Trick or Treat? 3 Crazy Ways Your Brain Tricks You Into Not Saving Money

Trick or Treat_ How brain tricks you into not saving money image for landing pageDid you know your brain may be to blame for preventing you from reaching your financial goals? It’s true. Several recent studies conducted by Prudential suggest that we should train our brains to think differently about money because our brains are tricking us every day. Here’s how:

  1. What would happen if you asked a stranger to donate to your retirement fund? They’d probably laugh at you. But, research suggests when we think about our older selves in retirement, we see ourselves as strangers and have a hard time saving for something we can’t easily envision. For example, when we think about ourselves now, our medial prefrontal cortex reacts strongly, yet when we think about a stranger, the same area has a lesser reaction. Oddly enough, this section of our brain has the same insignificant reaction when we think about ourselves in the future. To make saving easier, we need to find ways to connect with the person we want to become so it doesn’t feel like we’re giving money to a person we don’t know.
  2. Have you ever lost a $20 bill? It hurt, didn’t it? Did you know that our brains recognize physical pain and losing money in the same way? Furthermore, the same area of our brain that reacts when you lose money is responsible for reactions related to saving money. It’s almost as if we feel like we’re losing money when we save. Ouch. That hurts. But consider this – what if we woke up one day and checked our bank account to find we had a lot more money than we originally saved? How would this make you feel? Personally, I’d be doing a happy dance! This means we need to start focusing harder on the gratifying feelings that savings can lead to instead of the pain we feel when saving today.
  3. You work extremely hard. So, why are you behind in reaching your financial goals? The area of your brain that helps you make responsible decisions, your dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, is focused on overriding the parts of your brain that encourage you to make impulsive decisions. Because your responsible side gets tired from all the decisions it makes every day, the impulsive side often overrides it. This leads to procrastination. Big surprise, huh? You’re tired! The last thing you want to do after coming home from a long day is to calculate your retirement gap or figure out the best way to invest your money.

What can you do?
One of the most important ways to help bridge the gap between where you are today and where you want to be is to find someone who can understand your goals, help simplify the decisions you need to make by offering you easy solutions, and keep you on track when life gets in the way. I’d love to help you get from here to there. Feel free to reach out to me at valerie@grinkmeyerleonard.com if you’re ready to get focused.

How to Help Your Aging Parents Avoid Financial Mistakes

How to Talk to Aging Parents About Money Image for Landing PageIf you’re concerned that your parents are getting older and worried about their ability to make wise financial decisions, you’re not alone. In fact, 10,000 experienced baby boomers are retiring each day—a trend that will continue through 2030!

When you combine the complex and ever-changing financial industry with the fact that there will likely come a time your parents will be unable or uninterested in managing their money, you may very well find yourself in a challenging situation.

According to a poll by the Pew Research Center:

  • 75% of adults believe that they have a responsibility to provide financial assistance to their aging parents.
  • 63% percent of adults have given some type of financial support to their grown children in the past year.

As your parents move into retirement, it’s wise to plan ahead for any financial and legal responsibilities they may expect you to take on.

Starting the conversation
These days, 65 is hardly considered old age. But, it’s crucial to sit down with your parents and have an honest discussion about issues that may arise—before they need your help. What are their expectations for the future? What kind of assistance will they need from you? Will they have sufficient resources to cover their care as they age?

As part of this conversation, be sure their important documents and information are organized. You’ll want to know where to locate items such as:

  • Wills and legal documents
  • Investment, bank, and insurance account numbers
  • Safe deposit boxes, real estate deeds, and automobile titles
  • Emergency contact numbers (medical providers, neighbors and friends, and financial, tax, and legal advisors)

Looking into legal matters
If they haven’t already done so, your parents may want to hire an attorney to help them manage their affairs. For example, they may need assistance with:

  • Appointing a health care representative. Without legal authorization, medical privacy laws prevent doctors from discussing a parent’s medical conditions with you. In addition to appointing a health care power of attorney, your parents may want to consider a living will, which provides instructions on how to manage treatment if they have a terminal or irreversible condition and cannot communicate.
  • Reviewing and updating estate planning documents. Besides the basic estate planning documents, such as wills, durable powers of attorney, and revocable trusts, your parents may wish to draft a letter outlining who will receive personal effects like jewelry and family heirlooms.

Discussing their financial situation
Depending on your parents’ circumstances and financial savvy, they might need help managing their money as they age. Making arrangements now can help prevent confusion down the road.

  • Review insurance coverage. Be sure to discuss your parents’ existing life and long-term care policies, and make changes if necessary.
  • Enlist an advisor. Now may be a good time to get to know your parents’ financial advisor, or to talk to your own advisor about your parents’ situation. She can recommend products that are suitable to their investment goals, whether that means income, capital preservation, or growth.

Looking to the future
As your parents age, a number of other considerations will likely come into play. Will they be able to continue living at home? How long will they be able to drive? Although these topics may be difficult to discuss, it’s important to start the conversation early—for your parents’ sake as well as your own. By planning ahead, you’ll help ensure that everyone’s needs are met.

And remember, you don’t need to make these decisions alone. I’m happy to help support you and your parents with strategic planning for the next phase of their lives. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me at valerie@grinkmeyerleonard.com. I’m always happy to help.

Source: Trends in Executive Development 2016, Executive Development Associates

How to Help Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Identity theft image for landing page (1)Have you been a victim of identity theft? If not, chances are you know someone who has. According to a report conducted by Javelin Strategy and Research, 16.7 million people were victims of identity fraud in 2017! So, what can do you do help protect yourself and your personal data?

What is identity theft?
It used to be that thieves would compromise your identity by stealing your mail or wallet, but today they are just as likely to obtain your personal information from businesses you frequent. Or, using a technique called phishing, they may try to trick you into providing information by posing as your bank or a government agency. Once they have your key data, they can change your address with your credit card issuers, open up new credit cards in your name, drain your bank account, take out loans, apply for government-issued identification, or impersonate you during an arrest. They may even entangle your identity in a sophisticated fraud on a third-party without you even knowing it.

How can you help protect yourself?
Use the following tips to help keep your personal information safe from thieves:

  1. Keep a close eye on your credit by requesting a free credit report once a year. Call 877.322.8228 or visit annualcreditreport.com. This is the only source authorized by federal law to obtain your free report so don’t be fooled by similar-sounding websites that are in the business of selling credit protection services.
  2. Review your credit card and bank statements regularly (as often as weekly) for charges you didn’t make. Some thieves will charge a small purchase to test if the account is active; if it goes through undetected, they’ll move on to much larger purchases.
  3. Be smart about your passwords. Because it’s relatively easy for thieves to obtain information about you from social networking sites, don’t use your phone number, birthday, or names of your children or pets as passwords. Strong passwords include a combination of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
  4. Ask the businesses and institutions you work with (or for) about how they secure your information. “Dumpster diving” is a popular way for thieves to access information carelessly thrown away by businesses.
  5. Don’t fall victim to a phishing scam. If you receive a call or an e-mail that appears to be from a trusted institution or business, don’t immediately provide identifying information. Instead, visit the business’s website and call its customer service number. Or, if the message appears to be from your credit card company, call the number printed on the back of your card.
  6. Don’t click on links within e-mails. Rather, type the URL directly into your browser’s address line.
  7. Secure your mail. Before you travel, ask the post office to hold your mail until you return. Don’t leave bill payments in an unsecured mailbox and have reordered checks delivered to your bank rather than mailed to your home.
  8. Shred your credit card receipts, bank statements, and other documents that could provide a thief with your financial information.
  9. Don’t carry your credit or debit cards in your wallet if you don’t plan to use them. Never carry your social security number in your wallet.
  10. Update your computer’s virus protection and don’t open e-mail attachments from people or businesses you don’t know.
  11. Install a firewall on your computer to thwart hackers.
  12. Look for the lock icon or “https” address when shopping online. Always log off when leaving a password-protected site.
  13. Use a wipe utility program before throwing away old computer equipment or smartphones.

If you suspect that your identity has been stolen, follow the steps provided on the Federal Trade Commission’s website at www.ftc.gov/idtheft.

What about identity theft protection services?
With cases of identity theft on the rise, many companies have entered the market with services promising to protect or minimize your risk. Certainly, these services are convenient, but they don’t offer anything you can’t do for free. Furthermore, it’s important to keep in mind that the industry has its own share of fraudulent promoters of worthless services. Be sure to do your research and understand the level of protection the company offers.

Many well-known businesses offer credit monitoring, among other services. Find out more by visiting www.fightidentitytheft.com.

You work hard for your money. Don’t let cyber thieves steal it from you. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me at valerie@grinkmeyerleonard.com. I’m always happy to help.

This material has been provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute either tax or legal advice. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a tax preparer, professional tax advisor, or lawyer.

Source: 2018 Identity Fraud: Fraud Enters a New Era of Complexity