If you had been carefully planning your retirement and thought that you had a few more years to accumulate a nest egg before you officially called it quits, you may be prompted during the COVID-19 pandemic, to shift gears and reevaluate your options.
Employees worldwide are enduring furloughs pending a rebound in the economy, permanent layoffs because of drastic downturns at their workplaces, or have decided not to return to a work environment that may expose them to COVID-19. If one of these, or another reason, has spurred you to consider or plan to retire sooner than you had anticipated, make sure your retirement income strategy is right for your current and future financial situation. You may want to consult a financial planner who can help you project and protect your retirement benefits while you decide when to retire.
Retirees with limited financial resources face numerous risks, including out-living their money, investment losses, unexpected health expenses, the unforeseen needs of family members, and even reductions in retirement benefits. Some workers, including teachers, restaurateurs, and healthcare providers, whose professions require close contact with others, have started withdrawing from the workforce earlier than they had planned because of challenges and concerns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has hit older workers hard. The unemployment rate among Americans age 55 and up reached a staggering 13.6 percent in April, up from just 2.6 percent in January, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As of August, the percentage had gone down to 7.7 percent but other data show that one in five Americans in their 60s has lost his job or has been furloughed due to COVID-19, according to the July 2020 Retirement Confidence Index by the financial technology company SimplyWise. Overall, 15 percent of Americans are now considering claiming Social Security benefits earlier than they had anticipated. One in five respondents who was laid off during the coronavirus pandemic is now planning to retire early.
If you can identify with these staggering statistics, take a deep breath and review the following suggestions to guide you to the finish line for a financially successful retirement.
Examine Expenses and Downsize
For many employees, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed how fragile their financial security is. A recent survey from the National Endowment for Financial Education found that nearly 9 in 10 (88 percent) Americans said that the COVID-19 crisis is causing stress on their personal finances. Americans who are not yet retired but whose finances have been impacted by the pandemic can use this time to review their expenses and reduce unnecessary spending. You’ll need to take inventory of your entire financial situation and determine how much cash will see you through retirement.
Take Stock of Resources and Make Adjustments
Evaluate what resources you have available. Make any necessary adjustments to savings and portfolio asset allocations, including your 401(k) or 403(b) accounts, pension plans from former or current employers, IRA accounts, and annuities as well as Social Security benefits based on your employment and age. For those who are eligible but not yet drawing Social Security payments, this is a good time to consider how to maximize your benefits.
Decide how much money you want to keep in stocks vs. bonds, based on your risk tolerance and financial goals. Keep in mind, most people need to maintain a stake in stocks, even in retirement, to get the long-term growth they need. But for those who prefer a more cautious strategy—and for older investors who have already amassed enough savings to afford a comfortable retirement—it may make sense to reduce the percentage you invest in stocks and increase your fixed-income holdings.
Rethink Withdrawal Rate
People in or nearing retirement need to review their withdrawal rate, and the pandemic has given new urgency to designing a safe withdrawal strategy. The 4 percent rule is the traditional rule of thumb for retirement withdrawals. You take out 4 percent of your portfolio in the first year, then increase that amount by the inflation rate in subsequent years. Studies show that this strategy can minimize your risk of running out of money over a 30-year retirement.
The article, “Don’t Let the Coronavirus Derail Your Retirement: How to Get Back on Track If Your 401(k) Has Taken a Hit,” published in the May 2020 issue of Consumer Reports advises retirees to consider skipping their required minimum distributions from their 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts that is permitted this year under the coronavirus relief package. If you can forgo those withdrawals, your portfolio will have more time to recover from losses.
Consider Taking Social Security Early
The longer you wait to claim Social Security benefits, the larger the payout you’re likely to receive. If you are at the full retirement age between 65 and 67 years old, you can claim benefits about 30 percent higher than if you take them early starting at age 62. By waiting until you’re 70 years old, the benefit amount would be another 32 percent higher than the amount you’d get at full retirement age.
But waiting isn’t always the best option and individuals need to be aware of how claiming benefits at different ages will impact their overall retirement strategies.
Evaluate Employment Opportunities
If you figure out that you don’t have enough currently saved for a comfortable retirement, consider remaining at or returning to work–even in a part-time position. Earning additional income and accumulating money in your retirement savings account will be beneficial if you can delay retirement and avoid unemployment. One of the most effective measures for protecting your finances is to amass an emergency fund that can cover three to six months of expenses—perhaps as much as a year if your job isn’t secure. That money should be kept in a safe, easily accessible account, which will spare you from having to dip into retirement funds or rely solely on credit cards for unexpected bills.
Once you have come to terms with a retirement date and a vision of a secure financial future, store copies of your decisions for portfolio changes, Social Security formulas, records of all of your 401 (k) or 403(b) accounts, pension plans, IRA accounts, annuities, and other investments at InsureYouKnow.org.
In 2020, Labor Day is celebrated on Monday, September 7. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, this holiday is a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of the United States. The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated in 1882 in New York City. Three years later, the holiday had spread to other industrial centers of the country and began to represent the end of summer and the start of the back-to-school season. Although Labor Day is typically celebrated in cities and towns across the nation with parades, picnics, barbecues, fireworks displays, and other public gatherings, the manner and extent of America’s annual celebration to honor the American worker will be different this year during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A three-day holiday weekend this September may not signal a time to publicly celebrate for many Americans affected by high unemployment, shifting industry hiring patterns, and fundamental changes to the way they work and play amid the COVID-19 crisis. If you are unemployed, underemployed, or just ready for a change in your work circumstances, the following tips may increase your chances of finding a job under the current challenging labor market.
Review your resume and online professional presence. If it’s been a while since you’ve applied for a job, evaluate your resume to make sure it’s error-free, fully updated, and customized for each job for which you submit an application. Post your resume on your own website if you have one, and on online job boards or sites specific to your target industry. Consider adding work samples, links to any published work, or a video introduction to your resume. Use keywords that will yield results in search engine queries conducted by prospective employers. Keep your references informed about job leads and scheduled interviews so they will be ready to respond to requests for recommendations about your job performance and history.
Look in the right places for opportunities. Current hiring trends may include positions for freelancers and remote workers for which you may be eligible. You also should be willing to consider new industries where job opportunities have been stronger, such as technology and health care. Contact people in your network who are employed in favorable hiring industries and explain your interest and availability.
As companies move to remote work to fight the coronavirus pandemic and an increasing number of workers are being laid off or furloughed, you might be wondering if you should continue to send out resumes or just assume that no one is hiring for the foreseeable future. It’s true that economists are predicting a recession, but career experts advise to keep networking and applying, provided you change your approach to acknowledge these are uncertain times.
Join professional groups on Facebook and LinkedIn that offer a wide range of options with groups for a variety of professions. Make yourself visible to online groups by introducing topics or adding to conversations that allow you to demonstrate your expertise.
Figure out your strengths. Know your skills, your worth, and your passions – these are the things that help differentiate you, and allow you to thrive in the areas in which you’re most competitive. To address remote working conditions, emphasize your comfort and expertise with technology, including remote collaboration and communication programs you’ve used and endorse. A good job search is targeted in many ways, including knowing where you’ll be appreciated and in demand. Analyze job descriptions by listing each required skill and experience. Then consider whether you have that exact skill, if you have the skill but haven’t used it in a few years, or if you’re lacking the skill entirely. Apply that information to determine what you need to improve on to make yourself a better candidate when the job market picks up again.
Refresh your skills. Look into taking free or low-cost courses online or obtain certifications in a new skill that can complement your existing job path or lead to a new career. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many online learning options provide free or lower-priced educational programs and courses on professional development, leadership, and communication skills that allow you to continue working in another capacity while you complete your studies.
Check out free online course including MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), EdX classes with courses from MIT and Harvard, and free Microsoft training and tutorials. In addition to providing job announcements and company descriptions, TheMuse.com links to online courses “that’ll boost your skills and get you ahead.” Learn to use remote communication and collaboration programs like Slack, Zoom, Skype, the G-Suite, and Dropbox that can be learned and applied quickly.
Rely on others to help in your job search. In addition to a source for new jobs, your network also can be the best place to advertise your job skills and career ambitions, seek help securing loans or financing to start a new business, assistance in applying or being admitted to a new career training or degree program, or to obtain introductions to others who might be able to help in a job search. Check out your high school or university’s alumni network to learn where your connections are working. When you reach out, ask for a short informational interview to learn more about their workplace, and during the conversation, ask whether there’s anyone else you could speak with at the company. Repeat this process until you’ve spoken to someone in the department you think is the best fit.
During an economic slowdown, it’s important to focus on what you can control—by improving your skills and reaching out to your network, you can lay the groundwork now so that when the crisis is over you have opened doors and rekindled relationships.
Project yourself on Labor Day 2021. Pending the development and implementation of a coronavirus vaccine, the COVID-19 pandemic may be over within the next year. Analyze your need to overhaul your career or to take gig jobs or other freelance work if you’ve been laid off and are facing overwhelming debt and unemployment for an unforeseeable time. If possible, don’t make dramatic job changes or career decisions that can impact you for years to come. If you can determine where you want to be when COVID-19 is over, you can successfully direct your job search. Although companies might not be hiring in 2020, they will keep you in mind if you continue to build relationships and share your ideas with them until they do start hiring.
At InsureYouKnow.org, you can store your current and previous resumes, legal and contractual agreements pertaining to your employment, and work-related health insurance policies, especially if conditions and coverages have changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The word hurricane comes from the Taino Native American word, hurucane, meaning evil spirit of the wind. An Atlantic hurricane or tropical storm is a tropical cyclone that forms in the Atlantic Ocean. In the Pacific Ocean, hurricanes are generally known as typhoons and in the Indian Ocean they are called tropical cyclones.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) warns that as many as 25 named storms—twice the average number—will occur in 2020 to present an extremely active season that began on June 1 and ends November 30 with more frequent, longer, and stronger storms in the Northern Atlantic Ocean.
Storms get names once they have sustained wind speeds of at least 74 miles per hour. NOAA anticipates that 2020 could deliver a total of 19 to 25 named storms. That would put this year in league with 2005, which experienced more than two dozen named storms including Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma. Each year, only 21 storm names are designated because the letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z are not used. The first hurricane of the year is given a name beginning with the letter “A.” The list of names selected for 2020 storms starts with “Arthur” and ends with “Wilfred.”
If all the allotted names are used, the National Hurricane Center will use the Greek alphabet for additional names. This has only happened one time on record—in 2005 when the Atlantic Ocean experienced 28 named storms.
“We are now entering the peak months of the Atlantic hurricane season, August through October,” National Weather Service Director Louis Uccellini said in a recent news teleconference. “Given the activity we have seen so far this season, coupled with the ongoing challenges that communities face in light of COVID-19, now is the time to organize your family plan and make necessary preparations.”
FEMA’s (Federal Emergency Management Agency) Ready website provides checklists to help you put a plan together, consider specific needs in your household, download and fill out a family emergency plan, and to practice your plan with your family/household.
In planning for hurricanes and in dealing with outcomes of storm damage, you’ll also need to review your insurance coverage to make sure it matches your needs. Hurricanes provide little advance notice of their arrival, and as landfall approaches, insurance companies may temporarily suspend new coverage and coverage changes.
An insurance representative can review your policy, explain limits and deductibles, and help you identify coverage gaps. “You should ask your representative for tips on hurricane risk mitigation that may lower your insurance premiums and better protect your property,” says Tom Woods, assistant vice president of property underwriting for USAA.
Insurance Information Institute (III) website shares precautionary measures you can take to protect your home as well as your business from destructive storms. Don’t wait until a hurricane watch is issued, because it may already be too late to take certain recommended precautions, including reviewing your insurance policies.
III also offers a hurricane season insurance checklist that can help you understand your coverage and whether it’s adequate to repair or rebuild your home and to replace your belongings. Keep in mind that your homeowners insurance covers the cost of temporary repairs for hurricane damage, as well as reasonable additional living expenses over and above your normal living expenses if you have to relocate.
However, your homeowners policy doesn’t cover flood damage, so you may want to consider looking into flood insurance. If you live by the coast, you may also need a separate policy for protection against wind and wind-blown water damage. Check for wind-damage exclusions, and if wind damage isn’t covered by your standard policy, buy one from your state’s insurance program. In hurricane-prone states, for instance Louisiana, Texas, and Florida, some standard home insurance policies won’t pay for windstorm damage. So, if you want coverage, you need to buy an extra windstorm insurance policy in addition to your normal home insurance policy. In this case all wind damage would fall under this policy instead of your traditional homeowners policy.
After reviewing and revising insurance coverage with your insurance professional for your home, car, and business, store your updated insurance policies at InsureYourKnow.org where they will be readily available if a hurricane comes calling and wreaks havoc on printed versions of policies kept in your home or office.
The 2020 Census counts every person living in the United States and five U.S. territories (Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.) The count, mandated by the U.S. Constitution in Article 1, Section 2, is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, a nonpartisan government agency, every 10 years. The 2020 Census will mark the 24th time that the country has counted its population since 1790.
In March 2020, each home was sent an invitation to respond to a short questionnaire online, by phone, or by mail. If you have already replied by answering the survey about yourself and everyone who was living with you on April 1, 2020, the Census Bureau is grateful. If you haven’t yet completed the questionnaire, your answers are still needed to add with information from other homes to produce statistics, which never identify your home or any person in your home.
Census invitations included an insert in 12 non-English languages, inviting people to respond online or by phone in their language. These languages, ranked by the number of limited-English-speaking households according to American Community Survey data collected from 2012 to 2016, include Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Japanese. About 13 million households received invitations in both English and Spanish.
The Census Bureau also is providing video guides narrated in 59 non-English languages (including American Sign Language) to help people respond online and print guides written in the 59 non-English languages to help people complete the English paper questionnaire. Guides are also available in Braille and large print English.
You’ve Got Questions? The U.S. Census Bureau has Answers
Why is the Census Conducted?
The census provides complete, accurate, and critical data that lawmakers, business owners, teachers, and many others use to provide daily services, products, and support for you and your community. Every year, billions of dollars in federal funding go to more than 100 programs, including hospitals, fire departments, schools, roads, and other resources, such as Medicaid, Head Start, block grants for community mental health services, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP, based on census data.
The results of the census also determine the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives, and they are used to adjust or redraw congressional and state legislative districts, based on where populations have increased or decreased.
State legislatures or independent bipartisan commissions are responsible for redrawing congressional districts. The U.S. Census Bureau provides states with population counts for this purpose.
Over the next decade, lawmakers, business owners, and many others will use 2020 Census data to make critical decisions. The results will show where communities need new schools, new clinics, new roads, and more services for families, older adults, and children.
Is My Personal Information Kept Confidential?
Yes, the Census Bureau is bound by federal law to protect your information, and your responses are used only for statistical purposes. The Census Bureau does not disclose any personal information.
Who is Required to Respond?
Everyone living in the United States and its five territories is required by law to be counted in the 2020 Census.
What Questions are on the Census?
Go to https://2020census.gov/en/about-questions.html for the list of questions and an explanation about each question posed. Please note, there is no citizenship question on the 2020 Census.
How do I Determine Place of Residence?
You should count yourself at the place where you are living and sleeping most of the time as of April 1, 2020 (Census Day). For some, this is straightforward. But others—including college students, service members, and people in health care facilities—may have questions about where they should count themselves or how they should respond. Other circumstances can cause confusion as well, such as moving, having multiple residences, having no permanent address, living in a shelter, or living at a hotel or RV park. You can find answers to these questions at Official Residence Criteria for the 2020 Census.
Whom Should I Count as Individuals Living with Me?
If you are filling out the census for your home, you should count everyone who was living there as of April 1, 2020. This includes anyone—related or unrelated to you—who lives and sleeps at your home most of the time.
Count roommates, young children, newborns, and anyone who is renting a space in your home. If someone was staying in your home on April 1 and had no usual home elsewhere, you should count them in your response to the 2020 Census.
If someone such as a college student is just living with you temporarily due to the COVID-19 situation, they should be counted where they ordinarily would have been living on April 1, 2020.
What can Happen if I Don’t Respond to the Census?
By census law, refusal to answer all or part of the census carries a $100 fine. The penalty goes up to $500 for giving false answers. In 1976, Congress eliminated both the possibility of a 60-day prison sentence for noncompliance and a one-year prison term for false answers.
If you do not complete your form online, by phone, or by mail, the U.S. Census Bureau will follow up in person to collect your response.
Census takers started following up with nonresponding households on July 16. In subsequent weeks, the Census Bureau began opening additional census offices for enumeration activities. The majority of census offices across the country will begin follow-up work on August 11. All offices plan to conclude work by October 31.
In consideration of the COVID-19 pandemic, census takers will follow local public health guidelines when they visit households in person. They will wear face masks and will practice social distancing and other health and safety protocols when they work in neighborhoods. Learn more at Census Takers in Your Neighborhood.
Census takers are hired from your area, and their goal is to help you and everyone in your home be counted in the 2020 Census. If the census taker who visits your home does not speak your language, you may request a return visit from a census taker who does speak your language.
If you respond online or by phone today, a census taker is less likely to have to visit your home to collect your response.
Go to https://my2020census.gov to complete your questionnaire if you haven’t done so already.
Complying with the call for you to respond to the 2020 Census may prompt you to reflect on your forefathers who may have contributed to the previous 23 times the census has been conducted since 1790. Or, if you are a first generation American, you may realize the importance of being part of a remarkable project that will identify national population changes in the past 10 years. At InsureYouKnow.org, you can file copies of family records, including birth certificates, passports, drivers’ licenses, and Social Security cards, as well as historical and current records for mortgage and insurance documentation relating to your place of residence.
From Home to Office in Record Time
In March 2020, out of concern about the coronavirus pandemic, many U.S. workers relocated from office buildings, campuses, and other locations to home offices—or more likely, to living room sofas, dining room tables, kitchen counters, and corner nooks in bedrooms. According to Gallup Panel data, nearly seven in 10 employees are still working remotely all or part of the time.
You may have hit the ground running to set up your home office months ago by securing the basics—a computer, a desk or table, a chair, WiFi or direct Internet connection, ability to access work applications, and sufficient lighting to work on your computer and to participate in live online videoconferences. If you are faced with continuing to work out of your home office for an indefinite period of time, taking time now to do an inventory of your home office environment may help you be more productive, comfortable, and focused.
Be More Productive
Make a realistic schedule so you can complete your top priorities during your peak times of productivity. Try to adhere to your regular work schedule by starting and ending your work day about the same time you would if you were physically at work, take your lunch and snack breaks at the same time each day, and consistently schedule and attend online meetings with your colleagues.
If you’ve experienced intermittent slowdowns or weak or spotty WiFi coverage in certain parts of your home, this could be a good time to upgrade. A new router could be especially helpful to handle the increased demands that come with multiple users in one household. Consumer Reports lets you know “How to Get a Stronger WiFi Signal” and offers tips for WiFi security.
If you are employed by a company with IT staff, consult with them to review your computer, printer, and WiFi setup as well as antivirus and anti-malware software to reach your maximum productivity.
You may have used videoconferencing apps to meet with clients and coworkers as well as family and friends before you started working at home during the pandemic. But, you may not have thought a lot about options, backgrounds, and presentation tips that can enhance your online participation that are provided in a Consumer Reports list of free videoconferencing apps.
If you are still part of a work team, let your colleagues know the best way to connect with you (for example, cell phone, email, text message, FaceTime, or videoconference) and the best times to reach you.
Update your team frequently about the progress of shared work, project deadlines, and other important tasks. Consider using free document creation apps like Google Docs or Microsoft’s Office.com and project management software to keep everyone up-to-date.
Take breaks throughout the day to increase your productivity and improve your circulation. Get up and walk to a different room in the house, get a glass of water, or do a few stretches. Set a reminder on your phone or, if you have a fitness watch, set up alerts to encourage you to move more.
Be More Comfortable
A chair that offers adequate back support with adjustable heights to allow you to change the positioning of your legs during the day and a footstool that can help prevent leg fatigue is the ideal choice. But, in lieu of investing in new furniture, make sure your task chair allows your feet to rest on the floor while your pelvis and lower back fit snugly against the back of the chair. If your chair isn’t adjustable, sitting on a cushion can aid you in being comfortable. Your task chair should support you while avoiding undue pressure on your spine. An ill-fitting chair that encourages you to slouch can result in an aching back and other health repercussions.
In evaluating your chair in relation to your desk or table, you want your arms to be bent around 90 degrees or up to 115 degrees when you place them on your keyboard, with your wrists in a neutral position and not resting on the keyboard. Relax your shoulders, with your elbows near your sides or on the armrests.
You may want to consider using a standing desk either all or part of your workday. Ergonomics experts approve of this option because it encourages users to change positions frequently from sitting to standing throughout the day. Consumer Reports provides a guide, “How to Choose a Standing Desk” to help you find options and price points to meet your home office needs.
Ensure that your workspace has enough electrical outlets to accommodate your computer, printer, and phone chargers to keep your workflow uninterrupted and fully charged.
Pay attention to the availability of natural light sources when setting up your home office and supplement them with artificial light if needed. You’ll feel the benefits of keeping your workspace bright and airy. Since you’re spending the majority of the day sitting or standing at your desk or table, having access to natural light can have an impact on your overall work performance, mood, and wellness. Harvard Business Review reported on a connection between natural light and employee well-being.
Instead of holding your cell phone between your shoulder and ear which may cause neck, back, and shoulder pain if you type while you talk on the phone, use earphones, earbuds, or a headset, or put your phone on speaker mode.
By using an ergonomic keyboard, you can place your wrists and hands in a healthier, more natural position than conventional keyboards to minimize discomfort and injuries like tendonitis. PC Magazine reviewed “The Best Ergonomic Keyboards for 2020” to use to avoid repetitive stress injuries.
Arrange your keyboard so it is centered to your body and if you use a mouse make sure it is within a natural reach to reduce muscle load and prevent strain.
When positioning your computer screen, place it at eye level so you are looking slightly down toward the center of the screen to prevent neck strain, dry eyes, headaches, and blurred vision. Give your eyes regular breaks from the monitor and force yourself to blink frequently when staring at the screen for extended periods of time. Don’t sit too close to the screen—your eyes should be an arm’s length away from the computer. Monitor arms can be used to align your screen but you also can use boxes or books to position your monitor.
View a YouTube video on office ergonomics for additional tips on setting up a comfortable at-home workstation.
Be More Focused
A quality pair of headphones is a simple way to help you focus on your tasks by reducing the noise you hear around you. Consumer Reports reviewed “Best Noise-Canceling Headphones of 2020” that can help you choose a pair that’s right for you. Search YouTube.com for “music for office work” and listen to background music conducive to working calmly in a distracting environment.
If possible, find a dedicated space with a door where you can work free from family activities and unnecessary distractions when you need to focus on deadlines, communication with clients or colleagues, and videoconferences. If you don’t have an option for a space with a door, try to set up an area off-limits to others for a few hours a day or use a foldable screen to indicate your need to minimize interruptions.
Establish a consistent schedule by starting and ending your day at the same time every workday to help you reinforce the separation between ‘work’ and ‘home.’ Establishing a routine also will help you manage your time so you are not working overtime or getting distracted with housekeeping chores during worktime.
Keep your shared calendar updated to ensure that others have accurate information about your availability.
In becoming more productive, comfortable, and focused, while you use part of your home for business, you may be able to deduct some of the expenses incurred when you file your income taxes. The IRS website says the home office deduction is available for both homeowners and renters and applies to all types of homes. Generally, deductions for a home office are based on the percentage of your home devoted to business use. So, if you use a whole room or part of a room for conducting your business, you need to figure out the percentage of your home devoted to your business activities.
At InsureYouKnow.org, you can keep track of your home office expenses, including how you use a percentage of your home to accommodate your business, that you’ll need in 2021 when you file your 2020 income taxes.
Has your fear of coronavirus also induced a fear of going to your doctor for non-COVID symptoms, regular checkups, or recommended health screenings? By using telemedicine options or making sure your doctor’s office is observing safety guidelines for patients and staff, you can fearlessly visit your healthcare provider online or in person. By maintaining continuity of care, you can avoid negative consequences from delayed preventive, chronic, or routine care.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, you don’t have to choose between medical care and social distancing if you use telemedicine options available from your provider’s office. Remote access also can help preserve the patient-provider relationship at times when an in-person visit is not practical or feasible.
Telemedicine can be a beneficial way to address mental health concerns for the majority of patients. Many patients are comfortable in their own home, scheduling is often more convenient, concerns with transportation and time may be reduced, and adolescents and young adults especially are comfortable using technology to communicate. Telemedicine also can reach patients in rural areas where behavioral health professionals are otherwise in limited supply. Remote access to healthcare services may increase participation for those who are medically or socially vulnerable or who do not have ready access to providers.
Safety guidelines for healthcare providers’ facilities from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and the World Health Organization include the following recommendations for waiting areas, patient examination rooms, labs, and restrooms:
- Provide supplies—tissues, alcohol-based hand sanitizers, soap at sinks, trash cans, and face masks.
- Place chairs at least 6 feet apart.
- If your office has toys, reading materials, or other communal objects, remove them or clean them regularly.
- Clean areas often with attention to frequently-touched surfaces including doorknobs, armrests, and handrails.
- Fully clean and disinfect exam rooms between each patient.
- Require the use of face masks by staff, patients, and accompanying visitors.
This issue of InsureYouKnow provides preventive health guidelines for the general adult population, based on the recommendations of recognized clinical sources such medical associations and government entities, including the CDC and the United States Preventive Services Task Force. An individual patient’s medical history and physical examination may indicate that further medical tests are needed. Guidelines may also differ from state to state based on state regulations and requirements.
Some tests and vaccinations may not be covered by Medicare or by your health insurance plan, so it’s important to check on your specific coverage before obtaining them. Some insurance companies are currently not only waiving copayments and deductibles for COVID-19 related diagnoses and treatments, but also for telehealth and in-person visits for non-COVID concerns.
- Routine Health Examination: every visit or at least, based on age and insurance contract, your healthcare provider will perform an exam that includes height and weight, calculation of body mass index, obesity determination, and blood pressure measurement.
- Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm: one-time screening with ultrasonography in men ages 65 to 75 years who have ever smoked.
- Breast Cancer: mammography and physician breast exam: annually for women ages 40 and over; breast self-exams: recommended monthly for women beginning at age 20.
- Cervical Cancer: Pap/Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) testing: for women ages 21 to 65, or starting 3 years after the onset of sexual activity, annually without HPV test to age 30; Pap test with HPV test every 3 years after age 30. Women who have had a hysterectomy or are over age 65 may not need a Pap test.
- Colorectal Cancer: for men and women ages 50 to 75 (in certain situations, also may be advisable from ages 75 to 85). Colonoscopy: for men and women, every 10 years. Other screening tests are: Fecal Immunochemical test: stool blood test, every 1-3 years, and CT colonography (an x-ray examination): every 5 years.
- Lung Cancer: annually with low-dose computed tomography in adults ages 55 to 80 years who have a history of heavy smoking and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years.
- Prostate Cancer: Digital rectal exam (DRE) and prostate specific antigen (PSA) test/discussion with physician: annually for men 50 and over (starting at age 40 for African-Americans).
- Cholesterol: Lipid Panel, including LDL: every 5 years, or more frequently based on results and risk profile for all men and women starting at age 20, or earlier if cardiac risk profile reveals high risk.
- Diabetes: Fasting Plasma Glucose or Random Plasma Glucose: men and women with high blood pressure, are overweight, or have cardiovascular risk factors; all others age 45 and over.
- Hepatitis B: screen persons at high risk for infection (such as geographic location, HIV positive, immunocompromised); screen pregnant women at their first prenatal visit.
- Hepatitis C: one-time testing of all adults 18 and all pregnant women during every pregnancy. People with risk factors, including people who inject drugs, should be tested regularly.
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection: screen in adults age 13 to 65 years and younger adolescents and older adults at increased risk; all pregnant women.
- Hypertension: blood pressure measurement every 1-2 years for all men and women, regardless of age.
- Osteoporosis: DXA (bone-density testing): baseline testing with follow-up intervals based on test results for women ages 65 and over, or starting at menopause if additional risk factors exist.
- Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs): screen sexually active and those at high risk for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea and offer intensive behavioral counseling for adults who are at increased risk for STIs.
- Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis: one time in place of Diphtheria/Tetanus Booster for men and women ages 19 to 64.
- Diphtheria/Tetanus: every 10 years for men and women up to age 65; single vaccination only for men and women 65 or over.
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV): one series of three vaccines for females between ages 11 and 26, and men, two to three doses depending on age at time of initial vaccination; age 19-21 if not already given.
- Influenza (Flu): annually for high-risk adults of any age with diabetes or heart, lung, kidney or immune disease; annually for all adults ages 50 and over; annually for any adult desiring immunization, regardless of age.
- Pneumococcal (for Pneumonia): one dose of PCV 13 and one dose of PCV 23 at least one year after PCV 13 for adults ages 65 and over who are at average risk, for high-risk adults of any age with diabetes, cancer, or heart, lung, or immune disease, Initial vaccination, with single revaccination 5 years later.
- Varicella Zoster (for Shingles): two doses starting at age 50; single vaccination for adults ages 60 and older.
Mental Health Awareness
- Physical Exam: Your primary care provider may give you a physical exam and ask you about your feelings, mood, behavior patterns, and other symptoms. Your provider may also order a blood test to find out if a physical disorder may be causing mental health symptoms.
- Coping with Stress: The COVID-19 pandemic is stressful for many people. Public health actions, such as social distancing, can make people feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety. However, these actions are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Coping with stress in a healthy way will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger. Know where and how to get treatment and other support services, including counseling or therapy in person or through telehealth services. Free and confidential resources can also help you connect with a skilled, trained counselor in your area.
- Domestic/Intimate Partner Violence: screening and counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence should be addressed immediately. The CDC provides a list of services to assist victims of violence.
- Doctor visits and approvals as well as lab results are sometimes required in order to obtain or renew prescriptions.
Although health care news covered daily focuses on COVID-19, it’s important not to neglect other medical issues for which you should seek attention and advice from your healthcare professional.
At InsureYouKnow.org, you can save your medical files, lab results, and a list of prescriptions. You also can set up alerts to prompt you to schedule appointments to keep you on track to stay healthy.
Individuals, communities, nonprofit organizations, and businesses continue to feel the ever-increasing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. To help keep them afloat while dealing with diminished incomes and benefits, isolation away from friends, family, and colleagues, or facing an unknown future of returning to their previous careers or businesses, they can seek emergency financial assistance.
As the following selected links demonstrate, a variety of grantors are currently offering grants to assist in meeting financial challenges resulting in the continuing threat of COVID-19.
Grantspace by Candid provides a continually updated list of emergency financial resources including the following grant opportunities.
- The United Way, accessible at www.211.org or by dialing 211, provides a comprehensive list of available resourcesto locate food banks, to help pay housing bills, and to access free childcare and other essential services available on local, national, and statewide bases.
- Coronavirus Tax Relief: Economic Impact Payments is an IRS web page that lets non-filers enter payment information and others to check on the status of their stimulus payments.
- Economic Impact Payments: What you need to know is a FAQ page created by the IRS to answer questions about stimulus payments.
- Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation COVID-19 Relief Fund provides emergency funding for those employed by or own restaurants or bars facing unforeseen expenses not covered by insurance.
- Americans for the Arts Coronavirus Resource and Response Center includes a list of funding/grants resources.
- COVID-19 Freelance Artists Resources is an aggregated list of free resources, opportunities, and financial relief options available to artists of all disciplines.
- Creative Capital Arts Resources During the COVID-19 Outbreak is another list of financial resources for artists working in all disciplines.
- Freelancers Relief Fund grants financial assistance of up to $1,000 per freelance household to cover lost income and essential expenses not covered by government relief programs.
- Student Relief Fund lists resources for college students in need of support due to campus shutdowns caused by COVID-19.
- Artist Relief lists grants for artists facing dire financial emergencies due to COVID-19 in the U.S.
- Artist Relief Project publicizes grants for any artist in any discipline whose income has been impacted by COVID-19-related cancellations and closures.
- American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) Relief Fund provides support and temporary financial assistance to members in need.
- Equal Sound Corona Relief Fund for Musicians who have lost income due to a cancelled performance as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
- New Music Solidarity Fund offers emergency funds to support freelance artists in the new/creative/improvised music community.
- Dramatists Guild Foundation Emergency Grants provides emergency financial assistance to individual playwrights, composers, lyricists, and book writers in dire need of funds due to severe hardship or unexpected illness.
- GrantWatch promotes an Opportunity for USA Organizations to Raise Funds to Benefit Communities Impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
- Community Foundations Nationwide Launch Coronavirus Relief Efforts is a full listing of more than 500 U.S. community foundations in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, that support those affected by COVID-19—directing critical relief to local nonprofits and partnering with local governments and health organizations to help contain its spread.
For Small Businesses
- Small Business Administration Disaster Assistance Loans provide economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue.
- SBA Paycheck Protection Program – An SBA loan that helps businesses keep their workforce employed during the COVID-19 crisis.
- GoFundMe Small Business Relief Fund helps small businesses that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and empower their communities to rally behind them. GoFundMe has partnered with Yelp, Intuit QuickBooks, GoDaddy, and Bill.com to provide small business owners with the financial support and resources needed to continue running their businesses during and after the coronavirus crisis.
- Facebook Small Business Grants Program – Facebook is offering $100M in cash grants and ad credits for up to 30,000 eligible small businesses in over 30 countries where it operates.
- Financial Assistance for Small Business is a list of programs providing financial assistance to small businesses compiled by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
- Opportunity Fund Small Business Relief Fund supports eligible small businesses, especially those run by women, people of color, and immigrants, impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
- Funding for Coronavirus (COVID-19) shares information about philanthropy’s response to the pandemic
- CARES Act: How to Apply for Nonprofit Relief Funds is a guide created by Independent Sector.
- Loans Available for Nonprofits in the CARES Act is a chart from the National Council of Nonprofits providing details on loan options, eligibility criteria, terms, and application information.
- State Public Policy Resources on COVID-19 is the National Council of Nonprofits page for nonprofit-specific materials from state officials and useful resources on what states are doing in response to COVID-19.
- Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants & Refugees COVID-19 Resources is an aggregated list of resources for nonprofits working with immigrants & refugees.
In general, grant opportunities and corresponding applications adhere to strictly announced deadlines and requirements so potential grantees need to submit proposals on time and meet the specific provisions outlined in each grant’s description. At InsureYouKnow.org, you can save your documents and files relating to grant applications and set up reminders to alert you to keep track of timelines for submitting grant applications and to check on grants awarded.
The checkbox on new hire paperwork about life insurance, may start to seem a little more important during the days of COVID-19. For many it was an obvious choice when the employer was giving something for “free.” Professionals have a safety net policy to help their family members for a short time. For consultants, self-employed and business owners, life insurance was a security blanket. A new stress has emerged as the media has suggested that the coronavirus cause of death would not be covered – this is not a true statement.
The most common causes of death – heart disease, cancer, and accidents, are still present and affecting all age groups. 74% of deaths in America stemmed from 10 causes, and the coronavirus may make it on the top-10 list. The CDC reports that about 647,000 Americans die from heart disease each year, while nearly 600,000 people die annually from cancer. Currently the increasing numbers of people affected by the virus are resulting in changes in all kinds of data. Insurance companies will be a valuable additional source of data as they collect this information. The Yale School of Public Health recorded an estimated 15,400 excess deaths in the United States from March through early April, twice as many as were publicly attributed to COVID-19. Life insurance companies are receiving higher numbers of applications as end-of-life conversations and preparedness are emerging as necessary, not taboo topics.
Reviewing your Life Insurance coverages
This is a good time to review the safety net or security blanket policies that you may have. You will come across many different types of life insurance policies when you start shopping––and not all of them are available from every company.
When you narrow down a policy, reviewing the type of insurance you have against your current lifestyle and needs may be advantageous. New applications are being accepted, and many companies have extended the time needed to complete the medical exam to 120 days, or 4 months. News9, an Oklahoma based news outlet, reported that individuals shopping for new policies may notice that e-signatures are now acceptable.
According to Glen Mulready, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner, older individuals may have more trouble finding coverage.Insurance companies view older applicants as high risk and with the current economy, some have decided to limit exposures. Fortunately, there are a variety of life insurance companies, so there is a policy type for all. Finding an agent that is affiliated with multiple providers may be advantageous and save time when reviewing rates.
Accessing your Life Insurance
Upon your death, your next of kin will need to make a claim to access the life insurance policy or policies that have been created for you. These people may or may not be your beneficiary. There are three steps that need to take place before any money is released.
- Locating the policy. This involves finding the name of the company or companies that you purchased life insurance from. The NAIC, has an online life insurance policy locator service – https://eapps.naic.org/life-policy-locator/#/acknowledgment
- Connecting with the agent. The agent from the company will assist with the timeline process, provide the policy number, and necessary forms to be completed.
- Completing the Paperwork. Fill out the forms, order the death certificate and mail the forms to the company without delay. Often there is a choice to pick a lump sum or installment payouts.
Typically, the insurance money is released within a few weeks––but there are exceptions. According to Marketwatch, an insurer might deny a claim for a coronavirus death if the policyholder submitted an inaccurate or incomplete application. With this in mind, it may be worth spending a few minutes reviewing your paperwork for gaps.
As you work through the process of applying for your life insurance, reviewing your coverages or submitting a claim for a loved one, document all your findings and notes on InsureYouKnow.org – an online information storage site that allows you to access documents, and files remotely relating to your affairs. There are various levels of access to allow your family members, caregivers or business associates insight into the documents, as needed. There is even a reminder feature to help you update or revisit the policy from time to time.
Created as a distress signal in the 1920s, the term mayday is utilized by ships and aircraft to communicate emergency or life-threatening situations. When officer, Frederick Stanley Mockford thought of the word, the pandemic crisis of 1918 and the end of the First World War was not even a decade past.
Fast-forwarding 100 years to May 2020 – the coronavirus pandemic is very much part of everyone’s life and lifestyle. In a matter of weeks, the way the world looked at itself was turned around, and some questions come to mind….
Is our planet in a state of Mayday?
Depends on who and what you are referring to. The environment is thriving, the oceans are cleaner, and the animals are not scared and are coming out into many city dwellings. The seals are basking on the beaches where humans were. The water, and air is cleaner as the pollution subsides. The planet called Mayday, and now the humans are. However the story is not the same for mankind. Humans are dying – living in fear of contracting the virus and staying indoors and isolated. The economy is in a state of flux, no one wants oil – a once huge commodity. The luxuries of stock trading and vacations are now replaced with the luxuries of accessing food, and human touch.
Is our country in a state of Mayday?
The way the world worked has changed. Our fast paced lives have in some ways slowed down as transportation needs have reduced, and the working world has shifted focus. Going into work, going to school, errands, and shopping have been restricted by both private and public entities. Federal and local governments are rapidly reviewing information and making life-changing decisions about access to healthcare, food, and the outdoors. In some ways the Mayday call has already been sent from the public sector to the private. Our country has forced its community to ramp up the use of technology for communication. The internet is now a necessity for video-meetings that are replacing work conferences, family birthday gatherings and learning. Remote payments instead of cash exchange for services. And the state of the unknown has created an undercurrent of anxiety.
Do you need to signal Mayday?
Checking in with yourself about your needs is paramount. Where you are at emotionally, physically, socially, financially impacts your relations and ability to function with the new day to day. There is little control. Access to food, loved ones, work and our old lifestyle can bring up feelings of anger, resentment, and fear. Reaching out for support or connecting with your community could stop your need for the Mayday call.
InsureYouKnow.org – an online information depository allows those that receive your Mayday call, this month, this year, this decade to access documents, and files remotely relating to your affairs. Whether photographs to relive memories, financial information to cover debt, or your resume for a possible job opportunity. There are various levels of access to allow your family members, caregivers or business associates insight into your documents – as needed. There is even a trusty reminder feature to help you remember that it’s time to update.
We all have or should have In-case-of-Emergency documentation, but did we ever think about in case of pandemic? The current situation can make a difference in the way that our emergency plans work. There are many lists and suggestions of “in case of emergency” documents that everyone should have together, but in our current COVID-19 pandemic situation, there may be areas that need to be reviewed or even created.
With the unknown of when the pandemic will end or if we are in the peak of the homebound regulations, the question of access has become a source of anxiety. Below are three areas of access to consider when we are in pandemic.
Access to Resources
Some of our resources are easier to access than others. Groceries are the ones that we are hearing about on the news – we can’t get the basics – milk, eggs, toilet paper, hand sanitizer. There are grocery delivery services, volunteers in the neighborhoods and local nonprofits that are currently marketing their services – facebook, nextdoor and even conversing with neighbors or friends can uncover options.
Our safe deposit box. The place that we have been keeping our trusty resources are in some ways inaccessible. Our financial institutions may still be open but are you able to get to them safely given the WHO recommendations. Many locations are having special hours for seniors and high-risk patrons.
Many people in the workforce have experienced changes in the work environment. From job insecurity, furloughing, limited hours – to work from home, working in a new location or role. Financial resources may be reduced, and not being able to use your computer, access your desk drawers, use the same extensions to reach people can be tough.
Action: Have you been able to reorient yourself to the new resource allocation? Is there something that is missing that you wish you could have to make your life just a little bit easier?
Access to Care
Our healthcare routine is currently disrupted. Getting to the doctor’s appointments, picking up prescriptions, and going to therapy or residential care facilities is not always possible.
Many providers have been communicating how you can access them if there is a need – often by telemedicine routes. Local or satellite offices are consolidating care in a central location and many doctors are not available every day.
Action: Is your doctor only conducting telehealth visits? If so – the telehealth visits often need technology set up on computers or phones, and walking through the steps now instead of during the appointment can be advantageous.
Access to Loved Ones
Technology is our friend. We may not live with our top-ten people, or even have another person in our home, but phone and video chat have given us the opportunity to access our loved-ones lives in their homes.
If you do need to go to the hospital, a loved one may not permitted to accompany you into the triage area. Your next of kin or preferred person may be high risk and it may not be safe for their health, to come with you. If you need to stay in the hospital, whether for a birth of a child, broken bone, or in the ICU – your loved ones will not be able to stay or visit. These are challenges that are new to all of us. Health care teams are working to help you connect to your loved ones through ipads and phone conversations.
Action – Have a list of people with their phone numbers and consider who would be able to come with you to the doctor office or hospital that is not high-risk.
As you start putting your new “pandemic” documents and plan together consider using InsureYouKnow.org – an online information-safe, as a place to store them. This product gives you the ability to access documents, and files remotely – or from the comforts of your own home. There are various levels of access to allow your family members, caregivers or business associates insight into your documents – as needed. There is even a trusty reminder feature to help you remember that it’s time to update.