It’s a One-Way Trip

How not to end up on Possum Hollow Road at midnight, low on fuel, after driving for 13 hours, hoping that your gravel roadway doesn’t just end in the dirt.

I learned to drive in the days before the internet. When any long trip took a little preplanning, with a paper map, to find the best course to take. Unless I had driven there before, I would have some idea of my route before I left home.

Things have changed now. I, like most people, will often get in my car before I look at a map (app) and get any idea of my route. And why wouldn’t you, the apps have access to real-time information about road closures and traffic conditions. But there are still those times, especially for long drives to distant destinations, when I will have an idea of my route before I get in the car. Why, because I look at alternative routes along the way. I want to be prepared with alternative courses of actions just in case things don’t go as planned, and I have to make a quick decision.

More information is a tool for planning and decision making. Not be substitute. Both for car trips and the journey of life. There are a great deal of financial planning apps out there. They can be a great tool for real-time analysis, and some have a few “planning” modules. But they are no substitute for having a real plan. One that considers the many potential roadblocks and misdirection’s to your intended financial destination.

Life is a one-way trip. There are no do-overs. You don’t want to be trying to figure out your best course when things look dark, you are exhausted, and time is critical. Not doing the proper planning resulted in my drive down Possum Hollow Road. Yes, I got to my destination. But not without a lot of unnecessary anxiety and frustration. Not sure where to begin? The Steps For Today website and materials can get you started and point you in the right direction. Your journey has already begun. Get yourself a ‘map’ and start navigating.

For more information, go to, and have a safe trip.

Thanks for reading.
Please like and share with those who are struggling with these issues.
And remember to take the next step.

Financial Power of Attorney

I read a recent article in which the author had taken the steps of getting a legal, notarized, power of attorney for their parents’ financial affairs, but was unable to use it like they intended to take care of their parents’ financial matters. Their problem arose when their parent became incapacitated, and they approached the bank about gaining access to accounts on which their name did not appear. Due to the increasing amount of fraud, banks are subject to some very stringent regulations. In addition, because a large amount of financial fraud is perpetrated by family members, banks are duly concerned with granting them access to accounts. Although I have been assured that, in Missouri at least, a notarized financial power of attorney provides the grantee immediate rights to access the funds, why not take an extra step to avoid confusion or delay.

One way to preclude such stress is to have the grantor appear at the bank with the grantee when the POA is first created so that they can personally attest to the validity of the document. If you do this, be sure to ask the bank employee to note the date of your visit in their records and remember to write it in your own log as well.

You may ask “why not just get joint ownership on the accounts?” The best reason is that the funds may then be accessible in a lawsuit on either owner. The POA prevents this from happening. Just be sure that there is a Payable on Death (POD) beneficiary named on all of the accounts so that they immediately transfer to the beneficiary without having to pass through the probate process.

My previous article was about having difficult conversations.  Asking somebody for POA for either healthcare or financial decisions is not easy, but it does not have to be confrontational. The better you understand and convey the pros and cons, the easer the conversation will go.

For more information regarding POA’s, POD’s, and difficult conversations, visit my website and take a look at my books First Steps For Success ( and Embraced Living (

Thanks for reading. Please like and share with those who are struggling with these issues.
And remember to take the next step.

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

In the spring of 1993, my life was chaotic to say the least. In the last 5 months, I had lost my wife, moved to another state, and started a new job. I was working hard to try to figure out what life would now be like for my three children and me. Most days it felt like trying to run with a full glass of water; you know somethings going spill.

One afternoon, I was going through some of the moving boxes that still resided in my garage, and what did I find? A stack of mail. Mail from this week, and maybe that week, and so on. I didn’t remember putting it there. But I didn’t remember a lot about what was going on at the time either. So, there was a mystery.

There was no mystery, however, that some of the mail contained overdue notices. I had no idea there were overdue bills because I relied on the mail to prompt me that something was due. Trying desperately to maintain some resemblance of control on any one part of my life, I decided this was something I could easily do better. Grabbing a pencil and paper, I went through the mail, my checkbook (remember those), and anything else I could find which would help me list out my financial obligations, and their due dates. Having this one simple sheet of paper greatly reduced the amount of anxiety I had about bill payments. I still use a ‘more modern’ version of it. No more mystery about what is due when!

The other mystery, about how the mail was misplaced, was soon solved too. As it turned out, my sweet 4-year-old daughter was “…just trying to help me.” And I guess, in a round-a-bout way, she did!

I’ve made a free, downloadable, bill payment spreadsheet is available at While you’re there, take a look around for other items and ideas to help organize your home and life. What tricks or tools do you use to help keep life on track?

Thanks for reading. Please like and share!
And remember to take the next step.

The Unexpected Journey

I went for a drive in my car.
My navigator took a nap.
And I took no map.
Now I don’t know where we are.

It’s a silly little rhyme about ending up lost due to lack of planning and taking responsibility. But how many times have we heard this same story, only it’s about life itself? It’s deceptively easy to just start driving ahead in life without making a plan, preparing for the trip, and working together to reach your goals. And, all-to-often, we can find ourself in a place we never intended to be; unprepared, emotional, and lost.

Steps For Today® was created to help minimize the unexpected detours of living. First Steps For Success was written as an inexpensive tool to help everyone design a map to navigate their journey through life. It’s loaded with ideas, detailed explanations, and examples for:

  • Getting your home and life organized
  • Starting a financial plan
  • Building and protecting an estate

If you’re wondering where to start, somewhere in the journey, or just want to make sure you’ve got your I’s dotted and your T’s crossed, this book is for you!

Thanks for reading. Please like and share!
And remember to take the next step…

Turn Down Your Thermostat and Your Heating Costs

The price to stay warm this winter is going up. In an October 12th article by Reuters, the author notes that “U.S. consumers can expect to pay up to 28% more to heat their homes this winter than last year due to surging fuel costs and slightly colder weather, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projected in its winter fuels outlook on Wednesday.” Whether you heat with gas, oil, or electric, it’ll cost more to stay warm this year.

In upcoming posts we’ll discuss several ways reduce home heating costs. One major way, recommended at, is to use a programmable thermostat to reduce the furnace setting while you are away or in bed. In the article they state that “You can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting.” Other sources estimate that setting back just 5 degrees for 8 hours can save up to 10%. Likewise, two setback periods of 5 degrees for a total of 16 hours can reduce costs up to 20%.

Programmable thermostats cost anywhere from $20 for a basic model, to $250 for a smart, wi-fi model. I use a Honeywell 7-day programmable unit that is well on the low side of that range. If you can’t afford new thermostat, or to have one installed, create a routine to change the thermostat manually. Programmable thermostats don’t always work well with heat pumps or radiant heat systems, so the first step is to do your research before purchasing any new hardware.

Thanks for reading.
And remember to take the next step…

PS: I’d love to hear any cost-saving tips you may have as well.

Drafty Widows and Doors

Fall Is here today! In my last post, I suggested opening a window to get some fresh air in the house and giving the a/c a rest. That’ll save on bills for now, but as the weather turns cooler you’ll no longer want that gentle breeze blowing through your home. Fall is the time to fix those drafty window and doors.

We’ve all seen it. On those windy days, there’s that curtain that’s dancing in the wind, even those the window is closed. That’s a sure indicator that the window’s seal is in need for some adjustment. But if there’s no brisk wind, finding a leaky window may be a little more difficult. Here are a few steps you can take to locate those costly gaps:

  • Have someone stand on the outside of the door with a flashlight and shine around the edges and the bottom of the door. Any light that come through is a sure indicator the air will get through as well.
  • If you have a whole-house fan, or attic fan, you can use it to check for drafts around windows and doors by turning it on and closing all the windows.
  • There are new tools available at a reasonable price. One is a handheld infrared thermometer. Black and Decker makes one specifically for such household use. It’s not a thermal imaging camera, which is way more expensive. It’s more like a the touchless thermometers we now use to take someone’s temperature. It has a digital screen which displays the surface temperature directly in front of the device. By moving it around closed windows and doors, you can detect a large change in temperature.
  • Of course, if you really want the big picture. A thermal imaging camera is a great tool to have in your home. It comes with a big price. But it has many purposes. It can be used to show which dual pane windows have lost the seal between the glass, where the attic insulation may be insufficient above the ceiling, electric outlets and switches which are generating heat due to bad connection, circuit breakers getting hot, overheating bearings, and pretty much any use in which a larger than normal temperature difference is a sure diagnostic clue.
  • To help detect the leaking airflow, Cirrus makes an inexpensive battery-powered handheld smoke generator which will highlight even a subtle breeze.
  • Windows and doors aren’t the only places where your home may leak air. Here are some other places which commonly lose heat during the winter

Once the gaps are located, you’ll have a better idea of what’ll be needed to seal up the house for the winter. Depending on your budget and the need, there are lots of products and services that can mend or fix the problem. Most of which will pay for themselves by saving on heating costs this winter. If your budget doesn’t cover replacing windows this year, and you know it needs to be done, start saving for the project now while you investigate your options. There can be an incredible price difference in windows and their installation. As with most projects, a large investment in time up-front, will lead to a substantial savings in time, cost, and effort later.

For more information on managing life and home, please visit the rest of

Thanks for reading!
And remember to take the next step…

Managing Holiday Finances

Holidays are meant to be enjoyed. Using a budget to navigate the expenses will add a feeling of accomplishment, and take away that dreadful post-holiday sticker shock.

Halloween has become genuinely scary. It is now the 2nd largest consumer spending holiday – BOO! Well, that’s just a little bit frightening. But it now kicks of the holiday season with sizeable spending. Starting early with a plan to make it through the holiday rush can take away some of the dread.

Here are a few Steps you can take Today to make the holidays more joyous:

  1. Create a holiday budget list. You may want to start with the items below and add your own items as you go.
  • Halloween costumes – There are a few ways to trim the costs for dressing-up this year. Most people know that resale shops are great places to look for inexpensive costume clothing. But why not cut out the middle man? Have your kids ask their grandparents if they’ve got something they could use. This will create memories for all. If you’re really trying to cut time and expense, ask your friends and family if they have any old costumes you might borrow.
  • Halloween decorations – I remember making Halloween decorations in elementary school. Crafted with construction paper, markers and crayons, we’d bring these home and decorate our porches and windows. If you’re buying decorations, try to buy some that can be reused next year (and remember where you store them).
  • Seasonal decorations for your home – Seasonal decorations can often be found at a farmers market for a reasonable price. Like with all decorations, try to buy those that can be reused and add some to your collection each year.
  • Thanksgiving dinner – Although not as expensive as Halloween, Thanksgiving cost for food, decorations, tableware, etc., can take a chunk out of your budget. Possibly ask guest to break a dish for dinner to help defer the work and costs. Planning ahead will not only help with costs, it’ll help make sure you have enough forks…I’m just saying.
  • Holiday decorations – Some folks REALLY get into this. That’s fine. But budget for it. And stick to the budget.
  • Greeting cards – Not so much an expense as it used to be. But isn’t getting a card in the mail still just a little bit fun?
  • Holiday travel – Whether it’s for visiting or vacation, don’t forget to plan early. Avoid the holiday flight costs by locking-in early and flying off-peak dates when possible.
  • Holiday clothing – Consider shopping for the ‘perfect’ holiday sweater (and other items) at a resale shop. This is often a choice between a tight budget and tight clothes.
  • Holiday gifts – Gift giving can have excessive costs. But do we really remember the gift (unless really useful and practical) as much as the time we spend with our loved-ones.
  • Gift wrapping expenses – Save those gift bags and stuffing paper. They’ll save you in cash and time. Here’s where be crafty can save you lots. If you have kids, wrap the presents in brown or white sheet paper, found in office supplies, and give them a box of crayons or brightly colored gel markers. You may even find this fun yourself.
  1. Track expenses – Recording expenses will help keep you on budget this year and plan better next year.
  1. Limit credit card expenses. Starting early, with a budget, allows the costs to be spread out over the season. Avoid building up a credit card bill that will only add post-holiday blues, anxiety and stress to the start of next year.
  1. Don’t forget to be charitable. Add charitable giving to your budget. Having it on the budget gives you more time to explore the options.
  1. Create a file folder for holiday expenses so you can find this list next year!
  1. Put a reminder on next year’s calendar to budget for fall holiday expenses.
  1. Use the free Holiday Budgeting worksheet available at to help plan for the costs and track expenses.

These simple steps will help manage the holiday costs this year, and in future years. What are some of your tips and tricks for managing holiday expenses?

And remember to take the next step…


End-of-Summer Savings

Fall is nearly here. The hotter weather is on the way out and end-of-season sales will soon be in full swing. The fall months are often when retailers reduce prices to clear out inventory of spring and summer items. Here are a few items typically on sale at this time of the year:

  • Spring and Summer clothing
  • Winter clothing
  • Outdoor furniture
  • Lawn mowers
  • Barbeque grills
  • Summer sporting equipment
  • Water sports equipment
  • Cycling equipment

If you’ve been considering purchasing some of these items, here are a few steps you can take to help guide your purchases.

  1. Know your budget. Always know what you can afford BEFORE you go shopping.
  2. Keep your eyes on the local sale flyers and take some time to look at store websites for sales.
  3. This is also a great time to shop locally for these items because local, smaller, stores are often more motivated to reduce inventory with the changing seasons.
  4. Don’t forget fall garage sales as well. People often take the cooler weather as an opportunity to get rid of yard equipment and outdoor furnishings they do not want to store for the winter. There may just be a larger-than-usual supply of slightly-used exercise equipment making its way to the driveway this year as well.
  5. Stick to the budget. Remember, the holidays are just around the corner!

While you’re at it, you may want to think about having a yard sale of your own, or selling items online. But that’s a future post….

For more information on budgeting household management, please visit

And remember to take the next step…

Deceptive Senior Mail

There have been numerous legislative measures to stop scammers and legitimate companies from creating mail that looks like it came from the government. Yet it still continues. Even worse, the ‘official’ looking mail is often targeted at our senior citizens. To be fair, the legitimate companies make it clear what they are selling. The deceptive exterior is specifically designed to get the recipient to open the mail and view their offer. This type is still distressing because it may include such words as ‘Final Notice’ or ‘Urgent Response Required’. Which makes it seem like some action is necessary.

Even worse are those mailings which are deceptive both inside and out. These are designed to look legitimate, be confusing and illicit a rapid response. I have seen those that imply legal action, possible inheritance, and services or items for an unbelievably low price (if you respond today).

If you know someone who regularly receives this type of mail. Please have a discussion with them regarding a few steps to review confusing or official-looking mail, possibly with others, before responding.

Here are some possible steps to follow:

  1. Create a single place where all incoming mail is placed. This could be a basket or a drawer.
  2. Place a red pen along with the mail to mark any questionable mail and set it to the side.
  3. Make it a point to regularly review the questionable mail. It may actually be legitimate and  time-sensitive.
  4. Make sure that others who help care for the household are reviewing the suspect mail as well.

Below are a couple of USPS websites for further discussion on this topic.

Thanks for reading. And remember to take the next step…

Be a Little Squirrelly

I recently read a fun article titled ” Squirrels Actually Organize Their Nut Hoard — Here’s Why” in which the author cites several studies regarding how tree squirrels store food for winter. It turns out that squirrels have an elaborate process for deciding where they store their food.

Squirrels bury their food. They don’t keep it in their nests. So they typically hide it in the ground. Maybe nature has taught them if it’s too close, the temptation may be too great to eat it now, leaving none for leaner times. They also store different types of foods, even different types of nuts, in a specific area for each type. Scientist at the Royal Society of Open Science believe that squirrels use a mnemonic technique called “spatial chunking” to sort out and bury their nut stores by size, type, and perhaps even nutritional value and taste. So does nature somehow equip the squirrel with the ability to allocate certain reserves for specific needs or desires? It almost sounds too amazing to be true. But wait, there’s more. The article goes on to describe how squirrels will purposely place (I guess what squirrels consider) a “premium” nut into a high-risk location, such as an open field. Scientist theorize that the fear of predators in these locations helps to deter other squirrels from foraging for food to dig-up. But, could it be that the high-risk location is also used to deter the temptation of digging it up and using it before it’s needed?

I guess we may never know for sure why squirrels do what they do. I just now have a whole new respect for squirrelly behavior. After all couldn’t we all take steps to:

  • Create some savings for a rainy day.
  • Prioritize our needs and wants.
  • Make it a little more difficult to get to our savings.
  • Recognize our risks and learn how to use them to our advantage.

These topics, and many more, are discussed in my upcoming book (formally being released next month). Written as a guide for organizing your home and life, it not only details how to accomplish many household tasks, it describes why each task is important and how they work together to gain control over the everyday chaos which life brings.

Thanks again for reading.
And remember to take the next step…

To read the article about our foraging squirrel friends, go to