New from the Money Scoop

Between Inflation and a Hard Place - Council on Foreign Relations

Learning to be a Value Investor

Greenies Available at

Preparing for Death

Experts agree that it is critical that we all plan ahead and tell the people who matter what we believe about life and how we want to face death.

AARP suggests that the first conversation you must have is with yourself, to find out what your feelings are regarding your own death.

* Where do you want to die? At home? In a hospital or medical facility? Do you want to move to be closer to relatives, friends or other loved ones?
* What kind of medical treatment do you want? What don't you want?
* Who do you want to take care of you?
* What do you think is a "good death?"
* What kind of funeral services do you want?
* What do you want done with your remains?

Legal Documents You May Need

A power of attorney, a living will or medical directive and a will or trust in place so that his or her wishes can be followed is advised by many experts. If your family doesn’t have these legal directives, they may not be able to enforce your wishes, so you should consult an attorney and have the appropriate documents drawn up.

This is also the time you should consider planning your estate and your funeral. Financial issues and fights over who gets what shouldn’t be your legacy. Remember, the more you plan now, the easier it will be for your loved ones to focus on remembering the joys of your life, instead of focusing on the business of concluding it.

From the FCIC:

  • Funerals: A Consumer Guide
    A Consumer Product (excerpt)
  • Funerals rank among the most expensive purchases many consumers will ever make. A traditional funeral, including a casket and vault, costs about $6,000, although "extras" like flowers, obituary notices, acknowledgment cards or limousines can add thousands of dollars to the bottom line. Many funerals run well over $10,000.

    Thinking ahead can help you make informed and thoughtful decisions about funeral arrangements. It allows you to choose the specific items you want and need and compare the prices offered by several funeral providers. It also spares your survivors the stress of making these decisions under the pressure of time and strong emotions.

    You can make arrangements directly with a funeral establishment or through a funeral planning or memorial society - a nonprofit organization that provides information about funerals and disposition but doesn't offer funeral services. If you choose to contact such a group, recognize that while some funeral homes may include the word "society" in their names, they are not nonprofit organizations.

    One other important consideration when planning a funeral pre-need is where the remains will be buried, entombed or scattered. In the short time between the death and burial of a loved one, many family members find themselves rushing to buy a cemetery plot or grave - often without careful thought or a personal visit to the site. That's why it's in the family's best interest to buy cemetery plots before you need them.

  • Estate Planning


source AOA

What is in your Safe Deposit Box

Having a safe deposit box in a bank is something that is recommended by most personal finance professionals. The box should be located in a bank that is convenient to your home.

Your box is the location where you should original documents. A good rule of thumb is to put documents in the box if you can't easily replace them or if you don't know what might happen if you don't have it.

Also in your box should be official (original copy with all required signatures) or certified copies of documents (such as birth certificates, must also be certified or notarized to be considered valid) .

Items to place in your box should include;

  • Birth certificates
  • Citizenship papers
  • Marriage certificates
  • Adoption papers
  • Divorce decrees
  • *Wills
  • *Advance directives
  • *Powers of attorney
  • Death certificates
  • Deeds
  • Titles to cars
  • Household inventory
  • Veteran's papers
  • Bonds and stock certificates
  • Important contracts
  • Passports

*Since the safe deposit box will be sealed at your death, keep a copy of your will someplace accessible. The same goes for the advance directive and the power of attorney since you may not be able to give others access to the safe deposit box.

Reducing Risks to your Computer Systems

The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and the Safeguards Rule, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, require financial institutions to have a security plan for just that purpose.

The threats to the security of your information are varied – from computer hackers to disgruntled employees to simple carelessness.

Starting Out

Basic steps in information security planning include:

* identifying internal and external risks to the security, confidentiality and integrity of your customers’ personal information;

* designing and implementing safeguards to control the risks;

* periodically monitoring and testing the safeguards to be sure they are working effectively;

* adjusting your security plan according to the results of testing, changes in
operations or other circumstances that might impact information security; and

* overseeing the information handling practices of service providers and business partners who have access to the personal information. If you give another organization access to your records or computer network, you should make sure they have good security programs too.

Your business should consider all the relevant areas of its operations, including employee management and training; information systems, including network and software design, and information processing, storage, transmission and disposal, and contingencies, including preventing, detecting and responding to a system failure. Every business faces its own special risks.

Determining Priorities Among Risks: Computer Systems

* The 20 Most Critical Internet Security Vulnerabilities ( was produced by the SANS Institute and the FBI. It describes the 20 most commonly exploited vulnerabilities in Windows and UNIX. Although thousands of security incidents affect these operating systems each year, the majority of successful attacks target one or more of the vulnerabilities on this list. This site also has links to scanning tools and services to help you monitor your own network vulnerabilities at

* The 10 Most Critical Web Application Security Vulnerabilities ( was produced by the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP). It describes common vulnerabilities for web applications and databases and the most effective ways to address them. Attacks on web applications often pass undetected through firewalls and other network defense systems, putting at risk the sensitive information that these applications access. Application vulnerabilities are often neglected, but they are as important to deal with as network issues.

While you are designing and implementing your own safeguards program, don’t forget that you should oversee service providers and business partners that have access to your computer network or consumers’ personal information. Check periodically whether they monitor and defend against common vulnerabilities as part of their regular safeguards program.
For More Information

For more information on privacy, information security, and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Safeguards Rule, visit

Source- The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair practices in the marketplace and to provide information to businesses to help them comply with the law. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

FEMA wants you to be wary of fraud

Fema wants you tobe wary of fraud. That is the warning issued to individuals and business owners affected by the Ice Storms from officials with the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Home owners should be sure they are dealing with FEMA officials before providing any personal information. There is never a fee or charge for any FEMA services.

Those who suspect anyone - a contractor, inspector, disaster victim or someone posing as any of these - of committing fraudulent activities should contact FEMA if they have questions or concerns about the truthfulness of claims made by third parties through word of mouth or in print, call the FEMA Fraud Hotline at 1-866-720-5721

To safeguard against disaster-related fraud, officials recommend the following precautions:

* Ask for ID. If someone represents themselves as a federal employee, such as an inspector, but does not produce identification, residents are urged to ask to see it. A FEMA or U.S. Small Business Administration shirt or jacket is not absolute proof of someone's affiliation with the government. Federal employees carry official photo identification and applicants may receive a visit from more than one inspector or verifier.
* Safeguard personal information. Do not give personal information such as social security and bank account numbers to individuals claiming to be affiliated with the federal government. FEMA inspectors never require this information.
* Under no circumstances are FEMA representatives allowed to accept money. If someone claiming to be a federal employee or federal contractor attempts to collect money for their help, report the person and their vehicle number to your local police department.
* FEMA inspectors verify damage, but do not hire or endorse specific contractors to fix homes or recommend repairs.

Use care when hiring contractors

* Do research on contractors. You may also check with the local Better Business Bureau, homebuilders' association or trade council to see if the contracting firm has any unanswered complaints against it. Be suspicious of anyone who offers to increase the amount of your disaster damage assessment.
* Ask for proof of insurance. If a contractor is uninsured, you may be liable for accidents on the property. Make sure the contractor has disability and workers' compensation insurance.
* Get it in writing. Ask for a written estimate and check to make sure it includes all the work you expect to have done, as well as taxes and other fees. Keep in mind that some contractors charge for an estimate. Once you decide to use a particular contractor, ask for a written contract, including all tasks to be performed as well as associated costs, a timeline and payment schedule and who is responsible for applying for necessary permits and licenses. Never sign a blank contract.
* Ask for a written guarantee. It should state what is guaranteed, who is responsible and how long the guarantee is valid.
* Do not make advance payment in cash. Pay by check in order to keep a record and avoid double charges.

FEMA coordinates the federal government’s role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.