Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What You Must Know (and Should Find Out if You Don’t)

I've said it before and I'll say it again. I love the "Real Simple" magazine. They always have some great tips in there that actually applies to my life.

In this issue, they list a bunch of things that everyone really should know. It's kind of a long post, but take the time to read it and make sure you're informed.

Your License-Plate Number:
If your car is stolen or towed, you’ll need the license-plate number to report or reclaim it.
What to Do: If you find your license-plate number hard to memorize, try turning the letters and numbers into an acronym. For example, WAA 730 might stand for “wide awake at 7:30 a.m.”

Your Allergies
Not only are untreated allergies a major nuisance (the watery eyes, the unsightly hives) but, in extreme cases, they can also be life-threatening.
What to Do: If you have allergy-like symptoms and don’t know the cause, get tested by your doctor or an allergist. The most common, quick, and reliable analysis is a skin test. Your skin is pricked with drops of particular allergen extracts. If small, raised bumps develop, the test results are positive.Your

Genetic Vulnerabilities
If you have a family history of disorders such as heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and cancer, you have a higher-than-average risk of contracting those illnesses.
What to Do: Ask your grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles if they had any troubling diseases and if they can recall any relatives with a pattern of diseases. Also ask about your relatives’ causes of death and obtain their official death certificates, which can give clues to potentially fatal hereditary conditions. (For your state’s protocol regarding death certificates, go to the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics website,, and click on the link for death certificates.)

Your Credit Score
Credit reports, which determine your credit score, can contain mistakes or outdated information. If you know your score to begin with, you can determine if it has changed. Then check the credit report to see why and take steps to restore the score you deserve before applying for a loan or a credit card.
What to Do: To get your credit score, go to A report from one of the three credit bureaus costs about $15; scores from all three cost around $45. A score of 650 to 700 on the FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) scale, the most commonly used credit-score system, is considered above average. For a free annual credit report (this will not include your credit score), log on to To remedy inaccuracies, call the customer-service departments of the companies that have supplied the incorrect information.

Your Emergency-Contact Numbers
These days many people store phone numbers in their cell phones or PDAs. But what if the battery dies at just the wrong time?
What to Do: Make lists of numbers you’ve memorized (your partner’s office and cell phone) and those you haven’t (numbers for your family doctor, pediatrician, kids’ schools, veterinarian, and local police and emergency room, plus a few close relatives and friends). Post copies on the refrigerator, by the phone, and in your wallet or day planner. Program vital ones into your cell phone under “Emergency Contact” or “In Case of Emergency,” in case you’re found unconscious. And keep your cell charged.

Where You Keep Your Passport
Because four hours before your flight to Rio is not the time to tear the house apart looking for it.
What to Do: Stash your travel documents in the cosmetics bag or suitcase that you always take on trips.

Details of Your Will
If you die without a will (as an estimated 75 percent of Americans do), a judge distributes your estate and delegates the care of minor children. (And how is the judge to know that your sister hates your taste in jewelry?).
What to Do: As long as your instructions are fairly simple, you can prepare a will yourself using a standardized legal form. (Find forms at and To be valid, the document must indicate who is making the will; name the beneficiaries and what they will receive; and be signed by you and at least two witnesses. If you wish to leave more complex instructions, hire an attorney.

The Location of Your Parents’ WillsEven if you’re certain a will exists, if it can’t be located, a judge will distribute the estate.
What to Do: Ask your parents where they keep their wills.

Your Health-Insurance Details
Delayed treatment and unexpected fees are the last things you want to deal with when you’re already under the weather.
What to Do: Read your benefits packet, noting the limits on types of coverage, providers and their locations, and any actions that must be taken immediately after an emergency to have treatment costs reimbursed.Your Blood Pressure, Cholesterol, and Glucose LevelsThese stats are the key to preventing the biggest killer of Americans: heart disease.What to Do: Schedule annual physicals, and consult the American Heart Association’s Doctor Visit Guide (available at

Your Ring Size
Santa can’t very well bring you that gorgeous amethyst cocktail ring you’ve been eyeing without some idea of how big the band must be.
What to Do: Move a ring that fits you over the above chart until you find a circle that aligns with the inside of the band.

Which Tax Form Is For You
Want the largest possible refund? Choosing the right form is the first step.
What to Do: If you have an accountant do your taxes, skip this section. All other taxpayers, listen up: Whether you’re single or married, if your household income is less than $100,000 and you have no major deductions, you can probably file the simplest form, the 1040EZ. The 1040A is appropriate for those in the same category who have kids or who want further tax-credit options (like subtracting retirement-fund contributions). Those with complicated taxes who wish to itemize deductions should file a 1040. For further details on which form to use, check out IRS Publication 17, “Your Federal Income Tax,” available at You Stand to Inherit Money From a Deceased RelativeIf you don’t claim it? The state does.What to Do: Every state government has a website to help you find abandoned accounts you may be entitled to. Go to for help in finding your state’s site, but remember that it can help you only if you know the deceased relative’s name. If you don’t know which state he or she lived in, tracking down this information isn’t easy. There are companies that will do the legwork for you, but for a hefty fee. To find one, do a Web search for “unclaimed funds.”

Your Lens PrescriptionIf you lose your reading glasses, you’ll be able to buy a comfortable short-term fix at the drugstore without having to wait (squinting!) for an appointment with your eye doctor. And if you’re traveling, you’ll be able to fill any prescription fast.
What to Do: Call your eye doctor for your records.

Your Estimated Ideal Caloric Intake
A 2,000-calorie-a-day diet is not right for everybody.
What to Do: Enter your weight into the following calculation:Your Weight Divided by 2.2 Multiplied by 30

Your Clothing Measurements
Knowing these will increase your odds of the perfect fit, especially when ordering online or buying clothes from European or other foreign retailers.
What to Do: Ask a tailor to measure your neck, chest, bust, arm length, waist, hips, and inseam. Keep those numbers near the computer where you do your online shopping. Before placing an order, see if the retailer gives measurements so you can match up with their sizes and choose the one that’s most accurate.

Your Blood TypeYour life doesn’t depend on knowing it — health-care providers will always get your blood type when it is needed. But it’s good to know if your blood is a match for a friend or a family member, or if your type is in short supply, so you can donate more often.
What to Do: If you have been pregnant, donated blood, had surgery, or received a blood transfusion, you have probably been typed. Contact the hospital where you were treated and ask to see your medical records. Or ask to be typed the next time you have blood work done.

Your Skin Type
To determine which kinds of cleansers, moisturizers, and makeup are best for your skin, you’ll need to know whether it’s dry, oily, combination, or sensitive.
What to Do: There are tricks, like running your finger down your nose around noon (if your finger is greasy, you have oily skin; a dry finger means you have dry skin). But considering the price of cosmetics, it’s worth consulting a dermatologist to be sure.

Three Easy Ways to Beat a Bad Mood
Because chocolate isn’t always available — like when you’re stuck on line at the DMV.

Your Never-Fail Lip Color
So you can feel fabulous in a flash. (Keep one in every bag.)

Your Personality Type
To make the most of who you are. (Go to the official website of the Myers-Briggs Foundation, Your Greatest Strengths and WeaknessesFor a fast answer to that inevitable job-interview question.

How to Give Good Directions to Your Home
So the dinner you slaved over doesn’t go cold.

What Time You Were Born
To thank Mom at just the right minute each year. (And to get your precise astrological chart.)

Your Partner’s Shirt and Pant Size
Because telling the male shop assistant “He’s about your size” won’t make that birthday present fit.

The Names of the Trees in Your Yard
So you have a clever answer for all those visitors who ask.

Your Mother-in-Law’s Favorite Flower
You know why.

Use this worksheet to keep track of the important — and not so important — details in your life, then file it somewhere safe and tell someone close to you where to find it.


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