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The Fierce Way to Curb Holiday Spending

Cherish Relationships, Creativity and Crafts, Finances
holiday spending

As I mentioned in my recent post about love, gift giving is my love language. I show my love by sending the most thoughtful gifts to those I love. I must say I’m quite good at it.

But there’s just one little problem. 

Things can get, well, a little out of hand. 

It’s so easy to get caught up with the gift-giving spirit of the season, and the catchy Christmas carols don’t exactly help…Santa honey one thing I really do need, the deed to a platinum mine…or I want a hippopotamus for Christmas…or all I want for Christmas is my two front teeth…or all I want for Christmas is you…

You get the idea. Whether it’s your Instagram feed or your friends or the displays at the store, everywhere you look, you are prompted to want something or buy something. Charge it and pay for it later.

I’m not saying gifts are bad. But really, do your loved ones and friends want you to blow out your budget on things you can’t afford? Probably not. 

This year, make a plan and stick to it. My friend and financial sherpa Peggy Doviak, whose book has been helping the Chairman and I get a handle on our finances, shares a few ideas on how to make this the best Christmas ever without breaking the bank. 

We had such a great response from Peggy’s last post on planning for retirement, I wanted to bringing her back to shower us all with her bright, shining financial wisdom. 

Here’s what she had to say. 

The Best Christmas Ever

Do the upcoming holidays fill you with joy or dread? Are you already wearing cozy holiday sweaters, drinking hot cocoa, and watching Hallmark movies? Or do you find yourself wondering whether Scrooge was right, and we really should be boiling people in their own plum pudding?

I think money is one of the leading causes of holiday stress for people. We want to create the perfect event, and we try not to think of the bill that will arrive in the mail around January 15th. Well, here’s the good news—it’s possible to have a great holiday season and stay out of debt. Planning ahead, being willing to spend hours rather than dollars, and knowing how to say “no” can help you have a wonderful, prosperous December. continue reading

Health insurance for 50 Years and Over (before Medicare Kicks In)

Health and Fitness, Plan for Tomorrow
Health insurance for 50 Years and Over
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For a long time, I never thought about health insurance. We simply had a health plan through my husband’s job. But now that my husband has shifted his focus from a full-time job to several consulting and board positions, we don’t have a group health plan like we’ve enjoyed in the past. 

On top of that, and maybe many of you are in the same boat, my husband is a bit older than me and already reaping the benefits of Medicare. But being young and fierce, I still need normal health insurance.  Now that I’m on my own during open enrollment, I’ve realized that the health insurance marketplace is 1) expensive, 2) confusing, and 3) sends me into an emotional tailspin that only crafting or a Great British Baking Show binge can cure. 

Even though I am pretty healthy, keeping up with my Weight Watchers goals, and exercising regularly (hello, triathlon!), I still need health insurance. Like I mentioned in a recent retirement planning post, numbers aren’t really my thing. And that includes health insurance, and all its tricks and numbers and costs and acronyms and weird jargon that I may or may not be pronouncing correctly.  continue reading

When can I retire? What if I can’t afford to?

Finances
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Have you noticed that here at FierceBeyond50, I post about all kinds of topics relevant to the beyond 50 lifestyle, everything from health and fashion, to downsizing and personal relationships, but not finances?

There’s a reason for that.

I suck at money. Big time.

When the conversation drifts toward topics of personal finance, one of two things happens. Either I start to feel very bored and very sleepy, or I experience the anxiety that can only be overcome by starting a new craft project.

Financial discussions confuse me and scare me.  The first response tends to exacerbates the second response, I’ve noticed. The less I understand about money matters, the more frightening they become.

Even in my ignorance, I do understand that it’s important for a woman to have a handle on her finances, especially in the years beyond 50.  That’s why, with a certain amount of trepidation, I’ve recently undertaken a personal quest to do exactly that.

Not surprisingly, my search began with books.  And, lucky for me, it soon brought me to the exact book I needed – 52 Weeks to Prosperity – Ask Peggy Doviak: What Your Accountant, Banker, Broker & Financial Adviser Might Not Tell You.

I highly recommend this book.  It’s very clear and easy to understand and has specific action plans to help readers corral and steer their financial futures. If you know me at all, you know how I love a good action plan! Having a whole year to work through them seemed less intimidating, like something I could actually do. My husband and I are already working through some of these steps and it’s been an illuminating experience. (I’ll be blogging more about that in the future, so stay tuned.)

Something else I loved about this book was the warm, conversational tone of the author.  Peggy Doviak seemed like somebody who would be easy to talk to, the kind of lady who I’d want to invite into my kitchen for a cup of coffee and a good gab.

Since Peggy lives in Oklahoma and I live in Oregon, a coffee date would be complicated. That’s why I decided to do the next best thing – invite her to guest blog. Actually it’s even better than a coffee date because I get to share her with all of you.

Today I’ve asked Peggy to write about a question that’s on the mind of so many Beyond50 readers –  When can I retire?

Read on for Peggy’s answer to this very important question!

 

Are you terrified you can never retire? If so, you’re in good company. We’ve all seen the statistics about saving money in our twenties, and the young people who have committed to that strategy just rock! However, many of us did not plan for our retirement in our twenties, thirties, or sometimes even forties. We always had a “good” reason, but still, we didn’t save. Suddenly, OMG, we’re closing in on being 65! We need a solution, and we need it now.

Unfortunately, the financial services community understands our panic and, all too often, tries to exploit it. Over plates of cold chicken fettuccini and a never-ending PowerPoint, a local financial adviser tells us that if we haven’t saved a million dollars by now, we will be eating cat food during our twilight years. The adviser may also warn against counting on the viability of both Social Security and any pension we have earned. But never fear—he has the perfect product to meet our needs, whatever they are. Just sign here.

DON’T! Maybe the sales pitch really does offer an appropriate product, but don’t make your decision from a position of fear. When people are anxious or ashamed, they are desperate for a quick solution that provides peace of mind. When an investment product claims to offer financial certainty, it’s appealing. But remember—they bought you the fettuccini. continue reading

The Prepared Pantry: A Fierce Guide to Dehydrated Food and Smart Shopping

Plan for Tomorrow
dehydrated food
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One thing leads to another, so they say.

After our move to Central Oregon, a beautiful region with an increased risk of forest fires, I decided it was time to start getting a little more serious about emergency preparedness. But after I completed a family evacuation plan and kits that would allow us to shelter in place for up to two weeks, my husband wanted to take it a little farther.

Having learned about the remote but not unheard of possibility of earthquakes that could disrupt supply chains, he asked me to look into longer-term food storage.

My response to his request was what I’ve come to call my Prepared Pantry. It’s a sensible, practical, money and time saving approach to creating a long-term food supply. continue reading

Emergency Preparedness 101: The Fierce Guide to Preparing for the Unexpected

Plan for Tomorrow
emergency preparedness
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A lot of people’s idea of emergency preparedness amounts to hoping it won’t happen, not to them.

Until fairly recently, I was one of those people.

Sure, I understood that emergencies and natural disasters can happen.  Having served as a translator for a medical mission in the wake of a hurricane in Mexico, I had firsthand knowledge of the devastating impact of natural disasters. I also understood that the impact is even more devastating for people who are unprepared.

Still, though I understood that disasters can happen, I couldn’t quite make myself think they could happen to us.

When I did allow myself to contemplate the possibilities of natural disaster, I would quickly tap into my inner Scarlett O’Hara. I would think about it tomorrow.

Somehow, tomorrow never came.  Sound familiar?

But whenever I’d turn on the TV and see news of flood, fire, famine, or earthquakes, those worries would pop back into my mind. I knew I should do something about them. But what? I had no idea where to begin.

Last summer, I moved to Central Oregon. This beautiful region has great weather, clear lakes, exquisite scenery, and abundant forests. It’s pretty darned close to paradise. The only drawback is that, every year, some of those forests burn.

I couldn’t put it off any longer. It was time to prepare.

 

HOW PREPARED IS PREPARED ENOUGH?

If you do an online search about emergency preparedness, you’re going to quickly come across some stuff that, at least to me, seems pretty out there.

I’m not saying that a global thermonuclear war isn’t a possibility. I’m just saying that, if it comes down to that, I’d just as soon go in the first strike.  Hanging out in an underground bunker for years and surviving on canned anchovies is an experience I’d just as soon skip.

If the Internet is correct, there are plenty of people who are all over the bunker approach. If that’s your thing, fine. I’m not judging. But, for me, it feels a little extreme.

There are other people out there who seem think there’s really nothing you can do about disasters. Stuff happens. You just have to hope it won’t happen to you. Not surprisingly, their approach is to do nothing.

This feels a little extreme to me as well, just in the opposite direction. After all, not every disaster involves global annihilation. (In fact, so far, none of them do.)  But wildfires, floods, tornados, and good old-fashioned power outages happen.

Those, you can do something about. So why wouldn’t you? It only makes sense, right?

That’s the approach I chose for myself and my family; one of sensible precaution. I can’t be prepared for every possible emergency, but I can be prepared for most of them.

So can you.

 

REMEDIAL EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS

Before we even get to Emergency Preparedness 101, let’s take a step back and make sure you’re prepared for smaller (and far more common) personal emergencies.

If you were in an accident, became ill, or were out of the country when an unexpected disaster struck, you might feel stunned or confused. You and your family should always carry an emergency contact form in your wallet.

The Red Cross has a free, online card you can print out and home and fill in for yourself.

It includes basic contact information and gives space for you to list important numbers you might want to have in an emergency. Mine includes phone numbers for several family members as well as my insurance agent.

Also, I’ve written out the location where our family is to meet in the event of an emergency.  Be sure to have that conversation in advance. Print out a card for every member of your family and make sure to keep them updated.

Chances are, you’ll never need them. But if you ever do, you’ll be glad you have them.

 

THE LIKELY SCENARIOS

The first step in Emergency Preparedness 101 is to consider what kinds of emergencies you might realistically face.

Living in Central Oregon, a couple hundred miles from the coast, hurricanes aren’t really something I need to worry about.

But forest fires are a very real concern, and probably the mostly likely scenario I would face.  But winter storms with ensuing power outages run a close second.  Another less likely scenario is an earthquake.

A sensible precaution dictates that I prepare for all of these possibilities. However, depending on the scenario, I might need to respond in two different ways.

 

PREPARED SHELTER IN PLACE

In a number of emergency situations, you might need to shelter in place, possibly without access to power or running water, for days or even weeks at a time.

When I began working to prepare my family for a shelter in place emergency, my first step goal was to pull together two 72-hour emergency kits – one for our home and one for the car. Over time, I added to our home kit until we had supplies for two weeks.

So what do you need to shelter in place?

Food, water, and first aid supplies top the list.  You can find a specific list items for your kit here.

The biggest concern is water. You’ll need a minimum one-gallon per person, per day.  A two-week supply of water is heavy – one gallon of water weights more than 8 pounds – and can take up a lot of room. Even so, don’t skimp on water. It’s vitally important.

Old milk or soda jugs can be used for water storage but you need to clean the bottles thoroughly before filling.

Make a solution of one teaspoon of household bleach to one gallon. Fill your storage container with the solution and let it sit for about 3 minutes.  Then pour out the solution and fill with tap water.  Every six months, pour out the old water, clean the jugs again, and refill them.

Larger amounts of water can be stored heavy-duty plastic, BPA free containers. I like these AquaBrick containers. They hold about 2.5 gallons each, weight 20 pounds filled, and stack for easier storage.

 

PREPARED TO EVACUATE

No matter where you live, you should prepare an evacuation plan in advance.

Imagine that you had 15 minutes notice to evacuate your home, or an hour. What would you absolutely need to take with you?

Write a list of the items and then tape it to the inside of a kitchen cabinet. In a real emergency, you would likely be flustered. Having a list prepared in advance will ensure that you don’t forget anything important.

Also, make copies of important papers, credit cards, deeds, bank account numbers, insurance policies, important legal papers, and phone numbers. Put all those papers into a special folder or notebook, and mark it clearly so you can grab it if you need to leave in a hurry.

Also, make a list of things might need to do before you leave your house.  Procedures to prepare your home for evacuation can vary depending on the emergency. But you should know how to turn shut off the gas, pilot lights, and propane tanks.

 

SAFE AND SENSIBLE

If you’ve never done it before, preparing for an emergency can feel overwhelming. But you can do this! Take it step-by-step and task-by-task.

We can’t be ready for every scenario but with some pre-planning and sensible precaution, you’ll be ready for just about anything.

And that will feel really good. I promise.

Mid-Course Corrections, To Do Lists, & Getting Your Ducks in a Row

Grow in Wisdom, Plan for Tomorrow
mid course correction life goals
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There’s almost nothing not to love about July – warm weather, picnics, concerts in the park, eating amazing peaches and the first of the locally grown corn.  And since I generally finish writing my book in July, I actually have a chance to enjoy all these delights.  Basically, it’s a perfect month.

The only possible downside to July is the disconcerting realization that the year is half over.

Six months gone? Whoa! How did that happen?

Realizing that the year is half over can be alarming, but July is the perfect month to reexamine your goals, reassess your priorities, and make some mid-course corrections. continue reading

Crafting: The Secret Ingredient for a Life of Joy, Fulfillment, and Eternal Youth

Creativity and Crafts, Learn for a Lifetime
creativity and crafts, good for you
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What would you say if I told you there was something you would truly enjoy that would make you feel happier, more fulfilled, and youthful?  (I mean, besides chocolate.)

As it turns out, there actually is such a secret ingredient for a more joyous life.

It’s called crafting.

In addition to providing you with a supply of adorable, one-of-a-kind handmade gifts for people you care about, crafting can increase your happiness, lower your stress levels, and keep your mind sharp.

Don’t take my word for it; ask science.

continue reading

The Secret to Keeping Those Job Skills Fresh After 50

Career and Vocation, Learn for a Lifetime
keep job skills fresh
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Did you see the Harry Potter movies?

If so, you’ll remember the weirdly wonderful Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where friendly ghosts roam the halls and painted portraits talk to the students and each other.

Strangest of all is Hogwart’s enormous network of moving staircases. Stairs shift without warning, sometimes while students are in mid-ascent, forcing them to plot new paths to reach their destination.

Sometimes life can feel like that.  Just when you’re starting to make progress, the stairway moves.  The formerly straight path takes a turn, forcing you to make a choice.

Either alter your course or find yourself stuck.

This is especially true when it comes to our careers.

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How to Write a Memoir and 6 Writing Tips From a Real Author

Shape Your Legacy
how to write a memoir
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You’ve been thinking about it for a while now.

Maybe the sound of your most recent “speed limit” birthday (the kind that ends with a zero) whizzing past helped make up your mind.

Maybe it was the results of a study showing that an alarming percentage of millennials don’t know that JFK was a president as well as an airport and think that milk comes from a laboratory.

Or maybe you want your kids, or grandkids, or the world to understand how many mountains you had to climb to become who you are today.

Whatever the reason, you’ve decided to write your memoir.

Good decision!

But now that you’ve made up your mind, where do you begin?

Good question.

continue reading