Life and Health

Getting The Right Amount of Life Insurance

Life insurance is a valuable investment for your dependants or anyone you have chosen as a beneficiary. If you are a financial support to others, it is imperative you leave behind something when you are gone so that your they will be able to look after themselves in case your gone.

However, it can be a challenge to determine exactly how much life coverage you require to ensure that your loved ones are well taken care of.

A recent survey showed that, while 20% of Americans agree that life insurance should be included as a part of any sound financial planning, only 40% said they would know what to look for in buying a life insurance policy. The same survey indicated that 50% of Americans felt they were under-insured.

Experts recommend at least six times the annual gross income as a good place to start for determining how much life insurance you should obtain.

As you consider the varying options available, always keep in mind that buying life insurance is like buying any other consumer product – your goal is to get the best value for your money.

Before taking out life insurance, it’s smart to speak with an expert to ensure that you understand all the options that are available to you.

And, working with an independent insurance agency ensures you can receive several quotes without having to call several carriers directly. This will help you make an informed decision while getting insurance that is tailored to fit your situation.

Beyond the “six times annual gross income” rule, you need to understand your “life value”. This may sound like an absurd thing to consider, but it is important. After all, you want to be sure that the money you leave behind will take care of your family.

So, do you expect to be earning more in the future? If so, plan for that. Do you take care of things around the house that someone might have to otherwise pay for? Be sure to include that as well.

Likewise, if you have debts, be sure there’s enough insurance to cover those bills as well.

And if you have kids and need to ensure they can go to college, you have to plan for that too… college is expensive and its costs are accelerating.

By taking full stock of your current situation and the impact your death will have, you’ll develop a clear understanding of what your family will really need to survive.

With an effective financial planning process, you will approach purchasing life insurance with an unbiased perspective that will allow you to make a sound decision. (If your life circumstances change, be sure to talk with your live insurance professional right away. Things like buying a vacation home, having kids, or even getting a divorce can impact your life insurance needs.)

We understand that life insurance is a subject most folks try and avoid talking about, yet it is important. It is about protecting loved ones from uncertainty in difficult circumstances. Please reach out to us for resources on getting the most out of life insurance. We’ll be happy to help point you in the right direction and help you explore your options.

Americans Surprising Agreement on Inclusion of Mental Health Benefit in Insurance

In the hot debate about healthcare in the U.S. there appears to be one common thread. Research shows that 77% of Americans from both sides of the political divide feel that insurance coverage should cater to psychological wellness.

The research results by the American Psychiatric Organization shows that 76% of Democrats and 81% of Republicans are of the opinion that health insurance should provide mental wellness protection.

The research further clarifies that over 50% of Americans would want psychological health coverage to be part and parcel of any health insurance law. This is irrespective of whether the insurance coverage is purchased on an individual level, or it is part of a federal statutory program like Medicaid and Medicare, or any other bought through a Health Care Exchange.

55% of Democrats and 51% of Republicans perceive that all forms of government provided insurance health coverage must take into account the issue of mental wellness. The findings noted that Boomers are more likely to support this line of thought than Millennials.

Further data indicates that 50% of the respondents were of the opinion that mental health insurance coverage is of extreme importance.

But with that stated, more than 25% of respondents indicated  they did not know the status of their own psychological health insurance coverage!

Once again, this number cut across all demographic groups of age, race, ethnicity, party affiliation and income brackets. However, over 50% of adult respondents indicated that they would know how to access mental health if they required it. It was noted that  50% of women surveyed versus 37% of men had high confidence that they knew how to access mental health care should the need arise.

The research caught the attention of APA Head Maria A. Oquendo, M.D., PhD. She contends that the poll offered crucial insight into the American understanding of the relevance of mental wellness. In her opinion, the poll results showed a strong bi-partisan support for psychological health insurance coverage. However, she voiced her concern about the unusually large percentage of people who indicated their lack of knowledge on the status of their mental wellness protection, and those who showed a lack of knowledge on the best ways to access mental health care benefits.

4 in every five American adults acknowledge the link between mental wellness and  total health. (The majority are clearly  concerned about their families’ general health.) However most individuals indicate a lack of trust in Washington policy makers to understand the importance of psychological health as a top priority. Indeed, 69% of the respondents were of the opinion that the policy makers did not prioritize mental wellness protection.

The APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin said, ‘We have actually made progress in the broadening of Psychological health protection.’ He added that the proposed American Health Care Act would eliminate insurance coverage from a large number in the general population, in addition to curtailing the Medicaid expansion that was established by the Affordable Care Act.

The research was conducted online by ORC International CARAVAN Omnibus Survey on behalf of the American Psychiatric Association. It was conducted countrywide with a survey pool drawn from 1,019 adults, between April 20th and April 23rd 2017. It has a +/-3.1% margin of error.

While there are differences of opinion on the best way to handle health care in the U.S., it is clear that mental wellness protection is important.

If you have questions about the current law (The Affordable Care Act) and the proposed changes offered by the American Health Care Act, please reach out to your health insurance specialist.

And for other questions about insurance topics that can impact your pocketbook, please explore our past articles. Please know that we’re committed to helping you get the most out of your insurance protection. And if you have any insurance related questions, please be sure to reach us.

Life Insurance is Difficult to Talk About… But a Divorce Makes a Conversation Necessary…

Divorces are painful. They can cause emotional harm to all participants. For example, imagine what might happen if a current spouse and an ex-spouse file competing claims for life insurance on a decedent.

Divorce related life insurance conflicts often end up in the courts. Such proceedings can be an emotionally charged experience for all involved.

Is that what you would want for your estate? Let’s say you have a policy worth $1,000,000. How much of that could be lost in legal fees as competing parties fight each other over who should receive the death benefit?

It may be surprising, but life insurance is often overlooked in divorce proceedings. This sort of oversight sets up the potential for future conflicts.

It forces the courts to made decisions on behalf of the decedent… something that no life insurance policy owner wants.

But avoiding this issue is relatively easy. Be sure your life insurance is discussed during your divorce and be sure it is properly updated.

As difficult as it may be, talking with your Insurance professional about your divorce is important. They’ll be really understanding. They’ll ask you the necessary questions to help you decide how best to handle whatever changes you need to make to your policy. They’ll offer you great advice that you can count on to be sure your estate is protected and that your wishes are followed if something should happen to you.

Suddenly Becoming a Caregiver is a Shock

…They cared for you when you were young… but now your parents need your help.

…Your husband managed the bills… but now he’s suffered a stroke and needs your help.

…Your partner was the primary income earner… but now she’s become incapacitated.

You’re now responsible to manage medical visits, deal with creditors, handle insurance issues. You’ve been thrust into a nightmare scenario… are you prepared?

Do you know how money moves in and out of bank accounts each month? Can a doctor lawfully talk with you? Is there a will? Medical power of attorney? What kind of health insurance is available?

If you could find yourself in the role of caregiver, it’s a good practice to talk through potential issues and concerns with your financial adviser. Naturally you’ll need to include those who you could be called upon to care for as well.

These are difficult conversations… but necessary.

  1. Establish an Understanding

It’s important to have conversations with loved ones about what they want should they find themselves incapacitated. What are their desires with regard to finances, healthcare, and long-term treatment. What about in terminal situations?

Having these conversations when people are in full control of their mental faculties is critical…

  1. Simplify

Be prepared to automate as much as possible. Establish systems to take care of regular bills so you can have confidence they are properly paid. Make sure medical appointments (if necessary) are as consistent as possible so they become part of a regular routine. Look for any area where you see complexity and see if there’s a better way…

  1. Track and Document Everything.

Be sure to have duplicates of all important documents… from wills to Medicare and Social Security cards. Watch medicine consumption and pay attention to refills and prescription expiration dates. Find a way to keep track of passwords… LastPass.com is an interesting tool for this purpose.  For keeping copies of documents, scanning and storing them on Google Drive or Dropbox can be helpful. And in a situation like this, it is critical to track expenses.

  1. Pay Attention to Insurance.

Make sure you have the insurance you need well before it is needed. Your financial adviser can help you understand costs, benefits, and what you should expect in long-term situations. Life Insurance, Long Term Care Insurance, Health Insurance… all play a role when you are a caregiver.

  1. Seek Legal Council.

A financial adviser is well equipped to talk with you about finances. But as a caregiver there are legal issues that arise and for these you need the help of an attorney. Achieving clarity about wills, power of attorney documents, and the like can help reduce potential disputes with other family members in the future.

  1. Keep a Medical Log.

Take the time to journal notes. Keep details from medical visits, document health insurance concerns, track doctor’s orders, and keep observations about the medical condition of the individual you are caring for. This ensures that you are not improperly charged for medical care and will help you see objectively if you need additional medical intervention in a long-term care situation.

  1. Don’t Go it Alone.

Get help from friends & family members alike. Become involved in a support group. Understand that the role of Caregiver can be daunting and that it is important to not become isolated in the process.  And remember, we’re here to help you as well.

What’s your long term care strategy?

Living longer is a trend. We’re eating healthier, exercising more, and benefitting from huge improvements in health care. Most will likely live into their 90’s and financial planners are being trained to help clients think about living past 100.

Most folks fail to think that far ahead. Yet studies show that individuals living past 70 will need additional care including home based nursing, assisted living facilities, and possibly nursing homes. In today’s dollars, such expenses can cost up to $7,000 a month.

If you are beginning to think it’s a good idea to start planning, you would be right.

Long-term care (also known as LTC) insurance is the preferred option for individuals that want to be ready for expenses that may come later in life. With a standard LTC policy, the insured pays annual premiums. These can range between $1,000 to $5,000 per year. This provides for financial resources that can be used to address the monthly costs of care in the future.

If one maximizes the benefits of a traditional LTC plan, they can be a great value. However, if the benefits go unused, it can be costly.

Another issue is that in the past, some insurance companies have done a bad job estimating the number of claims they would eventually need to pay. To address this problem, carriers have raised premiums by up to 15% per year. Some insurance companies have given up on offering Long Term Care insurance altogether.

One option to consider is a life insurance policy. With changes in insurance, a life insurance policy can offer you exactly what you need for long-term protection. Your policy can gather cash value, offer a death benefit, offer long-term treatment, as well as terminal health benefits. But should those needs never crop up, it can offer tax-free income once the cash value accumulates fully.

Many folks are surprised to learn how flexible life insurance has become. That’s why it is so important for individuals to talk with their financial advisor to understand their options.

From protecting income to safeguarding your loved ones, there are affordable options that can be tailored to fit your exact needs.

Brief Walks Are a Big Benefit to Workers That Sit All Day

Brief Walks Are a Big Benefit to Workers That Sit All Day

Scientists at the University of Utah have submitted a study to the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. In it they claim that walking 2 minutes per hour of sitting can help workers offset the known bad effects of sitting all day.

The study looked at whether short periods of simple activity (such as standing up) can help workers that sit all day. The scientists also looked at the impact of slightly more intense activity on worker health. These activities included walking and workers tidying their workspace.

There were more than 3,000 individuals involved in the study. They were monitored with technology that calculated the overall strength of their bursts of activity.

The findings are compelling. Researchers found that taking a break from sitting and being active for two minutes was hugely beneficial. This simple act was directly connected to a 33% decrease in the risk of dying.

The study found that activity was the crucial component. Standing wasn’t sufficient to move the numbers. Movement is required to receive a health benefit.

Meanwhile, at the University of Missouri, researchers looked specifically at the value of taking a quick walk and its impact on capillary.

This study was published in the journal Experimental Physiology. Its results show that sitting induced vascular problems in the lower part of the body could be completely reversed with a short 10-minute walk. The key here is the individual could walk at whatever pace felt comfortable to them. Yes, a stroll still offered measurable improvement!

The study also found that walking alone was not sufficient to help the upper body.

What we know for sure is that sitting for extended periods is terrible for one’s health. It’s been proven as a significant contributor to heart problems and diabetes. But these two studies show there may be a simple answer to this problem. Simple changes to how we work and how we take breaks can yield big health benefits. More frequent, shorter breaks that involve some moderate activity are the key. The result of this subtle but important change would be happier, healthier workers that live longer too.

And if your work environment isn’t quite so flexible, you still have options. Take 2 minutes each hour to stand at your desk and perform some form of light activity such as light calisthenics. You may feel silly but your body will thank you. Likewise, use the last break of your day for that 10-minute walk.

You may find that your overall outlook of life and health improves as you take these action steps.

Be sure to reach out to us for other tips on managing risk and creating peace of mind. We have many great ideas and options that we can custom tailor for you!

Best of 2016: Even the Young and Healthy Need Health Insurance

Key Steps for a Healthy Heart

While it’s true that health issues tend to multiply with age, even young people can find themselves in need of a doctor. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the top cause of death among Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 are unintentional injuries. Other common health risks include smoking, obesity and lack of physical activity—all of which play a role in the development of a variety of life-threatening diseases. For those without health insurance, the costs of emergency treatment in the event of an accident or long-term treatment due to disease can be financially devastating—no matter how old you are at the time. Consider these reasons you need health insurance even if you’re currently young and healthy.

Accidents can happen to anyone, anywhere and at any time.

You don’t have to go skydiving, bungee jumping or mountain climbing to be injured in an accident. Every year, 43 million Americans visit emergency departments as the result of unintentional injuries according to the CDC. In 2014, the leading causes of nonfatal, unintentional injuries included falls, overexertion, motor vehicle collisions, poisoning, bug bites or stings, fires and burns, dog bites and suffocation—most of which could realistically happen in your own home.

Health issues become more difficult to treat if you ignore them.

While an accident may force you to seek medical help, having health insurance also makes it easier to see a doctor about other health concerns before they become major issues. Without coverage, you’re more likely to put off seeking treatment because you’re worried about the associated costs. In fact, a Gallup survey found that 57 percent of uninsured Americans had put of medical treatment because of cost. Unfortunately, failing to address health issues early on can have serious consequences for your long-term health.

If you don’t have health insurance, you’ll have to pay a fine.

If you choose not to buy health insurance coverage mandated by law under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), you will have to make an “individual shared responsibility payment” when you file your taxes each year. The government calculates the fee you owe two ways. You’ll have to pay whichever is higher, whether that’s 2.5 percent of your household income or $695 per adult plus $347.50 per child. If you don’t pay the fee, the IRS will withhold it from your future tax refunds.

While the open enrollment period for 2016 ended on January 31, you may still be able to sign up for qualifying healthcare coverage and reduce the penalty you’ll pay with this year’s taxes next April. Special enrollment periods under the ACA are triggered by a number of events including losing your employer-sponsored health coverage, getting married, having a baby, getting divorced, and moving to a new zip code or county.

If you’d like to learn more about special enrollment periods or discuss your health insurance options prior to the open enrollment period for 2017 that will begin on November 1 of this year, we’re here to help. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any health insurance questions or concerns.

Insurance Coverage Linked to Cancer Survival Time

Insurance Coverage Linked to Cancer Survival Time

Two independent studies that looked at two different cancers came to similar stunning conclusions. Individuals with private insurance were found to be diagnosed sooner&live longer as well than those who had Medicaid coverage or those without insurance altogether.

For one study, information was examined from 13,600+ adults diagnosed between 2007 – 2012 as havingglioblastomamultiforme, the single most common kind of malignant brain cancer.

In the other study, researchers reviewed information from 2007 – 2011 where they examined testicular cancer cases of 10,200+ male adults.

The studies relied on information from the National Cancer Institute’s SEER program (Surveillance, Epidemiology, End Results), which tracks cancer cases (incidence & survival) in the United States. Both studies results were released online in the journal Cancer.

Known as a highly aggressive cancer, individuals diagnosed as havingGlioblastomamultiformetypically live a little more than a year past the diagnosis. The five-year rate of survival is less than 5%. On the other hand, testicular cancer reacts well with chemotherapy treatment even if it has actually spread throughout the body. Individuals that get treatment are found to have a 95% survival rate at the 5-year mark.

Again, this is an important point: Patients that had private insurance were found to have better survival rates.

  • For testicular cancer:
    • Uninsured individualshad a 26% increased chance of being found with metastasized cancer and Medicaid patients were 62% more likely to have a metastasized cancer. (Important: the research study clarified that in many states people can get approved for Medicaid once they have a cancer diagnosis thus increasing the percentage of those with Medicaid who were found with the cancer.)
    • Uninsured men had an 88%+likelihood of passing away from the cancer while Medicaid patients were 51% more likely to die from the illness.
  • For glioblastomamultiforme:
    • Both uninsured and Medicaid patients were found to have bigger growths when diagnosed than those with private insurance.
    • Uninsured patients had a 14%+ chance of having a much shorter survival time. Patients on Medicaid saw a 10% increase in the chance of shorter survival times.

Per Dr. Wuyang Yang who is a research study fellow at Johns Hopkins University co-authored the research study, ” We were expecting that the uninsured would do even worse than insured clients, but we didn’t anticipate that Medicaid clients would do significantly worse than [privately insured] patients,” (For more details visit Kaiser Health News http://khn.org/news/studies-link-cancer-patients-survival-time-to-insurance-status/)

We have three recommendations based on these findings:

  • Talk with your insurance agent about life insurance to make certain your loved ones are protected in case the worst happens to you.
  • Be sure you consult with your health care insurance specialist to make certain you have adequate coverage.
  • Always leverage your available health care options when you notice things aren’t quite right in your body… early intervention makes a big difference!

 

Using the Wallet to Healthy Change Stick

Using the Wallet to Healthy Change Stick

You feel like you’ve tried it all to get fit. You wear a device to monitor your sleep and your activity. You have a gym membership. You have an app that tracks what you eat and sends you reminders on ways to live a healthy life… but you still struggle to make healthy changes stick. What to do?

Look at the financial impact of making healthy life changes! It’s true many of us are motivated by money. Our doctors may remind us at each annual wellness visit that we should be doing more, but our wallet can have daily influence over our actions.

For example…

  • What is the real total cost for that smoking habit? By real cost we mean you should look beyond the cost of the habit itself. For example, how much extra are you paying on your health, life, auto, and home insurance premiums because you smoke? (Talk to your independent insurance agent to understand how much you could save by quitting smoking…)
  • What is the real total cost for eating fast food for lunch each day? This includes lost time spent grabbing that food instead of doing some healthy activity. It also includes how much extra time you’ll have to invest working out to burn off those excess calories. And of course, you need to factor in the added food costs versus bringing a healthier lunch from home.

And the financial impact of living a healthier lifestyle isn’t only about the money you’ll save… many employer based health insurance plans make some sort of financial incentive available if you perform certain healthy activities. These incentives can be $1,000 or more each year per family.

Why would someone offer such handsome rewards for trying to live a healthy life? Because studies show that 86% of individuals stick with life changes when they are attached to financial incentives. Go figure!

You can also create negative incentives as well. A group out of Australia called http://promiseorpay.com/ has a nifty concept with this in mind. You promise to make a life change or you’ll donate to a charity. Your friends who are helping you change your life also make a similar promise to pony up if they let you fail. And if you don’t like the charities offered at Promise or Pay, don’t let that get in your way… simply put this in action with any charity you believe in and like supporting. Let a friend be responsible for collecting and keeping the cash safe. If you fail, you’ve made a nice charitable donation.  If you succeed, all your friends get money back. Take your portion and reward yourself or give it to your favorite charity anyway.

The more you can begin to associate financial rewards (and potentially penalties if your bad habits are really stubborn) the more likely you are to create lasting change in your life. You’ll feel better about yourself and you’ll likely have some extra cash available that you can use to save up for that next vacation!

Six Must-Know Blood Pressure Facts

Six Must-Know Blood Pressure Facts

According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects more than 80 million U.S. adults. Though high blood pressure typically has no symptoms, if left untreated it can contribute to heart attacks and stroke, vision problems, dementia and life-altering diseases. Consider the following facts that will help you understand your blood pressure numbers, discover ways to lower them (if necessary), and more.

  1. Your blood pressure will likely increase as you get older.

Though hypertension is not inevitable, most adults begin to see increases insystolic pressure (the upper number in the reading) after they reach 40 because arteries naturally stiffen with age. It’s important to have your blood pressure checked annually even if yours has always been in the normal range and you feel perfectly healthy.

  1. High blood pressure symptoms are rare.

As mentioned earlier, hypertension rarely comes with symptoms, even when blood pressure is dangerously high. Regular check-ups may be your only means of catching it before it damages your system. Blood pressure numbers tend to fall at night and surge in the morning, so having yours checked mid-afternoon should yield the most accurate reading.

  1. Systolic pressure is extremely important after the age of 50.

Systolic pressure measures blood pressure during a heartbeat. Diastolic pressure (the bottom number in the reading) measures blood pressure between heartbeats. The maximum force your arteries and organs experience is equal to your systolic blood pressure, so increases in this number indicate your vital organs and blood vessel linings are at greater risk of damage.

  1. Healthy blood pressure numbers differ.

‘Normal’ blood pressure, according to widely accepted guidelines, is less than 120 systolic and less than 80 diastolic. These guidelines define prehypertension as 120-139 systolic or 80-89 diastolic, and stage one hypertension as 140-159 systolic or 90-99 diastolic. Patients with a systolic reading of 160 or above, or a diastolic reading of 100 or higher, have stage two hypertension. However, guidelines are just guidelines and patients are different. If you have hypertension and need treatment, talk to your doctor about the right targets for you based on factors such as your cardiovascular risk and other medications.

  1. You can lower your blood pressure with healthy lifestyle changes.

If you’re diagnosed with prehypertension or stage one hypertension, you may be able to lower your blood pressure by cutting back on salt and losing weight rather than by adding a prescription. A recent Swedish study found that regular exercise can reduce systolic pressure by an average of 11 points. Other researchers have found that losing 11 pounds can lower systolic pressure by 4 points or more, and reducing your sodium intake can drop it by 5 points.

  1. If you take blood pressure medication, you must do so consistently.

Reaching your blood pressure target may not mean you can stop taking your medication. In many cases, if you go off your prescription, your blood pressure will go back up. If you’re suffering from side effects, talk to your doctor about alternate medications. And don’t neglect having regular blood pressure check-ups. Your medications may need to be adjusted periodically.

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