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Kick Off 2020 by Getting Outdoors and Enjoying State Parks

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For many people, modern life means spending more time indoors. In fact, Americans spend roughly 90% of their time indoors, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. This has had numerous direct and indirect health impacts, from respiratory issues due to poor indoor air quality to reduced physical activity due to an indoor sedentary lifestyle.

People of all ages are starting to make a change, embracing the outdoors for all the benefits it can provide to their mental and physical health. Since there are opportunities for getting outdoors nearby wherever you live or travel, there’s no better time to commit to getting outside than in 2020.

First Day Hikes

A new year offers 365 days of opportunity, and what better way to start your outdoor goals than with First Day Hikes on New Year’s Day at a state park near you? State parks in all 50 states are offering free, guided First Day Hikes run by outdoor experts who want to help you explore the best the park has to offer.

Visit stateparks.org to find a local participating park and enjoy New Year’s Day making memories outdoors while exercising and connecting with nature. The distance and rigor vary depending on the park and the program, but all hikes have one goal: to create a fun experience for the whole family while fostering an appreciation for the outdoors.

Explore local treasures year-round

It’s easy to take for granted what’s in your own backyard, and state parks are a reminder of the beauty of the different seasons while offering ample amenities that make exploration easy any time of year. Once you visit, you’ll want to return again and again to cherish the scenery and create many more memories with your family.

Whether it’s a family picnic, a guided group hike, bird watching, rock climbing or simply a calm walk listening to the sounds of nature, there are many activities to explore at state parks. Check out the month’s park programs run by knowledgeable state park staff and volunteers to see what may be of interest to you and your family.

Discover different parks throughout the U.S.

In the United States there are 6,792 state park areas comprising 18,694,570 acres. These parks offer 14,672 trails over 52,603 miles total length — that’s more than twice around the Earth at the equator! Whether you’re exploring your local park or looking for a way to enjoy the outdoors while traveling, there’s a state park nearby that is sure to bring the wonder of nature to your family.

Every state park has different opportunities, from hiking, biking, and equestrian trails to swimming, marinas and ski slopes. The best way to get acquainted with a state park is to visit it and see for yourself. Wear comfortable shoes and consider packing a water bottle and protein bar for your hike and you’ll be ready to enjoy nature to the fullest.

Start 2020 with a First Day Hike and let this be the year you commit to getting outdoors and enjoying state parks. You’ll feel a deeper connection with nature and your loved ones, all while making lifelong memories.

4 Tips for Preserving Old Analog Photos This Holiday Season

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When it comes to passing down family memories, there’s nothing like the visual impact of a photograph.

Photo frames, custom ornaments, and other similar memorabilia make some of the most popular gifts during the holiday season. Family photos can remind us where we came from, preserve valuable information, and bring up warm, fun, and often comforting thoughts of times and people gone by. Sometimes, they just make us smile.

“Capturing a moment in time isn’t just about securing a memory — it can help you appreciate your life more every day,” advises Gretchen Rubin in Good Housekeeping. “Photos tilt your memories toward the good experiences you’ve had, simply because you’re more likely to take photos of joyful times.”

These days, Americans enjoy capturing photographic images more than ever; in fact, they took some 1.2 trillion digital photos in 2017 alone. While most of those are safely stored in digital files, we often aren’t as efficient when it comes to preserving the analog photos and negatives taken before the advent of digital cameras and smartphones. For many, that can mean those irreplaceable memories are at risk of fading into obscurity as they’re stored away in some damp basement or dusty attic.

Fortunately, preserving your old analog photos without professional assistance need not be difficult, especially with some of the user-friendly tools now on the market. Consider these tips for making sure your personal history is saved for future generations.

Handle them with care. You may be used to carelessly flipping through your older photos, but the truth is the dirt and oil on your hands can easily accumulate and cause damage to old images. Experts recommend wearing non-scratching, microfiber or nitrile gloves as you sort and process them. Don’t write on them at all (even the backs), and avoid grouping or attaching them with paper clips, rubber bands, tape, glue or other fasteners.

Store them protectively. Store loose analog photos and negatives separately from each other in acid-free boxes or in archival-quality photo albums (avoid albums with color pages and/or those labelled “magnetic” or “no stick”). Keep the boxes or albums in rooms that are stable, dry (with only 30% to 40% relative humidity) and clean. Minimal exposure to light, radiators, vents and atmospheric pollutants is ideal, and color photos and film negatives are best stored at temps of 40°F or below.

Convert analog to digital. Of course, the safest way of keeping your photos safe is to make them digital, so they can be safely stored in the cloud. Fortunately, Kodak lists several scanners on Amazon that can help you make that switch efficiently and effectively, including the self-contained Kodak Scanza, which can almost instantly process shots taken on analog film (in sizes of 35mm, 126, 110, Super 8 and 8mm) and convert them to a digital JPG format without need of a flatbed scanner, processing lab or even a computer. Other handy tools include Kodak’s lightweight, collapsible Mobile Film Scanner which can instantly store old negatives and slides in your smartphone, and Kodak’s Mini Digital Film Scanner, which performs like the Scanza but is palm-sized for easy transport.

Make sure your new images last a lifetime with the Kodak Photo Printer Dock. The dock allows you to print out special shots to place in a handmade or other decorative frame, or give as gifts. When you wish to go from digital to analog, simply connect your smartphone, iPad, digital camera, or USB Memory Stick to edit and print colorful, detailed 4×6 photos. The photos won’t bleed or fade — and they will be waterproof — because photos printed from the Dock feature a special laminated protection layer.

Your analog photos are irreplaceable and well worth keeping safe, for your enjoyment and the enjoyment of future generations. Consider investing in the materials and tools that can make the preservation process easy and efficient for all. The holidays are a special time for reflection on our families and family memories, and restoring photographs can be a great way to put a little extra magic into a heartfelt gift.

How To Plan For Healthcare Costs That Could Derail Your Retirement

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People work for decades with a hopeful eye toward retirement. But while many try to envision their retirement years as a blissful time of fun and relaxation, no one has a crystal ball showing exactly what all the expenses will look like. This is especially true of health care. Fidelity’s annual Retiree Health Care Cost Estimate projected that a 65-year-old couple retiring in 2019 could expect $285,000 in health care and medical expenses during their retirement.

An Edward Jones survey showed many Americans are concerned about health care expenses in retirement, particularly baby boomers. “People spend their healthy years accumulating all their wealth,” says Michael Macke (www.petrosplanning.com), vice president and co-owner of Petros Financial Group. “They work hard and save, building their nest egg. “But when you retire, you wind up spending a lot of your wealth on your health. In talking with people about retirement for 25 years, health care is always their top concern. To most people it’s the great unknown that can derail the best-laid plans. You never know when you’re going to get sick or come down with a disease.  What kind of care will be required, and most of all, what is it going to cost?” 

How do you plan for that great unknown — health care costs in retirement? Macke offers these tips: 

Make extra wiggle room for the “what-if” medical expenses.

When planning a long-term budget, most people just look at their baseline monthly expenses, but it’s wise to have a discussion about how health care costs can fit in during retirement,” Macke says. “Budgeting for a potential additional expense of $350 to $500 per month in the future can help you be better prepared to handle that ‘what-if’ scenario.” 

Open a Health Savings Account (HSA). 

An HSA offers tax advantages such as deductible contributions and tax-free withdrawals for qualified medical expenses. “The funds from your HSA can be used to pay for Medicare premiums and long-term care insurance premiums,” Macke says. “Those who are 55 or older can make a catch-up contribution of $1,000 a year in addition to the maximum contribution limit (which is $3,500 annually for individual coverage and $7,000 for family coverage).” 

Manage Medicare annually.

“Every year, you should be reviewing Medicare plans. You need to figure out which plan is best for you based on your health as well as what’s covered and what isn’t in each option.” Macke says. “Some plans may cost a little more but would save you on doctor’s visits and co-pays. Also, remember that your part B and D premiums could be higher based on your annual income from two years prior. Make sure you are working with a tax planner and retirement planner to manage your income, which may include distributions from retirement accounts. Being aware of these limits could save you money! Your health changes constantly as do your options for Medicare coverage. Make sure you are evaluating each year.” 

Pay attention to your health.

Sounds simple, but a healthy lifestyle is the best way to reduce the chance of health complications and costly bills in retirement. “Don’t miss annual checkups with both your doctor and dentist,” Macke says. “Adhere to a reasonable diet and fitness regimen. And don’t discount the dentist. Cardiovascular disease shows up in the gums first.” “Unexpected medical expenses later in life threaten our physical health and our financial health,” Macke says. “Therefore, it’s vital to be proactive and plan as early as possible in order to protect your retirement you’ve worked so hard for.” 

Michael Macke (www.petrosplanning.com) is vice president, owner and principal advisor of Petros Financial Group, Tax & Wealth Advisors. He has been a Certified Financial Planner® practitioner since 2005 and has over 20 years of experience in banking and financial services. Macke believes that the best financial plans are holistic in nature and incorporate all aspects of your financial life, including: investments, insurance, tax planning, Social Security strategies, Medicare and estate planning. Macke is also founder and president of Petros Advisory Services, a registered investment advisor firm.

Are Your Misaligned Values Causing More Stress? 3 Ways To Find Alignment Without Adding To Your To-Do List

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By Sue Hawkes 

Do you ever feel like things aren’t right but you can’t put your finger on it? Often, we play it off as stress or a lack of work-life balance but without looking deeper, you really aren’t fixing the problem. According to a report by the Conference Board, a New York-based nonprofit research group, 53.7% of women are unsatisfied — that’s over half of all working women! Instead of adding or trying to create another productivity habit to fix your unsatisfied feelings, you need to slow down and look deep within ourselves to ask what is not working? When you allow yourself the space, you will finally be able to work through any issue you encounter. 

Use these 3 ways to help you identify where you are misaligned rather than muscling through it with one more productivity hack. 

Journal: Take the Time to Let Your Thoughts Flow  

The health benefits of journaling are numerous but to name a few, journaling helps create clarity in your thoughts and feelings, facilitates more effective decision making and reduces stress. Beyond that, seeing what you are thinking on paper creates an objective perspective, allowing you the opportunity to address issues and work through them while bypassing your negative, self-doubting thoughts which cloud your judgment.  

To begin journaling when assessing your values, ask yourself some simple questions: 

  1. What am I pretending not to know? 
  2. What life are you waiting to live? 
  3. If you had nothing on your to-do list, what would emerge? ​

Spend Time in Nature 

Mental space happens naturally when you spend time in nature. There are less distractions which affords you the opportunity to turn inward and focus on observing yourself. This is extremely beneficial when you are stuck on a new project or at a crossroads for a decision at work. 

Studies say that even a few minutes in nature can improve your short-term memory and restore mental energy. You can find an outdoor activity you enjoy requiring little effort (remember: you want to give your brains a break), like hiking or walking your dog, and enjoy it often. 

Most often, the best answers and solutions already reside within us but most of us don’t allow the quiet space because it doesn’t feel productive; it is! 

Take a Clarity Break™ 

A “Clarity Break™” is a practice developed by Gino Wickman as part of EOS, the Entrepreneurial Operating System. The purpose is to reflect and create space for strategic thinking on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis. 

You do this by taking a break from your phone, technology, home or office. The point is to get away from distractions which tether you to work. Sit with a pad of paper and pen and let your thoughts flow. Don’t focus on producing anything specific, see what emerges.  

Studies have shown that activity in many brain regions increases when our minds wander. So don’t put pressure on what your clarity breaks result in, rather create space in order to have the space to create. The trick is to practice this consistently, it is where you’ll see results by identifying patterns in your thinking and life that are causing misalignment. 

With the day-to-day pressures at work and at home, it is easy to get misaligned. These simple practices won’t allow you to put a bandage on the problem, you will finally find your solution.

More than just a bestselling author, Sue Hawkes is a keynote speaker, Certified EOS Implementer, Certified Business Coach, WPO Chapter Chair, award-winning and globally recognized seminar leader, and an entrepreneur. She is  CEO and Founder of YESS! – Your Extraordinary Success Strategies, and brings over 25 years of experience to her clients and has designed and delivered dynamic, transformational programs for thousands of people.  She has been featured and is a regular contributor to INC, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Fast Company, New York Daily News and Thrive Global. Hawkes has received numerous awards including the Dream Keeper award recognized by the Governor’s Council for her leadership program, the Regional U.S. Small Business Administration Women in Business Champion of the Year award, the Exemplary Woman of the Community award, Women Venture’s Unsung Hero award, Women Who Lead from Minnesota Business Magazine, and NAWBO Minnesota’s Achieve! Vision Award, in addition to being named a 2018 Enterprising Woman of the Year.

Connect with her on TwitterLinkedInInstagramYouTube, and Facebook

Postal Inspectors Offer Six Tips to Keep Holiday Packages Secure

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The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the federal law enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), is working around the clock to keep the more than 15 billion mail pieces expected to be mailed this holiday season safe. Package senders and recipients can help, too! The Inspection Service advises everyone mailing gifts this season to be aware and alert, and follow the six tips below:

  1. Don’t leave delivered mail and packages unattended. Just as wallets and purses shouldn’t be left on the front seat of an unlocked car unattended, mail and packages shouldn’t be left uncollected in mailboxes or on front porches for any length of time.
     
  2. Going out of town? Hold mail at the local post office. Instead of risking leaving a package unattended for an extended period of time, customers planning on being away from home for a few days are encouraged to take advantage of the USPS Hold Mail service located on USPS.com. Letters and packages will be held securely at the local post office until the customer returns.
     
  3. Plan ahead. Ship using Hold for Pickup. When shipping packages, customers can choose the Hold for Pickup option, and the recipients can collect the packages at their local post office. For customers receiving packages, they can redirect incoming packages to their local post office by selecting Hold for Pickup using USPS Package Intercept on USPS.com.
     
  4. Customize the delivery. If the package doesn’t fit in the mailbox and the customer won’t be home to receive it, the receiving customer can provide delivery instructions online and authorize the carrier to leave it in a specified location. Visit www.usps.com, enter the tracking number and select Delivery Instructions. 
  5. Secure the shipment using USPS Special Services. Signature Confirmation helps ensure the package is placed in the right hands by requiring a signature at the time of delivery. For the most valuable packages, customers can opt for Registered Mail service. A Registered Mail piece receives special handling from the time it’s mailed until it’s delivered, documenting the chain of custody.
     
  6. Monitor your front door. If you have a home security camera system and/or doorbell camera, ensure it captures and saves activity at your front door and mailbox. If you catch any mail thieves in the act, save the video and alert your local Postal Inspectors.  

Additionally, if you notice an unfamiliar vehicle following a USPS truck or unknown persons loitering around mailboxes, report the activity to your local police department immediately, and then call the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455. If you feel that you are a victim of a crime involving the mail, you may submit an online complaint by visiting www.USPIS.gov and selecting Report at the top of the page. 

About the U.S. Postal Inspection Service: The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency. It supports and protects the U.S. Postal Service and its employees, infrastructure and customers; it enforces the laws that defend the nation’s mail system from illegal or dangerous use; and it ensures public trust in the mail. For more information, visit https://www.uspis.gov. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Healthy Holiday Gift Ideas

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By Dr. Nina Radcliff

Holiday gift-giving is an opportunity for choosing gifts that support your loved one’s enhancing their health while helping to make their world a healthier place. 

From a nice, new pillow to quality kitchenware to an essential oil diffuser or nice pair of tennis shoes – there are lots of special gifts that fall into this category that are great to give (and receive)! 

Dr. Nina’s What You Need to Know: About Healthy Gift Ideas

When considering your holiday spending, consider the following health-benefit gifts that are thoughtful and practical:

Fitness Friendly: Physical activity improves physical health and too, mental health and overall wellbeing. Great gift ideas include:

  • Gym memberships, dance or other aerobic workout or movement classes 
  • Treat yourself and a friend to a one-hour dance lesson to spend time with one another during the holidays while burning up to 500 calories in one session.
  • Home exercise equipment like a treadmill, stationary bike, or stair stepper. Used equipment is often available at discounted prices. 
  • Workout essentials your loved one needs to complete their favorite exercises from tennis shoes, socks, water bottle, ear buds to a jump rope, yoga mat, weights (dumbbells to ankle or arm weights), resistance bands, or fitness clothes –  are just a few ideas.
  • Fit bits or armbands to motivate while tracking activity 

Beneficial Sleep: Quality sleep is the crown jewel of good health and happiness. The body releases growth hormones (which fix damaged tissues); reduces the body’s amount of stress hormones; boosts the immune system and memory (staving off dementia) while reducing risk for heart disease, weight gain, diabetes, depression and anxiety. 

  • Bed sheets, mattress pads, comforter and pillows all help facilitate comfort. 
  • Wake-up lights with sunrise simulation can help your rise and shine by working on circadian rhythm (our body’s internal clock that is modulated by light). And, light therapy boxes have been shown to help stave off or alleviate seasonal affective disorder, a form of depression that occurs during this time of year when the hours of sunlight are truncated.  
  • Essential oils and aromatherapy can boost feelings of relaxation, a foundation for a good night of sleep. 
  • White noise machines mask other sounds that might occur naturally in your environment (like routine honking or car sounds, or people talking).

Balanced Eating: A well-balanced diet helps the body get the right nutrients, minerals, and building blocks for optimal functioning. Ana Wigmore said it wisely: “The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine, or the slowest form of poison.” 

  • Slow cookers are a great way to prepare pot roast, soups, stews, desserts and dips
  • Veggie spiralizers help turn fruit and veggies into delicious, healthy noodles
  • Treating a loved one to a cooking class is a great gift that can be enjoyed. It is a gift that will keep giving.
  • Healthy meal kit delivery options provide ingredients and recipes using simple techniques and no prep, encouraging healthy eating while alleviating stress and saving time.
  • Veggie, fruit, or cheese of-the-month clubs are a good way to give a gift that lasts months. 
  • Air fryers offer a healthier alternative to frying your food, while giving that crisp and crunch that everyone craves, at times.
  • There is wonderful health-wise cooking ware that provide the right tools to make cooking easier and safer – for all ages. (It’s a great way to teach kids about healthy foods while having fun and creating delicious meals or snacks.)

Rest and Relaxation. Any opportunity to relax is a valuable and sentimental gift to give.

  • Time: Planning on spending time, even if it’s just a few hours together at home, is a great way to celebrate the holidays. Similarly, giving a parent or spouse a chance to be alone is valuable and often helps relieve stress.
  • Spa time – give a favorite scented candle, oil diffuser, Epsom salts – or other favorites that encourage relaxing and taking the mind off the hustle and bustle
  • A music membership subscription allows your special someone to tune into their favorite artist or genre – which not only helps improve mood, memory but lifts the spirit.
  • A special book of their lifestyle interest (self-help, spiritual, learning or how-to)
  • Tickets to a performing art show such as the ballet, opera, concert or theater 
  • Restaurant gift card or a dining experience “together” where you can also savor the food and good company. Sitting down with loved ones and dining is always special.

The holidays are a great time to help promote healthy habits that last beyond the winter months – enjoy!

Dr. Nina Radcliff is dedicated to her profession, her patients and her community, at large. She is passionate about sharing truths for healthy, balanced living as well as wise preventive health measures.

She completed medical school and residency training at UCLA and has served on the medical faculty at The University of Pennsylvania. She is a Board Certified Anesthesiologist. Author of more than 200 textbook chapters, research articles, medical opinions and reviews; she is often called upon by media to speak on medical, fitness, nutrition, and healthy lifestyle topics impacting our lives, today.

How to Find More Meaning in Your Job and Take Ownership Over Your Career

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Whether you’re on the front lines or in a corner office, have a few months experience or 20 years, here’s what you need to know to get ahead and stay ahead

Imagine ending each workday feeling like what you just did matters, and that your contribution helped move your company closer to its goals. It is possible, no matter what your job title or responsibilities. “It’s a personal choice to rise above your circumstances and develop a CEO’s mindset,” says futurist and accountability pro Craig Hickman, author of 17 books including four international and New York Times best-sellers, “The Oz Principle” among them. Those who do are much more likely to be successful and fulfilled in their careers. The new book “Propeller” is providing simple advice for making this happen.

Available June 25, 2019, “Propeller” is coauthored by a Partners In Leadership team: Hickman; Tanner Corbridge, senior partner; Jared Jones, senior partner; and Tom Smith, cofounder of the firm and coauthor of “The Oz Principle”. 

Most people are not fully engaged at work 

“For the last 18 years, 70% of the American workforce has been either actively or passively disengaged at work. That number hasn’t changed significantly in all that time,” says Corbridge. “Measuring engagement levels and then hoping management figures out the solution is the current pattern for most businesses and the approach isn’t working. We’ve discovered that the answer to engagement is getting accountability right.” 

Over the past quarter century, “The Oz Principle” sold more than one million copies and served as the go-to reference on workplace accountability. In this newest addition to Partners In Leadership’s accountability series, “Propeller: Accelerating Change by Getting Accountability Right”, the co-authors build on “The Oz Principle” legacy to inspire a whole new generation to tap into the incredible power of personal, team and organizational accountability.

How to take positive accountability

“In today’s world of constant change and increased pressure to go faster, getting accountability right has become critical to any team or organization delivering needed results,” Jones says. He also explains that positive accountability can transform your career. “Complaining and waiting to say ‘I told you so’ is highly unproductive and unfulfilling. It’s a miserable place to be.” In “Propeller”, you can find advice for finding more meaning in and taking ownership of your career. The authors explain how to get started today: 

  • Understand that everything is about results. “It always has been. It’s just that things are speeding up. Coming into an organization, you’ve got to figure out what matters most as quickly as you can. If the organization isn’t clear, help the organization get clearer by asking questions. Keep asking for those questions to be answered. Use that clarity to guide your daily work.” 
  • Determine your impact. “If you want to be successful, you’ve got to figure out your connection to what matters most to the organization. Don’t wait for someone to lay all of that out for you. Become crystal clear about how you impact your company’s key definitions for success. Those could be revenue growth, profitability, new product development, safety, customer satisfaction, product quality, etc. Instead of thinking someone else needs to clarify these things for you, turn it around and ask yourself what you can do to get clarification. Step up and take accountability.” 
  • Define your impact in ways that are memorable, meaningful and measurable. “It must be memorable, so you think about it daily and clear so it’s top of mind all the time. It must be meaningful to tie to your official purpose and your yearning for purpose and meaning. Otherwise you’ll be disengaged. And your impact must be measurable as it relates to your company’s key desired outcomes for the entire organization, such as zero complaints or zero defects. Applying these three things will make you unstoppable.”
  • Ask the right questions. “This will help you define your purpose. Ask, what’s the most important thing for me to focus on? Why are these outcomes so important? What do the company’s key objectives mean for me and my role? How can I contribute, have value, influence and impact what matters most to this organization? Any individual coming into an organization who has that mindset will be much more successful.” 
  • Don’t wait for things to get clearer and better. “Confusion shouldn’t ever be okay for you. If you’re confused, take accountability and go figure it out. Take ownership instead of finger pointing, blaming management or saying it’s not your job.” 
  • Stay focused when things become more complex. “The more complex things become, the easier it is to hide and feel you’re not relevant, so you don’t need to own it. But there’s no time for frustration or disengagement. Nor is this the time to wait for your manager to tell you want to do or show you how to develop yourself. Things are moving too quickly. Take ownership over what is in your own line of sight.” 
  • Ask, what else can I do to get the key results? “This is essential, especially when you encounter obstacles. It’s human tendency to step back when there’s a major setback. You have to see it, own it and be aligned with the key objectives enough to stay fully engaged even when obstacles come up.”
  • Be observant. “The individuals who see more, own more. And those who own more are able to solve more and are able to do more. Every organization on the planet is looking for individuals who demonstrate the ability to see it, own it, solve it and do it. The more you can broaden your view, even at entry level position, the more quickly you will rise. Just remember that you can’t deliver unless you’re constantly in solution mode, which means owning the circumstances including all the problems.” 

The authors acknowledge it’s easy to get buried in the details. “This is why we wrote “Propeller” and developed the Propeller app: to reinforce the simplicity. If you want to accelerate change, the only way to do it is to get the accountability right.” The Propeller app enables accountability to go high tech. “In this complex world where digital disruption is happening everywhere and the new watchwords are speed and agility, employees need to move faster, own more and deliver more. That’s why the Propeller app was designed: to operationalize “The Oz Principle”. To make it easy to implement and apply. To put it at your fingertips.” 

The Propeller app has intuitive tools rooted in See It, Own It, Solve It, Do It to inspire higher levels of personal engagement, ownership and accountability for results. “We chose the title Propeller for both the book and the app because it captures in one word what this model aims to create: accelerated movement in a needed direction,” concludes Smith. 

“Propeller: Accelerating Change by Getting Accountability Right” is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all major booksellers. To view more and download the Propeller app for free, go www.PartnersInLeadership.com/propeller. View the Propeller app demonstration video at www.propellerapp.com.

The Looming Threat to Retirement Security We’re Ignoring

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More than a decade into the longest-running bull market in history, there’s an uncomfortable truth most people would rather not face: historically, the longest bull markets “have ended with a bang, not a whimper,” Pamela says.

“The critical question is: How much does your retirement depend on the stock market, a beast that you can’t predict or control?” she asks in her new book, “Rescue Your Retirement: Five Wealth-Killing Traps of 401(k)s, IRAs and Roth Plans — and How to Avoid Them.” “If your funds are in a conventional retirement plan, the answer is usually ‘nearly 100 percent.”

  • The Wall Street casino: “We’ve been told again and again that to get our money to ‘work’ for us, to build a sizable nest egg and get a rate of return that will outpace inflation, we must invest in the stock market and be willing to accept its inherent risks.” Pamela explains why this is “a myth that Wall Street has brainwashed us to believe.
  • History of huge losses: “In the two market crashes we’ve had so far since 2000, many people lost 50 percent or more of their retirement funds. Most people don’t realize or remember how long it can take the stock market to recover after a crash,” Pamela says. “Since 1929 we’ve had three market crashes where the Dow took between 16 and 25 years to return to pre-crash levels.”
  • People underestimate or ignore risks: Pamela has surveyed thousands of people, and most say they would not risk their retirement funds in the stock market for a 5 percent return. Yet the 2019 DALBAR report finds the typical equity mutual fund investor has earned only 3.88 percent annually for the past 20 years, beating inflation for that period by only 1.7 percent a year. 

“So, if most people wouldn’t put up with the stomach-churning unpredictability of the stock market for an annual return of 5 percent, how come so many people are accepting a real annual return of less than 2 percent,” she asks.

Because of our society’s reliance on conventional retirement plans, many people don’t understand the critical difference between “saving” and “investing,” she says.

“Saving is what you do with money you can’t afford to lose, so you know for sure that the money will be there when you need it. Investing is what you can do with money you can afford to lose,” she explains. 

Which leads to a final uncomfortable truth we should be asking: “Is the money in your retirement accounts money you can afford to lose? Probably not.”

As a consultant to more than 40,000 financial advisors over more than 20 years, Pamela investigated more than 450 financial products and strategies. Her research led her to a little-known method that prudent, fiscally savvy Americans have used to secure their savings in every period of boom or bust for over 160 years. This specialized savings strategy is covered in her new book as well as her previous New York Times best-seller, “The Bank On Yourself Revolution: Fire Your Banker, Bypass Wall Street, and Take Control of Your Own Financial Future.”

Pamela feels strongly that Americans’ dreams of a secure retirement could turn into retirement nightmares, and knowledge is power, so for a limited time, she is offering complimentary free copies of her new book. These are available for a small shipping and handling fee at www.FreeRetirementPlanRescueBook.com

4 Ways to Share the Holidays with Your Pet

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The holiday season is filled with traditions, seasonal meals and festivities. With busy calendars, it can be easy to get caught up with a long to-do list when the true joy of the season is in creating meaningful memories with loved ones, including pets.

It can be easier than you think to share the season with your furry companions simply by incorporating them into your regular holiday activities. Consider these tips to include your pet this holiday and find more ways to indulge your pup at cesar.com.

Enjoy the Season with a Stroll
Many families brave winter weather to take in the holiday lights and decorations around their neighborhoods. Taking a stroll with family and friends can be a joy for not just you, but also your pup. Bundle up and soak in the season, and make sure your pet is ready to brave the weather with any necessary accessories.

Include Pets During Mealtime
Make mealtime special for you and your furry friend by mixing up his or her usual dinner routine. An option like CESAR® HOME DELIGHTS™ wet food with special flavors like pot roast and turkey offers a meal that your pup can enjoy just like the rest of the family.

Welcome Pets to Family Gatherings
Spend time bonding with the whole family by including your pet in a seasonal activity like a watching a holiday movie or decorating your tree. Snuggle under blankets, sip cocoa and offer your furry friend belly rubs on a cozy night in.

Check Your List Twice
Take a breather from thinking about hard-to-buy-for friends and family members and grab a gift for someone who loves everything. Pick up a treat or new toy to gift your pet when the family is opening presents. Keeping your pet engaged with a favorite toy or treat also offers focus during a time that can be overly exciting for your pet.

Photos courtesy of Adobe Stock

SOURCE:
Cesar

7 Ways to Protect Yourself From Medicare Fraud

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Medicare Lake Oconee

Every year, many seniors are targeted by scammers who want to steal their Medicare numbers to do things like rack up fake health care charges and commit identity theft. These scams hurt seniors and other people eligible for Medicare, cost taxpayers money, and result in higher health care costs for everyone. The good news is that you can protect yourself from fraud and help Medicare stop scammers in their tracks.

How to Spot Medicare Fraud

The first step in protecting yourself from Medicare fraud is knowing how to spot it. Over time, scammers have become very sophisticated and advanced. One of the latest scams you should look out for concerns genetic testing. Scammers are offering “free” genetic tests and claiming Medicare will cover it — so they can get your Medicare number and use it to commit fraud and identity theft. Other Medicare scams include offers for free or reduced-price medical equipment, consultations, or health services. These scams can happen anywhere, including through telemarketing calls, health fairs, and even knocking on doors.

Last year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) removed Social Security numbers from all Medicare cards. Even with this change, people with Medicare should still guard their Medicare card and treat it like a credit card, check Medicare claims summary forms for errors, and be wary of any unsolicited requests for your Medicare number. Medicare will never call beneficiaries to ask for or check Medicare numbers.

To protect yourself from Medicare fraud, keep these things to “do” and “don’t do” in mind:

  • DO protect your Medicare number and treat your Medicare card like it’s a credit card.
  • DO remember that nothing is ever “free.” Don’t accept offers of money or gifts for free medical care.
  • DO review your Medicare claims for errors and problems, including things like fake charges, double billing or other fraudulent activity, and waste or abuse.
  • DO visit www.medicare.gov/fraud to learn more about how you can protect yourself from Medicare fraud.
  • DON’T give your Medicare card or Medicare number to anyone except your doctor or people you know should have it.
  • DON’T accept medical supplies, equipment, or genetic testing kits from door-to-door salesmen or solicitors at a mall or fair.
  • DON’T let anyone persuade you to receive health care services you don’t need, such as genetic testing. Only make these decisions with your doctor.

Reporting Medicare Fraud

If you think you may have spotted fraud, you should report it right away. No matter how minimal the information you share is, it could be the missing piece to stopping the next fraud scheme. If you are a victim of fraud, know that you won’t be penalized or lose your coverage for reporting it. Even if you are not a victim, it’s important to report any fraud scams you encounter to Medicare. Report suspected fraud by calling 1-800-MEDICARE or online through the Office of the Inspector General.

Information provided by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

5 Things to Look for When Hiring a Financial Advisor

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Do you know how to go about finding and hiring the right financial planner for your individual or family needs?

Kathleen E. Owings, Principal and Financial Advisor for the Westbilt Financial Group has some key points on hiring a financial advisor.

In today’s day and age people spend more time on their devices checking out their social media feeds rather than thinking about their financial future and hiring a financial planner or adviser.

Most people stumble into relationships with financial professionals without a real plan for their engagement and do not research their options ahead of time. If you put some time and attention to the process, you will be much happier in the end—and hopefully have a long-lasting relationship with a financial professional that supports the goals for your financial future.

Here are 5 tips when looking for a financial professional:

  1. Ask family members and friends for referrals of financial planners or financial advisers that they are working with. Ask them questions like: How long have you been working with them? Why do you like working with them? 
  2. Check out the financial planners or advisers background and experience in the industry. Although it may be tempting to help out your best friend’s son who just started in the business, be sure to do your research about any professional you may hire to help you with your finances. Go to sites such as FINRA BrokerCheck or Advisors You Can Trust to look at their background and training. 
  3. Interview your prospective financial planner or advisor to learn about their process. Ask them how they make investment decisions and how you can expect to work with them in the future. This can be a long-term relationship, so make sure you feel comfortable with them. 
  4. If you are married, it’s important that both spouses meet with the financial planner or adviser. Ideally, you are making important financial decisions collectively as a couple. To that end, having a strong relationship with this professional should be a priority for everyone involved. 
  5. Ask the planner or adviser how they are paid. It is important to know how they are compensated. A financial planner may have a flat fee for the plan they create as opposed to others who may not charge a fee, but rather is compensated on the investments they manage.

Although it may seem like a daunting process to find the perfect financial professional, taking the time to do your homework is something that can pay off in the future–literarly!

Kathleen E. Owings was named one of the 4 Under 40 in 2018, a prestigious award given by the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors to only four young advisors in the country. Kathleen manages assets for individuals, families, and businesses to the highest standards of fiduciary duty.

Talking Turkey: 7 Tips for Discussing Your Elderly Parents’ Estate Plan During the Holidays

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Sometimes special occasions like Thanksgiving offer great opportunities to have heart-to-heart conversations with the people we care about.

Glenn R. Metecun, CELA, certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation offers some talking points on how one can engage in a thoughtful and crucial conversation with his or her elderly parents on estate planning:

Have the talk

Talking about your parents’ estate plan with them is not easy, but it is critical if you are to be able to carry out their wishes if they become incapacitated or after they are gone. And a great time to talk is when you are sitting around the house during the holidays.

Decide how to start the conversation

As opposed to opening a conversation by saying “Let’s talk about end-of-life planning,” try using stories or questions. For example, “Do you remember when grandma died and she didn’t have a Will? Have you started your planning yet?” Or: “John and I just met with an estate planning lawyer about our plan, have you done any planning yet?” Or even: “Mom, I need your help. Someday I might need to make financial or medical decisions for you, and I want to make sure I understand what you want.”

Be Patient 

This will be an ongoing conversation, so start slow and commit to following up on loose ends if you don’t cover all the topics at once (medical, financial, funeral, etc.)

Be Transparent With Other Family Members 

Try to include other family members (for example, all children) in the conversation so it seems less controlling.

Listen and Empathize

Don’t tell your parents what they should think or feel or do, just try to understand their wishes. This is a difficult conversation. No one looks forward to talking about death or dying, or about becoming incapacitated. Put yourself in their place and try to understand and share their feelings.

Research an attorney

Choose an attorney who focuses on estate planning and elder law. He or she can help facilitate the conversation and make sure all important topics are covered.

Don’t wait. 

Timing is critical, so have the conversation while your parents are still healthy. You can’t make a legal plan after a parent or parents no longer have capacity—at that time it’s too late.

Glenn R. Matecun is a Michigan estate planning and elder law attorney, helping families plan for life, resolve conflict, deal with loss, protect assets and preserve a lasting legacy. He has been an attorney for over 30 years and practices throughout the state of Michigan.

Dos and Don’ts for Family Gatherings

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With Thanksgiving and other holidays almost here, I have tips on how to make family gatherings into lifetime memories and avoid disaster from Dr. Ken Druck, a best-selling author and expert on family psychology. Contact me to speak with Dr. Druck and read on for details.

Tips for dealing with the changes, challenges, and opportunities of family gatherings

Dr. Druck’s new book, “Raising an Aging Parent: Guidelines for Families in the Second Half of Life,” is about how to foster an atmosphere of love, understanding, and peace in our families in the second half of life. Whether your family is facing new changes, old challenges, or fertile opportunities, here are some of Dr. Druck’s dos and don’ts for making the most of your time together while avoiding joy-robbing drama:

Dos:

  • Start thinking about your next family gathering by taking a deep breath. Some things have probably changed, and some things probably remain pretty much the same. Relax and focus on the opportunities at hand for family closeness, celebration, and love. 
  • Ask the host if there’s anything you can bring or do to help make the gathering wonderful and share some of the load.
  • Greet each family member with as kind, loving, and compassionate a heart as possible. 
  • Volunteer to do and/or bring something that invokes a sweet remembrance of a beloved family member who has passed — or welcomes a new member of the family. 
  • Make the decision to be pleasant and even-tempered. Do your best to forgive the pain of the past and make peace with your family by being as caring, respectful, honest, attentive, and encouraging as possible.
  • Clear the air of any hostility, blame, and/or guilt you may inadvertently and unknowingly bring into a family gathering. Make peace by leaving resentments, anger, hurt, grudges, and so on at the door.
  • Stay calm when someone says or does something insensitive, rude, or inappropriate and resist the temptation to jump into the fray. 
  • Visualize having a good time — if not a great one! —  with your family. Picture smiling faces and open hearts, including your own. And then, bring that attitude (and a nice house gift, yummy dish, or nice bottle of wine) with you.

Don’ts:

  • Don’t imagine the worst and build a negative emotional charge before a family gathering. 
  • Don’t use your family gathering as a stage for acting out old family rivalries, grudges, dramas, or differences.
  • Don’t talk shop. If some members of the family are in the family business, put business matters on hold for discussion at a later time in another setting. 
  • Don’t engage in small talk, reckless gossip, rumors, attacks, or harsh judgments about others.
  • Don’t succumb to the temptation to use hurtful humor, ridicule, teasing, or sarcasm.
  • Don’t be drawn into arguments or political discussions with family members who are trying to convince you that your position is incorrect or crazy.
  • Don’t arrive at a family gathering already intoxicated or completely exhausted. 
  • Don’t perpetuate dismissive and ageist beliefs, myths, stereotypes, and/or misconceptions about either older or younger members of your family. 
  • Don’t waste this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fortify your family with love, kindness, understanding, and humility. 

“Put these dos and don’ts into practice by being your best self, lightening your heart, leading with loving-kindness, disciplining your negative impulses, containing your knee-jerk defenses, defusing brewing arguments, exhibiting patience and compassion, and imagining all the good things that are going to come out of this family gathering,” Dr. Druck says.

About: Dr. Ken Druck is an international authority on healthy aging, family business coach and consultant and author of the new book “Raising an Aging Parent.” He has spent four decades helping individuals, families, organizations and communities grow into the more courageous, compassionate, and resilient version of themselves by transforming adversities and losses of every kind into opportunities. Featured regularly in national and international news, including CNN, PBS, Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, Dr. Druck has shaped our worldview of what it means to live honorably, courageously, purposefully, and fully. Learn more at  www.KenDruck.com.

Time Counts: Caregivers Give Advice, Encourage Gift of Time for Enjoying the Holidays

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Earlier this month, actor/caregiver Sean Hayes (Will & Grace) posted a video encouraging people to consider giving the gift of time this year to the caregivers in our lives. Sean’s hope is that with just a little extra time, caregivers can consider their own self-care this year. 

That’s the idea behind a global initiative of EMD Serono called Time Counts.

For many Americans, the winter holidays are a welcome chance to visit family and friends and celebrate together. But for caregivers who provide assisted personal care to their sick or disabled parents, children, spouses, or other family members, the holidays often come with a different set of scheduling and communication challenges.

In a 2015 AARP study, it was reported that an estimated 43.5 million adults in the United States had provided unpaid care to an adult or a child in the prior 12 months.[1] Caregivers spend an average of 24 hours per week providing unpaid family care, and 23% of caregivers invest over 40 hours of care each week.[2] That’s the equivalent of a full-time job — and it’s not one that comes with vacation time, even during the holidays.

“While most people get to enjoy some much-needed time off during the holidays, caregivers tend to be the exception,” says Scott Williams, VP & Head of Global Patient Advocacy and Strategic Partnerships at EMD Serono. “Not only do many caregivers continue their regular caregiving schedules without a break during the holidays, but they often end up managing stressful disruptions. Complications like travel, winter weather, holiday hours at medical centers and pharmacies, and social visits from friends and family can all combine to cause a caregiver to feel even more time-strapped and stressed out than usual.”

To help manage the stress of caregiving during the holidays, caregivers from within the Embracing CarersTM network offer the following suggestions:

●      Plan ahead. Find out whether any of the medical, transit, or support services that you and your cared-for person rely on will be disrupted by holiday hours. The earlier you can identify a potential scheduling challenge, the more time you have to find an alternative solution.

●      Prepare for delays and disruptions. Crowded airports, highway traffic jams, and frigid snowstorms don’t take the needs of the people they affect into account. Think ahead to any ways that your loved one’s care could be negatively impacted if their routine was disrupted by a few hours—or a few days—and plan accordingly.

●      Enlist extra help. The upside to everyone else having more free time during the holidays is that there may be more caregiving help available than usual. Reach out to friends and family to see who may be able to lend a hand by helping you with certain tasks, or spending time with your loved one while you run holiday errands.

●      Clearly communicate your rules and expectations for visitors. Friends and family who drop in for a visit rarely understand all the nuances and complexities of caregiving. To avoid any miscommunication or presumptions, politely but clearly inform them of any “house rules” that affect the caregiving process. For example, if your loved one requires assisted medical care at specific times of day, you may want to inform all potential visitors that those times are strictly off-limits well before they stop by.

●      Be comfortable saying “no.” Caregivers run a high risk of holiday burnout when they try to juggle too many responsibilities at once. If you know you’ll feel run-down by accepting one more holiday invitation, or by rearranging your loved one’s schedule to accommodate a visitor, it’s okay to defend your own wellbeing by saying “no.”

●      Make time for self-care. The holidays are a time for togetherness, but every caregiver needs their own personal time to rest and recharge. Make sure you set aside some time for yourself each day to relax, reflect, and recharge, so you can be at your best for the people who rely on you each day.

For more information and resources for caregivers, including the Time Counts campaign from Embracing CarersTM that is helping to generate 1 million minutes of extra time for caregivers around the world, please visit https://www.embracingcarers.com/

Through its Embracing Carers program, EMD Serono will continue to share data and insights about the challenges of caregiving and offer solutions to help caregivers balance their needs at work, at home, and in service of their loved ones.

About Embracing Carers™: Embracing Carers™ is a global initiative founded by Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, which operates its biopharmaceutical business in the U.S. as EMD Serono, MilliporeSigma and EMD Performance Materials, in collaboration with leading caregiver organizations around the world, designed to increase awareness, discussion, and action about the often-overlooked needs of caregivers. Given that caregivers need support and often do not know where to turn for help, Embracing CarersTM was created to fill that void. www.embracingcarers.com

About EMD Serono: EMD Serono – the biopharmaceutical business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, in the U.S. and Canada – is engaged in the discovery, research and development of medicines for patients with difficult to treat diseases. The business is committed to transforming lives by developing and delivering meaningful solutions that help address the therapeutic and support needs of individual patients. Building on a proven legacy and deep expertise in neurology, fertility and endocrinology, EMD Serono is developing potential new oncology and immuno-oncology medicines while continuing to explore potential therapeutic options for diseases such as psoriasis, lupus and multiple sclerosis. Today, the business has approximately 1,500 employees around the country with commercial, clinical and research operations based in the company’s home state of Massachusetts. www.emdserono.com

8 Tips to Smart Holiday Shopping and Not Going Into Debt

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Holiday Shopping Avoid Debt

Next week is Black Friday and the official start to the 2019 holiday shopping season. Consumers are expected to spend almost $1,048 on average per person this year, according to the National Retail Federation, up 4% from last year. How can you be a smart shopper and avoid breaking the bank?

Steve Siebold is author of the book “How Money Works,” and a self-made millionaire who has interviewed more than 1,300 of the world’s wealthiest people over the last 35 years. 

His advice:

Leave your emotions on the shelf

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the spirit of the season, but when it comes to buying gifts this year, leave your emotions on the shelf and let reason be your guide. This is when you must start using logical thinking in the decision-making process. While your spouse might really like that $1,000 necklace, is that really the smartest move if you don’t have the money?

Plan ahead

Make a list and check it twice. Before you head to the store, make a list of each person you need to buy for, and allocate a certain amount of money for each of them. Don’t overspend by even a dollar. This is important because if you start overspending by five dollars here and 10 dollars there, it adds up quickly and you can easily go into debt. 

Be honest

The last thing your friends and family want is to see you go into debt, or further into debt. Remember, there’s no shame in telling people that this year will be a lean holiday season when it comes to exchanging gifts. People will appreciate your honesty and attention to your finances. 

Don’t get caught up in the moment

If your shopping cart is overflowing, step back, regroup and make sure you can really afford everything you plan to purchase. While there are some good deals to be had, don’t fall for marketing campaigns that make you feel as if you’re getting a great deal when you’re really not (i.e. buy it today – pay for it tomorrow). The key is to be mentally tough to know when enough is enough. 

Don’t pull out the plastic

Don’t even think of using a credit card unless you are 100% sure you can comfortably pay it off at the end of the month. The last thing anyone needs is to get hit with high interest rates and a blemish on their credit score. Ask yourself this critical thinking question: Would I rather have the short-term satisfaction of expensive material possessions, or the long-term results of financial freedom and abundance?

Learn from the past

Did you overspend last holiday season or some other year in the past? Remember how it set you back financially? Remember how bad it felt when you opened up your credit card statement and realized you couldn’t pay it all? Revisit that pain and how miserable you felt before you start shopping this holiday season.  

Limit charitable giving

Yes, you read that right. Giving a little pocket change to support the homeless this holiday season is one thing. But until you’re financially comfortable yourself, you can’t give what you don’t have. While it’s certainly commendable that you want to help others, those who try and support every cause known to man but can’t afford to are doing more harm than good.

Make it a teaching moment

Your kids are watching your every move, so play it smart and use the holidays as an opportunity to teach kids how money works.Even parents who have failed to reach their financial dreams can still teach their kids important lessons about money during the holiday season.  

For more information, visit http://howmoneyworks.com/.