Getting ready for retirement? Before you can cross that bridge, you’ll need to cross some important items off your to-do list. This handy checklist of ten crucial steps can help you visualize how prepared you are.
□ Retirement Budget
Understand what your income will be, and how you can confidently spend the money you have accumulated for retirement.
□ Emergency Savings
Prepare for emergencies by saving at least 3 months’ living expenses, and have that money easily available to you.
□ Tax Strategy
Have a sound tax strategy to guide you through the process of spending money from both taxable and tax-deferred accounts.
□ Lifestyle and Location
Consider where you’ll live, both short- and long-term. Have a plan for funding a move and understand the timing involved.
□ 401(k) Strategy
Have a strategy for your 401(k) plan and determine the best time for you to access the money, based on your goals.1
□ Bucket List
Write down your personal goals for your retirement years. Explore your dreams, priorities and values.
□ Extended Care
Make arrangements in the event that you or a loved one encounters a health issue requiring full-time care.
□ Estate Strategy
Develop an estate approach that includes how you want your assets to be allocated, and who will handle your estate.
□ Health Insurance
Understand your options with Medicare and define a strategy for covering health care expenses for the long haul.
□ Social Security Strategy
Have a sound tax strategy to guide you through the process of spending money from both taxable and tax-deferred accounts.
If you’re not as prepared for retirement as you’d like to be, just reach out to a financial professional. Together, you can fine-tune these strategies so you can finish your checklist and get started on that bucket list.
1. Distributions from 401(k) plans and most other employer-sponsored retirement plans are taxed as ordinary income and, if taken before age 59½, may be subject to a 10% federal income tax penalty. Generally, once you reach age 70½, you must begin taking required minimum distributions.
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:
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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…
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.”