A few weeks ago in Orlando, Florida at the national planning conference for Financial Network, I attended excellent workshops on economics and investment strategies, heard speakers giving updates on Social Security, income and estate taxes and long-term care insurance and collaborated with clients on proven solutions for helping clients.
On Thursday afternoon I had a few hours between sessions and was scanning my email in my room. A thunderstorm rolled through and as the lightening flashed, rain fell and thunder boomed, I was grateful to be safe and dry indoors. It hit me then that my clients want to feel the same way.
In meeting after meeting this year, clients have expressed concern about troubling events in the world – from the Greek debt crisis to stubbornly high unemployment, from earthquakes, tsunamis and nuclear meltdowns to the painfully slow economic recovery. With all these storms thundering around us, it is no wonder that investors are retreating into bonds and CD’s in order to feel safe.
Many things in this world are beyond our control, but there are things that you can do to protect both your financial future and your family. My colleague grew up in central Florida and talked about how her family prepared for thunderstorms by stocking up on water, food and batteries for the radio. They filled up the gas tanks in the cars, unplugged appliances and if strong winds were in the forecast, they nailed plywood over the windows. Acknowledging the threatening clouds, they focused on protecting themselves and their homes.
We can do the same.
This is the first in a series of articles offering small steps that you can take now to better protect your family and improve your financial security. Every few weeks I will send a much briefer article with my thoughts on a new subject to consider and an action to take. Each action should take only about 30 minutes so set aside a specific time each week to read the article and take an action, perhaps a Sunday afternoon or weekday evening after dinner. Some subjects many not apply to your situation and on those days you can breathe easy knowing that part of your financial house is in order.
Let’s start off with an easy step – pulling your free credit report. Many credit reports contain errors that might lower your credit score. Credit scores not only affect your ability to borrow money, but also affect your insurance premiums and your ability to rent an apartment or even land a job.
Identify theft is also growing at a fast pace and the best prevention is to review your credit report regularly. Look for unusual activity such as new accounts that you don’t recognize or unfamiliar addresses. Either are red flags that someone may be using your identity.
The three main credit reporting agencies – Experian, TransUnion and Equifax are required by law to provide each person with a free credit report each year. See this article for more details.
Go to www.annualcreditreport.com to request your free report from just one of these agencies. Review the report for errors or fraud and follow the instructions on the provider’s website to take action. Then set a reminder on your smart phone or computer and in four months - pull another credit report from one of the other agencies. Repeat every four months and you’re done!
It’s good to be back on the West Coast with the mild Santa Monica weather rather than 90% humidity and thunderstorms. Debt ceiling raised? Yes. Debt problem solved? No. Unemployment? Still high with no action plan in sight. Am I concerned? Yes. Am I fearful? Nope. I'm spending a little less, saving a bit more and working a bit harder. This squall will pass and next summer there will be a different storm thundering across the horizon.
So relax, enjoy the rest of your summer and I’ll be back shortly with more tips!