3 Questions I Bet You Can’t Answer…

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Dear Rich Lifer,

No one wants to move into a nursing home.

But the reality is almost 70 percent of today’s 65-year-olds will need long-term care at some point, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Whether you want to move into a nursing home or not, you might not have a say.

And because so many retirees are in denial of this fact, there’s a severe lack of long-term care planning happening in this country.

Ask any almost retiree the following three questions and I bet you’d be met with a blank stare…

  • How much does a nursing home cost?
  • How many years do most people stay in a nursing home?
  • How many days in a nursing home will Medicare cover?

If you’re one of the people putting off long-term care planning, that’s okay, but my hope is that after today the financial reality to these simple questions will move you to take action.

The True Cost of Nursing Homes

For starters, the national median cost of a semi-private room in a nursing home in 2017 for one year was $85,000, and it was $97,455 for a private room, according to a Genworth Financial survey.

The average stay in a nursing home was 835 days (almost 3 years), according to the latest National Nursing Home Survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.)

And, 62 percent of nursing home costs in the United States are paid for by Medicaid, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Medicare, however, will only cover costs, in full, up to 20 days. Anything beyond the 20 days, up until 100 days, will be partially covered. After 100 days, it’s the resident’s responsibility.

The good news is that nursing homes in most states have to follow strict laws — including how they bill you for their services.

Of course, rates will differ depending on your health needs. But, most nursing homes will have a flat-rate fee covering the basics, like room and board, and medical and personal care.

Some nursing homes will charge an all-inclusive fee for all medical services, while others will charge more of an a la carte rate based on services.

The important thing to note here is you need to understand exactly what the terms of your nursing home cover. Get everything in writing and keep a close eye on any unusual fees that pop up on your bill.

I’m sharing this with you because it’s not uncommon for seniors to get hit with a nursing home bill they didn’t expect.

Here are five possible hidden fees to watch out for:

1) Health Assessment Fee

When you first move in to a nursing home, you’ll have to do some sort of health assessment. While most facilities include this service as part of basic care, some facilities will charge you a seperate, one-time fee, for the health assessment.

To budget for this variable, simply ask when you’re researching different facilities if a health assessment fee is included or not.

2) State Assessment Fee

If your state is footing part of the bill for your long-term care or you have long-term care insurance, then there’s usually a nursing home assessment fee added to your bill.

If you are paying the bill for the nursing home, this assessment fee is passed on to you. The good news is you can deduct this assessment as a tax credit. Just make sure you remember this and account for it when you’re budgeting.

3) Leave of Absence Fee

It’s not uncommon for nursing homes to charge you a leave of absence fee, also known as a bed-hold fee. Basically, this is a fee for residents who have to leave the nursing home for an extended period of time.

This could be due to having a surgery, getting treatment at different facility or any number of possible reasons. Nursing homes will charge you a fee to hold your room so you can return later.

If you don’t sign a bed-hold agreement, the home can technically discharge you and rent out your room to someone else.

To avoid losing your spot, talk to the nursing home staff administrator to understand whether leave of absence is covered in your plan. If it’s not, make sure you sign a bed-hold agreement to ensure you don’t lose your spot should you have to leave temporarily.

4) Additional Service Fees

Extra care, like social services, money management, and therapies beyond the basic care standards will likely be charged to you as an additional service fee.

This will ultimately depend on where you live and what kind of special care you require, however it’s important to know which services are included in your plan and which ones are not. Also, make a note of how much these extra services cost, in case you need to add these services later on.

If you can get your hands on a sample bill first, that’s a good way to see what potential charges you have in store.

5) Annual Cost Increases

If you do end up living in a nursing home, pay attention to the pre-bill they send you with the monthly statement, this should contain an estimated cost for the next month.

Several nursing homes increase the costs of their basic services annually. When you’re researching homes, ask how often they raise their rates. And, if rates start changing month to month, call the home and ask to speak to the billing staff to understand what’s changed.

Moving into a nursing home is not all bad. In fact, for most people it’s a good move, since it provides a safe and comfortable environment to live out your remaining years. And nursing homes have come a long way since your grandparents’ days.

It’s not unusual for nursing homes to plan outings, have regular lectures, and game and movie nights organized for the residents.

But before you move into a retirement home, make sure you do your research.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

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Fascinating Frugal Fitness

This post Fascinating Frugal Fitness appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Dear Rich Lifer,

When people start thinking about saving money, they often look for areas to cut costs, and gym memberships are usually one of the first line items to get cut.

It makes perfect sense – with some gyms charging upwards of $200 per month, it just doesn’t work out to be worth the price tag for most people.

On the other hand, exercise is important, and it becomes evenmore important as we age.

After all, people who remain active tend to have great health benefits – things like better bone density, improved flexibility, and lower incidences of diabetes and heart disease.

And it’s not just the physical benefits, there are mental health benefits, too. Per the CDC, exercising in our later years has been linked to a reduction in “symptoms of anxiety and depression and fosters improvements in mood and feelings of well-being.”

In other words, even though gyms and fancy exercise equipment might be costly, we really need to find ways to stay active and fit.

That unfortunately leaves many feeling like they have to pony up $200 per month to stay healthy and mentally fit.

Luckily, there are tons of programs out there that will help you get your exercise in without breaking the bank.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Exercising At Home

Load Up On Multipurpose Equipment

Instead of splashing out and spending five grand or more on one of those big do-it-all weight machines, look for quality multi-purpose equipment you can score on the cheap.

Things like kettlebells, exercise balls, and adjustable-weight dumbbells can be used for a variety of exercises, and they can usually be purchased for $50 or less.

You should also consider purchasing a yoga mat, thera-bands, a foam roller, and a Bosu ball. They will make great additions to your home gym set up.

Turn On Your TV

Remember back in the day how people would put a check in the mail to order a tape of the latest exercise program from Jane Fonda or Billy Blanks?

Updated versions of those classic programs are still available, and getting access to them is easier than ever, thanks to smart TVs and streaming services. Popular services like Beachbody on Demand are less than $100 for the whole year. Depending on your provider, you might already have access to some fitness channels for free!

For example, if you’re an Amazon Prime member, you already have access to full body workouts, ab workouts, and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) programs at no additional charge.

If you don’t have any of these channels, and you still don’t want to spend a dime, you’re in luck! There are hundreds of fitness channels available on YouTube, so you can start working out any time you want without any additional cost.

Fit It In With Apps

Let’s say it’s been a while since you worked out and you’re feeling guilty but you just don’t have enough time to get in a good workout, even with your home gym.

Apps like 7 Minute Workout could be a great addition for you. This free app is the #1 fitness app in 127 countries – and for good reason. It guides you through a full body workout in under ten minutes, there are text and video descriptions of every exercise so there’s no confusion – and again, it’s free!

If 7 Minute Workout doesn’t suit your fancy, there are tons of other free workout apps you can try out until you find one that you like.

Exercising Out And About

Get Into Running

Running, jogging, and even walking are wonderful exercises for everyone, and you can’t beat the $0 price tag. If you do choose to take up running or walking seriously, you should consider spending money on a good pair of shoes and you’ll be good to go for miles and miles.

Community Yoga Classes

If yoga is more your speed, look into local events and classes. Many communities and municipalities offer yoga in the park on a regular basis. This is a great way to get outside, meet new people, and improve your mental, physical, and spiritual fitness.

Swimming, Tennis, and Basketball

You might not have a pool or court of your own, but that’s ok!

Look around your community. Many subdivisions have shared basketball and tennis courts, and some have shared pools, as well. If your community doesn’t have one, check out the neighboring subdivisions. Some of them will have these amenities and you might be able to access them for a small fee, too.

Fitness Trails

If you enjoy communing with nature while you get fit, look at your local and state parks. Many parks have great hiking trails, and some parks even have extra fitness goodies installed, too.

At my local parks, I’ve seen everything from rock walls, high-quality resistance equipment and even a suggested exercise parcourses.

Your neighborhood park probably has these hidden gems, too, and even if they don’t? A walk in nature beats just sitting around the house any day!

Shop Around

Even with all these tips, some people are simply more motivated to work out and stay in shape when they are surrounded by other people doing the same. So if you are going to stick with the gym, keep in mind, there are gyms, and then there are mega-gyms.

These “mega-gyms” are massive buildings that often have workout floors and classes, cafes and even spas inside, but with all that luxury comes a mega price tag. If you’re the type to want a luxurious experience, this might be the right choice for you, but if you want to just get in, work out, and move on with your life, there’s really no sense in paying for all the extra bells and whistles.

Instead of signing up at the flashiest gym with the best commercials, shop around. You might find something smaller, less expensive and ultimately perfect for you.

If you do decide the mega-gym is more your speed, wait until January to join. These centers of all things health and wellness will often drop prices and waive enrollment fees just to capitalize on the New Year’s Resolution crowd, and these savings are significant enough to be worth the wait.

With all of these ways to save while you get fit, there’s practically no reason to turn into a couch potato in your retirement.

Get out there, get fit, and look and feel as good as you possibly can!

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

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6 Tips for Powering Up Your Brain

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Between 2000 and 2017 deaths from heart disease have decreased 9% while deaths from alzheimer’s have increased 145%.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 5.8 million Americans of all ages are living with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2019.

By 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s dementia may grow to a projected 13.8 million, barring no medical breakthroughs to prevent, slow or cure the disease.

Not only is it difficult coming to terms with a loved one’s memory loss, but it can add additional stress to everyday activities around the house.

This is why dementia is such a difficult road to navigate for so many people and families around the world. While there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s dementia yet, a lot of research is being done to try to find treatments and practices that can slow or prevent cognitive decline.

The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Ohio is one of the leading research centers for dementia. And so far, they’ve found six lifestyle changes that can improve brain health.

If you’re struggling with memory problems or you have a family history of dementia, it’s never too late to make some simple changes to your lifestyle that can improve your chances of fighting memory loss.

Here are the Cleveland Clinic’s six pillars of a healthy brain:

Pillar 1: Physical Exercise

“What’s good for your heart is good for your brain.”

People who exercise regularly have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, says the Cleveland Clinic.

Exercise improves blood flow and memory; it stimulates chemical changes in the brain that enhance learning, mood and thinking. Even if you’ve never exercised, any physical activity is better than none at all.

What kind of exercise is best?

Endurance exercise, like running, swimming or biking, has been shown to foster new brain cell growth and preserve existing brain cells.

Strength training, like lifting weights or using resistance bands, builds muscle, strengthens your bones, and improves your mood. It can also enhance concentration and increase your decision-making skills.

Flexibility/balance training, like Yoga and Tai Chi can improve your posture, reduce risk of injuries and falls, and improve your overall movement and ability to do things better throughout life. Even simple exercises like standing on one foot or walking backward have proven helpful.

Pillar 2: Food & Nutrition

“Eat smart, think better.”

As you age, your brain is exposed to more harmful stress due to lifestyle and environmental factors. This leads to oxidation of your brain cells.

Imagine what a cut apple looks like after it’s left on a counter for 5 minutes. That browning is oxidation and the same general idea is what’s happening to your brain as you get old.

Luckily, there are lots of antioxidants available in food that can help protect your brain from these harmful effects.

Research shows that a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fish, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, olives, and nuts helps maintain brain health and may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, says the Cleveland Clinic.

The MIND and DASH diets are also good options to consider. Of course, if you’re at risk of developing diabetes, follow the diet your doctor recommends.

There is a high correlation between diabetes and dementia. Some researchers have even referred to dementia as Type 3 Diabetes. To protect your brain, you need to keep your blood sugar levels in check and that starts with what you eat.

Pillar 3: Medical Health

“Control medical risks.”

Hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, head trauma, higher cholesterol, and smoking all increase the risk of dementia, says the Cleveland Clinic. However, you can control and reduce almost all these risks if you’re proactive.

Getting your annual check-up, following your doctor’s recommendations and taking medications as prescribed can all help lower your risks.

If you have diabetes or are on the verge of becoming diabetic, you can reduce the risk by following these tips says the Cleveland Clinic:

  • Avoid white sugar, white flour and hydrogenated fat.
  • Eat more fiber.
  • Eat some protein with every meal.
  • Control portion size.
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes 5 times a week.
  • Include aerobic, strength, flexibility and balance.

Another major risk factor for dementia is high blood pressure. The Cleveland Clinic recommends following these tips to reduce hypertension:

  • Cut down on salt (less than one teaspoon a day).
  • Check your blood pressure regularly.
  • Keep active.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Take your medication.
  • Aim to keep blood pressure under 120/80 mmHg.

Pillar 4: Sleep & Relaxation

“Rest well.”

Sleep energizes you, improves your mood and your immune system, and may reduce buildup in the brain of an abnormal protein called beta-amyloid plaque, which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease, says the Cleveland Clinic.

Getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night is a must. And to ensure a good night’s sleep, you need a completely dark, quiet, and cool bedroom. You should not be able to see your hand five inches away from your face with the lights out.

Meditation is also a great way to relax and has been shown to reduce cognitive decline. Other ways to reduce stress are saying “no” more often, writing down all the things that bother you, and using imagery to anchor your emotions.

Pillar 5: Mental Fitness

“Use your mind, or lose it.”

You have something called “brain reserve,” which helps your brain adapt and respond to changes and resist damage, says the Cleveland Clinic.

People who continue to learn, embrace new activities, and develop new skills and interests are building and improving their brain reserve. That’s why working at a challenging job, going back to school, or taking classes can all expand your brain reserve.

Other mentally stimulating activities, like crossword puzzles, chess, puzzles, and card games have all been shown to help improve brain health. Even playing electronic “brain games” may help improve your reaction time and problem-solving ability.

Pillar 6: Social Interaction

“Stay connected.”

A rich social network provides sources of support, reduces stress, combats depression and enhances intellectual stimulation. Studies have shown that those with the most social interaction within their community experience the slowest rate of memory decline, says the Cleveland Clinic.

Leading an active social life is the key to protecting your memory. Joining clubs and volunteering are great ways to keep your network alive. Even adopting a pet can improve your brain health.

Pets can calm us down, boost our immunity, improve our heart health, keep us moving, and enhance our social life, says the Cleveland Clinic.

Overall, lifestyle has a profound effect on your brain health. What you eat and drink, how much you exercise, how well you sleep, the way you socialize, and how you manage stress all play important roles in keeping your brain healthy. It’s never too late to make some of these small changes, you can even start today.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

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Keep Your Heart Healthy with These 7 Numbers

This post Keep Your Heart Healthy with These 7 Numbers appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack.

Of these, 525,000 are a first heart attack and 210,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack.

The CDC says that heart disease takes the lives of around 600,000 Americans every year or 1 in 4 deaths. And, it’s the leading cause of death for both men and women of most ethnicities.

If you’ve been blessed with good health up to this point, it’s easy to ignore some of the early signs of a major health crisis.

Take Your Health Seriously

We tend to throw caution to the wind after our annual visit to the physician where our doctor tells us that our numbers are fine except for a few that are slightly out of the ideal range.

Maybe your blood pressure isn’t where it should be (could be whitecoat syndrome?), or your blood sugar is a tad high that day (that donut probably did it!). We tell ourselves excuses to avoid the reality that we might not be taking the best care of our bodies.

High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. About half of Americans (47%) have at least one of these three risk factors, says the CDC.

Earlier this year, the AARP ran an article that highlighted seven numbers most important in reducing your risk of heart attacks and strokes.

I thought it was interesting because there was one number (VO2 Max) I hadn’t thought of checking and my doctor has never mentioned.

Today I’ll show you how to calculate your VO2 Max, what it means for your heart health, and list the six other numbers you should be tracking.

Here’s a quick recap of what the AARP recommends for a healthy heart and stroke prevention:

Cholesterol Under 200

Ideally, your cholesterol should be under 200. But, according to AARP, a score of up to 240 may still be considered borderline. If you’re over 240, you should be worried.

Lowering your consumption of red meat and full-fat dairy products is one way you can begin reducing your cholesterol. Mixing in a few vegetarian meals once or twice a week also seems to make a difference according to researchers.

And on top of your diet, increasing the amount of exercise you do will also help lower your cholesterol.

Blood Pressure 120/80

If you don’t own a good quality blood pressure monitor, I would suggest buying one. They’ll run you about $40-$75 at CVS or another pharmacy retailer.

Your ideal blood pressure should be 120/80. But some doctors are comfortable if it’s as high as 140/80. Try taking your blood pressure at different times of day, especially before you exercise and before you consume anything with caffeine.

If your numbers are off, an easy way to bring them back to normal is eating more home cooked meals. Not only will eating a home cooked meal save you money, you can also control how much salt goes into your food.

Controlling your salt intake is one way to regulate high blood pressure but another is increasing your potassium levels by eating avocados, bananas, potatoes, spinach and other vegetables. Potassium lowers the sodium and water retention in your body, which helps decrease your blood pressure.

Heart Rate Between 60-100

Most newer blood pressure monitors will tell you your resting heart rate. Even some of the new fitbits and other health tracking bracelets can give you a pretty accurate estimate.

If you don’t have any hardware, you can monitor your heart rate with an ordinary watch. Count your heart beats for 15 seconds and multiply by 4.

Ideally, your heart rate should fall between 60 and 100 beats per minute. Athletes are likely to have a lower resting heart rate. If yours is outside this range, talk to your doctor to find out if there’s any cause for concern.

Blood Glucose Under 100

When your body becomes unable to regulate your blood glucose, you are at higher risk of diabetes, which also increases your heart attack and stroke risk.

Your blood glucose should be under 100. Your doctor might also want to measure your A1C blood sugar level. This test looks at your blood sugar levels over the last three months, so trying to beat the test by eating healthy for a few days won’t improve your score.

A normal reading is under 5.7 percent. To keep your blood glucose and A1C levels in check, you should eat a diet that’s low in sugar and high in protein, fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Avoid sodas and juices. AARP also recommends talking to your doctor about taking Vitamin D, which can lower your blood glucose levels and help other systems in your body, as well.

BMI Below 24.9

In recent years, doctors have discovered that Body Mass Index (BMI) is a better indicator of health than your actual weight.

But, it’s not always the case. A lot of athletes will appear to have a high BMI, when in reality their body fat is quite low. If you’re not a high-level athlete, don’t kid yourself.

Ideally, your BMI should be below 24.9. If you’re in the range of 25 – 29.9, you’re considered overweight. A BMI over 30 is considered obese.

The best way to lower your BMI is by losing weight. Even a reduction of 5 percent of your current scale weight can make a significant difference in your health.

Waist Circumference

All you need is a tape measure to find out if you’re carrying too much weight around your stomach. Exhale, and measure your waist. If you’re having trouble finding where your waist begins, bend to one side and you’ll find it.

Most men should have a waist circumference under 40 inches; women should have one under 35 inches.

VO2 MAX Score Above 30

Like I said, this is a number I hadn’t really considered before. VO2 Max is a measure of your total aerobic fitness. If you belong to a gym, they might be able to calculate your score by having your run on a treadmill to exhaustion.

If that sounds too hard, the good news is there’s a written questionnaire that’s surprisingly accurate online. Go to worldfitnesslevel.org and fill out the questionnaire. Your VO2 Max score is based on your age.

If you’re between the ages of 56-65, a “good” VO2 Max score is 36-41. If you’re 65+, a “good” score is 33-37. Anything over 32 for both age categories is considered above average.

The Bottom Line

It’s important to keep your health in check, especially as you get older. These numbers are a good place to start having more informed discussions with your doctor. Without good health, wealth means nothing.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

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Over 50? The Important Investment you NEED to Make…

This post Over 50? The Important Investment you NEED to Make… appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

What do you call an investment that has no risk, requires little — if any — money to start, is available equally to the rich and poor, is proven to improve your career prospects…  can generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings over a lifetime?

I call it good health.

Although you might view spending on your health as a necessary expense, I’d argue it’s an investment that will pay back dividends.

Health is one of the least talked about financial topics but arguably the most important. 

Without good health, it doesn’t matter how much money you have in the bank because you won’t ever be able to enjoy it if you’re always sick.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the average individual will rack up $220,000 worth of health expenses in retirement.

It should come as no surprise, but getting old is not cheap.

There are, however, proven things you can do today that will help decrease your health costs tomorrow.

For instance, one study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that weight loss at any age leads to cost savings. The study found it costs people more when they’re overweight – especially as they age.

According to the study:

  • A 20-year-old adult who goes from obese to overweight would save an average of $17,655 in direct medical costs and productivity losses over their lifetime. If that person went from obese to a healthy weight, the savings would jump to $28,020.
  • If a 40-year-old adult goes from being obese to overweight, that person potentially can save an average of $18,262. If that person improves their health from obese to a healthy weight, an average savings of $31,447 in direct medical costs and productivity losses can follow.

Cost savings peak at age 50, according to the study. At 50, you save an average of $36,278. The study concluded by saying that at nearly any age there can be a cost savings if you improve your weight.

Aside from losing weight, what other aspects of your health can be improved to help your bank account?

I’ve identified three key areas you should focus on. Here they are…

#1 Start Eating Healthy

Harvard estimates it costs an extra $1.50 to eat healthy per day.

That’s an extra $550 per year.

The benefits of eating healthy are: reduced inflammation, a strong immune system to help fight off diseases and infection, lower Body Mass Index (BMI), which drastically reduces risks for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and fatty liver disease.

Actually, Type 2 diabetes is one of the most preventable diseases.

Type 1 is genetic and you’re typically diagnosed as a child or teenager. But Type 2 diabetes is heavily influenced by your lifestyle.

An estimated 30.3 million Americans have Type 2 diabetes. And it’s estimated that you spend 2.3x more on health care than someone without diabetes.

According to the CDC, the average cost of medical expenses for people with diagnosed diabetes is about $13,700 per year.

Let’s imagine you live with Type 2 diabetes for 30 years. From age 40 to age 70.

Without inflation, that’s $411,000 just to take care of your diabetes. And that doesn’t account for other health issues that will inevitably arise due to the stress placed on your body.

Now contrast that to spending an extra $1.50 per day on food and it’s a no brainer.

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated either. There are plenty of proven healthy diets that work like the Mediterranean Diet and the Blue Zone Diet.

#2 Exercise More

Consider going on a “car diet.”

Look for opportunities to drive less. Walk, bike, take city transit. These will all save you money while incorporating some exercise.

Getting in quality exercise should not cost you very much. Forget about buying expensive running shoes, home exercise equipment, or boutique gym memberships.

The biggest investment will be your time. But even that shouldn’t cost you a lot. The CDC recommends 30 minutes of moderate activity, 5 days a week, for adults. The American Heart Association and the World Health Organization agree.

Where can you find 30 minutes in your day?

Go for a morning walk before you start your day. Walk at lunch to clear your head. The outdoors are free. Take advantage.

By eating healthy and exercising more, you’re investing in your long-term health. But another benefit to exercise and a healthy diet is it decreases the frequency you will get sick.

By not getting sick as often, you don’t have to miss work, using up sick days or unpaid days if you’re out. You’ll have more energy to take care of your grandkids, and you lower your medical bills like prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs.

#3 Eliminate Your Vices

This should go without saying but I’ll repeat it. You must eliminate any unhealthy habits that are costing you health and money.

An obvious culprit is cigarettes.

If you smoke, you’re literally burning money and years off your life. According to the CDC, the average cost of a pack of cigarettes is $6.28, which means a pack-a-day habit sets you back $188 per month or $2,292 per year. Ten years of smoking comes with a $22,920 price tag.

Another prime target are sugary drinks like Coca-Cola and calorie-loaded Starbucks drinks. Not only is it cheaper to drink water or regular coffee, you’ll be less likely to develop diabetes and other health-related issues.

By no means is quitting smoking or sugary beverages easy. But you need to try different approaches and figure out what works because you can’t keep hurting this up.

Your health should be part of your investment portfolio if it’s already not. It doesn’t matter if you’re conservative, modest, or you’re aggressive in your approach, what matters is you prioritize your health so you can live a truly wealthy life.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

— Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap

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The Truth About Brain-Boosting Supplements

This post The Truth About Brain-Boosting Supplements appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

The signs of memory loss can be scary: misplaced keys, forgetting where you parked, a task you suddenly can’t remember, repeating a question over again that was just answered.

Five million Americans are estimated to have Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – a figure that’s projected to grow to 13.9 million by 2060.

To date, there are no drugs that have been shown to prevent or reverse diseases like Alzheimer’s, which is leading many people to seek out questionable treatments with false claims.

One AARP analysis on spending found that 50-plus adults spend more than $93 million a month on six different supplements marketed for brain health.

“The people taking these pills are spending between $20 and $60 a month and flushing dollars down the toilet that could be better spent on things that actually improve their brain health,” says AARP Senior Vice President for Policy Sarah Lock.

Study after study seem to reveal the same conclusions: there’s virtually no good evidence to suggest that brain health supplements can prevent or delay memory lapses, mild cognitive impairment, or dementia in older adults.

In fact, some are even doing more harm than good. Here’s what the science says about taking brain boosting supplements, and what you should do instead.

What the Research Says

The three most popular supplements marketed for memory enhancement are fish oils, B vitamins, and ginkgo biloba extract, made from the dried leaves of the ginkgo tree. But decades of studies on these three supplements have all come up short.

Fish oil pills are probably the best studied and the results are not encouraging. When all the studies are pooled, we find very small improvements in recalling lists of words soon after they’ve been learned, and the effect doesn’t last.

The only encouraging evidence is people with diets high in omega-3s, found typically in fatty fish like salmon, may have a lower risk of dementia. But similar benefits are not linked to omega-3 in pill or supplement form.

Ginkgo biloba extract is another popular brain booster and the research is not hopeful either. In one landmark trial published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers followed more than 3,000 people age 75 or older for six years.

Half were given 120 mg doses of the herb twice a day, while the others took a placebo. The ginkgo did not decrease the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. 

B vitamins are also in question when it comes to improving cognition. A 2015 review of studies found that supplementation with B6, B12, and/or folic acid failed to slow or reduce the risk of cognitive decline in healthy older adults and did not improve brain function in those with cognitive decline or dementia.

The only instances where B vitamins had any significant effect on brain health was in people with B vitamin deficiencies.

Blame Advertisers and Loose Regulation

A 2017 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report analyzed hundreds of ads promoting memory-enhancing supplements online and identified 27 making what seemed to be illegal claims about treating or preventing diseases like dementia.

Supplements are loosely regulated, and you should be extra careful as some even contain undisclosed ingredients or prescription drugs. Several brain boosting supplements should not be taken with medications.

For example, ginkgo biloba should never be paired with blood thinners, blood pressure meds, or SSRI antidepressants.

Supplements that need to be metabolized by organs like your kidneys and liver can compete for limited metabolic function, potentially messing up the levels and performance of your medication.

What Should You Do Instead?

Two things: get active and get on a brain-boosting MIND diet.

Exercise is one of the few things within your control that has shown to protect against cognitive decline. Set a weekly goal of 150 minutes of moderate exercise.

Second, get on the MIND diet, which stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. The diet includes lots of veggies, nuts, whole grains, olive oil, some beans, fish, and poultry, plus a daily glass of wine. A quick Google search and you’ll find all sorts of recipes.

The foods chosen in the MIND diet have all appeared to have brain-protecting effects. The researchers who invented the diet studied almost 1,000 elderly people, and followed them for an average of 4.5 years.

Those with diets most strongly in line with the MIND diet had brains that functioned as if they were 7.5 years younger than those whose diets least resembled this eating style.

A follow-up study showed that the MIND diet also cut their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in half. So although there seems to be no signs of miracle supplements or drugs for the treatment of cognitive decline just yet, your best bet is still the most simple: stay active and feed your brain good foods.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

— Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap

The post The Truth About Brain-Boosting Supplements appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

The Best 4 Ways to Catch Some Zzz’s

This post The Best 4 Ways to Catch Some Zzz’s appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Despite a large body of science supporting the benefits of taking naps, I almost never sleep during the day.

But this past Saturday, after a full morning watching my daughter compete in the West Coast surfing championships, I felt pretty worn out. And with a big group dinner planned for that night, I went back to our Airbnb in need of a recharge.

Most people would just crawl into bed. Me? I have to do some research first!

It turns out there are several different strategies to catching a few Z’s during the day, and optimal times to employ each of them.

The ideal scenario is timing your nap based on when you started your day.

Dr. Sara Mednick is a sleep researcher and she’s created an interactive “nap wheel” that will tell you when the best time to take a nap is.

The goal is going to sleep at a time when your slow-wave sleep (SWS) will perfectly intersect with rapid-eye movement (REM). Basically, the time when you’ll get the deepest, most relaxing round of rest.

Here’s a link to the nap wheel on her site.

Just as an example, if you woke up at 7:00 AM, your ideal nap time would be 2:00 PM.

Of course, whether or not you can take your nap at the ideal time or not, my personal recommendation is not to hit the sack too late into the day.

I can remember one time when I fell asleep on the couch in the late afternoon daylight only to open my eyes after the sun had already gone down. Not that great!

It also pays to watch the length of time you sleep for.

In fact, experts say there are different types of naps to consider:

1. The Power Nap

If you just need a quick refresh, sleep for somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes. You won’t enter really deep sleep so it’s easy to wake back up and return to whatever task is at hand.

2.  The Coffee Nap

This one sounds a little crazy, but it’s the same thing as above only you drink some coffee first. Scientists say this actually works better for two reasons…

Obviously, caffeine is a stimulant. So you’ll automatically feel more alert as it kicks in, which happens to be right around the time you’re waking up.

What’s even cooler is that caffeine competes with adenosine for the receptors in your brain. Since adenosine is a chemical that promotes sleep – and makes you feel more tired – it doesn’t really take hold as much as it would if you hadn’t consumed the caffeine before nodding off.

End result? You may get a double benefit from pre-gaming with the coffee!

Research I’ve read suggests 200 mg of caffeine is a good amount for a coffee nap, though that’s a full two cups worth! 

Also, you should probably avoid taking a coffee nap too close to your regular bedtime. Otherwise, you’ll run the risk of disturbing your regular sleep. Most experts recommend stopping caffeine consumption a full six hours before bedtime.

They also recommend drinking your first cup somewhere between 9:00 AM and 11:30 AM but we can talk more about that some other time. 

Now, let’s move on to…

3. The “Almost There” Nap

A one-hour nap is pretty good overall. You’ll get the deepest type of sleep (slow-wave) but it might take you a little while to come around. If you want the best overall result sleep a little longer…

The Ideal Full-Sleep-Cycle Nap

It takes about 90 minutes to run through all the different phases of sleep (light, dreaming, etc.) so sleep for an hour and a half is just about perfect.

You should wake up feeling really good, and since you completed the full cycle it should also be relatively easy to get up.

The Worst Type of Nap

Sleep experts say a 30-minute nap will give you almost zero benefit because you’ll be waking up just as your deeper phases of sleep were getting underway.

So basically, consider a quick power nap with or without some coffee or commit to a longer nap somewhere between 60 and 90 minutes.

What did I end up doing this past weekend?

I had set my alarm for 20 minutes but never heard it go off and woke up after my wife texted me another 45 minutes later!

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

— Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap

The post The Best 4 Ways to Catch Some Zzz’s appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Fighting Medical Bills and More…

This post Fighting Medical Bills and More… appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Back in December, there was an issue where I told you about a surfing accident sent me to the hospital for a weekend. And I said my own experience demonstrated how important it is to fully understand the type of insurance you have before an unexpected event sends you to the ER. 

Despite a little lingering soreness, I’ve pretty much fully recovered from the four broken ribs and collapsed lung. I was back to surfing six weeks later and recently spent five days snowboarding in Lake Tahoe with my daughter going as hard as ever.

But now that the bills are rolling in, it’s obvious that a financial recovery would be the much bigger problem for anyone without an adequate understanding of insurance and medical billing or at least the willingness to learn about such things.

Just to prove the point: The latest summary of charges for my weekend hospital visit totaled $30,124!

That’s roughly equal to the median annual individual income in the United States right now.

Fortunately, my insurance plan has an annual maximum out-of-pocket deductible of $3,500 per individual. 

Factoring in other unrelated charges already made earlier in the year, that means my total cost for the stay ends up being a couple grand. In other words, more than 90% of the bill was covered. 

Although it’s a small (and somewhat perverse) consolation, that means I actually made money on my insurance premiums for 2018. Hooray!

Okay, now let’s talk about a couple nitty-gritty details.

Choose Your Health Service Facility Wisely

First, as I pointed out in our earlier discussion, going to a different hospital could have meant the vast majority of this tab would NOT have been covered.

You do not want to make a $20,000 or $30,000 mistake like that!

Second, going through some of the individual items and charges was very revealing.

Take blood panels … 

My caregivers wanted to draw my blood once or twice every single day and with the exception of admission and imminent discharge, I refused. 

This was for two reasons:

  • I hate needles and they had a lot of difficulty finding a vein the first time around.
  • The stated reasons for the blood panels were minor concerns. Things like assessing the possibility of infection, when other signs such as my temperature were completely normal.

Now if you happen to work in the medical field, I’m sure you’re cringing a bit. Very few practitioners like the patient who says no to things. 

At the same time, even one of the doctors agreed that administering so many blood tests was unnecessary. And I firmly believe that patients have the final say over their own bodies and treatment choices.

Now that I’ve seen the itemized list of charges, it turns out there was a third reason not to want daily blood tests… each one was several hundred dollars! 

This raises an important point: Some “standard” treatments and protocols are not only medically unnecessary, but the costs are never discussed, either.

Your caregiver comes in and says, “Hi. We need a urine sample” and you oblige. They don’t tell you how much it will run. (In my case, $96.)

They also rarely say exactly why they’re doing the test or procedure. We’ll talk more about how that relates to my urine sample in a second.

But How Much Does It Really Cost?

For now, let’s stick with the economics. 

Plenty of procedures and protocols are more about reducing a medical establishment’s liability than they are about patient outcomes. 

That’s bad enough.

What’s worse is that anyone who studies the issue will quickly discover some outrageous markups on routine items.

Many years ago, a taxi ran over my foot in New York City. 

I distinctly remember getting the itemized list for my brief treatment in the ER, which included gauze at $100 a roll and crutches billed out at $400. The same items at my local CVS would have been $50 total. 

There’s not much an individual can do about this particular aspect of our medical system, though it is possible to dispute the charges if you think they’re too high.

A great example?

The time a surgeon offered to pierce a 5-year-old’s ears while she was having a separate procedure, and ended up billing her parents $1,877!

The girl’s mother, an attorney, got some of the charges reduced … but only after lots of phone calls and a protracted fight.

And here’s another account of someone who fought various charges and ultimately got a 20% reduction even when nothing was technically wrong with the care received.

Speaking of which, you should also go line by line to make sure you’re being billed for the things you actually got!   

All of the procedures and costs are tallied up using various billing codes and errors are rampant. Just as anecdotal evidence, my mother once found several inaccuracies listed on an invoice … including a procedure that had nothing to do with the reason for her visit.

Do You Need Everything You’re Being Tested For?

Last but not least, I was also surprised to see my $96 urine sample labeled as a toxicology screen – i.e. a drug test.

Why would that be needed?

I was completely lucid when I was admitted. I was exhibiting signs of physical trauma completely consistent with the circumstances as described. And I told my caregivers that I wasn’t on any medications nor was I a smoker or an illicit drug user.  

It turns out nearly any ER admission results in a drug test no matter what the patient says. 

They don’t tell you they’re doing it. 

They don’t have to ask for your permission. 

And as one doctor pointed out in Time, there are a lot of thorns to consider even beyond the financial aspects:

“There are some real tradeoffs to testing emergency-department patients for illicit drugs. As practitioners we need to pay attention to the downsides of these tests so we don’t overuse them.

“First there are ethical issues of autonomy and confidentiality. The principle of autonomy states that patients should be able to decide whether or not to undergo testing or treatment for anything. When you check in to a hospital, you sign a form giving consent for routine testing, including blood and urine tests for lots of things. This makes sense — it means that as doctors, we don’t have to check with you for every run-of-the-mill test we order. But the question here is whether or not testing for drugs and alcohol without your explicit consent should be considered routine.

“Confidentiality is, of course, the other major ethical problem with ordering illicit-drug tests on our patients. While the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act legally protects all medical information from public disclosure, just ordering the test increases the risk that a breach of confidentiality could expose this sensitive information.

“False-positive tests are another concern. Urine drug tests use immunoassays to screen for multiple illicit drugs. While they tend to be quite accurate, cross-reactions with other medications have been demonstrated — for example, over-the-counter decongestants have been shown to light up the amphetamine test incorrectly. Also, these tests may identify previous drug use but fail to tell us that the patient was using drugs recently (the marijuana test can be positive over a month after use, for instance). This can be confusing to the diagnosticians who are trying to figure out what is causing today’s symptoms.

“Last, there are issues of cognitive biases, mental prejudices on the part of doctors that can interfere with our ability to make the best decisions for our patients. Fundamental attribution error is one such bias, in which a health care provider inadvertently — and wrongly — blames a patient for her illness. Take the case of the patient with belly pain, who tests positive for cocaine: she becomes the “drug user in Room 2.”

The Bottom Line

Any time you’re receiving medical treatment, it pays to get as much information as possible before any treatment or procedure is performed …

It pays even more to scrutinize the statements you receive in the wake of a visit …

And you should never hesitate to question a billing department when you think a treatment was overpriced, mislabeled, or unnecessary.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

— Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap

The post Fighting Medical Bills and More… appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

5 Ways to Make Money with Your Body (Legally)

This post 5 Ways to Make Money with Your Body (Legally) appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Could you use some extra cash? Donating body materials can be akin to a part-time job. And the pay is often better than driving for a ridesharing company or working as a retail clerk. 

We’ll start with the easiest way to earn money with your body and work our way to the more complex.

1. Hair — up to $1,500 … or more!

Buyers want healthy, attractive hair for wigs, extensions, and art projects. Hair that has never been dyed is the most popular. The longer the better — at least 15-35 inches. 
Color is also important. Redheads fetch the biggest bucks followed by natural blondes and brunettes. Not much demand for gray.

You can get an idea on how much your hair is worth here. Once you have that, there are online markets such as HAIRSELLON.com and BuyAndSellHair.com where you can post your locks for sale. 

2. Blood plasma — up to $400 per month

Plasma is the light-yellow liquid portion of blood that remains after it is separated by a machine. 

Donating is like giving blood, and you can do it up to two times a week. 

Plasma therapies help people with genetic, chronic conditions such as hemophilia and Kawasaki disease lead healthier and more productive lives.

And patients need a lot of it … 

For instance, it takes more than 1,200 plasma donations to treat one hemophilia patient.  

Red Cross and similar organizations won’t pay for your plasma. But pharmaceutical companies will. 

There are licensed and International Quality Plasma Program (IQPP) certified plasma collection centers throughout the U.S. You can search for one in your area by clicking here. 

3. Sperm — $500 to $2,000 per month 

Guys, this isn’t as simple as going to a clinic and handing over a mason jar containing your sperm. 

The qualifications are tough because sperm seekers are paying big bucks. And they want the perfect specimen …

They’re looking for men who are healthy, well-educated, and maybe even a minimum height. 

Once you pass the initial screening, you’ll have to provide your family’s medical history, undergo STD testing, submit a sample to measure the quality, and undergo genetic testing.

A longer-term consideration is that with the rise of more DNA testing services, the offspring you helped create could one day look you up.

Click here to find a sperm bank directory in your area. And if you’re married, I suggest you check with your wife first. 

4. Eggs — $6,000 to $8,000 or more

Egg donation is a complex process in which an egg is surgically removed from a fertile woman and donated to another woman in order to help her conceive. 

A series of screenings, tests for diseases, counseling, and genetic tests are required and take about two months.

This isn’t for everyone … generally fertility centers are looking for healthy donors age 21 to 35. Potential participants who smoke, use drugs, have a high body mass index, or have mental health issues aren’t eligible.  

Another thought to keep in mind …

While some donors might get satisfaction knowing they’ve created a new life, others may find that giving up a child is psychologically troubling. And like sperm donors, there’s the possibility that the children you helped create may someday try to contact you.

If this is of interest, fertility centers are in almost every community. You could also check with your gynecologist. 

5. Surrogate — $35,000 to $53,000 or more 

Carrying a couple’s sperm and egg until a child is born is a long-term commitment … 15 to 18 months.

Also, the screening process is much more intense. It can include medical and psychological evaluations, criminal background check, home visits, and even financial status. 

You may also be required to follow a certain diet and lifestyle. 

For instance, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, paid a surrogate $45,000 to carry their third child. 

They stipulated that their surrogate could not smoke, drink, or do drugs during the pregnancy and had to refrain from going in hot tubs, handling cat litter, and applying hair dye. Nor could she eat raw fish or drink more than one caffeinated beverage a day. 

The legality can be an issue since some states ban surrogacy contracts. So you might want to obtain legal representation beforehand. 

Bottom Line

A final point when making the decision to sell your body’s materials … 

It’s not only about the extra cash you’ll receive, there’s the altruistic point …

You might make a chemo patient feel better about herself, create a life when helping a childless-couple become parents, or save a life when your donation is for the research needed to treat a rare disease.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

— Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap

The post 5 Ways to Make Money with Your Body (Legally) appeared first on Daily Reckoning.