Family Fundamentals:  Retirement Planning

Most people could do a better job in planning for retirement.  Luckily, there’s an updated website from the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) that offers a great set of guidelines for middle-income Americans, especially those who are unlikely to pay a financial planner for retirement advice. 

My Retirement Paycheck” offers guidance in eight areas: 

  • Work
  • Social Security
  • Home and Mortgage
  • Insurance
  • Pensions
  • Retirement Plans
  • Debt
  • Fraud

Managing Your Money in Good Times and Bad

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation offers consumer protection information, free publications, and links to resources to help you manage your finances.  FDIC Consumer News provides practical guidance on the basics of financial management, including budgeting, saving, paying for college, protecting identity, and critically evaluating different loans. 

Social Security Administration Retirement

The Social Security Administration has many online services to assist you in planning and applying for retirement benefits.  More details and the link are available at

Preparing a Net Worth Statement

Preparing a net worth statement once a year is a helpful tool to use as you plan spending for the next year. Additional resources are provided to assist you in the process.

Don't Clash Over Cash

Includes tips to help couples avoid conflicts related to money including listening, communication, and solving disagreements about money.

New Start for Financial Success

A U.S. Department of Justice approved program for bankruptcy filers - fulfills filers requirements for pre-discharge financial education.  For locations offering the required pre-discharge financial management education, go to The United State Department of Justice, Approved Debtor Education Providers website. 

When Your Income Drops

Losing a job or otherwise experiencing a loss of income is a challenge in the best of times.  In the current economy, it is essential to map out a plan to get back on your feet again.  The University of Georgia recently updated a series of fact sheets (and developed a companion PowerPoint presentation) called When Your Income Drops to help with this process.  The PowerPoint presentation, fact sheets, and activities are designed to help you develop a plan to move you forward.  The information is for people who have recently lost their jobs or otherwise experienced a reduction in income, but will be helpful to others as well.  Check out this site.


So you've got a problem:  You need housing assistance.  Or a small business loan.  Or a copy of your birth certificate.  You know you need to call someone in the government, but who?  Which government office or website is the right one to help you with your problem?  Cut out the guesswork by calling 1 (800) FED-INFO, the U.S. governments free, official hotline for information on government benefits and services.  Give 1 (800) FED-INFO a call if you need help: 

  • applying for Social Security or Medicare / Medicaid benefits,
  • learning how to purchase surplus government property,
  • obtaining or renewing a passport,
  • getting assistance with utility bills,
  • filing your income taxes, or for almost anything else.

The information specialists at 1 (800) FED-INFO are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time to answer questions in English and Spanish.  You can also find the same helpful information online.  Visit to get answers to more than 2,000 of the most popular questions the government receives.  Or you can chat online with a specialist and get your English-language questions answered live.  Click on the Live Help Web Chat tab anytime between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Eastern Time.  So, when you need something from the government, but you’re not sure where to get it, get your information fast and right the first time by calling 1 (800) FED-INFO. 

Prepare. Plan. Stay Informed. Be Prepared!

Are you prepared in case of a natural disaster?  Recent high wind storms and torrential rains may have caused you to consider how prepared you are for an emergency.  While you should prepare an emergency kit in case you need to protect yourself or leave your home quickly, it's also important to remember that natural disasters don’t just affect us physically and emotionally.  They also affect us financially.  We never think that something like a fire or tornado will destroy our property, but it’s better to be prepared than surprised.  Remember, insurance will cover the loss of your property, but it will not bring back precious memories or heirlooms.  The following are a couple of ways to make sure you are prepared financially should disaster strike. 

  1. Get a lock box at your bank or buy a safe.  These are made to be indestructible; therefore, they should protect the things you need and cherish.  Prices for lock boxes usually range from $20-$200 a year with several sizes available.  Lock boxes take a key; however, if you should lose your key, you can have the box drilled (for a price) and still be able to retrieve your possessions.  You can also purchase a home safe at many local stores.  This may require you to remember a code or keep a key.  Safes should be bolted to the floor (if someone breaks into your house, you don’t want them to be able to take it with them) and should be stored out of sight.  Things that should go in a lock box or safe include financial information (accounts, investments), tax information, passports, family heirlooms (jewelry or pictures), insurance information, and information about property in your home. 
  2. Back everything up.  We keep everything on our computers.  However, if something happens to your computer, you may lose everything.  Back up important information like taxes, bank account information, email and physical addresses, and other sensitive or important information.  You can do this by putting information on a CD, memory card, or external hard drive.  These are items that are easy to obtain and some are fairly inexpensive.  It is a good idea to keep a copy of what you have backed up in a lock box or safe, but to also send a copy to a trusted friend or family member in case you may need the information quickly. 
  3. Make copies of everything.  It is crucial that you know everything you have.  If you just bought that big screen TV that has taken a year to save for, you want to make sure it can be replaced.  Take pictures of your possessions, include receipts if possible.  Store that information in a safe/lock box and give a copy to a friend or family member.  If your property is destroyed, you will have proof of what you own, how much it cost and what it looked like, which makes dealing with the insurance company much easier.  You will also want a copy of your driver’s license, Social Security card and other identification in case you have to prove your identity. 
  4. Make lists and lots of them.  Make sure you have a list of emergency contacts, including your bank / credit union, doctor, pharmacy, insurance company, and other people you contact on a regular basis or from whom you require help.  Have their name, several phone numbers, email address, physical address and relationship on this list.  Make sure people you trust and can get in contact with quickly have a copy of this list too.  It is also a good idea to keep a contact list on you in case you are injured.  If you or a family member is on medication, it is essential that you keep a list of that medication with you.  Let others know what medications you take regularly (especially if it is something like medication for diabetes or heart problems). 

To get you started, has a great list of items that can help you build your emergency kit.  These things include water, food and first aid items, along with a variety of other important personal items.  You can find more information about making an emergency kit and a plan of action at

Source: Iowa State University Financial Counseling Clinic weekly financial tip, July 23, 2010