Author Archive: Empower Financial Group

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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Women’s Issues and Retirement

In 2017, women organized and made headway toward real change, making it a hallmark year for women’s issues. The year started with the Women’s March in January and ended with the #MeToo movement spreading across the globe.1 In addition, record numbers of women considered running for public office.2

The thing is, many of the factors that may disadvantage women could also cause a drag on America’s economy. For example, challenges such as pay disparity and responsibility for the majority of caregiving (meaning less time in the workforce) can lead to lower savings opportunities for women. As a result, women are 80 percent more likely than men to live in poverty at age 65 and older, according to a report by the National Institute on Retirement Security.3

The upshot is that all women — even those who are married or in a committed relationship — need to have their own financial plan, recommends a new study from the Center for Retirement Research (CRR) at Boston College. That doesn’t necessarily mean every woman needs her own career or earnings; it simply recognizes that both spouses should be aware of the need to plan for a woman’s income sources should she survive her spouse or should the couple divorce.4 

Singles and couples concerned about protecting a portion of their retirement assets may want to consider insurance options, such as annuities and life insurance. We would be happy to help assess your insurance needs; just give us a call.

It is equally important to work with an attorney to get all documents signed and in place for an estate plan. In 2016, 34 percent of U.S. women age 65 and older were widows. In total, 55 percent of women over age 65 were single.5 It behooves all women, whether single or married, to make the effort to prepare for their financial future.

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Melinda Gates. Yahoo. Dec. 16, 2017. “Melinda Gates: 2017 is the year our daughters will tell theirs about.” https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/melinda-gates-2017-year-daughters-will-tell-130032809.html?linkId=46306505. Accessed Jan. 8, 2018.

2 John Bowden. The Hill. Nov. 4, 2017. “Women are running for office in record numbers.” http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/358780-women-are-running-for-office-in-record-numbers. Accessed Jan. 8, 2018.

3 Kara Stiles. Forbes. Dec. 7, 2017. “The Unsettling Truth About Women and Retirement.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/karastiles/2017/12/07/the-unsettling-truth-about-women-and-retirement/#77df97bf1b63. Accessed Jan. 8, 2018.

4 Bernice Napach. ThinkAdvisor. Aug. 15, 2017. “Married Women Need Their Own Financial Plan: Study.” http://www.thinkadvisor.com/2017/08/15/married-women-need-their-own-financial-plan-study. Accessed Jan. 8, 2018.

5 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “A Profile of Older Americans: 2016.” https://www.giaging.org/documents/A_Profile_of_Older_Americans__2016.pdf. Accessed Jan. 23, 2018.

Guarantees and protections provided by insurance products including annuities 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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Finding Neutral Ground on the Internet Rights Debate

It can be confusing when government bureaucrats and the media offer wildly different perspectives on the intent and ramifications of a new controversial policy. This was plainly evident in December regarding the issue of net neutrality.

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the new “Restoring Internet Freedom Order”1 is meant to:

  • Reverse the previous “heavy-handed utility-style regulation of broadband internet access service, which imposed substantial costs on the entire internet ecosystem” in order to “protect consumers at far less cost to investment than the prior rigid and wide-ranging utility rules”
  • Restore the “longstanding, bipartisan light-touch regulatory framework that has fostered rapid internet growth, openness and freedom for nearly 20 years”
  • Restore “a favorable climate for network investment,” which is the “key to closing the digital divide, spurring competition and innovation that benefits consumers”2

From this perspective, the legislation sounds like a positive. But the Internet Association, a trade association that represents leading global internet companies on matters of public policy, is more favorable of the previous net neutrality policy:

“Since its inception, the internet has been governed by principles of openness and non-discrimination. Net neutrality is the legal principle that underpins the free and open internet as we know it today. Simply put, it means that broadband gatekeepers — Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, and other internet service providers (ISPs) — should treat all internet traffic equally and not discriminate between different bits of data. That’s how the internet works today: users can go to any website and access any type of content, whenever they want.”3

Those who advocate “net neutrality” want everyone to have free and equal access to content on the internet, while the FCC believes the internet is a free market and providers can sell it however they want. Thus, the new rule opens the door to competitive pricing structures, whereas customers may have to pay more to receive higher internet speed or access certain websites. Unfortunately, this means people with lesser means — such as small businesses and students — may be considerably disadvantaged.4

Even if you don’t think you have an opinion about net neutrality, FCC records may show otherwise. One of the biggest controversies surrounding the new policy is that the FCC implemented it based on public feedback to its website. However, it has since been determined that of the 21.7 million comments received in 2017, only 6 percent were unique — the other 94 percent were submitted multiple times — in some cases, hundreds of thousands of times.5

Commenters may have stolen the identities of real people in order to submit a mass wave of similar opinions. You can plug your name into this tool (set up by the New York State Attorney General’s Office) to find out if an opinion was submitted under your name and address without your knowledge.

Regulation is a complex subject, with consequences on both sides of the issue. However, there are a couple of lessons that can be taken from current debates, like the one on net neutrality. First, much of what we read has some type of biased “spin” — and this can apply to financial topics as well. Second, although it’s always a good idea to read as much as we can, it’s also important to run our thoughts and opinions by someone who is knowledgeable on the topic at hand. When it comes to insurance, that’s us. Please keep us in mind as you consider your insurance needs now and in the future.

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 FCC. Dec. 14, 2017. “Declaratory Ruling, Report and Order, and Order.” https://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2018/db0104/FCC-17-166A1.pdf. Accessed Jan. 5, 2018.

2 FCC. Dec. 14, 2017. “FCC Acts to Restore Internet Freedom.” http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2017/db1214/DOC-348261A1.pdf. Accessed Jan. 5, 2018.

3 Internet Association. “Net Neutrality.” https://internetassociation.org/positions/net-neutrality/. Accessed Jan. 5, 2018.

4 Amy McGinn. Baltimore Sun. Dec. 27, 2017. “Net neutrality repeal widens opportunity gap for students.” http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-op-1228-net-neutrality-20171221-story.html. Accessed Jan. 5, 2018.

5 Pew Research Center. Nov. 29, 2017. “Public Comments to the Federal Communications Commission About Net Neutrality Contain Many Inaccuracies and Duplicates.” http://www.pewinternet.org/2017/11/29/public-comments-to-the-federal-communications-commission-about-net-neutrality-contain-many-inaccuracies-and-duplicates/. Accessed Jan. 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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The Cost of Health Care

Americans spend a lot on health care. In 2016, national health expenditures grew 4.3 percent to $3.3 trillion, which amounts to $10,348 per person.1 It’s interesting that you’ll find few people who say our health care system is fine as is, and medical services, facilities, drugs and equipment are all reasonably priced. However, there is little consensus on ways to fix the system.

 

Health care is fast becoming one of the most dominant expenses in our lives, right up there with vehicles, a mortgage and college education. Just as we do for other big-ticket expenses, we have to plan and save for health care and even consider a possible contingency plan.

 

Another common feature of big-ticket expenses is that they often are best covered by insurance. If your family history indicates it, you may want to consider going further than health insurance by purchasing disability or critical illness policies. If you could use some help assessing your needs to determine what type of coverage is appropriate for your family, please contact us.

 

Unfortunately, many patients aren’t in a position to lower health care costs because they aren’t able to control the care they receive. Many situations may offer a variety of treatment options, but patients often rely on their providers to recommend the best course of action. Further, it may be difficult to tell what is necessary and what is discretionary.

 

In fact, some procedures may be selected by health care professionals in response to internal pressure to increase revenues.2 Others may be concerned that if they don’t order what may be considered “unnecessary” extra tests and procedures, a wrong call could end up in a malpractice lawsuit. All things being even, physicians may err toward the more expensive route.

 

Worse yet, emergency care expenses may be completely out of our hands. For example, did you

know that if you have to be rushed to the hospital by ambulance, you may be charged a fee even if you have insurance to cover the service? That’s because some cities charge a “paramedic response fee” that is not covered by insurance.3

 

Another challenge is the rising cost of prescription drugs. One reason for this could be the rebates and other discounts that drug companies pay to insurers, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and government programs for selling or administering brand-name drugs. The amount of these rebates increased from $67 billion in 2013 to $106 billion in 2015. Unfortunately, while these middlemen may save money thanks to rebates, they don’t always pass on these savings to consumers.4

 

The problem of health care expenses is so widespread that it could even influence the way we grow as a society. This is evidenced by the sage advice one mother gave to her children about entering the workforce: “You need to go to a company with good health insurance, even before you look at the salary or whether you’ll be happy there, your first priority is health insurance.”5

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

 

 

1 Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Dec. 6, 2017. “NHE Fact Sheet.” https://www.cms.gov/research-statistics-data-and-systems/statistics-trends-and-reports/nationalhealthexpenddata/nhe-fact-sheet.html. Accessed Jan. 8, 2018.

2 Marshall Allen. NPR. Nov. 28, 2017. “Epidemic of Health Care Waste: From $1,877 Ear Piercing to ICU Overuse.” https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/11/28/566782829/epidemic-of-health-care-waste-from-1-877-ear-piercing-to-icu-overuse. Accessed Dec. 30, 2017.

3 Anna Gorman. Kaiser Health News. Feb. 3, 2016. “Surprise! Here’s Another Bill for That ‘Paramedic Response‘.https://khn.org/news/surprise-heres-another-bill-for-that-paramedic-response/. Accessed Dec. 30, 2017.

4 NBC News/Kaiser Health News. Dec. 21, 2017. “Arthritis drugs show how U.S. drug prices defy economics.” https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/arthritis-drugs-show-how-u-s-drug-prices-defy-economics-n831661. Accessed Dec. 30, 2017.

5 Ibid.

 

Disability and critical illness policies are not a replacement for traditional health insurance and are subject to eligibility requirements. 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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Second Marriages: Financial Finesse

Of all the questions we ask a potential spouse before tying the knot, they seldom include:

 

“Who are the beneficiaries of your investment plans and insurance policies?”

“Do you wish to be resuscitated if your heart stops or if you stop breathing?”

“Do you want your ex or me to be guardian for your children if you die?”

 

These are not exactly the whispers of sweet nothings upon which romance thrives. They are, however, practical considerations couples engaged in a second marriage need to tackle either before or shortly after exchanging vows. In addition to figuring out who pays for what household expenses, spouses should consider plans for health care, saving for the future and estate planning for both the surviving spouse and all beneficiaries.1

 

Finances are a big part of the marriage contract, and they can be even more controversial when one or both spouses already have experience from prior relationships. According to the American Psychological Association, spouses who share accounts and financial decisions report higher family satisfaction than those who opt to keep their money separate.2

 

However, it’s important to emphasize that this is a highly subjective decision that should be made by both partners based on their circumstances. It may be prudent to work with a financial professional to help determine a household budget strategy, as well as insurance and designated beneficiary decisions to help protect family assets and income from unexpected events. Please contact us if you need such help.

 

Note, too, that how you handle your marital legal affairs may depend on where you live.

In a community property state, what each spouse brings to the marriage remains his or her own, but assets acquired during the marriage are considered owned by both spouses. In common law states, asset ownership is determined strictly by titles, registrations and other documents.3

 

According to the most recent census data, 50 percent of first marriages and 60 percent of second marriages end in divorce.4 Yet second marriages in the U.S. are so common now that blended families are considered “the norm.” Unfortunately, the comingling of children from prior relationships can bring all sorts of financial complications — even when the children are grown. What was once sibling rivalry over who gets the most expensive birthday gifts can morph into who gets what assets when a stepparent dies.

 

Despite bleak statistics, there are definite advantages to a second marriage. For one thing, the partners are generally older and have already witnessed the fallout of prior mistakes. Many couples enter a second marriage with the knowledge of what works and what doesn’t and have accepted the fallacy of their own mistakes. They may commit to correcting the error of their ways and engage in more open communication to ward off problems before they steep. As one seasoned spouse proclaimed, the next time around offers “a second chance for a first great marriage.”5

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

 

1 Janet Kidd Stewart. The Seattle Times. Nov. 7, 2017. “How to avoid the stress that a 2nd marriage can put on a retirement plan.” https://www.seattletimes.com/business/how-to-avoid-the-stress-that-a-2nd-marriage-can-put-on-a-retirement-plan/. Accessed Dec. 22, 2017.

2 American Psychological Association. 2017. “Making stepfamilies work.” http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stepfamily.aspx. Accessed Dec. 22, 2017.

3 Mark Eghrari. Forbes. June 2, 2017. “Second Marriage and Estate Planning: 5 Things You May Not Have Considered.https://www.forbes.com/sites/markeghrari/2017/06/02/second-marriage-and-estate-planning-5-things-you-may-not-have-considered/#71d3ad261db1. Accessed Dec. 22, 2017.

4 Terry Gaspard. The Good Men Project. Sep. 27, 2017. “10 Things to Improve Your Second Marriage Today.” https://goodmenproject.com/marriage-2/10-things-to-improve-your-second-marriage-today-fiff/. Accessed Dec. 22, 2017.

5 Jill Lipton. Boston Globe. Nov. 17, 2017. “We’re newlyweds over 50, and the best is yet to come.” https://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2017/11/14/newlyweds-over-and-best-yet-come/EL6m1jU0sosMxSRSnXALxK/story.html. Accessed Dec. 22, 2017.

 

We are not permitted to offer legal advice. Individuals are encouraged to consult with a qualified professional before making any decisions about their personal situation.

 

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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