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IS THE NEW NORMAL OVER? 

….it depends on how you define The New Normal and what your discontinuous future holds in store for you.

“The road that we’ve been on for such a long time, the so-called ‘new normal,’ is coming to an end, because it’s being eaten up by its own contradictions,” said Mohamed El-Erian, during an interview on Bloomberg TV.  Mr. El-Erian is the chief economic advisor of Allianz SE.  He was describing global political economy attempts to wrestle itself (at least somewhat) from the hands of central banks.

That may work for Mr. El-Erian and economics, but how about for those of us 50 plus who are planning (or not) and living professional and personal lives amidst the current uncertainties?

How about for those of us who are professional advisors (financial, legal, health, career, education) to people After 50?

Joe and Ellen, both 67, are adept at living in the Old Normal. Joe works in sales for a small, specialty pharmaceutical firm. Ellen, a nurse, stopped working when their children were toddlers and never got around to going back to work because she was always so busy. Now they have grown children, Joe’s long term employment, a house, preferences for their retirement, and about 1/3 of what they will need for retirement already saved (plus Social Security).

Of the several Old Normal life tools, their favorite is problem solving:

  1. define the problem
  2. create solution action steps
  3. execute the action steps
  4. get to the solution
  5. move beyond it forever

Among Joe’s and Ellen’s professional advisors is their Financial Advisor, Phil, age 52.   Over the past 15 years, Joe and Phil have done a good job of managing their money.    Ellen has been advised but didn’t get very involved. Phil, a hardworking and trustworthy professional, also loves problem solving:

  1. How old are you now?
  2. At what age do you want to retire?
  3. How long can we expect you to live?
  4. How much money will you need each year after work ends and before the end of your life?
  5. After Social Security and current savings/equities, how much remains to be saved per year until you retire so that you have the retirement money you need?
  6. Which investment products/programs best meet your need for safety, growth, and return?

Framed this way, it all seems manageable and quantifiable, although the dollar amount remaining to be saved for age 75 retirement is daunting. If they just execute on the investment plan everything will be fine.

What Joe, Ellen, and Phil don’t know is:

  1. Joe will be diagnosed with an aggressive, terminal cancer in 4 years and be gone in 7 months, leaving substantial hospital bills after health insurance pays the majority of the costs.
  2. Joe’s and Ellen’s divorced daughter and her children will come to live with Ellen for a transition time. The daughter will be working on earning a college degree that will qualify her for better employment.
  3. Phil will have a major job educating Ellen about where her money is and how to work with him to manage it well. Ellen will need to be financially literate.
  4. Ellen will have to go back to work but will require substantial retraining first, even to do home health care for the elderly.
  5. Joe’s shares in his employer/company will be worth far less than expected due to litigation over pricing and efficacy issues.
  6. Ellen and three widowed, long-time friends will buy a home together and form an intentional community for support and expense sharing.
  7. Ellen will live to be 102. She will outlive her daughter.

What makes this much more New Normal than Old Normal?  The Answer: Little in life can be defined as a problem with a solution that actually results in a permanent resolution. Instead, Ellen, Phil, Joe’s and Ellen’s daughter, and the other members of Ellen’s intentional living community will have to:

  1. Regularly stop and substantially rethink their situations and the next smart steps.
  2. Remember that each day and week will require proactive effort on their parts.   Anything akin to being on retirement cruise control won’t work.
  3. Make ongoing course corrections and small to large decisions without knowing what the future holds.
  4. Adjust their thinking to include a big emerging reality: the increased likelihood that they are going to live longer, requiring up to date professional skills, extended work-for-pay that might or might not be configured as a job, and the ability to finance and enjoy a longer life.

How much of the New Normal is emerging in your life? How is it showing up? What are ways you have found to adjust to it?

You’re A Failure If You Aren’t Doing What You Absolutely Love. Or Are You?

Author Brianna West recently wrote in Medium Daily Digest “We’re doing people an incredible disservice by telling them they should seek, and pursue, what they love. People usually can’t differentiate between what they really love and what they love “the idea of”.

In doing so, she reminded me of the diversity of purposes for work among my clients and the courage it takes to pursue the right fit whether it’s what they love or not.

Doing, of course, can be a huge, sort of collective verb. It can mean anything from professional activity to avocational experiences to caring for others to stealing time for yourself and doing absolutely nothing with it if that’s your intention. Having to love what you do as a condition of validation can be such a burden!

For purposes of this blog, I’m going to confine myself to Professional Activity as the designated form of doing. And I’m going to tell three short stories.

Bella is 59 and involuntarily retired 6 years ago when her job was eliminated. Her husband, Bob, died last year and when he did she lost the medical insurance benefits that went with his employment. She qualified for Cobra, but it was nearly beyond her means. Her solution: take a lower paying, ¾ time job that would be accompanied by health care benefits until she qualifies at 65 for Medicare. She had already had a high pressure retail career. She didn’t want that again. In the years since her involuntary retirement Bella had grown used to having discretionary time and was loathe to return to having none. She had interests but was leery of passions because every earlier time in her life she had pursued them they ended up owning her instead of the other way around. Instead, she wanted to sell what she wanted to offer: experience, maturity, reliability, good critical thinking skills, and the ability to get along with all kinds of people.

As Bella and I created her vocational search action plan together, we were both clear that she wanted “Right Fit Employment” that would meet her needs but NOT look or feel like her next, all consuming career. This meant her story would be different, her networking would be different, and her resume(s) would have to be tailored to the opportunities she discovered. In the end she discovered 3 job opportunities that met all of her needs and she knew she could have a fine time at any of them. She chose the best one, free of the burden of failing or having made a bad choice if she didn’t absolutely LOVE her work. She – and her new employer – had made a fine, best-fit-work job.

Kevin, 47, was the “survivor” of several different high tech jobs. His wife, Lisa, was too. Between them they had amassed a fair amount of savings. They were both hard working professionals with absolutely no expectation of permanent employment. And they thought they needed to take a year off regularly, maybe not the same year for both of them. In our work together to create a dual vocational plan, we discovered that they both wanted “shorter term” jobs of 2 years max followed by a year off followed by another couple of years of work. They weren’t worried about not being able to re-enter the workplace and they also weren’t worried about whether or not they totally loved their work. Their network was full of younger people not confined by the old employment rules. Instead they were, frankly, motivated by money and the opportunity to participate in something that could be built and sold. Their passion was focused on the end, transition state of the game, not the 2 years it would take to get there. In fact, they were incredulous about the notion that they should LOVE their work. Being good at it plus the financial end state were what motivated them. And they really liked the idea that they would have different years off so that whoever wasn’t working could be home with the kids, maintaining their home, and being supportive of the working one.

In the end we developed a model of “right fit” employment that rotated, allowing each of them to work and then take time off from work. And they weren’t driven by the total love of their work. This was true for their friends and colleagues, too, one of the possible freedoms of high tech and entrepreneurial lives.

Rhia, 60, is a family law attorney. She thought making Partner in a big firm would be the epitome of success and she could coast from there. She would love her life. That was 18 years ago. What she knows now is that loving her work isn’t the primary metric.   Instead the primary metrics are 1. Building/being in control of her own calendar and work load, 2. Having her clients write her performance review through referrals rather than the Managing Partner doing it, and 3. Finding some greater work/life balance than she was experiencing.

When we did the vocational work together, we were not particularly surprised to discover that she had lost her need to love or dislike her work, as if those were the only two categories. Instead she wanted “best fit” work that matched her primary metrics. She was tired of other attorneys asking her if she was burned out.  She no longer needed  to love or hate it. Instead she wanted it to be a match for her now.

In the end Rhia chose to leave the partnership and join a national online law firm.    Kind of like a private practice with colleagues and referral systems. It has turned out to be a great solution for her.

If you LOVE your work that’s great. We are all happy for you. If you like it but don’t want to measure that part of your life by the LOVE Standard, you won’t be alone. You have lots of options.

What role does LOVE serve in your professional life and how is it a benefit or a burden?     If it isn’t love, what are the best metrics for you now in your work life?

 

HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH LIFE PLANNING? 8 QUESTIONS TO FIND OUT

Two Personal Consulting clients of mine – let’s call them Rene and Phil – are both in their late fifties. They are working with me to do their joint 18-month immediate life plan and their 18 to 48-month mid-range life plan. In their 30 years of marriage they have never had so many exciting aspirations or such concern for the uncertainties of our current era.

Rene is by nature a planner. Across the years she has planned and tightly scheduled and organized everything from having babies to getting the house painted to finishing her law degree to grocery shopping. Their now-grown kids jokingly say in her presence “Punctuality is next to godliness.”  She hates surprises and has never wanted one for her birthday or any other occasion.

A very successful salesman, Phil is by nature a highly spontaneous individual. Across the years he has suddenly come home with a Corvette, a puppy, a signed contract for the installation of a swimming pool in their back yard, two kittens, and the opportunity for a promotion at his company that would require a cross country move.  Their now-grown kids lovingly say in his presence “We never, ever know what Dad will do next!” Phil is a bit of a claustrophobe and resists all attempts to schedule and organize him to the point he has no options left. He thinks a great day is one that includes one or more happy surprises.

Through the years Rene and Phil have found ways to appreciate and balance each other’s strong preferences rather than turning them into subjects to fight about. It hasn’t always been easy, but they have stuck to it and with humor and affection, they usually know how to arrive at a joint decision. This recently broke down when it came to life planning, so they came to me for some professional assistance.

When they arrived at my office the first time, they were suffering from a very common life planning malady: they were trying to build one, immense, rather rigid 40-year life plan. They both thought that, if life didn’t evolve according to their plan, they would have failed. Talk about pressure!

I rapidly helped them move into a much more sound and phased planning approach for today’s discontinuous world:

1. A fairly controllable, specific 18-month planning horizon focused on targeting, simplifying and eliminating the fifty kinds of clutter they had accumulated over time

2. A mid-range 18 to 48-month planning horizon focused on exploring options/preferences and making the best decisions they could based on the then-available information

3. A 48 month planning horizon which was really a list of imagined intentions and preferences – and ways to make them happen – since they couldn’t sit in my office and reasonably make final decisions for 10 or 18 or 30 years out into the future.

They had some sacrifices to make in working with each other and with me. They had to give up the notion that there is a singular “right” way to do perfect life planning.    Rene struggled with this. They had to let go of the idea that if the plan were “good enough” the outcomes would be guaranteed. This made Phil especially anxious because Mr. Spontaneous was suddenly so nervous about their (and the nation’s) future that he desperately wanted guaranties. The biggest sacrifice of all for them was letting go of the notion that there could be such a plan, ensuring the predicted outcome.  The completion of this plan would signal that they could pretty much coast through their future years without regularly monitoring their environment for new information. And this would trigger an updating of the plan and the need for them to adapt yet again.  The second biggest sacrifice was jettisoning their cherished illusion that a permanent arrival point, a “there” to get to, is a possibility in today’s world.

The planning conversation had begun with the rigid and fight-prone language of long term life plan, right, wrong and absolutes. Together we turned it into the more manageable and sane bites of short range, mid-term, and long range plans and intentions. We also moved the success metric from “perfect and almost guaranteed” plan to the exploration of “How much is enough?”.

In the end, we developed together some “how much is enough” type of questions that, if answered “Yes!”, would be the tipping point for them to move from planning to action. These included:

  1. Do we feel comfortable enough to suspend research for now on each of our three planning horizon plans?
  2. Are we prepared to do enough smart scanning of our environment regularly that we can see when and how to update the plan and adapt ourselves?
  3. Are we clear enough on what initial action would look like for each life plan segment?
  4. Have we surrounded ourselves with enough of the right professional consultants – life planning, financial, health care, legal, and career/vocational?
  5. Have we communicated clearly enough with our loved ones and friends that they know how to help us?
  6. Are we having enough regular, clear conversations together about our plans to know when we are on the same page, when we’re not, and how to work our way through any difficulties?
  7. Are we willing enough in these times of discontinuous change, to work with both change we have chosen and change that is imposed on us?
  8. Do we continue to have enough faith in ourselves and in each other to live a great life one planning phase at a time?

Rene, Phil, and I completed the 3 planning horizon life plans and built clear action plans for each, especially the Up To 18 Month segment. They will be back to see me when they run into a major problem and for periodic reality checks. They don’t need to see me all the time. They will need to see me enough, and they are the only ones who can determine what and when that is.

I’m looking forward to getting an update from them eventually.

How are you proceeding with your own life planning? How do you know what enough looks like for any life planning component?

 

When Passive Income Isn’t So Passive

The data is in, and it isn’t pretty. The vast majority of people over 50 don’t have sufficient retirement savings.  On top of that, they don’t have enough time left to save their way out of trouble.

Building enduring income streams is clearly a smart answer, as finance reporter Abby Hayes wrote in a recent piece called “4 Ways to Create a Passive Income in Retirement.”  The trouble is that what she considers passive is anything but. She suggests investing in rental property, dividend stocks and peer-to-peer lending, and also starting a side business.  All sound ideas, but all require work . . . and in some cases, as much work as a part-time job. Here’s why.

  1. Rental property. If you rent a house you will actively have to work with suppliers and repair people, not to mention rental agents and tenants. Sure, you can hire a management company to find and vet tenants, collect the rent and stay on top of repairs and other issues, but you still have to manage the managers. There’s an extra schedule to file on your income tax, too, plus additional insurance to research and buy, and upkeep to do that can eat into your revenue stream.  And if you have trouble with renters, you can be looking at stiff lawyer’s fees. It can take months or longer to get rid of a deadbeat tenant, so that’s no income for however many months they’re in arrears, along with thousands of dollars to evict.
  2. Dividend stocks.  Great idea, especially in this low-interest-rate environment. But deciding which equities (or funds) to invest in requires research, discipline and monitoring. Accounting work, too, at tax time.
  3. Create a side business. What startup in any field is passive? If you have a weekend/evening business in retail, for example, passive isn’t even a possibility. Drive an Uber? The definition of active. Want to be a successful blogger? You will still need to put in many hours every week—plus work with editors, designers and other professionals before you can even think of generating any revenue from it.
  4. Peer-to-peer lending.  If you join a lending network as an investor, you’ll still need to do the homework to decide whose loan to fund, and periodic tracking to make sure it’s working out.

The only kind of passive income streams I’m aware of involve giving your money or assets to someone else to manage for you. Except for periodic performance reviews, that’s my idea of singularly passive.  The rest, I’m afraid, requires a lot of work.

If you are older than 50 without enough set by to “retire” or support yourself for the rest of your life, no action now isn’t an option.  Certainly you can continue to save, but unless you’re saving many thousands each month you won’t have enough time to accrue what you’ll need.  Now is the time to examine the various income stream possibilities that will be best fits for you now and down the road.  You can even begin a business or rental property investment now, keep it small, and build it over time.

Not acting is what got many of us into the retirement savings hole.  Inaction now can only make matters worse.

What passive income streams have you started, or are considering starting? Let me know by leaving a comment.

Read Hayes’ full article HERE 

Rethinking the Retirement Savings Strategy

“Should You Save Enough to Live to 100?”  Liz Weston, writing in NerdWallet, recently posed this question. “First,” she wrote, “you were supposed to die at 85. Then 90. Now 95 and even 100 are common defaults when financial planners tell people how much to save for retirement.  Except that’s nuts. In the U.S., the typical man at age 65 is expected to live another 18 years. The typical woman, about 20. Yet many financial planners contend we should save as if we’re all going to be centenarians.”

According to Ms. Weston’s research, if a 35-year-old wanted to replace 60% of her current $60,000 income at age 65, she would need about $1.2 million in savings (assuming 3% average annual inflation and 7% return on investments) if she expects to live to age 85.  Bump that up to $1.7 million ($5,700 per month) if she lives to be 100.

That’s a tall order for most people, since the average 60-something falls far short of the target, and many people don’t have anything saved for retirement.

This isn’t necessarily because of reckless spending.  Consider Ron and Lisa, a couple who came to me for career strategy work.  They’re both in their 40s, and knew, given the current expenses of three pre-teen kids combined with future weddings and college educations and life enrichment (travel, etc.) that there is zero possibility of them saving their way into financial security when they’re past 70.

When we were strategizing, the subject of “retirement” never came up.  Instead they wanted advice on building additional, part-time income streams and risk assessment support to decide whether Ron or Nancy might be in the better position to leave “permanent employment” and take the chance of making a lot more money over time in a freelance/self-employed situation.  They knew that the future for at least one, if not both, of them would probably mean giving up the illusion of a secure job they could hold indefinitely, while taking responsibility for building income streams they could better control well into their 60s, 70s and beyond.  I asked Nancy and Ron what they were willing to give up.   “Nothing!” was their response. “We just want to be a lot more proactive and a lot smarter about our personal and professional lives.”

So here’s the big question to ponder: Why are we so fixated on that seven-figure lump sum, and worry (now and later) whether it will last as long as we do? Why aren’t we focusing more, as Ron and Nancy are doing, on setting up reliable income streams as well as saving as much as we can?

The point is that we need to overhaul our entire retirement-finance strategy, based on assumptions that reflect the new reality. We certainly should be asking more questions, starting with:

  • What we can do if we don’t have a big enough nest egg if we live into our 90s or longer?
  • How we can live well on less than 60% of our current income?
  • Is 60% of current income even the right parameter?
  • Is 90 the right default age for financial planning calculators?

What are other questions you think we should be asking ourselves – individually and collectively – on the way to creating a more appropriate plan for financial security as we age? Please leave your suggestions in Comments.

Here’s the link to Liz Weston’s article: https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/investing/plan-live-100

The Lowdown on Downsizing

george2More than four million retirees moved to a new home last year, and for many of them, that move involved downsizing—part of a process that necessarily involves getting rid of stuff.  Often a lot of stuff.

The New York Times recently ran an interesting piece about the joys and traumas involved with deciding what to do with a lifetime of possessions.  That purging “typically triggers a range of emotions,” the author wrote, ranging from joy to pain.

“The earlier you do it the better, physically, socially and financially,” Steven Sass, a research economist at the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College was quoted as saying.

In my view, downsizing is about so much more than jettisoning stuff.   It’s also about habits, relationships, identities and old expectations.  The secret is to release MORE than you think you need to—things that will no longer serve you well regardless of how well they served you in the past—so that you have some OPEN space for new things to come in.   Releasing “just enough” is like draining the bathtub to just below the rim.   As soon as you get in it overflows AND there still isn’t room for anything new.

Read the full article here.

THE KEYS TO ENTREPRENEURIAL SUCCESS

Lots of us will want to continue to work after 50, whether we’re retired or not, and for a variety of personal, professional and financial reasons.  We may work part time for our old employer, take a full-time job with a new one, or become self-employed.

Entrepreneurs make up a special subset of the self-employed.  They’re different from normal self-employment businesses, such as piano instruction or a dry cleaning operation, because entrepreneurs:

  • Bring something new into the marketplace: a product, service or way of doing business
  • Possibly introduce disruption into the industry and marketplace
  • Face higher than usual risk
  • Enjoy higher than usual possibility of great return
  • Place both reputation and money on the line; it’s the ultimate example of having your own skin in the game.

SNN Sarasota News Network and I have been featuring keys to entrepreneurial success during my weekly television appearances.  These keys are particularly important because entrepreneurship, while attractive on the surface, can be (and usually is) a supremely complex and emotional combination of invention, improvisation,  intuition and moxie.  It requires honoring your past experience without  being defined or limited by it.  The more you know before you commit to entrepreneurship, the better––no matter how previously successful you may have been with other business ventures, entrepreneurial or not.

THE 12 KEYS

  1. Purpose. Why is the entrepreneur choosing this route? What needs does it meet? What is it that the entrepreneur needs from the experience?
  2. Energy. Being an entrepreneur can be incredibly time-intensive, especially during the startup phase. Does the entrepreneur have both the energy and the freedom from other obligations to take this path successfully?
  3. Aptitude. Does the entrepreneur have the necessary skills and leadership qualities to run his or her own business? Entrepreneurs may need to act as CEO, accountant, social media expert, marketing maven, legal eagle, strategic sourcer, senior engineer and HR specialist in rotation within just a few hours’ time.
  4. Interest and Expertise. How interested is the entrepreneur in running the actual business, willing to make really tough, important decisions quickly? Does the entrepreneur have the expertise to run the business? For those functions which are not part of the entrepreneur’s interest and expertise set, is there funding for inside or outside staff to take up the slack?
  5. Network of Business and Professional Connections. Does the entrepreneur have the professional and personal networks to tap as needs arise? Can the entrepreneur’s network open doors, find resources and answers, and create opportunities when the entrepreneur’s own group of contacts is lacking in some aspect?
  6. Discipline and Tenacity. Is this venture a lark or a hobby, or is it a wholehearted commitment? Does the entrepreneur have both the professional discipline and tenacity to start it and stick with it throughout the ride?
  7. Planning. How good is the entrepreneur at planning? How good is the he or she at adapting rapidly and thoughtfully? If you can name one entrepreneurial venture for which everything occurred according to plan without any surprises and changes, please let George know.
  8. Financing. How much of the entrepreneur’s own money will be invested? What will happen to his or her personal finances if the venture fails—or takes much longer than expected to become profitable? How much other funding will be needed, and are the sources and commitments secured? This may not only include startup capital but operating funding for some period of time.
  9. Raison d’Etre. What is it that the entrepreneur is really offering in the marketplace? Is it primarily the product/service itself or is it the benefits to the buyer from owning or using it? What will create the market and sustain it in the long run?
  10. Understanding the Market Itself. What is happening in the marketplace now, and where is it heading? Who, if any, are the competitors? How can the entrepreneur get ahead of the market or, even better, redirect it towards his company and its offerings?
  11. Profitability and ROI. How much profit does the entrepreneur expect to make in the first and ensuing years? Will it be enough to lure and satisfy investors? How about the return on investment? Will the entrepreneur and the business be able to prove they are the ultimately great investment of others’ monies?
  12. Exit Strategy. Starting an entrepreneurial business is NOT like getting married forever. The entrepreneur changes. So does the business and the market. The entrepreneur should always have an intelligent, workable exit strategy on the back burner.

My suggestion: Consider each of these keys, and take your time answering all the questions. Then discuss the questions and answers with people who know you well, perhaps who have worked with you, and/or have gone through the entrepreneurial experience themselves. You may be surprised at what a great series of conversations this can trigger. And the insights you gain will help inform your decision to go for it or take a pass . . . for now.

Whatever you decide, good luck!

Guest Blog: Why You Should Care About Your Digital Footprint

We’re all getting used to hearing about problems with data security. After the massive Target breach last year, when something similar happened to Home Depot this summer it didn’t seem all that surprising.

What was surprising was the Sony cyberattack, a story that’s been making headlines for weeks.

If a big corporation can’t keep hackers out of its email networks and script vaults, what does that say about the security of any digital information—especially the personal data thieves want, which is the kind that leads to fraudulent purchases and identity theft?

I’m saying this not just to raise the alarm (if it isn’t already ringing deafeningly loud already) but to give you practical advice on how to protect yourself.

First, you need to know a little about your digital footprint.

Every time you click the checkbox next to “I agree to the terms & conditions” on a website, you’re actually giving permission to the website owner to track your clicks, and take certain actions, like post a targeted ad on other websites you frequent. That’s why if you visited Zappos to browse for shoes, then went to Facebook, you’ll likely see a Zappos ad on your Facebook page that hadn’t been there the last time you logged on.

I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t have enough time (or interest) to read all that terms & conditions fine print. What I can say is that companies require that click for you to opt in, an action that reserves their right to collect and retain information about you and your digital transactions when you use their sites.

All of the data about how you use those sites—where you’re clicking through, how long you stay on a page, whether you buy something, and if so, how much was that purchase—is extremely important to marketers.

In fact, most companies that do e-commerce are investing billions of dollars to collect and analyze that data to better determine what to sell you, when, and on which devices.

You’re also volunteering personal information every time you fill out an online survey, or do any of those cute quizzes that tell you what character you’d be on Downton Abbey, or how many states in the US you’ve been to, or how well you know grammar.

All of that information you’re providing free to digital marketing firms is being compiled to profile you in some way, shape or form.

The same holds true for apps. Once you download them and create a new account, your geographical location is being tracked, your searches are noted, and your purchase history is collected. So too is the information you’re sharing with your digital social network.

So if you’re on a vacation you booked on a cheap-travel website, you post Instagram photos of your meal at a fancy restaurant you logged into on foursquare, and you buy concert tickets, your taste in destinations, hotel chains, cuisines and music has been duly noted.

Interested companies can buy this information and may start suggesting similar trips, restaurants and entertainment events when you’re surfing the web, long after your vacation is over. These marketers will also know when you’re sharing your location, etc. with family and friends…because that little checkmark you hastily clicked allows them to.

So how can you protect yourself from becoming a target of someone intent on exploiting your digital habits?

First, make a list of all digital accounts where you are required to have a user name and password. That includes online banks, your credit card providers, your healthcare company, e-commerce sites and social media sites.

For financial accounts, such as banks and mortgage company, make sure you have different user names and passwords for each account. It’s tedious, I know, but very important.

Use a dedicated user ID and password for medical accounts. In other words, don’t use the same user name/password for medical and financial accounts.

Create a spreadsheet, print it out and store it somewhere safe. A hard copy isn’t just to help you remember your log in information; it’s to provide access to important documents and data to others in case you are incapacitated.

If a third party (spouse/partner, next of kin, etc.) needs to access your digital accounts, they won’t be able to unless you have given them a digital assets power of attorney, which is something few people ever do.

Change user names and passwords every six months or so—more frequently for financial and medical accounts.

Get in the habit of monitoring these accounts regularly. Some cybersecurity experts suggest checking bank and credit card activity weekly, if not more often. Check make sure any recent activity is accurate and that there are no transactions you do not recognize.

Consider using a third-party company to monitor your digital wellbeing.

Keep informed. For a superb deep-dive on digital footprints, check out the insightful (and sometimes harrowing) 2013 documentary, Terms and Conditions May Apply. It adds a whole new dimension to caveat emptor.

 

David Lubert
David Lubert has spent more than 20 years in the retail technology solutions field. As the first retail lead in North America for SAP, he held numerous management positions in the retail and wholesale industry business units and worked with technology executives from a wide range of retail segments. Currently, he is a consultant for DML Group LLC.

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