Claudia Buck

Readers sound off on clutter, financial fraud, homeowners insurance

Mike Baldizan and his father Moyses Baldizan, at their home in south Sacramento, pet Rocky, the family’s pit bull. Moyses Baldizan had coverage through Hartford Insurance but recently discovered the insurer wouldn’t carry him because the dog is a pit bull.
Mike Baldizan and his father Moyses Baldizan, at their home in south Sacramento, pet Rocky, the family’s pit bull. Moyses Baldizan had coverage through Hartford Insurance but recently discovered the insurer wouldn’t carry him because the dog is a pit bull. hamezcua@sacbee.com

Postscripts from readers: From clearing clutter to preventing elder financial fraud to pit bull owners trying to find homeowners insurance, readers have responded to recent stories, sharing their tips and thoughts. Here’s a roundup:

Clutterers Anonymous

On Jan. 25, we wrote about a busy Sacramento mom who hired a professional organizer to get on top of her family’s household clutter, including a five-hour cleanout of their two-car garage. (See column and a time-lapse video at sacbee.com.)

It prompted reaction from several readers who were digging into their own clutter-clearing projects in January, which is annual Get Organized Month, according to the National Association of Professional Organizers.

For those who can’t dig their way out of clutter and would like free help from a support group, Clutterers Anonymous is an option.

Like Alcoholics Anonymous, it follows the 12-step, self-help format where members remain anonymous but offer support through weekly in-person meetings, phone chats or Skype conferences. There are no dues or membership requirements, other than “a desire to stop cluttering.”

Linda, 66, is a self-described “chronic clutterer,” who says her Sacramento condo “barely has a path wide enough to walk through” from her kitchen to her main living areas. Like other 12-step members, she doesn’t disclose her last name. Having attended Clutterers Anonymous group meetings for more than a year, she says it has helped. “It’s knowing I’m not alone. I can share what I’m going through and feel safe about it.”

Dealing with the clutter is overwhelming, she said. At the weekly meetings, Linda said she gets support for setting small goals, like eliminating accumulated piles on her kitchen counter or clearing out a corner of her living room.

There are two weekly meeting locations in the Sacramento area:

Thursdays, from 7 to 8:30 p.m., at Sun River Church Family Life Center, 11223 Trinity River Drive in Rancho Cordova and on Sundays, from 1 to 3 p.m., at Waffle Square Restaurant Banquet Room 1825 10th St., Sacramento.

For more details and a list of Clutterers Anonymous meetings nationwide, visit clutterersanonymous.org.

Elder financial fraud

In a Jan. 11 story on elder financial fraud, we mentioned the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, a San Francisco nonprofit that advocates on topics dealing with seniors.

CANHR recently created a free, new guide, Senior Scams Alert, that covers common frauds perpetrated against seniors, such as “free lunch” seminars selling annuities, reverse mortgage scams and grandparent scams. The guide also covers where to report if you or someone you know is a victim of a financial scam directed at seniors.

Two of seniors’ biggest concerns are outliving their assets and going into a nursing home, both of which can be exploited by unscrupulous financial professionals, according to CANHR.

“We know that seniors are targeted and pushed into unsuitable financial products,” said Prescott Cole, CANHR senior attorney. “We wanted a guide that deals with serial, commercial predators who work on seniors using fear, anger and greed.”

To order a free copy, go to CANHR’s website, www.canhr.org, and search under “Popular Topics.” Or call (800) 474-1116 in California or (415) 974-5171 outside the state.

Get financial advice

And while these aren’t from readers, there are two upcoming events where you can get free, online help for retirement planning and investment advice.

Kiplinger: On Thursday, Kiplinger’s personal finance magazine is hosting “Jump-Start Your Retirement Plan,” a daylong online chat where consumers can get free advice from financial advisers on retirement and other topics. It’s from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Among the topics covered: IRAs and 401(k)s; Social Security and retirement income; gift taxes and wills/estates; paying down debt and saving for kids’ college. The advice is from a team of 20 financial advisers who are members of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors.

You can register in advance at kiplinger.com and submit your question, using a first name or pseudonym. During the Feb. 19 event, one or more advisers will post their advice, which anyone can see and read.

Transcripts of previous Q&A advice from past quarterly Jump-Start events can be viewed at kiplinger.com.

Morningstar: On March 21, Morningstar Inc., the noted investing research firm, is hosting its fourth annual “DIY Investor” live, an online conference where individuals can hear from the company’s leading investment advisers, columnists and bloggers.

In a series of sessions, the Morningstar experts will discuss today’s market conditions, strategies to make money last in retirement, how to create a model retirement portfolio, as well as “cream of the crop” mutual funds and the best dividend-earning stocks.

The free event starts at 7 a.m. Open to any individual investor, there’s no fee or Morningstar membership required to participate. To register, go to: morningstar.com/conference

Last bite on pit bull insurance

Last week’s column described how difficult it is to obtain homeowners insurance if you’re an owner of a pit bull or any other dog considered bite-prone by insurers. The story mentioned State Farm as one insurance company that says it will cover all dogs – and doesn’t ask about specific breeds. But one reader emailed to ask for a list of other companies that will offer such coverage.

To answer that question, we looked up “pit-friendly” insurance companies, according to Pit Bull Rescue Central, a website for rescued pit bulls and mixed breeds. Its list includes State Farm, Farmers Insurance Group, Nationwide and United Services Automobile Association. There’s also a San Diego company, Einhorn Insurance Agency, that specializes in dog liability coverage covering all breeds typically considered at-risk for bites.

It’s advisable to call each company to see if it has policy restrictions or has changed its coverage requirements.

Some insurers are taking steps to limit their exposure to such losses, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Some companies require dog owners to sign liability waivers for dog bites, while others charge more for owners of breeds viewed as dangerous. Some will provide coverage if the owner takes the dog to behavior modification classes or if the dog is restrained with a muzzle, chain or cage.

And on a final, sobering note, DogsBite.org, a nonprofit that tracks U.S. dog fatalities, released its 2014 report on Wednesday, showing that dogs killed 42 people last year, the highest number since it started keeping track in 2005. The report said that pit bulls and pit bull mixes contributed to 66 percent of last year’s lethal attacks.

Final postscript

To everyone who wrote, called or emailed, thanks for the input.

Call The Bee’s Claudia Buck at (916) 321-1968 or read her Personal Finance columns at sacbee.com/claudiabuck.

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