Dealing with Mental Stress During the Holidays
November 22, 2023
For most people, the best parts of the holidays, extravagant decor, rich foods, gift-giving, and additional time with friends and family, can also be the most stress inducing. While the holidays are thought of as the most wonderful time of the year, it is in fact viewed by many as the most stressful time of the year.
Neverending to-do lists, added expenses, and the desire to achieve a perfect holiday are just a few of the ways that the season brings on an overwhelming amount of stress. Plus, if you have an existing mental health condition, the holidays may accentuate it. “There are a lot of stressors in life without the holiday season,” says event planner Courtney Lutkus. “The holidays can be triggering and make it worse.”
In order to have a more relaxing holiday season, it’s important to choose some strategies ahead of time that will help you combat seasonal stress.
Exercise is Often the Best Medicine
During the holidays, prioritizing regular exercise can mitigate stress before it happens. Whichever exercise you choose, taking the time to move your body will guarantee a healthy dose of holiday cheer.
If you tend to feel restricted during the holidays from being spread too thin both physically and mentally, dance therapist Erica Hornthal recommends what she calls joy workouts. Take a break from the festivities, find an open space, and spend eight minutes moving through six expanding moves, including reaching, swaying, and jumping, that are designed to boost happiness. “Shake your hands, shake your head — kind of like an animal after it gets wet,” she says. “You can make a game out of it if you have kids.”
Alternatively, if you feel the need to slow things down, then yoga might work best for you. Even a fifteen minute session can lower levels of stress and anxiety. With a focus on breathwork and mindfulness, yoga can be especially effective for alleviating the feelings of nonstop commotion that often come with the holidays.
If you find yourself wanting to get away, a walk or run around the neighborhood may be just what you need to reset. You could even plan a “microadventure,” which could be as simple as a bike ride in the dark or a daytime hike at a nearby nature reserve. Viewing things in a new light and admiring your surroundings can create a sense of awe, which has been proven to lower stress levels. Plus, spending time outside, even if it’s just a walk around the block, can lower cortisol levels, blood pressure, and muscle tension.
If you’re having difficulty finding time for yourself during busy days, then reclaiming your mornings might be the best way to fit in a break. “I encourage everyone to develop a daily habit of starting their day with their own voice as the primary driver for how they want to engage the day,” says therapist Chanel Dokun. “This is an easy way to pre-schedule ‘me-time’ amid a busy holiday season where you can check in with your own needs, set your own priorities, and move into your day feeling centered and in control.” Plus, research shows that waking up just one hour earlier lowers an individual’s risk for depression by 23 percent.
In addition to making time for yourself in the mornings, simply saying no to yet another social obligation could help you avoid the burnout that comes from overdoing it. The sheer volume of things to do during the holidays can make it difficult to prioritize what’s most important. Sometimes, taking care of your mental health can be more important than attending yet another event, so give yourself permission to choose your festivities wisely. Not only will saying no to some things ease your stress, but it can also reinforce healthy relationship boundaries, which will leave you feeling empowered rather than burnt out.
Honor Your Routine
With all of the added hustle and bustle, it will be easy to fall out of your usual routine, but sticking to your routine might be the simplest solution to seasonal stress. Dr. David Spiegel, director of the Center on Stress and Health at Stanford University, says that our stress responses are far more flexible when we are resting and nourishing our bodies. “Mitigate stress by taking care of your body first,” says Spiegel. Give your body something to depend on during the holiday rush by getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising regularly.
It would be impossible for every part of the holiday to be perfect, so why place that standard upon yourself? Think about what traditions matter most to you, such as cooking a specific meal for your children or visiting family. When you take the time to think about what matters most, you can either ditch the items that fall down on your to-do list, or you can ask other family members to take some tasks off of your plate.
“You have a lot going on,” reminds psychologist David Rakofsky. “You can’t possibly do it all. Instead of lamenting your ‘losses,’ congratulate yourself on the everyday victories, like leaving the bed, smiling, and putting on pants.”
Whether you’re counting on your travels to go just as planned, finding the perfect gifts, or hosting the event of the season, having an idealized approach can set you up for disappointment. When you let go of your vision for the perfect holiday, you may find that you have far more joy this season, as well as far less stress.
Stick to a Holiday Budget
The best way to manage financial stress is to set a realistic budget. Since nearly 1 in 4 people feel financially burdened by the holidays, there may be no better time to employ a budget than this time of year. “Be realistic when creating a budget by using real prices, not ballpark figures,” says Family and Community Health specialist Joyce Cavanagh. “Don’t forget to include travel, food and entertaining costs in your holiday budget. And remember to jot down what you’ve bought so you don’t lose track of how much you’ve spent.”
Due to inflation, lower-income households may experience more financial stress this year. 29 percent of consumers say they’re stressed about the cost of holiday shopping, and 14 percent feel pressured to spend more than they’re comfortable with. Talking with your loved ones about minimizing holiday spending and gift-giving could take the pressure off of everyone and put the focus back on celebrating with loved ones. “Try managing your anxiety through transparency and planning,” says psychiatrist Dr. Georgia Gaveras. “You may end up being a hero this holiday season if you propose limiting the number of gifts everyone buys.”
While you concentrate on the most wonderful time of the year, Insureyouknow.org can help you keep track of everything from financial records to travel itineraries and schedules. This season, stay organized when things get chaotic, and give yourself space to be present for all of what the holidays offer.
Saving for Your Next Vacation is Easy With a Plan
November 15, 2023
With world oil prices up, so is the cost of everything else. And now that interest rates are on the rise in an effort to combat inflation, hotel prices have risen by ten percent at many popular destinations. The benefits of traveling though are not worth foregoing due to rising costs. Travel is beneficial to your mental health by helping you feel calm and relieving stress and tension. With a little bit of creativity and determination, anyone can save up for a vacation and even get a great deal on travel costs.
How to Save for a Yearly Vacation
The best way to save for a vacation is to plan for it. If you have a specific trip in mind, start thinking about how much it will cost. Then create what is known as a sinking fund. If you think your vacation a year from now is going to cost $2,400, then put away $200 into an account every month. In a year’s time, you would have what you need for that vacation. If you continued the habit, then you’d have that vacation money saved every year.
When bills come in and unexpected expenses pop up, it can become difficult not to dip into your savings. This is why it’s important to keep your vacation account or sinking fund out of reach. Set up an automatic transfer for your savings every month instead of relying on yourself to transfer the money when you get paid. Gaby Dunn, author of Bad With Money, advises separating your money from your general savings so that you don’t use it for a different expense. “It’s also a good idea to open a specific account just for your vacation fund,” she suggests.
Once you’ve determined how much you’ll need to save, it then becomes time to get serious about sticking to a budget. “Many times, people will design their vacation and then attach dollars to it,” says Jesse Mecham, the founder of You Need a Budget. “But it’s better to come up with a reasonable number first, then whittle away at it when you start planning the trip. The reality is that we have only so much money.”
Budgeting really becomes about determining where you’re wasting money and where you can save money. Here are five easy ways to save for your next vacation::
- One of the best ways to cut back on spending is to eat out less often and cook more meals at home. “Anyone I’ve talked to who has saved up a lot of money or paid off a lot of debt has cut back on eating out,” says Mecham. “Learning how to meal plan has been the overarching approach that has worked.” It might take some getting used to, but meal planning on the front end of your week can save a lot of money in the long run that you can put toward your travel budget.
- Study your spending habits and cut back on buying unnecessary items. It might be coffees to-go, books that could have been borrowed from the library, or impulse clothing purchases. Notice your spending weaknesses and then get disciplined about avoiding those temptations.
- You may have some sneaking subscriptions to streaming services, apps, or memberships that you’re not using often enough to make them worth the added strain on your budget. Take an inventory and see which subscriptions you could go without. The twenty or so dollars you’re spending a month on something you’re not even using could easily go toward your sinking fund instead.
- Savings account interest rates are often higher with online banks than brick and mortar banks. Kelly Johnson of the travel blog, Snap Travel Magic, suggests finding the highest-yield savings account. Then, “Put 5% of each paycheck,” she advises,
directly into the account.”
- Use credit cards that reward you, whether it’s a bonus sign-up offer, regular cash back percentages on money spent, or points that can be put toward travel expenses. “Many credit cards offer sign up bonuses in which you can earn free cash back, extra airline miles and travel points for spending a certain amount of money within the first few months of account opening which you can use to cover a big portion of your travel expenses,” says shopping consultant Andrea Woroch.
The most important thing when it comes to saving for your travel goals may be to stay motivated. Keep in mind why you’re budgeting by placing a picture of your desired destination somewhere you look often or making it the background image on your phone or computer. This way, if you’re tempted to make a purchase through your phone, you’ll be reminded of why you’re working so hard to save money for your dream vacation.
How to Get the Best Deals on Travel Costs
If you’re willing to be flexible with where you travel to, there is another way to score inexpensive tickets. Companies such as Scott’s Cheap Flights and Secret Flying allow you to seize temporary deals. By entering your home airport into Google Flights, choosing a desired departure date, and leaving the destination blank, people can find startling low prices on round trip tickets. This is not to say you should forego your dream trip for a deal on plane tickets. This is just one strategy to consider if you’re more in need of a break than of an actual place you have in mind.
Knowing how to avoid the high season in certain places is an artform worth mastering. Besides dealing with less crowds on your vacation, you can also take advantage of lower prices on almost all of your costs. While school schedules affect peak travel times, time off varies depending on the location. The ideal time in most places is likely going to be in between seasons or “shoulder season,” such as May in tropical destinations and October in colder places, including Europe. A little research will tell you when it’s best to travel to the destination you have in mind.
Next, shop around and compare the prices of hotels and rental properties. For instance, the advantage of having a kitchen in a rental may vary widely based on where you’re going. In some places, it will be less expensive to eat out than to cook and vice versa. Whichever you choose – hotel or rental – pay close attention to reviews, especially with Airbnb, where only travelers who have stayed there are allowed to leave a review.
How to Save Even When Traveling
Once you’ve worked hard saving up for a trip and doing your research to get the best deal on transportation and lodging, you’ll want to avoid getting caught up in the moment on your trip and go crazy with frivolous spending. The biggest trap people fall into is the cost of meals on vacation.
One way to avoid overpriced dining is to eat where the locals do. Walking fifteen minutes in any direction out of the city can make a huge difference. Not only will you spend less at restaurants, but you’ll have a more authentic dining experience. Asking the locals for suggestions is another best practice to find places to eat, as most people will love the opportunity to share their recommendations.
Just as in avoiding the peak time to travel somewhere, the same goes for restaurants. Making reservations a little earlier or later than when everyone else is will cut down on the costs of that meal, as many restaurants provide specials outside of peak times. Another way to budget is to plan on one splurge meal a day. If you eat a light breakfast and grab a small lunch on the go, then spending more on dinner won’t feel as glutiness.
Beyond eating, be open to free activities, and again: do your research ahead of time. There are many museums that offer free or reduced admissions on certain days and times. Then there’s the gardens, parks, and general sightseeing that are always free-of-charge. Always check for local markets to get a taste of local fare and the unparalleled experience of people-watching in a new place.
Getting serious about saving money for travel will also help you to get your finances in tip-top shape and make the most out of your money in your everyday life. While you keep your eye on your goals, Insureyouknow.org can help you stay organized by storing all of your financial records, budgets, and plans in one place. Making a plan and sticking to it will be well worth it when you have the means to take a well-deserved holiday, perhaps even more than just once a year.
Legal and Financial Planning for Those with Alzheimer’s and Their Caregivers
November 1, 2023
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, then there are certain things that you will need to plan for legally and financially. An estimated 6 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, and it is currently the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. Alzheimer’s is a brain disorder that slowly decreases memory and thinking skills, while dementia involves a loss of cognitive functioning; both cause more and more difficulty for an individual to perform the most simple tasks. Though a diagnosis can be scary, the right planning can help individuals and their families feel more at ease.
Putting Legal Documentation in Place
Christopher Berry, Founder and Planner at The Elder Care Firm, recommends three main disability documents that should be in place.
First, there needs to be a financial power of attorney, a document that designates someone to make all financial decisions once an individual is unable to do so for themselves. If an individual lacks a trusted loved one to make financial decisions, then designating a financial attorney or bank is an option.
The next document that needs to be in place is the medical power of attorney that designates someone to make medical decisions for an individual. In many cases, it may be appropriate to appoint the same person to be the financial and medical power of attorney, as long as that person is well-trusted by the individual. In the event that something happens to the original power of attorney(s), successor (or back-up) agents for power of attorney(s) should also be designated.
The last document is the personal care plan, which instructs the financial and medical power of attorney(s) on how best to care for the individual in need. For instance, those entrusted to the care of an individual will need to make sure they sign medical records release forms at all doctor’s offices; copies of the power of attorney or living will should also be given to healthcare providers.
These three documents provide a foundation to make decisions for the individual diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia when they no longer can themselves. It’s ideal to include the individual in these conversations in the early stages of their diagnosis, so that they may be a part of the decision-making process and appoint people that they will feel most comfortable with during their care.
How to Pay for Long-Term Care
Since Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, the level of care an individual needs will increase over time. Care costs may include medical treatment, medical equipment, modifications to living areas, and full-time residential care services.
The first thing a family can do is to use their own personal funds for care expenses. It’s important for families to remember that they will also pay in their time, as many children of loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia will become the main caregivers. It may be wise to meet with a financial planner or sit down with other family members, such as your spouse and siblings, to determine how long some of you may be able to forgo work in order to provide full time care.
When personal funds get low or forgoing work for a period of time becomes difficult, long-term care insurance can be a lifesaver. The key to relying on long-term care insurance though is that it needs to be set up ahead of the Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnoses, so considering these plans as one ages may be smart.
Veterans can make use of the veterans benefit, or non-service-connected pension, which is sometimes called the aid and attendance benefit. This benefit can help pay for long-term care of both veterans and their spouses.
Finally, an individual aged 65 or older can receive Medicare, while those that qualify for Medicaid can receive assistance for the cost of a nursing home. If someone’s income is too high to receive Medicaid, then the spenddown is one strategy to know; under spenddown, an individual may subtract their non-covered medical expenses and cost sharing (including Medicare premiums and deductibles) from their available income. With the spenddown, a person’s income may be lowered enough for them to qualify for Medicaid.
Minimizing Risk Factors During Care
Research published recently in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia found that nearly half of patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia will experience a serious fall in their own home. Author Safiyyah Okoye, who was at John Hopkins University when the study was conducted, recommends minimizing risks such as these by safeguarding homes early on in diagnoses. “Examining the multiple factors, including environmental ones like a person’s home or neighborhood, is necessary to inform fall-risk screening, caregiver education and support, and prevention strategies for this high-risk population of older adults,” she states.
The good news is that since the progression of Alzheimer’s is often slow, families have plenty of time to modify the home for increased safety.
In addition to fall prevention modifications, other safety measures may include installing warning bells on doors to signal when they’re opened, putting down pressure-sensitive mats to alert when someone has moved, and using night lights throughout the home. Coats, wallets, and keys should also be kept out of sight, because at some point, leaving the home alone and driving will no longer be safe. Conversations about these safety measures, such as when an individual will have to stop driving, are ones that caregivers should have early on with their loved ones. Including individuals in their future planning while they are still cognitively sound will help both them and their caregivers feel more comfortable with the journey ahead.
It’s important to remember that even though receiving an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis can be devastating, it is not the end. People with Alzheimer’s can thrive for many years before independent functioning becomes difficult. Both patients and caregivers will feel more calm through planning ahead. Insureyouknow.org can help caregivers stay organized by storing all of their important documents in one place, such as financial records, estate planning documentation, insurance policies, and detailed care plans. Above all, there is hope for those with Alzheimer’s; research is happening every day for potential therapies and future treatments.
How ChatGPT is Shaping Retirement
October 15, 2023
Chat GPT is an artificial intelligence program that can answer human questions. This chatbot is able to understand human language that is spoken or written and then uses algorithms to process and analyze this information in order to produce answers. For instance, you may ask ChatGPT informative questions such as how climate change is affecting endangered species, but Chat GPT can even be directed to write a poem. When it comes to finances, ChatGPT may even be able to help someone begin their retirement planning.
ChatGPT Provides Content, Not Human Advice
Anyone can ask ChatGPT anything, and they will receive a remarkably well-rounded response. If someone were to ask what their retirement plan should include, the chatbot will provide an outline of the basic elements of a common retirement plan. The problem with this is that ChatGPT won’t know the person asking the question and be able to understand the individual details of their life that would make a difference in their retirement planning.
While Chat GPT may not completely replace the value of a human financial advisor, that doesn’t mean that financial advisors won’t need to change the way in which they advise clients to plan for their retirement. If anyone can get a basic plan through ChatGPT, then the services provided by an advisor need to become more about the one thing ChatGPT can’t provide: the human understanding and emotional side of advice. Despite having spent decades taking the emotion out of financial decisions, financial professionals will have to pivot to provide more humanity than ever.
How AI Can Improve an Advisor’s Abilities
Once upon a time, the internet threatened travel agents everywhere, as people could suddenly book their own plane tickets, hotel rooms, and rental cars themselves, from the comfort of their home computers. But travel agents are alive and well, and that’s because the internet still couldn’t do one thing that an agent could: understand a client’s needs and provide personal advice. Instead of mere transactional planning, personalized insight is the new premiere service that a travel agent can provide, and financial planners can grow to do the same.
While ChatGPT can provide concrete information, it cannot begin to factor in the unique preferences of an individual. True conversation is more than the exchange of information. It involves feelings and the confirmation that the person you’re speaking with understands you. A good financial advisor already understands this. Their job is about more than just offering retirement plans; people need empathy. Financial advisor Patti Brennan says her clients “are looking for someone who isn’t just focused on managing their money; that’s just table stakes. What they really want is to know they’ve got someone they can count on during times of crisis; someone who will be a trusted advocate for their future and quality of life.”
Mitchell Morrison, CEO and founder of Eyeballs Financial, says, “ChatGPT is like building a chassis for the financial plan. Its chief weakness is that the answers you get are only as good as the questions you ask.”
While a machine can provide the building blocks of a good plan, an advisor has the capability to understand the complexities of financial planning and the nuances of a person’s life. Together, ChatGPT and the advice from a professional can be used to formulate a plan that is more well-rounded than if someone just relied on one or the other. Rob Leiphart, a certified financial planner at RB Capital Management, adds that, “ChatGPT lacks one crucial step needed in financial planning and investment management: KYC,” or know your client. “It doesn’t begin by asking questions of its own in order to hone its responses. Instead, it provides generic or basic advice,” he says.
While AI ‘s abilities will evolve, financial advisors will be required to as well. Professionals should view ChatGPT as a tool and reevaluate their role in retirement planning. While clients can be well-versed through the framework that ChatGPT can provide them, financial planners can become educators, coaches, and navigators of their retirement plans.
What AI Can Do For You Now
ChatGPT can do more than provide information on how to begin planning for retirement. It can also be used as a resource to think outside of the box in terms of finances. Here are five ways anyone can use ChatGPT to improve their finances now.
Whether you’re interested in supplementing your income now or during retirement, you can ask ChatGPT, “What are the best side gigs for retirees, in my area, or in my field of work?” AI will provide a list of options ranging from consulting, house sitting, or personal errands.
2. Build a better resume
Perhaps you’d like to make more money in your working years or there are a handful of positions you’ve always wished you could land. ChatGPT can help make your resume stand out by suggesting which skills recruiters are looking for in certain positions.
ChatGPT could tell you how much you’ll need to start that business you’ve always dreamed of starting, including what resources you’ll need to get going, projected earnings, and even help with sales copy. Whether you’re selling goods or services, you’ll need good advertising to attract potential clients. ChatGPT can provide you with a better idea of what your business idea will entail and help you to create a detailed plan of action.
Planning to make money for retirement by selling your house or planning to move when you can retire are both common goals. An attractive house listing can help you get the best offer on your current property. Paired with gorgeous pictures of your home, ChatGPT can help you write the listing that will get you the most interest. You could even use ChatGPT to help you buy your home elsewhere by researching the most cost effective places to retire.
Once you’ve decided it’s time to start thinking about your retirement, ChatGPT can provide you with a list of qualified and highly-rated financial advisors in your area. Plus, educating yourself through ChatGPT on common retirement plans before you meet with your advisor will give you an idea of what to discuss at your meeting.
Retirement planning can be overwhelming, but you’ll benefit from using every resource available to you, including ChatGPT. For now ChatGPT is an excellent starting point but shouldn’t be the main resource of your final plan. Insureyouknow.org can help you compile your research, store your financial records, and serve as a valuable place to regularly revisit and fine tune your retirement plan.
Paying for Early Childhood Intervention Services
October 1, 2023
Over three million children in the United States had a reported disability according to the 2019 U.S. Census, and that number has risen 0.4% since 2008. Children experiencing developmental delays, not reaching developmental milestones, or those at risk may be eligible for early intervention services and supports.
When to Screen for Developmental Delays
If a child is born prematurely or with a genetic condition, then that child may qualify for early intervention as soon as birth. Early screening is part of the services that should be offered while parents are in the hospital for their child’s birth. However, if a parent becomes concerned about their child’s development after birth or notices any changes, they should refer their child for an early intervention evaluation. Eligibility for services is based on an evaluation of a child’s skills and abilities. A doctor’s referral is not necessary for an evaluation. It’s important for parents to educate themselves on which milestones their children should be reaching and not rely completely on their doctor’s recommendations; it is parents who spend the most time with their children, so they may notice something that a pediatrician won’t catch during a routine check-up. Emma Fitzsimmons, a New York mom who claims early intervention saved her son’s life, tells other parents, “If you’re worried that your child has delays, I would encourage you to seek out Early Intervention services and to ask for recommendations to find the best therapists in your area and a good service coordinator, the person who oversees your case.”
Know What Your State Offers
If eligible for early intervention, children may receive services to help with physical skills (crawling and walking), cognitive functions (thinking and learning), communication (talking and listening), adaptive skills (eating and dressing), and social-emotional development (play). Services are wide-ranging and can include speech therapy, physical or occupational therapy, psychological services, home visits, nutritional services, audiology (for hearing issues), vision therapy, social work, assistive technology, and even transportation.
The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, covers early intervention and school-aged services. Under Part C of IDEA, funding is made available to each state and requires services to be made available to eligible children with disabilities. While all states offer early intervention, the screening processes and services offered vary state by state. The first step in finding out what your child may qualify for is learning about what your state offers. The CDC offers links for each state in order to learn about the benefits your state offers. Each state has its own guidelines around how families qualify, but generally, a child must exhibit a developmental delay or have been diagnosed with a specific health condition that is known to lead to delays, such as a genetic disorder. The Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (or ECTA) also outlines the services each state offers. In some states, children may be eligible for services if they are at risk and not yet exhibiting any delays, such as having been born at a low weight. If a child is found eligible for services, a care team will develop an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP), which will outline the services a child will receive and the desired outcomes for those services. For instance, physical therapist Tonya McCool explains, “If a child presents with a delay that limits their abilities to complete age-appropriate milestones, a provider will assist by guiding the child into appropriate positions, providing them opportunities to experience new opportunities or helping them try new things so that their families can continue to work with them throughout the week to meet their goals.”
Under IDEA Part C, Child Find services, which include the initial referral, evaluations, the development of the IFSP, and service coordination must be made free to families, but depending on your state’s policies, some services may be provided at a cost or on a sliding scale. In addition to the federal education funds provided through IDEA, Medicaid and private insurance can also help cover the costs of interventions, such as speech therapy and hearing services. Finding a provider that is familiar with Early Intervention funding will know best how to help families cover the costs of these services. Although early intervention is mandated by IDEA and designed to meet the needs of children, it often requires a combination of resources to cover the costs of services. The ECTA’s website offers contact information for each state’s lead agency, who will be able to provide parents with the resources they’ll need to secure services and funding. If your child qualifies for interventional services, it will be important to become educated in what services must be provided at no cost to you through IDEA Part C.
Once a child is three, if they are still experiencing delays or require supports, then services will continue and transition into special education services. These are often provided through a child’s school at no additional cost to you. The age at which a child begins schooling also varies state-by-state, which is why it’s important for families to work with their initial early intervention team in order to ensure children continue receiving the supports they need. When an IFSP is developed, it should include any support for the transition to preschool when a child turns three. Plans should be reviewed every six months, as children change quickly from birth to age three.
Early intervention services can have an enormous impact on a child’s ability to meet developmental milestones. These services are provided not only for a child, but also so that their caregivers have the tools they need to create a healthy environment for their entire family. Insureyouknow.org can help you keep track of medical records, interventional resources, and your child’s IFSP, as well as their progress. When it comes time for your child to start school, having this paperwork organized in one place will help you provide their school with everything they require in order to ensure the necessary continued supports.
Five Things To Know About the Capital Gains Tax
September 15, 2023
It’s never too early to start planning for tax season. While much of what you own will experience depreciation over time, any profit made from something you sell may be subject to the capital gains tax. So if you think you’ll be making a return on a previous investment this year, then you’re going to want to be well-versed in the capital gains tax.
Understanding the Capital Gains Tax
A capital gains tax is a tax on profits made from the sale of assets, such as stocks, businesses, real estate, and other types of investments. When you sell anything and make a profit, the U.S. government views that profit as taxable income. The capital gains tax is calculated by deducting the original cost of the asset from the total sale of that asset. It’s important to understand the capital gains tax guidelines, such as profits made from real estate or collectibles, which come with their own unique rules. Understanding the rules can help you make the best decisions about your capital gains income.
In order to minimize losses and maximize your gains, here are five things to know about the capital gains tax.
The Real Estate Rules
If a person sells their home for $250,000 or less, or a married couple sells their home for $500,000 or less, then they are exempt from the capital gains tax; this exemption is only available once every two years. If you sell your home or any other investment property for more than that but reinvest the money made from the sale into a new property, then you would also be exempt from paying taxes on your real estate gains; this is known as the 1031 exchange. Cory Robinson, financial portfolio manager says, “That’s the beauty of taking gains: You can immediately reinvest.” For a home to qualify as a primary residence, you must have lived in it for at least two years, or two years out of a five year period. It’s important to understand the rules around property sales, so speaking with an advisor is always recommended before selling your home. “Familiarize yourself with the capital gains tax exclusion rules and consult a tax advisor,” says financial analyst Greg McBride. “If the property has been your primary residence for less than 24 months, for example, you may decide to hold off until you’ve reached that threshold to avoid capital gains tax.”
The Difference Between Short and Long-term Capital Gains
Put simply, if you have held any asset for less than a year before selling it, then that asset is considered a short-term capital gain and is subject to a higher capital gains tax; if you own that asset for longer than a year before selling, then your profit is considered a long-term gain and subject to a lower tax rate. This is why selling any asset before you’ve owned it for at least 12 months should be avoided if possible.
Investment and Rental Property Strategies
The rules around investment property are different since their value typically depreciates over time. A 25 percent rate then applies to the gain from selling real estate that depreciated, because the IRS wants to recapture some of the tax breaks you’ve been getting due to depreciation, known as Section 1250 property. If you sell a rental property that you have not lived in for at least two years for over $250,000 (or $500,000 if married), then that property could be subject to not only the depreciation rate but a capital gains tax that is based on your income bracket. One wat to avoid this could be to invest in property in opportunity zones, areas identified as economically disadvantaged, which are tax-free when sold after ten years. Deducting expenses, such as home improvements, repair, and even closing costs, is another way to lower the amount of profit that is subject to the capital gains tax.
Your Income Bracket Determines Your Capital Gains Tax Rate
Tax rates are determined by your tax bracket, so a lot of people will actually pay no capital gains tax on the sale of long-term assets if they fall in the 0% tax rate. For the 2023 tax year, a single person that made up to $44,625, and a married couple that made up to $89,250 jointly would not have to pay any capital gains taxes.
Keep Track of Both Gains and Losses
When an asset is sold for more than what it cost, it results in a capital gain, but when the asset is sold for less than it cost, it results in a capital loss. If you have both gains and losses, it will be important to know your net gain, or your gains minus your losses; only net gains are subject to the capital gains tax. If you only have losses in a given year, then capital losses could actually lower your taxable income. This loss is limited to $3,000 per year per person (or $1,500 if you’re married). If you have an excess of $3,000 in losses, then those losses can actually be carried forward to future tax years.
It’s never a good idea to buy or sell assets solely for tax purposes, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be well aware of the rules around the capital gains tax. Insureyouknow.org can help you store all of your financial records in one place, so that it’s easier for you to keep track of your assets and taxable income. Before selling any investment, it’s important to know the laws unique to your state and speak with an advisor, who will know best what taxes you may be held responsible for. It’s good to know that for many, zero taxes on gains are actually possible.
Health and Economic Costs of Dealing with Chronic Illness
September 1, 2023
While the diagnosis of a chronic illness is upsetting enough, the financial ramifications of needing ongoing care often hit the hardest. Medical issues account for two-thirds of all US bankruptcies, making them the number one reason people file; forty percent of people who are diagnosed with cancer are bankrupt within four years of their diagnosis. For those who are chronically ill, healthcare is the number three line item for budgeting, while it’s number 10 for healthy individuals.
The costs of living with a chronic illness is not limited to financial burdens though; a chronic illness can also lead to even more health and interpersonal issues.
A Decline in Mental Well-Being
Health impairments can exacerbate existing mental health conditions, like depression, or cause new issues to arise, such as anxiety. Being diagnosed with an illness that’s incurable or being unsure about whether or not the symptoms will improve is going to cause an immense amount of stress in patients. People who feel ill often may also end up feeling guilty for not being able to fulfill their personal responsibilities and show up fully for their loved ones.These mental and physical chronic conditions can lead to harmful degrees of social isolation and perpetuate a cycle of declining overall health.
When considering the connection between physical and mental health, it has been shown that those who report feeling lonely suffer from higher rates of morbidity, infection, depression, and cognitive decline. Living with a chronic illness doesn’t have to equate to a lonely life though, and may even lead to more meaningful relationships, according to Caroyn Hax, an advice columnist for the Washington Post. In her response to a reader with multiple sclerosis, she stated “Although your illness will deter some potential companions, your ability to plan it into a full, rewarding and well-managed life will attract others — specifically those people who appreciate that circumstances change but character does not.”
An Inability to Work and Losing Health Benefits
Many people suffering from chronic health issues may begin to find it difficult if not impossible to go to work consistently. Many people who deal with chronic health issues––such as Charlene Marshall who is a Pulmonary Fibrosis patient–– find it difficult if not impossible to go to work consistently. “Whether the fatigue I feel is from managing the disease or the disease progression, daily activities become exhausting and hard to manage,” she shares. Unfortunately, many people suffering from a chronic condition may begin to be viewed as unreliable by their supervisors, leading to termination, while others may need to resign as they find it impossible to keep working.
For many, losing their job also means losing their health benefits. Those who can no longer work may become reliant on spousal coverage or public assistance, which is likely why 99 percent of Medicare and 80 percent of Medicaid spending goes toward the treatment of chronic disease. Not only does the inability to work affect individuals and their families, but lower labor force participation rates affect society as a whole and are linked to slower economic growth, a higher dependency ratio, and higher tax rates.
Straining Personal Relationships
The inability to work due to chronic illness can lead to financial strain on an individual’s entire family. Not only may family members need to help pay for care, but they may also need to take time from work to care for their loved ones who are undergoing treatment that makes them ill, need help with daily activities, or have just had a major surgery. Between new bills and extended care, the financial struggles of the chronically ill can spread easily to those who care for them most.
People who have a loved one that is suffering from a chronic health condition may also experience stress, concern, and an overwhelming sense of helplessness. Battling a chronic illness doesn’t always have to come with negative interpersonal effects though. Many people actually find that their relationships are strengthened through their health struggles. Marshall, for instance, shares that she is grateful for a strengthened social circle. “I’m blessed to have a network of great friends who support me despite IPF and who are always willing to listen.”
How We Can All Fight Chronic Disease
By working together, we can help build up the next generation for a healthier life through education about the prevention of many chronic diseases. Eating well, regular exercise, and avoiding substance abuse are all behaviors that may reduce the risk of becoming chronically ill. On a societal level, we can address the underlying determinants of health, including one’s environment, education, and access to healthcare. For instance, since many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and arthritis, are associated with poor diet and obesity, the FDA is currently working to make sure US eating patterns are meeting federal dietary guidelines.
If you or a loved one are struggling through a chronic illness, know that you are not alone. The CDC estimates that 6 in 10 adults living in the US have at least one chronic disease, while 4 in 10 suffer from at least two or more. Insureyouknow.org can help you keep track of medical records, doctor’s appointments, financial planning, and other important documentation regarding your health and finances. Getting organized and keeping a plan are easy ways to get more peace of mind on your life’s journey through a chronic illness.
5 Benefits of Paying Off Your Mortgage Early
August 17, 2023
For many Americans, a home mortgage is one of the heftiest and lengthiest investments they will make in their lifetime. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, mortgages accounted for 71% of combined household debts in 2022. The good news is with proper planning, this stressor can be eliminated. Depending on your financial position, opting to pay off your mortgage early can make a positive impact on your finances. It can simultaneously offer you a sense of peace and stability and provide greater financial freedom.
“Paying off your mortgage is a major milestone,” said Meaghen Hunt of Bankrate. “It’s a moment to celebrate, but also to take specific steps to ensure you’re the legal owner of the property, and to continue paying your homeowners insurance and property taxes on your own.”
- Reduce Interest Costs
The more time you carry a mortgage for, the more interest you will pay. Paying off your mortgage early allows you to save significantly on interest. Laura Tarpley of Business Insider estimates that paying off your mortgage early could save you tens of thousands of dollars. “Just make sure to clarify with your lender that all extra payments will just be going toward your principal, not interest,” she cautioned.
- Live Debt-Free
Forbes estimates that nearly 10 million American homeowners who are still paying off their mortgages are 65 years of age or older. That is a significant number of individuals still saddled with debt well into their old age. The increased financial security of having a paid-off mortgage means greater room in your finances to address other debts. The funds spent to make a mortgage payment can be redistributed to pay off other outstanding debts such as loans, credit card balances, and more. Overall, the ability to live debt-free without the stress of having to make a substantial payment is a significant benefit.
Hunt cautions that you may see your credit score suffer after paying off your mortgage especially if it was the only debt you carried. Although there is a brighter side. “In some cases, your score can improve, depending on what other kinds of credit you’ve borrowed,’ she added.
- Eliminate Monthly Payments
Most homeowners can expect to pay off their homes in 30 years making normal monthly payments. Not having to meet monthly payments frees up a sizable amount of money that can be invested in other, potentially high-earning, endeavors. This could allow for more wealth to be generated over time. Additionally, if you are unable to make your monthly payments due to financial instability, you are protected from losing your home.
- Be Financially Free
Mortgage payments often make up a substantial portion of one’s expenses and are also multi-year, with the average mortgage spanning between 15-30 years. Paying off your mortgage ahead of schedule frees up funds and allows for greater room to direct funds to other places.
“For people nearing retirement, a paid-off mortgage means they have that much more free cash flow from their fixed income when they stop working,” said Miranda Marquit of Bankrate. “It allows you to tap the equity in your home if you need money in the future.”
- Have Peace of Mind
Arguably one of the most advantageous benefits of having a fully paid mortgage is the right to own your home outright. Additionally, it protects you from the instability of the housing market which can lower the value of your home.
Having a mortgage paid off early provides many advantages, such as money saved long-term that permits debt and interest-free living and greater availability of funds to direct towards other investments. While not having to keep up with costly monthly payments into your retirement sounds appealing, it is important to take inventory of your finances before making the decision to pay off your mortgage early. Use insureyouknow.org to keep a track of your payments and debts to determine if an early mortgage payment is the right fit for you.
The Pros and Cons of Living with Children in Retirement
August 1, 2023
Combining households can be a positive experience for everyone. In order to ensure that every member of the family is comfortable with living together, it will be important to talk it out. Communicating about any concerns before moving in together and then regularly thereafter will ensure that everyone remains happy with the decision to cohabitate. Amy Goyer, an AARP family expert, tells children of retirees to embrace the chance. “Look at this as an opportunity,” she adds. “You have a chance to enjoy your mom or dad in their later years. This is a way for children to know their grandparents in a way they wouldn’t otherwise.”
Before combining households, retirees and their children should consider all of the pros and cons of living together during retirement beforehand.
The Pros of Living With Children During Retirement:
- Retirees can be a big part of their grandkids’ lives. Many parents choose to live with their children during retirement so that they can be a major part of their grandkids’ lives. Some parents want to help their children raise their kids, such as picking them up from school, helping with meals, or taking their grandkids to their extracurriculars after school. Parents who were busy with work while their own children were growing up may feel that they can now make up for lost time.
- Your family will have a strong support system in place. While you may want to help your children with their needs, they may also need to help you. This can range from needing a ride to a doctor’s appointment to needing care after surgery or during an illness. Either way, living together will enable each of you to be more available to one another in times of need.
- Combined expenses may make living together more cost effective for both of you. Having a real financial talk with your children before you decide to combine households may prove that it could save each of you a lot of money. Coming up with a budget of shared expenses can actually help family members thrive both as a whole and individually. With the right budget, retirees shouldn’t have to dig into their retirement as much every month, while their children will be able to save up more of their monthly income.
In addition to communicating with one another about finances and caretaking roles, make sure everyone is allotted their own personal time. For instance, grandparents may opt to have their friends over while their grandkids are in school and their children are at work. Working together to ensure that every member of the family gets space from one another from time to time will help prevent anyone from feeling stifled. Retirement expert Nancy K. Schlossberg, author of Too Young to Be Old: Love, Learn, Work and Play as You Age, says, “If you do your emotional work upfront, you’re more likely to be satisfied with your final decision.”
The Pros of Living With Children During Retirement Could Also be the Cons:
- Retirees may not want to become full-time babysitters. If your children have children, and you’re disinterested in being a full-time babysitter to the grandkids, setting boundaries upfront about what you do and don’t want to do will be extremely important. Also, consider day-to-day life with young children and maybe pets. “If you have no tolerance for noise, do you want to move into a house with children or teenagers?” asks Jennifer Prell, president of Illinois elder-resource network Silver Connections.Be realistic about what you will and won’t be able to handle on a daily basis.
- Children of retirees may not want to become full-time caretakers either. Children of retirees may not be prepared for the burden of caring for their own parents.Again, establishing what everyone is comfortable with will be imperative. Contemplate the worst-case scenarios before moving in together. “Even if Mom moves in relatively healthy, that could change overnight,” elder-law attorney Kerry Peck points out. “Families generally underestimate the amount of care that Mom is going to require.”
- Retirees (or their children) may end up footing the bill for everyone. If retirees or their children become overly reliant on one another, then moving in together may become more expensive for one party than remaining apart. Having an honest talk about financial responsibilities and emergency savings before moving in together should help prevent unexpected expenses for either one of you down the road. “So many families run into trouble when something bad unexpectedly happens,” says Jill Schlesinger, author of The Dumb Things Smart People Do With Their Money. “That’s why it’s so important to talk to your kids about the What-Ifs,” said Schlesinger.
Consider Alternatives to Living Together
If you decide that joining households may not be the best option for your family, there are alternatives. Simply living closer to one another can reap the same benefits of living with children during retirement while removing the downsides.
While there’s an appeal to living ten minutes from one another, one of you may feel as if some of your independence has been lost. Talk to your children, and decide how close is too close. If in the end, you decide to live farther away from your children, planning reciprocal visits or spending part of the year with them may turn out to be the best of both worlds.
If you do decide to remain independent during retirement, make sure there’s plenty of room in your home for your children to visit or stay overnight. If you have more than one child, factor in enough space for all of them and their families, so that each of your children may visit you simultaneously.
In the end, living with your children during retirement should be beneficial for both of you. Insureyouknow.org can help your family keep the peace. When combining households, keeping the budget, financial information, healthcare records, and even family schedules in one easy-to-access place can help everyone work together to keep the household running smoothly. Since communication will be the key to living happily together, it will be important for everyone to be in the know.
Take These Five Simple Steps to be Healthy at Any Age
July 14, 2023
Cognition, our ability to think clearly, often declines as we get older. While some may develop Alzheimer’s or dementia, many will experience changes in learning, memory and thinking. Research proves that taking small steps toward living a healthier life helps to minimize declines in cognition, such as maintaining physical activity. Incorporating regular exercise is just one of the following five simple steps to be healthy at any age.
1. Exercise regularly.
“Exercise is also one of the best things you can do to help prevent dementia and other cognitive changes,” says Argye Hillis, M.D. at John Hopkins Medicine. “Once you’re cleared by your doctor, aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.” Combining eleven studies, the Alzheimer’s Society found that regular exercise reduced the risk of developing dementia by 30 percent, and the risk of Alzheimer’s specifically was reduced by as much as 45 percent.
If exercise is something you loathe, it doesn’t take a lot of strenuous activity to improve one’s overall health dramatically. Walking for a total of 30 minutes a day helps keep the brain healthy by delivering more blood and oxygen to cells. In addition to preventing Alzheimer’s, walking can boost mood, keep bones and muscles strong, and reduce the risk of other diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.
When someone is ready to get serious about preventing age-related problems, resistance training is going to be the best place to start. “The average woman can lose 23 percent of her muscle mass between the ages of 30 and 70,” says Fabio Comana, an exercise physiologist at the National Academy of Sports Medicine. “Resistance workouts in particular – can increase mass and strength well into your 90s.”
Resistance training is simply exercising your muscles using an opposing force, and the best part is that anyone can practice resistance training using no more than their body weight. Squats, push ups, and planks are all examples of resistance training that can be practiced anywhere.
2. Improve your diet.
It is undeniable that the food someone eats plays a major role in how they feel. “Ninety percent of the diseases known to man are caused by cheap foodstuffs,” said Victor Lindlahr, an American nutritionist in the 1930s. “You are what you eat.” If someone wants to feel good, then there’s no way around eating better.
In 2022, the U.S. News & World Report named the Mediterranean diet the Best Overall Diet for the fifth year in a row. According to research by Harvard Medical School, the Mediterranean diet may help prevent heart attacks, strokes, and premature death. “The latest research shows that a low-glycemic diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein is healthiest,” Jeffrey Benabio, M.D. at Kaiser Permanente Primary Care, tells patients.
3. Make quality sleep a priority.
Did you know that not getting enough sleep can put an individual at higher risk for developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression, and even obesity? Recent research even shows a link between insomnia and accelerated aging of the brain. “Too many of us treat sleep as a luxury instead of a need,” says Dr. Benabio of Kaiser. “If I could encourage people to make one healthy change, it would be to sleep more.”
The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep every night. They also point out that most sleep problems are a result of underlying medical conditions, such as acid reflux, which is why addressing any sleeping problems with one’s doctor is a good place to start.
4. Schedule regular checkups with your doctor.
Regular checkups with the doctor, dentist, and other specialists are invaluable opportunities for people to catch problems early and treat them before they become bigger problems. A 2021 study by the National Library of Medicine found that individuals who went to the doctor regularly reported improved quality of life and feelings of wellness. Plus, visiting the dentist and preventing inflammation in the mouth can help manage other inflammatory conditions like diabetes and heart disease, according to the American Academy of Periodontology. Keeping up on these yearly appointments and follow ups is a simple thing that can reap life-saving benefits.
5. Take Time to Connect
The World Health Organization estimates that more than 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression, with many more affected by anxiety disorders. Someone who feels lonely is more likely to get dementia or depression. This is because such individuals have higher levels of stress hormones which cause inflammation in the body and a lowered immune response. Strong friendships alleviate stress, improve emotional well-being, and are markers of physical health. Experts suggest people can grow their social connection by creating a community through their work relationships, by volunteering, and by making friendships a priority. “Strong bonds won’t happen overnight, but starting small and prioritizing friendships as an important part of your life can bring more happiness, less stress and more support,” says Adam Smiley Poswolsky, author of Friendship in the Age of Loneliness. “You know someone is a true friend when they have your back when you’re sick, when you lose your job, when you make a mistake, when you’re going through a break-up, when you’re stressed, when you’re sad.”
Stress is inevitable, and it is proven to negatively affect one’s health. By following these five simple steps, anyone can decrease their levels of stress and increase their overall wellness. Physical activity, eating a balanced diet, good sleep, and social support can all combat the effects of stress on the body. You may be thinking that while you’re already stretched thin, fitting in these healthy practices may cause you more stress. That’s why starting small with manageable changes will help you incorporate these steps into your routine. Insureyouknow.org can help you manage regular checkups and social engagements and even keep track of medical records, diet journals, sleep data, and exercise logs. Keeping all of your information in one place makes it easy to recognize the positive impact these simple steps will have on your overall health.