December 27, 2011

Credit Report Maintenance

View your credit report, add a 90 day fraud alert to protect against ID theft, and opt out of credit card offers:

I recommend putting a fraud alert on your credit report as a preventive measure against identity theft. The fraud alert needs to be renewed every 90 days. It's a good prevention strategy if you don't anticipate applying for credit in the next 3 months. This is an especially good strategy to help your aging parents protect themselves from ID theft.

“You can add a fraud alert message to your credit report to help protect your credit information. Fraud alert messages notify potential credit grantors to verify your identification before extending credit in your name in case someone is using your information without your consent. We recommend that you review a copy of your personal credit report.” (Experian website)

To save paper and trees as well as protect against ID theft, opt out of mailed credit card offers:

December 20, 2011

Make Money, Not Excuses

A colleague recommended Jean Chatzky’s book Make Money, Not Excuses. “If you want to get rich, you need only do four things:
  1. Make a decent living
  2. Spend less than you make
  3. Invest the money you don’t spend
  4. Protect the financial world you build so that a disaster doesn’t take it all away from you
Sounds easy, I know. So why, then, is it so hard, particularly for women?”

Do yourself a favor and add Jean Chatzky to your reading list for 2012. If your local library doesn’t have Chatzky’s books, request that they order them.

Check out her blog at: The blog post on “financial infidelity” sounds intriguing!

Weathering Tough Economic Times—12 Tips for 2012

"Tough economic times have taken a toll on many Americans over the last couple of years. But making sound financial decisions and saving for the future can help you weather financial storms. The start of a new year is a great time to take stock of your finances, so the FINRA Investor Education Foundation has put together these 12 practical tips that can help keep your finances on course in 2012."

  1. Start a Rainy Day Fund
  2. Handle Credit Cards With Care.
  3. Check Your Credit Report and Score
  4. Shop Around For Financial Products.
  5. Don’t Leave Money on the Table: Contribute to Your 401(k).
  6. Avoid Payday Loans and Other Money Drains.
  7. Don’t Overdraw Your Checking Account or Debit Card.
  8. Do a Background Check on Your Financial Professional.
  9. Keep Your Insurance Coverage Current.
  10. Diversify Your Investments.
  11. Save for College Using Tax-Advantaged Accounts
  12. Find Free, Reliable Financial Education Resources in Your Community: like Financial Planning for Women! (my addition)
For details and links to helpful websites:

December 7, 2011

Future of Health Insurance?

“Companies will seek to protect themselves from unexpected high medical costs by shifting workers toward health plans that involve defined contributions instead of defined benefits, similar to the shift that has happened with retirement benefits, writes Peter Orszag, a former Office of Management and Budget director.”

“Over the next decade, we are likely to see a shift in health insurance in the U.S.: So-called defined-contribution plans will gradually take over the market, shifting the residual risk of incurring high health-care costs from employers to workers.”

“The market today is dominated by ‘defined-benefit’ plans, under which companies determine a set of health-insurance benefits that are provided for employees. These will gradually be replaced by defined-contribution plans, under which companies pay a fixed amount, and employees use the money to buy or help pay for insurance they choose themselves.”

We are moving faster to a YOYO (you’re on your own) economy. Details in Bloomsburg Businessweek

December 6, 2011

Best 5 Ways for Women to Achieve Retirement Security

Best 5 Ways for Women to Achieve Retirement Security
Longevity plus health care costs equals worry for women
1. Communicate and Plan
2. Have a Smart Social Security Plan
3. You First, Kids Second
4. Plan for Health Care Expenses
5. Consider Hiring a Financial Planner
Read more:

No ‘New Normal’ Economy

“Are the latest swings in the economic and financial headlines making you wonder when it will ever stop?” financial writer Jason Zweig asks.

“The short answer is: It will never stop. And what’s been happening isn’t “the new normal”; it’s just the old normal playing out before a new audience.” So get used to the volatility, save and invest more and hold a diversified portfolio. Maybe this article will help put the violent swings in the economy in perspective... or maybe not. But one must admit that the first decade of the 21st century has been a real test of investors' risk tolerance.

Jason Zeweig is one of my favorite financial writers.

Read more at:

December 4, 2011

Give a child a college savings account

This holiday season give a child you love a gift that they will remember for a long time- establish a college savings account. The accounts offer tax savings and are an excellent way to save for college. There is no minimum contribution so no excuses.

Skip the gift cards and toys imported from China. Check out the website of the Utah Educational Savings Plan.

Ruminations on Gift Cards

After reading numerous articles about the pitfalls of gift cards and the estimated $1.9 billion (yes, that’s a b) that are never redeemed, I can't help but wonder why people don't just give cash (or even checks).

It is critical to teach children to save and you'll teach them the exact opposite message by giving a gift card. With cash (or equivalent) parents can encourage their children to save some and even set some money aside for donations. One lament I hear from women is how they wish their children would learn better financial behaviors. Think about what lessons you are teaching your children this holiday season (and I don’t mean just about gift cards).

Secondly, in today's economy many adults need money to pay the rent, mortgage, or utility bill, although it may not be obvious and they may be trying to hide their situation. I guess I'm conservative and old fashioned but I view gift cards as simply a very effective marketing strategy to encourage Americans to spend more than is prudent.

December 3, 2011

Beware of fake IRS emails

My husband received the following email which directed him to click on an attachment. The IRS will NEVER contact you by email. Obviously something nasty was in the attachment. Don't be a victim!

Dear Taxpayer!

You are encouraged to pay a penalty for the failure to file income tax returns prior to January 31, 2011.
Note, IRC [Section 6038(b)(1)] provides for a monetary penalty of $10,000 for each [Form 5471] that is filed after the due date of the income tax return or does not include the complete and accurate information described in [Section 6038(a)].

No penalty will be imposed if the company shows that the late filing was due to reasonable cause.
For more information please refer to attached file.

Internal Revenue Service United States Department of the Treasury.

December 1, 2011

Money Talk: A Financial Guide for Women

Money Talk: A Financial Guide for Women ($23.00; 192 pages; 2009). This workbook teaches women the basics of smart money management.

Money Talk provides answers to questions like: How much do I need to save for retirement?; How much insurance should I have?; How and where should I invest my money?; and How do I create a will? Over 45 worksheets help readers evaluate their personal finances, set goals for financial well-being, and implement a plan to reach those goals.

The book is divided into five sections -- Financial Basics; Are You Covered? Insurance Basics; Investing Basics; Investing for Retirement; and Planning for Future Life Events. Each section includes lessons that demystify important financial concepts and exercises that allow readers to apply the information.

To learn more about the book:

Health Insurance for Uninsured Utahns

Uninsured adults can apply for basic health insurance through Utah's Primary Care Network (PCN). Beyond the annual enrollment fee of $50, the program is free and covers doctor’s visits, emergency room care, prescriptions (birth control included), and some dental and eye care.

Requirements: age 19-64, U.S. citizen or legal resident, no other health insurance, not eligible or Medicaid, and meet income requirements (i.e., Max. $33,525/year for family of four).

Apply online:

Or call 1-888-222-2542 Open enrollment for parents with children: December 10 - 23, 2011.

Retirement Planning Tools from SSA

One of the best ways to begin retirement planning is with the Social Security Administration’s Retirement Planner at The Retirement Estimator at gives you the ability and flexibility to test different retirement ages and learn how to maximize retirement benefits by delaying retirement.

Another great resource is This government site has a wealth of information from multiple agencies covering an array of topics—from buying a home to paying for college.

12 Myths about Bankruptcy

Will you lose your house and retirement savings? When will you be able to borrow money again? Get the facts on these questions and more from I hope you don't need this info but here it is.
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