What Are You Thankful For?

I awoke this morning much earlier than I intended to.  With our family not arriving for the Thanksgiving festivities until much later in the day, I had planned to sleep in (as long as my kids stayed in bed).  When my husband’s alarm clock went off this morning, we both were already awake.  Thanksgiving Day makes most of us reflect on what we are thankful for, and my early rising today gave me a head start.

When my family has hosted the Thanksgiving festivities, we ask our guests to write down what they are thankful for on a slip of paper.  We then each draw out a slip of paper and read each others words of thanks.  Family always is at the top of everyone’s list, including my own.  Family, to me, is more than those who are related to me by blood. It is those special people who have graced my life with their presence, and make me a better person.  So many of us are lucky to have been born into a loving, caring, amazing family that is with them through thick and thin.  Others don’t have that connection.  Whether you were given a family at birth, or created your own, we need to nurture those family relationships to grow them into the ones we cherish most.

Today, and every day, I want to give thanks to my family.  My husband, kids, parents, in-laws, siblings, the crazy crew of extended family that is going to show up at my door later today, dear friends, and my work family.  You all fill my cup with blessings each and every day, and I am thankful to have you in my life.

Do You Have a Financial Disaster Plan? – Part 2

If I asked you to tell me right this second to list out everything that was in your wallet, could you do it without looking?  Many of us put a lot of our life into our wallets, purses and vehicles, and we don’t think twice about the need to access that information should it suddenly disappear.  Here are some tips to help you prevent a financial disaster if your wallet, purse or car was stolen:

 Take an Inventory

 Make it a habit of cleaning out your wallet, purse and car on a monthly basis.  Go through the receipts that are stuffed into those handy pockets and either file them away or shred them.  Decide what is necessary to have in those areas, and eliminate everything else – either by relocating it to another place (like inside your home) or get rid of it.  This goes for other items as well.  The goal is to create a clutter free area where you can easily find and recall the important elements.

 Minimize and Photocopy

 Pretend like you are leaving on a dream vacation to Europe.  Would you take every single thing that is currently in your wallet and/or purse?  My advice to you is to take as little as you can.  Tourists attract all kinds of attention, especially by pickpockets.  Consider utilizing travelers checks instead of cash, and only take one major credit card.  For everyday use (when not traveling) you don’t need to have your wallet stocked with every credit card you own.  Most store cards will allow you to look up your account number at the register if you need to make a purchase.  The same goes for checkbooks.  Most retailers take and prefer debit cards over checks, which are easier to carry, and can be tracked and payments stopped easier than checks.

 Once you’ve pared down your items, take a photocopy of everything and store it in a safe place (and not in your wallet or purse). I even store the toll free number to VISA in my phone for such emergencies.  By making a photocopy of your important items, you can more easily shut down credit cards, and get new identification issued.

 Have the Talk

 Many households have one person who handles all the finances.  This person may be you, your spouse / partner or roommate.  Whatever the case, have regular conversations about the “what ifs.”  This means sharing how to access bank accounts, pay bills, and where important documents are located (like insurance policies, Wills, etc.).  If you are single, consider creating a Power of Attorney where someone you trust can handle your finances should you become incapacitated.  In my former career as an insurance agent for a mortuary, I worked with families who had to dig through filing cabinets, basements, and more to try to find documents pertaining to the deceased’s estate.  Even if these documents were found, access to claim benefits was also a struggle if the deceased hadn’t made proper provisions.  My hardest conversations were with surviving family members whose hands were tied financially.

Do You Have a Financial Disaster Plan?

Springtime in the Midwest means tornado season.  We prepare for it by testing our emergency sirens, locating the safest place in our house to take cover, and what to bring with us in a hurry if a storm strikes.

Here is something to consider throughout the year: do your finances have a disaster plan?

Working in the financial industry, I encounter people on a daily basis that share with me their financial disasters (large and small).  Although we can’t always prevent the curveballs that life throws at us, we can be prepared to take action when they do.

Emergency Stash

Having an emergency fund is a great first step to creating your financial disaster plan.  A few hundred dollars can get you through a minor car repair, emergency room visit, or an unexpected expense.  I recommend utilizing payroll direct deposit (if your employer offers it) to direct a small amount of money from each paycheck into a separate emergency savings account.  Direct deposit options work well because you don’t have to think about it.  Over time, your emergency fund will grow to allow you to not only cover those minor “what ifs” but may provide you with some means to pay down debt, take a vacation, or tackle a project.

Having a Will and Advanced Directives

If you have children, you should have a Will.  My husband and I had this conversation before our oldest was born: If one of us was hit by a bus tomorrow, what would we want to happen?  An even scarier scenario is what if both of you were no longer here?  Who would you want to assume guardianship of your children?  If no Will exists, it is up to the State to determine this answer.  You can hire an attorney to draft a Will for you, or even do it yourself with some free online resources.

Secondly, have you talked to your loved ones about what they should do if you were unable to make decisions for yourself?  Power of Attorney and Living Wills are not just for senior citizens.  If you were in an accident and unconscious, would your spouse, parent, child, know what your wishes are both physically and financially?  Does someone else have the power to access your information to take care of your family?

Make Insurance Work for You

Visit with your Insurance Company on an annual basis to shop your premiums.  Sometimes, your rates may go up when your plan renews, and you may want to shop for a better plan.  Also take a look at what your insurance covers.  On your home, does your policy cover floods even if you are not in a flood zone?  What about wind damage?

Research your deductibles.  Talk with your insurance provider about how raising your deductible will impact your premiums.  It may be the case that if you can raise your auto insurance deductible from $250 to $500, the savings on your premium per year may be significant.  Besides, if you have created that emergency stash to cover your new deductible, you’re covered on all sides.

Life insurance is in a category by itself.  While not required to have (like home and auto insurance) life insurance can provide you and your family with a multitude of benefits.  There are term, whole life and investment policies that can work to pay you an income – there is no cookie cutter approach to this insurance benefit.  I do recommend that you work with a insurance agent you can trust that walks you through all of your options, and is willing to provide you with multiple comparisons for you to make the best choice.

Do You Have a Financial Disaster Plan to be continued…

Just Take a Sip

I started my day today with the discovery of a large chocolate stain on the back of my pants.  I am thankful that I made the discovery before I left the house, and not let the world wonder just what exactly happened to my backside.  I had to think of where that chocolate stain came from, when I realized that I typically carry around chocolate chip granola bars in my car for my kids to snack on during their ride home from school.  I usually open the granola bar package with one hand, my teeth, and eyes on the road.  Apparently, those sneaky chocolate chips decided to fall in a most inconvenient place in my rush to feed my pre-dinner hungry children.

 How often do we eat on the run, standing up at our kitchen counters, and while we’re doing a number of other tasks?  Medical experts (and our mothers) urge us to “take one bite at a time” when eating.  I always thought that this helped in digestion, preventing hiccups, and to clean your plate.  The message these words of encouragement also send is to slow down!

 For those of you that are coffee and tea drinkers (I’ll throw wine in there, too), this is one activity that you can’t do quickly.  You have to just take a sip.   What if we approached other areas of our life with this same concept?  Sometimes time constraints make us want to shovel it in all at once, but certain activities force us to slow it down and savor the moment.  When you take a sip, instead of a gulp, do you appreciate more what you are tasting?  Would you continue to consume the same things if you had to do it slowly?

 My son brought home a flower bud he found laying on the playground at school yesterday.  He was adamant that we put it in some water so it could “grow.”  He didn’t understand that once a flower is broken or cut from its stem, that it no longer has the chance to grow.  We placed this broken bud into some water, and to our surprise, the bud bloomed overnight.  He was thrilled!  And my husband and I were surprised.  Even at the young age of three, my son is savoring those “sips” of life.  What joy he brought not only to his day, but also to us as his parents when we witnessed this simple beauty of slowing down and savoring those small moments together.