Why Making a Plan is Powerful for Young Adults

Planning is a frequent topic at Steps For Today. Helping others plan for life is the reason it came into being. It is our belief the creating a written plan for life (finances, health & medical needs, career advancement, aging and retirement, etc.) will make a key difference in anyone’s life, and especially in the lives of young adults. They are just getting started on life’s journey. Wouldn’t it be better to have a course plotted to a destination of one’s own choosing? After all, luck is not a strategy.

Here are some good reasons to have such a plan:

Clarity and Direction: A written plan provides a roadmap for young adults, helping them clarify their goals and aspirations for the future. It allows them to set clear objectives and identify the steps needed to achieve them.

Financial Security: Planning for adulthood, aging, medical needs, and retirement involves considering financial aspects. By having a written plan, young adults can outline their financial goals, create budgets, save money, and make informed decisions about investments and insurance. This helps build a solid financial foundation and ensures long-term financial security.

Preparedness for Emergencies: Life is unpredictable, and unexpected events can occur. A written plan helps young adults anticipate potential emergencies or health issues, allowing them to establish emergency funds, arrange appropriate insurance coverage, and designate powers of attorney or healthcare proxies. Being prepared for unforeseen circumstances can minimize stress and provide peace of mind.

Health and Wellness: Planning for medical needs encourages young adults to prioritize their physical and mental well-being. They can include regular health check-ups, preventive measures, and exercise routines in their plan. Additionally, addressing health concerns early on can help prevent or manage potential illnesses in the future.

Long-Term Care Considerations: As people age, the need for long-term care may arise. A written plan allows young adults to consider options such as long-term care insurance, retirement communities, or setting aside funds for future care needs. By planning ahead, they can make informed decisions about the type of care they desire and avoid potential burdens on themselves or their loved ones.

Reduced Stress and Increased Confidence: Having a written plan provides a sense of control and reduces anxiety about the future. The process of creating a plan helps build confidence in the ability to handle challenges and make informed decisions.

Remember, while having a written plan is valuable, it’s also essential to remain flexible and adapt as circumstances change. Regularly reviewing and updating the plan ensures it remains relevant and aligned with your evolving needs and goals.

Sure, plans will get upended. But that is when the true value of planning is revealed. In creating a plan, one has to learn about and consider the many variables of life. And in the process, learns to step more confidently into their future.

 Steps For Today® is dedicated to helping everyone create a plan for their life. Please like and share our page to help spread the word about our resources.

For more articles and information, visit www.StepsForToday.com. And take your next steps.

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The 4 R Document Rule

Does the following short conversation sound familiar to you?
     “So do you have those documents?”
          “Of course… I think… Somewhere.”

Let’s be honest. We’ve all had this experience. And it can leave us hesitant to deal with paperwork (or electronic files) of any kind. No one likes feeling that they’re just going to fail at something. But learning to be comfortable with documents is a necessary life skill. It’s this skill, perhaps more than any other, that creates successful businesses. So why aren’t we using it to create and manage successful plans for adulthood, aging, medical needs, and retirement. I know it can seem overwhelming, but it just takes a process and little practice.

In my book Steps For Today: First Steps For Success (First Steps For Success – Steps For Today®), I discuss the creation of a “Master Index” for managing important information and items. I also provide an example list of life events that may cause changes to our plans and to our documents. Using these two documents, you can easily pick up and use the 4 R Rule: Recognize, Retrieve, Review and Revise. With a little practice you’ll learn to recognize when a life-event will cause a document to change. Using the Master Index, you’ll have the steps to find and retrieve the impacted document(s). You’ll also have a record of who may be needed to help review and revise the documents. All of that with a lot less stress and anxiety than either not having plans, or not knowing where they’re located.

In my next article, I’ll discuss the types of documents we can create to help plan our life. This will be a great article for those who are ‘just starting out’ on the journey, as well as those who know it’s time to get something done, but are struggling on where to start.

Thanks for reading.
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Why Wait?

When you think of home, what comes to mind? It may be the place we go every night and wake in the morning. Or it is where we spent our childhood with our family. For others, it is where multiple generations have lived. Often our idea of home consists of time, place and people blending together to bring about feelings of peace and comfort. From the youngest couple, getting their first place together. To the couple celebrating for 60th anniversary. We all work to create an ideal environment. Often with dreams of it being the place in which we can relax and be comfy for the remainder of life. Somehow though, all too often, our dream can turn a little scary.

A familiar topic conversation among my middle-aged friends is the onslaught of stuff in their home. A, heretofore, unnoticed collection of stuff which seemed to grow until not one more artifact of our existence could be fit into a usual ‘hiding’ place. Our homes, like our lives, can easily be overrun when we are not proactive caretakers. Too often we reach and age at which home maintenance and stuff management becomes difficult. It is then, that we begin to consider the overwhelming task of going through our stuff and deciding what to do with it.

Why not start now? There are some real benefits to saying farewell and passing your treasures to a new owner.

  • Action taken today, won’t require action tomorrow.
  • The recipient’s life will be enriched. Whether a barely worn coat, or a family heirloom, gifting an article to someone who either needs or cherishes it, will brighten their day and make a difference in their life.
  • A side benefit, which does still exist, are tax deductions for charitable gifting.
  • As sad as it may be, disagreement over personal articles of the departed cause many family rifts. Listing them in the TPPM (Write It Down! Posted 9/21/2017) greatly lessens the risk of this happening. But personally handing it to a new owner accentuates the gift with a special memory.
  • There are positive emotional benefits for decluttering your home and life.

Don’t know where to begin? Well, this is Steps For Today….

  1. Set your expectations for success. Like the bonsai tree, our home and life requires a little pruning from time-to-time. And like the bonsai tree enthusiast, we should have a vision of what the perfect tree looks like before we start trimming. In an earlier post (What’s the Plan 11/7/2017) you were encouraged to envision life in retirement. I’ll bet that vision doesn’t include about 95% of the items squirreled away in boxes within the deepest recesses of your home, or, God forbid,….storage locker!
  2. Make it easy. In our home, we keep a box near the front door for items to donate to charity. This makes snap judgements easier to accomplish because there is already a place for gifts.
  3. What’s in Box #1? If you don’t know where to start, just pick a box and start making decisions. The point is not ‘everything musts go’. But rather ‘Do I need this? Or might it be time for someone else to enjoy it?’ It may be best to just set a goal; maybe one box, closet, shelf, or area a month. But stick with it.
  4. Take a picture. Few are blessed with a perfect memory. Often we hang on to an old article because it reminds us of a great experience or time with those we love. Try taking a picture of the article before passing it on. A picture on the wall, in a book, or online will most likely bring those memories forward way more often than an article in a box in the back of the closet.
  5. Have those difficult discussions with your adult children about personal belongings in which they show interest. One of the last things my mother did before she passed, was to personally pass on her jewelry. I believe that doing so in person made the exchange more precious than the items. And in doing it personally, she minimized the conflicts which may have ensued if multiple people cherished the same item.

I hope that’s enough to get started. Don’t wait too late to get started. Or someday all that stuff will just pop up out of nowhere and surprise you. Trust me, you’ll feel a sense of relief with each item that makes its way to a new home.

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

Saying Goodbye to Things

In my books and articles, I write a lot about organizing your home and life. But there is usually more to getting ‘organized’ than just finding a place for everything. There is decluttering.

It’s been my experience that the ‘skill’ of collecting too much stuff has many different origins. I have talked to farmers who wouldn’t dream of throwing away a left-over nut, bolt, piece of steel, wire, or lumber. They know that something will eventually break, and it’ll probably be needed. Besides, it’s a long drive to town. Other people might associate their feelings about a person or event with a related object. Still yet, some just have a lot of unfinished business (see prior post Help for Household Stress – Steps For Today®). Whatever the cause, just the mention of decluttering can evoke anxiety in most. And, therefore, is something we often avoid.

In the book Goodbye Things by Fumio Sasaki, Japan’s most famous minimalist takes you through his personal journey to a life with more focus on living and less focus on things.  It’s an interesting read as he learns more about himself with each step in the process. Here are a few steps from his book:

1. Discarding takes skill. Like all skills, you have to start somewhere. Do something simple at first. Start small and work your way up to larger items. Try just adding one additional small item to the trash and then immediately taking it all out to the bin.

2. If you can’t remember how many gifts you’ve given, don’t worry about things you’ve gotten. We’re often concerned that throwing out a gift that we no longer use will offend the giver. But wouldn’t you, as a giver, prefer for that the gift no outlast its usefulness?

3. Things bring more things. When we buy new things, we often get caught up in all of the accessories. For example, a couch can lead to matching chairs, rugs, curtains, etc.

4. Getting rid of things frees you from the stress of keeping up with the Jones’. He writes that we spend too much thought, time, and treasure on trying to keep up with everyone else. And that letting this go is a feeling of great relief.

Sasaki has many more reasons for getting rid of things. Some might say he takes it to the extreme. But he believes having less things, gives him a greater ability to focus on, and appreciate, the events of his life.

One thing that Sasaki doesn’t really address, is the passing of ‘heirlooms’. I don’t know why people wait until they are no longer able to participate, to take this opportunity to give a wanted gift. It can be a great experience. See my next post for ways to make this happen.

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

On the Record

As every parent knows, the start of every school year is filled with a list of tasks which must be completed before classes begin. Of these tasks, the one that gave me the most anxiety, was coming up with the immunization records. We had moved quite a few times, so no individual doctor had a complete set of records. I always managed to find those little immunization record books. But not without an undue amount of stress. Now, imagine if you had to provide a complete set of medical records, and time was critical.

This same scenario can also apply to financial or legal paperwork in an emergency situation, medical or otherwise. It’s easy to forget a documents location. Whether it’s paper or electronic, once it’s placed in a “safe” location, our brains automatically quit tracking it, and move on to whatever concerns are most pressing.

In my book, First Steps For Success, I discuss the creation of a Master Index. This document is a single location to list and track the critical documents for your household. The Index can also be used to capture metadata related to a document such as persons, companies, or related documents. The book also discusses different types of documents and how they may be applicable to your home. Of course, it takes a few steps to do the initial setup for your existing documents, but you’ll find that knowing where your important information is kept and having a quick place to record the location of future documents, will save both time and anxiety in the future. First Steps For Success is available at Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RQZJ2VD.

Thanks for reading. Please like and share with those who may benefit from this information!
And remember to take the next step.

PS. It seems as though Facebook has possibly changed its algorithms which determine who sees these posts. Please help me reach as many people as possible by liking and sharing this content. This will also let me know if the posts are reaching my readers. Thanks again!

Spring Cleaning

I can still remember a lot about my Great Grandmother. Born in 1895, in a very rural community, she was a firm believer in ‘spring cleaning’. This usually occurred on the first warm day in March or April, and it involved opening the windows for fresh air, getting out the ammonia for cleaning, and taking out the rugs for a firm beating on the clothesline.  I was pretty young, but I can remember being amazed at the amount of ‘stuff’ that was in a rug that had been vacuumed all winter. I would love to see the look on my neighbors faces if I did this feat at home this spring. Heck, I’d love to see their faces if I put up a clothesline!

I no longer perform spring cleanings like that. But I do have the following list of things I try to do on the first warm days of the year.

  • Like my grandmother, I like to open the windows and let in the fresh air. This is also a chance to check the screens for damage and get them repaired before the bugs arrive.
  • Take a walk around your homes exterior to look for clogged or damaged gutters and downspouts. Cleaning gutters is not fun. But it’s less fun in the rain.
  • While you’re out there, also look for damaged or loose siding, facia, and soffits.
  • Take a few steps back and take another walk around your home. This time, take a look at the roof for damaged shingles. If anything looks suspect, call a roofer. They’re usually happy to take a look around up there and see if there’s minor damage or something that can qualify for an insurance claim.
  • Winter freezing and thawing can also cause landscaping to shift. It’s best to get that fixed before the spring rains cause further damage.
  • Now’s the time to wash away the winter collection of gunk on your windows. If you’re not a fan of window cleaning, contact your local firehouse. Those folks are great at cleaning windows.
  • Check for bird nests on your home while you’re out there too. Having birds nesting on your light fixtures causes a mess. But let’s face it, you’re not going to take it down once there’s eggs in it.
  • When it gets above 65 degrees, I like to check the air-conditioning system before the hotter weather arrives. Running the A/C when it any cooler, or when there’s a chance that ice could still be on the unit, can damage the system. So it’s best to wait.

These are just a few chores I do when the weather gets warmer. What are some of the steps you take on those first nice days?

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And remember to take the next step.

Filter in the Savings

As discussed in my last post, the price to keep warm this winter will be on the rise. There are many steps you can take to reduce your energy consumption. One of the easiest, and most often forgotten, is to replace your furnace filter.

A dirty or clogged furnace filter will drastically reduce the ability of your furnace to circulate warm air throughout your home; making the furnace work harder to heat your home. According to energy.gov, ‘Replacing a dirty, clogged filter with a clean one can lower your energy consumption by 5% to 15%.’  A dirty filter also increases stress on the blower fan motor. If the filter is completely clogged, it can cause the fan motor to totally overheat and shut down. Lastly, a dirty filter just doesn’t do a good job of cleaning the air circulating in your home.

Every home is different. A home with furry pets will probably need the filter changed more frequently than one without. A good practice is to set a calendar reminder to at least check the filter every month to determine how often it needs changed.

Changing the furnace filter is just one step in overall home maintenance. To have a well-maintained home takes some planning and good habits. Look for more tip for home maintenance at www.StepsForToday.com.

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And remember to take the next step…

PS: I’d love to hear any cost-saving or home maintenance 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 https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/weatherize/air-sealing-your-home.

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 www.StepsForToday.com.

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 www.StepsForToday.com/shop 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…


Creating a Portable Home Workspace

School is back in session and some parents are now working from home. Many households have now discovered that workspaces are at a premium. Most homes do not have an office for each person. And unlike having a desk in which your tools and paperwork can be neatly stored for later retrieval, the home workspace tends to be temporary and varied in its location. This can lead to a lot of frustration and lost productivity as we search for misplaced items and paperwork. Here are some quick steps for organizing a home workspace.

One easy solution for creating a portable workspace is purchase a portable file box. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes and features. My favorite is the ‘Iris Clear Letter-Size Portable File Box with Lid Organizer‘. It is somewhat translucent, has a place to store pencils and small supplies in the lid, and supports the use of hanging file folders (a must for me). They are stackable, but how high do you want to go with that before you’re tempting the fates with a catastrophic collapse into a swirling collage of papers and tears.

Outfitted with a portable file box, the industrious student (or employee) can organize their papers into tabbed manila folders securely contained within a colored hanging file for easy retrieval. I prefer 3 tab manila folders because their larger tab gives me more room on which to write descriptive information. The more information on the tab, the easier it is to find the right folder. And always write the date, and possibly the expiration date (when applicable), on it so you know when you can dispense with it.

A separate storage box can be set up with useful shared materials and tools such as scissors, tape, staplers, hole punches, and erasers. A trip to the hardware store may be your best option to locate a box for these materials. A 15 inch toolbox should hold a holepunch and rulers. There’s usually quite a variety of boxes from which to choose.

Of course, tools for organization only work when used with some discipline and routine. As any parent knows, making a game of ‘clean-up’ motivates their children into another level of industriousness. With a little ingenuity, it may even work on adults too!

Hope this brings a little less confusion and anxiety into your home as we continue to push through 2020.

As always, thanks for reading.

And remember to take the next step…