Personal Finance Blog


What would happen to you if you had to retire tomorrow?

Whether you’re 62 or 32, there are instances in this life that could force you to retire right now. It’s a fact of life that fortunately few people have to face, but for those who do, it can be more damaging than any other single event in their lives. It may be an automobile accident, a work injury, or a downsizing at work. Your job may become redundant, or you may face a serious illness that prevents you from going to work every day. The point is that you never really know what’s coming down the road for you, so it may become necessary for you to resort to a plan “B.” Do you have a plan “B?” If not, then it’s not too late. Get to work on it now, and your tomorrow will be much more stable should the worst come to pass.

Planning for the worst isn’t easy, but it begins with being willing to accept that accidents happen. Once you get that out of the way, it’s easier to look at the situations that you may run into more objectively. When you can look at them in that light, it’s easier to see potential situations without becoming too grim about it all. You might even find yourself taking it somewhat lightly. That’s all right. Whatever gets you through the process is what’s going to work.

First up, let’s look at disability insurance. It’s a part of the social security program in the United States, but chances are good that it isn’t going to adequately cover your expenses should you have to retire early. Consider for starters that you have to have paid into the social security program to draw disability, so make sure that your paychecks are having SSI tax payments withdrawn. If they aren’t, you may be in an excluded profession, so check with your benefits administrator to determine what sort of disability insurance is offered to you. The same goes for people who are self-employed. The difference here being that rather than a benefits administrator, there’s only you. Look into private disability insurance to make sure your family is protected.

Now, we talked about how disability insurance won’t cover much. Usually, it won’t provide you all your lost wages, much less your future lost wages factoring in pay increases. For instance, if you’re 21 and have never made more than $1,000 per month, then are injured for life, disability insurance will only pay for those wages you’re currently earning. Say “so long” to that $5000 per week administrative executive position you’d been planning for when you turn thirty. It’s just you and your thousand bucks forever. How is this overcome? For staters, saving money in a 401-k will be a good start. More than that, though, is supplemental disability insurance. Many employers offer it, it’s cheap as dirt, and can substantially improve your way of life should you become injured, whether for the short term or permanently.

Finally, in terms of this instruction, a good place to make things right with your future self is to be certain you aren’t carrying heavy levels of debt for long periods of time. Start by getting those credit cards paid off, then follow that up with paying off any student debt you may have accumulated. Pay off car loans in the shortest amount of time possible, and finally, put a little extra on your mortgage every month so that you’ll pay it off a few months or years sooner than you might have otherwise. It’s not always easy to do, particularly when you’re young, but by the same token, if you’re presented with a choice between selling everything you have to pay necessary bills because you’ve become disabled and giving your mortgage holder an extra $100 per month and skipping two meals out per month, it should go without saying which is the better option.

Posted in:  Budget & Savings, Financial Planning, Retirement
| Tagged:   , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Could you be unwittingly funding terrorists? What can you do to prevent terrorism?

These are dangerous times, and they are made no less so by the internet and the near-instantaneous transfer of information that is made possible by smartphones, the internet, and even traditional phone lines. Over the course of the last year, ISIS has come to prominence as a force to be reckoned with in the Middle East. While they are certainly the most visible terror organization currently in operation, they are by no means the only group out there. If anything, there are loads of others in operation both domestically and abroad, which begs the question, where are they pulling funding from?

Terror organizations need money to carry on their operations, indoctrinate new members, and provide travel for members to carry out their activities. All these things aren’t free, and if ISIS’ recruiting methods are any indication, (seeking out disenfranchised middle- and lower-class youths) then there aren’t a host of super-rich members going to meetings that could possibly finance all their activities, particularly in the case of a large-scale operation such as we’re seeing in the Middle East these days. It should come as no surprise, then, that many terror organizations get their funding from shady and fraudulent activities. Unfortunately, this isn’t a new problem, and it affects every last one of us.

“Internet Haganah” is an online forum that tracks pro-terrorist activities online, and according to its director Aaron Weisburd, terrorists are taking a more home-grown approach to fundraising these days, culling their funds from small donors in much the same fashion that crowd funding of projects happens. Instead of funding a business idea, however, these funds are used for terror. According to Weisburd, some of the more common fundraising activities include Phishing, such as when you receive those too-good-to-be-true emails, Cloning, when a credit card number is copied onto a new card, or skimming, when the actual credit card number is stolen. This tends to happen when you use your credit card for transactions at places like restaurants, when the card itself is out of your possession and sight for a time.

Preventing all fraud that funds terror activities is practically impossible, but it can be significantly reduced to the point that some terror organizations may find themselves severely hampered in their ability to conduct operations. What can you do to help prevent the funding of terror organizations? The answer is actually incredibly simple!

To begin with, carefully monitor your credit. If you notice strange charges, don’t delay in reporting them to your credit card company, so that the funds can be cut off quickly and no further purchases can be made. It is also imperative that you regularly check on your credit ratings at Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. You should be able to identify all the credit accounts that are listed. If you can’t, then it may be possible that someone has opened a charge account in your name.

Be discreet with your credit card number. It won’t be long before card companies start making visual identification of credit card numbers impossible, but until that time, don’t flash your card around or allow it to be photographed in any way. Keep it in sight, and be certain that you’re the only one using it.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, use paper checks during those times when it seems likely that hackers will hit major retailers. Notable examples include Columbus day, Black Friday, (and the rest of the holiday shopping season, for that matter) and Presidents’ day. Basically, any day when there are lots and lots of consumers using credit cards at the same time will be ripe fodder for identity thieves seeking to get the biggest haul of credit card information in the shortest amount of time to pass on to terror organizations.

You may not be able to physically fight terrorists, but at the very least, though the use of smart spending habits, you can do your part to severely hamper their ability to injure people or take lives.

Posted in:  Credit Cards
| Tagged:   , , , , , , | Leave a comment