Archive for Goals

 

Mr. BudgetPro celebrated his 55th birthday last week. I’m a younger 50-something myself (which is why all you young 20 & 30 year old whippersnappers should listen to me. I’ve been there, done it, done it wrong, know how to do it right)

Retirement saving is front and center in my plans these days, and it’s time we got really serious about evaluating what we have and what we will need. If it turns out we’re short – how do we fix it?

I’ve been self-employed more in the last 30 years than I’ve been an employee. I made a choice many years ago to leave a very good job to work for myself, and I’m wondering if I did the right thing.

I find myself asking questions

• Has being self-employed hurt me when it comes to retirement?
• Would I have been better off to be an employee, banking a 401K with matching contributions and automatic payroll deductions that went straight to savings?
• Would I own more “stuff” if I had relied on a regular paycheck? (stuff = assets)
• Due to my age, has the timing of this recession hurt me more?

It turns out I’m not the only one asking questions

In Dec 2012 an SBA government study was done that examined the retirement savings decisions of small business owners over age 50. Particular attention was paid to how badly the recession might have hurt those retirement savings.

Overall, the study found that small business owners over the age of 50 are significantly less likely than employees to have pension or 401K retirement plans. At the same time, small business owners tend to have significantly greater IRA & Keogh plan savings than employees.

  • Makes sense. People are using the savings vehicles available to them, depending on circumstance.

The study also found that being an employee or being self-employed didn’t really make a difference when it came to how much was saved and how the money was invested.

People, being people, act basically the same when it comes to their retirement money. There was very little difference between the retirement savings habits of a self-employed small business owner and an employee.

  • Think about that one for a minute. We exhibit herd mentality when it comes to our retirement and our money. Wonder if anyone will ever use that knowledge against us?

The report had a few more interesting findings:

The over-50 small business owner had greater financial knowledge than an employee.

  • It’s all those monthly P&L’s, bookkeeping ledgers, and tax returns we self-employed have to immerse ourselves in!

Older small business owners thought about retirement LESS frequently than employees

  •  Could that be because there are no savings to think about? What do your retirement accounts look like? Do you save regularly by paying yourself first?

And, the kicker and take away from the study is, the small business owner has a significantly later expected retirement age than an employee. The small business owner may be LESS likely to retire at all. Small business owners in 2010 reported they would retire, on average, at age 72.6. The expected retirement age of an employee? 68.4.

  • In the end, it’s all about the money. How much thought do you give your retirement savings? Do you make regular contributions to an established account? When you retire, will you be able to continue living in the manner to which you have become accustomed?

 

Small Business Research Summary
"Retirement, Recessions, Older Small Business Owners" 
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Jun
06

Save Money: Gas Mileage Tips That Work

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Full gas gauge

 

Gas Mileage Tips That Will Save You Money

Summer is here, the kids are out of school, and the beach beckons. Whether you’re piloting the minivan around town or heading out on a road trip vacation, the price of gas is going to be an issue. In my village the price of gas has been swinging 20 cents overnight – and usually up. I never know what it’s going to cost me when the car or truck needs a fill up.

Do you know that only about 14-26% of the energy from the gas you put in the gas tank is actually used to move your car down the road? The rest of the energy is used to run the accessories, and is also lost to engine and drive-train inefficiency.

The potential to improve your car’s gas mileage is huge. Follow our proven gas mileage tips, and make the most of your gas dollar.

Drive More Efficiently

Aggressive driving wastes gas. When you’re in traffic, maintain a constant pace. Rapid accelerating and braking lowers your gas mileage by 33% at highway speeds, and by 5% in town. Be safe when you drive – you may save more than gas money.  (Potential Savings Benefit:  5%-33%  Gas Money Savings: $0.18-$1.19 gallon)

Let the Cruise Take Control

Maintaining a steady speed while driving on the highway will save gas. Set your cruise control to take control.  If your car has Overdrive, use it. While in Overdrive the car engine slows down, saving gas and reducing engine wear.

Get Rid of the Weight

Clean out your trunk, removing anything that isn’t absolutely necessary. Carrying around an extra 100 pounds in the trunk can reduce your gas mileage up to 2%. Smaller cars will lose more gas mileage than a large car.

A loaded roof rack can reduce your gas mileage by 5%. Save money by packing items in your trunk when traveling.

 Don’t Speed

Observe the speed limit. Every 5 miles above 50 mph uses an additional $0.25 per gallon.  (Potential Savings Benefit: 7%-14%  Gas Money Savings:  $0.25-$0.51 gallon)

Avoid Excessive Idling

Sitting at idle with the A/C on will use one-quarter to one-half a gallon of gas every hour. If you’re parked, turn off the engine. It’s cheaper to turn the engine off and back on than let it sit at idle.  (Potential Savings Benefit:   $0.01-$0.03 minute with the AC Off.  $0.02-$0.04 a minute with the AC On)

Trip Planning is a Must

Trip Planning, or combining many errands into one trip, saves time and money. Starting your car cold and making a short trip, and doing this several times a week, can use twice as much gas as one longer trip. Your car engine will run more efficiently when warmed up. Planning your trips around town will also reduce the distance you drive, saving you time.

Do You Commute?

If you must commute, drive your most fuel-efficient car. Does your employer allow telecommuting? Working at home even one day a week will result in substantial gas savings. Stagger your work hours, if permitted, to avoid peak rush hour periods.

Take the bus. Substantial savings can be seen when using public transportation.

Become a member of a carpool or ride share program. When you take turns driving in a carpool, you can often save half of your normal gas costs, and save wear and tear on your car.

Find the Cheapest Gas in Your Area

If you’re headed out locally for a fill-up, or driving across the state for a short trip, you’ll want to check gas prices at Gas Buddy.  Plug in a zip code, or city and state, and get a list of gas stations and current gas prices.  Gas Buddy has a phone app, too!  Check Gas Buddy Now

Take Care of Your Car, and Your Car Will Take Care of You

Tune up the car engine. Have the car emissions tested. If your car fails an emissions test, or if you know your car is out of tune, scheduling a tune-up can improve gas mileage by 4%. Have your car checked regularly by a good mechanic. A bad oxygen sensor, for example, can reduce your gas mileage by 40%. Spending a few dollars to replace the part can almost double your gas mileage.  (Potential Savings Benefit:  4%  Gas Money Savings: $0.14 gallon)

Use the Right Motor Oil

Get out your owner’s manual and check and see what the recommended grade of oil is for your car. Using 10W-30 motor oil in an engine designed to use 5W-30 can lower gas mileage 2%. Check the can before you buy – it should say “Energy Conserving” on the APO performance symbol. Energy Conserving motor oil contains friction-reducing additives. It’s a good thing.  (Potential Savings Benefit:  1-2%  Gas Money Savings: $0.04-$0.07 gallon)

Check Your Tire Pressure

Keeping the tires inflated to the proper pressure can increase gas mileage up to 3.3%. Properly inflated tires last longer, and they are safer to drive and ride on.

Note: Do not use the maximum tire pressure printed on the tire sidewall. The proper tire pressure for your car will be found on the sticker in the driver’s side door jamb, or the glove box, and also in the car owner’s manual.  (Potential Savings Benefit: up to 3% Gas Money Savings: up to $0.11 gallon)

Replace the Engine Air Filter

On fuel-injected cars made from the early 1980’s to now, changing the air filter won’t increase gas mileage, but it will give the car more acceleration power. If the car has a carburetor, replacing the air filter will improve both gas mileage and acceleration.

Thinking about buying a new car?

When buying a car, remember this: what kind of car you buy will be the most important gasoline/fuel budget decision you make.

Stop and think about how far you drive to work, and what trips will be mandatory, no matter what the price of gas. The miles per gallon your car gets is a big deal when it comes to your money.

Based on a gas price of 3.61 gallon, and driving 15,000 miles per year, a car that gets 20 MPG will use $903.00 MORE in gas in one year than a car that gets 30 MPG. In 5 years, this amounts to $4,515.00 in extra gas cost! That’s quite a bit of money! How are you funding your retirement accounts? Are you pouring money into your gas tank instead of your IRA?  Do you want to book an expensive family vacation in 3 or 5 years? Your car buying decision can make or break your budget dreams.Gas Gauge showing empty

Think, too, about your carbon foot print (because it matters!) Driving that 20 MPG car instead of the 30 MPG car will also add 20 tons of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere over the vehicle’s lifetime.

Every gallon of gas your car burns puts about 20 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere. The average car emits about 5-8 tons of CO2 each year. CO2 emissions cannot be reduced by pollution control technologies. CO2 emissions can only be reduced by burning less gas or by burning fuel that contains less carbon.

 

If you’re in the market for a new car, or just thinking about it, take a look at this handy tool. You’ll be able to find the most fuel efficient car that will also meet your driving needs: Find and Compare Cars

 

Note: gas savings noted throughout the article are based on a price of 3.61 gallon

Data Sources

Estimates for the effect of speed on MPG are based on results of a current ORNL study (forthcoming).

Information on the impact of air filter condition on fuel economy is based on studies at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL):

Thomas, J., West, B., Huff, S. 2013. Effect of Air Filter Condition on Diesel Vehicle Fuel Economy. SAE Technical Paper 2013-01-0311.

Thomas, J., West, B., Huff, S., and Norman, K. 2012. Effect of Intake Air Filter Condition on Light-Duty Gasoline Vehicles. SAE Technical Paper 2012-01-1717.

Norman, K., Huff, S., and West, B. 2009. Effect of Intake Air Filter Condition on Vehicle Fuel Economy. ORNL/TM-2009/021. Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Estimates for fuel savings from vehicle maintenance, keeping tires properly inflated, and using the recommended grade of motor oil based on Energy and Environmental Analysis, Inc., Owner Related Fuel Economy Improvements, Arlington, Virginia, 2001.

Estimates for fuel savings from sensible driving are based on Energy and Environmental Analysis, Inc., Owner Related Fuel Economy Improvements, Arlington, Virginia, 2001.

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Nov
13

Give Your Money Away – Tax Free!

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The end of the year is coming fast, which makes tax season right around the next corner.  Quite a lot of people receive income tax refunds, so they are in a hurry to file and get that money back! There are bills to pay and things to do!  The kids need shoes! 

There are things you can do now that will make filing your income taxes easier when the time comes.  In the coming months I’ll be writing about different tax topics you should be aware of, and tax saving tips you can use to get back the maximum refund you’re owed! 

White Gift Box with Red Ribbon BowJanie is a friend of mine, and every year her parents gift Janie and her husband Steve a 5 figure check – each.  This year, each of them received $13,000 from her parents – for a total of $26,000 – and that is completely tax free income.  Janie and Steve don’t owe any taxes on the money, and Janie’s parents don’t have to pay any gift taxes for giving their money away.

If your estate is sizable, and you’re trying to minimize estate taxes, you can use the Annual Gift Tax Exclusion to reduce your estate tax liability.  You can give away up to $13,000 tax free this year to any individual, and to as many individuals as you want – and, if you are married filing joint, your spouse can also give $13,000 to the same people.  Tax free!

According to the tax code, any gift is a taxable gift.  Gifts can be property, money, the use of property, or the right to receive income from a property.  According to the tax code, there are exceptions to this “any gift is a taxable gift” rule.  (Of course there are, Congress wouldn’t have it any other way!)

The following gifts are usually not considered taxable:

  • Gifts that are not more than the annual calendar year exclusion (from 2009 through 2012 this has been $13,000 annually for each gift)
  • Tuition or medical bills paid for someone else (you must pay the institution directly, not the person)
  • Gifts to your spouse
  • Gifts to a political organization
  • Gifts to charities

If someone receives a gift that is valued at more than $13,000, taxes are owed on the amount that is above the $13,000 exclusion.

Any gift you receive is not treated as income.  The person giving the gift is responsible for paying the gift tax.

For example:

1.  Mary gave Joe a cash gift of $9,000 during the calendar year.  This gift is not taxable because it is under the $13,000 exclusion.

2.  Jack gave Susan a cash gift of $16,000 during the calendar year to pay for college tuition.  IF Jack had paid this gift directly to the state university Susan attended, the entire $16,000 would be non-taxable due to the education exclusion.  BUT, Jack gave Susan the money personally – so the first $13,000 is not taxable due to the annual exclusion, but the remaining $3,000 is considered a taxable gift.  Jack, as the donor or gift giver, is responsible for paying any gift tax due.

3.  Aunt Joan gave Lisa $20,000 cash to purchase a used car.  The first $13,000 of this gift falls under the yearly exclusion and is not considered taxable, but the remaining $7,000 is considered a taxable gift.  Aunt Joan is responsible for paying any gift tax due.

4.  Pete and Sally are married.  Sally gave a cash gift of $25,000 to her daughter during the calendar year.  Pete gave his son a gift of $15,000.  Neither of the gifts are taxable, both are completely excluded from the the gift tax.

This example messed up your thinking, didn’t it?  If Sally gave her daughter $25,000, then the amount over $13,000, which is $12,000, should be taxable, right?  What about the gift Pete gave his son – that was $15,000, or $2000 over the exclusion limit.  That $2000 is taxable, isn’t it?

Not so fast.

When you are married, and both spouses agree to the gift, Gift Splitting becomes a factor.  When Pete and Sally agreed to split the gifts they made during the year, each gift was split equally between the two of them.  That $25,000 Sally gifted her daughter?  When split, Sally gave $12,500 and Pete gave $12,500 – this is under the exclusion amount of $13,000, and therefore this gift is not taxable.  The same math works with Pete’s son:  his gift was $15,000, but when equally split between Sally and Pete, the gift becomes $7500 from each – well under the $13,000 exclusion and not taxable.

Take a minute and realize how powerful a tool this can be – you can get creative and give gifts that will benefit you as well as the gift receiver.  You can gift your children yearly to the max, and not only build a nest egg for their future, you can do it relatively tax free.

Let’s try one more example:

5.  This year, Sonny decided to give 10 of his grandchildren checks for $13,000 each.  Sonny also paid the college tuition for a nephew, writing a check to the local college for $15,000.  Sonny paid a local hospital $14,000 for medical care his son, Carl, received.  The $14,000 bill was the balance due after Carl’s health insurance paid in full.  Carl was off work for 3 months, recuperating from his injuries.  During this time, Sonny also paid $2500 in health insurance premiums for his son.  Carl’s wife, Connie, took an unpaid leave of absence from her job to care for Carl.  Sonny gave Connie a gift of $25,000 to replace her lost income.  Sonny gave $20,000 to Shari, a good friend of his.  Shari promptly sailed to Hawaii.  Sonny also gave $25,000 to his sister, Ellen.

  • None of the $130,000 gifted to the grandchildren is considered a taxable gift.  The $13,000 exclusion applies in each case.
  • The $15,000 paid for college tuition falls under the education exclusion.  This gift is non-taxable.
  • The $16,500 Sonny paid for Carl’s medical bills and health insurance premiums is non-taxable due to the medical exclusion.  (Sonny paid the hospital and the insurance company directly, which classifies this as medical exclusion.  If Carl would have been paid directly, only $13,000 would have been excluded from tax)
  • The first $13,000 of Connie’s gift is not taxable.  $12,000 remains after applying the exclusion and is considered taxable.
  • $7000 of the gift Sonny gave Shari is taxable.  ($20,000 – $13,000 = $7000)
  • Sonny owes gift tax on $12,000 of the gift he gave Ellen.  ($25,000 – $13,000 = $12,000)
  • Sonny gave away $231,500 in cash gifts this year.  $31,000 of that is subject to gift tax.

Sonny will be required to file a Form 709, US Gift Tax Return, and $6,220.00 in taxes will be assessed on the $31,000 we’ve determined is the taxable amount of all the gifts Sonny gave this year.  But guess what?  Sonny won’t pay a dime in gift tax.

I’ve really confused you now, haven’t I?  (Please don’t bang your head on your desk, and stop pulling your hair – this will eventually make sense) Let me explain about the Unified Credit to Gift Tax.

You see, because Congress writes the tax code, and because Congress is made up of of millionaires and billionaires, they write the tax code to benefit themselves and their friends.  Become familiar with what is in the tax code as it applies to your situation, and use the law to your benefit.

In addition to an Annual Gift Tax Exclusion amount, and in addition to a list of gifts that are not considered taxable, there is a Unified Credit available.  This credit is used to eliminate and/or reduce any gift tax due.  As an added bonus, any Unified Credit not used to eliminate gift tax can be used to eliminate or reduce estate tax.

Back in 1979, the Unified Credit available was capped at $38,000.  In the year 2012, the Unified Credit is $1,772,800.  (The Unified Credit to may increase – it was steady at $330,800 from 2002 through 2010, but then jumped to $1,730,800 in 2011 and increased another $42,000 in 2012)

Remember:  this is a tax credit – as you can see by the example above, $31,000 in gifts generated $6220 in tax – the Unified Credit available is $1,772,800 – and Sonny will use this credit to offset his gift tax due.  Tax credits are applied to tax due, reducing or eliminating tax.  A tax credit “pays” for the tax instead of you – and everyone gets the credit.

Do you understand how powerful gift giving can be when it comes to reducing your estate tax burden?  You can give away your money, not pay any taxes on it when giving it away, reduce your estate, and in the end save major dollars when it comes to any estate tax assessed!  Set up accounts for your children, gift them to the max, and they don’t have to report the gift as income.  It sounds unbelievable, doesn’t it?  See how nice Congress is when it comes to making the law concerning gifts and taxes – and take note that one of those examples above of non-taxable gifts is money given to “political organizations”!

I hope I’ve given you food for thought when it comes to your income, giving cash gifts throughout the year if you can afford it, building wealth for family members, and possible tax strategies when it comes to the tax on those gifts and your estate.

 

There is a spirit in the world of generosity that brings good things to all of us, whoever we may be … A Christmas Carol

Note:  Please consult a qualified tax professional when mapping out your gift giving.  This is a brief overview, and there are more rules when it comes to the definition of a non-taxable gift.  If a husband and wife are gift-splitting, certain tax forms must be filed.  The gifts you give may or may not have have to be reported to the IRS.  When gifting to grandchildren, Generation-skipping Transfer Tax may apply.  Giving away real property may come with tax disadvantages, and may be better left in an estate until death.  Usually, the gift giver is responsible for paying the gift tax, but if he doesn’t, the gift recipient may have to pay the gift tax.  Nest eggs built for children could impact them in a negative way when it comes to qualifying for college financial aid.  Exclusion and credit amounts are subject to change based on changes to the current law.

 

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Nov
12

A Death In The Family

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White Dove in FlightTwo weeks ago, my mother-in-law passed away very unexpectedly.  She left a surviving spouse, four children, seven grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.  She did not leave any life insurance.  She did not have any sort of pre-paid burial plan in place, nor were any funeral arrangements made in advance.

When a death occurs in a family, the living are busy grieving.  On top of the emotional hit that happens, there are many things to do when it comes to a funeral.  We had people coming in from out of town and out of state to stay here for most of the week, others stopping by as they were coming and going.  In addition to shopping for extra groceries, we were also shopping for new clothes to wear to the service.  For almost a week, daily trips were made “home” and back, driving more than an hour each way.  A lot of stress was added to the grief.

Take a minute, right now, to stop and think about your own situation.  What is in store for your loved ones when faced with your demise?  It could happen tomorrow, you know – or six months from now.  Or six years.  Or 60 years.  There is only one thing absolute in life, and that is death.  You never know when it is going to happen – and that’s the rub.  You just don’t know.

When death happens, when your family is grieving, do you want your loved ones to suddenly have to deal with a lot of decisions concerning your death and funeral?  There are medical decisions to be made, legal decisions, financial decisions, plus many more.  Do you want family members arguing about what casket to choose, what music to play, or what pictures should be selected for the video memorial?  Do you want your loved ones to make your funeral arrangements based on what may or may not be in their bank account, or yours?  Do you want to leave your loved ones struggling emotionally and financially over what kind of service they want to give you vs. what they can really afford?

Death is a necessary part of financial planning.  You should treat life insurance as a mandatory expense, as mandatory as your car insurance, or your homeowners policy.  There are situations where life insurance may not be a viable or affordable choice, and there are alternatives.  Pre-paid funeral plans are available through just about every mortician or funeral home.  Buy a plan now and have it in place for the future – it doesn’t matter if you are 26 or 76.  Do it now.

A funeral home here in my village has a pre-paid program that allows you to make all of your funeral arrangements in advance.  You decide what kind of ceremony to have, whether there will be a casket and what color, what kind of vault, and does that vault need a name plate, what kind of flowers, the type of music, what kind of printed funeral programs, how many pall bearers, whether there should be a family car – there is a long list of decisions when it comes to a funeral. Prices are locked in at the time you make the arrangements.  The funeral home will present you with a price quote and a contract.  You can pay in full or set up a payment plan.  Payment plans are normally set up through a third party (usually a bank), who collects the money in trust and forwards it to the funeral home.  Everything is arranged and paid for in advance.  When the time comes, your family will be dealing with the only thing they should have to deal with at your passing – their grief.

Most funeral homes will also work with you if life insurance is pending when death occurs.  When my grandmother passed away twenty years ago, she had all of her funeral arrangements in place, down to her dress.  She had made a partial payment when she set up the arrangements years before, and she had life insurance.  The funeral took place, and a month later when the life insurance paid out, the balance due was paid.  If you do have life insurance that will be used for your funeral, you still need make your own funeral arrangements.  Don’t leave that kind of stress to your family.  It’s going to be all they can do to handle the loss of you.

Can your survivors survive the sudden financial burden of a funeral?  A few years ago, a grandfather died in our family.  We soon found out that his life insurance policy had been cashed in a few years before, and there was no pre-paid funeral plan or funeral arrangements made in advance.  It fell to a few of the grandkids to pay for his funeral.  At the time, we were able to write a check for our portion – but can your family do the same?  Can your family afford to be saddled with a bank or finance company loan and a monthly payment that will be due 30 days after your death and continue for 2 to 5 years?

None of us want to leave our loved ones with these type of circumstances.  Pick up the phone, get quotes on a term life insurance policy, and set that up to automatically pay through your bank account or a credit card.  Check into pre-paid funeral plans, check the history and reputation of the company, make those plans, and pay that bill while you are living.  Do it today, and do it for your family.

You must prepare for the only absolute in life you can count on:  your death.

 

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Every season, all across the country, the weather can cause all kinds of problems.  Blizzards in the Plains, tornadoes in the Midwest, ice storms east and west of the Mississippi – the weather commands respect for the problems it can cause.

Hurricane Sandy, furiously barreling up the Eastern Seaboard this very minute, is a perfect example.  Weathermen are predicting Sandy will merge with a cold front coming from the west and turn into the Storm of the Century.  Sandy has the potential to wreck havoc on some of the most densely populated areas of the country, with power outages predicted to last weeks instead of days.

Are you ready if the power goes out?  Do you have enough food to feed everyone for at least 3 days, in case you can’t get out?  Clean drinking water is very important, and each person needs to have access to at least a gallon a day –  some people will need more.

It’s not too late to put together a basic disaster supplies kit, and if you can’t collect everything you need, collect as much as you can.

BASIC DISASTER SUPPLIES KIT
  • Water – one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days for drinking and sanitation
  • Food – at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to rig shelter
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench and pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger

Once you have gathered the supplies for a basic emergency kit, you may want to consider adding the following:

  • Eye glasses
  • Prescription glasses
  • Infant formula and diapers
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet
  • Cash or traveler’s checks and change
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records;  store in a waterproof, portable container
  • First Aid book for emergency reference
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket(s) for each person. Consider the temperature and decide if you need extra
  • Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes. If the weather is cold, add coats, jackets, hats, and gloves
  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – when diluted 9 parts water to 1 part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. In an emergency, you can use bleach to treat water by adding 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. (Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners)
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Feminine supplies, adult diapers, toilet paper, personal hygiene items
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels, plastic utensils
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles, or other activities for children
Don’t Forget Special Needs

Your family may have unique needs.  Take some time to think about each person in the family and what they require. Do you have a baby or very young child?  Does an elderly parent or grandparent live with you?  Are you responsible for a disabled family member dependent on certain medical equipment, or medications?  Do you have medications that require refrigeration?

A baby will need:

  • Formula
  • Diapers
  • Bottles
  • Powdered milk
  • Medications
  • Moist towelettes
  • Diaper rash ointment

An Senior in the family may need:

  • Denture supplies
  • Contact lenses and supplies
  • Extra eye glasses
Someone Could Get Hurt

In any emergency a family member or you yourself may suffer an injury. If you have these basic first aid supplies you are better prepared to help your loved ones when they are hurt.

Knowing how to treat minor injuries can make a difference in an emergency. You may consider taking a first aid class, but simply having the following things can help you stop bleeding, prevent infection, and assist in cleaning a wound:

  • Two pairs of Latex or other sterile gloves if you are allergic to Latex
  • Sterile dressings to stop bleeding
  • Cleansing agent/wound wash/soap and antibiotic towelettes
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Burn ointment
  • Adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes
  • Eye wash solution to flush the eyes or for use as general wound wash
  • Thermometer
  • Prescription medications you take every day such as insulin, heart medicine and asthma inhalers. If you are storing meds long term in anticipation of an emergency, you should periodically rotate medicines to account for expiration dates
  • Prescribed medical supplies such as glucose and blood pressure monitoring equipment and supplies
  • Aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever
  • Anti-diarrhea medication
  • Antacid
  • Laxative
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Tube of petroleum jelly or other lubricant

 

Emergency Supply Kit Printable Checklist

Track Hurricane Sandy at the National Hurricane Center

Track Hurricane Sandy on your Mobile Device

 

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Oct
11

Emergency! Emergency!

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No Job SignSix months ago, April 6th, on Good Friday (oh, the irony!) – my husband lost the job he had for 13 years. This came completely out of the blue, with no warning. I now know what the bug hitting the zapper in the back yard feels like.

Once the initial shock wore off, we took stock. We had an Emergency Fund, and my husband was owed vacation pay. When I added the two together, we had approx. $25,000 cash. I knew we’d be alright for a few months with the emergency fund, but I also knew we’d have to cut spending to the bone. We didn’t have any credit card debt, nor any car payments, which was a big plus. Those are expenses that can drain finances quickly. We did have a mortgage, insurance, utilities, food, gas – basic and necessary expenses that kept the roof over our heads, the Internet lights on, and food on the table.

I wasn’t overly worried. MrBP is good at his job. I knew the phone would be ringing fairly soon with a job offer, or he’d be able to network a bit and find an opening. This layoff was going to be just a little bump in the road in the overall scheme of things, and we would be fine.

The first thing MrBP did was file for unemployment. Unemployment in this country is not fair to the unemployed, as I’m sure anyone out of work will tell you. MrBP did qualify for the maximum amount of weekly unemployment: $320.00. Wow. I know $320 is better than nothing, but a month of unemployment checks still wouldn’t cover the mortgage. MrBP could also draw unemployment for the maximum number of weeks: 20. Another Wow. Twenty weeks of unemployment equals thirteen years of work history. If he had worked the for company for 30 years, 20 weeks was still the maximum number of weeks he could draw. There is something wrong with that government math!

When a person files for unemployment it takes some time to get that first check. Remember that vacation pay I mentioned? That had to be claimed as income for 3 weeks.  (If what you claim is more than the amount you’re eligible for – you don’t get paid unemployment that week)  At the end of the 3 “vacation” weeks, a waiting week had to be “put in”. This happens to everyone – the first week you are unemployed basically doesn’t count – for anything. Unemployment benefits don’t become available until the second week a person is out of work. Checks don’t come the second week either – the process of being approved for unemployment can take 2-3 weeks, or much longer. Considering the majority of the working population lives paycheck to paycheck, losing a job can be a big deal. All of this waiting for money is going on when people need that money the most!

MrBP was out of work for a month. He never did draw an unemployment check, because the 3 vacation weeks and the 1 waiting week took up that month. We had enough money in the bank that life went on as normal – we just didn’t spend any extra, we didn’t go out to eat, we didn’t go to the movies. Cutting out all unnecessary spending opened my eyes to the kind of money we did spend in some areas. Because there was enough coming in, neither of us had paid much attention to some of the conveniences that were going out. (After all, life shouldn’t be all work and no play, right?)

If we hadn’t had our Emergency Fund, life would have been a completely different story. We would have been in financial trouble fast, as fast as the bills came due. We spend $3000 monthly on house, utilities, insurance, and cell phone payments, but that doesn’t count food, gas for the cars, incidentals, etc.

Emergency Funds are as necessary as homeowners insurance is if you own your home, as necessary as car insurance is if you drive a car. Everyone should have an Emergency Fund. If you don’t have one, you need to start one. Don’t tell me you can’t afford one – you can’t afford NOT to have one!

An Emergency Fund is intended to replace income if you can’t work, but it’s also nice to have when the car needs major repair or the AC unit quits on a 100 degree day in July.

Most financial planners recommend having 3-6 months worth of living expenses saved. But, due to the state of the economy, the average length of time a person is unemployed these days is 9 months (Bureau of Labor Statistics). If you’ve only got a 3 month cushion, what are you going to do the other 6 months when the rent is due, and you’re still looking for work? I know what you’re thinking – you’ve got those credit cards in your billfold, and you’ll fall back on those if you really need to. Let me ask you this: when the credit line is used up, how are you going to repay that debt?

Starting and regularly adding to your Emergency Fund may feel daunting, and may seem like an insurmountable task.   The good news is, you may not need as much as you think. Sit down and make a list of every single bill you pay every month. Go through your bank statement and write down all debit card transactions and what they were for. Check the bank statement for ATM cash withdrawals, and write down what those were for. Get out your credit card statements and add those transactions to the list of money going out for the month. Add all the numbers up.

Now, cut out what isn’t absolutely necessary. The mortgage payment is necessary. $5 at Starbucks twice a week is not. Look closely at bills such as cell phone, cable, gym memberships, newspaper delivery, lawn care – if it came down to it, are these as necessary as food and electricity? No?  Cut those out. Once you figure out the basic living expenses you need to survive, multiple that by 12. Write that number down. Your savings goal is 12 months of basic living expenses in an Emergency Fund.

Work out a savings plan, even if all you can do is save $1 a week, or $25 a month, or the change from your pocket at the end of the day. Put that money in savings and forget it. Cut out one or both of those lattes every week and put that money in savings instead. Treat your Emergency Fund like it’s your water or gas bill, figure out how much you can save regularly, and pay the savings account just like it’s the mortgage company.  Start today.

I was glad we had savings to fall back on. We spent a lot of it, and it went faster than planned because the AC unit did break down on the hottest day of the year, along with a few other things.

During the 5th week of unemployment, the phone rang and MrBP was offered a job – at the opposite end of the state. A 3 hour drive, one way, from the home we’ve lived in for the last 24 years. Whoa.

The new job – and where it was at – brought up a lot of questions: were we going to relocate? Sell our home here? Rent it out? Rent in the new location, or buy? Where would MrBP live for the near future – with family in that area, and if so, for how long? How much was all of this going to cost? There were so many variables and many unknowns six months ago!  A few things didn’t work out, while great truths were learned … stay tuned to find out what happened!

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Oct
04

Free One-on-One Financial Planning Help

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Financial Planning Day What is Financial Planning?

What financial goals would you like to obtain?  What’s on your “Wish List” when it comes to money?

Do you want to buy a home?  Do you own your home, but dream about a vacation home in the mountains or a weekend home at the lake?

Do the kids want to go to Disney World next summer, but you’re not sure you can afford a local pool pass for the season?

Are you able to save today for college for the kids, or have you put that off until tomorrow? Tomorrow is already here, you know.

What about your retirement – how many retirement accounts do you have, and do you regularly fund those to the max?  Is your retirement diversified, or do you have all of your eggs in one basket?  Can you retire without Social Security and live in the manner to which you are now accustomed?  Have you thought about retirement very much, or is that something you’re going to do “tomorrow”?

Financial planning is a must, no matter who you are or what your circumstances are.  What is your financial plan right now?  What strategy do you have in place – right now – that will allow you to retire financially independent?  Do you know where to start to make your financial dreams your reality?  Do you know how to make your dreams your reality?  Are you lost when it comes to implementing changes to your money situation?

We all have money dreams, but most of us aren’t smart enough to know how to make our dreams come true.  We don’t have the time to do the research we need in order to know where to invest, or how, or how much.  We don’t know what goal to tackle first.  We aren’t sure of the quickest way to the goal line.  We’re lost when it comes to the math.  We need help.  During the month of October 2012, personal, one-on-one help is available in many cities across the country.

Financial Planning Days Initiative

During the month of October 2012, “Financial Planning Days Initiative” is taking place.  Four different non-profit organizations**  are bringing together highly qualified, professional, Certified Financial Planners to provide one-on-one counseling sessions to the public.  There will also be classroom style learning sessions held, and free packets of financial literature given away.  All of the work being done by the professionals is on a volunteer basis, and no payment is expected.  Services are free.  You can sit down with a financial planner and ask for personal advice – with no strings attached.  The volunteers will not try to sell you anything, they won’t even give you their business card.  No business will be promoted at all – the professionals are there to answer your questions and help – that’s it.  (If you are a professional, certified financial planner and would like to volunteer, you can find out how here)

Gather your questions about retirement planning, debt, credit issues, budget questions, taxes, college, mortgage loans, investments, estate planning, small business finance, and insurance together, and find out if the Initiative is available where you live:

Click here to find a Financial Planning Day in your area

A list of 2012 events can be found by clicking here

A list of participating states:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Virgina
  • Washington

Can’t go?  You Can Still Get the Same Information Packet Being Handed Out

If there is no Financial Planning Initiative in your state, the free information packet information is still available to you and can be found at the links below.  Take a look at the information available, and give yourself a quick education in the basics of financial planning.  Pick up tips and advice on everything from a college savings plan to long term care insurance.

You Can Organize & Simplify Your Financial Life:  A How To Guide

Saving and Investing:  A Roadmap to Your Financial Security Through Saving and Investing

Savings Fitness:  A Guide to Your Money & Your Financial Future

Smart Saving for College – 529 Plans & Other College Savings Options

Guide to Disability Income Insurance

Guide to Long Term Care Insurance

Consumer Guide to Financial Self-Defense

 

** Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc.®, Financial Planning Association®, the Foundation for Financial Planning, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors

 

 

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A few months ago, my close friend Georgene sent me a link to a blog post and told me the story of how the young site owner had quit her job to blog full time – and was making a LOT of money doing it. Being a writer myself, I was instantly hooked by the story and went to take a look. I left the corporate work force a few years ago to write full time. Fast forward almost two years, and I find myself all over the place instead of on the New York Times Best Seller List, and not nearly as successful as I had planned on being – too many ideas, not enough time in my days.

I took a look at Crystal’s blog “Budgeting In The Fun Stuff” and told myself that I had planned for over two years to get a blog out there on taxes, money, and all things related. If a young woman could do it and make enough money to build a new house, I should be able to do it, too – after all, I didn’t need a new house, I only needed a new car! I moved my “money/taxes site” up a few slots on my business to-do list, resolving to get on the ball and get the blog out there. Sometime tomorrow. Or maybe the next day. Sometime soon.

A few weeks ago, a headline on Crystal’s blog happened to catch my eye:  “How I Make Money eBook is FINALLY LAUNCHED!!!” Since I also write eBooks and I’ve been the eBook launch coordinator for an award winning writer and Grammy winning song writer, I read with interest Crystal’s ebook sales page.

Crystal mentioned that she was looking for someone to volunteer to test out her ebook, follow the steps she had created in building up her blog to replace her income – and see if the process could be duplicated. I sent her an email and very quickly found myself included in a small group of bloggers that will be testing the “BFS Process” and chronicling the journey. I figured what better way to get my blog idea out of my head and onto a page – be responsible to someone else, seek to prove Crystal’s ebook steps were do-able – and just do it. Instead of “sometime soon”, I found myself building a blog NOW!

I’ve got a solid background in small business, taxes, tax prep, bookkeeping, business consulting, and more. Money and finance is an excellent niche to chronicle what my decades long experience has been, and I look forward to talking to you about it. I’ve also got a lot of things going on with myself and my own finances that I’ll be writing about. This old house needs repair, student loan debt needs to be repaid, existing retirement plans need to be liquidated and moved, new retirement accounts set up and funded. My emergency fund was recently depleted over the last few months due to my husband’s job loss – he spent 13 years with the same company and was laid off on Good Friday without a word of warning or inkling the company was making any changes. I need to buy a new car, and soon – can I do it with cash? I haven’t had a car payment for years, and I’d like to keep it that way. The central air unit quit this week. It was repairable, but it was new 22 years ago – can I replace that without resorting to a perennial garage sale? (I think my village might frown on that, in this neighborhood!)

There is a lot to talk about, and I’ll be telling you how I intend to do what needs to be done in my financial world. Will I make the right decisions? Will I do the right things at the right time? I’m looking at a few investment vehicles and am going to write about how I set up those accounts and how they pay off – will I make money or lose money? I used to trade the markets for a living – dare I jump into stock and commodity options or the Forex market again? Subscribe to my RSS feed or follow me on Facebook and find out!

Send me an email or drop a comment and tell me what you’d like to see and hear. Do you have any questions about your taxes? Do you own a small business and don’t understand what is expected of you as an employer? Looking for an accountant or tax professional and need to know what to look for? Let me know, and I’ll be glad to help!

Check back often, as I’ll be posting updates as I follow in Crystal’s footsteps, and I’ll be keeping track publicly of my blog’s stats, traffic, income, and more! Can I do the same thing Crystal did, and make six figures from this blog in a year? Will I be posting this time next year from a private beach? Tune in and find out! Sand checks will be coming regularly!

 

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