Identify Theft News

June 30th, 2015

taxreturnidentitytheftThe federal government has redesigned its webpage for identify theft. It’s a user friendly site with step by step actions to take if your identity has been stolen; it also includes direct links to the sites you’ll need to visit. You can narrow the options to specific kinds of personal issues, and there are tips for additional measures to take beyond immediate response.

The IRS has also announced that it will put new procedures in place which allow individuals who have had their social security number used on a fraudulent tax return to request a redacted copy of the fraudulent return.  Access to this information may be helpful to resolve an identify theft case. Procedures and forms are not yet available on the website, so stay tuned.


Consumer Knowledge

Powers Of Attorney

June 25th, 2015

youngcoupleShortly after my dad came to live with me, new Durable Power of Attorney documents were drafted for his health care and financial matters. As the lawyer interviewed my dad about his wishes in regards to health care, I tried to picture myself carrying out those desires. None of what my dad shared surprised me, and I am sure I could act according to his wishes. I think my level of comfort had a lot to do with our shared spiritual values and beliefs. The need and urgency to draft new POA documents was brought to my attention by his physician. Dad’s ability to make sound decisions was quickly evaporating due to advancing dementia.  If we did not get this accomplished soon, we would not, in good conscience, be able to have dad sign legal documents.

A Durable Power of Attorney for health care is one of two primary kinds of advanced directives for health care. Living Wills spell out your preferences, whereas a Power of Attorney names a person that will act as your agent if you are unable to speak for yourself.

Because my dad had, at an earlier time, named another person as POA, an additional document had to be signed that “cancelled” that person’s legal authority. The Revocation of Power of Attorney document revoked any and all Powers of Attorney documents that were created and signed prior to date that my brother and I were named as dad’s Attorney-In-Fact.

Powers of attorney documents are significant matters that need to be carefully considered. It is important to understand the care receiver’s needs. A power of attorney document created in one state may or may not hold up in another state so research those details, especially if there is a chance you may live in a different state as you near the end of life. ~Brenda

Consumer Knowledge

LTC Policies Provide TLC to Caregiver

June 23rd, 2015

LTC.1The former First Lady Rosalynn Carter once said, “There are four types of people in the world: Those who have been caregivers; Those who currently are caregivers; Those who will be caregivers; and those who will need caregivers.”

According to, more than 21% of the adult population will provide unpaid care to an elderly or disabled person in any given year. Sixty-one percent are women; most are middle-aged and 59% have jobs in addition to caring for another person.  (

If you read my last post, you know that I am included in the statistics listed above.  Of the caregivers who report feeling very stressed, about 75% are women. In an effort to NOT be a part of THAT statistic, I began to look at the resources I had at my disposal.

I personally own a Long-Term Care (LTC) Insurance policy. It was purchased close to 15 years ago. I remember reading it and, at the time, was more focused on increases in cost of living and inflation, rather than all the ways the policy could be used.

I found that my dad has a LTC policy that will be very useful in preventing stress for me, the caregiver. His policy covers in-home care should I need someone to stay with dad while I go to work. It would cover adult daycare should I decide to drop him off at a center on my way to work each morning. It will cover his room, board and care in a local care center should I decide to go visit my daughter in Boise for a week, and need someone to care for dad in my absence. It will also cover some home modifications, to enable him to live with me, and training I may need to care for him. I also learned that once he is diagnosed with Dementia, the policy could be activated, eliminating the need to make future premium payments, even if I did not need to submit a claim at this time.

As I researched information on providing care, the most frequently given advice was, “be sure to read your policy.” Yes, I read my policies…but you do not truly understand and internalize what you read until you find yourself ready to apply what you learn in the printed materials.  I also found Dad’s insurance agent most helpful in translating and advising how to make the most of dad’s policy.  The Senior Health Insurance Information Program also provides terrific print resources (available free – hard copy or on-line) to help consumers understand long term care insurance; they also have an information hotline (800-351-4664) and in many counties they have trained volunteers available to assist consumers.

At the moment, Dad does well on his own during the day while I am at work and my husband, who farms, can check on him often throughout the day. I am thankful we do not need to tap into his LTC policy yet, and equally glad he will not have to continue to pay the premium.  ~Brenda

Consumer Knowledge, Insurance


June 23rd, 2015

$10 againI’ve been reading the news about the new $10 bill, a process completed by the Treasury to deter counterfeiting. The redesigned $10 bill will have the addition of a tactile feature to help blind individuals identify the bill’s value and the front will feature a woman.  Democracy is the theme for the new series and the Treasury Secretary will select a woman recognized by the public who was a champion for democracy in the United States.  The bill will be released in 2020 on the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote.

The last woman featured on currency was Martha Washington, she appeared on a silver dollar certificate issued in 1891-1896. Dollar coins have featured Susan B. Anthony and Sacajawea. Who do you think should grace the cover of the new $10? The Treasury has asked for your recommendations. Visit or #TheNew10 and voice your opinion. Current nominees are Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Elizabeth Stanton, and of course those who believe it should remain Alexander Hamilton. Your nominee must be deceased. It’s a topic for 4th of July conversations and reason to explore women’s history in the United States.


Consumer Knowledge

Is It A Need Or A Want?

June 16th, 2015

Girl laying on floor counting change by piggy bank

We have all heard it from our children, “I need this item.” As a parent, you may or may not see it as a need – you may see it as a want.  One good strategy for dealing with children’s “wants” is to have them save some of their own money to purchase the item.

This strategy teaches children an important skill: Paying Yourself First, by saving some of their money for later needs. Short-term savings teaches your children that by waiting a little longer they are able to buy something they really want. Learning to save teaches children to appreciate delayed gratification. NOTE: Long term goals like saving for a car or college education can be difficult for small children.

Borrowing can be used when children run short of money; they can borrow from parents or siblings. Parents can help children learn how to borrow wisely by never loaning more money than the child can realistically repay (with interest if appropriate), and/or setting up a grace period in which there will be no interest. When children borrow, it is important that they repay the money in a timely manner; they learn the responsibility they take on when they borrow. Borrowing money can teach children the real cost of money.

Sharing money is a good lifetime habit. It teaches children that there are good feelings for both the giver and the receiver when they use their money to help others. Having money brings obligations such as taxes and charity donations. Be sure to encourage children to give other resources (such as their time and skills) as well as money.

~ Susan

Saving, Smart shopping, Uncategorized

Student debt stress?

June 10th, 2015

Picture1Over 40 million Americans are paying back student loans.  Owing money is frustrating enough, but it’s even worse when the loan company makes things more complicated.

Have you run into obstacles trying to pay back your student loans?  The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) wants to hear from you if you’ve experienced:

  • Surprise fees
  • Lost payments
  • Difficulty getting information from your loan servicer
  • Other roadblocks to repaying your loans

Submit your comments and tell your story today to help the CFPB improve student loan servicing for borrowers.  (comments can be submitted through July 13, 2015).  NOTE: your story will become part of public record, so tell your story without including any sensitive information such as your Social Security number or other information that identifies you. 

BONUS: to learn about options for paying back your student loans, check out the CFPB’s Repay Student Debt section.



Mobile Banking

June 2nd, 2015

money_transferA co-worker, who lives across the state, is buying a group gift for someone. How will you send them your share of the cost?

Option 1: Wait until you see them and give them the payment in cash. Your friend will be giving you a no-interest loan until you make connections and you probably aren’t going to ask for a receipt (recommended for any cash transaction).

Option 2: Send them a check in the mail. No guarantees of when the check will arrive, or how long it will take your friend to cash or deposit the check. If they deposit the funds there is a delay for the check to clear of up to 3 days before the funds can be used.

Option 3: Ask your friend for their routing and account number and use your banks “app” to transfer funds electronically using either your home computer or smart phone. Your friend will have the funds by the next day and there will be a record of the transaction.

For option 3 to work,  you and your friend have to feel safe with each other to share account information. You also have to trust the “app” your bank is supplying for security and performance. At a minimum, banking transactions utilize “two factor authentication”; the username and password on your account. Some banks add additional factors such as “site” keys that you verify before entering your password. Your home computer probably offers more protection for this kind of transaction because you are more likely to be using a secure connection. A smart phone will use a public WiFi connection, is less likely to have an active security app and if your permissions aren’t set accurately the transaction can end up as a public post in social media.  Mobile banking will use either your email address or phone number to verify you are making the transaction. Because this is a relatively new way for you to make person to person payments you can expect news related to failures, new players (credit cards) and legal challenges which change how the system operates.

What option will you use now and in the future?



Consumer Knowledge

The Binder

May 27th, 2015


Two years ago, I piloted a program based on materials developed by the National Endowment for Financial Education: What Every Adult Child Should Know. By the end of the 7-week program, participants would have a binder full of information – the location of Wills, Powers of Attorney, Insurance Policy information; Balance Sheets, Spending Plans, Contact information for Doctors, Lists of medications, Property inventory, bank accounts and safe deposit boxes. All things needed to assist with the decisions made for the care for an aging parent.

One elderly gentleman in the class was the primary caregiver for his wife. He had tried to get their children to take the class so they would be better prepared to make decisions on behalf of he and his wife. They refused to come. Half way through the class, he fell and broke his hip and spent a couple of weeks in the hospital. His children became the caregivers for their mother in his absence. His children were lucky, because he had completed his binder. The children were able to step in and provide continuity of care, thanks to the information he had compiled in the binder.

I started to prepare my binder for the day when my children would need to make decisions for my husband and me. I also broached the subject with my dad and his wife but was brushed off – they assured us that they had everything in order: wills, advance directives, a trust. There was nothing to discuss.

On a Friday night in mid-March, I learned that my 80 year old dad, diagnosed with dementia, would be coming to live with me the next afternoon; his wife was no longer interested in being part of his life. By Tuesday, new Power of Attorney forms and Advance Directives for health care were drawn up, naming my brother and me as decision-makers on my dad’s behalf.  I wasn’t worried about money; Dad had worked hard his whole life and had more than enough resources to provide for himself and his wife: Long-term care insurance, Pensions, Social Security, Assets.

Getting the Power of Attorney document completed was valuable, but it wasn’t enough to access the resources needed to care for dad. My dad and his wife had put all their assets in a joint trust, and it took a lot of detective work to get access to his share of those assets.  It was a challenge to gain even basic income and insurance coverage because we were denied access to some key documents:

  • bank accounts
  • insurance policies;
  • pension documents
  • birth certificate
  • military discharge papers, which provide access to VA benefits.

We’ve learned a lot in the past couple of months.  One of the most important lessons?  The binder would have been useful in helping my dad.  I mentioned that two years ago I had started to prepare my binder to assist my children when they would need to make decisions on my behalf; however, I never completed the task.  I have now renewed my effort to complete my binder.  ~Brenda

Consumer Knowledge, Retirement

Summer Money Tips

May 21st, 2015

blocks (640x427)School will soon be out for the summer! Summer can be a prime time for parents to help children learn about money. Here are few ways to strengthen your children’s skills:

  • Numbers are all around us, from license plates, to road signs. When you are traveling with your children, make a game of finding numbers or counting certain items.
  • Count out things – like produce at the farmer’s market or grocery store – I need five today, help me count.
  • Use blocks to build and sort and categorize into colors, shapes and sizes. This is just another way to sort,  like sorting coins, or sorting money into spending, saving and sharing categories.
  • Play dominos together and count the dots.
  • Play board games to utilize counting skills.
  • Use the clock to start counting time.
  • Teach measuring concepts with a sand box and water. Using water to measure is a great learning tool on a hot summer day.
  • When you make a list and check off items as you run errands, your child can help in making the list and then in checking items off.  They’ll learn skills for planning and following their plans.
  • When a family is planning a vacation, and requests arise to buy candy or other small items, ask the question, “would you rather have this OR be able to go to the amusement park or zoo?” Help them understand how small choices add up by putting the money saved (not spent on candy…)  in a jar for the specific vacation-related purpose.

All these activities will help your child learn that essential financial lesson:  “If you really want something, plan for it. Shop around, compare prices and get the item that gives the most for your money.”



Consumer Knowledge, Saving, Smart shopping, Spending plans

Your Kids Are Watching You….

May 19th, 2015

Girl laying on floor counting change by piggy bank

From the time your children were born, they have been watching and learning from adults. It is scary, but they imitate what they see around them. Learning about money is no exception. One mom recently told me that her 2 year old knew which of her cards was the debit card and knew the numbers to punch in the key pad.

Our children’s observation of our practices influence their thinking at a very early age. By exposing your child to beginning money principles, you will start the ball rolling:

  • Money is used to get things we want and things we need. When we buy things, we spend money or we need to save money to get the items.
  • We may want many things but we only have limited amount of money to use. We may need to save, share or spend our money.
  • We have jobs in order to get money.   Some jobs, though, we do without payment, because we want to help others. (Share our talents)
  • In the community where we live we pay taxes that provide roads, libraries, police and fire protection and school.

Here’s an easy way to get started:  If you have a jar of coins – have your children use a muffin tin to separate out the coins. [Note: Watch your children to avoid a choking hazard.] Adults should not assume that children are too young to begin to understand the value of money.


Consumer Knowledge, Saving