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End-of-Life Issues

Before today’s modern medicine, people usually died of three things: injury, infections or some type of nutritional deficiency.1 Painkillers may have come in the form of herbal tea or some other applied root, so pain was a fact of life. Life expectancy was much shorter than today, and people often died suddenly or after a period of not feeling right but not knowing why. Most of the time, people died at home surrounded by family and loved ones.

Today, not so much. Four out of five Americans die in either a hospital or a nursing home.2 With medical advances, we are a nation both capable of and preoccupied with keeping people alive, including by artificial means.3

In accepting our eventual death, we must face the responsibility of preparing our estate and our health care proxy paperwork to help control how we face death. However, many people fail to take these actions. Recent studies revealed that nearly three quarters of adults have no health care proxy, living will or advance directive, and only 42 percent have a will.4

Whether sick or well, young or old, it’s important to maintain a will, up-to-date financial beneficiary forms and health care directive documentation. If you could use help figuring out what legal paperwork you need to complete, we may be able to refer you to a qualified attorney in our professional network.

Today, advanced medical technologies help pull us through events that in a previous era would have been fatal. We can better manage pain and multiple chronic conditions. While it’s great to live longer and feel better, that shouldn’t prevent us from considering our end-of-life preferences. After all, everyone dies sooner or later. Have you thought about how you’d like to go? Have you asked yourself if you would want more procedures to keep you alive, more time in an intensive care unit, more CPR and/or to be kept alive by machine?

Whatever your decision, make sure your wishes are known, both in legal documentation as well as in discussions with your loved ones. So many times, an elderly person will become weary of all the treatments and just want to die in peace. And just as many times, his or her family members will not accept this decision. That’s a painful problem for everyone involved.

How much health care is too much? Research on Medicare beneficiaries indicates that almost one in three undergoes an operation within a year of their death and that this event can actually do more harm than benefit.5 Other studies have shown that people who received intense care during the last six months of their life were no more likely to live longer than those who did not.6

These end of life issues do not rest entirely on the shoulders of the elderly and ill. Our health care industry focuses on prolonging life. Our physicians are drilled to “first, do no harm.” Health care is driven by the fee-for-services payment model, so doctors and pharmaceutical companies are financially rewarded for ordering more tests and screens, performing surgical procedures and prescribing medications.7

Therefore, each individual has to decide for himself or herself when enough is enough. Among terminally ill patients, 80 percent say they don’t want to die in a hospital.8 Those who complete the appropriate paperwork may have the opportunity to make this decision for themselves.

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Haider Warraich. Knowledge@Wharton. Feb. 19, 2018. “How Modern Medicine Changed the Way People Die.” http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/modern-death/?utm_source=kw_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2018-02-22. Accessed March 20, 2018.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 Kelli B. Grant. CNBC. Nov. 15, 2017. “Got a will? Here are 11 more end-of-life documents you may need.” https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/15/12-financial-planning-documents-to-handle-health-end-of-life-care.html. Accessed March 20, 2018.

5 Liz Szabo. NPR. Feb. 28, 2018. “Too Late To Operate? Surgery Near End Of Life Is Common, Costly.” https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/02/28/589282187/too-late-to-operate-surgery-near-end-of-life-is-common-costly. Accessed March 20, 2018.

6 Ann Brenoff. Huffington Post. July 14, 2017. “Want Control Over Your Death? Consider A ‘Do Not Hospitalize’ Order.” http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/do-not-hospitalize-orders_us_59666c35e4b0a0c6f1e54ed9. March 20, 2018.

7 Liz Szabo. NPR. Feb. 28, 2018. “Too Late To Operate? Surgery Near End Of Life Is Common, Costly.” https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/02/28/589282187/too-late-to-operate-surgery-near-end-of-life-is-common-costly. Accessed March 20, 2018.

8 Ann Brenoff. Huffington Post. July 14, 2017. “Want Control Over Your Death? Consider A ‘Do Not Hospitalize’ Order.” http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/do-not-hospitalize-orders_us_59666c35e4b0a0c6f1e54ed9. March 20, 2018.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Ideas for Your Inner Entrepreneur

One of the perks of retirement is having the time to pursue new interests. If you’ve always dreamed of starting your own business, retirement could provide the perfect opportunity.

It’s a good idea to get a financial checkup before you go full bore into entrepreneurship. We’re happy to help clients review their current retirement income situation and offer strategies through the use of insurance products to help with future retirement income needs. Please give us a call if you’d like to discuss this further.

What are the qualities of a successful entrepreneur? According to one angel investor, you don’t have to have an MBA. The following are three primary characteristics:1

1.      1. Talent. You need be able to get things done and have fanatical dedication to your cause.

2.      2. Technology. This should never be an after-thought. If you need tech to fund, produce, market, sell and/or distribute your product, then it’s just as important as your product itself.

3.      3. Traction. Your product is only “a great idea” if people are willing to pay their hard-earned cash to buy it.

Marketing is key to selling your product, and networking at trade shows and conferences is often seen as a great way to spread the word. Here are tips to help maximize these networking opportunities:2

  • Don’t just sell your product; market yourself. Let those you’re talking with know what you’re good at and what drives you.
  • If you hate networking, just smile. Look like a friendly person. Think of it as simply meeting new people, not as a make-or-break event. It may take a while to get your pitch down, so view every conversation as an opportunity to practice.
  • You might form a wonderful bond with another attendee, but if you can’t help each other professionally, exchange contact information and move on. Don’t waste a marketing opportunity to form a new friendship; you can do that later.

Warren Buffett once gave this advice to a 24-year-old budding entrepreneur:3

  • Before you go to sleep each night, ask yourself if you learned something new that day.
  • Pick up the phone. Don’t run away from problems; instead, confront them head-on.
  • No matter how successful you become, stay humble.

The following are three bits of wisdom from the recently departed Stephen Hawking that can help entrepreneurs problem solve and not get frustrated when they experience setbacks:4

1.      1. Always be grateful. Even when things go wrong, there are always positives to appreciate.

2.      2. Imperfection leads to opportunity. It gives us problems to solve, and therein marketable ideas.

3.      3. Never give up. Once you do, there’s no chance of success.

Perhaps you’ve been a successful entrepreneur and have sold your business for a healthy profit. You’re all set for retirement. What now? What can a person with that “go get ’em” spirit do to stretch his entrepreneurial muscles without taking on the burden of another company?5

  • Consult. Help other entrepreneurs get the coaching they need for success.
  • Freelance. Take on temporary gigs or projects that interest you.
  • Volunteer. Devote your ability to fundraise, market and manage to a cause close to your heart.

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Ryan Holmes. Inc. Nov. 10, 2017. “3 Ways to Test Your Next Business Idea.https://www.inc.com/linkedin/ryan-holmes/3-word-test-tell-youve-got-million-dollar-business-idea-ryan-holmes.html. Accessed March 16, 2018.

2 Alyssa Satara. Inc. March 16, 2018. “How to Avoid Wasting People’s Time — and 2 Other Networking Tricks I Learned at SxSW.” https://www.inc.com/alyssa-satara/3-networking-tricks-i-learned-at-sxsw-that-every-entrepreneur-should-know.html. Accessed March 16, 2018.

3 Karen Gilchrist. CNBC. March 14, 2018. “Warren Buffett rejected this entrepreneur’s dinner invitation — but he did give her 3 pieces of advice.” https://www.cnbc.com/2018/03/14/warren-buffett-rejects-dinner-invite-gives-3-pieces-of-advice.html. Accessed March 16, 2018.

4 Serhat Pala. Inc. March 16, 2018. “4 Lessons for Entrepreneurs from the Amazing Life of Stephen Hawking.” https://www.inc.com/serhat-pala/4-lessons-for-entrepreneurs-from-amazing-life-of-stephen-hawking.html. Accessed March 16, 2018.

5 Rob Walker. The New York Times. February 16, 2018. “When Early Retirement Turns Into a Total Bore.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/16/business/early-retirement-a-total-bore.html. Accessed March 16, 2018.

 

 

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

 

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A Look at How America Ranks

In his first year in office, President Trump has promoted his “America first” philosophy. This new focus, with its trade protectionism and tough stance on immigration, has somewhat changed the U.S. narrative on a world scale.1

Considering this new emphasis on America first, perhaps it’s worth looking at how the U.S. ranks on the world stage, according to various lists measuring financial health, happiness, education and more.

One of the most watched rankings for financial health is the annual World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report, which covers 137 economies and ranks the U.S. as No. 2. The Global Competitiveness Index measures national competitiveness, which includes a variety of institutions, policies and factors that determine each country’s level of productivity. The following are the top 10 countries ranked by the 2017-2018 Global Competitiveness Index:2

  1. Switzerland
  2. United States
  3. Singapore
  4. Netherlands
  5. Germany
  6. Hong Kong
  7. Sweden
  8. United Kingdom
  9. Japan
  10. Finland

According to the recently released “2018 Best Countries” listing from U.S. News & World Report, America is ranked No. 8 behind Switzerland, Canada, Germany, the U.K., Japan, Sweden and Australia.3 The Best Countries rating is based on opinions of over 21,000 people from 36 countries in a wide variety of categories, including business friendliness, entrepreneurship, citizenship, power, quality of life, cultural influence and more.4

However, America gets lower marks in the rankings of countries with the happiest residents. The U.S. came in 19th in the 2017 World Happiness Report; Norway was No. 1. This study measures countries by ways they support happiness, such as quality of work, health care and social foundations.5

Perhaps one of the reasons Americans aren’t as happy as some other nations’ citizens has to do with our infrastructure — particularly relating to transportation. One global study of vehicular traffic found the U.S. is home to 10 of the top 25 worst cities for traffic. The study, composed of 1,360 cities in 38 countries, measures the cost of sitting in traffic due to factors such as loss of worker productivity, wasted fuel and the high cost of transporting goods in traffic. Overall as a country, the U.S. ranked fifth.6

The results are mixed when it comes to education rankings. One of the latest rankings placed U.S. 15-year-olds at 38th out of 71 countries in math and 24th in science.7

However, the U.S. ranks highest in “QS World University Rankings by Subject.” The most recent rankings place U.S. higher education institutions at No. 1 in 34 of 48 categories.8

And finally, there is one category in which America excels in vast numbers: The largest number of billionaires. Presently, the world’s billionaires account for a record $9.1 trillion combined, which is up 18 percent from a year ago.9 Seven of the top 10 billionaires in the world call the U.S. home:10

  1. Jeff Bezos (Amazon, U.S.)
  2. Gates (Microsoft, U.S.)
  3. Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway, U.S.)
  4. Bernard Arnault (LVMH, France)
  5. Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook, U.S.)
  6. Amancio Ortega (Zara, Spain)
  7. Carlos Slim Helu (telecom, Mexico)
  8. Charles Koch (Koch Industries, U.S.)
  9. David Koch (Koch Industries, U.S.)
  10. Larry Ellison (software, U.S.)

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Griff Witte and Michael Birnbaum. The Washington Post. Jan. 20, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/a-year-of-trumps-america-first-agenda-has-radically-changed-the-us-role-in-the-world/2018/01/20/c1258aa6-f7cf-11e7-9af7-a50bc3300042_story.html?utm_term=.aa4bcbfc56c0. Accessed March 22, 2018.

2 Klaus Schwab. World Economic Forum. 2017. “The Global Competitiveness Report

2017-2018.” Page ix. http://www3.weforum.org/docs/GCR2017-2018/05FullReport/TheGlobalCompetitivenessReport2017-2018.pdf. Accessed March 9, 2018.

3 U.S. News & World Report. 2018. “Overall Best Countries Ranking.” https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/overall-full-list. Accessed March 22, 2018.

4 Deidre McPhillips. U.S. News & World Report. Jan. 23, 2018. “Methodology: How the 2018 Best Countries Were Ranked.” https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/methodology. Accessed March 22, 2018.

5 United Nations. 2017. “World Happiness Report 2017.” http://worldhappiness.report/ed/2017/. Accessed March 9, 2018.

6 INRIX, Inc. Feb. 5, 2018. “Los Angeles Tops INRIX Global Congestion Ranking.” http://inrix.com/press-releases/scorecard-2017/. Accessed March 22, 2018.

7 Drew Desilver. Pew Research Center. Feb. 15, 2017. “U.S. students’ academic achievement still lags that of their peers in many other countries.” http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/02/15/u-s-students-internationally-math-science/. Accessed March 9, 2018.

8 Patrick Atack. The Pie News. Feb. 28, 2018. “QS World University Rankings show US still top, but Asia rising.” https://thepienews.com/news/qs-world-university-rankings-show-us-still-top-but-asia-rising/. Accessed March 9, 2018.

9 Luisa Kroll. Forbes. March 6, 2018. “Forbes Billionaires 2018: Meet the Richest People on the Planet.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/luisakroll/2018/03/06/forbes-billionaires-2018-meet-the-richest-people-on-the-planet/#5256507f6523. Accessed March 9, 2018.

10 Forbes. 2018. “The World’s Billionaires.” https://www.forbes.com/billionaires/list/#version:static. Accessed March 9, 2018.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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The Future of Medicare and Social Security

There is little doubt that Medicare and Social Security are important programs that help older Americans in retirement, particularly now that so many are living beyond previous life expectancy rates. In fact, past models for savings rates may be failing many older Americans, who represent the only demographic seeing significant increases in poverty rates in recent years. Specifically, between 2015 and 2016, the poverty rate for people over 65 grew to 14.5 percent.1

 

While younger Americans may still have time to adapt to higher savings rates, the situation is more complex for people who are already retired. If you’re fortunate enough to live many years after retirement, you’re going to need a well-thought-out retirement income strategy. Using a variety of insurance products, we can help you create a strategy designed to help you to live the kind of retirement you’ve worked hard for. Give us a call so we can sit down and discuss your retirement income goals.

 

If you haven’t yet applied for Social Security, consider developing a strategy to help maximize benefits. If you don’t, you could be leaving money on the table. Here’s an example of why you should consider all your options:

 

Widows and widowers can file for a restricted application to initially claim survivor benefits while delaying their own benefit until age 70. This will allow their personal benefit to grow by approximately 8 percent a year from full retirement age, which is 65 to 67, depending on when they were born (note that survivor benefits do not increase). A recent report published by the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General found that beneficiaries who could have used this strategy, but did not, missed out on about $131.8 million in total increased payouts. The study cited one example of a widow who would have received an additional $13,000 in benefits by utilizing this strategy.2

 

Many retirees count on programs like Medicare and Social Security for helping meet their health care and income needs. However, there is some concern about these programs’ financial health. One area of concern is that the programs may not be adequately represented to help shape congressional policy regarding their long-term solvency. There are currently two vacancies on the boards overseeing Social Security and Medicare — seats that have been empty for more than two years.3

 

Meanwhile, starting next year, Medicare recipients with annual incomes higher than $500,000 ($750,000 for couples) are scheduled to pay a higher percentage of their Medicare bills. They will pay 85 percent of the program’s parts B and D costs, up from 80 percent. The average Medicare beneficiary pays around 25 percent of bills. This change was included as part of Congress’ stop-gap budget deal signed into law in February.4

 

As for the future, trustees of both Medicare and Social Security are asking lawmakers to take action to help make sure recipients get full benefits in the future. In their respective 2017 annual reports, Social Security trustees predict that the trust fund will run out by 2034, which will trigger a projected 23 percent reduction in benefits, and Medicare trustees expect the trust fund for Part A to be depleted by 2029, at which point it would only be able to pay out 88 percent of expected benefits.5

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

 

1 Alana Semuels. The Atlantic. Feb. 22, 2018. “This Is What Life Without Retirement Savings Looks Like.” https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2018/02/pensions-safety-net-california/553970/?utm_source=fbb. Accessed March 1, 2018.

2 Ray Martin. CBS News. Feb. 22, 2018. “Social Security underpays thousands of widows and widowers.” https://www.cbsnews.com/news/social-security-underpays-thousands-of-widows-and-widowers/?ftag=CNM-00-10aab7e&linkId=48472768. Accessed March 1, 2018.

3 Charles P. Blahous III and Robert Reischauer. Rollcall.com. Jan. 22, 2018. “Opinion: Now More Than Ever, Social Security and Medicare Need Their Public Trustees.” https://www.rollcall.com/news/opinion/avoid-crisis-confidence-medicare-needs-public-trustees. Accessed March 1, 2018.

4 Brittany De Lea. Feb. 27, 2018. “Medicare beneficiaries with higher incomes to foot bigger share of costs.” https://www.foxbusiness.com/features/medicare-beneficiaries-with-higher-incomes-to-foot-bigger-share-of-costs. Accessed March 1, 2018.

5 Donna Borak. CNN Money. July 13, 2017. “Social Security trust fund projected to tap out in 17 years.” http://money.cnn.com/2017/07/13/news/economy/social-security-trust-fund-projection/index.html. Accessed March 27, 2018.

 

We are able to provide you with information but not guidance or advice related to Social Security benefits. Our firm is not affiliated with the U.S. government or any governmental agency.

 

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

 

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Ways to Avoid Financial Scams

According to a recent survey, about two-thirds of adults age 70 and older fall for online scammers. Here are some tips to remember about some of the latest frauds:1

  • Medicare does not employ “sales representatives.”
  • Apple and Microsoft do not sell virus protection software for your computer.
  • There is no African prince from Nigeria who needs your help (and your money).

 

 

Another recent scam hails from people posing as Amazon customer service representatives on the phone. If you Google a customer support phone number for Amazon, there are a lot of fake ones out there. If you call one of the fake numbers, a representative might ask you for your bank account or credit card information. The best way to contact Amazon is via live chat on Amazon.com. If you need the general support telephone number, it’s 888.280.4331.2

Be aware that scammers frequently prey on older adults. It’s important to remember that if you didn’t initiate the call, you can’t be sure you’re talking to a legitimate source — so don’t give out any personal information. Here are some tips from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to help deal with potential fraudsters:3

  • Don’t give the caller personal information, especially not your bank account, credit card, or Social Security number, unless you’ve verified who you’re talking to. If someone has contacted you, you can’t be sure who they are. It’s better if you initiate the call using the phone number printed on your statement.
  • Don’t trust a name or phone number. Con artists make up official-sounding names to make you trust them. To make their calls seem legitimate, scammers may use your local area code or one from Washington, D.C., so it appears on your caller ID like they’re calling from the government. In reality, they could be calling from anywhere in the world.
  • If you’re ever suspicious about a scam related to your Social Security benefits, contact the Social Security Administration directly at 800.772.1213.

 

 

There also are scams that target people on a larger scale. Specifically, some financial services firms have become vulnerable by employees clicking on links provided by phishing emails. Once opened, hackers can use them as a gateway to access the firm’s client database. Recently, this new online financial scam has cost victims an average of about $130,000 per instance.4

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) implemented a new rule starting on Feb. 5 of this year. It gives brokers some protections so they may feel free to report the potential exploitation of an elderly client and even place a temporary hold on any account withdrawals the client may request if it seems suspicious. Furthermore, some states have adopted a North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) rule making it mandatory to report a suspicious incident.5

There are currently a couple of bills being considered in Congress that would provide liability protection for financial advisers, brokers and other financial professionals who report cases of suspected elder abuse.6 In fact, one amendment to a current securities rule requires brokers to request that clients provide contact information for a person they trust. This is so that the broker can alert that person if he or she thinks the older client might be a victim of fraud or even poor judgment due to mental decline.7

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Beth Kobliner. Jan. 25, 2018. “How can I protect my older parent from online scams?” http://www.bethkobliner.com/budget/protect-older-parent-online-scams/. Accessed Feb. 22, 2018.

2 CBS News. Feb. 20, 2018. “Amazon customer service scam targets your financial data.” https://www.cbsnews.com/news/amazon-customer-service-scam-targets-your-financial-data/. Accessed Feb. 22, 2018.

3 Ari Lazerus. Federal Trade Commission. Jan. 26, 2018. “Scammers impersonate the Social Security Administration.” https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2018/01/scammers-impersonate-social-security-administration. Accessed Feb. 22, 2018.

4 Darla Mercado. CNBC. Feb. 2, 2018. “New online financial scam costs victims $130K per attack.” https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/02/new-online-financial-scam-costs-victims-130k-per-attack.html. Accessed Feb. 22, 2018.

5 Mark Schoeff Jr. Investment News. Jan. 30, 2018. “House approves legislation to help advisers combat senior exploitation.” http://www.investmentnews.com/article/20180130/FREE/180139993/house-approves-legislation-to-help-advisers-combat-senior. Accessed Feb. 22, 2018.

6 Ibid.

7 Sarah O’Brien. CNBC. Jan. 30, 2018. “New broker rules aim to curb elder fraud.” https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/30/new-broker-rules-aim-to-curb-elder-fraud.html. Accessed Feb. 22, 2018.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Insights Into Cybercrime

Although it’s taken a back seat to domestic concerns over the past year, cybercrime is still on the rise. Attacks such as “Wannacry” shut down health care systems and businesses across the globe in 2017,1 and the World Economic Forum estimates cybercrimes cost the global economy about $445 billion a year. 2

It is a unifying issue that has countries large and small sharing resources and building defense mechanisms to thwart attacks.3

It’s easy to view hacking as something that impacts only large companies. However, data is a valuable commodity, whether it’s stolen from a home computer or a company’s customer database.

In 2017, there were 1,579 data breaches in the U.S. alone. That may not sound like many, but those breaches yielded close to 179 million exposed consumer records. The Yahoo breach in October 2017 resulted in 3 billion compromised records.4

Because headlines focus more frequently on theft of personal data from corporations, it may seem like there’s nothing an individual person can do to prevent it. But we can and should deploy the protections cybersecurity experts recommend, such as using complex passwords and changing them often, installing and regularly updating anti-virus software, not clicking on suspicious links and being wary of paying bills and making other financial transactions on public Wi-Fi networks.5

Two of the biggest current cybercrime issues in the U.S. appear to be the prospect of Russian interference in the 2016 election, and the use of targeted social media to influence voters with false news information. Several popular social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, have come under attack for not adequately policing participants and messages of hate, racism, terrorism and other forms of abuse.6

This year, the World Economic Forum announced the formation of The Global Centre for Cybersecurity. This effort is designed to facilitate faster, more effective information sharing between nations and private technology companies to help combat cybercrime. The center will focus on consolidating existing cybersecurity initiatives, creating a centralized library of cyber best practices, establishing a regulatory framework for cybersecurity and anticipating cybersecurity risk scenarios and solutions for the future.7

One of the proven ways to help protect our finances is through insurance. We protect our homes, our health, our cars and our businesses. It also may be worth considering ways to protect our future retirement income through the use of insurance products, such as annuities. Please contact us if you’d like to learn more.

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Danny Palmer. Zdnet.com. Jan. 26, 2018. “Ransomware: Is time running out for the biggest menace on the web?” http://www.zdnet.com/article/ransomware-is-time-running-out-for-the-biggest-menace-on-the-web/. Accessed Feb. 12, 2018.

2 World Economic Forum. “Cybercrime.” https://www.weforum.org/projects/cybercrime. Accessed Feb. 12, 2018.

3 Ibid.

4 Statistica.com. “U.S. consumers and cyber crime – Statistics & Facts.” https://www.statista.com/topics/2588/us-consumers-and-cyber-crime/. Accessed Feb. 28, 2018.

5 Iowa State Bank. “Cyber Crime and How It Affects You.” https://iowastatebank.net/cyber-crime-and-how-it-effects-you/. Accessed Feb. 12, 2018.

6 Aoife White. Bloomberg. Jan. 23, 2018. “Facebook Will ‘Do Better’ to Stem Abuse, Sandberg Vows.” https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-23/facebook-will-do-better-to-stem-internet-abuses-sandberg-vows. Accessed Feb. 12, 2018.

7 World Economic Forum. Jan. 24, 2018. “To Prevent a Digital Dark Age: World Economic Forum Launches Global Centre for Cybersecurity.” https://www.weforum.org/press/2018/01/to-prevent-a-digital-dark-age-world-economic-forum-launches-global-centre-for-cybersecurity/. Accessed Feb. 12, 2018.

Guarantees and protections provided by insurance products including annuities are backed by the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance carrier.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Digital Tools for Tax Season

Tax season is upon us. According to the IRS, about 90 percent of taxpayers now file their taxes electronically. The agency touts the service as more accurate, convenient and secure than paper claims, and people usually receive their tax refunds faster.

The IRS offers free tax filing assistance to filers who earn $54,000 a year or less, and people age 60 or older.1 For those who prefer to complete their own returns, there are several helpful resources at IRS.gov.

At the website, you can find an electronic copy of Publication 17, which provides the general rules for filing a federal income tax return. There also is an “Interactive Tax Assistant” that provides answers to frequently asked questions on a variety of topics, such as whether you need to file a return, who you can claim as a dependent and whether you’re eligible to claim an education credit.2

Once you’ve filed a return, you can monitor the status of a refund within 24 hours of IRS receipt using the “Where’s My Refund?” tool. It is located at the IRS.gov website, or you can download the IRS2Go mobile app.3 For a general idea of when you’ll receive a refund based on when you submitted your return, check out the table here.4

If you have questions or would like help completing your taxes, we can refer you to one of the experienced tax professionals within our network. It’s a good idea to work collaboratively with your tax professional and your financial professional in order to help maximize opportunities for tax savings.

For a comparison and ratings of some of the most popular online tax services, check out PC magazine’s review of the “Best Tax Software of 2018.” The rundown includes H&R Block, TaxAct, TaxSlayer and Intuit TurboTax Deluxe, among others.5

While working to complete your tax return by the April 17 deadline, it’s a good time to start considering rules that will be changing for 2018. For example, deductibility of interest on home equity loans and lines of credit (HELOCs) will apply only on loans used to buy, build or substantially improve a home.6

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 IRS.gov. Feb. 6, 2018. “Six Reasons to E-file.” https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/six-reasons-to-e-file. Accessed Feb. 6, 2018.

2 IRS.gov. Jan. 29, 2018. “IRS Tax Tips 2018-14: Check Out These Three Tools on IRS.gov.” https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USIRS/bulletins/1d6b25e. Accessed Feb. 5, 2018.

3 Ibid.

4 Isaac M. O’Bannon. CPA Practice Advisor. Dec. 28, 2017. “2018 IRS Income Tax Refund Chart – When Will I Get My Tax Refund?” http://www.cpapracticeadvisor.com/news/12370552/2018-irs-income-tax-refund-chart-when-will-i-get-my-tax-refund. Accessed Feb. 5, 2018.

5 Kathy Yakal. PC. Feb. 9, 2018. “The Best Tax Software of 2018.” https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,1904319,00.asp. Accessed Feb. 5, 2018.

6 Suzanne Woolley. Bloomberg. Jan. 29, 2018. “How to Game Next Year’s Taxes Now.” https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-29/eight-ways-to-prepare-for-the-new-tax-law. Accessed Feb. 5, 2018.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Get Creative When Pre-Planning Funerals

Think about how much time we put into planning things like college, a wedding, moving to a new home, having a baby and retirement. Now think about how much time we put into planning for our death. For many people, it’s no time at all.

Perhaps you’ve got your estate plan documents in order, but how much time have you put into thinking through and planning for your funeral, burial or cremation? Unfortunately, by you not making these plans, they end up being thrown together at the last minute by bereaved friends and family. That is hardly the time for them to make significant financial and emotional decisions. As for the financial part, we may able to help. Consider earmarking funds for just this purpose and save them in a readily accessible account, or have these costs funded by a life insurance policy — if you are ready to talk about ways to set aside adequate funding, give our firm a call.

Today, the death industry is big business. The cost of a typical funeral in the U.S. ranges from $8,000 to $10,000. The cost of a casket alone can run from $2,000 to $10,000, although if you comparison shop you can find cheaper prices.1 For example, you can buy less expensive caskets online at places like Costco.2

If you want to help your family save on costs and avoid making emotional decisions, your pre-planning will go a long way. You don’t have to pre-purchase your own coffin, but you could shop around, create a plan for costs, bookmark your favorite options, and document ideas on how you’d like your demise handled. Consider it a guideline for your loved ones to help them make decisions when the time comes.

Once you embrace the idea of planning for your own death, it can become a satisfying exploration into your life, your quirks and individuality. As with nearly every challenge faced during their lifetime, baby boomers are getting creative about how they want their deaths handled. Ideas include custom-decorated caskets, green funerals, webcast streaming for people who can’t attend funeral services, as well as writing and/or videotaping their own obituaries.3 Some funerals encourage participants to share their own memories of the deceased by singing favorite songs, or reading personal letters or poems that reflect their feelings.

Some people who live environmentally conscious lifestyles are choosing green funerals. Choosing a “natural burial” is apparently better for the environment because it doesn’t involve embalming chemicals and coffin materials that contaminate the soil. People who go this route are instead buried in biodegradable containers (such as wicker) on areas of protected land instead of marked graveyards.4 For example, in South Carolina, the Ramsey Creek Preserve is one of many across the U.S. that allow for natural burial sites in the forest, with graves soon being covered with various types of plants.5

Of course, as another alternative to what we might consider a “traditional” burial, cremation is on the rise. In 2016, the number of people who chose to be cremated grew to 50 percent. One reason it has become more popular is that Americans are more transient now, living in a variety of different places throughout their lifetimes — not to mention the travel habits of their adult children — so they’re not interested in being buried in a place no one will ever visit.6

This option considers that ashes are portable. They can relocate along with family, or be spread anywhere in the world — or both. Some family members carry ashes in lockets or share them with other loved ones of the deceased.7

Here’s a new twist on cremation: There are companies that can compress the ashes into a memorial diamond. Because human remains contain carbon, they can be compressed and heated in the same way that diamonds are formed naturally. The process can even be used to memorialize deceased pets. This alternative can even be a less expensive and less complicated alternative to a traditional burial, depending on the color, size and cut of the diamond.8

It may be incredibly unconventional, but turning a loved one into a diamond sounds like a lovely idea to keep their memory “on hand.” After all, diamonds are forever.

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Susan Williams. BoomingEncore.com. “Disrupting Death – Could This Be the Next Industry Ripe For Change?” http://www.boomingencore.com/disrupting-death-changing-business-industry/. Accessed Jan. 29, 2018.

2 Costco. “Funeral.” https://www.costco.com/funeral.html. Accessed Jan. 29, 2018.

3 Susan Williams. BoomingEncore.com. “Disrupting Death – Could This Be the Next Industry Ripe For Change?” http://www.boomingencore.com/disrupting-death-changing-business-industry/. Accessed Jan. 29, 2018.

4 CBS SFBayArea. Nov. 1, 2017. “New ‘Green Burial’ Cemetery Operating In San Mateo County.” http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2017/11/01/new-green-burial-cemetery-operating-san-mateo-county/. Accessed Jan. 29, 2018.

5 Ana Aceves. PBS. Nov. 9, 2017. “Wilderness Burials May be Better for the Environment and Boost Conservation.” http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/nature/wilderness-burials-may-be-better-for-the-environment-and-boost-conservation/. Accessed Jan. 29, 2018.

6 Josh Sanburn. Time. July 13, 2017. “More Americans Than Ever Are Choosing to Be Cremated.” http://time.com/4853150/cremation-rate-us-50-percent/. Accessed Jan. 29, 2018.

7 Annalisa Barbieri. The Guardian. Jan. 6, 2018. “‘It was an incredibly enriching day’: the families taking control of death.” https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/jan/06/it-was-an-incredibly-enriching-day-the-families-taking-control-of-death. Accessed Jan. 29, 2018.

8 Business Matters. Jan. 4, 2018. “Memorial Diamonds: A new & innovative burial service rising in popularity in the UK.” http://www.bmmagazine.co.uk/in-business/memorial-diamonds-a-new-innovative-burial-service-rising-in-popularity-in-the-uk/. Accessed Jan. 29, 2018.

Life insurance policies are contracts between you and an insurance company. Life insurance product guarantees rely on the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurer.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Traveling on a Fixed Income

Oh, the places you’ll go! Renowned author Dr. Seuss wrote a children’s book in 1990 that has become a popular graduation gift for young adults. Part of its message:1

“You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So … get on your way!”

Perhaps for some people, the time to travel is when they’re young — before they get enmeshed in a job or career, before they get married and have children, before their lifestyle becomes defined by the amount of their first mortgage. Some young adults have the means for planned travel, while others just throw a few things in a backpack and head out.

Other people spend their working lives dreaming of going off to Great Places once they retire. But whether you had the opportunity to travel when you were younger or are looking forward to the prospect in retirement, there’s no denying that it’s going to cost more than a few bucks. In fact, the older we get, the more some of us may expect a certain standard for travel (no youth hostels).

To make travel plans a part of your retirement, make it a part of your retirement strategy. In addition to calculating household expenses, consider incorporating a discretionary fund for vacationing away from home. We can help. Schedule time with us to review your current retirement income strategy and help you figure out ways to budget for your retirement travel plans.

Traveling once you’re on a fixed income can be a challenge, but it’s by no means impossible. Consider these tips to help you pursue your retirement travel dreams.2

  • Travel in the off-peak season, such as October or April for a popular beach locale. However, if you vacation during hurricane season (June 1 through Nov. 30), consider buying travel insurance.
  • Don’t rely solely on internet search-and-compare websites. If you have a specific hotel in mind, call it directly to request its best rate.
  • Use your credit card rewards points, a perk that many people don’t use. Rewards points may be used to pay for all or part of vacation expenses.
  • Be sure to ask whether a hotel, airline or other venue offers a discount for any memberships to which you belong, such as veterans groups, teacher associations or AAA.
  • The best time to book domestic flights is about 54 days out from the date you want to travel.3

Two of the biggest expenses in travel are transportation and lodging. Many retirees tackle both with a recreational vehicle (RV). By driving and sleeping in the same vehicle, it’s possible to see America on a reasonable budget. Plus, there are perks, such as being able to cook at home instead of dining out, sleeping on your own sheets and pillows, and not having to pack and unpack at every destination.

The federal government offers a lifetime “America the Beautiful – The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass” for only $80. This pass gains admittance to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites throughout the United States.4 Also good to know: You can camp anywhere in a national forest unless posted otherwise (a practice called “dispersed camping”).5 In other words, if you don’t mind roughing it (no services will be available), you don’t have to book a campsite ahead of time.

RV travel can offer a wide range of experiences from rustic to luxurious. You can buy or rent an RV, depending on the scenario that best meets your travel and financial needs. However, renting an RV you’re considering purchasing may be a good way to take the vehicle — and this mode of vacationing — out for a test drive.6

When it comes to finding inexpensive ways to afford travel costs on a fixed income, remember these wise words from Dr. Seuss:7

“So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
And remember that Life’s
A Great Balancing Act.”


Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Dr. Seuss. Genius.com “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” https://genius.com/Dr-seuss-oh-the-places-youll-go-excerpt-annotated. Accessed Jan. 23, 2018.

2 Brighthouse Financial. Nov. 17, 2017. “Travel More, Spend Less.” https://www.brighthousefinancial.com/education/living-in-retirement/travel-more-spend-less/?cid=paidsocial_twitter_relocation_12212017_701f10000024ukt. Accessed Jan. 23, 2018.

3 Suzy Strutner. HuffPost. May 11, 2017. “The Best Time To Book A Plane Ticket, According To A New Study.” https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/best-day-to-book-plane-ticket_us_56cf1648e4b03260bf759b79. Accessed Feb. 20, 2018.

4 U.S. Geological Survey. “Frequently Asked Questions – Recreational Passes.” https://store.usgs.gov/faq#New-Senior-Pass-Update. Accessed Feb. 7, 2018.

5 U.S. Forest Service. “Dispersed Camping Guidelines.” https://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/fishlake/recreation/?cid=stelprdb5121831. Accessed Feb. 7, 2018.

6 GoRVing. “Buying an RV.” https://gorving.com/affordability/buying-renting. Accessed Jan. 23, 2018.

7 Dr. Seuss. Genius.com “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” https://genius.com/Dr-seuss-oh-the-places-youll-go-excerpt-annotated. Accessed Jan. 23, 2018.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Strokes: Symptoms and Treatment Innovations

In the United States, someone has a stroke every 40 seconds. Often referred to as a “brain attack,” a stroke is caused by injury to a blood vessel that limits the flow of blood to the brain.1 The causes include some of the same ones that cause a heart attack, including high blood pressure, smoking, being overweight and having diabetes.2

In addition, women who began having periods before age 12, experienced a stillbirth, went through menopause before age 47 or have had a hysterectomy are at higher risk of stroke.3

It’s interesting that although the underlying causes of some of our most serious medical conditions, such as strokes, are well known, some of us don’t always pay enough attention. The same could be said for our attitude toward insurance coverage. Intellectually, we may know the ramifications of not having it, but some of us do not seek insurance beyond what we’re required to have — auto insurance to drive a car or home insurance to take out a mortgage. Some employers automatically cover workers with a limited life insurance policy, but for many people, that isn’t nearly enough.

Insurance is one of those topics, like a stroke or heart attack, for which we should take action to help protect ourselves and our family before a crisis situation. They also are correlated because a disabling or fatal medical condition can leave loved ones struggling financially. Please give us a call if you’d like to discuss your current insurance needs and create a strategy should the worst-case scenario strike unexpectedly.

Here’s important information to know about strokes. There are three common warning signs of an impending stroke, and they may occur in combination: One side of the face droops, one arm won’t fully lift and speech becomes slurred. These telltale symptoms occur in 75 percent of all strokes. These symptoms can come and go quickly, but they should not be ignored. Time is the most critical factor with a stroke, so if any of those symptoms are present, call for emergency services right away.4

Because time is so important, hospitals have been working on ways to improve how quickly stroke patients receive treatment. In Northern California, for example, hospitals in the Kaiser Permanente network have developed a program (Stroke EXPRESS: Expediting the Process of Evaluating and Stopping Stroke) that uses telemedicine carts to improve the time between when a patient is seen and when he or she receives clot-busting medication.5

Likewise, a hospital system in Alaska has introduced “telestroke,” which connects patients to a vascular neurologist via two-way audio and video technology to help assess the immediate situation and determine next steps.6

And finally, another bit of innovation is happening for stroke patients who are among the about 50 percent of survivors who are left with severely restricted movement in one hand. A new machine sends signals to the brain, triggering movement via a robotic exoskeleton that is attached to a paralyzed hand.7

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Harvard Medical School. June 2017. “Recognizing the most common warning signs of a stroke.https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/recognizing-the-most-common-warning-signs-of-a-stroke. Accessed Jan. 15, 2018.

2 WebMD. Nov. 3, 2017. “Top causes of stroke.” https://www.webmd.com/stroke/guide/stroke-causes-risks#1. Accessed Jan. 15, 2018.

3 Sarah Knapton. The Telegraph. Jan. 15, 2018. “Early menopause raises risk of heart disease and stroke, study suggests.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2018/01/15/early-menopause-raises-risk-heart-disease-stroke-study-suggests/. Accessed Jan. 15, 2018.

4 Harvard Medical School. June 2017. “Recognizing the most common warning signs of a stroke.https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/recognizing-the-most-common-warning-signs-of-a-stroke. Accessed Jan. 15, 2018.

5 Eric Wicklund. mHealthIntelligence.com. Dec. 18, 2017. “Kaiser Study Gives Telemedicine High Marks in Stroke Treatment.” https://mhealthintelligence.com/news/kaiser-study-gives-telemedicine-high-marks-in-stroke-treatment. Accessed Jan. 15, 2018.

6 Daily News-Miner. Dec. 19, 2017. “New telemedicine program gets fast help to Fairbanks stroke victims.” http://www.newsminer.com/news/local_news/new-telemedicine-program-gets-fast-help-to-fairbanks-stroke-victims/article_14d27cce-e496-11e7-a065-0f4a05510fd2.html. Accessed Jan. 15, 2018.

7 Harry Pettit. Daily Mail. Jan. 15, 2018. “Incredible mind-reading device could help stroke patients regain the use of their hands by strengthening the neurons in their brain.http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-5270797/Incredible-mind-reading-device-help-stroke-patients.html#ixzz54NA2C8uQ. Accessed Jan. 15, 2018.

Guarantees and protections provided by insurance products are backed by the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurer.

 

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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