How powers of attorney can protect your parents' finances

How powers of attorney can protect your parents' finances

Published 10/1/13

How powers of attorney can protect your parents' finances By Peter Andrew

The last time my mother came home from hospital, age 82 years, we had one of those high-tech beds delivered. You know the ones: They have air mattresses that automatically inflate and deflate a bit to prevent bedsores, and electric motors that allow you to tilt the patient's head and feet. One day, I'd raised mom's head to give her a drink, and, as I reached for the bed's remote control button to return it to the horizontal, I said, "I'm just going to put your head back down again." Throughout my life, she and I had enjoyed sparring over our English usage, and her eyes flashed with delight as she crowed, "That's tautological! You don't need the 'back' and the 'again'."

She died five days later. I tell the story to illustrate that many, many seniors retain their mental acuity throughout their lives. However, the Alzheimer's Association says that 5 million people in this country age 65 or older currently have Alzheimer's, and that a new American is diagnosed with the condition every 68 seconds.

And that's just one condition. My dad didn't have Alzheimer's, but for most of his last few years he was incapable of making informed decisions. And even my mother, sharp as she was, slowly lost interest in her financial affairs as her physical illness took hold.

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5 money moves to make during a divorce

Published 9/20/13

5 money moves to make during a divorce By Holly Johnson

When I was 18, I married my high school sweetheart and moved 800 miles away from home. Shortly after that, I realized that I had made a terrible mistake. Fortunately, since we didn't have much, it was fairly easy to divide our assets and move on with our lives.

Still, I did learn a lot from the experience, and I managed to escape the situation without any financial impact or damage to my flawless credit report. How did I do it? For one thing, I hired an attorney who knew exactly what I needed to do and when. But I also picked up some other helpful tips along the way.

If you're in a marriage that isn't working out, you're probably wondering what steps you need to take to protect yourself financially. After all, if your marriage is like mine was, your finances have been intermingling for quite some time. You may have joint checking and savings accounts, joint credit cards, and, unfortunately, joint debts.

So, how should you separate your finances when you're getting a divorce? Consider starting with these five simple steps.

1. Educate yourself

Often, one spouse takes the lead in the family's financial matters. If that spouse isn't you, you'll need to educate yourself on your family's financial situation.

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4 ways to fix an unsteady cash flow

Published 9/6/13

4 ways to fix an unsteady cash flow By Georgie Miller

When I was still a student, I was pretty much broke all the time. I didn't mind too much though. I knew that when I graduated and got a "real job," my money worries would be over. Right?

But even after I found a great job with a decent salary, I noticed something weird. At certain times of the month, my checking account was overflowing. There was a couple thousand dollars in there! Other times, I would have less than $100, prompting me to worry about what would happen if a check cleared my account a day earlier than I expected.

Feast or famine

Why was this happening? I had added up my monthly spending repeatedly and came out in the black. Then one day I was putting the due dates for my bills on my calendar, and I noticed something.

The first of my two student loan payments was deducted from my account on the 28th. The second was deducted on the first. My rent was also due on the first. And the credit card that I used for my monthly spending was due on the 29th.

In other words, more than 75 percent of my spending occurred during the same one-week period every month. No wonder I was broke around that time! If you are finding yourself in a monthly cycle of rich one minute, poor the next, here are some strategies to better manage your cash flow.

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No card, no problem: 4 online payment alternatives

Published 8/2/13

No card, no problem: 4 online payment alternatives By Holly Johnson

Recently, my husband and I decided to plan a vacation with a couple of our friends. After batting some ideas around, we all decided that we wanted to go to Mexico. Of course, I immediately started perusing the Internet for a deal.

Since we wanted to go as cheaply as possible, we considered a lot of resorts and a lot of dates in order to find the least expensive vacation package that was out there. After a few weeks of searching, I came upon an amazing travel deal on one of the online comparison sites. Excited, I called my friend. "I found the deal of a lifetime," I said. "Are you ready to book?"

"Totally ready," said my friend. After going over the details for a few more minutes, I suggested that she hop on the Internet so that we could book at the same time. Unfortunately, we had a problem. "Ummm … I don't have a credit card or even a debit card," she said. "How am I supposed to pay for this?"

I was completely caught off-guard. With so many transactions being completed online, doesn't everyone need to have at least one card?

Credit and debit card alternatives

With so many products being bought and sold over the Internet, it should be no surprise that there are now a variety of ways to make purchases without a credit or debit card.

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Cats, credit cards and catastrophes

Published 7/26/13

Cats, credit cards and catastrophes By Peter Andrew

OK, I admit it: I'm a cat nut. Tati, the oldest of our three, had a mystery condition when he was very young, and it cost $10,000 to diagnose and treat it. True, most of that came from insurance, but we were still down several thousand dollars.

The world divides into people who completely get spending that sort of money on a pet, and those who are horrified or even outraged by it. I'm asked how I can justify shelling out that amount on an animal when there are people in the world who are starving. It's a fair point, but you can ask the same about all but the most essential household expenditure. The acquaintances questioning my priorities almost always have newer cars than mine (it's 18 years old), and I ask them to justify the cost of those. The starving were still around when those were bought.

Anyway, Sassi, our youngest cat (she's totally blind, and the cleverest, sweetest animal you've ever seen), now has lumps on her abdomen, and is due to return to the veterinary clinic on Thursday for biopsies to be taken. If the results are bad, there will be no cash limits on getting her better, although there will be ones on the suffering she should endure, should a brief and miserable extension to her life be all that's on offer. Time to cheer up! No point worrying before we get a diagnosis.

Cat-astrophes and credit cards

Anyway, pondering the possibility of some astronomical vet bills set me thinking about how best to pay for any treatment.

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One book's mission to teach personal finance

Published 7/1/13

One book's mission to teach personal finance By Jeffrey Steele

You can argue ad infinitum whether U.S. public schools do a good job in teaching reading, writing, arithmetic and all the other subjects taught to the tune of a hickory stick. But on one subject you're unlikely to get even a slight debate.

On the question of whether schools do well at helping students understand personal finance, the answer could be the world's most resounding "NO!"

This is what inspired Pittsburgh-based Gene Natali and his co-author Matt Kabala when they wrote their 2012 book, "The Missing Semester."

"We wrote the book because there's a clear need," Natali says. "This is one of the few subjects that impacts 100 percent of Americans. There will be 1.7 million students graduating college in 2013, and 3.2 million graduating high school, with 30 percent of those high school grads going directly to the workforce. Welcome to the real world, because 100 percent of them will have to begin making financial decisions. Yet they're ill prepared."

Introducing students to personal finance

When their schools fail them in term of financial education, students may not be prepared choose wisely on the dozens of financial choices that will be confronting them upon their graduation.

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