Is your money safe? Five easy ways to make sure

| Allison Kerfeld Wells - For The Catholic Spirit | September 22, 2010 | 0 Comments

Locked Money“You can’t cheat an honest man,” says W.C. Fields in the 1939 film of the same title. Jeff Robinson, owner and founder of Family Financial Services, believes this phrase provides key insight into everyday financial situations.

Con artists, just like W.C. Fields’ character, are looking to take advantage of anyone they can — especially those nearing retirement, said Robinson.

What is important to remember, according to W.C. Fields and Robinson, is if people protect themselves and are honest in their financial endeavors, it will be harder to cheat them in the end.

But, it can be hard to know how to protect oneself when it comes to the intricate financial web. To make straight the path, here are five tips.

1 Be informed.

“The first thing to do is decide if you have the time, interest, energy and emotional stamina to manage your finances. Not everyone needs a financial planner,” said Kristi Andersen, a certified financial planner and owner of Kristi L. Andersen Financial Partners, LLC.

Many people will find that they are capable of making financial choices on their own. Regardless, one must research and ask questions to understand investments and finances.

“All questions are good — ask until you understand,” Andersen said. “Our industry can be very intimidating. Don’t be embarrassed; continue to ask until you understand what you are dealing with.”

2 Find a financial planner that understands your wants and needs.

Many people do want someone to coach them through difficult decisions, said Andersen, but finding a financial advisor is not as simple as looking in a directory.

“If you are a Christian, you probably want someone who will give you counsel from a biblical perspective,” said Robinson. “We make money decisions every day, but are they what God wants us to do?” He suggested iquestions.com and kingdomadvisors.org for those looking to integrate their faith and finances.

All discussions should begin with a few important questions, Andersen said. For example, clients should always ask about the certification and experience of their prospective financial counselor.

Check their certification on Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and then ask what the certification allows them to do.

Brokercheck.finra.org is a website that shows complaints about any sort of financial advisor. But, remember accusation doesn’t necessarily mean guilt.

“People will lose money and try to get money back any way they can,” said Bob Hanten, a financial advisor, president of Solidarity Financial, Inc., and a portfolio manager and investment advisor representative for Pilot Capital Management Corporation. He is also a member of Holy Family in St. Louis Park.

3 Be aware of common scams.

Scam artists prey on those who have investments, own a home and maintain a good credit rating. According to the Office of Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, 60 percent of all callers to the National Fraud Information Center describe themselves as senior citizens.

The most common types of fraud that face today’s retiree include medical fraud, identity theft, investment fraud and telemarketing fraud.

Thieves use many tactics to disguise their ploys, so don’t let this cloud your judgment. According to the Minnesota attorney general’s office, con artists use three main tactics to contact potential victims: phone, mail and door-to-door sales.

They may disguise themselves as other businesses, even using well-known names. Before entering into any agreement, check out the Attorney General’s list of common scams at http://www.ag.state.mn.us and the Better Business Bureau’s accredited businesses at http://www.bbb.org.

4 Don’t give out personal information.

Keep your social security number, bank number and pin numbers private. Call and request more information if numbers are asked for via mail. Robinson said setting up a direct deposit account with your bank is a good way to keep your important information private.

If you leave town for several months, have your mail locked, Andersen said. Shred any hard copies, including all bills, receipts, and other forms of personal information. And, check credit scores and get credit reports anually, Andersen said.

5 Practice patience for stability and satisfaction.

Make sure you have a safety net before investing. The rule of thumb is to have three to six months of salary saved before you begin to invest, Hanten said.

And, after beginning to invest, don’t make hasty decisions; you should never feel pressured for a quick response.

Above all, being realistic and satisfied with investments is essential in the process, Hanten said.

Resources online

Looking into investing or watching out for scams? Check out these websites for helpful resources.

» Financial Industry Regulatory Authority at http://www.finra.org.
» The Office of Attorney General Lori Swanson at http://www.ag.state.mn.us.
» Better Business Bureau at http://www.bbb.org.

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Category: Featured, Retirement Planning