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How can you take years off your physical and mental age? What choices could make you feel and look better? A few good habits might make a difference.

Eat healthy. Aerobic exercise helps the heart, but it doesn’t necessarily trim the stomach. Eating less
processed food—and less carbohydrates—can promote weight loss, especially as our metabolism slows.
Sodas and beer equal liquid carbs and worthless calories; in contrast, whole grains are the carbs that can
give us nutritious, steady energy. Fruits and green, leafy vegetables that grow above ground are great for
our minds and bodies.

Exercise.  Talk to your doctor about what you can do safely. In addition to light or moderate aerobic
exercise such as biking, walking or yoga, weight-bearing exercise may be recommended as well to keep
your upper body strong and coordinated. Interval training two or three times a week can give you a way to
gently shock your muscles in short workouts.

Have fun and keep your stress level down. In 2016, an American Psychological Association study found
that 24% of Americans were contending with “extreme stress” caused by external pressures. 1 Saying no
instead of yes—and saying yes to fun more often—can provide a safety valve. Diversions aside, meditation
and relaxation techniques can help, such as progressive muscle relaxation (where you focus on making one
muscle group after another less tense) and autogenic relaxation (relaxing by envisioning calming images,
complemented by verbal cues).

Looking and feeling better may mean changing a few behaviors. The changes need not be radical,
but they could certainly be beneficial. Who knows, they may help you add years to your life.

Sources/Disclaimers:
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific
advice or recommendations for any individual.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for individualized legal advice. Please consult your legal
advisor regarding your specific situation. 1 cbsnews.com/news/stress-levels-in-the-u-s-continue-to-increase
Photo by Curtis MacNewton on Unsplash
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In most instances, you become eligible for Medicare on the first day of the month you turn age 65. Whether you need to sign up, and how to go about doing so, depends on the type of coverage you select and whether you collect Social Security benefits prior to becoming eligible for Medicare.

Medicare Part A and Part B

If you are already receiving Social Security benefits before you turn age 65, no sign-up is required for Medicare Part A or Part B. Part A is basic hospital insurance; Part B helps to pay for medically necessary services such as doctor visits or outpatient care. You automatically become eligible on the first day of the month you turn age 65. In most instances, your Medicare card arrives in the mail three months before your 65th birthday. Premiums for Part B (there is no premium for Part A) will be deducted automatically from your Social Security check.

If you are not receiving Social Security benefits, you will be required to sign up for Part A and Part B. Contact your local Social Security office three months in advance of your 65th birthday to start the process.

When You Wait

If you receive medical insurance from another provider (such as your employer or a partner’s employer), you can wait to sign up for Medicare. To avoid paying a higher premium, you will be required to enroll during the eight-month period that begins during the month your employment ends or the group health coverage ends, whichever is first.

If you did not sign up for Part B when you first became eligible and you do not have employer-based coverage, there may be a late enrollment penalty when you do sign up.

Medicare Part C and Part D

Both Medicare Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage, and Part D, which is prescription drug coverage, are provided by private insurers whose plans are approved by Medicare. To learn about plans that may be available to you, log on to www.medicare.gov and click on the “Plan Choices” link on the left.

Medicare Advantage/Medicare Part C frequently provides many services that are also available through Part A and Part B (Original Medicare). You may want to contact several providers of Medicare Part C to learn how their offerings compare with Original Medicare. Certain plans include prescription drug coverage, which means you may not have to purchase Medicare Part D separately.

When to Sign Up

You can sign up for Medicare Part C when you first become eligible for Medicare. You can also sign up between January 1 and March 31 or between November 15 and December 31 each year. If you sign up at the beginning of the year, you can’t join or switch to a plan with prescription drug coverage unless you already had Medicare Part D. If you sign up toward the end of the year, your coverage will begin January 1 of the following year.

You can join Medicare Part D when you initially become eligible for Medicare or between November 15 and December 31 of each calendar year. You typically can join Part C or Part D by filling out a paper application, calling the plan, or enrolling online. Even if you don’t take many prescriptions, you may want to consider signing up for Part D as soon as you become eligible. If you wait and try to sign up during a subsequent enrollment period, you may be charged a late enrollment penalty and be forced to pay higher premiums.

Medicare is an important benefit for many Americans, but there are rules that beneficiaries need to follow. It may be in your best interest to familiarize yourself with these rules to make sure that you capitalize on the benefits available to you.

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Rich Women Rock by Amanda Wurzbach - 5M ago

Have you made a federal student loan payment in the last three months? About 11% of federal student loan borrowers have not and are therefore in default. That default rate only represents the borrowers entering repayment.[1] More than 8.1 million Americans are behind on federal student loan payments. If you risk facing this dilemma, consider these possibilities.

You could rehabilitate your loan. Rehabilitation of a Direct Loan or Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program involves making nine monthly payments within a ten-month period; for a Perkins loan, the period is nine months. Once rehabilitation is complete, the loan is out of default and you are again eligible for different repayment options, forbearance, deferment, loan forgiveness, and additional federal student aid.[2]

You could consolidate your loan(s). This move transfers your debt into a new fixed-interest-rate Direct Consolidation Loan, which you can repay through an income-based plan. Alternately, you can make three straight full monthly payments on time on a defaulted loan and then consolidate it, which allows you to repay the resulting Direct Consolidation Loan under any repayment plan for which you qualify.2

Sources/Disclaimers: This material was prepared for [Name] and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. [1] freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2016/10/02/rate-student-loan-defaults-slowsmichigan/91330184/ [10/2/16] [2] studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/default/get-out [1/15/17]
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Your twenties are the perfect time to save and invest. Do it now, and you will have a great ally—time—on your side. Think about doing the following things if you’re not doing them already.

Put money into a retirement plan. Save and invest through a 401(k), a 403(b), a Roth or traditional Individual Retirement Account, a myRA—whatever is available to you; any taxadvantaged retirement account is better than none. If your employer doesn’t offer one, start an IRA or myRA on your own.

Consider an investment in equities. The market goes up and down, but equities offer you the potential for double-digit yearly returns. From 1951-2016, the average yearly price return of the S&P 500 was 7.4%, and roughly every fifth year saw a gain of 23.5% or more. Please remember, investing in equities involves risk, including the complete loss of principal.[1]

Whittle away at your debts. The less money you owe each month, the more you potentially have to save or invest. You can “pay yourself first” with it, rather than paying those you owe first and yourself second.

Live below your means. Living large and buying expensive “stuff” that depreciates can leave you drowning in debt. Spending sensibly can help you grow your emergency fund, and, by extension, your net worth.

Get help from a financial advisor. This way, you can evaluate your progress and determine how far along you are toward that first million. Making the right decisions now could leave you wealthier in the future.

Sources/Disclaimers: Qualified accounts such as 401ks and Traditional IRA’s are accounts funded with tax deductible contributions in which any earnings are tax deferred until withdrawn, usually after retirement age. Unless certain criteria are met, IRS penalties and income taxes may apply on any withdrawals taken prior to age 59½. RMDs (required minimum distributions) must generally be taken by the account holder within the year after turning 70½ . The Roth IRA offers tax deferral on any earnings in the account. Withdrawals from the account may be tax free, as long as they are considered qualified. Limitations and restrictions may apply. Withdrawals prior to age 59 ½ or prior to the account being opened for 5 years, whichever is later, may result in a 10% IRS penalty tax. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index and cannot be invested into directly. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. [1] usatoday.com/story/money/markets/2017/01/06/what-does-2017-hold-for-the-sp-500-hereswhy-thats-the-wrong-question/96032846/ [1/6/17]
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Good money habits can help you as you save and invest for the future. Bad habits can leave you treading water (or underwater) financially. Here are some to avoid.

Not saving enough. Instead of paying themselves first, some families pay others first. Dollars they could save and invest are instead spent on consumer goods and services they don’t need. Money that could be saved and invested for tomorrow is spent today.

Carrying too much debt. Every effort should be made to reduce the size of credit card bills, student loans, and other consumer debts that risk siphoning money away from the pursuit of your long-range financial objectives.

Investing too conservatively. Equity investments offer the potential for double-digit returns when the markets perform well. From 1951-2016, the average yearly price return of the S&P 500 was 7.4%, and roughly every fifth year saw a gain of 23.5% or more.[1] Fixed-income investments are frequently dependent on interest rates (which are currently very low). Accepting some risk may give an investor a chance for greater reward. Please remember that investing in equities involves risks, including the complete loss of principal. This appropriate mix of equity and fixed income investments is dependent on your specific situation and should be discussed with a financial advisor.

These subtle factors may slow your wealth-building momentum. Why not see where you stand today and gauge the potential positive impact that can come from paying yourself first and adjusting the way you invest?

[1] usatoday.com/story/money/markets/2017/01/06/what-does-2017-hold-for-the-sp-500- hereswhy- thats-the-wrong-question/96032846/ [1/6/17]
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Americans’ financial lives are increasingly complex. It’s not unusual to have checking and savings accounts, a 401(k), IRAs, and other personal investments. Keeping track of all your savings and investments has prompted many individuals to seek guidance. If you are part of this growing majority, you may have already scheduled a meeting with an advisor. To make the most of your time together, keep this premeeting checklist in mind:

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Rich Women Rock by Amanda Wurzbach - 7M ago

As we wind down 2018, I thought this piece from LPL Research was timely and informative.  Please take a few minutes to read.  It’s short and sweet!

As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions.  I wish you all a happy and safe new year.

Annette Findling CFP®

Principal

Stonebridge Wealth Advisors, LLC

980 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 1245

Chicago, IL 60611

Annette.Findling@stonebridgewealthadvisors.com

Securities offered through LPL Financial, member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through HighPoint Advisor Group, a registered investment advisor.  HighPoint Advisor Group and Stonebridge Wealth Advisors are separate entities from LPL.

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Rich Women Rock by Amanda Wurzbach - 7M ago

The greatest benefit of charitable giving is the knowledge that you’ve helped make a difference in the lives of others. At the same time, charitable giving can also provide tax breaks so long as you are aware of some rules and keep track of what you’ve donated.

You’re free to give as much to charity as you like. However, you’ll need to follow IRS rules and keep records of your gifts to claim tax deductions. If your contribution exceeds $250 in value, either in cash, certain property, or out-of-pocket expenses that are attributable to volunteer work, you will need to obtain a written description of your gift. To declare charitable gifts of noncash items worth more than $500 (used clothing, furniture, etc.), you must supply cost and acquisition information for the items given. When claiming single noncash gifts worth more than $5,000 (excluding publicly traded stock), you must include an appraisal of the gift’s value with your tax return.

Direct gifts to charity are just one of the ways you can combine helping a worthy cause with tax benefits. Other options include setting up charitable remainder or charitable lead trusts or setting up a private foundation. Complex rules govern the creation and maintenance of these vehicles. A tax or financial professional can help you understand the rules and show you how a trust or foundation would fit in your financial plan.

What does giving to charity mean to you? Perhaps you think of dropping your change into a can at a local shop or placing a few dollars into a Salvation Army kettle during the holidays. Maybe you’ve bought Girl Scout cookies or donated clothing to a local relief organization. Opportunities for giving surround us each day.

The greatest benefit of charitable giving is the knowledge that you’ve helped make a difference in the lives of others. Charitable giving can also provide tax breaks, if you know how to give and how to keep track of what you’ve donated.

Choosing a Charity

The first step is to identify the organizations you wish to support. If you do a little research, you’ll soon find that there are thousands of charitable organizations to choose from, supporting such causes as environmental protection, curing illness, or improving the lives of children. Start by identifying what’s most important to you.

Next you’ll want to do some research. If you want to claim a tax deduction for your gift, you’ll need to make sure that you’re dealing with a registered charity to satisfy IRS rules. You can begin by contacting your local charity registration office, which is typically a division of your state attorney general’s office. Your local Better Business Bureau (BBB) can also provide information on charities.

Once you’ve got a short list of registered organizations, contact each one and ask for a copy of its annual report. This report explains the charity’s mission, lists its key personnel, and provides a breakdown of how donations are spent. Pay careful attention to marketing and administrative expenses, which can vary widely among organizations. You’ll probably want the majority of your money to go to those who need it. Keep in mind, however, that high expenses related to awareness campaigns are designed to educate the public and increase donations, so they might not be cause for concern.

The BBB Wise Giving Alliance also provides independent evaluations of popular charities. These reports are available online at www.give.org.

Rules for Giving

You’re free to give as much to charity as you like. However, you’ll need to follow IRS rules and keep records of your gifts to claim tax deductions. Monetary contributions are the easiest to report. Always pay by check and make the check payable directly to the charity, not to the person soliciting the contribution or to a donation collection agency. Ask for a receipt and save it along with your canceled check and your bank account statements.

A deduction is no longer allowed for monetary gifts unless accompanied by a bank record or a written receipt from the charity indicating the amount of the contribution, date of the donation, and name of the charity. If your contribution exceeds $250 in value, either in cash, certain property, or out-of-pocket expenses that are attributable to volunteer work, you will also need to obtain a written description of your gift. This description must contain an acknowledgement from the charity of your contribution, a description of noncash items donated, a statement of whether the charity provided goods or services in exchange for the donation, and — if goods or services were provided — a good-faith estimate of their value.

The IRS has ruled that the fair market value of goods and services should be deducted from any charitable contributions used to offset taxes. Keep in mind that fair market value may differ from what you pay for the goods or services offered. A good example of this is the popular practice of selling candy bars. Let’s say that you pay $2 for a candy bar to benefit a local school. The fair market value of the candy is actually 75 cents, were you to purchase it at a local store. That 75 cents is deducted from your contribution, leaving you with a deduction of $1.25. To simplify your tax reporting, it might be best to turn down any goods or services of more than nominal value that a charity offers in exchange for your gift.

E-Giving
The Internet offers a wealth of information on charities and a few ways to make a difference. Some sites to see:

www.networkforgood.org — This site provides an online database of hundreds of thousands of charities and many volunteer opportunities. Users can search the database by ZIP code, type of organization, or keyword. Links are provided to www.guidestar.org, which offers copies of federal tax forms filed by charitable groups that allow users to compare organizations. You can also make contributions by credit card.

www.igive.com — This site allows you to benefit charity by shopping online. Registered users can choose from hundreds of online retailers and have a percentage of each purchase sent to the charity of their choice. iGive currently lists thousands of charitable organizations, including the Red Cross and Special Olympics, and allows you to list registered local organizations.

Noncash Gifts

To declare charitable gifts of certain noncash items worth more than $500 (such as used clothing or furniture), you must supply cost and acquisition information for the items given. When claiming single noncash gifts worth more than $5,000 (excluding publicly traded stock), you must include an appraisal of the gift’s value with your tax return.

Two such gifts to carefully consider are used items and time. Items such as computers and clothing are subject to depreciation over time, so you won’t be able to declare your purchase price as a deduction. Time spent volunteering typically isn’t deductible; however, expenses associated with volunteering, such as transportation and materials, are deductible.

Items with the potential for appreciation are the best gifts for tax-conscious charitable givers. You can avoid capital gains taxes by donating assets that have appreciated in value to charities. Outside of a charitable trust or foundation, this is one of the most effective ways to reduce taxes through charitable contributions. You can donate appreciated stock, artwork, antiques, collectibles, or other noncash items as long as you have owned them for at least one year. You can deduct the full fair market value of the gift from your taxes, and any appreciation will escape taxation.

Consider selling appreciable assets you have owned for a year that have lost value, with the proceeds of the sale donated to charity. This allows you to remove the full fair market value of the assets from your taxes while still claiming a capital loss on the depreciation.

In addition to direct gifts to charity, other options include a charitable remainder or charitable lead trusts or setting up a private foundation. However, complex rules govern the creation and maintenance of these vehicles. Thus, tax and legal advisors are necessary to determine if a trust or foundation is appropriate for your situation.

Charitable donations are an excellent way to reduce your taxes and make a difference in the lives of others. Remember, though, that charitable giving should be a year-round concern, not something you only think about during the holidays or at tax time.

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Rich Women Rock by Amanda Wurzbach - 7M ago

It’s December now…and life is going to start moving awfully quickly in the coming weeks. The winter holiday season is going to start swirling around us – and it will be a candy cane-colored blur before we all come-to on January 2nd.

And while you are thinking about your holiday cocktails – both the dress and the drink varieties – you really need to be consider your 2018 retirement contributions before the clock strikes midnight on December 31.

I highly suggest you MAXING OUT your retirement contributions for 2018 while also starting to plan your commitments for 2019. Here are some guidelines to follow depending on what kind of savings vehicle you use.

For Your 401K

You can contribute up to $18,500 to your 401K if you are under 50 years of age. If you are over 50, you can contribute and extra $6,000 for a total of $24,500 of contributions. In 2019, the maximum contribution is increasing to $19,000 with the catch-up staying the same at $6,000.

Why is this important? Your 401K contribution is tax deductible.  Also, many employers may match at least some of your 401K contribution. I cannot stress this enough. This is free money that your employer is offering you. It would be a shame to leave it on the table, so contribute as much as you can so as to at least max out your employers’ contribution too.

For Your SEP

If you are self employed, you can route your contributions through a SEP plan. (A Simplified Employee Pension plan). This is similar to an IRA and is subject to the same investment, distribution, and roll-over rules as an IRA. You can contribute up to the lesser of 25% of compensation, or $55,000 in 2018 and $56,000 in 2019.

For Your IRA

IF you’re investing in an IRA, the 2018 max is $5,500. If you’re 50 years of age or over, you can contribute even a little more – $6,500 in total – as a catch up provision. IRA contributions are also tax deductible for the year 2018. However, deductions may be limited or even disallowed if you (or if you are married, your spouse) are covered by a retirement plan at work. A full deduction is allowed if you are single and making less than $63,000 a year. Those who are married and filing jointly need to have a combined income of less than $101,000 per year. Above these limits, the allowable deduction is partial, or phased out ($73,000 or more for singles or $121,000 or more for married filing jointly would have deductions disallowed)

For Your Roth IRA

Roth IRAs follow the same contribution rules BUT they are not tax deductible now. (In other words, you’ll pay tax on that money now, but you will not pay any taxes when you withdraw the money at retirement.) *  . A full contribution is allowed if you are single and making less than $120,000 a year. Those who are married and filing jointly need to have a combined income of less than $189,000 per year. After these limits, the allowable contribution is phased out. The contribution levels for 2018 are the same as a traditional IRA. Here’s the beauty of a Roth IRA, you can make your own contributions while also making a contributions to an employer retirement plan.

*Withdrawals from the account may be tax free, as long as they are considered qualified. Withdrawals prior to age 59 ½ or prior to the account being opened for 5 years, whichever is later, may result in a 10% IRS penalty tax.

Finally…

If you’re so good that you’re starting to plan your 2019 contributions (good for you, girl!), enjoy the holidays!

This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax advice. Tax laws and provisions are subject to change. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax advisor.

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As the traditional giving season approaches, there is one important item to add to your to do list: Create a holiday budget. Before the gift shopping and wrapping begins, take control of your wallet through financial preparation. Remember, you can avoid the credit card crunch and the dangerous pitfall of borrowing against your company’s retirement savings plan or IRAs.

Here’s how to establish a holiday wish list and spending budget:

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