Labor Day 2020: Tips for Americans Looking for Work

August 27, 2020

In 2020, Labor Day is celebrated on Monday, September 7. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, this holiday is a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of the United States. The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated in 1882 in New York City. Three years later, the holiday had spread to other industrial centers of the country and began to represent the end of summer and the start of the back-to-school season. Although Labor Day is typically celebrated in cities and towns across the nation with parades, picnics, barbecues, fireworks displays, and other public gatherings, the manner and extent of America’s annual celebration to honor the American worker will be different this year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A three-day holiday weekend this September may not signal a time to publicly celebrate for many Americans affected by high unemployment, shifting industry hiring patterns, and fundamental changes to the way they work and play amid the COVID-19 crisis. If you are unemployed, underemployed, or just ready for a change in your work circumstances, the following tips may increase your chances of finding a job under the current challenging labor market.

Review your resume and online professional presence. If it’s been a while since you’ve applied for a job, evaluate your resume to make sure it’s error-free, fully updated, and customized for each job for which you submit an application. Post your resume on your own website if you have one, and on online job boards or sites specific to your target industry. Consider adding work samples, links to any published work, or a video introduction to your resume. Use keywords that will yield results in search engine queries conducted by prospective employers. Keep your references informed about job leads and scheduled interviews so they will be ready to respond to requests for recommendations about your job performance and history.

Look in the right places for opportunities. Current hiring trends may include positions for freelancers and remote workers for which you may be eligible. You also should be willing to consider new industries where job opportunities have been stronger, such as technology and health care. Contact people in your network who are employed in favorable hiring industries and explain your interest and availability.

As companies move to remote work to fight the coronavirus pandemic and an increasing number of workers are being laid off or furloughed, you might be wondering if you should continue to send out resumes or just assume that no one is hiring for the foreseeable future. It’s true that economists are predicting a recession, but career experts advise to keep networking and applying, provided you change your approach to acknowledge these are uncertain times.

Join professional groups on Facebook and LinkedIn that offer a wide range of options with groups for a variety of professions. Make yourself visible to online groups by introducing topics or adding to conversations that allow you to demonstrate your expertise.

Figure out your strengths. Know your skills, your worth, and your passions – these are the things that help differentiate you, and allow you to thrive in the areas in which you’re most competitive. To address remote working conditions, emphasize your comfort and expertise with technology, including remote collaboration and communication programs you’ve used and endorse. A good job search is targeted in many ways, including knowing where you’ll be appreciated and in demand. Analyze job descriptions by listing each required skill and experience. Then consider whether you have that exact skill, if you have the skill but haven’t used it in a few years, or if you’re lacking the skill entirely. Apply that information to determine what you need to improve on to make yourself a better candidate when the job market picks up again.

Refresh your skills. Look into taking free or low-cost courses online or obtain certifications in a new skill that can complement your existing job path or lead to a new career. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many online learning options provide free or lower-priced educational programs and courses on professional development, leadership, and communication skills that allow you to continue working in another capacity while you complete your studies.

Check out free online course including MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), EdX classes with courses from MIT and Harvard, and free Microsoft training and tutorials. In addition to providing job announcements and company descriptions, TheMuse.com links to online courses “that’ll boost your skills and get you ahead.” Learn to use remote communication and collaboration programs like Slack, Zoom, Skype, the G-Suite, and Dropbox that can be learned and applied quickly.

Rely on others to help in your job search. In addition to a source for new jobs, your network also can be the best place to advertise your job skills and career ambitions, seek help securing loans or financing to start a new business, assistance in applying or being admitted to a new career training or degree program, or to obtain introductions to others who might be able to help in a job search. Check out your high school or university’s alumni network to learn where your connections are working. When you reach out, ask for a short informational interview to learn more about their workplace, and during the conversation, ask whether there’s anyone else you could speak with at the company. Repeat this process until you’ve spoken to someone in the department you think is the best fit.

During an economic slowdown, it’s important to focus on what you can control—by improving your skills and reaching out to your network, you can lay the groundwork now so that when the crisis is over you have opened doors and rekindled relationships.

Project yourself on Labor Day 2021. Pending the development and implementation of a coronavirus vaccine, the COVID-19 pandemic may be over within the next year. Analyze your need to overhaul your career or to take gig jobs or other freelance work if you’ve been laid off and are facing overwhelming debt and unemployment for an unforeseeable time. If possible, don’t make dramatic job changes or career decisions that can impact you for years to come. If you can determine where you want to be when COVID-19 is over, you can successfully direct your job search. Although companies might not be hiring in 2020, they will keep you in mind if you continue to build relationships and share your ideas with them until they do start hiring.

At InsureYouKnow.org, you can store your current and previous resumes, legal and contractual agreements pertaining to your employment, and work-related health insurance policies, especially if conditions and coverages have changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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From Home to Office in Record Time

July 13, 2020

From Home to Office in Record Time

In March 2020, out of concern about the coronavirus pandemic, many U.S. workers relocated from office buildings, campuses, and other locations to home offices—or more likely, to living room sofas, dining room tables, kitchen counters, and corner nooks in bedrooms. According to Gallup Panel data, nearly seven in 10 employees are still working remotely all or part of the time.

You may have hit the ground running to set up your home office months ago by securing the basics—a computer, a desk or table, a chair, WiFi or direct Internet connection, ability to access work applications, and sufficient lighting to work on your computer and to participate in live online videoconferences. If you are faced with continuing to work out of your home office for an indefinite period of time, taking time now to do an inventory of your home office environment may help you be more productive, comfortable, and focused. 

Be More Productive

Make a realistic schedule so you can complete your top priorities during your peak times of productivity. Try to adhere to your regular work schedule by starting and ending your work day about the same time you would if you were physically at work, take your lunch and snack breaks at the same time each day, and consistently schedule and attend online meetings with your colleagues.  

If you’ve experienced intermittent slowdowns or weak or spotty WiFi coverage in certain parts of your home, this could be a good time to upgrade. A new router could be especially helpful to handle the increased demands that come with multiple users in one household. Consumer Reports lets you know “How to Get a Stronger WiFi Signal” and offers tips for WiFi security

If you are employed by a company with IT staff, consult with them to review your computer, printer, and WiFi setup as well as antivirus and anti-malware software to reach your maximum productivity. 

You may have used videoconferencing apps to meet with clients and coworkers as well as family and friends before you started working at home during the pandemic. But, you may not have thought a lot about options, backgrounds, and presentation tips that can enhance your online participation that are provided in a Consumer Reports list of free videoconferencing apps.

If you are still part of a work team, let your colleagues know the best way to connect with you (for example, cell phone, email, text message, FaceTime, or videoconference) and the best times to reach you. 

Update your team frequently about the progress of shared work, project deadlines, and other important tasks. Consider using free document creation apps like Google Docs or Microsoft’s Office.com and project management software to keep everyone up-to-date. 

Take breaks throughout the day to increase your productivity and improve your circulation. Get up and walk to a different room in the house, get a glass of water, or do a few stretches. Set a reminder on your phone or, if you have a fitness watch, set up alerts to encourage you to move more. 

Be More Comfortable

chair that offers adequate back support with adjustable heights to allow you to change the positioning of your legs during the day and a footstool that can help prevent leg fatigue is the ideal choice. But, in lieu of investing in new furniture, make sure your task chair allows your feet to rest on the floor while your pelvis and lower back fit snugly against the back of the chair. If your chair isn’t adjustable, sitting on a cushion can aid you in being comfortable. Your task chair should support you while avoiding undue pressure on your spine. An ill-fitting chair that encourages you to slouch can result in an aching back and other health repercussions. 

In evaluating your chair in relation to your desk or table, you want your arms to be bent around 90 degrees or up to 115 degrees when you place them on your keyboard, with your wrists in a neutral position and not resting on the keyboard. Relax your shoulders, with your elbows near your sides or on the armrests. 

You may want to consider using a standing desk either all or part of your workday. Ergonomics experts approve of this option because it encourages users to change positions frequently from sitting to standing throughout the day. Consumer Reports provides a guide, “How to Choose a Standing Desk” to help you find options and price points to meet your home office needs.  

Ensure that your workspace has enough electrical outlets to accommodate your computer, printer, and phone chargers to keep your workflow uninterrupted and fully charged.

Pay attention to the availability of natural light sources when setting up your home office and supplement them with artificial light if needed. You’ll feel the benefits of keeping your workspace bright and airy. Since you’re spending the majority of the day sitting or standing at your desk or table, having access to natural light can have an impact on your overall work performance, mood, and wellness. Harvard Business Review reported on a connection between natural light and employee well-being. 

Instead of holding your cell phone between your shoulder and ear which may cause neck, back, and shoulder pain if you type while you talk on the phone, use earphones, earbuds, or a headset, or put your phone on speaker mode

By using an ergonomic keyboard, you can place your wrists and hands in a healthier, more natural position than conventional keyboards to minimize discomfort and injuries like tendonitis. PC Magazine reviewed “The Best Ergonomic Keyboards for 2020” to use to avoid repetitive stress injuries.

Arrange your keyboard so it is centered to your body and if you use a mouse make sure it is within a natural reach to reduce muscle load and prevent strain.

When positioning your computer screen, place it at eye level so you are looking slightly down toward the center of the screen to prevent neck strain, dry eyes, headaches, and blurred vision. Give your eyes regular breaks from the monitor and force yourself to blink frequently when staring at the screen for extended periods of time. Don’t sit too close to the screen—your eyes should be an arm’s length away from the computer. Monitor arms can be used to align your screen but you also can use boxes or books to position your monitor. 

View a YouTube video on office ergonomics for additional tips on setting up a comfortable at-home workstation. 

Be More Focused

A quality pair of headphones is a simple way to help you focus on your tasks by reducing the noise you hear around you. Consumer Reports reviewed “Best Noise-Canceling Headphones of 2020” that can help you choose a pair that’s right for you. Search YouTube.com for “music for office work” and listen to background music conducive to working calmly in a distracting environment.

If possible, find a dedicated space with a door where you can work free from family activities and unnecessary distractions when you need to focus on deadlines, communication with clients or colleagues, and videoconferences. If you don’t have an option for a space with a door, try to set up an area off-limits to others for a few hours a day or use a foldable screen to indicate your need to minimize interruptions.

Establish a consistent schedule by starting and ending your day at the same time every workday to help you reinforce the separation between ‘work’ and ‘home.’ Establishing a routine also will help you manage your time so you are not working overtime or getting distracted with housekeeping chores during worktime. 

Keep your shared calendar updated to ensure that others have accurate information about your availability.

In becoming more productive, comfortable, and focused, while you use part of your home for business, you may be able to deduct some of the expenses incurred when you file your income taxes. The IRS website says the home office deduction is available for both homeowners and renters and applies to all types of homes. Generally, deductions for a home office are based on the percentage of your home devoted to business use. So, if you use a whole room or part of a room for conducting your business, you need to figure out the percentage of your home devoted to your business activities.

At InsureYouKnow.org, you can keep track of your home office expenses, including how you use a percentage of your home to accommodate your business, that you’ll need in 2021 when you file your 2020 income taxes. 

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On the Lookout for Free Money? Focus Your Search on Grant Opportunities

June 11, 2020

Individuals, communities, nonprofit organizations, and businesses continue to feel the ever-increasing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. To help keep them afloat while dealing with diminished incomes and benefits, isolation away from friends, family, and colleagues, or facing an unknown future of returning to their previous careers or businesses, they can seek emergency financial assistance.

As the following selected links demonstrate, a variety of grantors are currently offering grants to assist in meeting financial challenges resulting in the continuing threat of COVID-19. 

Grantspace by Candid provides a continually updated list of emergency financial resources including the following grant  opportunities.

For Individuals 

For Communities

For Small Businesses

  • Small Business Administration Disaster Assistance Loans provide economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue.
  • SBA Paycheck Protection Program – An SBA loan that helps businesses keep their workforce employed during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • GoFundMe Small Business Relief Fund helps small businesses that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and empower their communities to rally behind them. GoFundMe has partnered with Yelp, Intuit QuickBooks, GoDaddy, and Bill.com to provide small business owners with the financial support and resources needed to continue running their businesses during and after the coronavirus crisis.
  • Facebook Small Business Grants Program – Facebook is offering $100M in cash grants and ad credits for up to 30,000 eligible small businesses in over 30 countries where it operates.
  • Financial Assistance for Small Business is a list of programs providing financial assistance to small businesses compiled by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
  • Opportunity Fund Small Business Relief Fund  supports eligible small businesses, especially those run by women, people of color, and immigrants, impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

For Nonprofits

In general, grant opportunities and corresponding applications adhere to strictly announced deadlines and requirements so potential grantees need to submit proposals on time and meet the specific provisions outlined in each grant’s description. At InsureYouKnow.org, you can save your documents and files relating to grant applications and set up reminders to alert you to keep track of timelines for submitting grant applications and to check on grants awarded.

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Time to Review Your Retirement Allocations

June 1, 2020

The Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America (TIAA), recently sent an email to members. Their advice was clear: review your allocations carefully. Financial advisors, self-help blogs and money-smart books suggest periodically looking at your available funds and asking questions. Do you have savings? Do you have a rainy day fund? What is your income stream? The answers take us on a journey of possibilities. The resources of 401k, pensions, insurance, investments, savings and CD accounts provide the financial safety for the future.

There are few resources available to let us know when and how to access our systems. Is today the time to use the money that was set aside for later? The money set aside for retirement, supporting adult children or grandchildren, investments and dreams may be utilized at a more efficient rate now. The funds can be available today during our COVID days. The stress levels are high from furloughs, loss of jobs, reduction in hours, and lack of work for the self-employed.

401k and Pensions

Intended for future days of retirement, the 401k and pension plans were projected to be utilized by the current workforce later rather than sooner. To prevent early access, penalties for utilizing certain financial safety resources available from employers were created. These include high fees, the loss of employer matching, and limits on the amount that could be dispersed annually. Part of the lengthy Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress, addresses some of the previous restrictions although they are not eliminated completely. Although up to $100,000 can be withdrawn from accounts instead of $50,000 and are not subject to the 10% penalty, taxes will need to be paid on the amount.

Despite the risk of lower resources for the future, the Washington Posthas indicated that many people have opted to utilize their pension and 401k resources for car and home payments. For the baby boomers, cashing into the pension at 55 instead of 65 wasn’t the plan, but is a necessity in some cases. It is also the smart option when basic needs take precedence over potential losses or gains in the volatile market. There are choices between loans from the accounts or withdrawals, and each have their own set of benefits

Whether opting for the withdrawal option instead of the loan, the premature access is worrying the financial industry globally, who have advised against utilizing this resource in light of the downward economy.  In March, the Federal Reserve lowered the interest rates to close to zero to try and support the marketplace. Over the recent weeks, some accounts have seen fees above yields, leading to negative returns in some accounts. Given the current environment, and the financial volatility in personal circumstances, markets could still fall before we see the bottom.  Companies like TIAA are providing certain limited and short-term fee waiver of expenses to help prevent their client accounts from having negative yields, but that may not last too long.

Your Action Items

At a minimum, review where 401k and pension resources are allocated for yourself and those that are in your care. Since the money is invested in the global stock exchange until you access it, the recession may leave you in a different place than anticipated. Morningstar’s report indicates people in aggressive portfolios have seen the largest declines.

To recall your 401k account information, log into http://www.insureyouknow.org and sign in with your personal credentials. If you do not utilize this online information storage resource, create an account with InsureYouKnow.org and start saving your documents, and files relating to your affairs. Set a reminder within the portal to revise and review the allocations as the world market changes further. There are various levels of access you can set to allow your family members, caregivers or business associates insight into the documents.

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Building Trust

February 25, 2020

The English language is such that for every rule, there is an exception or a way to break the rule and still be understood. Childhood rhymes or mnemonics are created to help memorize the rules: “i before e except when c…. “ (friend vs. receive),the letter “q” is always followed by “u” (queen, quilt), except for 78 words that came to English from other languages like Qatar and qi. Other confusions include words that are spelled the same, pronounced the same but have different meanings based on context. Examples – orange and orange, wave and wave, bat and bat. The name for this is a homograph.

A homograph that is particularly relatable to my work is the word trust. Trust can be used as verb or noun and the definitions are: 1. Trust – to have faith/confidence in truth, and 2. trust – a legal arrangement usually due to money. Interestingly you cannot have a legal trust, without having trust.

There are many layers in the formation of a trust:

Trust the process. You are not the first person to create a trust – and there are friends, family and google to help you through. There are step by step guidelines to be followed and they vary by state. In order for your trust to be a legal agreement, it needs to follow the checkboxes. These include taking stock of your assets (read my blog post on this step) and thinking about the people in your life that would be included, excluded and notified about your trust. To hold your hand and walk you through the process – an advisor can be the first formal step.

Trust the advisor. Find someone you like and that you feel like you can relate to. How do they organize the meeting? Where do you meet and what is their demeanor, and the personalities of the team? We all have preconceived expectations about what we want, and we are investing our energy, money and intimate details with the advisor. The advisors have varying expertise and may be able to assist with other to-do items as well as the trust.

Trust yourself.  It is easy to second-guess or be unsure of your decisions and choices as you put together the documentation. This is a legal document and though the steps can be completed in a few days or weeks, the peace of mind when this is done right will last your lifetime. Trust yourself to complete the tasks and create a trust is yours. You can be guided by the process, standards and the advisor but ultimately this is your trust and can be notarized and funded on your timeline and comfort level.

Trust InsureYouKnow.org. It’s a safe place to store all the information in case you need to access it remotely – or from the comforts of your own home. The documents are password protected and utilize Amazon cloud encryption to secure and protect each password encrypted account. Your password is not known to the site. Only you, or someone you share the password with, can ever access your account.

Regaining trust – whether it is the confidence or the legal agreement kind – takes work and immense heartache, so getting things right the first time is advantageous to your mental, physical and financial health.

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Hindsight is 20/20

January 23, 2020

The idiom – Hindsight is 20/20 – originated in the early 1900s as a way to “describe the fact that it is easy for one to be knowledgeable about an event after it has happened.” We have a New Year’s Day every year, and with that comes the endless resolutions and promises to make changes in our lives. Birthdays are another reflection time. We are fifteen days into the year 2020 and perhaps making the tweaks now can help the resolutions to be successful.

In our lives we have plenty of ways to be resourceful and organized, yet we all fail to cover all the areas. Some of us thrive at organization in the workplace, but have a stack of papers at our home. Others have a knack for fitting in workouts, but are unable to connect with family and friends. Then when a crisis or need happens – we become frantic and anxiety creeps in.

Making those appointments to have 20/20 in 2020.

  • Physical Health Appointments. There is not a one-size fits all doctor for our physical health needs. And in 2020 – we have choices. Where do you want to go – a family practice or a larger organization with multiple providers? Do you have a preference in the type of philosophy they have? The Primary Care physician is the doctor that can hold all your records, but they cannot assist with everything. Dentists, Chiropractors, Optometrists, and the numerous specialists for every ailment exist – but making the appointment, preparing questions for the provider, and actually showing up are achievements. According to a 2016 study, the average yearly no-show rate for primary care and specialty medical appointments is just under 20 percent! Post-appointment, request a copy of your records so you can review the action items.
  • Financial Health Appointments. We may receive paper statements in the mail about our accounts, investments and paperwork for tax purposes. Many of these can be converted to online-statements which save the environment and clutter the email box versus the kitchen counter. Consumer Action, revealed that depending on the account category, 45-74 percent of respondents said that they choose paper over electronic notifications for insurance, utilities, medical, mortgages, credit cards and property taxes. Whichever method you select – are you clear about what is happening in your financial health. Are the accounts and investments working towards your 2020 goals? Making an appointment with a financial advisor, stopping into the branch to meet with the banking specialist, or connecting with a resource provided by your workplace will help you review your health in this area.
  • Mental Health Appointments. The most common responses to “How are you?” are “Good” “Fine” “Okay” but when we dig deeper there are areas of unrest in our lives. Mental wellness doesn’t have to mean seeing a counselor or therapist. Setting aside time, or making an appointment to do something that “brings you joy” can prevent the need to see a therapist. And if you do need a specialist: phone counseling, online chat, individual, group therapy and medications are available to meet your needs.
  • Spiritual Health Appointments. The National Center for Biotechnology Information states that “spiritual health creates a balance between physical, psychological and social aspects of human life” Finding the area or time to create the balance in life is challenging, but the label of religion or spiritual does not need to hinder the opportunity to fulfill this need.

Your calendar will be full from all the preparations and appointments, but your world and your significant others will see a drastic difference in who you are in the year 2020. Resolve to make an appointment this quarter with a provider in each category. After the appointments, consider uploading all your receipts, reports, documents, and memories onto InsureYouKnow.org. It’s a safe place to store all the information in case you need to access it remotely – or from the comforts of your own home. You will have 20/20 vision instead of hindsight.

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Supporting your World – How to Donate

August 15, 2019

Donor fatigue has been taking the limelight in recent months. Many international nonprofits are unable to get the funding they need to cover the increasing needs. Flooding in Asia, Refugees in Central America, Ebola and HIV in East Africa, Endangered species in Europe. And closer to home – children needing school supplies and living without a balanced diet, seniors without funds to pay their bills, veterans without jobs. It all matters – it is all relevant, and it can all seem a bit too much – especially when many of us have concerns in our day-to-day lives. According to charitynavigator.org – 70% of donations come from individuals. How can you – an individual drill in and focus on what matters to you?

Look at your …

Passion– What in the world inspires you? Angers you? Has changed your life? This is the backbone of most donations in the United States. According to philanthropy.com, most donors give from the heart. Whether it’s due to a life changing event, love of animals or art, or a neighbor who you wish to support – it’s good to start somewhere…. Even if it’s just knowing what you are not willing to give to. Many households begin their journey of giving within their faith-based communities and continue from there, others start in childhood with sales from scouting. If you enjoy an organization’s work, or a cause – you are more likely to continue your support.

Budget – How would you like to donate? One time, monthly, semi-annually, on birthdays? How much can you give? There’s a nagging voice that often pops up when looking at this area – what’s in it for me. Some nonprofits provide levels or recognition for donations, others provide a material incentive – a logo-ed item, tickets to an event or opportunity to participate in an activity. Be mindful of the incentives you receive as they may affect the ability for you to claim on your tax returns.

Research – There are nearly 100,000 registered nonprofits in Texas, 1.5million in the United States and there is no clear number for the number around the world. Registered nonprofits are not the only ways to donate. There is overlap on causes, and there are scams. Gofundme among other groups are a recent phenomenon where individuals can reach out and ask for $$ without affiliation to a nonprofit. There are great stories out there, but also many people who are utilizing your heart and budget to fund their personal needs. Unfortunately there are people and people within nonprofits that are less than ethical. There are watch-dog organizations in the charitable space that publish findings and news.

Connections – As you research – there may be nonprofits that are new to you, people doing things that wow you. You do not have to support them with monetary means. Connecting with them via social media, joining their communication lists or even volunteering your time are ways to support the cause and may even be more valuable than cash. Some nonprofits also have wish lists or item donations that they appreciate more than the cash.

Family involvement – What is important to your partner, children, grandchildren, parents, siblings? Donations on behalf of family members can also provide value. There may be causes that you haven’t considered or ways to make the donation a team building effort. They may also have ideas for you to research.

Donations can also be documented for your tax return purposes. InsureYouKnow.org product offerings are a tool to support you. It’s a safe place to store all the information relating to your donations, easy to access remotely – or from the comforts of your own home, and has options to save receipts and documentation that you may need in the early part of the year. An annual plan is available to support your budget needs.

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I Lost My Wallet! Now What?

September 24, 2018

It happens to the best of us. You set your purse on the bench next to you and leave it behind when you get up to chase down your toddler; it’s gone when you return. Or you take out your wallet to pay for something, get distracted, and forget to put it back in your pocket.

Whatever the case, you lose your wallet. Now what do you do?

It’s not easy to replace everything in your wallet. Some of the more sentimental items, like the movie ticket you saved from your first date with your now-husband, will be gone forever. But luckily, you probably can get new prints of any photos you were carrying—and you definitely can get new credit cards and a new driver’s license.

Here are the steps you should take if you lose your wallet.

  1. Cancel your debit and credit cards. If you have a debit card, the first thing you want to do is report the loss to your bank since the card is directly tied to your checking account. Then start calling those credit card companies. Make sure you log on to InsureYouKnow.org, where you’ve smartly stored all the information you’ll need for each card: the name of the issuing bank, the bank’s customer service number, and your account number. Don’t forget about any store cards you might have.
  2. File a police report. Obviously the police don’t have time to track down every stolen wallet. Nonetheless, it’s important to report the loss. That way, if someone tries to steal your identity using the information in your lost wallet, you have proof of the incident. Be sure to keep a copy of the police report for your records.
  3. Replace your driver’s license. This step is a little more involved. You most likely will have to head down to your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and handle this in person. The DMV will probably encourage you to file a police report, which is another reason you want to complete the second step; some states may even waive the replacement fee if you provide proof your wallet was stolen.
  4. Replace your other cards. From your health insurance card to your warehouse club card, there’s a good chance you carry more cards in your wallet than you think. It’ll be a process, but you need to contact all the companies associated with those cards and request replacements (and yes, that includes your library card; you don’t want to be hit with a bunch of late fees months after you thought this nightmare was over).
  5. Place a fraud alert on your accounts. To further protect you against identity theft, you’ll want the three major credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to put a fraud alert on your file. You only need to call one of them; the company you call is required to notify the other two. It’s a good idea to order a copy of your credit report from each company to make sure everything looks right. Remember, you can order a free copy of your credit report from each of the three bureaus every 12 months at annualcreditreport.com.

Losing your wallet is a hassle—and that’s another reason why it’s important to store your vital financial information and other documents on InsureYouKnow.org. Being able to find the information you need quickly and easily will save you a lot of time and headache.

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What Constitutes a True “Emergency”?

May 28, 2018

You’re a responsible person. You’re saving for retirement. You have a 529 plan set up to help pay for your daughter’s college education. Your car is paid off. You have an adequate amount of life insurance. You’re using InsureYouKnow to make sure your loved ones know how to access your important documents and financial information if needed. And you have six months of living expenses set aside in an emergency fund.

Then the unexpected happens: The alternator goes out in your car. It’s going to cost $400 to replace it.

Where do you find the money to pay for it?

If you answered, “My emergency fund,” you may want to take another look at your definition of “emergency.”

Your emergency fund is money you have socked away in case of a major life event, such as a job loss, divorce, or medical issue. This money would be used to cover your day-to-day expenses and bills if needed.

Washington Post columnist Michelle Singletary advocates the use of a separate fund—the “life happens” fund—for those pesky but somewhat predictable expenses that crop up.

“You’ll withdraw money from this fund to pay for unexpected or major expenses that don’t quite fit the dire straits definition,” Singletary wrote. “Car repairs would come out of this account. Start with trying to save $500, ideally increasing to a few thousand.”

Whether you call it the “life happens” fund, the “just in case” fund, or some other term, this fund is for those immediate expenses that aren’t quite catastrophic. These are expenses that result from situations that people often treat as emergencies but that in reality are expected, if irregular, like a broken appliance.

In an ideal world, you’d never touch your emergency fund. You wouldn’t lose your job. You wouldn’t get diagnosed with a major medical condition. You would have a regular, steady income with no major disruptive events in your life. For many people, this is indeed the case. That money sits in an easily accessible savings account where it earns minimal interest but supplies maximum peace of mind.

But even in an ideal world, you’re probably going to tap into your life happens fund fairly regularly. Even the most budget-obsessed person can’t predict every expense that may appear, such as the following:

  • A storm blows through, knocking large tree branches onto the roof of your house that have to be sawed apart and hauled away.
  • Your dog swallows a tennis ball and needs emergency surgery to remove it.
  • Your toddler climbs onto the dishwasher door one too many times and it finally breaks.
  • Your aunt dies and you need to fly out for the funeral.

In many of these situations, life is already stressful enough without you needing to scramble to come up with money for the resulting expenses. And you don’t want to tap into your emergency fund because that’s money you never want to touch. The life happens fund is the perfect compromise. Like an emergency fund, it’s kept in a savings account where it’s accessible on a moment’s notice. But unlike an emergency fund, taking money out of it won’t potentially result in your water getting shut off when you suddenly find yourself without an income.

Keep in mind that because you do need to access this fund somewhat regularly, it’s important to replace any money you take out as soon as possible. After all, life happens—and you never know when the next storm is going to pass through town.

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Financial goals

December 5, 2016

Most of us, if not all of us have financial goals that we look forward to achieve regardless of the stage of life each one of us is in. However, achieving these goals might not be all that easy down the line especially with various eventualities that shift your priorities from time to time that change your family budget too. Therefore, being realistic as you set your financial goals is very important as well as tracking your progress for you to succeed in achieving these goals.

For those who are already in marriage, achieving personal financial goals will be a big lie especially if you do not sit down together and agree with your spouse how you intend to achieve that. It is better for couples to have similar financial goals based on a complete family budget to achieve what they have planned on achieving as far as their finances are concerned.

As you sit down to plan on your financial goals, setting out your short-term, mid-term and long-term financial goals is only the beginning. These plans may include an emergency fund, a dream vacation, retirement savings, new home, and college savings, among others. With this in mind, you can go ahead and determine how much money you will need for each of these.

Some of the discussions that revolve around a specific financial goal at this stage are the amount of money you will dedicate to that; if it is a school for your child, whether you will go for a private or state school. On the other hand, if it is a retirement plan, you need to base your calculation on when you plan to retire and the kind of life you wish to lead once you retire.

Next, you need to arrange your goals in order of priority and thereafter, determine how much time you have to save for each of the goals set. Normally, short-term goals are set to be fulfilled within one or two years while long-term ones take longer than this to fulfill. You also need to check how much interest your money will be gaining over time where you choose to keep it before that period elapses.

It might be difficult to determine the capital gain yields in future in this case but you can work with an estimate, which will give you a rough idea regarding the earnings to expect. Once you have all that in place, figure out how much you will need to save towards a particular goal each month and do not shy away at the sight of the huge amount of money you require to fulfill it.

You also need to monitor the progress every other month or quarterly and if you discover for some reason something is not working out as per your plans, sit down and review your family budget. This will help you realize expenses you can cut down so that savings can be made available to meet financial goals. Also, ensure that you have provisions for such windfall gains as tax refunds, bonuses, inheritances, and the like.

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