How to Create the Right Budget for You

It can be tough to create and stick to a budget, but tracking your spending and saving can soon lead to more financial security and better peace of mind. First, you just have to identify your budgeting personality and establish priorities.

Step 1: Know why you’re budgeting.

What’s your primary motivation? Perhaps it’s to build an emergency fund or pay off your credit cards. Maybe you want to buy a house or save for retirement. Budgeting will be more enjoyable if it’s not just a chore but a tool to achieve something you care about.

Step 2: Figure out what you’re spending.

If you rarely pay with cash, look at your credit card and bank statements to see what you spent last month. If you do use cash regularly, keep track of all your purchases starting on the first of the month, then supplement those notes with your statements to get a picture of your total spending. How do your expenses compare to your take-home pay?

Step 3: Analyze your spending and refine your goals.

How much are you spending by category? Knowing this information can help you see where you’re on track and where you need to cut back. Also, identify which expenses are fixed (like your housing payment), which are variable (like groceries) and which are irregular (like insurance). Use this information to plan an annual budget divided by month so you’ll never be caught off guard.

Step 4: Choose the right approach.

Investigate your options and then commit to budgeting on paper, with a spreadsheet or with a budgeting app — whatever makes the most sense to you (this way, you’re more likely to stay consistent).

Ready to get started?

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4 Tips for Staying Healthy

Making preventive care a priority is vital. By staying on top of doctor’s visits and practicing positive habits, you can decrease your risk of experiencing serious illness and improve your quality of life. Here are a few tips to help you stay strong, healthy and informed.

Make good lifestyle choices. One of the best preventive measures you can take is to practice healthy behavior. Exercising regularly can significantly reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even some types of cancer. By avoiding smoking, staying hydrated and upping your intake of fruits and veggies, you can start to take your health into your own hands.

Get an annual physical. Additionally, visiting your doctor once a year for a physical exam is a great way to do a quick body scan and check your vital signs. Your doctor will examine your blood pressure, heart rate, lungs and body temperature to make sure everything is in working order.

Schedule regular screenings. From colonoscopies to prostate exams and breast exams, it’s important to undergo regular screenings based on your family history, age and sex. Listen to your body and actively look into any concerns, such as a drastic change in energy level or the development of a worrisome mole.

Don’t forget your shots. Vaccines can help your immune system fend off future attacks. Consider getting an influenza shot during flu season from October to May, especially if you’re pregnant or suffer from any chronic health conditions. Adults should also get a tetanus booster shot every 10 years.

Many insurance plans include various preventive care services, so there’s no reason not to take care of yourself and prioritize your health.

Estate Planning Tips for Couples

Whether you’re a newlywed or have been married for years, estate planning is probably the last topic you feel like discussing with your partner. But as unromantic as it may sound, putting these details in order will help you ensure a happy and safe future together. Here are a few estate planning essentials.

Take stock of your assets. Sit down with your partner and list all your assets as a married couple. These may include investments, real estate, retirement plans and personal property. If you have individual assets you’d like to keep separate, create a prenuptial agreement or put your property in a trust.

Draft a will. Once you have your assets in order, start drafting a will to specify how you want these items distributed. Your will should also name an executor — the person who will carry out your wishes regarding your assets.

Assign a power of attorney. A power of attorney is an individual who will manage your assets, pay your bills and make other financial decisions in the event you are unable to do so yourself. This person should be someone that both you and your spouse trust, so take some time to think this through together.

Set up a health care directive. A well-rounded estate plan will include a health care directive, or living will, which will help guide your family and doctors through your preferences for medical treatment should you become incapacitated. This document also appoints a representative to make health care decisions for you.

Make your plans official. Once you have everything in order, meet with an estate planning attorney to put your estate plans on the record.

Finally, be sure to update your documents regularly, as laws or situations are subject to change.

Maximize Your Health Savings Account

If you’re currently covered under a high-deductible health plan, then a health savings account (HSA) could help you save money while investing for the future. Read on to learn about the benefits of an HSA as well as what you can do to make the most of your account.

The Triple Tax Benefits of an HSA

  • Contributions to an HSA are completely tax deductible up to the annual limit, which varies based on whether the account is for an individual, a family or a worker over the age of 55.
  • Just like a phone plan with rollover minutes, whatever funds you don’t use will carry over to the next year and can grow tax-deferred. This gives you more control over what to spend and what to save.
  • Withdrawals are never taxed as long as they’re used for a qualified medical expense. By using tax-free money to meet your deductible and pay for other out-of-pocket costs, you can ultimately reduce how much you spend on health care.
    Three Ways to Maximize Your Account
  • If you already have the funds to cover a medical expense, you may not want to use the money in your HSA. Instead, consider using your credit card to pay the bill and earn rewards. Just make sure to keep the receipts so you can be reimbursed later.
  • Once you’ve funded your HSA and compiled a few medical receipts, then your account can double as an emergency fund for other life events. Simply submit the receipts to get a check from HSA, and use that money to cover the nonmedical event.
  • Create an IRA for your medical expenses, so to speak, by moving a portion of your savings into an investment account within your HSA. This action will allow you to invest for your future, when your health care costs may begin to increase.
    Reach out if you have any questions!

Topics to Discuss With Your Loved Ones

While it may be difficult to approach aging and end-of-life concerns with your parents, it’s important to have clarity when it comes to health care directives, finances and final wishes. Here’s some advice on what subjects to discuss and how to do it in a way that will help everyone feel at ease.

What to discuss with aging parents:

Legal documents — Ask your parents if they have all their legal documents in order. Having items like a will, a financial power of attorney and a health care power of attorney in place will ensure their wishes are met while eliminating potential court costs, arguments or lawsuits.
Future living arrangements — From assisted living facilities to nursing homes, ask your parents where they would prefer to live if they need to move in the future. Research your options beforehand and talk about the things you can do to make them feel more comfortable with this topic.
Health care expenses — Find out if your loved ones have considered health care options for the future and estimate the savings they’ll need. Decide whether or not they’d like long-term-care insurance, which covers a specific amount each day for personal care services.
How to approach the conversation:

Prepare ahead of time — Organize your thoughts by jotting down an outline and cover the most important topics first. If you’re nervous, find someone you trust and do a practice run beforehand.
Be considerate — Let your parents talk and really listen to what they have to say. Reassure them that you respect their wishes and ultimately want what’s best for them.
Ease into it — Use conversation starters like a relevant story in the news or a person you both know. Discuss how the event unfolded and ask your loved one what they would do in that particular situation

Disability Insurance: What to Know

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an employee has a one in five chance of becoming disabled during their career. That’s why experts say purchasing a disability insurance plan is a must for anyone who relies on a job to provide their income.

Here’s a quick look at what you should know about the various plans available.

Q: Which disability insurance plans do employers usually provide?
A: Typically, workplaces offer two plans: short-term disability and long-term disability insurance.

Q: What are the differences between these two?

A: Short-term disability provides a percentage of your salary for a limited period of time (most commonly up to 26 weeks) once you’ve used all your sick leave. After that, long-term disability kicks in and ensures you’re receiving a portion of your wages even if you’re still unable to work due to sickness or injury.

Q: When is a good time to purchase disability insurance?
A: It’s a good idea to purchase a protective plan as soon as you start making a substantial salary — especially since the policy’s benefits are based on your income. Also, the younger you are when you purchase disability insurance, the lower your premiums will likely be.

Q: Should you purchase your own disability insurance in addition to what your employer offers?
A: Buying your own plan independently means you’ll be able to keep it if you leave your job and you won’t have to start a new policy at an older age. Also, benefits from a personal plan are usually tax-free.

Still have questions? Feel free to reach out!

4 Ways to Try a Digital Detox This Week

Many of us can’t help but rely on smartphones, laptops, tablets and social media in both our personal and professional lives. This tech-heavy routine can take its toll, and even briefly stepping away from your devices can be surprisingly refreshing.

Here are some tips to help you digitally detox as much or as little as you’d like.

Disable notifications. Turn off your notifications and schedule times throughout the day to check your updates. By not feeling tethered to every email and alert, you’ll be able to better control the information you’re receiving and hopefully reduce anxiety in the process.

Filter your social media. Start examining why and how you’re using social media with the goal of keeping what’s meaningful and deleting everything else. For example, trim your Facebook feed to only include people you truly want to hear from and stop following accounts on Instagram and Twitter that don’t add value to your day.

Create unreachable periods. Schedule breaks throughout the day where you turn off your phone, tablet or computer. Leave your device in the other room while you’re cooking dinner or playing with the kids. Take moments for yourself to live fully in the present: Go for a run, read a book or simply enjoy the company of others.

Ban your phone at night. Buy an alarm clock and sleep with your phone outside of your bedroom or place it in a drawer until the morning. Give yourself at least an hour away from any screens before falling asleep. If an hour seems impossible at first, start at 15 minutes and work your way up.

It doesn’t take much to feel the positive effects of a digital detox. You can still stay connected to the world, but just let it be on your terms.

How to Plan When You Don’t Have Heirs

Even if you don’t have children or clear heirs, it’s essential to have an estate plan. Not sure about where to start? Here are several details to consider regardless of your financial or family situation.
Create a last will and testament.
Without a will, the state will determine what happens to your assets, which may not always correspond with your wishes. Even if you don’t have any children or grandchildren, think of other people or organizations you’d like to see benefit from your lifetime of hard work.

Set up powers of attorney.
Choose who you’d like to handle your financial and medical decisions should you become unable to make them yourself. Above all, this should be someone you trust who is willing to make critical choices on your behalf.

Determine an executive for your estate.
As this person will be handling duties ranging from paying your debts to filing a will with the court, it’s important to find someone who can handle the responsibility. If choosing someone is difficult, explore the option of naming your bank as an executor or set up a legal trust.

Choose your beneficiaries.
Take inventory of your physical assets and start thinking about where you’d like them to go. Make sure to update primary and secondary beneficiaries on financial accounts too, such as your 401(k) plans and life insurance policies.

Make a charitable distribution.
Consider leaving an outright donation to a favorite charity or set up a foundation of your own based on your passions and interests. You can also create a charitable trust with guidelines on how to distribute the funds over time.

Thoughtful estate planning is worth the effort, no matter what your relationship status may be. Please reach out with any questions you have.

5 Often Misunderstood Health Care Terms

How well do you know the terms associated with your health care plan? According to industry surveys, most Americans overestimate their knowledge of basic health care details.

Don’t let a lack of clarity get in the way of making the right decisions. Take a look at these frequently misunderstood items so you can do what’s best for you and your family.

Premium: This is the set amount you or your employer pays for your health insurance every month. On top of your premium, you can expect to pay for additional health care costs, including a deductible, copayments and coinsurance.

Deductible: The amount of money you pay out of pocket each year for health care expenses before your insurance will begin to pay. After your deductible is reached, you’ll likely still be responsible for copayments and coinsurance.

Copayment: A copay is a predetermined flat fee that you pay for certain services, such as doctors’ visits. For example, your plan may specify that you pay a set amount each time you visit your general practitioner.

Coinsurance: After your deductible is met, coinsurance is your share of the remaining charges for covered services. Typically this is a percentage predetermined in your plan. You may pay 20 percent of the additional costs and your insurance company would pay 80 percent, for example.

Out-of-pocket maximum:
This is the maximum amount of money (in addition to your regular premiums) that you’ll pay for covered medical services in a year; it includes deductibles, copayments and coinsurance. Once you’ve hit your maximum, your insurance provider will pay all expenses for covered services for the rest of the year.

By educating yourself on these insurance basics, you’ll be able to have a more empowering, efficient and cost-effective health care experience. Please reach out with any questions you have.

4 Tips for a Safe and Healthy Summer

As the days grow longer and the weather gets warmer, it’s easy to forget about good habits and give in to the carefree vibes of summer. Stay on track (while still having fun) with these four simple tips to help you stay healthy and happy all season long.

Stay hydrated — Thanks to road trips, baseball games, cocktails on sunny patios and long-haul flights, it’s easy to get dehydrated during the summer. Avoid feeling parched and run-down by carrying a reusable water bottle and be sure to drink at least one or two glasses of water for every hour you’re in the sun or on the go.

Protect your skin — If you know you’re going to be out in the sun, wear protective clothing like wide-brimmed hats and bandanas, and don’t forget to reapply sunscreen every couple of hours. When selecting a sunscreen, look for one with both UVA and UVB protection as well as a minimum SPF of 30.

Get enough sleep — Practice good sleeping habits by staying consistent with your bedtime and wake-up routine, even during the longer daylight hours. If you have trouble falling asleep, try meditation or download a mindfulness app. When traveling, allow yourself a few guilt-free mornings of sleeping in; part of an enjoyable vacation involves resting and recharging.

Use your vacation days —
Numerous studies have shown that taking vacations can help improve your heart health, relieve stress and help decrease depression. Spending time away from work can also help you avoid burnout by boosting creativity and clarity. If you have paid time off, don’t let it go to waste — you deserve to unwind and reboot this summer.

Whether your plans include snorkeling in the Caribbean or barbecuing in the backyard, these easy steps will help keep you and your family safe and healthy throughout the summer months.

Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts: 6 FAQs

Life insurance can help you care for your loved ones, but if not properly understood, policies can sometimes create more problems than they solve. Find out how an irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT) can be an essential part of estate planning, especially for those with large policies.

What is an ILIT?

An ILIT is a financial planning tool used to exclude life insurance proceeds from estate taxes. It does this by serving as both the owner and the beneficiary of life insurance policies.

How does it work?

Acting as a holding device, an ILIT removes your life insurance policy from your estate and simply owns it.

How permanent is an ILIT?

The “irrevocable” aspect of this policy is what sets it apart. You won’t be able to take back your policy once it’s been created and the ability to make changes is extremely limited.

How do you set one up?

After finding an attorney to help design the ILIT, you’ll determine the beneficiaries and how they will obtain the policy proceeds. You’ll also choose a trustee and decide if you’ll buy new life insurance inside the trust or if you’ll transfer an existing policy.

Are there any complexities to consider if transferring an existing policy?

If you choose to use an existing policy and then pass away within three years of the transfer, the policy will still be included in your estate and subjected to estate taxes.

Who should consider an ILIT?

This option is worth investigating for those with large estates. You may not see an ILIT as a good fit right now, but as estate tax laws are updated and your net worth fluctuates, it may be worth revisiting in the future.

4 Misconceptions About Life Insurance

Life insurance myths are plentiful: Many people think they don’t need life insurance, they’re adequately covered through an employer’s policy, or they can’t qualify or afford it. Here’s the truth behind these myths.

1. If you’re young, you don’t need it.

In reality, life insurance could help your family pay your final expenses if you pass away from an unexpected accident or illness. If a parent has cosigned a loan with you, naming them as your beneficiary on a life insurance policy means they won’t be saddled with the loan if you pass away before it’s paid off.

Buying life insurance when you’re young may also help you lock in lower rates in the long run since premiums are partly based on age and increase as you get older.

2. If you don’t have dependents, you don’t need it.

Think ahead to the future: Do you hope to have a spouse or children someday? If so, getting insured now means that you can protect them later, even if something happens to your health in the meantime.

3. If your employer provides it, you’re set.

What happens if you lose your job, though? Don’t expect to take your policy with you. Further, work-based life insurance might not provide as much protection as you need, and if you’re healthy, you might find a better rate with an individual policy.

4. You think you can’t afford it or won’t qualify because of your health.

Today’s market offers many policy options, making it possible for almost anyone to find one that meets at least a portion of their needs. Don’t assume anything before researching the choices available.

Have questions? Reach out today.

4 Reasons to Consider Delaying Retirement

Retiring at 65 is considered the norm by many, and Social Security benefits are available when you’re as young as 62. You can even take withdrawals from your retirement savings accounts as early as age 59 1/2 without a penalty.

But just because you’ve hit a certain age milestone doesn’t mean you have to retire. Continuing to work can benefit you financially and emotionally.

Work Benefits

Does your employer pay for or highly subsidize your life insurance and health insurance premiums? If so, continuing to work could mean better and less expensive benefits than you could buy on your own.

Financial Benefits

Continuing to collect a paycheck is better for your bank account than only having money flowing out. But that’s not the only way continuing to work can increase your net worth. Making annual catch-up contributions to your 401(k) on top of maxing out your regular contributions can provide a real boost to your account.

If your employer matches a percentage of your contributions, that’s even better. Earning income from work means you can make regular contributions to a Roth IRA, and if you’re younger than 70 1/2, a traditional IRA.

Pension and Social Security Benefits

Continuing to work could boost your benefit check if you’re in the higher-earning years of your career. And delaying Social Security means you’ll receive a bigger monthly payment when you start claiming.

Emotional Benefits

Finally, many people enjoy the sense of purpose and productivity that working brings. Interacting with co-workers, especially those who have become true friends, can also provide meaningful social connections that retirees sometimes have a hard time establishing or maintaining.

Continuing to work isn’t for everyone, but it might make sense under the right circumstances.

3 Ways to Catch Up on Retirement Saving

Are you feeling a little (or a lot) behind when it comes to saving for retirement? Don’t give up. Here are a few tips to help you focus your efforts and maximize the money you have available to save.

Step 1: Reduce Expenses

The lower your monthly expenses, the less money you need to retire. Where can you cut back? Could you possibly downsize your home and cash out some equity for retirement?

Also try to pinpoint areas where you might be spending mindlessly and could cut costs quickly. Maybe you could go out to lunch less often during the work week and host friends in your home instead of grabbing dinner or brunch at a restaurant. Canceling underused gym memberships and media subscriptions helps, too.

Step 2: Pay Down Debt

Focusing on paying down debt is one of the most effective ways to reduce your long-term expenses. When you get rid of debt, you stop losing money to interest and increase your monthly cash flow. As you tackle each remaining balance, redirect the money you were putting toward that payment to saving more for retirement.

Step 3: Make Catch-Up Contributions

The annual contribution limit for 401(k) and 403(b) plans in 2018 is $18,500, but if you’re 50 or older at the end of the calendar year, you can contribute an additional $6,000 for a total of $24,500. For traditional and Roth IRAs, the contribution limit is $5,500, but you can make an additional $1,000 in catch-up contributions.

Do your best to maximize your contributions to these accounts; their tax advantages will help your money grow faster, especially if you invest in something age-appropriate such as a target date retirement fund. Working past 65 can help you pad your nest egg, too.

3 Healthy Habits We Can All Embrace

Many of us think we’re bound to feel weak, slow and achy as we get older. But it doesn’t have to be that way. While it might not be possible to regain the energy you had in your 20s, you can be your best self at any age by embracing these three essential daily habits.

1. Make Sleep a Priority

One of the best ways to boost your immune system, minimize inflammation, curb your appetite, increase productivity and improve your mood is to get plenty of sleep. For some people, seven hours might be enough; others might need nine to feel truly rested.

The Takeaway: If you regularly feel drowsy during the day, try going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night until you feel fully rested. Work towards keeping a consistent sleep schedule, too.

2. Try Walking or Yoga

No matter your fitness level, most people can find a walking or yoga routine that serves them. These activities can increase heart health, prevent muscle and bone loss and improve balance. They can also boost your mood, help you relax and make it easier to sleep at night.

The Takeaway: To start, try dedicating 10 minutes a day to a post-dinner stroll or a quick stretching session. Your mind and body will thank you and you’re likely to age more gracefully.

3. Guard Your Time

Kids, friends, parents, co-workers and bosses can place endless demands on your time. If you overcommit yourself, your physical health will suffer because you’re not leaving enough hours in the day for sleep or exercise. Your mental health may take a hit, too; it’s easy to start feeling frazzled when you lose touch with what you need to be your best self.

The Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to say no to requests that ask too much of you.

3 Smart Money Lessons to Teach Your Kids

One of the most important responsibilities parents have is teaching their children about money. Sound money management skills can set your child up for a life of comfort and generosity rather than stress and debt, so take a look at these three essential lessons to impart at key stages in your child’s life.

Earning and Budgeting

Starting at a young age, teach your kids that money must be earned. You might do this by establishing extra tasks for them to do each week to earn an allowance and then pay them in cash. Now, have kids allocate their money across three clear jars: spend, save, and give. This system makes the experience of using money visual and tangible.

Paying for College

During your child’s freshman year of high school, have a talk about what you’ll be able to afford without loans, what financial aid and scholarship options might be available, and the types and consequences of student loans.

Set realistic expectations early on so your child doesn’t plan to incur too much debt. In fact, what would it take for them to graduate with zero debt? Now’s the time to figure out if that’s possible, and if it is, make a plan to get there.

Establishing Independence

Sometimes a young adult truly needs financial help after graduation due to uncontrollable factors like limited job options in their field or a long-term illness. At other times, patterns of dependence arise out of habit and comfort — your child may be used to having some help with their bills and you’d rather avoid a difficult conversation.

Ultimately, it’s best if young people learn to become financially self-sufficient regardless of the situation. And of course, it’s important to prioritize saving for your retirement so your children don’t have to support you later.

How to Have a Successful Doctor’s Visit

No one loves going to the doctor, but when it’s time for a checkup, it’s smart to try to make the most of it. Here’s how to prepare for a worthwhile and helpful visit.

Use Your Insurance

If you’re looking for a new health care professional, get recommendations from people you trust: friends, family, co-workers, or other practitioners you see. Then, verify that any recommended doctor is in your insurance network before scheduling an appointment. It’s OK to see someone out-of-network, but be prepared for the added cost.

Your doctor’s office may have preferred labs for things like bloodwork and pathology reports. Before your appointment, find out who these providers are and if they’re in your network. If they aren’t, ask about alternatives to keep your costs down.

Prepare for Your Appointment

If you’re changing doctors, arrange to have your old medical records sent to the new office before your appointment. Be ready to answer questions about your health history, current symptoms, your family health history and your vaccination history.

Bring the bottles for all your current medications and vitamins; this is the best way to make sure your doctor will know exactly what you’re taking, how often and why. Also, create a list of questions in advance to make sure you cover what’s important during your appointment.

Maximize Your 15 Minutes

Unless you know your doctor has plenty of time, skip the small talk and get straight to your health concerns. Be honest about any symptoms you’re experiencing and bring up your most pressing questions right away. Use your phone’s voice recorder or take notes so you can review the conversation after you get home. If you’re unclear about anything, call the office to follow up.

When it comes to your health, careful planning is well worth the time.

How Technology Can Help Us Age In Place

Most of us want to stay independent and live comfortably at home for as long as we can, and that’s more possible than ever thanks to new technology.

Whether you’ll be helping an aging parent soon or want to prepare for your future, here’s what to know about the latest gadgets and systems that make growing older at home easier and safer.

Smart Sensors

Many companies now offer in-home motion detector systems that track a resident’s movements and alert trusted individuals if activity levels have changed in a meaningful way. For example, variations in habit can indicate problems such as depression, insomnia or injury.

These sensors can even tell how a person’s activity levels have changed in a particular part of the home. More time in the bedroom or bathroom could signal that daily tasks like bathing or getting dressed are becoming more challenging.

Safety Features

Simpler, more familiar technology like smart locks and thermostats can be controlled remotely to help keep seniors safe at home. The kids can make sure Dad has locked the door each night before bed, and on a hot day, they can make sure the house isn’t too warm for Mom. Home assistants and smart speakers can also be set up to provide medication reminders and allow seniors to use voice commands to control lights or make phone calls.

Benefits and Goals

These technologies can help keep many seniors out of assisted living facilities — or at least prolong their time at home. This means potentially significant savings and reduced exposure to serious diseases like pneumonia.

Perhaps most importantly, high-tech systems can allow people to feel autonomous but connected, which is beneficial both physically and emotionally.

Ready for your life insurance health exam?

When you’re applying for an individual life insurance policy, you’ll usually need to complete a simple medical exam administered by a paramedical professional.

Follow these steps to prepare for your exam so you can minimize your chances of inaccurate test results and set yourself up to receive a fair rate on your policy.

When to Eat

Read and follow your pre-exam directions. If you’re supposed to fast for eight to 10 hours, make sure you do. Fasting properly means you won’t get a false positive on blood glucose tests for diabetes or artificially high cholesterol levels because of something you ate. Don’t even drink black coffee the morning of, as caffeine can increase your blood pressure.

Tip: If you accidentally eat something before your test, ask the examiner if you need to reschedule.

What to Eat

You may also want to pay attention to what you eat and drink for at least 24 hours beforehand. Avoid alcohol, skip salty foods and drink plenty of water. Consuming too much alcohol, too much sodium or not enough water can throw off test results for liver and kidney function as well as urine concentration. It’s also easier to give blood when you’re well-hydrated.

Exercise Considerations

Finally, avoid tough workouts in the 12 to 24 hours before your exam, as heavy exercise can lead to urinalysis results that may suggest kidney problems and high blood pressure. But a light workout, like a walk, may be a good idea to help you get a good night’s sleep. And, being properly rested can possibly improve your test results by decreasing anxiety and lowering blood pressure.

Thinking over your life insurance options? Reach out if you have any questions.

Mindfulness Tips to Practice Today

The holiday season may be known as the most wonderful time of the year, but in reality this can be a busy and stressful few weeks. Here are four tips on how to practice mindfulness to help the hectic holidays run a little more smoothly.

Actively listen.
Spending time with big groups of friends and family can sometimes lead to arguments and tension. To avoid miscommunication, try to stay focused and in the moment. Turn off the TV, put down your phone and give your full attention to your loved ones.

Remember everything in moderation.
It’s easy to overindulge in decadent holiday treats, which ultimately leads to feeling sluggish and irritable. Combat overeating by slowing down and enjoying every bite. And before making a second trip to the snack table, stop to consider if your body really needs more.

Take a deep breath.
From party planning to shopping for gifts, life can be a little overwhelming toward the end of the year. In the midst of all the madness, hit the pause button from time to time and check in with yourself. If you’re starting to feel drained, take a couple of deep breaths to clear your head and recharge.

Practice self-care.
While the holiday season focuses on giving, it’s also important to take care of yourself. Make sure to get plenty of sleep, drink lots of water, exercise and do something fun to relax and reboot. By being good to yourself, you’ll be able to extend more kindness to others.

Mindfulness can reduce stress and anxiety, making it an ideal tool to help you manage the holiday season and start the new year off right.

Do you have an emergency fund?

Life has an uncanny way of hitting you with the unexpected at the most inopportune times. That’s why having an emergency fund is vital for when disaster strikes. Here’s why having money set aside is important and how you can start saving if you haven’t already done so.

Why is an emergency fund necessary?
According to a recent survey by Bankrate, 63 percent of Americans haven’t saved enough to handle an emergency that costs as little as $500. So why should you put away extra funds if no one else has them?

Whether it’s a destroyed smartphone, a totaled car or unforeseen medical costs, unpredictable life events can set you back hundreds to thousands of dollars if you’re not prepared. Experts advise putting aside at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses and twice that amount if the current economy is experiencing a crisis.

Is it too late to start saving?
If you don’t have any money for an emergency fund, you can still start to take steps in the right direction. Here are some ways to kick-start your savings:

  • Instead of spending your next tax refund, immediately deposit it into a bank account that generates interest.
  • Consider revising your W-4 so less money is withheld from your paycheck each month, and put the extra funds in your savings account.
  • Earn side income by tutoring, doing seasonal jobs or selling items that won’t be missed around the house.
    Even if nothing happens, which is hopefully the case, just knowing you have the necessary funds on hand to deal with an emergency will give you a little extra peace of mind.

Make time for these health exams

Questioning your health can be scary. It’s important to schedule regular physical examinations, however, as many diseases can be more easily treated if identified early on. Here’s a list of a few standard exams that are imperative to keeping your health in check.

Physical Examinations
A physical exam is recommended once a year, especially for those over 50, and is a great way to determine your current health status. An annual exam also helps with troubleshooting any medical concerns for the future and allows you to undergo specific checkups recommended by your doctor, such as prostate and breast exams.

Skin Cancer Screenings
Skin cancer is now the most common type of cancer, and routine screenings can be lifesaving. While some medical experts only suggest screenings after a noticeable change in skin tone or the appearance of moles, most dermatologists recommend yearly checkups beginning in early adulthood.

Heart Health Tests
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. But according to the American Heart Association, it can be prevented around 80 percent of the time. While a healthy lifestyle can do wonders, if you have a personal history of heart issues it’s important to undergo key screening tests. This includes checking your blood pressure, blood sugar, blood cholesterol and body mass index (BMI).

While scheduling a checkup with your doctor can be daunting, it’s important to know the status of your health. Put your safety first and stay on top of routine health examinations.

How to Manage an Inheritance Wisely

Receiving a sudden inheritance can help relieve financial stress, but it can also be an emotionally and logistically overwhelming experience. Here’s how to make sure any lump sum of money you receive is ultimately used to its greatest potential.

Pause to reflect. Receiving an inheritance usually comes with the tragedy of losing someone you love. Instead of making rash decisions under the influence of intense emotions, put the money into a high interest-bearing account and give yourself plenty of time to grieve your loss before you decide what to do with the money.

Create financial goals. Before you give to charity or start investing, it’s essential to have a long-term financial plan. Look at the bigger picture and imagine how the inheritance will affect you down the road. Talk to advisors, get some perspective, and sit down with a qualified planner to help you develop a solid list of priorities and goals.

Pay down debts. Since paying off a 6 percent debt has a pretax equivalent of over 9 percent, tackling your debt could be the best investment move you make. Conversely, not using inheritance money to get rid of debt is essentially the same as leaving funds in savings while financing something of the same value.

Enjoy it. It’s important to have balance in every area of life, and the same goes for your inheritance. Set aside up to 10 percent as “fun money” and indulge a little bit. Again, just be sure you’ve made a solid financial plan before you start spending.

Through careful planning and good advice, you’ll be able to use your inheritance in a way that creates lasting value. Please reach out if you have any questions.

Would You Break Up for More Money?

One of the most important responsibilities parents have is teaching their children about money. Sound money management skills can set your child up for a life of comfort and generosity rather than stress and debt, so take a look at these three essential lessons to impart at key stages in your child’s life.

Earning and Budgeting 

Starting at a young age, teach your kids that money must be earned. You might do this by establishing extra tasks for them to do each week to earn an allowance and then pay them in cash. Now, have kids allocate their money across three clear jars: spend, save, and give. This system makes the experience of using money visual and tangible.

Paying for College

During your child’s freshman year of high school, have a talk about what you’ll be able to afford without loans, what financial aid and scholarship options might be available, and the types and consequences of student loans.

Set realistic expectations early on so your child doesn’t plan to incur too much debt. In fact, what would it take for them to graduate with zero debt? Now’s the time to figure out if that’s possible, and if it is, make a plan to get there.

Establishing Independence

Sometimes a young adult truly needs financial help after graduation due to uncontrollable factors like limited job options in their field or a long-term illness. At other times, patterns of dependence arise out of habit and comfort — your child may be used to having some help with their bills and you’d rather avoid a difficult conversation.

Ultimately, it’s best if young people learn to become financially self-sufficient regardless of the situation. And of course, it’s important to prioritize saving for your retirement so your children don’t have to support you later.

Are you using an App for your medication

According to a recent study conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association, almost 60 percent of American adults were taking a prescription drug. Research also shows that medication management is a task frequently designated to loved ones.

Since it can be tricky to keep track of various medications and supplements without an organized system, it’s worth taking the time to create an orderly regimen with the help of tried-and-true best practices as well as the latest digital tools. Ready to get started?

Keep Thorough Documentation

  • Begin by keeping a list of medications and request written instructions about when and how to take each one.
  • Find out if there are any side effects or special instructions that you should be aware of.

Schedule a Review at Least Once a Year

  • A “brown bag review” is a common practice that involves going over all medications with your health care provider and discussing any possible interactions or overlaps.
  • Be sure to include all vitamins, dietary supplements, ointments and over-the-counter medicines in this conversation.

Practice Safety

  • Keep medications in a place that’s easy to find but still out of reach of pets and children.
  • Don’t hesitate to call the doctor or pharmacist with any questions about a missed dose or mixed-up pills.
    Immediately contact a physician if you or a loved one experience unexpected side effects like nausea, dizziness or severe fatigue.

Consider a Pill-Tracking App

  • Download a medication management app that’s intuitive and suits your needs.
  • Enable alerts via the app or set additional reminders using your phone or alarm clock.
  • You may also want an app that provides access to educational materials and a supportive social network.
    Adopting just a few of these behaviors can help you keep better track of your medications and manage your health more confidently.