November 30, 2017

Financial Emergency Kit

The disasters related to our changing climate (hurricanes, floods, wildfires) are a reminder of the need for a financial
emergency kit. FINRA provides a detailed list of what to include:

1. Cash and keys. Cash is king in most emergencies since you may not be able to access ATMs or other electronic forms of payment. Also pack a set of essential keys (including a spare to a safe deposit box, if you have one). Tip: You can put a credit card in your kit for good measure, but don't depend on it.
2. Contacts. telephone numbers, emails or other contact information for family members, and medical, financial and business contacts. Store electronically & have a paper copy in your kit.
3. Personal identification. You may have to confirm your identity to obtain disaster relief services, file insurance claims, or get access to your property and financial assets. Include copies of passports, driver's licenses, Medicare and Social Security cards.
4. Paper or electronic copies of important financial records. A short list of financial documents to put in your kit includes mortgages, property deeds, legal documents such as a Power of Attorney and insurance policies. Also include recent financial statements for bank accounts, credit cards, brokerage accounts and statements related to investments that might be held outside a brokerage firm. A password-protected flash drive or file might be safer (and lighter) than hard copies—as long as you have a way to access the files.
5. An inventory of your valuables and personal belongings. This will help you maximize the benefit from your insurance policies and will expedite the claims process. Tip: Understand what your insurance covers and what will be required to make a claim in the event disaster strikes.

Get the details at:

November 7, 2017

The Truth About Credit Freezes

"For nearly three months this year, hackers had access to files at Equifax, a financial services company and one of the big three credit reporting bureaus. All told, more than 145 million people may have had their Social Security numbers, birth dates and addresses stolen. Some driver's license and credit card numbers may also have been taken."
"While not the biggest security breach in history, it could be the one that causes the most damage. With Social Security numbers, addresses and birthdates, thieves can do everything from open new bank accounts to file fraudulent tax returns."
"In the face of those scary outcomes, a credit freeze might seem like the answer. While a freeze can be beneficial, make sure you understand what it does and how it protects you"
Get the details from Maralene LaPonse writing for US News and World Report at:

Health Care: A Middle Class Crisis

ACA enrollment starts November 1. Don't procrastinate. 
Tune out the political rhetoric and tune into the facts provided by non-profit, non-partisan research institutes. Too bad Congress rarely pays attention to the facts; the lobbyists have much more power and access to Congress members and their staff in their Washington offices. 
"Much has been made of the fact that many Americans can’t afford their deductibles and out-of-pocket costs when purchasing polices under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The new report by the healthcare advocacy organization, The Commonwealth Fund, indicates that both ACA-insured and employer-insured Americans are frequently stretched to the limit."
"Middle-class incomes for a family of four range from about $58,000 to $115,000.  The definition of middle-class people who have health insurance but cannot afford it is well-established in the research: their deductibles or other annual out-of-pocket costs exceed 10 percent of their annual household income. (For the poor, the threshold is 5 percent.)" Source: Squared Away Blog Nov. 2, 2017 by Kim Blanton.
Learn more about the problem which is widely attributed to high deductible health insurance plans by The Commonwealth Fund. Check out their website:

Navigating the college financial aid maze

While written for financial planners, "Walking Clients Through the Financial Aid Maze," by Lynn O'Shaughnessy, describes nine steps to understanding college financial aid rules and practices. Don't wait until you or your child is on the verge of applying, learn the strategies to put in place to get the best financial aid offer.

Great monnthly newsletter: The Humble Dollar by Jonathan Clements

I became addicted to Jonathan Clements' financial advice and educational columns when he was a weekly columnist for The Wall Street Journal. I looked forward to reading his column every Wednesday and sharing the information with my personal finances classes at Utah State University. His advice is always simple to understand, consumer-oriented, and logical. I invite you to explore Clements' website: and to subscribe to his monthly newsletter. Following his advice will improve your financial situation! His books are great too, but I think reading a weekly blog or monthly newsletter is more likely to lead to action than reading an entire book. But his books help to reinforce his financial advice column. Check out The Humble Dollar at 

Tracking down long-lost retirement account from previous employment

"If you've worked for more than one employer in your lifetime, you may have lost or forgotten retirement benefits just waiting for you to track them down. Here's how to find and claim those long-lost accounts."
Get the details from The Motley Fool at:

42% of vehicle loans are for 6 years or longer!

One of my favorite quotes: "Cars depreciate faster they they roll downhill" comes from bankruptcy research by Sullivan, Warren, & Westbrook.
What are buyers thinking if they sign up for a 6 year car loan? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (that Republicans want to eliminate) reports that a rapidly growing number of vehicle loans are for terms of 6 years.
It never makes sense to borrow for more than a 2-3 year term to finance a vehicle. While it is best to pay cash for a depreciating asset, it can make sense to borrow a modest amount for a couple of years to build up one's credit record. Showing you can pay off a loan on a regular basis with no missed payments can be a good way for a young adult to build their credit history.

November 6, 2017

Alternative Gift Market in Cache Valley

Saturday, November 11 | 9am-2pm Alternative Gift Market
If you are looking for meaningful gifts this year, consider the Alternative Gift Market. It will be held at the First Presbyterian Church, located at 200 W Center Street. For more information, or to look at the gifts you will be able to contribute to, please visit their website at
Most of us don't need more "stuff" and often the things we receive as well-intentioned gifts fall short of thrilling the recipient. Too much of what is purchased as gifts ends up sitting on a shelf, being re-gifted, or in the landfill. Reconsider your gift list this year by attending the Alternative Gift Market.

Proposed Income Tax Changes (note: this is NOT reform)

Behind closed doors the Republicans are crafting changes to our current totally messed up and complex income tax laws. You can be sure that the lobbyists are helping to write the proposed legislation and all credible analyses point to a huge increase in the federal deficits and lots of benefits for the top 10% of tax payers and businesses (and their owners).
Having recently read T.R. Reid's book:A Fine Mess: A Global Quest for a Simpler, Fairer, and More Efficient Tax System, I'm convinced the only way to "reform" our income tax system is to start from scratch. Reid searched the world and concluded that the fairest tax system is BBLR: broad-based  with low rates. Low rates are achieved by eliminating most of the current deductions and loopholes.
"The U.S. tax code is a total write-off. Crammed with loopholes and special interest provisions, it works for no one except tax lawyers, accountants, and huge corporations. Not for the first time, we have reached a breaking point. That happened in 1922, and again in 1954, and again in 1986. In other words, every thirty-two years. Which means that the next complete overhaul is due in 2018. But what should be in this new tax code? Can we make the U.S. tax system simpler, fairer, and more efficient? Yes, yes, and yes. Can we cut tax rates and still bring in more revenue? Yes."
"Other rich countries, from Estonia to New Zealand to the UK—advanced, high-tech, free-market democracies—have all devised tax regimes that are equitable, effective, and easy on the taxpayer.  But the United States has languished. So byzantine are the current statutes that, by our government’s own estimates, Americans spend six billion hours and $10 billion every year preparing and filing their taxes. In the Netherlands that task takes a mere fifteen minutes! Successful American companies like Apple, Caterpillar, and Google effectively pay no tax at all in some instances because of loopholes that allow them to move profits offshore. Indeed, the dysfunctional tax system has become a major cause of economic inequality. " 

I have no hope that a BBLR system will be instituted by the current administration. But the book is well worth reading to understand why current efforts to "reform" the income tax system are futile.

"T. R. Reid majored in Classics at Princeton University and subsequently worked as a Naval officer during the Vietnam War, a lawyer, a teacher, and assorted other jobs. At The Washington Post, he covered Congress and four presidential campaigns. He served as the paper's bureau chief in Tokyo and London. Reid has reported from 4 dozen countries on five continents."

Dollars and sense: How we misthink money and how to spend smarter

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely's new book, Dollars and sense: How we misthink money and how to spend smarter, is now available at your favorite bookseller's and library. Logan library will soon have the book, e-book, and audio recording available for loan.
"Blending humor and behavioral economics, the New York Times bestselling author of Predictably Irrational delves into the truly illogical world of personal finance to help people better understand why they make bad financial decisions, and gives them the knowledge they need to make better ones."
Check out his other books, all very entertaining, revealing and readable:
Ariely is director of the Center for Advanced Hindsight (not a typo).
Check out Ariely's website:
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