After my recent post about mistakes people make about naming beneficiaries – and the unintended outcomes that result – I received this question from a reader:

If our beneficiaries are in place, is a will still important for transferal of things? In what areas and ways? Does it speed up the process or limit lawyer entitlements? (These are things I hear) Also, are there advantages to a trust?

In order to answer these questions, we need a little background:

Everyday someone falls victim to a scam or fraud. With the help of technology, scams happen more often each day. Recently a member of my family fell into a scam. She went to look for some help online with her printer, searched online for the phone number and called asking for help. After 45 minutes on the phone, the scammers installed software to "help" her printer and then asked her for $75. Then in a strange turn of events, they gave her the right phone number for the printer company. That's when she knew she had a problem...

Death and Taxes- two things we can't avoid. I don't know about you but I really hate filing taxes. It is so much paperwork and time consuming, even when my paperwork is organized. I usually put it off until later, much, much later. What I have been reading lately about identity theft and stolen identity refund fraud is making me change my mind.

In some areas of life, it seems that one group of people has the gift - they know what to do or how to behave so that they are successful and accepted. They know the Secret Code.

In 1922, Emily Post published her book on etiquette. It was groundbreaking, because for the first time it revealed the secret code known only by the wealthy elite about how to behave and talk in high society.

For many of us, personal finance feels like a secret code that only certain people have access to. Financial education can change that.

Prior to Thanksgiving last year, I wrote this post: Talking about Death over [a dead] Turkey. What I didn't know was how timely this post would be in my family's life. You see, my husband's grandma came home from rehabilitation the day before Thanksgiving.

As University of Illinois Extension educators, we do financial education outreach in a variety of ways. Obviously we blog, and we also teach people in person. In our "free" time we also create new educational materials and curriculum. For the past three years, we've been working to create, revise and update All My Money: Change for the Better curriculum and we're happy to announce, it's done!

Spending money is fun. When you buy something – like a new outfit, or furniture for your house, or a new car – you get to show it to your friends, wear it or use it for a special event. The fun goes on and on! Saving money is not typically this much fun.

Well, people and organizations concerned about the small amount that many people have saved are taking new approaches to making saving – believe it or not – fun!

In the old days, I use to run around town looking for the right tax forms, go through several erasers completing the forms, and then madly race to the post office to mail my tax return by the due date. When I lived in Tucson, one post office stayed open until midnight for procrastinating filers; they even gave you a cookie when they stamped that all-so-important postmark that said you made the deadline!

Do you remember when you started your first savings account? I know I must have been pretty young when I first deposited money because I didn't quite understand how a savings account worked, and I was disappointed when I couldn't "withdraw" my Buffalo Nickel that I had deposited. That disappointment notwithstanding, I was a lucky child to have a savings account early in my life.

The holidays are coming up… and with it is the ability to overspend. Whether you're shopping for a few or many, having a plan for the holidays can help. Below are my top 3 holiday spending tips!

1. Use a budget within a budget.

Who gets your IRA when you pass away – assuming there's still money in it? Who will get your house? Your life insurance payout? Your 401(k)?

The answer could be different from what you think.

An Example

Your will says that your daughter gets all these things. That's how you want all your worldly good to be distributed, so you think everything is fine.

What you forgot is that, twenty years ago when you were still married, you named your (now) ex-husband as the beneficiary of your IRA and your insurance policy.

I bet you've named a beneficiary on something: maybe an IRA, a life insurance policy, or your 401(k). It's quick and easy to do. And being named as a beneficiary makes it quicker and easier for your heirs to receive what you've left to them, compared to the costs and delays of probate.

But that doesn't mean beneficiaries are fool proof. Check out these stories. Have you made any of these mistakes?

With the class of 2016 graduating from college, I reminisced about my own graduation from my alma mater. Below are my top 3 financial planning tips for college graduates (and a bonus for those who have student loans!) Congrats graduates, and enjoy!

During the holidays I had an amazing opportunity to travel to Maui. As I walked along the beach, listening to the surf and marveling at the full rainbow over the ocean, I thought about where I am in my life and what I'd like to do in 2016. I believe in the value of reflecting on what we've done as well as setting goals for the future.

One year ago I bought my house with my husband, along the way I documented all that I had learned. We started off asking tons of questions! Asking ourselves we were ready to buy or continue to rent?

Put a little fun into your savings!

To celebrate the America Saves Week, America Saves launched the #imsavingfor contest. It's easy to enter. Just share a picture of you and what you are saving for and then enter to win $500 at AmericaSavesWeek.org/imsavingfor.

Get creative with your pictures!

Valentine's Day is just around the corner. It is said that Valentine's Day came about because of an Italian bishop who married couples in secret. At the time Roman Emperor Claudius II was fighting a war and believed that married men were not good soldiers. He thought they would rather be at home with their families then off to war on behalf of their countries. So, he abolished marriage. Bishop Valentine would invite couples to his home where he married them.

Do you have a fledgling entrepreneur in the house? Talking about money with kids is important as is giving them opportunities to practice with finances. Families tend to find different ways for their kids to practice money: some give allowances, some provide opportunities to earn money around the household, and in some families entrepreneurship is encouraged.

I celebrate my friendships and family at this time of year! I love to choose gifts that I think will make them happy, and I'm thankful that I can afford to shop without worrying about each dollar. While I'm celebrating, however, I'm very aware that for many times are tough. Part of my giving each year is to organizations that help others; sharing is part of money management, in my opinion.

Are you planning to attend college between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018, or do you know someone who is? The FAFSA is available earlier this year! The FAFSA online form (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) went live on October 1st. Completing the FAFSA is necessary to apply for federal student aid, as well as other aid and scholarships.

When was the last time you shopped around for car insurance? If you're like most Americans, you don't. According to a June 2015 survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International and commissioned by insuranceQuotes.com, 66 percent of policyholders never or rarely check to see if they could get their coverage more cheaply. While most people think shopping for car insurance is a pain or a hassle, it could be worth it financially for you to check!

You work. Let EITC work for you!

For the last 40 years, Earned Income Tax Credit made life better for millions of workers. You may have extra money waiting for you. If you qualify and claim the credit, it could be as much as $6,242 from the IRS for some workers.

Don't be the one in five that misses this credit. If you or someone you know earned less than $53,267 from wages, running a business or farm or from Form 1099 MISC, check it out.

"The only thing that is constant is change."-Heraclitus

Life seems to move faster and faster as we age. I know from experience that when I started working for Extension I was a single person, then engaged, then married. Our readers have followed me along in my home buying series and now I'm excited to share that we've had a baby! Considering the change I've experienced, below I want to discuss preparing for all life transitions, the good and bad.

Setting Goals

If you haven't guessed it by now, I am a Millennial. The idea of being 65+ is a concept that I can't completely grasp yet. I do worry about retirement and wonder if I am saving enough for my future self. Retirement will come, even if you say you won't "retire" one day you may need a nest egg! No matter what age you are, it's important to save for retirement.

Yesterday my colleagues and I completed our third webinar about student loan repayment in the last three years. I thought it be helpful to include some of the important tips we covered during our webinar. Especially for those who have young adults who are going off to college soon, are in college or are currently in repayment. If you'd like to watch the entirety of the webinar called "Love your Loan: Student Loan Repayment" it can be found here!

You have options when it comes to repayment

In your daily life, what questions are you asked? I suppose philosophers ponder questions like, ""If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" As a financial educator, I've been asked questions lately like:

Back in February, I wrote a blog post about scams and what tasks you need to do right away if you become a victim. Recently my sister had her

What started out as a fun hashtag, #FirstSevenJobs, has led to a discussion about our country's major shift in employment trends for teens and young adults. While many of us list jobs starting in our teens (babysitting, lawn mowing, cooking hamburgers, etc.), in 2014 only one in four teens had a job. What will the other 75% of teens #FirstSevenJobs list look like in 20 years?

Did you buy a car or truck in the past year? Twenty-four percent of adults surveyed did, according to the latest Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households. We tend to buy a lot of cars over our lifetimes. How we go about purchasing these vehicles matter. Car loans are the third largest category of household debts for American consumers, behind mortgages and student loans, and are often a large debt for people.

Back in December of 2014, I wrote a blog post called "2014 Financial Goal Challenge: All About that Debt" describing how my husband and I had been trying to pay off all of our debt,

Do you hear the buzz? The conversation is getting louder. What started a few years ago as a murmur among a few is turning into excited dialogue and debate! I'm at the National Summit on Collegiate Financial Wellness and its energizing. Today's conversations centered on financial literacy: what is it and how can it be increased?

Say you spent $50,000 in your first year of retirement. How much would you expect to spend in Year 2? Year 3? If you're like most people, you said that you'll probably spend a little more each year, simply because of inflation. You would be in good company, because most estimates of how long our money will last in retirement make the same assumption.

But it may be wrong. And if it is wrong, you may be able to retire earlier – or with a smaller nest egg – than all the retirement calculators are telling you.

After months of cold winter days, and paying to heat my home, I'm ready in the spring for new ways to make my home more energy efficient! This time of the year is also when many homeowners like myself scramble to put home improvement plans into action, especially those plans that require hiring expertise to do the work.

2016 is here! It's in full swing and most people have the best intentions to start something new, but what about financially? Sure we want to lose weight, read more, or visit more of the world, but when do we ever set up new financial resolutions? If you're stuck in 2015's financial ghost of Christmas past, below are some tips to combat them!

The Ghost of Debt