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Welcome to MoneyWise Matters

MoneyWise Matters is a weekly blog published each Wednesday by the Office of the Indiana Secretary of State. Here we discuss money related topics including; debt reduction, budgeting, saving strategies, scam alerts, investment fraud prevention and investor insights. You don’t want to miss out on this helpful information, hit subscribe for email updates (above) so you’ll be notified when we publish a new post.

Please note that the statements made in the posts are solely the opinions of the writer and do not represent the opinion and/or position of the Indiana Securities Division. The Division assumes no responsibility for the content presented by the authors.  

Vacation... Had to Get Away!

Vacation... Had to Get Away!

 

By Kelly Griese

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

With the holiday weekend upon us, you’re probably looking to create some distance between yourself and the sofa. We get it. Summer has us all itching to get outside and explore, but there are challenges this year that we have not faced in the past. 

It can be especially hard on kids. Summer camps are canceled. Sports are canceled. Even running around with other kids in the neighborhood can be risky. But there are still plenty of ways to have fun as a family. In fact, if you’re a parent working remotely, this may be the perfect year for a long family road trip. 

In this blog post, I’m going to focus on outdoor fun that’s perfect for social distancing. In planning your own trip, remember that Google is your friend! Use search words like vacation, pandemic, and budget along with any terms that best describe your ideal vacation. 


National Parks

Our national parks are remarkable. Americans (and visitors from abroad) love exploring this nation’s natural beauty. In 2019 alone, more than 327 million people visited national parks. There are 419 parks to explore! You’ll want to check with the National Parks Service before embarking on your journey. While the majority of our nation’s most famous parks are open right now, some sections of those parks are closed. You can research parks and check for any closures/restrictions by visiting this website

We Recommend: 

  • Indiana Dunes – it’s great for beach lovers and bird watchers! Plus, if your kids like Pokémon Go, have them give geocaching a try. 
  • Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial – it’s great for history lovers and hikers! Parks like Lincoln Boyhood help bring the past to life, which is great for getting children excited about learning. 

State Parks

Visits to state parks can be equally fun and frugal. All Indiana Department of Natural Resources properties are open right now, including state parks, but there are a few services and facilities that are temporarily closed due to the pandemic. DNR regularly updates its website with information about such restrictions, and you can view the full list here

We Recommend: 

  • Clifty Falls – it’s great for waterfall lovers and fossil enthusiasts. We love this state gem so much here at the Indiana Secretary of State’s office, that we named one of our conference rooms after it! And if you’re looking for more waterfalls to chase, Indiana has plenty of options. Visit Indiana put together this inspiring list. 
  • Angel Mounds – it’s great for bicyclists and history buffs. Located in Evansville, this site is nationally recognized as one of the best-preserved prehistoric Native American sites in the United States. You may also be interested in Mounds State Park near Anderson, which features 10 unique earthworks built by the Adena-Hopewell people. The largest mound is believed to have been constructed around 160 B.C. 

Quick Tips: 

  • Many water fountains have been turned off due to the pandemic. Don’t forget to bring plenty of water! And if you’re traveling with pets, you’ll want a portable dish for their water. 
  • You may need special permits or licenses to enjoy some activities, such as hunting, fishing, and boating. Check with the department of natural resources in the state you’re visiting to see what’s required. 
  • Make campground reservations in advance! Nothing worse than showing up and not having a place to stay. 

RV Rentals

Maybe you don’t want to add mileage to your own vehicle, or perhaps you simply want some room to spread out for the long drive. RV rentals are all the rage right now. Just make sure you do your research. There’s a lot to consider before renting an RV. What kind of vacation are you planning? Where are you traveling? Are you comfortable driving such a large vehicle? Do you know where you can park it? Have you created a fuel budget? I am by no means an RV expert, but the folks at KOA are! They have 10 tips for renting an RV that you’ll want to read as part of your trip planning. 


Cabin Rentals

Recently, I’ve noticed a lot of social media posts that feature my friends having fun with their families at rental cabins here in Indiana and some of our neighboring states. Cabins can be a great way to get away during a pandemic. There’s typically more space between you and any other folks on vacation, and it’s still a change of scenery from your primary quarantine residence. But before you jump on VRBO or Airbnb, you once again need to consider your vacation carefully. Frommer’s provides some essential words of wisdom

  • Know what you want. You need to identify your priorities, such as location and amenities. If the cabin absolutely must be waterside, then know you might spend more on that priority. 
  • Timing is everything. Research what’s going on in the surrounding community. Right now, this is one way you can likely save, because many events are canceled. You probably don’t need to worry about a large festival or sporting event inflating the cost of rental properties. 
  • Authenticate the property. It is vital you verify that the pictures and description you’ve found online match a real property that’s available for rent. There are far too many horror stories about scams involving vacation rentals for you to forgo this step.  

Fishing Trips

Fishing is a great way to spend time together as a family. Whether you practice catch-and-release, or you’re looking to reel in a campfire meal, this is an activity just about everyone can learn and enjoy. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wrote a great beginner’s guide for aspiring anglers that I highly recommend. One of the key takeaways is getting a fishing license! Once you know the basics and have a license, you can plan your fishing adventure. Gear and location are two major components of any fishing trip. Do you need to buy gear, or is rental equipment available? Are there fees for using the location? Are you allowed to keep what you catch?

We Recommend: 

  • Indy Fishing Locations – The IndyStar put together a good list of local fishing holes for you to explore. 

Quick Tips: 

  • It’s important to be a good steward of the environment when fishing. Abandoned gear is harmful to wildlife, and overfishing ruins the fun for future generations. 
  • Bring a first aid kit with you. Fishing injuries are fairly common. Here are some tips for tending to injuries that might occur. 
  • Wear lifejackets or personal floatation devices (PFDs) when fishing from a boat. 

Roadside Attractions

Finally, let’s talk about a staple of family vacations: the roadside attraction. This term may make you think of weird wastes of money, but that’s not always the case. Kids love these quick stops, and many are accessible without paying a cent. Plus, they make for some fun family photos. Visit Indiana compiled an awesome list of roadside attractions you can find in the Hoosier state, and most of them are outside! 

Quick Tips: 

  • Bring hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes if you plan on getting up-close-and-personal with any of these landmarks. 
  • Check if there is an Instagram hashtag for the location. Such spots are hot with social media influencers. 

Blog Topics: Budgeting, Fraud Prevention

Recent Posts

Recent Posts

Vacation... Had to Get Away!

Vacation... Had to Get Away!

 

By Kelly Griese

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

With the holiday weekend upon us, you’re probably looking to create some distance between yourself and the sofa. We get it. Summer has us all itching to get outside and explore, but there are challenges this year that we have not faced in the past. 

It can be especially hard on kids. Summer camps are canceled. Sports are canceled. Even running around with other kids in the neighborhood can be risky. But there are still plenty of ways to have fun as a family. In fact, if you’re a parent working remotely, this may be the perfect year for a long family road trip. 

In this blog post, I’m going to focus on outdoor fun that’s perfect for social distancing. In planning your own trip, remember that Google is your friend! Use search words like vacation, pandemic, and budget along with any terms that best describe your ideal vacation. 


National Parks

Our national parks are remarkable. Americans (and visitors from abroad) love exploring this nation’s natural beauty. In 2019 alone, more than 327 million people visited national parks. There are 419 parks to explore! You’ll want to check with the National Parks Service before embarking on your journey. While the majority of our nation’s most famous parks are open right now, some sections of those parks are closed. You can research parks and check for any closures/restrictions by visiting this website

We Recommend: 

  • Indiana Dunes – it’s great for beach lovers and bird watchers! Plus, if your kids like Pokémon Go, have them give geocaching a try. 
  • Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial – it’s great for history lovers and hikers! Parks like Lincoln Boyhood help bring the past to life, which is great for getting children excited about learning. 

State Parks

Visits to state parks can be equally fun and frugal. All Indiana Department of Natural Resources properties are open right now, including state parks, but there are a few services and facilities that are temporarily closed due to the pandemic. DNR regularly updates its website with information about such restrictions, and you can view the full list here

We Recommend: 

  • Clifty Falls – it’s great for waterfall lovers and fossil enthusiasts. We love this state gem so much here at the Indiana Secretary of State’s office, that we named one of our conference rooms after it! And if you’re looking for more waterfalls to chase, Indiana has plenty of options. Visit Indiana put together this inspiring list. 
  • Angel Mounds – it’s great for bicyclists and history buffs. Located in Evansville, this site is nationally recognized as one of the best-preserved prehistoric Native American sites in the United States. You may also be interested in Mounds State Park near Anderson, which features 10 unique earthworks built by the Adena-Hopewell people. The largest mound is believed to have been constructed around 160 B.C. 

Quick Tips: 

  • Many water fountains have been turned off due to the pandemic. Don’t forget to bring plenty of water! And if you’re traveling with pets, you’ll want a portable dish for their water. 
  • You may need special permits or licenses to enjoy some activities, such as hunting, fishing, and boating. Check with the department of natural resources in the state you’re visiting to see what’s required. 
  • Make campground reservations in advance! Nothing worse than showing up and not having a place to stay. 

RV Rentals

Maybe you don’t want to add mileage to your own vehicle, or perhaps you simply want some room to spread out for the long drive. RV rentals are all the rage right now. Just make sure you do your research. There’s a lot to consider before renting an RV. What kind of vacation are you planning? Where are you traveling? Are you comfortable driving such a large vehicle? Do you know where you can park it? Have you created a fuel budget? I am by no means an RV expert, but the folks at KOA are! They have 10 tips for renting an RV that you’ll want to read as part of your trip planning. 


Cabin Rentals

Recently, I’ve noticed a lot of social media posts that feature my friends having fun with their families at rental cabins here in Indiana and some of our neighboring states. Cabins can be a great way to get away during a pandemic. There’s typically more space between you and any other folks on vacation, and it’s still a change of scenery from your primary quarantine residence. But before you jump on VRBO or Airbnb, you once again need to consider your vacation carefully. Frommer’s provides some essential words of wisdom

  • Know what you want. You need to identify your priorities, such as location and amenities. If the cabin absolutely must be waterside, then know you might spend more on that priority. 
  • Timing is everything. Research what’s going on in the surrounding community. Right now, this is one way you can likely save, because many events are canceled. You probably don’t need to worry about a large festival or sporting event inflating the cost of rental properties. 
  • Authenticate the property. It is vital you verify that the pictures and description you’ve found online match a real property that’s available for rent. There are far too many horror stories about scams involving vacation rentals for you to forgo this step.  

Fishing Trips

Fishing is a great way to spend time together as a family. Whether you practice catch-and-release, or you’re looking to reel in a campfire meal, this is an activity just about everyone can learn and enjoy. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wrote a great beginner’s guide for aspiring anglers that I highly recommend. One of the key takeaways is getting a fishing license! Once you know the basics and have a license, you can plan your fishing adventure. Gear and location are two major components of any fishing trip. Do you need to buy gear, or is rental equipment available? Are there fees for using the location? Are you allowed to keep what you catch?

We Recommend: 

  • Indy Fishing Locations – The IndyStar put together a good list of local fishing holes for you to explore. 

Quick Tips: 

  • It’s important to be a good steward of the environment when fishing. Abandoned gear is harmful to wildlife, and overfishing ruins the fun for future generations. 
  • Bring a first aid kit with you. Fishing injuries are fairly common. Here are some tips for tending to injuries that might occur. 
  • Wear lifejackets or personal floatation devices (PFDs) when fishing from a boat. 

Roadside Attractions

Finally, let’s talk about a staple of family vacations: the roadside attraction. This term may make you think of weird wastes of money, but that’s not always the case. Kids love these quick stops, and many are accessible without paying a cent. Plus, they make for some fun family photos. Visit Indiana compiled an awesome list of roadside attractions you can find in the Hoosier state, and most of them are outside! 

Quick Tips: 

  • Bring hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes if you plan on getting up-close-and-personal with any of these landmarks. 
  • Check if there is an Instagram hashtag for the location. Such spots are hot with social media influencers. 

Blog Topics: Budgeting, Fraud Prevention

Strong Finances for a Strong Emotional Wellbeing

Strong Finances for a Strong Emotional Wellbeing

 

By Kylee Hale

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

There are multiple things contributing to the anxiety Americans are feeling right now. With many people working from home while caring for children, and juggling health concerns, it’s no surprise that people are feeling stretched to the limit. According to a recent survey by the National Foundation of Financial Education, nearly 9 in 10 Americans say that money is a primary cause of anxiety. 

As cities begin to reopen and attempt a slow return to normalcy, the tens of millions of Americans who lost their jobs or were laid off will continue to worry about their livelihood and feel the emotional toll. According to a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 45% of U.S. adults report that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the virus. Another survey, showed that 69% of American adults have financial worries, which are heighten by three major concerns: not having enough savings, losing a job, and not being able to pay debts. Even in better times, financial concerns can cause a lot of stress. Regardless of the circumstances, here are some ways to ease your mind if you’re dealing with the common money stressors. 

You are in control

Every one of us is experiencing change to some degree, which means we have to think differently to get through this. What you were doing before may not work now, but embracing the things you can control will provide stability during these unsteady times. Some things that you can control are spending, saving, and your reaction to market events. 

If you are struggling and your emergency fund is dwindling, you should examine your expenses. Rethink your budget and prioritize the bills that cannot be put off. For Hoosiers, the Governor’s order prohibits evictions, foreclosures, and utility service disconnects through June 30th. You can read more about this in our Deadlines and Delays post. Many states have issued executive orders to block evictions and many state courts are not accepting eviction filings until further notice. 30% of Americans have not paid their housing payment this month. While this is not something to promote, there are safeguards in place to keep Americans from losing their shelter. 

Creating an emergency budget can be helpful to review spending and saving. Track online spending and avoid triggers to cut out unnecessary purchases. Unsubscribe from emails, unfollow brands and influencers on social media, and delete browser history to help control spending.  It’s still important to save whenever you can, but you may have to redirect some of your saving goals to more pressing financial needs. 

For investors, while you can’t control the market, you can control your reaction to the fluctuation. If you’re wondering how to survive this unpredictable market, try to remind yourself to relax and ride it out. Attempting to time the market isn’t a good strategy and can result in costly mistakes. For help on convincing yourself to be content check out this post on market correction

Rid Yourself of Anxiety

Understanding how anxiety relates to your financial decisions can provide you the peace of mind you need. Stress and worry have adverse effects on our spending habits, often contributing to more spending and less saving. Similar to stress eating, stress spending is something we do to try to make ourselves feel better. On the other hand, saving is really what makes us feel better and more prepared for the unexpected.  Try putting extra thought into purchases and determine if they are unnecessary. Saving more money at this time can put you more at ease in the case of a future unplanned event.

If paying bills is a hassle to you, a way to reduce the stress of remembering to pay on time is by setting up auto pay or bill pay. Auto pay can be scheduled through the service provider and bill pay can be set up through your bank. With bill pay, the bank automatically issues regular monthly payments and you can do this for mortgages, student loans, rent, utilities, car loans, and even credit cards. Give your mind a break and some clarity by not worrying about missing a payment. In addition, to automatically paying your bills, you can arrange to automatically save. Establishing regular payments into your savings account or retirement account is a good way to ensure you do save and this will help you reach your savings goal. 

Being proactive rather than reactive instills a sense of preparedness and minimizes the pressure felt when an emergency does occur. It is difficult to prepare for an emergency as it is unexpected. The best way to stay calm is to be flexible. Come up with a plan or an adaptable process that allows you to maintain your livelihood when the world around you changes. Four proven and effective financial strategies that will help you get through whatever comes at you are to spend wisely, save for emergencies, stick to your goals and invest for the long term. These strategies are successful all around and sure to reduce tension in difficult times. 

Studies have shown that actively managing your finances can have positive side effects. By putting in the effort to save money, you’ll create an emotional buffer that’s sure to reduce anxiety. Being aware of your financial plan will provide confidence and less tension when the unexpected does occur. Even taking small steps or implementing just one or two strategies for better money management will give you a better mental outlook. 

Take Advantage of Available Resources

If you continue to feel worried, reach out to a partner or a friend. Discussing financial fears together can help you find a better solution. If you prefer to talk to a professional, there are multiple free resources available. For example, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling offers a COVID-19 Emergency Financial Help toolkit with access to chat counselors for advice. The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors and the Financial Planning Association also provide certified financial planners and advisors at no cost. 

Virtual health visits are also gaining popularity. Most insurance providers cover a variety of mental health resources and many therapists are available for telehealth appointments. For more information on mental health services contact your insurance provider or employer as some employers have free counseling through employee assistance programs. Lastly if you feel you are suffering from mental health issues, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services hotline does not require insurance and is available 24/7.

While it may not be as obvious as stress eating, financial stress can be detrimental to your health, mentally and physically. Just as we try to stay physically fit, it’s important to remain financially stable in difficult times. Being in control of your financial decisions and being prepared can do wonders for your overall health, mentally, emotionally and financially. You don’t have to go into overdrive to be financially prepared but any effort made to better weather the storm will make you feel better all-around when crisis does occur. 


Blog topics: 
Budgeting, Credit, Investing 

IN-CASE: Protecting Senior Citizens

IN-CASE: Protecting Senior Citizens

 

By Kelly Griese

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

We’re celebrating the first anniversary of the Indiana Council Against Senior Exploitation this week. Indiana MoneyWise, which is part of the Indiana Secretary of State’s office, is a founding member of IN-CASE, and I serve as the council’s chairwoman. 

We created IN-CASE out of a desire to protect senior citizens against abuse and exploitation. This week, June 15-21, is also the second annual Indiana Elder Abuse Awareness Week, filled with virtual events aimed at educating and empowering seniors. 

Social distancing is still necessary right now in order to protect the people we love, but that distance takes its toll. One of the sad ironies of the current pandemic is that keeping at-risk persons safe at home can exacerbate the negative physical and mental health effects of social isolation, including financial exploitation. That’s why all of our IN-CASE events this week are virtual. You can join panel discussions and view demonstrations on your internet connected device. These events serve as a call-to-action for individuals, organizations, and communities to raise awareness about elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation. 


EVENTS

Indiana Elder Abuse Awareness Week is already halfway over, but if you missed out on Monday and Tuesday’s events, don’t worry! You can watch Monday’s panel discussion titled “How to Avoid Getting Scammed” on the Facebook page of our partners at Better Business Bureau Serving Central Indiana. Tuesday’s tele-town hall with AARP Indiana is also available online, just visit AARP’s Facebook page. Today, we have a conversation between one of our members, Diane Dove, and her mother, Daisy Dove, as they address some of the concerns many seniors have regarding ordering groceries online. We even provide you with some “Cooking for One” recipes in the IN-CASE blog! On Thursday, we’ll have a fitness demonstration with a personal trainer who will show you some exercises that are perfect for senior citizens and don’t require any specialized equipment. And we’ve saved the best (or at least most popular) event for last: BINGO! There’s still time to register to participate in this online game of BINGO. It is free to play and uses the Zoom web conferencing program. Here are the links you need for all of the fun events I just mentioned: 


ABOUT IN-CASE

The foundation for IN-CASE was laid over 4 years ago with the Indiana Association of Area Agencies on Aging's (IAAAA) Senior Medicare Patrol director began hosting a networking group consisting of government agencies and organizations that serve older adults and/or have a mission to educate them and their caregivers on how to prevent all types of fraud. This networking group eventually led to the organization as it exists today. The mission of IN-CASE is to empower Indiana communities to prevent and end senior exploitation and abuse through education, encouragement, and empowerment. 

IN-CASE is comprised of government agencies, law enforcement agencies, consumer protection groups, attorneys, healthcare providers, educators, and more. You can find a complete list of our resource providers by clicking here. You can even schedule many of our members to serve as FREE public speakers, and their contact information can be found by clicking here

You can also connect with IN-CASE on social media.


PREVENTION

Prevention is key when it comes to elder abuse. There are steps seniors can take to reduce the chance of becoming a victim. It’s important you know your rights and stand up for yourself. Also, stay involved in your financial affairs – don’t rely on others to review your bank statements. Be confident that you can make decisions yourself. Here are some prevention tips from the National Center on Elder Abuse

  • Stay busy and engaged in life. Try not to become isolated. Cultivate a strong support network of family and friends.
  • Take good care of yourself – for life. Older adults in declining health can become more vulnerable to abuse because of the increasing dependence.
  • Be aware of the link to addiction problems. People who drink too much or who use other drugs are at a high risk of being abusive. Reach out to support groups.
  • Refuse to allow anyone, even a close relative, to add his or her name to your bank account without your clear consent. Never make financial decisions under pressure. Avoid signing over money or property to anyone without first getting legal advice.
  • Assert your right to be treated with dignity and respect. Be clear about what you will and will not tolerate, and set boundaries. You have the right to make your own decisions.
  • Trust your instincts. Listen to the voice inside you when it calls out something is not right. Ask for help if you need it.
  • It is also a great idea to plan. Talk with family members, friends, and professionals whom you trust and plan for your future. You can find helpful information about planning for your future on the Legal Services for the Elderly's Elder Rights Handbook website.

Remember, if you are concerned for someone’s immediate safety, call 911. 


Blog topics: 
Fraud Prevention 

How Coronavirus has Affected Wedding Season and Tips for Investing with Your Partner

How Coronavirus has Affected Wedding Season and Tips for Investing with Your Partner

 

By Kylee Hale

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Every year there are over 2 million weddings in the United States, and this 78 billion dollar industry has been brought to a halt by COVID-19. As wedding plans are drastically changed, couples and vendors look for a plan B. For some, a change of plans means reducing the guest list while others are rescheduling for next year. Venues and vendors are adapting to offer packages for smaller parties. These include mini ceremonies and micro luxury weddings with over the top service for a smaller guest count. However, with the economic decline and stressful financial situations that many are dealing with, some couples are sticking to a reduced budget and cutting back altogether.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is likely that smaller ceremonies will be trending through this fall and wedding insurance will be a higher consideration for newly engaged couples. Unfortunately it is too late for couples to purchase insurance coverage for the impact of COVID-19, but couples can purchase insurance for future unexpected events. In the wedding and event industry there are two main types of insurance available. Liability insurance may be required by the venue and typically covers any damage done by the bride, groom or their guests and can protect the married couple if guests leaves the event intoxicated. The other type is Cancellation insurance which covers lost deposits in the case of severe weather, accident, illness, injury or business bankruptcy. 

When engaged or soon to be married, it’s easy for couples to put their focus on the big day. While a wedding and reception may be exciting, this is not the most important aspect of being joined by marriage. Before agreeing to tie the knot, couples should have a frank conversation about money and investing.

Disagreement over money is a common source of tension for couples and an oft cited reason for divorce. But these discussions are impossible to avoid as you build a life together and plan and save for retirement.

When it comes to investing, couples might have different ideas about financial goals, the types of products to invest in and the level of risk they are willing to take with the family's portfolio. Fortunately, there are things couples can do to bridge the investment style gap and keep the peace. Here are four tips from FINRA, to help you keep the harmony in your relationship.

Communicate. Like many other issues in relationships, the key to maintaining harmony is to begin with a conversation. It's important for each partner to understand the other person's tolerance for risk. It's equally important for couples to talk about their financial goals and how soon they hope to achieve them.

It's a good idea to touch base regularly about household finances and working together to create solutions—like a budget or investing plan.

Get educated. Knowledge can give couples the power to resolve financial differences. If you work to learn the basics of investing together, you can feel comfortable knowing you are speaking the same language and both understand the risks involved with different investments and different strategies.

Get started with the FINRA Foundation's free Course to Smart Investing, which is designed to fit into your busy lifestyle. And, bonus, the theme of the course sequence is love and relationships!

Divide and conquer. For some couples, it might be better to divvy up accounts and responsibilities. You might have the more conservative partner handle the savings for short-term goals, such as saving for a down payment on a house, where a conservative approach is often justified.

The more aggressive partner, in turn, could possibly oversee savings for long-term goals like retirement, where investments can be more aggressive when retirement is still many years down the road.

Hire a referee. Sometimes couples simply can't figure things out on their own. A financial professional can help couples get beyond two opposing investment styles and make recommendations based on what's mutually beneficial for the couple.

It might just be worth the cost and effort. After all, managing a relationship is hard enough without having to fight about money.

For more information on discussing your finances as a couple, check out our Money Skills for Newlywed Couples guide. 


Blog topics: 
Investing

Keeping Senior Loved Ones Safe While Separated

Keeping Senior Loved Ones Safe While Separated

 

By Kelly Griese

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Americans understandably have a lot of anxiety right now. And, as always, we worry about our most vulnerable citizens. 

In a few weeks, our office joins countless others in recognizing World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) on June 15. It also marks the start of the second annual Indiana Elder Abuse Awareness Week and the first anniversary of the creation of the Indiana Council Against Senior Exploitation, or IN-CASE, where I serve as chairwoman. 

The widespread prevalence of senior exploitation and abuse destroys the security of millions of older Americans annually. At IN-CASE, it is our mission to empower Indiana communities to prevent and end senior exploitation and abuse. We believe we can achieve this through education, encouragement, and empowerment. 


IN-CASE is comprised of dozens of organizations and individuals across the state of Indiana, and we’re working together right now to finalize a series of virtual events during Indiana Elder Abuse Awareness Week. We had hoped to meet with all of you in person to celebrate our anniversary, but social distancing remains necessary right now, so we’re doing our best to support seniors and their caregivers from afar. In the meantime, we want to provide you with some quick facts about elder abuse. 

  • Elder Abuse can happen to anyone, affecting both men and women, all cultures, races, and socio-economic groups.
  • Elder abuse can happen anywhere; in a person’s own home, in hospitals and nursing homes, in assisted living facilities, and other institutional settings.
  • Women and “older” elders (80 years old and older) are the most common victims of elder abuse. Learn more.
  • Elder abuse is most often perpetrated by the victim’s own family members. 90% of abusers are family members; most often adult children, spouses/partners, and others. Learn more
  • Elder abuse is largely unreported. The National Center on Elder Abuse suggests that only 1 in 14 cases of abuse is actually reported to the authorities. Learn more

Clearly, elder abuse is a big problem, but there are ways you can help. 

Start by getting to know IN-CASE. I encourage you to explore www.IN-CASE.org and follow our social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. In the next week, we’ll post event announcements and RSVP information for Indiana Elder Abuse Awareness Week. Some of the events we're finalizing include a tele-town hall with AARP, scam prevention BINGO via Zoom, and fitness and cooking demonstrations tailored to senior citizens. 

You can also help by simply paying attention to the seniors in your life. Here are some of the red flags of elder abuse.

  • Sudden changes in appearance: poor hygiene, dressed improperly for the weather, sunken eyes, bedsores, loss of weight.
  • Sudden changes in personality; increased or unreasonable levels of anxiety, fearfulness and/or depression.
  • The elder becomes uncommunicative and unresponsive.
  • Sudden or swift decline in the health; malnourishment or sudden loss of weight.
  • Visible injury that has not been cared for, or cannot be explained with a realistic explanation.
  • A change in routine, no longer attending events or participating in events enjoyed in the past.
  • Social isolation/ not allowed to visit alone. 
  • Sudden loss of ability to meet financial obligations.
  • Going without things the elder needs or has always had in the past.
  • The elder states that they have had conflicts or problems with their caregiver and/or they use coded disclosures.

Many of these red flags can be harder to observe right now, but social distancing is not the same as social isolation. There are plenty of ways to stay connected even while physically apart. Take full advangage of digital tools like FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, and more. These video conferencing options allow you to see your loved ones and their homes. 

If you’re wondering how to get everyone online for a video chat, here are some helpful tips: 

  • Work with what they already know. Is your loved one already on Facebook Messenger? Do they use an iPhone? These are programs that already have video chat features. You’re looking for the most user-friendly program that works with the device your loved one already has.
  • Give the seniors clear instructions on how to connect to the program you pick. You may need to describe what app icons look like, how to download software, or steps for creating a new account. 
  • Be patient and encouraging.

For more information about video chatting with seniors, I found this blog post from Crossroads Hospice to be helpful. 


Blog topics: 
Fraud Prevention 

5 Summer Camp Alternatives for All Budgets

5 Summer Camp Alternatives for All Budgets

 

By Kylee Hale

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

As communities do their best to progress through this pandemic, parents and children are finding out summer camps are canceled along with family activities like parades, festivals, and sporting events. If parents previously relied on summer camp as a form of child care they are now faced with a dilemma. It’s still up in the air as to which camps will open when camps can open, and how many kids will be allowed to attend if the camps decide to open. Aside from coming up with a Plan B, many families are looking for activities even after work hours. Here are 5 budget-friendly alternative ideas for summer fun. 

Day Camp – Online 

Some summer camps around the state of Indiana, like YMCA camps, seem to plan on opening and welcoming children while adhering to additional safety precautions. While camps that do open will enforce smaller group sizes and possibly not allow as many kids to attend, some parents will not be comfortable sending their child to an in-person camp. There are many summer camps nationwide that will not be hosting kids in person this summer but are now offering virtual camps. For a local Indiana example, Butler University offers virtual weeklong online structured STEM camps for kids to learn coding, robotics, film, and game design. Another more affordable example is Outschool, a virtual school with more than 15,000 live lessons for all students. Outschool classes are taught by independent teachers across the country in small groups and integrate fun learning to keep kids engaged. Courses can be taken weekly, for example; Space Camp is 50 minutes a session 5x a week and costs $50/student. Some lessons are as low as $5 a class, and there are many options including Baton Twirling, Stand-Up Comedy, and Forensic Science.

A Fairy Tale Greeting

Fairy Tale Sing A Long Facebook Event For younger children that may not have the attention span for virtual lessons, here is an idea that is sure to uplift quarantine woes. What started as two ladies from California, dressing whimsically as princesses and fairytale characters, to bring love and hope to local children, has boomed into magical Zoom meetings. Loni Ward, mother of a 3 year old, has scheduled multiple calls for her daughter and says "Each chat brings a little normal back to her life and lifts her mood when she is bored with the monotonous days. It's different from watching a show or movie or playing a game [because] the characters are able to make real connections.". This type of quick check-in can save the day and provide some inspiration to little ones and enlighten the mood for an entire family. You can schedule a meeting with a Princess or fairytale character by emailing hopeloveandmagic@gmail.com. As of May 2020, virtual meetings run $35 for fifteen minutes, $60 for thirty minutes, and $10 to register for one of the sixty-minute virtual group events. A private Zoom call can include conversation, singing, and storytime. The virtual group events include Wednesday Magic Hour, Sing-Along, and Story Time for viewers to register and tune in with a special character. 

Create Camp on Demand

Some of the virtual camps with scheduled daily activities can be pricey. There is a budget-friendly alternative, but this will require a savvy planner. There are lots of resources allowing parents to string together activities to make an at-home camp planner. But this doesn’t mean you hKids doing artwork at kitchen table ave to stay at home the whole time. Scheduling an hour for a nature walk, bike ride, learning to fish, and other outdoor activities into the agenda are a good change of pace. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis has created tons of free content bringing the museum to you at home. Dinosaur Drawing, Digging for Fossils Cookie Dissection, Glitter Germs, Story Time with Andrew Luck, there is no shortage of entertainment. The National Children’s Museum is also launching one-day camps this summer. Tuesdays will cover science and on Thursdays, virtual campers will create child-size structures. Newfields, formally known as Indiana Museum of Art, added a Newfields at Home section to their website This includes Horticulture and how-to videos for making your own bath soak, making playdough, and drawing a cartoon. They’ve even created a staff’s favorite list of children’s movies and where you can find them on streaming services. For adults, Newfields has added a how-to pour a Belgian beer video with Lindsay Jo Whirley, Newfields resident Certified Cicerone® and Culinary Arts Operations Manager and adult movie marathon suggestions. This isn’t an all-inclusive list, just check out the Newfields website for more ideas.

If you’re trying to cut down on screen time, check out some options for activity boxes. One example is Art camp in a Box. They will send you all the supplies needed for your child to create art projects at home. From the website, I’ve found that the price is $175 per box, and it includes enough supplies for 10 projects. Another option, KiwiCo, offers crate projects including Exploring Stars, Creating a Glow Lab, Unicorn Sewing, Geometric Laser project, and many more. The crates range in price from $15 - $45, but there are Groupon codes for specific boxes that are discount eligible.

For parents and caregivers who are a little more flexible with time, these ad-hoc options provide intermittent entertainment and are adaptable when structured activities are desired versus a care-free day by the pool. 

Travel a little

Currently, almost all travel is banned or discouraged. When travel bans are lifted, vacation rentals will likely be a more popular choice for late summer and fall vacations. Many people are not trusting of aircraft sanitation but more comfortable with road tripTravel a Little s in their vehicles. Most vacation rental locations are free of face-to-face interaction including online payment to keyless entry. Customer questions can be handled over Facetime, text, or phone and guests can avoid or limit interaction with the owner or other guests throughout their stay. Cleanliness will remain a concern, although those who need to travel for work rather than just leisure may still prefer a vacation rental and will likely pack their sanitation supplies.  Regardless most accommodations have stepped up their cleaning process for everyone’s safety. 

Even with the pandemic, travel is still exciting, and getting away from everyday life can be quite refreshing. Vacation rentals with a private pool can be relaxing with less worry of germs from other sunbathers. Most campgrounds are open this summer as well, which provides an opportunity to explore while maintaining social distancing. Check out the rental property policy and guidelines before booking in case there is another wave of the coronavirus in the location you are visiting or in case you get sick.

Neighbor Camp

As parents and kids are finding out Neighborhood Camptheir normal plans of attending the same camp they have returned to every summer isn’t going to happen this year, experts are suggesting that families utilize the community resources around them. While traditional summer camps are taught by teenagers, a new form of instruction could come from neighbors volunteering to share their knowledge and love of a hobby or subject with socially distanced neighborhood kids. Most communities have a mixture of individuals with a wide range of professional experiences. If your next-door neighbor is an architect this could be a great opportunity to teach kids about building, or maybe there is a guitarist across the street that could just play some music to dance to and enjoy. One of the biggest values of summer camp is role models and kids creating new relationships. New friends and learning can be fostered at home, in your community. When children play and have constructive conversations they are developing. Kids don’t have to go to summer camp for this to happen. Here some other fun neighborhood ideas, like a neighborhood scavenger hunt and front yard bingo

Summer is an exciting and favorite time of year for many. This summer will be different than any other we’ve seen before, but that’s not to say it’s ruined. If kids don’t go to camp, parents will get creative. We will think of new ways to have fun and be entertained. As long as the summer’s agenda challenges kids to socialize in new ways they will grow and continue to develop even at home and in our local communities.


Blog topics: 
Budgeting 

Credit Reports: What You Need to Know

Credit Reports: What You Need to Know

 

By Kelly Griese

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

It’s one of my top fraud prevention tips: check your credit reports! I include it in every presentation I give. Checking your credit report regularly not only helps you monitor for identity theft and reporting errors, but it can be a sobering reminder of how you’re managing your finances. Some people confuse the terms credit score and credit report, so let’s start by understanding the difference. 


You can think of your credit SCORE as a measure of your financial trustworthiness, because that’s how it’s used. Banks, landlords, insurance companies, and an increasing number of employers all use credit scores to decide if you can be trusted with money. (For more information about credit scores, we have a PDF you can print linked here.)

A credit REPORT is a detailed listing of your debt, both past and present. It shows all the credit cards and loans in your name. It also shows how much you owe to each creditor and how good you are at paying back what you owe. 


Credit reports have a LOT of information on them, and if you’ve never read one before, you may feel intimidated.  Fortunately, they’re not as scary as you might think.  There are several good websites that breakdown credit reports line-by-line to teach you how to read one. I like the sample credit report on CreditCards.com

Federal law entitles you to one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Requesting your credit report is easy and free. You can do so online, by phone, or by mail. 

Website:  www.AnnualCreditReport.com
Phone: 1-877-322-8228
Address: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA  30348-5281

And now… you can request it WEEKLY! This is a huge change prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion now offer Americans weekly access to monitor their credit report – for free. You use the same website listed above, www.AnnualCreditReport.com. The credit reporting agencies are making these weekly reports free for the next year. (For a printable worksheet about checking your credit report, click here.)


If you’re one of the many Americans struggling to pay your bills right now because of the Coronavirus crisis, the Federal Trade Commission offers this advice: 

  • Contact the companies you owe money to. Ask if they can postpone your payment, put you on a payment plan, or give you a temporary forbearance.
  • Check your credit report regularly to make sure it’s correct — especially any new payment arrangements or temporary forbearance. The recently passed CARES Act generally requires your creditors to report these accounts as current.
  • Fix any errors or mistakes that you spot on your credit report. Notify the credit reporting agencies directly. You can find out more by reading Disputing Errors on Credit Reports.

Blog topics: 
Budgeting, Fraud Prevention 

The Legacy of the Pandemic: 5 Lasting Financial Habits

The Legacy of the Pandemic: 5 Lasting Financial Habits

 

By Kylee Hale

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

There are very few aspects of our lives that remain untouched by the pandemic. Times are strange, where FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) has been replaced with FOGO (Fear of Going Out) and when wearing a mask to the grocery may seem less strange than wearing a speedo at the beach. Along with the global shutdown, most of us have found a new way of living, some differences welcomed and some we hope will soon be a memory. As we emerge from a quarantine state of mind many of us will continue to embrace our new era of frugality and continue with newly developed habits. From how we do our grocery shopping, to affordable entertainment here are five financial habits we should continue to carry out even after the lockdowns are lifted. 

1. Curbside Pick-up and Ordering Online 

Before the stay at home orders, 13% of U.S. consumers used online ordering and curbside pick-up or delivery to get their weekly grocery list. This percentage jumped up 19% since the survey was completed in the fall of 2019, this spike is attributed to the current circumstances. A lot of grocery stores are offering curbside pickup/delivery and consumers seem to be enjoying the convenience. When consumers were asked about continuing the use of online grocery services after the coronavirus, 43% said they were extremely or very likely to continue use. I think as a consumer the biggest concern with using online grocery services is trusting someone else to select your fresh produce. However, aside from being a time-saver, online grocery shopping can be a money saver. Consumers tend to cut back on impulse buys and stick to the grocery list, and their budget. Not only does online shopping allow you to check your pantry as you shop so you’re not buying cereal just in case you’re out at home, but the online cart keeps a running total. And all the prices in the cart are accurate, no more getting to the register to find out your pop-tarts aren’t on sale after all. Continuing to save money at the grocery store can free up funds for other expenses. 

2. Saving for a Rainy Day

At least 30% of Americans have tapped into their emergency funds during this pandemic, but 1 in 5 Americans didn’t have an emergency fund, to begin with. Emergency funds are supposed to carry us through when we experience a job loss or unexpected change like COVID-19 just showing up. If you have the savings, don’t be afraid to use this set-aside money to help you get through this time. Dipping into savings is a far better choice than taking on debt through a credit card or a similar source. The government implemented lockdowns will help you reduce spending on entertainment and reducing your necessary spending can help conserve your available funds. For necessities like over-the-counter medicine and feminine products, the CARES Act has implemented a change allowing these essentials to be purchased using funds from an HSA (Health Savings Account).  If you are still able to save during this pandemic, you’ll want to continue doing so. For some folks, it may be worthwhile to pick up extra hours, if still working, or look for companies that are hiring during this time. Regardless of your current situation, you should prepare to safeguard your finances as the financial implications connected to COVID-19 will continue for months to come.

3. Eating at Home

It’s expected that 75% of independent restaurants nationwide won’t survive the pandemic shutdown.  Some food industry business owners are afraid the CARES Act Paycheck Protection Plan won’t reach them, or the owners will experience difficulty applying due to language barriers and lack of ability to navigate the application. Some restaurants are holding on by relying on take-out orders and preselling holiday meals or gift cards. Consumers can safely order take-out and food delivery during the pandemic, and soon, while following social distancing guidelines, some folks will be able to go inside and sit down. On average, restaurants charge about a 300 percent markup on the items they serve, but that doesn’t keep us from occasionally splurging to combat the onset of cabin fever. There are many ways to support your favorite restaurant and still save while ordering take out. Most restaurants have reduced their menu for optimized take-out, but still, continue to offer daily specials. You can find deals and gift cards on to-go and carry-out orders on Groupon. Getting take-out may cost more than cooking at home, but you can still save money by getting your drink at home and you’ll save on the dining tax by not eating inside at the restaurant. Also, it seems that tipping on take-out orders is optional, 51% of Twitter users responded “No” to tipping for take-out. If you have a simple order and aren’t asking for over and beyond effort, you may not feel inclined to tip or tip a lesser amount like 10% compared to dine-in, 18-20% is the standard. Although take-out is more expensive, there are times when the convenience is worth it and if you plan for your weekly pizza night you won’t lose out on grocery food going uneaten. 

4. Retail Shopping

E-commerce spending is up 30% as of mid-April and due to mandatory store closures, retail is suffering a record decline in sales. At first, people were stockpiling household and grocery items and home office supplies. More recently sales have drifted towards books, entertainment games and outdoor sporting equipment, including fitness supplies. It seems like the coronavirus has accelerated a structural change that’s been occurring in retail over the last decade. Just like social distancing has created new office atmospheres and remote work, online shopping habits formed during this period may persist far beyond the crisis. The average retail store can last about 30 days without money coming in the door, about 65% of the businesses that weAt CitySpire, a condominium on West 56th Street, coronavirus protocol includes spraying packages with a disinfectant before bringing them inside.Credit...re forced to close during the pandemic, will not reopen. Fewer entrepreneurs will start businesses and the most important step any business can take will be to ensure their ability to make sales online. For consumers, we may experience unexpected consequences from all our online consumerism. If you’ve tried to return or exchange a purchase during this pandemic you may experience a little more difficulty or longer process. Some stores are not processing exchanges, asking consumers to place a new order, and separately request a return. Roughly one in five clothing items purchased online is returned. If sanitation and spread continue to be a concern stores may restrict their return policy or implement restocking fees as retailers increase measures to sanitize taken back items more thoroughly before reselling. Through this pandemic experience, consumers are purchasing more consciously, showing loyalty to brands that give them confidence and patronizing local stores. 68% of consumers who have shopped locally have tipped more than their usual, and research shows that the pandemic is likely to produce a more sustainable, healthier era of consumption over the next 10 years

5. Just Plain Frugality - Save More

 From virtual game nights to outdoor hikes, Americans have found new ways to have fun and curb boredom. Many Americans expect that we will have to wait several months or longer before routines will normalize and many expect their income to be negatively impacted for a long time. During the Great Depression, families relied on kitchen gardens and community thrift gardens for food sources, it’s not far off that Americans will return to growing their own food, space permitting, or consider moving somewhere that it is possible. As we begin to socialize again, it will be common for friends to gather at a potluck, play board games, or share a drink on the patio instead of going out to the movies and restaurants. Consumers have said they will continue to allocate money to emergency funds and paying off debt before rebooking travel and planning excursions. During the pandemic, Americans have cut spending to save money by buying only the essentials and revising their budget. Consumer’s confidence has dropped 30% since February, and many Americans have run out of what they did have in their savings. Coming out of this pandemic, Millennials especially, are saying they will be saving more. This may create a very risk-averse generation of super savers. For almost everyone, not just millennials, this is a first in a lifetime experience to learn from.

As we continue to wade through the uncertainty it can be jarring to think our current situation could be closer to the new definition of normal that we expect. We are all looking for insight as to when businesses can safely invite all their customers back and when gathering in large groups will be fully approved. We must remember how resilient we can be and know that perseverance is universal. We all should have hope, as this too shall pass


Blog topics: 
Budgeting

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