morgandawn: (MoneyDog)
The next 4 years are going to be...unpredictable. There may be severe disruptions in the economy, food,  oil supply and job markets.

The only "smart thing" I am encouraging all my family and friends is this: set up an emergency fund and keep it safe. We need 3 months (better yet 6 months) of the essentials - rent, utilities, medical, car payments, gas and food. Cut back on your holiday spending and set up automatic payroll deductions into a savings account.

If you have a company that matches your retirement savings here is what I suggest

1. Save up 3 months of emergency savings. Some people say you should split your money between saving and paying off debt. Dave Ramsey suggests a different model: save $1000, then pay off debt. Do what works best for you. The most important message: HAVE A PLAN.
2. Then fund your retirement account up to the employer match (free money)
3. if you have any more after that, build your savings account up to 6 months. Or alternatively start paying off debt. Or do both. Again, have a plan and stick to it.

Speaking of credit card debt?

1. Don't use credit cards unless you can pay them all off at the end of the month (AND build an emergency fund/pay off debt/fund retirement) :
2. If you cannot pay off your credit cards at the end of each month (and build an emergency fund/pay off debt/fund retirement) : then credit cards should only be used in an emergency, not for routine purchases.

Buy insurance - if your company offers long term disability, get it. If they offer life insurance, get it (if you have family that depends on your income). These are major emergencies that can destroy families

Reading:
Saving vs Retirement vs Debt
Emergency Funds

my other money posts
morgandawn: (Default Me Icon)
 So [personal profile] xlorp  and I have decided we'll do what we can (which is all any of us can do). We plan to make 1 phone call a week (since phone calls are what moves the DC machinery) and also focus on local topics which have a big impact on our quality of life

To help us select what to focus on, we'll be using several resources. This one is public and open to anyone:

#ACALLADAY
A call a day keeps fascism away! Scripts & strategies for contacting elected officials and other forms of resistance. 
Sign up here: http://tinyletter.com/acalladay or peruse  their archive http://tinyletter.com/acalladay/archive

edited: there is also a Weekly Call To Action Google Doc. The first link goes to a set of tips. The second link goes to the actual list. Last week is was about Bannon, This week the ACA and getting the House Oversight Committee to start looking into Trumps conflict of interest issues

Two amazing tools to help you reach out to your Congresspersons (we have tested both)

Jessica Fish (@Fishica) tweeted at 0:57 PM on Thu, Nov 17, 2016:
MAGIC ALERT: You call this number and it auto-connects you to ALL of your congressfolks offices, hops from 1 to the next. 1 (844) 872-0234
(https://twitter.com/Fishica/status/799355857158873088?s=03)

Add Their Numbers To Your Phone
Text your US address to (520) 200-2223 to get a list of your star and federal reps.

(zip alone is often enough. If you are really paranoid, use the address of that neighbor who leaves their dog home alone on long weekends until it barks itself hoarsely to sleep).

This year we're skipping holiday gifts and we donated to:

TransLifeLine (transgender support hotline)
ACLU
RAINN
Southern Poverty Law Center
Planned Parenthood
 

 

morgandawn: (MoneyDog)
A Beginner’s Guide to Opening an IRATo which I would add: non-working spouses can - and should if possible - open an IRA in their own name. You do not need to be working to open an IRA as long as one of you is earning some income."The Spousal IRA exceptionFortunately for married couples, there is one way to make a contribution to an IRA if you don’t have wages—a Spousal IRA. This is a tax-advantaged retirement account designed specifically to allow a working spouse to make contributions on behalf of a nonworking spouse. Under current laws, if you’re married filing jointly, you can contribute the maximum into an IRA for each spouse—even if one of you has no earned income—as long as the working spouse has income equal to both contributions.So let’s say both you and your spouse are over 50 and want to contribute the maximum of $6,000 to each of your IRAs. Whichever one of you is working would have to have earned income of $12,000 or more to cover both contributions.Another good thing about the Spousal IRA is that, should the non-working spouse go back to work, he or she can contribute to the same IRA. That’s because, once opened, a Spousal IRA is an Individual Retirement Account like any other.” Source: Charles Schwab

A Beginner’s Guide to Opening an IRA

To which I would add: non-working spouses can - and should if possible - open an IRA in their own name. You do not need to be working to open an IRA as long as one of you is earning some income.

"The Spousal IRA exception

Fortunately for married couples, there is one way to make a contribution to an IRA if you don’t have wages—a Spousal IRA. This is a tax-advantaged retirement account designed specifically to allow a working spouse to make contributions on behalf of a nonworking spouse. Under current laws, if you’re married filing jointly, you can contribute the maximum into an IRA for each spouse—even if one of you has no earned income—as long as the working spouse has income equal to both contributions.

So let’s say both you and your spouse are over 50 and want to contribute the maximum of $6,000 to each of your IRAs. Whichever one of you is working would have to have earned income of $12,000 or more to cover both contributions.

Another good thing about the Spousal IRA is that, should the non-working spouse go back to work, he or she can contribute to the same IRA. That’s because, once opened, a Spousal IRA is an Individual Retirement Account like any other.” Source: Charles Schwab

morgandawn: (MoneyDog)
If you have any money in your retirement accounts or just any account that is a money market fund, pay heed: the US has changed the protections for these funds and they are no longer guaranteed to keep their value.

Traditionally money market funds are places where people can store cash. Most are tied into some form of retirement or investment account, but with interest rates so low, some people have put their cash in these funds in order to get a better rate of return. Which was always an iffy idea idea because the accounts have never been FDIC insured. But at least they were guaranteed to not lose value - your $1 would always be worth $1.

This week the SEC changed the laws protecting  the cash in money market funds so the value can fluctuate. They say this is limited to "institutional money market funds" whatever that means.

Some advice (bonus points for 'the Escape From New York' reference)
"So what can an investor do and what advice would I give them as a financial advisor? Stay out of money market funds! The few extra basis points of yield aren't worth it. You own NO legal guaranteed par put or portfolio-manager insurance from losses. Keep your cash in short term T-bills. Yes, there is very little interest. We live in a ZIRP-world, and that's how it goes unfortunately. Or, put your short term money in FDIC- guaranteed bank CDs. The yield differential isn't worth taking the capital-loss risk inherent in money-market funds, and the FDIC is the only real insurance around. If the FDIC can't honor its agreement, then we'll be living in a Snake Plissken world and it won't matter anyway. "

From here

morgandawn: (MoneyDog)
You would think that inflation is measured with 'real' values (things like the cost of bread or milk or gas). It is not - today inflation is measured using much more static values that hide the fact that things that real people need to live are rising much faster than many of us can afford. For example, if inflation was measured the way it was in the 1980s, the current inflation rate would be 10%. (As a side note, the measurement of unemployment levels was changed in the 1990s to read much lower than it actually is. If it was measured the way we've measured since the early 1900s, it would be around 16%  today not the 10% the government is reporting). We call this magical accounting.

The government wants to change how inflation is measured yet again. Why? Because many benefits (Social Security and Medicare) are tied to inflation. Change the way inflation is measured to something that, on average, will lower the number = less cost of living increases =  magical beans cost savings.

The Wall Street Journal explains it here (with a positive spin)

To which I'll counter with the following quote:

"They’re changing rules behind the scenes to make the public metrics look good. The metrics haven’t been totally valid for decades but right now they’re utter poppycock and anyone trying to understand the situation using official numbers will be lost.

Feudalism failed.
Communism failed.
Capitalism failed.

We were never technically a democracy so skip that. The financial capitalist segment beat out all other segments and has now subverted the checks and balances."


morgandawn: (MoneyDog)
I've been ignoring money and finance issues for the past year - like a lot of people I've been going "lalalalala."

But here are a few money links

Helping your elderly parent qualify for in home/nursing home care.
- good for people who are in the middle income wise.

When couples disagree on money

Don't let medical bills sneak up and mug you in the night.

The impact of divorce on college students.

Shopping for credit cards

Looking for banks with the lowest ATM fees.

Reverse mortgages for the elderly.


I'll add more today as I have time.

morgandawn: (MoneyDog)
I haven't done a money post in a while. But here is a grab bag of finance links.  You can find more here and here
morgandawn: (MoneyDog)
Because [personal profile] wickedwords requested that I resume my money posts. And I was flattered to find that there were people reading them....

1. At Escapade there was a panel called: Planning For The End". I was not able to attend, but Elke  wrote a brief summary of the panel.  To which I add: Nolo Press is a publisher that offers software and print books to help average people set up simple wills and medical powers of attorney (living wills).  I use them for my relatives and they come complete with all the forms (or in the case of the software -  allow you to customize your own forms). I highly recommend.

2. "Financial Planning For Booms and Busts" is today's column in the New York Times. Among the advice that I  had not seen before - how to prepare for the possible loss/reduction of Medicare and Social Security.  Actual numbers and advice!

"....anyone under 50 should assume that Medicare will look nothing like it does now and examine private health insurance premiums for guidance as to what may need to be spent on health care in retirement. Meanwhile, the firm advises current retirees to assume a 20 percent cut in Social Security benefits at some point. "

3. Looking for a basic book to explain the assumptions behind today's rhetoric about consumer spending and the competing and sometimes schizo views we have of the poor? "In Cheap We Trust"by Lauren Weber. How can I not love a book that ties Benjamin Franklin into the massive monetary collapse that came out of deregulation?

Publisher's Weekly review:  "Guilt-free consumption has always been a cherished American value, but this book explores its flip side: a historical engagement with thriftiness, starting in the pre-revolutionary days with Benjamin Franklin, championed by reformers Booker T. Washington and Lydia Marie Child, taken to absurd lengths by the 19th-century miserly millionaire Hetty Green, espoused by economist John Maynard Keynes and married to environmental concerns by contemporary conservationists. Journalist Weber's treatise begins with recollecting her father's conservative habits and ramifies into a far-ranging examination of social programs, alternative movements and mainstream institutions including savings banks, home economics, industrial efficiency experts, freegans, economists and war departments, all of which promote some form of frugality. .....she examines how thriftiness became a racist pejorative hurled at Jewish and Asian immigrants. While the rise of consumer culture and advertising undercut individual and social efforts to save, the author also finds structural reasons for our profligacy in growing financial illiteracy, wage stagnation and deregulated financial markets. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

morgandawn: (MoneyDog)
I love bloggers. they give real life advice. anyhow, I have a kick ass money/finance/retirement rss feed filter on LJ. This blogger is one of my favorites: Broke Ass Student

Sample entries:
Surviving Paycheck to Paycheck? You Can Still Start Saving
My 2007 Goals for Financial Prosperity


I am also a fan of Dave Ramsey's "Debt Snowball" - even if debt is not your issue, he sets out an easy to follow method of setting up a budget so you (a) don;t overspend and (b) set and meet goals of saving and retirement. He also helps prioritize spending. budgeting tools here.

And last he reminds us of one thing we overlook when struggling with our finances: sometimes it really isn't a spending/budgeting problem. It is an income problem. Which is why he encourages 'struggling to make ends meet' families to try to find second jobs - even earning a few hundred extra each month can make a huge difference.

I;d focus on his budgeting tools - for example, cutting off retirement savings in your 20s to focus only on debt/savings would be short sighted. The power of compound interest compels you!

The other financial blog I like to read (Simple Dollar) offers input on what works/does not work with Dave Ramsey's method. Plus, it offers other practical advice on budgeting, saving and money.
http://www.thesimpledollar.com/category/dave-ramsey/

My money entries are under this tag
morgandawn: (MoneyDog)
A good overview of things to consider when buying long term care insurance. and when to buy - start shopping in your 50s while you can still qualify.

"If you wait until you are in your 60s and health problems have set in, you may not qualify for any policy. And premiums are slightly lower when you buy younger."

Medicaid pays for long-term care — but not until people have already spent the majority of their financial assets. [Also, Medicare will only pay if you're admitted to a  hospital and then discharged from the hospital to the nursing home.]

“You can have a situation where a married couple spends down all their assets for the husband, which leaves the wife in a vulnerable financial situation should she outlive her spouse,” Mr. Fox explained.  more here

morgandawn: (MoneyDog)
If you or a loved one are 60 and over, now is the time to buy a private long term care insurance policy. Many of assume that Medicare will pay for nursing home coverage. It pays for only 100 days.  The state (Medicaid) may pick up the tab after you 'spend down' your assets to $2000. Usually the family home* and one car is excepted.
*but only up to $500,000 in value - if your house is worth more than that - you have to use any excess equity to pay for the nursing home. Which may mean you have to sell it. Sorry little old lady whose husband was just shipped off to the nursing home. You need to find some place else to live.

No problem, you may say. I never had that much money to start with anyway.  But what happens to the spouse who is not in the nursing home?  States will impose limits on assets (money in the bank, retirement accounts) that the non-nursing home spouse (or the community spouse) is allowed to keep. Holding assets separately or holding assets in individual 401ks/IRAs accounts are still considered 'available' to the spouse in the nursing home. $100,000 of the married couple's assets can be shielded. The rest will have to be 'spent" on supporting the nursing home spouse.*
*there are a few exceptions to how this money can be spent - it can be spent on repairing the home, but you may have a specific window to do the repairs after one spouse enters the nursing home. Oh and you can rush out and buy a brand new car or toss some cash into a fancy burial plot. Like I said, this stuff is complex.

But a bigger problem comes when you start looking at  the available income  of the community spouse - your pension, social security, part time work.  If the income is in your name only, you get to keep it. All your spouses income (pension, 401ks proceeds, social security)  and any income that has both names on it, goes to the nursing home.  You - the community spouse - also cannot count on your assets as a source of income.  Remember, both spouses 401k, IRAs etc have to spent on the nursing home spouse.* And if that means pulling money out of taxable accounts and paying penalties - tough. And don't try no fancy annuities either.   Oh, and if you happen to earn more than $2700/month in individual income  - Medicaid will ask for 25% of your own income to be transfered to the nursing home.**
*except for the $100k mentioned above.
**
But they ask nicely and I've been told you can say no

So let's look at the numbers.  The most you can make from $100,000 of assets is around $3000 a year. Or $250 month. Social security may bring in another $1500-2000.  Most of us will not have pensions.  Working will be the only option to increase the income of the community spouse.  But what if the community spouse is disabled and cannot work?   How far will $2000 go if that has to cover cover food, medical insurance, medical bills, household repairs, taxes on the home, car insurance, clothing - everything.*
* Note: The community spouse's $2000 income will also be taxed. So the community spouse may take home less than that. Of course, he/she can try to live off the $100k they've been allowed to keep. If spent carefully and combined with social security and assuming no high medical bills, the cash could last another 5 years.  But most of us will live for 20 years after retirement.

So what to do? Buy yourself a private Long Term Care insurance policy.  In California, a 3 year plan will cost around $1300 a year or $100/month if you start buying at 65.  You may also want to look into the new Partnership Long Term Care Plans that allow you to shield more assets and still qualify for Medicaid.

The other solution that American seniors are contemplating  in increasing numbers:  divorce

The topic of long term care and benefits is complex. For every 'rule' I am am stating, there are exceptions and work-arounds, caveats and codicils.  Consult an experienced Elder Law attorney.
morgandawn: (MoneyDog)
Use the Generic Salary to Hourly Rate Conversion Formula:

There are 2080 billable/work hours in a year (40 hrs a week x 52 weeks a year = 2080 hours)
- less 120 hours (3 weeks vacation time) = 1960 hrs
- less 80 hours (7 holidays + 3 sick days) = 1880 hrs
- less 140 hours (that is what someone, on average, has to work per year to pay for benefits costs) = 1740

For example, $70,000 / 1740 = $40.23/hr on a W2 hourly rate

*This assumes one full-time job the entire year. If you're looking into short-periods of work, with off-time, subtract another 25-50% hours
*Assumption on the hourly 'cost' of health care is low - if you have kids, subtract another 50-75% more hours.
*If you're currently getting more vacation/sick time - again adjust.
morgandawn: (MoneyDog)
If you're looking for a good intro to budgeting, managing money and investing that also has tips that take into account the Internet age, try:

Easy Money: How to Simplify Your Finances and Get What You Want Out of Life

publisher's blurb:

Pulliam Weston (Your Credit Score), columnist for MSN Money and author of the nationally syndicated column "Money Talk," provides a practical, easy-to-understand guide to taking control of personal finances and establishing financial security. Like most financial advice books, this collection covers the basics, such as creating a financial toolkit, investing, planning for retirement and saving for college. While Pulliam Weston provides insights into these areas-especially for those without a financial background-she also charts new territory with her "60 Percent Solution" and "50/30/20 Plan," both aimed at spending control, as well as getting the most out of your credit cards and what to do if you've overspent on a car purchase. An advocate of online banking, Pulliam Weston maps out the right way to pay bills and advocates account aggregation and consolidation. She also provides a useful resource guide for finding a financial planner, a tax professional and an estate planning attorney. Checklists are included in each chapter, as well as helpful charts and tables that aid in getting and staying organized. This book will be a valuable guide on the path to financial control and security.  --Publishers Weekly

morgandawn: (MoneyDog)
Working on taxes today, so I am grabbing random links from this week's NY Times money newsletter

Follow-up to last week's article - Friends/Family Laid Off? How Can I Help? "You can read some of the scores of inspiring (and dispiriting) reader comments on the Web version of last week’s column. We’ve also sorted some of the most thoughtful e-mail replies by topic in an interactive viewer linked from the version of this column at nytimes.com/yourmoney." Full article here

Putting Yourself Out There on a Shelf to Buy. "Job seekers need more than simple résumés. They need to brand themselves, and a social networking site is a place to start."
I learned during our last recession, that you don't find work by mailing off your resume to open job listings, applying to jobs online and showing up to job fairs. You have to do more.

When the Stork Carries a Pink Slip. "More discrimination charges are being filed, but pregnant women and new mothers have limited legal protection against layoffs." Disabled people - contact your local Center For Independent Living or disability rights group for a legal referral if you've been laid off and you suspect your employer was using your disability to claim you were a poor worker.

Financial Planning, Amid a Layoff. "This week, Greg Merlino, a certified financial planner with Ameriway Financial, will answer selected reader questions on financial planning for people who have lost their jobs or are worried that they might."

Getting a Health Policy When You’re Already Sick. "Reform is promised, but for now consumers with pre-existing conditions must still struggle for coverage." Most important - avoid - at all cost - a lapse in coverage. Three cheers for the new COBRA subsidy.

Making Ends Meet in the Great Depression. "As many Americans seek ways to save, people who lived through the Depression tell stories of life without luxuries." We think we need more than we need. I've tried redoing our budget several times and realize that, like the majority of Americans, I don't truly understand wants/needs. So chant along with me: Food, housing, transportation, utilities (heat/electricity/water/phone), and health care insurance. That's it.

You can sign up for the weekly newsletter here
morgandawn: (MoneyDog)
You may have heard of the Debt Snowball - taking extra money and paying off the smallest debt. Once paid, you take the monthly payment you would have made on that small debt, add it to your existing extra and target the next debt.

Tips on how to do this during a recession here.
morgandawn: (MoneyDog)
Edited: There have been updates on these recent events. More here. But Jensen Ackles attorneys did send a C&D letter against a fan website and a Livejournal community.

I have no idea if any all of what is being reported below is true. In fact, without the facts all of our opinions are just conjecture. But this scenario raises an interesting point I'd like to discuss - what is the real relationship between the media producers (actors/studios) and their fans.

The story so far: The (IMHO funny & offensive) Jensenvention website is offline and the members only spn_petja Livejournal community has been deleted, the site owners are talking C&D letter/lawsuit (with more than just copyright charges being tossed at them), their supporters are locking or deleting their journals. And of course lots and lots of speculation going about.

Here are several opposing viewpoints being offered:

[livejournal.com profile] onelittlesleep points out that taking action against a fannish website that offers up an unflattering view of an actor puts all bloggers at risk. (edited - this was one of the few posts supporting the blogging side of the story - but because of the legal fears of the fans behind Jensenvention, her post has been locked by request. But what happened here may have been very much similar to what happened in this case - unflattering satire posted of a public figure/group and a C&D letter was sent to shut it down. Both the EFF and Chilling Effect are reporting that copyright law is being used more and more to silence dissent or criticism - it has become to 'go to first' tool in corporate gunslinging. More here and here)
[livejournal.com profile] vinylroad points out that "if I came across that site and comm talking about me and my family that way, I don't think I would be very understanding."
and [livejournal.com profile] giandujakiss goes: Huh?! What??? (aka Can we get some more *facts* please?)


But *if* this is a C&D letter/lawsuit against fans *for making unflattering/insulting comments* about Jensen Ackles that is *if* it is being directed by Jensen and/or his agents here are my thoughts:
I think the Jensenvention website was satire. We all have the right to post our satirical opinion about pretty much anything we see in our world - Jensen, the size of Jared's ...nose, the Bush and Congress tragic and epic love affair or the mounting price of cheese. I also think Jensen's lawyers/PR people did the right thing taking it down - satire never plays well in Peoria and it is too easily misunderstood. Plus, as an actor you want to be able to shape your public image as best as you can.

But fans need to remember this:
Show business is a business. Jared and Jensen may be nice people but they (and their handlers) are in it for the money and making a living. They really don't care about fandom's 'good intentions' or "we were just having fun" - but they do care how much money and ratings we bring in. Normally keeping the fans happy and engaged is part of this business model. But we shouldn't be shocked when the business-people leap to slap us with a C&D letter file a lawsuit over something that may - even in the end - bring them bad PR. Jensen and his agents do not hate fans nor do they want to silence all celebration/criticism of the actor. But if that celebration/criticism edges too close to their bottom line - they will take action, PR and fan love be damned.

In short: wise business move that appears to have been poorly executed. The manner in which Jensen's PR team appears to have taken against Jensenvention is short sighted and may cost them some fan support in the long run. But fandom support is not what pays the show business bills - Jared's and Jensen's standing in the industry with the directors and studios first and advertisers ratings draw next - that is what matters.

And last (and I cannot stress this last point strongly enough) - we don't know the full facts behind this and may never. *If* the Jensen Ackles Business Team (TM) filed a lawsuit first simply based on what I saw on the website- not smart tactically, legally or PR-ly. And even if it was only a C&D letter, I would have advised them to try a more low-key approach before reaching for the legal-guns. While shutting down the site may have been a wise business move, would you want to be the actor known as 'that guy who hired lawyers because a few fans called him chubby & illiterate?"

But - and this is the second important but - *if* there are more behind the scenes facts, then all our considered opinions mean nothing.

edited to add: a few more comments second hand on the legal action claims here
More direct source facts on the C&D letter here
I was able to find more facts about the Jensenvention site's contents here.
and last - those of you who cannot get enough of the legal stuff - go here for an overview of C&D letters and parody vs libel/slander.

PS. Nothing posted on my blog or in any of my comments is legal advice. This post provides background on legal issues; it does not provide legal advice. Legal advice is tailored to the facts of your particular situation. If you need legal advice, consult an attorney.

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