Ready to Go At A Moment’s Notice

Recently one of my clients was unexpectedly hospitalized, and it reminded me that emergencies come in all kinds of packages. Whether a kitchen fire, an earthquake, or a trip to the emergency room, here are a few practical ways to be ready at a moment’s notice:

  1. An Emergency Plan. During the Loma Prieta earthquake back in 1989, phone lines were down and busy for days after the event. Develop an evacuation plan and establish a meeting place.
  2. Emergency Phone Numbers. Designate a family member or friend outside the area to act as a communication hub. I live in California, and my dad (who lives in Washington) is our designated point person. In the event that phone, internet and cell service is interrupted, everyone knows who to call for updates.
  3. Copies of Important Records. Photocopying and backing-up important information is always a good idea in case a hard drive crashes or other technical events. Store copies or originals (e.g. birth or marriage certificates) at an offsite location like in a fireproof safe deposit box. Photocopy the contents of your wallet too in case it gets lost, stolen or misplaced. Have a list of medications and doctor contact data on hand for unexpected emergency room visits or hospitalization.
  4. Review Insurance Coverage. Make sure you have enough coverage by checking your homeowner or renter’s policy, auto and business-related insurance. Know what’s covered, what’s not, and your deductible amounts. This will reduce some of the anxiety and headache when filing a claim. You may save money too by regularly reviewing your policy and taking advantage of discounts (e.g., no tickets or accidents).
  5. Survival Kit. Dust off that Y2K kit, and make sure you have supplies ready like a battery-operated radio, flashlights, medications, water, and first-aid supplies. For a complete list of supplies, visit http://www.ready.gov/america/getakit or http://72hours.org to make sure you’re prepared for the unexpected. Or if you prefer something in book form, Paul Purcell’s Disaster Prep 101: The Ultimate Guide to Emergency Readiness is the most comprehensive guide to disaster preparation I’ve ever seen.

Want help in creating a “Grab ‘n Go Box” that includes important financial papers for your family’s emergency plan? Then schedule a free 30-minute consultation with Fiscally Fit, Inc. Email me at Alison@fiscallyfit.us or call (650) 965-4090 for a no-cost, no-obligation appointment.

Love and Money: Mixing Romance & Your Money

When you get married, you typically talk through things about personal values, career goals, raising kids, and your overall financial dreams. Things can get sticky if you have different attitudes or habits in managing your money. Living together and/or marriage is a romantic relationship (hopefully) but it’s also a financial partnership. Being faithful applies to many areas of your life together. In addition to the obvious, there’s running a household, paying bills, and saving for short- and long-term goals.

Your Money Attitude. It’s amazing what we learn as children about money, and it affects how we manage and respect it throughout our adulthood. For many of us, money is a scorecard; it’s tied to our self-worth, social standing and feeling of security. Are you compelled to spend every dollar in your wallet? Do you feel reluctant to spend money or have to find the best deal even if it means driving across town? A critical aspect of love and money is knowing your attitude, as well as that of your partner, is an important first step.

Working Together. Often one person in the relationship manages the bills. I suggest that couples talk about their expectations and who will take responsibility for specific money-related chores. Maybe one person is more comfortable with online bill pay and downloading updates into Quicken, but it’s important that both parties are kept up-to-date and involved in decision making. A good friend of mine abdicated control of his finances to his wife, and she hid her shopping addiction. Fast forward several years to a nasty divorce, he’s now responsible for half of the $70,000 of the credit debt she accumulated before leaving the relationship. Talking about finances during weekly meetings help keeps everyone in the loop and on track. Limit these discussions to 30 minutes so they are short, sweet and on topic.

Financial Therapy. If you can’t find middle ground, maybe you need financial therapy. As a daily money manager, I know many of the psychological triggers related to managing money. Avoidance typically compounds the problem, and outright confrontation can damage the relationship. Find ways to communicate clearly and respectfully. If you can’t, seek outside help.

Want help in talking with your sweetie about love and money? Then schedule a free 30-minute consultation with Fiscally Fit, Inc. Email me at Alison@fiscallyfit.us or call (650) 965-4090 for a no-cost, no-obligation appointment.

10 Signs A Senior Needs Assistance (6 thru 10)

Last week I shared the first 5 warning signs indicating the need for senior assistance. Here’s the second installment of what to look for the next time you visit an aging loved one. Many older adults worry about staying in their home; concerned about losing their independence or leaving their home, they try to hide issues or problem areas from their friends and family.

To help you identify if your senior loved one needs assistance, be on the lookout for these warning signs:

Sign #6: Signs of Injury. Bruises and scratches could be evidence of falls. Seniors who’ve fallen are at greater risk for repeat falls leading to more serious injuries. To the contrary, many seniors may be taking blood thinning medications that make bruises appear worse than they really are. If in doubt, consult a physician.

Sign #7: Disorientation. Confusion about time of day or difficulty navigating their surroundings away from home can be a telltale sign that senior assistance is needed. On an outing such as shopping or at a restaurant, observe if they can walk alone and how they adjust to new situations. Often the elderly function fine at home, but physical or mental challenges are more apparent in less familiar settings. The same holds especially true for driving.

Sign # 8: Community. Neighbors, friends or those who work for the person in your care may notice changes in behavior. Maybe they go out less than usual, or not at all. Perhaps papers and mail are stacking up. Check in with others to see what they have observed and compare notes.

Sign #9: Finances. Bills routinely left unopened or unpaid indicate serious issues. Setting up some simple systems may address this concern, but disarray could be a sign of cognitive decline or depression.

Sign #10: Predators. Older seniors, especially those living alone, are more vulnerable to con artists. Falling victim to disreputable individuals who befriend or scam the elderly may indicate a senior’s judgment is failing. Be on the lookout for unnecessary or frequent purchases (e.g., catalog or home shopping networks). If you suspect elder abuse, check out the National Center on Elder Abuse at: http://www.ncea.aoa.gov

If you think senior assistance is needed for your loved one, paying bills, organizing important papers, and reconciling accounts, schedule a free 30-minute consultation with Fiscally Fit, Inc. Email me at Alison@fiscallyfit.us or call (650) 965-4090 for a no-cost, no-obligation appointment.

10 Signs A Senior Needs Assistance (1 thru 5)

In my practice, I have the privilege of helping seniors while they remain in their home. Whether organizing important papers, paying their bills or managing in-home caregiver payroll, my clients’ number one concern is staying independent. Many seniors worry about staying in their home, and have become masters of denial or deception.

To help you identify the need for senior assistance, here the first 5 (out of 10) signs to look for:

Sign #1: Hygiene. Poor grooming or unmet basic self-care needs (bathing, clean clothes). Often these are early signs that someone is in declining health.

Sign #2: Nutrition. Unexplained weight loss is a sign of poor nutrition. Look for spoiled or inadequate food hinting a senior isn’t cooking or eating well.

Sign # 3: Housework. A home that’s dirtier or more cluttered than usual; piles of laundry or dishes may suggest something is awry. Hiring a housekeeper can help, but a poorly maintained house points to physical decline or depression.

Sign #4: Health. Maybe there’s just a general sense that something isn’t quite right, such as persistent fatigue or lack of interest in general. Follow your instincts and make a doctor’s appointment. Whenever possible, attend the appointment with the senior so you can offer information or hear the diagnosis/next steps.

Sign #5: Medications. Lots of unused pills in the cupboard – or confusion about how, why or when medications should be taken – are danger signs for senior assistance. Managing meds can take some initial set up (such as a pill box), but the need for reminders on a daily basis could mean bigger issues.

Next week I’ll post the last five warning signs alerting the need for senior assistance. Or, if you know a senior loved one needs help with paying bills, organizing important papers, and reconciling accounts, schedule a free 30-minute consultation. Email me at Alison@fiscallyfit.us or call (650) 965-4090 for a no-cost, no-obligation appointment.

Creating a Realistic Spending Plan: Take the 7-Day Challenge

Many of my clients are looking for ways to stretch their dollars. Yet many times they aren’t sure where their money goes each month. If you’re ready to develop a spending plan or workable budget that works for you, join me in this 7-day challenge as we kick off 2011.

Bankrate.com is one of my favorite sites to visit for money-saving and budget saving tips. Adding a twist to their 7-day challenge here are my 4 easy steps to creating a spending plan that fits your lifestyle.

Step 1: One Week’s Expenses. Figure out how much cash you need to cover seven day’s worth of expenses. Include gas, groceries, entertainment, gifts, everything! The point here is to figure out what and where you’re spending your hard-earned money.

Step 2: Be Honest. Don’t deliberately overestimate. The purpose of the challenge is to calculate what you really need. Include your partner in the challenge so you can work together as a team. Then, withdraw the amount of cash based upon your honest estimate of what you’ll need during the next 7 days.

Step 3: Put Cards Away. Now that you have the money needed for the week, put your debit and credit cards away. Yes, take them out of your wallet! It will help keep you honest throughout the challenge. As you make purchases, keep the receipts to help jog your memory at the end of the day. These receipts will come in handy when you’re ready to create a spending plan or budget that is based in your reality.

Step 4: Tell Me How You Did. It’s not about winning, but learning about your money style and spending habits. What did you notice during the week? Did you run out of cash, and need to withdraw more? Let me know how you did and the observations you made. As a reward, I’ll send you some info about the various styles relating to the psychology of money.

When you know where your money is going, then you can find ways to save money that fit with your spending habits and ultimately lead to more money in your savings account. Armed with strategies that fit your lifestyle, you can develop habits that support your short- and long-term financial goals.

To get a free template to track your 7-day challenge expenses, email me at Alison@fiscallyfit.us or call (650) 965-4090.

Staying in Touch & Engaging Aging Parents

It’s hard to imagine that the holiday season ended a month ago. By now most of us have recovered from the excitement (or drama) including family dinners or out-of-town guests.  If you’re one of the millions of Boomers with aging parents, you may have noticed some changes during your last holiday visit. Did you notice any changes in memory or a general decline in their health?  Are they are having difficulty living on their own?

Like many of my clients, my father lives out of state.  He’s a spry and social 82-year old with a home computer and girlfriend!  During one of my last visits I set him up with Skype so he can stay in touch with me.   Some of my friends were skeptical that he would actually embrace this technology.  Once I showed him how we could make video calls for free and that he was in control of the camera (lest he not be dressed for guests), he was open to the idea.  Now it provides us an easy way to stay connected and I can literally see how he’s doing.

While I primarily help with managing financial-related details of everyday living, I also help with a variety of services for seniors and aging adults.  Many of my senior clients don’t have family nearby, and using video tools like Skype helps them stay connected as well as serving two key purposes:

  1. Use It Or Lose It.  Studies have proven that keeping seniors active – both physically and mentally – helps fight against depression and memory-related issues.  Whether playing bingo at the local community center, or doing Soduku and crossword puzzles at home, seniors need to find ways to stay sharp and connected.  There are also brain gyms popping up around the country.  Designed to help young minds learn better, they also help adults fight the effects of aging.  Check out this NY Times article about a recent study where seniors volunteered in a Baltimore elementary school.
  2. See Dramatic Changes.  As our parents age, changes in their ability to take care of themselves may begin to appear.  While phone calls are great, it doesn’t take the place of seeing them.  In between face-to-face visits, you can keep tabs on how they are doing – noticing any weight loss or changes in hygiene – that may alert you that they need additional support or medical attention.

If you are caring for aging parents you may feel overwhelmed by all the facets of care they need.  Over the next three blog posts, we’ll share the top 10 signs a senior needs assistance. If you need immediate help or want to know about the services we provide to seniors, send an email to Alison@fiscallyfit.us or call 650-965-4090.

Pet Care As a Tax Deduction

Typing Companion

Scientists have proven that having a pet can lower your blood pressure. Now pet owners may have reason to be even happier… Michigan Representative Thaddeus McCotter introduced the HAPPY (Humanity and Pets Partnered Through the Years) bill last year. It amends the Internal Revenue Code to allow a tax deduction up to $3,500 per year for pet-related expenses including visits to the veterinarian.

Beyond giving me financial relief associated with deducting the expenses for keeping my beloved cat Willo healthy, the bill is meant to stimulate our economy. As a daily money manager, that’s a bill I’d love to see. To check out how this proposed legislation is progressing through Congress, check out http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h3501/show.

Creating Financial Wellness

Overwhelmed with Paperwork?

Fiscally Fit, Inc. is dedicated to helping ease your stress by providing diverse financial services.  We help you stay on top of your personal papers by balancing checkbooks, paying bills on time, organizing important papers, reconciling accounts, preparing reports for tax preparation, and much more!

Working with seniors, business owners, and people whose careers make it difficult to find time for paperwork.  We also help those with medical issues where they may need additional assistance.  And, we also help those who just don’t like to do paperwork!