Nine Things To Do When a Spouse or Parent Passes Away

As we age, we are inevitably confronted with the loss of a loved one. Sometimes we have time to prepare, other times it is sudden. If we are fortunate enough to have some time to prepare mentally and emotionally, the process of coordinating these items can be much more controlled and organized.

If the death is sudden and we are dealing with it unexpectedly, it will be harder as the traumatic and emotional effects of our loved one’s passing are still fresh and we need time to allow ourselves to grieve. Aside from the immediate needs for the funeral arrangements, final medical bills, and notification of family and friends, the rest of these items can be handled over the coming weeks or even months if you are not ready or willing to address them immediately after your loss.

The following 9 items should be addressed as soon as you are able to grieve and get comfortable taking on the challenge.

Item 1 – Get 5-10 extra copies of Certified Death Certificate.

For most survivors, you will need the ability to prove the death of your spouse or parent in order to transfer or change the ownership on assets, close accounts or modify existing benefit programs. Most of the companies and organizations that handle these items will require a certified copy of the death certificate as proof of death. Some may be willing to use a photocopy if you ask. They may be required to visually inspect the certificate before they accept a photo copy, just to ensure that it is an original and is certified.

Unfortunately, there are individuals out there who attempt to collect death benefits by using falsified and illegal death certificates. This has become more common and many institutions will not accept copies because of this. But, especially if you are meeting with the institution in person, bring an original, certified copy and ask if they can make and accept a photocopy.

Each of these original, certified death certificates will cost between $5 and $25 if you get them at the time of the funeral. If you wait until weeks, months or years later, they could cost $50 to $200 depending on where you have to get them from.

Estimate your needs for the bank, brokerage, IRA, 401k, life insurance, annuity and other accounts that you have. Then add about 5 more to that number for various others that may require it. Plus always save at least one original for your future records and your family in case they need it later.

Item 2 – Assemble Your Trust Team.

Your Trust Team. Who is on your Trust Team? For most people, this should start with family members. Parents, children or siblings should always be considered first. As you age, it may even include some grandchildren who you have learned are worthy of your trust. This first component is those individuals that you know you can trust because they share your grief and are always looking out for your best interest.

Many of the decisions that you will need to make over the coming months may involve looking out for your best interest and your financial, emotional and physical well-being. While the ultimate decision is always yours, you need the advice, input, insights and help of your trusted loved ones to help shape the best decisions for your present and future needs.

After you decide on a few trusted family members, you should then add some of the following outside members to your team. I suggest that if you have a financial and estate advisor, bring them in first to review your situation and make suggestions on what can be done first without the need for an attorney. Most good financial and estate advisors will be able to help you handle all the filings and forms needed to make death claims, benefit changes and updates with the need for attorney fees at this point. If you already have an existing relationship with this financial advisor, there may be little to no costs involved with these services.

If you were to bring in an attorney first, many of these basic filings would be charged to your account at rates that could amount to 5 percent of the value of the assets, transfers or distributions. These costs could be saved by using a financial advisor to guide you through them.

You will also want to involve your income tax preparer at some point to make sure that you get everything properly arranged with the IRS before the end of the year that the death occurred. If you don’t, there may be penalties that will be incurred.

Having a lawyer involved is something that you may need to do. But I would read the rest of these items and then make sure you have the checklist of items that you want the attorney to handle. If done correctly, much of the estate will already be administered and distributed before you visit with the attorney.

Item 3 – Contact Employers and Social Security

You will need to contact Social Security to notify them of the death. They will then begin processing the information and stop any monthly payments if there were any. Don’t worry, this is normal. A surviving spouse will receive the higher of the two social security amounts upon the death of one spouse. As an example. If Spouse A was receiving $1,000 monthly and Spouse B was receiving $750 monthly, if spouse A passes away, Spouse B will then receive the higher of the two amounts, $1,000 each month from then on.

Contact all past and present employers of the deceased. Ask if there were any death benefits as part of their employment. Also, ask if there were any death benefits as part of their retirement plan. Ask if there are any modifications needed to any monthly pensions that are being received. Finally, ask if there are any modifications needed for their health insurance if it was being provided through the company. Based on these answers, you will know if there is anything additional to take care of.

Item 4 – File Life Insurance Claims

Many individuals have multiple life insurance policies, possibly from several different companies over the years. If you find the policies or receive any bill or statements in the mail, inquire about the death benefits and options that you have available. Provided that you were the beneficiary, there should only be a few forms to fill out and submit before you can receive your life insurance death proceeds. You may need to file a death claim for each different policy that you have in order to satisfy all policy claims.

Item 5 – Contact Banks, Brokerage and Credit Unions

Your local bank, brokerage, and credit union will need to be notified of the death. If your accounts were owned jointly with your spouse or parent, then you will just need to change the names on the account to remove the deceased individual. If they were only in the name of the deceased, then you will need to handle them differently. Ask the institution what their rules and procedures are as they pertain to these accounts and file the appropriate paperwork to handle the transactions.

Item 6 – Close Unwanted and Unneeded Accounts

It probably makes sense that you should close out any unwanted or unneeded accounts at this time. The only exception is that you may want to keep one joint account open, in case you receive a check payable to the deceased. You may be able to deposit this check into the joint account by signing it over for “Deposit Only”. This could save you an expensive trip to the attorney or surrogate court’s office later.

Item 7 – Revise Wills and Powers of Attorney

It is always a good idea to review your wills, power of attorney, medical directives, health care proxies and any trusts that you may have established on a regular basis at least every 3 to 5 years. It becomes even more important after the death of a spouse or parent. You may need to revise executors, trustees, and other appointees to reflect the current situations.

You will also want to look at your existing beneficiary arrangements and see if they can be simplified, modified and corrected to better represent your current wishes. These can be done with an attorney, or online, or with one of the many legal software programs that are available. The key is to make sure they get revised, executed, and notarized as needed.

Item 8 – Review Real Estate Ownership Arrangements

If the deceased owned any real estate on their own or jointly with others, you will need to take a look at how this will be affected by their death. There are certain rights that joint owners of real estate can have, or not have, depending on the type of ownership. It can also differ from one state to the next depending on whether the owner was a resident or held the property for vacation purposes.

Once you have a clear picture of what type of ownership arrangements exist, you can then begin looking into how it should and will be handled. You may need to consult with a real estate attorney, but I would begin by asking what they charge for a “Real Estate” transaction.

Only after you find this out, mention that this will involve a deceased owner. It may cost a little more as real estate transaction for a deceased owner, but if you mention it as an estate transaction, many attorneys will try to charge a much higher fee, (possibly up to 5% of the value of the house) run it through probate and the estate process. This could cost you thousands instead of hundreds of dollars if you let them. But now you know better.

Item 9 – Protect and Preserve Your Assets From Fraud

Today we have a whole new breed of criminals out there. Many of them prey on widows and senior citizens. They have no conscience and are more than willing to take advantage of anyone that is willing to listen to their story.

Make sure that you have one or more trusted children, siblings or friends review any kind of financial “opportunities”, investments, donations or scams before you decide to part with your money. These con-artists will try to get small amounts at first, then escalate their fraudulent activities to much larger amounts once they feel they have you on the hook.

Don’t let this happen. Always contact one of your Trust Team members before making any big or suspicious decisions.


As we get older, making good decisions can become more difficult. It becomes even more difficult if you just lost a loved one and are in the process of grieving. Don’t let anyone rush you, but listen to your Trusted Team members if they tell you that you need to do something now. Ask them to explain why it needs to be done immediately or if it can wait until you are ready. Some items do require more urgent attention, especially if your loved one passed away closer to the end of a calendar year.

The majority of these items can be handled over a period of time when you are ready to address them. I suggest that you take them one at a time and ask for help from your Trust Team members. Finish one, then move on to another, until you complete them all. If you attempt to do them all at once, you may end up frustrated and unwilling to continue. There is a great saying… “This Too Shall Pass”. Remember that, when you are feeling overwhelmed. This Too Shall Pass!

Eldercare And Estate Disputes – Can Ruin Your Family

While every parent wishes their family would remain civil and friendly after they pass, it is one of the most common problems after a death. Here are some ways to avoid the problems, or settle them if they should arise. Use these four methods to help keep your loved ones working together, especially during the emotional and traumatic times that usually surround the death of a loved one.

Method 1: Fairness and Equality: If possible, try to treat all your loved ones fairly and in equal shares within your estate plans. The single biggest reason loved ones have hard feelings after the death of a parent is that they feel slighted in some way. It could be financially related, responsibility related or even sentimentally related. If you look at your estate plans from these three standpoints and try to keep everything fair and equal, you will solve most problems before they arise.

Method 2: Communicate Your Wishes Early and Often: At regular intervals as you age, take time to arrange family meetings to discuss your estate and final wishes in a casual atmosphere when there are no pending health or emotional issues to cloud one’s judgment. These are great family bonding times and can be very productive at keeping the peace. The more often your loved ones have an opportunity to share their viewpoint, the easier the process of expressing their opinions will become.

Method 3: Written Personal Instructions to Family: Also take the time to put your thoughts and wishes in writing. In addition to your Will, Power of Attorney and Health Care directives, let them know your specific wishes for disposition of family jewelry, artwork, heirlooms, collectibles, or any other items that you think might be an issue. By having these written down, along with your wishes for burial, funeral services, and any other issues that are important to you, they won’t have to make too many decisions on their own. The emotional strain of a death can make tensions run high and tempers flare. Your efforts will eliminate the need for too much decision-making during this trying time.

Method 4: Appoint A Dispute Resolution Person: It is a great idea to appoint a non-family member to act as a mediator in the event that there are any disputes within the family. It should be someone younger than you, but respected by your family. This person should possess a great deal of common sense and also be a good communicator. Hopefully they will not be needed, but having them available can solve little problems, before they become big ones. This person should be disclosed in your written personal instructions to the family.

Summary: As you can see, the best way to create harmony within a diverse family of individuals is to keep the lines of communication open and try to remain open-minded. If your family is geographically disbursed, you can always arrange a meeting around the holidays or other family gatherings. It is usually best to start the process with your own children first and add their spouses (the in-laws) to the mix later if necessary.

If you follow all or even some of these methods, you are guaranteed to provide a much smoother estate transition than if these topics were never discussed until your passing. Have fun with it and try to keep things informative and concise. Preparing a one-page written “family agenda” that summarizes your ideas will keep things moving forward. Always leave a spot at the end for questions and answers. These discussions could help shape your future plans and additional meetings.

Six Ways To Avoid Probate And Avoid Headaches

Many people are worried about probate. What exactly is probate? How can I avoid the headaches, time delays and estate shrinkage that it causes? If you have ever asked any of these questions or heard your parents or friends ask them, here is a simple plan to follow.

What Is Probate? It is the formal process of proving someone’s Last Will and Testament. It entails filing with the county surrogate court office, appointing an executor to administer the terms of the Will and proving that the Will was properly executed if necessary. In some states, there is a mandatory minimum waiting period during which the executor pays final expenses, contacts potential beneficiaries and creditors, then begins organizing the deceased’s assets for distribution and/or liquidation. All these actions can cost your beneficiaries money and this is where the estate shrinkage comes into play.

How Can I Avoid Probate? The easiest way to bypass the probate process is to take steps in advance that will contractually establish a distribution plan upon death of the owner. This can take on many forms, but if an asset is left to be distributed by the Will, it will be exposed to probate. (Note: If a deceased person’s estate is required to file an inheritance or estate tax return, some, or all, of the assets below may be included in that filing.)

Six Ways To Avoid Probate:

1. Joint Accounts With Rights Of Survivorship: Owning your accounts with someone else as a joint tenant is the first and easiest way to potentially bypass the probate process. If one tenant passes away, the other is automatically the new and sole owner of the asset. No administration is needed to pass this account on, but a problem will arise if both joint owners pass away simultaneously. Number 2 can take care of this situation.

2. Designated Beneficiary Plans: The next way to avoid probate is to use a Designated Beneficiary plan on any brokerage or bank accounts that you have. If they are already joint accounts, that is even better as the joint tenancy will take precedence over the beneficiary designation, but both will bypass probate.

3. Payable On Death Plans: If a designated beneficiary plan is not available, a payable on death plan may be offered as an alternative. It is basically the same type of instrument, but some credit unions, banks, and other financial institutions prefer this option. If you have an account in question, ask about both.

4. IRA And Retirement Plans With Beneficiaries: Most retirement plans allow for a specific, primary and contingent beneficiaries to be designated. These designations are a legal and contractual way to bypass probate and administer your wishes. Just make sure that your beneficiaries are specific individuals or charitable organizations and that you specify exactly the percentage that you want them to receive. If you have more beneficiaries than the lines or spaces provided on the form, you can use a second form or attach a typed statement including all the relevant names, address, birthday and social security numbers. If you do this, write “See Attached Statement” in the beneficiary box.

5. Life Insurance Proceeds: The proceeds of a life insurance policy can avoid probate if the beneficiary designation is listed as a person, multiple persons or other legal entity. These proceeds will bypass probate if done properly and are usually income tax-free to the beneficiary.

6. Annuity Proceeds: An annuity contract can also bypass if the beneficiary designation is filled out correctly. Annuities are a contract from a life insurance or annuity company that will bypass probate, but some, or all, of the proceeds may be taxable to the beneficiary depending on how they were established.

Summary: Please note that having a detailed structure on each of the above beneficiary designations is vital to avoiding probate. If you designate a primary or a contingent beneficiary with the following – “As Per Estate”, you will force that asset back through your Will and into the probate system. Always place specific names, addresses and percentages (or amounts) on each designation. If you need more room, prepare a notarized attachment to the form that spells it out in detail.

The first step to creating wealth is knowing where you are and then charting a path that will enhance your financial strengths and correct your weaknesses. The next step is making sure that you keep as much of it as possible to distribute to your loved ones. Both are equally important. Take the time to review your plans now and save a lot of headaches and stress later.

What Will Your Umbrella Policy Cover? What Doesn’t It Cover?

umbrella-policyUmbrella policies can be a great addition to your protection package, but make sure that you know what they will and will NOT cover. Just because you purchase the excess liability policy, doesn’t mean that you are covered for every possible situation. It is better to know the limits and restrictions before you need them than to find out they aren’t covered after the fact.

The following examples are only a brief description of some common situations that happen in real life. If you have any questions about your policy coverage or one that you are considering purchasing, be sure to check your policy or ask your agent before an issue arises.

What Is Covered:

1. Injury On Your Property – If someone falls on your property, trips over your child’s scooter that was left on the sidewalk or one of your children’s friends falls off the swing set in your backyard, you may be sued if they get hurt. Their injuries along with the potential legal costs and possible settlement will be covered.

2. Excess Auto Damages – If you or one of your covered family members are involved in an automobile accident that is your fault, the lawsuit that may follow along with any property damages and monetary settlement will be covered up to your policy maximum.

3. Dog Attacks – If your dog bites the paper boy, mail carrier, a jogger or one of your children’s friends, you will probably be sued for damages. Even if the person has provoked your dog on your property and then gets bitten, they will probably be awarded a settlement.

4. Civil Suits – A lawsuit against you for libel, slander, false arrest and a variety of other personal liability issues will be covered. If they win a court award in excess of your homeowner liability limits, the umbrella coverage will protect you up to its limit.

5. Others Property Damage – If by chance your dog chews up your neighbors Persian rug that was drying in their yard, your son is hitting a baseball and it through your neighbor’s three-story high leaded glass window or your daughter is driving on an icy road and fails to stop before she hits the house on the corner, you are covered.

What Is Not Covered:

1. Your Property Damage – An umbrella policy usually will not cover damages to your own property as this is what you own homeowners and auto insurance limits should cover. If your damages are over the limits of your own policies, your umbrella will not cover them.

2. Professional Liability – If you are sued for any type of professional liability, errors and omissions or any type of malpractice claims, your personal umbrella will not cover any of these costs. You can buy commercial or professional liability policies that may cover some or all of these issues.

3. Farm Activities – Any possible activities that are related to a commercial or family farm that could bring a lawsuit against you will not be covered by a personal liability policy. If you are involved in farm activities, you should look into specific farm liability protection.

4. Employment Practices – If you are being sued for any issues related to employment practices like discriminatory hiring or firing, sexual harassment in the workplace or no-compete clause violations, these will generally not be covered by most personal liability umbrellas.

Summary: As you can see, many different things can happen in life and unfortunately we live in a very litigious society. As lawsuits continue to get larger and larger, making sure that you have an adequate amount of protection becomes imperative. Don’t ignore the problem and hope it will never visit your family. Protect yourself, enjoy life ad sleep well at night.


Six Worst College Majors for 2017 and Future Employment

College Reality CheckThe astronomical cost of college today makes finding an appropriate major even more important. Making the most of your college education is vital to your career success. While finding something you love is a blessing, being open-minded about the job market and employment opportunities is mandatory.

If you are going to spend tens of thousands of dollars for college, you need to get a quality education that will earn a living commensurate with the cost you will incur. There are no guarantees that you will get a job and start a career in any field, but selecting a poor college major is one way to add a large obstacle in your career path.

Parents need to help students by offering a future employment – reality check. Before deciding on a major, students need to engage in a serious discussion about job prospects with their desired degree. If there are no jobs or the potential earnings are inadequate, another major should be considered.

Here are six college majors with limited opportunity for employment upon graduation:

1. Religion: Having this degree will be useful if you plan to become a priest, pastor or minister. But most of these positions of God come with free training and offer heavenly rewards, not monetary. It can be hard to pay off your high student loans on a pastor’s salary. Traditional colleges are not the road to take if you are looking to devote your life to religion.

2. English Literature: It is wonderful to be well versed in English literature, but what positions do you apply for upon graduation. Maybe a book editor or a writer, but they require different skills, so that may not pan out without additional degrees or training. Unless you plan to get a masters degree and teach, avoid this degree or you may be well versed and working as a bookstore clerk. Paying the bills would be no easier and your student loans will add a large burden to your monthly cash flow.

3. Anthropology: Very few opportunities exist for recent graduates in this field and over the coming years, there will be even less. While this may be an interesting and enjoyable hobby for many individuals, it is not a promising career alternative. Something in the medical sciences would be a better alternative and provide many different avenues for career advancement.

4. Fine Arts or Photography: Being an artist or photographer is a wonderful talent and can be enjoyable to envision your final work. But the reality is that careers in this area are not very profitable or plentiful. With the advent of great cell phone cameras and sophisticated, easy to use editing programs, digital arts and photography have become simple for the average person to get great results.

5. Music: If you are talented and focused, you will be successful. Normally that is true, but careers in music are very hard to come by. They success rates are similar to those of professional athletes. Many great voices, many great musical minds are left behind as only the top 1% actually make a reasonable living in this field. It can be a great side job or hobby, but if you are planning to make it a career, it will be a bumpy road.

6. Exercise Science: For those considering this major, please re-consider. Your employment opportunities are no better than if you were an athlete in high school looking for a job at a gym or being a personal trainer. Pay scale is generally low and there are no specific jobs that require this degree for employment.

Other problematic majors: Dance, Communications, American Studies, Philosophy, and Film. Each of these degrees has such a narrow focus with so few jobs available that you might have a better chance of winning the lottery than landing a good job. You can always go to graduate school, spend more money and get a masters degree in something else that would be more marketable, but these degrees by themselves offer very little potential.

Summary: These six majors offer less than a desirable potential for jobs upon graduation. Be mindful of your need to earn a living as well as pursue a passion. Unless you are independently wealthy and do not need to work, the cost of your education would be better spent building an enjoyable and prosperous career.



How To Improve Your Children’s Communication Skills Through Community Service

volunteerSociety today is an ever-changing voyage. With Google, texting, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube shaping our children’s views and perceptions of reality, they need more. While there are some great benefits to each of these services, the time our children are spending using digital devices is substantial. With these non-personal interactions replacing many types of verbal communication, we need to teach our children the importance of direct face to face interaction. A great way to do this is through “hands on” community service.

One of the great things about volunteer work is that it usually involves dealing with people. And many of those people tend to embrace “Old School” communication methods. There are even some volunteers that continue to thrive in life without a cell phone or a computer. While technology can be a great asset in the coordination and management of community service programs, it rarely replaces the face to face efforts of the volunteers that get the job done.

New Technology Can’t Get the Job Done:

Whether it is Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels, Literacy Volunteers of America or any of the thousands of other great national and local causes, verbal communication, and socialization are irreplaceable. You can’t text a hammer to hang drywall. You can’t post a tweet to deliver a meal to a shut-in. You can’t help someone learn to read with a Like on Facebook. And while YouTube is great, it can’t prepare a hot meal at a homeless shelter.

A Hand Shake And A Smile Go A Long Way:

If you are helping a homeless family select some gently used clothing to keep their children warm in the winter, they probably won’t be able to try on the coat “digitally”. It is so much nicer to meet a real person with a warm smile and firm handshake that might just make them feel that someone really does care about their family.

And working on a job site, remodeling a house forces everyone to ask questions, share ideas and work together to complete the renovations. There are always supervisors walking around, talking openly about everything from the weather to sports or even careers with youth participants. While they may be reluctant to strike up these conversations with their parents, I have personally found they are very open and honest when sharing their thoughts with another volunteer.

Children Need More Social Interaction:

Old fashioned talking, helping others and working as a group cannot be replaced with new technology. Community service will force them to develop, enhance and use these skills more effectively which can only help them in all aspects of life. From career aspirations and interviewing to dating, marriage and raising a family. Those that possess great communication skills will always be able to handle situations better than those without.

Encourage them to use their adolescent years to experience both the new and old communication methods. I am fearful that if we don’t, the next generation will progressively lose their interpersonal skills, or worse yet, never develop any. I cannot imagine a world in which we rely entirely on digital communication. But that is the direction that our children are heading. It is time to turn that tide and your children can make a difference.


Help your community and your children at the same time. Get them involved in activities that force them to develop and use interpersonal communications. Society will reward their volunteer efforts and their volunteer efforts will reward their future growth. And another great communicator can only help society as a whole. It is a “win-win” situation for everyone involved.

First Time Home Buyer Beware – 7 Common Pitfalls to Avoid

First Time Home BuyerAre you ready to buy your first house? That’s exciting and possibly terrifying at the same time. But don’t worry, if you know what to look for and have a structured plan of attack, you can maneuver through the obstacles and reach the finish line with a great new home.

Before you start your search, there are few things you will want to watch out for. Also known as… common pitfalls to avoid. If you can recognize these and figure out how to bypass them before they cause a problem, you will save thousands of dollars and plenty of headaches.

Here are 7 of the 15 pitfalls that are outlined in chapter 4 of my new book – How Much House Can I REALLY Afford? Practical Tips To Avoid Becoming House Poor.

Pitfall Number 1:

Falling in love with a house before shopping around. I always recommend looking at 20-30 houses before you place your first offer. This way you will see what’s out there, at what price points and know what features you really want. If you fall in love with one of the first… you may over-pay and miss an even better, more affordable house down the road. This is a very common pitfall and it can be very costly too.

Pitfall Number 2:

Cosmetic House Flippers. Beware of investors that purchase downtrodden houses and spruce them up with cheap labor and materials in order to “Flip” them onto an unsuspecting buyer. Don’t let that buyer… be you! As the saying goes… “You can put lipstick on a pig…it may look nice… but it is still a pig”

Pitfall Number 3:

Realtor Tells You To Offer Above Asking Price. In some very fast-moving markets, you may have to offer above the asking price, but most real estate markets are not moving that fast. However, most Realtors want you to believe that they are. This is one of the most common “games” that real estate sales people play. Don’t fall for it.

Pitfall Number 4:

Make sure to add a 24 or 48 hour – “Accept, Decline or Counter” clause to every purchase offer on a home. If you offer them 24-48 hours to make a decision, you will get your answer and/or a counter offer quicker so you can continue negotiating or move on to the next property.

Pitfall Number 5:

You will also want to add a “Mortgage Financing Contingency” clause which states that if you are unable to get the mortgage financing commitment under the specific terms and rate maximum that you are asking for, the deal is canceled and your deposit is refunded. Without it, you could be on the hook.

Pitfall Number 6:

Making Too Big of a Deposit. Whenever possible, only make an initial deposit of $500 to $1,000 with the contract. Try not to make any additional deposits until closing. If you need to make any additional deposits, don’t get influenced to deposit any more than the absolute minimum required. Let the realtors know that you will not be making any deposits over 2% of the purchase price before closing.

Pitfall Number 7:

Telling Your Realtor Everything. This can be an eye opener as well. Did you know that all realtors (unless specifically acting as a buyer’s broker) work for the sellers? This is true. Even if you are working with a realtor on your own, they get paid a commission from the Seller, not you.

Tell your realtor only what you want them to know and ultimately tell the sellers. Normally you will not be allowed to meet the sellers or attend the offer presentation. The less wiggle room your realtor has, the harder they can sell to get your offer accepted… as is.

I hope this helps you on your journey to buying a house, making it a home and keeping you financially secure. Being a home “owner” can be a great thing… but if done wrong, it can become a living nightmare. 

Check out my Amazon Author Page here for more details about this book and others. 

Low Cost College Credits – Get Yours Here

Low Cost CollegeMany high school students have the opportunity to participate in advanced placement classes. These can provide a nice cost savings when you get to college if you take full advantage of the program, its features and receive a satisfactory grade on the exam. Unfortunately, not all students are selected to participate in the AP program because of time constraints, grades or lack of availability from their school.

But there are other options available that anyone can utilize, such as the CLEP program offered through the College Board. By using this program properly, you could receive college credit for up to four semesters worth of college courses without ever stepping into a college classroom.

In order to make the most of your college education, as well as save the most money on tuition, room and board and graduate on time or early, the following steps will help you get ahead of the college game, before you even start.

Step 1: Make sure that you apply for and receive college credit, for all high school advance placement classes that you took and passed with a grade of 3.0 or higher. These will allow you to eliminate one college class for each qualifying AP exam that you passed. These alone will help, but with most students changing their major at least once, it may cause you to fall behind schedule and have to take additional classes later to catch up.

Step 2: CLEP exams offer another source of potential savings in this area. These credit by exam programs allow you to study online and take an exam that if passed will give you full college credit for the class without ever stepping in the classroom. There are over 30 classes you can take by exam and receive credit.

The CLEP program will allow you to get credit for several classes at the introductory level and the cost of studying and the exam itself is just over $100 per exam. This can be a great savings tools for students that want to ensure they graduate on time or those that want to graduate early and save an entire semester or even a year of college costs.

Step 3: Many successful students also use the CLEP program to get ahead so they can pursue a dual major or a minor in some other field of study. Whichever way you choose to use them, they will help you save money. Be sure to check with your college before you enroll in the CLEP program to make sure that they honor these credit by exam classes. Over 3,000 schools presently do. You can also check the College Board website for additional information on CLEP credits.

Step 4: Another strategy that many students use to get ahead is to take 18 credit hours each semester. Most schools do not charge extra for taking six classes instead of five, so use the opportunity to get the most out of your education. If you take one extra course each semester, you could also graduate early and save thousands.

Summary: While college is a great time to mature and grow socially, it is getting more expensive every year. By utilizing some or all of these strategies, any student can qualify for more college credit at substantially lower costs. Make sure that you take advantage of these opportunities and cut your student loans and other college costs to a minimum.

Why Many Realtors… Hate Working With Buyers

Home BuyersThis may sound like nonsense, but many Realtors do not like working with home buyers. How could that be? Why? Doesn’t every real estate transaction need a Buyer… and a Seller? Of course they do.

But think about whom Realtor’s actually work for in most transactions. Their commissions are generally paid by the Seller. That means they have a contract with the Seller to sell their house. If they successfully arrange for a qualified buyer who agrees, executes and closes on the deal, they receive their commission.

Sure they have to place the property on the MLS online, advertise the house, hold open houses if necessary and present offers as they come in, but if they consummate a sale, they get paid. Ideally, some Realtor’s would only work with Sellers if they could.

This can also be a conflict of interest for Buyers. If you are looking to purchase a house, do you have to pay the commission to a Realtor that you decide to work with? Generally No. If the Realtor that you are working with helps you find a house and you agree to a deal, they get paid their commission… from the Seller. Who did they really work for?

In most cases, they also work for the Seller. Even though they are helping you… the Buyer, by giving you advice and showing you houses in the area. They are still paid by the Seller of the home you end up purchasing.

Do you see the conflict of interest here? If both the Seller’s Realtor and your Realtor are being paid by the Seller, what kind of offers are they making on your behalf.

I have actually witnessed a situation where a Buyer told their Realtor to place an offer for $199,000, but I am willing to go up to $215,000 if needed. The house was listed with an offering price of $225,000

Guess what “your” Realtor is obligated to do when they present your offer to the Seller and Seller’s Realtor?

It went like this.

I have an offer from a young couple that wants to offer $199,000 for your house. I believe this is a nice offer, they have been pre-approved and their purchase has no contingencies. I have also been told that they are willing to go as high as $215,000 for the property….

What do you think the Seller and Seller’s Realtor are going to do? Accept your $199,000 offer?

Of course not, they will counter your offer higher than the $215,000 and then have you counter offer back with $215,000.

Did “your” Realtor help you with this deal? Did they fight for your best price? Did they get paid a higher commission on $215,000 than on $199,000? Who did they really work for?

When you are dealing with a Realtor, you need to know who they work for before you allow them to negotiate on your behalf.

For many Realtor’s, Sellers take up too much time and effort. Driving around, looking at houses, never finding the right house… it makes them wonder if you will ever buy a house. Or maybe you will find a FSBO, For Sale By Owner and cut them out of the transaction entirely.

At least with Seller’s, if someone brings them a Buyer… they get paid their commission. I hope you can see why many Realtors, don’t particularly like working with Buyers.

Remember there are many great Realtors out there. But as a Buyer… you should always be concerned with and know who is paying their commission? If you are looking to buy a house or know anyone that is considering it, please make sure to share this information with them.

For a simple solution to this problem, check out my new book entitled – How Much House Can I REALLY Afford? – on

This article is just one of the many “Common Pitfalls to Avoid” that are covered in the book. Any one of them could cost thousands of dollars, cause headaches, plenty of stress and arguments in the process.