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This Week In Your Wallet: “Can You Hear Me?”

“Can you hear me?” No, this isn’t a twist on the old Verizon campaign (or the new Sprint one). It’s a scam.

If you answer a call from an unfamiliar caller and this is the first thing you hear, hang up immediately. Do not reply. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. CBS News reports that potential hackers on the other end of the line can record your response and use it to authorize charges via credit card or bill. They only need to capture your voice uttering the word “yes” to be successful, which means any yes or no question can work. To lower your risk, don’t answer calls from unfamiliar numbers, even if they’re from a familiar area code — and/or hang up immediately if you’re asked a yes or no question. And if you’ve already received this type of call? Carefully monitor your credit and debit card charges — and your credit reports. A reminder: At AnnualCreditReport.com, you can access one report from each of the three major credit bureaus annually for free.

I’ll move onto the other news of the week in a moment, but before I do, a quick request. I’ve told you that my new book AgeProof: Living Longer Without Running Out Of Money Or Breaking A Hip is coming out at the end of the month. My co-author, Dr. Michael Roizen, Chief of Wellness at the Cleveland Clinic, runs a very successful coaching program where he — and his coach colleagues — help individuals lose weight, stop smoking, get moving and get healthier in many other ways. Now, he and I are adding financial wellness to this program and we’re looking for some — for lack of a better word — guinea pigs. If you’d like to be coached through the process of saving more, paying down debt and otherwise getting your financial life in shape, drop me a line at jean@jeanchatzky.com. No need to live in Cleveland. The coaching is done remotely. And thanks.

The New Ease Of Investing

Nearly 80 percent of millennials aren’t investing in the stock market, according to a Harris poll conducted by the investing app Stash, and over 40 percent say it’s because they feel they don’t have enough money to do so. But feeling like you don’t have enough money and actually not having enough money aren’t the same thing, as a handful of new apps are proving. Stash, for example, offers access to miniaturized ETF portfolios with an initial investment starting at just $5. The first three months are free, and after that the app charges $1 a month. Acorns, another investing app, offers a twist on the old Keep The Change credit card from B of A; it rounds purchases users make on their debit and credit cards up to the nearest dollar and invests the extra. The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Zweig, who writes about these services in his weekly column, notes that fees are steep if you’re only investing a few dollars (a $1 fee on top of $5 is, of course, 20 percent), but the more you invest through these apps, the lower the fee’s percentage of your total holdings. And there are others worth checking out if you’d like to get going investing or saving and don’t know where to start. These “clever new smartphone applications turn two human vices — inertia and impulsivity — into virtues,” Zweig notes.

Joy-Based Spending

If you’re looking to reign in your spending, here’s a new tactic to try. Think about your last couple of purchases — anything from a work lunch to a new set of sheets. Did any of them bring you joy? And if the answer is no, do you regret any of them?Just as organizing expert Marie Kondo advises you use this filter to decide what to keep and what to toss, you can use it to decide what’s worth buying in the future. I recently explored the idea of joy-based spending on SavvyMoney.com. Start with the “highlighter test,” suggests Cindy Wilson, a financial consultant with TIAA. Print your debit and credit card statements for the past month, and highlight everything that didn’t bring you joy. The process should influence your future purchases and get you into the habit of thinking, “Is this worth it? Will it bring me joy?” Another trick is to take your after-tax income (the number on each paycheck) and divide it by 2,000 (the average number of hours worked annually) to get your net hourly wage. Remember that number, and when you’re about to pay for something, check in with yourself: “Am I willing to work that many hours for this?”

Kicking The Habit

Finally, MONEY has a money-saving trick that could save you $1,758 a year (or more). It’s savings matching — matching “bad” habits with “good” ones. So if there’s something you’d like to cut down on — maybe dining out, buying cocktails, online shopping — pledge to put $1 in savings for every $1 you spend on the habit. (One of the MONEY editors did it with alcohol for a month and saved $146.50, so the projected yearly savings would be $1,758). If you decide to go down this road, drop me a line and let me know how it’s going.

Have a great week,


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