Delayed Gratification

abbyThe author for the Dear Abby column once shared a quote from her mom, “This is maturity: To be able to stick with a job until it is finished; to do one’s duty without being supervised; to be able to carry money without spending it; and to be able to bear an injustice without wanting to get even.

For more than a year now, my 4 year old granddaughter has saved a portion of her favorite treat, Skittles, “for emergencies”. Her Halloween candy lasted a good long time as she allowed herself one piece per day. Yesterday, at a picnic with friends, she took 2 drink boxes. Before her mom could object, she informed her mom that she saving one for an emergency. My daughter recently found a jar with half eaten tootsie rolls, re-wrapped and stored for later. One could think that her ability to delay gratification was a sign of maturity, BUT, when it comes to the candy Pez, her equally favorite treat…they are all gone within minutes of receiving them. I wonder if the fun in eating a Pez from its cute dispenser makes it more difficult for her to delay gratification.

When I visit with individuals who are struggling with credit card debt, we talk about ways to set themselves up for success. If you cannot resist buying fabric despite the fact you have a whole room-full waiting to be sewn into quilts…then don’t allow yourself to enter a fabric store. If the home shopping network entices you to buy things you don’t need, won’t use and can’t afford…then don’t watch it. If you are the weak link in your family finances, then put your spouse in charge of the money. The trick is to put barriers in places where you are at your weakest.

I wonder if my granddaughter would be better able to save her Pez if they were not kept in the fun dispenser. If the fun of shopping and the convenience of a credit card is the cause of personal debt, then maybe only cash should be used? Take an honest look at spending habits and be mindful about spending.

Brenda Schmitt

Brenda Schmitt

A Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Family Finance Field Specialist helping North Central Iowans make the most of their money.

More Posts

Hustle On The Side

talentA talented young man who is home for the summer, sent a letter to the area churches, looking for opportunities to earn some money as a substitute musician. As the only organist for my church, I quickly called and booked him for 3 weekends in June that I plan to be away for a wedding and two family reunions.

A neighbor is an amazing baker. Every Saturday during the summer, she holds a bake sale on her screened in front porch. People line up at 8 AM to get first dibs on her cinnamon rolls, pies and cakes. Special orders for graduation cakes and holiday pies keep her busy and her checkbook full year round.

The son of a coworker tutors math and chemistry as a way to pay for his room and board at college. He earns between $20 – $50 per session and finds it helps him keep his own knowledge sharp.

As a child, listening to adult conversations, I perceived the term “Hustle on the Side” as a derogatory comment; meaning you were making money in a way that may not be totally honest. Today, having a Side Hustle is seen as having an entrepreneurial spirit. Depending on your skill set, “hustling” can be quite lucrative.

If you are having difficulties making ends meet or want to up your saving or investing in the future, you have 3 choices: earn more money, spend less money or do both. Maybe a “hustle on the side” can help you achieve that goal. What marketable skills and talents do you have?

Brenda Schmitt

Brenda Schmitt

A Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Family Finance Field Specialist helping North Central Iowans make the most of their money.

More Posts

Money Tips for New Graduates

studentsLast week, I met with a soon-to-be graduate from a local college. She was looking forward to having a new job – and an income!  For any graduate, the real financial education starts after you receive your diploma and sign the contract for your first job.

  • The First Job: It isn’t only about your salary.   Look for opportunities for advancement in your career. Think beyond the paycheck. Explore the total financial compensation (including benefits like health insurance, retirement savings benefits, and others), which can make the difference to your bottom line.
  • Relocate for your first job? Look at cost of living and taxes, because they vary greatly throughout the United States. Seventy–six percent of millennials relocate for the job – don’t let higher costs catch you by surprise.
  • Start Saving for Retirement Immediately. One person shared that when he began as a bank teller, he thought it was temporary job and didn’t take advantage of the employee stock purchase plan/401 (k). If he were do it again, he would have started this saving as soon as he could.
  • Be careful about adding credit card debt. Think about the long term consequences of having too much credit card debt. If you are carrying student loan debt, lots of ramen noodles may be in your future. Using credit is using future income. Pay off your debt as quickly as you can.
  • Save Money: Hopefully you will have a direct deposit option; if so, split your payment into at least two accounts – savings and checking. Try to have two kinds of savings – emergency and general savings. You could add a third fund for a specific goal such as a vacation or new vehicle. Even $10 or $15 per pay period will add up.
  • Create a Budget: Whenever there is a change in your life, it’s time to assess your needs versus wants. Do you have unhealthy habit? When you have disposable income – don’t throw it away foolishly. By creating a budget, you will know exactly what you have, so that you can spend and save.

 

Susan Taylor

Susan Taylor

Resources are important whether you are looking to rent your first apartment, pay your bills, buy your first home or send your child to college. There are many ways to save money to reach your goals, and hopefully ISU Money Tip$ will be one of them. I enjoy traveling, needlework and am a novice gardener.

More Posts

Tracking Down Information

houseWhen you buy a house, you don’t always know if the windows are original to the house or when was the siding changed. Usually a home inspector can give you an idea of whether your water heater or furnace are on their last breath.

About 5 years ago, I bought a house that was built in 1957. Cosmetically – it looked good.  Well, over the winter, the paint started to peel on the east side of the house.  I brought in a contractor and one of the first questions was: when was siding installed?

Why is this important? Any paint prior to 1980 contained lead.  There are health issues because of the lead – we have heard about the lead water pipes In Flint, Michigan.  If there is lead paint, the Environmental Protection Agency must approve professional contractors to abate the lead, and it is expensive.

I contacted my realtor to see if he had any information that was disclosed when the house was listed for sale. He had limited information, but he directed me to the county assessor’s office.  When you make major improvements to your home, the assessor’s office issues permits and keeps records in their files.  (Yes, these are the little paper forms that are put in your front window while the work is occurring .)

When I made the phone call to the assessor’s office, the records indicated that the current siding installed in February 1993.  Whew!  No worries about the extra cost of lead abatement when I reside my house this summer!

Susan Taylor

Susan Taylor

Resources are important whether you are looking to rent your first apartment, pay your bills, buy your first home or send your child to college. There are many ways to save money to reach your goals, and hopefully ISU Money Tip$ will be one of them. I enjoy traveling, needlework and am a novice gardener.

More Posts

Missed tax deadline?

1040I had a call today from someone wondering about the tax deadline — is it really too late to file?  He was happy to hear that even though the official deadlines are past, he can still file his tax return.  In fact, for those of us who are required to file (that includes most people who work), we still must file a return.

Will there be a penalty for filing late?  It depends.

  1. If you have a refund coming, there is no penalty for filing late.  That’s great news for many people.  In fact, you are allowed (and encouraged) to file your tax return and claim your refund up to three years past the filing deadline.  That means that now, in May of 2016, you can still file and get your refund for 2015, 2014, and 2013.  If there is an earlier year you did not file, you can (and should) still file a return, but you will not receive your refund.
  2. If you owe the IRS, you may owe a penalty for filing late, and also for paying late.  You will also usually be charged interest.  For this reason, people who expect to owe a payment upon completion of their tax return should file an extension and send a payment at least equal to what they expect to owe before the April tax-filing deadline.  Taking these two steps means  that: a) they will not be paying their taxes late, so no penalty or interest there;  and b) the extension gives them several more months to submit their return with no late penalty.

Read more from the IRS.  And here’s a good news bonus: IRS Free File options are still available for qualifying households!

~Barb

Barb Wollan

Barb Wollan

Barb Wollan's goal as a Family Finance program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is to help people use their money according to THEIR priorities. She provides information and tools, and then encourages folks to focus on what they control: their own decisions about what to do with the money they have.

More Posts

Impossible Dreams?

DreamsMost of us have dreams we would label as “impossible” from a financial standpoint:  a certain kind of house, or a major remodel, or an international vacation…  There are things that just seem out of reach.

If you’re like me, you learned as a child to just stash away those “impossible” dreams…  Don’t even think about them, because wishing for things you can’t have will only make you unhappy.  I respect the truth in that philosophy.

However, over time I’ve come to believe that we often benefit by paying attention to our dreams — even the “impossible” ones.  I’ve seen that pay off in two different ways:

  1. Sometimes the dream isn’t as impossible as it may initially seem – I’ve had “impossible” dreams come true!  In one case, I discovered it didn’t cost as much as I thought; in another case, I figured out a creative way to pay for it by delaying the timing a bit.  I’ve learned that if I have a dream that means a lot to me, I shouldn’t give up on it without at least gathering some information and considering several options.
  2. Some dreams truly are impossible (or not worth the sacrifice required).  Even then, I’ve learned that a wish can be a clue to an underlying desire.  Suppose I wish for a bigger house (which is not going to happen). If I ask myself why I want a bigger house, the answer will be a clue about something else that’s important to me.  Do I want a bigger house so I have space for all my stuff?  Then maybe I can eliminate some stuff and better organize my storage space to reduce clutter.  Do I want a bigger house so I can have parties and host lots of company?  Maybe if I straighten up my home more often and rearrange some furniture, I would feel more comfortable inviting guests.  By digging deeper, I can move toward the underlying desire, even if the initial dream doesn’t happen.

The man in the song who dared to “dream the impossible dream” may seem foolish to some people and noble to others.  One thing I’ve learned, though, is that an “impossible dream” can be worthwhile if we use it wisely.  ~Barb

Barb Wollan

Barb Wollan

Barb Wollan's goal as a Family Finance program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is to help people use their money according to THEIR priorities. She provides information and tools, and then encourages folks to focus on what they control: their own decisions about what to do with the money they have.

More Posts

Digital Estate Plan

MP900382824[1]If you are using older estate planning tools, there could be a section missing. Does anyone know about items you have in “cloud” storage? Would they know how to close your Facebook or Twitter accounts? Would they know to contact a business to stop automatic withdrawals for subscriptions or utility payments?

Here’s a list to get you thinking about items to include in your personal inventory under the category: Electronic

  • Your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media accounts.
  • Blogs and websites you own.
  • Bank, brokerage, retirement plan, credit card, loan, and insurance accounts that you access online.
  • Your email accounts.
  • Online retail accounts and apps from stores: eBay, Amazon, iTunes etc..
  • Photo- or video-sharing sites like Flickr or YouTube.
  • PayPal or other online payment accounts.
  • Utility bills you pay online.
  • Any other online accounts such as ones from airline sites with your frequent flier miles and document and data storage accounts like Google Docs.

Keep the list in a secure location with the passwords in a different spot, perhaps use a secure password app. Find someone you trust and share the location of the information, then update the list when you make changes. It’s also a good idea to visit the sites when you have time to review their inactivity policies. Some companies are catching up to this reality of a deceased client and are asking you to set up steps they should follow if your account is not used for a set period of time.

Joyce Lash

Joyce Lash

Joyce Lash is a Human Sciences Specialist in Family Finance who wants to keep you ahead of the curve on financial information.

More Posts

Elder Financial Abuse

elderly.1When I have to list someone on my medical form as an emergency contact it’s usually my husband. I’ve never listed my son or daughter.  Years ago I probably listed my parents or a sibling as a secondary contact and now it’s time to look to younger minds to be backups. It’s possible this simple step could save me some money in the future.

One in five elderly individuals is a victim of some form of financial fraud. Baylor University has teamed up with the Investment Protection Bureau to enlist and train Medical providers to identify signs of cognitive impairment that will make an elderly individual vulnerable to “scams”.  Doctor’s participating in the project were trained to ask questions to identify isolation, confusion about bills and how to pay them, worry about financial decisions, pressures to loan or gift assets, and other aspects of financial management. The project resulted in several cases of prevented fraud and discoveries of committed fraud (only one in twenty-five cases of elder financial fraud are reported to authorities).  This prevention measure is gaining recognition for its impact. Sadly, it’s probably one solution that will need to be partnered with other interventions.

Joyce

Joyce Lash

Joyce Lash

Joyce Lash is a Human Sciences Specialist in Family Finance who wants to keep you ahead of the curve on financial information.

More Posts

Documents Needed When You Get “The Call”

papersAs our parents age, it is a time of celebration and preparation. Celebration because of all they have experienced and the wisdom they have shared with us. Preparation because end-of-life is a given for us all. Some people easily talk about their end-of-life wishes and some do not even want to go there.

My brother and I got “the call” on Saturday – our mother had a severe stroke. We drove the long hours to reach her and spend the last days by her side. She wasn’t able to speak or move one side of her body. She was in pain. She wasn’t going to recover. As we were together in the hospital, we quickly realized there were documents we needed with us so decisions could be made on her behalf.

We fetched the following documents:

  • power of attorney
  • long term care insurance policy
  • durable power of attorney for health care
  • living will (also called advance directives)
  • will

You may want to think ahead too of what your family will need if you are unable to make health care decisions for yourself or you are nearing the end of your life. It isn’t always easy to fill out this paperwork but doing so makes it much easier on the family that will care for you when the time comes. They then know your wishes and their roles in the decisions they will be asked to make.

To get you started, download PM 1463 from the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Store – Money Mechanics: Estate Planning and Legal Issues in Later Life .

ISU Extension and Outreach Human Sciences specialists in family finance offer a workshop series called The Finances of Caregiving. Contact your family finance specialist about this new program. It helps the caregiver and care receiver organize all the information needed into one place and prompts discussions among family members to make decisions about end of life issues.

SandraGuest Blogger – Sandra McKinnon is a Family Finance Specialist that wants you to start preparing for end of life issues now.

Brenda Schmitt

Brenda Schmitt

A Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Family Finance Field Specialist helping North Central Iowans make the most of their money.

More Posts

After The Call

phone callWe got “the call.” Mom had a major stroke one Saturday evening and was buried the next Saturday.

The chaotic week left my brother and I to work and talk together like never before.

The unexpected death put us in a whirlwind – emotionally, physically and psychologically.

There were initial decisions to be made with the funeral home plus meetings with the lawyer.

Add to the mix the fact that both of us live several hours away and are still employed full-time, and you can envision the hectic atmosphere.  We made hurried decisions – each individually regarding our own jobs and families, and also jointly regarding family needs and immediate plans.  And we acted on those decisions to the best of our ability, from the hospital and from the town of our loved one.

Thankfully, our mother was organized – in her own way. Finding necessary files and contact information was confusing, especially when we didn’t really know what we were to be looking for. For example, we spent time frantically texting relatives and digging through mom’s old high school and college yearbooks for information for her obituary and funeral program.

I’m a practical person and I think I’m organized for end of life paperwork. I now ask myself, what will make sense to my son when he has to come to town after receiving “the call?” How can I help him avoid the chaos and the whirlwind?

Before you receive “the call,” start a folder, notebook or file.

Add to it 2 quick things:

  • Your own obituary.  It took me 10 minutes to do my own, because I knew the information or knew where to look to get it. Doing so ahead of time saves my son from trying to find all the dates of marriage and graduations, and listing of relatives (alive or passed). It can always be updated.
  • The free publication Decisions After a Death. It will get you thinking about what documents you’ll need to get your hands on now and who to contact.

Then work on preparing yourself and loved ones. ISU Extension and Outreach Human Sciences specialists in family finance offer a workshop series called The Finances of Caregiving. Contact your family finance specialist about this new program. It helps the caregiver and care receiver organize all the needed information into one place, and prompts discussions among family members to make decisions about end of life issues.

SandraGuest Blogger, Sandra McKinnon is a Family Finance Specialist that wants you to start preparing for end of life issues now.

Brenda Schmitt

Brenda Schmitt

A Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Family Finance Field Specialist helping North Central Iowans make the most of their money.

More Posts