Why Making a Plan is Powerful for Young Adults

Planning is a frequent topic at Steps For Today. Helping others plan for life is the reason it came into being. It is our belief the creating a written plan for life (finances, health & medical needs, career advancement, aging and retirement, etc.) will make a key difference in anyone’s life, and especially in the lives of young adults. They are just getting started on life’s journey. Wouldn’t it be better to have a course plotted to a destination of one’s own choosing? After all, luck is not a strategy.

Here are some good reasons to have such a plan:

Clarity and Direction: A written plan provides a roadmap for young adults, helping them clarify their goals and aspirations for the future. It allows them to set clear objectives and identify the steps needed to achieve them.

Financial Security: Planning for adulthood, aging, medical needs, and retirement involves considering financial aspects. By having a written plan, young adults can outline their financial goals, create budgets, save money, and make informed decisions about investments and insurance. This helps build a solid financial foundation and ensures long-term financial security.

Preparedness for Emergencies: Life is unpredictable, and unexpected events can occur. A written plan helps young adults anticipate potential emergencies or health issues, allowing them to establish emergency funds, arrange appropriate insurance coverage, and designate powers of attorney or healthcare proxies. Being prepared for unforeseen circumstances can minimize stress and provide peace of mind.

Health and Wellness: Planning for medical needs encourages young adults to prioritize their physical and mental well-being. They can include regular health check-ups, preventive measures, and exercise routines in their plan. Additionally, addressing health concerns early on can help prevent or manage potential illnesses in the future.

Long-Term Care Considerations: As people age, the need for long-term care may arise. A written plan allows young adults to consider options such as long-term care insurance, retirement communities, or setting aside funds for future care needs. By planning ahead, they can make informed decisions about the type of care they desire and avoid potential burdens on themselves or their loved ones.

Reduced Stress and Increased Confidence: Having a written plan provides a sense of control and reduces anxiety about the future. The process of creating a plan helps build confidence in the ability to handle challenges and make informed decisions.

Remember, while having a written plan is valuable, it’s also essential to remain flexible and adapt as circumstances change. Regularly reviewing and updating the plan ensures it remains relevant and aligned with your evolving needs and goals.

Sure, plans will get upended. But that is when the true value of planning is revealed. In creating a plan, one has to learn about and consider the many variables of life. And in the process, learns to step more confidently into their future.

 Steps For Today® is dedicated to helping everyone create a plan for their life. Please like and share our page to help spread the word about our resources.

For more articles and information, visit www.StepsForToday.com. And take your next steps.

Thanks for reading.
Mitch

The 4 R Document Rule

Does the following short conversation sound familiar to you?
     “So do you have those documents?”
          “Of course… I think… Somewhere.”

Let’s be honest. We’ve all had this experience. And it can leave us hesitant to deal with paperwork (or electronic files) of any kind. No one likes feeling that they’re just going to fail at something. But learning to be comfortable with documents is a necessary life skill. It’s this skill, perhaps more than any other, that creates successful businesses. So why aren’t we using it to create and manage successful plans for adulthood, aging, medical needs, and retirement. I know it can seem overwhelming, but it just takes a process and little practice.

In my book Steps For Today: First Steps For Success (First Steps For Success – Steps For Today®), I discuss the creation of a “Master Index” for managing important information and items. I also provide an example list of life events that may cause changes to our plans and to our documents. Using these two documents, you can easily pick up and use the 4 R Rule: Recognize, Retrieve, Review and Revise. With a little practice you’ll learn to recognize when a life-event will cause a document to change. Using the Master Index, you’ll have the steps to find and retrieve the impacted document(s). You’ll also have a record of who may be needed to help review and revise the documents. All of that with a lot less stress and anxiety than either not having plans, or not knowing where they’re located.

In my next article, I’ll discuss the types of documents we can create to help plan our life. This will be a great article for those who are ‘just starting out’ on the journey, as well as those who know it’s time to get something done, but are struggling on where to start.

Thanks for reading.
Please like and share with those who are struggling with these issues.
And remember to take the next step.
Mitch

A (Very) Real Fear

During my career, I’ve attended a lot of meetings with co-workers. Often, there was a well-crafted presentation with a lot of information. And every-so-often, after the meeting my fellow attendee would say that they “really didn’t understand” a lot of what the speaker was talking. When I’d asked them why they didn’t ask questions during the meeting, they’d often say that they “didn’t want to look stupid.”  What could I say? We’ve all been there.

Unfortunately, I have found that this common fear is a central reason we avoid important discussions. One simple tool for getting over this mindset is to say “I don’t know much about that. Can you please tell me more?” I think the vast majority of people like helping others and sharing their knowledge. And, if their honest, could come up with a list of example topics for which they knew very little. I have found that it’s even better when you have a pen and paper in hand when you ask the question. Most people kick into schoolteacher mode and give slow, purposeful, responses.

The simple truth is that none of us, not even the smartest of us, knows everything.  But that shouldn’t stop us from finding answers for life’s problems. But where to begin? You can find a professional. But even then, it can be difficult to keep up. And if you’re paying them by the hour, you’d like to keep the process moving along. This is why I included the definitions and explanations for a lot of legal, financial, and medical terms into First Steps For Success and Embraced Living. After reading the books and completing the suggested documents, you will understand key terms and concepts for financial, legal, and medical conversations. Furthermore, the completed documents will contain a lot of the information you may be asked to provide for trusts, wills, beneficiary documents, and powers of attorney. It’s one big step towards a more secure and organized life.

For more information, visit my website www.StepsForToday.com and take a look at my books First Steps For Success (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RQZJ2VD) and Embraced Living (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B093RZGJ81)

Thanks for reading.
Please like and share with those who are struggling with these issues.
And remember to take the next step.
Mitch

On the Record

As every parent knows, the start of every school year is filled with a list of tasks which must be completed before classes begin. Of these tasks, the one that gave me the most anxiety, was coming up with the immunization records. We had moved quite a few times, so no individual doctor had a complete set of records. I always managed to find those little immunization record books. But not without an undue amount of stress. Now, imagine if you had to provide a complete set of medical records, and time was critical.

This same scenario can also apply to financial or legal paperwork in an emergency situation, medical or otherwise. It’s easy to forget a documents location. Whether it’s paper or electronic, once it’s placed in a “safe” location, our brains automatically quit tracking it, and move on to whatever concerns are most pressing.

In my book, First Steps For Success, I discuss the creation of a Master Index. This document is a single location to list and track the critical documents for your household. The Index can also be used to capture metadata related to a document such as persons, companies, or related documents. The book also discusses different types of documents and how they may be applicable to your home. Of course, it takes a few steps to do the initial setup for your existing documents, but you’ll find that knowing where your important information is kept and having a quick place to record the location of future documents, will save both time and anxiety in the future. First Steps For Success is available at Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RQZJ2VD.

Thanks for reading. Please like and share with those who may benefit from this information!
And remember to take the next step.
Mitch

PS. It seems as though Facebook has possibly changed its algorithms which determine who sees these posts. Please help me reach as many people as possible by liking and sharing this content. This will also let me know if the posts are reaching my readers. Thanks again!

I Don’t Care

I once witnessed an “international incident” – of sorts. An American engineer said “I don’t care” to his Swiss counterpart. With that, the Swiss engineer stood up and shouted back in disbelief “We are spending billions of dollars and you don’t care?”

In my books, I write about the need to have difficult, but important, conversations regarding aging and estate planning. Tensions are typically high when discussing such subjects. The slightest miscommunication of word or intent can lead to unnecessary conflict and sadness. I have witnessed more than a few well-intentioned conversations that went awry because of simple miscommunication. 

Still yet, the conversations should be had. So what steps can be taken to minimize  the potential for misunderstanding? Here are a few things to remember when planning such a conversation. (And you should not undertake such a conversation without a little upfront planning).

Try not to use colloquial terms, which are informal words or phrases used in everyday conversation but are usually specific to a geographic region. These are easily misunderstood. I remember on my first trip to Kentucky that every cola was called a Coke.

Don’t use ambiguous terms which are open to interpretation. For example, the phrase “I’m down” can mean “I’m sad” or “It’s Okay with me” depending on the context.

Keep in mind that there may be generational differences in the meaning of a word. For example, the word “bug” is used by younger generations to refer to an app problem. Whereas, someone in their 80’s may think you are referring to an illness.

Difficult conversations are not the place for sarcasm or humor. Which is especially hard to contain for yours truly. However, this can also lead to misunderstandings if the listener is not familiar with the speaker’s tone or intentions.

Be specific in the terms you are using when discussing estate or care planning. If you are not familiar with the myriad of terms, my books “First Steps For Success” and “Embraced Living” give a great foundation in these areas and suggestions for where to begin this process.

Back to my opening story. The American engineer had simply said “I don’t care which you choose”. The Swiss engineer took this to mean that he literally was disinterested in the whole program. You can imagine his concern. It was all cleared-up and a few laughs were had. But there were some tense, undue, moments.

Thanks for reading. Please like and share with those who are struggling with these issues!
And remember to take the next step.
Mitch

For more information on how to bring a little order to life’s chaos, visit https://www.StepsForToday.com and check out my books:
– First Steps For Success https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RQZJ2VD
– Embraced Living https://www.amazon.com/dp/B093RZGJ81

The Effects of Social Isolation

By now, just about everyone has experienced some form of social isolation due to the pandemic. The effects of social isolation are real but not always obvious. Arming ourselves with a little information can give us an advantage in combating its effects.

We are social beings. We are genetical programmed to seek-out interactions with our fellow humans. A perceived loss of social support creates an emotional and chemical response that we call loneliness. Biologically, this response compels us to take action to remedy the situation. And when an immediate remedy is unavailable, anxiety develops, and the stress only compounds upon itself. This affects everyone, regardless of age.

So what can we do? First, arm ourselves with a little information. In his June 03, 2020, article titled “Five Reasons Why Being Home All the Time Is So Hard, How can it be so unpleasant to be stuck in a place we love?”,  Frank T. McAndrew Ph.D. outlines various ways we are affected.

  1. It Signals That We Have Lost Control Over Our Lives
  2. The Sheer Amount of Change Is Stressful and Exhausting
  3. Social Isolation Runs Counter to Human Nature
  4. Being in Isolation With Others Can Be Challenging
  5. Isolation Creates a Ripe Environment for Depression

This may seem like old news now, but reviewing it will help keep focused on efforts to combat these effects. Taking steps to plan and organize or life and home will reaffirm our belief that we are in control of our lives. Create a calendar of events, tasks, and activities for yourself and your fellow dwellers. Encourage them to do the same. Make sure to include some repeating events that add consistency to some activities throughout the week. This will create a new normal routine and lessen the feeling of constant change. And be sure to include some time alone, away from any of your cohabitants increasingly annoying idiosyncrasies. And if there isn’t any behavior annoying you, yet, time away will help keep things that way.

Work to set up a few recurring video or telephone visits with other households. Giving and receiving communications is a way of showing others that they are not alone in these times.

Be open to the fact that depression is not uncommon in these circumstances. Look for signs in yourself and others, and be receptive to expressions of concerns received from others. A continuing lack of sleep, appetite, or interest in normal activities should be noted and discussed in order to subdue depression before it can advance.

As a side note, many of our elderly were dealing with social isolation long before the pandemic, and will continue to do so after we emerge from its grip. I will bet that our new-found empathy for those still living in isolation will remind us to give them a call now and then.

So grab a calendar and take some proactive steps today!

As always, thanks for reading. If you have a moment, please Like this page and consider sharing this post it with others. It’s greatly appreciated.

And remember to take the next step…
Mitch

Check out some of my early posts for coping with the effects of the pandemic:

https://www.stepsfortoday.com/health/self-management/using-social-distancing-to-form-new-habits/

https://www.stepsfortoday.com/home-organization/help-for-household-stress/

 

PS: More information on the effects of social isolation can be found here:

Frank T. McAndrew Ph.D.
Five Reasons Why Being Home All the Time Is So Hard
How can it be so unpleasant to be stuck in a place we love?
Posted Jun 03, 2020
From https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/out-the-ooze/202006/five-reasons-why-being-home-all-the-time-is-so-hard

Hämmig O. Health risks associated with social isolation in general and in young, middle and old age. PLoS One. 2019 Jul 18;14(7):e0219663. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0219663. Erratum in: PLoS One. 2019 Aug 29;14(8):e0222124. PMID: 31318898; PMCID: PMC6638933. From https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31318898/

Pre-tax Healthcare Spending Accounts

It’s that time of year when we’re frequently asked if we’d like to enroll in a healthcare spending account for the next year. If you haven’t enrolled in one previously, they can be a little confusing. And sometimes that’s all we need to avoid something that may save us a little money. Today’s post is written to provide a quick review of some of these options.

The US federal and state tax codes allow some income to be set aside for certain expenses before federal and/or state taxes are levied upon it. These include expenses such as healthcare, college savings investment earnings, commuter rail passes, and retirement savings. In some cases, such as with a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), Health Savings Account (HSA), or Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA), the pretax funds must be set aside in an account managed by a third-party administrator. The administrator is responsible for reviewing the reimbursement requests submitted by the participants to ensure the requested expenses fall within eligibility guidelines.

Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) are government approved accounts in which pre-tax income can be placed. The funds in the FSA may only be used for medical expenses expressly approved by the FSAs guidelines.  The guidelines set the maximum allowable annual contribution and the services or products for which these funds may be used. FSAs do not earn interest. Also, the yearly amount contributed to the FSA must be estimated prior to the start of the year and cannot be changed. The plan administrator will then spread payroll deductions evenly throughout the year in order to fund the account to the specified amount. Withdrawals are accomplished through a reimbursement-for-expenses process. The account holder pays for medical expenses as they would normally throughout the year. The receipts for these expenses are then given to the FSA manager who reviews the charge against the list of allowable items. Once approved, the manager then extracts the funds from the account and reimburses the account holder. A word of caution here: only so much of the funds left over at the end of the year in an FSA are allowed to roll-over into the next years account. Funds in excess of the allowable roll-over amount (as set by the IRS) are forfeited to the employer.  Anyone wishing to use an FSA should do their due diligence in estimating the amount of eligible healthcare deductions they are confident they will incur during the next year.

NOTE: With the FSA, the government gets to keep any funds left in the account after all yearly expenses are submitted and reimbursed. So, plan carefully when determining how much will go into the account.

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are government approved, interest bearing, savings accounts in which employee pre-tax income can be placed. Some employers offer these plans to help pay for high-deductible insurance expenses. Otherwise, these plans may be set up with private institutions such as banks or insurance companies. The funds in the HSA may only be used for medical expenses expressly approved by the HSAs guidelines.  The guidelines cover how much may be contributed annually and the services or products for which these funds may be used. The contribution amount withheld from the employees pay may be modified throughout the year to meet the expected need. The receipts for these expenses are then given to the HSA manager who reviews the charge against the list of allowable items. Once approved, the manager then extracts the funds from the account and reimburses the account holder. Funds left in the account at the end of the year are rolled-over for use in the next year.

Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) are employer funded plans which an employer may offer to employees to help pay for qualifying medical expenses, sometimes including insurance premiums for plans not offered through the employer. For some types of HRAs, the employee must be enrolled in a qualifying healthcare plan before they can receive any payments through the HRA.

This is a fairly brief overview, but hopefully provides a good starting point for further discussion.

For more information regarding healthcare plans, see the article at  https://www.irs.gov/government-entities/federal-state-local-governments/where-can-i-learn-more-about-health-savings-accounts-hsa-and-health-reimbursement-arrangements-hra

As always, thanks for reading. If you have a moment, please Like this page and consider sharing this post it with others. It’s greatly appreciated.

And remember to take the next step…
Mitch

Steps to Prevent, and Fight, the Flu

With all the talk about the spread of the new coronavirus flu, why not take a minute to prepare for it, and all the other strains of cold and flu, that are making the circuit this season.

First a little information about our adversary. A coronaviruses is an very common type of virus which causes colds, flus, and other upper respiratory infections. This particular strain, named 2019-nCoV, is new; and therefore no antivirus medication has yet been developed. Time will tell if it is any more deadly than previous strains of the flu; all of which, we want to avoid. That is why health officials always recommend getting the flu shot. These only cover specific strains of the flu. But the strains chosen for the inoculation are usually those that are deemed to be the most likely to be encountered during the current flu season. These have worked wonders. In addition to receiving the shot, however, there are things we can do to prepare our homes for the flu season.

Here are some steps you can take today to fight the flu:

Proactive measures
Get a flu shot
– Wash hands frequently and properly
– Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
– Clean and disinfect your environment frequently
– Avoid close contact with people who are sick
– Keep alcohol-based hand rubs, and disposable wipes nearby and use them often

Give your immune system a fighting chance
– Get a flu shot
– Eat properly. Including fruits and vegetables
– Drink lots of fluids
– Get plenty of sleep
– Get some protein in every meal
– Stay away from sugar and processed flour
– Eat some probiotics
– Get some exercise every day to move white blood cells throughout your body
– Take a contrast shower
– Make sure to get some sunlight to boost Vitamin D

What to do if you have the flu
– Get a diagnosis. Early detection and treatment can dramatically reduce its severity
– Stay home
– Make sure someone knows you’re sick and will check on you
– Ask for help if you need it
– Get plenty of rest
– Drink fluids
– Medicate your cough
– Keep the humidity up in your environment
– Don’t shy away from the saline nose sprays. They’ll work to relieve congestion.

What are some of the ways you prepare your household for the flu season?

As always, thanks for reading.
And remember to take the next step…
Mitch

Below are more articles on flus and how to fight them.

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-new-coronavirus-what-we-do-and-dont-know-2020012518747

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/actions-prevent-flu.htm

Contrast Showers: 5 Key Benefits & The Correct Technique

https://www.healthline.com/health/what-to-eat-when-you-have-the-flu

7 Ways to Benefit from Today’s Technology

A simple definition for technology is the application of science to improve our lives. So let’s see what’s available, and what steps we can take today to do just that!

Here are my top 7 recommendations for putting technology to use for you:

  1. An online calendar – a simple online calendar, such as those offered by Microsoft, Apple, or Google, is a powerful planning tool. The information is stored online and can be accessed on any of your devices which have a calendar app or a web browser. Calendars can be ‘shared’ by their owners to improve communication and coordination with others.
  2. Communication is now easier than ever with text and instant messaging, social networking, email, and even video chatting. With all these tools, however, it seems effective communication is becoming a lost art. I can remember how special it was to my mother to get a long distance phone call on Sunday morning when the charges were lowest.
  3. Shopping has changed dramatically. We can now sit comfortably in our own home and order just about anything we need. By first using a search engine such as Google, Bing, or DuckDuckGo, it’s easy to perform price and description comparisons online. I often start there and make a purchase at a brick-and-mortar store where I can physically examine the item and discuss pros and cons with a knowledgeable salesperson. Of course, online purchasing and delivery is bigger than ever. The two heavy-weights are Amazon, Walmart, and ebay. But with a little bit of work, a better price may be found when purchasing direct from the producer or another outlet such Barnes and Noble, Newegg, or Target.
  4. Banking and bill paying has become much easier. Mobile banking apps make it easy to see current balances, pay bills, and transfer funds. Additionally, most utilities now offer the ability to automatically pay your bills using a credit card or bank account draft. Being able to take just a few minutes a week to pay bills and check finances has freed up a lot of time in my schedule.
  5. Entertainment choices are more numerous than ever. While television markets transition from traditional broadcast services towards online streaming. Viewers have chosen to time-shift their viewing habits as well; watching what they want, when they want. In a similar way that households shifted from broadcast to cable, viewership is now changing from cable (or satellite) bundled subscriptions, to a more personalized content subscription in which a viewer has more flexibility to choose only the content they want and stream it online. A simple online search of ‘alternatives to cable’ will show a myriad of offerings.
  6. Grocery and household goods shopping. Most chain grocery stores now offer online tools and services to do your shopping for you; after which you can just pick them up, already bagged (for free), or have them delivered (for a charge). Some of these use third party services such as InstaCart or Groceries to Go, or Green BEAN. If you like your food already prepared, try GrubHub, DoorDash, UberEats, or Postmates; or search for ‘food delivery apps’.
  7. Health management tools are now more than just exercise trackers. In addition to smart devices that check your heartrate and number of steps you’ve taken, there are entire workout plans which you can use to plan, and maintain, an exercise routine. Some are subscription based, and some are free. Searching for ‘workout apps’ or ‘free workout apps’ will provide some really good choices ranging from beginners to dedicated enthusiast. But exercise apps are just one aspect of health management. Diet tools are also available by the score and easy to use. Most have a deep selection of food items, even those from restaurants, which the user can choose from when detailing their daily intake. This really has made the process of monitoring and tailoring your daily intake more simple than ever. Last, but not least, are the tools to track your medical information now offered by healthcare providers. Along with scheduling visits, these tools give access to your latest test results and medical records. They also offer tools for correspondence with your doctors and providers; including notifications about upcoming appointments.

All of these new tools should provide us with more free time…..right? But it often doesn’t seem that way. Here’s a simple trick for realizing the benefit of using a time-saving technology.

***Take a moment to write down what you’re going to do with the time you’re saving.***

Try it. I’ll bet this simple step will provide a feeling satisfaction with the steps you’ve taken to gain control of your time, and your life.

What are some of the tools you use to manage your household, time, and life?

As always, thanks for reading.
And remember to take the next step…
Mitch