June / July 2019
Financial Elder Abuse on the Rise
Elder Abuse is a serious problem. According to the NIH, National Institute on Aging, 1 in 10 people age 60 and over will be the victim of Elder Abuse. There are many forms of abuse: Physical, Emotional, Sexual, Neglect, and Financial. As a Financial Organizer/Daily Money Manager I witness Financial Elder Abuse with many of my Clients. Some examples are fraudulent credit card charges, renewing subscriptions years in advance, and Private Caregivers taking thousands of dollars from their client (before I was working for them). The NIH website highlights stories from real people who have suffered abuse. Sometimes children take advantage of their own parents.
Someone I know (they did not want to be identified). We will call her Martha (not her real name), is a 79 year old woman who was living independently and has recently moved into Assisted Living. Martha, gave thousands of dollars “loaned” just under $8,000 to a man who was helping her with computer coaching. Martha paid him about $1,200 a visit on 7 different visits. Martha’s sister who lives near her found 7 sheets of paper that had his name, address, and the details of the loan; stating he would pay her back eventually.
When Martha’s sister Diane (not her real name) discovered the “loans” she took action. Diane is now Martha’s POA, Power of Attorney and she is listed on her checking account. Diane is handling all of Martha’s financial affairs now. Martha is being treated for Dementia. Unfortunately, most people are not proactive when it comes to this important area of their life. They wait for a crisis and don’t put preventative measures in place that may prevent problems from occurring.
However, there are no easy solutions to problems like this. Everyone wants to have control over their own finances and I have not met any clients in my 16 years at Simple Solution Organizing that voluntarily handed this task over without their Physician, Family Attorney, or Adult Children encouraging them.
Credit Card fraud is a huge problem for everyone. Elderly people are more at risk because they may not be reviewing their credit card statements and may overlook transactions because they simply can’t remember. It is so important to review financial statements immediately. One of my client’s credit card was compromised by someone who spent thousands of dollars at a hotel in San Antonio, Texas. Another client had charges from YouTube TV and they use Charter. I asked if she had switched to YouTube and she said no. I called the credit card company immediately in both cases and had all the charges disputed. Charges were refunded since it was within 90 days of the charges. Credit card companies will not dispute charges, if you wait too long to notify them. If you have Elderly Parents or you are Elderly it’s time to take steps to protect your assets.
What are some simple things that you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones against Fraud?
Adele Gross, owner of Simple Solution Organizing LLC, has been background checked and has 2 Insurance policies: General Liability and an Accountants Policy. We are here to help you or anyone that wants help organizing their Daily Money Affairs.
Simple Solution Organizing LLC
Spring is a very busy season for Simple Solution Organizing LLC. We are prepping client’s taxes and their homes to go on the market. We are also working on several Downsizing projects. One of our Downsizing clients told Adele that her sessions feel like a massage. That the organizing and downsizing are therapeutic and it feels as if she had a massage. We love hearing Testimonials like that.
Adele Gross, gave a presentation to Athens Clarke County Employees for one of their wellness programs. It was one of their best attended presentations. The room was packed with women and 1 man, a very smart man.
I am sharing a blog post from Sarah Anne Hayes that she wrote in February 2017. This post is beautifully written. It describes the difference between Decluttering and Minimalism. This article will motivate you to do both.
Becomingminimalist shared this article and I am copying it from their website. These are great resources to inspire you to live a simpler life.
The Difference Between Decluttering and Minimalism
Decluttering. Simplifying. Minimalism. For a movement that’s focused on removing excess from our lives, we certainly seem to have a lot of words to describe ourselves, don’t we
The thing is though we often use words like “decluttering” and “minimalism” interchangeably, they’re not exactly the same thing.
I spent a good chunk of time decluttering my home and my life before I officially called myself a minimalist. I also know a lot of people who have decluttered their homes in recent months—many as a direct result of Marie Kondo—but would not consider themselves a minimalist and have no intention of becoming one.
It seems that one can declutter their home or life without becoming a minimalist, but one can rarely be a minimalist—and certainly not become one—without first going through the process of decluttering.
So what, exactly, is the difference between decluttering and minimalism? It’s pretty simple: decluttering is an action, while minimalism is a lifestyle.
What is Decluttering?
Let’s start with decluttering. After all, that’s where most people’s minimalism journey begins.
There are a variety of different reasons you might begin to declutter your home. Perhaps it’s because of a life change—you’re preparing to move to a new city, you’re getting married and need to consolidate belongings, or you find yourself no longer needing items you once considered necessary.
Your desire to declutter might also come as a result of a feeling or shift in perspective. Perhaps a parent or relative has recently died and, in the midst of sorting through all of their belongings, you realize that isn’t the kind of legacy you want to leave for your own children.
Or maybe, like myself, you simply find yourself overwhelmed by the amount of unnecessary stuff in your life and you feel a little bit like you’re drowning.
Regardless of the personal tipping point, decluttering is an action you take as a result. You might declutter a certain aspect of your life, like your closet, your home, or your schedule, or you might declutter all of the above.
A lot of people assume that decluttering is a one-time thing—that once you rid your home or your clothes or whatever from the unnecessary extras, you’ll never have to do the same thing again. And it’s true you might never go through a major declutter or purge again, but only if you maintain.
It’s in the maintenance that I believe many people transition from simply decluttering to becoming a minimalist.
A Change in LifestyleLike I’ve mentioned before, I decluttered a lot of areas of my life before I considered myself a true minimalist. And there are even days where I look around my home, still feel a little bit overwhelmed by the excess, and wonder if or when I’ll be a “real” minimalist (whatever that means).
I don’t know if anyone who begins to remove clutter from their life specifically starts with the goal of becoming a minimalist. It’s possible that is the case for some, but I think it’s probably rare.
Rather, what happens most often, and what happened for myself is that, as you travel down the path of decluttering and removing excess from your life, a shift in perspective happens.
You begin to see how much calmer your home feels without clutter and mess all over the place. You notice how much easier it is to choose an outfit in the morning and how much more confident you feel when you purge and curate your wardrobe.
You see how your heart and soul can breathe a bit easier when you narrow your commitments down to only the essentials. You recognize how much better your body feels and looks when you nourish it with simple, whole things. You find you can hear yourself think again when you choose to consciously consume by unsubscribing, unfriending, and unfollowing.
Sooner or later, these moments of clarity and revelation add up and you begin to see that the old adage “less is more” has some serious weight behind it.
You begin to see the possibilities open to you when your life isn’t always filled to overflowing. You begin to see just how much you were missing when life was packed full of unnecessary things, commitments, information, and ideas that added no real value to your life.
Becoming a Minimalist
It’s in these moments that I believe minimalists are born. As we remove the excess from our lives—no matter what area—we begin to see that a simpler, slower, quieter life offers far more lasting value than a life that never stops.
No one wants to live a mediocre life. Even if we all aren’t destined to change the world on a global scale, I believe, deep down, we all want to know that we didn’t waste the time we’ve spent on this earth. We want to know that we’ve focused on the things that have lasting value—family, friends, memories—instead of things that will fade away.
Sometimes I still feel a little weird when I tell people I’m a minimalist. If they’re in my home, they usually raise their eyebrows and not so subtly glance over at my bookshelf, which, admittedly, has a not-so-minimal number of books on it. If we’re somewhere else, I can see the images of what they think minimalism means floating through their head and all the ways I don’t match up to it.
But here’s the thing, minimalism isn’t prescriptive. There isn’t a formula and a right or a wrong way to do it. My minimalism, as a single, 20-something bibliophile, looks different than the minimalism of a married couple without kids, which looks different than the minimalism of a family with young children.
The important thing isn’t how you do it, what you keep, or the number of things you ultimately wind up with. The important thing is allowing that shift in perspective—fighting against the cultural message that the things you own represent your success, that you must be busy in order to be productive, that who you are and what you have will never be enough—and recognizing that the most important things in life were never things.
*Note — This article was originally published at Sarah Anne Hayes.
Chief Executive Organizer
Simple Solution Organizing LLC
Photo by Lolly Jane
Marie Kondo, Author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” now has her own show on Netflix: Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Have you checked out her show yet? It debuted on January 1, 2019. She is so popular that her Kon-Mari method of folding and her DIY approach to decluttering is now a verb. Social Media is exploding with tweets and posts of people Marie Kondo-ing their closets, non-profits are overcrowded with everyone’s stuff. It’s all the buzz.
I love Marie Kondo’s approach to tackling the clutter. She has a no-nonsense approach that works. She tells her client how to declutter and makes them do it. Kondo does not know what sparks joy for her clients, they have to determine that themselves. There are many Professional Organizers that will declutter for you however, if you don’t put in the work yourself you won’t appreciate it and will most likely fall back into a disorganized routine. I tell every new Organizing client, “if you don’t do the work and keep it up with maintenance (putting things away and creating homes for new items) your house will return to clutter shortly after we organize.” People have to have a mind shift and be disciplined to continue living an uncluttered life.
Kondo, also has a spiritual approach to organizing and decluttering. Her clients kneel, say a prayer with appreciation and gratitude to their house before beginning the process of letting go of possessions that don’t spark joy. I have only worked with one client that says a prayer before we begin our Organizing and Financial Organizing sessions and it really sets a positive tone. Regardless of your beliefs and/or Religion beginning with prayer, laying out your goals…your intentions can only help with this process.
Kondo, encourages her clients to let go of all articles of clothing and anything else that does not spark joy. She instructs everyone to take all clothing out of their closets, and dressers and pile it up on the bed. Go through each item to determine if it brings you joy or not. If not....get rid of it. I guess it works because you can’t go to sleep until you get through the pile.
I encourage you to watch her show and read her book to motivate you to get moving on your de-cluttering goals. I also recommend that you call Simple Solution Organizing. We will coach you through your big project.
Interested in learning more about Marie Kondo? Here are a couple of good articles in Rolling Stone and Apple News.
Here is an example of a beautiful way to display an item that sparks joy. My client’s mom made this beautiful Quilt. She enjoys it every day of her life.
Chief Executive Organizer
Everyone has photos. According to Saveyourphotos.org we took 1.2 Trillion photos in 2017. How to store photos is a big organizing challenge for a lot of people. Christmas and Holiday photo cards add to this dilemma; if you send them and/or keep the ones sent to you. I consider my annual Christmas photo card and letter a tradition.
Photos are keepsakes worth saving. If you have sent Holiday photo cards for years, or if you plan to start this year, you can create a scrapbook of all your photo cards and letters. Depending on how ambitious you are you can add a few of your favorite Holiday photos for each year. I love this idea and plan to do it. Do you have a photo project you have been dreaming of doing? Why not now?
Jiffy Page, owner of Pixorium, a storytelling company, based out of Atlanta shares these 5 Organizing Tips for anyone with photo memorabilia.
I think the most important thing you can do with your photos is to view them with friends and family. If you are more likely to do that online, in a scrapbook, or in a photo box….great! Get started, dig some out and begin enjoying all the photos you have taken through the years. Need help? We organize photos (paper and digital). We can help you get started, create a plan, and/or organize your collections to completion.
Happy Photo Organizing,
Simple Solution Organizing LLC
All About Bills – 3 Things you can do now to Lower Your Bills
Regardless of your income or net worth of your Estate; do you really want to pay AT&T more than you need to? When is the last time you reviewed your bills? It’s really important. I have helped many of my clients save hundreds of dollars on their bills.
Many of them were paying too much for a service. Here is one example that I found with multiple clients. They were not on a fixed rate plan for Gas. They were on a variable rate plan, which can be up to 100% higher than a fixed rate plan. A fixed rate consists of a contract for a year. If you break the contract there is a fee. Companies offer this so you won’t switch to a competitor during a 12 month cycle.
Some of our clients were paying for the same service with multiple companies. You might be asking yourself, “how is that possible?” Well, if you use different companies for phone and internet service; it’s not as hard as you think. One client was paying for long distance with 2 different providers and another client had paid for internet service with 2 providers. These types of bills are difficult to decipher, especially for the Elderly. Here is an article from “U.S. News and World Report” that addresses this.
Review your Credit Card Statements with a fine tooth comb. You may have signed up for a service that Automatically Renews Itself, year after year. This is a trend that is here to stay. Here are a few companies that regularly do this: Subscription type companies like Angie’s List, Magazines and Newsletters, Online companies such as Netflix and Amazon Prime will bill you monthly until you cancel the service. Travel discount programs and many more.
Start reviewing your bills (if you don’t already) you may be very surprised at what you find.
Simple Solution Organizing LLC offers this service. We call it our “Bills Reviewed” service.
Simple Solution Organizing
Copyright Simple Solution Organizing © 2018
We are all getting older. Some of us will have memory and cognitive decline earlier than others. We all need to plan for it….be prepared for it. I think everyone in their 50’s and beyond should have a Power of Attorney assigned to someone they trust, in case they need it. Once the person dies the P.O.A. is null and void. It is only good while the person is alive. If you have parents that do not have a P.O.A. assigned please have this important discussion with them.
You may have very difficult parents. My father definitely fell into this category. I had a discussion with him in his early 70’s about P.O.A.’s and his Will and his end-of-life wishes. He refused to do a P.O.A. and a Will. His decision to do nothing cost his children about $80,000 in probate fees to the state of Louisiana. I know my dad would have preferred that his children get his money, not the Government but he was extremely stubborn and made a costly mistake. I will not repeat the same mistake. My husband and I have had Will’s since we were in our 30’s and we both have P.O.A.’s and Advance Directive’s set up.
However, I am still very grateful that I had this conversation with him because he told me he wanted to be cremated. He also told me about his insurance policies and where the policies were located in his office. The conversation may be difficult to initiate and awkward to have but it is necessary. Prepare for this conversation ahead of time with written notes and questions.
One of the services I offer is an Emergency Planning worksheet. This was developed to help people know what they have and where to find it. This digital worksheet helps couples, families and loved ones plan ahead for an emergency. It includes important contacts, Insurance policies and account numbers, bills, Investment accounts, and other important information – all in one place. Once it is finished we send copes to the clients Executor, Attorney, and Financial Advisor. This document will need to be updated when Insurance Policies or Bank Accounts change. I advise reviewing it annually.
Another vital reason for having a discussion and a plan about finances is the potential for fraud and scams. 22 Senior Scams You Must Know and Avoid This happens far too often and many times it is family members scamming their own family. It makes me sick. I just heard on NPR about the potential for a scammer to get someone’s entire 401 K. When people retire they can take their retirement in a lump sum so it would be possible for someone to steal your entire retirement program. Wow!!! I’m not trying to scare anyone but we all need a reality check sometimes from the proverbial phrase: this will never happen to me or my family because it could.
Not everyone is going to need assistance with paying bills and managing their financial lives but many older adults will. I offer Financial Organizing as one of my services. There is no harm in planning ahead and preparing for the worst but there is a lot of harm when you to choose to do nothing.
Simple Solution Organizing LLC
Guidepost Image Above
I worked with Melinda Walker, owner of Athens Pet Sitter to make her office more inviting and to designate a place for every item ( brochures, promotional gifts, forms, office supplies and we selected a cute bucket for stuff that needs to be removed from her office. Melinda and I are members of ASRN, Athens Senior Resource Network. Melinda is on the board.
We did a trade in services. Her staff took care of my 3 cats while my family and I vacationed in Riviera Maya, Mexico. Here is a photo from my trip. Her employee sent me notes and photos everyday. I plan to use them for now on. Not only did they take care of my pets they brought in the mail, took out the trash, and watered the plants.
Let Go and Move Forward
Downsizing and selling your stuff
We had the CEO of MaxSold, Barry Gordon, fly in from Canada to speak at our NAPO GA meeting in May. MaxSold is an online Auction Business. He shared some very insightful facts with us. He told us, “What stops people the most from moving forward in their lives is their stuff.” I see this a lot in my business. Here are a few examples of what people have told me about their relationship with their things.
Do you want to be happy or do you want to be right? I love that quote from Dr. Phil. Don’t let your things control your life.This includes having a storage unit that you pay $300 + a month for….why??? Here is a great article by Becoming Minimalist entitled, When the Stuff You Own Keeps you from Your Dreams.”
Chief Executive Organizer
Clients ask me all the time: what receipts do I need to keep? Why do I need to keep them and where should I keep them? Here is a guideline.
Home Receipts: I subscribe to an email newsletter from Laura Leiden, Realtor with Keller Williams. Her most recent newsletter explains why every homeowner should hold onto repair and improvement receipts. Here is a copy of the newsletter.
Homeowners are familiar that they can deduct the interest and property taxes from their income tax returns. They also understand that there is a substantial capital gains exclusion for qualified sales of up to $250,000 if single and $500,000 for married filing jointly. However, ongoing recordkeeping tends to be overlooked.
New homeowners should get in the habit of keeping all receipts and paperwork for any improvements or repairs to the home. Existing homeowners need to be reminded as well, in case they have become lax in doing so.
These expenditures won't necessarily benefit in the annual tax filing but may become valuable when it is time to sell the home because it raises the basis or cost of the home.
For instance, let's say a single person buys a $350,000 home that appreciates at 6% a year. Twelve years from now, the home will be worth $700,000. $250,000 of the gain will be exempt with no taxes due but the other $100,000 will be taxed at long-term capital gains rate. At 15%, that would be $15,000 in taxes due.
Assume during the time the home was owned that a variety of improvements totaling $100,000 had been made. The adjusted basis in the home would be $450,000 and the gain would only be $250,000. No capital gains tax would be due.
Some repairs may not qualify as improvements but if the homeowner has receipts for all the money spent on the home, the tax preparer can decide at the time of sale. Small dollar items can really add up to substantial amounts over many years of homeownership.
The important thing is to establish a habit of putting receipts for home expenditures in an envelope, so you'll have it when you are ready to sell.
This article recommends keeping the receipts in an envelope. An envelope is fine if you have a very small amount of receipts. I recommend a file jacket: An enclosed file so receipts do not fall out.
Depending on how many different types of improvements were made will determine how many file jackets or envelopes to use. For example: Bathrooms, Kitchen, Garage, etc. Another storage idea is a binder with sheet protectors to sort home receipts by project. However, if you want/need super easy one file jacket, drawer or envelope will do the job. The important thing is to keep the receipts.
You do not need to keep service repair receipts on appliances for taxes but you do want to keep them for the warranty period.
Tax Receipts: Note there are huge changes to the tax code and it may not benefit you to keep some of these. Check with your own Tax Advisor for what to keep and how long. Keep in a folder labeled Taxes and the corresponding year.
Electronics, Appliances, Furniture and other Big Ticket Item Receipts:
If you want super simple have 1 folder titled Big Ticket Items or whatever you would think of to find these receipts but I would recommend 5 folders for this category: Electronics, Large Appliances, Small Appliances, Furniture and Big Ticket Items.
Inventory these items. If your house burns down you will need to claim and prove that you owned these items and provide a valuation to your Insurance Company.
One of my friends and ex-colleagues, Julia Marlowe, has her own Inventory Business: Athens Home Inventories I highly recommend Julia if you want to hire someone to do this for you.
Auto Repair Receipts:
Keep these for proof of maintenance. Some Auto warranty programs require it. It’s also good to have a record of all repairs and service.
Clothing & General Shopping Receipts:
I hope this article is insightful and helpful. If you find it helpful please share it. Anyone can sign up to receive my e-newsletter by clicking this link or visiting my website and scrolling down to the sign up link.
Chief Executive Organizer
Simple Solution Organizing LLC
I'm in the spring edition 2018 Connections magazine: an Athens Georgia magazine.
The above article is about Rightsizing. Downsizing is all the rage but what everyone should think about is: what is right for your particular situation. This article is thought provoking; it really made me think about my own situation. My husband, Karl, and I have 2 children: our daughter is 22 living in New York City and our son is 15 in 9th grade and has 3 more years of High School. Karl and I are already looking at smaller homes online and talking about our future living situation. After reading this article I am going to rethink everything.
I want to have room for my children to visit and be comfortable when they visit. I love my children and want to spend as much time with them as possible. Our families do not live near us and we enjoy hosting them when they visit from California and Iowa. If we downsize they would have to stay in a hotel. Many of you may prefer family to stay in a hotel….
Things to consider: Grandchildren, extended family, Property Taxes, size of home, upkeep of home, stairs, proximity to grocery stores, location location location, proximity to friends and activities you enjoy, your age and health. You don’t have to downsize unless you want to. However, getting rid of clutter and items that you never use is always a good idea. Rightsizing is what’s right for you.
Our best friends recently sold their beautiful home off of Timothy and moved into a much smaller home in 5 Points. They always wanted to live in 5 Points. They have 3 children in school so the thought of downsizing was a difficult decision. They moved and they are so happy. They can walk everywhere; best of all UGA Football games.
The more I ponder about downsizing the more I think the size of my home is right for us and probably will be for many years. Our home is 3,400 square feet including a 1,000 square foot finished basement with private access that we rent out on Airbnb. It’s not a huge source of revenue nor is Watkinsville a huge tourist attraction but we do rent out for all the UGA Football home games. Having a private space with a bedroom, bathroom, and living room is great for out-of-town family and friends. So, maybe we won’t want to sell in 3 years when our son graduates High School...but we still might want to. Don’t hold me to it.
Chief Executive Organizer
Organizing products and containers can be useful just like exercise equipment and cleaning products. However, it is easy to fall into the allure of the marketing that if we purchase one of these items it will somehow do the work for us. We know it won’t do the work for us but we really want to believe that it will make the task so much easier and we won’t mind doing the work, if we own a pretty thing-a-ma-jig. Sorry… bad news, reality check, it takes work to get organized, to get in shape and to clean your home. Products, containers, and equipment can help but if we don’t put in the effort nothing will change.
I often see organizing products siting in a corner of a client’s home collecting dust. In addition to products and containers there are several books on how to get organized at most of my client’s homes. Wishful thinking is just that thinking; organizing takes action, it takes maintenance, it takes effort. Let’s talk about what you can do to get better organized at home.
The first step is determining what areas you want to work on. Let’s use the example of a kitchen pantry. Common problems include locating items, buying duplicates and overcrowding overstuffed shelves.
When you are ready to tackle the project it works best to take everything out of the pantry.
If you are ready to tackle an Organizing or Downsizing Project and want a little assistance give me a call. I would love to help.