Archive for the ‘Goals’ Category

Just Ask

October 1st, 2015

Packages-Thinkstock-482302288My daughter had a negative experience a while back when the Post Office delivered a package to her apartment; it didn’t fit in her mailbox, so they left it outside her door.  Unfortunately, she never received it; she believes that someone walking through the hallway simply stole it.

She called the Post Office, who verified that it had been delivered and said there was nothing they could do; she called the apartment complex management, who said there was nothing  they could do about it either.  But when she called the company she purchased the item from, they were wonderful – they expressed regret, and replaced the lost merchandise.  For the replacement package, she contacted the post office about her options, and they explained that she could have all packages held at the post office, which guarantees that packages won’t be stolen from her doorstep in the future.

My daughter’s story provides lessons about consumer precautions when having merchandise delivered.  Note: there is one more option she would have explored, if the vendor hadn’t replaced the lost merchandise.   She would have checked with her credit card company to see what protections they offer; many credit cards offer automatic protection against lost or damaged packages.  It’s something to think about when choosing a credit card.

But there’s a bigger lesson here, too: it’s smart to ask.  When things go wrong, or even when nothing has gone wrong but there is something you need, you can only gain by asking a business or agency to help you.  They won’t always be able to help, but they usually will if they can.

Do you have a story of a time you asked and it paid off for you?



Consumer Knowledge, Goals, Spending plans

No Place Like Home

September 29th, 2015

Guest blogger Kelsy Reynaga writes:

Wheat-Thinkstock-178465588Maybe you recognize the quote “There’s no place like home” from The Wizard of Oz. Since I’m a Kansas girl, people love quoting this classic movie to me. The main character (Dorothy) was lost and wanted to go back home. On her journey she met some interesting characters who guided her through her journey.

In a way we are all like Dorothy: we have something that we would like to achieve but may not know how to get there. The process of setting goals is important not only in your personal life but also for your financial success. You may have a goal of buying an elephant (!) OR something more realistic like paying off your student loans. In the financial world there is an acronym used for goal setting called SMART:

  • S stands for Specific; clearly identify what you want in exact terms.
  • M stands for Measurable; identify how much you will need, or how will you know you are making progress toward your goal.
  • A stands for Attainable; identify steps that lead to achieving your goal.
  • R stands for Realistic; if your goal is challenging, what sort of obstacles may stand in your way?
  • T stands for Time-defined; when do you plan to reach the goal?

Let’s walk through these steps with an example. Suppose I want to see some elephants. I need to be more specific about where I want to see them. Do I want to go to the local zoo or travel to another country? How much do I need to save to travel to Africa? Can I do this? Is this goal realistic? How long will it take for me to save up money for this trip? Those questions are practical and can be applied for any goal.

By using SMART, you are able to think through the goal and realistically plan for it. If I officially decide that my goal is to visit Africa to see elephants in their natural habitat, then I might learn that I need to save $4,000 to visit Africa for 2 weeks. This can be done if I save money from each paycheck for this trip. One obstacle may be that I am not currently saving any money from my paychecks; I’ll need to identify how to overcome that obstacle. If I decide that I want to achieve this goal in 3 years, I create timeline which lets me figure how much I need to save each month for this big trip. By first looking at the big picture goal, and then going into detail, you prevent a lot of stress and wasted time, and you are more likely to achieve your goal.

Perhaps if Dorothy had used SMART instead of just dreaming about being home, she might have reached home much faster.

Kelsy Reynaga is a senior at Iowa State University majoring in Child, Adult and Family Services and minoring in Financial Planning & Counseling.


Shift in Priorities

September 15th, 2015

imageI dread the day when dad no longer knows who I am, but in some ways I think these earlier stages of Alzheimer’s may be more difficult, for me as a caregiver, than the final stages. Dad is/was a very intelligent person, and he knows it. He was a problem solver…very creative, inventive, entrepreneurial, and giving of his time and talent. He never sat still and did nothing. He doesn’t remember or chooses to forget the fact that he is 81 and has an incurable disease that has stripped him of many of his skills and talents. To do nothing (sit and stare at a TV or take naps), is unbearable for him. He becomes depressed, cries, and then starts scheming…trying to find a way to get to his wood shop, three hours away.

He wants to be turning beautiful wood bowls on a lathe or putting a new roof or siding on my shed; cutting wood on a table saw or skill saw. His passion is bees and I am thankful it occupies a lot of his time and most of his thoughts right now. What he really wants/needs to do right now is build 24 new supers (wooden boxes) for his bees to fill with honey. His doctor says he shouldn’t use power tools and I agree.

I have been trying to get dads finances in order. I suspect his eye care and dental needs have been neglected for several years and had hoped to schedule appointments this month, but have instead purchased 30 super kits for his hives which dad can assemble and paint for his bees. He is anxious for their arrival and I am thankful that, though the kits are more expensive than building from scratch, he will be busy, productive and also safe (no power tools required).

I never thought I would see a day where I would put a ‘want’ ahead of a much needed dental or eye exam, but that is exactly what I have done today. Putting off dad’s checkups for one more month is not going to hurt anything.

Taking care of dad’s physical NEEDS (food, shelter and clothing) is easy. Caring for his psychological needs and wants is much more difficult and time consuming, and this month…more expensive. ~Brenda

Goals, Spending plans

80/20 Rule

September 10th, 2015

80 20 rule grThink about time management, and the clutter in your home, and then think about this next statement.

Most people use only about 20 percent of what they own. Think about the clothes that you have worn in the last two weeks – you probably only wore 20 percent of the clothes that you have. The other 80 percent is just taking up valuable space, getting in the way, and causing more work than is necessary. Some people would call that clutter in your life.

This rule also applies on the job. The rule indicates that 20 percent of a person’s effort will produce 80 percent of the results. As a business person, if your goal is $100,000 in sales, 20 percent of your efforts toward this goal will result in $80,000 in sales. The remaining 80 percent of what you do will only result in the remaining $20,000.

Attention to the 80/20 rule can help you prioritize your time, focusing on tasks that have the most impact. The rule, called the “Pareto Analysis Principle,” is useful to anyone who is juggling many tasks.


Consumer Knowledge, Goals

Hanging On for the Ride

August 25th, 2015

roller coaster rideI’m a fan of the Iowa State Fair and recently filled one of the shifts at Camp CY, the Iowa State University, Iowa State University Extension & Outreach display in the Varied Industries Building. My job for the day was to assist individuals with taking a virtual roller coaster ride using Oculus Rift. The College of Design FLEX team had created an amazing ride through campus and jokingly suggested that there was a “go fund me” campaign to begin construction. Many times during the day I had to put a hand on someone’s shoulder or behind their back to keep them from losing their balance as they experienced the virtual twisting and turning of the ride.
I thought of this today when visiting with an individual who had been listening to the financial news and was feeling concerned about their retirement funds. Investments are very much like a roller coaster ride; you have to decide how much you can handle the experience. As long as things are slowly climbing upward we’re okay, but you can’t go up forever. Financial experts are sharing the typical response: it’s a normal correction; now is a good time to invest; historically when the S&P experiences a drop it has a good recovery period; and those with more time will be okay. Sort of like that hand I placed on someone’s shoulder to steady them.
I expect that we’re in for a bumpy financial ride with many different dips and rises. The Federal Reserve has been giving out early information that they will increase interest rates (look for news in September), and China’s market adjustments are something to expect. As usual the best advice is to stay the course if you are confident you have things allocated correctly; find someone, your financial adviser, to give you some support; and be prepared for some discomfort as we roll ahead.


Goals, Saving

Your Money Your Future

May 1st, 2015

YMYFlogoLife is not about money — but how you deal with money has a huge impact on your quality of life, your family’s life, and the life of your community.

When you have sound information and strong skills, you can make your money work for you and for your future.

The Your Money, Your Future program is a 2-hour, online class offered the first Monday each month.  The class will help you get more for your money, show you how to save money for your financial goals, and manage credit. There is still room available in the May 4th class which begins at 5:30. To register or get more information, contact me at


Credit, Goals, Saving, Spending plans

Money Smart Week – April 18-25, 2015

April 21st, 2015

IMG_0039Money Smart Week, started 13 years ago by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, is designed as a public awareness campaign to help consumers better manage their personal finances. Here in Iowa, more than 200 partner organizations have joined in the fun, promoting financial education with many interesting opportunities to learn. All Money Smart Week programs are free, and strictly educational (no marketing allowed).

ISU Extension and Outreach has been a MSW partner for many years. Programs are offered for audiences from preschoolers to seniors. From scout nights to shred days, essay and poster contests, geocache for college cash, piggy banks, books, and kites – in many cases, a chance to win a prize makes the learning even more fun. Educational program topics include: establishing a budget, protecting financial information, raising money-smart kids, and more.

Go to for more details about activities in your area. Check out your local libraries for a display as well as programming. Spread the knowledge!

Consumer Knowledge, Credit, Goals, Retirement, Saving, Uncategorized

If you are last minute income tax filer….

March 26th, 2015

GettyImages_481414909It’s countdown time to the IRS deadline (April 15). If you miss this date you will incur penalty for late filing, interest on any amount owed, and penalty for late payment; these charges will be  added to your balance due. If you file an extension, but don’t pay all of the balance due by the deadline, you will incur interest on the unpaid amount and penalty for late payment.
NOTE: if you file late, but have a refund coming, there will be no penalty.

Remember: take advantage of tax credits and deductions whenever you’re eligible.
Credits include: Home Energy Improvements; Hybrid/Electric Car; Retirement Saver’s Credit; Education Tax Credits; Earned Income Tax Credit; Child Tax Credit; and Adoption Tax Credit.  And if you might benefit by itemizing deductions, gather complete information on medical expenditures, charitable contributions, unreimbursed business expenses, and more.

File electronically as it is accurate and fast.
Try Free File which is simple, and available to those with incomes below $57,000. Go to the IRS website, www.  and click on the “Free File” icon.  If your income exceeds $57,000 there is a Free File fill-able form.

Choose Direct Deposit for Refunds
You can split the refund up to 3 different accounts if you’d like to make deposits to different savings funds.

Check for Errors and sign using your electronic signature number (or if you mailing a paper copy, be sure to sign your form).


Consumer Knowledge, Goals, Saving

Yard Sale Savvy

March 12th, 2015

ydsaleA friend got herself in a pickle. A small health emergency created a desperate need for cash. My typical response is: Sell what you do not need, do not use, or cannot afford. My second response is: decrease your expenses AND increase your income. If an unexpected expense throws your finances into a tailspin, then it is probably going to require more than an immediate infusion of cash to keep your head above water through the next 6 months.

My friend did not own a single large item that she could sell to bring her the cash she needed, so she decided to do a garage sale. Spring is the perfect time.  A two day sale maximizes profits for the time and energy needed to prepare for a sale. You can open and close your sale any time you want but, early shoppers are usually the best ones.

Take the time to clean and dust the items you’re selling. Fold clothing to ensure it looks presentable and is free from wrinkles and stains. These tasks won’t take up too much of your time and will make a huge difference, since people are more likely to buy things in good shape. Make the shopping experience easy by grouping like items together. Sort clothing by size and gender.

The resale value of used items and clothing is typically only a small percentage of what they cost new. Nicer items might go for a premium, but you risk annoying your shoppers if you price items too high. If you’re worried about overpricing or underpricing your items, consider what you’d be willing to pay if you bought the item secondhand.

There are free and cheap ways to get the word out. Put a free ad on Craigslist and your personal Facebook page. Many communities have their own “garage sale” Facebook pages.  Create and hang outdoor signs that will help guide people to your yard.

Big items such as tables, sofas and dressers tend to lure people out of their cars.  If people can’t see them, they might just drive on by. Place big items outside and on full display, instead of tucked away in your garage.

A garage sale is hard work, but it almost always pays off by freeing up extra room in your home and putting cash in your hand.  ~Brenda

Consumer Knowledge, Goals, Saving, Smart shopping

America Saves Week – Time to Start Saving

February 22nd, 2015

America Saves is a national campaign involving more than 1,000 non-profit, government, and corporate partners encouraging individuals and families to save money and build personal wealth. Consumer Federation of America is comprised of over 270 consumer education, advocacy, and cooperative organizations dedicated to advancing the consumer interest.

February 23 – 28, 2015 is “America Saves Week,” an annual opportunity for organizations to promote good saving behavior and a chance for individuals to assess their own saving status. Started in 2007, the Week 125183558is coordinated by America Saves and the American Savings Education Council. Thousands of organizations participate in the Week, reaching millions of people.

The 2014 Annual National Survey Assessing Household Savings (released during ASW) revealed that while most Americans are meeting immediate financial needs, they are worse off than several years ago.

  • Only one-third of Americans feel prepared for their long term financial future.
  • Only 68 percent reported that they are spending less than their income and saving the difference. It was 73 Percent in 2010.
  • Two-thirds of respondents (64%) said that they “have sufficient emergency savings to pay for unexpected expenses like car repairs or a doctor visit.” It was 71 percent in 2010.
  • 76 percent said that they are reducing their consumer debt, or are consumer debt-free. It was 79 percent in 2010.

With encouragement and support, more Americans can be persuaded to:

  • Set a Goal.
  • Make a Plan.
  • Save Automatically.

Savings isn’t something you do once a year. It’s important to save, or to establish goals for saving, but the role that savings plays in helping us achieve our individual needs and goals, America Saves Week is a great time to revisit goals – and to start saving, or start saving more.



Goals, Saving, Uncategorized