Music Plays Instrumental Role in Healing Ailments

Hearing a familiar song from a happy period in your life, such as childhood, can instantly make you feel joyful. It’s as if you’re right back there — toe tapping, head bopping and singing along. Just as with our sight, smell and taste senses, positive auditory memories can enhance mood and transport us back to a happier time.

The power of music has led researchers to study various applications of music therapy to help people overcome the pain of health conditions, emotional challenges and even the cognitive decline that often accompanies old age.1

It’s not enough to believe we will all grow old gracefully. This usually doesn’t happen without planning. A big part of planning for retirement isn’t just how to provide enough income for the rest of our life, but how to help ensure we still enjoy a high quality of life no matter our age.

As an independent financial services firm, we help people create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives; just give us a call. As for creating a plan to help enhance quality of life, consider some of these music therapy applications.

Music therapy is now a board-certified health profession. With approximately 7,500 practitioners throughout the country, the practice has become prevalent in nursing homes and hospices. The American Music Therapy Association reports about 10 percent of musical therapists work with terminally ill patients in a new discipline called end-of-life music therapy.2

 A growing body of research indicates music therapy can help improve cognitive function in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.3 It also can be used to aid in stress and pain management, memory enhancement, communication and physical rehabilitation.4

Further, the discipline has been found to help people with psychiatric problems, such as depression, trauma and schizophrenia. Music can help calm patients as well as help them process emotions, trauma and grief.5

Interestingly, the military has used forms of music therapy since the post-World War I era. Trained musical therapists use it as a tool to help wounded, injured or ill soldiers express their thoughts nonverbally. Research also shows music can be effective at increasing neuroplasticity in the brain, which is an important role in helping veterans address symptoms of PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.6

 Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Sharon Otterman. The New York Times. Jan. 15, 2018. “Music Therapy Offers an End-of-Life Grace Note.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/15/nyregion/music-therapy-nursing-home-hospice.html. Accessed April 13, 2018.

2 Ibid.

3 Sherry Christiansen. Alzheimer’s Universe. July 24, 2017. “Quick Alzheimer’s Prevention Pearl: Studies Show Music Improves Cognition in People with Alzheimer’s Disease.” https://www.alzu.org/blog/2017/07/24/how-music-helps-with-alzheimers-prevention/. Accessed April 18, 2018.

4 American Music Therapy Association. 2018. “What is Music Therapy?” https://www.musictherapy.org. Accessed April 13, 2018.

5 Molly Warren. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Dec. 19, 2016. “The Impact of Music Therapy on Mental Health.” https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/December-2016/The-Impact-of-Music-Therapy-on-Mental-Health. Accessed April 18, 2018.

6 Frank Otto. Drexel University News Blog. March 20, 2018. “3 Things to Keep in Mind About Music Therapy in the Military.” https://newsblog.drexel.edu/2018/03/20/3-things-to-keep-in-mind-about-music-therapy-in-the-military/. Accessed April 13, 2018.

This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Notes on U.S. Infrastructure

The American Society of Civil Engineers has given the U.S. an overall infrastructure grade of D+. Throughout the next decade, it will take more than $4.5 trillion to fix our aging infrastructure — including upgrades to roads, mass transit, wastewater treatment plants and the electrical grid.1

We’ve reached the mission-critical stage. One industry analyst observed, “We’re at the point where our infrastructure is becoming an impediment to productivity and long-term economic growth.”2

The idea of national infrastructure may remind us of personal retirement preparation. If you are still working and thinking about retirement options, consider your own “infrastructure” situation. First, are you considering relocating or downsizing, or are you committed to aging in your own home? If you prefer the latter, it’s a good idea to check out your home from top to bottom to see whether you need any major repairs or maintenance while you’re still earning a paycheck.

This inspection should include considering a new roof, checking for mold buildup in your crawl space and researching new windows or other energy-efficient features that can help lower your utility bills. Even replacing older appliances could impact your household budget once you’re living on a fixed income.

Given our dramatic weather pattern swings, we should also prepare for the possibility of a natural disaster that could affect our daily living. Consider how you might plan for a long-term disruption in power or clean water supplies, such as installing a generator, solar panels, tiles and/or a battery pack. While it may seem farfetched, remember that the citizens of Puerto Rico probably never thought they would have to adapt for long-term power outages, as seen after Hurricane Maria.3

One way the U.S. is trying to address some of these issues is by incorporating green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) in sewer overflow control and integrated wet-weather plans. The idea is to evaluate the performance of GSI systems for future development.4

With all the discussion about funding at the federal level, one little-known fact is how much infrastructure is controlled at the local level. In fact, 40 percent of the nation’s bridges and 46 percent of all public roads are owned and maintained by counties. Furthermore, counties help fund one-third of the nation’s airports and 78 percent of public transportation programs.5

The news isn’t all bad. According to the World Economic Forum, the U.S. international ranking for overall infrastructure quality improved from 25th to 12th place last year out of 138 countries. However, when it comes to specific categories, we show mixed results — the U.S. ranks second in road infrastructure spending but ranks 60th for road safety. The U.S. also lags behind other developed countries when it comes to infrastructure resilience and future sustainability.6

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications

1 Merrill Lynch. 2018. “Getting a Bigger Bang for the Infrastructure Buck.” https://www.ml.com/articles/getting-a-bigger-bang-from-the-infrastructure-buck.html#financial-research-and-insights. Accessed April 20, 2018.

2 Ibid.

3 Camilla Domonoske. NPR. April 18, 2018. “Puerto Rico Loses Power — Again.” https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/04/18/603569966/puerto-rico-loses-power-again. Accessed April 20, 2018.

4 Water Environment Federation. April 4, 2018. “Data analyses confirm GSI value in overflow control.” http://stormwater.wef.org/2018/04/data-analyses-confirm-gsi-value-overflow-control/. Accessed April 20, 2018.

5 Mary Scott Nabers. Infrastructure USA. April 9, 2018. “County government — a critical component of America’s greatness.” https://www.infrastructureusa.org/county-government-a-critical-component-of-americas-greatness/. Accessed April 20, 2018.

6 Hiba Baroud. PBS News Hour. Feb. 18, 2018. “Measuring up U.S. infrastructure against other countries.” https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/measuring-up-u-s-infrastructure-against-other-countries. Accessed April 20, 2018.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Travel Tips

Anthony Melchiorri, the host of the Travel Channel show “Hotel Impossible,” says he prefers to stay in a roadside motel over a luxury hotel – as long as it has good online reviews. In his opinion, the mom and pop ownership model often leads to painstaking efforts for cleanliness, fresh flowers and a home-cooked meal – not to mention personal recommendations for uniquely local places to visit in the area.1

After all, the accommodation industry is all about hospitality, and hospitality is about personal service. It doesn’t get more personal than running your own business. We feel the same way about working with our clients. We know you want to talk to familiar people when you call for information. At the end of the day, we’re all looking for that extra touch, the human connection, something that sets service above the rest. Please contact us anytime. We are here to help you with your retirement income strategy questions.

This desire for the personal touch remains true whether you’re at home or traveling. In a recent interview, Mr. Melchiorri offered some interesting advice for planning a vacation. For example:2

  • If you’re booking a hotel, check out its most recent reviews online at sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. Even large chains get bad reviews, and some of those roadside motels get charming It pays to check before you book.
  • While you may want to use one of those shop-and-compare websites to find a hotel, once you make a selection go to the hotel’s actual website to make your reservation. The hotel website is guaranteed to offer the lowest rate – Melchiorri says a website like Expedia is not allowed to have a lower rate than the hotel. In addition, when you book through a third party, it can be more difficult to get your money back.
  • Remember that hotels and motels are in the hospitality industry, and the good ones want to ensure you are pleased with your stay. Melchiorri encourages travelers to ask for things they want – an upgrade, a poolside room, to be upstairs or downstairs, bottled water or fresh flowers in their room. If hotel staff can accommodate you, they most likely will.
  • If you encounter a problem, he suggests you first make a polite complaint, then escalate to a more direct aggressive complaint, and finally, express your displeasure with a scathing online review.

One way to save money on accommodations is on parking. Many hotels charge for onsite parking or valet service. Consider downloading an app to your smartphone to help you find less expensive parking options. These apps look for parking based on your location and show the least expensive options, which can yield as much as 50 percent in savings. Other apps can find all available transportation options between your current location and your destination, so you can choose the most convenient with the best price.3

If you want to learn about the history of an area you’re visiting, check out local museum deals. Some places offer free entrance either on certain days or all the time. For example, the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. and nearly every museum in London offer free admittance year-round.4

If you’re traveling abroad, before you leave home, make copies of your passport and driver’s license; leave one with a friend and tuck another into your bag. It’s also a good idea to take photos of them on your smartphone and load them up to a password protected cloud storage site. Having copies of important travel documents can alleviate a lot of hassle if the originals are lost or stolen.5

You also may want to spread your cash in a few different places, such as your wallet, in zipper pockets and in your hotel safe. Should you lose your billfold or get robbed, you won’t be left totally without cash.6

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Beth J. Harpaz. Washington Times. Sept. 6, 2017. “Why ‘Hotel Impossible’ star likes a good roadside motel.” http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/sep/6/why-hotel-impossible-star-likes-a-good-roadside-mo/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS. Accessed Oct. 2, 2017.

2 Ibid.

3 Talia Avakian. Travel and Leisure. Sept. 30, 2017. “These 18 Easy Tips Can Save You a Fortune on Your Next Trip.” http://www.travelandleisure.com/travel-tips/save-money-while-traveling. Accessed Oct. 2, 2017.

4 Ibid.

5 Mike Shubic. Travelocity. Oct. 2, 2017. “12 Genius Travel Planning Tips.” https://www.travelocity.com/inspire/12-genius-travel-planning-tips/. Accessed Oct. 2, 2017.

6 Ibid.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Assessing Risk

It is common to have a very traditional interpretation when we think of investment risk, such as the belief that stocks are seen as a risky investment, and bonds less so. But many issues have come to light in the past decade that cause us to think about risk differently. For example, there’s the risk of outliving your retirement savings, which is often cited as one of the primary concerns of today’s retirees.1

And that’s just today’s retirees. If you’re still in saving mode, your retirement could be even longer than today’s average retirement.2 Given this potential reality, it may be time for all of us to re-evaluate how we assess risk.

As financial advisors, we spend countless hours helping people develop a financial strategy for the future. That means we continuously research and discuss risk factors, and we understand how to apply them to each individual’s situation. Please contact us if you’d like help assessing what risk factors you need to consider in regard to your long-term financial goals.

Some people are naturally risk averse, and others are enthusiastic risk-takers. Most fall somewhere in between, with attitudes toward risk changing, depending on where they are in in their lives. It’s not uncommon for individuals to take more risks in their younger years, when they have more time to rebound from market setbacks, and then take a more conservative approach as they near retirement.3

If we pursue a strict risk/reward investment strategy, we can still come up short in meeting retirement goals. For example, say you are extremely risk-averse, so you invest all of your money in 10-year Treasury notes in order to generate around $56,500, which is the average annual household income. These securities, which are considered low risk because they are backed by the U.S. government, were paying out around 2.25 percent in October, so you would need to have $2.26 million invested to earn that much – even more if you factor in long-term inflation.4 In this particular scenario, we might say that such a level of risk-aversion is a luxury many of us cannot afford.

Let’s look at another type of risk. As a general rule of thumb, risk-averse U.S. investors are more comfortable investing in domestic stocks versus those in other countries. This year, that’s working out pretty well, when you consider that the S&P 500 boasted a 14.86 percent year-to-date return as of Nov. 2, 2017.5 However, a lot of countries are doing well these days, so diversifying to include foreign stocks could help improve a portfolio’s overall return while adding the risk-mitigation factor of broader diversification. To put this in perspective, consider that the MSCI World ex USA Index has yielded 15.51 percent and the MSCI Emerging Markets Index is at 25.08 percent for the year as of Sept. 27, 2017.6

It’s also important to evaluate different kinds of risk beyond that associated with individual holdings. There’s the potential risk of not keeping pace with long-term inflation’s impact on the purchasing power of our savings. There’s what’s called “sequence of returns” risk, which means your average annual return over a long timeline may be good, but if you experience declines during the beginning of your retirement years, the risk of loss is much higher.7

There’s also the risk of having significant health problems and needing long-term care. Some people experience this while others don’t, but there’s no way to be sure which camp we’ll fall into – so that’s a potential risk.

While many retirees may believe that their greatest risk is not accumulating a certain amount of money by the time they retire, we believe their goal should be to create a financial strategy that reflects their needs and objectives instead of chasing an arbitrary monetary amount.

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Catey Hill. MarketWatch. July 21, 2016. “Older People Fear This More Than Death.” http://www.marketwatch.com/story/older-people-fear-this-more-than-death-2016-07-18. Accessed Oct. 24, 2017.

2 Jeff Stimpson. Forbes. Sept. 5, 2017. “How to Balance Investment Risk and Reward in Retirement” https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2017/09/05/how-to-balance-investment-risk-and-reward-in-retirement/#629608b96ec4. Accessed Sept. 28, 2017.

3 Walter Updegrave. CNN Money. June 21, 2017. “How much investing risk should you take in retirement? http://money.cnn.com/2017/06/21/pf/retirement-investing-risk/index.html. Accessed Oct. 24, 2017.

4 Bruce McCain. Forbes. Sept. 20, 2017. “Seeking Financial Security When Life Changes Strike.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucemccain/2017/09/20/seeking-financial-security-when-life-changes-strike/#589a300c2f0a. Accessed Sept. 28, 2017.

5 CNN Money. Oct. 24, 2017. “S&P 500 Index.” http://money.cnn.com/data/markets/sandp/. Accessed Nov. 2, 2017.

6 eTrade. Sept. 28, 2017. “International calling.” https://us.etrade.com/knowledge/markets-news/commentary-and-insights/international-calling?ch_id=S&s_id=Twitter&c_id=ESOC. Accessed Sept. 28, 2017.

7 Dana Anspach. The Balance. Aug. 14, 2017. “Learn How Sequence Risk Impacts Your Retirement Money.” https://www.thebalance.com/how-sequence-risk-affects-your-retirement-money-2388672. Accessed Oct. 24, 2017.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values. 

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Tips for Aches and Pains

As we grow older, many of us get wiser. We may become more comfortable in our own skin. We may get better at our jobs, have a more reliable income and begin to collect assets. We can gain a better appreciation of what’s important in life.

We also can lose things. Some of us lose a degree of innocence and idealism. Some miss their doggedness and fearlessness – while others may find they no longer have the thick hair of their younger years.

We also may have gains and experience losses in our finances. We learn that what goes up generally does come down, but then it can go up again. We develop financial strategies designed to help us weather economic ups and downs. If your life learnings summon the need to protect a portion of your retirement assets and help insure yourself against the risk of financial loss, give us a call. As an independent financial services firm, we help people create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products, including annuities, to custom suit their needs and objectives.

We also may experience more physical aches and pains as we age. But there are coping mechanisms for these things, too.

For example, a lot of people these days are suffering from pain caused by our modern obsession with gadgets. We are hunched over computer keyboards and smartphones, putting strain on the head and neck. Experts say it helps to take lots of breaks, get outdoors, and do hand and neck stretches. Experience tells us that moderation in all things is key; this is also true for gadgetry.1

Some pain may be controlled through alternative methods. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, a division of the National Institutes of Health, reports there is growing evidence that acupuncture, hypnosis, massage, spinal manipulation and yoga may help manage some chronic conditions. Be sure to check with your health care provider before trying any of these methods, however, to make sure they won’t put your health or safety at risk.2

And then there are the effects of emotional pain. In recent months, many people have lost their homes, family and friends to hurricane winds, flooding, fire and earthquakes. It’s been a tough time even for those fortunate enough to survive. Some of the tactics recommended to help cope with this type of pain include committing to a routine to help get your life back on track, unplugging from news sources so you can get out of the disaster frame of mind for a while and adjusting expectations going forward.3

We may not always be able to recover the things we lose, but we can find comfort in recognizing and appreciating what we still have.

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 The Daily Star. Sept. 2, 2017. “Is a modern lifestyle giving you aches and pains? 5 expert tips for healthier pain management.” http://www.thedailystar.net/health/5-expert-tips-healthier-pain-management-backpain-1457293. Accessed Sept. 28, 2017.

2 National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. September 2016. “Chronic Pain: In Depth.” https://nccih.nih.gov/health/pain/chronic.htm. Accessed Oct. 16, 2017.

3 Paige Smith. Huffington Post. Sept. 20, 2017. “7 Tips for How to Cope If You’re Rebuilding After a Natural Disaster.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/cope-rebuilding-natural-disaster_us_59c2a020e4b0186c220775c6. Accessed Sept. 28, 2017.

Guarantees and protections provided by insurance products including annuities are backed by the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurer.

This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Monitoring Insurance Needs Is a Good Policy

Life insurance is something you purchase, then hopefully don’t need to use until many years down the road. But that doesn’t mean you should stop paying attention to it. As you age, it’s important to monitor the policies you own.

Some policies may no longer be needed, while others may be needed now more than ever. It’s a matter of evaluating your personal situation as you move through life. Since insurance is meant to help protect us from major financial loss, it’s important to continually assess how our goals and needs change over time, and determine if our insurance coverage is aligned with them.1

If it’s time for you to get a customized insurance review, please give us a call.

Many people may assume they no longer need life insurance during retirement. For some, this may be true. Once children are out on their own, retirees who feel they have saved enough to provide income for both spouse’s lifetimes are likely to drop their policies.However, before making this decision, it’s important to review your retirement and legacy goals. Some people decide to keep life insurance during retirement in order to provide a tax-free death benefit for their beneficiaries when they die. This can free up other assets for use in retirement without concerns about whether they will have money to leave to their children.

For large estates, policy owners may use life insurance proceeds to help pay state and federal inheritance taxes. Still others may want life insurance to provide the surviving spouse with additional funds for unexpected expenses.3

In some cases, it may be appropriate for retirees to purchase life insurance for the death benefit, as well as a complementary strategy for additional retirement income. Some permanent life insurance policies offer a cash value account that grows over time and can be used to supplement retirement income, typically through the use of policy loans. At the same time, the policy can provide tax-advantaged proceeds to help protect loved ones upon the owner’s death.Please note that policy loans and withdrawals will reduce the available cash value and death benefit.

Retirees who stop paying premiums for policies they determine they no longer need can use that excess money to help pay for the policies they may need during retirement, such as long-term care insurance.5 This is even true of policies we often take for granted, such as homeowners and auto insurance. If you downsize to a less expensive home, your homeowners premium will likely drop as well. If you downsize to one car or, eventually, no car at all, you can free up extra cash, which can help defray any new transportation costs.

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Lisa Brown. Kiplinger. June 2017. “Rethink These 3 Financial Strategies Every Decade (or sooner!)” http://www.kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T023-C032-S014-rethink-these-3-financial-strategies-every-decade.html. Accessed Aug. 20, 2017.
2 Tim Grant. Times-Union. Aug. 12, 2017. “Rethink dropping life insurance.” http://www.timesunion.com/business/article/Rethink-dropping-life-insurance-11813300.php. Accessed Aug. 20, 2017.
3 Cheryl Winokur Munk. The Wall Street Journal. July 5, 2017. “Should Retirees Have Life Insurance?” https://www.wsj.com/articles/should-retirees-have-life-insurance-1499261075?utm_campaign=Q32017%20Thought%20Leadership. Accessed Aug. 20, 2017.
4 Jacob Alphin. Forbes. May 11, 2017. “How To Use Life Insurance In Your Retirement Planning.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesfinancecouncil/2017/05/11/how-to-use-life-insurance-in-your-retirement-planning/#85e67b469cff. Accessed Aug. 20, 2017.
5 Jennifer Fitzgerald. Betterment. March 3, 2016. “3 Important Types of Insurance to Have When Preparing for Retirement.” https://www.betterment.com/resources/retirement/planning-ahead/3-important-types-of-insurance-when-preparing-for-retirement/. Accessed Aug. 20, 2017.

Life insurance policies are contracts between you and an insurance company. Life insurance product guarantees rely on the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurer. If properly structured, proceeds from life insurance are generally income tax free.

 We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives.This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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