Financial Health Plan

Sound bank account, sound mind. If the recession and unemployment have taken a toll on your health, consider looking at your finances through a set of fresh eyes and turn to options you may have overlooked. Cut down on your bills. Cut down on your stress. Boost your health. Bolster your finances with this 3-step plan from personal finance expert Carmen Wong Ulrich.

Financial Health Plan

Financial insecurity and uncertainty about the future are two huge sources of stress that can wreak havoc on your health. While you may have already implemented cost-effective lifestyle changes, there might be more you can do to manage the health of your finances during these harsh economic times. Combat the sleepless nights and piles of bills with these 3 steps.

1. Trim the Fat and Cut the Excess            


  • Cut back on your bills by curbing the amount you spend on utilities. Limit the use of electricity, gas and water. Think about watching less TV, logging off your computer faster, and skipping the long showers. You could save hundreds of dollars by doing this alone. Go to www.billshrink.com for more tips on how to shrink your monthly bills.
  • Consolidate your credit card bills. Keep an eye on your interest rate. Community banks and credit unions offer up to 20% lower rates and may allow you to transfer your balance for no extra free. Visit www.cuna.org to locate the credit union in your area.

2. Borrow From Your Future to Maintain Your Present

  • It might be a scary thought to tap into your child’s college fund, but consider this an emergency-only option. Once you’re back on your feet, you can replenish this account.
  • Leverage your home equity. It could be one of the greatest assets you have. If this a safe option for you, go to your home lender and ask for 10% of your home equity. This sum could help hold you over for months.
  • Consider your retirement fund. If you apply for “hardship withdrawal,” you won’t have to pay the penalty for early withdrawal. Once your financial situation stabilizes, you’ll be able to start contributing to this fund again.

3. Adjust to Living Small

  • Living large comes at a price – a hefty one. If you’ve already made lifestyle changes to get through these tough times, make them permanent once things improve. Take all the things you learned and package them into a new understanding of how to manage your money for the long haul.
  • If you and your partner bring in a dual income, consider living on one only. Or, don’t budget at 100% of your combined income. Live as if you were making 1/3 less money and save the rest.
  • Build up your emergency savings. An emergency fund should cover 8 months of living expenses and allow you to replenish your retirement fund.

In addition to these steps, try Dr. Oz’s unemployment stress-reduction tips:

  • Adopt a regular routine. Make your days meaningful and productive. Get up at the same time every day. Get dressed. In addition to looking for new employment, take on an activity. Face the day as if you were getting ready to go to work.
  • Get out! Once you’re up and ready, make sure to go out into the world. Avoid isolation. Get 1 hour of vitamin D by going outside. Stay social. Remember that community and friendships are a necessary support system.
  • Exercise! Get your 10,000 steps or do 30 minutes of cardio on a daily basis.

Your Parent Has Dementia: What to Talk to Their Doctor About

Make sure all their doctors are aware of all the medications she is taking.

Q: My mom is 94 and has dementia. She is taking a whole medicine cabinet-full of medications and I think they actually make her fuzzier. How should I talk to her various doctors about what she is taking and if she can get off some of the meds? — Gary R., Denver, Colorado

A: Many dementia patients are taking what docs call a "polypharmacy" — three or more medications that affect their central nervous system. And we really don't know how that mixture truly affects each individual person.

A new study in JAMA Network that looked at more than 1 million Medicare patients found almost 14% of them were taking a potentially harmful mix of antidepressants, antipsychotics, antiepileptics, benzodiazepines such as Valium and Ativan, nonbenzodiazepine benzodiazepine receptor agonist hypnotics such as Ambien or Sonata, and opioids. And almost a third of those folks were taking five or more such medications. The most common medication combination included an antidepressant, an antiepileptic, and an antipsychotic. Gabapentin was the most common medication — often for off-label uses, such as to ease chronic pain or treat psychiatric disorders, according to the researchers from the University of Michigan.

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