Identity Theft Epidemic
June 12, 2018
Identity theft has become a nationwide epidemic. According to AARP, 15 million people were victimized by identity theft in 2016, alone.
I’m reluctantly becoming an expert in identity theft. In my previous corporate careers, I was responsible for the safekeeping of other’s personal information, especially social security numbers. I was always meticulous and shredded any documentation containing personal information. Personally, I created my own ‘organize and shred’ process to coincide with filing my taxes. Imagine my surprise this year when I discovered I am a victim of identity theft again. Just once, I wish I would be surprised by a $1 million winning lottery ticket, or a 40% return on my investment portfolio, or an exemption for never having to file future tax returns. But ‘No’ --- my surprise, for the third time, was discovering someone stole my social security number. This wasn’t something I easily uncovered, but after you’ve been a victim of identity theft twice before, you realize how important it is to review all your important paperwork. For me, tax season is the most effective time.
At one of my recent speaking engagements, a participant mentioned the topic of identity theft. I shared with this group of older adults that one of the first things to do is file a police report. There are only a few organizations such as your employer, your banks and lenders, and the IRS that have a legal right to your social security number, so caution is advised when others ask for it. Along with filing a police report, it is recommended you notify the three credit reporting bureaus and place a security freeze on your credit file.
As for me, I’ve filed my taxes and professionally shredded my obsolete documents. Thus, I’m diligently working to get my name off the lease for that Chicago apartment I didn’t know I rented.
Is the location of your personal information documented and available should you or a loved one need to contact the credit bureaus, file a police report or notify your bank in the event of identity theft? Could you easily find the contact information for your bank, accountants, advisors, or any other professionals that would need to be notified?
I thought I would inherit the house!
May 29, 2018
In most situations, it is assumed someone will inherit the house. As our parents age and are faced with the difficult decision of how long they are able to continue living in their home, there is always the question of what will happen to their house. It can be a shock to family members when they are made aware of the cost associated with mom and/or dad moving into a retirement community, an assisted living facility or a nursing home. At one of my speaking engagements in April, the cost of long-term care generated quite the discussion among the attendees. Prices vary depending on the type of care, but my audience was shocked to learn about the depletion of an entire estate in Boston due to three years of payments to a nursing home at the cost of $12,000 per month.
Luckily, the woman had a long-term care policy, but her nursing home costs still required the sale of her home and most of her possessions. It was unfortunate for this family when they realized no one would inherit the house. Having the conversation about Legacy Planning prior to needing to sale the family home or business is a loving and generous thing to do for your family and friends. It will help reduce the stress and confusion associated with a major life change.
Have you thought about where you’d want to live if you no longer could stay in your home? Would you want to live closer to your children? If the reason for the move is Alzheimer’s or dementia, do you have a power of attorney for finances and health care? Do you have a documented plan for your personal property, real estate or any other important possessions? Is your estate set up so your family will inherit the house?
How much is the cost of retirement?
May 22, 2018
According to a study released in 2017 by Merrill Lynch, the average cost of retirement is more than $700,000. When I mentioned this number at one of my recent speaking engagements, I had one gentleman announce to the group that if this is true, he would be homeless and living in a cardboard box on the streets. After that statement I didn’t have the heart to mention to the group that Fidelity Investments estimates health care and medical expenses alone will total $275,000 for the average 65-year-old couple retiring in 2017. I did some additional research and found a survey which said 55% of Americans have put away less than $10,000 for retirement. What? Is that true? I couldn’t help but think what the cost of retirement will be in 20 or 30 years when my nieces and nephews are approaching the age to retire.
Are you prepared financially, emotionally, and spiritually for the cost of retirement? Do your family and friends know where to locate your investment, financial, medical and healthcare documents should you become unable to do so?
May is National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month!
May 15, 2018
In honor of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, the following is a story about a motorcycle, legal documents and household financials as communicated to me by a dear friend in Texas. In May 2016, her husband and his buddy were on a 5-day motorcycle trip in the Texas Hill Country. On the last day of their trip, as she was working in Houston, the buddy called and said her husband misjudged a curve and veered off the road. He watched in horror as her husband and his bike flipped several times, end over end. The paramedics on scene deemed his injuries life-threatening and summoned LifeFlight. She immediately left work, hurried home and prepared for her drive to San Antonio. Several hours later, she arrived at Brooke Army Medical Center, the region’s premier trauma center. Her husband spent 4 weeks there in ICU and another 5 weeks in two other hospitals before he returned home. Thankfully, today he has almost fully recovered.
She stated they both learned two very valuable lessons from this serious event.
Lesson #1 - Legal documents. They had medical directives and wills created in 2004, but at this very critical time couldn’t FIND them. Fortunately, they didn’t need the documents this time; however, they never found them. They contacted their attorney and new ones are now in process.
Lesson #2 – Household Financials. She is the primary bill payer of the family, so bills are paid on time without worry of late payment fees or services being canceled. If that had been her in ICU, intubated for 3 weeks, her husband would have been dealing with not only the trauma of her in the hospital, but also the additional stress of not knowing the bill paying procedures. They are now making it a priority to document all their financial payments and obligations so that either of them can step in when the unexpected happens.
Do you have a will? Are your medical wishes documented in a medical directive? Can you lay your hands on them? Could someone pay your bills so your mortgage isn’t foreclosed, your car repossessed, or your utilities turned off? Even though her husband was an experienced rider and well versed in motorcycle safety, life can change in the BLINK OF AN EYE. Be prepared!
Am I really this old already? That just can’t be right!
May 1, 2018
As we gathered last fall to celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday, we had relatives flying in from all over the country. My mother was blessed with four sons and six daughters, and she came from a large family too, so it was a weekend of catching up with aunts, uncles and cousins we hadn’t seen in years. As I entertained some of the older cousins that weekend and our conversation drifted to the fact that most of us kids are now in our 60s, one cousin made a statement which resulted in laughter at first, but then the reality set in of what she had just said. Her comment was “I thought growing old would take longer!” It was quite humbling to realize we all were closer to the age of 70, than 50. Because several of us had lost siblings at much younger ages, we were thankful to be celebrating my mother’s 90th and proceeded to share stories and laughter of those much younger days when we thought we’d live forever. We also talked about how and where we’d want to ‘grow old’. Have you let others know your wishes? Do your loved ones know how you want your personal property distributed, where your insurance policies are located, what to do about your funeral services, who to contact in case of your death or any of your other personal information?