Money Management 101 for Single Parents Going it Alone

1. Determine What You Owe

As the head of the household, it’s up to you to make sure that your entire family’s needs are being met. In order to do that, you need to be extremely diligent when it comes to money management basics. This is not something that will happen by accident. Instead, you must plan for it and work toward it.

The first step is to set up your “office.” Gather all of your bills, a calculator, a pencil, and your checkbook.

I would also recommend that you grab an old binder that you can use to keep track of your financial data and a shoebox for storing paid bills.

Now you’re ready to begin:

  • Go through all of your bills, and pay anything that is due within the next week.
  • If you have bills coming due that you cannot pay, notify the company and ask them to set up a payment plan with you.
  • Print a copy of the chart “Paying Down My Debts” or make your own.
  • On the chart, list all of your debts, including any car loans, student loans, and credit card debt.
  • In addition, list the total balance left to be paid on all of these debts, and the percentage rate you are paying.
  • For now, leave the fourth column of the chart blank, and store it in your “Financial Data” binder.

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2. Eliminate Joint Debt

Before we create a plan for paying down your debt, it’s important to consider some special circumstances that may apply to you as a single parent. I asked LaToya Irby, Credit/Debt Management Expert, to share her expertise on handling joint debt:

Wolf: Let’s say a single mom still shares a credit card with her ex. What should she do?

Irby: Ideally, she would want her ex to transfer his portion of any joint balances onto his own credit card. That way, everyone is paying for their own debt.

Wolf: What about leaving both names on the account, and agreeing to pay part of the amount due? Is that ever advisable?

Irby: No. If you’ve made an agreement with your ex to split the debt payments on accounts that include your name, and your ex-misses a payment, it’s going to hurt your credit. If the ex-fails to pay altogether, the creditors and collectors will come after you. Not even a divorce decree can change the terms of a joint credit card agreement. In the credit card issuer’s eyes, you’re just as much responsible for post-divorce accounts as before.

Wolf: What about situations when a couple’s divorce decree mandates that one individual must pay off the joint credit card debt, but that person fails to do it?

Irby: You can always file contempt of court papers against him/her, but in the meantime, your credit score suffers. So I suggest paying off the debt to save your credit. If you can’t afford to pay the debt, at least make minimum payments to keep a positive payment history on your credit report.

Wolf: What about other accounts, such as utilities and cell phones?

Irby: The safest thing to do, if you have a service in your ex’s name, is to turn off the account and reestablish service in your name.

 

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3. Find Money to Pay Down Debt

Another thing we have to do before creating a plan to pay down your existing debt is to find money in your budget each month. To assist in this step, I contacted Erin Huffstetler, Frugal Living Expert.

Wolf: How much money do you think the average person can uncover just by being more intentional about spending and budgeting?

Huffstetler: The average person could easily uncover an extra $250 a month—and probably much more.

Wolf: What are the top 5 areas that you think people should look to first when they’re trying to cut their expenses?

Huffstetler:

  • Food spending (both groceries and eating out)
  • TV-related expenses (cable/satellite services, certainly; but also movie subscriptions and rentals)
  • Phone services (particularly extras like call waiting, caller id, long distance, and cell phones)
  • Insurance premiums
  • Miscellaneous spending (all those small amounts spent on coffee, vending machine snacks, and other indulgences)

Wolf: How can single parents, specifically, stretch their child support dollars and reduce child-related expenses?

Huffstetler: For single parents looking to stretch their child support dollars, creativity is the key. Look to children’s consignment shops and thrift stores to buy your kids’ clothes instead of department stores; sign them up for Parks and Rec-run activities instead of privately-run activities (which will always cost more); and don’t feel like you have to make up for being a single parent by buying them extra things—it’s you they need, not stuff.

 

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4. Pay Off Your Debt

The next step is creating a schedule for paying down your debt:

  1. Pay off the debts that charge you the highest interest first.Bob Hammond, author of Life Without Debt, recommends that you pay off the debts that are charging you the highest interest first since borrowing from those creditors is costing you the most money. “Concentrate on paying off the high-cost debts as soon as possible,” Hammond advises. LaToya Irby, Credit/Debt Management Expert, agrees. “Highest interest rate debts cost the most money, especially when those debts have high balances. So you’ll save money on interest charges when you pay off those high-interest rate debts first.”However, there are exceptions to this general rule. Irby notes, “If you’re likely to get discouraged because it’s taking a long time to pay off that high-interest rate debt, you can start with the lowest balance debt. Getting some small debts paid off will motivate you to keep going.”
  2. Pay more than the minimum payment. Aim for paying more than the suggested minimum payment, in order to pay off your debts as quickly as possible.Miriam Caldwell, Money in Your 20’s Expert, shares this advice:
    • Choose one debt to focus on.
    • Increase your payment on that debt by as much as you can.
    • Once you have paid off that debt, move all that you are paying on it to the next debt you want to pay off.
    • You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can get out of debt with this plan!
  3. Meanwhile, continue to pay the minimum balance due on all of your other debts.Record what you intend to pay toward each debt on the debt chart you made in Step 1.

 

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5. Budget Your Monthly Expenses

Now that you know where you stand financially, and you’ve created a plan for paying down your debts, it’s time to make sure that you’re making any other necessary adjustments so that you can keep up with your plan. And this means creating a budget.

I know this can be intimidating, but I’m going to make a suggestion for you: Sign up for Mint.com. It’s a free financial software program available on the Internet, and it will basically do your budgeting for you. It will create a visual pie chart showing how much you’re spending each month on housing, gas, food, entertainment, and more. This way, if it turns out that you’re spending a lot more on food than you really should, you can begin to make the necessary adjustments to get your spending under control.

If you would prefer to create your budget the traditional way, allotting a certain amount of money to each spending category, I’ve created an online budget calculator you can use, which includes categories for child support and other details specific to your life as a single parent.

Finally, in taking a look at where your money really goes each month, it’s important to know approximately how much money you “should” be spending in each category. Generally speaking, your net spendable income (after taxes) should be allocated as follows*:

  • Housing: 30%
  • Food: 12%
  • Auto: 14%
  • Insurance: 5%
  • Debt: 5%
  • Entertainment: 7%
  • Clothing: 6%
  • Savings: 5%
  • Medical/Dental: 4%
  • Miscellaneous: 7%
  • Child Care: 5%
  • Investments: 5%

 

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6. Set Financial Goals

Now that you’ve worked out a plan to pay down your debt, and you’ve created a budget, it’s time to determine your needs moving forward.

Specifically, as a single parent, you need to ask yourself some questions, such as:

  • Do you need to file for child support?
  • Do you need to get a higher-paying job?
  • Is it time to think about going back to school?
  • Do you need to consider moving into a home/rental that would reduce your overall monthly payments?
  • Are there alternatives, such as taking on another job or splitting expenses with another single parent family, that you need to consider at this point?

One of the things that I want you to know is that the ball is in your court. You determine where this goes from here on out. But unfortunately, you can’t do that if you’re ignoring your financial health, right?

So the fact that you’ve come this far in the process of getting a handle on your finances tells me that you’re determined to make the changes you need to make in order to provide for your family’s future.

So go ahead and ask yourself these questions. So much of single parenting is learning to roll with the punches and be creative in the face of adversity. If, indeed, you need to make some pretty major changes, now is the time to do it. Don’t incur any more debt where you are. Be resourceful, follow through, and do what you need to do to turn your financial situation around.

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7. Increase Your Net Worth

The next step is to determine your net worth and begin adding to it.

Determine Your Net Worth:

Your net worth is what you own minus what you owe. Programs such as Mint.com, Quicken, and Microsoft Money will calculate your net worth for you, automatically.

You can also determine your net worth simply by adding up all that you own, including all of your investments, the equity you may have paid into your home, the value of your car, and any other assets you possess; and subtracting what you owe in remaining debts.

Set Up a Savings Account:

Once you know where you stand, you’ll be ready to set up a savings account. You can do this through your regular bank, or begin investing in a mutual fund that pays interest.

Even if you can only afford to set aside $25 or $50 per month, it will begin to add up.

Before you know it, you’ll have an emergency savings plan in place, to protect you in the event that your car breaks down, or your home needs a major repair.

In addition, this regular savings will help you increase your net worth over time.

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8. Become Even More Frugal

Unfortunately, all of the work you’ve already done in steps 1-7 will have little lasting value if you don’t change your attitude toward money. Now is the time to become even more frugal and learn to live within your means.

Practice Discipline:

Stop imagining that more money is going to pour in tomorrow—through finally collecting on unpaid child support, winning the lottery, or getting a promotion. If those things happen, great! You’ll be even better off. But living as if they’re going to happen is causing you to spend money you don’t have.

Instead, force yourself to make purchases with cash only. Do not continue to pay outrageous interest payments toward credit cards for purchases you don’t absolutely need. You can get by without that new furniture, right? What else could you skip, in the interest of spending only what you have right now in the bank?

Try These Ideas:

  • Check Freecycle before you make another major purchase. Someone else may be giving away the very thing you’d like to buy!
  • When you’re getting ready to buy something specific, look for it on eBay first. I buy a lot of my clothes, new-with-tags, through online auctions!
  • Forget trying to keep up with “The Jones’s.” You already know your value; don’t get caught up trying to “prove” your worth to others by having “just the right” house, car, or appearance.
  • Do not use shopping, ever, to appease your emotions.
  • Finally, when you do go to make a big purchase, step back and give yourself a few days–or even a week–to think about it. There’s no reason to suffer through buyer’s remorse and try to justify to yourself purchases that you really can’t afford. Think it over carefully and make those purchases, when necessary, with cash.

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9. Schedule Your Own Weekly Financial Check-In

Grab your calendar and schedule a weekly financial update meeting with yourself. This is an extremely important step in managing your personal finances, and it’s one that you need to continue each and every week. During your “meeting” time:

  • Pay any bills that are due.
  • If your bank statement has arrived, take the time to balance your checkbook.
  • Check the balances of your checking and savings accounts.
  • Update your debt list to incorporate any recent payments.
  • This is also a good time to write out your grocery shopping list and check what’s on sale at your local grocery store this week (either using the store’s Web site or the sales circular that comes in the newspaper).
  • Finally, also make note of any upcoming expenses you need to anticipate and plan for.

An attitude of gratitude and finances.

 

 

References:
Irby, LaToya. Email interview. 24 Oct. 2008, 
Huffstetler, Erin. Email interview. 24 Oct. 2008. 
Sources:
Caldwell, Miriam. Email interview. 27 Oct. 2008, Hammond, Bob. “Debt Free Key: 10 Steps for Coping With Credit Problems.” Life Without Debt. Franklin Lakes, NJ: Career Press, 1995. 31-32, Irby, LaToya. Email interview. 24 Oct. 2008. 
“Spending Plan Online Calculator.” Crown Financial Ministries. 11 Oct. 2008.

Written By: Jennifer Wolf

Source: thebalance

 

 

 

Nine Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs

Have you ever thought about striking out on your own? After all, being your own boss can be an exciting prospect. However, owning a business isn’t for everyone. To be a successful entrepreneur, you must have — or develop — certain personality traits. Here are nine characteristics you should ideally possess to start and run your own business:

1. Motivation

Entrepreneurs are enthusiastic, optimistic and future-oriented. They believe they’ll be successful and are willing to risk their resources in pursuit of profit. They have high energy levels and are sometimes impatient. They are always thinking about their business and how to increase their market share. Are you self-motivated enough to do this, and can you stay motivated for extended periods of time? Can you bounce back in the face of challenges?

2. Creativity and Persuasiveness

Successful entrepreneurs have the creative capacity to recognize and pursue opportunities. They possess strong selling skills and are both persuasive and persistent. Are you willing to promote your business tirelessly and look for new ways to get the word out about your product or service?

3. Versatility 

Company workers can usually rely on a staff or colleagues to provide service or support. As an entrepreneur, you’ll typically start out as a “solopreneur,” meaning you will be on your own for a while. You may not have the luxury of hiring a support staff initially. Therefore, you will end up wearing several different hats, including secretary, bookkeeper and so on. You need to be mentally prepared to take on all these tasks at the beginning. Can you do that?

4. Superb Business Skills 

Entrepreneurs are naturally capable of setting up the internal systems, procedures and processes necessary to operate a business. They are focused on cash flow, sales and revenue at all times. Successful entrepreneurs rely on their business skills, know-how and contacts. Evaluate your current talents and professional network. Will your skills, contacts and experience readily transfer to the business idea you want to pursue?

5. Risk Tolerance

Launching any entrepreneurial venture is risky. Are you willing to assume that risk? You can reduce your risk by thoroughly researching your business concept, industry and market. You can also test your concept on a small scale. Can you get a letter of intent from prospective customers to purchase? If so, do you think customers would actually go through with their transaction?

6. Drive 

As an entrepreneur, you are in the driver’s seat, so you must be proactive in your approaches to everything. Are you a doer — someone willing to take the reins — or would you rather someone else do things for you?

7. Vision

One of your responsibilities as founder and head of your company is deciding where your business should go. That requires vision. Without it, your boat will be lost at sea. Are you the type of person who looks ahead and can see the big picture?

8. Flexibility and Open-Mindedness

While entrepreneurs need a steadfast vision and direction, they will face a lot of unknowns. You will need to be ready to tweak any initial plans and strategies. New and better ways of doing things may come along as well. Can you be open-minded and flexible in the face of change?

9. Decisiveness

As an entrepreneur, you won’t have room for procrastination or indecision. Not only will these traits stall progress, but they can also cause you to miss crucial opportunities that could move you toward success. Can you make decisions quickly and seize the moment?

 

 

 

Written By: Ruchira Agrawal
Source: Monster

14 Things Ridiculously Successful People Do Every Day

Having close access to ultra-successful people can yield some pretty incredible information about who they really are, what makes them tick, and, most importantly, what makes them so successful and productive.

“Whenever you see a successful person, you only see the public glories, never the private sacrifices to reach them.” – Vaibhav Shah

Kevin Kruse is one such person. He recently interviewed over 200 ultra-successful people, including 7 billionaires, 13 Olympians, and a host of accomplished entrepreneurs. One of his most revealing sources of information came from their answers to a simple open-ended question:

“What is your number one secret to productivity?”

In analyzing their responses, Kruse coded the answers to yield some fascinating suggestions. What follows are some of my favorites from Kevin’s findings.

1. They focus on minutes, not hours. Most people default to hour and half-hour blocks on their calendar; highly successful people know that there are 1,440 minutes in every day and that there is nothing more valuable than time. Money can be lost and made again, but time spent can never be reclaimed. As legendary Olympic gymnast Shannon Miller told Kevin, “To this day, I keep a schedule that is almost minute by minute.” You must master your minutes to master your life.

2. They focus on only one thing. Ultra-productive people know what their “Most Important Task” is and work on it for one to two hours each morning, without interruptions. What task will have the biggest impact on reaching your goals? What accomplishment will get you promoted at work? That’s what you should dedicate your mornings to every day.

3. They don’t use to-do lists. Throw away your to-do list; instead schedule everything on your calendar. It turns out that only 41% of items on to-do lists ever get done. All those undone items lead to stress and insomnia because of the Zeigarnik effect, which, in essence, means that uncompleted tasks will stay on your mind until you finish them. Highly productive people put everything on their calendar and then work and live by that calendar.

4. They beat procrastination with time travel. Your future self can’t be trusted. That’s because we are time inconsistent. We buy veggies today because we think we’ll eat healthy salads all week; then we throw out green rotting mush in the future. Successful people figure out what they can do now to make certain their future selves will do the right thing. Anticipate how you will self-sabotage in the future, and come up with a solution today to defeat your future self.

5. They make it home for dinner. Kevin first learned this one from Intel’s Andy Grove, who said, “There is always more to be done, more that should be done, always more than can be done.” Highly successful people know what they value in life. Yes, work, but also what else they value. There is no right answer, but for many, these other values include family time, exercise, and giving back. They consciously allocate their 1,440 minutes a day to each area they value (i.e., they put them on their calendar), and then they stick to that schedule.

6. They use a notebook. Richard Branson has said on more than one occasion that he wouldn’t have been able to build Virgin without a simple notebook, which he takes with him wherever he goes. In one interview, Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis said, “Always carry a notebook. Write everything down. That is a million dollar lesson they don’t teach you in business school!” Ultra-productive people free their minds by writing everything down as the thoughts come to them.

7. They process e-mails only a few times a day. Ultra-productive people don’t “check” their e-mail throughout the day. They don’t respond to each vibration or ding to see who has intruded into their inbox. Instead, like everything else, they schedule time to process their e-mails quickly and efficiently. For some, that’s only once a day; for others, it’s morning, noon, and night.

8. They avoid meetings at all costs. When Kevin asked Mark Cuban to give his best productivity advice, he quickly responded, “Never take meetings unless someone is writing a check.” Meetings are notorious time killers. They start late, have the wrong people in them, meander around their topics, and run long. You should get out of meetings whenever you can and hold fewer of them yourself. If you do run a meeting, keep it short and to the point.

9. They say “no” to almost everything. Billionaire Warren Buffet once said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.” And James Altucher colorfully gave Kevin this tip: “If something is not a ‘Hell Yeah!’ then it’s a no.” Remember, you only have 1,440 minutes in a day. Don’t give them away easily.

10. They follow the 80/20 rule. Known as the Pareto Principle, in most cases, 80% of results come from only 20% of activities. Ultra-productive people know which activities drive the greatest results. Focus on those and ignore the rest.

11. They delegate almost everything. Ultra-productive people don’t ask, “How can I do this task?” Instead, they ask, “How can this task get done?” They take the I out of it as much as possible. Ultra-productive people don’t have control issues, and they are not micro-managers. In many cases, good enough is, well, good enough.

12. They touch things only once. How many times have you opened a piece of regular mail–a bill perhaps–and then put it down, only to deal with it again later? How often do you read an e-mail and then close it and leave it in your inbox to deal with later? Highly successful people try to “touch it once.” If it takes less than five or ten minutes–whatever it is–they deal with it right then and there. It reduces stress, since it won’t be in the back of their minds, and it is more efficient, since they won’t have to re-read or re-evaluate the item again in the future.

13. They practice a consistent morning routine. Kevin’s single greatest surprise while interviewing over 200 highly successful people was how many of them wanted to share their morning ritual with him. While he heard about a wide variety of habits, most nurtured their bodies in the morning with water, a healthy breakfast, and light exercise, and they nurtured their minds with meditation or prayer, inspirational reading, or journaling.

14. Energy is everything. You can’t make more minutes in the day, but you can increase your energy to increase your attention, focus, and productivity. Highly successful people don’t skip meals, sleep, or breaks in the pursuit of more, more, more. Instead, they view food as fuel, sleep as recovery, and breaks as opportunities to recharge in order to get even more done.

Bringing It All Together

You might not be an entrepreneur, an Olympian, or a billionaire (or even want to be), but their secrets just might help you to get more done in less time and assist you to stop feeling so overworked and overwhelmed.

 

 

Written By: Travis Bradberry
Source: Inc.

Are fitness trackers a waste of money?

Want to lose weight? Improve your cardio? Lower your blood pressure? Then don’t buy a fitness tracker. In fact, some experts claim they can “do more harm than good”. Wondering why you might have wasted money on yours? Read on…

 

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Now let’s just get one thing straight before we continue. I actually use a variety of wearable devices. I have an Apple watch which measures my daily activity, I use the Nike+ app when I go running and I use a Garmin & Strava for cycling. And it seems that I’m not alone with an estimated 20% of Americans wearing some form of tracker and around 3 million being sold in the UK each year. People use them in different ways and for a variety of reasons. Personally I want to monitor my performance and am fascinated with the data that they produce (I know, I’m a nerd). Consequently I love them all, so before you launch into a tirade along the lines of ‘this guy hates Fitbits’ in the comments section please remember not to shoot the messenger…

Now then, why have the boffins got such a downer on trackers? Well firstly, they pour scorn on the whole notion of the 10,000 steps. It seems that this has no basis in any robust scientific research. According to Dr Greg Hager who is a professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University:

  “Turns out in 1960 in Japan they figured out that the average Japanese man, when he walked 10,000 steps a day, burned something like 3,000 calories and that is what they thought the average person should consume. So they picked 10,000 steps as a number”

In fairness, that hardly seems very scientific. Unless you are an average Japanese man who is still living in 1960. A relatively small sample size, I’m guessing.

Just last week Prof. Hager pointed out that we we cannot have a ‘one size fits all’ solution and every individual needs a bespoke fitness plan which caters specifically for their needs. He goes on to say:

“I think apps could definitely be doing more harm than good. I am sure that these apps are causing problems. Without any scientific evidence base, how do you know that any of these apps are good for you? They may even be harmful”

Harmful? Seriously? Isn’t that pushing it a tad too far? Well in support of his claim, Hager states that someone with an underlying medical condition may not necessarily be capable of achieving the 10,000 steps and it could be detrimental to their health to try.

So, is Hager out there on his own in his thinking? Well, it seems not. A 2016 study of 800 people with activity trackers was conducted in Singapore which discovered that there were no health benefits to the research subjects when compared to a control group who didn’t use a tracker. What’s more, they even added a cash incentive to increase the number of steps they took. It made absolutely no difference.

In the UK, Hager also has support from Simon Leigh, a senior health economist at Nexus Clinical Analytics who has published several studies on fitness trackers in the British Medical Journal. He said:

“Dr Hager is spot on. A GP, endocrinologist or other fitness specialist would unlikely  recommend 10,000 steps for most people. Especially given that the majority of those who download these apps are likely to be unfit and in need of improvement in the first place” 

I understand what these guys are saying but surely in a population with rising rates of obesity, we need to encourage people to do some form of exercise and activity trackers can be a strong motivator in the right hands (or should that be on the right arm?). After all, surely it is better to do 10,000 steps a day than none at all? It beats lying on the sofa eating double cheese deep pan pizza and watching The Kardashians.

Surely it also depends on what you are doing on your journey of 10,000 steps. If you are having a brisk walk around the park with your Cockerpoo then that must have some health benefits. For you and the dog. However, if it’s a pub crawl around town on a Friday night followed by a stagger down to the kebab shop then I don’t think that counts. It’s really all a matter of balance.

Depending upon the type of tracker you use valuable personal information can be measured and monitored over time including heart rate, calorie consumption and sleep patterns. The aggregation of all this big / smart data can be of use to a medical practitioner, an insurance company or even the advertising industry. The implications of this are not only fascinating but have huge business potential.

 

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A doctor could offer a prognosis on potential medical conditions saving both money and lives. Your insurance company could use your data to offer you improved premiums on health insurance in the same way that they use trackers for safe drivers on car insurance. And the ad industry can use programmatic to specifically target you with dynamic creative to offer you goods / services that are highly relevant to the individual (e.g. new running shoes in your size and favorite colors).

 

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Dr John Jakicic from the University of Pittsburgh, seems to be of the same opinion as myself. In his studies, he found that fitness trackers could form part of a series of behaviours to encourage people to lose weight or improve fitness:

“we need to be careful about relying solely on these devices. However, there is a place for these, and so we need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater in my opinion”

So are these trackers going end up gathering dust in the garage along with other defunct fitness gadgets such as the Ab-Cruncher and Thigh-Master? Well don’t be too hasty in ditching your Fitbit just yet. Accept it for what it is and use it accordingly. Figure out an optimum level of activity for your age, size and fitness level (if you are unsure, consult an expert or just Google it). Then simply incorporate it into your weekly workout schedule.

 

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What do you think? Are these trackers really useless or do they have some merit? Do you own one and now feel cheated or does the technology really work for you? As ever, I am interested in your viewpoint.

 

 

Written By: Steve Blakeman
Source: LinkedIn

5 Amazing Tech Advances in Healthcare

In the healthcare industry, innovation is more than a buzzword. The right innovations in the right hands at the right time can, in fact, ensure life triumphs over death. From high-tech sensors and drones to bacteria-quashing light bulbs, technological advances are pushing healthcare into new, exciting directions, providing heightened levels of care and improving quality of life.

Consider these promising developments:

1. Ingestible Sensors

While wearable sensors continue to gain mainstream appeal, ingestible sensors could have a sizeable impact on healthcare and digital medicine.

Health systems are starting to implement ingestible sensors in patients to record medication adherence, which is one of the key components of improved health.1 The sensor—powered by gastric fluids and about the size of a grain of sand—communicates with a skin patch, which captures the medication and the time it was ingested along with personalized data such as heart rate, activity, and rest. This information is then relayed to a mobile app, where the data can be shared with healthcare professionals to help drive medication compliance and personalized treatment.

2. Telehealth

For individuals in remote locations or underserved communities, easy access to healthcare providers can be scarce or nonexistent. However, continued advances in telehealth are making remote point-of-care more accessible, more dynamic, and more personable than ever. Telehealth services, for example, offer video conferencing for live consultations, built-in dashboards for in-field data capture and analysis, and hardware to ensure orderly, coherent interaction between patients and healthcare providers.

3. Drones

While drones are known for delivering frozen yogurt and burritos, their most meaningful impact could come in the healthcare space. Consider these very real possibilities:

  • In remote areas, drones can deliver critical medical supplies such as blood or vaccines to enable treatment.
  • Following a natural disaster, drones can distribute in-demand medical supplies to first responders or victims.
  • On a medical campus, drones can transport medicine, blood, lab samples, or even organs from one unit to another to expedite care.
  • A researcher at the University of Illinois, meanwhile, aims to help elderly patients age in place by testing the use of small drones with manipulator arms to complete simple daily tasks such as bringing medication or cleaning a spill.2

4. Bacteria-killing Light

Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) are the most frequent adverse event in healthcare delivery worldwide.3 Tech innovation is minimizing this problem.

Light fixtures providing continuous environmental disinfection technology are helping hospitals improve their infection-prevention efforts. One solution uses safe, 405nm visible light that reflects off walls as well as hard and soft surfaces to penetrate harmful bacteria in a given area and reduce bacteria up to 70 percent.4

5. Remote Patient Monitoring

With remote monitoring programs, digital technologies collect key patient health data such as vital signs, heart rate, and blood pressure, and communicate the information to healthcare professionals.

With such key data in professionals’ hands, health problems can be detected earlier, which can reduce hospitalizations and prevent manageable problems from becoming more severe ailments. Remote monitoring can improve patient outcomes and access to care, while also reducing costs—a key concern among the U.S. populace and healthcare systems alike.

 

 

Source: HP

[1] Forbes, Barton Health First To Offer New Digital Medicine Developed By Proteus Digital Health
[2] Inside Unmanned Systems, Drones Deliver Healthcare
[3] World Health Organization, Health Care-Associated Infections Fact Sheet
[4] Kenosha News, Bacteria-killing lights show promise

 

Digital Prescriptions Could Save Lives, But Most States Say No

Digital prescriptions could save lives, but most states say no
Provided by MarketWatch

Paper prescriptions will soon go the way of subway tokens in New York.

All prescriptions in the state, including prescription pain medications, must be legally issued electronically after late March. It’s part of a new mandate aiming to curb the decades-long opioid crisis that’s ravaged America for years, in which prescription painkillers can sometimes be a gateway to heroin.

Moving paper prescriptions online is supposed to cut down on forged prescriptions, and reinforce online prescription drug monitoring databases, which let doctors see if a patient has been given drugs for pain by other doctors, said Jim Owen, vice president of practice and science at the American Pharmacists Association.

The law has helped move New York doctors’ ability to e-prescribe painkillers leaps and bounds ahead of other states, or five times the national average, according to data from electronic prescription network Surescripts LLC.

But most states in the country barely have the ability to e-prescribe substances such as prescription painkillers.

While doctors’ ability to e-prescribe has swelled in the U.S. over the last decade, controlled substances are a different story: states topped out at about 7% of such transactions in 2014, with the bulk of states at 1% or even less, according to Surescripts, which handles a majority of such business in the U.S.

Why such dismal numbers?

For one, controlled substances are involved so the standards for electronic software and requirements for physician authentication are high per Drug Enforcement Administration rules.

Nearly three-quarters of pharmacies have met those standards. The discrepancy is on the white coat end: Only 1.40% of providers were equipped to e-prescribe controlled substances in 2014, according to Surescripts.

Why are doctors lagging behind? Doctors say it’s not that they don’t want to e-prescribe but that implementation is more extensive and expensive a prospect.

“E-prescribing in the right circumstances is fast, efficient and liked by patients and pharmacists and physicians. But there are many circumstances where there are challenges,” said Dr. Steven Stack, president of the American Medical Association.Stack said he and others oppose a mandate, such as New York’s, because the newness of the technology means there are still kinks in the system and challenges to access. For example, the software can be challenging for small doctors’ offices to obtain, he said, and there are problems of doctor-pharmacy coordination.

Surescripts acknowledges that there’s no easy way to get an e-prescription transferred to another pharmacy if a patient’s choice of store is closed.

“With any technology, things improve the longer it’s used,” said Surescripts senior vice president Ken Whittemore, Jr. “There are some things we’ll have to work through.”

For controlled substances, where intense pain must be treated, that issue turns urgent, Stack said, which is why he believes e-prescribing currently works best for non-emergency medications, such as blood pressure or diabetes pills.

Some experts believe that the opioid epidemic was fueled by wider cultural acceptance of pain medications, so a change requires targeting those societal factors alongside improved treatment options and supporting prescription drug monitoring programs, Stack said.

“Electronic prescribing is just one piece of a much more complicated issue of the opioid epidemic,” he said.

New York and Minnesota both require e-prescribing, but it’s a voluntary process in most other states. (Minnesota’s mandate went into effect in 2011).

But with Massachusetts and Maine legislatures considering their own state requirements, New York’s move will be one worth watching.

“We obviously won’t know the true impact until we see what happens in New York,” said Owen.

Written by Emma Court of MarketWatch

(Source: MSN)

How Big Food Brands are Trying to Blunt Start-Ups

Provided by CNBC

Historically large brand name products in the supermarket have commanded more demand and higher costs. Those days, however, may be numbered.

Analysts say that as more upstarts get into the game, major food conglomerates are reacting in ways that suggest their hold on the public is slipping. That means big established food brands are being forced to innovate in new and unusual ways — and must look outside their own company in order to boost growth.

For example, Campbell’s Soup  (CPB)recently announced a $125 million venture capital (VC) fund that the company wants to invest in the “disruption” in food trends. At a recent analyst’s conference, Campbell president and CEO Denise Morrison pointed out that 400 food start-ups have absorbed more than $6 billion in funding, which raises the stakes for big consumer brands who want to remain relevant.

Observers cite several trends are at work. Consumer tastes are shifting in ways that are putting big brands on the defensive, they say.

“Consumers are becoming very distrusting of the food brands they grew up with, rejecting the artificial ingredients those foods contain,” Vani Hari, author and activist at FoodBabe.com, explained to CNBC recently. “They’re now opting for new start-ups that are putting organic, non-GMO [genetically modified] foods on the market.”

Hari said it’s easier for certain companies to buy or partner with start-ups, rather than re-engineering their products. However, although buying out smaller competitors is the time-honored way to boost market share and lure in new customers, that strategy may not always pan out if smaller companies don’t want to play along.

Last month, yogurt maker Chobani recently rejected PepsiCo’s  (PEP)offer for a stake in the company. Chobani said its independence remained a key asset to the company and brand.

From Amy’s Soup to Justin’s Peanut Butter, increasingly health-conscious consumers are eyeing upstarts that may have little to do with branding, and more to do with trust. Health conscious companies, such as Jessica Alba’s The Honest Company, have been rewarded with consumer loyalty and stratospheric valuations. After only a few years in existence, The Honest Company is already valued at nearly $2 billion.

According to Hari, organic and non-GMO food is one of the food market’s segments that continues to increase in a straight line, and big brands are taking notice. Within the last year, companies such as Tyson Food  (TSN), McDonald’s  (MCD), General Mills  (GIS), Panera Bread  (PNRA) and Campbell’s, among others, “have announced major changes to the ingredients in their food,” she said.

Yet Darren Seifer, a food and beverage industry analyst for NPD Group, said it will take time for some legacy consumer brands to regain trust. “They’ve had a reputation for so long, for being a certain way, so it will take time for them to rebrand themselves,” he said.

“For marketers, it’s not that consumers are rejecting [their] brands, it just might take five to 10 years,” he added.

In the meantime, consumers are flocking to alternative brands that embody both health and trust, such as Aloha. The company is a wellness brand that creates and sells products — like green juice powder, plant-based protein, trail mix, and protein bars — that make eating healthy affordable.

“I’d repeatedly found that it was way too complicated to figure out what was or wasn’t healthy,” Constanin Bisanz, the founder and CEO of Aloha, told CNBC. “We’re exposed to too many false claims, conflicting health advice, and misleading advertising, and so many products get called ‘healthy,’ when on a true wellness level they’re actually bad for us.”

Bisanz says the idea for his business came as a result of trying to make a healthy lifestyle more accessible to everyone.

“I knew that there had to be a better and more trustworthy solution to leaving a long-lasting and positive impact on people’s bodies and minds,” he added.

Written by Uptin Saiidi of CNBC

(Source: CNBC)

This Teenage Entrepreneur Created the First $500 Dialysis Machine

 

Illustration by James Taylor

It all started as a science fair project, inspired by her time working at a local hospital’s dialysis unit. Since then, Anya Pogharian’s $500 dialysis machine,Dialysave, has captured the attention of President Bill Clinton and the Cleveland Clinic.

Pogharian, 18, was shocked at the $30,000 cost of conventional dialysis machines–a price she felt was far too high for a lifesaving treatment.

Pogharian developed a prototype that’s able to filter 4 liters of blood in 25 minutes, much faster than the expected four hours that standard dialysis machines require. She’s now working on a third prototype as well as establishing a business framework for her invention–all while preparing for her first year of college.

She talked with Fortune about her invention, its ongoing development, and the leadership advice she’s been taking to heart. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

How did you go about creating the machine?

Basically, most of the research was done online. I read owner manuals of existing dialysis machines, which are not simple at all. They are really meant for engineers. That gave me enough background to build the first prototype, but it’s taken a lot more to improve each new version. The first prototype was to see if it was possible to design an affordable dialysis machine and to design a machine that’s much simpler to produce and use.

The second version was much more sophisticated and higher quality. That’s the one I used to test in a lab with real human blood. That was incredible. It filtered about four liters, equal to the blood volume of a child, in 25 minutes. It proved that it could work and helped me understand how to further develop my third prototype.

How has the invention been received so far?

Back in January last year there was an interview in Montreal which led to a nationwide interview that went viral. It was all around the world. I found articles in Russian, Armenian, German, even a dialect of Chinese. It was shocking from one day to the next there were about 100 different articles.

At that point, I was approached by many different people, including a Harvard University professor who has offered to help with the business side and EU scientists who are into affordable medical devices and the social benefit. The opportunities and offers for mentorship have been incredible.

I also had the opportunity to attend the Clinton Foundation Health Matters Summit in January where I was on a panel moderated by President Clinton, alongside the U.S. Surgeon General and [IBM’s Chief Health Officer] Kyu Rhee. That was one of the most incredible opportunities for me in terms of networking. It was so encouraging. People all over the States were willing to help with various aspects of it.

What are the next steps for the Dialysave machine?

The goal is to get it on the market eventually, which is a really long-term goal. It’s a third class medical device, which isn’t easy to get approved. I’m really focused on the science of it right now and getting that to the point of perfection, but I also need to build a good team of scientists and business partners. Right now, I’m managing it all on my own. Balancing it all is practically impossible, but it’s my passion.

What’s the best advice you’ve received so far about taking it to market?

Potential investors have said to, yes, focus on the science but really think of the business aspect at the same time because if you keep building prototypes it won’t lead to anything and won’t make an impact. You have to go through both steps at the same time.

Have you received any helpful leadership advice as a young entrepreneur?

It’s been mostly about knowing what you want to do. You have to have really solid goals, so that if something happens to stump you up or turn you around from your goals, you still push ahead. You can’t be a leader if you don’t have a solid path. If you want to lead the way and bring others with you, everyone needs to be on the same wavelength and know exactly where you’re going.

Written by Laura Lorenzetti of Fortune 

(Source: MSN)

Medicare Part B Premiums Will Rise by 16 Percent in 2016 for Some Seniors

Medicare
Shutterstock

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has quietly made it official: Medicare Part B premiums for 30% of Medicare recipients will jump next year, but not as high as they would have without the bipartisan budget deal passed late last month. While 70% of Medicare beneficiaries will have their premiums held to the same $104.90 per person a month they paid in 2015, the unlucky 30% will face a 16% increase in their base premium from $104.90 to $121.80 per person per month. And the 5% of beneficiaries who pay a high income surcharge, will pay a 16% increase in that surcharge, along with paying the higher base.

Without the budget deal, both the base and the surcharges for Part B, which covers doctors’ and outpatient services, would have risen by 52%. “By historical standards it (16%) is a very, very large increase,” says Joe Antos, health policy expert at American Enterprise Institute. “It’s not as much as it would have been, but it’s big.”
As for the high income premium payers, they’re “in a permanent state of shock,” Antos observes. Graduated high-income premium surcharges for seniors kick in for singles with a modified adjusted gross income of more than $85,000 and for couples with a MAGI of more than $170,000. (The premiums for 2016 are based on the AGI reported on 2014 tax returns.)

An individual earning more than $85,000, but less than or equal to $107,000, will pay $170.50 a month in 2016, up from $146.90 a month this year. A wealthy senior couple with AGI of $428,000 or more will pay $9,355 a year in Part B Medicare premiums, up from $8,056 in 2015.

The Part B premium debacle is set against the backdrop of falling oil prices, which means that overall inflation has been almost nil, and Social Security recipients will get no cost of living increase for 2016, their first year since 2011 without a boost. A 1987 “hold harmless” provision, designed to keep recipients’ Social Security net checks from shrinking, provides that for ordinary retirees who have Part B premiums deducted from their Social Security checks, the standard premium can’t go up in any year by more than the extra dollars they’re getting as a cost of living adjustment in their Social Security checks. That protects 70% of recipients.

But medical costs, and in particular Medicare’s costs, are increasing. And a different law requires that premiums paid by beneficiaries cover 25% of Part B total costs. The odd result: the increases the 70% of recipients don’t pay are shifted onto the 30% who aren’t protected by the hold harmless provision. That unlucky 30% includes those who are better off, those who don’t have Medicare premiums withheld from their Social Security, and those who didn’t receive Social Security in 2015.

Here’s the table of what you’ll pay per month for 2016, depending on your income, for individuals and for couples filing a joint tax return:

Beneficiaries who file an individual tax return with income: Beneficiaries who file a joint tax return with income:

Income-related monthly adjustment amount

Total monthly premium amount

Less than or equal to $85,000 Less than or equal to $170,000

$0.00

$121.80

Greater than $85,000 and less than or equal to $107,000 Greater than $170,000 and less than or equal to $214,000

48.70

170.50

Greater than $107,000 and less than or equal to $160,000 Greater than $214,000 and less than or equal to $320,000

121.80

243.60

Greater than $160,000 and less than or equal to $214,000 Greater than $320,000 and less than or equal to $428,000

194.90

316.70

Greater than $214,000 Greater than $428,000

268.00

389.80

Note these officially-released numbers are slightly higher than those talked about after the budget deal: $120.70 for the base monthly premiums for those not held harmless. “This is actuarial nitpicking at its finest,” Antos says.The last time we saw hikes like these was in 2011, when premiums for high income folks rose 15%, and Antos warns that we could see them again for 2017. Starting in 2020, the high income premium brackets will be adjusted for inflation, so that promises to keep some out of reach of the income surcharges. But don’t count on it. “We’re going to have several years of Congress looking for money from Medicare,” says Antos. “It’s easy to remove that indexing. It’s always easier to pick on high income people than anybody else.”

Is there a way around these high premiums? Use strategies now that will let you control your adjusted gross income in retirement. The income-related premiums are based on your income two years prior. Planning ahead with Roth conversions can help manage your bracket in retirement. Fidelity’s latest retiree healthcare cost is $245,000 a couple and that’s not including income-related Part B surcharges.

If you have a high deductible health insurance plan now, fund a health savings account and invest it until you need it for medical expenses in retirement (you can use money in a health savings account for Medicare premiums but not for Medigap policies). It’s possible to build a $150,000-plus health savings account. If you’re already getting hit with Medicare income-related premiums, bunching income into one year can help keep premiums down another year.

Written by Ashlea Ebeling of Forbes

(Source: Forbes)

Chilly at Work? A Decades-Old Formula May Be to Blame

© Chris Machian for The New York Times
© Chris Machian for The New York Times

Summers are hot in Omaha, where heat indexes can top 100 degrees. But Molly Mahannah is prepared.

At the office, she bundles up in cardigans or an oversized sweatshirt from her file drawer. Then, she says, “I have a huge blanket at my desk that I’ve got myself wrapped in like a burrito.” Recently, “I was so cold, I was like ‘I’m just going to sit in my car in like 100-degree heat for like five minutes, and bake.’”

Ms. Mahannah, 24, who wrote on Twitter that at work she felt like an icy White Walker from “Game of Thrones,” said a female co-worker at her digital marketing agency cloaked herself in sweaters, too. But the men? “They’re in, like, shorts.”

Right. It happens every summer: Offices turn on the air-conditioning, and women freeze into Popsicles.

Finally, scientists (two men, for the record) are urging an end to the Great Arctic Office Conspiracy. Their study, published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, says that most office buildings set temperatures based on a decades-old formula that uses the metabolic rates of men. The study concludes that buildings should “reduce gender-discriminating bias in thermal comfort” because setting temperatures at slightly warmer levels can help combat global warming.

“In a lot of buildings, you see energy consumption is a lot higher because the standard is calibrated for men’s body heat production,” said Boris Kingma, a co-author of the study and a biophysicist at Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands. “If you have a more accurate view of the thermal demand of the people inside, then you can design the building so that you are wasting a lot less energy, and that means the carbon dioxide emission is less.”

The study says most building thermostats follow a “thermal comfort model that was developed in the 1960s,” which considers factors like air temperature, air speed, vapor pressure and clothing insulation, using a version of Fanger’s thermal comfort equation.

It is converted to a seven-point scale and compared against the Predicted Percentage Dissatisfied, a gauge of how many people are likely to feel uncomfortably cool or warm.

Seems simple enough.

But Dr. Kingma and his colleague, Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt, write that one variable in the formula, resting metabolic rate (how fast we generate heat), is based on a 40-year-old man weighing about 154 pounds.

Maybe that man once represented most people in offices. But women now constitute half of the work force and usually have slower metabolic rates than men, mostly because they are smaller and have more body fat, which has lower metabolic rates than muscle. Indeed, the study says, the current model “may overestimate resting heat production of women by up to 35 percent.”

“If women have lower need for cooling it actually means you can save energy, because right now we’re just cooling for this male population,” said Joost van Hoof, a building physicist at Fontys University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, who was not involved in the study.

“Many men think that women are just nagging,” he said. “But it’s because of their physiology.”

Physiology and clothing. The authors also note that the model is not always calibrated accurately for women wearing skirts or sandals.

“Many men, they wear suits and ties, and women tend to dress sometimes with cleavage,” said Dr. van Hoof, who wrote a commentary about the study. “The cleavage is closer to the core of the body, so the temperature difference between the air temperature and the body temperature there is higher when it’s cold. I wouldn’t overestimate the effect of cleavage, but it’s there.”

So for the planet’s sake, men should “stop complaining,” Dr. Kingma said. “If it is too warm, the behavior thing you can do is take off a piece of clothing, but you can only do that so much. You could also say let’s keep it a very cold building and women should just wear more clothes.”

But his study offers another solution: Change the formula.

The researchers tested 16 women, students in their 20s, doing seated work wearing light clothes in rooms called respiration chambers, which track oxygen inhaled and carbon dioxide exhaled. Skin temperature was measured on hands, the abdomen and elsewhere. A thermometer pill the women swallowed reported internal body temperature.

Researchers found the women’s average metabolic rate was 20 to 32 percent lower than rates in the standard chart used to set building temperature. So they propose adjusting the model to include actual metabolic rates of women and men, plus factors like body tissue insulation, not just clothing. For example, people who weigh more get warmer faster, and older people have slower metabolic rates, the study reported.

Some experts doubt the proposed formula would be easily adopted.

Khee Poh Lam, an architecture professor at Carnegie Mellon, said even if the industry accepted a change to the longstanding model, buildings often house different businesses or “squeeze more people in” than they were designed for and partition offices so thermostats and vents are in different rooms. Given these improvisations, he added, “whether this actually affects energy, I think that’s a big leap.”

Still, he said, “we need to keep pushing” for improvements because “the phenomenon of women getting cold is very, very obvious,” and cold or hot employees are less productive.

Individualized temperature controls are the eventual answer, said Dr. Lam, who helped design a “personal environmental module” in the 1990s that was deemed too expensive for commercial development. Now others are developing systems to let workers make their cubicles warmer or cooler.

Kimberly Mark, 31, would appreciate that. This summer, at a software company in Natick, Mass., she and female colleagues are using space heaters. The thermostat is in the office of “the guy next to me,” she said, “and I’m the only woman in the offices that he controls.”

Phoebe McPherson, 21, said she sometimes wears thick leggings, a long-sleeve shirt, a sweatshirt and motorcycle boots to work at a health technology startup in Reston, Va. She often adds a tartan blanket, wraps “a blanket around my legs,” and despite the glaring fashion faux pas, wears a Snuggie backward to seal off any openings.

“I wore a dress once and had to go change,” said Ms. McPherson, who attended college in New Hampshire. While male colleagues wear T-shirts, “I’m bringing all my New Hampshire clothes to work.” And when that and hot coffee fail, she nuzzles against a white fake-fur wall in the office, just to “feel my skin warming up against the fur.”

Written by Pam Bullock of The New York Times

(Source: The New York Times)

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