If You Have Anthem Insurance, Take Action

This is old news because it happened last week.  Since Anthem is telling those that might be affected to just sit tight, I thought I would write about it.

In what looks like the biggest data breach on record, an estimated 80 million people have had their personal information stolen in a data breach at Anthem, Inc.  We are talking everything from social security numbers to just about every piece of personal data was hacked. 

Interestingly enough, they did state that no credit card information was compromised. Usually, that is the main information stolen and the social security number is not stolen.

Remember there are two different types of potential theft that can occur as a result of a data breach.  First, there is credit card theft.  This is mistakenly referred to as identity theft.  An authorized charge is simply fraud and not ID theft. 

Then there is the worst theft of all – social security information.  This is where a thief can do the worst of all damage to a consumer. The concern should be potential identity theft.  What’s worst, this is a problem that can last for a lifetime.  It is not like you can change a social security number like a credit card number. 

It is mind blowing that this has happened to 80 million people. 

Anthem had this to say:

“What to do if you’re a customer: If you have Anthem insurance, there’s not much you can do but sit tight for now. Anthem has set up a website, anthemfacts.com, with information about the hack.

In the next few weeks, Anthem will inform you by mail if your information was compromised. All impacted Anthem customers will receive some form of identity fraud protection, the company said.”

If you are with Anthem, take action now.  It is beyond me that their advice would be that “there is not much you can do but sit tight for now.”  Identity thieves love the fact that they have a few weeks to start illegal activity while consumers are “sitting tight.”

How to Eliminate Financial Stress

By Bob Brooks

February 4, 2015

 

According to the American Psychological Association, almost three-quarters of Americans are experiencing financial stress at least some of the time, and nearly a quarter of us are experiencing extreme financial stress.  That is not surprise.  Since the Financial crisis of 2008, finances have just become so complicated.  After giving financial advice now for almost 23 years, I have come to a conclusion.  First, most of what people are worrying about never comes to pass.  Second, people are worrying because they are operating out of a set of assumptions rather than facts.  Said another way, they are assuming something could happen because they haven’t taken the time to assess their situation and their options.

 

It ends up being a two edged sword.  People don’t want to look at their situation out of fear.  Yet, they stay stressed and worried because they are not assessing their situation.  Well, there is good news.  I have found that things aren’t as nearly as bad as it seems.  Further, I have found that solutions are created and stress goes away when you allow someone from the outside to assess your situation. 

 

Take Paul for example – Paul came to me thinking that he could not even remotely retire.  After I showed him some changes to make and how to look at his situation differently, he discovered that he could actually retire at some point.  Mary thought she was on the brink of financial disaster because of debt.  I showed her another way to deal with it and she was soon relieved to find out things weren’t as bad as she thought. 

 

I have been solving problems for a long time and would like to talk to you about yours.  With my financial advisement practice, the initial assessment is always at no cost and can be done over the phone or in person. After we have assessed your situation, then you can decide if my solutions are valid enough to work in a client/advisor relationship.  Financial stress is not worth it.   For once, get some advice and some solutions.  Feel free to email me at bob@prudentmoney.com or call me at 972-386-0384.

They to a Cost Effective Valentine’s Day – Knowing What Each Other Really Wants

By Bob Brooks
February 4, 2015

 

 

OK, with a title like that one, no one can accuse me of being a hopeless romantic.  You just finish paying off Christmas and then another potentially expensive holiday arrives – Valentine’s Day.  Who says you have to spend a ton of money?  It might be that we are drawing the wrong conclusions about what are spouse/significant other actually wants.  Retailmenot.com just released a survey with interesting results that might actually surprise you. 

 

·      65% of those surveyed prefer a low-key dinner on Valentine’s Day versus the upscale restaurants

 

·      More Woman than men want to order takeout and stay home (34% vs. 23%)

 

·      More Men than women prefer a gourmet dinner at an upscale restaurant

 

Does that surprise you?  Now, I can’t imagine that the majority of guys really want to go to an overpriced restaurant, wait for hours to get seated, get rushed, select from a set menu that costs more than the previous night, and be abused by potentially bad service.  Yes, that is what Valentine’s Day upscale often gets you and why I refuse to go out to dinner on Valentine’s Day.  Our Valentine’s day is any day but the 14th.

 

So, why do the majority of men prefer the upscale restaurant?  I would suggest that they think their significant other prefers it. 

 

So, read the stats for yourself.  I am not saying don’t spend money on your significant other on Valentine’s Day .  Just spend it differently.  After all you both might want the same thing – low key.

 

By the way, get good deals and save even more money by visiting www.retailmenot.com and checking their Valentine’s Day specials – http://www.retailmenot.com/deals/valentinesday

These Two Statistics Reveal What is Really Happening with Money

By Bob Brooks

February 2, 2015

Lately, we have been discussing deflation on the Prudent Money Radio Show.  Deflation is an economic condition where prices of everything declines. It is the opposite of inflation where prices go up.  This involves everything from retail to the stock market.  It slowly happens over a long period of time before it has fully consumed the entire economy. 

There is a whole list of signs that deflation is starting that process with our economy.  This morning two more key signs have arrived.

During deflationary times,   the consumer pulls back on spending and save more because of two dynamics.  First, the consumer is waiting on prices to fall lower.  Why buy today when prices will be lower tomorrow?  Second, the consumer is saving money out of fear of the future.

Consumer spending is historically strong during Christmas spending season in December.  Retailers lower prices to rock bottom level and run all types of credit specials to induce the consumer to spend money.  During this Christmas shopping season consumers have had the benefit of sub $2 dollar gas prices.  This is like getting a raise.  During December 2014, consumer spending dropped for only the 6th time in 55 years.  In fact, it was the second largest drop out of those 5 times. 

Further, annual consumer spending (12 months of spending) typically exceeds the total amount of money consumers hold in bank accounts.  As a whole, consumers spend more than they keep in their checking/savings accounts in most years. 

Last year, consumer spending total 11.9 trillion and money kept in bank accounts totaled 11.9 trillion.   According to behavioral expert Dr. Dan Geller, this was a first.

This was a chart he posted in a release this morning.

What does all of this mean?  Although lower prices are great for the consumer, deflation is like an economic cancer that slowly spreads and consumes.  It is an unusual phenomenon that one might see in a lifetime. It can stay around for a long time.  It is not good for investment markets nor is it good for the economy.  As I have said on the radio show, we want to watch these signs very closely.  In the event that this continues to build, a protection strategy will be warranted for stocks and bonds. 

Although the signs are building that this is coming, deflation is not a foregone conclusion. That is the good news.  However, if we are still talking about this at mid-year, we could be on the cusp of a big problem.  

The 5 Step Stewardship Process for Handling His Money

By Bob Brooks

January 29, 2015

 

Being a Prudent Steward of what God has given us is an awesome responsibility.  We want to steward or manage well.  I have examined my own financial life over the past few months and have come to one conclusion.  I don’t think that I have been a very good steward.  So, I have spent time going back to the basics.  I went through a detailed examination of everything that we as a family have been doing when it comes to money. 

It has been a rewarding/painful process in that I feel like I am more on top of things and being a better manager of what God has given my family.  It is easy to get into a rut and not practice what you know. 

So, in the spirit of making 2015 the year of prudent stewardship, I wanted to share with you what I think is fundamental when it comes to how you approach money.  This 5 step process can apply to everything from budgeting to managing your investment goals and objectives.  

(1)   Determine your objectives, values, and goals for everything you are doing with money

Why are you making the decisions that you are when it comes to money? So few understand the reasoning behind their financial decision making.  The objectives, values, and goals define the why behind every decision.  So take retirement for example. Why are you really saving and investing money?  Retirement means nothing until you make it alive with the details.  Success with obtaining your financial goals necessitates that you get into the details.  What are the details of retirement?  What is it that you value about that future period of your life?  Understanding your values gives you the power and motivation to stay on track.  All of it is very important. 

On a smaller scale, this same step can even apply to budgeting.  Where do you need to be with your spending and saving objectives?  Are you on track or are you digging yourself a hole?  What about debt?  What is your debt free day? 

(2)   Identify and fix any risks, problems, or weaknesses

With this step, you simply ask 2 questions.  What could go wrong?  What could I do better?  Take budgeting for instance.  If you are not tracking your spending, how do you know that you will have enough to cover everything in the month?  That is a risk.  What are you going to do if you run out of money before the end of the month? 

What if there is a premature death?  How will my family survive financially?  What if I get laid off? What is my game plan?  What if the hot water heater goes out?  How will I pay for it?  The point is not to dwell on the negative or fear it.  The point is to make sure you have contingency plans (Plan B when Plan A doesn’t work) for everything.  Once you do, the worry ceases to exist.

What about your investments?  The stock market doesn’t just go up. It goes up AND down.  Yet most invest as if it only goes up.  Do you have a game plan for both in place?  

What could I do better?  Could I be managing my spending better?  Could I be more intentional about getting out of debt?  I am sure you can come up with a few items. I know that I did.

(3)   Manage your progress and make sure you are on track

One of the most important steps that a very small percentage of people actually take.  Further, this is the reason why only a very small percentage of people are successful.   When it comes to your retirement objectives, getting out of debt, saving goals, etc.  always be able to answer the one question.  Am I on track?  Am I ahead on my progress or behind?  If I am behind, what steps do I take to get back on track?  This is where an overall game plan is so very important.

(4)   Commitment to Education about how money works

Invest some time into getting a better education on how money works.  We go through 12 years of formal education and some go further through college.  Yet, very little time if any is invested into our knowledge of how money works. As a result, we are learning painful lessons as we learn through success/failure and the school of hard knocks.  What’s worst we are learning on the fly.  Picking up bits and pieces and trusting that information without really knowing why we are trusting it in the first place.  Seek to understand and benefit from the learning of others mistakes.  That is the great thing about educational material.  To create educational material, you either have had to make a lot of mistakes and learn from them or learn by observing others.  We all can benefit from that.

(5)   Commit to a Matthew 6:24 Life

You could successfully go through step 1 through 4 and it mean nothing without the step 5.  This lifestyle keeps everything in perspective.  It keeps God has the value, goal, and objective driver.  Those decisions that we make with money have God’s peace behind it.  It creates perspective.

Most importantly, we learn that it is God that provides and not money.  It is real living versus chasing a life of illusions.  It takes work, discipline, and daily surrender.  However, it is the life worth living.

You might be thinking that is one overwhelming process.  Sometimes you just need a guide.   I am always available to take you one on one through that process.  If you want more information, let’s start a conversation.  Email me at bob@prudentmoney.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call 972-386-0384.

The Easiest Way to Get Your Identity Stolen – Avoid This

By Bob Brooks

January 28, 2015

Police are looking for a man who has been breaking into cars at local gyms and stealing personal belongings.  The man is apparently targeting women.  He waits until they leave their car and then he strikes. 

It has always amazed me how people will leave purses, computers, valuables, etc. out in plain daylight for anyone to steal.  Just the other day at Starbucks, I parked next to a lady who got out of her car leaving her cell phone and computer bag right in plain sight for anyone to grab.  In fact, it didn’t even look like the car was locked. 

I did Google search on the different ways a thief could break into a car.  Beyond just smashing the window and grabbing valuables (which they can do fast and with minimal effort), I was surprised to the number of ways a thief can take your personal belongings.

A former assistant who is typically very good about not leaving anything valuable in her car, found out the hard way that this could happen even in the least expected places.  She pulled up to pick up her child from daycare.  She left her purse and her computer bag sitting in the front seat. She figured 5 o clock in the afternoon, parked four feet from the door, what could go wrong?  Even with people in the parking lot, busted out her window, stole the purse and computer bag, and was on his way within 10 seconds.  Witnesses marveled how quickly it happened.

These stories should serve as a wake-up call to stop leaving valuables sitting in your car. 

What about in the trunk?  Even the trunk is not a good place to leave items.  You would be surprised how easy it is to get into a locked trunk.

So here are a few tips –

1)      Make it a rule to never leave anything in your car that you wouldn’t want stolen.  Teach this to your kids as well. Kids are always leaving electronics sitting in plain view.  Plus it is a good habit to help them develop

2)      Be aware of your surroundings when you park.  Always be aware of the people around you in a parking lot

3)      Limit the amount of documents and personal information that you keep in computer bags, purses, and wallets. If it does happen, you will at least minimize the damage.

4)      Finally, never carry social security cards with you at any time for any reason.  You are creating the potential for the worst case scenario.  

  We can’t take chances anymore.  Crime is getting to aggressive.  Fortunately, it is easy to prevent this from happening.  You just don’t use your car as a locker!

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