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Chris Hobart on CNBC tomorrow!

Don’t miss Chris Hobart on CNBC’s Closing Bell, June 6 at 3:00pm EST!

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Living and Working (and Thinking) in a Box

In the late 1970s sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati,” news director Less Nessman would not acknowledge the presence of co-workers unless they simulated knocking on the door of his fake office. His “office” was merely a desk and chair with imaginary walls marked by tape on the floor. Perhaps this was an indication of things to come — the slow evolution of workplace layouts going from private closed-door offices to wide open floor plans filled with individual employee cubicles.

Since then, the open floor plan of amassing hundreds of office workers in one space, divided only by cubicle walls, has become standard in corporate America. However, while the design was intended to create more teamwork and camaraderie among workers, studies in recent years have revealed it has had a more detrimental effect. Today, this cubicle design — which accounts for some 60 percent of office workers — has come to further differentiate a hierarchy of power among those who work in cubicles and the more exclusive managers, directors and vice presidents who may occupy corner offices.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Our Cubicles, Ourselves: How the Modern Office Shapes American Life," from The Atlantic, April 14, 2014.]

Studies have demonstrated that the open office floor plan has reduced employee attention spans, productivity, creative thinking and satisfaction. Compared with standard offices, employees may experience higher levels of interruptions and stress, and, instead of bonding, some coworkers feel a lack of privacy and control. Open-office environments may also lead employees to overlook the importance of their coworkers’ time.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "The Open-Office Trap," from The New Yorker, Jan. 7, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Offices for All: Why Open-Office Layouts are Bad for Employees, Bosses, and Productivity," from Fast Company, Nov. 4, 2013.]

Instead of having meaningful conversations with co-workers, easily overheard exchanges may be limited to small talk, and hushed private conversations can promote the feeling that others are being disparaged. But the crux of the open-space design is that it may become more difficult to foster close, treasured friendships and productive collaborations in the workplace.

Although companies continue to place workers in box-like cubicles, many employees embrace the challenge to come up with innovative ways to “think outside the box.” However, according to Liz Ryan, founder and CEO of Human Workplace, employees who are willing to think, speak and act outside the box may feel stifled by superiors who may prefer not to implement any new office initiatives.

She further observes that when people do manage to step out of the metaphorical box of their personal and professional lives, they often find that they actually built the box themselves. “When you complain about your situation rather than change it,” Ryan asserts, “you build a 10-foot reinforced-steel box to live in.”

Regardless of where you physically sit, live, work, and play, perhaps it’s time to re-assess if you have built a box around your life that has limited your options and prevented you from achieving your goals. We would like to help you emerge toward a brighter, box-less financial future for you and your loved ones. Please give us a call.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "How to Step Outside the Box," on Linkedin.com, April 16, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Arianna Huffington on How to 'Thrive,'" at Knowledge@Wharton, April 11, 2014.]

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies that include the use of insurance products.

These articles are being provided for informational purposes only and should not be used as the basis for any financial decisions. While we believe this information to be correct, we do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information included. All clients are encouraged to consult qualified tax and legal professionals before making any decisions about their personal situations.

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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Chris Hobart on Fox Business News today!

Tune in to Fox Business News segment After the Bell to catch Chris Hobart live at 4:00pm EST today! You don’t want to miss it!

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The United States: For Richer and for Poorer

A recent Health and Retirement Study by the Brookings Institution found that life expectancy is rising more quickly for people at the highest ranks of socio-economic status, while declining or remaining static for those in the lower levels. This discrepancy was raised in relation to Social Security benefits and posed the question as to whether raising the full retirement age as a means of sustaining the program is fair to those of a lower socio-economic class — since research shows that this group tends to pass away younger and may thus receive fewer benefits. In fact, the study concluded that although higher income earners may pay more into our progressive tax system, the differing rates of mortality among socio-economic classes has a substantial effect on the distribution of benefits in favor of higher income individuals.

[CLICK HERE to read the report, "Differential Mortality and Retirement Benefits in the Health and Retirement Study," at The Brookings Institution, April 8, 2014.]

On the issue of retirement funding, Olivia Mitchell, executive director of the Wharton’s Pension Research Council, recently discussed her new research paper on incentivizing pre-retirees to work longer. Her findings indicated that if workers who choose to delay taking Social Security benefits until after their full retirement age are given the chance to receive their delayed retirement credit as a lump sum payment instead of an increased monthly benefit, they would be more willing to work for one-and-a-half to two years longer.

[CLICK HERE to view the video, "Exchanging Delayed Social Security Benefits for Lump Sums: Could This Incentivize Longer Work Careers?" at RetireSecure Blog, April 9, 2014.]

The debate surrounding an increase of the minimum wage continues to be a topic in the news. To raise awareness of this issue, some legislators have accepted the challenge of trying to live on just $42 a week for food, the lowest amount the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates is possible to provide for a nutritious diet. One state representative noted that she had to pay six dollars for a gallon of milk — which represents almost an hour of work for minimum wage earners — observing that the current minimum wage of $7.25 hasn’t exactly kept pace with inflation.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Lawmakers Take the 'Minimum Wage Challenge' to Eat Off a Reduced Budget for a Week," at ThinkProgress.org, April 10, 2014.]

Another discrepancy between high-income and low-income households is that higher-income households are generally more capable of  saving more for their children’s college education. This could mean that more college graduates from low-income households will be burdened by student loans when they graduate — potentially compounding the income divide in the future.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "College Savings Gap Widens Between Rich and Poor," at CNNMoney.com, April 10, 2014.]

Retirement benefits, student loans and healthcare costs are all factors that may contribute to the growing diversity of income in America. As a result, the country’s middle class has shrunk from 53 percent to 44 percent since 2008. This continuing issue implores the question, how much can the country’s economic growth rate increase if fewer people are able to afford consumer products and services? Consider the recent financial woes of retailers like Sears, J.C. Penney and Loehmann’s. These are just a few examples of businesses that target middle-class consumers, which have closed many of their stores nationwide.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "More Americans See Middle Class Status Slipping," at USA Today, April 2, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "The Middle Class Is Steadily Eroding. Just Ask the Business World," at The New York Times, Feb. 2, 2014.]

Developing an appropriate financial strategy for retirement is important for people of all socio-economic classes. If you’re concerned about how retirement may impact your lifestyle financially, please give us a call.

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies that include the use of insurance products.

The information and opinions contained herein are provided by third parties and have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. They are given for informational purposes only and are not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions, nor should they be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual’s situation. All clients are encouraged to consult qualified tax, legal and investment professionals before making any decisions about their personal situations.

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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Creative Solutions for Life’s Little Problems

It’s refreshing to see that many people are beginning to implement new and innovative ideas to address some of life’s seemingly little problems that may have a more widespread societal impact.

Take teenagers and their penchant for sleeping in, for example. While some teenagers are just  lazy, there is a biological reason teenagers may not be getting enough sleep. During puberty, the hormone melatonin is released at a later time of the day, which means teenagers don’t feel drowsy until about 11 pm. As a result, teens may not be getting an adequate amount of rest each night. If parents continue to wake them for school at six a.m., for example, they may not be getting enough sleep to function efficiently throughout the day.

While it may be more convenient for parents to have teens off to school before leaving for work, there may be an alternative that allows teenagers to get a sufficient amount of rest, while also improving their performance in the classroom.

There’s a growing movement to delay the start of the school day in high school to accommodate a teenager’s natural sleep habits. Studies have revealed that schools that have pushed back start times for teenagers have resulted in better grades, test scores and even fewer auto accidents by teenage drivers. As a result, many teens (and parents) have had to adjust to more independence and autonomy when it comes to getting up, fixing breakfast, and getting to school on their own. That could be an added bonus, depending on your point of view, of this one potential solution to a rather common problem.

[CLICK HERE to read article, "To Keep Teenagers Alert, Schools Let Them Sleep In," at The New York Times, March 13, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to view the presentation, "Teens and Sleep," at University of Minnesota, Oct. 2013.]

Another issue that seems to be affecting America is the decrease in farming alongside the increase in suburban sprawl. During the economic downturn, land-rich but cash-strapped developers stumbled onto a new idea – “Agritopia.” They began to build more modest housing communities with a working farm as the central feature instead of a golf course, pool or fitness center. The result has been embraced by families who convene at the local farm stand to buy fresh produce and visit with neighbors.

[CLICK HERE to read article, "Farm-to-Table Living Takes Root," at The New York Times, March 11, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read about an Agritopia development, 2014.]

With the rising costs of college tuition and subsequent renewed interest in community colleges and vocational schools, four-year universities are thinking outside the campus to recruit new co-eds and better prepare them for college. Their strategy? Pay for committed freshmen to take a”gap year” before the start of their college program to work or volunteer in another country. The college, in turn, covers airfare, housing and even visa fees for that gap year. The result has yielded more mature and experienced freshman who have seen a bit of the world, learned to live without their parents for a year, and are more appreciative of the opportunity to receive a college education.

[CLICK HERE to read article, "College Offers to Pay Students to Take a Year Off," at the Associated Press, March 14, 2014.]

Paris has also come up with its own out-of-the-box solution to its air pollution problem. It recently provided free public transportation to discourage people from driving during a three-day span in which severe pollution took root due to unusually warm weather.

[CLICK HERE to read article, "Paris offers free public transport to reduce severe smog," at the BBC, March 14, 2014.]

Each of these examples demonstrate very reasonable solutions to some rather common problems. Please give us a call if we can help you identify some reasonable and unique solutions to help you address your financial concerns and keep you on the path to achieving your financial goals.

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies that include the use of insurance products.

The information and opinions contained herein are provided by third parties and have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. It is given for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions,
nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual’s situation. All clients are encouraged to consult qualified tax, legal and investment professionals before making any decisions about their personal situation.

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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Couples’ Angst

According to research done by Fidelity, nearly four in 10 couples don’t agree on the lifestyle they want to have in retirement. Sometimes this discussion gets put off before an efficient financial strategy can be developed. For example, have you and your significant other talked about where you want to live in retirement, and whether that involves selling the family home and moving to something that may be easier to maintain? Perhaps you’d love to retreat to a different part of the country – or move to another country altogether – but are hesitant to bring up such a wild idea with your conservative spouse.

For pre-retirement couples, this is a discussion that should happen to help ensure both partners are on the same page. Sometimes it can help to have a trusted financial professional there to ask questions and mediate the discussion so each partner can freely express their thoughts and opinions.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "What to talk about with your significant other," at Fidelity, Feb. 4, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Tips for couples: How to have the retirement talk," at USA Today, March 16, 2014.]

Developing an appropriate financial strategy – for retirement or any other goal – can often be a point of contention between couples. We all grow up with different values about finances that are passed on to us by our parents, and some of us might marry someone without ever considering whether we share the same monetary values. Even though some couples may not regularly argue about financial matters, that doesn’t mean they’re always on the same page.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Spouses and Their Money: Getting in Sync," at Squared Away Blog, Dec. 17, 2013.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Budgeting Tips for Couples" at Project Eve, April 1, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Happy couples can get a big resolution to a big fight; mean talk aside," at Science Daily, Feb. 12, 2014.]

There are also more serious financial issues that go beyond how to spend the household budget or where to live in retirement – such as divorce. In many cases, divorce can reduce household income for both spouses, since divorce often means they must support two separate households. Unfortunately, divorce among older Americans is on the rise. In 1990, only 1 in 10 people age 50 or older were divorced, but that rate increased to 1 in 4 by 2010.

According to U.S. government statistics, household incomes after divorce drops by about 25 percent for men and more than 40 percent for women. The irony is that while many couples may not effectively talk about finances while they’re married, it’s probably a dominant topic of conversation throughout the entire divorce process.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "The financial dos and don'ts of divorce" at Fidelity, March 13, 2014.]

Another tender time when couples may steer away from financial conversations is when one begins to experience cognitive decline. This is why it’s important for both partners to have a comfortable relationship with the family’s trusted financial professional, so that he or she may be able to help them address difficult financial decisions throughout the marriage – and beyond.

We’d like to be the trusted financial professional that you can rely on. Please contact us whenever you need help.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Many with dementia manage finances" at Squared Away Blog, April 1, 2014.]

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies that include the use of insurance products.

The information and opinions contained herein are provided by third parties and have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. It is given for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions,
nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual’s situation. All clients are encouraged to consult qualified tax, legal and investment professionals before making any decisions about their personal situation.

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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Retirement or Tuition? The Savings Dilemma

No one, much less a parent, wants to see a young college graduate weighed down by the burden of student loans. And if those student loans weren’t bad enough, some college students open credit card accounts as a right-of-passage of sorts into adulthood. Although a credit card provides students and young adults the opportunity to enter a new world of financial responsibilities, they can also cause those students to end up even further in debt by the time they graduate.

One of the biggest concerns of today’s parents is how to save for both their retirement and their children’s college education. One survey found that 75 percent of parents of teenagers say they plan to use their retirement nest egg to help pay for their kids’ college expenses.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Paying for College with Retirement Funds? Don't." at AARP, July 30, 2013.]

When determining whether parents should place their children’s finances above their own, the prevailing advice to parents is usually to “put yourself first.” One advisor equates this recommendation with that of a flight attendant’s instructions for onboard oxygen masks – secure your own before you help your children. The idea here is that if you don’t first have your own financial house in order, it may be difficult to take on the additional task of providing assistance to your children.

Although a parent’s natural instincts are to put a child’s needs first, it’s important in this scenario to consider yourself as a safety net for your child. If you have developed an appropriate retirement strategy, you may be more capable of providing financial assistance to your children even if they are rooted in early debt caused by student loans.

[CLICK HERE to view the video, "Money Misconceptions: Which of the two is a higher priority," from Charles Schwab, March 19, 2014.]

The fact remains that there are many resources your child may be able to utilize for college funding, such as scholarships, grants, and student loans, and he or she may have a much longer timeline to pay them off.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Income-Based Repayment," at FinAid.org, accessed March 28, 2014.]

Recently, President Obama proposed incentives to help students manage loan debt, such as increasing the maximum Pell Grant by $100 per student, making permanent the American Opportunity Tax Credit, and providing $6 billion for job-training programs at community colleges. The proposed incentives are expected to face opposition in Congress.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Obama's Budget Proposes Incentives for Student Success," at The Chronicle for Higher Education, March 5, 2014.]

Meanwhile, many parents may have to decide how to divide their savings efforts between the rising cost of college and the rising cost of living they may face in retirement – including unknown expenses like health care, housing, and long-term care.

If we can help you establish your priorities and create a financial strategy to help you potentially achieve both of these goals, please contact us.

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies that include the use of insurance products.

The information and opinions contained herein are provided by third parties and have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. It is given for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual’s situation. All clients are encouraged to consult qualified tax, legal and investment professionals before making any decisions about their personal situation.

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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The Power of Optimism

The White House recently announced that it expects the U.S. economy to grow by 3.1 percent this year, up from its 1.7 percent expansion in 2013. Is that a realistic projection, or an optimistic one? While the unemployment rate hovers in the 6.7 percent range, many economists say that rate has dropped recently in part because many people have stopped looking for work. That may be true, but it is certainly a pessimistic viewpoint.

[CLICK HERE to read the press release, "The White House has optimistic growth forecast for 2014, 2015," at Reuters, March 10, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the press release, "Employment Situation - February 2014," at The Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 7, 2014.]

Recent research by an organizational psychology researcher at National Taiwan University reveals that while being optimistic is admirable, a more balanced blend of optimism and reality tends to yield the best results. In other words, continue to be optimistic if that’s your natural tendency, but make sure you’re viewing all aspects of a situation – both the positive and the negative. By the same token, people who tend to be pessimists can work themselves into a depressive state if they don’t keep a careful watch out for silver linings.

The study categorized optimists into two camps: Realists and Idealists. Not surprisingly, realistic optimists tend to be not only more successful, but also happier.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "This Personality Type is Linked to Success and Happiness," at The Live Science, Aug. 23, 2013.]

The “realistic optimist” may be a good approach to managing finances. Whenever we invest our money, our expectation is that we will receive positive returns. However, many successful investors have an actual benchmark in mind at which point they will sell or reduce their position. This illustrates both dispositions – optimism that the investment will return anything at all, and a realistic expectation that returns are not likely to be boundless.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Do Optimists or Pessimists Manage Their Money Better?" at Yahoo Finance, Feb. 3, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Optimism Declines as Investors Fret over Stock Valuations, Economic Expansion," at Forbes, March 21, 2014.]

One couple uses a unique approach to optimizing their basic dispositions. Cathy Trenton of New York State is in charge of research and analysis, deciding where to invest the household portfolio. Her husband, Stephen, decides when to sell their holdings. You could say Cathy is the optimist, picking investments she believes will deliver a return on their money. Stephen would then be the realist, selling when he thinks a particular investment has run its course. Having successfully combined their unique skills and dispositions for the last seven years, it sounds as if both of them have a realistic take on their respective roles.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "The Married Couple That Trades Together," at Fidelity, March17, 2014.]

Regardless of your disposition, many people may be able to benefit from working with a financial professional who has a realistic perspective of the financial services industry. If we can help you develop a more realistic outlook regarding your financial future, please contact us.

By contacting us you may be provided with information regarding the purchase of insurance products.

This information is not intended to provide any tax, legal or investment advice or provide the basis for any financial decisions. Be sure to speak with qualified professionals before making any decisions about your personal situation.

The information and opinions contained herein are provided by third parties and have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. It is given for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual’s situation.

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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Chris Hobart featured on CNBC

Chris Hobart was recently featured on the Closing Bell segment on CNBC! In case you missed it, check it out here:

Chris Hobart- CNBC 4.22.2014

Interesting stuff, Chris!

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Alzheimer’s Higher Death Toll, Buddy Programs and Guide Dogs

According to a study recently published in the journal Neurology, the number of Americans who die as a result of Alzheimer’s disease has been vastly underestimated for years. New research indicates that since Alzheimer’s is an underlying disease – which leads to complications resulting in death – the number of deaths that may be attributable to Alzheimer’s has been under-reported by as much as half a million people per year. This is six times higher than previously reported, and moves Alzheimer’s up as the number three killer each year, behind heart disease and cancer.

While Alzheimer’s starts out affecting memory and cognitive thought processes, over time it creates breathing, swallowing, and heart rate issues that lead to other diagnoses. Since the subsequent diseases are actually what causes death, Alzheimer’s isn’t listed as a cause of death.

[CLICK HERE to read article, "Alzheimer's Deaths Vastly Under Reported, Study Says," at Newsweek, March 5, 2014.]

Alzheimer’s researchers are toiling away to learn how to slow, halt or prevent this disease. Most recently, strides have been made in identifying contributing genetic factors, enabling the ability to study the disease in depth using skin cells from affected patients, and in pairing young med students with Alzheimer patients – to the advantage of both.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Alzheimer's in a dish," at the Harvard Gazette, March 4, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Newly Identified Gene Triples Alzheimer's Risk," at the Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation, Nov. 2012.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Buddy programs pair medical students with Alzheimer's patients," at the Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation, March 12, 2014.]

While it may currently rank third in cause of death, Alzheimer’s ranks first in healthcare spending in the U.S. In light of America’s (and the world’s) vast graying population, that expense is expected to soar in the future.

Such is the heightened awareness that everyone from celebrities to Congress is trying to advance the cause. At a recent hearing in Congress, experts for the disease, and even comedic actor Seth Rogen, gave testimony reinforcing the urgency that Alzheimer’s is no laughing matter.

[CLICK HERE to view the article/video, "In More Ways than One, the Costliest Disease," at AARP, Feb. 27, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to view the congressional hearing on Alzheimer's Disease Research at C-SPAN, Feb. 26, 2014.]

While a cure is not currently in sight, if you or someone you know suffers from this progressive disease, be aware of new insights into how to help patients enjoy a potentially greater quality of life – including the use of conversation techniques and trained pets.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Three Ways to Talk to People Living with Alzheimer's," at the Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation, July 29, 2013.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Assistance Dogs for Alzheimer's and Dementia Patients," at Psychology Today, Jan. 21, 2014.]

Alzheimer’s can take its toll on families not only with stress and caregiving needs, but also on finances. Please give us a call if we can help you create a financial strategy for future cognitive care needs.

AE03145006 By contacting us, you may be offered information regarding the purchase of insurance products.

The information and opinions contained herein are provided by third parties and have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. It is given for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. All clients are encouraged to consult qualified tax and legal professionals before making any decisions about their personal situation.

If you are unable to access any of the sourced documents or material, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.