Fraud? Did she say Fraud?

I love the fact that FINRA has created a set of tools to help you, and me, find fraud and fight it.

FINRA’s Fraud Center

FINRA provides a set of tools and explanations as  part of its campaign to  protect investors.

The idea is simple. If you know more, you will be able to fight off fraudsters. So take a look at this site.

And if you are brave, check out the thing they call the  “fraud meter.” It measures how susceptible you are to fraud. Go ahead and take the test.
Scam Meter Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt (anything but your pride)

Now, if this teaches you something, share it with your friends. Host a party and show a video that helps you and your friends protect yourselves from con artists. This show aired on PBS, so it is a good one. And you can get it for free. So start popping the popcorn and dust off your couch. And get your friends in to watch the show. Then discuss the issues among yourselves.

You will be glad you did.

Oh, and tell them Hot Flash Financial sent you.

Hot off the presses!

Here it is! Your very own paperback version of  Hot Flash Financial!

It is a grown up version of the website. No actually it is a development of the Hot Flash Financial approach. Yes it retains the hot flash method– laugh while you learn. And it offers clear explanations of complex issues, plus a set of STEPs to follow, STEPs you can rely on, if you want to increase your financial security.

So why buy a copy?HFF cover

The more you  know, the more control you will feel. Your stress about money will start to melt away, because you will know what you are doing with your money, and how. That is the best way that you can improve your future.

And, by the way, it is cheap. Your $15 investment will pay back a thousand fold!

So, hit the link to  buy your paperback copy  “and get one today!!!!” (as they shamelessly say on TV)

You will be glad you did.

 

A new tradition

Let’s start a new “tradition.”  (Humor me. I was trained as an anthropologist. We anthropologists  love rituals.) Let’s call it a Hot Flash Financial Tradition.

What is this tradition? First it, is a ritual that occurs around new years. How do you do it?  Every year, you revise your List of Assets to reflect the December 31, 2012 balances. After you have the year end balances, you add up the total. Then do the really smart, Hot Flash Financial thing– Celebrate what you did right. And use your new List of Assets to make some decisions to improve your financial security next year.

If you have not developed your own personal List of Assets, create your first one today. (Go to the Tools Tab and select List of Assets.)  You take the same steps as someone who has a List of Assets.

Here are the steps you can use to follow the ritual. Go on-line to access every one of your retirement accounts, as well as investment and savings accounts. If you already  created your list of assets, add a column and mark it December 31, 2012. Input the dollar values for the last day of the year for every one of your account balances.  Then add the dollar values all up to get a Total. Now, do what comes naturally. Find out if your retirement account balances are higher than last year.

The next part of the  Hot Flash Financial Tradition is crucial: figure out what you did right! Also figure out what needs to be improved.

What you did right:

  • If you added more money to your retirement accounts, the total should be higher.
  • If you were invested  in stocks (or stock mutual funds) your balances may be as much as 10% -13% higher. (The S & P 500 booked a 13% increase over last year, 2012. If you invested a portion of your portfolio in Bonds, you may not be as high. But you got stability or less crazy fluctuations in your account values. Why? you reduced your risk by investing in bonds. Reducing risk has a cost. But it also has a strong plus–it allows you to sleep better at night.)

This is the most fun of this ritual. Pat yourself on the back and celebrate what you did right!!!!!

If you added money to your retirement account, but the increase did not meet your expectations, figure out why.

What you could improve in the future:

  • Did you add enough money to your retirement account  to make the total budge?
  •  Are there other reasons for the shortfall in your expectations about your retirement account balances, and your overall Hot Flash Stash of Cash?
    • Did you decide to save for the future, but you deposited that money into a savings account instead of your retirement investment account(s)? A savings account probably gave you about 1% return in 2012  By contrast, the stock market gave about 10%-13% in the same year. Did you make the right decision, saving in a savings account rather than a retirement account? What will you do in the next 12 months? Invest in your retirement account or in a savings account?
    • Savings accounts are nice. They reduce the risk that you will lose the money you deposited. But remember there is a “risk-return” trade off. If you take on more risk–investing in the stock market, you are likely to get more return. (In this case, the return in 2012 [and most years] would have been positive, although the market did move up and down a lot during the year. While the dollar amounts fluctuated, over the long term, in this case a year,  you were ahead.) If you take less risk–investing in a savings account–you are likely to get a lower return. Lower risk is often correlated (as we say in the biz) with lower return.

Your handy- dandy List of Assets becomes a really important reference point.  It also enables you, no actually empowers you to make some important decisions and improve your financial security. Your decisions can increase the number of things you do that are right over the next few years. So you can celebrate more. 

After celebrating, take a closer look at your List of Assets to figure out what you can do to increase your own, personal financial security in the coming 12 months.

Since we can’t shut up, we will suggest you do 2 things.

  1. Increase the amount of money you deposit in your retirement account. Increase it by 1%. And, if you can, work toward increasing your contributions, over the next year or 2 or 3, to deposit the maximum legally allowed.
  2. Decide if you are comfortable with a bit more risk. If so, invest a greater portion of your retirement savings  in the stock and bond markets, for the long term. If not, stick with savings accounts.

Make this  Hot Flash Financial tradition, your tradition  every first week in January. That way, you have more control. You have the knowledge of what you have done well. And you can take the steps you need to take to improve your financial security over the long term.

New Years Resolution

Here at Hot Flash, we love New Years Resolutions.

Allow us to suggest one for 2013- Live within your means.

Or, since we are entering a year that ends in unlucky 13, we can rephrase this resolution in terms of luck.

It is  unlucky to live above your means. (So every time your write the numbers 13, you have a reminder, nudge, or prompt to remember your resolution to live within, or even below, your means.)

So what does that really imply?

Your “take home pay” is the focus. It is your limit, your “means.” So you can spend only the amount of money that you bring “home” in your paycheck. Not a dime more. (And you can NOT cheat by charging something on your credit card(s). Unless, of course, you pay off the total balance due when the  bill comes.)

You must be thinking…… that is so………….un-American…..so impossible.

But is it?

Hmmm. It is tough for Baby Boomers to hear this, but……………your parents probably lived within their means. (And they probably saved some money while they were doing it……. Just sayin’)

Why would you do this?

If you start to develop the skill of living within your means, you will have a more sustainable life style.

That is probably not such a bad idea, given the fact that you are likely to live longer than your parents.

So how about it?  Resolve to live “within your means.” Test yourself, and see how you do.

Here’s a short take home quiz. Find it if you can you live within your means, at least as long as you followed your diet last year? Or as long as you committed yourself to exercise every day?

Now, this in Hot Flash Financial talking to you. S0 if you try, and find out that you are not exactly perfect, use laughter as a weapon. Tell us your funny story. Share it with us at hotflashfinancial@gmail.com.

That way you can join us–Hot Flash Mamas–as we imperfectly march toward the next phase in our lives.

Help a friend?

Do you have a sense of humor? Do your friends? Do your friends have a sense of humor about their own behavior?

Well, here is a new sweepstakes with a great idea, Help your friends. That is, help one of your friends who has some trouble with her/his finances, especially spending.

Now, the page introducing “Help a friend” clarifies that we all make mistakes and waste money. But, the one you “help” would merit, as they say,” an Olympian gold medal in money squandering.” So, the argument on the site goes, do your friend a favor and enter this friend into this sweepstakes. (At the same time you enter yourself into the sweepstakes). If you win, you get…… money.

There are videos associated with this program, and they tend to feature young, college age folks discussing the varied ways they spend money on “stuff” –memorial swords that are probably plastic, ugly designer jeans, myriad internet purchases, parties, taking a girlfriend to the “Jersey Shore” …………You get the point.

I decided to see how this works. So I pressed the HELP A FRIEND BUTTON and sent the email to myself. (I chose not to send a photo to post on the FACEBOOK  page of the site. It would show my friend posing with at least one incriminating impulsive purchase.)

I did receive an email. The email is well worded and raises some really good issues to consider. When I clicked on the  link, I was really pleased with the quiz that you can can take. It raises “your consciousness” on some spending habits that can be problematic. The  site itself has wonderful tools, such as calculators that help you budget, pay off debt, etc.

Now, I am a big great fan of NEFE—the National Endowment for Financial Education that created the site, and the Help a Friend sweepstakes. And I am a great fan of using humor to make a point.  And this Help A Friend Campaign uses humor to accomplish an important goal, help friends who waste money.

What I don’t know, is how my friends would respond. I mean, how would this work with “women of a certain age and distinction?” Would my friends be offended if I entered them into this sweepstakes? Or would they take it in stride, see that you can use humor to make some important points, and change your behavior?

What do you think?

Social Security and you

You are probably going to  hear  a lot about Social Security in the run-up to the next election. Each party will be talking about what are sometimes called “Entitlements.”  It is important for you, as a woman “of a certain age and distinction,” to know who really supports specific programs, especially Social Security.

Why? Because Social Security is one of the most important sources of money for women after age 65.

Really? Yes. Because women live so much longer than men. So we rely on Social Security (and Medicare) for a greater number of years and a greater number of dollars.  As we women age, a bigger and bigger portion of our monthly income comes from Social Security!

How much do we rely on Social Security? Well, we have some figures for you. Women are who 65 and older, get more than half (or  58%) of their income from Social Security. And, as we get older, and spend down the money we had saved for retirement, we increasingly rely on Social Security for all or nearly all (90%) of the money we use to buy food, pay for housing, etc. By the time you pass your 80th birthday, many  (38% ) of you will be completely or nearly completely (90%) reliant on Social Security.

So now you have to know the facts about Social Security.  You have to know if Social Security will be there for you, your sisters, and your children. So start here, and then click on this link Social Security.

Remember, you have to think long and hard about a candidate and his stand on Social Security and other “Entitlements” So when you decide to vote for your representative in Congress, in the Senate, and for the President, make sure you vote for someone who will continue to support Social Security and so older women. Cut through the “stuff ” on those political commercials. Make sure you check out the truth about past voting behavior, key proposals (like budget proposals) made by each candidate, and cross-check with an independent fact checker.

Why? If you, or your sister or best friend, is one of the women who will rely on Social Security for 58% of her income from age 65 on through the rest of your life, you need to vote to make sure every candidate who has your backing will support Social Security.

 

footnote: I am drawing my facts based on 2010 statistics and analyzed by the  National Women’s Law Center “Women and Social Security: Key Facts” May 20, 2011. Here is the link. http://www.nwlc.org/resource/women-and-social-security-key-facts)

 

Has someone stolen your identity?

If someone steals your identity, he can get your tax refund and have it mailed to his house. Really. He can get into your bank accounts and siphon out money. He can use your credit card account numbers and run up a big bill. He can mess with your credit score. And his  stealing, putting your name on bill and then a collection agency’s call list, can keep you from getting more credit or even a job.

(Now for the giggle part of the Hot Financial take on this issue.

No, identity thieves never steal your wrinkles, gray hair, love handles, nor muffin tops. Nope. They want your money. And if they masquerade as you, using your account numbers, they can get some moolah. Why mug you in a dark alley? It is so much less fuss and bother for an identity thief to just input your information into a computer, pretend he is you, and take money out of your accounts.

These identity theft efforts are even harder to catch than those old emails from   so-called “Nigerian princes.”)

Note to readers: this indented section  is designed to encourage you to LOL. So note the little smiley face here   :-)

Identity theft is serious. It could really put a crimp in your financial security and your future. So click on this government site  FTC Identity Theft  (you can trust it) to get some important and free copies.

There are 3 brochures on the basics :

  1. One on the basics called “What to do know and what to do.”
  2. One to help you protect your children.
  3. And the last one is for you, if you suspect their is a problem or you are “in crisis” it is called “What to do if your identity is, in fact, stolen.”

 

Take action. This is important. Hot Flash Financial Important!!

 

OH AND COMMENT BELOW.

DID YOU WRESTLE WITH AN IDENTITY THIEF? WHAT HAPPENED?

DO  YOU SUSPECT YOU MAY BE VULNERABLE TO IDENTITY THEFT? TAKE ACTION.

 

(TO PROTECT YOURSELF–DO NOT TELL US YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER, OR ANY ACCOUNT NUMBERS WHEN YOU RESPOND.)

What will motivate you to ACT in your self interest! FEAR? RISK?

FEAR? Or the knowledge that you face some serious RISKS?  Will they motivate you to ACT in your own self interest? If they do, read on. Because we, at Hot Flash Financial want you to take action to improve your finances.

Do you know that you face a big risk, or even 2 risks?

  1. Because you are a woman in the U.S. today, you  are likely to live longer than a man. So you face LONGEVITY RISK. That is you RISK  running out of money before you run out of breath.
  2. Since you are going to live 30, 40, or maybe 50 years after your Hot Flashes start, you also face another risk–INFLATION RISK.  Why? Well, you know that, over time, prices always go up, rather than down. So the amount you will pay for food, electricity, cable, mobile phones and other things will go up in a decade or 3. So you will need more money 30 years from now to pay for the comforts you enjoy–electricity, heat, air conditioning and the things you have today.

Now don’t get fearful. Get ACTIVE. Work with Hot Flash Financial to combat these risks. Or at least manage these risks. 

At Hot Flash Financial we will give you a clear set of Steps to follow so that you can ACT to make you more financially secure. Use this site, use the steps we give you,

  • to increase your knowledge about your money and your finances.
  • to learn to think about your money in a different way.
  • to learn to CHANGE the ways you use money (after all Hot Flashes are also called “The Change”).
  • to begin to practice new skills, then get better and better at DOING the THINGS YOU NEED TO DO to be more financially secure.
  • to learn to laugh to release the tensions you might feel about money and the RISKS you face
  • to appreciate the joy that comes from increasing your control over money, while laughing your way to the bank and a secure future.
  • to enjoy the  the independence that money brings .

 

So work with us here at Hot Flash Financial. Set aside an hour  each week, to click on this site and  follow the steps we give you.

That is, if you want to reduce your RISK.

 

Because if you DO NOTHING, you INCREASE YOUR RISK exponentially.