Feeling Stressed? Find Some Green.

It’s not easy being green.

That signature line delivered by Jim Henson’s Kermit the Frog, and later covered by Frank Sinatra and countless others, has taken on a variety of meanings over the years. One way the classic Muppets song applies to the world today is the difficulty in finding green areas in urban neighborhoods.

Imagine being a youngster in a low-income family, looking outside and, instead of seeing a tree to climb or grass to play in, being surrounded by man-made structures and the dangers of gang violence.

Earlier this year, research from Stanford University found that growing up in an environment sans nature’s bounty can have a direct impact on a person’s overall physical and mental well-being. The lack of green areas in urban neighborhoods may even impede the maturity of children’s brains and be a factor in their economic decline.

Whether it’s growing up in a rough neighborhood or keeping track of the bills in an upscale community, people of all ages and economic statuses face some form of stress. The best way to combat this is confidence, something we’re here to provide as your financial professional.

Knowing that you’ve received professional advice and have proactively created a plan to secure your financial future as well as that of your family can help relieve anxiety. Through years of saving and hard work, you’ve put yourself in a position where you can enjoy the world around you: taking walks, enjoying a sunset unobstructed by pollution and gazing upon the bloom of flowers.

Several children today are growing up in an environment where those simple pleasures are absent. That’s why some cities have started focusing on restoring green areas in low-income neighborhoods, strategically planting shrubs and trees to screen out busy street noises and reduce the glare from headlights.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “The Simple Idea That Could Make America’s Poorest Neighborhoods Healthier,” from Think Progress, July 10, 2015.]

For an example of how green spaces can help maintain happiness, even in a financial predicament, just look at what’s happening in Greece. The country’s financial struggles may have city residents in a damper, but those living in the beautiful mountain villages have a bit more hope.

“I have my lettuce, my onions, I have my hens, my birds, I will manage,” one retiree stated after his government pension was cut.

While those who live in outlying areas still feel the effects of shuttered banks and reduced government services, they have a better chance of surviving than city dwellers. In short, they are using age-old tactics that have enabled them to survive wars and natural disasters: chickens and a vegetable patch.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Greek villagers’ secret weapon: Grow your own food,” from The Houston Chronicle, July 3, 2015.]

Then there are traditional stress relievers. We’ve always known they worked, we just didn’t know the science behind them. For example, adult coloring books have recently become de rigueur as a modern-day stress reliever.

Sugar has been proven to reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and hugging releases oxytocin, a hormone that promotes feelings of devotion, trust and bonding.

[CLICK HERE to read, “Colouring books for adults a new way to relieve stress,” from CBC News, July 8, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Sugar as a Stress Reliever,” from The New York Times, April 23, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “7 Reasons Why We Should Be Giving More Hugs,” from The Huffington Post, March 27, 2014.]

These are all great remedies, but the ideal situation is to avoid stressful circumstances to begin with. If you ever have questions about your financial circumstances, feel free to give us a call.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives.

The information contained in this material is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources 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.

Don’t Spend Summer in Hot Water

Everyone slips up from time to time. It’s human nature.

But some mishaps are easier to make up for than others. A misstep in your financial decision making can have significant and far-reaching ramifications, which is why it’s generally a good idea to run your ideas by an objective professional to avoid regrets in the future.

Some recent headline-makers provide good reminders about the benefits of fully thinking through ideas before acting on them.

Anyone can say the wrong thing, but if it happens when you’re in the spotlight, as Donald Trump was when he announced his candidacy for presidency — that’s tricky business.

His comments about illegal immigrants from Mexico caused a firestorm of media attention, with interesting repercussions.

Detractors have been swift in both criticizing the billionaire mogul, and in some cases, even cutting business ties with him. Conservative supporters have defended his comments, but many remain silent for fear of further disengaging the Latin voting community.

And still others defend his right to free speech. Yes, it’s a right, but is it always a good idea?

[CLICK HERE to read, “Transcript: Donald Trump announces his presidential candidacy,” from CBS News, June 16, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Macy’s just dumped Donald Trump merchandise,” from Fortune, July 1, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “And Now, What Mexico Thinks of Donald Trump,” from The New York Times, July 2, 2015.]

Historically, we’ve seen many high-profile leaders and celebrities commit gaffes. Some paid the price and eventually recovered to varying degrees, like Martha Stewart after serving jail time for obstruction of justice. Others have suffered immeasurably.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Martha Stewart’s Prison Time Actually Helped Her Business,” from Time, Oct. 8, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “How Martha Stewart lost her $2 billion empire,” from The Washington Post, June 29, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Brian Williams will leave ‘NBC Nightly News’ and join MSNBC,” from The L.A. Times, June 18, 2015.]

How much can our own words and actions hurt us? When it comes to personal relationships, the repercussions can be long lasting. According to relationship experts, using phrases referencing “you always,” “you never” or “you’re being too sensitive” can be irreversibly damaging.

On the other hand, taking responsibility for your words and actions and offering a heartfelt apology can go a long way.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “The 10 Most Dangerous Phrases in a Relationship,” from The Huffington Post, May 13, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Benedict Cumberbatch and the Right Way to Apologize,” from The Atlantic, Jan. 27, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Abby Wambach apologizes for referee criticism, will likely avoid suspension,” from USA Today, Jun. 24, 2015.]

When it comes to finances, if you’d like help determining your moves for the future, please give us a call.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives.

The information contained in this material is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources 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.

Health Care Reform Here to Stay

If there were any lingering doubts about the long-term sustainability of the Affordable Care Act (also known as the ACA or Obamacare), a recent Supreme Court ruling assured the health care overhaul is here to stay.

Not only does the King v. Burwell ruling handed down by Chief Justice John Roberts put the ACA on firm ground for the future, it also puts to rest challenges of the health law’s tax rules from opponents hoping to exploit loopholes.

A few lines pulled from the Supreme Court ruling:
“We cannot interpret federal statutes to negate their own stated purposes.”
“Congress passed the ACA to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them.”

Roberts’ decision may go a long way in clarifying the ACA’s intentions, but for the average person, it’s understandable if all the legislative, medical and financial arguments remain clear as mud. Health insurance is a complex issue at both the state and national levels, but as your financial professional, we know that what matters most is how the law affects you individually.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “What to Take Away from the Supreme Court Decision on Health Care,” from The New York Times, June 25, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to search the Rate Review database, “Find Rate Review Information about Your Insurer,” on Healthcare.gov, accessed June 24, 2015.]

Talks of the 2016 presidential race have already started picking up as new, high-profile candidates throw their names into the ring. In that regard, it can be difficult to predict what changes are on the horizon. But, as King v. Burwell established, it will take more than just a Presidential change to eliminate the ACA.

The ruling strengthens the law to the point that it will take an act of Congress to make changes in the future. Roberts wrote that he believes subsidizing universal health insurance is of “deep economic and political significance,” and that if Congress wanted to give future Presidents an escape hatch from the legislation, “it surely would have done so expressly.”

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Why John Roberts’ Obamacare decision goes further than you think,” from MSNBC.com, June 25, 2015.]

So here’s what we know: The initiative to get everyone in the country covered by health insurance, regardless of income level, will continue as planned. Ensuring the care is at a certain degree of quality … well, that has its challenges.

Take a look at veterans who have sought care at VA hospitals. One of their greatest needs, mental health care, appears to be a weakness in this delivery system. In fact, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, as many as 22 veterans die by suicide each day. This travesty appears to emanate from incorrect diagnoses, poor record-keeping, lack of follow-ups and the VHA’s lack of compliance with its own policies and procedures.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “GAO: VA’s errors and noncompliance hinder suicide prevention efforts,” from Modern Healthcare, June 11, 2015.]

Access to quality care also is a major issue in rural locations throughout the country. Fortunately, this has been addressed in recent years by loosening up practice requirements by nurse practitioners (NPs) who have earned a master’s degree or better.

New state laws have begun to permit NPs greater autonomy to perform services such as ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, prescribing medications and administering treatments for patients in rural states that struggle to recruit doctors to remote areas.

[CLICK HERE to read the article “Doctoring, without the Doctor,” from The New York Times, May 25, 2015.]

On the other hand, greater demand for providers necessitates more money. This has been evident in rate requests filed by health insurers for 2016. Increases thus far have ranged from 6 percent for high-level platinum plans to 14 percent for silver plans.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “3 must-know facts about 2016 health rate filings,” from LifeHealthPro, June 11, 2015.]

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives.

The information contained in this material is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources 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.

The Heat of Negotiations

As we approach the dog days of summer, the world’s elected officials are pouring on the heat in political debates ranging from Euro debt to global trade agreements.

Greece and its creditors have been arguing over how much debt Greece must repay each year. The discord has led others in the European Union — even Great Britain — to question if the single currency experiment is worth the time and effort. Years after the global recession, unemployment remains high, the population is aging fast and Eastern Europe has not recovered as quickly as expected.

Bear in mind that the EU is comprised of 28 separate countries operating as a single free enterprise market. Perhaps it’s understandable that 28 nations, combining different languages, cultures and history, can’t come together easily in agreement.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Greek Drama: Why the Negotiations Risk Europe’s Future,” from Knowledge@Wharton, June 10, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Greece Gets Temporary Lifeline, Turns Hope to New Summit,” from The New York Times, June 19, 2015.]

But can you say the same about one country (the United States), composed of 50 states that all speak the same language and share basically the same history?

The gulf in our nation’s capital continues to be as deep and divisive as the vast oceans that separate us from the world’s other developed countries. The most recent debate on tap has been the odd web of global trade negotiation legislation in the U.S., featuring the Republicans aligned with the Obama administration in a rare coalition. And yet, this force has been blocked by a strong minority of Democrats with just enough collective power to put a wrench in negotiations.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “How Congress Voted on Trade,” from Govtrack, June 18, 2015.]

Then there is the ongoing campaign for fair wages, a forum currently being played out across multiple industries — both corporate and creative. The discrepancy between gender pay is certainly not a new debate, but has been thrust back into the spotlight in recent months by email hacks at Sony that revealed many blockbuster actresses are not compensated the same as their male counterparts. One study revealed that while in other industries women experience an average pay gap of 78 cents to a man’s dollar, in Hollywood the highest-paid actresses make just 40 cents for every dollar that the highest-paid actors make — a fact that gets lost amid multi-million dollar paychecks.

These news headlines have occurred simultaneously as local, state and federal government bodies debate the merits of increasing the minimum wage. And where fair pay is concerned, recent newsworthy lawsuits and settlements in the music industry have highlighted discrepancies among artists and between artists and streaming music distributors.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “The Gender Wage Gap Is Especially Terrible in Hollywood,” from Slate.com, Feb. 23, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Navigating the Ripple Effects of a Higher Minimum Wage,” from Knowledge@Wharton, June 16, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “James Taylor: Streaming Businesses Should Pay Artists Half,” from ABC News, June 19, 2015.]

While the world debates bigger issues, we’re help to help you navigate the different ways to  potentially optimize your own assets, liabilities and retirement income. If we can help you sweat out the details of a retirement income plan for your unique situation, please give us a call.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives.

The information contained in this material is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources 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.