Financial Wellness

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*Note: This is an updated version of an article which I had posted back in September of 2020, entitled Do Your Finances Need A Tune-Up?

Now that restrictions are lifting after the COVID pandemic and lockdown from 2020, we are now in an especially critical situation due to the financial beating and recession which has negatively impacted the majority of the population. Whether you are someone who already had emergency funds and retirement savings in place before the pandemic hit, or you are hoping to finally start setting aside those funds for the future, it is important for you to review your financial health on a regular basis and to find ways to protect yourself so that you are prepared for any potential financial emergency. What if you don’t know where to start? The most important principles to follow in the quest for financial health include paying down debt, establishing an emergency fund, finding other means to generate income, and continuing to contribute to retirement accounts.  Another vital component in good financial health is establishing a budget and really examining your spending habits.  Almost invariably, people find out after they create a budget that they are spending money needlessly on frills that they don’t need.  By eliminating those hidden money drains, it becomes easier to cover living expenses, thus reducing some of the stress involved in getting by financially.

I have had a budget in place for over 30 years, and I have seen the power it wields.  By following a budget, I was able to pay down all credit card debt, pay off a car, establish an emergency fund, and put money aside for retirement, so I know it can all be done.  I have lived without credit card debt or a car note for almost a decade now, and I will never fall back into the debt trap ever again. I am also acutely aware of my budget at all times, and I review it on an almost weekly basis to make sure I am on track. The emergency financial cushions which I have established give me peace of mind, because I have successfully created and maintained my own safety nets. By no means am I wealthy, but I know that I am not in any precarious financial waters either.

Source: pigly.com

If you need help in establishing a budget, you can use a budget calculator. I found a wonderful budget calculator on Pigly.com which is very easy to use, and extremely thorough.  It helps you break down all expenses, from the essentials to debts and savings so you can target all your goals and ensure that your income is allocated optimally. All you have to do is plug in your income, and the calculator will automatically generate a low end and high end for all the categories.  So even if you have never established a budget before, you can set one up instantly.

When budgeting, don’t be afraid to contribute to your retirement accounts right now, as long as you have your debts paid down and you have an emergency fund in place.  I am a big proponent of Dave Ramsey’s investing philosophy, and I am grateful that I educated myself on financial wellness and dug myself out of what once seemed like a desperate situation.  It was only after I had paid off all of my credit cards and established an emergency fund back in 2013 that I began aggressively started putting money aside for retirement.

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Image ID : 129764462
Copyright : Romolo Tavani

The fact is, we are living in uncertain times, and need to be prepared for whatever hits.  By buttressing our financial health, getting creative with income streams, and following a budget, we will be better equipped to survive the ebb and flow of the current economy.

How to Live More Health-Conscious Without Worrying About Your Wallet

Image via Pexels

By Camille Johnson

Many people are finding it tougher than usual to make ends meet nowadays. So much so, that the thought of leading a healthier lifestyle has become more of a burden than an opportunity to lead a better quality of life. So, if you’ve been wanting to cut your unhealthy habits but were worried about how it could affect your disposable income, Dr. Stacey Naito weighs in on how to adopt a cost-effective healthy way of living.

Relook at your health insurance options

One of the perks of leading a healthier lifestyle is that you probably won’t get as sick as often, and you won’t need to see the doctor as much. Therefore, why not explore your options as far as health insurance goes and find a plan with lower premiums such as a High Deductible Health Plan, for instance. Not only will your premium amount be reduced, but you could also qualify for a Health Savings Plan where you can save even more money because of certain tax-deductible advantages that come with having this plan. Plus, you can even use a Health Savings Plan as an investment for when you retire.

You don’t have to pay restaurant prices

Maybe you’ve grown more fond of cooking home-cooked customized meals than you thought you would. And you’ve been left wondering why you ever had to resort to restaurants or takeout to get the nutrients you require. Furthermore, perhaps you’ve noticed the positive impact it’s had on your budget too, which makes it the perfect time to ditch dining out and rather save the extra money you would have spent at restaurants on creating a personalized eating plan for yourself.

Why drive when you can cycle?

Ever experienced the world from a cyclist’s point of view? If not, then perhaps you should skip driving to work all together and take the bike instead. If your commute is too far, you could opt to take an electric bike instead so that you don’t have to cycle all the way. You’ll not only be saving on fuel costs, but you’ll also be getting fitter, and you’ll be helping to save the environment too.

Of course, you could even make money with your new, more healthy lifestyle. Some of these money-making ideas could include:

Changing your shopping habits

Buying healthier foodstuffs doesn’t have to be as expensive as it looks. In fact, with just a few simple changes to your shopping habits, you can still enjoy all your favorite fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and healthy grains by taking advantage of special discounts along the way. Or you could even decide to buy some of your more healthy non-perishables in bulk to reap the benefits of cost savings in this way.  Or why not grow your own fruits and vegetables to drastically reduce the cost of your food bill every month?

Enjoy the outdoors for free!

If you have access to parks, outdoor gyms, jogging trails, etc. why not make use of these free activities to enhance your fitness levels even more? Furthermore, you’re more likely to stick with outdoor fitness activities because, for one, the outdoors is usually more varied and interesting, you could make friends along the way, and it’s better for your lungs, etc.

Making money with your newfound passion for leading a healthier life

Perhaps, you’ve found your real passion in your pursuit to lead a healthier lifestyle. You could then build a business around this and generate even more income besides savings on general expenses. For example, you could earn extra money through affiliate marketing if blogging is something you’re interested in doing. Or maybe opening up your own eCommerce store that sells gym equipment and workout gear has more of a ring to it. Either way (and amongst other things) you’ll want a professional-looking invoice to send to clients when they are due to pay. 

An online invoice generator can help with this by allowing you to design a customized invoice that you can tweak as you see fit, including inserting your special logo, personalizing your color scheme as well as adding any other important information on their premade templates.

In conclusion, living healthier is going to be an exercise (excuse the pun). But it doesn’t have to be draining on your income by any means. In fact, it could be quite the opposite if you know to adjust your existing lifestyle wisely.

Daily Duolingo Sessions

My streak as of March 17, 2022

As of today, April 12th, I have completed a 567 day streak on Duolingo, and I have every intention of continuing my daily language practice on the user friendly app. I began this streak with Japanese and Spanish as my daily languages, and added Portuguese at the beginning of March because I want to have some familiarity with the language when I visit Portugal in May. Duolingo is an excellent app for brushing up on languages or even learning a new one, and Duolingo Plus is only $84 per year. For that price, you can practice as many languages as you’d like.

I have practiced a bunch of languages, besides the ones I mentioned previously, on Duolingo over the past several years (French, German, Hungarian, Latin, Italian, and Hawaiian), and I love the fact that I can jump back into practicing any of those languages if I’d like. Though I took French and Latin in high school, I am rusty in those languages, and I only know a small amount of Hungarian, German, Italian, and Hawaiian. It is important for me to polish my Spanish speaking and reading skills constantly, not only because I was immersed in it when I would visit my dad and his children from his second marriage, but also because I don’t want to lose the skills I learned from Spanish classes I took throughout grade school, high school and college. I also feel a responsibility to learn as much Japanese as I can, since I am half Japanese, took Japanese in college, and intend to visit Japan again in the future.

Duolingo truly is a fantastic way to learn any language which is in their system. I highly recommend it!

Captured By Fragrance

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Several months ago, I read a book entitled The Emperor of Scent by Chandler Burr, which mainly explores the life and work of scientist Luca Turin. Luca Turin has made an indelible mark on the world of scent theory because he believes in a different concept of how we smell, and backs up his belief with hard science. What I did not expect while reading this book was that I learned how deeply immersed Turin is in the world of fine fragrance, to such an extent that he wrote a well respected perfume guide.

As I continued to read The Emperor of Scent, I became intensely curious about several fragrances which have been touted the world’s best scents. Turin’s description of Chamade by Guerlain captured me so intensely that I blind purchased two tiny vintage bottles of the extrait, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed, because the fragrance is sublime.

Une note de départ verte et anodine donne le coup d’ envoi à un miracle qui se produit sur plusiers heures, voire plusiers jours. A green and somewhat nondescript top note launches a miracle that happens over several hours, even several days. As soon as the initial fog dissipates, a splendid form appears, all of one piece, smooth and seamless, a strong white note, powdery and sculptural, that strengthens without losing complexity until complete evaporation. Typically Guerlain in its flattering and tender character, Chamade is nevertheless a haughty perfume, pure and distant and miles away from the slightly catty chic of Jicky and Shalimar. Its tenacity is prodigious, and one would believe it conceived to be smelled two days later. Put it on at least two hours before asking it to have its effect.

A masterpiece of elegance and poetry. One of the greatest perfumes of all time.”

How could I pass up an opportunity to obtain Chamade after reading Turin’s description?

I became obsessed with finding other vintage fragrances, such as Diorissimo (Dior) and L’Interdit (Givenchy), and also found other lovely scents which are currently being produced. However, I always try to get the vintage versions, because the newer iterations are never exactly the same as the originals. I also try to get the extrait or the eau de parfum instead of the EDT because of the staying power of perfume formulations.

I ended up finding a vintage bottle of Diorissimo EDP, which is a gorgeous expression of lily-of-the-valley, but sadly, it doesn’t last on my skin. I kept a bottle of the original L’Interdit (1957) which my mother had in her collection, and I have noted a difference between the vintage version and the bottle which I recently purchased. Nevertheless, the modern take on L’Interdit is absolutely lovely when mixed with my body chemistry.

I also found other fragrances during my recent foray into the world of scent, and stumbled upon the lovely floral Mon Guerlain (Guerlain), and the intense Sublime (Jean Patou). I revisited Byblos (Byblos) which I had kept from my mom’s collection, as well as J’Adore (Dior). Another fragrance which I absolutely love is a brand new offering from Givenchy called Irrestistible Fresh, which is a beautiful light fruity/floral.

The one mistake I made was in blind purchasing Joy (Jean Patou) based on the fact that it is the most expensive fragrance in the world. When I received the bottle in the mail, I spritzed some on my pulse points, and immediately became concerned because I could smell an imminent funk from the mixture. In addition, it was heady stuff, very grandma-esque, and just not my style. I waited for a half hour for the fragrance to meld with my body, and all I could think of was how much I wanted to jump in the shower to wash it off! The clincher for me was when my kitten approached me, took one whiff, and made swipes with his paw on the sofa as if to cover the results of a recent potty session. I took another sniff, and realized that Joy had turned into something that smelled like cat urine on me, thanks to the civet which is part of the base of the legendary scent. I returned it immediately.

Now I am just experimenting with the various fragrances I have in my collection, and will switch up my scent depending on my mood, the weather, or what I plan to do later that day. And though Marc Jacobs’ Daisy Eau So Fresh is still my go to daily fragrance, I am truly enjoying the variety which the new additions to my fragrance collection are providing.

Goals to Give You the Confidence to Return to the World

Image: Pixabay

Check out this inspiring and motivating article written by Camille Johnson on how to get back in gear after being on lockdown for so long.

Do you lack the confidence to re-enter the world after being indoors for an extended period of time? Maybe you lost your job due to the pandemic and are just now going back to work. Or maybe you were affected by lockdowns and are just now finding it safe to socialize again. Whatever the reason, it’s important to make sure you are confident enough to get back into the swing of things. Employ the tips below to help you build the confidence you need to overcome your fears.

Build your confidence and fitness with customized nutrition and fitness programs from Stacey Naito!

The Importance of Setting Goals

Setting goals is one of the most important parts of any lifestyle change. With just a few small changes, it’s possible to dramatically improve your life.

Many people have trouble setting and achieving their goals. This is because they don’t have a clear idea of what they want or need in their lives.

To avoid this, create a list of goals to give yourself the confidence you need to take on the world again. You could create lists with short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals that will help you reach your ultimate goal: happiness!

Reduce Debt, Reduce Stress

Debt is a major source of stress for many people, with 47% of Americans feeling overwhelmed by their debt. While there are a number of factors contributing to the level of debt Americans hold, one major factor is student loans.

Some people might believe that they are not able to take on more debt as they try to pay off existing balances. However, there are ways you can reduce your debt while still saving money, such as refinancing your home.

Refinancing allows qualified homeowners to decrease the equity in their homes and free up cash or reduce their monthly mortgage payments. Additionally, refinancing can be beneficial if you’re looking to take out a different type of loan. For instance, some people refinance a low-interest mortgage for one with an even lower rate.

Go Back to School

Oftentimes, people stop going to school when they get married and have children or they simply start to feel overwhelmed with life. But if you’re interested in progressing in your career, then why not consider going back to school?

Back in the day, it was common for people to care for their kids as a stay-at-home mom. In today’s society, women and men work outside the home. That said, being a working parent can be extremely difficult, and sometimes it might seem like there isn’t an alternative.

Fortunately, there is hope! Going back for an online degree in business, criminal justice, or nursing allows you to complete your education in a more flexible way. It also offers a lot of perks, such as:

  • The ability to balance work, family, and school
  • Not having to commute every day
  • Learning at your own pace
  • No dorm fees

If you’re considering going back to school for a degree or certificate program, now is the perfect time. It’s an investment that can pay off for years to come in higher wages and better job prospects.

In Closing

Setting goals, both short and long term, is not only a great way to stay on track, but it gives you the confidence to return to the world. When you are clear about what you are trying to accomplish, it’s easier to plan a course of action.

Technology And The Elderly Don’t Mix Well

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Copyright: fizkes

I have always considered my mother’s lack of understanding of anything electronic rather interesting, especially since I don’t struggle with operating basic electronic devices such as TV’s, stereos and cell phones. I know that older generations (my mother was born in 1932) tend to have difficulties operating electronic equipment, but my mother is at an extreme. It surprised me when my mother requested a VCR back in the 80’s, because I assumed that using it would present a challenge for her. So I gave her one for Christmas, despite the fact that I doubted she would feel comfortable using it. She proved me right by immediately revealing to me that she did not comprehend the different control buttons, which then prompted me to patiently run through every function with her. When I would say, “Okay Mom, how about if you try to play a videotape?”, she would become frustrated and state that it was just too confusing to her.

The next thing I did was to write out detailed and numbered operation instructions on a large Post-It note which I then affixed to the top of the VCR. A week went by, and then I came over for a visit, during which I asked my mother how she was enjoying the VCR. She stated that she had not used it, that it was “too confusing” for her, and that she would just wait until I came over so that I could operate the VCR and we could watch movies together. My mom held onto that VCR for 20 years, and she never once used it on her own.

Shortly after my mother entered an assisted living facility in 2013, I was trying to figure out what type of phone to get her, and thought it would be cheaper and more convenient for her if I purchased a pre-paid cell phone as opposed to installing a land line in her room. After purchasing her first cell phone (two have stopped working over the years, and she is on her third phone), I braced myself for the cell phone training which I knew I had to put my mom through. Just as I had predicted, she had problems from day one with basic operations on the phone, and as a consequence, rarely, if ever, answers incoming calls or makes outbound calls.

Has anyone else dealt with elderly people who don’t seem to have any aptitude for electronic devices?

Is Technology the Key to Healthy Senior Living?

Image courtesy of Unsplash

By Karen Weeks

Please check out Elderwellness.net and contact her via karen@elderwellness.net

According to MarketWatch, there are over 47 million seniors in the United States, comprising approximately 14.9% of the U.S. population. Unfortunately, the majority of these people have at least one chronic health condition. On the upside, advances in technology have made it easier to manage these conditions and connect seniors with helpful resources and make sure they have access to broadband internet. Here, Dr. Stacey Naito’s Blog describes some of the latest products, gadgets, and apps that can make staying healthy easier as you grow older. 

Convenient apps can remind you to take your pills

At any age, it can be difficult to remember to take medication. This is particularly true if you have more than one prescription that you take daily. If you have trouble remembering to take your medicine, you might want to consider a medication reminder like Medisafe Medication Management.

This is a free app available for both Apple and Android, and while it can jog your memory to take your pills on time, the app also does more than that. Medisafe checks for drug interactions, connects you with coupons and even reminds you when it’s time to request a refill. 

Fitness trackers motivate you to move

Fitness trackers like FitBit and Garmin Venu are nothing new. The first Fitbit was released in 2009. At the time it was barely more than a steps tracker, but they have come a long way since then. Today, in addition to counting your steps, most fitness trackers and smartwatches detect your heartbeat, track your sleep, record your weight, and help you set health-related goals. These tools are a great way to not only make sure you stay active but also monitor changes in your health. 

Fall detectors give you peace of mind

As you age, your risk of developing osteoporosis increases. In fact, the National Osteoporosis Foundation explains 54 million Americans have low bone density or osteoporosis. Osteoporosis increases the risk of broken bones which can easily lead to a fall. Falls are serious and can lead to even more serious injuries. Falls are a serious threat to anyone, and sometimes seniors can suffer from balance issues. It’s easy to see how this can become the perfect storm for an older adult.

For those who are at risk, technology has answers in the way of fall detectors. For instance, the Lifeline fall detector can detect a fall and connect you to a central communication center. If they determine you need assistance they can call for help.

There are many other devices that can help in the event of a fall. In fact, the latest version of the Apple Watch comes equipped with fall detection. In the event of a fall, the watch will call for help and send a message with your location to your emergency contacts. 

Use online tools to book a getaway

There’s nothing quite like getting away for a short vacation or staycation to get a change of scenery. Better yet, booking a quick getaway in a vacation rental offers benefits like free wi-fi and having a fully equipped kitchen so you can cook healthy meals. Many rentals also have home gyms so you can get in a workout or two during your stay. Using a service like TurnKey is a premium choice, as you get your pick of distinctive homes, 24/7 on-call service, and other perks.

Online access to insurance helps you get the care you need

Each year, the open enrollment window for Medicare is October 15 to December 7. During this time you can choose the plan that’s right for you. The best way to get started is to visit medicare.gov. Here you can find information on how to sign up and examine your available options.

Since plans like Medicare Advantage offer things like dental and vision care, many seniors find they save money on out-of-pocket expenses by making changes in coverage. With that in mind, do some exploring to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck.

Your health is important, but staying on top of it doesn’t have to be complicated. With technology, it’s easy to track your health and stay active. And the best part is, many of these services are easy to use and inexpensive or free. 

Dr. Stacey Naito’s Blog is home to a wide range of lifestyle and health topics (and more!). Read more interesting articles today!

How To Treat Depression Naturally

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Despite the fact that I was trained in the traditional ways of medicine, I prefer to utilize natural supplements and foods to treat conditions, only turning to prescription medications as a last resort for my patients. I have a particular aversion to prescribing antidepressant medications, and honestly believe that such meds only serve as a bandage for the root cause, which almost invariably is a combination of hormonal imbalance and malnutrition.

If you are experiencing new symptoms of depression, the first thing you should do is visit your primary care provider and have bloodwork drawn. Issues such as thyroid dysfunction, low progesterone, and low testosterone can often pop up in an individual who is experiencing depression. Make sure to also ask your provider to check vitamin D3 levels, since that substance actually acts like a hormone in the body. Other blood values which can be tested include DHEA, IGF-1, and estradiol.

When a patient comes to me complaining of symptoms of depression, I always recommend the following three supplements as part of the patient’s daily regimen:

Vitamin D
Folate 800 mcg
B-Complex

Once my patients are on this daily regimen for a few weeks, I have them visit for a follow-up to see if their symptoms have improved. If the improvement is marginal, I add SAMe and 5-HTP to the regimen, both of which are great for treating pain issues. If anything is off balance with respect to a patient’s hormones (and in most cases, something is), I will treat the imbalance directly with organ support compounds and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy.

In addition to natural supplements, I also recommend that patients consume whole foods, and avoid processed foods at all costs. If possible, I also urge them to engage in regular exercise, as such activity can have an immense positive impact on mood. I encourage people to find balance in their daily lives, and will often demonstrate breathing exercises or discuss meditation with them while they are in the office. I also remind them to stop and enjoy what they have in their lives, to be grateful for what they have instead of dwelling on what they lack.

Rather than turn to SSRI’s, please consider the natural approach first if you are dealing with depression!

How To Have A Social Life While Recovering From Addiction

It was the partying and bars that helped bring you to this point. After years of self-destructive behavior, failed relationships, and even some run-ins with the law, you’ve finally managed to walk that straight edge. You’re clean and sober, and you have every reason to want to keep that going. 

But you also deserve friends, fun, and the rest that comes with having some kind of social life. That can be tough when you’re recovering from addiction. Society as a whole is not designed to be supportive to those in recovery. But without social interactions and good times, the resulting depression and loneliness can trigger a relapse. 
To help, Karen Weeks of Elderwellness.net shares some tips for staying clean and sober while going out and having fun.

Image Source: Pixabay

Finding The Right Activities

One of the keys to staying sober while going out for fun activities is picking the right ones. This takes some of your history into account. If you spent way too much time in your previous years in dive bars, heading to hear a band at one might not be the best idea. Here are some activities that help support you in your addiction recovery. 

  • Play some games: This doesn’t mean sitting alone on a couch playing video games. You need social activities. Instead, get some friends together for board games. Bring a pack of cards to a restaurant and play there. And yes, video games with a bunch of friends in the room does count. 
  • Go see some live sports: Sports loyalties bring out a passion from their fans. Even if you barely know people, you can quickly bond over a game. But instead of hitting the bar scene, go see the game live. Professional leagues can be expensive, but minor leagues can be even more fun. 
  • Join a local league or sports club: Speaking of sports, you can have a social life by joining a local league or amateur sports club. Many adults get together on weekends to play some football, basketball, and more. 
  • Check your local library and park district: You’d be surprised how many social activities are now being offered by your hometown’s library and park district. Visit their website and look to see what clubs, events, and happenings you can attend. 
  • Reconnect with former friends: If you lost touch with friends along the way, rekindling old friendships can be a healthy way to heal and move forward in your sobriety journey. If you have trouble finding old classmates, try a site like ClassFinders, which makes it easy to track down school friends by graduation date and alma mater.

Going Along With The Group

You can’t be that person who’s always telling the group where they need to go. Sometimes, you’ll have to head with your friends to some place that can challenge your sobriety. It’s not inevitable, but it is something you can handle. 

First, explain to your friends why certain activities are just not for you. There’s a difference between going to a restaurant that serves alcohol and a dive bar that serves nothing but cheap booze. Your friends will understand. 

Once out, a big way to stay sober is to change your focus. Instead of thinking about how you can’t enjoy a few drinks, focus instead on how you can mingle, talk to people, eat great food, that sort of thing. In other words, give your mind something positive to think about. 

Just make sure you have an exit plan. Hanging out at a club can be great, but what happens when you suddenly realize everyone around you is high? You need to know when to leave. But you also need to know how. 

A Sober Companion Can Save You

When you’re out and about, having a close friend who can leave with you can be a lifesaver. Suddenly leaving a club or house party is embarrassing, but it’s less so when someone is heading out with you. Find a friend that you can depend on like that, and be sure to make it up to them if you have to leave early. 

It’s not always easy living the sober life. You’ve already made many big changes to your lifestyle, and more are probably on their way. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a social life. Just pick your activities carefully, focus on something fun and sobering, and make sure you have an exit plan.