Sunday, April 22, 2018

Daily Preparedness Tip: Get $2000 As Fast As Possible

According to this article, 61% of Americans don't have enough savings to cover a $1000 emergency.  Needless to say that is not a good thing.  It isn't if but when you will have an emergency that will take a bit of cash to fix.  Apparently cash is in short supply for most Americans (according to this statistic) yet I see people everyday crowding Starbucks, shopping for clothes, throwing money on casino tables, and otherwise spending with abandon.  If you don't have a couple thousand dollars saved, make this your next goal to complete within the next month.  Have a garage sale, sell stuff online, sell blood, work extra hours...whatever it takes to put together a basic cash emergency fund which you won't spend on anything but an EMERGENCY.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

10 Cool Gifts for Kids

A few of the grand kids have birthdays coming up, and as we were discussing what to get them, I had some rather practical suggestions:

  1. Drone.  Drones are cool and drones are useful and I am kind of thinking that being able to use a drone may be a job description in the near future (if you buy an expensive one, make sure it has a GPS locator in it).
  2. Metal detector.  Kids like finding buried treasure and what better way to find things that are really valuable than with a metal detector?
  3. Gear for hunting or fishing or camping.  Having their very own gear will set them on the road to being self sufficient and teach them valuable outdoor skills.
  4. Cool science kits (everything from chemistry kits to crystal growing kits to robot kits).  Creating something amazing from a box of odds and ends can be really fascinating for kids.
  5. STEM summer camp tuition.  Fun science/technology camps can do a lot towards getting--and most importantly keeping--kids interested in these important fields.
  6. Sling shot/bow and arrow/firearm.  Every kid I knew grew up with these things (and no one ever went on a killing spree...go figure).  These items help develop a range of skills such as hand-eye coordination, accuracy, and most important, responsibility (needless to say, parental supervision should be mandatory when kids are using these things).
  7. Tools to help them create things.  Like a sewing machine, woodworking tools, candle making tools, etc.  Again, kids like to create things and having the proper tools encourages them to develop skills they will use into adulthood.
  8. Class tuition.  There are many classes geared towards kids in most communities.  Swimming lessons, life guarding class, intro to kayaking class, first aid class...basically if a kid can learn a useful skill, paying for them to attend the class can make a great gift.
  9. Annual passes.  If your kid has a particular passion, buying them an annual pass--whether for the zoo or the Children's Museum or the state parks--will allow them unlimited entry for an entire year (and often provides additional bonuses only given to annual pass holders).
  10. Sports fees.  Kid's after school and weekend sports (soccer league, football team, swimming team, etc.) can be fairly spendy.  Between uniforms, travel, participation fees et al, parents may have a hard time funding these activities if they have more than a kid or two.  By gifting the cost of these programs you not only keep kids busy and out of trouble but again, they develop skills like teamwork and leadership that they will use for the rest of their lives.
Needless to say, whichever gift you choose for the kids in your life, the most important part of the gift is you being there to help and guide them when they are enjoying these things!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Car Trouble

Having a fairly new, fairly dependable, fairly high-end vehicle, the last thing I thought I would have is car problems.  Until today when the vehicle was dead as a door nail when we left a restaurant after dinner.  Now years ago in my do-it-yourself days I would have hopped out of the vehicle, grabbed the jumper cables, found someone with a vehicle, and fixed the issue myself (or called a buddy with a truck and a tow rope and dragged the thing to another buddy's garage and fixed whatever the issue was).  Today a quick call to roadside service that comes with the vehicle fixed the problem relatively easily--well maybe not fixed but it got the car started so I could drive it home; tomorrow it will be on its way to the dealership to get a new battery which is covered under warranty.  So what did I learn from this?

  • No car is immune from car issues so always be prepared.
  • Car batteries only last two or three years in the desert southwest (said the guy who jumped the battery and said the battery was "old" in relative terms).
  • Know if your vehicle comes with roadside assistance (all of this info was kept in the glove box and it was a simple call to get help).
  • Know what is covered by your vehicle's warranty (my vehicle has a pretty comprehensive warranty) and how long the warranty is good for (my vehicle still has a couple years and tens of thousands of miles left on its warranty).
  • Consider getting AAA (the low annual fee covers roadside assistance and towing among other things; best of all it covers any vehicle you own or are driving or are a passenger in).
  • Have basic car emergency supplies on hand (example list here).  I had jumper cables so I could have fixed the issue myself if needed.
  • Consider carrying your own portable jumper boxes (these have become very popular recently).  Another popular item to have is a portable air compressor to pump up a flat tire.
  • In extreme areas have extra supplies in your vehicle (extra bottled water, food, cold weather gear, and umbrella, etc).
  • Know what you don't have.  A friend called in a panic one day when she had a flat and looked for the spare and found that her car didn't have one!
  • Have a triple-redundant contingency plan for if you get stranded.  In this case there were several options if the car couldn't be easily fixed.  I could literally run home and get another vehicle (it would have taken a few hours), we could have hopped on the city bus to get home, we could have called a tow truck to take us and the vehicle home (I have the number of a buddy with a tow truck on my emergency contact list), we could have ordered up an Uber or Lyft, or we could have called any one of several friends who lived close by for a lift home.
Overall this was an annoyance but it wasn't a crisis.  The situation was easily resolved, and it could have been much worse (it could have broke down on the freeway when it was 115 degrees outside)!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

How's Your Pension Looking?

If you are a millennial you are probably asking 'what pension?'  But for those who are Boomers and early Gen Xers, pensions were pretty common during their working years and it was expected that when they retired, the money to pay them a monthly stipend for the rest of their life to augment Social Security would be there to keep them financially comfortable in their later years.

These days many pension plans are coming apart at the seams.  Connecticut has one of the biggest pension problems in the country (much of it is unfunded and Boomers are retiring en masse now which is going to be a big problem any minute).  Detroit cut pensionsTeamsters are up to their eyeballs in pension problems.  And the pension insurance fund is nearly bankrupt.  Even European pensions aren't immune from these issues.  Some people think the imploding pension problem will fuel the next financial crisis

Pension problems are hitting all types of governments (city, county, state, federal) and the fix to the problem (if there is one) will rely on current and future workers (not to mention ALL taxpayers).  Obviously this is a huge problem.  Whether you are relying on a pension for survival or you are a taxpayer who gets to foot the bill, this situation is not going to end well.  You've been warned.  Plan accordingly.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Daily Preparedness Tip: Back Up Your Important Documents on Your Phone

A simple way to always have your important documents on hand when you need them is to photograph/scan them and put them on your cell phone.  This way if you lose your driver's license, passport, green card, military ID, forget your social security number, need to know what prescriptions you are taking while away from home, or have some other sort of emergency, all you have to do is open your (password protected) phone, click on gallery, and you will have the document at your fingertips.

Monday, April 16, 2018

It's Tornado Season

It's tornado season in the south and central plains/mid south which means people who live in those areas most susceptible to tornadoes need to have the following things on hand: