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Time to Enjoy Life — 7 Years and Counting!

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WOW!!!!!   I can’t believe this photo was taken 7 YEARS AGO!!!

The concept for “Time to Play” started in 2010, and this photo was taken to show the importance of making a life balance from working so hard (note the business suit) and the need to make time to enjoy life and to remember to take time to play (aka ride like the wind).

Time sure does fly – 7 years – it seems like yesterday (or forever, depending on the day LOL!).

But, I keep on keeping on… against all odds… reading, researching and gathering valuable information, people and resources and making small strides forward to build the Time to Play Foundation.

WHY?

Because I believe everyone has the opportunity to enjoy life.

I believe that all that is missing is their awareness to KNOW THEY CAN.

My vision for the Time to Play Foundation is to provide a reminder and reinforcement and a message that we can love our life. To provide a VISIBLE, proactive and non-threatening approach for people to learn what they need to know to be happy, healthy, have money and a work life balance and to enjoy life.   It’s a different approach to our usual reactive counseling, recovery and reinvention.

And, that’s the ultimate goal, right?

To enjoy our life?

Because, even though people say they can’t, and that they have to struggle and have negative life experiences which “make them stronger”, I believe we can enjoy life by learning to be aware of our choices, which in turn will create a better life for ourselves and our communities.

And, further, I believe we can teach our youth to better deal with everyday life situations so they can proactively create the best life they can for themselves.

History will repeat itself if we let it.  I think it’s certainly time for us to stop letting it.

I believe that AWARENESS is the key.

I believe it is just that simple, although people will surely argue with me.

I believe that awareness is the first step to stop feeling helpless and hopeless.  That our awareness is the first step to finding the possible and the possibilities to make a shift in our lives and stop living our stories, or our experiences that do not serve us, to achieve the goal of life enjoyment.

I believe that it is time for us to stop making excuses and to start taking action.

SO…. TODAY:

Make a STOP sign.

Make a lot of STOP signs.

Put them everywhere.  Every time you feel a negative thought or feeling coming, look at it.

Then, STOP.

Take a moment to reflect on what is the root cause of what is causing that negative feeling or situation, and then think of what you can do to STOP the momentum and shift and / or make a small change to move towards a better feeling and a preferred life experience.  Take a moment to STOP and evaluate your options and make it happen.

And, for those things you cannot change… and there are many things in our life situations that we cannot change, maybe today is the day for you to let them go.

Maybe, today, it is finally time to create a peace with whatever is stealing your ability to love your life.

Maybe, today, it is time to stop reliving the stories, because all they are at this point is just that… stories.

I’m not perfect at this.

I need constant reminders to STOP, as well.  I am thankful for my husband Jim every day.  He is a constant reminder to me to STOP.  He is my accountability partner.  Think of someone who you can ask to be an accountability partner to keep you on track.  I am grateful that he is there with me to make sure I shift, because those things we cannot change can surely create havoc in our lives if we let them, and, for sure, negative feelings don’t serve us.

Remember — I believe we just have to be aware we can shift.

SO….

Make today the day you start to make that dream happen.

Make today the day you start to move forward.

I believe that each and every one of us is incredibly powerful and can truly move mountains.

Today it’s time to feel our power.

Why?

Life is short, and I believe we are put on this earth to enjoy our life.  I believe that every moment of every day we should be enjoying life.  I believe every moment of every day you should feel like you are playing.  If it does not, with your new awareness, STOP, take a moment and evaluate your situation.  Identify things you can change and start to look at the options available to shift something.  Make one small change.  Look at the possible.

I believe it’s really that easy.

I believe there is a solution to every problem, and, I believe that the only reason a problem is a problem in the first place is because we label it to be so.

So, maybe today, it’s time to stop making excuses.  Maybe today it is time to make that change — maybe today is your “someday”.

I believe it is time to enjoy our life.  It is time to play.

P.S. — I believe everyone has something to offer that can help someone else.  The Foundation was formed on the concepts of people helping people and collaboration = success.  Please call me to join the movement at 631-331-2675, and please check out our website at www.timetoplayfoundation.org.

Looking forward to hearing your suggestions and comments.

P.S.S. — I have found a key in our super cool PREinvent YOUR Life(r) program and Social and Emotional Intelligence.  If you want to change your learned behavior NOW, not after 20 years of counseling, call me at 631-331-2675.

Love, Doreen

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Doreen Guma, MA, FACHE, CPC, CLC:  Doreen is the author of the book, If I Knew Then What I Know Now, Our Quest for Quality of Life (www.ifIknewthenbook.com).  She has earned a Bachelor of Science in Management, a Masters in Business and Policy Studies, is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives, a Certified Social and Emotional Intelligence Coach, Certified Professional Coach, and Certified Life Coach.

She has worked in healthcare since 1987 with many of those years in quality improvement, and has watched the indisputable increase of the “sick and sad” in our society. Believing there is a better way, she founded the Time to Play Foundation, a 501c3 not for profit organization with the mission and purpose to enrich the lives of people and communities through programs, public awareness outreach activities, events and learning opportunities that further the concept of enjoying life.

The Foundation’s website, www.TimetoPlayFoundation.org, has resources, events and articles for a person to learn what they need to know to create a better life.

 

 

What is YOUR Impact on Others?

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impact jackie robinsonAsk yourself:  When you talk to other people… people you may work with, people in your family — your spouse, your siblings, your kids… do you encourage or discourage?  Do you propel a person to greatness or do you say something that can break their souls?

I’ve been thinking about this ever since Stacy Gertz, an amazing and important part of our Time to Play Foundation’s team, shared a video about a woman, Lisa Nichols, who was discouraged at 19 years old by teachers who told her she was a terrible writer and a terrible speaker https://youtu.be/Kcu92UlIQfs.  If you take a few minutes to listen to Ms. Nichols’ video you will also learn how she was in a situation where she was economically disadvantaged.  She said she found herself in a life situation where she said she was broken in every way.

How did this happen?  Could the words she heard while she was younger have impacted her in a negative way?  I believe they could have been a contributor to many years of her negative life experience.  She had a lot going against her.  She could have given up, but she found power within herself, against all obstacles, to change her life.

This is an observation I have made over these past years working on the Time to Play Foundation, a not for profit organization intended to inspire others and provide resources for a better life.

I believe that, sometimes, we live in too many years in the “what is expected of us” or the “I can’t”. 

After almost 50 years of my life, I have started to understand the power of “can’t” and the power of “not possible” that we seem so inclined to adopt; perhaps starting because of the opinions from others.  I’ve included here another really short and pertinent video (it’s only 1 minute and 16 seconds) that gives incredible examples of “can’t” that people overcame – people including Walt Disney, Lucille Ball, and more:  https://youtu.be/hzBCI13rJmA.

This story of “Can’t” is retold by so many again and again.

The good news is, I have learned it is ever too late for “CAN”.  Henry Ford was 45 years old before beginning to be successful.  Just look at the empire he built and his legacy.

I believe it is never too late for any of us.

I believe the “trick” is to encourage our younger generation via OUR impact vs. the need to unbury the “CAN” later in life after so many years of believing the “CAN’T”… to gain and to give the tips and tools from those who are older and have had the experiences that could save others some time.

To encourage others to PREinvent their life®, not reinvent, as so many do again and again.

In closing, again I ask…. What is YOUR impact on others?

Do you encourage and propel?

If the answer is no, I hope you will take the time to stop a moment and identify why not.

If the answer is yes, perhaps you can give me a call (631-331-2675 or email me doreen@timetoplay.com) so WE can move forward, together.  #PeopleHelpingPeople.

Just imagine the IMPACT, then.

After all, I believe it is time to enjoy life.

It is Time to Play…

Love, Doreen

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Doreen Guma, MA, FACHE, CPC, CLC is a board certified healthcare executive, a certified professional life coach, the founder of the Time to Play Foundation, a 501c3 not for profit corporation inspiring everyone to enjoy life and author of If I Knew Then What I Know Now, Our Quest for Quality of Life.  The concept behind time to Play and the Time to Play Foundation was absolutely created out of LOVE. Please see https://timetoplay.com/ for more information.

You can run but you can’t hide

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you can run but you can't hideThis quote, “You can run but you can’t hide”, attributed to Joe Lewis, American Heavyweight Boxer, popped into my mind the other day.  It can’t be more true.

As I sit here writing this, I think about the dentist appointment I’ve been putting off and the other things on my “to do” list that I prefer to ignore.  I absolutely know that there is no room in our lives to put things off.  They will always come back to haunt you; sometimes with a vengeance.

This quote perfectly pertains to the Time to Play Philosophy, which identifies that you have to be happy, healthy, have money and a work life balance to have quality of life.  In my experience, and my belief, you cannot ignore any of these areas in achieving balance. 

As a person who has worked in healthcare for the majority of my life, I absolutely can attest that if you don’t have your health you don’t have anything… Grandma used to say that all the time, and, trust me; I have seen people living in nursing homes with health issues that may have been preventable. This is a subject discussed in our book, If I Knew Then What I Know Now, Our Quest for Quality of Life (www.IfIKnewThenBook.com).  I recognize that if you ignore a health concern, it just won’t go away. 

What to do?  We all, deep down, know what’s right and what’s wrong.  You know if you’re eating the incorrect things.  It’s all definitely a choice, and I’m certainly far from perfect.  As a person with a gluten sensitivity, many times I’ll default to a food item that I know is “safe” as far as gluten is concerned but that is a non-preferred food choice as far as “health”; for example, potato chips – something that has become a “go to” when I’m at a party and there is nothing else available.  Being too busy to eat the way I know is best is also a great excuse I make, even now at 48 years old. 

I know that planning ahead in most every area of life is key, but I am old enough to recognize that planning ahead can sometimes be overwhelming. 

I also know now that each moment of each day enables a new choice, which is a very reassuring thought to me.  This enables practical behavior and an opportunity to change whatever I’m doing, at any time, to accommodate whatever my needs are at that given moment.

However, with age, it becomes even more apparent to me.  I now know you can’t hide.

You can’t hide from troubling issues that impact your happiness, whether it is a work relationship, a personal relationship or a family relationship.  If you ignore something, it’s still there.  Not only is it still there, but it’s in your mind all the time.  Sometimes it is hidden, but it always, somehow, makes it back into your thought pattern.  Sometimes the thoughts become haunting and can take you from having a great day to bringing you down.  Thoughts may be triggers that can, if you listen, make you aware that it is time to address something, change something, or do something.  If you are in a situation that affects your happiness, it may be time to reevaluate that, too. What is in your current experience that will enable you to make a change? 

Change is hard and people resist change.  We’d rather just deal with the situation that is known vs. trying something new.  However, there definitely becomes a time when what we’re dealing with, if it’s not working for us, has to change.  My husband and I ask our kids all the time who the most important person in the world is. Do you know?  It’s YOU.  Sometimes I think we forget that.  In reference to happiness, perhaps it is time to look at your options and move forward.  It’s better to address a situation than to let it linger and affect your every day living.

You can’t hide from financial concerns.  This is a big one that, in my experience, gets pushed to the back burner.  There is a lot of help out there for people if they are overburdened.  Just Google debt counseling in your area.  There are always options.  A quick story in reference to this topic. My oldest son was very big on complaining that there were no jobs available.  He stayed in a job that he hated and that paid him less than he needed to make his rent and other bills. We encouraged him to apply to others, but he stayed in that job that created financial hardship for him and that also made him feel stressed and frustrated every day for almost an entire year. Throughout my life I’ve seen people stay in situations like this for many years. I now believe that, where there’s a will, there’s a way.  If you cannot find a job that accommodates your needs, make one!  That’s in our book, too.  No one ever said you have to work for another person.  We are all powerful and have amazing talents.  You can be what you want to be.  I know we sometimes forget the enormous power we have within.  I know that, sometimes, we lose our power and that, sometimes, we feel helpless.  Especially in this time where there is so much fear of losing jobs in our current society.  I acknowledge that, yes, “things” have changed.  However, I also realize that we all have to change with the times. 

What are you good at?  What do you love to do?  Figure out where and how you can “work” in what you love.  This ties in with the work life balance, the remaining part of the Time to Play Philosophy.  It’s been said many times that if you love what you do you will never work a day in your life.  I believe that 1,000%. 

Is making a change easy?  Not necessarily.  Does it take work and does it take persistence?  Absolutely.

However, I truly believe we all have the power within to make it happen. I know you know you can do it.  All of it. 

It’s up to YOU to make it possible. 

Perhaps today is the time to stop hiding.  Perhaps it’s time to take that first step to enjoy life. I guess I’d better get on the phone with that dentist.

Oh, and if you need guidance or support, we do have an amazing team of professionals who are available to help.  Just reach out and we’ll guide you to the right one.

Love, Doreen

Doreen Guma, MA, FACHE, CPC, CLC is a board certified healthcare executive with 28 years in healthcare and a certified professional life coach.  Contact her at doreen@timetoplay.com or 631-331-2675

St. Patrick's Fortune Seekers

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leprechaun's pot of gold

Leprechaun’s pot of gold

With St. Patrick’s Day so popular a holiday, it’s appropriate to discuss the continual search that so many in our society go on for the leprechaun’s pot at the end of the rainbow. Whether it’s winning the ultra mega grande lottery, getting a massive inheritance from some long-lost great aunt we never knew, or being discovered on Simon Cowell’s latest production, it a great American pastime to seek an immediate fortune.

This is not new, of course. The forty-niners of the mid-1800s sought their fortune in the California gold mines. Neither is it an out-dated phenomenon. Today’s North Dakota oil rush is calling fortune seekers from around the country to try their hand at high-paying, albeit sometimes dangerous jobs.

What should be instructive about such spectacles is an understanding of who actually ends up wealthy as a result of these “rushes.” Very few forty-niners ended up wealthy for the long haul. Those who came out of the California Gold Rush with lasting fortunes mostly included those who sold goods and services to the miners. I fully expect any lasting North Dakota fortunes to come out of the same vein. Why?

Because those who seek to make their fortunes overnight tend to be those who spend their fortunes overnight.

The National Endowment for Financial Education estimates that up to 70% of people who receive a sudden windfall of cash will lose it all within just a few years. If you look at the list of American Billionaires, or if you research the most common major of American millionaires, you won’t find any lottery winners or poker aficionados among them. Yes, you will find Wal-Mart and Mars Candy heirs at #6-9 and at #15 on the Billionaire’s list. However, I’m pretty certain they all knew their fortune was coming. You will also find casino owners… just not casino patrons.

So what is one to do if you’re aspiring after fame and fortune (or at least fortune)? First and foremost, get some perspective.

Not all, but the majority of fortune seekers think that their lives will be better if they just had more money. The reality is that money, in and of itself, will never bring happiness, and, in large quantities dumped into unexpecting pockets, can actually bring increased misery and pain.

Instead of being the end goal, money should be considered merely a tool. And like any tool, money can be used to build something of lasting satisfaction or it can bring us pain through its misuse.

To make money a tool, you simply need to create a plan to achieve something that requires money. For many, this plan is retirement. For others, it’s starting a business. For others still, it’s living in a dream home.

Whatever the end goal, make plans to get there. Specifically, create a savings plan so that you know how much to put away in the short and long term. Then create and live by a spending plan (a.k.a. Budget) so that you know what your spending limitations are.

As you build your life’s fortunes (whether or not they include financial wealth), may the leprechauns of St. Patrick’s Day bring you good luck rather than fairy mischief!

Myths and Facts about Social Security

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Myth: Social Security will provide most of the income you need in retirement.

Fact: It’s likely that Social Security will provide a smaller portion of retirement income than you expect.

There’s no doubt about it–Social Security is an important source of retirement income for most Americans. According to the Social Security Administration, more than nine out of ten individuals age 65 and older receive Social Security benefits.  But it may be unwise to rely too heavily on Social Security, because to keep the system solvent, some changes will have to be made to it. The younger and wealthier you are, the more likely these changes will affect you. But whether retirement is years away or just around the corner, keep in mind that Social Security was never meant to be the sole source of income for retirees. As President Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “The system is not intended as a substitute for private savings, pension plans, and insurance protection. It is, rather, intended as the foundation upon which these other forms of protection can be soundly built.”  No matter what the future holds for Social Security, focus on saving as much for retirement as possible.  You can do so by contributing to tax-deferred vehicles such as IRAs, 401(k)s, and other employer-sponsored plans, and by investing in stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. When combined with your future Social Security benefits, your retirement savings and pension benefits can help ensure that you’ll have enough income to see you through retirement.

Myth: Social Security is only a retirement program.

Fact: Social Security also offers disability and survivor’s benefits.

With all the focus on retirement benefits, it’s easy to overlook the fact that Social Security also offers protection against long-term disability. And when you receive retirement or disability benefits, your family members may be eligible to receive benefits, too.  Another valuable source of support for your family is Social Security survivor’s insurance. If you were to die, certain members of your family, including your spouse, children, and dependent parents, may be eligible for monthly survivor’s benefits that can help replace lost income. For specific information about the benefits you and your family members may receive, visit the SSA’s website at www.socialsecurity.gov, or call 800-772-1213 if you have questions.

Myth: If you earn money after you retire, you’ll lose your Social Security benefit.

Fact: Money you earn after you retire will only affect your Social Security benefit if you’re under full retirement age.

Once you reach full retirement age, you can earn as much as you want without affecting your Social Security retirement benefit. But if you’re under full retirement age, any income that you earn may affect the amount of benefit you receive:

• If you’re under full retirement age, $1 in benefits will be withheld for every $2 you earn above a certain annual limit. For 2014, that limit is $15,480.

• In the year you reach full retirement age, $1 in benefits will be withheld for every $3 you earn above a certain annual limit until the month you reach full retirement age. If you reach full retirement age in 2014, that limit is $41,400.

Even if your monthly benefit is reduced in the short term due to your earnings, you’ll receive a higher monthly benefit later. That’s because the SSA recalculates your benefit when you reach full retirement age, and omits the months in which your benefit was reduced.

Myth: Social Security benefits are not taxable.

Fact: You may have to pay taxes on your Social Security benefits if you have other income.

If the only income you had during the year was Social Security income, then your benefit generally isn’t taxable. But if you earned income during the year (either from a job or from self-employment) or had substantial investment income, then you might have to pay federal income tax on a portion of your benefit.  Up to 85% of your benefit may be taxable, depending on your tax filing status (e.g., single, married filing jointly) and the total amount of income you have. For more information on this subject, see IRS Publication 915,Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits.

What Is Your Full Retirement Age?

If you were born in: Your full retirement age is:

1943-1954                  66

1955                           66 and 2 months

1956                           66 and 4 months

1957                           66 and 6 months

1958                           66 and 8 months

1959                           66 and 10 months

1960 and later            67

Note:  If you were born on January 1 of any year, refer to the previous year to determine your full retirement age.

The information contained in this material is being provided for general education purposes and with the understanding that it is not intended to be used or interpreted as specific legal, tax or investment advice. It does not address or account for your individual investor circumstances. Investment decisions should always be made based on your specific financial needs and objectives, goals, time horizon and risk tolerance.

The information contained in this communication, including attachments, may be provided to support the marketing of a particular product or service. You cannot rely on this to avoid tax penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code. Consult your tax advisor or attorney regarding tax issues specific to your circumstances.

Neither Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its employees or representatives are authorized to give legal or tax advice. You are encouraged to seek the guidance of your own personal legal or tax counsel. Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA and SIPC.

The information in this document is provided by a third party and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed by Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. While the publisher has been diligent in attempting to provide accurate information, the accuracy of the information cannot be guaranteed. Laws and regulations change frequently, and are subject to differing legal interpretations. Accordingly, neither the publisher nor any of its licensees or their distributees shall be liable for any loss or damage caused, or alleged to have been caused, by the use or reliance upon this service.

Financial Aid: Know the Rules of the Game

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You would never jump into a game and wager thousands of dollars without first knowing the rules.  And yet, every year many parents do just that as they embark on the process of seeking financial aid for college costs.  The truth is if more parents understood how the information on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is analyzed, they would take steps to place themselves in the most favorable light.  Strategic positioning can really pay off if you know how the game is played.  Here’s what you need to know:

  1. How your data will be assessed:  The formula FAFSA uses to determine the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) considers the parent’s income, savings and investment assets (excluding retirement accounts and the primary residence), as well as the student’s assets and income.  On average, parents are expected to contribute about 5.6% of their assets and between 22% and 47% of their income (with a $20,000-$60,000 allowance based on their age) towards college costs.  Students are expected to contribute roughly 20% of their assets and 50% of their income (with a $3,000 allowance) towards the tuition bill.  Switching assets into a child’s name would not be a helpful strategy.  If your child is employed, consider opening a Roth IRA, as retirement assets are not considered assets.
  2. What time fame you are working with:  The FAFSA form is submitted during the student’s senior year in high school, based on data from the previous tax year (i.e., January 1 of the student’s junior year through December 31 of senior year), also called the Base Year.  Strategies that can be employed to reduce income or assets before the assessment period could prove very beneficial (e.g., sell non-retirement assets before the Base Year and use this money to fund IRA or Roth IRA accounts;  speak with your employer about receiving your bonus prior to the Base Year, or delay the bonus until the following year).  In addition, avoid liquidating any investment assets during the Base Year, as that inflow of cash would be considered as income.
  3. What counts against you:  Non-retirement assets are considered available funds, even though you may be carrying high credit card debt.  Prior to January 1 of your child’s junior year, consider taking some of your non-retirement savings or investments and using them toward reducing or eliminating this debt.
  4. What works in your favor: Roth IRAs, IRAs, employer-sponsored retirement accounts, Coverdell accounts, 529 plans, annuities, or the cash value of life insurance policies are not considered as assets for the purposes of FAFSA.  Prior to the Base Year, consider moving non-retirement assets (which FAFSA does count as assets) into one or more of these types of accounts.   

Remember, if your child is looking at more elite, private schools, the CSS form will need to be completed as well.  This formula assesses parents and students differently, and requires more of a contribution from both the parents and student.

After you submit the FAFSA form, the matter is out of your hands.  But, what you do beforehand, when the matter is in your hands, can be critical to the outcome.  Being aware of what you are up against may change your approach to the game and, hopefully, with a little planning, may help reduce the tuition bills.

Making Your Own Luck

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“What’s your goal?” My husband’s question was simple, but I didn’t know if I should bother to share my complete answer, because it seemed unreasonable.

We hadn’t started our family yet, which was a goal of ours. But I wondered if winning Lotto was the only ticket to my other dream: to be able to stay home with our kids for as long (or short a time) as I wanted.  Back then, my earnings were almost five times his salary and I doubted we could sustain ourselves on his take home pay alone, especially with the added costs of a baby.  Sharing this thought with him might have made him feel badly; instead it motivated him.

 ”That’s it? That’s the goal?” Tony said, as if he had known it all along. “OK, give me some time, I’ll figure it out.”

I had it drummed into my head from friends and colleagues around me, who were enslaved to the double-income household: “There’s no way you can live on one salary – especially a teacher’s salary.”

Quietly I worried that I had given him a goal that was not within reach. I thought, maybe I could stay home for a year at most. I even started to accept that option, if it came to that. Thankfully, it never did. The more naysayers there were, the more determined he was to make a viable plan.

Stock piling became the first part of the strategy; generating investment income was the other component. We lived as if his salary was the only income we had, and aggressively saved and invested my salary and bonus. That is not to say that we didn’t enjoy ourselves. We made time for some travel; we ate out at restaurants within reason – but the savings/investing came first; what was left over was ours to play with. We put off starting a family until we felt we were on solid ground.

An interesting thing happened along the way. We had the opportunity to buy a small cabin in New England for a great price; it was very tempting and we came close to doing it. It was affordable based on our total income; but ultimately it would have taken us off our goal. When another opportunity presented itself — to move farther from New York City (where I worked) to an area we loved and where we wanted to raise our family– we struggled with the idea. I didn’t want all our savings/investing to dry up because this house was more expensive than the one we were living in. After careful consideration of all the numbers, Tony figured we could swing it, provided I was still willing to commute an extra 2 hours each day until we started our family. With trepidation, I agreed.

Then we faced a series of unexpected events. For starters I became pregnant and soon we found out we were expecting twins. Almost immediately, I ended up on bed rest.  Short-term disability gave way to long-term disability, which was less than my salary (although I wasn’t spending any money commuting).  When our sons arrived a full two months early, we were stunned.  After more than two weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit, they were released to come home – but with all sorts of equipment (like an apnea monitor to detect the cessation of heart beats or breathing and caffeine to keep the heart beat rate up).  To add to all this tension, I had used up all my leave and was due back almost as soon as the boys came home from the hospital.  I still can’t say how I would have been able to leave my babies under those circumstances – or who we would have asked to take on such a grave responsibility.  I am just so thankful that Tony thought to ask the question about my goals – and that I dared to utter it out loud.  Otherwise, our backs would have been against the wall.

Many times, there isn’t one right way to reaching a financial goal.  Sacrifices, compromises, and non-negotiable items differ by household.  The point is the goal kept us focused and shaped all the decisions we made – we passed up opportunities to spend our money in favor of getting us closer to what was our top goal.  Most important, had we not planned this out, I would have been headed back to my four-hour roundtrip commute; our preemie babies occupying my every thought.   Some call it luck – but I know Tony’s careful planning and our commitment to reaching our (seemingly unreachable) goal had a lot to do with the blessings that came our way. 

Like any good plan, ours wasn’t stagnant.  We realized that our journey had valuable lessons that could help so many others, and our businesses ATI Investment Consulting, Inc. and Real$martica, Inc. were born as a result.  These businesses have become one more way that we, as a family, have been able to reach financial goals while having the freedom to remain true to ourselves.

The financial wisdom I would like to impart is: Don’t be afraid to look at your dreams – even if they seem impossible to reach.  Instead of thinking about why you can’t get where you want to go, ask how you might get there.  Pay attention to the gifts and talents you hone along your journey, and you may even find a second career.  Do this, and down the road, you may find yourself being referred to as the “lucky one”. 

New Interest Rates on Federal Student Loans–Again

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On August 9, President Obama signed the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013, which changes the formula for determining federal student loan interest rates. The law comes after months of partisan bickering and uncertainty in the student loan arena, which culminated with the rate on subsidized Stafford Loans doubling to 6.8% on July 1.

The new legislation introduces a new market-based system that ties federal student loan interest rates to the government’s borrowing costs. The legislation will apply retroactively to student loans that originated July 1.


The new rates

Under the new law, student loan interest rates will be tied to the 10-year Treasury note, plus an added amount. For the current academic year (July 1, 2013, through June 30, 2014), this formula results in a fixed rate of:

  • 3.8% for undergraduate students borrowing subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford Loans
  • 5.4% for graduate students borrowing unsubsidized Stafford Loans
  • 6.4% for parents borrowing PLUS Loans

The rates are determined as of June 1 each year and are locked in for the life of the loan. There is also a cap on interest rates: 8.25% for undergraduates, 9.5% for graduate students, and 10.5% for parents.


Key details

 

New rate

Old rate

Eligibility

Borrowing limits

Stafford Loan (subsidized)

3.8%

6.8%

Undergraduates with demonstrated financial need

For dependent undergraduates:

1st year: $5,500 ($3,500 subsidized)

2nd year: $6,500 ($4,500 subsidized)

3rd, 4th, 5th year: $7,500 ($5,500 subsidized)

Max: $31,000 ($23,000 subsidized)

For graduate students:

$20,500 per year (unsubsidized only); max $138,500 ($224,000 for health professionals)

Stafford Loan (unsubsidized)

3.8%–U

5.4%–G

6.8%

Undergraduates and graduate students without financial need

PLUS Loan

6.4%

7.9%

Parents of dependent undergraduates and independent graduate and professional students

Total cost of education, minus any financial aid received by parent or student

 The federal government pays the interest on subsidized Stafford Loans while the student is in school, during the six-month grace period after graduation, and during any loan deferment periods. With unsubsidized Stafford Loans, the student pays the interest during these periods. Eligibility for subsidized Stafford Loans is based on financial need, as determined by the federal government’s financial aid application, the FAFSA.

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Retirement Income Shortfalls

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If you’re lucky, your expected income sources will be more than enough to fund even a lengthy retirement. But what if it looks like you’ll come up short? Don’t panic–there are probably steps that you can take to bridge the gap. A financial professional can help you figure out the best ways to do that, but here are a few suggestions:

  • Try to cut current expenses so you’ll have more money to save for retirement
  • Shift your assets to investments that have the potential to substantially outpace inflation (but keep in mind that investments that offer higher potential returns may involve greater risk of loss)
  • Lower your expectations for retirement so you won’t need as much money (no beach house on the Riviera, for example)
  • Work part-time during retirement for extra income
  • Consider delaying your retirement for a few years (or longer)

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3 new realities of retirement

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3 new realities of retirement

Think about your parents’ retirement for a minute. Their lives most likely look a whole lot different than their parents’. Your grandfather probably stopped working the very day he turned 65. He and your grandmother might have hit the links or the beach while they collected pension checks that they supplemented with high-yielding investments.

But, today’s retirees are living longer, working longer, reinventing themselves and staying active — all while trying to figure out how to pay for this great new chapter in their lives. They usually can’t rely on pensions, high interest on savings or health care benefits from former employers.

Call it revolving retirement. The term, coined by Strategic Business Insights’ Consumer Financial Decisions group, describes retirees who re-enter the workforce in one way or another either to fulfill an emotional need or make ends meet. They may find they’re bored with retirement or want to start a new career. With all this change comes confusion and sometimes some misguided assumptions.

“Frankly, a lot of myths about retirement are floating around out there,” says Thomas Rowley, director of retirement business strategy at Invesco Consulting. To help set things straight, we asked top demographic and financial experts to help bust some of those myths and offer advice on how best to prepare for a fast-changing future.

$300,000

That’s how much a 65-year-old male will need to cover health care costs for the rest of his life.

Source: Employee Benefits Research Institute, 2012.

MYTH: Luckily, I won’t need to worry about health insurance. Medicare will kick in when I’m 65.

REALITY: Most experts agree Medicare will be around in its present form for some time to come. But, people often misunderstand the limitations of Medicare. It doesn’t cover everything, especially long-term care. Consider the fact that a 65-year-old male will need more than $300,000 to cover health care costs for the rest of his life, according to 2012 research from the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

You need a solid health care costs strategy in place to deal with several factors. For instance, have you purchased long-term care insurance, or do you think you have saved enough for those potential expenses? If your company offers a health savings account, is this a viable option for you that you could roll over into retirement? (Earnings on savings for eligible health care expenses grow tax-free.) Do you intend to retire before you will be eligible for Medicare (at age 65)? If so, how do you plan to pay for health insurance coverage? Ask your advisor about strategies that can help cover health care costs in retirement.

MYTH: My taxes will be lower in retirement.

REALITY: Conventional wisdom has long held that your tax bracket, along with your income, will decline in retirement. But, that may no longer be the case. Taxes may continue to rise as the government struggles with the ongoing debt crisis over the next 10 to 15 years, says Russell Price, Ameriprise Financial senior economist. How you withdraw your retirement savings and how much you plan to spend each year will also affect your taxes. You want to make sure you have a good mix of taxable, tax-deferred and tax-free investments.

MYTH: My traditional asset allocation will definitely give me enough income.

REALITY: With persistent low interest rates over the past several years, some retirees are finding their savings aren’t generating the income they had hoped for. Proper diversification among a wide range of asset classes is key. With the right mix, you may be in a better position to handle market volatility, generate more yield to boost income and protect your portfolio from downturns in any one specific asset class. Your advisor can help you choose the asset allocation and diversification strategy that’s right for you. (Please see the following piece on alternative investments.)

Talk to your advisor about the best strategies to help you save for a long and fulfilling retirement.

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*Ameriprise helped pioneer the financial planning process more than 30 years ago. We have more financial planning clients and more CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals than any other company in the U.S. based on data filed at adviserinfo.sec.gov and documented by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. as of Dec. 31, 2012.

Thomas Rowley, Invesco Consulting and Strategic Business Insights are not affiliated with Ameriprise Financial.

Asset allocation and diversification do not assure a profit or protect against loss in declining markets.

Alternative investments involve substantial risks and are more volatile than traditional investments, making them more suitable for investors with an above average tolerance for risk.

Investment products, including shares of mutual funds, are not federally or FDIC-insured, are not deposits or obligations of, or guaranteed by any financial institution, and involve investment risks including possible loss of principal and fluctuation in value.

Ameriprise Financial and its representatives do not provide tax advice. Consult with your attorney or tax advisor regarding specific tax issues.

Brokerage, investment and financial advisory services are made available through Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA and SIPC.

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