Monday, February 29, 2016

Countdown to Financial Fitness: Phone Scams

Countdown to Financial Fitness: Phone Scams: The other day I got a phone call from a number I didn't recognize; caller ID said "UNKNOWN NAME." I let it go to voice ma...

Phone Scams



The other day I got a phone call from a number I didn't recognize; caller ID said "UNKNOWN NAME." I let it go to voice mail. The caller, who may or may not have been a robot, left a threatening message. "I am calling regarding an important action executed by the U.S. Treasury requiring your immediate attention. Ignoring will be an intentional attempt to avoid initial appearance before the magistrate judge or grand jury and is a federal criminal offense. I would like you to cooperate with us so we can help you."

I had just read about a scam where a senior citizen got a similar call from someone who claimed to be from the IRS. The poor man was shamed into forking over $5000.00 that he was told he owed, in order to avoid being hauled off to jail. The scammer was the one who belonged in jail.

After my nuisance call, I filed a complaint with the Do Not Call list, which does no good whatsoever, but it made me feel better. I also noticed someone posted on a neighborhood social media site that she had received the same call, exact wording, but from a different phone number. I wrote about my experience in the comments. Within a few hours, over 60 people had reported receiving the same call, from various phone numbers and supposed locations. We congratulated ourselves that we had all recognized a fraud and failed to bite.

But someone is biting, or these con artists would eventually give up.

My 90-year-old mother-in-law used to fall for letters from bogus charities and the fake lotteries that assured her she was a winner; all she had to do to claim her million dollars was mail back a check for a small processing fee. And then the crooks got hold of her signature and bank information from the check, and started debiting her account every month.

Some of the phony solicitations she received were disguised as correspondence from government agencies, such as the Social Security Administration or the property tax assessor. At first glance, they appeared real, until you closely examined the fine print.

We finally had to take her checkbook away. It was a good thing she never got a computer. Otherwise, she would have been corresponding with Nigerian princes who wanted to park their millions in her bank account.

New schemes constantly appear to cheat unsuspecting people out of their hard-earned money. Some scams are easy to spot, but some are getting more clever. Caller ID and spam filters can't keep up. Government and law enforcement agencies are overwhelmed with complaints. If only these criminals would use their minds for honest work...

What suggestions to you have for dealing with scam calls and emails? I would love to hear your comments.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Countdown to Financial Fitness: Money-Saving Travel Tip #1

Countdown to Financial Fitness: Money-Saving Travel Tip #1: Travel is one of the pleasures many people look forward to in a comfortable retirement. It is also one of the more popular ways for wor...

Money-Saving Travel Tip #1



Travel is one of the pleasures many people look forward to in a comfortable retirement. It is also one of the more popular ways for working families to spend discretionary income.

Love of travel attracted me to the airline industry, where I met my husband and spent most of my working life. The major perk for an airline employee is the free or discounted travel... if you can get on a plane. Being flexible and cool-headed enough to fly space available has enabled me to indulge in bucket-list travel experiences normally enjoyed only by the wealthy.

But even if you don't work for an airline and have to pay retail for your flights, you can still save money on travel. One of the most important tips is to travel light.

Limiting my baggage to what I can carry on board is critical when flying space available. We might have to opt for a co-terminal or alternate destination at the last minute, and we don't want our checked baggage ending up somewhere else.

When you travel light, you save baggage fees with the airline, tips to porters, and extra luggage storage charges. You can often maneuver onto public transportation instead of hailing a cab. You have less stuff to keep an eye on, so you are less likely to fall victim to thieves.

Fine. Travel light. But how can you do it?

  • Limit the number of shoes and handbags you pack. I rarely take more than three pairs of shoes, which includes the pair I wear for travel. And I make do with one handbag, which I carry.
  • Wear your bulkiest items, such as a coat, jacket, or thick sweater. It gets cold on board a long flight anyway.
  • Mix and match. Don't pack anything that can't be paired with something else you're bringing to make at least two outfits. Neutral colors work best.
  • Pack light-weight washable garments that don't wrinkle much. If you're going to be in one place for a few days, such as at a resort or on a cruise ship, hang everything up as soon as you arrive. Wash items like underwear and nylons in the sink.
  • Leave expensive jewelry at home or in a safe-deposit box, but use a few space-efficient accessories like scarves, belts, ties, and costume necklaces to enhance and differentiate outfits.
  • Leave behind bulky appliances like hair dryers (most hotels and cruise ships have them), electric curlers, and irons. If you're going to another country, you might not even be able to plug them in without an adapter.

When you're packing, set out everything you think you'll need, and then start cutting. As you review each item, ask yourself if it is really necessary.

The most important items to take with you are your travel documents, money and credit cards, and any required medication. Everything else you can buy, borrow, rent, or do without.

What financial tips do you have for travel? I would love to hear your comments.


Monday, February 15, 2016

Countdown to Financial Fitness: Love and Money

Countdown to Financial Fitness: Love and Money: Valentine's Day is one of the most popular holidays for couples to get married or engaged. Love is a beautiful thing. But money is ...

Love and Money



Valentine's Day is one of the most popular holidays for couples to get married or engaged. Love is a beautiful thing. But money is one of the primary reasons for failed marriages, and sometimes even love cannot overcome differences in financial attitudes.

Before you take that plunge, have a conversation about money with your beloved. It's just as important as the one about having children, or where you plan to live. Is the person you love a spender or a saver? If one of you is a saver and one a spender, can you accept each other as you are? Trying to change the other person's attitude will most likely prove futile, and very frustrating.

Where is the money you live on going to come from? Who will handle paying the bills or managing the investments? Will you contribute equally to household expenses, or is one spouse expected to shoulder more?

Will you open joint accounts, or maintain separate funds? Is one or both of you bringing debt or other financial obligations into the marriage?

What are your priorities? How will major purchases be handled? Are you saving to buy a house? Take an exotic vacation? Start a business? Scrimp for retirement?

Until you figure out what money means to each other and ensure that your financial attitudes are compatible, hold off on saying, "I do." Divorce is expensive.

What financial tips do you have for couples? I would love to hear your comments.