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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Are You Buying Fresh, When You Should Buy Frozen?

This post Are You Buying Fresh, When You Should Buy Frozen? appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

You hear it all the time from Dr. Oz and other medical gurus: Eat more fruits and veggies.

And the USDA recommends five to nine servings each day to help reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer, and early death.

An analysis from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London shows that participants who had 10 servings — 28 ounces — daily experienced a:

  • 24% reduced risk of heart disease
  • 33% reduced risk of stroke
  • 28% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
  • 13% reduced risk of cancer
  • 31% reduction in premature death

What’s more, they estimated that if everyone followed their recommendations, approximately 7.8 million premature deaths could be prevented worldwide.

Fruits and veggies that you get straight from a farm or your garden generally have the highest nutritional value.

But you might not have access to them or the time for all of that. That leaves you with getting those commodities at your local supermarket. And two of the two most common ways to buy them are …

Fresh and Frozen

You may think that there’s not much difference between the two, except than one is in the fresh produce section while the other is in the same aisle as ice cream, ready-made meals, and cook-at-home pizzas.

But that assumption isn’t exactly correct …

You see, most fresh fruits and vegetables are picked before they’re ripe, which gives them time to fully ripen during transportation.

The problem is that it also means less time to develop a full range of vitamins, minerals, and natural antioxidants.

Before shipping they’re washed, cooled, graded, and blanched in order to preserve the color, flavor, and texture.

And while in transport, they’re stored in a chilled, controlled atmosphere and treated with chemicals to prevent spoiling.

Most fresh produce arrives to your market several days to weeks after it is harvested. Then there’s another 1-3 days on display at the market and up to 7 days in your refrigerator before you eat them. So whatever you haven’t used by then you toss out, which is like throwing money in the garbage.

Not so with frozen fruits and veggies …

They’re picked when ripe and often washed, blanched (fruits don’t undergo blanching), cut, frozen, and packaged with a few hours. And chemicals are not usually added before freezing.

Unlike their fresh counterparts, frozen produce can be stored for months without losing nutrients. If you only use a portion, you save what’s left in a sealed bag or container and put it back in the freezer.

No waste.

Frozen produce is so easy to prepare and store, you might end up eating extra servings.

Moreover, frozen is often less expensive than fresh and is available year round.

You may be asking …

What About the Nutrients?

During the time from harvesting and throughout storage, fresh vegetables and fruit can experience substantial nutrient degradation.

For instance, the vitamin C in fresh vegetables starts to decline as soon as they’re picked and continues to do so while in storage. Green peas were found to lose up to half of their vitamin C within 24-48 hours after harvesting.

The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry published the results of a study that analyzed four vitamins in several fruits and vegetables to evaluate the differences between fresh and frozen produce. The commodities tested were: corn, carrots, broccoli, spinach, peas, green beans, strawberries, and blueberries.

The researchers found that the overall vitamin content of the frozen products was comparable to and occasionally higher than that of their fresh counterparts.

The Same Can Apply to Fish …

The American Heart Association says you should eat two, 3½-ounce servings of non-fried fish per week.

The reason: The omega-3 fatty acids found in many types of seafood reduces heart inflammation, helps prevent heart rhythm abnormalities, improves the flexibility of arteries, and helps lower cholesterol.

Unless you catch it yourself, there’s no such thing as fresh, wild-caught fish. That’s because wild-caught fish is frozen to kill parasites.

However, farm-raised fish is often shipped and sold without being frozen first.

Over 85% of the seafood in our stores is imported. And although it might be labeled fresh, it could have been frozen and then thawed before being placed in the display case. That freezing-thawing process might be repeated over several days until the fish is sold.

But with flash-freezing available on fishing boats, freshly-caught fish can be frozen and processed within hours after being caught keeping it nutritionally intact and fresh longer. And it stays frozen until you thaw, open the vacuum-sealed package, and cook it at home.

On top of that, flash-frozen fish will likely be less expensive than fresh because their shelf life reduces consumer risk and company costs.

As far as taste goes, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation conducted a survey of consumer preferences for simply-baked fresh black cod and coho salmon vs. frozen. They found that the baked, frozen fish were rated superior or equal to the fresh samples.

The Bottom Line

Don’t get me wrong; I’m a big fan of fresh fruits and produce that are at our local farmers markets. But I still buy bulk frozen berries and such largely for smoothies, convenience, and cost savings.

So, the next time you’re hankering for juicy strawberries, sweet peaches, or tasty salmon, stop by the frozen food aisle and stock up.

You’ll save money, waste less, and eat some of the healthiest foods in the market.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

The post Are You Buying Fresh, When You Should Buy Frozen? appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Turn Up Your Savings with Your Stove

This post Turn Up Your Savings with Your Stove appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

A loaf of bread in 1913 cost just over 5 cents. Eggs would set you back 37 cents a dozen. And a gallon of milk 35 cents.

Grocery prices today are a bit different…

A dozen eggs will run you $1-2. A loaf of bread costs on average $2.50. And a gallon of milk is around $3.10.

While the average price of food has climbed over the past 100 years, Americans are actually spending far less on groceries than we used to as a portion of our total income.

Where the average American household spends 10.5% of their income on food today, in 1900 most households spent nearly half their annual budget on dinner.

What’s Changed?

Two factors: inflation and prosperity.

During most of the 20th century, inflation tended to impact food less than most other consumer spending categories. At the same time, incomes rose across the board, and Americans could afford better meals.

Today the average U.S. household spends a large chunk of its food budget on groceries ($4,363), but we also spend almost half as much on eating out ($3,365). How much you spend on food also depends on where you live.

City dwellers spend more on everything, but as a percentage of income less on groceries and more on eating out. If you live in the country, groceries are typically cheaper and you eat out less.

But these numbers are skewed by income. City slickers might spend more on food, but less as a proportion of income because they tend to make more money. Whereas rural residents make less but spend approximately 40% less on housing.

You’ve probably been told that if you want to save money, you should eat out less. The question I have is eating out cheaper than cooking at home?

At first glance, cooking doesn’t seem like a budget-friendly move. You have to buy groceries, kitchen supplies, and set aside time and effort. How much do really save?

Three Meals a Day

Let’s imagine you ate out three meals per day. You buy a $10 breakfast, $15 lunch, and $25 dinner, $50 per day.

At home, you could have prepared something similar for maybe $15 in ingredients. But you also have to take into account the time you spent cooking and preparing the meals.

Cooking three meals per day is probably an hour and a half of your time. If you make $20 per hour, that’s $30 in time, not including “hidden costs,” like shopping for ingredients, cleaning up afterwards, hydro, water, gas etc. You’re probably spending $50 on feeding yourself at home in this scenario.

Then why does eating out typically cost more? There are a number of factors but it boils down to a few things: portion size, hidden costs, and frequency.

What isn’t shared in our above scenario is how much food you’re actually getting when you cook at home vs. dining out. Most meals prepared at home yield leftovers, typically 3-4 meals more than the price for one meal out.

Another factor that skyrockets your bill at restaurants is drinks. The hidden cost of cooking at home, like your time, effort, hydro etc. are not there in your drink. It only takes a second to open a bottle of beer or uncork a bottle of wine. Yet you’re paying the price of a six pack for one beer or the price of a bottle for a glass.

Lastly, most people don’t eat out as often as in the scenario above. On average, Americans eat out about four times a week.

The Real Savings of Cooking at Home

The average commercially-prepared meal costs around $13. Even if you split this amount into two meals, $6.50 each, you’d still be spending more per meal than if you were to cook at home.

The average meal prepared at home costs around $4 for groceries — a $9 savings per person per meal. In other words, a $13 restaurant meal is about 325% more expensive than a $4 meal you prepare yourself of the same size.

As I said, most Americans eat out about four times a week. If you make just two of these meals at home, your savings are $936 — almost $1,000 a year.

Imagine what you could do with an extra grand every year. Even if you only skip one meal-out a week, your annual savings are about $500.

How to Make Cooking Easier

  • Find simple, low-cost, healthy recipes — these will be your go-to meals every week.
  • Cook in large batches so you have leftovers for a couple meals. You’ll save time and effort by batching meals this way.
  • Eat breakfast. Breakfast is one of the cheapest meals — take advantage of the savings.
  • Brown bag your lunch. You can save a minimum $500 per year by packing a lunch 2-3 times per week.
  • No time for grocery shopping? Try a meal subscription service. It’s pricier than buying your own ingredients, but still cheaper than most restaurants.
  • Lastly, Take a cooking class. It’ll cost you a bit upfront but you’ll learn invaluable lessons on meal prep that will save you time and money in the future.

Eating out isn’t a bad thing. But doing it too often can definitely hurt your wallet. The next time you think about going out to grab a bite, try some of the tips I’ve recommended above.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

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Are Your Retirement Expenses Out of Control?

This post Are Your Retirement Expenses Out of Control? appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

We’ve all seen the commercials with the gray-haired couple sipping champagne on the beach or the grandfather teaching his grandkids how to fish at the lake house.

But financially speaking, how realistic are these depictions of retirement?

According to the latest Consumer Expenditure Survey, produced every year by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “older households” – defined as those run by someone 65 and older – spend an average of $45,550 a year, or roughly $3,795 a month.

Obviously, what you spend in retirement will depend on different variables, including the annual property taxes on that lake house, the price of your preferred champagne, and a number of other individual factors, but you get the point.

If I’m being honest, I think spending $45,550 a year after-tax in retirement seems a bit high. Based on a 20% effective tax rate, $45,550 is equivalent to $54,660 a year in gross income.

To generate $54,660 a year in gross income, you would need an investment portfolio of $1,366,500 generating 4% a year.

Is the average 65+ year-old retiree in America a millionaire?

We know that the average 60-69 year-old American has only about $195,500 saved in their 401(k) and only $62,000 if we look at the median 401(k) account balance, so something seems a bit off…

If we take a more optimistic view, however, we can assume that current retirees over the age of 65 likely have some form of pension income as well as a healthy Social Security check, averaging out at around $1,461 a month. Add to that a little financial help from your adult kids and it should all work out in the end.

But the question I’m most concerned with is where is this $45,550 being spent? With less mouths to feed, no daily commute, it seems surprising to me that retirement expenses are this high.

If we dig into the BLS data a little more, we see a monthly breakdown of how households spend their money, on average. Here are the seven major categories you need to plan for:

Housing: $1,399

Surprisingly, housing is the largest expense for the average retiree. With the median American home price at $226,800, spending $1,399 a month on housing is high.

If your house is paid off by the time you retire, you should only be paying property taxes, insurance, maintenance, and utilities. Therefore, it’s obvious that the average retiree still has a mortgage to pay.

With no mortgage, your average housing expenses would tally up to more like $350 a month based on the median home price today. Point being, paying off your mortgage before you retire is going to save you a LOT of money.

Transportation: $615

$615 a month for transportation is another surprisingly high number, especially given the fact that most seniors get discounts on public transportation.

For example, discounts usually start at 50% of the regular adult fare and go up from there. Some cities, like Chicago, even offer free transportation to all senior citizens.

As a senior, spending $7,380 a year on transportation means you either still have an auto loan you’re paying off or it’s a sign you need to find a more trustworthy mechanic. The average transportation expense across all consumers last year totalled $9,761.

Although seniors are paying less on transportation per year than most, it still seems high in my opinion. Most Americans could do with paying less for transportation. Overpaying for a car is one of the biggest financial killers.

Healthcare: $557

It’s nice to see that health care cost averages only $557 a month or $6,684 a year. The average healthcare cost for a working American is closer to $20,000 a year, which is heavily subsidized by the employer.

The horror stories you hear about health care costs skyrocketing in old age are a bit exaggerated, so long as you have Medicare or some type of subsidized health insurance program.

Food: $539

$539 a month for food is not bad compared to the $600 a month for the average individual. With all the early-bird specials and seniors discount shopping days, retirees should be saving money in this category. My advice, stay away from food delivery apps if you want to maintain a reasonable budget here.

Personal Insurance/ Pensions: $283

It’s a bit unclear why this category even exists. 65+ year-olds should mostly be retired, however, the BLS explains this category as households who are still employed, paying Social Security tax, and contributing to Social Security.

In other words, the secret to a prosperous retirement is to keep your spouse working as long as possible! Seriously, having one spouse work late into retirement means you can typically afford more and live better. It just needs to be a situation you’re both happy with.

Cash Contributions: $210

$210 a month or $2,520 a year in cash contributions (aka charitable donations) accounts for around 4.2% of annual gross spend. 4.2% is a respectable amount since the average American contributes roughly 3% of their gross income to charity each year.

Studies have shown that making charitable contributions can improve happiness. Seeing the effect your contribution has made can be powerful so donate while you’re still alive to enjoy it.

Entertainment: $233

$233 a month for entertainment seems a bit on the low end. But when you consider all the discounts and deals that retirees get for being able to attend movies, plays, and museums during non-peak hours, it makes sense.

Not every retiree is taking an around-the-world cruise or flying to the Mediterranean for a weekend. What most retirees are saying is their newfound freedom provides much of their day-to-day happiness versus having to spend money on expensive experiences.

Overall, the average retiree lives a pretty good life. Being able to spend $45,550 a year after-tax is a decent sum given that the median household gross income last year was $63,179. That means the average retiree got to spend close to 87% of the median household income without having to work. Not a bad deal.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

The post Are Your Retirement Expenses Out of Control? appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

8 Unforgettable Fall Travel Destinations for Retirees

This post 8 Unforgettable Fall Travel Destinations for Retirees appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

As varied as people are, they usually have common wishes. I mean, who wouldn’t love to win the lottery or have a beach body no matter what they ate, right?

This holds true when it comes to the lifestyle people envision for their retirement.

When it comes to their post-work years. many people plan to use the extra time to visit loved ones, or get elbows-deep in their beloved hobbies. One woman I met recently wants nothing more than to spend her retirement years watching every single Yankees game, for example.

The most common dream that people have for their retirement, though, is travel.

Foreign or domestic, short hops or long hauls, men and women alike want to spend more time seeing the world around them.

This is largely because it’s almost impossible to travel before you retire. Sure. you might get a vacation to Cabo here or a week in the Wisconsin Dells there, but for the most part, your working and child-rearing years keep you pretty well locked in to a certain geographic region.

This happens because people don’t have the money, yes, but also because they don’t have the time. Your working years are spent at your 9 to 5, socking away as much money as you can, while spending your precious free hours running errands at Costco or sitting in the sun on the Little League bleachers (remember those days).

This all adds up to a deficit of money and time. These precious resources are scarce during the middle of your adulthood, and if you’re like most people, you spent years wishing you had more of each.

Ready for the magical, amazing, wonderful part?

Now that you’re retired, you have both.

That’s right, it’s time to finally realize your dreams of seeing the destinations you’ve only imagined visiting in the past. Now that it’s fall, the crowds have died down and the rates have dropped, so there’s no time like the present to get out there.

If you are ready to travel, but you have no idea where to start, you’re in luck! Here are some wonderful trips to stunning US locations you should take advantage of now that you finally can.

Burlington, VT

With wineries, breweries, a burgeoning food scene, and tons of beautiful inns and bed-and-breakfasts to visit, Vermont is a traveler’s paradise. Add in the turning of the leaves and amazing, crisp, weather, and you’ve got a perfect destination for an impromptu trip. Be sure to get some maple syrup while you’re in town – it really is on another level than what you can get anywhere else.

Flagstaff, AZ

The Grand Canyon is a beautiful sight to see, but Arizona in the summer is stiflingly hot and dry. In the fall light, you’ll see the remarkable oranges and reds in the local rock formations, and the tourist crowds will have died down considerably. Love kitsch and history? Williams, AZ, an iconic stop on Route 66 is right close by. If luxury travel is more your thing, you can spend a little time at the Canyon and then drive up the road a bit to Sedona. The accommodations, spas, and restaurants there are world-class, and the nearby vineyards produce jammy reds and fruity whites you’ll be sure to enjoy.

Savannah, GA

If you’ve ever seen the John Cusack flick Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil (or read the book), you’ll already have an idea of the spooky aura that surrounds this old, Southern community. There’s no better time than the present to experience it for yourself. In the fall, the oppressive Southern humidity drops and you can enjoy your time experiencing quirky cuisine, viewing stately architecture, and taking in the mysterious history of this locale.

Oahu, HI

Who says Hawaii is just for summertime? In the fall months. Oahu still has temperatures in the mid-eighties, and the crowds will be almost non-existent. Accommodation prices fall and the beaches are all but deserted in the autumn, and in addition to the normal charming Hawaiian culture, you’ll also see food festivals, film festivals, and a variety of stunning natural attractions without the typical long lines.

Santa Barbara, CA

I may be a little biased, but if you love Spanish style architecture and great food, there’s no better fall destination than my home, Santa Barbara. With stunning missions here and in nearby San Luis Obispo, world class restaurants, and the added allure of whale-watching, this coastal California city has all the charm of a Pacific adventure with none of the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles. Plus the surfing is great.

Nashville, TN

Country music fans already know this city well, but even if you don’t love Willie and Waylon, there’s something here for everyone. Sure, you can visit country music hotspots like the Country Music Hall Of Fame, but you can also enjoy festivals like Nashvember and try local cuisine like Nashville Hot Chicken and farm to table cuisine. With early fall temps ranging from the 60s to the 80s, all you’ll need is a light jacket (and maybe a great pair of boots) and Nashville is yours for the taking.

Hill Country, TX

Texas is a huge state with lots of fun adventures, but let’s be honest – for half the year, it’s so hot it can be downright unenjoyable. Now that cooler temperatures are here, you can camp, hike, and eat tacos to your heart’s content. In addition to the outdoor and culinary adventures, you can take in Austin’s music scene or attend an F1 race without fear of melting in the stands.

The Fingerlakes Region, NY

Upstate New York is a harsh place in the winter, but in the fall? It’s a wonderland. Everything from wine tasting at acclaimed vineyards to long bike rides to apple picking is available for the casual traveler, and if you’re feeling intrepid, the Big Apple is just a scenic half-day’s drive away.

The greatest thing of all about retirement is the freedom to do whatever you choose, whenever you want.

With all of these awesome destinations just a short plane ride away, which will you pick first?

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

The post 8 Unforgettable Fall Travel Destinations for Retirees appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Turn Up Your Savings by Turning on Your Stove

This post Turn Up Your Savings by Turning on Your Stove appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

A loaf of bread in 1913 cost just over 5 cents. Eggs would set you back 37 cents a dozen. And a gallon of milk 35 cents.

Grocery prices today are a bit different…

A dozen eggs will run you $2-$3. A loaf of bread costs on average $2.35. And a gallon of milk is around $3.50.

While the average price of food has climbed over the past 100 years, Americans are actually spending far less on groceries than we used to as a portion of our total income.

Where the average American household spends 10.5% of their income on food today, in 1900 most households spent nearly half their annual budget on dinner.

What’s Changed?

Two factors: inflation and prosperity.

During most of the 20th century, inflation tended to impact food less than most other consumer spending categories. At the same time, incomes rose across the board, and Americans could afford better meals.

Today the average U.S. household spends a large chunk of its food budget on groceries ($4,363), but we also spend almost half as much on eating out ($3,365). How much you spend on food also depends on where you live.

City dwellers spend more on everything, but as a percentage of income less on groceries and more on eating out. If you live in the country, groceries are typically cheaper and you eat out less.

But these numbers are skewed by income. City slickers might spend more on food, but less as a proportion of income because they tend to make more money. Whereas rural residents make less but spend approximately 40% less on housing.

You’ve probably been told that if you want to save money, you should eat out less. The question I have is eating out cheaper than cooking at home?

At first glance, cooking doesn’t seem like a budget-friendly move. You have to buy groceries, kitchen supplies, and set aside time and effort. How much do really save?

Three Meals a Day

Let’s imagine you ate out three meals per day. You buy a $10 breakfast, $15 lunch, and $25 dinner, $50 per day.

At home, you could have prepared something similar for maybe $15 in ingredients. But you also have to take into account the time you spent cooking and preparing the meals.

Cooking three meals per day is probably an hour and a half of your time. If you make $20 per hour, that’s $30 in time, not including “hidden costs,” like shopping for ingredients, cleaning up afterwards, hydro, water, gas etc. You’re probably spending $50 on feeding yourself at home in this scenario.

Then why does eating out typically cost more? There are a number of factors but it boils down to a few things: portion size, hidden costs, and frequency.

What isn’t shared in our above scenario is how much food you’re actually getting when you cook at home vs. dining out. Most meals prepared at home yield leftovers, typically 3-4 meals more than the price for one meal out.

Another factor that skyrockets your bill at restaurants is drinks. The hidden cost of cooking at home, like your time, effort, hydro etc. are not there in your drink. It only takes a second to open a bottle of beer or uncork a bottle of wine. Yet you’re paying the price of a six pack for one beer or the price of a bottle for a glass.

Lastly, most people don’t eat out as often as in the scenario above. On average, Americans eat out about four times a week.

The Real Savings of Cooking at Home

The average commercially-prepared meal costs around $13. Even if you split this amount into two meals, $6.50 each, you’d still be spending more per meal than if you were to cook at home.

The average meal prepared at home costs around $4 for groceries — a $9 savings per person per meal. In other words, a $13 restaurant meal is about 325% more expensive than a $4 meal you prepare yourself of the same size.

As I said, most Americans eat out about four times a week. If you make just two of these meals at home, your savings are $936 — almost $1,000 a year.

Imagine what you could do with an extra grand every year. Even if you only skip one meal-out a week, your annual savings are about $500.

How to Make Cooking Easier

  • Find simple, low-cost, healthy recipes — these will be your go-to meals every week.
  • Cook in large batches so you have leftovers for a couple meals. You’ll save time and effort by batching meals this way.
  • Eat breakfast. Breakfast is one of the cheapest meals — take advantage of the savings.
  • Brown bag your lunch. You can save a minimum $500 per year by packing a lunch 2-3 times per week.
  • No time for grocery shopping? Try a meal subscription service. It’s pricier than buying your own ingredients, but still cheaper than most restaurants.
  • Lastly, Take a cooking class. It’ll cost you a bit upfront but you’ll learn invaluable lessons on meal prep that will save you time and money in the future.

Eating out isn’t a bad thing. But doing it too often can definitely hurt your wallet. The next time you think about going out to grab a bite, try some of the tips I’ve recommended above.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

— Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap

The post Turn Up Your Savings by Turning on Your Stove appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Frozen vs. Fresh: Are You Picking the Right One?

This post Frozen vs. Fresh: Are You Picking the Right One? appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

You hear it all the time from Dr. Oz and other medical gurus: Eat more fruits and veggies.

And the USDA recommends five to nine servings each day to help reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer, and early death.

An analysis from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London shows that participants who had 10 servings — 28 ounces — daily experienced a:

  • 24% reduced risk of heart disease
  • 33% reduced risk of stroke
  • 28% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
  • 13% reduced risk of cancer
  • 31% reduction in premature death 

What’s more, they estimated that if everyone followed their recommendations, approximately 7.8 million premature deaths could be prevented worldwide.

Fruits and veggies that you get straight from a farm or your garden generally have the highest nutritional value.

But you might not have access to them or the time for all of that. That leaves you with getting those commodities at your local supermarket. And two of the two most common ways to buy them are…

Fresh and Frozen

You may think that there’s not much difference between the two, except than one is in the fresh produce section while the other is in the same aisle as ice cream, ready-made meals, and cook-at-home pizzas.

But that assumption isn’t exactly correct…

You see, most fresh fruits and vegetables are picked before they’re ripe, which gives them time to fully ripen during transportation.

The problem is that it also means less time to develop a full range of vitamins, minerals, and natural antioxidants.

Before shipping they’re washed, cooled, graded, and blanched in order to preserve the color, flavor, and texture. 

And while in transport, they’re stored in a chilled, controlled atmosphere and treated with chemicals to prevent spoiling. 

Most fresh produce arrives to your market several days to weeks after it is harvested. Then there’s another 1-3 days on display at the market and up to 7 days in your refrigerator before you eat them. So whatever you haven’t used by then you toss out, which is like throwing money in the garbage.

Not so with frozen fruits and veggies…

They’re picked when ripe and often washed, blanched (fruits don’t undergo blanching), cut, frozen, and packaged with a few hours. And chemicals are not usually added before freezing.

Unlike their fresh counterparts, frozen produce can be stored for months without losing nutrients. If you only use a portion, you save what’s left in a sealed bag or container and put it back in the freezer.

No waste.

Frozen produce is so easy to prepare and store, you might end up eating extra servings.

Moreover, frozen is often less expensive than fresh and is available year round.

You may be asking…

What About the Nutrients?

During the time from harvesting and throughout storage, fresh vegetables and fruit can experience substantial nutrient degradation.

For instance, the vitamin C in fresh vegetables starts to decline as soon as they’re picked and continues to do so while in storage. Green peas were found to lose up to half of their vitamin C within 24-48 hours after harvesting.

The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry published the results of a study that analyzed four vitamins in several fruits and vegetables to evaluate the differences between fresh and frozen produce. The commodities tested were: corn, carrots, broccoli, spinach, peas, green beans, strawberries, and blueberries.

The researchers found that the overall vitamin content of the frozen products was comparable to and occasionally higher than that of their fresh counterparts.

The Same Can Apply to Fish…

The American Heart Association says you should eat two, 3½-ounce servings of non-fried fish per week.

The reason: The omega-3 fatty acids found in many types of seafood reduces heart inflammation, helps prevent heart rhythm abnormalities, improves the flexibility of arteries, and helps lower cholesterol.   

Unless you catch it yourself, there’s no such thing as fresh, wild-caught fish. That’s because wild-caught fish is frozen to kill parasites.

However, farm-raised fish is often shipped and sold without being frozen first.

Over 85% of the seafood in our stores is imported. And although it might be labeled fresh, it could have been frozen and then thawed before being placed in the display case. That freezing-thawing process might be repeated over several days until the fish is sold.

But with flash-freezing available on fishing boats, freshly-caught fish can be frozen and processed within hours after being caught keeping it nutritionally intact and fresh longer. And it stays frozen until you thaw, open the vacuum-sealed package, and cook it at home.

On top of that, flash-frozen fish will likely be less expensive than fresh because their shelf life reduces consumer risk and company costs.    

As far as taste goes, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation conducted a survey of consumer preferences for simply-baked fresh black cod and coho salmon vs. frozen. They found that the baked, frozen fish were rated superior or equal to the fresh samples. 

The Bottom Line

Don’t get me wrong; I’m a big fan of fresh fruits and produce that are at our local farmers markets. But I still buy bulk frozen berries and such largely for smoothies, convenience, and cost savings.

So, the next time you’re hankering for juicy strawberries, sweet peaches, or tasty salmon, stop by the frozen food aisle and stock up.

You’ll save money, waste less, and eat some of the healthiest foods in the market.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

— Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap

The post Frozen vs. Fresh: Are You Picking the Right One? appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

5 Tips for Living a Healthy Lifestyle

This post 5 Tips for Living a Healthy Lifestyle appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Living healthy isn’t always cheap.

Everything from gym memberships or personal trainers to buying organic produce comes at a cost. When you’re living on a fixed income as you plan for retirement, you don’t want to be spending a lot of money on what could be considered luxuries.

If you’re not maintaining a healthy lifestyle, you might be limiting your enjoyment of those all-important years after the daily grind is behind you — so how can you find balance?

These tips will help you and your family live a healthy lifestyle while still saving as much as possible for your retirement years.

Elements of Healthy Living

Your metabolism begins to slow down in your mid-30s to mid-40s, making it extremely important to begin watching your food intake at a young age. A slowing metabolism can make it more difficult to lose weight and keep it off, but your body also craves good, quality nutrition so you can feel your best at any age.

Doctors recommend that you implement an exercise routine where you are getting in at least 30 minutes of moderately strenuous activity 3-4 times each week.

This will help keep your joints moving and allow you to hone your strength and flexibility, too. Your diet also needs your attention as you’re entering the second half of your life. Look at ways to cut fats by steaming veggies instead of frying them or changing from starchy to leafy vegetables.

The benefits of healthy living will continue to pay off for years to come, but how can you stick to these principles without breaking the bank?

1. Don’t Skip Your Annual Checkups

The majority of medical insurance plans support an annual checkup at little to no cost. This “healthy visit” to your doctor is your opportunity to stop small problems from becoming expensive health disasters over time.

Don’t be afraid to overshare with your doctor, as many health problems can be resolved much faster and cheaper when you catch them early.

Many health-related issues such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol can be easily controlled with diet, exercise and medication. When you ignore the symptoms of these problems and don’t share them with your physician, they will become much more dangerous to your health over time.

Keep a personal record of your key health statistics such as blood pressure, waist-to-height ratio, cholesterol levels and your A1C (blood sugar) levels. That way, you’ll be able to bring any abnormalities to your physician’s attention at your annual visits.

2. Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Smoking and excessive drinking are two things that can seriously limit the enjoyment of the latter years of your life. Heavy drinking can cause a range of diseases and problems including high blood pressure, liver disease, diabetes and may also interfere with certain medications or limit their effectiveness.

Smoking is not only a habit that can negatively impact your health, but it’s also expensive! The money that you’re spending on the short-term “enjoyment” that you gain from smoking will give you more long-term benefit if you put it directly in your 401(k) or IRA account.

Over time, smoking leads to a higher instance of lung cancer and heart disease — two health challenges that can seriously limit what you can do after your official retirement.

3. Check Labels Carefully

When you’re buying healthy foods, it’s all-too-easy to be seduced into grabbing a healthy name brand item.

However, there are many alternatives to mainstream products — and the majority of them are every bit as good or better than the originals!

Look for discount grocery stores or superstores such as Sam’s or Costco where you can buy certain items in bulk. These warehouses are fantastic places to stock up on expensive vitamins, health and beauty products, healthy veggies and lean meat.

Be careful to check the per-ounce or per-item cost when you’re comparing two products. Packaging size can vary dramatically between manufacturers and lead you to think you’re getting a better deal than you really are.

4. Look for Group Activities

Hiring a personal trainer at the gym may be cost-prohibitive over time, but what about going together with a group for training?

Working out together is fun and will help keep you motivated, plus you’re sharing the cost of training over several individuals or families. You’ll get the same great instruction and even have each other for backup should you forget how to work a specific machine at the gym.

Group activities such as swimming, yoga, pilates and walking are also great ways to stay in shape without costing a fortune. In many cases, you don’t even need an expensive gym membership in order to take advantage of classes in a local community center or senior center.

5. Volunteer

As we near retirement age, there is a natural inclination to slow down just a bit — fight that feeling!

Think about ways that you can give back to the community to stay active. Volunteering at a local hospital or community center is a great way to help others, get a few extra steps in on a weekly basis and also keep your mind sharp without spending a dime.

Plus, you’ll get an extra boost of endorphins from the feel-good excitement of helping others who need your assistance. Besides, isn’t that better than hanging out in front of the television binge-watching Netflix?!?

Healthy aging doesn’t have to be expensive, requiring you to buy expensive gym memberships, purchase high-end organic produce (at least, not always!) and visiting remote day spas.

You can get many of the same benefits simply by moving your body, getting your vitamins in and stopping a few bad habits such as excessive drinking and smoking. 

I hope these tips help give you a little extra push to live a healthier lifestyle.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

— Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap

The post 5 Tips for Living a Healthy Lifestyle appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

7 Easy Ways to Save WITHOUT Coupons

This post 7 Easy Ways to Save WITHOUT Coupons appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Next to housing and transportation, food is one of the biggest household expenses in the U.S. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2016 Consumer Expenditure Survey, the average household spends $7,203 annually on food. The survey breaks this number down even further to include food at home, $4,049, and food away from home, $3,154. 

Notice the numbers are relatively close, despite the fact most people tend to eat at home most of the time. If you want an easy way to save money every month, eat out less! This means buying more groceries. 

The good news is there are some simple ways you can save on groceries that don’t require extreme couponing. Here are 7 ways to save on your next grocery trip without clipping any coupons: 

Choose the Right Store

Unless you live somewhere with very limited options, you likely can choose where you buy your groceries. Figure out which stores offer up the best bang for your buck. 

This might take some trial and error but you should quickly be able to tell which store or stores offer the best deals on certain items. Set aside time once to do this price comparison, and your efforts will pay off at the checkout over and over again. 

Know the Sales Cycles

Once you choose your store or stores, learn the sales cycles. Most supermarkets place items on sale every 12 weeks or so. When you’re shopping and see a really good deal, try to stock up for at least 3 months worth of supply. 

This way you will be finishing your supply come the next sale cycle. Some stores also offer deals on certain days. Mark those days in your calendar or set reminders on your phone so you know when it’s a good time to shop. 

Circle Expensive Items on Your Receipts

The next time you go to the supermarket, hang on to your receipt and circle the most expensive items. Then, consider lower-cost alternatives for those items on future shopping trips.

Take red meat, for instance.

 The average price per pound for sirloin steak is $8.52, according to recent figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Spend less than half of that amount on your protein purchase by going with boneless chicken breasts instead ($3.21 per pound).

Another expensive category is organics. If you prefer buying organic produce, opt for cheaper alternative brands versus brand names. 

Whole Foods’ 365 brand or Walmart’s Great Value brand are significantly less than premium organic brands. Also learn what the dirty dozen and clean fifteen are by searching them online.

Skip Meat Altogether (Sometimes)

I’m not saying you have to become vegetarian. But going meatless once or twice a week has its benefits. First, you’ll save money in the long run. 

Second, you’re not just subtracting from your diet, you’re adding whole grains, lentils, beans, and more vegetables, which all provide health benefits. You’d be surprised how good meatless meals can be if you learn some tasty recipes.

Check Unit Prices

What’s the better buy, the smaller package or the larger one? An easy way to check is to compare the unit prices displayed by most grocery stores, either on a shelf sticker or on the product packaging. 

Unit prices break down the cost by a specific measurement. Meats and seafood are typically by the pound. Liquids are measured in ounces, quarts or gallons. And for non-food items, like say a package of diapers, the unit price is per diaper. 

But, unit prices aren’t uniform — and they’re only mandatory in a few states — so pay close attention to the actual “unit” being measured in the price. As a general rule of thumb, the larger the quantity, the less you pay per unit. But always double check.

Buy Seasonal, Including Frozen 

Fruits and vegetables taste better when they’re in season. So buy fresh seasonal produce when you can. But when produce isn’t in season, it can get expensive. That’s when you look at frozen fruits and vegetables instead.

The good thing about frozen produce is it’s usually harvested at peak ripeness, so you’re getting maximum nutrients. It can also be way cheaper than fresh produce, up to 75% sometimes . So if you have a large family, you can feed them on frozen fruits and veggies for a fraction of the cost. 

Have A Menu Plan

Never go to the grocery store without a plan. You should know what items you’re buying and in what quantities before you walk through the doors. 

Reducing food waste is one of the best ways to save money on food each month. To ensure you don’t waste, write out a menu plan for the week. Do this on Sunday or any day before you go to the supermarket. 

It doesn’t have to be more complicated than this:

Monday – Mexican food (tacos, burrito bowls, enchiladas)

Tuesday – Meatless meal (spaghetti, lentil sloppy joes, etc)

Wednesday – Crockpot meal

Thursday – Leftovers

Friday – Pizza night

Saturday – Surf or turf (steak, salmon, veggies, potatoes, etc)

Sunday – Leftovers

Themes are an easy way to keep things organized but allow room for creativity in your menu. Write out your own menu plan for the week and shop based on the themes.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

— Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap

The post 7 Easy Ways to Save WITHOUT Coupons appeared first on Daily Reckoning.