July 2017
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Thinking of retiring?

If so, the Social Security Administration provides some valuable Web site resources — including “Taking the Mystery Out of Retirement Planning” — that can help you determine how much money you can expect to need in retirement.

The report is written in a jaunty style — emulating a mystery story — and includes a retirement timeline as well as a multitude of worksheets for you to apply to your own situation. Definitely worth a look.

MyMoney.gov

Many — myself included — bewail the absence of basic personal financial management education in our schools. I, for one, had to rely on my Dad for a few hasty lessons on how to manage a checking account, before I set off for college.

Of course, that was before the Internet.

MyMoney.gov is one site I recommend your taking some time to review. It isn’t the be-all or end-all, but it’s a worthy basic resource, whatever your stage in life. Topics include saving and investing, managing debt and credit, saving for retirement, scams and fraud, and more.

Too basic for you? Perhaps you have children or other younger family members who could benefit.

From the site’s home page: “MyMoney.gov is the U.S. government’s Web site dedicated to teaching all Americans the basics about financial education. Whether you are buying a home, balancing your checkbook, or investing in your 401(k), the resources on MyMoney.gov can help you maximize your financial decisions. Throughout the site, you will find important information from 20 Federal agencies and Bureaus designed to help you make smart financial choices.”

An August checklist

August is almost upon us, which traditionally means that we should be watching for seasonal sales on lawn mowers, air conditioners, outdoor furniture, and the like.

But Consumer Reports Money Adviser — a pub I always enjoy receiving on its regular subscription route — suggests that we annually also peg August for …

  • the month in which to check that the beneficiary designations on our IRAs, life insurance accounts, etc., are still as we want them to be;
  • and

  • the month in which we check to be sure that our auto insurance policies are (a) offering sufficient coverage (worth a few minutes’ annual check), and (b) charging competitive premiums.

Why not? I’ve already updated my MS Outlook for 2011.

Protect yourself: Copy the contents of your wallet

This will take only a few minutes.

Get your wallet out. Remove everything in it except your cash. Fire up the copy machine.

Okay, well, depending upon how much stuff you stuff into your wallet, you might not have to remove everything. But your aim is to corral all of the information you would want to have at your fingertips should your wallet ever be lost or stolen — including credit and debit cards, identification cards, insurance cards, and the like.

Now, copy all the front sides. Then, turn every card over and copy all the back sides. Keep your copies in a safe place.

Voila! Now, you have not only captured contents and account numbers, but you’ve also recorded the customer service numbers (often found on the back) that you’ll need to report your lost cards.

Password management (idea #1)

How, in heaven’s name, are we to remember all of our passwords, especially since we’re told (a) not to use the same password for everything, and (b) not to store them electronically? Help us!

In Upgrade Your Life: The Lifehacker Guide to Working Smarter, Faster, Better (2nd edition; Wiley Publishing, Inc.; Indianapolis; 2008), author Gina Trapani suggests a great way to remember multitudes of different passwords by following simple guidelines that utilize just one rule set. Here’s how it goes.

First, choose a “base” password … and this is really all you need to remember. To that, says Trapani, you’ll apply a single rule that “mashes in[to it]” some form of each Web service with that base password.

EXAMPLE: Let’s say I love horses, and I decide that my base password should be all of the consonents in that word — i.e., hrss.

But wait! Since many services also require that passwords (which should always be eight characters or more, by the way) also include numbers or special characters, let’s add some of those to our “base” password, just to be safe. For example, let’s say that I not only love horses, but that I would really love to own a stable of them. So I’m going to add a big number to my base, let’s say 12. My base password then becomes hrss12. Twelve horses. This is all I need to remember.

Next, says Trapani, you select a rule for applying additional, unique password variations to specific Web sites. One idea she has is to add, after your “root” (in my case, hrss12), the first three letters of the service name. So for me, my password for amazon.com would become hrss12ama.

Another idea is to add the first two or three vowels (or consonants) of a service’s Web site.

These ideas should get you going. Think about what would work for you!