December 21, 2010
December 17, 2010
I can no longer pay my bill online from 2 different accounts (I "share" a card with my 85 year old mother). I used to be able to split the charges and pay from separate accounts online. Now "Card Services" will only allow you to link to one account so I have to pay one "share" of the bill by mailed-in check. I easily got the $11.77 deleted from my bill but only because I was vigilant and asked questions. Of course, I could apply for another credit card to keep my bills separate from my mother's but I really don't want to have to deal with another bank, another monthly statement.... I already have 2 credit cards (one is Am Exp which is NOT accepted everywhere but offers cash rebates).
Moral of the story: check your credit card bill each month!
December 14, 2010
- Outliving Assets– While men and women have similar planning horizons, women have significantly longer life expectancies.
- 4 of 10 women over 65 living alone depend solely on Social Security for income.
- 85% of women over age 85 are widows, compared to 45 percent of men.
- women are more likely than men to have to pay for assistance during the final years of retirement.
- Health care costs for a retired couple both at age 65 in 2010 can amount to $250,000 over their retirement years, not including the cost of long-term care.
December 10, 2010
While gift cards are great for the retailers and the economy, they force the recipient to buy something when they might rather enjoy an experience like attending a performance (musical, symphony, ballet, etc.-- support the local performing arts).
Psychological research confirms that we value experiences more than things (and gift cards are usually for retail stores or restaurants-- while dining out can be an experience, most of us don't need more calories). BUT, most of all, unlike a check or a few crisp bills, gift cards do not allow the recipient to save any of the gift or to donate to charity.
This is of particular concern when the recipient is a child. A persistent theme through the focus group research I've conducted with women is the desire to teach their children better money management than what they learned. Teaching children the importance of saving and sharing (through donating to a charity that means something to them) should be part of the holiday season.
With unemployment, underemployment and over-indebtedness plaguing so many families, some adults really could use the money to pay their bills rather than buy another sweater.
For those who are determined to give gift cards (& for recipients), please check out the advice of the Federal Trade Commission: "FTC Has Gift Card Tips for Holiday Buying" http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2010/11/giftcards.shtm Be aware, that despite the new federal protections, gift cards can still expire, charge inactivity fees, and charge a fee to purchase the card!
Whether you are the buyer or the recipient of a gift card, check out the FTC's tips. For example: "Avoid online auction sites, because the cards sold there may be counterfeit or may have been obtained fraudulently."
December 9, 2010
Beyond the emotional challenges, are you concerned about financial and liability issues that could arise from an incident involving the older driver in your family? Have you reviewed your insurance coverage for gaps and premium issues? Is it possible that the older driver in your family could jeopardize not only his or her own financial well-being but also your own?
If so, don't panic; you're certainly not alone. The most important thing to remember is that the time to start addressing your concerns is now, before "concerns" turn into "tragedies".
To help you do that, Keeping Us Safe has released its long awaited workbook titled:
"Beyond Driving with Dignity; The workbook for the families of older drivers".
The workbook employs a very user-friendly, uncomplicated method and is designed to be used in the comfort and confidence of the family's home.
"Beyond Driving with Dignity" was written to help families (or professionals working with families) by providing them with a "roadmap to success" in their quest to overcome the challenges of an older driver's safety.
If driving restrictions or even a complete retirement from driving are deemed appropriate, the "Limit Driving, Not Living" chapter of the workbook helps the family identify and implement alternative means of transportation for the retiring driver.
Keeping Us Safe is a national organization with a primary mission of helping to keep older drivers, safe drivers. In addition to the Beyond Driving with Dignity program mentioned above, Keeping Us Safe also offers two presentations for your group or organization titled:
- A Safe Drive Through the Aging Process (meant for older drivers)
- Adults with Aging Parent Drivers"
(quoted from Institute for Financial Consumer Education)
The workbook costs $25 + S&H from: http://keepingussafe.org/workbookicfe.htm
But first check the AARP website for their free online resource: Is it time for your loved one to hang up the keys? AARP’s We Need to Talk online seminar is "Produced by AARP and based on information created jointly by The Hartford and the MIT AgeLab, the seminar provides practical tips and advice on how to recognize when it’s time to limit or stop driving and how to discuss the topic with loved ones. We recommend you complete the three modules in sequence. Each takes approximately 30 minutes to complete." http://www.aarp.org/home-garden/transportation/we_need_to_talk/
Some good options and recent interest rates:
- Ally Bank http://www.ally.com/ (1.09% 11/22/10)
- Sallie Mae Bank (http://www.salliemae.com) (Nov. 16, 2010: 1.3%)
- Discover Bank (http://www.discoverbank.com/): 1.25%
- Other online banks to consider: http://HSBCdirect.com, http://Ingdirect.com, http://www.emigrantdirect.com
December 1, 2010
- Getting paid for getting waylaid on your travels
- Avoiding the ‘gotchas’
- Don’t trip on vacation illness or injury
- Longstanding medical trip insurance providers
- Researching and buying travel insurance on the Internet
- New limit on tarmac strandings
- Credit card travel/emergency services
- Trip insurance questions answered
November 29, 2010
Arlo: "It's 'Black Friday,' the most profitable day of the year."
Arlo: "They say our spending is vital to the economy, especially the stock market."
Arlo: "They're only telling half the story!"
In the background Janis is digging into her purse as she prepares to go shopping...
Arlo: "It's 'Red Friday' for most of us!"
See it in color at: http://comics.com/arlo&janis/2010-11-26/
A couple items that caught my eye include Medicare Enrollment 101 (under "The Aggregator" section which includes a variety of helpful subjects each week.
Also of value: "How to give children the gift of investing." I can't tell you how many times women have said to me that they wished they had learned about basic concepts like the Time Value of Money (compound interest) when they were younger. Educate your children by giving them the gift of investing this holiday season instead of the latest techno toy that will soon be outdated and end up as toxic waste in the landfill.
Don't stop giving thanks now that the T-day turkey is history (or soup). According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, "a growing body of research suggests that maintaining an attitude of gratitude can improve psychological, emotional, and physical well-being."
"Adults who frequently feel grateful have more energy, more optimism, more social connections and more happiness than those who do not."
"They're also less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy or alcoholics. They earn more money, sleep more soundly, exercise more regularly and have greater resistance to viral infections."
New research shows that gratitude provides similar benefits for kids. Cultivating gratitude is a type of "cognitive-behavioral therapy." For tips on helping raise kids to be grateful check out this link: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704243904575630541486290052.html?KEYWORDS=grateful+people
("Thank you. No, thank, you," by Melinda Beck, WSJ 11/23/10, p. D1)
November 24, 2010
MetLife 2010 Study of the American Dream Finds Many Americans Feeling the Stress of Living Close to the Financial Edge
"Americans are taking significant steps to improve their financial situation. More than half (56%) are taking on more responsibility at work, almost two-thirds (64%) have started saving more and spending less, and an additional 29% plan to cut spending."
"Americans are helping their family members financially – even though they may also be struggling themselves."
"Many Americans still find themselves close to financial ruin should they lose their job: 45% could not take care of expenses for more than a month, and 65% could not do so for more than three months."
Insufficient emergency savings/cash reserve adds to the stress. "Americans who consider themselves to have an adequate personal safety net are twice as likely to feel they have achieved the American dream as those who do not (57% vs. 24%)."
One disturbing finding: "Though many are struggling to make ends meet, needs and expectations continue to increase. More than half (58%) of Americans believe that the bar is constantly rising in terms of the basic necessities in life. Three in ten (29%) feel more pressure to buy more and better material possessions." (bold added)
What to do?
- Recalibrate your expectations! It's time to downsize and simplify your life; get off the consumption escalator. If all your friends are on consumption treadmill, it's time to start expanding your circle of friends to people who have a healthier (for themselves and the planet) perspective on the American Dream. Start by reading Greg Mortenson's book Three cups of tea (see related blog). Check out websites about downsizing your consumption and simplifying your life.
- Start or build your emergency savings. A great place to begin is with an online savings account. Check out some options at:
- Ally Bank http://www.ally.com/ (1.09% 11/22/10)
- Sallie Mae Bank (www.salliemae.com) (Nov. 16, 2010: 1.3%)
- Discover Bank (http://www.discoverbank.com/): 1.25%
November 23, 2010
The alternative is "Buy Nothing Day," http://www.buynothingday.org/ an international day of protest against rampant, run-wild consumerism. Two years after the September 2008 world financial meltdown, the Global Financial Crisis drags on and the U.S. is still mired in (the aftermath of) the worst recession since the Great Depression. Although the National Bureau of Economic Research has declared the official end to the US recession, unemployment remains high (nearly 10%) and the foreclosure rate in Utah is still going up (note the appalling number of Legal Notices (a.k.a. foreclosures) in the newspaper.
With Thanksgiving ("the forgotten holiday") upon us, and Friday the beginning of the holiday shopping season, now is a good time to take a deep breath and reflect on what is really important to you. Some of us did much of our shopping at the Alternative Gift Market in Logan. It's never too late to give a meaningful gift to help the world (and reduce the pressure on the local landfill). Check out http://www.altgifts.org/. In Northern Utah shop at: Global Village Gifts, 146 North 100 East, Logan, UT 84321-4610; (435) 713-4347 http://www.globalvillagegifts.org/. "Global Village Gifts is a non-profit shop in Logan that supports struggling artisans in developing countries by selling their fairly-traded handicrafts."
Don't forget Logan's Gallery Walk from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Fri. Dec 03, 2010. Buy locally!
Yes, the economy depends on consumer spending to get back on track and create jobs but consider giving tickets to a music or dance performance, pump your $ into the local economy rather than buying this year's hot gift made in China. For a great deal on last year's hot gifts, just check E-bay.
Other gift ideas: 2 books by Greg Mortenson who is fighting the Taliban by building schools for girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Books, not bombs! His first book, Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace, One School At A Time, is an inspirational worldwide best seller and mandatory reading for all Army Special Forces. I just finished reading his second book, Stones into Schools, and highly recommend it. Both books make great gifts for women and men.If you and your family and friends have already read both books, consider making donations to the Central Asia Institute
Three Cups of Tea is also available in a young readers edition: Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Journey to Change the World…One Child at a Time.
"Listen to the Wind, the children’s book, is told in the voice of Korphe’s children, and illuminates the humanity and culture of a relevant and distant part of the world while sharing a riveting example of how one person can change thousands of lives. Visit www.threecupsoftea.com for more information."
Also check out Pennies for Peace, "an international service-learning program," for kids
November 11, 2010
The nonprofit Alliance for Investor Education (AIE) highlights 10 of the best Web-based resources for parents to teach their kids about how to save and invest in today’s tough financial times.
- Investing ABCs: Teaching Your Children About Stocks – the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy
- Gen I Revolution - Council for Economic Education
- A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Planning for College Expenses – CFA Institute
- Choose to Save: Savingsman Episode 5: Saving Early - Employee Benefit Research Institute
- Tips for Teaching Students about Saving and Investing - Securities and Exchange Commission
- Teach Your Children - Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards
- The Basics of Saving and Investing - Investor Protection Trust
- Cover the Basics Before Your Child Leaves the Nest - National Endowment for Financial Education
- Great Minds Think: A Kid’s Guide to Money - Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve
- Fraud Scene Investigator - North American Securities Administrators Association
Further info: "Many consumers make poor financial choices and older adults are particularly vulnerable to such errors. About half of the population between ages 80 and 89 either has dementia or a medical diagnosis of 'cognitive impairment without dementia.' We study lifecycle patterns in financial mistakes using a proprietary database that measures ten different types of credit behavior. Financial mistakes include suboptimal use of credit card balance transfer offers, misestimation of the value of one's house, and excess interest rate and fee payments."
Young adults: listen to your parents' advice.
Oldsters: get help with your finances from your kids or a trusted advisor.
Middle agers: enjoy your wisdom but watch out for your parents (and keep learning as the financial world evolves and becomes more complex).
If you haven't already initiated the conversation with your parents about financial management in old age, maybe this info can help. (Although the focus of the study is on needed public policy changes to help consumers avoid poor decisions, it has application in the realm of family finance.)
November 10, 2010
Deadline is Monday, Nov. 22. Thanks to The Salt Lake Tribune for this info.
November 8, 2010
"Improving the long-term financial security of all women through education and advocacy"WISER is a terrific resource for planning your financial future, finding great resources and learning about financial planning. Check out the WISER website: http://www.wiserwomen.org
Find out the Top 5 Things Women Need To Do For Retirement, discover great care giving resources, get resources to help yourself or a friend/family member who is experiencing divorce or widowhood, or learn about annuities by reading a free chapter in Mark Miller's new book, The Hard Time Guide to Retirement Security, which is geared to the specific needs of baby boomers who are now nearing retirement. And lots more!
November 3, 2010
People are more likely to buy unhealthy foods when they pay using credit or debit cards. Why? "First, there is a correlation between unhealthiness and impulsiveness of food items: Unhealthy food items also tend to elicit impulsive responses. Second, cash payments are psychologically more painful than card payments, and this pain of payment can curb the impulsive responses to buy unhealthy food items."
Maybe it's time to try using old fashioned cash when grocery shopping. Save money and eat better.
Read more at:
November 1, 2010
From Consumer Reports
In the October 2010 Issue Consumer Reports ran article titled: “Will You Have Enough to Retire?”
"If you can't answer that question, you're in good, or at least plentiful, company these days. Just 46 percent of U.S. workers say they or their spouses have tried to calculate how much they need to save for a comfortable retirement, according to a recent survey by the nonprofit Employee Benefit Research Institute in Washington, D.C. And 14 percent of that group admit to guessing. Even if you never plan to retire fully, or the day is still decades off, having more than a guess about how much money you'd need can help you avoid some unpleasant surprises years from now. "It may sound like a lot of work," says Steve Vernon, an actuary and blogger on retirement topics in Oxnard, Calif., "but it's worth it given that you're planning the rest of your life." It doesn't have to be a lot of work if you shoot for an approximate number rather than try to account for every possible variable. With all the unpredictable factors involved, including future inflation rates and investment returns, as well as your own longevity, an approximation may be the best you'll do anyway. Here's how to come up with one.
"If you can't answer that question, you're in good, or at least plentiful, company these days. Just 46 percent of U.S. workers say they or their spouses have tried to calculate how much they need to save for a comfortable retirement, according to a recent survey by the nonprofit Employee Benefit Research Institute in Washington, D.C. And 14 percent of that group admit to guessing.
Even if you never plan to retire fully, or the day is still decades off, having more than a guess about how much money you'd need can help you avoid some unpleasant surprises years from now. "It may sound like a lot of work," says Steve Vernon, an actuary and blogger on retirement topics in Oxnard, Calif., "but it's worth it given that you're planning the rest of your life."
It doesn't have to be a lot of work if you shoot for an approximate number rather than try to account for every possible variable. With all the unpredictable factors involved, including future inflation rates and investment returns, as well as your own longevity, an approximation may be the best you'll do anyway. Here's how to come up with one.http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine-archive/2010/october/money/retirement-planning/overview/index.htm
By GINA KOLATA
"New research shows that one of the first signs of impending dementia is an inability to understand money and credit, contracts and agreements."
This NY Times article, although geared to financial planners, has a clear message for family members-- the need to plan for possible mental deterioration due to aging. The message is clear: we need to watch out for signs of dementia with our parents and grandparents and have a plan in place to address the problem. For those of us without children-- who will watch out for our needs as we age?
October 27, 2010
What Is Your R3?"So you think you're preparing well for your retirement, but are you really? Use this quiz to determine your Retirement Readiness Rating (R3). Your R3 is an indicator of how good a job you're actually doing in financial preparation for retirement. It may help you flag some action items that, up to now, you may have neglected or overlooked. And if you have, it provides some resources to point you in the right direction and help you get started!" (Employee Benefit Research Institute)
“Choosing a Retirement Solution for Your Small Business” (www.choosingaretirementsolution.org), presents employers with a number of retirement plan options, and describes the advantages and features of each; from a simpler IRA-based plan to the more sophisticated automatic enrollment 401(k) plan. Even businesses with as few as two employees will find options using this new online tool.
For additional resources on retirement plan options, visit the EBSA Website at http://www.dol.gov/ebsa.
Individuals seeking more information about retirement planning can find assistance at the AICPA’s website, www.360financialliteracy.org. The 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy campaign teaches financial literacy to Americans in every stage of life. The site’s “Retirees” section under “Life Stages” provides guidance on retirement planning and related topics.
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Employee Benefits Security Administration and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
October 26, 2010
October 25, 2010
"In Women's Worth, CFP Eleanor Blayney breaks through the traditionally male-dominated field of financial advice to offer informtation you-- as a woman--can really use. Her frank approach intersperses practical advice with easy-to-do exercises that will help you understand your beliefs about money, learn the fundamentals of financial planning, and gain confidence in your financial know-how."
More info online at: http://www.directionsforwomen.com/
October 22, 2010
- U.S. investors withdrew a record $70 billion from the stock market during the peak of the financial crisis in October 2008, and another $50 billion near the market low during Feb/March of 2009.
- As of Oct. 16, 2009—one year after the peak in liquidations—investors who remained in the stock market had fared better than those who exited at the peak of the crisis and stayed on the sidelines.
Halloween is a great time to get motivated to plan for retirement by watching this 30 second video