Personal Finance: Cashing in on the Disaster in Japan

Michelle Singletary
Thursday, March 17, 2011; 1:47 PM

One thing is for sure, when there's a disaster in the U.S. or abroad there's an appeal to help victims.

But please be careful before you send any cash.

The latest disaster of course involves the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami that has devastated parts of Japan, killing thousands and displacing many more.

The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance offers the following tips if you feel moved to give to victims in Japan:

--Rely on expert opinion when it comes to evaluating a charity. Be cautious when relying on third-party recommendations such as bloggers or other websites, as they might not have fully researched the listed relief organizations.

--Be careful about giving online, especially in response to spam messages and e-mails that claim to link to a relief organization.

--Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the disaster impact areas. Unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas, it may be difficult to get new aid workers to quickly provide assistance. Make sure the charity's website clearly describes what they can do to address immediate needs.

Visit BBB's website for more tips.

"Whenever there is a major natural disaster, be it home or abroad, there are two things you can count on," said Art Taylor, president and CEO of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. "The first is the generosity of Americans to donate time and money to help victims, and the second is the appearance of poorly run and in some cases fraudulent charities."

Rich, Who Me?

Here's a million-dollar question: How much money will it take for you to feel rich?

The answer for many millionaires is millions more than what they have. Fidelity Investments survey found that 42 percent of millionaires say they won't feel wealthy until they have at least $7.5 million.

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