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Fractured Finances

April 25th, 2016 by judytalks

Fractured Finances

Female?  Thinking of retiring? Think carefully and get out your calculators.

Financially secure retirement for women is a thing of the past.

One in five older single women lives below the poverty line.

The sad truth is that women simply don’t save enough for retirement, and the financial security they had as wives can quickly disappear.

According to CNBC (2016/03/18) 36% of unmarried women and 29% of married women think they need less than $250,000.00 for retirement. At the same time, the majority of men think they need $500,000.00 for retirement.

There’s a strong disconnect here. Women usually live longer than men, they earn less than men, and, when widowed or divorced, their spendable income is considerably less. How is it they are so naïve about the cost of living?

For women retired or nearing retirement, here are some critical facts to help explain this puzzle.

  • Girls are not taught the purpose and importance of money.
  • Earning, for women isn’t as important as for men.
  • Women don’t always prioritize saving for retirement.
  • When men are promoted, it’s based on their future value to the company. When women are promoted, it’s based on past performance.

How has this worked for women in America?

One in five older single women lives below the poverty line. Most of these women lived middle class lives when they were married. Even though couples have savings and investment plans, when she’s alone the income isn’t sufficient.

The differences in women’s and men’s work records are significant.

  • Women interrupt their careers to care for children or adults who need help.
  • Women’s pay is lower.
  • Women often don’t get a pension.
  • Women save less than men

All of these facts mean a reduction in her retirement finances.

  • Less social security
  • Less money in a 401k
  • A portfolio that is below what she needs

 

By the time she is alone, her options have narrowed. Her only choice may be to start a new job in retirement.

Many women and men are doing just that. A hobby may become a small business, some companies specialize in hiring retirees, and there are affordable franchises especially designed for seniors.

The big issue is that this shouldn’t be happening to women.

  • If she cannot work, she becomes dependent on family members for help.
  • For lack of information, women have made irreversible mistakes regarding Investments, housing, and care options.
  • It’s simply unacceptable for women to be in this situation.

The rising cost of living eats into spendable income, but drawing out money from savings has negative consequences. The result could be something like the obituary that follows:

It is with regret that we inform you of the death of your financial assets.

Your extensive portfolio had been in ill health for quite some time. Though several experts in the field of money management had examined said assets, the diagnosis was unanimous. Terminal.

Your portfolio began life on May first, 1981, with a deposit of $100.00. It grew as a traditional IRA, receiving annual deposits of varying amounts until 2004. No deposits have been made since that year.

The company which held the IRA, No Holds Barred, has deposited the last $100.00 in a cash fund, to be collected by the holder of the IRA, Ms. Jane A Doe.

Of course, no such item would ever be posted, but the results are the same. Only one third of women over 65 are married. That leaves a lot of single older women living on the assets that two people accumulated. The interesting thing is that when a husband survives his wife, he has almost no financial problems.

Where can you go to learn how to save and manage your money?

Many financial websites now have information especially for women. Much of it is not specific as to individual needs and situations. However, it is a start.

Here is a short list to begin your research for a more complete and secure financial retirement.

www.womensmoney.org

www.wife.org

www.cnbc.com

www.fidelity.com

Google keywords to find a variety of websites that address different aspects of the financial situation facing women. Look for articles and educational insights especially for women, subscribe to newsletters, and make note of the top financial issues. Whether you are now retired or thinking about it, the cost of living will not go down. Get your ducks in a row now.

The Facts About Seniors and Fraud

April 8th, 2016 by judytalks

Moving forward following a loss means building a new life. Who you are now may be very different from the person who lost a loved one. The changes taking place prompt learning as a survivor begins to thrive.

Understanding the place and purpose of money is often difficult for older women. This may lead to mistakes in managing your money. The last blog post told the true story of an unsuspecting lady who lost a large sum of money. My research regarding scams and fraud turned up useful information for identifying these crimes.

The following is an article for you to read and save.

The Facts About Seniors And Fraud

Scamming is a billion dollar international business. It targets anyone with a telephone or mailing address. Senior citizens are particularly vulnerable.

There are no solid statistics regarding the number of seniors who are victims of fraud, because many never report it. It’s estimated, however, that one in 20 persons over 65 have been victimized, while only one in 44 ever report it.

Scams are often perpetrated by a phone call or letter. Both appear legitimate. Impressive letterheads and references to titles and offices imply authority. However, there are telltale signs that it’s not for real. Sentence structure is often awkward, with numerous grammatical and spelling errors.

According to the FBI, older citizens are easy to scam because they are too polite and trusting. Con artists easily exploit these traits, drawing people into well-rehearsed pitches, and then steal their nest eggs. Because of their reluctance to hang up or authenticate the letter, the money is gone.

The reasons senior citizens rarely report fraud:

  • Don’t know where or how to report it
  • Concerned that relatives will think them mentally incompetent
  • Too embarrassed to admit it

What can be done? Early detection results in stopping fraud in its tracks. There are two levels of detection and prevention in the US:

  • Federal programs inform and educate.
  • Community programs train employees to spot suspicious activities.

Banks train employees to be on the alert for irregularities when doing business with customers. A suspicious signature, a withdrawal for an unusually high amount, or a transaction that doesn’t fit the profile for this customer may elicit a conversation for clarification. It may save someone from financial disaster.

Communication and money transfer companies, such as Western Union, now train employees to recognize potential fraud. Partnering with law enforcement and individual detection experts can greatly increase awareness of identity theft and other forms of fraud.

Family members need to be aware that their loved ones are aggressively targeted. Thousands of products and services being sold seem legitimate. Many have specific appeal to seniors. Health aids, financial insights, cognitive and memory games and anti-aging products are especially popular, and it’s difficult to spot the scams.

When elderly citizens do report, they usually make poor witnesses because

  • Memory may be impaired.
  • It may be difficult to admit they have been swindled.
  • Weeks or months may have passed before reporting.

A government website that has information on all aspects of fraud, scams and identity theft:

https://fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud/seniors.

Careful reading will help you to become familiar with all the kinds of fraud and how to spot them. Shop wisely, safeguard your nest egg, and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

A Google search turned up a long list of websites for “how to identify and prevent scams.”  These are from a variety of sources.

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0060-10-ways-avoid-fraud

http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/slideshows/10-ways-to-avoid-online-scams

http://lifehacker.com/how-to-identify-and-avoid-the-most-common-telephone-sca-1692068970

http://www.rd.com/advice/saving-money/7-online-scams-and-how-to-avoid-them/

http://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-charges/credit-debit-card-fraud.html

Billions of dollars are stolen every year from people of all ages. Senior Citizens are a prime target.

Don’t take chances with your nest egg. And if you think you’ve been scammed, call the police.

Scams and Other Business Ventures

April 1st, 2016 by judytalks

Scammers target everyone and anyone. Older persons are particularly vulnerable. Many people in this age group live alone, and many are in the stages of bereavement. Their emotional resistance is low, and they generally are not suspicious people. Here is a sad but true story of one woman who believed the documents she received were authentic. Education is the best preventive measure for stopping crimes of this kind. You can find relevant information on the Internet and from banks and other financial institutions.

 

Scams and Other Business Ventures

Will you be next? Can you protect yourself or your loved ones from fraud? Stories like this one happen to millions of people every day.

The first letter was sent out on letterhead, informing her that she was a winner in a promotional draw.  Her prize was $850,000.00. It had been deposited in Bank of America, and had been insured.

The letter appeared to come from the International Gaming Commission Sweepstakes & Lottery in Washington, DC. It stated that she should keep the entire details of the award “strictly from public notice”. In other words: Don’t Tell Anyone. The recipient of this letter was a 79-year-old woman, widowed, with a modest income and some investments.

The second letter appeared to come from the US Department of the Treasury, acknowledging her as a winner, stating the amount of her prize, and informing her that  “… the amount you will have to take care of is $30,000.00 and it will have to be made payable to our chief accountant which that name will be given to you later.” The rest of the letter gave instructions to contact her “representative” whose name and phone number were provided, with a security code she should use.

Despite the impressive letterhead, the documents had numerous mistakes.  There were typos and   poor grammar throughout. For example, the first sentence of the letter from the Gaming Commission  says:  “Congratulations to you as we bring to your notice, the results of the First (3rd) Category draws of International Gaming Commission SWEETSTAKES.” And in paragraph three “… the total prize money of US$ 29,000000.00….”

Many people receiving such correspondence would immediately recognize it as fraud. This particular woman did not. She believed it to be authentic and promptly called her financial planner to pay the alleged taxes. She insisted that she couldn’t tell him why she needed the money.

Needless to say, this was a red flag to him. He was reluctant to make the transaction and asked her to wait until he returned from his vacation a week later.  Somehow, she was able to make the payment herself.

The $30,000.00 is gone. The lady is poorer but wiser. But the scammers probably will never be caught.

Don’t let yourself be the next victim.

Grief and Financial Security

March 25th, 2016 by judytalks

Grief and Financial Security

Bereavement is a period of time in which grieving persons mourn the loss of a loved one. Ideally, the griever begins to rebuild his or her life and move forward. Letting go of that essential person is nearly impossible. Counting all the other losses takes some time.

When someone dies, there is often a change in the financial picture for survivors. A spouse, with or without children, may experience a considerable reduction in resources, especially if the spouse is female.

Recovery is hard enough. Moving on with diminished finances puts her and any dependents at risk.

The following article is one I wrote and posted on LinkedIn. It explains this critical and frightening situation.

 

Do You Know Where The Bones Are Buried?

What happens to the household income when someone dies? For as many as half of all widows, fifty percent of household income may be lost when a spouse dies.

At the same time their expenses only decrease by one-fourth to one-third. What happens to that household income? Where was it coming from and where did it go? Why are women so adversely affected by financial issues?  The fact is, when a man loses his wife, the financial situation is minimally affected.

The problem really starts much earlier. Work patterns of women are, first of all, considerably different from those of men. Full time work for many years isn’t the norm. Women may work part time, take time out for child care and/or caring for parents or other family members, and wages for women continue to lag behind pay for men. By the time they retire, their social security is less, and often there is no pension. Is it any wonder that of the 3.4 million elderly poor in America, 70 percent are women?

For a widow to avoid a serious drop in her circumstances, she needs to know where the bones are buried. This begins with educating women about earning, investing, and spending from a young age.

Older women usually have little knowledge of finances. And many younger women with careers prefer to leave the investment decisions to spouses or professional money managers. Busy with family and job responsibilities, they leave their future up to people who don’t consider the disparities in retirement benefits.

Couples may both retire at the same time, or not. But the wife’s social security benefits are almost always lower than the husband’s. Whatever they may collect when both are alive, if she survives him, she must choose whose benefit she receives – hers or his but not both. If she doesn’t receive a pension, or his doesn’t have survivor benefit checked, her resources may be slim.

Couples can begin to plan for her security while both are still working. Life insurance is a very good option, but many couples are underinsured. Updating to accommodate the rising cost of living is necessary, because if she is the survivor, her expenses will only decrease by one-fourth to one-third. Life insurance is not taxed and may be distributed in several ways.

When you purchase life insurance, make sure you know how it will be distributed – lump sum, quarterly, monthly, or checks you write for a specific amount until it’s gone. You may or may not have a choice.

If the deceased spouse had a long illness, the wife may have taken time off from her career to care for him. Expenses for the illness may also have decreased their investments. By the time she is alone, all of her resources – mental, physical, emotional, and financial are very low.

According to wife.org, one-third of widows are under sixty. Since widows can’t apply for social security until they are sixty, she will have to figure out how to pay the bills from what she earns and what she can take from other sources. If there are children still living at home, the financial problems can be severe.

I was widowed when I was fifty. As an author and educator, my involvement with the grieving community has taught me a great deal about death and the problems of survivors. The plight of widows in America is greater than that of other developed countries. What can we do – what can you do – to change this unacceptable situation, and provide women with the same financial security that men have?

It’s your future. Manage it well.

 

 

Intangible Gifts

November 29th, 2015 by judytalks

Free gifts Are Especially Nice At Christmas

The brain-wracking task of what to get people at Christmas puts everyone in a bad mood.

Something practical or something pretty. What did they get last year? How about a gift card?

Maybe a fantastic dinner and a show.

There’s a way out of this dilemma.

There are some gifts that can be given any time for any reason. They’re free and are generally appreciated by everyone who receives them. They are the intangible gifts, the giving of those things that have no price tag, and can be given anytime.

These gifts are appreciated whenever they are given, but are especially nice to give to someone who is grieving and in deep need of heartfelt and loving consideration.

Holidays aren’t happy, exciting affairs when you’re mourning. There’s no feeling of joy, no urge to celebrate with friends or family. There’s often lingering pain and a sense of isolation that accompanies mourning, especially when all around you are celebrating and you feel sad. It’s just a period of time to get through and move on.

When someone you care about is in bereavement, here are 5 intangible gifts that may be given over and over, any time of the year, and are always joyfully received.

  1. Give your time
  2. Give your energy
  3. Give your ideas
  4. Give your support
  5. Give your love

How can these precious gifts be given?

First, stay close-by. Grievers feel isolated and unsociable. Drop by, phone, email or text regularly, just to say hi.

Be a good listener. Often, well-meaning friends want to give advice. But careful listening gives the other person a chance to say what’s really on their mind.

Extend invitations to gatherings and offer to pick them up.

Run errands together. Trips to the grocery store, library, dry cleaners, pharmacy or bank can include a quick stop for lunch or coffee.

Plan an afternoon for baking, wrapping gifts, or doing some decorating together.

Talk about the person who died. If you knew and miss that person, say so.

Suggest a small memory item for the holiday they celebrate, such as a tree ornament or a donation in the deceased person’s name.

Again, stay close and in touch. All the intangible gifts can be given over and over again.

 

For more tips and ideas about grief at holiday time, or just in general, click on the Articles tab.

Stay well,

Judy

Remembrances

October 24th, 2015 by judytalks

Remembrances

The death of a loved one is accompanied by deep emotional pain, pain that can’t be dismissed. The longing to hold on to that irreplaceable person is profound, and letting go is unthinkable.

Amidst all of the practical things that must be done – notifying people, planning services, going over finances and legal issues – there is a desire to create a remembrance, a legacy that says this person’s life mattered.

A memorial or legacy can be accomplished in different ways, and you can have several if you wish. Often, a legacy is included in the settling of the estate. Honoring the life of the loved one may be done by giving a gift of money to an organization, college or university. Other means include the gift of a special collection, scholarship, garden, or a wing on a building. There may also be a monetary gift that is designated for a specific purpose, such as a charity for medical, educational, or civic projects.

Personal memorials are commonly done by individuals who send a donation to a foundation that researches an illness or disability associated with the deceased. All in all, remembering a person whose life touched yours in a deep and personal way helps the process of letting go.

It’s important for grievers to acknowledge the difficulty of the mourning period. It’s a time to actively assess the relationship that has ended, and determine how you wish to make a part or parts of your life rich and meaningful, despite your loss.

A remembrance may be a place of peace or an active, ongoing celebration that you can return to when you wish to renew your connection to that irreplaceable person.

Healing takes place by remembering, not forgetting.

Judy

 

No Time To Grieve A Survivor’s Guide To Loss And Healing

September 25th, 2015 by judytalks

No Time To Grieve A Survivor’s Guide To Loss And Healing

When a death occurs, it’s likely that the family has little information for solving the problems of grief and loss. The competing factors of emotional pain and practical responsibilities leave little time and energy for grievers to do the hard work of mourning their loss.

Death knocks on every door, often unexpectedly, and those who mourn are usually ill-prepared to cope. Fear, sadness and anxiety often become everyday emotions. Meanwhile, the responsibilities associated with handling an estate stare you in the face.

For those families who have experienced the death of a loved one, it becomes clear that there is certainly a need for death education in our society.

The important question to ask is whether you have in place what you would need to handle these responsibilities.

Legal matters before a death occurs include a do not resuscitate document, a living will, and an individual’s wishes for disposition of the body and final resting place. Handling the estate following the death has numerous considerations. A will, trust, military records, marriage/divorce papers, social security, and dependent children just to start. Finances include investments, pensions, property, cash flow, and taxes.

Those of us who have had such an event in our lives would have benefitted from a guide book that gave pertinent information and support as we struggled to manage every day. Had we known, we might have had paperwork in order, discussions completed, and a clear understanding of the emotional needs of the bereaved.

In our society death education usually comes after the fact, leaving survivors grasping at straws, and undermining the deep need to mourn completely and appropriately.

Resources abound for getting your affairs in order. Estate lawyers, community classes, and the internet all give pertinent information for you to consider. A good choice might be a thorough and relevant book that you can read and keep handy for reference from time to time. One that you can carry in purse or briefcase would be ideal.

The benefits of such an excellent reference book would begin with a comprehensive list of issues associated with bereavement. Deep grief affects every aspect of our being – physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. There is pain, fatigue, confusion, and anger, as well as other feelings and considerations. Where to begin?

For now, let’s start with the first responsibility you face – services. In general, there are reviewals, funerals, memorial services, gatherings of mourners, or a combination of all or a few of these acknowledgements.

If you plan to get your affairs in order, you may wish to start researching the above named services for consideration. Whatever your age or situation, keep a notebook with your ideas and preferences listed. You may also want to confer with clergy, spiritual leaders, or family for insight and suggestions.

In the years I have been writing on this subject, preparation or lack thereof regarding death and loss has been a leading cause of either consternation or peace of mind for those who mourn.

Keep your references and notes in easy reach, knowing that whenever it is needed, you have made important choices.

My website: www.survive-strong.com

Amazon page: www.amazon.com/author/judystrong

I wish you well,

Judy

It’s Your Money Handle It With Care

August 21st, 2015 by judytalks

It’s Your Money Handle It With Care

 

Financial management begins when you earn your first dollar. What you do with it may set a pattern you’ll follow for a lifetime. Whether you save it all, spend it all, or divide it into three parts – save, spend, donate – you’ve made a decision about the place of money in your life.

Most of us learn about money management by making both good and bad decisions, and it usually takes a few years to get it right. Mistakes can be costly, so it makes good sense to start learning about the fundamentals of money management early. Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones whose parents taught you at an early age. But most people reach adulthood with a smattering of information and a history of wishing they’d had more “money sense”.

Developing a results-oriented system for yourself leads to security and a worry-free lifestyle. It’s never too late to take charge of your money. In fact, it’s a good idea to make changes, even little tweaks, whenever it seems something isn’t working for you.

Answering some basic questions will get you started, and the questions can be asked at any time, for a new, fresh approach to your management system.

  1. What place does money play in your life?
  2. How will you pay for basic necessities?
  3. What will you have to live on in retirement?
  4. What is the best plan for someone who is single?
  5. Will there be money to leave to those you love after you’re gone?

A system that works – designed by you – can give you the cash flow you need and the peace of mind that you deserve.

The fundamentals of money management needn’t be complicated. To start with, get paper and pencil and a calculator and jot down your monthly income and your basic expenses. If there’s nothing left over to save each month, see where you can make some changes. I know this may seem impossible, but give it some thought. At various times, I’ve lived: without a car, without TV and/or internet, in a too small place, and without new clothes for two and a half years. Spending more wisely would have prevented some of this.

No one knows what will happen next week. You could win the lottery or lose your shirt.

If you want your money to last as long as you do, and have some left over for your beneficiaries, write a simple budget. Look for resources on money management and get out your calculator.

Places to look: Libraries, book stores, internet, community classes, and financial planners. Don’t make any decisions until you feel comfortable.

While you’re at it, take a look at a couple of my little ebooks.

Getting Your Affairs In Order is about handling an estate. It’s Your Money Take Charge Of It is all about earning, investing, saving, and making it last.

http://www.amazon.com/Judy-Strong/e/B004IGUWE6

Best wishes,

Judy

 

Your Bills Don’t Die When You Do

July 25th, 2015 by judytalks

The last thing a grieving person needs is paper work, but often, that’s what is dropped into their lap. Emotional trauma takes time and energy to process, time to understand what has happened, and energy to begin to manage your pain. But before you can get your bearings, the hard, cold facts of practical matters invade your space, filling up the time, and draining the energy away.

People coping with grief shouldn’t have to think about money, legal issues, and endless responsibilities. But decisions have to be made and immediate problems addressed. In addition to notifying people and planning services, there are documents to locate and handle, finances to assess, and the everyday tasks that don’t go away because someone you love has died. Like bills, home responsibilities, job requirements. And, of course, people in your life who are also grieving and need comfort.

Some folks are just naturally organized. They have everything taken care of, promptly and efficiently. There’s a will or trust, a Do Not Resuscitate, a Living Will that spells out specifics for you, and a list of professional people to contact, with names, phone numbers and email addresses.

Unfortunately, the majority of us just aren’t that organized. Where in the world is that document, financial statement, Last Will and Testament, or even your lawyer’s name? When there is a death, the survivor(s) are in shock and deep emotional pain. Trying to locate papers is a headache. Knowing what to do with them when they are found is also troublesome. All this extra trouble and frustration can be avoided.

Get your affairs in order now. No matter that you are young and think there are years and years before anyone will need it. You can update it periodically. If you are middle-aged, you may have dependents who will be devastated. For older people, it’s time to get something on paper, and have a heart-to-heart talk with family members.

The benefits of putting your affairs in order are these: Relevant, necessary information is right there. Your personal wishes will be clear and respected. Your survivors/beneficiaries will have resources for finalizing the legal and personal matters required.

Give it some thought. They’ll love you for it.

Resources abound on the internet, in libraries, and bookstores.

Information is readily available on my website:  www.survive-strong.com.

My Amazon page has extra resources you may want to check out.  http://www.amazon.com/Judy-Strong/e/B004IGUWE6

As always, I wish you well.

Judy

Book Learnin’

July 13th, 2015 by judytalks

Book Learnin’

To learn how to survive, ask a survivor. That’s pretty much true. Someone who’s been there knows the situation inside and out, has “felt” it, shared the emotions, and understands the process. At least a survivor understands their own experience of it.

When you’re going through a difficult time, finding a book that helps you, really “speaks” to you may take a while. In fact, I’ve found that I glean nuggets of valuable information, and some comfort, from a variety of sources. Books written by individuals who are not survivors, but have extensive knowledge of a subject, may be very beneficial. They may touch on aspects long forgotten by the people who endured deep pain.

When you’re looking through the book shelves in a library or bookstore, or on the Internet, consider choosing a couple of copies for a peek at the content, writing style, and background of the author.

My first book, No Time To Grieve, was written to help solve the practical problems experienced by mourners. When I hear from someone that it has done just that, as I did recently, I am happy.

I have read quite a few books on the subject of loss and bereavement, and from time to time, I pull them out and reread portions that were especially helpful or meaningful. When you or someone you know are in need of a grief survival book, take your time as you browse through the selections.

When I was widowed – nearly 25 year ago, there were very few books available. The shelves have filled up nicely.

Please check out my Resources page on my website and my publications on Amazon. Something might be just what you’re looking for.

Website: www.survive-strong.com

Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/author/judystrong

Judy

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