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  Question Living on a budget? What are your top tips or tricks for tracking expenses and creating a budget? Share your top ideas below! Answer   Here are some community generated tips for living on a budget:    Helps if you’re cheap and only buy when given a great deal. That keeps me from going to Disneyland or overpaying at restaurants or anywhere else.   "Don't spend money when you do not have to." I have always remembered what I was told years ago – reminds me to look at other options.   My mantra has always been: Do I need it, or do I want it? I grew up on skid row, south of San Francisco, next to the railroad tracks. As a child we sometimes didn't have food to eat for 1 or 2 days, but we didn't know we were poor, even with holes in our clothes and shoes. Those days taught me to be frugal. And if I need it and can't afford it, I don't make the purchase. But we were happy and I didn't know until I was older that we were poor. I am still a very happy soul and give to others when I can. Our mother taught us to give not because we had a lot, but because we knew what it was like to have nothing. You would be surprised how much you can give to others "when you have nothing."   See a quarter - pick it up! Another way I save is to pick up coins from the ground when I spot them.  Cash my coins in and get a gift card or buy a meal out that I would not do if I were not spending my change.   One of my best savings tricks is to pay bills early in the month, leave $100 in checking for things, and moving the rest of any money to savings. Once in a while I have to pull some back as I overlooked an annual bill or had an unexpected car repair.  This discipline has allowed me to save several thousand dollars by the end of a year.  Plus, savings usually has a higher interest rate!  Retired at 51 1/2, was fortunate to have a pension that I could survive on.  Able to live this way until I could withdraw annually from 401K account.  And, this year I am able to claim my full SS benefits.  Will continue with my savings scheme, as it has allowed me to travel and open education savings for the "great" niece/nephew generation.   Self-evaluation. I don't have a budget, per se. What I did most of my life, was to re-evaluate the day, each evening and morning, as to what things were done or still needs tending to. Therefore, I had a new "budget' each morning. As long as I didn't waste my money, and lived within my means, everything always worked out (more or less).   If possible, wait to retire. My suggestion, and I realize that we all do not have the opportunity to employ this, is to not retire until such time as we can access retirement funds that are about 10% more than what we need. My belief is that there will always be the unforeseen expense that presents itself....and we better be ready for it.   Create a realistic budget, based on what you have been spending over the last year or so, then track future spending against it. Lots of free computer apps will help but paper and pencil works too. Key is to have realistic expectation and self-assess progress on a continuing basis.   I use Intuit's Quicken to track my expenses and plan out my monthly budget.     Buy in bulk. I like to buy certain items at Costco but the amount is generally too large for one person; so I have 3 friends who like some of the same things and we share the products and the cost which usually turns out then to be cheaper than in other grocery stores.   Shop for birthdays and Christmas year round - I buy at the end of the season - it takes time to go through the sale racks - department and discount stores are best. I keep a box in my closet with a list by name of everything I’ve purchased. I picked up some “dog tag” style Star Wars chain in March $1.99. It was the hit of my 10 yr.old granddaughter’s birthday in July. You will be surprised how many perfect gifts you find at 70-80% off   Eat out. It is just my husband and I at home. When we go to the store for a week at a time and plan out our meals we actually usually spend more than if we just eat out. There are always coupons for places to eat and some places have specials on certain days. Plus there is no mess to clean up afterward.   Play hardball. My local newspaper subscription jumped to $261.83 for the next 13 weeks.  I called and said, "Can't do that.  How much would you charge for the digital subscription instead?"  The response was "I can offer to extend the same print subscription to you for that same price for 6 months instead, if you'd like."  It took 3 minutes to save $261.83.  And, I was bluffing.  I prefer to read the paper.   Price comparison shopping. I can do a lot of price comparisons for an item and eventually get tired of doing it and decide to not buy it. It ends compulsive purchases. Use deal sites. Have you tried signing up for free grocery cash back programs? Try ibotta.com, savingstar.com or checkout51. You won't find all the products you’re looking for but I received $73.00 cash back since July on ibotta alone.It's worth a look.  Try Groupon for restaurants and most definitely worth trying ebates.  Received over 8.00 off my new Fitbit tracker plus 10.00 for spending over 25.00.  As long as you’re buying only what you would buy anyway and not buying just for the fun of a cashback reward.   One other tip I wanted to share is a site called "Brad's Deals" I like this site for several reasons. Almost everything is free shipping. All merchandise is from "legitimate" stores, not a website managing orders. When something is on sale, with a manufacturers rebate, store credit (Kohl's cash), etc. ALLof the forms you need to submit for rebate are right there on the site. So you don't have to go hunting around on coupon sites to locate a rebate which may or may not exist.  Example: Daughter wanted Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer (Retail $499.00) - found on Brad's deals at Kohl’s. $100.00 rebate Kitchen Aid, 30% off on sale, $75.00 in Kohl’s money NET: $121.00 for the Stainless Steel Stand Mixer.  (Purchased in Oct.)  One drawback is sometimes it can take a while depending on location - I just got some PUMA leather sneakers for $15.00 shipped from a retailer in Florida and it took 2 weeks. They give you a "market overview" as to how the price on this deal stacks up with other prices out there.          More tips from a savvy saver: I'm 70, married with no children.  Having no children definitely helps live easier during retirement.  Believe it or not, I planned my retirement at age 14.  It came to past.  During my working years, I saved as much as possible.  We did travel all over Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean but we NEVER went into debt for anything until our first home.  Too many people buy boats, RV's, motorcycles, etc.  Most of which they might use once a year.  Rent it.  It's cheaper.  When planning your retirement, decide if you want to move.  If you do, check out the income taxes, property taxes, etc.  I live in Oregon with high income taxes.  But, I do not pay any as I am not working and my retirement is exempted due to a special law that exempts a portion of or all of your military retirement if your duty covers certain years.  Otherwise I would have had to live in a state I did not want.  Pay off your mortgage before you retire.  Don't keep giving money to adult children and relatives or you will never retire.  Don't co-sign for any loans for anyone for anything.  Unless you are very wealthy, you will never retire if you have any loans.  Move to a smaller house or apartment, at least half the size of your current one.  Once retired work part-time if you want and if anyone will hire you after age 50.  Once we reached social security age, i.e. 62, we both took it.  Yes, one receives a reduced monthly payment, but, how long do you really expect to live?  I've known too many who died at age 70 through 76.  Why wait to collect SS?  Keep at least two years annual pre-retirement income in savings.  Six months savings is nothing.  Don't touch any types of IRA's until your late '60's.  Make sure you take out just enough to keep you from going into a higher tax bracket.  Save what you take out.  If you have retirement from your job and healthcare - great.  Use them.  If you do not have any retirement but have to retire on savings alone, then you need at least 1.5 million saved in order to take out only 4% a year to get $60,000 pretax dollars.  Of course this must be adjusted so that you never use your base savings amount - until you get really old.  The wage earner needs to provide income for the spouse if that person dies first.  Get insurance on yourself.  The most important thing after the above has been done - don't overspend, i.e. go into debt or spend all of your savings.  We live comfortably, buy what we want and still save.  We don't scrimp.  Hope this helps.   A fun alternative - Best way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket. My parents used to say that, as they were depression era. Read AARP's 6 Ways to Get Your Finances Ready for 2019 article for financial advice.    
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Question  What's some advice for protecting your identity  online ?   Answers Never give your Social Security number, phone number, where you reside, or   bank information. Make sure you create your personal Social Security Account with the the Social Security Administration, even though you may not be drawing Social Security checks yet (each SS# can create only one, and by you creating one then  scammers  cannot use your SS# to create one & steal your money). Put a credit lock on yourself with the three major credit bureaus and remember to put the “unlock” code in a very safe place. Enroll in a good identity theft monitoring service that includes the black web, and provides you with access to monthly credit reports and  FICO  scores. The   Federal Trade Commission   has excellent information on their website about protecting your identity and your children's identity Closely monitor your financial accounts.  Create strong passwords, and change them at least quarterly.  Use different  passwords  for different sites.  Keep your passwords private.  Mix up the characters so that there are no distinguishable words and use/subscribe to a password app/service such as  Dashlane  or  1Password  or  Lastpass , so that you don't have to worry about memorizing your password and more importantly, so it will make the process of creating complex passwords more convenient and safe for you, since you won't have to memorize them, or write them down! Never write them down anywhere. Password apps like these have counterpart apps for your phone, Mac or PC, so they'll be accessible and encrypted where ever you go. Shred any snail mail that you receive before tossing it. Protect your web access at home. Learn about protecting your home network. In a nutshell, try to turn off the broadcast to your routers  SSID  or network name. Set up encryption for your network and password protect access to it. If you don't know what I'm talking about, that's not a good thing. Talk to an expert or research to learn more. Don't open Emails you do not recognize. These are often  physhing  exercises. Have security software on but know hackers can break through.  Add  NOMOROBO .com if it's available with your phone system, it's free for many land lines. Avoid responding with confidential information when using a public/ guest  hotspot . If you do need to access the  internet  while out and about, use Virtual Private Network ( VPN ) software or better yet, a  VPN  device to encrypt your public  Wifi  session. Or at the very least, use your phone or tablet and connect over your cellular account to surf the web instead of using  Wifi .   Learn from the personal experiences of others:   Last week I got a call from "Social Security" stating there were some type of fraud going on, I looked at the number they used to call me and then I began asking questions like - who are you and what is your name? I also said this is  "Social Security"  correct and he said yes, he then asked me for my social security number to verify if it is me. I then said to him if you were  "Social Security"  you would already know my number and then he hung up. Always get a name and their number and hang up. And then you can  Google  the information to find out if it's fraud.   I was a victim of fraud many years ago, so I have first hand experience unfortunately. Locking your credit won't protect you  online , but it is an identity issue that could result if you do not take seriously, steps that will reduce your chances of having your identify stolen because of  online   internet  access. To help minimize your exposure. Protect your computer and web experience. There are quite few in the marketplace. Most of the good ones require a monthly or yearly subscription. The important thing is, there are many ways for you to get hacked when accessing the web, and  online  security is like a service. The more you scrimp, the more you increase your chances of being hacked. Go with nothing and your risking  a lot . A tool such as this will reduce the chances of vulnerability. 
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Question I'm looking for Windows software that will help with projections. I know my Social Security and pension at diffferent ages and my income from my IRA. I'd like to try some software that allows me to input these incomes and also expenses and tax assumptions for several decades. Can anyone suggest anything?     Answers Excel.     https://www.mywealthtrace.com/ I used the free version for a year, then became a paid subscriber. Good stuff. Monte Carlo simulations, variable inputs, what-if scenarios, slider bars for instantaneous feedback on changing returns, retirement age, expenses, etc. Feeds from all your accounts if you want. I meet periodically with the fellow that authors the software to go through my plan. I also have the Vanguard and Fidelity planners, and have used T.Rowe Price. I like this more.      In addition to looking at the MyWealth subscription products, I might also look at some Mac products, e.g., Quicken, etc.     (1) I use my own Excel workbooks that I have developed since around 1992. Yes, it's a lot of work. (2) I *also* recommend a free online retirement planner (works for you during retirement, too).This is at www.i-orp.com. This is a retired guy's life's work and it is really strong. It does take some time to understand it, but it is very powerful and will hold its own against anything, paid commercial or otherwise. I am getting concerned about it as I have *just* retired and I'm afraid the author will not be maintaining this for too many more years. Still, it is well worth some serious investigation. The big thing for this software is that it optimizes your retirement draws from SS, tax deferred accounts, taxable accounts, etc., to determine your optimal annual draw from all accounts so you don't run out of dough at the end.   (3) I love the commercial products put out by Professor Kotlikoff from Boston University. Cost is manageable for a single license of any of them. "Maxifi" is similar to i-ORP. (4) i-ORP does not link to your existing financial accounts, nor does Maxifi as far as I know. For this consolidated record keeping there are lots of new "apps" out there such as Mint, etc. For this use I simply use my Excel workbooks (and use a Google Sheet with Google Finance functions to get the daily prices).
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Grandparents are often among the most important people in our lives. As we celebrate them on September 9, know that they are at risk for the “grandparent scam.” Here’s how grandparents are targeted. Have you ever encountered this scam? How It Works: You get a frantic call from someone claiming to be your grandson or granddaughter.  The caller says there’s an emergency and asks you to send money right away. But there’s a good chance this is an imposter trying to steal your money through the “grandparent scam.”   Scammers usually claim to be in a desperate situation, such as being involved in a car accident or needing money to get out of a legal mess. The caller poses as your grandchild, or a law enforcement officer or attorney calling on your grandchild’s behalf – whatever it takes to sound convincing.  Read an account of how the scam played out for one grandmother. What You Should Know: The caller may have personal information, such as family member’s names that they could have found on social media sites. The caller will likely ask that you send the money by wire transfer or gift card. They will likely beg you to not tell anyone.    What You Should Do: Try to reach the person the caller is claiming to be directly. If you can’t reach him or her, contact a friend or family member to try and validate the emergency. Ask some questions that would be hard for an imposter to answer, like a pet’s name or a mother’s birthday. Don't send money unless you're sure the situation is real.     
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Question How can I protect myself from the Tech Support Scam?    Answer The Tech Support Scam is one of the most common scams right now. Microsoft did research around 2015 and found out that billions of dollars had been lost to this scam. So thank you for warning the AARP online community.   A few things about this scam to keep in mind and to help you stay safe:   Computer companies don't proactively reach out to consumers to let them know about potential virus on their computers. If anyone calls asking to remote access into your computer, hang up. If you receive a pop up on your screen telling you that there is a virus and you need to call a phone number, click out of the box, or you may even have to "hard shutdown" your system to get it to go away, but don't call the number or click on any links. Never give personal or financial information to anyone who calls you, nor pay for any services like this, in pre-paid gift cards.  
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Question What is an app to alert of scams on mobile devices?   Answer There are many apps in the App Store. Some are free, some cost. A few of the products are hiya, Truecaller, PrivacyStar, and many others. Find the one that looks best for you by reading through the reviews and knowing which features you want.   Also, on your landline, there is a service called nomorobo, that operates similar blocking services on traditional landlines. 
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