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Preventing Identity Theft

August 21st, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

It’s easy to be victimized. What can you do to protect yourself?

hand print with identity theft - having identity stolenIdentity theft can be as primitive as “ghosting” – taking a dead person’s name and making a fake Social Security card with a scanner, a color copier, and light-blue marbled paper from an art supply store. Or it can involve sophisticated cybercrime forums such as CardersMarket – 6,000 members strong with a server based in Iran, outside the grasp of U.S. authorities. But there are ways you can defend yourself. Here are a few …

Don’t trash it, shred it. Shred anything financial aside from your tax records: credit card statements, bank statements, old checks, deposit slips, you name it. A cagy thief can borrow thousands of dollars or order checks in your name with such data. If you really must keep these periodic records, hide them in the most unvisited place possible.

Hide your Social Security card. The only time you need to show it to anyone is when you start a new job. Otherwise, there’s no need to carry it around.

Don’t sign the backs of your credit or debit cards. Don’t put your autograph below the magnetic strip. Instead, write “See I.D.” Clerks will ask to see the identification of the card user, a step that might discourage (or alert onlookers to) a thief.

Don’t buy things through obscure websites or payment services. If you’ve never heard of the company or the payment method, don’t take the risk – or at the very least, Google to see if there have been any identity theft problems linked to them.

Don’t talk business on cordless phones (or cell phones). Have you ever picked up a cordless phone and heard portions of your neighbor’s conversation? It’s common, because cordless phones (and cell phones) use very low frequencies. Use a landline.

Carry altered copies of driver’s licenses and ID cards. Make copies of them to carry in your wallet or purse, with the last few digits blacked out. A thief can only guess at the missing digits.

Ask for an annual credit report from Equifax, TRW and Experian. These are the three American credit reporting agencies. Get an annual report from each of them; this will tell you if someone else has opened an account in your name.

These are the views of Peter Montoya, Inc., not the named Representative or Broker/Dealer, and should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representative or Broker/Dealer give tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information.

Monthly Economic Update for August 2013

August 21st, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Monthly Economic Update

August-MonthlyEconomicUpdate

How to Avoid Working One More Year

August 21st, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Financial News

8222dccf-0976-4313-9b07-66b9d647cfb2_121084829Should you quit now or work another year? This is the question that plagues many soon-to-be retirees. In fact, there’s even a term for those suffering from this condition: The work one more year syndrome. Some people who have adequate resources are afraid to retire, fearing that their nest egg won’t last through a 30-year retirement. Here are some suggestions for people who have enough money to retire, but feel compelled to stay in the workforce for another year:

Have a clear understanding of the 4 percent rule, and create a plan based on accurate knowledge. Retirees generally understand that a sustainable withdrawal percentage is 4 percent annually, but not everyone knows all the intricacies behind this rule of thumb. In order for you to gain more confidence that your portfolio will survive, you need to have a clear understanding of the original study by William Bengen and how future changes will affect your assumptions. You should know the asset allocation used, the assumptions made and how the numbers are calculated so you can think for yourself whenever a new published study challenges the numbers.

Build reasonable cushions into the plan. Another year of work means a bigger nest egg, but there are also other ways to increase your chances of retirement success. You could develop a detailed budget and identify areas where you could cut spending if market performance doesn’t go your way. Your personal inflation rate is also somewhat controllable, and it could be smaller than standard inflation. There are many ways to conservatively plan for retirement, and working longer is just one of them.

Consider adding income that doesn’t take much work. Many people with the work-one-more-year mentality think retirement means completely stopping all active income generating activities, but retirement can also mean making a bit of income on the side. For example, perhaps you could invest in physical real estate. Being a landlord is certainly hard work, but it also gives you an additional source of retirement income that generally keeps up with inflation. You could also turn a hobby into a small income-generating venture. There are lots of ways to make more money, and the income generated doesn’t have to be huge to improve your retirement finances. Even just a few thousand dollars a year will mean a sizable decrease in how much you need to draw from your nest egg each year.

Being flexible with withdrawals will greatly increase the likelihood that you can retire sooner. The 4 percent rule assumes a retiree will start off withdrawing a fixed amount and increase withdrawals by inflation even if the market tanks. In reality, I doubt anyone who actually runs the numbers will do this. You can drastically improve your chances of never depleting your nest egg just by suspending the inflation increase whenever the markets don’t cooperate. The good news is that this is usually easily accomplished because you can probably cut out some parts of your budget temporarily without a noticeable sacrifice in comfort.

Be optimistic about your future. Future returns may not be as bright as they were in the past, but your portfolio will do fine unless the year you retire is during a significant financial downturn and you aren’t flexible with your spending. And even if this unfortunate series of events happens, you can always just find another job.

There is no way to know for sure if your nest egg will last your lifetime. But if you take a few precautions, you won’t have to spend your retirement years worrying about running out of money. Familiarize yourself with a few strategies that will help you to weather unforeseen events. And then when you hit your retirement savings goal, go ahead and quit your job if you still want to.

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20 Ways to Reduce Toxins in Your Diet

August 21st, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

470_2673437Did you know toxins called “obesogens” can disrupt your metabolism? From nicotine to BPA to antibiotics in meat, obesogens increase the number of fat cells you have, decrease the calories you burn, and change the way your body manages hunger, say Roni DeLuz, RN, NJ, PhD and James Hester in 1 Pound a Day: The Martha’s Vineyard Diet Detox and Plan for a Lifetime of Healthy Eating. Here’s how to avoid them.

Obesogens enter your body from what you eat and drink, from chemicals and dust in the air that you breathe, and through your skin from the cosmetics and household cleaners you use. You do not live in a bubble. Living in the modern world makes exposure to these toxins inescapable, but you can take steps to reduce your exposure. Every little bit helps. Here are some changes you can make that will protect you and your family.

1. Eat organic produce.

2. Eat meat and poultry that has been raised without hormones or antibiotics. Grass-fed beef and free-range poultry are good choices.

3. Eat wild fish, not farmed.

4. Reduce your consumption of animal fats, which are high in stored toxins. A high-fat diet can intensify the effects of obesogens.

5. Minimize the amount of processed foods you eat.

6. Stay away from high fructose corn syrup.

7. Limit your consumption of soy products. Despite having high levels of protein, soy promotes fat-cell growth because of its plant-based estrogen properties.

8. Eat fresh or frozen food rather than canned.

9. Use a filter on the faucet in your kitchen and the showerhead, or have a filter installed on the central water line. At the very least, filter your drinking water.

10. Avoid using nonstick pans, especially if they are scratched.

11. Do not use plastic food containers for leftovers. Discard any plastics with a 3 or 7 on the bottom. Glass is best.

12. Ask your grocer to wrap your meat, poultry, and seafood in paper, not plastic.

13. Do not use plastic or Styrofoam cups.

14. Use only BPA-free, ecofriendly water bottles. Stainless-steel or glass bottles are best.

15. Never microwave plastic.

16. Open your windows to ventilate your home. Do not use air fresheners.

17. Replace vinyl shower curtains with cloth. The heat from a shower will cause chemicals to outgas, and you will inhale the gases in the mist.

18. Use an exhaust fan when cooking.

19. Vacuum frequently with a HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaner.

20. Minimize your exposure to thermal paper used for cash register receipts. Make sure to wash your hands after handling receipts.

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What Your Sales Clerk Won’t Tell You

August 21st, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

Ten Signs Your Job Doesn’t Deserve You

August 21st, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

Human beings are creatures of habit. We’ll tolerate a bad situation waaaaay longer than we should, and then, once we’ve woken from our stupor and noticed that the water in the pot around us has gotten close to the boiling point, we’ll ask “Why the heck did I put up with that for so long?”

We fall into ruts very easily.

I stayed in a horrible job one time. I stayed so long that when I woke up in the morning, my jaw ached from grinding my teeth all night.

I told my husband, “First I hated the job. Now I hate myself for staying there.”

He said “Why don’t you quit this week?”

I did. A million-lb. weight came off my shoulders, even though I had no idea what I would do next. The next thing can’t appear, after all, while we’re clinging to the old, moldy one!

Here are ten signs that your current job in no imaginable way deserves your gifts. If you recognize a few of these red flags in your own situation, don’t panic!

You don’t have to quit your job this week. You can launch a nice, slow, leisurely Stealth Job Search (about which I’ll say more in a column shortly. One thing at a time) and start taking steps to get into a job where the people get you and thus deserve what you bring.

Do any of these warning bells sound familiar?

TEN SIGNS YOUR JOB DOESN’T DESERVE YOU

1. They don’t tell you what’s going on.

You can’t bring your best to your job (or give a hoot about it, for that matter) when you don’t know Jack about the larger picture. If the leaders you work for don’t think it’s worth their time to keep you in the loop with the organization’s direction, its progress and obstacles, your own career path in the place and other vital information, you are casting your pearls before swine.

2. You keep doing the same thing over and over.

Both your marketability and your mojo grow when you have a chance to try new things. Perhaps you’ve heard the old adage (in the form of a question): “So, have you got twenty years of work experience, or one year’s experience repeated twenty times?” If you keep doing the same things over and over, your brain goes to sleep and your professional muscles atrophy. If that’s what you’re up against on the job, your virtual career advisor hereby nudges you to take your talents elsewhere.

3. That’s okay, you don’t have to thank me.

Human beings run on food, water and sleep, but we also need to hear occasionally that we’ve done something right (especially when we know we’ve worked miracles on the job). If the leaders at your workplace throw compliments around like manhole covers, the energy is broken and you’re wasting your time.

None of us expects to be overwhelmed with praise, but people who are stingy with positive feedback (or even personal thanks, when you’ve saved your CEO’s ass for example) are not people who want to see you blossom. Move on.

4. How dare you have an idea?

There are fearful managers in the working world who will bristle, tense up and otherwise communicate “Back off!” when you dare to suggest a process improvement or offer a new idea. You can’t stay in a place like that. Your fertile brain is working all the time, and the worst thing you can do is to tell it “Hush!” You need your idea-machine on full steam, whether your current bosses want to hear your suggestions or not.

If your ideas at work are met with stony silence or (worse!) the bored yawn that screams “Why don’t you just go back to your desk and let ME have the ideas?” you’ve been handed a signal from God to get to a place where people can see and value what you bring them.

5. Something does not compute.

Ever since the recession hit five years ago, certain opportunistic organizations have taken the position that even if the firm is making money, salary increases will be small or nonexistent. That’s ridiculous, because if the company is making money, the employees should see it in their paychecks eventually.

If you know your employer has had a great year and your own salary level lags, bring up the topic of a pay adjustment. If you already know what the answer will be such that your gut says “Don’t bother,” you can easily update your resume this weekend.

6. You’re in the Personal Growth Desert.

Not all of us are up for constant challenge and experimentation, but even fewer people are comfortable on the other end of the personal-growth bell curve, desiring nothing in the way of personal development. If your job is turning your brain to jelly and has you feeling stuck or sliding backward, then they can’t pay you enough to compensate for the damage they’re inflicting.

This new-millennium workplace is all about your portable marketability. No one will sympathize with you on your next job hunt if you say “It’s not my fault I’ve stagnated – my last boss didn’t give me any room to grow.”

Your development is your responsibility now. If your current job doesn’t give you the learning experiences you need, there are plenty of other employers to choose from.

7. This rock is getting kinda heavy.

Some of us (and you know who you are) love to wade into a swamp of alligators and fix everything around them. Sometimes it takes years to realize that you’ve been pushing a huge rock uphill, meaning that the people around you don’t want to change anything, including their thinking. When things get really bad, they’ll try to make you think you’re crazy for wanting to innovate and experiment.

Our Buddhist friends say life is long, but it’s still too short to spend it pushing other people’s rocks up steep slopes day after day. Let the rock fall, get out of Dodge, and realize your potential.

8. I like a good shipwreck as much as the next person, but…

God Bless your company founder or your boss’s boss’s boss or whomever is trying to make a go of a business that probably wouldn’t even be in business without the fanatical devotion of you and your colleagues. Sometimes the universe wants you to leave a sinking ship to its fate. You are not being paid to give body, mind and soul to somebody else’s vision. The last thing you want to say to a future prospective employer is “I stayed around to turn the lights off.” If the ship is obviously sinking, we give you permission to blow up a raft and get out of there.

9. You work for slimebags.

I tried to find a nicer word than “slimebag,” but why sugar-coat? If the people you work for aren’t ethical, you’re doing yourself and the world a disservice taking their slimebag money and pretending it’ll all work out okay.

Hit the bricks and find an organization where the leaders aren’t on the phone with their lawyers half the working day. The last thing you want to be forced to do is explain why your executive team got indicted and your ex-employer’s name is all over the news for bad reasons.

10. Your body says “Go.”

Your body is the final judge. If you’re waking up with an aching jaw the way I was or you start to get pains and can’t sleep, there’s your answer: it’s time for you to bail. Don’t let the fear of trying something new keep you stuck in an unhealthy situation. Life is all about learning, and the sooner you put your Stealth Job Search toe in the water, the happier you’ll be.

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The Top 3 Skills You Need to Bounce Back From Anything

August 21st, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

Top3SkillsResiliency is a hot topic these days and for good reason. Not only do we have the usual setbacks in our everyday lives, but the global economy has many of us spinning as well.

So, how can you bounce back from everything from the dog vomiting on your shoe to job loss to foreclosure? While there are many aspects to resiliency, here are the three top skills for you to use:

1. Practice acceptance

This is a broad topic, but here are the basics:

  • Acknowledge your emotions about the situation. Sometimes people who have suffered through something like financial loss don’t really realize they are experiencing grief. Parents of kids with special needs sometimes have difficulty recognizing how resentful they feel at times. Losing your job can result in feelings of shame.

These are all difficult emotions and hard to embrace, but you can only move forward when you know exactly what you are dealing with.

  • Practice non-resistance. Resisting what has happened to you is like being in a Chinese finger puzzle – the more you struggle against it, the tighter it grabs you and the more stuck you are. Only when you relax and move toward the center of the puzzle do you get out of it.

And try not to confuse non-resistance with giving up. It’s more about giving in and accepting your circumstances so that you can do something about them.

  • Accept life as it is, not as it should be. We can waste a lot of time thinking about how life “should” be rather than accepting it just as it is. Being realistic will help you move forward faster.
  • No one said you have to like it. Acceptance does not mean that you have to like what is happening to you. It’s actually possible to not resist something and dislike it at the same time!

2. Gain perspective

  • Remember past experiences. This is key to your ability to bounce back from adversity. Recall other difficulties that you have had in your life and realize that, somehow, you made it through them. It’s likely you will also make it through this one, too. As a wise person once said, “This, too, shall pass.”
  • Stop chewing your cud. The word “ruminate” comes from the Latin ruminare, the root of which describes a cow chewing its cud. This is what you do when you ruminate: Think about the problem, chew on it a bit, swallow it down, bring it back up, think about it . . .

It’s easy to get stuck re-hashing the problem over and over again, trying to “fix it.” But then your focus gets very narrow and The Problem becomes the only thing in your life. Let go of it. Widen your focus and see what else is in your life.

  • Stay in the moment. Rather than fretting about something that could happen in the future or worrying about the past, try to stay in the present moment. This is where life is really happening.
  • Use a perspective-changer. Some studies have shown that it really does help to think about people who are in worse circumstances than you are. I call these perspective-changers. A perspective-changer I often use is my memory of sitting with a dying client who was at peace with her own death. Being with her made everything else seem like small stuff.

3. Get social

This is not the time for you to suck it up and go it alone. One of the best ways to bounce back from hard times is allow other people to support you emotionally.

  • Find people you trust. It’s important that you feel safe enough to talk with people about your situation, so pick family members or friends that you really trust.
  • Talk. You don’t have to go into specifics of what’s bothering you if you don’t want to, but it’s important that you let the people in your inner circle know that you’re going through a rough time.
  • Take your power back. The more you allow your problem to be a secret, the more power it has over you. By talking about it, you take the power away from the “deep, dark secret” and put it back where it belongs – with you.

You already know that life has its fair share of ups and downs. Try these three resiliency strategies and you’ll soon be bouncing back in no time.

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