Where I’m giving Today to Honor our Veterans

In honor of Giving Tuesday, I have made a donation of 5 wreaths to Wreaths Across America. It’s a quick way to thank and honor our veterans. They offer several ways to help beyond donating. Please visit the website to learn more, but in short your can:

  1. Sponsor a wreath ($15) that is made in the USA.
  2. Volunteer to lay wreaths.
  3. Invite friends and family to participate.
  4. Step up to become a Key Volunteer where you commit to organizing and leading a team and other public volunteers on Wreaths Across America Day .

This is one charity that is deserving. Suggested.

Simplify your Finances – Healthy Habit 30

keepitsimpleThe final and one of my all-time favorite habits — and what I made a career out of — is simplifying finances. It is easy to get a new credit card, and often even to open up a new bank account. As our priorities change and our income grows, we often forget or fail to get rid of unwanted credit cards and bank accounts, we no longer use.

Your life will be infinitely easier if you are only managing a few accounts. Today, most of us have a wide array of bill pay vendors we use. While I started out my adult life with one phone utility, I now have a home phone and internet provider,  mobile phone provider, radio service for my car, and a DirectTV for home entertainment. The array of new services fostered by technology has made many aspects of our financial lives more complex.

The number of accounts, services, and vendors I work with has quadrupled. What I am trying to minimize is the number of financial institutions I work with to make what is already overwhelming feel more manageable.

I hope you will take a few minutes to inventory your financial service providers and credit card accounts. Can you whittle them down? It will make your financial roadmap simpler and minimize the time needed to manage your assets.

If you don’t really know of all the credit card accounts you have in your name, you could run a credit report. Here is a whole summary of your options and how to get your free credit report.

Streamlining this aspect of your life will save you time, energy, and minimize your stress. It will also make it easy for someone to step in and help you when you need it. And most likely, we will all need that help at some point in our lives. Witnessed. 

Add Home Maintenance Milestones to your Personal Calendar – Healthy Habit 28

checklist

There is no reason to try and remember these things. I recommend that you add it to the ONE calendar you keep (Health Habit #1) so that those things you should do to maintain your household get done.  For most American’s, your home represents one of your largest personal assets and taking care of it will benefit you in the long run.

Here are some of the basics:

Quarterly:

  • Change or clean the filter in your furnace. It makes it easier for your HVAC and furnace to regulate your home’s temperature, and ultimately decrease utility bills.
  • Clean the garbage disposal by grinding ice cubes, then flushing with hot water and baking soda.

Fall

  • Replace batteries and test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Rake leaves and aerate the lawn.
  • Have your forced-air heating system inspected by a professional. T
  • Remove leaves and debris from gutters and downspouts.
  • Drain and winterize exterior plumbing.
  • Drain and store hoses, and drain in-ground sprinkler systems.
  • Wrap insulation around outdoor faucets and pipes in unheated garages.
  • Cover your air-conditioning unit.
  • Vacuum refrigerator and freezer coils.

Spring

  • Remove leaves and debris from gutters and downspouts.
  • Remove the insulation from outdoor faucets and check sprinkler heads.
  • Have your HVAC system serviced by a professional.
  • Drain or flush water heater.
  • Fertilize your lawn.
  • Prune trees and shrubs and apply mulch to your garden beds.

For a longer list, visit Better Homes & Gardens to see what they recommend.

Having a way to manage these reminders can help make sure it gets done. I hope you will add in those things that are important to you. Advised. 

Get Rid of All the Stuff You Don’t Use – Healthy Habit 15

downsizing

I heard a colleague share that we seem to spend the first half of our lives accumulating things and the second half getting rid of the stuff we collected. I tend to agree with that statement.

It’s easier to buy an organization system (okay a plastic tub) than it is to decide what to do with the stuff. I’m appalled that our spare room upstairs has become ground zero for all of the things my children are discarding. Goodwill is on my list of to-dos.

However, I have my own goal of starting the dispose, re-purpose, or donate process. It’s already a habit to do it with clothes, but now I need to do it room by room. The household needs a more regular purge.

It’s easy to just dispose or donate, but I’m finding it hard to find places who can value and could use that stuff you don’t want that still works or could be useful. I plan on having my daughter help me find out if we can sell some of the stuff online. I did this for my mother about a decade ago but found that most things never demanded the value she believed they held and cost time and money to set up. However, I would rather things in good working order find a good home versus ending up in land fill.

It’s never too early to start this habit and this is the one that I need to develop of my own. I don’t have the issue with knowing what to get rid of … it’s just how to have it go to the best home. Open to all suggestions! Requested.

See Your Doctor Regularly: Healthy Habit 8

As I was working on my outline for this series, I found out that one of the employees at my hair salon died the night previously. It was a shock to everyone to learn that their colleague who had battled cancer two years previously apparently never followed up on a warning about her kidneys not working efficiently. Instead of seeing a doctor, she was treating herself using over the counter medications.

I get it – life gets busy and sometimes you just go to Dr. Google to see if you can figure out what you can do for something that seems like a minor health matter. However, we need to be in the habit of seeing and following up with at least our Primary Care Physicians. Let a Doctor be the arbiter to decide if we can manage it with over the counter medicines or if we need to see a specialist because it could be a serious issue if ignored.

The health care landscape has changed. Many doctors will tell you they feel like they don’t get enough time with many patients so it is important to see your Physician regularly so they are better able to help you stay in front of any health issues. Whether it’s just to get a simple blood test, or to stay on top of inoculations for Pneumonia or Shingles, I hope you plan on taking the time to invest in your health. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Reminded.

Happy Healthy Aging Month 2019

healthyagingmonthSeptember is Healthy Aging Month. It is defined as a time to celebrate life and help individuals gain a more positive outlook about growing older. This topic is always on my mind as a Daily Money Manager. Everyday, I work with adults over 50+ and see how the choices made and not made impact an individual’s ability to live well.

After having cared for two parent’s with different dementia’s, I am passionate about how to best navigate aging, balance independence, and maximize purpose and meaning in life.

I believe that our habits will help us live independently longer. But many of us don’t have the habits needed to gracefully manage aging well so I am going to offer up daily suggestions this month to how we can best age gracefully and with dignity.

What you do now and the habits you create can make a huge difference to how you live the rest of your life. Recommended.

Age-Associated Financial Vulnerability is an Emerging Public Health & Safety Issue

The Annals of Internal Medicine reported on Age-Associated Financial Vulnerability: An Emerging Public Health Issue back in 2015. They define “AAFV as a pattern of financial behavior that places an older adult at substantial risk for a considerable loss of resources, such that dramatic changes in quality of life would result, and that is inconsistent with previous patterns of financial decision making during younger adult life.” So normal adults are at risk of becoming a victim of one of the latest frauds or scams.

This is not about older-adults with a form of dementia, but is an emerging issue that is impacting the health and safety of a large segment of older adults.

As a Daily Money Manager, I am seeing this play out with adults on a pretty regular basis.  I’ve seen research on how brain changes in older adults can make us more trusting (Scientific America) and more recently have stepped in to work with highly-educated adults in good health that have been victims of a fraud or scam.

You can’t miss the stories in the news, but if you have, take a look at this recent story Age of fraud: Are seniors more vulnerable to financial scams? (Marketplace). You will get a sense of how very smart and reasonable people are getting scammed.

healthpolllonliness

Not only are these matters incredibly embarrassing, but they are finding that in many cases, they are individuals that don’t have a strong socio-emotional network around them.

I’ve walked into client engagements where there has been a recent issue, and the adults are well-educated, successful and are independent. However they usually share that they have lost a spouse, partner, and/or friends recently. It takes time to build up those social networks. Loneliness impacts a huge segment of older adults … and by “older adult” that covers individuals 50 years and older.

If you have someone in your life you can help offer to be a sounding board on big purchases or even on upcoming plans — if even just to listen. Maybe they just want a shopping partner. My hope is that we can squash these crooks by helping our loved ones have a deeper line of defense. Wished.  

When our memories fail us.

As I was caring for two parents who had different types of dementia, I started to second guess my own memories. I started to worry that I was already failing cognitively and then I started to notice how often within my own household we would have conflicting memories of an event we had shared. It made me feel better … and worse.

Apparently, many emotional memories we are convinced we remember, turn out to change over time. In a story that ran in The New Yorker titled You Have No Idea What Happened by Maria Konnikova, it’s interesting to learn how our memories fail us … yet how sure we are that our memories are vividly correct.

simpsonchase

As I write this on the 25th anniversary of O.J. Simpson’s famous drive in a white Bronco, my husband asks me if I remember where I was eating. I immediately know where I was. It is a major restaurant chain that I haven’t entered since this night … but it had nothing to do with that car chase.  I’m looking forward to finding out how different my memory is from my hubby’s.

The research shows that “the strength of the central memory seems to make us confident of all of the details when we should only be confident of a few.”  In one study, they actually ask the participants how confident they were of their recall of memories they had recorded two years previously. Five was the highest level and they averaged a 4.17. However, “their memories were vivid, clear—and wrong. There was no relationship at all between confidence and accuracy.” Worse was that when they were told they were mistaken — they just didn’t buy it.

Knowing how fragile memory can be has made me much more sensitive to how it feels to have your ability to remember challenged. No one wants to hear their memory is bad, but we all need to recognize that sometimes our recall may fail us.

As a reminder, memory loss is not a normal consequence of aging. And apparently we all have problems remembering “flashbulb” emotional events in our lives. Humbled.  

How our aging brains fail us.

aging brainWhile caring for two parents with different forms of dementia, I tried to understand how I could better help them. In doing so, I also found a ton of research about the how and why we may not recognize our own failings when it comes to managing our finances and day-to-day lives.

 

What I finally came to learn was that my parents were unable to perceive they were making poor decisions and just yearned for independence and control over their own lives.

 

Turns out, that our aging brains make us more vulnerable as we age. We perceive people as more trustworthy. I would have thought the school of hard knocks would actually make us trust people less. Apparently that is not what the science tells us. 

You can read the full report: Neural and behavioral bases of age differences in perceptions of trust.  In summary:

 

“Older adults are disproportionately vulnerable to fraud, and federal agencies have speculated that excessive trust explains their greater vulnerability. Two studies, one behavioral and one using neuroimaging methodology, identified age differences in trust and their neural underpinnings. Older and younger adults rated faces high in trust cues similarly, but older adults perceived faces with cues to untrustworthiness to be significantly more trustworthy and approachable than younger adults. This age-related pattern was mirrored in neural activation to cues of trustworthiness. Whereas younger adults showed greater anterior insula activation to untrustworthy versus trustworthy faces, older adults showed muted activation of the anterior insula to untrustworthy faces. The insula has been shown to support interoceptive awareness that forms the basis of “gut feelings,” which represent expected risk and predict risk-avoidant behavior. Thus, a diminished “gut” response to cues of untrustworthiness may partially underlie older adults’ vulnerability to fraud.”

 

I am seeing how some unscrupulous home services vendors are taking advantage of older adults. An elderly neighbor paid a plumber over $7,000 for some minor repairs that were later assessed to cost around $1,200 by a Master Plumber. He had no idea that the work should not cost that much until he showed me the invoices. He lives on his own and was just trying to keep his home in good repair. Unfortunately, there are no protections in the Commonwealth of Virginia against predatory pricing … nor in many states. Once you sign the agreement and they do the work, there is little you can do. 

There may come a time when we might need someone to at least bounce things off of. At minimum, it will help to always ask for at least two bids for any work estimates over $500. That little extra effort may save you thousands of dollars. 

Three things you can do to protect yourself from fraud.

fraudprotectioniconThe number of institutions that have our data and that been hacked is only growing. The reality is that a lot of our personal information has probably been sold or can be found on the “dark web” used by these crooks.

We have the ability to defend our selves — the fact is that most people don’t do the basics to help themselves. In my role as a Daily Money Manager, I have stop being shocked by the number of auto-debits from subscription services my clients aren’t using and often don’t even know about that are on their credit card statements. To make bill-paying easy they set up auto-payments to make sure the bill got paid. However, that using results in the habit of ignoring the monthly review of your statement.

I also don’t recommend that you set up auto-debits from your checking account either. Instead of giving what amounts to a limited “power of attorney” to come into your account and take out the money you owe, set up automated payments you PUSH OUT from the account using the bill pay portal. While these direct from your checking account systems work well for many American’s, I was behind a man at the bank who had set this up for his mortgage. The payments kept being pulled after he sold his home and now he couldn’t pay his new mortgage. He was told that they only way to stop it was to close down his bank account. What a headache.

I had a similar issue with a charity pulling money from a clients’ account and thankfully, we were able to have them voluntarily terminate the automated transfer. It took MANY phone calls and follow-ups, but finally they stopped. It was a reputable charity, but they have little incentive to respond to requests to terminate donations.

Three things you can do to make sure you don’t become a victim of fraud is:

  1. Religiously review your credit card statements and address issues immediately.
  2. Monitor your checking account and balance your checkbook. I’ve recently seen a check for $2,000 debited for $3,000.
  3. Check your credit reports at least once a year and report any inaccuracies. If you aren’t at a point in your life to need credit, I would consider freezing or locking your credit. To learn more about that you can view this article.

A final step to protect yourself is to make sure you are not using your DEBIT card for any online purchases. Only use a Credit Card that offers the fraud protections should your card number be compromised.

You have the power to protect yourself, but it requires your attention.