I was looking over the finance help columns I've been writing for the past couple of years and realizing how many unusual – and often fascinating – situations can arise. Here are four of my favorite lessons that I've learned: Free financial advice for the taking.
Non-traditional couples: Our expert Holly Kylen, a financial planner with ING Financial Partners, says 30% of her business is with non-traditional couples. Her number one piece of advice: "I tell every one of these couples that their will, living will, power of attorney, life insurance and long-term care policy are their marriage license." By creating the right documents, they can enjoy many of the advantages a married couple would. Kylen goes on to describe how each of these documents should be drawn up.
Pet disputes: I loved talking with Debra Hamilton, who practiced as an attorney for three decades before she found her true calling, working not as a litigator but a mediator. Her new practice, Hamilton Law and Mediation, seeks to solve problems like noisy dogs and straying cats. She works with co-op owners who can't stand the sound of the Labrador retriever galloping across the floor upstairs, helps divorcing couples resolve custody of a beloved pet. She smoothes the relationships between land owners and the horseback riders who transit their property. She mediates cases when professionals like veterinarians, breeders, groomers and kennels are at odds with their clients. Hamilton, who has 10 dogs, says that 70% of all cases can be resolved with mediation and gives her tips for solving pet problems without resorting to legal action.
Social media RIP: "What do you do with your social media when you die? Nobody thinks about it. Even lawyers," says Debra Speyer, an adjunct law professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia and author of the upcoming book, Money, Health and Home: Seven Steps to Helping Your Parents Navigate Retirement and Aging. "Twenty years ago, people kept scrapbooks. Now everything is online." A social media strategy should be included with your will. Getting people to record their wishes about social media is a passion of Speyer's. "I have my clients put a section in their will, a separate memorandum about how they want social media dealt with after their death. You have to think about what you want shared after you die, or not." Speyer has other tips for how to handle Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and the like.
Living on a shoestring: Danny Kofke wrote the book on being frugal, How To Survive (and Perhaps Thrive) on a Teacher's Salary. When their first daughter was born, Danny's wife quit her job and they lived on the $36,000 Danny earned as a special ed teacher. Three years later, another baby came along, and Danny's salary was it until just recently when their younger daughter, now four, started preschool and Danny's wife started teaching part-time. How they lived large on little money offers a reminder of some simple rock-solid lessons in personal finance and how to budget money. We should all know them – and we probably do. But do we follow them? Kofke gives a quick refresher course on how to pinch pennies without feeling the pinch. Free financial advice we can all benefit from.