Beginning in August of 2016, individuals who access their Social Security accounts online at my Social Security will encounter a new step in the procedure. The change is being made to meet the requirements of an executive order that mandates that all federal agencies with online services must use multifactor authentication. The purpose is to protect the privacy of the user.

When you sign in at with your username and password, you will be asked to add your text-enabled cell phone number. The Social Security Administration will then send you a one-time security code you must use to log in to your account. Please note that this is a one-time security code.

Therefore, each time you sign into your account, you will complete the following steps:

    • Step 1: Enter your username and password.
    • Step 2: Enter the one-time security code the Social Security Administration will text to your cell phone.

This process of using both your username and password plus the one-time security code is one form of “multifactor authentication.”
If you do not have a text-enabled cell phone or you do not wish to provide your cell phone number, you will not be able to access your my Social Security account.

For additional information, go to Frequently Asked Questions at

—By Karen Centowski


Staying Cool

It’s Summer in Illinois, and the temperature is 95 degrees or 97 degrees or even 100 degrees. It is HOT! Most of us are lucky. We live in air-conditioned homes or apartments, shop at air-conditioned supermarkets, and eat out at air-conditioned restaurants. According to, two thirds of the homes in the United States have air-conditioning. In fact, Americans spend $11 billion each year to power air-conditioners in their homes.

It wasn’t always like that. If you are a member of the Silent Generation (1925-1942) or a Baby Boomer (1946-1964), you remember the days before air-conditioning was common. Instead of wearing heavy weight garments made from wool, you wore light weight clothing made from cotton. When you went to church or a funeral home, you fanned yourself with a hand-held paper fan on a wooden stick. At night you sometimes fell asleep on the bedroom floor beneath a south window to catch the breeze. Maybe your house had a covered front porch where you could sit to escape the heat. If you were really lucky, you went to the movies shown in an air-conditioned theater.

According to the National Academy of Engineering, the first office building in the United States with air-conditioning was built in 1902. That was the Armour Building in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1938 a window air-conditioner was made by Philco-York, and by 1947 mass produced, low-cost window units were available. By 1969 more than half of all new autos were equipped with air-conditioning, and most new homes were built with central air-conditioning.

If you have a central air-conditioner, there are things you can do to reduce the cost of operation. Change the filters every ninety days. Clean the outside of the unit by spraying it with water from a hose. Remove any leaves or “fur” caught in the screen. Make a border, and put a bed of rocks around the concrete slab base of the unit. To improve air flow, keep plant life and large shrubs away from the unit. Don’t allow your dog to urinate on the metal unit and screen. Urine is very caustic and can cause damage to metal.

What else can you do to reduce costs? Plant shade trees in your yard. An area with shade trees can be 20% cooler than an area in full sun. Next time put a white or light color roof on your house. The white or light shingles reflect sunlight and help keep the temperature in your house lower. If you have to replace your central air-conditioner, get one with a SEER number (seasonal energy efficiency rate) of 13 or more.

Meanwhile, hang in there. In six months or less, snow will be falling.

—By Karen Centowski



Why pay full price when you can get the exact same thing for less? How can you do that? Think sales, rebates, senior citizen discounts, coupons, zero percent interest financing, resale shops, group rates, subscription series rates, and more. Sometimes you just have to ask.

Haggling is one way to try to negotiate a price. This give and take between buyer and seller is common in European markets. In the United States, haggling is still used at flea markets, garage sales, estate sales, and farm equipment sales. Even though the price on the merchandise is already low, the buyer sometimes wants to dicker, to haggle. This seems to increase the thrill of getting a “real bargain.”

If you subscribe to a daily newspaper, check the inserts for coupons for ordinary purchases such as shampoo and paper towels. Clip the coupons and use them. If you have a teenager in the house, make a deal with him/her. The teenager must scour the newspaper and other flyers for coupons to use at the supermarket or comparable stores. The teenager gets to keep any “savings” from the coupons. The coupons must be for items routinely on the shopping list.

Scan the grocery store ad for specials. Buy fresh fruits and vegetables which are in season.

Look at the newspaper ads for department stores, automobile dealerships, furniture stores, hardware stores, and other stores. Many items are traditionally on sale in certain months of the year. The following list appeared on U.S. on September 1, 2014:

  • January—winter attire on clearance, old inventory furniture, motorcycles, fitness gear
  • February—more winter attire on clearance, flat screen TVs, cameras
  • March—luggage, winter sports gear on clearance, frozen foods
  • April—tax software, tires, beauty products, sneakers
  • May—lawn and garden products, mattresses, camping gear, spring clothing
  • June—lingerie, home décor
  • July—swimwear and outdoor furniture on clearance; start of back-to-school sales
  • August—wine, office supplies, laptops
  • September—grills, older-model appliances
  • October—denim, back-to-school clothing on clearance, older-model appliances, cars
  • November—Halloween candy and costumes on clearance, cookware, electronics
  • December—winter apparel on clearance, Champagne

Many businesses offer discounts to senior citizens. For example, Kohls gives a 15 percent discount to those age 55+ every Wednesday. Carsons gives 15% off to seniors on Wednesdays. Burger King has a Senior Discount. Home Depot offers Senior Discounts. Many motels and hotels offer senior discounts. AARP members receive a 10% discount on the price of the room plus late checkout until 2:00 P.M. when available. Senior citizens may also qualify for discounts on membership dues to organizations such as historical societies and libraries.

Sometimes a senior citizen will have to apply for a rebate. For example, the City of Chicago exempts homeowners 65 plus from sewer service charges if they apply for the discount. Senior residents of Aurora can receive a rebate of $25 per year for municipal gas taxes plus $25 per year for municipal electricity taxes. State Farm will discount the price of car insurance if the senior completes the 55 Drive Alive course.

With a little extra effort, you can receive the exact same merchandise or service for less. What a deal!
—By Karen Centowski



When you hear the words “pickup truck,” what do you picture in your mind? A farmer with a few bales of hay in the bed of the truck? A scrap metal man in a beat up truck driving along your street picking up old stoves and aluminum storm doors? A teenage boy impressing the girls with his first set of wheels? A construction worker driving into the parking of the local bar on a Friday after work?

Pickup trucks have come a long way since they were introduced in the 1920’s. Many are now being purchased as commuter or family vehicles. They come equipped with powerful engines, leather and wood interiors, and the latest technology. Chevrolet, GMC, Ford, and Ram are leading the way with these “luxury pickups.”
How expensive are these pickup trucks? Below is a list of the ten most expensive pickup trucks on the market:

  1. GMC Sierra 1500 4WD Denali $52,860
  2. Ford F-250 4×4 Platinum with four-wheel drive $54,077
  3. Chevrolet Silverado 2500 4WD High Country $56,875
  4. GMC Sierra 2500 Denali with four-wheel drive $57,745
  5. Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD with four-wheel drive $57,975
  6. Ram 2500 Power Wagon Laramie $57,040
  7. Ram 3500 Limited Crew Cab 4×4 $70,000
  8. GMC Sierra 3500 Denali DURAMAX 2WD $70,000
  9. Ford F-150 Platinum Supercab $70,000
  10. Ford F-450 Platinum $70,000

With the advent of these higher end pickups has come a new crime. Thieves are stealing the tailgates and selling them on EBay or Craigslist. The tailgates of these trucks have LED lights, a rear camera, and an electronic locking system. These tailgates alone are worth $6,000. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, tailgates are even being stolen from vehicles parked in dealership lots.

So how can you protect your tailgate from being stolen? The insurance spokesman said the best way is to park in a locked garage or to back the truck up against a building wall to limit access to it. Anti-theft tailgate locking devices are also available.

—By Karen Centowski