BY JULIA ANDERSON
It’s raining outside.
That’s a good thing after going through a week of wild fire threat, fire anxiety (even a bit of panic) and a rapid learning curve when it comes to fire preparation. Lots of questions, few answers.
What fire insurance coverages did we have? What should we pack in a getaway bag? How much might we save out of our house if we had time to save it?
These questions could have been asked and answered 20 years ago when I built and moved to my house in the woods. Like many long-term to-dos, I did nothing until the Big Hollow Fire was burning in heavy timber 16 miles east of my house and growing by the hour.
The fire had roared to life in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest National Forest a few days earlier, fueled by dry timber and a weird East wind. Typically, winds in the Pacific Northwest come from the West bringing rain with them off the Pacific Ocean. But August was a strange weather month with days of record high temperatures over 100 F. combined with weeks of drought that began in mid-July.
The stage was set.
Fires in Oregon (and California) already had fouled the air with smoke – choking smoke. As we returned from a trip out of town, we began checking for Big Hollow fire updates. We called neighbors along our road and researched online Fire Preparation Guides. Our area was at Level 1 evacuation status – be on alert for fire updates.
Once home, we assembled Emergency Supply Kits (suitcases) so that if we had to leave in minutes and be away for an extended period we would have the basics – toothbrush, underwear, extra pair of shoes, tops and a jacket. We put our bags by the front door. It felt ominous.
Watching television coverage of towns in Oregon already destroyed by fire with images of homes in ashes and people in shock contributed to our anxiety. We were on edge after a summer of being on edge from the pandemic, street riots and political turmoil.
After packing our to-go bags, we called our insurance agent and had him make some changes.
We made a list of what we would (or could) save from the house, if we went to a Level 2 evacuation notice, which means be prepared to leave on a moment’s notice. What could we load in our pickup, garden trailer and 4Runner? What was the most important, the necessary?
Let me pause here. Be prepared for your husband to see things differently about what to save. My list was twice the length of his. Mine included original watercolors painted by my grandmother, several antique family quilts, my computer hard-drive, genealogy material and family photos, my dad’s branding iron, art pottery pieces and my collection of tin toy motorcycles. His list was about the contents of our safe – important papers, a jewelry box. His raft and real motorcycle went to a metal shed surrounded by pasture. The rest, he said, was “just stuff.”
I explained that I had huge emotional ties to the things on my list. Losing my grandmother’s watercolors would break my heart and photos of my children, great-grandparents would be devastating. We agreed that we could replace beds and refrigerators, TVs and kitchenware. How would it feel to lose EVERYTHING? I tried to answer that question all week.
We parked our garden trailer by the front door so we could load it quickly. The smoke from all the fires continued to choke us. Dismal, anxious. I could not image what people who had lost everything were feeling.
We took photos every space our house, room by room, top to bottom. We opened closets and drawers, kitchen cabinets. We photographed the downstairs shop, my desk, Ken’s desk, safe contents.
By the end of the week, winds had shifted. Big Hollow was no longer pushing West toward us. Live updates on Facebook from Gifford Pinchot fire people let us know about weather forecasts and that crews were working to contain the 22,000-acre blaze. We began to calm down.
Last night it rained. The forecast calls for more rain. The Level 1 evac notice was lifted.
Only now can I tell myself, RELAX!!! But I sure know a lot more about fire, fire preparation and fire prevention than I did just a few days ago.
INSURANCE: Take photos of everything inside your house. Open all the drawers, photograph the contents. Then take pictures outside – garage, garden shed, whatever. Insurance coverage typically has two parts: Coverage for your house/garage structure and separate coverage for the contents, capped at a certain amount.
Don’t assume the insurance company will write you a check for the dollar amount listed for contents. YOU HAVE TO PROVE what the contents were. A photo record is essential. We now have those photos stored on 2 memory sticks stored in safe places.
Talk to your insurance agent. Ask questions. Make sure you know how the “cap” on contents coverage works. We learned that our coverages for our rafts and camping equipment were too low. There may be something like that that could be scheduled separately by your insurer.
ESCAPE PLAN: Sign up for emergency (text, email or phone) notifications from your 911 agency. Fill out a one-page FIRE ACTION PLAN: If you had to leave in minutes how would you leave and where would you meet up in case you were separated? Name an out-of-area contact person. List numbers for Sheriff, State Patrol and Fire District. Put a copy of this sheet in your kitchen and in your Emergency Supply Kit.
List what you would have at your front door if you had to leave in minutes: Important papers (birth certificates, marriage licenses, insurance documents) for sure. Credit cards, money. Your Emergency GO BAGS. We will keep ours packed and stored in a handy place.
MAKE A LEVEL 2 LIST: Get the arguing out of the way about what would go in the back of a pickup If you receive a Level 2 (prepare to evacuate) notice. There won’t be time to thresh over what to take with you. So have the discussion now. Make a list now.
DEFENDING YOUR HOUSE (in advance): Is the outside of your house fire defensible? Ours isn’t.
My fourth-generation logger neighbors up the road live in a house surrounded by several acres of green pasture and not much else. Their barn and machine shed are a good distance away. Even if a wildfire reached the pasture perimeter their house would be safe. Our house would likely burn in minutes even though we logged our big trees out a few years ago. That’s because we still have too many trees and shrubs and too much dry grass close to the front door. It all easily could ignite our cedar siding and shingle roof.
WHAT’s NEXT on MY TO DO LIST:
Complete our Level 2 Fire Action Plan with a “save what we can” list. Post it on the kitchen bulletin board.
Contact our local fire district and request a Defending Against Fire evaluation of the area around our house – 30 feet out and 100 feet out.
Consider replacing our 20-year-old shingle roof with a metal roof and maybe re-side the house with fire-resistant material. Redesign our nearby landscaping with fire prevention in mind. Trees are nice but not too close to the front door.
Readyforwildfire.org recommends that any flammable material be at least 30-foot away. You can read all about it at the web site under its Defensible Space heading.
I won’t repeat all the useful fire advice we found at CalFire’s ReadyForWildfire.org. But found it to have great information.
After our fire scare this week and after watching the fire destruction in Oregon and California, I have a much greater awareness of how a fast-moving wildfire might destroy my house and my life. I wouldn’t have time to think about saving stuff. Getting out alive would be all that counts. It would be difficult to recover a loss.
The wildfire scare kicked my butt this week. Now, we have a Fire Action Plan, a Get Out Now bag. There is more to do.
FOR MORE: readyforwildifre.org
BY JULIA ANDERSON
My public television co-host Pat Boyle (right in photo) and I were talking today about how new topics continually pop up for our show, Smart Money.
Today, we taped three new shows on three great topics: When retirement comes earlier than expected, why getting your Social Security payment electronically is a good idea and how to keep your divorce costs down.
Three diverse subjects added to a long list of diverse topics at Smart Money in the past four years. Our interviews are online, set up by the crew at MACC TVCTV public television in Beaverton, Ore. We sign on and bingo, we look as good as the talking heads on national television.
In the past six months, we have done a lot of coverage related to the virus shutdown – How to ace an online interview, email scams aimed a lonely women stuck at home and temporary changes in mandated withdrawals from tax-deferred savings accounts. (These shows have not yet aired on YouTube.)
Last month, we taped a show trashing Tom Selleck and his TV pitch for reverse mortgages. Our view is that the negatives of a reserve mortgage far outweigh the pluses.
Even though you may not live in the Portland, Oregon metro area, you still can check out Smart Money shows by going to YouTube.
Here are a few links.
Do's and don'ts of raising cash in a hurry: click here
Managing your money in a pandemic: click here
Business turnaround tips: click here
Seniors, taxes and RMDs: click here
Reverse mortgages: click here
Stimulus money in the pandemic: click here
BY JULIA ANDERSON
The financial advice industry is licking its chops over a Bloomberg forecast that American women could see their household financial assets triple in value over the next decade!
Baby Boomer women will be outliving their spouses at an increasing rate as they age into their late 70s and 80s, which means they inherit his tax-deferred retirement savings (401k and IRAs), the equity they may have accumulated in the house and other real estate they own and any other long-term assets.
Meanwhile, younger women, Bloomberg says, are becoming “more financially savvy.” Their net worth is increasing as they put more income into long-term retirement savings. Generally, younger women are smarter about saving, investing, and spending money, the report said.
We are talking about a huge wealth gain, which at first glance may seem over-the-top. Today, Bloomberg estimated that women control about $10 trillion in U.S. household financial assets – savings, investments, real estate etc. By 2030 that total will jump to $30 trillion. That’s trillion with a T!!
Here at sixtyandsingle.com, we have preached that women must prepare for a time when they will be financially on their own. Even if you turn to an outside consultant to manage your money, your own financially literacy is key to doing it successfully.
Steps you can take now:
1. Talk with your spouse about your financial future without him. What will it look like?
2. Determine your net worth by subtracting your total assets from your debt.
3. Make sure you both understand the long-term estate planning strategy.
4. What income can you count on your later years? The answers are there.
5. Will there be estate taxes at his death. How do you transfer his IRA account without paying taxes? Should you pay off the mortgage? All questions worth asking.
6. How do you know if you have a good (honest) investment adviser?
Tips for hiring a financial adviser (if you need one):
As we said, the financial industry wants to manage your money and charge you a fee for doing that management. Just make sure you are earning more from your investment savings than they are. Here are questions to ask:
- How are you paid? A flat fee for service based on total assets, a commission on investment product sales, or all of the above?
- Can you manage my assets for 1 percent or less in fees? If not, why not?
- What is the strength of the company you work for?
- Will you put your proposals in writing?
These basic questions will get you on the right track with the person you are entrusting with your financial well-being. Do not hire or continue to use a financial adviser just because they are nice!!!
Regrettably, only 15 to 20 percent of America’s financial advisers are women, Barron's said in its report. The industry would do well to make itself more attractive to women, especially since women tend to outperform men as money managers, Barron’s said.
Meanwhile, talking to a spouse about your financial future without them is a difficult conversation to have but worth the peace of mind for both of you. According to Bloomberg, a lot of money is at stake. You may be worth more in your later years than you think.
"I get angry about things, then go on and work." - Toni Morrison, author, (1931-2019)
By JULIA ANDERSON
Women have lost more jobs than men during the coronavirus pandemic. This is a serious financial setback for women, for household income and for the U.S economy.
The reasons are clear -- women work in female dominated sectors -- retailing, education and health care. Many more own their own businesses that have been closed for months.
Self-employment at beauty salons, spas, restaurants, bakeries, daycare centers and retail shops has given women the flexibility to make money and manage the kids. Work at schools, clinics and hospitals offered the same home-work dynamics.
But pandemic schools closures meant the kids came home. Someone had to be there for them, helping with online school, social distancing "play-dates" and meals. A double-whammy for women.
More of the same. The Wall Street Journal reports that many women won’t be back working at 100 percent for a long time – a year or two. Continued virus infections, layoffs and workplace closures coupled with school closures that have kids at home have created big challenges for women, especially single moms.
This has implications for the economy: High unemployment, reduced family income, less consumer spending. When will many of these jobs come back? We don’t know.
Federal stimulus programs have helped, extending unemployment benefits for self-employed workers has helped. But this aid expires in July and there are doubts about what programs should be continued and how they should be continued.
Meanwhile, the longer women remain out of the workforce the harder it could be to return. Skills atrophy or at least some employers may think that, said the Journal report.
What can women do?
Advocate for yourself with your employer if you are off the job or working from home. Stay in touch, either way. Ask for a schedule that works for you from home. Negotiate to set work-from-home expectations --- kids, hours, job performance. . Advocate for returning to the workplace even part-time.
Reset your personal and professional success goals. What one small step can you take to reach a work goal, today? What tiny victory have you achieved in the past week? What ways can you go easy on yourself during this difficult time?
Learn to live on a single-income: Cut expenses, develop an expense budget, avoid high-cost debt, talk about the stress and look for new options.
click here for the WSJ story.
Conclusion: Women have lost a lot of jobs in the pandemic. Getting back to those jobs will take time…. Maybe a year or two. It is going to be a marathon, not a 6k race.
Pacing is everything. But women will come out of this stronger, smarter and determined to move ahead personally, and financially.
"The three immutable facts: You own stuff. You will die. Someone will get that stuff." - Jane Bryant Quinn, financial writer
BY JULIA ANDERSON
After a yearlong saga, I am celebrating this week that I signed and have had notarized legal documents that should serve me the rest of my life – a will and a living trust.
With the onset of the virus shutdown coupled with daily news about the mounting virus deaths of people my age, the urgency to get something done reached near panic for me. What if I got the virus, were whisked off to a covid-19 unit never to return. I would die without goodbyes or a written legal plan for settling my estate, my burial wishes or who gets what when. My old will was woefully out of date. Yikes!
Following months of effort, the documents were ready to sign but because of the virus shutdown, going to an office was not an option. I could wait or my attorney offered to have a “signing” in the empty parking lot of a local retail shopping center, I said with joy, “Let’s do it!”
Two staff from her office showed up in one car with the documents, we arrived in our pickup. The truck tailgate made a perfect outdoor desk for signing seven pieces of paper ferried one at a time from the lawyer’s vehicle to the truck tailgate, then back.
We all wore masks. They wore gloves, as well. I brought my own blue pen so there would be no transfer of virus molecules from me to them. We periodically used spray disinfectant.
At my age (73), I have accumulated assets in a retirement account and an inherited stock portfolio plus 20 years of equity in my house. I also own a rental house.
My husband and I have a pre-nuptial agreement that gives all of his assets to his kids at his death and my separate assets to my two sons and grandson free and clear at my death.
My mother, bless her, showed me the way by setting up a pass-through will and Living Trust for her own estate naming a bank as her co-trustee. The plan worked well in the final years of her life and kept down the stress level after her death when the bank trust department settled her estate. I would like to do the same.
It took longer than anticipated for my plan to come together but I’ve come to realize that estate planning attorneys work at a different pace. In my attorney’s life this past 12 months there was an illness (hers) and a death (her father’s) that meant delays. Bottom line: I am happy with the result and thankful for the hours she put in to crafting my documents. Could I have done this myself? Maybe.
So, what have I got? I have a signed and notarized Revocable Trust or what most people call a Living Trust. What is it? A living trust is a legal entity set up through a will and trust documents that allows the trust to “own” my assets --- retirement/investment accounts, bank accounts and real estate. It also can include jewelry and furniture. As the grantor, I transferred ownership of my assets to the trust, but I continue to manage these assets just as before.
For a thorough and easy-to-understand explanation of trusts, click here.
What are the benefits of a living trust? They save time and money in settling your estate when you die. They offer more legal protection than a simple will if challenged in court and protect your privacy. They also can be used to manage your affairs before you die by turning that work over to a bank trust department. The bank charges a fee, usually a percentage of total assets to provide these services.
In my mother’s case, she turned to her local bank trust department to pay her bills, manage her farm and take care of her assets in the last years of her life when she could no longer do so because of declining health. She died one month from her 99th birthday.
My trust does more than that. It settles my estate but also sets up follow-through trusts for my children and grandchild after I am gone. My plan is to give them professionally managed financial support for at least 10 years after my death.
There are downsides – the bank trust department will charge a management fee for this service and tends to handle investment assets more conservatively than I would. That could mean less income.
My estate is hardly big enough for trust departments to want to manage but I am doing it for these reasons:
In addition to the will and trust documents, I am attaching a Tangible Asset List spelling out who gets my jewelry, my furniture, and my poster of the Big Loop Rodeo. My husband gets our jointly owned vehicles and the right to go on living in my house if he wants. My trust continues to pay the property taxes and insurance, he would pay household expenses such as the power bill and trash pickup.
Most people probably don’t need a Living Trust. A will does the job for 95 percent of us. But the sad fact is that only 55 percent of adult Americans have gone to the trouble of even writing a will. That leaves heirs to pick up the pieces after they die. It leaves them to argue over who’s in charge, over money, real estate, and the stuff inside the house. I have reported and written about many cases where the death of a parent triggers ugly fights among siblings, stepchildren, and grandchildren.
Financial abuse -- not likely in my case -- can become a temptation for children or grandchildren who may convince themselves that they deserve an early inheritance. A living trust avoids that by putting a bank trust department in charge in your final years. Trust departments are legally required to make monthly or quarterly reports to heirs and to those with Power of Attorney for your affairs.
In my mother’s case, all she had to worry about was playing bingo and getting her hair done at the care center. She kept her eye on things, followed the stock market and had regular chats with her bank trust officer. She did the right thing for all of us.
I hope to do the same.
9 Reasons Why you Should consider a Living Trust, Kiplinger, click here
Abusive trust tax evasion schemes Q&A from the IRS click here
nolo.com Do it yourself living trust. click here.
daveramsey.com click here
LegalZoom click here
I meet women all the time who face job and money transitions and who want to do them right. It’s about building confidence and taking charge of the future. This is your money. No one cares more than you do!
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