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eMagazine – August 2016

August 22nd, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in eMagazine

August2016

Managing Drug Costs

August 22nd, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Financial News

How can households meet the challenge?

shutterstock_183691856Are prescription drug costs burdening your finances? This problem is far too common today. Consider the price tag of some of the drugs used to treat arthritis, hepatitis C, cancer, and multiple sclerosis. A Kaiser Family Foundation study notes that the cost of medications such as Zytiga, Humira, Gleevec, and Revlimid may run anywhere from $4,000-12,000 a year. For the record, Medicare Part D’s catastrophic coverage threshold for prescription medications is currently $4,850 per year (up from $4,700 in 2015).1,2

How can a household try to manage drug costs? There are some approaches that may help.

Shop around & compare Part D plans annually. This year, the Part D recipients who were automatically re-enrolled in their plans faced monthly premiums averaging $41.46, a 13% rise from $36.38 in 2015. As you shop, keep in mind that plans with smaller premiums may have higher out-of-pocket costs. Some plans also limit monthly doses of certain drugs in their coverage, or request patients to try less costly drugs before branded drugs can be prescribed.3

Consider generics. Generic drugs represent nearly 90% of prescriptions written today and can cost 80-90% less than branded therapies. Sometimes generic alternatives are not available, but often they are.3

Stay within the plan network. If you do, you’ll discover that 85% of Part D plans offer preferred in-network pharmacies. If you go out of the network for non-preferred medications, your cost for those medications may rise. That said, shopping around at different pharmacies may yield some savings. Pharmacies located inside big-box retailers sometimes provide amazing savings on commonly prescribed medications.3

Ask a compounding pharmacy if it can make a medication for you. In such an instance, the savings could be substantial.

Ask your doctor if you can reduce your dose. If that is doable, it could mean monthly savings.

Use a pill cutter. Typically, you pay for drugs by the pill rather than the pill strength. A pill cutter (which you can usually pick up for less than $10) can be an avenue to savings. This is true for many prescription drugs.4

Try GoodRx. This app is free for your phone, and you can also visit GoodRx.com on your PC. GoodRx will give you a coupon so you can buy a prescription drug at the price it has negotiated with particular pharmacies in your area. In some cases, the discounts can be as large as 90%.4

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) & Roth IRAs may also be useful. If you do not yet qualify for Medicare coverage, you may have the option to create an HSA, which must be used in conjunction with a high-deductible health plan (the current IRS definition of a high-deductible is $1,300 for individuals and $2,600 for families). In 2016, individuals can put up to $3,350 into an HSA, families up to $6,750; those 55 or older may make an extra $1,000 catch-up contribution to their accounts. HSAs are funded with pre-tax dollars, so the contributions reduce your taxable income. HSA funds may be partly or wholly invested, and they can be withdrawn tax-free as long as they pay for qualified medical expenses. Accumulated HSA funds may be withdrawn and spent for any purpose once the accountholder turns 65; although, withdrawals will be taxed as regular income at that point if not used to pay for qualified health care costs.5

IRS Publication 502 defines the cost of prescription drugs (and insulin) as a qualified medical expense. Qualified medical expenses also include lab fees and the costs of eyeglasses and contact lenses, psychiatric care, and drug and alcohol rehab programs.5,6

If you are already a Medicare recipient, one unheralded approach is to use Roth IRA funds to help meet drug costs. Roth IRA withdrawals are voluntary if you are the original owner of the IRA, and they may be made tax-free if you follow IRS rules. Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from traditional IRAs represent taxable income, and those RMDs could put you in a higher tax bracket and even prompt a Medicare surcharge.3

Lastly, see your doctor on a regular basis. A routine checkup could alert you and your primary care physician to what could become a chronic ailment. If treated early, that ailment could possibly be allayed, even overcome. Undetected or untreated, it could result in a long-term health problem with long-run financial impact.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., 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. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. 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. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – benefitspro.com/2015/12/09/seniors-face-enormous-out-of-pocket-prescription-c [12/9/15]
2 – medicare.gov/part-d/costs/catastrophic-coverage/drug-plan-catastrophic-coverage.html [8/8/16]
3 – fool.com/retirement/2016/08/07/7-strategies-to-lower-your-medicare-prescription-d.aspx [8/7/16]
4 – vitality101.com/health-a-z/8-ways-to-slash-the-price-of-your-meds [6/8/16]
5 – investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/010516/how-effectively-utilize-health-saving-accounts.asp [1/5/16]
6 – tinyurl.com/zr2fmo7 [8/8/16]

This Company Has Built a Profile on Every American Adult

August 19th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Financial News

shutterstock_123604057Forget telephoto lenses and fake mustaches: The most important tools for America’s 35,000 private investigators are database subscription services. For more than a decade, professional snoops have been able to search troves of public and nonpublic records—known addresses, DMV records, photographs of a person’s car—and condense them into comprehensive reports costing as little as $10. Now they can combine that information with the kinds of things marketers know about you, such as which politicians you donate to, what you spend on groceries, and whether it’s weird that you ate in last night, to create a portrait of your life and predict your behavior.

IDI, a year-old company in the so-called data-fusion business, is the first to centralize and weaponize all that information for its customers. The Boca Raton, Fla., company’s database service, idiCORE, combines public records with purchasing, demographic, and behavioral data. Chief Executive Officer Derek Dubner says the system isn’t waiting for requests from clients—it’s already built a profile on every American adult, including young people who wouldn’t be swept up in conventional databases, which only index transactions. “We have data on that 21-year-old who’s living at home with mom and dad,” he says.

Dubner declined to provide a demo of idiCORE or furnish the company’s report on me. But he says these personal profiles include all known addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses; every piece of property ever bought or sold, plus related mortgages; past and present vehicles owned; criminal citations, from speeding tickets on up; voter registration; hunting permits; and names and phone numbers of neighbors. The reports also include photos of cars taken by private companies using automated license plate readers—billions of snapshots tagged with GPS coordinates and time stamps to help PIs surveil people or bust alibis.

IDI also runs two coupon websites, allamericansavings.com and samplesandsavings.com, that collect purchasing and behavioral data. When I signed up for the latter, I was asked for my e-mail address, birthday, and home address, information that could easily link me with my idiCORE profile. The site also asked if I suffered from arthritis, asthma, diabetes, or depression, ostensibly to help tailor its discounts.

Users and industry analysts say the addition of purchasing and behavioral data to conventional data fusion outmatches rival systems in terms of capabilities—and creepiness. “The cloud never forgets, and imperfect pictures of you composed from your data profile are carefully filled in over time,” says Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates, a consulting firm. “We’re like bugs in amber, completely trapped in the web of our own data.”

When logging in to IDI and similar databases, a PI must select a permissible use for a search under U.S. privacy laws. The Federal Trade Commission oversees the industry, but PI companies are largely expected to police themselves, because a midsize outfit may run thousands of searches a month.

Dubner says most Americans have little to fear. As examples, he cites idiCORE uses such as locating a missing person and nabbing a fraud or terrorism suspect.

IDI, like much of the data-fusion industry, traces its lineage to Hank Asher, a former cocaine smuggler and self-taught programmer who began fusing sets of public data from state and federal governments in the early 1990s. After Sept. 11, law enforcement’s interest in commercial databases grew, and more money and data began raining down, says Julia Angwin, a reporter who wrote about the industry in her 2014 book, Dragnet Nation.

Asher died suddenly in 2013, leaving behind his company, the Last One (TLO), which credit bureau TransUnion bought in bankruptcy for $154 million. Asher’s disciples, including Dubner, left TLO and eventually teamed up with Michael Brauser, a former business partner of Asher’s, and billionaire health-care investor Phillip Frost. In May 2015, after a flurry of purchases and mergers, the group rebranded its database venture as IDI.

Besides pitching its databases to big-name PIs (Kroll, Control Risks), law firms, debt collectors, and government agencies, IDI says it’s also targeting consumer marketers. The 200-employee company had revenue of about $40 million in its most recent quarter and says 2,800 users signed up for idiCORE in the first month after its May release. It declined to provide more recent figures. The company’s data sets are growing, too. In December, Frost helped underwrite IDI’s $100 million acquisition of marketing profiler Fluent, which says it has 120 million profiles of U.S. consumers. In June, IDI bought ad platform Q Interactive for a reported $21 million in stock.

IDI may need Frost’s deep pockets for a while. The PI industry’s three favorite databases are owned by TransUnion and media giants Reed Elsevier and Thomson Reuters. “There’s no shortage,” says Chuck McLaughlin, chairman of the board of the World Association of Detectives, which has about 1,000 members. “The longer you’re in business, the more data you have, the better results.” He uses TLO and Tracers Information Specialists.

Steve Rambam, a PI who hosts Nowhere to Hide on the Investigation Discovery channel, says marketing data remains a niche monitoring tool compared with social media, but its power can be unparalleled. “You may not know what you do on a regular basis, but I know,” Rambam says. “I know it’s Thursday, you haven’t eaten Chinese food in two weeks, and I know you’re due.”

—With Olga Kharif

The bottom line: IDI’s marketing databases may help PIs predict people’s moves or digitally peek into their cars or medicine cabinets.

Privacy and the Internet

August 19th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

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The Internet is an amazing superhighway of information, but there is some knowledge that most people want to keep private. To protect yourself and your family against Internet predators wishing to obtain your personal information, it is wise to understand the various ways in which your privacy can be breached.

Phishing Spam

Internet predators use phony emails and pop-up messages as bait to hook unsuspecting computer users into divulging personal information. Then, they use your personal information to steal your identity.

To protect against phishing spam:

  • Be skeptical of urgent email requests for personal or financial information.
  • Only email personal or financial information to secure websites that start with https://.
  • Install anti-virus software on your computer and make sure it remains up to date.

Spyware

When downloading free items on the Internet, you also run the risk of downloading software called spyware that tracks your Internet usage activity. To combat spyware, install anti-spyware software that protects your computer against these harmful download add-ons.

Cookies

Cookies are placed on your computer every time you visit a website. They store information about your computer preferences and personal details and retrieve it later.

To combat cookies, reconfigure your browser to accept, block or individually approve cookies.

Helpful Hints

Spam, or electronic junk mail, is not only annoying, it is also dangerous for your computer. In fact, many computer viruses are transmitted via email and infect the computer’s hard drive once emails are opened.

To reduce the amount of spam that you receive, download an anti-spam software program and keep it up to date.

©2008, 2013, 2016 Zywave, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

When Is Social Security Income Taxable?

August 19th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Financial News

The answer depends on your income.

shutterstock_69616960Your Social Security income could be taxed. That may seem unfair, or unfathomable. Regardless of how you feel about it, it is a possibility.

Seniors have had to contend with this possibility since 1984. Social Security benefits became taxable above certain yearly income thresholds in that year. Frustratingly for retirees, these income thresholds have been left at the same levels for 32 years.1

Those frozen income limits have exposed many more people to the tax over time. In 1984, just 8% of Social Security recipients had total incomes high enough to trigger the tax. In contrast, the Social Security Administration estimates that 52% of households receiving benefits in 2015 had to claim some of those benefits as taxable income.1

Only part of your Social Security income may be taxable, not all of it. Two factors come into play here: your filing status and your combined income.

Social Security defines your combined income as the sum of your adjusted gross income, any non-taxable interest earned, and 50% of your Social Security benefit income. (Your combined income is actually a form of modified adjusted gross income, or MAGI.)2

Single filers with a combined income from $25,000-$34,000 and joint filers with combined incomes from $32,000-$44,000 may have up to 50% of their Social Security benefits taxed.2

Single filers whose combined income tops $34,000 and joint filers with combined incomes above $44,000 may see up to 85% of their Social Security benefits taxed.2

What if you are married and file separately? No income threshold applies. Your benefits will likely be taxed no matter how much you earn or how much Social Security you receive.2

You may be able to estimate these taxes in advance. You can use an online calculator (a Google search will lead you to a few such tools), or the worksheet in IRS Publication 915.2

You can even have these taxes withheld from your Social Security income. You can choose either 7%, 10%, 15%, or 25% withholding per payment. Another alternative is to make estimated tax payments per quarter, like a business owner does.2

Did you know that 13 states also tax Social Security payments? North Dakota, Minnesota, West Virginia, and Vermont use the exact same formula as the federal government to calculate the degree to which your Social Security benefits may be taxable. Nine other states use more lenient formulas: Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and Utah.2

What can you do if it appears your benefits will be taxed? You could explore a few options to try and lessen or avoid the tax hit, but keep in mind that if your combined income is far greater than the $34,000 single filer and $44,000 joint filer thresholds, your chances of averting tax on Social Security income are slim. If your combined income is reasonably near the respective upper threshold, though, some moves might help.

If you have a number of income-generating investments, you could opt to try and revise your portfolio, so that less income and tax-exempt interest are produced annually.

A charitable IRA gift may be a good idea. You can make one if you are 70½ or older in the year of the donation. You can endow a qualified charity with as much as $100,000 in a single year this way. The amount of the gift may be used to fully or partly satisfy your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD), and the amount will not be counted in your adjusted gross income.3

You could withdraw more retirement income from Roth accounts. Distributions from Roth IRAs and Roth workplace retirement plan accounts are tax-exempt as long as you are age 59½ or older and have held the account for at least five tax years.4

Will the income limits linked to taxation of Social Security benefits ever be raised? Retirees can only hope so, but with more baby boomers becoming eligible for Social Security, the IRS and the Treasury stand to receive greater tax revenue with the current limits in place.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., 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. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. 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. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – ssa.gov/policy/docs/issuepapers/ip2015-02.html [12/15]
2 – fool.com/retirement/general/2016/04/30/is-social-security-taxable.aspx [4/30/16]
3 – kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T051-C001-S003-how-to-limit-taxes-on-social-security-benefits.html [7/16]
4 – irs.gov/retirement-plans/retirement-plans-faqs-on-designated-roth-accounts [1/26/16]

August 2016 – Monthly Economic Update

August 19th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Monthly Economic Update

August, 2016 - Monthly Economic Update

7 Underrated Powers of Middle Children

August 19th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

“Middle child syndrome” describes the feelings of neglect and isolation thought to afflict many middle-born children. But recent research shows that this “syndrome” a total myth; in fact, middle children develop personality traits that help them succeed in jobs and relationships even quicker than older and younger siblings.

Middle children are natural negotiators

shutterstock_146935571Every child in the birth order has their gambits: The elder child has natural clout among parents and siblings, the younger has whining and sympathy on her side, and the middle must learn to negotiate between the two—by any means necessary. “Middle-borns are the most willing to wheel and deal,” notes Frank Sulloway, PhD. As a result of literally being in the middle of most sibling disputes, many middle children learn to become patient, diplomatic, good listeners, and able to see arguments from multiple sides. Their voice is rarely the loudest—but often the most persuasive. Here’s what birth order theory can predict about your health.

Middle children are team players

Unlike older siblings, middle children are born into a world of sharing; from day one, middles must share their space, their time, their parents’ affection and, perhaps most importantly, their toys with at least one other child. Because of this, middles learn strong sharing and collaboration skills with little provocation and, as a study in the The Journal of Genetic Psychology notes, middle children tend to do better in group situations than older and younger siblings.

Middle children make the best friends

Because middle children often do receive less attention from their immediate family, they are more likely to seek strong relationships elsewhere. “As a middle child, you are likely to pick an intimate circle of friends to represent your extended family,” writes behavior and parenting expert Gail Gross, PhD. “This family of your choice is your compensation [for the lack of attention in your own home].” Friends of middles will thus benefit from a long, loyal relationship, founded on genuine compassion rather than convenience. Don’t miss these heartwarming quotes about best friends.

Middle children have small egos

Because of their lack of attention at home, some middles have been shown to develop a lower sense of self-esteem than their siblings. While this can be seen as a weakness, there are powerful strengths on the flip-side: For one, middles are shown todeal with rejection much better than their siblings, and are also noted for having smaller egos. All this taken together leads to a powerful conclusion…

Middle children make strong leaders

Middle children are uniquely privileged to learn from their older siblings while simultaneously serving as role models to their younger siblings. This dual nature of student and teacher creates strong empathy, negotiating skills, and flexibility—all powerful tools for leaders. You might not be surprised that more than half (52 percent) of U.S. presidents have been middle children, including Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy.

Middle children make great partners

According to Katrin Schumann, co-author of The Secret Power of Middle Children, friendship and leadership are only two of many ‘ships that middles are born to captain; relationships are another. “An Israeli marital happiness survey shows that middles are the happiest and most satisfied in relationships,” Schumann tells Psychology Today. This may be because middle children naturally favor compromise over conflict, and are often in tune with the needs of others. Much like their friendships, middle children’s relationships tend to be long-lasting—and loyal.

Middle children thrive among their own kind

Full disclosure, now that we’ve come this far together: I am a middle child, my best friend is a middle child, and my partner is a middle child. Science says that’s totally normal. Per a 2009 study from the Journal of Individual Psychology, middle children tend to grow romantic relationships with other middle children. This could be attributed to the high-empathy, low-ego combo many middles exhibit—but I like to think it’s just because middle children are awesome people. Now, could I share any of my toys with you?

Source: rd.com

5 Hacks To Improve Your Memory

August 19th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

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Your memory is a critical part of your mental health, and the fear of losing your memory leaves many people desperate to maintain theirs. Although memory tends to leave with age, that is not an inevitable result of aging. Someone who takes the time to strengthen and refine their memory will find it stays with them well into old age. Here are five hacks to improve your memory.

1. Get sufficient sleep

An excellent way to keep your mind healthy is to make sure it’s well-rested. Sleep deprivation can ruin any mental progress you’ve developed, and make you more sluggish.

Sleeping is a critical part of the memory-building process. Without sleep, your memories are unable to consolidate, and you’ll likely forget what you’ve learned fairly soon. If you can’t consolidate your memories, you won’t be able to recall them later. Scientists think that the hippocampus and neocortex are critical in developing memory during sleep, theorizing that the hippocampus will replay the events of the day in your head, and the neocortex stores them through this process for future use.

2. Get your fats in

The brain is made of 60 percent fat, and uses 20 percent of your daily intake in calories. Although a balanced diet is good for your health overall, it is especially critical for your brain to get the amount of healthy fats it needs to maintain itself.

Healthy fats, such as monounsaturated fats, help maintain your brain function and keep everything in working order, which protects your memory. Omega-3 fatty acids, which our bodies do not produce naturally, are particularly helpful for brain function, and can be found in multiple sources outside of fish foods.

Along with maintaining memory, consuming healthy fats also helps fight mental illness such as depression and bipolar disorder. Saturated fats are often referred to with scare quotes, but they’re one of the main components of brain cells. Eating saturated fats decreases your risk of dementia and helps keep your brain functioning well.

4. Socialize with friends

Regular social interaction helps stave off mental illness as well. Studies have found socializing just as effective as mental exercises in stimulating your brain and strengthening your memory. A lack of socialization becomes a lack of interest and interaction with your brain, and can lead to depression and other mental health disorders. Socializing, however, stimulates multiple different parts of your brain.

A conversation offers you multiple chances to recall thoughts, use logic and critical thinking, experience emotional connections and reinforce knowledge. If you find yourself going throughout the day without talking to anyone, you’ll have less activity to keep your brain active and less emotional excitement to keep it happy.

5. Give your brain regular exercise

An excellent way to maintain your memory is to keep your brain active. Logic puzzles and mind games help keep your memory sharp. A good brain activity that helps maintain memory will teach you something new and challenge you. The human brain is highly malleable, so brain teasers and puzzles are excellent tools for strengthening your brain capabilities and lengthening your memory.

Learning something really mentally challenging, like learning tocount cards, is a more difficult task and a significant feat of memory training. Remember, once you’ve adjusted to a certain level of difficulty in your brain exercises, you have to push for harder levels – otherwise, your progress stagnates and you’re no longer stretching and expanding your mental capabilities.

The purpose of mind games is to create new pathways, which need to be reinforced with regular thinking and brain exercise. The more neural pathways you develop, the more you are developing and expanding your memory, and reinforcing them with repeated effort makes them more stable and long-lasting.

6. Get plenty of physical exercise

It’s not just your brain you have to exercise to maintain memory – it’s your whole body. Regular aerobic exercise increases the size of your hippocampus, which is critical in memory development and maintenance. Exercise reduces inflammation and stimulates growth factors that help develop memory. It helps increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain, and also releases stress and naturally exhausts your energy, which helps you get a better night’s sleep.

Physical activity is great for your body, but it also helps your brain grow. Maintaining the health of your brain cells means maintaining the functions that create and preserve memory.

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 75.6 million people will be living with dementia by 2030, and 135.5 million people will be living with dementia in 2050.

But dementia is not a normal part of aging. It’s a side effect of poor brain health, and you can avoid becoming afflicted by taking proactive steps to protect your brain. These tips to improve your memory will help you fight mental illness and maintain a long memory over a long life.

Source: lifehack.org
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