Teaching Computers to Newbies

Young woman and elderly woman with laptop computer

Technology has become a huge part of life. Computers, smartphones and mobile devices of all sorts open the world of information. Sites like Wikipedia, Wikileaks and others have made information at the forefront of everything the Internet is. Email and Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr have made connecting with like-minded people easy and fun, but this can all be baffling for new computer and technology users. If now is the time to teach your elderly parents how to use the Internet, here’s how to do it:

What They Want

Identify what they want. Don’t over complicate computers with lots of options. Computers are capable of so much, new users can easily get lost in options and settings. They might even delete files essential for the use of the operating system. So sit down with mom and dad and make sure you all have similar expectations. An estimated 6.5 million people over the age of 55 have never used the Internet, according to MyAgingParent.com. There may be many reasons for this. A lack of confidence with the machines or a fear of wasted time for little gain. Whatever it is, address the reasons why he or she hasn’t used the Internet, and why they can and will learn, given time. [Read more…]

Financial Considerations for the Sandwich Generation

By Dave Hardin, President of Hardin Financial Group

The Sandwiched Generation may be the most stressed out generation alive today. It is not easy taking care of mom or dad and your kids and perhaps grandkids all at the same time, often under the same roof and holding down a job at the same time.  If that were not enough, throw in the added stress of managing additional finances and dealing with extra costs and financial concerns to boot. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest concerns looming over “Sandwicher’s” in regards to finances and the perils that surround this squeezed in generation.

Job issues: It is no surprise that the lion’s share of the burden for this generation falls squarely on the wife in the family. It rarely matters whether the parents being cared for are hers or her husbands. Often we can see her career take a serious hit during this period. Lots of time off can affect the take home pay at a critical time as the families expenses can rise significantly with the added burden.

It is not unheard of to see women take sabbaticals or even resign from their position because of family responsibilities during this squeeze. It is important to let your boss know what is going on, especially if you intend to continue your career. Have a heart to heart discussion and don’t be afraid to ask for some flexibility with hours and your schedule. If they value you, they may be willing to accommodate your needs. After all, you are probably not the first employee to find themselves in the middle of two generations under one roof. [Read more…]

Critical Food Safety Precautions for Older Adults

As September’s National Food Safety Month approaches, STOP Foodborne Illness (www.stopfoodborneillness.org), the leading national advocate for safe food, is urging older adults to follow a number of important food-safety practices to avoid getting sick.  Older Adults have increased vulnerability to foodborne illness for several reasons: they typically have decreased stomach acid (the body’s natural defense from foodborne bacteria) or they may have a weakened immune system from an underlying illness such as diabetes, kidney disease or from undergoing cancer treatment. Two foodborne pathogens in particular, Listeria and Vibrio, cause more illnesses for seniors than any other age group. Seniors need to be especially careful when consuming foods that are likely to be contaminated with these bacteria.

            “Most people don’t realize that their natural defenses to foodborne pathogens decrease as they age,” said Darin Detwiler, Sr. Policy Coordinator of STOP Foodborne Illness.  “If you’re older than 65, taking precautions can help save you from suffering from an illness that you might have been able to fight off even a few years ago.”

            Darin himself experienced the personal tragedy of foodborne illness when he lost his young son to E. coli O157:H7 poisoning from contaminated ground beef in 1993.  Since then, Detwiler has been a tireless advocate for food safety, who is an FDA Certified Food Science Educator recognized by four different Secretaries of Agriculture for his efforts in consumer education, and served two appointments on the USDA’s National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection.

STOP Foodborne Illness – Safe-Food Guidelines for Adults 65+

  • Cook eggs to 160°F.  Salmonella can grow both inside and outside eggs.  The safest practice is to cook all eggs to 160°F. To further reduce risks, wash hands thoroughly after handling eggs. For those who like eggs runny or who eat uncooked eggs in foods like raw dough, eggnog, or homemade Caesar dressing, buy pasteurized shell eggs or liquid pasteurized egg products.
  • Heat lunchmeat and hotdogs to 165°F. Listeria is a bacterium that can be found in ready-to-eat foods, such as lunchmeat.  Although the majority of the population can resist Listeria, those more vulnerable may become sick and pregnant women can suffer miscarriages as a result of eating Listeria-contaminated ready-to-eat foods.  To reduce the risk of Listeria, heat cold cuts and hot dogs to 160°F, and order hot sandwiches in restaurants. 
  • Avoid raw fish.  Raw fish and shellfish can be a source of pathogens, including a particularly harmful one, Vibrio which is most often found in raw seafood items, such as oysters. Some Vibrio illnesses can be fatal, especially in patients with liver disease and the immunocompromised. Avoid raw fin fish, such as raw fish found in sushi, plus other raw shellfish such as oysters and scallops.
  • Avoid raw or unpasteurized milk and cheeses.  Most are pasteurized, but read the labels, particularly on soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, Camembert, Roquefort, blue-veined cheeses, and Mexican-style soft cheese such as queso fresco.
  • Drink pasteurized juices.  Most juices are pasteurized, but some may not be.  Unpasteurized juices can contain harmful bacteria, but should be easy to steer clear of because they are required by law to carry a warning label.  When buying smoothies, ask the preparer if they use pasteurized juice.  If they aren’t sure or say no, it’s best to skip it. 
  • Cook to safe temperatures.
    • Burgers/Ground Meat (Except poultry) – 160°F
    • Grilled Chicken & Other Poultry Products (like Turkey Burgers) – 165°F
    • Whole cuts of Meat, Including Pork – 145°F AND LET REST 3 MINUTES
  • Avoid cross contamination.
    • Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw meats and produce
    • Wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds
    • Sanitize surfaces, such as countertops, where raw meat and poultry have been

For National Food Safety Month, STOP Foodborne Illness also is offering food safety tips for school-age children, pregnant women, and mothers with young children.  For more food safety tips please visit www.stopfoodborneillness.org.  If you think you have been sickened from food, please seek medical attention immediately.

7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Deciding to Retire

Chip Hollingsworth - PhotoBy Chip Hollingsworth

Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” in Psychological Review asserted that humans have a hierarchy of needs.  Maslow’s theory was fully expressed in his 1954 book Motivation and Personality. So what are your needs? Maslow’s work moved through the thinking that people have basic needs and that a person moves to a level of self-actualization or fulfillment; referred to as Physiological needs, Safety needs, Love and belonging, Esteem and Self-actualization.  So to move through the life chapter called “Retirement” one should begin thinking and planning much before that day arrives, about your basic needs and what life needs to look like to end well or achieve self-actualization.  Consider these seven questions:

Do I know how much I have in income producing assets and the amount I will receive from my pension/ annuity?  People who plan well, know the amount it takes to meet your basic living needs and what amount it takes to live well.  I suggest today you take an inventory or your financial net worth.  How much money do I have that can be used to produce income and how much will my pension or annuity be from my employer.  In the year prior to your retirement, if not sooner, begin adjusting how much you live on, to match what your pension will be when you retire.  Discipline yourself to save the difference in a cash account.  Do I know how much I need to live the lifestyle I desire?  Am I willing to live on less?  Am I willing to work longer to have the lifestyle?

What resources are available to me if retirement were to be now?  Consider that you may not be financially ready and that you may not have enough time to be self-supporting.  Explore the many services that social programs afford you.  [Read more…]

Top Back-to-School Bedtime Blunders

07_2015 Social Graphics-25Fewer ZZZs Could Lead to More F’s

Does back to school mean back to bedtime struggles at your house? According to Dr. Sujay Kansagra, director of Duke University’s Pediatric Neurology Sleep Medicine Program, author of My Child Won’t Sleep and consultant to Mattress Firm, if any of these phrases sound familiar, you may be unknowingly sabotaging your child’s sleep – and school success – at bedtime.   

“Tomorrow is a school day – bedtime is an hour earlier!” Right before the first night of school, parents often move up bedtime by an hour or more. Children need longer to adjust to a new sleep routine. Move your child’s bedtime up by 10-15 minutes per day in the days – or weeks – leading up to the start of school, until you reach your school-year bedtime.

 “You can watch one cartoon before lights out.” While watching TV might seem like a good way to let your child wind down, artificial light from smart phones, laptops and TVs trick the brain into thinking it is still day time, making it harder to fall asleep. End screen time at least one hour before bed.
[Read more…]

SOT Sits Down with Roger Herst to Discuss His Latest Novel—Nunavut: An Arctic Thriller

Roger Herst
Roger Herst

Interview by Christopher Cussat

Roger Herst has been writing popular books since the 1980s and his newest release, Nunavut: An Arctic Thriller (February 2015) takes place in the often un-recognized frozen tundra of the Canadian territory of Nunavut. This is a David and Goliath story of the Inuit people’s fight to protect their native land and waterways from a Russian conspiracy to steal its resources and wealth for themselves. It is also about the universal struggles of danger, love, politics, and the fight for survival.

SOT contributor, Christopher Cussat, recently sat down with Herst to pick his brain about this uniquely set and imaginatively conceived offering about an obscure place and its people.

Your latest book, Nunavut: An Arctic Thriller, obviously denotes its genre—thriller. Would you consider this novel to be your first exploration of this type of writing?

No. I have written a submarine novel, Ghost Sub, and an historical saga around the building of the railroad in California, Destiny’s Children

What first interested you in writing within the category of thriller?

The skill of working with character and plot in strong action continuously draws the reader from page to page. [Read more…]

5 Steps to Seeking Sound Financial Advice

A how-to guide for vetting Wealth, Financial and Retirement Advisors

For most of us, a financial advisor is an integral component of successfully navigating retirement and all of its complexities. What is often not clear to many are the important factors that go into choosing the right Advisor and the difference this selection can make. These 5 steps are designed to guide you toward the best fit for your particular needs and away from misconception regardless of your net worth, goals, health, or age.

Why is this important? There are significant differences in the services and solutions offered by the robust—and at times overwhelming—list of firms and financial professionals available to help guide retirees. So, how do you decide which financial expert to tap to best fit your particular needs?

Understand the type of financial advisor

There is a broad spectrum of professional advisors to choose from that offer surprisingly diverse services and products based on their areas of expertise and licensing.

  • Brokers or Registered Representatives can buy and sell securities—stocks, bonds and mutual funds—for their customers.
  • Insurance Agents sell Annuities, Life, Health and Property & Casualty insurance policies. 
  • Investment Advisers Representatives, also known as Wealth Managers, Financial Planners, Financial Advisor, or Investment Counselors—offer advice on a fee only bases about securities personalized to the needs of their clients.

For almost all of us, our financial planning will rely on solutions encompassing both investments and insurance, so you’ll want to be sure your Advisor(s) do, too. Deciding to work separately with a securities-oriented professional on the investment component of your portfolio, for example, and an insurance-agent on an annuity is a preference entirely up to the consumer, but it’s often easier and more streamlined to have financial advisors operating under one umbrella. If they’re not, ensure your financial advisors are working in conjunction with one another and both have a thorough understanding of your short and long term financial goals.

Understand what type of firm the financial advisor works for

Fully grasp how the firm a potential advisor works for will influence their recommendations—for better or worse. There are three fundamental types of financial advisory firms with diverse and distinctive capabilities.

  • Wire house—an archaic term used to describe a broker-dealer. These can range from small regional brokerages to massive household-name companies with offices around the world.
  • Insurance—many advisory firms specialize in Insurance (typically Life and Annuity) solutions only. This group can be broken into two tiers: large captive companies offering primarily in-house designed products and smaller independent firms with contracts sourced from multiple carriers. 
  • Registered Investment Advisors (RIA) firms are registered either with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or state security authorities. These firms can range from large national brands to small single advisor shops. They typically offer financial planning and fee based asset management, but may also have additional licenses to help their clients with their Insurance needs as well.

But, what really matters is if the advisor you look to for unbiased financial guidance is actually bound to you as a fiduciary, meaning he or she has a legal duty to act in your best interests at all times. Financial advisors who are not bound to their clients as fiduciaries are held merely to the suitability standard, meaning anything they recommend or sell has to be suitable for their clients according to the standards of their firm, which might not always be in the best interest of the client.

Run a background check

Brokers, Advisors, Agents and firms should freely provide you with their CRD or licensing numbers, which identify them in nationally maintained public professional databases. These databases are required to be kept current and detail key information such as important disclosures, past complaints, and employment history.

If you’re working with a professional or firm that sells stocks, bonds, mutual funds and other securities, visit www.brokercheck.finra.org for brokers or adviserinfo.sec.gov for fiduciary investment advisors, which both maintain employment history, certifications, and licenses for all registered securities advisors—as well as any regulatory actions, violations or complaints they may have incurred. Some of the disclosure events may be harmless, but look out for red flags like a large settlement or patterns of repeated violations. If there is anything that makes you apprehensive, it’s worth having a conversation about.

Also, pay close attention to any designations your potential advisor may have, such as the CFP, CRPC, and CTFA to mention a few—which indicate a higher level of education, training, experience, and credibility.

What is their process?

Before any Advisor can offer you solutions they should thoroughly understand your financial condition, typically beginning with an unbiased examination of your assets and investments today, ideally using a comprehensive financial plan. This plan will give you an understanding of whether you are already on track toward reaching your goals, have room to improve, or you need to make a major change. Any solutions proposed by your prospective advisor to improve the outcome of your plan can be diverse in nature, since every person is different, and requires a degree of scrutiny. Understand upfront the process they leverage to identify the proposed solutions by examining their underlying assumptions-rates of returns, fees and costs for example-to better understand what benefits may come from making a change and at what costs.

Understand the pay structure

Advisors’ pay structures typically fall within three buckets: fee-based, commission or hourly. There are certainly pros and cons to each, but keep in mind how their less than altruistic incentive of getting a sizable commission from your insurance package could influence their advice. Most Advisors earn their income using a combination of these buckets.

Regardless of where you are and what you are looking to achieve, employing these 5 steps in finding and vetting your Financial Advisor(s) will steer you toward your definition of success.   

Co-authored by Ronald Briggs and Jasnik Parmar of Caitlin John, a private wealth management firm that is bound by fiduciary standards and works hand in hand with individual and institutional investors on capital appreciation and income strategies utilizing advanced risk management techniques. For more information, visit www.caitlinjohn.com.