I feel like every January, most personal finance columns encourage us to kick off the New Year with a fresh set of financial resolutions that involve finding ways to streamline our budget and save more. At the top of almost every list: give up that daily Starbucks latte.
I’m kind of tired of hearing that same tip, and feel that if at this point people haven’t gotten the message then writing it one more time isn’t going to persuade them to change their habits.
So let’s assume that we all know it’s not the smartest move to spend several dollars on that higher-priced cup of Joe every day when you can brew a less expensive version at home and put it in a go cup. This year, what else can we do to get our financial house in shape?
Bob Stammers, who heads up investor education for CFA (Chartered Financial Analysts) Institute, offered a few other ideas that I found pretty helpful:
What’s in your wallet? Whatever it is, identity thieves still see it as the easiest way to get your information.
As concerned as we all are with an online or other technology-related data breach, the vast majority of identity theft happens from stolen or misplaced items such as wallets and pocketbooks. The second most common cause is a compromised license, Social Security card or other form of personal I.D. Burglaries rate third.
These top three causes accounted for 73 percent of cases involving identity theft, according to a study of 2011 claims data by Travelers Insurance. The thieves often acquired the personal information through less obvious means, from sorting through trash for bank statements to stealing pre-approved credit card applications in the mail. Only 10 percent of those surveyed could identify the perpetrator of the identify fraud made against them.
Think about creating a family financial album, and other tips, from Boston’s Top Woman Financial Advisor, Mary Mullin
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Merrill Lynch wealth management advisor Mary Mullin, a resident of Sudbury who was recognized this summer as one of America’s Top 100 Women Advisors by Barron’s Magazine – and the top Woman Financial Advisor in Boston.
Ms. Mullin’s group of clients consists largely of women and couples, and after more than three decades working at Merrill, she has seen the impact that the sharing of financial duties can have on an individual’s understanding of a family’s financial condition.
Having raised four kids as a single, working mom, she also intimately understands the challenges of juggling the management of a household budget with the need for long-term financial planning.
I asked her to identify the top three lessons she’s learned from her experiences, and would like to share with women as they organize their finances, either alone or with a partner. She came up with more than that. Looking at all of her comments, though, I think you’ll agree that her insights can be universally applied:
This morning I awoke to the sound of a loud fire engine siren signaling a strong warning. It was code, I later learned, for all firemen out. The home they had been trying to save had gotten too hot, and their mission shifted from trying to save the structure to trying to contain, and eventually put out, the fire before it spread to the neighbors’ lots.
You hear about fires but when you’re confronted with one that consuming it really drives home the depth of potential losses. In the case of my neighbor’s home, thankfully there was no one inside and so no risk to lives. But once you know everyone’s safe, your mind turns to the property itself, and the contents within. If it were my home, what would I hope most to save?
Family photos, definitely. Jewelry. The ever-present laptop. Artwork? Or the random things that hold memories like the handmade area rug I picked up on a trip to Istanbul before I got married…
And as the fire dies down into embers, you think, how does one rebuild?
It’s funny how quickly the practical lines of thought kick in with that question: Homeowner’s insurance. Is mine adequate? Did I ask all the right questions? What haven’t I thought of?