CHECKLIST FOR SMART LIVING
Rob Shook: “Every year I prepare a list of things I think folks should do, get done, consider, or proactively decide not to do – not just let fall by the wayside. Here’s this year’s.”
☞ It’s in sections, well worth a look, and begins:
Finances and Identity
- Get a copy of your credit reports from each of the three credit reporting agencies. You get one for free each year from each of them: know precisely where you stand.Don’t fall for their ploys to get you to subscribe to a (pretty worthless) “credit watch” service … although you may want to purchase a copy of your Fair, Isaac (FICO) score for a nominal fee from one of the agencies. If you opt for one of the “consolidated” reports (which you often must pay for), you’ll have to fight any inaccuracies only in writing. By getting the report directly from each of the agencies, you can dispute and resolve most problems on-line. While you’re at the reporting agency’s site, take time to opt-out from pre-approved credit offers (so a pre-approved application doesn’t land in your mailbox, waiting for someone to steal it … and your identity …).
Here's the whole thing from someone else's blog. I think it is a friend of Andy's.
MONDAY, JANUARY 2, 2012
Important Considerations for 2012
Every year I prepare a list of the things I think folks should do, get done, consider, or proactively decide not to do – not just let fall by the wayside. Here’s this year’s!
Finances and Identity
- Get a copy of your credit reports from each of the three credit reporting agencies. You get one for free each year from each of them: know precisely where you stand. Don’t fall for their ploys to get you to subscribe to a (pretty worthless) “credit watch” service … although you may want to purchase a copy of your Fair, Isaac (FICO) score for a nominal fee from one of the agencies. If you opt for one of the “consolidated” reports (which you often must pay for), you’ll have to fight any inaccuracies only in writing.By getting the report directly from each of the agencies, you can dispute and resolve most problems on-line. While you’re at the reporting agency’s site, take time to opt-out from pre-approved credit offers (so a pre-approved application doesn’t land in your mailbox, waiting for someone to steal it … and your identity …).
- The free reports (the really free ones) are available only through www.annualcreditreport.com. You may wish to spread these out so you get one from a different agency every four months and keep an eye on things throughout the year.
- If you’re interested in your FICO score alone, you can go tohttp://myfico.com and purchase it for a nominal fee.
- Consider putting a security freeze on your credit report.
- No one (including you) can open “instant credit”. It takes additional action on your part to unfreeze your reports first.
- You must have a special identification number to open your credit file (the number is sent to you when you request the freeze).
- Companies you’re already doing business with can continue to access your information
- You have to plan ahead if you want to open a bank account, line of credit, or investing account with a new institution.
- Depending on which state you live in, the cost for freezing your history with each agency may cost you up to $10.
- Depending on which state you live in, it may cost you an additional $10 with each agency to “unfreeze” your credit to open a new line (I have successfully negotiated reimbursement for that to come from the company that wants to grant me credit, however)
Further information on security freezes is available at the web sites for each of the three agencies (the specific links change from time to time, so here are the landing pages):
- Get a copy of your LexisNexis Full File, and choose whether you want to opt out of their system (if you work in law enforcement, are a previous victim of identity theft, or meet certain other criteria), and/or put a security freeze on your file (if you live in certain states) with them:https://personalreports.lexisnexis.com/access_your_personal_information.jsp
- Assess your risk of identity theft at http://www.myidscore.com
- Make a photocopy of (or scan) your passport and the contents of your wallet (fronts and backs of credit cards, licenses, etc.), and keep it somewhere safe.
- Get a copy of your file from the Medical Information Bureau.http://www.mib.com/html/request_your_record.html
- List yourself with the Direct Marketing Association’s opt-out service to reduce junk mail. https://www.dmachoice.org/MPS/
- Make sure all your phone numbers are on the national Do Not Call Registry. https://www.donotcall.gov/
- Opt out of receiving pre-approved credit offers or offers of insurance at, or at https://www.optoutprescreen.com
- Backup to CD or DVD (or – better yet – a backup hard drive or online storage solution such as Jungledisk – http://jungledisk.com ) any vital photos or files you have, and put those in your safe deposit box – or at a friend’s, or at your parents’ house. That way, if there’s a fire or other calamity at your home, the backups won’t be lost. If they’re stored in a different part of the country, a local disaster is less likely to affect the backup.
- Consider a tool such as Lastpass (www.lastpass.com) to secure your online passwords and other vital information. It offers military-grade encryption, you can use two-factor authentication (where you need not only your password but also access to your cellphone or a code-lookup table to access your account from a machine you have not used before), and is one of the more secure methods I’ve found for making strong passwords usable.
- If you use Google, consider using two-factor authentication to access your Google account. Even if someone gains access to your password, they cannot access your data without a second form of authentication (such as from a table, or from an application on your Blackberry, iPhone, iPad, or Android). Details are available athttp://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/02/advanced-sign-in-security-for-your.html
- Adjust Facebook’s account, security, and privacy settings to your level of comfort.
- Ensure your powers of attorney for finance and health care are up to date and that your loved ones know where they are (not in a safe deposit box – in case of your incapacity or if it’s needed on a Sunday, they’d have no way of getting to it) and how to get to them quickly if needed. If you have a same-gender partner, make sure you carry a notarized copy of these documents with you when you travel, whether you’re traveling together or just one of you is on the road.
- Create a wallet card for you and all members of your family with vital information and emergency contact data on it.
My wallet card includes my full name, two emergency contacts, their relationship to me, which powers of attorney they have, and their phone numbers (two numbers for each), my doctor’s name and phone number, my blood type, allergies, the fact that I have no ongoing medical problems, my employer, insurance information, my religion, and the fact that I am an organ donor.
- Consider creating a “Family Emergency Plan”, similar to the one available through www.texasprepares.org. Forms are downloadable without having to register at the site.
- Put together an emergency kit for your car. Mine contains blankets, duct tape, two sets of vice grips, a can of Fix-a-Flat™, safety glasses, a ridiculously bright flashlight, Gojo™ hand cleaner, a well-stocked first aid kit, and a disposable camera. You might want to add jumper cables to that, too.
- Do you ever have guests staying in your home? Put a card by each telephone with your address, phone number, and the number to call for emergency services. Also include instructions for shutting off water, electricity, and gas. Precise information can speed 911 responses, especially if someone can’t remember your exact address in a stressful situation. If you have gone completely cellular (e.g., dropped the land line), put this information in every bedroom and in the kitchen.
- Get your yearly health exams and screenings (and perhaps delay the need for items 20-23!)
- Ensure your will is up to date, and that your family knows where it is.
- Ensure your beneficiaries are named (and up to date) for any life insurance policies, 401(k) funds, pensions, etc. For those with same-gender domestic partners, the “default” may be to your next-of-kin, which could be a parent (and it could have tremendously bad tax consequences even if your parent then passed the proceeds along to your partner). Render your wishes explicitly.
- Does your family know what you want done when you die? Check outhttp://www.funerals.org (what a cheery website!) for more information about how to avoid unnecessary expenses, lists of decisions that will have to be made for (or, ideally, by) all of us (hopefully a LONG time from now), etc.
- Have a look at the “Five Wishes” site. Pretty interesting, and are things we each should consider. Thanks to my friend & colleague John Martin for telling me about this! http://www.agingwithdignity.org/5wishes.html
- Gather your receipts, pay stubs, stock transactions, charitable donation receipts, HUD-1 statements if you’ve bought or sold real estate or investment properties, etc. in preparation for tax time. Get a large envelope or folder to keep everything in until you sit down to do your tax return. Set up a folder to keep things in throughout the next year so everything can be in one place next year at this time.
Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in any company or service mentioned here, I’m just a customer who has found their services of use.