The Importance of POA’s

My brother recently attended a medical conference in which a lawyer spoke about the physician’s responsibility when providing care for someone who is unable to make medical decisions for themselves.  If a patient has not completed a Power of Attorney for Health Care, the doctor is required to listen and weigh the concerns of all family members when caring for the patient. Speaking from our personal experience, my brother and I did not struggle while communicating with caregivers and making decisions for dad; we knew what dad’s wishes were and the two of us shared dad’s values and faith. Additionally, as Dad’s POA for Health Care,  it made it easier for me to say “no” when a family member made a request that was clearly not in line with his wishes…even when there was support from a fourth sibling for that request.

In comparison, the family of my brother’s wife is learning (the hard way) what happens when someone has not designated a Power of Attorney for Health Care. Their mother had a major medical emergency that has left her unable to communicate her wishes. Early on in her health emergency, there were 8 – 13 people in her room at all times and an additional 3 – 5 being consulted by phone; basically, they were making decisions by a majority vote while under stress and in an emotional state. Can you imagine being the physician in this example…having to listen and weigh the concerns of all family members?

The Finances of Caregiving is a series of five 2-hour workshops to expand your understanding of options and to help families plan together for providing care for a loved one. Understanding your choices is only possible when you know your current situation. This series guides you through finding and collecting that information, and includes the importance of identifying a Power of Attorney for both Health Care and Financial matters. For more information on this program, visit https://www.extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/finances-caregiving 

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.

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The Cost of Technology

My 3 year-old grandson recent asked Google to, “find my sister”. It seemed like a logical request, since his mom frequently asks Google to find her phone.

During a recent visit with family, a 90+ year-old aunt had fun asking “Alexa” questions. Her daughters had no idea all the skills this piece of technology had until I shared some of the things I use it for. During our discussion I learned that this Aunt calls her daughter every day to have the news read to her because she can no longer see well enough to read. So, the family decided their mom would get a lot of use of the artificial intelligence built into these home assistance devices.  She could have the news and daily bible readings read to her whenever she wanted it. AND, she could ask Alexa to call anyone on her list which could come in handy if she had fallen within earshot of the device.

At church, a week ago, a friend had a diabetic reaction. She is on an insulin pump which could communicate with her doctors through her smart phone. She also carried a small device that could tell her what her blood sugar levels were without pricking her finger. We keep fruit juice boxes in the office just for occasions like this…this was the 3rd scare that I was aware of. She was so confused. She was not sure if the phone in her hand was hers and when we tried to access her numbers in the phone, she didn’t know what the passcode was to get into the phone; in fact, she was sure HER phone didn’t require a code.  Several juice boxes later, she was able to enter the passcode in her phone and access the information she needed to help us, help her.

Some of what today’s technology does seems frivolous especially if you consider the price tag. I recognize the fact that you have to “use it as a toy” before you can truly discover the amazing potential these devices have.  I also know that the price drops the longer it is in use. As for my friend with diabetes, I worry about her ability to call for help when her disease takes over her ability to think well enough to access the information in her phone. I can see the potential for the technology to help her control her sugar levels but there is a downside.

How has technology improved your life and save you money?

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.

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Save the Extra

Today’s theme for America Saves Week is – Save the Extra. Saving a little does add up and can make a big difference.  So, where and how do you find the “extra” to save?

 

  • Save the tax refund (all or some of it). Put it into a retirement account and it will help reduce your taxable income next year.
  • Save the extra paycheck you will receive in March and August (if you are paid bi-weekly). If you are paid monthly, save the extra bump in funds you will see in your checks on those months.
  • Consider saving a percentage of every pay-raise.

We’re more likely to save a windfall than a small amount consistently over a long period of time. This tax season, get ahead of your financial goals by saving at least $50, and reward yourself with SaveYourRefund by entering to win one of over 100 prizes up to $10,000.

I would love to hear your saving strategies and sources of “windfall” cash.

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.

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Need it? Use it? Afford it?

Yep, that’s Glen with his golf cart: snow blade in the front; a 50# bag of sand in the back and chains on the wheels. Mark proudly boasts, “Had Dad been born today, he would have gone to college and been an engineer. He can invent and create anything!”

I used to wonder why people would buy a golf cart…it is expensive; it is used for a few short months; and it takes the exercise out of the sport.  However, if you were to drive through any of the small towns in my area, you are sure to see people driving golf carts to visit friends or to run home from the camp ground on the far side of town; one elderly woman enclosed her cart with plastic so she could drive it year round…without a drivers license.

Seeing Glen and his golf cart made me stop and think…how much of the stuff I own was purchased with a single purpose in mind and is underutilized? I reached out to a couple of my kids this weekend, asking if they wanted a few of these things that I no longer have time to use. It created a bit of concern, “Mom’s giving her stuff away…WHY?”

I have Spring Fever. I have a goal of removing 50 bags of stuff from my home by Easter. If I don’t use it, don’t need it or can’t afford it…it is gone. By “can’t afford it,” I mean “do I really want to store it?” It costs money to store, insure, clean and maintain stuff.

How about you?  Spring is coming! Take a look at YOUR stuff. How much is it costing you to hang on to it?

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.

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A Smooth Running Home

My job provides me opportunities to expand the financial management skills of people of all ages and stages of life: basic money management, investing, how to pay for long-term care. I find that people are most willing to come to a class and get the most out of a class when it is a teachable moment for the individual. I think the reality that “you don’t know what you don’t know” often prevents people from participating in financial programs. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a crystal ball that showed you what financial challenges you are soon to face so you could sign up for classes and check out self-help books to better prepare yourself BEFORE the challenge strikes.  THE TIME TO DIG THE WELL IS BEFORE YOU ARE THIRSTY.

I participated in a discussion this weekend with professionals and volunteers who work with couples preparing for marriage. Again…a skill building program that should be full with a waiting list. Failed relationships (especially when children are involved) carry high and long-term financial and emotional costs. Among the reasons stated by couples as to why they won’t sign up for a relationship-strengthening program is MONEY and TIME – both very important assets that are in limited supply. Yet, if you stop and think about it…taking the time (and money) to strengthen relationships could save you a lot of time and money and heart ache in the long run.

It is easier and cheaper to prevent disaster than to clean up and fix disasters. Check out our web pages for programs and publications to keep your home running smoothly… https://www.extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/, https://www.extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/relationships and https://store.extension.iastate.edu/Topic/Finances

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.

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When I’m 65

Several reminders lately have made me well aware of the fact that I am rapidly approaching a certain mile marker…I now qualify for the Senior discounts at restaurants, mail with special offers comes to my home daily, etc. So, when information about the TV series When I’m 65 came across my news feed, I decided I needed to add this to our queue so it will be recorded.

The fact is…we all – no matter our age – really do need to take steps to help secure our financial futures. Consider watching the Iowa Public TV showing of the When I’m 65 on IPTV.1 on Sunday, December 10 at 2 PM. It will be repeated at 3 AM on the 11th. For more information, go to http://www.iptv.org/series/25099/when-im-65/0 .

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.

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Virtual Doctors

I LOVE cutting edge, creative solutions and out of the box thinking. Yesterday was one of those red-letter-days that surprised me with the-next-best-idea of how to do things better…or at least differently.

I was sitting at an inservice provided by a local employer. Before we got into the meat of the training, staff was updated on the good news and opportunities that would be available as their employer’s benefits enrollment periods was about to open. The good news, for them, was their employer provided health insurance was going to increase only 3% for next year. The new service offering was….access to a “Virtual Doctor”.

The scenario presented was…“Most of you have a $6350 deductible. At $120 per office visit, you would have to have 53 earaches, sore throats, renewed acne prescription, etc., before your deductible would be met so your insurance could kick in. OR…you could skype or FaceTime with a doctor for $49 per virtual office call and get an answer to your question or a prescription filled using a “virtual doctor” service. AND, the $49 fee goes toward your deductible.”

Checking them out online I learned that the online service is available to individuals with OR without insurance. What a convenience this would be to people in rural areas and small towns without doctors.  I was then reminded of the weekend or late night runs to the emergency room because urgent care wasn’t available, and I KNEW it was strep because half the family was already being treated for it.

There is an app that is easy to use; you see the doctors within minutes of logging on and you do not have to sit in a waiting room full of sick people. If the virtual doctor determines you need lab work, the doctor can order the test and direct you to a nearby lab.

How do you feel about non-in-person doctor appointments? You can interact eye-to-eye but does that qualify as providing a personal touch?

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.

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What do you want to DO?

The topic of college debt came up during a recent conversation with my brother. He likes to ask young adults about their college plans as a way to ease the tension as they wait for the Novocain to kick in before he removes their wisdom teeth. He was a bit shocked by the frequent desire for kids to take general studies as a way to “find themselves”. There was also the frequently frustrated parent that watches their child drop out of college with 1 or 2 years of debt and no degree; added to the fact they have lost 1 to 2 years of income.

He himself has a child that has taken the scenic route on a path toward a very difficult career. By not applying himself, he not only wasted a lot of money, but also found it was easier to create a grade point deficit than to dig himself out of that hole.

Some careers are glamorized by tv shows like CSI or Dr. Pol. My brother shared how some have grand ideas of being a Veterinarian and helping animals, and then become disillusioned half way through school when they learn that 5 to 7 times a week they have to put an animal down.

Another relative of mine thought he wanted to be a farmer because his observation when he spent weekends at the farm with his dad as a child, was that you sat in the house all day and played with your kids. Now that he lives and works at the farm, he found he is not so crazy about the very physical labor and long hours…7 days a week.

Through our conversation, we began to wonder if career counseling in high school would be more effective than trying to help kids figure out how to get into and pay for college. Asking “What do you like to DO?” rather than “What do you want to BE?” Internships and volunteering at a job (like cleaning pens at an animal shelter) could help kids know what they DON’T want to do as much as help them decide what they are good at.  Maybe encouraging kids to find summer or after school jobs in the field they think they want to do the rest of their lives would improve the chances a child will get the most out of a very expensive college education.

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.

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Who Has Your ID?

If you have been following MoneyTip$ for any length of time, you will have seen us more than once address the topic of Identity Protection.  The recent Equifax cyber-security issue is a reminder to take the precautions that are within your control.

The National Do Not Call Registry and the Opt-Out (Prescreened Credit Offers) are the two strategies we have mentioned most often, which cut down on phone call solicitations and credit card offers.  However, there are as many as 66 different ways individuals can better protect their identity.

A recent article published by Consumer Reports shared some of these strategies, and I was a bit disturbed by what I learned there.

DMA Choice allows you to select specific Catalogs, Magazines or other Mail Offers that you wish to stop receiving for a $2 fee. OR…you can select STOP ALL CATALOGS. To sign up for this service, you will need to provide an email, create an account password AND credit card information. There are free opt-outs for caregivers and those with a deceased relative.

Public School enrollment information about your children doesn’t have to be public.  I did not realize that  unless you request otherwise, schools are allowed to share a child’s address, place of birth, and the dates of attendance! A copy of the opt-out form can be picked up at your school or  downloaded  and then submitted to your school. You will need to provide your students ID number.

Financial institutions collect and share information that may include account balances. The Federal Deposit insurance Corporation provides a list of opt-out options for many of the large banks. You will need your account numbers (don’t forget your mortgage and investment accounts) and your social security number.

Acxiom is one of many data brokers that gather information such as family status, income, political affiliation and more. They are one of the few that provide an Opt-Out page. You will need to register your name, including any common misspellings, maiden names previous address and email addresses.

I think the one that bothered me most was the information available about children attending public schools. I plan to share this post with my kids so they can take steps to protect my grandchildren’s information. What about you? What will you do with this information to protect your identity?

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.

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Strong Passwords

I recently received word that my cellular company had a security breach. In the past three years, I have received replacement credit cards 3 times because of a similar scare. We all most likely remember the negative publicity certain major retailers received around the holidays because of credit card issue, AND I just read about a major hospital accidentally posting personal information on a web site.  None of these examples are due to mistakes made on the part of the consumers. Despite the fact that all of these companies have departments full of individuals whose full-time job is to protect the sensitive information of those using their services, they still face challenges staying ahead of identity thieves.

For this reason, it is important to use a STRONG password for your online accounts; one that will be difficult for others to guess. Knowing that it is recommended that passwords be changed monthly or at least several times a year, here are a few tricks that will make remembering easier.

Using a phrase or string of seemingly random words (that mean something to you) is one way to create a password. When using a phrase, consider using capital letters at the END of each word (instead of at the beginning). Subbing a symbol in place of a letter is another way to make a password secure. For example: @pplEp1E&1cEcre@M (apple pie & ice cream is my favorite dessert). I replaced all the A’s with the @ symbol; the last letter of each word is capitalized and all the I’s are changed into the number 1. Another trick would be to remove all the vowels from my phrase, Apple Pie & Ice cream becomes pplp&ccrm.

Once you settle on a password, a number could be added at the beginning or end.  Then each month when you change the password, you could keep the phrase portion of the password, and make the change to only the number…maybe increasing or decreasing by 1 number.

Share strategies you use to make changing and remembering passwords easier.

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.

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