July 27, 2009

Preparing Your Financial Records

Having your financial records organized is important for a variety of reasons. They are a key to getting your life back to normal after a hurricane, fire, tornado or theft. Having a record of what you lost will be helpful in settling insurance claims and documenting losses for tax purposes. An organized system can help in settling an estate, obtaining insurance or benefit claims and reducing some stress for loved ones in case of death. These records can indicate the monetary value of your belongings for a net worth statement, and provide proof of ownership in the case of separation or divorce.

Setting up a recordkeeping system includes:
  • Gathering and organizing financial information
  • Deciding where each type of record should be kept
  • Reviewing and discarding unneeded records
Organize Financial Information
Begin by locating documents and related information such as phone and account numbers. Categories include:

Personal papers such as birth, marriage and death certificates, divorce decrees, adoption papers, passports, citizenship papers, military service records

Automobile and other titles

Certificates of deposit or bank savings certificates

List of insurance policies and their numbers

Property records title and deeds

Records of home improvements

Legal papers, leases and contracts

Copy of household goods inventory with photos or video

Names and addresses of your financial advisors and financial institutions

Copy of financial plans, net worth statements

List of checking and savings accounts by financial institution

Papers pertaining to valuable property such as jewelry, silverware

Decide Where to Store Your Financial Records
Financial records can be kept either in a home file or in a safe-deposit box at a financial institution. A home file can be used to store active records and those of limited value. If you have records that would be difficult to replace, store those in a safe-deposit box. Review personal financial information annually and make adjustments when there are major changes such as marriage, divorce, or death of a family member.

Select a convenient place such as a home office area to keep important household financial documents. Using a file cabinet that is fire and water resistant is a good idea. Or you can simply use an inexpensive cardboard box that holds file folders. Keep records handy, where they can be accessed easily. Store duplicates of important household papers in a safe place outside of your home. Your personal information can be entered into the Record of Important Papers and saved on your computer hard drive as well.

At least one other person should know where all important records are kept and how they are organized, so that in an emergency that person can locate information quickly.

Review and Discard Unneeded Records
Knowing how long to keep documents is important. Review your immediate and long term files annually. If you are disposing of any items, be sure to shred any sensitive documents, especially those with account numbers, Social Security, and/or date of birth information. For information on how long to keep records refer to the following publication.

For more information on this topic refer to these University of Florida publications.

July 22, 2009

Looking for a Way to Make the Dog Days of SummerBetter?

Attend Pinellas County Extension’s August Classes

Pinellas County Extension offers residents a wide variety of classes to help them make sustainable decisions. Be sure to check out our lunch break on-line classes, Solutions in 30.

The classes being offered in August are:

Solutions in 30:
August 5th - Get Organized with a Household Inventory
August 12th - Losing Your Home?
August 19th - Healthy Home, Healthy Family
August 26th - Financial Incentives for Home Energy Savings

Lawn & Garden:
August 1st - Compost Happens
August 12th - Landscaping for Wildlife
August 12th @ 2:00pm and 6:15pm - Growing Fruit on Florida’s Suncoast
August 19th - Keeping Palms Healthy
August 20th - Salt Tolerant Plants

Sustainable Living:
August 4th - Green Office Webinar
August 18th – Green Purchasing Webinar
August 20th – A Home Owner’s Guide to Lighting Efficiency Webinar
August 22nd – Solar Power in the Sunshine State
August 25th – Green Home Webinar

Family Programs:
Starting August 8th – 4-H Family Teening UP
August 27th – Let's Get Growing with Family Vegetable Gardening

NOTE CHANGE EFFECTIVE July 2, 2009 Registration for all classes closes 24 hours prior to the class. No “Day of” registrations will be made.

You can register for classes on-line at Please look for the “Online Class Registration” button on the right hand side near the top of the page.

July 20, 2009

Local Wildlife in Abundance

Wilma J. Holley, Florida Yards & Neighborhoods Program Educator

Living in such an urban area, people often think that we don’t have much wildlife; but it is all around us. However, sometimes we have to look harder to find it. With proper landscape planning and improved maintenance practices, we can just walk out into our backyard and see an abundance of creatures. Naturally, I’m not talking about deer, and other large mammals, unless you live next to a preserve. There are a myriad of songbirds, butterflies, reptiles, amphibians, beneficial insects and others. Florida is the third most diverse state in the nation with over 1200 species of animals. Now, I’m not suggesting that anyone try to attract all 1200 species, as that would be a futile endeavor, since some have very limited ranges in North or South Florida.

In less than one and a half years, I have attracted at least 15 butterfly species to my backyard as well as many songbirds, owls, snakes, frogs and toads and a host of beneficial and non-beneficial insects. In other words, the good the bad and the ugly but, oh, what entertaining observations I’ve made. Hint: if it is a harmful insect and is causing limited damage, you don’t need to kill it--watch it awhile--natural predators may devour it. It is not an overnight process but, enlarging plant beds, removing some grass and gradually changing out “old-fashioned” hedging materials with plants that provide nectar and fruit will be a step in the right direction. Obviously, in addition to food, wildlife must also have water, shelter and space to raise young. Different plants offer different qualities so a change-out would require more than one species.

Research is the key to any good landscaping plan. A good place to start is “A Guide to Florida-Friendly Landscaping Florida Yards & Neighborhoods Handbook” which can be downloaded at: or ordered from the Southwest Florida Water Management District at: It includes the “Florida -Friendly Plant List”. This list shows what part of the state a plant grows best in, if it’s a Florida native, height and spread, soil type, moisture needs, sun or shade requirements, salt tolerance and whether it attracts wildlife. Another great source of information is the University of Florida Wildlife Extension at:

Clearly everyone develops favorites. I love many of the native wildflowers and shrubs because over time wildlife has evolved with these plants. Also, it prevents the introduction of invasive exotics. My favorite of all shrubs, the biggest bang-for-the-buck, is Firebush Hamelia patens, a favorite of nectaring butterflies and hummingbirds. Later when the fruit ripens, the songbirds are attracted to it. Other great species are Beauty Berry Callicarpa americana, Rouge plant Rivina humilis, Simpson’s Stopper Myrcianthes fragrans, Florida Privet Forestiera segregata and many of the Hollies Ilex spp. Butterflies, besides the nectar plants, need plants for the larval stage. Caterpillars are eating machines, so you must remember you will have plant damage and you cannot use pesticides in a butterfly garden. Milkweed, Cassias, and Passionvine are good to start with as they each attract more than one butterfly species.

I could list plants and what they attract for days. That is not the point. You plant it and they will come. Not only does this help provide wildlife habitat in a state where it is dwindling at an alarming rate, it is the right and sustainable thing to do. We all want future generations to enjoy birds, butterflies, ladybugs, dragonflies, owls, hummingbirds, frogs, toads, snakes (I know not everyone wants snakes!), and countless other species. We can create corridors for the wildlife by starting in our yards and maybe convincing neighbors to make a few changes. Many of the plants that are attractive to wildlife are drought tolerant and require very little pruning, fertilizing or pesticides. With the possibility of saving time, money and helping the environment by keeping landscape chemicals out of the ground water, what better decision could you make? Just provide the basic needs of food, water, shelter, and space. You can attract all of the above and more depending on space and nearby water bodies. I did and what fun I’m having!

July 6, 2009

Pinellas County 4-H Teen Council

By: Melissa Sharp & Andrew Yuan, Teen Mentors, Pinellas County Extension

Are you looking for a good reliable place where your teens can volunteer, one which will offer them leadership roles, help the community, and teach them to make responsible decisions? Then you should consider the 4-H Teen Council for your teens where we will be applying all of the above in a fun and safe 4-H environment.

The Teen Council will be an all year volunteering organization open to all 4-H members ages13 and up. Teens who are not currently 4-H members are encouraged to enroll in 4-H and become members of this exciting group. If you are familiar with the 4-H District Council, then you can expect the same types of activities from the 4-H Teen Council. These activities can include community service projects, working with younger youth in the 4-H clubs, and helping with county-wide events. The youth will learn and apply parliamentary procedure in every meeting so that they will become proficient in it. While the Teen Council is a youth adult partnership, it will be up to the youth to organize and run the meetings. Also if any 4-H’er was thinking of becoming a part of District Council, Teen Council would be a great segue because Teen Council will teach the youth the importance of leadership and give them hands-on skills to advance to the District or State levels.

The teens joining the Teen Council, whether they hold office or not, are a part of Teen Council and thus responsible for the workings of Teen Council. Everyone will be expected to participate, share their ideas, and come to meetings. This will teach youth the value of being in a group as well as being reliable. All decisions will be put to a vote so the youth must choose whether they’re for or against a topic and then act on that decision.

A very important concern for parents of teens is Bright Futures and volunteer hours. Because 4-H is a non profit organization, youth can receive credit for volunteering with the Teen Council. 4-H Teen Council is really trying to boost leadership, community service and responsibility in our teen 4-H members. Any teen age 13 or up in Pinellas County should consider becoming a member of our council. If you have any questions or suggestions please feel free to contact us with the information below.

Andrew Yuan ( 582-2103 or Melissa Sharp ( 582-2514

July 3, 2009

Build Your Brain this Summer! Attend Pinellas County Extension’s July Classes

Pinellas County Extension offers residents a wide variety of classes to help them make sustainable decisions. Be sure to check out our lunch break on-line classes, Solutions in 30.

The classes being offered in July are:

Solutions in 30:
July 1st - Coping Strategies for Stress
July 8th - Managing Credit in Tough Times
July 22nd - Solar Power in the Sunshine State
July 29th - Healthy Home, Healthy Family

Lawn & Garden:
July 8th, 2 pm and 6:15 pm - Butterflies 102
July 28th - Save Water with Drip Irrigation
July 28th - Drought Tolerant Plants

Sustainable Living:
July 16th - The Basics of Climate Change Webinar
July 16th – Lighting Your Way to Energy Efficiency Webinar
July 21st – Green Purchasing

Family Programs:
Starting July 16th – Step into the Kitchen: Families Cooking Together
July 23rd – Let's Get Growing with Family Vegetable Gardening
Starting July 28th – Step into the Kitchen: Families Cooking Together

Commercial (Pesticide/FNGLA/ISA) CEUs
July 8th - All About Trees
July 10th - Limited Pesticide License Training and Testing

You can register for classes on-line at Please look for the “Online Class Registration” button on the right hand side near the top of the page.