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The Business of Risk

Cyber threats have created an interesting conundrum in which the criminal perpetrators are frequently more tech savvy than those responsible for preventing their crimes or apprehending them. And the situation, at the moment, doesn’t really show signs of improving.

Several national security experts recently issued recommendations to help address the problem. They referred to the issue as a “black elephant — a dangerous crossbreed between the ‘black swan’ risk (capable of producing unexpected outcomes with enormous consequences) and the ‘elephant in the room’ (a large problem that is in plain sight).”

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “We Don’t Need a Crisis to Act Unitedly Against Cyber Threats,” from Knowledge@Wharton, June 1, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “RSA Conference: Is Hiring Hackers a New Thing?” from Adeptis Group, May 6, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Security Companies Hire Hackers, Ex-Spies to Fight Cyber Attacks,” from Bloomberg, April 14, 2015.]

While hackers certainly present a grave risk at the national level, frequently the outcomes are more personal. Sure, it’s a real blow to companies like Target and Home Depot for their data to be hacked, but ultimately it’s their customers who may suffer more relative damage.

And as great as technology is, the more we integrate it into our lives, the more risk we face of being personally “hacked.” For example, what a wonderful convenience to be able to lock and unlock our homes and cars using our cellphones, even when we’re out of town. But consider the benefit to a criminal who hacks into a person’s phone and unlocks the house and car, making for easy theft while knowing the owner isn’t home. It kind of makes the old-school, trusty German shepherd seem a bit more attractive for warding off potential burglars.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Data breaches may cost less than the security to prevent them,” from TechRepublic, April 9, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Black Hat 2014: Security experts hack home alarms, smart cars and more,” from CBS News, Aug. 6, 2014.]

Then there are the security breaches that don’t make the headlines. For example, a data breach at a local vendor that results in unauthorized charges to your bank debit card, PayPal account or other online vendor. These sporadic incidents can range in damages from a minor inconvenience to lost hours trying to identify the issue, resolve it and get your money reimbursed.

Naturally, it makes sense to protect your own data as much as possible instead of relying solely on vendor and government solutions. For example, experts recommend using a credit card instead of a debit card. Relevant to this advice, it’s a good idea to revisit any of your accounts where you may have entered your bank account or debit card information, even if you only use your credit card with those accounts. Consider what card information is stored at accounts such as Amazon, eBay, Etsy, PayPal, Netflix and other online merchants you might frequent.

And with another nod to the old-school approach, consider using cash instead of credit at places where they habitually take your credit card out of sight for a few moments (long enough to record its information) — such as at restaurants and fast-food joints.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “7 Reasons Your Debit Card Makes You a Target for Fraud,” from MagnifyMoney.com, Oct. 22, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “New ways to prevent credit-card fraud,” from Consumer Reports, May 28, 2015.]

One thing we’ve learned throughout history, no matter the threat, is that the best time to prepare for a disaster is before it occurs. This applies not only to cyber threats, but to health care screenings and creating a plan for retirement security. The more we educate ourselves and the more we plan, the more prepared we are when something unexpected occurs.

We are here to help you feel more confident in your financial strategy — now and in the future. Please give us a call.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives.

This content is provided for informational purposes only. It is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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City Planning for a Better Future

The plight of elderly citizens tends to dominate news headlines. Topics like Medicare, Social Security, health care and long-term care are often referred to as “senior issues.” But as the larger population continues to age — and not die — many more issues will come to light, and we may even drop the word “senior” when referring to them. After all, when issues are large-scale and mainstream, they are seldom relegated to only one demographic.

Consider, for a moment, how a large population hampered by vision and mobility issues would be able to function in an environment dominated by cars. Urban cities can offer boundless challenges while rural landscapes may be marked by fewer resources and potential isolation. With America’s cities and towns facing a crossroads of serious infrastructure and public resource considerations, many are working on plans for a long-term safe and sustainable living environment.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Aging forces cities to rethink everything,” from LifeHealthPro, May 5, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “How Will Boomers Reshape U.S. Cities?” from Governing.com, Sept. 2012.]

Given the attention sparked by the recent Amtrak collision in Philadelphia, transportation investment is high on the national radar. The seemingly unrelated issue of national obesity should also be part of that conversation, as the rise in weight gain is often correlated with fewer “green spaces” for daily exercise and the rise of non-walking-friendly communities in which families must drive for groceries, school, work and just about every other activity.

According to a new report by the Urban Land Institute:

  • 38% of respondents said their communities lack outdoor places for recreation
  • 54% said shopping and entertainment are not within walking distance
  • 48% said bike lanes are insufficient to make biking a practical mode of transportation
  • 25% said traffic makes it unsafe to walk in their neighborhoods
  • 21% said crime makes it unsafe to walk in their communities
[CLICK HERE to read the article/view the video, “America in an infrastructure crisis: Ray LaHood,” from CNBC, May 7, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “America in 2015: Bridging the Access Gap for Healthier Amenities,” from UrbanLand, May 7, 2015.]

Complex problems often lead to creative solutions, so this particular issue is bound to generate some out-of-the-box ideas. Many communities are trying to integrate city planning with social issues, such as income inequality, health care access and healthier living. Los Angeles has launched a plan with the objective of making 50 percent of all trips taken by city residents to be by bike, foot or public transportation by 2035. Other cities are considering how to incorporate technology and cloud computing so that all residents live in “smart homes” with the entire city interconnected. One activist has proposed urban planning with more narrow streets, like those seen in European cities, to address housing shortages and promote more Old World walking communities.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “L.A.’s New City Plan Will Make You Want to Move There,” from Our World by United Nations University, April 13, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “13 Urban Trends to Watch,” from UrbanLand, March 26, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Building streets for humans rather than cars could help solve the affordable housing crisis,” from Vox.com, May 5, 2015.]

Big problems that must be addressed by towns, cities, states and the federal government are often created by the millions of people who hopefully benefit from the solutions. Likewise, some of the individual problems that we each face are caused by those large entities. We are interconnected; creating problems and then solving them in turn.

We’re here to help relieve some of that everyday stress you may feel when tackling logistical problems. Let us help you address some of the issues that  may be of concern to you and your financial future.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives.

This content is provided for informational purposes only. It is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Make a Long Life Worth Living

Robert Browning once wrote, “Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be.” Today, the average life expectancy in America is 81 for women and 76 for men. But those are averages. The reality is that some people will die earlier and others will live much longer. Those who live longer are not always inclined to celebrate their extended life expectancy. As they grow older, they face daily challenges, such as changes in appetite and sleeping patterns, declining health, reduced mobility, increased isolation, depression and the loss of friends, not to mention dwindling finances.

Consider these facts:

  • Today, the average retiree has only $42,000 in savings
  • Women retire with 66 percent of the retirement savings of men, live on average six years longer and have greater medical expenses
  • 80 percent of women are single during their later years of life
  • 80 percent of older adults suffer from at least one chronic condition and 50 percent have at least two
[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Rethinking Retirement in the 21st Century,” from The Huffington Post, May 1, 2015.]
[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Review: ‘Caring for Mom & Dad’ on PBS Looks at Elder Care Struggles,” from The New York Times, May 6, 2015.]
A recent study found that intellectual activities, such as playing music or reading, can help ward off Alzheimer’s by an average of nine years. Research shows that people who didn’t attend college benefit even more from such intellectual pursuits.
[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Social and Emotional Aging,” from National Center for Biotechnology Information, accessed May 8, 2015.]
Another key aspect of aging is to continue making new friends all your life, because as we get older, we begin to lose them. It’s a skill that needs to be exercised or may become latent. Social connections are important not only to ward off isolation and depression — but also to help us cope with the issues we generally face in old age, such as health problems and grief.
To this point, be sure to keep vision and hearing loss remedies (glasses and hearing aids) up to date. They’re important to retaining social connections by phone and face to face.
Make the effort to stay current with new technologies, as even these can help with visual and hearing impairments. For example, many smartphones feature voice recognition and allow you to increase font size. Don’t just ask grandchildren to program your phone; ask them to teach you how to do it yourself. Make the effort. Because technology changes so often, we need to learn each new iteration as it comes or we’ll get so far behind that we’re too intimidated to learn anymore. Technology can help keep us connected, and staying connected can enable us to live a higher quality of life.
Remember, there’s no advantage to a longer life if we no longer enjoy it.
[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Senate asks industry for aging in place technology cost savings data,” from Mobi Health News, May 7, 2015.]
[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Smart apartment technology could be future of elder care,” from ABC WFAA, May 7, 2015.]
Some studies have correlated volunteering with higher levels of physical and cognitive health, fewer depressive symptoms and a longer lifespan. Consider that you don’t have to become an entrepreneur when you’re older, but you can certainly help one. Seek out young adults with good ideas and support them with your wisdom and knowledge. Offer to help out in their shop or place of business, or look after their children while they get their idea up and running. Sure, it will help them, but more importantly it can help you.
[CLICK HERE to read, “Volunteering Work for Boomers, Seniors & Retirees,” from RetiredBrains.com, accessed May 8, 2015.]
To live a high-level quality of life, we must continue to be able to change. It’s the hardest thing to do, especially as we age. Planning and flexibility are key. We can help you with the planning part; you can work on the flexibility. As always, we’re here for you.

We are an independent financial services firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives.

This content is provided for informational purposes only. It is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed.

If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Going Global

Not everyone has the opportunity to travel. But doing so can open up a world of opportunities — not just in learning more about the world, but in expanding the way we think. Just seeing life lived in ways other than how we grew up can help us understand different perspectives.

We often criticize young adults who eschew college or delay entering the workforce because they want to travel the world and “find themselves.” However, the opportunity to experience other lands and lifestyles, without concerns like a mortgage or finding a good school district, may make many adults envious — just not the parents of graduating college students.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “3 Reasons to Skip Graduate School and Travel Instead,” from Brazen Careerist, Dec. 31, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Graduating Senior Visits 11 Countries During College, All Expenses Paid,” from Texas A&M Today, April 28, 2015.]

Traveling abroad is also a great way to flex foreign language skills. For students, this makes the two to four years spent conjugating verbs in another language seem more relevant — useful even. For older folks who travel and speak as the natives do, the mental process of thinking in one language but speaking in another is a recommended exercise in acuity. It can help the mind stay sharp and ward off dementia.

One study found that speaking another language also causes you to process information in that language. In other words, speaking in German can affect the way you think and feel.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Quiz: Which foreign language should you learn?” from The Washington Post, Feb. 26, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “How the language you speak changes your view of the world” from World Economic Forum, April 28, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Seven do’s and don’ts for learning a foreign language abroad,” from British Council, Oct. 30, 2014.]

If you can’t go global, traveling within the United States can be similarly enlightening. Indeed, traveling from one end of the country to the other can expose you to wildly different views on life, politics and religion; not to mention variations in accents, fashion and entertainment. Spending a typical Saturday night with the locals could range from a Broadway play to cow tipping.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Why Do Different States Have Such Wildly Different Ideas About Government?” from Pacific Standard, Feb. 7, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “American Culture: Traditions and Customs of the United States,” from Live Science, Jan. 15, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Dunbar hits the road for inspiration,” from Seacoast Online, April 30, 2015.]

Going global isn’t always necessary to accomplish what most young folks learn when they visit foreign lands: expanding their minds. In “The Innocents Abroad,” Mark Twain wrote, “One must travel, to learn,” but there is plenty of learning that can happen in the U.S. The point is to reach outside our comfort zones and seek knowledge beyond the grasp of our couch and even our computers.

When it comes to planning for retirement, we realize that’s out of many people’s comfort zones. There is much that can’t be learned from a simple online search, particularly when it comes to tailoring knowledge and strategies to your personal situation. That’s where we come in. Please call us to help expand your mind and embrace your financial opportunities.

We are an independent financial services firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. Our firm is not permitted to offer, and no statement contained herein shall constitute, tax, legal or investment advice. Be sure to speak with qualified professionals before making any decisions about your personal situation. Our firm is not affiliated with the U.S. government or any governmental agency.

This content is provided for informational purposes only. It is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. The information is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual’s situation.

If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Taxes Filed. Now What?

In a 1789 letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, Ben Franklin wrote, “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

It’s interesting that while the Constitution has changed only minimally since 1787, the tax code changes all the time.

Now that we’re well and through this year’s April 15 tax deadline, hopefully you are one of the 113 million who filed your return on time and paid any taxes owed. If not, you at least should have filed for a tax extension for your 2014 federal income tax return. Bear in mind that, even if you filed for an extension, any amount you may owe was still due on April 15. Otherwise, the very next day the clock started ticking and penalties and interest will accrue on any outstanding amount you owe.

  • Late filing penalty: Typically five percent of the tax bill for each month (or part of a month) that the return is late, up to 25 percent of the tax bill
  • Late payment penalty: Typically 0.5 percent of taxes owed for each month after April 15
  • Late payment interest: The interest rate equals the federal short-term rate plus 3 percent (set quarterly)
[CLICK HERE to read the article, “The Quotable Franklin,” from UShistory.org, accessed April 24, 2015.]
[CLICK HERE to read the article, “IRS Reports Tax Filing Numbers as Expected, Issues Statement on Refund Delays,” from Forbes, April 21, 2015.]
[CLICK HERE to read the article, “It’s Tax Day. You haven’t filed. Should you freak out?” from The Washington Post, April 15, 2015.]
If you haven’t paid what you owe yet, consider your options. You can set up an installment payment plan with the IRS. If you do so, the late penalty drops to 0.25 percent per month, and you get as long as six years to pay off the debt. Remember, though, interest will continue to accrue until the balance is paid.
[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Apply for an Online Payment Agreement for Individuals and Businesses,” from IRS.gov, April 16, 2015.]
If you charge what you still owe to a credit card, pay careful attention to the fees involved. For example, charging your payment to a debit card may cost a flat fee of $2.49 to $3.50. However, if you charge it to your credit card, your fee can range from 1.87 percent to 2.35 percent of the amount you charge. With a large tab, say $10,000, that’ll tack on as much as $235 — and that doesn’t even take into account the interest you’ll pay until the credit card charge is paid off. The good news? You can deduct that initial fee on next year’s return.
[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Pros and cons of paying taxes with a credit card,” from CreditCards.com, March 20, 2015.]
[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Pay your Taxes by Debit or Credit Card,” from IRS.gov, Jan. 15, 2015.]
If you did get your return filed in time and you’re all square on tax payments, good for you. However, it’s never a good idea to just slap your hands clean and wait until next year. There are moves you can make now to help lower your tax liability for next year. For example, you can max out your contributions to tax-advantaged retirement and health care savings accounts. And consider the merits of tax diversification — which basically means having both a retirement income source that is currently tax-deferred and one with distributions that won’t be taxable in retirement.
[CLICK HERE to read the article, “4 moves to make now to cut your taxes for 2016,” from USA Today, April 5, 2015.]
There are many ways to help increase your current income and help develop more tax-efficient income strategies — whether for next year or in retirement. Please contact us for help tailoring a strategy that works best for your individual situation.

We are an independent financial services firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. Our firm is not permitted to offer, and no statement contained herein shall constitute, tax, legal or investment advice. Be sure to speak with qualified professionals before making any decisions about your personal situation. Our firm is not affiliated with the U.S. government or any governmental agency.

This content is provided for informational purposes only. It is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. The information is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual’s situation.

If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Trends in Jobs and Education

It’s that time of year. Student graduates have crossed the tassel from one side of the cap to the other, parents are both teary-eyed and relieved, and millions of wide-eyed young adults will be flooding both college campuses and the workforce.

For young college grads just entering the job market, the news is upbeat. One recent survey found that employers are planning to hire 9.6 percent more graduates in the U.S. than they did last year. Not surprisingly, the most hirable major continues to be engineering, the degree of choice for approximately 72 percent of companies. Other popular majors are business (68 percent) and computer science (58 percent). Sought-after personal traits for first-timers aren’t that much different from what companies seek from experienced workers: critical thinking, problem solving, being a team player, professional demeanor and strong work ethic.

[CLICK HERE to read student profiles, “The College Degrees and Skills Employers Most Want In 2015,” from Forbes, April 15, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to listen to the podcast, “Podcast: Which countries are top in IT?” from World Economic Forum, April 17, 2015.]

For high school graduates, the competition to get into the top universities continues to be fierce. However, schools today aren’t just looking for all A’s and high test scores, they want “well-rounded” students, which means even 4.0 students might benefit by playing a sport, musical instrument or joining other school organizations.

This year, some students have been accepted into Ivy League schools without the standard qualifications. For example, the daughter of a second-generation teen mom and five-time convicted felon was accepted into Yale, Dartmouth, Duke and Cornell with a less-than-perfect application. One young horse lover has been set on discovering a cure for Laminitis (an incurable foot disease of horses) since age 9, and has carved a path for herself to do just that. Some say they are poor test takers, others admitted to earning a few B grades. All are driven to succeed for a variety of different reasons and most are passionate about something, be it sports, science, art — even if it’s something on which they can’t necessarily build a career. You can read their interesting profiles here:

[CLICK HERE to read student profiles, “How I got into an Ivy League school,” from CNN Money, April 16, 2015.]

Among last year’s crop of high school graduates, 2 million out of 2.9 million enrolled in college. About a third of those, 706,000, enrolled in two-year colleges, an increasingly popular option to help pursue a higher-paying job without the higher price tag. Another option for grads is to pursue an apprenticeship to acquire skills while working — some of which pay salaries up to $50,000.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “What’s in Store for This Year’s High School Grads,” from U.S. Department of Labor, April 17, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “4 Reasons for High School Graduates to Turn to Community College,” from U.S. News & World Report, April 16, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to visit the website, “Apprenticeship is win-win for both employers and workers,” from U.S. Department of Labor, April 9, 2015.]

When it comes to paying for college, one recent survey found 75 percent of parents and grandparents are confident their children will attend college, but 59 percent have not yet begun to save for it. New options are currently being explored to help, such as repurposing funds for current tax credits to create a savings account for every child at birth. This option would enable deposits to qualify for the American Opportunity Tax Credit — long before the child attends college. Another option is to allow parents to contribute to a Roth Account for Youth Savings (RAYS) for long-term growth with the flexibility to use it for higher education, homeownership, medical expenses and/or retirement.

[CLICK HERE to read the news release, “Savingforcollege.com Survey Reveals American Families Are Still Unsure of Best Way to Save for College,” from SavingForCollege.com, April 16, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Why America needs a new savings account for children,” from World Economic Forum, April 8, 2015.]

Paying for college is just one of the many priorities that fight for a share of our current income and assets. If we can help you develop a strategy that can make you feel more confident in your retirement now while saving for future college expenses, please give us a call.

We are an independent financial services firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. Our firm is not permitted to offer, and no statement contained herein shall constitute, tax, legal or investment advice. Be sure to speak with qualified professionals before making any decisions about your personal situation. Our firm is not affiliated with the U.S. government or any governmental agency.

This content is provided for informational purposes only. It is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. The information is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual’s situation.

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Surprising Findings

Sometimes, hidden among the gloom and doom news headlines and economic predictions, we find little nuggets of information that surprise and can even make our day.

For example, thanks to national budget cuts, fewer taxpayers are being audited. The average taxpayer’s chance of being audited has dropped by 23 percent in the past three years, and the news is even better for higher-income earners who are usually more likely to get audited. For those earning $200,000 to $1 million, the chance of getting audited is 2.2 percent (more than twice that of the average income earner). Those earning more than $1 million have a 7.5 percent chance. However, even those rates are continuing to drop.

The only exception is the expatriates. More stringent regulation of off-shore assets has resulted in a higher number of American taxpayers who live abroad being audited.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “The IRS Has New Favorite People to Audit,” at Bloomberg, April 9, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the report, “2014 IRS Data Book,” at IRS.gov, March 2015.]

Many retirees or near-retirees often consider moving to another location when they retire, or even just downsizing to help save money. Regardless of whether they stay or go, most report they’re happy with their decision. A full two-thirds of retirees say they currently live in the best home of their lives. Another point of interest is the number of retirees who do decide to settle somewhere new: 64 percent say they’re likely to move at least once during retirement.

Where are they moving? Recently, a billboard photo made the rounds on the Internet that read, “Say what you will about the South, but no one retires and moves up North.” Statistically speaking, the South does appear to be a popular choice. Among pre-retirees who say they want to move somewhere else for retirement, 39 percent report their preferred destination is in the South Atlantic region of the U.S.

Here are a couple of other tidbits: 72 percent of homeowners age 65 and up have paid off their mortgage, and almost half of them (49 percent) “upsized” in their last move. One out of six retirees has a grown child living with them.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Merrill Lynch Study Finds New Freedoms Help Two-thirds of Retirees Live in the Best Home of Their Lives,” at MarketWatch, Feb. 25, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to download the report, “Home in Retirement: More Freedom, New Choices,” at Merrill Lynch, 2015.]

We’ve all heard the news about rising obesity rates and the subsequent medical costs associated with treating weight-related illnesses, but did you know that people who actively pursue a healthier lifestyle in the great outdoors contribute significantly to our economic growth?

Americans spend approximately $646 billion each year on outdoor recreation, and that’s more than we spend on pharmaceuticals and other medical products ($389 billion) and motor vehicles and parts ($418 billion). If you think we (children in particular) have abandoned outdoor recreation for indoor electronics, consider that Americans actually spend three times more on outdoor recreation than on computers, cameras and other IT equipment ($211 billion).

In fact, one study found that localities that feature national parks, wilderness and other recreational areas attract more high-wage, high-skill jobs — such as engineers, architects, software developers, doctors, lawyers — than similar communities without them. There also is a correlation between outdoor public lands/open spaces and higher-quality schools and reduced crime rates.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “The Government Should Begin to Measure America’s Powerful Outdoor Economy,” at Center for American Progress, Jan. 21, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the State of Obesity annual report at Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Accessed April 10, 2015.]

Whether you’re considering what tax strategies may be effective for you, potential retirement moves or even making changes to your current lifestyle, please consider us a resource to help you develop a secure financial plan.

We are an independent financial services firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of the nation’s leading insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. Our firm is not permitted to offer, and no statement contained herein shall constitute tax, legal or investment advice. Be sure to speak with qualified professionals before making any decisions about your personal situation. Our firm is not affiliated with the U.S. government or any governmental agency.

This content is provided for informational purposes only. It is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. The information is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual’s situation.

If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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3 Tips for Doing Something Better

You see those article headlines all the time: “10 Tips for …” blah blah blah. The writer claims to have simplified some common problems we all face — losing weight, achieving happiness, getting along with your boss at work — into three, five, or 10 nuggets of no-fail wisdom. Often we find two or three that are useful and ignore the rest because they seem benign or we’ve already tried them and know they’re no panacea for success.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Numerals in headlines quantify value, draw readers,” from Wylie Communications, April 3, 2015.]

Sometimes it’s helpful just to remember that life is a journey, not a destination. After all, the sooner you get to a destination the sooner your journey ends. And when it comes to living, well, that’s not a good thing.

So here are a few insights garnered from recent Internet articles that may be more helpful than doing a kale cleanse or trying your sister-in-law’s new miracle diet.

1. Relocate to a happier place.

The happiest people in the world reportedly live in Europe — namely Denmark. In fact, retired Danish women claim the highest order of cheerfulness, consistently reporting a happiness score of 8.5 out of 10. According to recent research, geography does play a factor in happiness, which is probably less of a revelation for people who live in excessively cold or depressive surroundings. For those in sunnier climates, they probably recognize and appreciate this fact on a daily basis.

A second indicator of happiness is income — up to a point. The higher the pay, even if it’s just one quintile higher on the income scale — the more content the demographic. But pay apparently doesn’t trump geography, as even “the poorest 20 percent of Danes are more joyful than the richest Greeks.”

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Stated preferences,” from The Economist, March 31, 2015.]

2. Don’t replace your job, replace your boss.

New research reveals that less than one-third of Americans are engaged in their jobs and, at some point in their career, at least one-third of workers left their job to get away from their boss. It seems such a shame that one person can be endowed with the power to make a group of people (direct reports) miserable on a daily basis. This impact is not even confined to the workplace; unhappy employees tend to go home and make their families miserable as well. That’s a lot of power.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Employees Want A Lot More From Their Managers,” from Gallup, April 8, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “What Do Workers Want from the Boss?” from The Wall Street Journal, April 2, 2015.]

3. Reject rejection.

They say you can’t control bad news, just how you respond to it. One high school student recently took that advice one step further and decided to reject her bad news. Specifically, being rejected entrance into Duke as a freshman next year. She wrote the university a letter informing them that she rejected its rejection and looked forward to seeing them in the fall.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “17-year old rejects Duke’s rejection letter,” from CNN Money, April 3, 2015.]

Let’s face it: Most of these tips are not practically applicable. But it may help to recognize that not all goals need to be monumental. They can be small and daily, like did you get in your half-hour walk today? In a recent speech, the Dalai Lama reiterated the importance of focusing on what is truly important to each of us:

“We all want to live happy lives. We want our lives to have meaning. Leading a meaningful life doesn’t mean accumulating money, power and fame, but generating happiness … No matter how complicated our lives may be, if we can maintain a degree of inner peace, we’ll be happy.”

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Friendly Meetings and Conclusion of Brief Teachings,” from Dalailama.com, March 21, 2015.]

We realize there are many things we cannot control in life, but perhaps the best tip is to focus on what you can control. When it comes to securing your financial future, we can help with that.

We are an independent financial service firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives.

This content is provided for informational purposes only. It is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. The information is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual’s situation.

If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Best-Laid Plans

A recent survey revealed that six out of 10 Americans believe they are inadequately prepared for a financial emergency, and only 50 percent feel that they are overall financially secure. For most, planning for retirement is one of their biggest worries. This stress is further exacerbated by the fact that most Americans reported having experienced a financial setback last year — something along the lines of reduced income, hospital bills, the loss of a spouse, or a major repair bill for their home and/or car.

[CLICK HERE to read the report, “How Much Should Workers Save for Emergencies?” from Hello Wallet, accessed April 3, 2015.]

Perhaps even more illuminating, 21 percent of Americans say they are not planning to retire. At all. Unfortunately, even the best-laid plans can go awry — and that includes a plan to continue working. Many manual labor jobs are simply impractical to continue after a certain age or long-term, wear-and-tear on the body. In the white collar-world, a larger number of better-educated employees are delaying retirement or electing to work to some degree during retirement. In fact, more than half of the highest-income quartile of those 65 and older worked in 2013.

When you think about it, this could create kind of an interesting phenomenon: Higher income earners may continue working to a very old age while lower-income earners retire to a life of (albeit low-income) leisure.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Americans’ Financial Security,” from The Pew Charitable Trusts, March 5, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “The five ages of financial planning — simple tips to make your money work,” from The Guardian, March 26, 2015.]

Recently, even the value of a college education has come into question. Recent graduates have emerged with thousands of dollars in student loan debt with fewer job prospects available. This phenomenon definitely has students questioning the validity of their long-range plans. But the news now is better.

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, among students who graduated at the height of the financial crises in 2008, 85 percent are now fully employed and enjoying an average annualized salary of $52,000. Better yet, their unemployment rate is down to 3.4 percent, which compares favorably to the 10 percent rate for those with a high school degree or less.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “The Value of a Four-Year Degree Is Increasing,” from The Huffington Post, April 1, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Why College Is Worth the Money for Almost Everybody,” from Financial Advisor Magazine, April 3, 2015.]

But suppose you didn’t study what you really wanted to in college, or get the job or career you’ve always wanted. It’s not too late. Whether planning to pursue your passion in retirement or start a new career because you can’t yet afford to retire, college is increasingly becoming a new option for retirees. Well-respected universities such as Tulane and George Washington are designing new curriculums to entice bored and affluent retirees back to school.

For those not seeking to pay a high tuition for another college degree, there are viable alternatives to simply auditing classes now. For example, in California, all of its 23 state universities offer tuition-free classes in their Over 60 Program. In Texas, public colleges and universities offer a tuition-reduction programs for students 55 or older. For many older Americans, college classes aren’t just a way to get out of the house. Some are launching second professional careers in a whole new area of expertise.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Over 50 and Back in College, Preparing for a New Career,” from The New York Times, April 3, 2015.]

Retirement these days is a multi-dimensional process. Many people may even duck in and out of the workforce as needed to pay for specific expenses, such as a six-month travel vacation or to help grandkids pay for college. Just remember, even the best-laid plans sometimes need back-up plans. Please consider us as a resource to help you cover all the angles.

We are an independent financial service firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives.

This content is provided for informational purposes only. It is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. The information is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual’s situation.

If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Longevity Decisions

People over age 90 are now the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population. By mid-century, this population is expected to quadruple. Many researchers currently are studying what the commonalities are for longevity and whether we can replicate them either in lifestyle choices or perhaps even pharmaceutically.

A “60 Minutes” episode last year revealed some interesting findings about people over age 90, based on data originally gathered on this group back in 1981. Some marked commonalities among this group included:

  • Exercise every day is correlated with a longer life. As little as 15 minutes a day is effective, but 45 minutes a day is ideal (even more ideal than two hours a day). Also, it isn’t necessary that the exercise be intense or all at once — it can be spread throughout the day through walking, gardening, housework, etc.
  • Taking vitamins has no impact on longevity.
  • Clean living is not a factor; people who drink alcohol tend to live longer than those who don’t. And not just red wine — all types of alcoholic beverages, up to two servings a day.
  • Coffee drinking — consuming the caffeine equivalent of one to three cups a day is consistent with longevity.
  • Engaging in non-physical activities, such as book clubs and bridge, are consistent with a longer life. The more activities, the better.
  • Eating — not worrying about food intake is a common theme. In fact, moderate weight gain as you age is OK; being underweight is a negative factor for longevity.
One study from Brigham Young University further contributed to the data, showing that people who are lonely or isolated from social relationships and communities have the same risk of premature death as those who struggle with obesity or those who live in poverty.

[CLICK HERE to view the “60 Minutes” episode segment, “Aging to 90+ years,” on Youtube.com, Aug. 31, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Loneliness and Isolation Are as Bad for You as Obesity, New Study Says,” from The Huffington Post, March 12, 2015.]

However, there are decisions other than lifestyle choices we can make at earlier ages to help prepare for a longer life. One such decision is what we do for a living. Obviously, the happier and more satisfied we are with our professional lives, the less aggravation and stress we feel. A recent article from World Economic Forum features a list of six questions to ask yourself regarding whether or not you should stay in your current work situation.

If you work for a family-owned business, your longevity can take on a whole new meaning — in terms of your legacy. Research from Harvard Business Review discovered that only 30 percent of family businesses last into the second generation, even though they account for the most employment in most countries. The sustainability of these businesses across multiple generations is largely indicated by whether they invest in both family and non-family talent, whether they engage in succession planning and whether they implemented a firm governance structure such as a board of directors.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Are you sure you want to leave your job?” from World Economic Forum, March 20, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Leadership Lessons from Great Family Businesses,” from Harvard Business Review, April 2015.]

And finally, how much does our wealth and the language we speak impact us by the end of a long, eventful lifetime? There are interesting studies revealing that people with less money rely more on and prioritize their social relationships, while wealth tends to breed independence — often with the unintended consequence that wealthier people can grow more isolated over time. In fact, one study went so far as to conclude that wealth can make us less sensitive to the needs and feelings of others. In other words, “meaner” than those with less means.

As for accumulating wealth, there is a fascinating study underway that correlates why many northern European countries lead the world in personal savings rates. Hint: It has to do with the language the people speak and the way it impacts their culture and mindset for saving money.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Does money make you mean?” from BBC News Magazine, March 16, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to view the video, “The Influence of Language on Saving,” on Squared Away Blog from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, March 19, 2015.]

Obviously, there are dozens of ways to prepare for longevity. We can help you tackle some of those as they relate to your financial life. Please give us a call.

We are an independent financial service firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. Our firm is not permitted to offer, and no statement contained herein, shall constitute tax, legal or investment advice. Be sure to speak with qualified professionals before making any decisions about your personal situation. Our firm is not affiliated with the U.S. government or any governmental agency.

This content is provided for informational purposes only. It is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. The information is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual’s situation.

If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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