Crypto Scam Beware!

I have heard some unbelievably sad stories this tax season and it is only the 3rd week we have been preparing and filing returns.

An older Iowan came to our Free Tax Prep site this week and showed me 2 police reports she had filed earlier this month. She received a call on a Sunday from someone informing her that the IRS was on their way to her home to arrest her because she owed $3000.  She was told that if she paid them immediately, the problem could be resolved.  Of course, the bank was not open but, she could pay them with Bitcoin and there happened to be a Bitcoin ATM just down the street from her home.  She was warned that she had to stay on the phone with them the entire time this transaction was being handled.  One ATM would not dispense the full amount, so the scammer stayed on the phone with her the whole time she drove to the next closest Bitcoin ATM which was in Minnesota. 

Her children got involved when she called them because she now had no money to pay rent or buy food or medications.  The two police reports did nothing to help her recover her losses so, her children helped her enroll in the SNAP program (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) to ensure she had food and a friend lent her $300. 

BEWARE: For victims of a crypto scam, recovering funds is extremely unlikely.  Crypto scams are common. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received nearly 6,800 complaints of cryptocurrency investment scams from October 2020 through March 2021, up from 570 in the same period a year before. Reported losses grew more than tenfold to above $80 million.

Brenda Schmitt

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

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Time to Check Beneficiary Financial Accounts/Retirement

A former colleague shared with me about her experience after retirement. It is crucial to make sure all documents and financial accounts are updated due to changes in life. Like annual medical checkup, a date and time of the year to review documents can reduce stress for everyone involved. Below is what my colleague learned and guide to action to take.

Lesson Learned:  Recently my father died, He had a will regarding his property, In the process of settling his estate, we found two financial accounts that did not have an identified beneficiary.  One account was under $100,000 and the other one account was almost $200,000. Both accounts were in financial institutions.

Now, I knew that his estate needs to go into probate that takes time. (6 months or more to settle.) You need to involve a lawyer to make it happen.

Why it is important to check beneficiaries?  Things Happen. There is change, Divorce, Death, new family members are a few of the examples.

Recently, my retirement account asked me to clarify my beneficiary on the account.  It does not have a lot of funds but, after the experiences mentioned before, save yourself trouble and time by checking your beneficiaries. .

Jeannette Mukayisire

Brenda Schmitt

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

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Teachable Moments

I enjoyed a story shared by a gentleman who as a teen loved the challenge of rolling into a gas station with barely a drop of gas left in his tank…despite the warnings of his father, “be sure to keep at least a quarter tank of gas in the car.” Thirty years later, as he passed through a very rural area of Iowa, the gas pump on his car left him stranded for a couple of days while he waited for the delivery of a new one. When he asked the mechanic what he could do to prevent this in the future, he learned that keeping at least a quarter tank of gas in a car prevented the pump from having to work so hard. 

Seventeen years ago, when I first learned to prepare taxes at a VITA site, I was blessed to have two very good mentors…one was retired from the IRS and the other was retired from the department of Social Security. Each year, during the two and a half months we were together preparing returns, there were opportunities for rich discussion where they would share with me, what they would have done differently, regarding finances and investing, had they known what the know now, in retirement. 

Preparing tax returns for others has been a rewarding experience and is an opportunity to share information with individuals at a “teachable moment”; when they are most ready to receive, hear and apply information that can change their lives. Obviously, as an adult, a broken gas pump creates a greater teachable moment compared to his teenage self, listening to a nagging parent. But learning a financial lesson AT THE TIME of retirement doesn’t leave much time to apply and benefit from a lessons learned.

At my free tax sites, I see individuals who make money “on the side” who are paid in cash and want to omit the income from their tax return. One immediate consequence to this action might be a loss of Earned Income Tax Credit. But what they fail to see is the long-term consequence.  While it may feel good to have income that you did NOT pay taxes on, not reporting it is illegal AND affects the amount of your Social Security check in retirement which is based on your 40 highest quarters of income.

Brenda Schmitt

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

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Time Management

Time and money are two important resources. If you want to learn what is truly most important to you, look at how you spend those two limited resources. 

Earlier this month, I attended a workshop where the Time Management Matrix was shared.  I remember having seen it a long time ago but had not thought about it or made a conscious effort to apply the principle.  In a nutshell, you have a box divided into fourths.  The upper left quadrant is tasks that are urgent AND important.  The upper right quadrant are tasks that are important but NOT urgent.  Lower left is “urgent / not important” and lower right is “not urgent / not important.”  To be effective and productive, you want to spend most of your time in the upper boxes. Out of curiosity, I did a personal check-up…placing the tasks I completed over the past few days into the matrix. It became obvious that I would benefit if I were a little more intentional in planning how to use my time.

Criteria other than TIME must be used to measure productivity and value of a remote employee.  It not possible for a supervisor to constantly watch their employee, especially virtually.  For remote workers, employee evaluations are usually based on the quality and reliability of their work; in other words, the focus is on RESULTS-BASED work criteria.  Productivity may be monitored by tracking time, tasks, or deliverables.

To effectively manage time, you will need to identify your work priorities, estimate the time needed to accomplish tasks, organize your schedule, follow through with completing your tasks, and track and report your progress as your situation requires.  You will also be expected to effectively adjust your schedule and processes as priorities shift. 

The Remote Work Certificate Course goes into great detail on how to best manage your time when working remotely; it shares tools that are currently used to track and report RESULT-BASED work performance…all things that would benefit ALL employees, not just the remote worker. Could you benefit by improving your time-management skills? For more information or to enroll in the next class, visit https://www.extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/remote-work .

Brenda Schmitt

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

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It’s More Than Who You Know

A friend was visiting with a member of her family during a recent gathering.  They told my friend about a job opening at their workplace.  It was a remote job…a work from home opportunity with good pay and benefits. The next day, my friend sent in her resume, and two days later she had an interview.

In the past month I have: referred a couple of friends to job openings I knew about; received a phone call regarding someone who used me as a reference when they applied for a job; and met with a graduate of the Remote Work Certificate Course to help her prepare for an interview.

In the Remote Work Certificate course, offered through Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, many strategies are taught to build up your connections, because connections increase your chance of landing a good job. One of those strategies is social media, which can reach a lot of people with little time or effort. The most fruitful connections, however, will most likely be your direct personal connections.  You do not get referred if you do not connect with someone in a way that makes them trust you enough to refer you. Personally, in every job I’ve had except my first job, I had a personal connection that made the interview possible. Connections matter!

Important reminder: while the connections help you find the opportunities, and may help you land the interview, you still have to do your homework and work hard in preparing for the interview.

If you have a thirst for knowledge, know your strengths and want to work on them, and are thinking about getting into the remote workforce, check out the Remote Work Certificate course.  The next class begins January 4…application deadline is December 29.

Brenda Schmitt

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

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Getting a Leg Up

 

Next week, it will be 2 years since I took the Remote Work Certificate Course. It was not until I took this class that I realized that I have been working in a REMOTE job for more than 20 years now…meaning that I work from a remote site away from my employer’s headquarter.  As a specialist working for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, I am house in a county office and serve multiple regions, coming to the ISU campus only three or four times a year.  We had been ZOOMing long before COVID hit, working, meeting, teach and hosting educational programs statewide and beyond.

It turns out that more than half of all U.S. job are remote work.  I was surprised to learn that there are more workers over the age of 40 than under 40 working remotely…I thought remote work would mostly appeal to the younger generation. In reality, 86% of the US workforce WANTS to work from home. The bad news is…currently only 3% of NEW job posts are transparently advertised as remote work.  It is for this reason that Iowa State University Extension and Outreach offers the Remote Work Certificate Course.  At the end of the month-long course, participants can schedule time with a career coach for assistance in creating goals, identifying jobs, working through a checklist, creating an online presence, and identifying networking opportunities.

There are plenty of reason why someone would want to work from home:

  • Employees can save more than $7000 per year in employment related expenses.  With the rising cost of gas, I predict that number to rise even more.
  • The opportunity for career advancement. Women make up 42% of the leadership in remote companies.
  • Professionals with experience working remotely are 63% more likely to earn $100,000/year than those that have never worked remotely…making it worth your time to learn the skills needed to work remotely.
  • 96% of U.S. employees NEED some flex in their current job because of aging parents or the needs of small children.

For more information about the Remote Work Certificate Course, visit our website. The next class begins the first Monday of next month and registration ends soon, so register now.

~Brenda

Brenda Schmitt

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

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Entrepreneurial Spirit

Couple on bike trail

This past weekend, we participated in a biking event that was hosted by Hardin County, Iowa.  We covered more than 40 miles and passed through 6 different communities.  Each community eagerly awaited our arrival with venders offering water, grilled delights, ice cream and more.  We visited with the owner of a new, shiny red food truck and learned that she owned a restaurant in one of the neighboring towns. The food truck was her answer to the employee shortage that prevented her restaurant from operating full-time as it had prior to COVID. Now, during the day, she and one other employee run the food truck and her restaurant is open evenings. What a creative solution for this young entrepreneur. FYI…we really enjoyed her brisket sandwich.

When I shared the details of our weekend activities with my co-worker, nutrition and wellness educator Amy Jones, she commented, “I have seen an increase in interest in operating mobile food units otherwise known as a food trucks.  To obtain a license, Iowa Law requires each mobile unit to have a Certified Food Protection Manager on staff. This means more people are attending ServSafe Certified Food Protection Manager classes given through Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.”

Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals has resources available for those interested in operating an mobile food truck: https://dia.iowa.gov/. More specific information is located at: https://ia.foodprotectiontaskforce.com/resources1/food-trucks-trailers-carts/#tab3

Brenda Schmitt

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

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Weighing the Cost

Airplane and Tornado

Last week a tornado ran for a half-mile through one of our fields, flattening a 200-yard wide strip of corn. What are the chances of that happening? It is a first for us in the 45 years we have farmed. This week, aerial applicators are spraying for aphids and white mold that are threatening north central Iowa soybeans. What are the chances of that happening?  Almost every year that it is wet.

Nearly every day, my husband is inspecting crops or livestock or grain in a bin, to ensure his investment of time, labor and money is insured or protected against accidents, extreme temperatures, weather, disease, mold or pests. The decision to spray, plant, vaccinate, buy, sell or insure is not made once and forgotten about.  He is always weighing the cost of action or inaction against the return on his investment.

The same is true for me on the home front. We purchased a used camper three years ago with the expectation we would use it for five year. Our decision to NOT insure the camper was based on how much five years of insurance would cost compared to the amount we paid for the camper.  The amount we saved in NOT purchasing insurance could easily replace the camper should something happen to it.  Basically, we SELF-INSURED the camper.

The same thought process is used for our vehicles. The nice, fully insured, used car we purchase for me to drive for work will eventually becomes the “farm” vehicle which we carry minimal insurance on. There is a very little chance of my husband having an accident driving down gravel roads between fields, whereas the number of miles I drive on highways for work greatly increases the chances I may have an accident and need to replace my car.

The Money Talk workbook discusses financial basics, insurance, investing, retirement planning, and planning for life events. This practical, clearly written guidebook is available through Iowa State University Extension should you like to learn more about financial basics including Insurance.

Brenda Schmitt

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

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Negotiating For Remote Work

Is Remote Work for You? 

Do you feel limited by the lack of career opportunities in your rural community? Are your skills being underutilized in your current position? Are the only job opportunities miles away from your hometown? Remote work or telecommuting allows you to work from anywhere without leaving your community! Register before July 28 to participate in the August Remote Work Certificate course. The course begins August 2.

I participated in the Remote Work Certificate course in November of 2019 because the idea of not having to travel for work in the winter appealed to me. A year later, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach became an affiliate member of the Remote Online Initiative of Utah State University…all before we fully knew the impact COVID was going to have on Iowa.

Remote work is challenging. Team work is especially difficult when teams are not in the same physical location. It affects communication, brainstorming, and problem-solving and Supervisors need to adjust how they manage their remote teams. To date, 18 Human Sciences Extension and Outreach specialists at Iowa State University have completed this professional development course, assisting with their transition to a remote workplace. The educational programming in Family Life, Nutrition and Finance did not slow when we were all sent home to work.

With approximately a fourth of the FY20 program year affected by COVID-19 and the Derecho, Human Sciences Extension and Outreach provided educational information and programs in nutrition and wellness, family life, and family finance across the state, resulting in over 93,000 direct contacts. 5,284 participants attended online mental health/stress related offerings.

Nationwide, the drive to get employees back into offices is clashing with workers who’ve embraced remote work as the new normal. The pandemic may be winding down, but that does not mean all will return to full-time commuting and packed office buildings. The greatest accidental experiment in the history of labor has lessons to teach us about productivity, flexibility, and even reversing the brain drain.

Currently, employers are facing pressure to adjust their workplace policies, if just to reflect shifting attitudes toward remote work among other tech giants. There has never been a more opportune time to negotiate remote or flexible work arrangements with your boss. In this online workshop, Dr. Paul Hill, Extension professor with Utah State University, will present the evidence-based steps to help you prepare for successful negotiation for remote or flexible work arrangements with your boss. Register to join Dr. Hill on Wednesday, July 21 at 1 PM CDT for this free webinar at Negotiating Your Remote Work Arrangements Tickets, Wed, Jul 21, 2021 at 12:00 PM | Eventbrite.

Brenda Schmitt

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

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More: Assistance for Internet and Technology

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s Emergency Broadband Benefit launched on May 12th. This benefit provides a discount of $50 per month for eligible low-income households or $75 per month for households on Tribal lands to cover internet bills, as well as discounts on some devices. This program can also be combined with Lifeline benefits.

Reliable home internet and technology provide older adults with more options to access important services and supports, including legal assistance, telehealth services, and portals for economic impact payment eligibility and benefits programs. The FCC has announced that eligible households can apply for the program in three ways: 
– Contact participating broadband providers directly to learn about their application process.  
– Visit GetEmergencyBroadband.org to apply online and to find participating providers.
– Call (833) 511-0311 for a mail-in application, and return it along with proof of eligibility to: Emergency Broadband Support Center, P.O. Box 7081, London, KY 40742. 

Individuals who use videophones and are fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) may call the FCC’s ASL Consumer Support Line at (844) 432-2275 (videophone).   There are resources available to help advocates advertise the program to their clients and community, and it is especially important to share this information with populations who face the greatest barriers to connectivity, including older adults of color, those living in rural areas, and other marginalized groups. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s Emergency Broadband Benefit launched on May 12th. This benefit provides a discount of $50 per month for eligible low-income households or $75 per month for households on Tribal lands to cover internet bills, as well as discounts on some devices. This program can also be combined with Lifeline benefits.

Reliable home internet and technology provide older adults with more options to access important services and supports, including legal assistance, telehealth services, and portals for economic impact payment eligibility and benefits programs. The FCC has announced that eligible households can apply for the program in three ways: 
– Contact participating broadband providers directly to learn about their application process.  
– Visit GetEmergencyBroadband.org to apply online and to find participating providers.
– Call (833) 511-0311 for a mail-in application, and return it along with proof of eligibility to: Emergency Broadband Support Center, P.O. Box 7081, London, KY 40742. 

Individuals who use videophones and are fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) may call the FCC’s ASL Consumer Support Line at (844) 432-2275 (videophone).  

Brenda Schmitt

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

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