how-to-teach-kids--budget-for-a-lifetime-of-good-choices

How To Teach Kids to Budget For a Lifetime of Good Financial Choices

It’s difficult to imagine how your seven or ten year old could learn how to budget so early in life. Especially when he or she is still coming into the house covered in mud or glitter and you still have to beg for them to brush their teeth. But it is absolutely possible and actually not that difficult.

 Leading by example is a way to start teaching your kids how to budget

As the oldest of 5, I was very close to the decision making process, the planning and what the family needed to buy or save for.

My father constantly traveled for work and sometimes spent a whole month out of the country while my mom all-by-herself took care of the house. When he traveled she would be the one handling the budget. Financially, it was a great thing for the family when she was in charge of the money.

She was a stay at home mom who never quite finished school and she had a very poor childhood (financially, of course). Every Cruzeiro  she made was carefully saved (no pennies because this was in Brazil). So as a child she learned the value of keeping track of her money.

Because of her budget skills, she was able to make the money last the whole time my father was out of the country. She would even save enough money to buy us each an outfit so we could dress up to pick up our father at the airport when he returned. Happy times!

Be very careful with your own budget or the kids may learn some bad habits too

In contrast, I learned at an early age that my father was not good as good as my mother with his budget. During his career he was always a hard working man but he also spent too quickly. That habit came from his own father. I learned and still remember the adults saying that grandpa just got paid. He then would spend his entire budget with presents for the kids on the day he got the pay check.

While it was nice to get presents I never understood how grandpa could pay for his food or rent. I know, I was an inquisitive kid, thinking about that even back then.

Nowadays, many parents want to shield their kids from the world so they can enjoy a few more years with fairies and superheroes and not so much of the “real life”.

I know it is commendable to give your kids a childhood but it is also important that they learn to budget early on. If you do so they will have a reasonable understanding of why you are not buying that toy or video game today. Who here doesn’t remember throwing tantrums in the supermarket?

A Kid’s budget lesson should start with an allowance and some chores that can they turn into cash

I don’t know about you but when my father asked us to mow the lawn or wash the car we just ran for the hills. Until he made a list of chores that we could turn into cash. That was one good thing we learned from dad: you work-you get paid!

For us kids, it was like finding a gold mine. If we wanted that video game, we could finally buy it (remember Atari cartridges? Cough, cough! Sorry, a lot of dust flying here!).  Or we could buy the next hot toy out there.

I know you are going to say that “kids should be doing their chores regardless”. Yes! I agree. For the most part.

I also think that since kids are not legally allowed to work for an actual paycheck until a certain age (at least in the US) giving them a list of “for hire” chores can teach them the value of work in exchange for money.

budgeting-for-kids-how-to-teach-your-kids-to-budget-pinterest

They can learn that by working they are able to buy that game.Or that doll or even that dog they always dreamed about (before you buy a dog please read my article about gifting a pet). They will also see that they need to work first in order to get that money, and that it is not “easy” making money. 

Learning the value of money is the first step for kids to learn how to budget

If kids learn that there is an “exchange” in order to get that money, i.e. you dedicate an hour or two to mow the lawn and you’ll get money in the end, they will quickly learn that the time spent working (mowing the lawn, washing the car) has value.

The first value they will learn is that “time is money”. The second value they will learn is that it takes a combination of several “hours” (“time”) to get the total amount of money they are looking for.

For example, if you pay $5 for your 10 year old to wash the car, he will see that it took 1 hour or so to make that amount of money. Just like us when we are adults we get our first check and realize we worked 40 hours to make, say $300 a week or $1000 a week.

And let’s say your kid wants a game that costs $25 dollars. You should explain that if he is looking to get that game he will need to wash that car at least 4 more times to be able to buy it. Or find another chore on the “for hire” list to make more money.

When they realize the value of their work, the “budget talk” should come next

When your child realizes that it will take a little longer to get enough to buy that game or doll you are probably going to get one of two responses: “Can I just wash the car everyday so I can get this money quickly?” Or ,“This sucks! I don’t want to do this anymore”.

When you get the “can this be faster” response, this is a great opportunity. Clearly explain that saving money takes time and effort but with patience he or she will get what they are saving for. Ask them to imagine the day they are finally going to the store to buy what they want.

If you get the “this sucks!” response, ask your child why, and have her explain to you why. I bet you, their issue will be how long it takes to get enough money to get what she wants.

In this case, she will need a “small victory” to get the “taste” of getting what she wants to buy in exchange for work. You have to be careful because this is where kids can also feel “entitled” after you “give” them that small victory.

Here’s what you are going to do instead: You are NOT going to make this easy.

Sure, they need to experience that “thrill” of making enough to get what they want at least once. And maybe only once.

But you need to make the chore a little more “difficult” to complete and make it clear that it is a one time deal. That if they want to get something else they have to go back to the “old system”.

For example, if your kid wants that video game/or that more expensive doll have him/her agree to a “set of chores” before they get their money. Combine a lot of things you want them to do into this one time deal.

DO NOT give them chores that they are supposed to be doing already like cleaning their room or gathering their toys or picking up after themselves.

You could offer a prize here and there for doing those chores but NEVER make that part of the “for hire” chores. Maybe every 2 months they get free ice cream or something they value but that it’s not too expensive.

The chore should be something unusual like mowing the lawn (not for a 7 year old of course!) or sweeping the yard. It can also be something you are working on yourself but could use the extra help like sorting papers to shred, or organizing the garage.

The point is that after they complete ALL the tasks you gave them, they get that one big “payday”.

When they finally experience the first purchase with their hard earned cash, in most cases, they are “hooked”.

Yes, be prepared for them to ask you for more “for-hire” chores, and your own budget may not allow you to offer those a lot. But even if you start with a dime here or a quarter there, they will get the picture. And start early on in their lives. Start with a candy purchase with that quarter. Or a small toy with that dollar.

Show them how to stretch that budget too and the value of bargain hunting 

One way to monitor your “little workers” is to make a grid or checklist for each child. Have them create their own goal list too. Something like this for example (click on the image for a downloadable form like this one):

how-to-teach-kids-to-budget-for-a-lifetime-of-good-choices-budget-grid

This post contains affiliate links. I may make a commission from any purchases you make through these links without any extra cost to you. This is how I make sure I can feed the cats in the neighborhood.

When you see that your child is getting close to getting the amount they need to reach their goal, take them “window shopping” for the item they want. Online shopping also counts.

Teach them to compare prices. Show them how to stretch their money by showing them that they can buy something similar for less. Or that you can find their particular item at a more discounted rate. Show them how to wait for sales if you know a “season” like Black Friday is coming up.

This lesson will trigger their “bargain hunting” skills.

They will see that their money can go much further if they take the time to find the right price.

Let’s say your kid wanted a video game.  After “bargain hunting” you both find out there is a deal for the original game he wanted. You also find out there’s an expansion for that same game for the same price or for a “hair” more.

Make them excited for that possibility. Give them the opportunity to learn to wait so they can gather that little extra cash to get that extension. Who doesn’t like a bargain?

Of course, to show your kids how to budget you should also know how to do your own budget. I wrote two articles called How to Create and Maintain a Budget Without Starving. I also wrote about How to Balance Your Budget Like a ProThese articles are a good way to start your own budget if you are not sure how.

Learning How to Budget Early will help them avoid a lifetime of Debt

Teach your kids how to budget early on. When they reach college age they will know how to handle their own finances. A lot of us have huge student loan debts. This is partly because we were unprepared to budget college living expenses.

Even more critical is knowing how to use a credit card at an early age. A lot of college kids nowadays don’t know how to use credit cards. All they see is that they can swipe their card in a machine and they can buy “whatever” they want.  It is “easy money” until the bill shows up in the mail box and panic sets in.

Set up a time with each child. Choose a favorite “piggy bank” or box as their “savings” account. You can choose to let them keep control of the “bank”. Or teach them the value of banking once they understand how a budget works. You could offer to be the “bank” so they are not tempted to spend the money earlier if they prefer.

Either way, your child will be more prepared for a lifetime of good financial decisions.

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Until next time!

 

How to Create a Budget and Maintain it without Starving-budgeting (2)

How to Create and Maintain a Budget Without Starving

The biggest issue most people have when trying to fit in a budget is not seeing “the big picture”. The big picture is your income versus your budget.

Once you have the big picture you will be able to “see” what kind of budget you will need to fit in.

Most people fit in 4 categories: “Thrifty” (or extremely thrifty), “Thrifty but will splurge occasionally”, “the big spender” and “the hoarder“.

Believe it or not, these categories have nothing to do with how much a person makes a month. These are simply “behaviors” around money. The “big spender” is not necessarily a millionaire and you can certainly have a millionaire who is extremely thrifty. Ebenezer Scrooge, anyone?

Before preparing a budget or even considering a budget you need to know what you are and where you fit in those categories. Be realistic and honest with yourself. Dodging that question will only prolong the issues you are having with your budget.

Pretend you are going to an addicts meeting. Look at yourself in the mirror and say:

“Hi, my name is so and so and I’m a_________ (Insert your budget behavior here)”.

No one needs to hear it but you. You can do this in the bathroom, bedroom or in a forest. As long as YOU are listening.

Why should I be asking the budget behavior question?

If you are asking yourself that question you probably have a stack of bills and you are panicking about what to do with all of them. Or you are having a “guilt trip” about that trip to Europe (Should I stay or Should I go?).

Or you just can’t accept the fact that someone did not give you that 1 cent change at the grocery store and you are grumbling about it for 3 days.

Finally, do you live pay check to pay check because you buy collectibles? Things that you think or know are collectibles and sit on those things for years? Without negotiating them or using them (boxed Superman toys, anyone?)?

Who do I want to be on Budget Behavior?

Of course, most people want or should be in the “thrifty but will splurge occasionally category”.

The person in this category knows how much he/she makes, plans the bills and expenses. That person has just a bit left to save for something big and expensive, or for retirement.

There is a good balance of budgeting and behavior. Why? Because while we shouldn’t be throwing money away, life is short and it should be lived.

If you worked all year and lived tight to save some money to go to Europe, please go to Europe!!

Now, if you have an excellent salary but you count the number of toilet paper sheets you use when going to the bathroom (yes, I’m going there!) then you are extremely thrifty.

I know it’s your money and you can do whatever you want with it. I also agree that saving for a rainy day is an excellent idea. But it saddens me to think you are eating oatmeal for lunch and dinner. And you make six figures a year and won’t spend on anything! This is a bit extreme.

And in the end, you die and either someone else will burn that money real quick or it goes to the government. So, why not enjoy the fruits of your labor?

The Big Spender

The big spender usually has an average salary that could give him/her a comfortable life but that person’s life is surrounded by luxury she/he can’t afford.

I once knew a person who lived in an 800sq ft apartment and had 3 TVs! Oh, and he didn’t own them. He rented them!! Who needs 3 TVS anyway? (The guy was single too!).

Another person I knew owned a Hummer and was a stay a home dad. He said he was pursuing an “acting career” (nothing wrong with a stay at home dad or having dreams). However, it was not ok to see his wife driving a “beater”. And she was working two jobs because they could not pay their bills including that big Hummer!

REALLY?!

Another characteristic of the big spender is high credit card debt and nothing to show for. This is a person who buys a lot of trinkets, purses, and expensive things that lose value as soon as they leave the store.

The big spender also buys or “needs” to buy brand names only. The thought of buying some secondary brand is “so last year” for that person.

The hoarder

I’m not talking about the ones from the TV show but some can certainly fit in that category. I’m talking about the toy collector, the comics collector, the car collector who has 20 cars in various stages of restoration but that are rusting by the minute and nothing gets done about them.

You don’t restore it, you don’t use it but it’s there. Taking real estate in your yard or your bookshelves and giving you no joy or money.

And the most absurd part of it all, the hoarder lives paycheck to paycheck and yet they are usually sitting on a small fortune!

Why not sell? Live better?

Wanna have a small collection? Sure, but when you can’t even feed the dogs because of your collection, you have a problem! Sell some of that stuff that you know you will never use, restore or play with!

Finding balance on spending behaviors

We all should strive to find balance in life. It’s not just starvation or big spending. You can have a comfortable life with very little and an uncomfortable life with a lot. So strive for a middle ground.

Now that we know who we are, it’s time to create a budget so we can at least find peace of mind knowing that we can “make it” to the end of the month.

The Bankruptcy Method of Budgeting (hear me out!)

I am going to show you how applying a “Bankruptcy” method of creating a budget will put things into perspective when it comes to balancing your budget.

Oh, and I’m not saying you are bankrupt or that you will need to file for bankruptcy when we are done (well, it may come to that for some). But it is eye-opening when you see how it works.

First, I need to explain the difference between the most common types of bankruptcies most people file so you can understand what a tight budget is and what a more flexible budget is.

The tightest form of budgeting is applied to a chapter 7 bankruptcy.

A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the one where you eliminate all of your debts (with some exceptions and exemptions. And this is a very generic explanation).

Now, to qualify for this type of bankruptcy there is a certain budget that the courts allow and when comparing your net income (after taxes) and your expenses, there cannot be any money left to spend AFTER paying all of your BASIC* bills. You are either at zero or in the negative.

That’s why you fit in a Chapter 7. There is no money left to pay creditors.

If you find yourself in this situation after doing the Chapter 7 budget then it’s time to tighten the belt. Something it’s gotta give!

The Chapter 7 budget will likely reveal where you are spending too much on or where you are losing control on things.

Yes, I understand your salary simply may not cover everything. That’s why we will talk about tightening your belt here (yes, even more!).

The Chapter 13 budget

A Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is the type that you repay a portion of your debts (again with variations and lots of rules).

In this type of budgeting, you have the money to pay all of your BASIC bills and there is some money left over. If there’s money left over, why would anyone need to file a Chapter 13?

That’s where things get interesting and where a lot of people get in trouble. Yes, there is money to pay all the basic bills but not enough money to pay for credit cards and other “splurges”.

The person is simply overextended.

This happens a lot with people using credit cards and not realizing that they can’t even make the minimum payments. That is, your basic bills plus just the minimum payments eat all your income and more.

That’s why they fit into this category. A Chapter 13 repayment plan will allow some of the debts (not all of them) to be forgiven but you will still pay a portion of them.

The Bankruptcy Budget Outline:

List all of your earnings: Salary (after taxes), rental income, overtime pay. List any and every source of income. Add the total.

Outline all your BASIC bills: These are the “bankruptcy budget” acceptable bills (Do not include credit cards here).

The BASIC* bills are:

Rent/Mortgage (does it include tax and Insurance?) This should not exceed 35% of your salary

Utilities: Water, electricity, gas, oil (heating), sewer, trash, telephone (landline) and cell phone.

Home Maintenance: This only applies if you hire a gardener to clean your yard or mow the lawn every month or a pool person. It also applies for minor repairs around the house.

This is a place where you can cut costs. Do you really need a gardener? Can you or the kids help with the lawn?

Can you learn to DIY some of these repairs? 

Food: This will vary per State-Some states have a very high cost of living. But this is another area that needs to be trimmed to BASIC necessities. Do you really need that candy or that expensive yogurt if you are trying to cut costs and make things fit within your salary?

Notice that if you cut “crappy foods” you may spend less in the long run even if you think fast food cost less than a head of lettuce. There are health considerations with that change too.

You eat better, you spend less with doctors. Not always true. but in most cases, you see a difference after a while.

Clothing: Do you buy clothes every month? If so, set a budget for the year and stick with it.

For example: Say you select $80 a month for clothes. If you don’t buy anything this month, now you have $160 for next month.

If you budget it this way, you will see that you will have more money than you think and may even see that you don’t need all of that money to buy clothes. You may also find that you are spending way more than that amount in clothes per month (or week!), and that’s why you are “blowing” your budget.

Maybe visit outlet stores or consider overstock type stores. Stick with the basics to start: classic pants, shirts, underwear, socks, classic shoes. Buy clothes that are “neutral” in style and that can be worn for years.

Save the “in season” stuff as an extra that you can only buy if you were “good” with the budget the month before(meaning, you did not spend the whole monthly budget in clothes.

If you don’t require a business wardrobe consider the basics too: t-shirts, pants, socks, sweaters, basic shorts. Do you really need a brand name? What you could buy for $50 maybe available for $20 somewhere else just because of that label.

Laundry and Dry Cleaning: Do you wear a lot of suits? If so, consider ways to rotate them so you don’t require weekly dry cleaning. For the ladies, maybe buy some classic pants that could be worn as separates with your suit jackets for example. It’s better for the environment too!

Medical and Dental: These can really do some damage to the expenses unless you are insured.

But just like a credit card minimum payment, those co-pays add up if you have a medical condition and need to be at the doctor all the time. If the time is right, consider revisiting your health plan to see if you can get a lower cost plan and with better coverage for co-pays.

Of course, usually, the lower the co-pays the higher that deductible is.

Same goes for the insurance monthly payments (even if you are partly covered by your employer). For medical expenses, consider any out of pocket expenses such as co-pays, medications you need every month and maintenance fees for braces for the kids, for example.

Transportation: You need to check your gas consumption per month, oil changes, tire changes. Do you drive for a living? Who covers the cost? Does your employer pay for mileage?

Try to stick to a monthly budget if all you do is go to work and back. Carpooling can save you some money too.

Recreation: this is a “budget blower” for sure! Cable, Internet, Magazines, Newspapers, clubs, your subscription channels.

Do you really need all those channels? There are many “cut-your-cable” options out there nowadays.

Internet: This one is almost like the air we breathe.

Consider having home internet and watching your usage of data on the cell phone. Sometimes we are “LOL-ing” too much when we are out and about not realizing that we are paying for too much cell phone data that could be reduced if only we used that time to talk to people instead of staring at our phones.

I just “blew” my phone data this month because I went on a trip and used the phone GPS for directions on a 5-hour round trip! Yes, even us professionals mess it up sometimes!

Insurance: Health insurance (if not covered by employer), auto insurance. Can you check for lower rates? I know, we put off doing these things and end up going for another year “just because…”).

Life Insurance (consider the type that allows you to have access to it instead of term life where the money just goes away if you stop paying).

Taxes: if not deducted from wages or self-employment.

– Installments: car payment (consider buying an older car that it’s paid for).

Remember that a new car loses value as soon as you drive it out the lot!

There are excellent cars out there from private parties if you know where to look. If you can’t afford to pay for one out of pocket then finance it with your own bank.

You will be surprised how much money you can save. Plus you don’t have to deal with a car salesman pitch (no offense if you are one).

Alimony/child support: another “budget blower”. But please pay your dues!

You don’t want to end up in court. However, if your financial situation changed, don’t wait until you are so far behind that now they are looking at wage garnishment.

That would certainly mess with your budget BIG TIME! Going to court may allow you to lower your payments and you will still be on time with your duties to your kid(s) and ex.

Payments to support others: This can really mess with someone’s budget.

That family member who is always in trouble and you always “bail” him/her. Or your kid in college (does he/she have arms and legs?)

They can work!

Even if it’s just for a few hours a week to help out with some of their expenses. Think of it this way, if you had to work to survive college, they can too!

I know you want to be a good parent and help but if you are not meeting your minimum payments just so your kid can go to “Toga” parties and study, then you are not teaching them responsibility too.

Life is tough and if they don’t learn how to budget soon, they will never learn.

Expenses for your business: if you are self-employed. (That’s another set of budget tips for another post).

Miscellaneous expenses: Set a budget for lipstick, nail polish. For the guys: buying tools or any other extras that you like: lotion? New pens?

Make sure they are necessary and that you will use them until they are finished BEFORE buying a new one (I say this because I’m addicted to buying mascaras! Long lashes, volume lashes, you name it! I need to improve that for sure!)

Contributions for retirement: This is important if you have any leftover money. If nothing is left then cutting expenses would certainly allow you to start this.

Even if it’s $10 a month. Put it away in a retirement account (consult your banker of course) and “forget” that money.

The list is extensive but you can narrow it down to your situation and expenditures and take control of your expenses.

The bankruptcy method of budgeting follows the guidelines from the IRS. Believe it or not, they have guidelines for expenses that you can use and they are even divided by States. That way you can fit your budget more closely to the cost of living in your State if it’s higher than the national average.

Here’s a link to the IRS siteNotice that the IRS budget is posted for collection purposes but you can use this as a guide if you are trying to fit into the “bankruptcy budget” I’m suggesting.

Don’t forget that when doing a monthly budget, start with your last 6 months of expenses as a comparison. That’s the only way you will figure out how to average things out like electricity (hot months versus cold) or seasonal expenses.

For example: If during the summer you use more AC and your bill is $400 a month for 3 months and during the winter it goes down to $100, then average it out by multiplying $400 x 3 and the average for the lower months and multiply that by 9.

So if on the higher months the total is $1200 and for the rest of the year it’s $100 on the average, then $1200 plus $900 = $2100 a year/12=$175 per month.

That’s is, you should budget $175 a month for electricity.

The months that the bill is only $100 you set aside that $75. When the higher months come along then you will have that money sitting there. You will be able to make ends meet when you get that $400 bill in the summer because you saved for it.

The same goes for every expense that you don’t spend every month like medical or home repairs, tire, and oil changes too.

I hope you use these tips to create and maintain a healthy budget. You don’t need to splurge all the time. Honestly, if you have a roof over your head, a warm bed, and food, what else do we need?

Click on the link below and get a nifty budget “cheat sheet”.  You can use it to create your own budget and be on your way to financial stability.

yes-i-want-my-budget-cheatsheet image of button

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns about this style of budgeting. Oh, and don’t forget to check my friend HoangChi’s blog. She talks a lot about being a minimalist and living within your budget. She also has great advice on getting rid of excess stuff and even making some money in the process.

See you soon!

flow chart amigas4all social security benefit denial

Cracking the Nut on The 13 Reasons for Denial of Social Security Benefits

Remember our last post about the Top 13 Reasons Your Social Security Case Is Being Denied And What To Do To Improve Your Chances At Winning (see here)?

Now we will be going through each of the 13 reasons one by one so you can understand and hopefully minimize some of the possibilities of any of these happening to you and if they do happen, what you need to do to fix it.

Today we start with the number one reason for denials: 90% of cases are denied in the first try. What to do?

 Appeal it. Do not let it go or reapply later. Time goes by and you may get approved on the next round (see below about this step) or by a judge on the third round.

A lot of people simply don’t follow through and give up after reading the “denial” letter. What you don’t know is that a lot of those letters are similar in content: they are what we call “cookie cutter” letters. They all say something like “we see that you have some limitations but we think you can do some work”. I have read denial letters that practically said “even though you are lying in a coffin we still think you can work”! (not in those words but pretty close!). So if you get a denial, don’t give up! It’s not personal. They did not specifically write that entire letter for you. They just insert some language to a “canned letter” and voila: a denial letter is done.

Realize that these are just letters that are sent to you hoping you simply accept their reasons for denial and go away. Also realize that people who have received these letters and appealed somehow have obtained benefits. Why? Because the lower level decision makers were either not qualified to make that decision or were simply dead WRONG! I even warn all my potential clients who are still in the application process that they will get denied on their first try. I tell them I hope to be wrong but that they should consider the first denial as “part of the process”. I know it shouldn’t be like that if you have enough evidence to show you have a disability but it’s just the way it is. Now you ask, as an attorney why do I accept that as the norm? Because I’m only one and you are a voter and it should be your civic right and duty to contact your congressman/woman to change that. Until then, we work we what we have.
Now, on the second run: First, note that not all States have this second step. In a lot of States once you are denied you can go straight to requesting a hearing. But if your State is one that has the reconsideration step after the first denial then you will be requesting a reconsideration (pretty obvious name for it). So where States give you that extra change at a lower level reconsideration, your chances of getting benefits increase a little more (though not a promise at all). This is a step (where available) they are more likely to send you to medical reviewers or consultative examiners who will examine you in person and will confirm what they saw on paper. They will also do a better job at looking at your medical evidence.

Other times, unfortunately, the doctor will look at you for 5 minutes, will have you hold his/her finger for a second to show you have enough strength to grip and will also have you walk down a hall on the tip of your toes to show you can still balance. The doctor will then conclude that you can sit for 6 to 8 hours a day, lift up to 20lbs occasionally which means you can do a “simple job”. Whatever that means…

Occasionally, you see claimants with mental conditions that were sent to a “physical doctor” or a claimant with a physical condition sent to a “mental doctor” for assessment. Why? I don’t know. It makes no sense to most people. They just do it. Of course, as attorneys we will use those mistakes to try to reverse these denials based on this limited examination of the claimant but sometimes that chance only happens at the hearing level when you were denied twice (see re States with that extra step) and waited many months to see a judge.

The hearing level comes after the Reconsideration period (As mentioned above, see if your State offers that step). Once you request your hearing your file will leave the “local office” and will be sent to the ODAR or the “hearing office”. Once they get your file, the hearing office will organize your electronic file however there is one MAJOR consideration when your file reaches the hearing office. While during the first (filing of the case) and second round (first appeal-if availalbe) the “local office” will order medical records from your doctors, the hearing office (after the second appeal-if available) will no longer order records. This means that it is YOUR duty to get copies of your medical records from all your doctors and send them to the hearing office.

DO NOT count on the hearing office doing that for you. A lot of people go to these hearings thinking that the hearing office ordered records from their doctors. Or worse, somehow claimants believe that because they once had some treatment but no recent treatment, these claimants believe these records on file will be enough to prove disability. Remember and memorize: no treatment equals improvement in the eyes of Social Security!! Even if you’re not better. Even if you don’t have insurance. It doesn’t matter. If you are sick and disabled and you are not treating with doctors (and I mean, Specialists in your medical impairment(s) this will be seen as “it’s not as bad because if it were you would be seeing doctors”. So pretty please. As you are seeing doctors, you need to order records from the time of disability to the time of the hearing so your file is completely up to date when you finally get your day in court.

Here’s a handy flow chart to follow so you can get the big picture of the disability process (remember: some States do not have the Reconsideration process!)

flow chart amigas4all social security benefit denial

If you have questions about this process, feel free to put it in comments but you must be aware that an attorney/client relashionship is not being established, nor that this content constitutes legal advice. Also note that because the comment section is not private any information you post will be public and anyone can see it. If you have questions that you wish to keep private you can certainly consult with a local attorney. 

Join us next time when we talk about item 2 of our Top 13 Reasons Your Social Security Case Is Being Denied And What To Do To Improve Your Chances At Winning.

Top 13 Reasons Your Social Security Case Is Being Denied And What To Do To Improve Your Chances At Winning.

Today I will give you the short list of the top 13 reasons for denial of benefits and a very short tip on how to fix each one and in the next few posts, I will explain each one in more detail. Remember that this list is not exhaustive. There are many other reasons for a claim denial but these are the most common. So here it goes:

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top 13 reasons for  DISABILITY DENIaL

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1) 90% of cases are denied in the first try. Don’t give up. Appeal it!

2) It could be your medical records. Get your doctor to describe your medical issues better.

3) You are not receiving the right treatment(s) for your condition(s). Get 1referrals. Get treatment.

4) Your records are too old and you are not seeing doctors now. You need to see new doctors or more visits during and after the adjudication of your case.

5) Diagnosis alone does not win cases. Once you are diagnosed ask your doctor if your condition is severe enough to prevent you from working. Permanently!

6) You think you are disabled but you are not. Social Security only needs to show that you can do some other job than the one you can’t do anymore and case closed. In most cases, you must prove you can’t work ANY jobs. At all!

7) Your doctor may not be supporting the notion that you are disabled. It goes back to item 6.

It gets worse:

8) Some of your treatment may be a violation of the rules. I know, it’s weird but it’s true. Eg, medical marijuana. Legal in some States, not legal in the federal system yet (Remember Social Security is a federal benefit).

9) Your case is less than sympathetic because you may be doing a lot of things to yourself. Illegal drugs if you have a mental disability, smoking when you have lung issues, drinking when you have cirrhosis. The list goes on…Get help!

10) Procedurally you don’t qualify or you need to overcome a remote onset of disability. This is a big one. It means you haven’t worked in years and you may not qualify, or you have too much money to qualify (see my next post on this one).

11) It’s too early to file. You need to show that your condition has lasted or is expected to last 12 months. The clock starts ticking from the time you stopped working. If you just quit and file a week later you are more likely to be denied.

12) Anger issues and bad attitude shown in your medical records. In mental disability cases, it’s expected. In physical cases, it a no, no! Do not throw tantrums at your doctor’s office. They will write it in your medical records and it looks bad!

13) Incarceration. You can’t get benefits while incarcerated. Simple as that.


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social media disability claims

Social Media And Disability Claims

Social media! It’s everywhere and it is the most sedentary thing one can do. Even disabled people can take a peek on a phone or a tablet. It’s light, it’s there and you barely move a muscle.

But a lot of damage can be done with social media. Most people don’t think about that when filing a disability case. It’s the last thing on their mind. It’s just there. Those little apps sitting quietly on the phone and a life saver when one is bored. Waiting for time to pass.

In the waiting room in a doctor’s office, at the dentist, in the car (hopefully while not driving) and in bed. Who doesn’t do it? You lie down and you are still trying to unwind so you check your friends on social media without even thinking what it could do to your case.

Investigators in Long Term Disability cases and even judges in Social Security cases are taking a closer look at your social media accounts. If your settings in those accounts allow for anyone to go in and take a look at your accounts it is easy for these investigators and judges to make assumptions.

Assumptions that may cost your case and with it thousands of dollars gone!

They don’t care if that photo of you having the time of your life on a cruise is 3 years old. Or that you are seen holding a golf club with a picturesque location in the background and all you did that day was to stand up from the bench to take that picture. Or all you have done that day was sit while watching others play. It doesn’t matter that the business you dreamed to have one day is just an open account on LinkedIn. Or even though you never even opened that business or have made any money with the business.

All they see in your Social media is that it looks bad. Really, really bad!

Enough that they are even salivating when they find this type of evidence against a claimant.

So, as much as people don’t think about social media when filing a disability case, it is time to take it very seriously. In a very connected world like ours you never know what people know about you or what they can see. But if you are giving free access to your virtual life, one that you could actually control a bit, please take charge. Either close your social media accounts or change your settings to a more private setting.

Also, be careful what you post even if the account is private. Be careful with your own friends posts in their own accounts. Even if you have private settings, some of your friends may not. If you are tagged in any of their open posts, you will be visible.

If that photo of you in a friend’s pool shows up in your friend’s Facebook page and his/her page is open to the public, there’s your photo, in all it’s damaging glory!

Even if all you did was go in the water because it helps with your back pain!

The issues with disability and social media are new.  But these are picking up speed. Who knows what else will be available in the near future that can reveal things we don’t wish to be seen in public?

The reality is, there is no more privacy in this world. And if you file a claim for disability (Social Security, Long or Short Term disability or any other types out there) any and every information readily available online can and will be used against you. Learn more at this new site

Please be “virtually” safe!