Advice for widows: Before and after the death
BY JULIA ANDERSON
Right now, three of my friends are living one day at a time through the slow deaths of the husbands. Their spouses are lovely, bright, and lively men with a lifetime of success in marriage and career. Their strong wives are there for them as they face decline.
In their 70s, two of these men are grappling with Alzheimer’s disease. The third has Parkinson’s. Their afflictions keep their spouses on a short tether, engaged in doctors’ visits, home care and day-to-day – sometimes minute-to-minute – management.
The end is clear. These men will almost certainly die before their wives. In fact, half of all American women over age 65 are single and on their own, emotionally, and financially because they have lost a spouse to death or divorce. This life-changing loss may happen in their 60s as it did for a couple of my friends because of cancer. And even more likely in their 70s.
With all this in mind, my Smart Money public television co-host, Pat Boyle, and I each invited a close widowed friend to join us on the show to talk about widowhood. It was a powerful conservation where they shared their experiences and their advice for women newly widowed or those who soon will be widowed. Below is their wisdom. (Click here to view the video on YouTube Smart Money).
What to do before the death of your spouse:
Update your health insurance coverage for your spouse during the annual open enrollment period that typically starts Nov. 1 through mid-December. In the face of serious illness, a less expensive Medicare Advantage plan will NOT be what you need going forward. Talk to your doctor’s office and to a health care insurance coverage specialist. Ask for advice on the best, most comprehensive coverage in the face of our spouse’s illness. A more expensive monthly payment may save you thousands and thousands of dollars in the longer run.
Adjust ownership of all tangible assets – vehicle titles, real estate, deeds, bank accounts and insurance policies. Make sure that the ownership transfer of these assets is seamless and low stress at his death.
Know as much as you can about all your finances – investments, Individual Retirement Accounts, savings, real estate holdings and credit card debt. Make sure you know how are they managed and by whom.
Review your household income and expenses prior to death. Then do a forecast on income and expenses post death. What changes when you spouse is gone? Look at income and expenses.
Also, look at your net worth – that’s assets minus debt. What might change down the road?
Get copies of your legal marriage certificate filed at the county courthouse. Make copies because Social Security and others will want to know that you were legally married.
With your spouse, make his funeral arrangements prior to his death so that you don’t overpay or are pressured by funeral directors or family to spend more than you want.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your spouse or your financial, legal and bank advisers. Widowhood does not mean that you are a victim.
Wisdom for widows, post death
Make lists, use "sticky" notes. You may think you are ready for the loss and the grief that will accompany the death of your spouse, but likely it will take months, maybe years to adjust. Lists will help you stay on track and avoid forgetting important to-do's, Grief and the shock of your loss may generate “fuzzy” thinking.
Don’t forget to pay your monthly bills.
Notify Social Security of the death as soon as possible. You otherwise may have to pay back automatic benefit payments. You will need a legal death certificate.
Make several copies of the death certificate.
Set up a face-to-face appointment at your nearest Social Security office to consider benefit options as a widow. Bring a legal copy of the death certificate and a copy of your marriage license. To receive widow’s benefits you must have been married 10 years or more.
Make NO big financial decisions for at least one year. Don’t sell your house, don’t change your routine but instead let things settle down, let your mind and soul recover. It will become clear what moves to make after time passes. Don’t jump into a reverse mortgage on your house, for example.
Don’t be afraid to constantly ask questions as issues arise. Being a widow does not mean being a victim. If you don’t get the answers you want, keep asking, keep researching. (When the Smart Money show becomes available on YouTube, I will add a link). - Julia
4 "money" books for kids (and their parents)
BY JULIA ANDERSON
Want to help your kids and/or your grandkids get smarter about money? Many would like to but how? Lecturing about credit card debt, rattling on about saving for the long term or bad spending habits doesn’t work. People don’t like lectures.
What does work? Below are four kids’ “money” books that might help. We reviewed them recently on my public television show, Smart Money but I also am sharing our thoughts, here.
If you search Amazon.com for books to help kids get started with saving, managing, and investing money, you will be overwhelmed. I chose these four not because they are the absolute best but that they offer four approaches to coaching kids and their parents on money – earning money, setting goals, saving, and planning for the long-term
Two of the books are truly directed at kids with lots of tips and illustrations while two others are geared more to parents who want to get their kids started on the right money path. Here they are:
No. 1 “How to Money” by Jean Chatzky in collaboration with several people. This book is as Jean puts it, “Your ultimate visual guide to the basics of finance.” She starts with a big question: What Do You Want from Your Life?
Directed at young adults, high school age and older. The book offers chapters on the best use of an allowance, starting your own business as a teenager and ways to turn your free time into a money-making opportunity.
There are chapters on how to budget, how to set money goals and spend money, and why credit is important. Part 5 of the book looks to the future – why and how to get an education, how to outline a career and manage a paycheck.
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK: Chapters are easy to navigate and well-labeled. The information is presented in easy-to-understand short segments. The Book is WELL ILLUSTRATED with lots of entry points to explain concepts. Jean, a long-time national financial writer, asks a basic question of her readers – “What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?” She suggests putting together a list of 5 things you enjoy doing and what majors would allow you to turn those passions into a career. $16.22 in paperback at Amazon. click here
No. 2. “I WANT MORE PIZZA – Real World Money Skills for High School, College and Beyond” by Steve Burkholder. This book offers real world money skills for high school and college kids and older. The author cleverly divides this book into pizza “slices” rather than chapters:
Slice No. 1: You. Your goals, priorities, and action. Think about your goals and write them down
Slice No. 2: Saving – how to save by making saving your priority. Budgeting. Use auto-save at the bank, for instance. You can’t afford not to save, says author Burkholder.
Slice No. 3: Growing your savings by investing and using compound growth. Put your saved money to work. Burkholder explains savings accounts, T-Bills, CDs, and mutual funds.
Slice No. 4: Debt, credit cards and paying for college. Use studentaid.ed.gov to research scholarship opportunities.
What I liked about this book: “I Want More Pizza” is jammed-packed with all the basics of getting off to a good financial start. Written for TEENAGERS (not about them) this book is a first-person money coach. Inside there’s room for notes as you work through the “slices” (chapters.). Steve’s bottom line: Never GIVE UP!!!
Available for $8.95 paperback at Amazon.com click here.
No. 3. “Smart Money Smart Kids: Raising the Next Generation to Win with Money,” by Dave Ramsey and his daughter, Rachel Cruze. This is an extensive 250-plus page book directed toward parents who want to get their kids off to a good start with money by establishing family money traditions, by offering tips to help little kids understand the concept of delayed reward and the mantra that work “is NOT a four-letter word.” Rachel includes first-person accounts of how she learned to manage her money, set up a business while in high school and how she got throught college without huge debt.
Dave and Rachel teach parents how to introduce DELAYED REWARD to young children. How to teach younger kids about work using family chores, discipline, and responsibility. How to help them understand that money comes from work.
With older high school kids, Dave and Rachel recommend they start their own business. They lay out a plan to how to get started by brain storming ideas. The book covers spending money wisely, saving wisely. Saving, they say, teaches patience, something we could use more of.
Debt is a big topic for Dave Ramsey…he hates credit cards and the burden of debt. His view is that there is no good debt. Dave and Rachel talk about kids and credit cards. They warn about kids going off to college and being offered credit cards and taking on huge student debt.
College: They discuss how to finance a college education without taking on debt. They talk about 529 savings accounts and education savings accounts. They discuss choosing a school…public or private. Choosing a major, winning scholarships. Working while going to school.
WHAT I LIKED MOST ABOUT THIS BOOK: Lots of good advice for parents who want to help their children get a good financial start to their lives from an early age. At the back of the book is a STUDENT BUDGET OUTLINE that I really like. How to help a college-bound student get a handle on expenses. How to look ahead. Available on sale at Amazon for $13.21 hardcover. Click here.
No. 4: “Smart Girl’s Guide MONEY: how to make it, save it and spend it,” by Nancy Holyoke. Part of the American Girl series.
This book is a hands-on guide to money for girls in the 10- to 14-year-old range. Geared to younger girls who are old enough to read, who might start their first job or set up a savings account. The book is well illustrated and has IMPACT. I liked this book for lots of reasons including a couple of pages that deal with “money emotions.” --- Greed, anxiety, guilt, confidence, jealousy, pride generosity etc. This book is inclusive and fun to explore.
Topics include allowances as a privilege, not a right. How to have a money talk with your parents regarding expenses, saving and spending. Making money: Going into business, getting a job,
There are quizzes throughout that ask young readers to identify their “money style.” In other words, how gullible might they be to “money pitches.” Another quiz helps determine spending styles, and another helps them determine “what kind of shopper” they are.
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK: This is a hands-on book for young girls that will help them find out who they are when it comes to money. The book is well illustrated and easy to access with great tips for building good money habits. It concludes with 101 Moneymaking Ideas for Girls. I loved that. At Amazon in paperback for $11.99. click here.
These books are meant to help young people understand the value of good money management. They all emphasize that while money can’t buy happiness, but having it and a plan for saving, investing, and spending it does make life better.
Smart Money wins national recognition from NATOA
BY JULIA ANDERSON
I am thrilled to announce that Smart Money, a show I co-host with Pat Boyle on public television in Beaverton, Ore. has won national recognition from NATOA (National Association of Telecommunications Offices and Advisers), a Virginia-based industry organization.
Our show taped earlier this year called "11 Things I Would Tell Myself About Money" was submitted to judges in the NATOA organization for evaluation based on effective communication with attention to details in a clear and comprehensive way.
Pat did a great job of interviewing me about all the "money" lessons I have learned over my life.
We received an Honorable Mention in the "talent" category for our "warm and welcoming" informal style and our "informative" content. "Nice informal manner. Easy going but informative style helps make the subject matter less intimidating," said the judges. " Good job." For the link to the show, click here.
Judges also mentioned the great TVCTV studio lighting and camera work. Thanks TVCTV team! We competed against programming in Washington state, Texas, Minnesota, and Massachusetts.
Smart Money has been a monthly feature on TVCTV cable channels in Portland, Ore. for more than five years with a potential viewership of over 1 million. The show also is uploaded to YouTube.
This means so much to me because my passion in retirement is all about financial literacy, especially for women!! Smart Money is my ongoing opportunity to help viewers think about their money futures while managing their daily money challenges. Thank you, NATOA for this recognition.
Here's the link to our award-winning show: Click here.
Financial infidelity: What it is and how to overcome it
BY JULIA ANDERSON
In Washington state there are an estimated 24,500 divorces each year, 13,500 in Oregon. That’s about 3.5 divorces per 1,000 population and higher than the national average of 2.3 per 1,000. All those divorce rates are down nearly by half from 20 years ago, but divorce lawyer Juliet Laycoe says it is not necessarily the whole picture. That’s because fewer couples are marrying in the first place. She thinks the break-up rate among couples living together with or without marriage is higher.
This leads us to our topic – "financial infidelity."
A leading cause of divorce, financial infidelity can take many forms. Not being honest about how much credit card debt you may be racking up, is an obvious example. Dishonesty when it comes to illegal drug use, or gambling addiction. Squirreling away cash is secret accounts. They all fall under the financial infidelity label.
In a recent Smart Money show, Laycoe related the story of a husband who was buying stuff he didn't need. To cover up the purchases he rented a storage use, filling it with computers, electronic equipment, and other items. His wife began divorce proceedings because they weren’t paying their household bills. She couldn't understand where the money was going. By looking into bank account statements the storage unit rental fees were uncovered. This led to a conversation about unrestrained spending.
The good news in this case is the husband got help for his bi-polar mental condition. With medication and counseling the couple reconciled.
Financial infidelity is surprisingly common among couples. A survey by the National Endowment for Financial Education said a significant percentage (43 percent or 2 in 5) of spouses admitted to not being totally honest about money. It might mean hiding purchases, not disclosing a cash refund, hiding bills, or running up credit card debt.
“When you comingle finances in a relationship, you’re consenting to cooperation and transparency in your money management. Regardless of the severity of the act, financial infidelity can cause tremendous strain on couples – it leads to arguments, a breakdown of trust, and in some cases separation or even divorce,” said Billy Hensley president and CEO of NEFE in a late 2021 article.
In no-fault divorce states, especially, (where you don’t have to have a reason for the divorce) assets and debt are weighed out equally. That means someone’s secret $60,000 of credit card debt is shared equally in a divorce, as was the case of a friend of mine. While the couple may have assets of $300,000, the $60,000 in debt is subtracted from the assets. That leaves the divorcing couple to share the remaining assets.
Whether or not a state has community property laws in place seems to not matter that much when it comes to shared assets and shared debt in a divorce, Laycoe said. “Financial infidelity does not occur in an open and honest relationship,” Laycoe said.
As for unmarried couples who are living together, Laycoe recommends a “co-habitation agreement” that spells out who owns what property and who pays for what as well as who gets what in a break-up. This is similar to a pre-nuptial agreement for couples who do marry.
A fair financial settlement in a divorce is a huge part of the negotiation, especially for women who may face financial hardship on their own. How can a divorce attorney go about making sure a settlement in fair?
Laycoe said that in complicated cases where large assets are at stake, hiring a forensic accountant may be required to sleuth out undisclosed accounts and purchases, or stashed cash.
“In most cases it is just a matter of looking at pay stubs and account deposits,” she said. “You add up money coming in and look at where it is going. That’s how we discovered the undisclosed rental unit fees, for instance,” she said.
The NEFE polling showed that two out of five people were aware of financial infidelity in a relationship. “This highlights the need for greater communication and a deeper understanding of who your partner is financially,” NEFE CEO Hensley said.
How to prevent financial infidelity:
Establish financial transparency and trust by frequently reviewing household bills and income.
Review financial statements – bank statements, retirement accounts.
Regularly discuss shared financial goals.
Work together to achieve common financial objectives.
Communicate – share your money worries, goals.
Consider financial counseling to strengthen trust if there’s an issue.
Stay honest even if the truth will hurt.
"Overcoming Financial infidelity," click here.
"2 in 5 Americans Admit to Financial Infidelity Against Their Partner," click here.
"How to Avoid financial Infidelity in Your relationship," click here.
"Divorce Wisdom: Smart Strategies for Anyone Contemplating or experiencing Divorce," by Juliet Laycoe. click here.
Congress wants to help more Americans save for retirement with the Secure Act 2.0
BY JULIA ANDERSON April 2022
Later this year, Congress likely will pass the Secure Act 2.0 in an attempt to get more Americans saving for retirement. At the same time the bill gives retirees more time to take money out.
This is a big deal because only 50 percent of American households use a retirement account. That is unchanged in the past 20 years. Even more depressing is that heads of households between ages 35 and 44 are actually LESS likely now to own a retirement account than 20 years ago.
The bill basics:
If passed later this year out of the Senate, the Secure Act 2.0 would expand enrollment in tax-deferred retirement accounts by offering a tax credit up to $500 to enrollees who elect to enroll in an auto-enrollment retirement savings program. The tax credit applies the first three years of participation.
More employers will be required to AUTOMATICALLY enroll new employees in a retirement savings plan with a 3 percent payroll deduction level that ticks up annually until it reaches 10 percent. Employees must opt out of the plan, rather than opt in. It also allows part-time workers to participate in a 401(k) plan. That would benefit many women who juggle family and a part-time job.
If passed, the bill would raise catch-up contribution limits for people 62, 63 and 64: The contribution limit goes from $6,500 a year to $10,000 a year for this age group. But the additional contributions must be in after-tax Roth IRA contributions.
The bill improves and simplifies a SAVER’S TAX CREDIT for medium and low-income households starting in 2027. This provision increases the number of people who qualify to save in an employers’ retirement account.
For those near retirement, the bill again raises the age when people would be required to start withdrawing money from their retirement accounts from a current age 72 to 75 by 2033.
Small businesses would receive more incentives for launching retirement plans. Student borrowers would get extra assistance with loans.
EXAMPLE: According to Forbes magazine: A married couple earning $50,000 a year and saving $4,000 annually in a retirement account would get a $400 tax credit in addition to matching money from an employer and a tax deduction on their federal taxes for the money saved.
OUTLOOK: Secure Act 2.0 is expected to be taken up in the U.S. Senate after the August 2022 recess and then become part of a larger end-of-year spending bill or it could remain a stand-alone bill and pass on its own.
NEGATIVES of this bill: Critics say this bill does not do enough: It doesn’t tackle why more Americans are doing nothing to save for retirement. Some see a universal coverage plan as a better solution. Something like a Social Security account for long-term savings rather than leaving it to individual employers to find account managers and set up programs.
Meanwhile, workers can go long stretches without having access to a retirement savings plan because they lose a job, or work for an employer without a retirement plan. Also people switch jobs and take out their money. Money leaking out of existing retirement accounts is a problem. The bill does nothing to address that.
My summary touches the surface of the reform bill. For more:
Kiplinger, click here.
Forbes, click here.
WSJ "How to get Americans to Save for Retirement" - click here.
My 2022 Smart Women Smart Money interview with Helen Raptis at KATU's AM Northwest
"It is never too late to start managing your money," Julia Anderson, author, journalist and television host.
A big thank you to Helen Raptis, host of AM Northwest at Portland’s KATU Channel 2 for profiling me and my newly updated 2022 book, “Smart Women Smart Money Smart Life.” Helen is such a good interviewer and gets right to the heart of things:
- Mistakes women make when planning (or not planning) for retirement.
- Lessons we learned from Covid-19 (a whole chapter in my 2022 book).
- Mistakes I made with my own money over my work life.
- Why women were hit hard by Covid-19 layoffs and shutdowns.
Here’s a link to the interview:
Thanks again to the crew at KATU's AM Northwest for arranging this interview.
BY JULIA ANDERSON
In so many ways, American working-age women took the biggest hit from the pandemic. They stayed home to take care of children going to school online. They lost jobs in services industries -- hospitality, childcare, and retailing. The economic pain in the short-term was real in lost household income. In the long-term it might be worse because women, more than men, lost a step with their retirement savings plans.
What can women do to catch-up?
Recently, we interviewed Jacent Wamala on Smart Money, our public television show. She shared her money management tips for women, specifically women of color.
Jacent Wamala paid off $90,000 of accumulated debt in three years. Sure, she did the usual things – reduced her spending, stopped using credit cards etc. But her biggest change-up was finding a NEW and BETTER PAYING job. Wamala told us that she spent three months looking for that better-paying job, as well as coming up with money strategy to pay down her debt. The cool thing is that she shared her “money mindset” journey on Instagram.
She used Instagram because she “wanted to share information, tools and techniques that would enable more women to create FINANCIAL FREEDOM and FLEXIBILITY in their lives faster.” Amen!!!
Her posts are a hit.
Wamala, a private-practice psychologist in Las Vegas, now has 22,500 Instagram followers who saw how she dealt with debt by sharing her “jacentsgems.” She has been interviewed on the Today Show and by Psychology Today and the New York Times. She’s writing a book, leads speaking engagements and has established her “Wealth-Wellness University.”
She regularly posts jacentsgems on Spotify and Instagram to inspire millennial women to take charge of their money and their financial future. Her Instagram posts are filled with inspiration, common sense, and tips on how to take small (but committed) steps to change your money habits. While she speaks to her millennial generation her message resonates with all women who want to change the way they manage their money.
Her message certainly hit the right note with me. She asked her clients to “become more genuine and honest with themselves.”
That is precisely how women of all ages are going to recover from the pandemic. How they will build back a money strategy and have the retirement that they deserve. For me, honesty means thinking about the future realistically. Finding a better-paying job with health benefits and a 401(k)-retirement plan makes absolute sense, especially when employers are looking for reliable, intelligent workers. What’s the point of going back to the old job that was fun but offered no advancement and didn't pay much?
I see Jacent as the Suze Orman of the millennial generation. She’s personable, intelligent, and NOT a financial adviser. That’s a plus. She speaks to the psychological barriers we place in front of ourselves. She doesn’t have to have all the financial investment answers.
Her message is about getting your mind set on a better financial future – short-term and long-term. Goals for her clients are twofold: Money freedom and money flexibility.
Here are money management tips from Jacent Wamala:
- Transform the way you see yourself when it comes to money by tracking your daily spending and saving habits. Keep a journal. Evaluate your list in terms of what is “healthy” and what is not.
- Transform your mindset by using daily “gratitude chants.” Do these gratitude chants throughout your day to see yourself in a positive way with the ability to control your life. “Listen to the information that reminds you of your ability to succeed,” Wamala says.
- Commit to your project. It will take time. Ask how you are going to turn your NEW money mindset into a long-term habit. Wamala says start with just a week. Work up to the change. She said it takes a minimum of 21 days to build a new habit. Build accountability into your plan by telling someone about your mission.
- Surround yourself with people who have the mindset that you want. This may be her most important tip. These are friends who will "cheer you on," she says.
To make this happen she encourages followers to: “Re-curate” their feeds, form accountability groups, get a coach, set up a game plan and accept that the changes will come slowly."
She offers support at her website wamalawellness.com, on YouTube and with podcasts called “Wealth and Wellness with Money Mindset Coast Jacent Wamala.
To review: Financially rescue yourself from the pandemic by changing your mindset. Get a better-paying job like Jacent Wamala did, find re-training opportunities to qualify for better-paying work, get rid of your debt burden and take charge of your money to have the life you deserve!!
New York Times, click here.
Instagram, click here. YouTube click here.
5-step financial plan to kick off 2022
BY JULIA ANDERSON
Yes, we are living in a whacky time with inflation taking a bite out of household budgets, stock markets in volatile territory and the Federal Reserve Bank deciding when to raise interest rates. All these factors will affect how we manage our money in the coming year. Here are 5 money tips to get the year off right!
No. 1 Keep up your long-term savings plan: No matter your income put money into a savings plan. This can be once a week, once a month. Just do it. Build an emergency fund so you don’t have to use credit cards if something bad happens. Put enough money into your employer’s 401(k) retirement program to at least earn the company matching money. Or start your own tax-deferred Individual Retirement Account or a Roth IRA. Plan out your retirement investment strategy, and don’t be too conservative.
No 2. Look over your household budget. Find ways to reduce expenses. Sure, gas prices are up, how about taking public transportation to your job or work from home? Save on food costs at the grocery store by buying in bulk, avoiding prepared items, and sticking with lower-cost fresh items. Budget management takes takes concentration and effort but worth it if you can cut costs. In fact, review all your fixed costs – insurance, mortgage, medical bills, Internet and TV subscriptions. Lower the temperature on your water heater to save energy costs?
No. 3. Get a NEW AND BETTER JOB: Employers are desperately looking for reliable committed employees --- railroads are hiring, manufacturing is hiring, retail and hospitality are hiring. A new job is the best way to increase household income by finding a position with higher pay. Don’t worry if you don’t have prior experience. Many employers will give you the technical training. All they want is someone who will show up every day and do the job.
No 4. Invest for the long-term. Don’t be afraid of the stock market. Stocks remain the best place to save and invest for the LONG TERM. U.S. markets have done well in the past three years and are likely to cool off as higher interest rates go up. Remember U.S. markets deliver ON AVERAGE a 7 to 10 percent return (every year for the past 50 years). If you are under 30, start saving for retirement now. Time is money. The rewards are huge if you start early!!
No 5. Kick your credit cards to the curb. Pay off anything you put on a credit card at the end of the month. If you have carry-over credit card debt with high (18-20 percent interest fees) pay it off as soon as possible. Put the money saved into your savings and investment plan.
ONE MORE TIP: Covid-19 taught us ALL that we need a Will and designated healthcare directives. Easy and cheap to do online. Download a form that pertains to your state. Fill it out and get it notarized at a bank for free. Give the documents to your family.
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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