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How the Pandemic Affects the Elderly

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How the Pandemic Affects the Elderly

Throughout the current coronavirus pandemic, certain concepts cement themselves in the public consciousness. Many can recite the physical distancing guidelines—stay six feet apart, wash hands routinely, remain inside—without hesitating. There also is an acute understanding that the elderly suffer much higher mortality rates than younger people who get sick. In addition to this higher mortality rate, there are also social and societal consequences to this pandemic. To learn more about how the pandemic affects the elderly, read on.

Health Risks

The most immediate aspect is how the coronavirus affects seniors’ health. While it’s true that nothing directly ties high mortality to being older, elderly individuals are more likely to experience one of many chronic conditions that increase mortality rates among those infected. Some examples of these conditions include diabetes, heart problems, chronic lung disease, and more. Some attribute this higher death rate to an overall decline in the immune system (often hastened by existing conditions). Thankfully, there are plenty of ways for businesses to help the elderly during the pandemic, meaning there are ways seniors can get what they need without undue risk of contracting the virus.

Isolation

The pandemic also affects the elderly by increasing their sense of isolation. Seniors with small social circles because of their lack of mobility or another factor continue to reckon with further isolation as they practice physical distancing. Also, their unfamiliarity with technological means of staying connected either means they lose touch or experience less satisfaction connecting through their phone or computer than a younger person.

Their isolation may also feel more intense because of its forced nature—their fear of leaving their home doesn’t allow them to be comfortable as they remain inside. It’s as if a threat lies just outside their door, which scares many seniors as they take precautions; the dissonance of wanting to see friends and families yet fearing for their health overwhelms them.

Ageism

Furthermore, the already present phenomenon of ageism affects seniors throughout this pandemic. Ageism is discrimination based on age and manifests in citizens’ disregard for seniors’ well-being when deciding how to handle the pandemic on a broad scale because they have fewer years to live. Some people advocate for states’ reopening because they discount the value of seniors’ lives who die from COVID-19, implicitly or explicitly indicating that younger people with longer to live should be able to return to their jobs.

A recent study assessed the content of 351 tweets regarding the elderly population and coronavirus, finding one-quarter contained derogatory comments toward the elderly. Seniors suffer from exposure to this hostile and dismissive culture online and elsewhere, compounding other coronavirus-related consequences.

5 Coronavirus Stimulus Check Scams and How to Avoid Them

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scam artists alerts in Lake Oconee

The distribution of $1,200 stimulus checks to Americans has given rise to unprecedented online scams.

The FTC has thus far received 18,235 reports of fraud costing victims $13.44 million; Google reported it is blocking 18 million scam emails every single day; and  150,000 fraudulent stimulus check sites have already launched.

SocialCatfish.com today released a report today on 5 Stimulus Check Online Scams to Avoid based on information from the FTC, FBI and IRS during the Coronavirus pandemic.

ROBOCALL CHECK SCAMS

The scammer will call pretending to be the IRS and ask for your personal financial information. They will claim they need this to deposit the stimulus check into your account and will also ask for a fee to deposit said check. In reality, they want your information so that they can pretend to be you, claim the check for themselves. They can also drain your bank account of your funds with this information and will keep the fee for themselves with no check, in return.

How to Avoid: Do not give out any personal information. The government already has your information on file from when you filed your taxes. The stimulus check will either be automatically deposited into your account or you will get it mailed to your house.

EMAIL AND TEXT SCAMS

Scammers will pretend to be the IRS or federal government by emailing or texting you a link to click to receive your check. If you click on the link your electronic device will get plagued with malware and your information gets stolen.

How to Avoid: Do not click on any links that are emailed or texted to you.  Again, the government already has your information and checks are either directly deposited or mailed. 

IDENTITY THEFT SCAMS

If you have not received your stimulus check yet and the official IRS website says otherwise, it could be possible that you are a victim of identity theft. This means that a scammer has found a way to steal your information, like your SSN, and has claimed your stimulus check for themselves.

How to Avoid: If you believe to have been a victim of this kind of fraud, you can report it here.

GOOGLE SEARCH SCAM

Scammers have created copies of the official IRS “Get My Payment” site and have updated their search engine terms so that people conducting google searches for information find these fake sites. Once a person finds their site, they think it is the official IRS website and will enter their information.

How to Avoid: Do not go on any website to get your stimulus check unless it is an official .gov or .ca site and beware of being redirected to a website from a non-reputable news source. 

THIRD-PARTY STIMULUS CHECK SCAMS

Scammers have come up with their own stimulus check programs claiming that they can give you additional money along with the government. They will send you letters in the mail, put pamphlets on your car, or send you an email or social media message trying to advertise their program. This happened to a man in Florida who claimed to have gotten an official-looking check of $3,000 mailed to him with a letter. Another example of this is a Costco relief program, claiming to help with groceries and money during this time.

How to Avoid: Only believe in the stimulus check programs announced by the government reported by reputable news outlets. If you cannot find it reported by reputable news outlets, it is s scam. 

If you encounter a coronavirus scam, contact local law enforcement or file a complaint with the FTC. For more information on how to get your stimulus check and if you are eligible, visit the legit IRS website 

Reinventing Yourself: Who Will You Be Post COVID-19?

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By Kimberlee Davis

There is no shortage of lessons to be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the economic and health adjustments we are all scrambling to make, a deluge of new challenges that have yet to be considered still looms around the corner.  

As we navigate our way through these rough waters of financial hardships, stress and anxiety, let’s make sure to maintain our sense of control and handle the problems that we are empowered to solve. The best way to do this is by reevaluating our finances, focusing on our long-term goals, and reflecting inward on our own identity.

From a corporate securities lawyer and an investment banker to an entrepreneur and stay-at-home mom, I’ve reinvented myself many times over. Some changes were for the better, others not so much. I’ve found that the key to making solid transitions is to start them in a quiet place like the unique setting of the quarantine.  

With mouths to feed, bills to pay and immune systems to protect, taking stock on the bigger picture might seem like a low priority at the moment, but it really shouldn’t be. Ultimately, who we choose to be – either in business, in wealth, in family or just plain spiritually – will determine our paths forward out of this crisis. Amid the chaos and loss of control, our own sense of self is one of the few things we can control. Plus, sheltering in place gives us a unique opportunity to do some personal observation, self-reflection, introspection, and evaluation because we’re not losing time in the dash to in-person meetings and child soccer practices. 

The first question that a lot of us get stuck on is: where do we start? Having gone through several personal and professional re-inventions, myself, I have found great value in beginning with a deep exploration into my hierarchy of values. This consists of the following important questions:

  • What’s important to my emotional development as a person?
  • What’s important to my economic goals?
  • What’s important to my interpersonal relations and social/ethical perspective?

All three are equally important and must be looked at holistically and practically. We can stand back and look at our lives as they were pre-coronavirus, and examine if we were happy and if our finances survived. In our society we seem to be perpetually busy and for many of us, this outbreak has been a hard stop, forcing us to spend time with our loved ones, get comfortable being alone and taking a moment to think about the things that really matter.

Using this time to think about how your financial situation held up, ask yourself what areas can be improved upon. Did you have enough in your savings to cover a couple months of bills if you were to get furloughed from your job? Did you notice how much less money you were spending on frivolous things like your morning coffee? Taking this time to reflect and thoroughly comb through your spending habits and fiscal well-being will help you plan for the future and give you the knowledge and tools you need to make better choices after this is all over.

Having more idle time also allows us to enjoy ordinary activities such as reading, yoga, exercise, painting, listening to music, cooking and reconnecting with our interests. Instead of succumbing to the pressure and uncertainty, embrace the stillness and relearn how to be thoughtful.

Just because the pandemic is tragic – and, of course, it certainly is – does not mean that it is not also a great chance to spend more time together, talk without rushing and determine how we can continue this in a post-coronavirus environment. There may be wonderful recalibrations to consider which never would have been possible during the rat race of the so-called “normal” life we used to know.

We should all examine the strengths of our relationships and family to gauge how we are surviving as a wife, mother, friend and/or businesswoman. In this state of quiet, what do we value and how do we prioritize it amongst all the other noise?

While contemplating that answer, it is important not to undervalue your career goals. Often, women will assume financial freedom and professional ambition are lower priorities because of societal pressures. However, though we are free to choose other values as higher priorities, that does not mean that we have to.

To adjust your career path, take this opportunity to learn new skills and pursue interests that have been on the back burner. The internet is full of how-to videos and video-networking/coaching platforms that are just a click or swipe away. Use it as a tool for reinvention – not just a vehicle for killing time as we wait for the economy to reopen. Set specific and achievable financial goals taking one step at a time so as not to get overwhelmed and give up on your strategy in frustration. 

Personally, I am rethinking my daily schedule from pre-coronavirus times. I have been taking a four- to five-mile walk at least four times a week, and I am committed to continuing that after we resume our new-normal lives. I am going to make exercise a non-negotiable priority.  It clears my mind and gives me a positive attitude. 

It is so important that you have good nutrition, get regular sleep, have regular physical exercise, have some down time, nurture your spirit and have some fun with the positive people in your life. Intentional self-care will reap many benefits, and it will increase your energy and sharpen your financial focus.

We all should be looking at our lives as a whole and reflecting on what changes we can be making to provide for a better tomorrow. In all our busyness, it’s too easy to lose track of what is really important. The excuse, “I don’t have time,” is no longer an option. For me it’s health, free time to pursue my interests and family. What is important to you?

About Kimberlee Davis: Host of The Fiscal Feminist, a podcast and platform about women and their relationship with money and finances. Her mission is to help all women of all ages and wealth levels embrace their responsibility to themselves to achieve solid financial footing in both calm and turbulent times. Kimberlee Davis has more than 25 years of finance, legal and corporate experience, her career has included being a corporate securities lawyer, investment banker, and Chief Financial Officer. Currently, she is Managing Director and Partner at The Bahnsen Group, a private wealth management firm. 

How to Start Taking CBD Oil

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cannabis oil


By Alex Malkin

If you’ve decided you wanted to start taking CBD oil, you will more than likely have a lot of questions. How much should you take? How should you take it? What is the right dose?

There is an overwhelming amount of CBD products on the market, and picking the right one can seem daunting and challenging. Thus, when it comes to CBD for beginners, you might consider following some of the tips listed below.

How to Choose the Right CBD Brand and Product

Since the CBD market is so lucrative, many companies pop up overnight to get their slice of the pie. This can make it even more confusing to know which CBD product is the best one to take.

CBD is not regulated by the FDA, so there aren’t any rules or regulations when it comes to developing CBD products and knowing which ones are safe and which ones aren’t. This can make choosing the right CBD products even more difficult.

To ensure you are getting the best CBD oil for your body, you only want to work with trustworthy, reputable companies. They may not be regulated by the FDA, but they have developed their own set of rules and standards, and they only offer the best products to their customers.

You can tell a CBD manufacturer is trustworthy because:

1. They will have been around for a while.
2. They will have their products tested by a third-party lab, and they will make the results available to customers.
3. They only use all-natural ingredients.
4. Other customers will speak highly of them.

These are the traits you need to look for when it comes to choosing the right CBD brand and product.

How to Dose CBD for Beginners

After you have found a reputable company to buy CBD products from, you then need to determine with the right CBD dosage is.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to give a specific number of what you should take because CBD impacts everyone differently. The only way to find the right dosage is to experiment. After picking the type of CBD product you want to take (tinctures, capsules, gummies, vape juice, etc.), you’ll then start with the lowest dose. You’ll want to document how it makes you feel, and then slowly increase the dose until you get the desired effect.

As a beginner, you’ll want to stay away from high potency CBD oil products until you know how it will impact you. Again, no matter what CBD product you choose, start with the lowest dose and build up from there.

How to Choose CBD Strength and Spectrum

CBD comes in different strengths and potencies, and this can impact how it makes you feel. Here are the different spectrums that CBD comes in.

Full Spectrum CBD

This product includes all components that are found in the hemp plant, including a small percentage of THC (the compound that gives you a high feeling). For example, Lazarus Naturals full spectrum tinctures contain hemp-seed and fractionated coconut oils in addition to hemp extracts.

Broad Spectrum CBD

This CBD oil still contains a large number of components that are naturally found in the hemp plant, but it has been processed to remove the THC. To be legally compliant, CBD oil by Hemp Bombs is sourced from the stalks of low-THC industrial Hemp.

CBD Isolate

CBD isolates have been processed to remove all of the naturally occurring components found in the hemp plant so that only the CBD remains. This is not an oil, rather it’s a crystal that is 99% pure.

Knowing which option is right for you will depend on what you need the CBD to do. Many believe that the CBD needs to contain the other cannabinoids, including THC, to effectively and efficiently bind with your endocannabinoid system and have a positive impact on your health.

Again, everyone is different. Thus, when it comes to finding which strength and spectrum are right for you, it will require some experimentation.

Finding the Right CBD

If you are trying to choose the right CBD, you will have to experiment and find the strength and product that works for you. There is no one-size-fits-all CBD product. Finding the right product and dose may take some time, but the end results are worth it.

https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/35f01cbc9956630ce2aac40b5bc3c6ac?s=500&d=identicon&r=g

Alex Malkin is CBD-enthusiast, researcher, and co-founder of CBD.market, a trading platform for CBD products and educating. 

Alex is the author of the book “CBD: A Door to Better Health” and certified Nutrition and Wellness specialist. 

7 Emotional Pivots to Make as The World Re-Opens

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As the world slowly starts to reopen and there is a glimmer of hope of normal, even if it is still down the road, picking yourself up and getting back in the game isn’t always easy. What can you do right now?

Dr. Alok Trivedi is a health and human behavior expert who is founder of the Aligned Performance Institute and author of the book ‘Chasing Success.’ 

He says 7 pivots that we can all focus on right now:

–        Pick yourself up: The world is reopening and so must you. During quarantine, it’s easy to feel isolated, depressed and even sorry for yourself, but it’s time to pickup the pieces. Start slow to avoid overwhelming yourself. Reconnect with friends, colleagues and extended family you haven’t talked with recently. Get outside into the fresh air. Look ahead to the future and get excited with what you have coming up.  

–        Boost your mental focus: It’s time to let go of the negativity and COVID gossip and start focusing on more positive things. Take a close look and work on things like your energy, passion, zest for life, the language you use, your attitude and thoughts. It’s not as easy as snapping your fingers, but getting these things revved up and in alignment will make you feel a lot better and get you back in the game again. 

–        Slowly incorporate your old routine: Depending on the local health guidelines where you live, focus on slowly reincorporating part of your old routine into your current life. Maybe that means safely start going to the grocery store, spending a few hours in the office, sitting on the driveway with friends or whatever it is that makes up your day. Always put safety first, of course, but little by little the more you do the more normal you’ll begin to feel. 

–        Make it fun: We’ve all been through a lot and taken an emotional beating the last few months. One of the best ways to recover is by incorporating more fun into your life. This is one of the biggest elements that has been lacking for most of us lately. Whatever your definition of fun is, put a focus on it as you begin to adjust to life again. Your mental health and well-being will thank you. 

–        Put a focus on healthy relationships: Humans are social creatures who need interaction with one another. As you begin to have more person-to-person interaction, make sure you’re keeping healthy relationships. If a relationship – whether a business colleague, personal friend or of the romantic kind – isn’t healthy, supportive and mutually beneficial, that’s not going to help your emotional health as you start to return to normal life. 

–        Lend a hand: When you help others, you also help yourself. It’s a natural pick-me-up and one of the best things you can do for your emotional health. How can you assist your friends and neighbors? Does a colleague need help with a project? Can you giveback to first responders? It doesn’t have to be much, but lending even a small hand can make a big difference in how you feel. 

–        Get help if you need it: If all else fails and you still aren’t feeling like yourself, get professional help. There is nothing to be embarrassed about. Often times, things don’t get better if you let them sit and fester. They only get worse. Get help and start feeling better.

How Fido and Fluffy Improve Your Health

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By Teri Dreher, RN, CCM, Board Certified Patient Advocate

My family recently added a new member: Wilby, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy. In just a few months, this little guy hasn’t just brought us joy, laughter and love—he’s also brought us some surprising health benefits! 

Recent research indicates that pet ownership is good for our health in multiple ways. So, if you’re thinking about adopting a cat, or your kids are begging you for a dog, consider these seven health benefits of pet ownership. 

Pets Lower Blood Pressure and Cholesterol

According to numerous medical studies (and even the Centers for Disease Control), spending time with pets reduces cardiovascular risk by lowering blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides. Pets are literally good for our hearts. 

Pets Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Hanging out with pets is proven to reduce cortisol, the so-called stress hormone, while increasing serotonin and dopamine, brain chemicals that increase our sense of well-being.  According to a University of California study, pets soothe Alzheimer’s patients to the point of reducing aggressive behavior.

Dogs Improve Our Fitness Levels

According to a recent British study, dog owners walk 22 minutes more a day than non-owners—and regular walking lowers risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and more. I believe it: no matter how busy my schedule, I am now taking daily dog walks with Wilby. 

Dogs Improve Our Social Lives

Studies show that dog owners are much more likely to know their neighbors than non-owners—and they’re natural ice-breakers in social situations like at parks and in pet stores. In one survey, roughly 50% of dog owners said they made new friends as a result of their dog.

Pets Encourage Work/Life Balance 

Since Wilby came into my life, I’m much more selective about which speaking engagements I’m willing to travel for. Many Americans work too much, but pets can inspire us to recalibrate our priorities. When I take Wilby to my downtown office, he immediately lifts company morale.

Pets Can Help Kids Avoid Allergies

It may seem counterintuitive, but early exposure to cats and dogs appears to prevent young children from developing allergies and asthma, according to the National Institutes of Health. In one study, babies raised with at least two dogs or cats were found to be 77% less likely to develop allergies at age 6 than kids raised without pets.

Pets Make Us Happy—and Happy People May Live Longer

It’s harder to be depressed in the face of unconditional love and companionship. Recent studies suggest that an optimistic attitude leads to all kinds of health benefits, from a lower risk of heart disease to greater longevity. Even when Wilby is naughty, he makes us smile…who knew that when he runs off with our slippers, he’s really protecting our health?   

Of course, having a pet means practicing good hygiene, such as frequent handwashing, pet bathing, floor cleaning, etc. It also means supervising pets closely around children and teaching kids how to behave around pets. And of course, not everyone is an animal lover. But for those who are, pet ownership is beyond enjoyable—it’s also good for your health. 

Teri Dreher, RN, CCM, is a Board Certified Patient Advocate (BCPA). A critical care nurse for more than 30 years, today she is owner and founder of NShore Patient Advocates, the largest advocacy agency in the Chicago area. She recently founded Seniors Alone Guardianship & Advocacy Services, a not-for-profit organization that serves Chicago’s “senior orphans.” She has won numerous industry awards and is author of “Patient Advocacy Matters.” For more information about Teri’s work, visit NorthShoreRN.com or SeniorsAlone.org.

Factors That Go Into an Estate Appraisal

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Factors That Go Into an Estate Appraisal

Everybody buys a home in the hopes that they’ll turn a profit when they sell in the future. As you continue aging, you may be approaching that time to sell, or you’re getting an idea of what your home is worth. The first step is to hire an appraiser; they’ll inspect your home. Continue reading to learn some of the factors that go into an estate appraisal.

Your location

Appraisers will pay close attention to your location. Your location will also determine your home’s value based on several factors like crime rates, schools in the area, walkability, city maintenance, and more. Also, consider the roads in your area, since they can have a significant impact on your home’s value. Both the condition and location of the roads can impact your appraisal. If your home was the only structure in the vicinity when you bought the home, but now there’s a main road in your front yard, your appraisal could take a hit.

Your home’s structure and age

Anyone looking to purchase a home wants to know their new home will last. Not to mention, they want to know the structure and foundation are in good shape. So, it’s only fair that appraisers factor in your home’s structural reliability and age when appraising the home. Now, that’s not to say that the home your father built in the 40s with his bare hands isn’t worth much. Every estate appraisal is different—how you maintained the home is also a factor.

Number of bedrooms and bathrooms

It’s unlikely that just one individual is buying your home. Your buyers will likely be young families or established adults––potentially empty nesters. That said, many of your potential buyers will have families, so the number of bedrooms and bathrooms will matter a lot to them. However, the number will also matter to your appraiser; it’s safe to assume that fewer bedrooms and bathrooms typically means a lower valuation.

Home renovations

When you first bought or built the home, you probably went into homeownership expecting to make the home your own. Maybe you renovated the kitchen, added on to the home, installed new siding or roofing, or added bathroom upgrades. That said, everyone naturally wants to know how much their home is worth after their renovations. Unfortunately, there’s not a clear-cut answer since, ultimately, every home appraisal is different.

So many factors go into an estate appraisal; it’s natural that you’ll have a lot of questions. That’s why it’s so important to hire a professional estate appraiser with experience. They can answer your questions and provide a realistic appraisal of your home that considers current market conditions and demands. Call an appraiser today to begin the process.

6 Ways to Save On The Cost of Moving

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Everyone wants to save money wherever they can, especially during the expensive process of moving.  Reaching out with some top tips from Ross Sapir, Founder and President of Roadway Moving, one of NYC’s top rated moving companies, on how to save on the cost of moving.

Move during offseason:

  • Save money by scheduling your move between September and May, when rates tend to be lowest. Usually weekend moves have a higher price tag as well.
  • Companies like Roadway Moving will make sure that there are enough workers and trucks to ensure they can help as many clients as possible during busy and offseason.

Get multiple estimates:

  • Each moving company will most likely offer different prices for their services so it’s important to get at least three bids from different companies and compare each ones price.
  • Take the companies reputations into consideration too, as well as their availability and responsiveness to your needs. Trust companies that have excellent ratings on Yelp and Angie’s List.

Weed out the junk:

  • Moving companies base their fees on factors such as cargo weight and the number of vehicles provided, making an upcoming move the perfect time to get rid of unused items ultimately lightening the cost of the move.
  • You can even make a few extra dollars by selling some of these items.

Find free boxes:

  • Save money by holding on to any large boxes from everyday purchases as well as stopping by local businesses, like liquor stores, drugstores, grocery stores and offices asking them for their extra boxes.

Take a DIY approach to packing:

  • Pack up your own boxes so the movers don’t have to. By wrapping belongings in thick towels, blankets, sheets, comforters and old newspapers can eliminate the need to purchase bubble wrap and plastic foam packing peanuts.

Let someone else drive:

  • For anyone looking to save money, but doesn’t feel comfortable driving the moving truck themselves, look for a moving company that will provide transportation only.

4 Ways to Keep Your Mind Sharp Right Now

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Like our bodies, as we age it is important to keep our minds as healthy as can be. Carol Barkes, a conflict resolution expert, mediator, national speaker, educator and bestselling author, has some actionable science-based suggestions that can accomplish this and help slow down the aging process in the brain:

1) Sleep well. 

When we sleep, our brains do two things—cleanse from the toxic chemicals built-up during the day and consolidate information (both new and old). This is the reason we often wake up with answers to problems we have been having. When we sleep, our brains get an opportunity to become more creative because we are not using it as much. It is then free to search for old information to apply to new problems. This time to resolve problems reduces our stress and improves our overall health.

2)  Our brains love novelty. 

New things help our brains grow and stay strong. For this to occur, we need to expose our brains to new experiences. This is not the same thing as doing a new puzzle on a different day if you routinely do puzzles. The act of doing a puzzle in itself won’t be of value to brain health unless you don’t typically do puzzles. The trick is to do something new and different. While this can also be scary, it is exhilarating to our brain.

3)  Exercise AND yawn. 

Our brains need a lot of oxygen to thrive. Ancestrally, women were estimated to walk 10–12 miles a day so our brains developed in an oxygen-rich environment. Consequently, our brains still appreciate and thrive with a lot of oxygen. Get outside, exercise in whatever capacity you can, and if you cannot exercise much, try yawning. Yawning gets oxygen to our brain quickly and 3–5 fake yawns will make us authentically yawn. It is a wonderfully easy way to fuel your noggin.

4)  Reduce negativity in your life. 

Watch less news. If you are insistent on knowing what is going on, read the news instead of watch it. Our brains have difficulty distinguishing from what we are watching and what we are experiencing. Also, remember gratitude and actively search for ways to be grateful. If you are a worrier, create what neuroscience expert Mark Waldman calls a C.R.A.P. board (Conflicts, Resistances, Anxieties, Procrastination) of things you worry about. Specifically, write those things down. Just the simple mindful act of briefly writing down what we worry about, will help our brains relax by knowing you have the worries acknowledged.

Carol Barkes, CPM, is a trend-setting mediator, business executive and educator specializing in the use of neuroscience to improve business performance, interpersonal communications, negotiation and conflict resolution processes for optimally successful results. She is also a speaker, educator, and author of the bestselling book: Success Breakthroughs: Leading Entrepreneurs and Professionals Reveal Their Secrets for Breaking Through to Success.

Must-Know Money Strategies During COVID-19

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Are you working, but don’t have any money in the bank?  Or maybe worse, you are not working at all. . . 

What are little known secrets about money that can change your life?

Harry J. Abrahamsen is Founder & CEO Abrahamsen Financial Group. His company offers customized wealth management solutions—creating plans and portfolios that protect, preserve, and grow client’s wealth. He was selected as one of the ten most dependable Wealth Managers in the Mid-Atlantic as published in Forbes magazine. 

He offers some tips below.

IF YOU ARE WORKING

STOP all contributions into your retirement account.  You will be able to relocate these contributions into a saving account to build some short term liquidity.  Even if you have a match, temporarily stop all contributions until you build a short term cushion.

If you are currently working and have a 401 (k), look into doing a “in service withdrawal.”  Many times people are unaware that they can do something like this while they are still employed. You will want to make sure that you transfer the money directly into an IRA to avoid any unnecessary taxes.  This is considered a Trustee to Trustee transfer.  Once this transfer happens, you will now be able to “unlock” various money strategies.

  1. You will have many different investment options that were not available in your current 401 (k) or retirement plan.  One idea is a fixed index annuity, which will guarantee any money invested.  The idea here is to not to lock in your losses, but to re-allocate these dollars, ride the market up and prevent loss from ever happening again.
  2. You will be able to implement a 72 (t) distribution, which can be calculated as a periodic and equal installments based on your life expectancy.  There are 3 different ways to calculate this strategy, but I like the equal installments.  These distributions will be taxable income to you with NO 10% early tax penalty, but now you just created  an additional income stream that can be saved toward alternative savings and investments.  These distributions should be SAVED into an account to build short term liquidity.  This can potentially benefit you in the long run with any increase in income tax rates.

If you receive a Federal Tax Refund, you can contact the human resource department where you work and increase your exemptions on your Federal withholdings W-4.  You can go as high as 99, but I would suggest staying under 10 to prevent any unnecessary paperwork. A tax refund is simply an interest free loan to the government and may not be available to you when needed.  It may fluctuate year after year due to tax laws changes and business conditions and with good planning this refund is a potential source of cash inflow which can be saved and utilized as a “cushion”.

IF YOU ARE OUT OF WORK

Roll all old 401 (k)’s into an IRA, so you can implement a 72 (t) distribution.  There are several benefits to doing something like this.

  1. This will create an additional income stream while you are out of work.  This income stream is taxable income, but there is NO 10% early tax penalty on this money.  This money can be used to pay your mortgage or put food on your table.
  2. Your annual income will be lower this year and this income can potentially be taxed at a lower rate.
  3. Once you find employment, you will then be able to re-allocate this money into a saving account to build a safety net for any short-term liquidity needs.
  4. You could use this additional income steam to pay the mortgage on a beach house.

If you have an annuity, you can implement a 72 (q) strategy, this is similar to a 72 (t).  The only difference is the money is coming out of an annuity vs. an IRA.  Again this money can be used to pay your mortgage or put food on your table.

Borrow money from an insurance company if you own a “whole life insurance policy.” You will be able to access 100% of your cash values to cover any unexpected expenses or monthly costs.  The best part is you are borrowing the insurance company’s money, so your cash value is still growing inside the policy.  This loan will not impact your credit score, and you don’t have to pay this loan back since it is considered a non-recourse loan.  All loans, even above basis will not be treated as income, just like a home mortgage.  IRC 7702

5 Simple Ways to Protect the Ocean

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It’s sometimes easy to get caught up in how vast the ocean is, but we need to be reminded of its importance and vulnerability. The ocean contains up to 80% of life on Earth, and provides an important source of fish protein to more than 3 billion people on our planet. To celebrate National Oceans Month, here are five small actions people can take to make a lasting impact on a healthy ocean and make sure we can enjoy the seafood we love for for years to come:

  1. Reduce plastic pollution: One major but simple way to prevent plastics from ending up in the ocean is to refuse single-use plastics. Look for ways to make sustainable swaps around the home, like using reusable silicone bags instead of single-use plastic bags to store food, or #cutoutcutlery by opting out of single-use cutlery in food deliveries. For more information and ideas, look to organizations like Shedd Aquarium.
  2. Choose sustainable seafood: Rely on nonprofit organizations like The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) to make the connection from ocean to plate. For over 20 years, the MSC has been on a mission to end overfishing and help preserve our seas for future generations. The canned tuna we stock in our pantries can encourage ocean-friendly fishing. The fish sticks we cook for our kids can help protect a whole ecosystem. Choosing seafood with the MSC blue fish label is one way to help protect the ocean’s big blue future.
  3. Find ocean-friendly products: In addition to reducing the amount of plastic we use, shop brands that create with the ocean in mind. Using terms like “ethical,” “sustainable,” and “ocean-friendly” when online shopping will take you to companies like Happy Earth or United by Blue that make everything from apparel and accessories to pet products so every member of the family can have a positive impact on the ocean.
  4. Use less energy: At home or on the go, committing to a smaller carbon footprint can be done in just a few small steps. Create simple habits at home, like turning off the lights when leaving a room and unplugging electronics when not in use. When heading out, check to see if the destination is within walking or biking distance instead of driving. Walking will support a healthy ocean and your own health.
  5. Keep learning: The more you know about the ocean and its inhabitants, the more you can do to protect them and encourage others to do the same. From online resources like the Ocean Project, MSC, and the Shedd Aquarium, to museums and exhibits, seek out information that leads to an ocean-friendly future.

Share the small changes you’re making to protect the ocean with your friends and family. The simple acts you take could inspire others to do the same, leading to a community that’s united in conserving our one shared ocean.

How to Plan a Backyard Vacation

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Your backyard, always a great for your health and well-being, can do even more for families this summer by being a place to hold a staycation. With the COVID-19 pandemic keeping more people closer to home, a backyard vacation can be a fun way to spend time together and build new memories as a family while spending time in green space.

How do you excite your family about a backyard vacation and plan a fun time? Here are a few tips to help from the TurfMutt environmental education and stewardship program.

Make a backyard staycation plan. Put together a gentle schedule with a mixture of activities that your family will enjoy like dining, camping and games. Add a theme for the week, day or evening. A luau theme can be carried through with costumes, food and activities. A sports theme can have everyone in team jerseys and doing sports activities. Use creative names for meals and activities to spice things up. Even you don’t have a pool, children’s water play misters or sprinklers can help everyone cool off in the backyard (provided your area is not under drought conditions).

Map where activities will occur in the yard. A lawn area may be the site of a soccer game, bocce ball or croquet, but it can also double as an overnight camping zone for the kids in a family tent. The fire pit can be used for roasting hot dogs for lunch or s’mores at night. Time for crafts, potting plants, and eating can happen at a picnic or dining table. 

Assess what you have and consider their creative uses. Lounge chairs, sports and play equipment can be used for their original purposes, but they can also become part of an amazing obstacle course. The wheelbarrow used for gardening and yard work can become part of a family field day. The playset your children adore can become a breakfast spot or reading area.

Spruce up your yard. Mow the lawn and trim the bushes. Tidy overgrown areas. Add flowering plants and rearrange planters for visual appeal. Put delicate flowers in pots and out of the way of foot traffic. Now may be the time to add a picnic table, a badminton net or croquet course, planters, patio, grill, fire pit, or pergola to your backyard.

Organize for fun. Identify zones for different activities. Dining, lounging and reading may be best in shady spots. Sports, family yard games and tossing a ball to your dog may be better on a lawn that can handle rough and tumble play. Hammocks, lawn chairs, swings, picnic blankets and air mattresses can all provide a place for people to sit down and cool off.

Include teachings about backyard wildlife and nature. Ask kids to take an inventory of the many birds, butterflies and other wildlife they see, looking up their species and background. Put up a bird feeder or plant a butterfly garden, as well as potted flowering plants to support birds and pollinators. Add wind chimes, rain collectors, or backyard thermometers and wind gauges to help kids observe science in action. (Visit TurfMutt.com for a variety of backyard lesson plans that are free and STEM-aligned.)

Design new games incorporating your green space. Hold a nature scavenger hunt that’s both fun, educational and tests your family’s observational skills. Create a “drive-thru” movie theatre by bringing laptops outside or a projector to show them on a sheet hung outside.

Build anticipation. Talk about your backyard vacation in advance with your family and review your plans. Count down the days to build excitement about spending time together in your family yard.

For more information and tips about living landscapes and backyard learning visit www.TurfMutt.com

How To Protect Retirement Savings In These Uncertain Times

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The COVID-19 pandemic is causing millions of Americans to worry about their retirement savings and investments. Stocks are riding a roller coaster and the recent $2 trillion stimulus bill passed by Congress potentially means larger tax bills down the road to help pay for it. Greg DuPont (www.dupontwealth.com), an estate and tax planning attorney, says amid much uncertainty, those planning for retirement or already in it need to be keenly aware of those factors while seeking options for more financial stability. 

“We don’t know where the bottom of the stock market is, or if it will come back to its highpoint before the coronavirus,” DuPont says. “It could be a wild ride going forward, which is a big reason people should seek more certainty in their planning.  “And when the federal government dumped trillions of dollars on top of what was already a significant deficit, and with indications that more trillions are coming our way, you need to ask yourself, ‘When is the reckoning day on those packages?’ It will come during your retirement; personal income tax will go up in the future. Protecting yourself from that reckoning means being able to diversify your assets from tax exposure.” 

DuPont offers these tips to protect retirement money in the wake of COVID-19: 

  • Rely on a Roth IRA. With the market downturn reducing the value of 401(k) and IRA accounts, DuPont says, it’s prudent to consider a Roth conversion “to protect yourself from the inevitable tax increases heading our way to pay for the COVID-19 bailouts.” One advantage of the Roth: It’s a retirement savings account allowing your money to grow tax-free. “It’s funded by your after-tax dollars, meaning you’ve already paid taxes on the money you put into it,” DuPont says. “In return,  when you withdraw after age 59 ½ or in retirement, you pay no taxes, not even for the earnings on your investments.” 
  • Beware of the bond market. In the past, many financial advisors recommended an asset mix of 80% stocks and 20% bonds for people who were investing over the long term. Then, as the person got nearer to retirement, they would allocate more to bonds because of their stability. That idea has shifted, DuPont says. “From where we are right now, there is no place but up for interest rates in the bond market,” he says. “So that’s not the place for people to be in if they’re a retiree, because bonds are not paying anything now, and the ones that have decent yield are at risk of cratering on you.”
  • Consider a fixed annuity or fixed-index annuity.  A fixed annuity is a contract between the consumer and an insurance provider. “With a fixed annuity, the insurance company guarantees growth of your principal and a minimum interest rate,” DuPont says. “It provides a way to save money over the long term, allowing interest to accumulate tax-deferred typically at a higher rate of interest than CDs.” A fixed-index annuity also is a tax-deferred, long-term savings option that provides principal protection in a down market. Returns are based on the performance of an underlying index. “It gives you more growth potential than a fixed annuity and safety and security unlike investment in the stock market,” DuPont says. “That can happen through the performance of the index, and the annuity can periodically lock in gains so the value does not decline if the index performs negatively.”
  • Consider a cash-value life insurance policy. “An appropriately structured cash-value life insurance policy can be index-based, which gives you the potential of good growth in the savings,” DuPont says. “If you have that growing for a reasonable amount of time, you can get that cash value out tax-free to take care of things during your lifetime. It could have a higher rate of return than in a bank, and it grows tax-deferred.”

 “These are highly uncertain times, and planning for as much certainty as you can is crucial,” DuPont says. “This crisis does provide an opportunity for Americans to take a deep look at their retirement plan and be better prepared for unanticipated emergencies, while also protecting their long-term security.” 

About Greg DuPont Greg DuPont (www.dupontwealth.com) is the founder of DuPont Wealth Solutions. He has been serving clients as an estate and tax planning attorney in Ohio since graduating from Capital University Law School in 1992. A Certified Financial Planner™,  he’s also been in wealth management for the past 14 years. DuPont obtained his accounting and finance degree from Ohio State University.

Famous and Unusual Laboratories

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Famous and Unusual Laboratories

Research laboratories are fascinating places where scientists make breakthrough discoveries. Thousands of research, testing, medical, and pharmaceutical laboratories carry out important tests on products, medicines, materials, and human tissue to diagnose diseases and to ensure quality in food, medical devices, and machine parts. These labs are operated by staff trained to ensure compliance with international standards. Many famous and unusual laboratories offer tours and maintain detailed websites describing their operations and research. Here are a few of the most famous and unusual laboratories and why they’re notable.

Fermilab

America’s laboratory for particle physics and accelerator research, Fermilab sits in the flatlands of Illinois, about 40 miles west of Chicago. Scientists at Fermilab study what the universe is made of and how the tiniest subatomic particles behave. Fermilab is recognizable for its distinctive, hyperbolically shaped main building. Fun fact: It has its own herd of buffalo!

CERN

The European Organization for Nuclear Research operates the world’s largest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider, near Geneva, Switzerland. This lab is also engaged in research to gain a better understanding of the origin of the universe in the Big Bang. Fun fact: When the Large Hadron Collider came online in 2012, some people feared it would create a mini-black hole that would destroy the Earth. Experiments have been ongoing there ever since, and the Earth is still here, as far as we know. Unless it’s all an illusion—but never mind—these kinds of mysteries are why we have physicists in the first place.

International Space Station

Earth’s orbit has to qualify as the most extreme, most amazing location for scientific research. The first sections of the station launched in 1998, and the first astronaut-construction worker-researchers arrived in 2000. Researchers there look into biology, astronomy, meteorology, physics, and test equipment that could be used for missions to the moon or Mars. New sections are regularly added to the station, including an experimental, inflatable habitat that was added in 2016. Fun fact: Since its launch, 239 people from 19 countries have visited the station, including seven paying space tourists transported by the Russian space agency.

The Pyramid Laboratory

The International Space Station holds the altitude record for an occupied laboratory environment, but the highest lab resting on the Earth’s surface is in Nepal’s Sagarmatha National Park. A pyramid-shaped building sits above 16,000 feet, at the base of Mount Everest. Researchers there study climate, geology, ecology, and human physiology to improve the lives of native populations. Fun fact: Sagarmatha National Park includes the habitats of the rare red panda and the snow leopard. Its delicate ecosystem is under threat by the growing number of tourists and climbers visiting Mount Everest.

SNOLAB

The space station and the Pyramid Lab are the highest on (or orbiting) the Earth, but SNOLAB (Sudbury Neutrino Observatory) is the deepest beneath it, located two kilometers below the Earth’s surface in Ontario, Canada. The location protects the lab’s experiments from intrusion by cosmic rays, which could interfere with the study of subatomic neutrinos and mysterious “dark matter.” Fun fact: SNOLAB is located in an operating nickel mine, but it occupies a huge, 5,000-square-meter “clean room.”

10 Things Outdoor Power Equipment Does That Makes Your Life Better

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Lawn mowers, string trimmers, leaf blowers, generators, and other outdoor power equipment can help you get big jobs accomplished quickly – and keep your lawn and landscaping trim and tidy. And that’s more important now than ever, as homeowners increasingly use their backyards for family fun and stress management during the COVID-19 pandemic, says the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI). Many people don’t realize that outdoor power equipment can make your life better in a variety of ways.

Here are ten examples of how outdoor power equipment improves life every day:

Disinfects public spaces. Pressure washers and leaf blowers are being used to disinfect public spaces.

Helps keep landscapes healthy: Mulching leaves and grass clippings with a mower or an attachment for your lawn mower help return that organic matter to the ground, returning valuable nutrients to the soil and strengthening your lawn and plant’s overall health.

Builds neighborly connections. Whether it’s an elderly person who just can’t do yard work, or a family busy taking care of an ill loved one – helping out a neighbor with a few yard chores is made easier with outdoor power equipment. Routinely, people use lawn mowers, chain saws, and leaf blowers to help their neighbors in need.

Battles forest fires. Chainsaws are a critical part of forest management, as dead trees are removed to they can’t become tinder for fires. Firefighters also use chainsaws and string trimmers when clearing areas or brush to limit fuel or to stop an advancing fire.

Cleans up serious dirt. A pressure washer can making cleaning stained or filthy concrete, pavement, buildings, and vehicles a fast process.

Rescues trapped people after an accident. When seconds count and victims are stuck in a damaged vehicle, the jaws of life are used by emergency personnel to pry open doors and get them out quickly. Many people don’t know that the jaws of life carried by fire trucks are actually a piece of outdoor power equipment. In many rural areas, utility task vehicles, known as UTVs, are used to rescue injured hikers when they are stranded in a difficult to reach area.

Aids storm recovery. Chainsaws and generators play a huge role in disaster relief. Chainsaws help remove storm debris from roads, homes and businesses. Generators provide electrical power when it’s not available.

Broadcasts the news. Satellite television trucks used by television news crews often rely on generator power to broadcast the news to the world and edit incoming video footage.

Powers an incredible outdoor party or camping trip. Your portable generator can help you power music, heat, lights and other amenities for an outdoor party to watch a sports event, or a fun camping trip.

Cleans up area debris. Use a rake attachment on your utility task vehicle (UTV) to collect fallen branches and leaves when doing a cleanup. While you’re at it, haul a tree or firewood where they need to go with a UTV, too.