Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Be Financially Literate

From an article by Suze Orman . . .

April is financial literacy month. To be honest, as much as I laud the message behind any effort to raise financial know-how, I don't subscribe to the notion that financial literacy needs a special month of attention. Financial literacy needs to be a part of your everyday life. Being financially literate means you have committed to consistently making the right choices day in and day out, for a single purpose: You want to be in control of your life.

Here's a short list of what I think qualifies someone as being financially literate. They are people who . . .

Embrace the importance of delayed gratification. That's what saving for a future goal is all about. Instead of spending a dollar today, you invest or save that dollar for a tomorrow goal, whether it is a down payment for a home, your retirement or a great anniversary vacation that you can pay for without running up credit card debt.

Live within their needs, but below their means. I want every child who wants a college education to get a college education. But that does not mean you should shoulder the burden of expensive college tuition that requires taking on lots of debt or scaling back your retirement savings. An affordable education should always be the goal.

I want each of you who needs a car to have a car. But that does not mean you should aim for the nicest car that you can finance only with a long-term loan. All you need is a car that gets you where you need to go, and it should never be financed with a loan that is longer than three years. That's a sign you're spending well above your needs.

And I want everyone who wants to own a home to have a home. But again, a home that you can easily afford, not one that you stretch into. What is affordable? One that lets you still have money left at the end of the month to save and invest for your future.

Can say no out of love, rather than yes out of fear. There will likely always be people you love who want or need or could just use your financial help. But you are never to give of yourself financially if it erodes your financial security. Don't be fearful that someone may think less of you for saying no to co-signing a loan or raiding your emergency fund to bail them out of a pinch. There is no valor in helping someone if it hurts your security.

Know the best financial adviser is staring at them in the mirror. I have no problem if you work with a financial planner or adviser. But I will never condone not being an active participant, questioner and decider in your major money decisions. Please, make this the year you become an active participant in understanding all of the moving parts of your financial security: investments, insurance, debts, etc.

Know that money does not define them. I'll be the first to insist that money is important. It is incredibly necessary -- for food, for shelter, for clothing. But please listen to me: Your net worth does not determine your self-worth. Embrace that truth and you will have achieved true financial brilliance.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Emergency Binders

Do you have one place where you keep all of your important records/documents handy? If ever you had to make a run for it, would you have all of the important documents you needed to rebuild your life?  Hopefully, it’s in a fireproof location, and in a great organized binder where you can find everything quickly. No?
What is an Family Emergency Binder

The Family Emergency Binder is geared specifically to managing your family in the case of an emergency. While the specific contents will differ as you keep in mind your individual needs, the basic Family Emergency Binder should be concise and ready to grab and go.

Why you need a Family Emergency Binder

Not only is having something handy in your house for day to day use good, but in the event of a quick evacuation for something like a hurricane, flood, fire, tornado, earthquake, etc., you want to have something that is easy to grab that has all of your vital information, documents and notes for your family. You may find that being uprooted by a local emergency means having to prove who you are to get emergency resources. You may need to have business documents and account numbers handy for calling to ask for new credit cards, bank cards, insurance cards, and more.
It does not have to be an elaborate system with all of your life history in it, but simply keeping a few pieces of paper in an emergency backpack or tucked away in a drawer somewhere may simply not be enough to find it when you’re in a panic.
An immediate need emergency binder can be a 1″ binder with all that you would need  if you had to leave in an emergency. Again, keep your family's individual needs in mind.

What Do I Need to Include in My Binder?

Emergency Contacts/Numbers

·         Family & Friends addresses and phone numbers
·         Phone contact trees – if you have a contact tree for schools, church, friends and family, etc., it’s handy to have those numbers here in case you end up using a phone that doesn’t already have them programmed.
·          Kids’ schools and day care centers
·          Important business associates
·         Doctors, Dentists and local hospitals/clinics
·         Business and work numbers and contacts
·         Utilities – even if  you have left home, you need a list of utilities in case you need to contact them for safe return dates, to report a problem or to inquire about your particular location during an emergency. This would include whomever runs your water, electricity, gas and propane.
·         Local non-emergency numbers for police, fire, ambulance and city

Financial information
·         Credit card numbers and phone numbers (plus websites and passwords)
·         Insurance card numbers and phone numbers
·         Bank Cards, accounts and phone numbers (plus websites and passwords)
·         Investments/401K/safety deposit information
·         Last two statements from all of your financial accounts – checking, savings, 401K, investments

Copies of vital documents

·         Driver’s licenses or State Issued ID Cards
·         Social security cards
·         Credit cards (front and back)
·         Military Records
·         Adoption/foster records
·         Naturalization/Immigration documents
·         Church records

Medical Information

·         Advanced Care Directives
·         Medical Power of Attorney
·         Immunization Records
·         Medical history if you have serious illnesses/diseases
·          Insurance information – copies of your cards (front and back)

Legal Documents

·         Power of Attorney for you
·         Power of Attorney for others – if you’ve been given the POA for someone, it is vital to have it with you. While in most cases a copy isn’t a legally binding document, you may gain some leeway having a copy in an emergency.
·         Deed and titles to your home and/or cars
·          Birth certificates (you can order duplicate official documents from your state agencies
·          Wedding licenses
·          Wills – again, original documents are the only ones that are legally binding.
·          Death Certificates – it may be important to keep a death certificate from a recently deceased family member.
·         Passports
·         Car Titles
·         Lease information

Insurance

·         Insurance Policy with local agent information
·         Insurance cards if needed
·         Home inventory – Keep copies of your home inventory if you have lost your home due to a localized emergency and need to go to a field office for your insurance company. While you should always have a copy of this (including on video) that stays with your local insurance agent, keeping a copy for you to hand in during an emergency might get you on your way to recovery money faster.

Other

·         List of vital websites and passwords – whether you run a business online, need to be able to get to an email address used by your family or local network.
·         Your Emergency Plan – you’ve planned everything out with close family and friends. You’ve got a plan on who to call, options of where to meet, call signs for radios, but when you’re in a panic, it may be hard to keep everything straight. Have a plan printed out to refer to.
·         Keys to your vehicles, house and storage spaces, plus keys to locations you’ll be going to in an evacuation if you have a designated spot (key to your parents' house if you go there to ride out the storm.)
·         Evacuation Checklist – your plan of attack for sudden evacuations. Don’t leave trying to remember what to take to your memory, especially if you haven’t drilled the process. In our moments of panic, we tend to lose our focus and our way. Being able to pull out your checklist will allow you to work with purpose and expediency.

·         Maps — Local and regional map with planned escape routes. You can print maps from Google to include in your binder that have shortened routes our of your city, or around your city to other check points. This saves the bulk of a full map which can be kept with your emergency gear. You can duplicate the quick, important info here and laminate it to keep it clean and wrinkle free.

·         Photos – Keep scanned copies of photos on flash drives and keep them in the binder.

·         Cash – Keep cash in several locations, but some cash (coins and small bills) can be kept in a pencil case in your binder.

Keeping My Security Binder Private

There is an inherent risk of creating a binder with all of your personal and financial information. It’s important to keep your binder in a safe and secure location like a fire-proof safe or lock box. While we’ve been taught to keep all of our important documents in a bank safe deposit vault, it may not be easily accessible in a state of emergency. So you’ll have to determine how best to handle these documents for yourself.

Another issue that will come up from the preparedness community is that you’ve got all of this vital information available for anyone to pick up from the Red Cross table because you’ve set it down and turned to pay attention to your toddler for a moment. Then poof. It’s gone. Forever. And now they have your information.

Consider, as an alternative, to do codes for things to remind you of what they are, without actually writing them out fully. Granted, coding the copies of your vital documents may be hard, but you can disguise your phone numbers, accounts and passwords to hint at what it should be instead of being outright. But make sure your spouse knows the code, too.

The risks are great, no matter what you decide to do. But you have to do something. Don’t be so worried about the what-ifs that you don’t do anything.



Monday, January 18, 2016

Seven Major Mistakes In Food Storage

By Vicki Tate

A month or two ago I met a cute little gal who was talking to me about her newly begun food storage. "You know," she began, "I've dreaded doing my storage for years, it seems so blah, but the way national events are going my husband and I decided we couldn't put it off anymore. And do you know, it really hasn't been so hard. We just bought 20 bags of wheat, my husband found a place to get 60 pound cans of honey, and now all we have to do is get a couple of cases of powdered milk. Could you tell me where to get the milk?" After I suggested several distributors, I asked, "Do you know how to cook with your wheat? "Oh," she laughed, "if we ever need it I'll learn how. My kids only like white bread and I don't have a wheat grinder."

She had just made every major mistake in storing food (other than not storing anything at all). But she's not alone; through 14 years of helping people prepare, I found most people's storage starts looking just like hers. So what's wrong with this storage plan? There are seven serious problems that may occur trying to live on these basics:

·         Variety - Most people don't have enough variety in their storage. Ninety five percent of the people I've worked with have only stored the four basic items we mentioned earlier: wheat, milk, honey, and salt. Statistics show most of us won't survive on such a diet for several reasons.

a)    Many people are allergic to wheat and may not be aware of it until they are eating it meal after meal.
b)    Wheat is too harsh for young children. They can tolerate it in small amounts but not as their main staple.
c)    We get tired of eating the same foods over and over and many times prefer to not eat, rather than sample that particular food again. This is called appetite fatigue. Young children and older people are particularly susceptible to it. Store less wheat than is generally suggested and put the difference into a variety of other grains, particularly ones your family likes to eat. Also store a variety of beans. This will add variety of color, texture and flavor. Variety is the key to a successful storage program. It is essential that you store flavorings such as tomato, bouillon, cheese and onion.

Also, include a good supply of the spices you like to cook with. These flavorings and spices allow you to do many creative things with your grains and beans. Without them you are severely limited. One of the best suggestions I can give you is buy a good food storage cookbook, go through it, and see what your family would really eat. Notice the ingredients as you do it. This will help you more than anything else to know what items to store.

·         Extended Staples - Few people get beyond storing the four basic items but it's extremely important that you do so. Never put "all your eggs in one basket." Store dehydrated and/or freeze dried foods as well as home canned and "store bought" canned goods. Make sure you add cooking oil, shortening, baking powder, soda, yeast and powdered eggs. You can't cook even the most basic recipes without these items.

·         Vitamins - Vitamins are important, especially if you have children, since children do not store body reserves of nutrients as adults do. A good quality multi-vitamin and vitamin C are the most vital. Others might be added as your budget permits.

·         Quick and Easy and "Psychological Foods" - Quick and easy foods help you through times when you are psychologically or physically unable to prepare your basic storage items. "No cook" foods such as freeze-dried are wonderful since they require little preparation, MREs (Meal Ready to Eat), such as many preparedness outlets carry, canned goods, etc. are also very good. "Psychological Foods" are the 'goodies' - Jello, pudding, candy, etc. - you should add to your storage.

These may sound frivolous, but through the years I've talked with many people who have lived entirely on their storage for extended periods of time. Nearly all of them say these were the most helpful items in their storage to "normalize" their situations and make it more bearable. These are especially important if you have children.

·         Balance - Time and time again I've seen families buy all of their wheat, then buy all of another item and so on. Don't do that. It's important to keep well-balanced as you build your storage. Buy several items, rather than a large quantity of one item. If something happens and you have to live on your present storage, you'll fare much better having one month supply of a variety of items than a year's supply of two or three items.

·         Containers - Always store your bulk foods in food storage containers. I have seen literally tons and tons of food thrown away because they were left in sacks, where they became highly susceptible to moisture, insects, and rodents. If you are using plastic buckets make sure they are lined with a food grade plastic liner available from companies that carry packaging supplies. Never use trash can liners as these are treated with pesticides. Don't stack them too high. In an earthquake they may topple, the lids pop open, or they may crack. A better container is the #10 tin can which most preparedness companies use when they package their foods.

·         Use Your Storage - In all the years I've worked with preparedness, one of the biggest problems I've seen is people storing food and not knowing what to do with it. It's vital that you and your family become familiar with the things you are storing. You need to know how to prepare these foods. This is not something you want to have to learn under stress. Your family needs to be used to eating these foods.

A stressful period is not a good time to totally change your diet. Get a good food storage cookbook and learn to use these foods!

It's easy to solve the food storage problems once you know what they are. The lady I talked about at the beginning of the article left realizing what she had stored was a good beginning but not enough as she said, "It's better to find out the mistakes I've made now while there's still time to make corrections. This makes a lot more sense."

If you're one who needs to make some adjustments, that is OK. Look at these suggestions and add the things you're needing. It's easy to take basic storage and add the essential items to make it livable, but it needs to be done. If you have stored only the basics, there's very, very little you can do with it. By adding even just a few things it greatly increases your options, and the prospect of your family surviving on it. As I have studied how the pioneers lived and ate, my whole feeling for food storage changed. I realized our "storage" is what most of the world has always lived on. If it's put together the right way we will be returning to good basic foods with a few goodies thrown in.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Cultivating Gratitude

Nine ways to cultivate gratitude:
  1. Notice your day-to-day world from a point of gratitude and be amazed at all the goodness we take for granted.
  2. Keep a gratitude journal. All it requires is noting one or more things you are grateful for on a daily basis. No fancy notebook or computer program required.
  3. If you identify someone or something with a negative trait (the cold conference room), switch it in your mind to a positive trait (the conference room with the great view).
  4. Gratitude requires humility, which the dictionary defines as "modest and respectful". Explore where it fits in your life.
  5. Give at least one compliment daily. It can be to a person, or it can be asking someone to share your appreciation of something else ("I love how quiet it is in the morning, don't you?).
  6. When you find yourself in a bad situation, ask "What can I learn? When I look back on this, without emotion, what will I be grateful for?"
  7. Vow not to complain, criticize or gossip for 10 days. If you slip, rally your willpower and keep going. Notice the amount of energy you were spending on negative thoughts and actions.
  8. Sound genuinely happy to hear from the people who call you on the phone. Whether the caller reacts with surprise or delight, he'll know you value speaking with him.
  9. Become involved in a cause that is important to you. Donate money or time or talent. By joining in, you'll gain greater appreciation for the organization, and it will appreciate you more too.

Always Learning

As life learners, we must be pro-active in seeking out ways to never stop learning. Instead of waiting around for opportunities to teach us the intricacies of life, we can try doing some of the following:

1. Take Online Courses
To further expand your knowledge of your chosen field or know more about subjects not included in your college curriculum, it's a good idea to take online courses. There's a wide range of classes you can enroll in. You can also take refresher courses on topics you have long forgotten. It may be a great way to learn more about a hobby, which wasn't part of what you trained for in college. You may have been an Engineering major, and online courses can finally let you learn more about creative writing.

2. Explore Other Cultures

Spend time traveling outside your comfort zone. It's essential that you have a wider world perspective to be more understanding of people's differences. Meeting people of different nationalities is a great way to widen your horizons as an individual. Try to leave the bounds of your country from time to time to explore what the world has to offer. Traveling doesn't come cheap, but you'll end up gaining experiences that you won't be able to learn or buy anywhere else.

3. Collect Life Skills

In college, we can be so busy learning about our field that we neglect everything else. Life skills sound so basic that you can think you don't need to spend time learning them. Life skills are called such because they are essential in our everyday lives. We don't always have to call the plumber when the sink is broken. We can't call our father every time the roof starts leaking. These skills might seem elementary, but they can help us save money and make us more dependable individuals.

4. Learn From Others' Mistakes

Any sensible person knows that one of the steps of growing up is learning from one's own mistakes. Take all the lessons you've acquired in all your years on earth, and use them as wisdom to discern what you can learn from other people's experiences. Life is really too short to only depend on what we can learn from what we go through. Sometimes, we also need to observe other people's daily lives and take every nugget of wisdom we can get from them.

As humans, we must move forward and learn every lesson we can with an open mind. There's no better way to live than to take and create opportunities and turn them into learning experiences.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Successful Workers: 10 Things The Best Employees Do Differently

from the Huffington Post . . .

Every office has employees who are, simply put, more successful than everyone else. Sometimes we love them, sometimes we hate them, but for the most part, we all hope we can be just like them.
Being successful and productive at your job doesn't only make you happier, but it also helps motivate others around you. And while we may get annoyed at employees who seem to have everything go their way, often their success reflects their characteristics.
"There was a time when success was measured by the title you held at work, the size of your home or the make of your car," says Sheryl Connelly, expert on global consumer trends and futuring for Ford Motor Company in Canada.  "But it seems society has been moving away from these traditional markers of success and making way for much more individual expressions of success."

Connelly says these days it doesn't matter how much money you have in your bank account (which for most part is still the biggest determinant of success), but rather what makes employees proud or happy, connected to others and the feeling of having work life balance.
While some may argue that a work-life balance does not exist, Connelly says this can be measured by work, play and loving what you do on a personal level.

Whether you're a full-time worker, part-time worker, intern or a volunteer at an organization, showing initiative and passion for what you do will help you in the long run — from getting a promotion to landing a full-time job.
So what is it that makes successful people stand out? Why does it seem like everything always goes in their favor? Here are Connelly's 10 rules on how to be more successful at what you do.
They Are Introspective 

Successful employees know how to be introspective. It can be easy to see the strengths and weaknesses of other people you work with, but it's always harder to critique ourselves. If you're having trouble figuring out how you can improve at your workplace, ask a close co-worker or your manager for an honest review.

They Are Open-Minded 

You may sit in a closed-off cubicle all day, but don't let this stop you from meeting and mingling with people in your office. Employees who are successful at what they do are more likely to have work-related and non-work related conversations with people around them.

They Are Proactive 

This may be a given, but people who excel in their workplace know how to get things done. Instead of just doing the day-to-day tasks, they often go above and beyond of what they're asked to do.

They Are Aware Of The Outside World 

Not only do they keep up with local and national trends related to their careers, they're also tapped into global trends. Grab a global trend magazine and do a little bit of reading or research over the weekend.

They're Always On

Ask them a question or their thoughts on an issue at the office and they'll give you an answer right on the spot. Because they're fully invested in their jobs, they know both the pros and cons.

They're Advocates 

Often, people who are successful at the office don't just speak up for themselves, but act as advocates for others as well. Raises, benefits or even parental leaves are all issues they can advise you on.

They Are Genuine 

They understand the importance of keeping their managers and customers happy. When it comes to getting work done, successful people are always honest.

They Are Passionate 

They love what they do. Period. Successful employees wake up every morning loving what they do more and more. These people not only value their jobs, but realize how much they love doing them.

They Are Bold 

Successful employees understand the meaning of being bold at the office. To be bold at your office, try writing down a list of things you could accomplish if failing didn't exist and take a jab at them.

They Know How To Motivate Others 

They may seem like they have everything together and for the most part, they do. Not only are they great at their own jobs but they use their skills to help motivate their fellow colleagues.


Financial Building Blocks

from the US Financial Literacy and Education Commission

Making the most of your money starts with five building blocks for managing and growing your money -- The MyMoney Five. Keep these five principles in mind as you make day-to-day decisions and plan your financial goals.

Earn

The Earn principle is about more than the amount you are paid through work.  This principle is about knowing the fine print and details about your paycheck, including deductions and withholdings.  To put it another way:  In order to make the most of what you earn, it helps to understand your pay and benefits. 

Actions You Can Take

·         Learn about the details of your paycheck, including any deductions.
·         Review the taxes that are withheld, including Social Security and Medicare taxes.
·         Explore and sign up for workplace benefits.
·         Invest in your future – with education and training.

Save and Invest

Saving is a key principle. People who make a habit of saving regularly, even saving small amounts, are well on their way to success.  It’s important to open a bank or credit union account so it will be simple and easy for you to save regularly.   Then, use your savings to plan for life events and to be ready for unplanned or emergency needs.
    
Actions You Can Take

·         Start saving, form a savings habit, and pay yourself first!
·         Open and keep an account at a bank or credit union that meets your needs.
·         Track your savings and investments, and monitor what you own.
·         Plan for short-term and long-term goals.
·         Build up emergency savings for unexpected events.
·         Consult with a qualified professional on investments and other key financial matters.
·         Save for retirement, children’s education and other major items.

Protect

The Protect principle means taking precautions about your financial situation. It stresses the importance of accumulating savings in case of an emergency, and buying insurance. Be vigilant about identity theft, and keep aware of your credit record and the credit score.

Actions You Can Take

·         Keep your financial records in order.
·         Watch out for fraud and scams, and protect your identity.
·         Choose insurance to meet your needs, including health care insurance.

Spend

The fundamental concept of Spend is: make a budget or a plan for using your money wisely. It’s helpful to set short and long-term financial goals and manage your money to meet them. 

Actions You Can Take

·         Live within your means.
·         Be a smart shopper, and compare prices and quality.
·         Track your spending habits and develop a budget or spending plan.
·         Plan for short-term and long-term financial goals.

Borrow

Sometimes it’s necessary to borrow for major purchases like an education , a car, a house, or maybe even to meet unexpected expenses. Your ability to get a loan generally depends on your credit history, and that depends largely on your track record at repaying what you’ve borrowed in the past and paying your bills on time.  So, be careful to keep your credit history strong.

Actions You Can Take

·         Track your borrowing habits.
·         Pay your bills on time.
·         When you need to borrow, be sure to plan, understand and shop around for a loan with a low Annual Percentage Rate (APR).
·         Learn about credit and how to use it effectively.
·         Pay attention to your credit history, as reflected by your credit score and on your credit report. 

For more information, visit mymoney.gov.