Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Your Health is your own Choice

Make a Decision
How long do you plan to live?
What steps are you taking to get there?
And will you be healthy and wealthy, or decrepit and broke?

The first thing that you need to realize is that you are responsible for your health. The mental attitude comes first, because all else flows from that. There have been too many placebo studies to have any doubt that our beliefs have a very powerful effect upon our health. Even medicine that itself is quite potent will often only be as useful as the patient thinks it will be. So you need to think healthy all the time. Picture yourself as completely healthy, and as acting only as a completely healthy person would act.

The next thing you need to do is act on your beliefs – otherwise you will consider yourself a fraud and erode those very beliefs. Begin by moving more. Movement is the key to life. Muscles, blood, oxygen, and waste – everything needs to move. I have done Aikido, a Japanese martial art, where we move our bodies, our breath, and our ki (or chi/energy). In fact, in the East, they measure your health by the movement of your internal energy. When you are ill they say you have a blockage. So move. Take a walk. Climb the stairs. Do some gardening. Slow and steady is the safest, and will keep you living the longest.

Again, many studies confirm that you will live longer if you simply eat less. Digestion is the largest single expense of energy your body has to make during the day. We literally wear ourselves out with our large plates of food. Also, another handy guide to eating that is less well known is to compare the acidity and alkalinity of your food more than the calories. Your body and blood need to be slightly alkaline to make the most energy out of your oxygen. Foods like avocadoes and almonds may have a lot of fat, but they are alkaline foods, very healthy. Green foods are alkaline. Meats and dairy and breads are acidic foods. Eat them in moderation and make sure that you have a lot of vegetables and water to go along with them. If you are really serious, check out apple cider vinegar, the elixir of the Greeks, & favored by the Braggs.

How will you feel?
When you reach your target age, whether it is 75 or 100, how are you going to feel? Of course our health care system has serious problems – but what if every individual took it upon himself to think, act, and be completely healthy? It will be a small consolation when you end up feeble and diseased to be able to blame the poor health care system. Instead, take control of your destiny, and choose today to think, act, and live as healthy as you possibly can.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Health Savings Accounts

Is a Health Savings Account for you?
A Health Savings Account can be a great option to consider as more and more employers are cutting back on their health care offerings. The health care industry also recommends that employees understand the true cost of their health care, and having to pay for more of their health care certainly is doing that. But a Health Savings Account is one way to take more responsibility for your family’s health care that has a number of benefits.

How it works.
An HSA can only be created alongside a high-deductible health insurance option. The idea is that the savings in your account will cover your first health care costs until you reach the deductible in your plan. The insurance companies can charge much lower premiums for the coverage because they don’t have to pay for all the small charges that fall under the deductible.

The benefits:

· The high deductible health plans save on premiums
· The HSA belongs to the individual, even when he changes jobs
· HSA contributions – and growth – are non-taxable
· Qualified withdrawals (for health care expenses) are non-taxable
· No limits to the amount that can accumulate in an HSA
· HSA’s roll-over; they are not “use it or lose it.”
· Employer and employee can both contribute.
· Contribution limits are released on June 1 every year, so you can plan ahead. And if you start mid-year, you can still contribute the maximum amount.

Healthy, Wealthy & Wise
Having more financial responsibility for your health often leads to making healthier lifestyle choices. And as you become healthier, your Health Savings Account could grow wealthier.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Charitable Giving

Leveraging Life Insurance for Charity

Are you aware you can donate your life insurance to charity? This can work with an existing policy, or can be accomplished with a new policy. The irrevocable gift of an existing policy puts the charitable organization in full possession of the life insurance policy. Or you can purchase a new life insurance policy, give the charity ownership of the policy and name the charity as your beneficiary.

Life insurance is an excellent choice for making a gift because it multiplies the amount you are able to give. When you are committed to giving an annual gift to your favorite charity, you can use this to fund an insurance policy. Then your contributions are leveraged – payments that add up to thousands of dollars get turned into a gift of hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to support your charity.

In addition, your annual premiums paid into the life insurance policy are tax-deductible.

Another solution provided by life insurance is to allow someone with wealth replacement. A person with land, stock, or other property that would be heavily taxed upon their death donates their property to the charity, and receives a tax deduction. At the same time, the donor purchases a life insurance policy equal to the gift, which would create an inheritance that is liquid and tax free, since life insurance benefits can be received income and estate tax free if properly structured.

Life insurance provides a gift that is flexible, free of market risk, and has no delay or transfer costs. It can be done without diluting your business or investments, and can be done in ways that enhance rather than subtract from the assets you leave to your heirs.

For anyone with a long-term perspective and an interest in philanthropy, life insurance provides a powerful tool that should be considered as a way to leave a serious legacy to a cause or organization that you believe in.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Business Planning

Why an Exit Strategy?

In the now classic book, The E Myth, by Michael Gerber, he recommends that business owners move away from seeing their business as something they work in, and see it as something they work on. Instead of selling products or services, he counsels them to see the business itself as the product they are creating, and to get it to the point where it could be sold. This causes the owner to truly build a business, rather than just creating a job for himself.

Imagining that you are going to franchise your business accomplishes two goals – you gain a future-oriented vision, and you adopt an outside perspective.

When you make a clear vision of your future business, you no longer only see the day-to-day operations as your only goal, but you also focus on the long-term smooth functioning of your business. You envision where you want your business to be, and you put structures and systems in place to support that future entity, even if you don’t quite need them now.

Secondly, you see your business from an outside point of view. In your mind you prepare to sell the entire business itself, not just the products or services that the business sells. Imagining the business as operating without you someday, you work to get it more and more to the point where it can operate without you already.

And what if something were to happen to you while the business still needs you? Could your partner keep it up? Could your family run the business? What resources would they need to be able to keep the business together and carry on your legacy? This is where insurance can help prepare your exit strategy for your business.

In the case of a partnership, a buy-sell agreement should be drafted, laying out the terms of what would happen in the case of one partner retiring, walking away, becoming disabled, or dying. Life insurance policies provide the funding so that in the worst case scenarios the surviving partner can buy out the estate of a deceased or disabled partner. In the case where the business depends upon a very important employee, key-man insurance will provide a payout if that key employee passes, so that the business can continue to function smoothly.

In any case, to build a business you are proud to put your name on and leave behind takes vision and planning. Then you will be putting in place the structures – including insurance – to take you from where you are to where you want to be.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

We Can All Feel Lucky

Do You Feel Lucky?
My father has Parkinson’s disease, and his father before him had Parkinson’s disease.
In the words of Michael J. Fox, I am a lucky man. Fox titled his book “Lucky Man” because he felt he grew as a family man and human being because of his Parkinson’s disease. If you can believe it, he is grateful to the disease.

I may or may not get Parkinson’s disease, but I need to be aware of it. That awareness alone makes me grateful for what I have – a healthy family and time to enjoy with them.

Thinking Ahead
I am also lucky because my father acted in time to take care of himself. He did his research, and before he was at a stage in the disease where he would not be admitted, he and my mother moved into a life care community or a CCRC (continuing care retirement community) which offers three levels of living: independent, asssisted, and skilled nursing care. They are now ready for all the possible developments with the Parkinson’s.

Buying into the facility essentially provided them with long term care insurance. And now as his condition progresses it would become more difficult for him to buy into such insurance. They were wise to act when they did. They have secured their future care and peace of mind for our whole family.

Read the Warning Signs
Now I too am doing my research and will act before it is too late to secure my own family into their future, when I may or may not be able to do everything I can now. I am lucky to have such a clear warning sign in my family history.

Peace of Mind
We can all consider what is in our history that should be prompting us to act. But then, some things come without such clear warning signs, and we can all take steps to insure our family against those unknown events as well. My wish for you is that you have peace of mind about your family’s future, and you can enjoy each day you have with them, and feel lucky.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Long Term Care

Who can benefit from Long Term Care Insurance?

In the 90’s my grandmother had to go to a nursing home, and had no choice in which home to go to because she had no long term care insurance. She used up all of her assets very quickly, and then was covered by Medicaid. She was never quite happy in the nursing home, and I always wished we had other choices available.

Long term care insurance is a tool for those who want to remain independent and desire the ability to choose the setting for their care. While it was begun in the early 80’s as nursing home insurance, it has changed a lot since then. Now the coverage includes not only nursing home care, but services in assisted living facilities and adult day care centers, as well as home health care, and respite care for the care giver.

As we live longer, more people will need some form of long term care. Yet most of this care is increasingly provided at home. Over 12 million Americans (of any age) need long term care, but only 2.4 million live in nursing homes. Further, younger people often have need of this care as well. It is estimated that 40% of the people receiving long term care are between ages 18 and 64.

What triggers long term care insurance? Usually a policy pays benefits when you cannot do two or more “Activities of Daily Living” (ADL’s), either because of old age, mental or physical illness, or injury. There are six activities of daily living, developed through years of research: eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, continence, and transferring (getting out of a chair or bed). Many policies also pay benefits for cognitive impairment – for example, if you develop Alzheimer’s disease, but can still perform the ADL’s.

If you have significant savings, long term care insurance is a way to protect those assets in the case that you need long term care. Consider the costs of care in a 2008 survey. In Seattle a room in a nursing home cost $277 a day, and the rest of the state averaged $189 per day. A one bedroom unit in an assisted living facility cost $3,340 per month in Seattle, and $2,890 in the rest of the state. A home health aid costs $22 per hour, or just over $45,000 per year. These costs could quickly consume a very healthy savings account.

When looking for long term care insurance, keep in mind these questions. What services are covered, and how much would be paid for each service? How long would the benefits last, and does the policy have a lifetime maximum benefit? Will it pay benefits based on expenses incurred, or a set dollar amount? How many days would you wait before benefits begin? Does the policy offer an inflation feature? Is there a waiver-of-premium provision for once you enter a care facility?

Then, based on your age, and family situation, you can map out your goals for long term care insurance with an insurance professional, and craft a policy that works best for you.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Six Reasons to get Life Insurance

Why do I need life insurance? Here are 6 fundamental reasons…

Since life insurance is something many of us put off for another day, let’s think about reasons why we should act now. And ask yourself, how much is it about me?

Reason #1: to pay for final expenses. Even if you are single, your passing will put a burden on others if you don’t have any life insurance. Do you know how expensive those costs can be now?

Reason #2: to replace your income. If you have a spouse, and especially if you have children too, your life insurance can take care of them for some time after you pass on.

Reason #3: Create an inheritance. Even if this is your only asset you leave, life insurance is a leveraged way to leave an inheritance tax-free to whoever you name as beneficiaries.

Reason #4: Pay your estate (“death”) taxes. By paying these taxes with insurance, your heirs won’t have to liquidate assets to pay the taxes on your estate.

Reason #5: Make a large charitable contribution. Here again, the leverage of life insurance comes in. If you choose a charity as the beneficiary of your policy, you can leave them a much larger contribution than the amount you pay in premiums.

Reason #6: Savings. Permanent life insurance builds up a cash value, which you can access, tax free, by taking a loan on the policy. Plus, the interest credited to the policy as it grows is tax deferred.

6 key reasons to act today. And what do you think? Who is your life insurance really for?