Archive for September, 2012

This Saturday, September 29th, is “Museum Day Live!”

Over 1,450 museums across the country are offering FREE admission!

In the spirit of Smithsonian Museums, who offer free admission everyday, Museum Day Live! is an annual event hosted by Smithsonian magazine in which participating museums across the country open their doors to anyone presenting a Museum Day Ticket … you get in for free!

Check this link  “Find a Museum Page”  to locate a participating museum in your area. I was surprised to see 3 pages returned to me when I checked my state. Once you find a museum on the list you’d like to visit for free, fill out and submit this form on the  “Ticket Information Page” . You will receive an email with instructions on how to download and print your *FREE* ticket.

You won’t be able to get into the museum without your free ticket. One ticket is allowed per household, per address, and one ticket admits two people. If you take more than one person with you to the museum, someone is going to have to pay full price to get in. (The free ticket will not cover parking charges, special events, or special exhibits)

If you’re looking for something to do this Saturday, visit a museum! Museum trips make great family outings. Use this *free* Saturday experience to introduce your kids to history and art – it’s been shown in studies that museums make you smarter and inspire learning! Put on your walking shoes – and don’t forget your ticket!

Learn More:  http://www.smithsonianmag.com/museumday/

Find a Museum Here:  http://www.smithsonianmag.com/museumday/venues/

Get Your Free Ticket For Two Here:  http://www.smithsonianmag.com/museumday/ticket/

 

 

 

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Sep
18

Helpful Hands

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Today’s post is my first guest blogger, a fellow writer I’ve known for many years. A. T. Weaver is the pen name of an elderly woman living in Eastern Kansas, author of 3 books and more than 1 blog.  A. T. Weaver – WriterAs I watch the elderly people in my life struggle with fixed incomes vs. rising expenses, I know all too well how every little bit helps. If you are able, donate to your local Harvester’s and food banks. When the Post Office has their food drive, hang a sack on the mailbox and put a couple of cans or boxes in it. Two cans of beans may not mean much to you, but it can be a meal for someone. I’ll never forget seeing an elderly gentleman ahead of me in the check-out lane, counting out pennies and nickles to buy two cans of pork & beans. He opened one of the cans and ate it while sitting on the curb. Your two cans of beans may keep someone from going hungry that day.

Two hands holding loaf of breadAs a senior citizen living on Social Security, sometimes it’s difficult to make ends meet. I live in a HUD subsidized facility so my rent is not as high as it would be otherwise, however it is still one-third of my income. There are several organizations that help seniors with financial problems.

Where I live we have two organizations that come in every week. One is the New Life Family Church in Kansas City, Kansas. Every Monday, they bring in bread and pastries that would otherwise be thrown out. Now that may not seem like a lot – a free loaf of bread – but if you’ve been to the grocery store lately, you know the cost of bread can be over $2.00 a loaf. Most of the items are dated either ‘today’ or ‘yesterday’ but they are still edible. Of course there are those in my building who complain about the type of bread they bring. Today I went downstairs and there were at least ten or twelve baguettes left. Most of the seniors here don’t like baguettes or French bread. It makes good garlic toast or cheese bread.

Another organization is Village Church. Every Monday they come and pick up our ‘Senior Center Shopping List’. We can choose two canned vegetables, two soups/sauces, one canned meat, one staple (sugar, flour, rice, cake mix, etc.), one dairy, one snacks/chips, one fresh vegetable or fruit, and bread. One week a month they will bring peanut butter, fruit or juice, and personal & household items. i.e. dish soap, laundry soap, hand soap, toothpaste, toilet paper. Now they only bring one roll of toilet paper which doesn’t last a whole month, but that’s a roll we don’t have to buy.

Then on Thursday, they deliver what we’ve asked for. They have a contract with Trader Joes and often bring fresh fruit and vegetables. They also bring bread and pastries from area grocery stores. Again, these items may be dated ‘today’ but they are still edible. Then we fill out a new list and send our bag back to be refilled.

Since my building has the Village Church delivery, we don’t have a Harvesters’ distribution. However, there is a distribution once a month at a location in Olathe where we can go and get fresh fruit and vegetables and again, bread and pastries. If you have a car or someone with whom you can get a ride, it’s a good deal. I usually take one other lady with me. I would take more, but by the time we get a walker and a cart and two boxes of food in the car, there is no more room.  Two hands holding pineapple

One other source of food is the Government Commodities. While the other distributions are for anyone in the building, you must qualify for Commodities. One other problem with them is the fact that so many seniors have problems with what they can eat. For example I am diabetic. There are a lot of foods I can’t eat in the Commodities bags so I quit taking them.

There are many months when these services mean whether or not seniors have a meal on the table. I for one am very grateful for these helpful hands.

 

 Helpful Resources:Feeding America is the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief charityGovernment Emergency Food Assistance Program (Food Commodities)

Harvester’s

Find a local food bank (Feeding America)

Food Stamp & WIC Program Apply Online

Meals on Wheels

Find Free Food

Global Food Banking Network

 

 

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The Bank May Own Your Home, But Don't Let Them InsureA representative from the Sheriff’s office knocked on the front door, clipboard in hand. She was there as a courtesy, to inform the homeowner that first thing the next morning the sheriff would arrive to move everything in the house to the curb. Barb was being evicted, courtesy of “The Bank”. The homeowner knew the eviction was coming, she just didn’t know when. Filing Chapter 13 Bankruptcy six years previous and jumping through the required hoops, court appearances, and red tape paperwork had not saved her home in the end.

Fifteen years ago, starry-eyed Barb was living the American Dream of Home Ownership the day she signed loan papers and bought her first house. She had a good job as an employee of the state where she lived, earning a decent wage, had a retirement account, some money in the bank, and a savings account. Buying a house seemed like the next logical step, and she took it. The payment was certainly cheap enough, just slightly over $550 a month – monthly rent was more than a house payment! It made sense to buy instead of rent!

Things were good for quite a few years, but due to budget cut-backs, Barb lost her job with the state. The economy was starting to slow down and unemployment was rising. There were suddenly a lot of 30 and 40-something women out there, looking for work. When her savings ran out, she cashed in her retirement account to pay the bills. By picking up work here and there, Barb was able to stretch what money she had saved for retirement and pay bills for two years. Before she did hit that area slightly beyond broke, Barb was able to get a new job with a non-profit agency. She was back to work full time.   Things began to look up.

One day Barb got sick. High health insurance deductibles, co-pays, percentages the insurance wouldn’t pay, lost wages from missed work once the sick pay ran out. Everything began to gather into a perfect financial storm that would culminate in losing her home. Barb had no clue what was coming down the track.

During the time Barb was sick, she missed paying the premium on her homeowners policy. She remembered getting a letter from “The Bank” – it was in a stack of mail that was waiting for her when she returned home from a hospital stay. The letter told her that because “The Bank” had a financial interest in her home, and because the insurance policy protecting the dwelling had lapsed, “The Bank” had purchased a policy to cover their interest in the house. Barb had so many things to worry about that day, she breathed a sigh of relief that catching up on past-due insurance premiums wasn’t such a pressing issue anymore. There was still insurance on the house in case it caught fire tomorrow. “The Bank” was also going to be nice, and add the insurance premium to her house payment. Barb put all worry about homeowners insurance out of her mind at that moment.

Barb got sicker. She was in the hospital again, and again. Bills were piling up, and for some reason her monthly mortgage payment had gone from a tad over $550 a month to almost $900. She didn’t understand what the $400 listed each month in the “Miscellaneous” column was for, and repeated calls to “The Bank” didn’t get any answers.

Things were getting bad financially. The utilities were turned off, but Barb was able to get help from a non-profit agency to turn them back on.  She started selling off her belongings in garage sales, but before long there were too many bills, and there was never going to be enough money.

Barb consulted an attorney, who took one look at her financial situation and advised her to file bankruptcy to stop the collection agencies and save her house.  She filed Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, and was set up with a five year repayment plan.  Barb’s plan was to use this breathing room the bankruptcy would give her to catch up on her past-due mortgage and try to get a handle on her health.

Barb needed help with her with income tax filings. She had been so sick she hadn’t filed anything for a few years, and the Bankruptcy Court and the IRS were demanding tax returns. While looking through her paperwork, I realized what that $400 a month tacked onto her mortgage payment was for: it was the premium for the homeowners policy “The Bank” had bought when her policy lapsed. She had been charged this “premium” for at least two years, perhaps three, which had thrown her into a very deep hole. I immediately called my insurance agent and put him in contact with Barb. He was able to write a policy on her home that cost approx. $100 a month. We were able to get “The Bank” to stop charging her for “The Bank” policy – but the damage had been done. That “past-due balance” hole was pretty deep at this point.

Barb got sicker. Barb had major surgery that required a lengthy hospital stay. She was only home from the hospital a few days when she had a heart attack in the middle of the night. The doctors told her it was a miracle she was able to wake up and get help for herself. Back to the hospital she went, and when she came out a few weeks later, she was permanently glued to a portable oxygen canister. Barb lost her job.

It took about six months, but Barb was qualified for and started receiving Social Security Disability. It didn’t make much difference by that time – her Social Security check is $1100 a month, the mortgage was in such arrears due to the added “miscellaneous” expense and simply not being paid, there was no catching up. Barb could maintain, but she could not catch up.

In May of this year, Barb received a letter from “The Bank”, telling her that her home was due to be sold at a foreclosure sale. “The Bank” bought it at that sale and changed the county real estate records to show they were the owner of record.

Barb started looking around for income based housing, and found out there was a three year waiting list for anything
she could afford. She knew she couldn’t stay in the house indefinitely, but what does a person do in a situation like this? They stay where there is a roof over their head. Last week, the Sheriff’s office representative showed up at the front door, clipboard in hand. When she saw Barb was on oxygen, and was able to see that she was under the care of a doctor, she told Barb to show that documentation to the Sheriff when he did arrive with a crew – it might make a difference, it might not.

Barb was able to work with the sheriff to avoid having her entire household moved to the curb. Friends came with a trailer, and within a few days everything she owned was packed and moved into a friends garage and basement. Within the week, Barb was out of her home of 15 years and living with a friend. She is looking for a rental home she can afford. With only $1100 in disability income a month, it isn’t going to be easy.

This is not an isolated case. “The Bank” that Barb paid her mortgage to is a large, national bank. Last fall, my in-laws stopped by my house one day and asked me to take a look at mortgage papers they had received from their bank – which is a small bank in my hometown. This “hometown” bank has a few branches in neighboring villages, but it is not a large, national bank, nor a large bank chain. My in-laws were attempting to refinance their existing mortgage in order to take advantage of a cheaper interest rate. I knew my in-laws paid their own home-owners insurance, and I knew the local agent they did business with. I was surprised to see a line item in the refinance papers for “home owners insurance”, and the cost: $2000 per year. The current insurance policy with the local agent is around $700 per year.

If your finances deteriorate to the point that you cannot pay the insurance premiums on your home, don’t automatically let the bank buy a replacement policy for you.  Talk to your insurance agent and see what can be done to keep the policy you have now.  If you are signing loan papers, pay attention to every line item in the loan disclosure paperwork and the loan papers themselves. If you see something you don’t understand or do have questions about, ASK. The law requires that your lender give you an answer. Ask questions until everything is explained to your satisfaction. It is your money, make sure you understand the cost.

For those of you that are asking the question, “Does the bank make money on those premiums, is that why they are so high?” The answer is, “Yes, you bet they do.”  Writing that policy to cover that loan through an insurance company (working with the bank for that very purpose) nets the bank a tidy commission.

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