Showing posts with label Money. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Money. Show all posts

Your to honest - beware of scams!

The truth is honest people believe everyone is as honest as they are and unfortunately that's just not the case.  The internet has opened up to scammers from all over the world.  They prey on honest and good people.  Many of you don't lie and don't expect other's to lie to you.  The truth is that scams always rely on a lie and someone believing that lie.  In order to avoid scams, you'll need to be better at detecting lies.  

You need to be on you toes at all times.  Don't answer the phone from numbers not in your contact list.  Don't replay to emails from people you don't know or follow links in emails that look legitimate.  Here are some common scams you should be aware, they might help you understand the mind set of criminals trying to scam you.

Avoid Social Media Scams

Beware of Customer Service Scams

Avoid these cash payment scams

Watch out for tax scams

Secure your banking and financial logins

Debt Collection Scams

Ignore Blackmail Scams

Electronic Wallets and Digital Payments

Someone Accidentally Sends you Money

<-- Money Home Page

How to get rid of that timeshare

Years ago I learned that my mother in-law bought a timeshare years ago in Daytona Beach.  She kept making the payments but never used it.  Did you inherit or no longer want to own the timeshare you bought years ago, here are a few things to try to liquidate it:

First contact the timeshare company and ask if they have a program to surrender or take the deed back on the timeshare.  Most of the larger companies have a program for taking time shares back.  You may not get any of your money back using these programs, but at least you won't have to keep making the payments for a timeshare you are not longer using.  If you are dealing with a smaller developer or resorts, they may not have a program which means you may need to resort to more aggressive options.

Stop making your payments.  Before you do this you should understand the risks.  It's possible that the timeshare company will report you to the credit bureaus for not making a payment.  They may also bring a law suit against you for the non payments.  In some cases once you stop payments, the timeshare company will let you surrender the deed so that they can resell the timeshare.  This can be much less expensive then for them to go through a foreclosure.

Resell your timeshare to someone else.  Again you probably won't get your money back from the original purchase but at least you will no longer be required to make the yearly payment.  

Don't use a company that "Specializes" in helping you get out of timeshares.  Many of these require you to pay up front and don't deliver results.


<-- Review your homeowner's insurance

<-- Return to Money Home Page for more financial tips


Someone Accidentally Sends you Money

Make sure you monitor your checking, savings and credit card transactions for suspicious activity.  You may be contacted by someone who claims to have accidentally sent you money.  They contact you and ask you to send the money back to them since it was a mistake.  What you don't know is that the money came from a stolen credit card.  You politely send them their money back.  Before you know it the credit card company finally sees the scam transaction and automatically withdrawals the originally deposited money.  Watch out for this scam, if you accidentally receive money in your account just keep it there and don't spend it.  Leave it to the banks to correct the issue.

<-- Ignore Blackmail Scams

<-- Your to honest - beware of scams!

<-- Money Home Page for more information on money scams 


Electronic Wallets and Digital Payments - Keep it safe

Certainly cash works if you are paying in person, but the new digital wallets may be even better.


Digital Wallets

Apple, Google and Samsung all have an app on their smart phones which enable you to make touches payments in many stores.  The apps allow you to add your credit card information where it is securely stored and encrypted.  When you are at the store you can make a contactless purchase by summoning the app.  The apps confirm your ID through their normal fingerprint, facial recognition or password before they finalize the transaction.  You payment information is kept safe and secret.  Best part is you don't need to carry or get your wallet or credit card out in the store.  

Keep it safe by reviewing your credit card statement for all transactions.  You can also turn on credit card charge notifications.

Peer to Peer Payment Apps

These apps are great for transferring money to friends or family.  Some of the more popular and more trustworthy are PayPal, Venmo and Zelle.  You download the app, connect it to your bank account and then connect with people you know.  I can't emphasize that enough.  These apps do not guarantee or back up scam transactions so continue to use your credit card for purchases with other's whom you don't know.  These are great apps to transfer money or to easily split a bill at a restaurant.

Keep it safe by only using the app with people you know.

Bank Electronic Payments

These are the best and most secure way to make payments.  Using your bank you can make utility bill, mortgage and any other type of payment to a company or individual.  These electronic payments are backed by your bank and can be withdrawn if there was a problem or mistake.  Being on the road and traveling a lot, I setup recurring bank payments for some of my bills so I never need to worry about sending the money.   You can also use your checking account number and bank routing number to setup an automatic payment with utility companies or others.  For example I logged into my Detroit Edison online account and added my bank account information so that they automatically pull funds from my checking account when the bill is due.

Keep it safe by only giving your account numbers to companies you trust.  Avoid entering you account information on fake company sites.  Remember don't visit them using links in emails.


<-- Technology Home Page for more tips apps and securing
<-- Money Home Page for more tips on saving money 

Ignore Blackmail Scams

I read a recent stat from Google where they claim to block a 100 million scam emails everyday!  Some of these emails are blackmail scams that you should ignore.

Blackmailer's will claim that they have been

  • monitoring all your emails, or 
  • they've been watching you on your computer web cam, or
  • they have damage secrets they are going to expose, or
  • they have nude pictures of you and your wife, or
  • they may threaten to have you live in shame for the rest of your life, or
  • they have all your passwords that they go off the dark web, or
  • they are watching and monitoring your computer on a daily basis, or
They will also want you to make a payment using a cash payment scheme.  Avoid these cash payment scams.  

So just ignore these requests and delete the email into your spam folder.  Don't ever respond, the scammers will just circulate your email to others.  If you do have incriminating information on you computer that you don't want others to see, delete it or move to a hard drive or computer that's not connected to the internet.

<-- Return to Money Home page for more scamps to avoid

Insurance you should know about

Most people are familiar with auto insurance or home insurance.  Here are some others you should think about adding depending on your life situation.

Liability Umbrella

You can add this insurance for added liability coverage for just about everything in your life.  I have an umbrella policy that adds Two Million Dollars of liability above and beyond my car and home owner's insurance.  This would cover my family should someone sue me for more than my current coverage.  Consider this type of insurance if you have substantial assets.  The insurance costs between $150-$300.  Why do you need it?  Maybe your dog attacks a neighbor.  Someone gets in a car accident after leaving a party at your house.  A friend gets hurt on your boat.

Life Insurance

Should you die, your estate would receive the money to help cover your bills.  This is a lump sum payment to you heirs that can help clear up debt and help them pay your final bills.  If your estate is large, you may or may not need life insurance.  The older you get the more the life insurance costs, so make sure you have the right balance.

Renter's Insurance

Similar to house insurance, renters insurance covers loss if you are renting a house or apartment.  It can also cover living expenses if you are forced to move from your apartments.

Long Term Care

Earlier this year, I learned that I had long term care insurance through my employer.  I decided to continue to play for this coverage into retirement.  Long Term Care insurance helps with the cost of nursing home care, in home care or other types of care.  This type of insurance can help you protect your assets should you need this type of care.  This type of insurance can be expensive and goes up as you age, so you'll need to way the cost / benefit analysis.

Long Term Disability

If you get sick or injured and can't work, long term disability insurance covers covers about 60% of you pay until you are able to return to work or turn 65. If your retired and are living off a pension or social security, this wouldn't apply to you. This is why it ends at age 65 when medicare kicks in. The policy's are based on salary not bonus or commission, so this could make your payment even less.

Talk to you insurance agent to see how he might help answer your questions.

Debt Collection Scams

 Not all debt collections are legitimate.  The first thing you should do is to figure out if you really owe the money.  If you do, you should probably make plans to pay and have you credit cleared.  

Don't remember if you owe the money?

Debt collectors love to prey on older people who may have memory lapses... and maybe others.  They'll try and persuade to you pay debt and to do it quickly, most likely with a fraudulent payment method.   Avoid these cash payment scams.  You may remember that you had an account at the the store, bank, loan company etc., but can't remember your status.  Just because someone knows your name, doesn't mean they really know you debt status at that collector.

They may threaten to sue you.

Are you getting last minute phone calls from someone you've never heard of, threatening to sue you.  Probably a scam.  Legitimate companies don't just decide to sue you first without a significant attempt to contact you otherwise.

Has your debt expired?

Legally most debt is not collectible after a few years.  So if someone is trying to collect money from you, review your state laws to see if the legal time line has lapsed.

Beware of debt inflation.

Some collectors will illegally inflate what you owe.  They may try to tack on a $100-$200 debt collection fee.  They may also try and charge for collection fees.  Beware of inflated charges that you really are not responsible for.

<-- Money Home Page for more information on scams

Save Money With Hundreds of Money Savings Ideas

This is a compilation for some of the ways I've come across to save money.  Some our mine, some are borrowed, hopefully they will start you thinking of other money savings ideas.  I'll continue to add to this list as I come up with more ideas.

Save Money Idea Index

The money savings ideas are arranged by these main topics:
  • Apps
  • Credit Cards
  • Food
  • House
  • Investing
  • Shopping
  • Technology
  • Travel
  • Utilities and Bills

Save Money with Apps

Automate Coupons - Use browser add-ins to automatically find coupons and discount codes for the items your looking at.

Save Money with Credit Cards

Free Airline Travel from you Credit Cards - Sign up and get the bonus miles for travel.  Read my post on How to Fly Anywhere in the World for Free.

Cash Back Deals - Look for the the best cash back deals on cards.  I'm getting 5% back from Amazon, Kohls, Target and from my Bank of America cart on select categories.  Remember make sure there are no annual fees and you pay off the card monthly.

Write Notes on Cards - If you have different cards for different discount categories, write the discount amount right on the credit card.

No Annual Fee - Make sure you find cards that don't have annual fees.

Pay off your balance - Do not carry a balance on your credit cards, make they they are paid off every month.

Save Money on Food

Eat Left Overs - Don't through out that extra food.

Farmers Markets  - Visit these on a Saturday and look for fresh items for lower costs.

Homemade soup - Save you left over chicken or turkey carcass for some great homemade soup.

Vegetable Stock - Collect your veggie scams and simmer in water to make stock for soup.

Save Money in your House

Borrow what you need - Need a saw, tent or extra table and chairs.  Borrow them from a friend or neighbor.  Reach out on social media with your request.

Concentrated Cleaners Save Money - Add the water to the concentrate and save money.  These can be huge savings.

Craigslist  - Buyer beware, meet the seller at a police station or public place.  I've bought and sold many of items on Craigslist.  Again they are way less expensive then new.  For example my $300 IR Sauna.  Just be patient.

Make your own cleaner - 8 oz of water, 2 oz of vinegar and a tablespoon of dish soap will work great on most surfaces.  Make sure you test it first to make sure it doesn't harm the surface.

Estate Sales - Look for household goods on the cheap at estate sales.  Negotiate for a better price.

Facebook Marketplace - Find local items for sale that are more affordable then new

Garage sales - Shop, negotiate and save for household items.  

Free Wood Mulch - Check with you local tree, utility or city.  Sometimes you can find much for free.

Lumber Yards - Check out a lumber yard instead of Home Depot or Lowes.  You may get better lumber for a lower price.

Refurbish you old furniture - Strip the old paint off your patio or wood furniture in your house and repair.  Add some new cushions to make them look like new.

Efficient Lightbulbs - Are you still using incandescent or fluorescent light bulbs?  Switch to LED to save money.

Make your own rags - Old socks and t-shirts make great cleaning rags.  Also see microfiber below.

Reuse microfiber towels - Instead of throw away cleaning products use microfiber towels to save money over cleaning products.  Just wash and reuse.

Sell your Stuff - Have a garage sale or sell you stuff on Facebook or Craigslist to bring in a little extra cash.

Toothbrushes - Save your old ones for cleaning tools

Save Money Investing

Custom Bank Accounts - Create multiple bank accounts to save money for specific purposes.  For example a vacation account or new car account.

Budget - Plan ahead and create a monthly budget you stick with.

Cash Envelope Budget - Create an envelope for each budget category.  Every pay period, put your budgeted amount in each envelop.  When the envelop is empty you don't spend anymore on that category until it's got money in it on your next payday.

Checking Account - Investigate ways to link you checking account to an investment account.

Force yourself to save - Every month commit to savings 10% of your income for retirement.  Best to have this auto withdrawn and moved to a separate retirement investment account.

Fractional Shares in Stock - More companies are making portions of shares available for purchase.  So instant of trying to buy 1 share at $2000 for expensive stocks, they let you buy a percent of a share.  So for example 5% costs you $100 and you still can leverage the gains of that company. 

Mutual Fund Fees - Review your investments and make sure you choose the ones with lower fees.  Savings 1% over time cane be significant.  finer.org can help you review the yearly fees.

Go on a Spending Strike - Make yourself a commitment to not spend money other then for essential purposes for a hole month.

Refinance you home - How are interest rates compared to your current loan?  Be careful of extending your loan or you may never get that house paid off.

Savings Account Balance - Banks no longer pay much interest on savings accounts.  Move you extra cash to an investment account that can be invested in conservative bonds.  You can have your cash in a few days.

Save Money Shopping

Amazon Shipping - If you are prime member opt for the longer shipping to get a little cash back or discount on books.

Used Cars  - Consider Carvana, CarMax or even you local dealership for a used car. 

Comparison Shopping - Always check items and multiple locations online.  I usually compare Amazon and Wal-Mart to others.

Comparison Shop for your drugs - Consider a site like GoodRx.com

Coupons - We all know what they are, look for them and use the to save a significant amount on your grocery bill.


Buy Groceries on Sale - bulk up and adjust you menu accordingly.

Wait to make big purchases on holiday weekends - Wait for the 4th of July, Labor Day or other holiday to make bigger purchases.

Pair Your Clothes - Only buy clothes that work well and match other clothes.  This ensures you'll wear them more and get more use for your money.

Rent a dress (or tux) - Don't buy a dress you'll only wear once, rent the dress for a day.

Price Checking - use free price tracker apps to track cost of items on Amazon and other Sites.

Shop at ethnic food stores - If you like Mexican or Indian food, use specialty stores for those foods and save.  Items are usually cheaper then at a normal grocery store.

Shopping Cart Hold - Leave items in your shopping cart for a few days.  You may receive a coupon enticing you to complete the purchase.

Shopping Cart and Shopping List - Add and Hold to Save Money - Leave items on your digital shopping wish list for a few days to make sure you still want them.   you may receive a coupon enticing you to complete the purchase.

Use a smaller shopping cart - The bigger the cart the more you'll put in it.  Use a smaller cart and be more selective.

Sign up for text coupons - from your favorite stores.  You may get different and better details.

Shopping List Needed Items  - Make shopping list of needed items and wait for them to go on sale before you buy. 

Grocery Shop During the week - Less people means more competitive prices.  Shop midweek for the best deals.

Use Store Credit Cards - Target, Amazon and others give you 5% back of you use their store credit card. Just make sure there are no yearly fees and that you payoff the full balance every month.

Buy Frozen Seafood - It's usually less money then the fresh on ice version at the meat counter

Refrigerate left over red wine - it will last longer and it's better then throwing it away. 

Shop at Costco without a membership - Non members can buy glasses, use the optical center and pharmacy.  If you receive a gift card they also let you in to spend it.

Shop at Sam's Club without a membership

Subscribe and Save - Many retailers offer subscriptions for items you use often.  You can sometimes save 10-15% for you loyalty.  Try Amazon and Target.

Wine you like versus expensive wine because a critic said so - my neighbor considers it a challenge to find an $8 bottle of wine he likes.  The $25 bottles are easy so save some money and look for the $8 bottle.

Warehouse Brand Wine - Buy a bottle and try it, often times it's the same wine as branded.

Wine in a box - Again try it you might like it.
 

Use Technology to Save money

Apple Care Insurance instead of your phone company - Even if you buy your phone from your wireless carrier, the Apple Care insurance can be added through apple. Do the math the Apple solution is less expensive.

Cell phone data plans - Are you paying for the best plan considering your usage.  Call you cellphone company and ask for advice.

Used Cameras - Looking for a DSLR, consider buying a slightly older used model.  You can save hundreds by buying a camera only a couple of years old.  The picture quality will still be phenomenal.

Used Lenses - I buy and sell used lenses all the time.  They hold their value and others have already taken the depreciation hit. 

Don't Rent your Cable Router - You can buy one and save the monthly charges.

Protect your mobile phone - Buy a new case and add a screen protector to save you the cost of a damaged phone.

Smart Plugs - They can help you lower your electrical bill by smartly managing your lights

Save Money on Travel

Airline Travel Card -  If you fly a lot and often check a bag, use one of these cards to get a first bag free. Make sure you understand the year fees.

Compression Bags - Literally squeeze the air out of your luggage and fit more in.

Credit Card Benefits - Often times credit cards offer travel insurance, auto rental insurance and other travel benefits.  Call and ask. 

Foreign Fees - Find a card that doesn't charge international transaction fees

Don't check a bag - Figure out how to consolidate what you back and make a carryon work.  My wife and I went to Italy for 12 days with carryons.

Travel Insurance - Save money on travel insurance, Maybe you already have coverage?

Timeshares, book and unused one - Sometimes owners can't use their time share.  You can often book them at a significant discount.

Buy a used RV - I've owned 5 used trailers and don't ever expect to buy a new one.   Let someone else take the depreciation hit.


Save Money on Utilities and Bills

Auto Insurance - Shop around and talk to you agent every year to see if your situation has changed to help you lower cost.

Rent your Car - Similar to Air B&B, you can sign up for a service that rents your car to others.

Free College Classes - Look online, there are many universities that offer free classes online.  Try edx.org.

House Insurance - Every year call you agent and asked for a better deal.  Every couple of years get competitive quotes.  Review your home owner's insurance to save money.

Negotiate your bills - Never hurts to ask for a discount on anything your purchase, ask if they have any open coupons available, ask if they'll throw in and extra item.

Nest or other smart thermostat - They make you smarter at managing your house temperature.

Pay the yearly subscription up front  - Many apps, magazines and other monthly services let you may for a year in advance to save money.

Share a Streaming Service - Until they stop you, share streaming service like Netflix, Disney + or Hulu with family or a friend and split the cost.

Cancel Your Cable TV - Change to over the air TV.  You can use $10 rabbit ears and get HDTV.  



<-- Return to Money Page for more Money Savings Ideas

Review your homeowner's insurance

 Make sure you go through and annual review of your home owner's insurance.  I also like to get three other quotes at the same time to make sure that I'm getting a competitive price for my insurance.  Here are some circumstances that may affect the cost of your insurance.

You Inherited Jewelry, Coins or other Valuable Items

Over the past year did you inherit anything of value that should be ensured.  Most home owner policies have limits on what's covered so you may need to add a rider for the additional items.

Did you make renovations or build and addition to you house

The main cost of your home owner's insurance is the cost to replace your house should you suffer a catastrophic loss.  Make sure that new addition is covered.

Consider a liability umbrella rider added to your homeowners

An additional liability umbrella policy can be added to your homeowners to help you cover liability on other real estate, cars, boats, etc.  Get the added coverage you might need.

Building code coverage

Sometimes building codes change and are updated to help fortify houses for natural disasters.  Think about what you should do to bring you house up to code.

Flood insurance

Most home owner policy's don't cover flood insurance.  Depending on where you live, you may want to consider a flood insurance, hurricane insurance or tornado insurance.

Downsizing to an Apartment or Condominium

Make sure you adjust you insurance for any downsizing in your life.

Talk to your insurance agent!

Best to talk with an insurance agent to make sure you are adequately insured based on your current circumstances.



Return to Money page for more financial tips and advice



Secure your banking and financial logins

With COVID more and more of us have turned to using online tools to handle our banking and financial tasks. These are some tips you should follow:

HTTPS and Multi-factor Authentication

Whenever you are using a web browser like Safari, Chrome, Explorer or Fire fox, make sure the website you are accessing use using a secure connection. The website should be Https not just Http, the “s” stands for secure. You should also setup multi-factor identification. This is a second code sent to you smart phone or using one of the authenticator apps. This adds a second layer of protection for you accounts.

Fraud Notification and Account Alerts

Your financial institutions that issue credit and bank cards should offer the opportunity to turn on notifications should your card be used. For example I turn on fraud notification every time my credit card is used. It’s a simple text that notifies me of the purchase. You can also usually setup balance notifications when your funds are running low.

Use A Strong Password for Logging In

You should do this for all your accounts, but especially for your banking and financial accounts. Make sure it’s long and uses special characters.

--> Avoid these cash payment scams

<-- Beware of Customer Service Scams

<-- Watch out for tax scams

Return to Money Home Page

Watch out for tax scams

  It's that time of the year again, the scammers want you tax refund so here's a few tips to help you recognize scammers.

Best advice I can give you is to just ignore them.  If you don't recognize the number or the person just don't answer the phone, don't return the text and don't respond to the email.  

Check the email, if the sender has a @gmail.com or @yahoo.com, they are probably not legit.  Most normal companies will have their business email like @apple.com.

Remember the IRS or Government will never send you a text but scammers will.  So if you get a text that like Reply Immediately to get your Tax Refund or $1200 Stimulus check.   It's not legit and from a scammer so be ware.  The link in this text will take you to a fake website where they'll ask for your personal information, social security number, maybe bank accounts, etc.  This is called phishing.

If this happens to you, report the website to phishing@IRS.gov.

1099G unemployment fraud.  In 2020 there was an unemployment scam.  Crooks were using peoples social security numbers to collect unemployment.  At the end of the year, you might receive a 1099G for the unemployment benefits paid on behalf of your social security number, but yet you didn't receive any unemployment.  Make sure you report this to your state unemployment office and get a corrected 1099G so you don't have to pay taxes on the unemployment that you didn't receive.

Hire only trusted tax preparers.  Make sure you hire someone you know or a legitimate tax prep service.  Looking on Facebook or Craigslist is a bad idea.  You may encounter a scammer who takes more of your refund then they should or charges fees much higher than you should pay.

IRS Impersonations. It never ends, scammers will continue to try and impersonal and pretend they are the IRS.  Remember the IRS will never initiate a conversation with you without first sending you a written notice in the mail.  Don't reply to texts, emails or phone calls unless you know it's legitimate.  If you receive a letter from the IRS, confirm the phone number is correct.  Remember scammers have access to many resources today that give them your personal information, this helps them seem credible even though they are not.

--> Secure your banking and financial logins

--> Debt Collection Scams

<-- Avoid these cash payment scams

<-- Your to honest - beware of scams!

<-- Money Page for more information on scams.




Avoid these cash payment scams

My Mom is forever asking me questions about payment scams she reads about so I thought I would share a few of the latest cash scams you should be cautious.  If someone calls or text you looking for money with one of these, I'd be concerned and take some extra time to make sure it's a legitimate request.  Remember the IRS or other government agency would never do any of these.

There are many Money Transfer Apps like Zella, Venmo, Apple and even Pay Pal that enable you to easily transfer cash between your account and someone else's.  The intent is for you to easily transfer money to someone you know, not a stranger.  I frequently use Venmo to send and receive money with my kids.  I've also used it for some of my photography clients.  If a stranger or scammer contacts you and wants you to transfer money using a money transfer app, I'd avoid it.  Typically these services offer now protection and once you transfer you money, it's gone.  So stick to money transfers this way with people you know.

Wire Transfers have been around forever.  Back in the day Western Union was used to transfer money anywhere in the world.  Guess what, scammers love wire transfers.  Again once the money leaves your hands and is wired with MoneyGram or Western Unition, there is very little recourse to get it back.  So if you one a sweep stakes or someone asks for wired funds, you should probably avoid the temptation.

Another popular tool is Store Gift Cards.  A scammer will ask you to go purchase $100's in Store Gift Card from say Home Depot or Target and then call them back with the card number and PIN.  Again your money is now gone with now way to retrieve it.  So be leery of text or phone calls from what may seem like a legitimate organization if they are looking for card payments.

All the rage these days, Cryptocurrency.  Again used by scammers because it's untraceable.  Once you buy and transfer Bitcoin or other cryptocurrency and transfer it to the scammer, it's gone forever.

When shopping online or stick with credit cards, they all have fraud prevention and will work to get your funds back into your account.  For payments to legitimate government agencies or other payments, also consider using a check.  Again there are protected ways to get these funds back should you have made a mistake.

--> Watch out for tax scams

<-- Beware of Customer Service Scams

<-- Your to honest - beware of scams!

<-- Money Page for more information on scams.



Checklist for Yearly Tax Preparation

 When it comes to tax time, are you prepared?  Make a file folder to track the items you'll need for next years taxes.  

Here's a check list for you and your tax preparer.  Put this list on the inside cover and check-off the items as you add them to the folder.

Personal Information

  • Social Security or Individual Tax ID Number
  • Bank account name, routing number and account number for your refunds
  • Property tax payments
  • Any estimated tax payments made

Income

  • W2 Forms
  • State tax refunds from last year
  • Social Security Benefits
  • 1099 forms
  • Rental Property Income
  • Unemployment Income
  • Pension Income
  • Investment Income
  • Retirement Income
  • Other income like Lottery or Casino winnings

Expenses and Deductions

  • Do you have any grand child care expenses
  • Educational Expenses
  • Medical Insurance including health care insurance and payments
  • Itemized Medical Receipts
  • Job and vehicle expenses related to any job you may have.
  • Mortgage Interest
  • Real Estate Taxes
  • Retirement Plan Contributions
  • Any Charitable Contributions

Other Tax Information

  • Are you self employed?
  • Do you have other business interests?
  • Do you have any home office expenses


Retirement - Are You Surprised!

Maybe you were thinking about retirement, maybe you made the decision, maybe through unforeseen circumstances retirement was forced upon you. In any case many Americans have to face retirement earlier then they had planned. Here are some steps you can take to help with your financials.

Cut Your Spending

As soon as you can cut your spending on everything and anything. Start now and cut as deep as you can, remember you can always add services and nice to haves back once you’ve figured you steady state income stream.

  • Can you trade or sell your car for a lower cost more economical model?
  • Cancel any monthly subscription services like Netflix, Cable TV, Magazines, etc?
  • Can you lower your cell phone costs and or data plan?

Do everything you can to lower your monthly out of pocket costs.

Lower Medical, Dental and Other Health Care Costs

What can you do to find the lowest medical cost between now and when you turn 65 where Medicare kicks in?

  • Visit healthcare.gov for medical plans that may be more affordable.
  • If you are employed or were recently employed you could check out keeping your current Medical plan. This is known as COBRA. Check with your employer.
  • If you are over 65, enroll in Medicare.

Do You Have a Retirement Savings Account (RSA) 401k

If you are financially strapped, you can tap into this for funds until social security and/or your pension kicks in, but you should do this as a last resort. For me I’ve been fortunate to save my 401k and plan on deferring my pension until I’m 62 years old, when I get a slight bump in pension plan. I’m also hoping to leverage my pension and 401k until I’m 70 or older before I start taking social security. Remember you social security benefit continues to grow every year until age 70.

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Lump Sum or Pension Payments - Which to Choose

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I’m retiring soon and trying to decide whether or not I should take one time lump sum payment or a monthly pension payments until I die.  As with some of you, if I were to die first, my wife would continue to receive part of my pension until she dies. This is a tuff decision and I’m not sure which way to go, here’s what I’m thinking about. 

The big question of course is not knowing how long we are going to live. If you take the lump sum, how much money will you make by investing wisely versus the continued stream of pension payments.

About 20% of the people taking the lump sum, have it gone in five years.  30% of retires with lump sums also worry about running out of money. On the other side you know employers offer lump sum payments for a reason, the lump sum payments help their bottom line not yours.

Pros for Taking the Lump Sum Cash

  • Your Company’s has poor financials and might not back the pension
  • Maybe you have doubts about the management team
  • Are you and investor or work with a credible and trustworthy financial adviser
  • Maybe you don’t really need the money and have retirement covered. Lump sum can give you some fun money to play with

Pros for Taking the Pension

  • Your married and your pension plan offers survivor benefits
  • If you like to buy things and spend money… you can only spend what you have!
  • Significantly less anxiety

I’m going to keep adding to this list so send me your ideas.  My first thought is stay with the pension, but I still have a few weeks to decide.

Beware of Customer Service Scams

Be cautious if you are reaching out to customer service. Need to get a hold of Amazon, Google, Microsoft. We all have a tendency to to a quick Google Search or Siri Search. At the top of the search results screen is a toll free number to call. The problem is that the number is in a paid advertisement where the scammer pays to have their ads listed at the top of the search results. You don’t look carefully and quickly dial the number where you are quickly connected to the fake scam company. They are happy to help you and ask for your credit card number and social security number to verify your account. You’ve just been scammed!

Tips to Prevent Customer Service Scams

  • Go directly to that companies website and look for their contact information.
  • Look for the phone numbers on your paper statements
  • Don’t use Alexa, Siri or OK Google to find customer services numbers or information for you.
  • Check the URL for misspellings or text that just doesn’t look right.
  • Don’t agree to pay for any service that should be free.
  • Don’t EVER give anyone remote access to your computer
  • Reach out to one of your tech savvy relatives to ask any questions if you have suspicion

Some Examples of Customer Service Scams

  • You search for Amazon Customer Service. The link you follow connects to someone who asks you to buy gift cards and give them the numbers to pay for service
  • You search to buy and airline ticket on United Airlines. Follow the wrong link and they take you to a site where you buy a ticket using gift cards.
  • You search for help to fix your iPhone, don’t check carefully and are now dealing with a fraudulent repair center who asks for your credit card information before they start helping you.

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Avoid Social Media Scams

Always beware of social media scams. While it’s fun to connect with friends and family, you need to beware of your online presence on social media. Facebook, Instagram, Next Door, Google Hangouts, Words with Friends and more, always keep your guard up. Here are a few social media scamps you should be wary of.

The Gift Card Scam

The gift card scam goes like this. You want to buy something, lets say a puppy and you find a great deal on one of the social media sites. Cute little puppy for a great value. You reach out and the seller asks you pay with gift cards from various stores. They come up with a great excuse on why they need the gift cards. You send them the gift card numbers and they’ll ship you the cute puppy. Your monies gone and guess what, the do never shows up.

The Celebrity Scam

The celebrity scam goes like this. A “Celebrity” reaches out to you and asks for a donation to their favorite charity. They do this through their social media sites. The issue is it’s probably not them and someone has created a spoof site making you believe it’s the celebrity. Before you know it, you’ve made a donation to a celebrity scam. Saw a stat that over 8,000 Americans lost $10,000 in scams in one year resulting in millions of dollars per year in scams.

New Job - First Month’s Pay in Advance

Your on Google Hangouts or Facebook and mention that you need a new job. Someone reaches out to you with a great new position. You talk for a while and they give you and interview. The best part of the deal is they offer to pay you a weeks advance that goes with the new job offer. All they ask is for you to send them a couple hundred dollars to handle the job processing fees and we’ll be good to go. Guess what, your out the money, their check will bounce and you never hear from the company again. Anyone offering a legitimate job will not ask you for money in advance. You’ll have to work first, for which you will receive a pay check.

Word with Friends… Not Really a Friend

My mom loves to play Word with Friends, she plays every night. If you didn’t know it, strangers can reach out to you and ask for a game. The same stranger reaches out to her time after time and before you know it she has a new “friend”. They continue to play and talk about their family. All of a sudden they have a family emergency, maybe they allege their grand child needs an emergency surgery, they ask Mom for $1,000 to help them out. She sends it, just helping a friend. Happens every day of every year. Don’t let this happen to you, don’t send money to people you don’t know!

NextDoor Social Scam

Great app to learn about what’s going on in your neighborhood. Picnics, parties all kinds of run with friends. Contractors also lurk on NextDoor looking for new business victims. They contact you them. They quote your job and ask for a deposit never to be heard from again. Beware!

Facebook Friend Requests

Really simple, only accept friend requests from people you know. If you friend someone you don’t know, they gain access to your profile. Once they know you and who you are, it makes it easier for them to spoof your ID and who your are. Certainly don’t friend a second friend request, could be someone you know who had their account stolen by a Facebook scammer.

More Advice with Online Scams

Online scams are prevalent and fraudsters will do anything to get into your accounts. Here are a few ways you can stop them:

  • Don’t click on pop-ups or attachments if you don’t know who they’re from
  • Never share your password with someone on the phone
  • Don’t allow anyone to control your computer remotely

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