Choose Wealth! Be a Millionaire by Midlife.

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Jamaca beach flattenedHave you ever wondered how people get rich? Why is it that some folks manage to accumulate significant amounts of wealth while others just scrape by?

Only 1/4 of Americans end up with more than half a million by their 60′s. Will you be one of them? I am.

You don’t have to be a best selling author, a rock star musician, a tech guru wizard or a high powered lawyer to be a multimillionaire, you just need time and persistence. Anyone can do it if they know how. YOU can do it if you want it badly enough, learn how and persist. You just have to choose to be wealthy. This book helps you figure out how to choose wealth.

My new book, Choose Wealth!  Be a Millionaire by Midlife, is now available – on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes  and many other online outlets. I’m so excited to have completed this effort and hope that folks find it helpful in pursuing wealth of every sort, whether financial or other. Continue reading

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Six Easy Estate Plan Checkup Tasks

No one likes to think about death and no one likes to spend precious time dealing with something that will happen after they die. You are doing this only for those who come after, to make things easier for them to handle your affairs they way you specified. Even if you have already done the exercise of setting up an estate plan, you do have to keep it up to date. Here are six checkup tasks to do once a decade or when you know something has changed.

Check your beneficiaries

If you own stocks, bonds or bank accounts, you may have designated a beneficiary to get the asset when you die. This designation supercedes any other arrangements you may have made (i.e. your will, your trust, etc).

Naming a beneficiary is the easiest way to hand off property. All you have to do is tell the institution who you want (primary, secondary – who inherit if you die and the primary has already passed) and what percent. All your beneficiary has to do is contact the institution, produce your death certificate and follow any procedures the institution has. There is no waiting for probate of the will, no trustee in the middle, just you, the institution and the beneficiary.

Beneficiaries may also decide to ‘pass’ on inheriting your asset, in which case the secondary beneficiary will inherit as if they were primary.

Be especially careful with IRAs as there are hefty tax and withdrawal consequences for beneficiaries in many circumstances.

You may even be able to designate beneficiaries on your house, car, boat and other real assets – if your state laws allow it.

Check your will

Re-read your will and make sure it is still up to snuff. If you don’t have a will, get one in place, especially if you have minor children or dependents who need a guardian. A will is your only method of saying who gets custody of the kids when you kick off (assuming their other parent is also deceased or unavailable for some reason). You can name a guardian for care and a different guardian for handling the money if you want, just make sure the two will work together for your dependent’s benefit!

You can use prepared forms to do a will, but you do have to have your signature notarized, and you don’t get a do over after you are dead so be sure that the will conforms to the laws of your area so it can’t be overturned.

Review your trust

Your trust can help your heirs distribute your property without going public through probate. Check the trust provisions to make sure they are a) still required based on any changes to federal or state law b) are still what you desire and c) no one named in the trust has pre-deceased you or otherwise changed status requiring changes to the trust.

For instance, if you have an old marital by-pass trust you may need to revise it. Those were used to make sure that each partners estate tax exclusion amount was used to the fullest, instead of having the first spouse to die just leave everything to the remaining spouse. The laws have changed and now allow this circumstance to be covered without any legal documents. The 2012 tax law changes now allow the first spouse to die to port any unused exclusion amounts to their spouse.

If you don’t already have a trust, as with a will, you can use prepared forms to set up a trust, but again, you don’t get a do over after you die so make sure the trust conforms to the laws of your area.

Also review your assets to make sure that you have put the appropriate ones into the name of the trust. It doesn’t do you any good to set up a trust and then keep everything in your own names. A trust becomes a separate legal entity, aka, kind of a person, and if that trust has no assets there will be nothing to distribute. If that is the case with you, then your heirs may have to hire a lawyer and go through probate to get an executor appointed to distribute your loot.

Announce end of life preferences

Let your spouse, children (if adults) and siblings know what your end of life preferences are. If you like, make it formal with a living will document, but know that medical personnel are not bound to honor them. Even if you want everything possible done for you, there may be times when the medical personnel push your family to ‘pull the plug’.

If you have preferences for the disposal of your body, let your family know. Do you want to be cremated; donated; body parts donated; buried or something else?

If you have made any prepaid arrangements, make sure multiple family members are aware and have copies of the paperwork in their possession.

Designate your special things to special people

Heirs fight more over things than they do over money. Things have memories and emotions attached to them. If you want certain things to go to certain people, make a record of it and make sure all hands get the record. Better yet, start gifting these special things now, while you can enjoy the joy of the special person you honor with them!

What do you do when you review your estate plans?

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Are You a Maker?

Last year I watched the PBS documentary Makers – which told the history of the feminist movement from the 1950’s through the 1990’s. As I watched, I started feeling guilty about not having participated more in ‘the movement’.

What, I wondered, have I done to further the expansion of the role of women in American society, to give future generations of little girls the opportunities denied to me?

Not a feminist.

I was born in 1948, raised and schooled in the 50’s and 60’s and entered adulthood in the 1970’s. Most of the time, through those decades I was totally immersed in my own life, head in the sand, not usually even noticing that there was a feminist movement.

I competed with my classmates to earn the best grades. I competed with my brother to win science fair awards. I worked hard in college to learn psychology and business.

Mom said I could do anything, but supported my brother’s science fair projects and heaped praise on his prize instead of mine. Dad let me help him, but just to hand him tools. My chores involved dishes and grass trimming. My brother’s involved mowing and fixing things. He was encouraged to take science and math, I not so much.

I married right out of college and assumed I had to follow my spouse when he moved to a small town, quitting my management training job and hiring out as a waitress. When I got pregnant and started to show, I was asked to quit that job because I didn’t look good in the uniform “but you’re the best waitress we’ve ever had!”.

In the seventies, I totally ignored the marches and protests and controversy. My spouse railed against the ‘femi nazi’s at work.

Me, a maker?

But, as I went on with my life, I did eventually grow into being a maker.

I set out to get power by finding and pursuing a high paying job (read my story in Choose Wealth!). I started a business to earn money to go back to school. I finished learning to code and found a job and marched on up the ranks. Always I was one of a few women in technology. Most times in management meetings I was the only female present. Looking around, I didn’t see many other young women starting up through the ranks. Looking up the ladder I saw a few women leaders, but not many and none in top positions.

As I was pursuing my financial and career goals, I was becoming a maker – a woman in a “man’s” field – a successful woman showing other women that we could do it. I didn’t realize it at the time and I certainly didn’t plan my life to become one. I was just living my life, getting the job done.

When I was little, I always wished I had been born a boy. It wasn’t because I wanted to change sex, it was just that even as a little girl I saw that the world was slanted in favor of the male part of the population. Boys got to wear pants, girls had to wear dresses. Boys got to run and scream and play rough. Girls were supposed to be quiet, polite and subservient. Boys grew up to run the world. Girls grew up to run a house.

As I matured and experienced sex discrimination first hand over and over again, a dull resentment grew within me. Little did I know that all over town other women had the same feelings of frustration, resentment and hopelessness. I didn’t realize that my peers were fighting the same battle as I – silently –  and that each of our individual victories and accomplishments would yield multitudes of opportunities for our daughters and granddaughters, if we let them.

Other makers abound.

I didn’t start out to become a maker. I didn’t plan the steps to get there. I didn’t know I would be one of a few women in the job when I started out. I was naive and believed I could do anything. Just like Carol Burnett. In her story – which you can see below – she says:

“Being naive I didn’t know it couldn’t be done…and so it could be done.”

Check out Makers.com for lots of stories on women breaking boundaries. Be inspired and know that

“Women can do everything, they just can’t do it all at the same time”

as Madeline Albright – first woman secretary of state 1996 said in her story on Makers.

Raise your daughters to be makers!

It is gratifying to see women in CEO positions, women in space, women running for President, women stepping into jobs and business as a matter of course, that we never dreamed were possible for ourselves. I love seeing that history is being revisited and women written into it. I love seeing future history made by men and women as we move from the domination of the physical to the domination of the mind. Perhaps we will eventually be able to evolve beyond a patriarchal society into a human-archal society.

However, it is disconcerting to me that more women aren’t entering my career field – that young girls are still not being encouraged to pursue science, math and technology. Ladies, that is where the money is! As the old slogan goes – We’ve come a long way baby…… but we still have a long way to go.

I’ve watched my great nieces and granddaughter be immersed in princessville – much to my chagrin. I’ve encouraged my son to make sure his girl and boy each get great encouragement in all the subjects, yet the girl is already (at age 7) starting to avoid math. Society (and relatives) can do so much damage inadvertently – as this Verizon commercial so aptly demonstrates:

Verizon commercial

Our changing society is hard not just on women, but also on men. Anytime traditional roles are challenged and overturned there can be hardship and heartbreak. Men in my generation were raised to believe they should be the breadwinner. It hurt when their wives began winning more bread than they did. Women are still raised to believe that hearth and home is their domain. How are they handling the invasion of the stay at home Dad? There can be jealousy, guilt and animosity with change.

I believe we can all become ‘makers’ – how are you a maker?

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Roosevelt’s Wealth Building

Ken Burns has done it again. He has created yet another fascinating documentary – this time one about Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt as well as Eleanor. We’ve been watching the 9 part series on PBS all week. These two men had a great influence on the direction the government of the United States has taken (whether you like that direction or not).

The documentary acknowledges that both men and Eleanor were endowed with inherited wealth. Having that wealth allowed them to gain access to education, people and experiences that helped them become the men and woman they were. Without it, America may well have been a different place. Continue reading

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2014 Grandma Rie’s Money Camp Activities and Resources

Teaching the next generation to successfully handle money and personal finances is normally a family responsibility. Although parents bear much of the burden to teach, train and model good personal finance, extended family members can also contribute.

IMG_0689Although my grown children do very well in the personal finance arena, they learned from us by osmosis, without any special or formal training by my spouse or I. When they presented me with grandchildren, I vowed that I would take an active part in teaching financial literacy to them.

As a result, I started a one week ‘Grandma Rie’s Money Camp’ in 2011 and held our fourth annual one this year.

The focus of this years Money Camp was on saving. To zero in on that, we toured a bank, a credit union and the Federal Reserve’s Money Museum, as well as inspecting our home safe and our safe deposit box at the credit union. In addition I asked several family members to record a story about a time they had saved for something or wish they had. In order to put the focus on saving and provide these activities, I moved the location of Money Camp from the lakeside condo to our metro area. To have money to save, you have to get or earn money. This year, I combined camp with a garage sale and had the kids run their kid business during the sale. Some days I question my sanity – running a week long camp, entertaining kids and preparing for a garage sale called for some stamina I didn’t know I still had! Continue reading

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A Banking Project for You and Your Kids

Pig croppedEach year, I invite my Grandchildren to a one week overnight camp I call Grandma Rie’s Money Camp. During that week, we focus on personal finance concepts, activities, projects and fun. This year’s camp had the main theme of saving.

One of the activities we did, was to create paper mache piggy banks. This fit well with our overall theme of saving and was something that could be done without spending a lot of money.

I presented the idea of making them as one that could produce a product to try to sell, a gift to give or a bank to keep for themselves. The 7 year old girl decided to keep one and give the other to her cousin. The 10 year old boy decided to try to sell his two. Continue reading

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