Five Hot Careers for 2012


Five Hot Careers for 2012 - With the right education, you could pursue a new career with hot hiring potential - Are you hoping for a fresh career start in 2012?

Going back to school to advance your education could help, according to new hiring statistics from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

NACE's Job Outlook 2012 reports that employers plan to hire 9.5 percent more new college graduates in 2012 than they did in 2011. The 2012 report is based on responses from 244 organizations that include General Electric Company, Ernst & Young LLP, and Raytheon Company.

So what careers have a hot hiring potential in 2012? Keep reading to learn about five career prospects you could prepare to pursue as the calendar turns on your future.

Career # 1 - Medical and Health Services Manager

Are you interested in a supervisory role in the growing health care field? If so, preparing to pursue a medical and health services manager position might be a rewarding goal for you.

Medical and health services managers keep a birds-eye view of the daily activities in a hospital to ensure everything is running effectively and efficiently. The U.S. Department of Labor notes that health services managers plan, direct, coordinate, and supervise the delivery of health care.

Why it's the Best for 2012: The hiring growth for medical and health services managers is projected to hit 16 percent between 2008 and 2018, according to the Department of Labor.*

Education Options: A master's degree in fields like health services administration, health sciences, public health, or public administration could prepare you for this career, according to the Department of Labor. A bachelor's degree might be sufficient for some entry-level positions in smaller facilities and departments.*

Average Salary: $93,670*

Career # 2 - Teacher

Do you enjoy sharing your knowledge with others and mentoring young people? If you answered "yes," you could be an ideal match for a career as a teacher.

As a teacher, you could have an opportunity to figure out the best teaching methods to help others. Your responsibilities might include designing lessons plans, lecturing in class, and providing academic support to students, according to the College Board, an organization that administers academic aptitude tests like the SAT.

Why it's the Best for 2012: The job growth for elementary school teachers is projected at 16 percent between 2008 and 2018.*

Education Options: Earning a bachelor's in education and obtaining a teaching license may qualify you for most public school teaching positions.*

Average Salary: Elementary school teachers: $54,330*

Career # 3 - Accountant

For people who naturally like to bargain hunt, keep tabs of their fantasy football teams, or play math games, pursuing an accounting career could be a reasonable endeavor in 2012.

Accountants usually analyze and track important financial information for individuals and businesses. Duties could include preparing taxes and evaluating budget sheets, according to the College Board.

Why it's the Best for 2012: The accounting field is projected to increase hires by 22 percent between 2008 and 2018.*

Education Options: A bachelor's degree in accounting is considered the most common route of qualifying for entry-level accountant positions.*

Average Salary: $68,960*

Career # 4 - Network and Computer Systems Administrator

If you have a love for computers and technology, you might enjoy a career as a network and computer systems administrator.

Today's computer networks generally require administrators who are capable of working in a team environment. Network and computer systems administrators design, install, and support computer systems, and they usually need to direct the efforts of other workers.

Why it's the Best for 2012: From 2008 to 2018, the Department projects a job growth of 23 percent for network and computer systems administrators.*

Education Options: You might consider earning a bachelor's degree in a computers or information technology (IT) program to qualify for most entry-level positions as a network and computer systems administrator.*

Average Salary: $72,200*

Career # 5 - Social Worker

If you're eager to assist others and serve those in need, a career in social work could give you the fresh start you're looking for in 2012.

Social workers help people cope with a variety of issues that include relationships, disability, disease, unemployment, and substance abuse, among other things. The duties of social workers might take them to a variety of settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and courts.

Why it's the Best for 2012: The job growth for social workers is projected to increase by 16 percent between 2008 and 2018.*

Education Options: If you're interested in a career as a social worker, consider pursuing a bachelor's degree in social work, psychology, or sociology.*

Average Salary: $52,270*
( yahoo.net )

READ MORE - Five Hot Careers for 2012

From $8.10 An Hour to $36,000 a Year


From $8.10 An Hour to $36,000 a Year - When I graduated from college in 2004, I couldn't find a job in my degree field so I went back through my resume and looked at all the companies I had worked for during college. One of them was Walmart, so I applied at a Walmart store in my area. To my surprise and relief they called me back. They had an open position as an overnight stocker that paid $8.10 an hour. I accepted. I needed the money, and after sending out 50 resumes in 30 days, I was pretty sure this was going to be my only offer.

College Degrees

My college degrees in Aviation and Human Resources Development didn't help me get the third shift stocking job, but they would prove invaluable in my getting promoted quickly.

Department Manager

Luckily, I had worked at a different Walmart store during college, so I already had a year of experience with the company. That, along with my degrees, got me a promotion from overnight stocker to Foods Department Manager in four months. The main reason was because I had scored a 98 percent on their Telxon test (handheld inventory computer). The raise meant that I was then making $9.10 an hour.

Six months after that, I applied for the open Sporting Goods Department Manager position. There were more than 10 in-store applicants, but I managed to stand out because of my degrees, manager relationships and experience. That promotion bumped me to $10 an hour. I could now afford all my bills and a little bit of food, but it still took very careful budgeting.

I needed another promotion, but in order to make more money I knew would have to become an assistant manager. I applied and was turned down.

I waited three months and applied for the assistant manager position again. Again I was turned down. I talked to my store manager who said he would keep me in mind, but I still didn't see any results. I knew that my time at Walmart was drawing to a close. I needed a better paying job or I was going to starve to death. At 5' 9" and 134 pounds, I was running out of weight and time.

Walgreens

It was a call to my brother that changed my path. At the time, he was working for Osco and loved it, so he encouraged me to apply at a drug store. I took his advice and applied at Walgreens. Two weeks after I sent in the application, they called and invited me for an interview with the regional manager. I went. I explained to him my experience, my degrees and my strong desire to be an assistant manager and make a difference.

I'll never forget the call I received about two days after the interview. The woman who called me said that I had the job and asked me if $14.25 per hour was all right. I told her it was. It was a $4.25 raise over what I was making at Walmart. I was ecstatic. I had gone from $8.10 an hour to $14.25 an hour in a little more than a year and a half. I could now pay my bills, but health insurance and afford to eat. Two weeks after I got the job, Walgreens decided to give everyone an across the board raise of .50 cents.

Six months after that I received a cost of living raise of $1 per hour. A year after that, I received my first evaluation and received another raise of .75 cents and another $1 per hour cost of living adjustment. In two and a half years, I managed to go from making $8.10 an hour to $17.50 an hour.

It took a lot of hard work, determination and job changes, but I did it. Between July of 2004 and May of 2008, I had more than doubled my income. ( yahoo.com )

READ MORE - From $8.10 An Hour to $36,000 a Year

Things Debit Card Issuers Won't Tell You


Things Debit Card Issuers Won't Tell You - As fees continue to rise and rewards slide, are there incentives left for using debit cards?

1. "Debit-card fees are far from gone."

The past few months have been a big win for consumers in the fight against debit-card fees as Bank of America, Wells Fargo and SunTrust Bank abandoned plans to charge debit-card usage fees. But other debit card fees remain in effect and they're rising. ATM fees are higher than ever, according to Bankrate.com. Each time debit-card holders use an ATM outside of their network, they're charged $2.40 on average (up 3% from a year ago and up 76% from 2001) by the host bank plus an average of $1.41 by their own bank.

Separately, overdraft fees -- which are charged for nonsufficient funds -- are increasing, too. A Federal Reserve rule that went into effect in August 2010 requires banks to get customer consent before approving debit-card and ATM transactions that are larger than the balance in their checking account. But a 2011 study by the Center for Responsible Lending says many banks conducted aggressive campaigns to get customers to opt in to so-called overdraft protection. Roughly 30% of consumers signed up for this "protection," which approves transactions larger than their checking account balance for a fee. The median overdraft fee is now $29, up 5.4% from last year, according to economic research firm Moebs Services Inc.

The banking industry says consumers can avoid these fees. Customers who signed up for overdraft protection can opt out any time they'd like, says Nessa Feddis, vice president and senior counsel for regulatory compliance at the American Bankers Association. And by sticking to their own bank's ATM network consumers can avoid ATM fees when they take out cash, she says.

2. 'We're to blame for rising checking account fees."

Free checking is becoming a thing of the past and the culprit, in part, is debit cards. To make up for revenues lost from new debit-card regulation, banks are raising checking account fees, says Odysseas Papadimitriou, chief executive at CardHub.com, a credit card comparison web site. "Checking account fees and debit card fees are one in the same," he says.

Merchants that accept debit card purchases pay banks a fee every time a customer swipes a debit card. This so-called interchange fee used to average about 44 cents per transaction. But new regulations that went into effect in October cut the fee to an average of around 24 cents. That's in part why checking account fees continue to rise. Only 45% of non-interest bearing checking accounts are free, down from 76% in 2009, according to Bankrate.com. On those accounts, monthly account maintenance fees average $4.37, up 85% from a year ago. Banks have also hiked the minimum balance required to avoid checking fees, to an average of $585, up from $249 last year and $185 in 2009.

The ABA's Feddis says that checking account fees have risen because the interchange fee has dropped. That revenue helped subsidize the costs of providing checking account services, she says, which can run $250 to $300 per account per year, she adds.

3. "Debit-card rewards are dwindling."

Debit-card reward programs, such as cash back and airline miles, are becoming less common, decreasing by 30% in 2011, according to Bankrate.com. Many of those programs that signed off this year were at the large banks, including Wells Fargo, Chase and SunTrust. The banks say they're responding to the new swipe fee rule (see previous section). "There is no question that there's a direct link," says Feddis. The ABA says the rule will result in a 45% loss in bank revenue on debit cards.

While debit-card rewards programs still remain, in most cases getting those rewards requires using debit cards for purchases very often, says Richard Barrington, an analyst at MoneyRates.com http://www.money-rates.com/, which tracks banking products. Or they require a significant dollar amount of purchases. At TD Bank, for example, debit-card holders have to swipe at least $2,000 worth of purchases before they can start redeeming points. TD Bank says it has no plans to change this rewards program. Some debit cards offer rewards on a rotating group of retailers that experts say may not add up to much. In July, Ally Bank rolled out a new debit-rewards program that automatically gives money back on purchases made at participating merchants that have included iTunes, 1-800-FLOWERS and Barnes & Noble Online. Ally Bank says the amount of cash back varies by merchant and ranges from 10% to 50% back.

4. "Credit cards can be a better deal than debit cards."

For years, consumers have been told that debit cards have more benefits than credit cards. Debit card users don't run the risk of going into debt and damaging their credit score like they do with credit cards. But some experts are questioning that logic. For consumers who diligently pay off their credit-card balance each month there's little reason to use debit cards, says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at SmartCredit.com, a credit-monitoring site. They won't incur interest rate charges, or late fees, and they can avoid annual fees by using credit cards that don't charge them.

The reason boils down to rewards. During the recession, credit-card rewards programs were cut back significantly but they started to make a comeback about a year and a half ago. This year, competition has intensified, and credit-card rewards are becoming more generous while debit-card rewards are fading. Credit-card rewards have become attractive in part because they're not subject to the new lower interchange fee that debit cards have, says Feddis. Chase, for instance, offers 1% cash back on all purchases made with its credit cards -- twice what its now-defunct debit rewards program paid. (Two Chase cards offer up to 5% cash back on certain purchases.)

Meanwhile, Capital One's Venture credit card lets users rack up airline miles quickly. A cardholder who charges $20 will get 40 airline mile points. Compare that to the Capital One Rewards debit card that awards between 5 and 20 airline mile points for a $20 purchase. A Capital One spokeswoman says changes in the debit landscape have had no effect on its credit-card marketing activities and that both cards launched prior to regulatory changes that impacted debit cards. She adds that debit-card rewards also accumulate when consumers arrange for direct deposits to their checking account and use the account to pay bills online.

5. "Still want to hold onto debit? Prepare to be pushed out."

At least one bank seems to be encouraging its customers to make the switch from debit to credit. In September, Bank of America announced that it was discontinuing the rewards program on its Merrill Lynch debit card, which is used by its brokerage clients. Those cardholders have until May to redeem their rewards -- or they can transfer their rewards to the Merrill Visa Signature credit card.

It's part of an overall push by banks to get more consumers to sign up for credit cards in lieu of debit cards, says Bill Hardekopf, chief executive at LowCards.com, which tracks credit-card offers. A Bank of America spokeswoman says the bank isn't steering clients to credit cards but only offering them the alternative.

That may be, but plenty of banks are hoping the current massive marketing push for credit cards will help consumers forget about using debit. During the third quarter of 2011, credit-card mail solicitations reached an all-time peak: 80% of credit-card mail featured 0% introductory rate offers on purchases -- the highest ever, according to Synovate Mail Monitor, which tracks credit-card mail. This year, around 78% of credit-card mail featured this offer, up from 70% during all of 2010 and 53% in 2009. The ABA's Feddis says banks are rolling out more credit-card offers because they're not losing money to lower interchange fees like debit cards are. What's more, fewer people are missing payments on credit cards these days, making credit cards a less risky business compared to a few years ago, she says. (

READ MORE - Things Debit Card Issuers Won't Tell You

How to avoid the 12 cons of Christmas


How to avoid the 12 cons of Christmas - It may be the season of goodwill, but it’s also the time many get taken for a ride — and not on a sleigh. Ruth Lythe turns Santa’s Little Helper so you can avoid the scams . . .

1) NOT SO CHARITABLE CARDS

Tens of millions of charity Christmas cards are sold every year — but don’t be fooled into thinking all the money you spend is going to a good cause. Some ‘charity’ cards sold on the High Street give less than 8p for every £1 you spend to good causes, according to the Charities Advisory Trust.

Santa’s helper says: Check the box for the full figures before you buy.

2) PRICEY PAYDAY LOANS

With many families strapped for cash, but wanting to splash out at Christmas, payday loan companies are hoping to take advantage. Christmas Cash Loans charges an eye-watering interest rate of 1,940 per cent. So if you borrow £1,000 over 30 days, you will end up paying back £1,250. Microlend’s Xmas Payday Loans will charge you 2,229.8 per cent. That means £500 will cost you £650.

Santa’s helper says:: Use authorised borrowing from your bank, or use a credit card and repay the debt in full. Alternatively, if you haven’t got the cash, don’t spend it!

3) NEVER-ENDING CARD REPAYMENTS


Even though spending on credit cards is preferable to a payday loan, they can also be expensive if you repay only the minimum. A minimum repayment of 3 per cent or £30 on a £1,000 balance would take you nearly 13 years to pay off, finally costing £1,754.14.

Santa’s helper says: Pay off your card balance in full.

4) SNAIL MAIL

A first-class stamp costs 46p and a second-class one 36p. You would pay more than £30 to send 50 cards and two parcels by first-class post. That’s £10 more expensive than sending them second-class. But according to watchdog Consumer Focus, even though you pay 25 per cent more, first-class Christmas mail, on average, has just a 55 per cent chance of being delivered on time. In bad weather, the odds are even worse.

Santa’s helper says: Get organised early and send your parcels and post second-class.

5) SAVINGS CLUB CONS

These clubs allow you to put money aside for the following Christmas and get back vouchers for gifts when that time comes. But you get back only what you pay in, as many — such as the Variety and Post Office Christmas clubs — don’t pay any interest. And beware, because your money is not protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

Santa’s helper says: Use a normal High Street savings account, such as Santander’s Flexible Isa, paying 2.81 per cent.

6) USELESS HOME COVER

At this time of year, some insurers may scare you into taking out expensive home insurance policies because they say having lots of presents in your home risks busting your policy limit.

Santa’s helper says: Check your policy. Financial data company Defaqto says 90 per cent of home insurers will automatically increase your limits over the Christmas season anyway.

7) NEEDLESS WARRANTIES


Shops try to boost profits by topping up sales with extended warranties for expensive electrical gifts. But they can sometimes almost double the cost of an item and can be useless. This is because your presents should be covered by consumer law.

Santa’s helper says: Know your rights. Consumer rights legislation covers purchases made in stores or online, and usually means any problem that is not your fault entitles you to a refund, repair or replacement for a year. After this you have up to five more years during which your goods are protected — but you must prove it’s not your fault.

Alternatively, if you do want added protection, an all-in-one policy, covering a number of different items, can prove to be better value.

8) FAKE GOODS


You go online looking for this year’s must-have Christmas gadget and buy one made by a well-known brand at an excellent price. But once delivered, it quickly breaks down and it looks like a fake. Brand protection firm Mark Monitor found 23,000 fake tablet computers and smartphones posing as big-name brands in just one day of searching.

Santa’s helper says: Check with the manufacturer for registered sellers. Remember, if the price is too good to be true, then it probably is.

9) UNUSABLE GIFT CARDS

Every year millions of well-meaning relatives buy gift cards or vouchers for their loved ones. But some of these pressies turn out to be useless. These cards can have hidden expiry dates or might not be valid for some kinds of products, such as white goods.

Santa’s helper says: Check the terms and conditions and the expiry date before buying. And don’t be embarrassed about giving cash or a cheque instead — a quarter of people will do so this year, according to First Direct.

10) COSTLY HAMPERS

They look so appetising — but hampers can be bad value for money, particularly if you don’t buy them from High Street stores. Provident Hampers, part of loans company Provident Financial, charges almost £80 for its Senior Hamper, targeted at pensioners who want to pay in instalments over a year. Yet Money Mail found you could pick up the same products for just £45 at a supermarket.

Santa’s helper says: If you want to save up for Christmas 2012, do it in a savings account. And shop around at the big supermarkets for a good deal on festive fare.

11) REFUND SCAMS

Some stores refuse to take back gifts that are faulty, despite them being covered by the Sale Of Goods Act. Also, under the Consumer Protection Act 2000, you can cancel goods ordered online within seven days. There are some exceptions, such as CDs, DVDs or software if you’ve removed the wrapping and food or flowers.

Santa’s helper says: Don’t be bullied by stroppy shop staff into putting up with faulty goods.

12) OVERDRAFT FINES

Many people bust their arranged overdraft limits at Christmas. Beware — some banks charge you eye-watering rates for doing so.

Santa’s helper says: Double-check your unauthorised overdraft rates, but don’t spend cash you don’t have. ( thisismoney.co.uk )

READ MORE - How to avoid the 12 cons of Christmas

Hidden costs of dental neglect


Hidden costs of dental neglect - Fewer Americans are going to the dentist -- and the cost of care continue to rise for those who do. Meanwhile, dentists face financial pressures in a struggling and changing industry.

Four years ago, 12-year old Deamonte Driver died of a toothache. Extreme neglect had led to an abscess that spread to his brain and killed him. The Drivers were a desperately poor family in Maryland that had trouble locating an oral surgeon who would work for Medicaid rates.

But whether rich, poor or in between, regular dental care has declined as out-of-pocket costs have risen during the Great Recession. Few people know that good dental care can be the key to good overall health. According to the Mayo Clinic, a full menu of diseases can result from poor dental care, including endocarditis (an infection of the inner lining of the heart), cardiovascular disease (clogged arteries and stroke may be linked to oral bacteria) and premature birth and low birth weight babies, to name a few.

In the months after the Wall Street crash of 2008, Dr. Aziza Askari faced her own financial crisis. Patients in her Farmington Hills, Mich., dental practice began asking for refunds on prepayments for planned dental work. Askari honored their requests but wondered what was going to happen to her practice. "It was hitting us from everywhere," she said.

To save the practice, she focused on holistic treatments and expanded into sedation dentistry, in which anxious patients are relaxed before the drill begins to whir. Along with a hefty investment in laser technology and digital X-rays, this appealing change broadened her client base. She advertised her new services, which grew to 10% of her practice's costs. Despite the expense, offering this mix of services without raising prices for customers was necessary to survive, she said. "It kept us afloat. If not, we could be down 50% or close to it."

In a recent poll of 1,000 Americans conducted by Empirica Research for Brighter.com, a dental discounter, 74% of respondents said they go to the dentist only when there is a problem; nearly one-third who did not have dental coverage said they'd been to the dentist "only once" or "not at all" in the previous 10 years; 73% without coverage said they had delayed care because they feared the costs.

For those who skip regular dental visits, like Deamonte, the long-term costs can be alarming. In his case, after two operations and six weeks in the hospital, the bill was more than $250,000. But even less dramatic dental neglect can cost a bundle: A $125 cavity filling can prevent the need for a root canal or crown down the road, or even a dental implant, which can costs thousands.

Americans spent a total of $102.2 billion on dental care in 2009, down slightly from 2008 as patients pulled back. For those who do visit the dentist, costs are continuing to rise. Annual spending for dental care is expected to increase 58% in the next seven years, according to a 2010 Pew Center on the States report. While dental care is only 4.3% of total health costs, consumers are paying more dental bills themselves.

A 2009 report in the New York State Dental Journal showed that while 10.3% of physician costs, 3.3% of hospital care and 26.8% of nursing care expenses were paid out of pocket in 2007, 44.2% of dental bills were paid out of pocket.

In addition, the cost of dental insurance has risen over the past decade at an annual rate of 4% to 7%, depending on the level of coverage, according to consultancy Aon Hewitt. Yet the average annual dental benefit has remained capped at around $1,000 to $1,500 for the past four decades. This is also causing fewer Americans to buy dental insurance. The most recent report by the National Association of Dental Plans reveals that 166 million Americans were covered by some sort of dental plan at the end of 2009, down 10 million from the year before.

Even for Americans who are covered, many dentists have stopped taking state-provided insurance like Medicaid, and some have stopped accepting insurance altogether. Dr. Robert Minch, a dentist in Lutherville, Md., said he does not take dental insurance to avoid dealing with low reimbursements. Instead, he said, he's offering elective procedures such as Invisalign braces and veneers because they are not covered by insurance and are therefore more profitable.

An American Dental Association survey released in August reveals a struggling industry: Nearly 39% of dentists saw their patient billings decrease in the first quarter of 2011. In addition, only 16% of dentists added to their patient base, while the rest stayed the same or had a decline.

There is also a huge variation in dental costs and access in the country. People in rural areas, the poor and minority communities are suffering from a severe lack of dentists, said Cathy Dunham, the executive director of the Children's Dental Health Project, an advocacy organization. Also, costs for many procedures vary greatly. The cost of a dental crown can be anywhere from $600 to $1,800, depending on the type of material, where it's made and the dentist's experience.

"We're talking apples and oranges," says Dan King, the marketing director of the Atlanta Center for Cosmetic Dentistry. "A lot of people think 'a crown is a crown is a crown,' but they're not. . . . It's like comparing the Ritz-Carlton or the Hilton to the Motel 6."

To cope with the changing industry, many dentists are offering cosmetic procedures, but in the past few years, cosmetic dentists have been some of the hardest hit. "A few years ago, you had people taking second mortgages or using their credit cards to pay for procedures. That easy credit has dried up," said Dr. John Sullivan, the president of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. King said the flow of customers to his Atlanta practice had gone from a "fire hose" to a "garden hose," but the practice held up its bottom line by halving its staff.

Askari faced the choice that confronts dentists around the country: either invest in expensive new equipment to expand the procedures offered or risk a "race to the bottom" on prices for basic services such as teeth cleaning and cavity filling, which could lower the quality of service.

"It really is a tale of two cities," said Bassim Michael, a CPA who works with more than 30 dental practices across the country. "The practices that are doing well are the ones that are very growth-oriented," Michael said. "They've put more money in marketing, and they're investing in new technology."

The low end of the dental market is served by discounters such as Brighter.com, a website that includes 25,000 dentists who offer reduced-price services, such as crown work that would normally cost $1,340 for $595. Askari, the dentist from Michigan, said such "rock bottom" prices make it extremely hard to remain profitable and require a practice to have very little overhead.

Minch, the dentist in Maryland, said that while discounter services fill a niche, it's important to keep in mind that dentists are running businesses and have fixed costs they need to meet. The cheaper the care, the more likely some corners will be cut.

"Dentistry is a labor-intensive operation," he said. "It's hard to do it on a heavily discounted basis. You'll likely get heavily discounted work." ( thefiscaltimes.com )

READ MORE - Hidden costs of dental neglect

How to protect your money as experts warn it's a real possibility


Credit Crunch Two? How to protect your money as experts warn it's a real possibility - Experts have warned that a second full-blown credit crunch is real possibility for 2012. The sovereign debt crisis has taken Europe to the brink in 2011, with the markets in meltdown and the outlook for the global economy uncertain.

Credit ratings across the eurozone are under threat, with plans to save the single currency unravelling - ‘Eurogeddon’ could be on the way. Even Bank of England governor Sir Mervyn King has admitted a second credit crunch is out of the UK banking sector’s control.

One sign that we are heading for a second credit crunch is banks tightening their purse strings. The inter-bank lending rates – or Libor - is an indication of this.

Before the first credit crunch, in normal conditions, the key three-month sterling Libor rate was rarely more than 20 basis points above the base rate.

But last week it reached 1.07 per cent, more than 55 basis points above the base rate of 0.5 per cent. It’s been creeping upwards for more than a year with sharper rises since September. The ballooning gap reflects decreasing trust between banks.

The good news is that we’re still not back to the trauma of the crisis in 2008 when the Libor ‘gap’ was more than 120 basis points. But a rising Libor rate means banks face increased borrowing costs and typically pass these on to consumers in the shape of higher mortgage and other lending rates.

So, if we’re hurtling uncontrollably towards credit crunch mark two, what can borrowers, savers, and investors do to protect themselves?

Mortgages

Andrew Montlake of mortgage broker Coreco says we have already seen some effects of the anticipated credit crunch on mortgages.

As the cost of funding for lenders has edged higher, many lenders have increased their new product rates and some lenders have even upped their standard variable rates.

‘There seems to be little doubt, therefore, that we will continue to see the unusual prospect of mortgage rates actually increasing even though bank base rate remains at its historic low,’ he says. ‘It is not just the increase in rates that borrowers face, but also potentially a continued tightening of criteria once more as lenders become even more choosy about who they will lend to.’

He also added that if house prices saw significant falls, lenders could become nervous about offering mortgages that demand only a 10 per cent deposit – a market that lenders have ‘only just tentatively returned to.’

With this in mind, it seems sensible for those who have put off remortgaging, to take advantage of some of the products still on offer before they disappear. Montlake says he has little doubt that the products available in three months’ time will be less attractive than those on offer at present.

At present those looking to remortgage could obtain a tracker product as low as 2.29 per cent or a two-year fix at 2.75 per cent, from Platform and Mansfield Building Society, respectively.

‘For those who are unable to remortgage or need to bring down their capital balances to achieve a more suitable loan-to-value [greater equity to open up access to better deals], now is a good time to overpay each month whilst rates are low,’ explains Montlake. ‘Even a little extra can make a substantial difference in the amount of interest you pay over the term of the mortgage.’

He said there was a growing interest in offset mortgages that ‘make the best use of these opportunities’.

These mortgages let borrowers offset any savings or current account balances against the loan to marginally reduce the amount of interest paid. They are also far more flexible when it comes to making overpayments.

Savers

Back in 2008, when the credit crunch had taken hold but before the base rate dropped, savers were the surprise winners of the crisis. A lack of lending between banks meant institutions were keen to get their hands on deposits instead. And the same thing could happen this time round too.

‘At the moment the Libor rate is increasing every day because the banks are concerned what their rivals exposure is to the likes of Greece and Italy,’ says Andrew Hagger of Moneynet.

‘Therefore some banks are now focussing on raising funds via retail savings rather than risk borrowing from competitor banks at high rates. Because of this savings rates have picked up in the last two to three months and could well rise further if the uncertainty persists in the EU.’

To get your hands on the best rates, savers should keep their money in an easy access account so it’s simple to move it to a better account if one comes along.

The best instant access accounts at the moment include Manchester building society’s Premier Instant Issue 13 at 3.06 per cent and West Brom’s Web Save Plus 2 at 2.81 per cent.

Hopefully we won’t see any more banks going under if the second credit crunch takes hold but, just in case, make sure you have a maximum of £85,000 with any one savings institution so that your money is covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

Investors

When it comes to investments, the key issue is not to panic as investors tend to make the wrong decisions when they are driven by fear. ‘It is easy to be worried when there is doom and gloom all around, but those who sell at these times are often getting out somewhere near the bottom of the market,’ warns Patrick Connolly of financial advisers AWD Chase De Vere.

‘While poor economic news, particularly in the eurozone, is currently driving stock markets, it is important to understand that companies are different to countries. The economies of many countries are struggling, but lots of firms are doing particularly well, generating profits and sitting with large cash reserves on their balance sheets; sooner or later this will be recognised in their share price.’

Connolly says that investors must be prepared to accept a high degree of volatility. However, riskier assets such as equities are sitting at attractive valuations and at some point will rise in value, which is good for the long-term investor and can even create buying opportunities.

‘As always, the key for investors is to hold a balanced and diversified investment portfolio,’ he says, ‘However, while lower risk investments such as fixed interest [government and corporate bonds] will provide more security, to generate strong long-term returns investors must be wary of taking too little risk just as they must be wary of taking too much.’

Credit cards

Some credit market experts think consumers looking to borrow should act soon before it becomes harder and more expensive to find credit.

‘If you’ve got a decent credit record and have been stalling on a decision to take a new 0 per cent balance transfer or 0 per cent purchase deal on a new credit card, it may be wise to apply now whilst there are still plenty of deals available on the market,’ says Moneynet’s Hagger.

The best deals available at the moment include Halifax’s All-In-One Mastercard which offers 15 months interest-free on both purchases and balance transfers.

Alternatively Barclaycard’s Platinum card offers 14 months interest-free for both transfers and purchases. If you’re just looking to transfer an existing balance Barclaycard’s Platinum Extended Balance Transfer Visa offers 22 months interest free with a balance transfer fee of 2.9 per cent. ( thisismoney.co.uk )

READ MORE - How to protect your money as experts warn it's a real possibility

Britain 'in danger of drifting back into recession in 2012' warns think-tank boss


Britain 'in danger of drifting back into recession in 2012' warns think-tank boss - The British economy is facing a ‘bleak’ new year, with a real risk of a return to recession, a think-tank warns today.

The only good news for consumers is that inflation is expected to fall, which will ease the squeeze on spending power for those who remain in work, says the centre-left Institute for Public Policy Research.

In a New Year message, the think-tank’s chief economist Tony Dolphin says that with no solution yet found for the eurozone crisis and many European economies already back in recession, the risk is that a mood of austerity will stunt the UK’s growth too.

‘As we enter 2012, it seems the word that best describes the outlook for the UK economy is 'bleak',’ he says.

‘The eurozone crisis is unresolved and country after country is being forced to adopt extreme austerity measures that will result in large falls in output.

‘As a result, the whole eurozone economy is believed to be back in a mild recession.

‘Going into 2012, the risk is that talk of austerity at home and crisis in Europe will dampen spirits to such an extent that the economy drifts into recession.’

In the case of a ‘double-dip’ recession, a return to growth will be possible only with a boost in public spending, a substantial increase in demand for British goods and services from overseas or if UK consumers and businesses are given a reason to spend more, says Mr Dolphin.

‘The first is not going to happen, the second is extremely unlikely, and so we are left with the third,’ he says.

‘But with no prospect of tax cuts or lower interest rates, it is not clear what in the short-term the catalyst for more spending by the private sector will be.’ The institute is calling on the Government to do more to boost the economy, including by bringing forward the establishment of a national investment bank, which it wants to be operating by the end of 2012.

Mr Dolphin adds: ‘The only good news is that a weaker global economy has led to lower global inflation pressures.

‘Forecasters, including the Bank of England, think inflation will be close to its target rate of 2 per cent by the end of 2012… there is nothing in the latest data to suggest an alternative outcome is more likely.

‘Even if wage inflation only stays at its current level – around 2 per cent to 2.5 per cent – the squeeze on households’ spending power will end, at least for those who keep their jobs.

‘In the short-term, economic policy has become a matter of hoping that something turns up.

'That is why, for the UK economy, 2012 is unlikely to be a happy new year.’ ( thisismoney.co.uk )

READ MORE - Britain 'in danger of drifting back into recession in 2012' warns think-tank boss