Find Your Phone – Protect Your ID

smartphone

I went to a meeting on Monday and silenced my work phone.  It is a “dumb” phone…just a basic flip phone which serves my needs perfectly and is the most cost-effective choice for the job. I like the fact that it is small and sleek.  I can tuck it into my purse, computer case, or a box of materials being transported. On Wednesday, I picked up my phone to make a call and noticed that I had 3 messages waiting for me on my phone.  I HAD FORGOTTEN TO TAKE THE PHONE OFF SILENT MODE!

Today, I just spent 15 minutes looking for that phone…in the nooks and crannies of my car, in my purse, in pockets…then it occurred to me to call it and see if I could hear it.  Sure enough, it was less than 2 feet away in a bag of program materials.  I don’t remember putting it there.  Thank heavens I had remembered to take it off SILENT MODE after yesterday’s meeting. Should I REALLY lose that phone, I am in no real danger of having my identity stolen…other than a list of phone numbers called, received and those in my address book, there is nothing of any real interest to a thief.

On the other hand, losing my personal phone, which is an Android phone, WOULD be a big deal. A thief could access names, addresses, phone numbers, birthdays, anniversary days, my schedule, probably my shopping and internet habits and much more. Unlike the “dumb” phone, I can easily find the Smart Phone even if it is on silent mode. Google.com/android/devicemanager is an online tool that helps me find my Android phone even if it is on SILENT mode. By selecting RING, my phone will ring loud enough that I can hear it buried deep in my purse, in another room under a pillow. If the phone truly is lost, this online tool will let you LOCK the phone or ERASE it remotely.  If the phone is dead, this tool will tell you where and when it was last located. Apple products have a similar online tool available as well. Check out find my iPhone.

Smart phones are expensive, portable, resalable, and concealable making them tempting and easy items to steal. The fact that it contains personal information makes it a high demand item to thieves. Educate yourself on how best to protect this asset. Check out Consumer Reports’ tips for smart phone owners: 5 Steps to Protect Your Smart Phone From Theft or Loss or watch their short video.

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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Grab and Go Box

School bag. Flat style design - vector, line icon.
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My sister lives in Texas, where it is Hurricane Season. In the Midwest, we can have floods, tornadoes and severe winds. After the Katrina Hurricane, southern state Extension colleagues put together instructions for making a “Grab and Go Box.”  If you had a moment’s notice, would you be able to grab your necessary papers before leaving?  We have weather issues too.  Are you prepared?

Place papers in sealed waterproof plastic bags and store in a durable, sealed portable box. Store the box/backpack at home in a secure easily accessible location. If you need to leave your home, – grab the box and take it with you.  Keep the box with you at all times.

Things to include in your Grab and Go Box are:

  • Cash or traveler’s checks and roll of quarters (ATMs might be down)
  • Emergency phone numbers for: doctors, pharmacies, financial advisors, clergy, repair contractors, family
  • Copies of prescriptions – for medications and eye wear
  • Medical reports – children’s immunization records, health and dental insurance cards
  • Insurance policies – auto, flood, renters/homeowners – showing the policy numbers and contact numbers
  • Copies of deeds, titles, wills/trusts, durable power of attorney, healthcare directives, stock and bonds certificates, recent investment statements, home inventory, birth, death, adoption and marriage certificates, passports, employee benefit documents, last year’s state and federal tax returns.
  • Backup copies of computer financial records
  • Computer user names and passwords
  • Keys to safe deposit box
  • Irreplaceable personal photos
  • List of Numbers – social security, bank accounts, loan, credit card(s), driver’s license and investment account
  • List of debts obligations –due dates and contact information

Having an out of state contact can be helpful so you can let family and friends know you are okay.  When my sister evacuated from Hurricane Rita, my family was grateful that she called me about her whereabouts during her travels.

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.

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Are You Prepared???

lightening

Last weekend, we had thunder, lightning, tornado, high winds and rain. Welcome to living in the Midwest.

One of my colleagues lives on a farm; during the storm, he looked out at his barn to see an orange glow on the west side of the barn, then a moment later it was gone.  The next morning he found that the white siding was singed and black, and some of the power supply wiring had melted and frayed.  He realized it had been a close call, and that the barn had been spared because of the heavy rain.

He thought about what could have happened – the barn could have been destroyed by fire, which would have been a major loss for his dairy operation. Luckily, the cows were out to pasture.

In addition, a fire would have also destroyed his collection of tools, weight equipment, half basketball court in the barn, musical equipment and many other items that were kept in the barn. When I talked with him today, I asked if he had an inventory — would he have been able to make a list of everything he had lost?  Even great insurance coverage only works if you can list everything that needs to be replaced.

He thought maybe he should make a list or take some time to videotape the barn’s contents for insurance purposes. Would you be prepared if something happened?

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.

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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.

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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.

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Money Smart Week 2016

Next week is Money Smart Week! Started 14 years ago by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Money Smart Week is designed as a public awareness campaign to help IMG_0039consumers better manage their personal finances. There are programs in all 50 states. 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 www.MoneySmartWeek.org for more details about activities in your area. Check out your local libraries for a display as well as programming. Spread the knowledge!

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.

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Flood Insurance: New Requirements

Flooded house aerial viewDid you receive a letter from your mortgage lender letting you know they are required to track the payment of premiums for flood coverage and if the policy lapse’s they will charge you for forced-placed coverage?

My letter arrived this past week and I will visit the credit union that holds the mortgage or call the mortgage center just to make sure I’m in the clear for not purchasing flood insurance. The form letter wasn’t very helpful. The general website for flood insurance was given, but if you want to confirm if you are in a flood zone and required to purchase coverage the exact website you want to visit is FEMA Flood Map Service Center. My address hasn’t been mapped yet. Putting it another way;  if I need flood coverage there are a lot of people in deep water!

The credit union and I have a shaky history about homeowner’s coverage. I’ve received several years of annoying letter’s letting me know I would be enrolled in forced-placed coverage in 30 day’s if I didn’t come forward with proof of insurance. When I finally got the insurance agent involved it was discovered the automated proof of coverage form was being sent to the wrong address and evidently not being forwarded to the mortgage division.

If you ever get caught in a double coverage situation because communications failed it will cost you time to straighten out the duplication, but not extra premiums. The lender is now required by law to refund to you any premium and related fees charged during overlapping coverage.  I’m opting for a little investment of time now to avoid the process of undoing mistaken actions later.

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.

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Prenuptial Agreements

prenuptThere is nothing more unromantic than the thought of a prenuptial agreement. Until recently, I felt that planning an exit strategy for something that was supposed to last until “death do us part” was a waste of time and money, and was a clear indication your heart really wasn’t in it.

Prenuptial agreements  are becoming more common in situations involving children of prior marriages and substantial assets acquired by either party prior to the marriage. The couple agree, prior to marriage, about their property rights instead of relying on the usual rules of law that a court would apply on a divorce or death.

Iowa courts treat and honor prenuptial agreements as they would any other legal contract; respecting the wishes of those making the agreement. If there was any uncertainty that the contract would be legally binding, some couples might not enter into marriage, fearing it would not be strictly enforced. A prenuptial agreement allows couples to plan their financial future based on the planned end results.  For couples entering into a second marriage, a prenuptial can settle questions about property distribution in the case of death or divorce.

In Iowa, any person challenging a prenuptial agreement has the burden to show that their waiver of rights was not performed knowingly or voluntarily. To enter into a prenuptial, the law requires a full disclosure of all material assets. It also requires that both parties enter into the agreement voluntarily; free of duress and undue influence, allowing time for counsel and understanding of the agreement. As with any contract, a prenuptial may be nullified in the case of fraud.

Once a prenuptial is signed, it should be viewed as enforceable throughout the marriage regardless of length or circumstances. Iowa Code Section 596.7 provides that premarital agreements may be revoked only by a written agreement signed by both parties or by a finding by the court that the agreement was not voluntarily executed or was unconscionable.

A prenuptial agreement is a legal document that is drawn up by a lawyer for a fee…a cost far less than the cost that comes with court and legal fees when a marriage ends due to divorce or death. Personally, I believe a prenuptial agreement would have helped me a great deal as the adult child trying to sort through the issues caused by a parent with Alzheimer’s and and his wife with diminished capacity.  ~Brenda Schmitt, Family Finance Field Specialist and adult child looking out for a parent’s best interest.

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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Opening the Tough Conversation

older couple smNo, I am not talking about the birds and the bees. It is the conversation about where are your parent’s important papers – wills, life insurance policies, investments, personal advisors and such.

During the holidays, my brother-in-law asked the question during breakfast. His father had died about three years ago; he and his brother thought his dad’s paperwork was in order, until they had to go looking for specific documents.

Much to the surprise of my sister, brother-in-law and myself, our discussion with our parents revealed several items of information about my parent’s financial situation we were previously unaware of.  We found out what financial institutions held their investments and who was the lawyer for their wills, as well as where the hold investment accounts.

When my Grandfather Taylor died, his lawyer had died before him, so the family had to find which law firm had taken over his files.  That was time-consuming and stressful at a time when family members already had much on their minds and hearts.

Some people feel like asking these questions would be prying into their parent’s affairs, but the discussion with my parents showed that it can really help to improve family understanding of the basic financial and legal details they will eventually need to know.

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.

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Selecting Your Health Insurance Provider

Doctor Speaking with PatientOne simple step to make sure your health care plan is compatible with  your health care providers (including clinics, hospitals, pharmacies, mental health services, dentists, and others) is to CALL AND ASK!  This seems to be wise advice for everyone, whether they are selecting coverage from their employer, enrolled in public insurance (such as Medicaid/Medicare), or buying health insurance individually; the challenge seems to be universal.

ISU Extension’s workshop called Smart Choice: Health Insurance devotes some time to defining the different types of networks found in different insurance plans. (For full info, check out “Types of Health Insurance Plans,” one of our Smart Choice handouts).  In brief, there are three most common types:

  • the closed network of the HMO/EPO,
  • the referral-required POS model, and
  • for coverage when you go to a clinic out of state or want the option to see a specialist without referral there is the PPO plan.

News Flash:  ANY insurance plan can have limitations that will put you in a position of not having coverage. The changes can result from institutional events (such as privatization of Iowa’s Medicaid and Expanded Medicaid programs) or private contract negotiations between health providers and the insurance industry. Changes are common, so don’t assume what worked last year is true for the next 12 months. The “Call and Ask” rule is a good rule to apply every single year.

In our workshop, we also ask participants to rank 5 items in order of importance to them in choosing a health insurance plan. The five items are:

  •  Health care services needed for the next year
  •  Doctors and health care providers in the insurance network
  •  Monthly premiums
  •  Deductibles, co-pays, and coinsurance
  • Prescription drugs covered by the plan

Right now given the changes taking place in health insurance coverage, I’d put networks (2nd bullet) at the top of my list.

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.

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