AuthorEddie Rivera

Components of a Balanced Financial Plan

The best way to achieve your near-term and long-term financial goals is create a balanced financial plan and then to follow through with your plan, making necessary adjustments as circumstances change. The components of a balanced financial plan include budgeting, saving, retirement planning, investing, insurance, and estate planning.

Budgeting

Budgeting is one of the foundations of any financial plan. It is all about cash flow: how much cash you have coming in and how you allocate that cash. Creating both a near-term budget (for the next year) and a long-term budget (for the next five years) can be a useful exercise. Start with a snapshot of your current situation: determine how much income you have and where it is going, including living expenses (food, utilities, telephone, cable, etc.), debt payments, transportation costs, insurance premiums, and savings. Then project your budget forward. For a longer term budget, be sure to take into account any large purchases you anticipate, such as a new car or appliances. This budget is the framework that will you help you complete your larger financial plan, since it will tell you how much money you have, once your basic needs are met, to allocate to other financial priorities.

Saving

One or more line items on your budget should be related to saving. You may need to save for emergencies, for education, for a home or other major purchase and for retirement. The keys to saving are to identify your goals, to develop a plan to achieve them and then to start setting money aside consistently until you get there.

Retirement Planning

One major aspect of the saving component of your financial plan is retirement planning. Although retirement planning involves more than just saving, for many Americans, saving is the cornerstone of a comfortable retirement, because they may not have a traditional pension to fall back on. The sooner you begin saving for retirement the better, since, the longer your money has to grow, the bigger your retirement account balance will be when you need it. If you have an employer-sponsored retirement plan with an employer match, contributing enough to the plan to at least earn the match can be a great way to jump start your retirement plan.

Investing

Once you start building your savings, you will need to invest the money you have set aside so that it can grow for you over time. How you invest it will depend on a number of factors including your risk tolerance and when you will need it. Money that you will or may need soon, such as money in an emergency fund, should be in liquid, safe investments even though their returns may be low. On the other hand, if you have 20 years or more until retirement, you could consider taking a bit more risk with some of your retirement funds in order to achieve better long-term returns.

Insurance

Insurance is a critical component of any balanced financial plan, since it can protect you from the uncertainties that otherwise could result in financial disaster. Be sure that you have health insurance, at least for major medical expenses; disability insurance, to protect your income if you are unable to work; renters, homeowners’ and auto insurance to protect your property; and life insurance to protect your family. Other insurance coverage to consider includes umbrella insurance, especially as you net worth increases, and long-term care insurance.

Estate Planning

If you don’t have a lot of assets, you may not feel that estate planning is a necessity. However, at least one aspect of estate planning, preparing a will, applies to you. If you don’t have a will, your assets may not be distributed as you wish and your family may not be protected. You also may want to prepare a living will to set forth your wishes for health care if you are incapacitated and a durable power of attorney for health care to name someone to make health care decisions for you if you can’t do it yourself.

Sources:

financialplan.about.com, Building a Balanced Financial Plan: The Three-Legged Stool

Shae Irving, www.nolo.com, The Living Will and Power of Attorney for Healthcare: An Overview

More from this Contributor:

Planning for Retirement after Age 50

Money Management for Young Adults: Retirement Planning after a Layoff

First Person: Using a Headhunter to Find a Job

Medicaid Trusts

Protecting assets from Medicaid, via spend down, According to a recent national study by CareQuest, 63% of seniors in the U.S. believe that Medicare will cover any long-term care they might need. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and this myth has discouraged many seniors from taking time to plan for long-term care.

CareQuest suggests that the government should officially notify all Medicare beneficiaries that Medicare does not cover long-term care and that they should look into long-term care planning options, including insurance, Medicaid, and others, even with irrevocable trusts.

Here are a few Medicaid myths that are commonly accepted among older people:

MYTH: You must be poor to qualify for Medicaid.

REALITY: You may keep many assets and still qualify-these assets include a home, a car, and many other important items.

MYTH: You must have very little income to qualify for Medicaid.

REALITY: By using an income-cap trust or other tools, you can generally qualify for Medicaid even if your income exceeds the monthly maximum, which may be higher than you might think.

MYTH: Any individual can help qualify their relatives for Medicaid by simply transferring assets to themselves.

REALITY: This is very dangerous. Many of these transfers will be deemed prohibited transfers. This will delay the time before the relative obtains Medicaid benefits.

HHS Approves State Ticket-to-Work Plans

HHS has announced approval for two state plans to allow some people with disabilities to return to work without jeopardizing their Medicaid benefits. Washington and Wyoming were able to make the changes due partially to grants from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) under the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999, which gives states greater flexibility to assist workers with disabilities under the Medicaid program.

The Washington plan will offer Medicaid to anyone age 18 to 64 who has a disability and with income up to 220% of the federal poverty level, which is currently $8,860. Wyoming’s plan is similar, but the eligible ages are 16 to 64, and income must not exceed the federal poverty level. Both plans require eligible individuals to pay a premium based on a sliding fee scale.

HHS 6-20-02, 6-21-02

medi-wyo Estate Includes House Conveyed to Heirs

In 1994, Ms. Smith, a wyoming resident, executed a deed granting her two daughters a fee simple interest in her house, but she retained a life estate in the property and the right to revoke her daughters’ remainder interests. From September 1994 to December 1996, wyoming’s medi-wyo program paid for Ms. Smith’s nursing home care. After Ms. Smith’s death, the wyoming Director of Health Services filed a complaint to recover $45,358 in long-term care expenses from her estate, including the house now owned by her daughters. A trial court denied the claim, but the wyoming Court of Appeal has now reversed many years of elder and senior law. 

CMS to Reduce Paperwork for Home Health Nurses

Saying that common sense needs to be ensured in all HHS regulations, HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson recently announced the launch of a new effort to streamline Medicare’s paperwork requirements for home health nurses and therapists so they can focus more on providing quality care to their patients.

“Over time, we’ve placed too many barriers between patients and their nurses, doctors and other health care providers,” Thompson said. “This committee is helping us figure out some common-sense solutions to revise regulatory requirements to ensure that health care professionals can spend more time with patients and less time with paperwork.”

Since 1999, Medicare has required home health agencies to complete the OASIS (Outcome Assessment Information Set) assessment at regular intervals both to ensure Medicare pays appropriately and to assess and improve the quality of care. Secretary Thompson has asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to immediately submit a package for public comment to eliminate aspects of OASIS that are duplicative or are not needed to promote quality care or to ensure accurate payment.

CMS will propose cutting 2 of 10 OASIS assessments, reducing the time nurses and therapists spend on them by an estimated 25%.

Happy New Year Everyone!!!!

I had a great holidays with my family and was reminded of the issues facing the older generation. We can thank them for so much, including making this country a wonderful place to live, for everybody… (I feel it necessary to include a message of inclusiveness given recent political happenings). Share some of the information below with any seniors in your life. It could make a world of difference for someone, or a whole family!

Cold Weather Can Be Trouble for Older People

Cold weather can be risky for anyone, but especially for older people. Winter brings more than just slippery ice and the flu. The cold itself can also lead to hypothermia-a temperature drop inside the body that can be deadly if not discovered and treated quickly and properly.

Hypothermia is marked by unusually low body temperatures, below 96° F (35.5° C). What may seem like a mere couple of degrees can have a devastating effect. Severe hypothermia can cause an irregular heartbeat that can lead to heart failure.

The elderly, who often suffer other illnesses or take medications that can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate its temperature, are especially vulnerable to hypothermia.

How can you tell if someone has hypothermia? Here are a few signs:

  • Confusion or sleepiness,
  • Slowed, slurred speech
  • Shallow breathing,
  • Weak pulse or low blood pressure
  • A change in behavior or appearance during cold weather;
  • Excess shivering or no shivering when cold,
  • Stiffness in the arms and legs,
  • Poor control over body movements or slow reactions.

If you suspect someone you know might be suffering from hypothermia, take his or her temperature. If it appears below 96° F, call a doctor immediately.

Also, here is some information on heart attacks. One of our nation’s most prolific killers:

Know the Signs of Heart Attack — Then Do Something

Too few Americans get to the hospital quickly enough when a heart attack occurs. The main reason is patient delay. Those experiencing heart attack symptoms should call 911 within minutes – 5 at the most. Instead, studies show they wait 2 hours or more before seeking emergency care.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and other organizations recently made available a host of resources to help Americans know how to react to a heart attack and thereby to save heart muscle and lives. The resources, which include a wallet card, a brochure, and a special Web page, are part of a major campaign called “Act in Time to Heart Attack Signs.” All materials are available free on the “Act in Time” web page: www.nhlbi.nih.gov/actintime.

Signs of Heart Attack:

  • Chest discomfort & pain
  • Discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat
  • Nausea
  • Light-headedness

My uncle has spent a large part of his life in a longterm care facility. This is because he suffers from blindness. This latest story gives me hope others won’t have to endure what he and his family has:

Blindness Affecting More and More Americans

More Americans than ever are facing the threat of blindness from age-related eye disease, a new report says. Over one million Americans aged 40 and over are currently blind, and an additional 2.4 million are visually impaired. These numbers are expected to double over the next 30 years as the Baby Boomers age.

The Vision Problems in the U.S. report was released by the National Eye Institute. The report addresses the leading causes of vision impairment and blindness in the U.S., including:

Diabetic retinopathy, believed to be a leading cause of blindness in the industrialized world in people between the ages of 25 and 74;

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common cause of blindness and vision impairment in Americans aged 60 and older;

Cataracts, the leading cause of blindness worldwide; and

Glaucoma, a chronic disease that often requires life-long treatment to control.

A copy of the full report is available for download at www.preventblindness.org and www.nei.nih.gov/eyedata.

Happy New Year one last time and do your best to stay healthy! 

Aging With Grace

As we get older we have a whole new host of health concerns:

Osteoarthritis Treatments Evaluated

Researchers from the University of Virginia recently evaluated the treatment options for osteoarthritis, a chronic and progressive disease that damages the joints and surrounding tissue. Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of disability in the U.S., and most treatments for it focus on the symptoms rather than the cause. These symptoms include pain, restricted movement, and muscle wasting. The researchers examined completed clinical trials of treatments and found that:

Exercise benefits patients with mild to moderate osteoarthritis;

Physical therapy significantly reduces pain and should be an early choice;

Acetaminophen reduces pain by 30%;

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs reduce pain by 30%, with side effects;

Glucosamine, chondroitin, avocado, and soybean are as effective as Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs;

Surgery is an option for patients with severe disease of the hip or knee.

And: Continue reading

Medicaid Spend Down

As you probably gathered from an earlier post of mine, I like caffeine! Haha, well following up on that theme, I have found a second story which confirms why I like to have a few cups (or more) of java in the morning… Well, coffee lovers unite and rejoice because we need to have no shame, and in fact should spread the love via medicaid trusts. 

Decaf May Increase RA Risk

Many people who eliminate caffeine from their diets as part of their healthy lifestyles may actually be increasing their risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the joints and internal organs.

According to a recent study that included more than 31,000 women between the ages of 55-69, test subjects who consumed four or more cups of decaffeinated coffee a day were more than twice as likely to develop RA, compared to women who did not drink decaffeinated coffee. No link was found between regular coffee intake and an increase in RA risk.

Researchers could only speculate about the mechanisms behind these findings, but they pointed out that the blame could rest with an old decaffeination process. Before the late 1980s, the decaffeination process involved chemicals and chemical solvents that are no longer used.

diff-types-coffee

Image Stolen Continue reading

Follow Up

I just wanted to follow up on my very last post. I have since stumbled on a second article which highlights the benefits present from ingesting Folic acid. I like this bit of information because it is something we can use to change how we live our lives and empower us.

Check our other articles on medicaid asset protection and finding happiness.

Most stories are focused on scaring us and making us believe we can’t do anything to change the sad state of affairs. I think that nutrition and medical news is different because we can ACT on what we learn. Take what you find below and make a difference!

Take for example the fact:

Folic Acid Possibly a Key Factor in AD Prevention

Mouse experiments suggest that folic acid could play an essential role in protecting the brain against the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. This animal study could help researchers unravel the underlying biochemical mechanisms involved in another recent finding that people with high blood levels of homocysteine have nearly twice the risk of developing the disease.

Investigators fed one group of mice with Alzheimer’s-like plaques in their brains a diet that included normal amounts of folate, while a second group was fed a diet deficient in this vitamin. The scientists then counted neurons in the hippocampus, a brain region critical for learning and memory that is destroyed as plaques accumulate during Alzheimer’s disease. The mice that had received the diet deficient in folate had fewer neurons than the mice in the other group had.

The team of researchers also discovered that mice with low amounts of dietary folate had elevated levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine is an amino acid connected to Alzheimer’s in another recent study.

And combine that knowledge with this…

High Homocysteine Levels Indicate High Risk for AD

People with elevated levels of the amino acid homocysteine in the blood had nearly double the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new report from scientists at Boston University. The findings, in a group of people participating in the long-running Framingham Study, are the first to tie homocysteine levels measured years before with later diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

The relationship between Alzheimer’s and homocysteine is of particular interest for two reasons. First, the ability to measure homocysteine in the blood could lead to a simple test to predict Alzheimer’s. Right now, there is no effective test to predict an individual’s risk of developing the disease.

Second, homocysteine levels can be reduced by increasing intake of folic acid (or folate) and vitamins B6 and B12. The therapeutic use of these compounds is being explored as scientists try to understand better homocysteine’s role in Alzheimer’s.

To be certain Alzheimer’s is aways a sobering topic. It is a disease which afflicts millions and has no known cure. Beyond the individuals directly effected are family members forced to endure the unspeakable horrors. It’s thus nice to know there do seem to be some remedies, with a potential cure being still far away, but on the horizon nonetheless. 

Happiness Theme!

medicare doctorDoctor’s Orders — Don’t Worry Be Happy

Scientists have discovered a quick and easy method of adding 7½ years to your life, and it doesn’t require four easy payments of $19.95. All you have to do is be happy as you age. In fact, the benefits of a positive attitude towards aging may be greater than those for regular exercise and a non-smoking lifestyle, according to a study by Yale and Miami University of Ohio.

Check out my following article on irrevocable medicaid trusts and my previous on female health.

“People’s perception of aging predicted the length of their survival,” said Dr. Suzanne Kunkel, co-author of the study. Kunkel and her colleagues analyzed data collected on about 660 people age 50 and older in Oxford, OH. The researchers recorded how the 338 men and 322 women answered several questions about aging in 1975. Then 23 years later, they examined how those responses predicted the subjects’ survival.

The increase in life expectancy due to a positive attitude was evident even after taking into account factors such as age, gender, socio-economic status, functional health, and loneliness.

happy baby

Beautiful smiling cute baby

Alzheimer’s Linked to Depression Continue reading

Female Health Topics

Women with Premature Menopause Face Higher Risk for Dangerous Condition

Women with spontaneous premature ovarian failure (POF) are 300 times more likely than members of the general population to develop a serious condition in which the body attacks the adrenal glands, according to a study by researchers at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). An estimated one percent of American women develop POF by age 40. The condition occurs when the ovaries stop producing eggs and reproductive hormones well in advance of natural menopause.

female health

Primary auto-immune adrenal insufficiency, also known as Addison’s disease, occurs when the body’s own immune system makes antibodies that attack and destroy the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands produce hormones that regulate salt metabolism and the body’s response to stress. While easily treated by replacing these missing hormones, Addison’s disease can be life threatening if left untreated.

The study also found that adrenal antibody tests can effectively determine if women with POF are at risk for Addison’s disease. Continue reading

Cancer Awareness

Activated Immune Cells Attack Tumors

A new approach to cancer treatment that replaces a patient’s immune system with cancer-fighting cells can lead to tumor shrinkage. A recent study demonstrated that immune cells, activated in the laboratory against patients’ tumors and then administered to those patients, can attack cancer cells in the body. The experimental technique, known as adoptive transfer, has shown promising results in patients with metastic melanoma who have not responded to standard treatment. With further research, scientists hope this approach may have applications to many cancer types, as well as infectious diseases such as AIDS.

In the study, 13 patients with metastic melanoma (a deadly form of skin cancer) who had not responded to standard treatments were treated with immune cells produced in the laboratory specifically to destroy their tumors. The treatment resulted in at least 50% tumor shrinkage in six of the patients, with no growth or appearance of new tumors. Four additional patients had some cancer growths disappear.

Source: National Cancer Institute 9-19-16

www.cancer.gov Continue reading

Hello!

Wine May Decrease Dementia Risk

Too much alcohol may impair judgement, but having an occasional glass of wine might actually reduce the risk of developing dementia. Scientists in Denmark have been studying 1,700 people since the 1970s. Over a period of two decades, 83 of those people developed a form of dementia.

The researchers found that the people who drank wine had about half the risk of developing dementia. However, for beer drinkers, the risk of developing dementia was higher. The scientists could not determine why wine was associated with a lower risk and beer was associated with a higher risk, but they admitted that wine drinkers may tend to eat a more healthy diet or consume more vitamin E.

Heart Failure Survival Rates Improving

Survival after a heart failure diagnosis has greatly improved over the past 50 years, according to a study from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). The study found that the risk of dying after being diagnosed with heart failure has dropped by about a third in men and women. Also, the number of new cases of heart failure has dropped by about a third for women, though the number of new cases for men remained unchanged.

Heart failure occurs when the heart can no longer pump enough blood through the body. It often develops slowly, over many years. About 4.8 million Americans have heart failure, with about 550,000 new cases being diagnosed each year. Heart failure contributes to about 287,000 deaths each annually. Prevention remains the best defense and involves controlling high blood pressure, heart disease, and other conditions.

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