Over the past seven years, an insurgency by the radical Islamist militant group Boko Haram in northern Nigeria has forced more than 2 million people from their homes and killed some 15,000 people. Today, soaring food prices and the volatile security situation are creating famine-like conditions. The U.N. has warned that 75,000 children in the region could starve to death over the next year unless drastic aid measures are taken and that another 400,000 could suffer from severe malnutrition. Save the Children (savethechildren.org)—which provides aid for disaster relief and improvements in health and education in more than 100 countries around the globe—has worked in Nigeria since 2001. The organization focuses its Nigerian efforts on reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, and increasing immunizations.
Each charity we feature has earned a four-star overall rating from Charity Navigator, which rates not-for-profit organizations on the strength of their finances, their governance practices, and the transparency of their operations. Four stars is the group’s highest rating.