Dental Aid

Dental care can take a huge bite out of retirement income. Resources for free or low-cost treatment include: dentallifeline.org, which provides services to medically at-risk patients; dentistry from the heart.org, which organizes volunteer dentists and hygienists to provide free care; and nafcclinics.org, which lists free or charitable clinics. Some dental schools also provide low cost care.

Gym Fiscal Fitness

It’s the New Year and you’re ready to start a fitness regimen. This means looking for the right health club membership without hurting your wallet. But before signing a membership, consider how often you would really go. Typically, most new members end up going to the gym about once a week. So try testing your commitment with a plan that allows you to pay per use. Or ask about trial offers because you can sample classes. But make sure there are no strings attached. Remember, specials vary from gym to gym, so bargain with the sales representative for a reduced rate. Also, many health clubs have monthly membership quotas, I would hold off until the end of the month before signing that contract. This may give you more negotiation muscle and keep your wallet fit.

Fix Your Credit Cards

Most cards carry a variable interest rate. If you carry a balance you need a low fixed rate. This will save you money especially as we enter an increasing interest rate environment.
Consumers with good to excellent credit (FICO score of 720 or higher) can find cards with a fixed rate of 10 percent or less from credit unions and community banks. If you favor cards with reward points at the higher rates, please review the terms to get the best deal. Many issuers have doubled their point rewards in the past year. Some even offer $100 to $150 to sign up. Look at Card Rating.com for more ideas.

Transform Yourself

Change is hard. Really hard. Research shows that people, in general, experience extreme difficulty changing a single habit.

Consider:

• Seventy percent of borrowers who take out home equity loans to consolidate debt wind up with higher debt within two years, according to the nonprofit Cambridge Credit Counseling.
• A University of Scranton study found that a mere 8 percent of people keep their New Year’s resolutions.
• Just 20 percent of obese dieters sustain a 10 percent weight loss for more than a year, according to the National Weight Control Registry.

In other words, humans stink at change. But change is doable. Before anything can change in your life, you have to shed light on it. There has to be a moment when you take a hard look at the truth and contend with the fact it is no longer acceptable. You must be uncomfortable to make a change.

Here are some steps that can help:

GET REAL WITH YOURSELF. If you’ve been stuck in trying to resolve problems with finances, health, relationships, career or other areas, seek tough love. “Ask for honest feedback from those you love.”

BUILD A SUPPORT NETWORK. Recent studies indicate that people you spend time with affect your habits, whether good or bad.

TAKE BABY STEPS. “The key to success is stringing together enough of the right decisions.” A Classic Stanford University study observed kids who had trouble with math. One group was instructed to set smaller goals to tackle math problems, while a second group was asked to set long term goals. The first group accurately solved 80 percent of the problems; the second group, only 40 percent.

FOCUS ON AVOIDING LOSS. Humans are more motivated to avoid loss than to attain gain. In other words, envisioning a life plagued with heart disease or an early death is a more powerful agent for creating healthy eating habits than picturing yourself looking hot in a swimsuit.

To support this research, the authors interviewed Apple customers waiting in line to buy new iPhones. Those who had just purchased the phone would not sell it for less than $1,218 over what they paid, but those who had not yet bought the iPhone wouldn’t pay more than $97 extra. In other words, Apple customers were 12 times more motivated by the fear of losing their new smartphones than they were to obtain new ones.

Mortgage Due At Death

If you have a Will and you die then your estate must pass through probate (the term probate is “To prove valid, authentic”). Now, if you do not have a Will, you actually do have one and it is called the State Statute. Your assets do not go where you think they should. None the less, without a Will your estate still has to go through probate. (Settling a Will is very time consuming and costly. We always recommend that if your asset base is over $100,000 then you should use a Living Trust).

When you die your estate goes through probate. Your estate administrator must inform your mortgage lender of your death. Even if the mortgage is signed by both spouses, the lender has 4 months to decide whether to honor the mortgage or call it in for full payment.

From 1982 to 2012 interest rates dropped and very few loans were called in. With increasing interest rates on the rise, expect more mortgages to be called in by banks. Protect yourself by having adequate life insurance or liquid cash to pay off the loan should it be called. Better still, set up a Living Trust to hold all your assets and the loan call could be averted.