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Money June 2014

Dollar Sense

Potpourri: Stuff You Should Know About Your Money

By Teresa Ambord

One thing you should know: if you have named a beneficiary [for your retirement accounts] and later change your mind, you cannot use your will to override that decision, according to Nolo. If you named your beneficiary decades ago and things have since changed, contact your account administrator or seek legal counsel to get the beneficiary changed.

A New Way to Receive Your Social Security Funds… and Maybe Win Money

Would it be easier for you to receive your Social Security in the form of a debit card? The federal government offers a program – called Direct Express -- where you can register to do just that. All you need is your Social Security number or claim number and your 12 digit federal benefit check number, and the amount of your most recent federal benefit check. Then log onto to GoDirect, or call toll-free at 1-800-333-1795.

According to a U.S. Treasury Department survey, 95 percent of those who use Direct Express are satisfied with the program. Almost all felt making payments with the Direct Express debit card was safer than paying bills with paper checks, and almost as many say it is far more convenient.

The news gets better. To entice more people to sign up for Direct Express, you can register your account at This site lets you access learning modules which teach you ways to minimize or avoid fees, and maximize your safe, convenient use of the card, as well as other general financial information. For every module you view, as well as for certain behaviors, you can earn points which enter you into a monthly sweepstakes prize. The prizes range from a few dollars to $50.

Direct Express users need to know, like anything else, this financial benefit is subject to scam artists looking to pick your pocket. No Direct Express personnel will ever contact you by phone, e-mail or texts to ask for your card number, PIN or security code. If you get such a call, hang up. Then look at the back of your Direct Express card and call the customer service number there to report the call.


What Do You Have in Common with the Rich? Here Are Six Ways to Compare

Actually financial guru Dave Ramsey has created a list of 20 things the rich do every day. Unfortunately, he’s taken a lot of criticism for it, mostly from people who defend their habits that have to do, mostly, with TV watching, eating, and exercising. That’s why I decided not to print all of them. Here are six, just to give you an idea of how you stack up against the rich.

  • 88% of wealthy read 30 minutes or more each day for education or career reasons vs. 2% of poor.
  • 6% of wealthy say what’s on their mind vs. 69% of poor.
  • 63% of wealthy listen to audio books during commute to work vs. 5% of poor people.
  • 81% of wealthy maintain a to-do list vs. 19% of poor.
  • 67% of wealthy write down their goals vs. 17% of poor.

And on a more personal note:

  • 80% of wealthy call people to wish them happy birthday, while only. 11% of the poor do so.

How did you compare?

You can read the rest at but I’m warning you, you might get angry. Unless of course, you are rich and agree with the list.

Have You Ever Wondered: What Happens to Your Retirement Accounts When You Die?

Some plans, such as 401(k)s and most pensions require that you name your spouse as your beneficiary, unless your spouse gives up that right by signing a form. For IRAs and employer profit-sharing plans, you can choose your beneficiary. Note: In a community property state, even if you do name someone else as a beneficiary, your spouse has a legal right to half of anything earned during your marriage. The great thing about naming a beneficiary is that it bypasses the headaches and cost of probate, as the money passes directly to that beneficiary., the legal encyclopedia recommends that you make sure every retirement account you have has a specified beneficiary, rather than relying on your will to name the recipients. It’s cleaner and simpler. One thing you should know: if you have named a beneficiary and later change your mind, you cannot use your will to override that decision, according to Nolo. If you named your beneficiary decades ago and things have since changed, contact your account administrator or seek legal counsel to get the beneficiary changed.

The last thing you want is for your ex-wife to get your IRA instead of your current wife, just because you’d forgotten you named the ex as your beneficiary many moons ago.


What’s on Sale and When?

Reader’s Digest is kind enough to give us a heads up about the best time of the year to buy certain items and services. Here are good buys to remember for August and September.


  • Grills: If you’re thinking of buying an outdoor grill especially the big ones, hold off if you can till August. There’s still plenty of BBQ weather and you’ll save a lot on the purchase.
  • Office supplies: With back-to-school time rolling up fast, most retailers who sell office supplies as well as backpacks and dorm supplies are selling them cheap. If you ever wanted a tiny refrigerator full of beer to park by your recliner, buy one when college kids are headed back to class.
  • Bathing suits: There probably won’t be a lot to choose from after the 4th of July sales are over, but the ones you do find will be on sale for a fraction of their value. If your size doesn’t change much, you could always buy a new one for next year.


  • Patio furniture: Believe it or not, stores clear out outdoor furniture beginning in September to make room for Christmas items. Depending on where you live, you might have several weeks of warm weather yet to come, plus you could be way ahead of the curve when spring rolls around again.
  • Cars: Car dealers will begin bringing in the 2015 models soon and pushing out the 2014s as old inventory.
  • Bikes: The summer riding season is coming to a close, which means it’s a great time to buy your next bike. Better still, if bicycles are on Christmas wish lists for the grandkids, why not buy them while manufacturers are aching to get rid of them?
  • Airline tickets: Airlines would love to sell you a ticket now for Thanksgiving or Christmas travel. If you know your plans, book early and save a bundle.
  • A mattress: For some reason, mattress companies advertise deals on Labor Day weekend. Reader’s Digest says, if you can’t fit new mattresses into your budget in September, they also go on sale again in February (President’s day sales) and May (Memorial weekend).


Teresa Ambord is a former accountant and Enrolled Agent with the IRS. Now she writes full time from her home, mostly for business, and about family when the inspiration strikes.

Meet Teresa