I know the probability of keeping New Year's resolutions is low, but I make them anyway. I like to start fresh, full of hope for the year.
This year, I have three major resolutions: get more exercise, eat healthier and stress less about my retirement future.
Ladies, I don't know about you, but life can sometimes be overwhelming and I feel more tired than ever. Sometimes I wake up tired! This is probably because I get less sleep than I did when I was younger. I get an average of five hours of sleep a night, and that's being generous. So for 2018, I'm giving myself a bedtime and sticking to it. No more late-night television or reading into the wee hours of the morning. Getting more sleep is very important to my health and longevity.
I've also resolved to continue eating healthier and lose weight. This is something I started last year and I have felt much better. I now know the value of continuing this lifestyle. My saying for eating better is "eat to live, not live to eat!" I'm going to try a more plant-based diet too.
And, while my finances overall are in great shape, I'm like many women, overly obsessed and stressed about having enough money for retirement. Watching the stock market's up and down swings too closely can give you too much stress. I'm also going to take the time to put all my important financial information into a software that I use with my clients so I can track my progress once a month in one location. This will reduce my stress because I will be able to see everything on one screen and quickly see how well I'm doing. And I vow to only look at it a few times a year.
If you have made resolutions for the New Year, I wish you much success in reaching your goals!
Remember I am always here to help you with your financial goals throughout the year.
2018 Social Security and Medicare changes
The new year brings with it changes to how much retirees will receive from Social Security and how much more some higher-income workers will contribute in payroll taxes toward their future benefits. Most Medicare beneficiaries will pay more for their health-care premiums in 2018 than last year and some higher-income beneficiaries may be surprised by new income rules that determine their Medicare surcharges in 2018. Here is a handy fact sheet for key numbers that will affect your retired clients' benefits and expenses this year.
Retirees finally get a raise
After two years of little or no cost-of-living adjustments, retirees will finally get a 2% increase in their Social Security retirement benefits in 2018. It is the biggest COLA in six years. The average retirement benefit will increase by $27 to $1,404 per month and the average retired couple will receive a $46 raise to $2,340 per month. The maximum monthly Social Security benefit for lifelong high earners who begin collecting benefits at full retirement age this year will rise by $101 per month to $2,788.
Higher Medicare premiums offset COLAs
But retirees shouldn't celebrate their increased benefits too soon. The average Social Security COLA will be consumed by higher Medicare Part B premiums, which pays for doctors' visits and outpatient services. Most Medicare beneficiaries will pay $134 per month for Part B premiums in 2018, up $25 per month from last year.
Medicare surcharge changes
Some high-income retirees, defined as individuals with modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) exceeding $85,000 and married couples with MAGIs topping $170,000, will pay even more for both Medicare Part B and Medicare Part D prescription drug plan premiums in 2018.
Although the Medicare Part B monthly surcharges, ranging from $187.50 to $428.60 per person, remain the same this year, some of the income tiers that trigger those premiums have changed. This year's premiums are based on 2016 tax returns. As a result, individuals with incomes exceeding $133,500 and married couples with incomes topping $267,000 in 2016 will pay higher Medicare premiums in this year even if their 2016 income did not increase from 2015.
Higher taxes for high-income workers
While income taxes may be going down because of the new tax law, payroll taxes will not. The maximum wages subject to payroll or FICA taxes, which fund Social Security benefits, increase by $1,200 this year. Employers and employees each pay 7.65% of the first $128,400 of wages in 2018. That means high-income workers will pay an additional $91.80 in payroll taxes this year. All wages, including those above the $128,400 cap, are subject to the 1.45% portion of the payroll tax that funds Medicare. Plus, individuals with earned income above $200,000 and married couples with earned income topping $250,000 will pay an additional high-income surcharge of 0.9% in Medicare taxes in 2018.
The retirement age is rising
Early retirees can earn more
Individuals who claim Social Security benefits before their full retirement age and who continue to work are subject to earnings restrictions that can temporarily reduce or eliminate their benefits. In 2018, retirees who are younger than 66 can earn up to $17,040 before losing any benefits, $120 more than last year. After that, they would forfeit $1 in benefits for every $2 earned over that limit.
Those who turn 66 in 2018 can earn up to $45,360 in the months preceding their birthday without jeopardizing any benefits, up $480 from last year. They would lose $1 in benefits for every $3 earned over that limit. The earnings cap disappears once they reach full retirement age - meaning they can earn any amount without forfeiting benefits. Any benefits lost to the earnings cap are restored in the form of higher monthly benefits at full retirement age.
The current full retirement age of 66 is increasing for workers born after 1954 and that means the reduction for claiming benefits early is also on the rise. For individuals born in 1956 who turn 62 this year, their full retirement age is 66 and 4 months. They can still claim Social Security as early as age 62, but their benefits would be reduced by 26.67% compared to a 25% reduction for those with a full retirement age of 66 who claim at 62.
Qualifying for benefits costs more
The cost of the credits that a worker needs to qualify for Social Security benefits and Medicare coverage is going up. To be eligible for Social Security and Medicare, you must earn at least 40 Social Security credits with a maximum of four credits per year. In 2018, each credit represents $1,320 in earnings, up $20 from last year. That means, an individual must earn at least $5,280 in 2018 to qualify for the maximum four credits compared to $5,200 in 2017.
Social Security benefits remain taxable
Despite all the talk about reducing income taxes starting this year, Social Security benefits are still taxed the same way based on combined income, which includes a taxpayer's adjusted gross income, plus tax-exempt interest and half of their Social Security benefits.
Individuals' whose combined income is between $25,000 and $34,000 pay income taxes on up to half of their benefits. Once their combined income tops $34,000, they pay income taxes on to 85% of their benefits. Married couples with combined incomes between $32,000 and $44,000 pay taxes on up to 50% of their Social Security benefits. Once their income tops $44,000, they pay taxes on up to 85% of their benefits.
5 Delicious Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Inflammation gets a bad rap, but it has its moments. When your knee swells up after you bang it against a desk drawer, that's inflammation coming to the rescue, an essential part of the body's natural healing response as your immune system leaps into action.
Where inflammation earns its bad reputation is when it becomes a large-scale reaction within the body.
"Chronic inflammation affects your entire body and negatively impacts health," says
, RD, integrative dietitian at Integrative Health and Wellbeing. It can lead to oxidative stress, which occurs when too many overly reactive molecules-known as free radicals-are formed and begin to do damage to cells, including their DNA. Topol notes that over time, this constant and cumulative damage can lead to serious health problems including cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, diabetes, Crohn's disease, and arthritis, as well as thyroid issues.
The good news is that there are ways to bring those inflammation levels down and call off the attack. One simple way to start: Making smart, strategic food choices.
We asked Topol as well as registered dietician nutritionist Lisa Markley and functional nutrition coach Jill Grunewald-co-authors of
The Essential Thyroid Cookbook
-to share some of the best foods for keeping your body on track.
This golden spice (pictured above) has been
having a moment
, largely because of its anti-inflammatory powers. Its distinctive hue comes from beta carotene, which is highly beneficial for the immune system, and it's rich in
, a highly anti-inflammatory compound.
Want an even bigger boost? Pair turmeric with ginger, which is also anti-inflammatory. Markley suggests making
by combining ginger, turmeric, and coconut or almond milk, and warming the blend before drinking. Consider it an anti-inflammation nightcap. Be sure to add a little black pepper, which
in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that those who consumed the most nuts had a 51 percent lower risk of dying from an inflammatory disease than those who avoided nuts altogether. Also, people with lower levels of vitamin B6-which is in most nuts-tended to have higher levels of inflammation.
Markley and Grunewald suggest soaking nuts overnight, then draining, rinsing, and drying in the morning, because it makes their nutrients more available to your body. All nuts can have this effect, they note, so go with your favorites.
Omega-3 fatty acids that are present in some types of fish, such as
, mackerel, arctic char and
, can be helpful for lowering your levels of inflammatory proteins,
according to the Arthritis Foundation
. Even fish oil supplements may help, the organization notes, because it can reduce the kind of joint swelling and pain that comes with inflammation.
If you exercise regularly (which we all do, right?), cherries are particularly helpful, because studies show they can help
bring on faster recovery
from intense workouts and lessen post-exertion muscle pain. They have an anti-inflammatory effect, as well as high levels of antioxidants. "By moving toward a more plant-based diet and eating lots of antioxidant-rich foods, we can help bring the inflammation down," Topol says.
Dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, Swiss chard, and collards contain high amounts of vitamin E. Research suggests this nutrient protects the body against some types of
, inflammation-producing molecules
that can lead to pain
. Like tart cherries, dark greens also boast plenty of antioxidants.
17 Positive Habits That Will Change Your Life
Aristotle said, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." That old Greek understood how important positive habits are to overcoming adversity and enduring the quest to become a champion. I have learned that champions aren't just born; champions can be made when they embrace and commit to life-changing positive habits.
Inspired by others, I decided to examine my own habits. I saw how quickly positive habits built strength and resulted in a deeper sense of belief-in myself, in my vision, and even spiritually. This process wasn't easy at first. I never got into any of the obvious things we think of when we talk about bad habits-drugs, drinking, or smoking-because from an early age I saw what they did to my brother and realized I didn't want to make those same mistakes. I wasn't perfect by any stretch (and achieving greatness isn't about being perfect anyway), but my bad habits were less clear.
It took a lot of time and constant feedback to realize what wasn't working in my life, and it will be an ongoing journey until the day I die. Over the years, I began adding positive habits and noticed a dramatic change in my results and the way I felt internally as well. Some of these include:
- Constantly expressing gratitude
- Smiling at as many people as possible
- Going to bed early
- Getting 7 to 8 hours of committed sleep
- Making my bed in the morning
- Staying organized
- Acknowledging myself and others
- Loving people wherever they are on their personal journey
- Eating clean
- Training my body
- Saving and investing my money wisely
- Visualizing my results and creating a game plan
- Respecting others
- Investing in my personal growth
- Preparing before big moments
- Surrounding myself with inspiring people
Staying consistent with positive habits can be a challenge. I still go back and forth on them. There have been many times when I was working out intensely and in the best shape of my life, and then for whatever reason, I got off track. Before I knew it, 3 or 4 months would go by, and all of a sudden, I'd find myself exhausted halfway up a flight of stairs! The key to surviving and then thriving after these moments is to not beat yourself up when you do break a habit. Rather, you need to reconnect to your vision to refamiliarize yourself with why it's important to stay true to your positive habits in the first place.
The tricky part about habits is that any one of them (good or bad), when you look at them individually, doesn't seem all that critical. It's when you take them in combination or as a whole that they become incredibly powerful. They can easily and shockingly thwart the same amount of progress that they can create. This is why we admire people with great self-discipline. It's not because they were born great. It's because they learned the power of habits and applied that power to create a lifestyle that supports the best version of themselves.
It's no wonder why this cake is so popular. With oil instead of butter, the batter doesn't need to be beaten or babied, and the entire things mixes up quickly in one bowl. Lightly spiced, it's moist and chewy with the delicious sweetness of banana and pineapple and a little crunch of pecans.
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup oil
- 2 spotted bananas, mashed
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup canned pineapple chunks, undrained
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350°F and grease and flour a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, and cinnamon. Add eggs and oil and stir to combine.
Fold in vanilla, pineapple, banana, pecans, and raisins and pour batter into prepared pan.
Place pan in oven and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. (But start checking on it at 45 minutes just to be safe.) If cake is browning too quickly, lay a piece of aluminum foil over the top.
Let cake cool in pan for 20 minutes before removing to cool completely. Serve and enjoy!
7 Lifesaving Ways Women Can Protect Their Hearts
Next month is American Heart Month, which provides a unique opportunity to spread awareness about heart disease in women. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), shares this passion throughout the year by supporting research efforts aimed at improving heart health.
Research supported by the NHLBI has contributed to a more than 70 percent decline in cardiovascular mortality over the past 40 to 50 years. Nevertheless, heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. Sadly, one in four women in this country die of
coronary heart disease
. Ongoing research remains critical to continue to inform strategies that can improve the cardiovascular health and well-being of women.
Differences in Women's Heart Disease
New information continues to emerge about how heart disease can manifest itself in women. The NHLBI-supported Women's Ischemia Syndrome Evaluation (WISE) study discovered that some women have a form of heart disease called coronary microvascular dysfunction that is not detected by standard diagnostic procedures and can thus go unrecognized and untreated. It's important for women to recognize
symptoms of heart disease
and not delay seeking medical care.
While we've made great strides to address heart disease in women, not all populations have had the same benefit. Recent surveys report that awareness of heart disease in women lags among minorities. Only a third of African-American and Hispanic women are aware that heart disease is their leading cause of death, compared to 65 percent of white women. We also know that African-American women develop high blood pressure earlier in life and with greater severity than white women. Furthermore, 82
percent of African-American women are overweight or obese, while 76 percent of Hispanic women fall within this same category.
NHLBI-supported studies, like the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL), have revealed that within this heterogeneous population, burden of disease and risk factors vary among Hispanic women, with women of Puerto Rican descent having more risk factors in total when compared to other Hispanic women. These differences in burden of risk factors for heart disease are important for women to understand their personal risk for heart disease.
Changing Women's Risk of Heart Disease
Armed with the right information, women have tremendous power to change their risk of heart disease and help spread the word about prevention. For decades, the NHLBI has championed heart health among women through efforts to raise awareness of heart disease and prompting women to take action. Awareness of heart disease among American women has increased, but more work must be done. Only half of all women are aware that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women.
One of the crown jewels in this awareness effort is The Heart Truth public health education campaign, which created the familiar Red Dress symbol in 2002 to remind women to protect their heart health and take action. On February 5, National Wear Red Day, all men and women were encouraged to wear red to help raise awareness.
Awareness leads to action, and we know that with a heart-healthy lifestyle, several risk factors for heart disease can be prevented. Below, you'll find concrete, research-tested actions you can take to adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle. It's not always easy to change behavior and make lifestyle improvements, but a gradual approach can lead to lifelong enhancements in health.
- Live a tobacco-free life: Because of studies like the Framingham Heart Study, an NHLBI-supported study that has led to insights about the risk factors that cause heart disease, we've known for many decades that smoking raises your risk of heart disease and heart attack. If you smoke, try to quit.
- Choose a healthy diet: Another action to improve your heart health is following a healthy diet. The NHLBI recommends the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, which is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods, as well as meat, fish, poultry, nuts, and beans. It limits red meat, added fats, and added sugar. Studies on the DASH diet have also shown that adhering to it can reduce blood pressure as well.
- Exercise: Move more. Physical activity, whether running, walking, cycling or something else, can improve your heart health. The Women's Health Initiative (WHI), an NIH initiative coordinated by the NHLBI and one of the largest prevention studies of its kind in the United States, reported increased mortality in women who were inactive in their daily lives. This increase was due to an increase in cardiovascular disease and cancer in sedentary women. Small changes in physical activity can have big effects. It's also important to talk to your healthcare provider about what types of activity are safe for you. Current wearable technologies, such as fitness watches, may be helpful in providing reinforcement to keep moving more throughout the day. Do not be too intimidated to begin an exercise routine. What is most important is to simply move more: Even simple actions like taking the stairs, parking a bit farther away from your destination, and walking briskly for 20 minutes or more per day can help.
- Practice Weight Control: If you're overweight, check with your healthcare provider about a reasonable weight loss plan. Controlling your weight helps to reduce heart disease risk factors and the development of heart disease.
- Take Medicines as Prescribed: If lifestyle changes aren't working, your healthcare provider might need to prescribe medicines (such as blood pressure-lowering or cholesterol-lowering drugs) to control your heart disease risk. It's important to take your medicines as prescribed.
- Know Your Numbers: Recent research supported by the NHLBI confirmed the importance of blood pressure control in managing heart health. The Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT) found that achieving a systolic blood pressure target of less than 120 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) in non-diabetic adults older than 50 with hypertension reduces cardiovascular disease and can save lives. It's important to know your blood pressure numbers and work with your medical care team to reach the level that's right for you.
- Consider Participation in Research: Ongoing research is needed to enhance our understanding about heart disease in women. The more women that participate in research, the more researchers can discover how to improve women's lives. Talk to your healthcare provider and consider participating in clinical research.
Although research has come a long way in the fight against heart disease, we continue to look for new ways to advance improvement. In addition to unprecedented opportunities for scientific innovation, the NHLBI seeks to strengthen partnerships with other organizations and community groups in fulfilling its mission. The more we can work together, the more successful we will be in reducing and preventing heart disease among all women in the future.
Insurance products are offered through
New Horizon Financial Services, Inc. Horizon Financial Services, LLC
and New Horizon Financial Services Inc. are affiliated companies.