How to Build an Emergency Fund

Life preserver in the ocean.If you had to pay an unexpected $400 bill today, would you be able to without reaching for a credit card or asking for a loan? If your answer is no, you’re not alone. And you need to keep reading this blog.

A large proportion of working Americans are in the same boat, lacking liquidity or cash reserves, amid an overall feeling that they’re drowning in bills.

The fifth edition of the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Household Economics & Decision Making (SHED) was released last week. Once again it asked whether people would be able to pay for an unexpected $400 expense in cash or the equivalent of cash. Forty percent said they wouldn’t have enough. This was a slightly improvement from the 49 percent in 2013. 

According to a LendingTree report in 2017, four in five Americans are in the red—and a quarter of those in debt do not have a plan to pay it off.

An emergency fund is your essential starting point. There are many reasons why this is so highly recommended by financial experts: If an unexpected medical bill, car repair, or appliance disaster arises, you’re able to pay for that cost without adding further to your debt. This will help you then shore up even more helpful forms of income protection, such as disability insurance.

Here’s how to build your emergency fund: 

1. Set a goal

Goals are incredibly important in financial planning. A vague wish won’t get you anywhere. You need to make yourself accountable. Finance expert Dave Ramsey advises that people set the goal of saving a $1,000 emergency fund as soon as possible. You can also work out what three to six months of living expenses would be and aim to put that away. 

2. Plan a place for the fund

You don’t want it hanging out murkily in the midst of your active checking account.

A high yield savings account is a great place to store the money. You need to be able to access it should an emergency arise, but not have it mixing in with your regular money. At the very least, put it in a savings account.

3. Build a budget

In order to make this work, you need transparency into your daily habits, and where you may be losing money without realizing it. By building a budget (and there are a whole host of apps to help you do that) you can track your expenses in razor detail. Spend some time with your budget, and study your income and outgoings. 

4. Lower your expenses

  • Cut back on unnecessary items: Do you need to eat out at restaurants? Could you take a packed lunch to work more regularly? Do you really need your cable TV subscription? Go through your budget and identify areas you could cut back on costs. Everything counts. Even if it seems like a tiny action, those will add up over time.
  • Renegotiate your bills: Have you asked your various providers if they can provide you with better rates? It’s definitely worth the time to ask. From your internet bill to credit card interest rates, there are a whole host of items you can try to negotiate, so pick up the phone and have a conversation.
  • Add all of these savings into your emergency fund: Make a regular habit of shifting those extra dollars into your savings account.

5. Increase your income

In addition to cutting things back, how can you expand your income? 

  • Save the raise: If you get a raise, don’t just expand your lifestyle and indulge in more treats for yourself. Act as if nothing happened. Stick to your previous budget and siphon all that extra cash into your fund. By doing this, you’ll really be able to build up that nest egg quickly.
  • Sell something: Do you have a guitar lying in your basement that’s gathering dust? Throw it up on eBay. Do an inventory of your possessions that others may like, and sell off what you don’t need.
  • Use that tax refund: If you get a tax refund or a gift, rather than immediately splurging it, apply your inner-strength and shift it into your savings.
  • Find a side hustle: You may already be working full time, but is there another job you could take on to help bring in some extra resources? Maybe it’s walking dogs, working as a tutor, or even starting a blog that has money-making potential.

6. Automate everything

Make sure all your bills get paid on time by automating everything. If your budget allows you to shift a certain amount of money into your savings each month, automate this too. You can even think about setting up a separate “Bill Pay” account, and automatically move that money over as soon as each paycheck comes in (more on how to do that here.)

Once you put these steps into place, you’ll be moving in the right direction. The wonderful thing about saving money is that once you start to actually do it and see that nest egg start to form, you’ll become inspired and spurred on by your success. This activates a virtuous cycle of change. 




The Spring Cleaning Task You Likely Forgot

Daffodils in the sunshine

It’s that time of the year where the sunlight has returned with vigor and vitality (here in New England at least) and you find yourself in spring cleaning mode. Those magazines that have been piling up – recycled. The junk mail you needed to attend to – filed. Your tax documents – complete.

As you survey your office, there’s one place you probably forgot, and that’s your desktop. No, not that desktop, the one where you have neatly color-coded pens and tablets lined up. The other desktop. The majority of our clutter today resides on our computers. All that clutter can lead to stress and a spiraling sense of being out of control. Here are tips on how to perform a digital, springtime detox:

Email

We’ll start with email because, well, it just keeps arriving doesn’t it? In fact, almost 270 billion emails are sent each day. And sometimes it feels like they are all coming to your account.

There are two types of people in this world: inbox zero folks and digital hoarders. Neither one is necessarily better than the other. It’s all in what works for your personal style. Nevertheless, there’s no harm in cutting down on email clutter. Here are three tips to help manage the madness.

  1. Do a mass deletion.

Don’t worry; we’re not asking you to delete stuff you might later need. We’re going to give you the gift of clearing out tons of clutter, one big swath at a time. The secret? Go to your inbox and/or your “deleted files,” and pick someone who sends you emails every single day. It might be the local newspaper or retail store. It might even be Aunt Martha who loves a great cat joke.

Change your email view to sort by sender. Then, take that particular sender, highlight every email they’ve sent you and delete. Pick another one and do it again. Doesn’t that feel good? Guaranteed you have wiped out thousands of emails with this one trick.

  1. Deal with email as it arrives.

Staying on top of email is easier if you create a system. Most productivity experts recommend setting aside a couple of times a day that you can process email, rather than reacting the second it comes in, which will distract you from your current task. Take three actions with each email:

  • Read and delete – ideal.
  • Take action immediately – best for things that just take five minutes or less.
  • Save for later – but not in your inbox, lest it become a “dysfunctional to-do list.” Rather, put the note in an appropriate file, then add it to your actual to-do list or save it to a reading folder for when you have some down time.
  1. Keep email from coming.

One word: Unsubscribe. Yes, it seems simple to just delete the daily email from the photo-sharing site where you purchased holiday cards three years ago, but really… it’s not. Resolve to click “unsubscribe” every single time an email comes in from a merchant or news provider that you don’t need to see.

Too worried you might miss something important? Try Unrollme.com, a tool that allows you to keep your subscriptions available, but out of your inbox, as it catches them in a neat “Rollup” you can access when you have time. With this handy tool, you’ll no longer have to dodge the latest BOGO missive when looking for your boss’ update.

Computer Files

Your physical filing cabinet might be relatively well organized, but your digital files are probably overflowing. With the massive storage available in today’s computers, it’s easy enough to just leave everything where it is. But there’s a better way to handle the voluminous computer files that likely keep proliferating.

  1. Categorize the folders.

For projects that are complete, as in, you need to save the files but don’t need to refer to them currently, create one big folder and send all appropriate documents there. Then if you do need something, it will be easy enough to sort.

For projects that are ongoing, nest folders within folders. For example, give the main folder the client name, then create separate files for reports, sales data, invoices, etc.….whatever makes sense given the scope of your work. Then when you open a working folder, you won’t have to scroll incessantly to find a certain document.

  1. Name files strategically.

To make it easier to find the appropriate document, choose a naming structure that makes sense, whether it’s client name, followed by weekly report, followed by date…or whatever works for you. If you are consistent going forward, you’ll realize it’s far easier to find what you need without having to open every file searching for something.

Then when a project is complete, it will be that much easier to send all related documents to another part of your computer so they aren’t cluttering up the main screen.

  1. Have a backup plan.

Make sure you have working back-up storage, whether it’s a cloud-based system that automatically backs up each evening, or an external hard drive – or ideally, both.

Spending time spring cleaning your computer will pay untold dividends in productivity for the months to come. By having a desktop that is clean, well-organized and full of potential (rather than about to crash), you might even get to those essential tasks like building or refining your budget and organizing your finances for the year to come.




5 Frequently Asked Questions About Disability Insurance

Woman with crutches sitting on a sofaDisability insurance provides critical financial protection to American workers. Yet it’s a highly misunderstood form of insurance. You probably have health insurance, home or renter’s insurance, and car insurance. But what about your need for income protection insurance?

Disability insurance pays you a portion of your income when an injury or illness takes you out of work for an extended period of time. It’s a critical form of insurance for most working Americans — because it means if you have to miss work for weeks or months at a time, you will have a financial safety net in place to help cover the bills.

Here are six frequently asked questions about disability insurance:

1. Do I really need it?

Most people hear the word “disability” and assume this form of insurance only applies to very serious injuries and illnesses — yet many common injuries (like fractures) or chronic conditions (like back, hip, or knee problems) can result in your not being able to do your job and earn a paycheck.

According to the U.S. Social Security Administration, more than one in four of today’s 20-year-olds can expect to be out of work for at least a year because of some disabling condition before they reach age 67 (the normal retirement age). Will you have an ability to pay your bills if you need to miss work for several months? If you don’t have access to that much in emergency savings, or friends or family that can help pay your bills when you need to take time off work, disability insurance makes a lot of sense.

2. What’s the difference between short term and long-term disability insurance?

Short-term disability (STD) insurance plans generally protect your income for up to three or more commonly six months. Some plans can run even longer than that. Short-term plans typically cover between 60 and 70 percent of your pay, depending on the policy.

Long-term disability (LTD) insurance protects your income if you need to miss work for longer than three to six months. It usually covers 40 to 70 percent of your income. It costs more than short-term disability insurance because it’s a policy that will protect you for a significantly longer time. The time your coverage pays benefits will range depending on your policy. It can be for a specific period — ranging from two to five or ten years — or until your Social Security retirement age. The waiting period for most LTD policies is three or six months — so you’ll need a plan to cover costs before the payments begin (usually this time is covered by your STD plan or your savings.)

3. Does disability insurance cover all disabilities?

Every plan will have its own definition of disability, so you’ll need to review the definition in your particular policy. In general, many policies do not include the following disabilities:

  • A disability resulting from participation in a riot
  • Injuries which are intentional and a result of self-infliction
  • War or any act of war
  • Any period of disability during incarceration
  • A disability resulting from a crime in which the individual has been convicted
  • Pre-existing conditions (definition varies by policy)
  • For short-term disability: occupational sickness or injury (as this is generally covered by Worker’s Compensation)

4. Can I work part-time and still collect benefits?

Your insurance contract will specify if you can receive benefits while working part-time. Many policies allow you to work, but take the amount you earn and subtract it from your benefit. If your policy has a lifetime benefit cap, working part-time may extend the life of your benefits.

5. How much disability insurance should I get?

Insurance companies typically do not sell disability insurance policies which replace all of your income. But, they do sell policies which can replace up to 70 percent of your income. If your employer does not offer a disability plan with 70 percent coverage, you may want to look for supplemental insurance coverage to offset the difference.

One major benefit of owning your policy: When you pay premiums yourself, you are paying with after-tax dollars. Therefore, any benefits will likely be tax-free. Tax-free benefits paying 70 percent of your income comes close to being 100 percent of your take-home pay. If your employer pays the premiums and the cost is not included in your taxable income, then benefits will likely be subject to taxation.

A good rule of thumb is 70 percent coverage, but, as with all insurance needs, it depends on your circumstances and what you can afford. Regardless, seek out a qualified advisor if you need help crunching the numbers.

Disability insurance is a good idea

Just think how devastating the loss of income would be for you and your dependents. Then think how much worse it would be to lose the ability to earn an income. This is a circumstance you can avoid with proper planning and an action plan.




Sleep Helps Regulate Your Metabolism and Weight

Jan-sleep-imageMost people use exercise and a healthy diet to maintain their weight. While those are two key factors, many people forget one more important contributor—sleep. Most adults need at least seven hours of sleep every night to maintain optimum health. Sleep deprivation sends your body into survival mode, which increases your appetite and food cravings, leaving you with unwanted weight gain.

Your Brain and Sleep

The body performs important functions while it sleeps. Much of your body’s restoration and repair work takes place while you’re unconscious. It’s during these quiet hours that you have spare energy that can be used for these important functions. Your brain, too, uses that downtime to reset, repair, and get ready for the day.

Sleep deprivation actually slows down your neurons, those cells that send signals in the brain. In an attempt to get the sleep it needs, your brain slows reaction times, reasoning, and problem-solving in the hopes you will drift off to sleep. At the same time, the brain starts changing the amount of hormones released for controlling the appetite and metabolism.

Sleep Deprivation and Appetite Control

Have you noticed how much hungrier you are when you’re tired? That’s because the brain releases the hormones that control hunger in different amounts when you’re sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation boosts your hunger. While your body is slower to send out and recognize the hormone that signals satiety.

Not only that, the kind of foods you crave when you’re tired changes too. You’re more likely to reach for chips, cookies, and other high-fat, sugary foods when sleep deprived. With an increase in your food intake and the desire to reach for unhealthy foods, it’s no wonder that getting a full seven hours of shut-eye is critical to regulating your metabolism and weight.

How to Get More Sleep

Getting the high-quality sleep you need starts long before you lay down at night. What you eat and your daily habits affect your ability to get a good night’s rest. A few ways to set yourself up for success include:

  • Regular Exercise Early in the Day: Exercise helps maintain your weight but it also helps establish the right conditions for better sleep. You’re more tired at night if you’ve done 30 minutes of vigorous exercise earlier. Avoid exercising within four hours of bedtime as the release of endorphins and rise in body temperature may keep you awake.

  • Avoid Stimulants: Caffeine and alcohol can both disturb sleep patterns. Caffeine can keep you awake while alcohol interrupts your sleep during the night. Stop drinking caffeine in the early afternoon. If you can, stop drinking alcohol within four hours of your bedtime.

  • Create the Right Environment: A quiet, soothing bedroom helps you relax and relieve stress. Keep your bedroom temperature between 60-68 degrees at night. Reduce light and sound as much as possible.

  • Establish a Consistent Bedtime: Your brain helps regulate your circadian rhythms, those processes your body cycles through every day. A consistent bedtime helps to solidify the release of the hormones that make you tired. Along those same lines, try to wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends to your brain and body on schedule.




Older Moms. New Babies.

Jan-OlderMother-imageYou see them jogging with strollers or walking in the baby food aisle. Maybe you’re one yourself. Today, more women ages 40 – 44 are new mothers. After decades of decline, there has been a jump in the increase of older moms. In a new analysis of census data by Pew Research Center, 86 percent of women ages 40 – 44 are mothers. And perhaps nearly as striking, 55% of these older moms have never been married.

 

So why are women waiting to have children later? Taking time for more education, improved job prospects, recovery from the recession, or stagnant wages are among the leading reasons women are delaying having children.

 

Less obvious reasons are the advances in in vitro fertilization that have allowed older women to develop careers or extend their education before having children. Fertility drops after age 35 with the chance of having a baby at age 40 of about 10 percent. However, improvements in IVF treatments have helped more women become mothers into the early 40’s. And if conception isn’t an option, adoption or surrogacy might be solutions for single women and those pursuing a career.

 

Becoming a Mother After 35 May be More Difficult

It’s possible for women over 40 to carry a child, but pregnancy can be more difficult because of less frequent ovulation. However, if a woman freezes her eggs before age 35, she has a greater than 50% chance of producing a live birth. Becoming pregnant later in life also increases the risks of pregnancy complications including greater chances of miscarriage, diabetes, or the need for a C-section delivery. Talking to a health care provider and taking care to have a healthy diet and exercise regularly is important.

The Advantages of Being an Older Mom

Older moms with more time or financial stability may be better prepared to care for her baby. Typically, a 40-year or older mom has a good sense of identity and an established career. Life experience is often stated as an advantage over being a young mom who is just starting out. And often for older moms, friends who have already become moms are a great resource.

Forty is the New 30

The average age of first-time mothers has climbed in every state in the U.S. And while the number of babies born to women 45 and older is relatively small, that number has more than tripled over the past decade. With more women choosing to have their first baby at 40, American family sizes are getting smaller. Today the majority of older women, especially those using IVF, are stopping at having one child.

 

And What About those Babies?

Children are likely to do well when their moms are older. In addition to a more secure financial foundation, children of older parents are more likely to do well in school. Older moms have the advantage of being able to share experiences of their 20s and 30s with their young children. And surprisingly, research indicates that women who have one or two children in their 30s and 40s have a greater chance of living into their 80s and 90s. For many older moms, knowing that they may not see as many grandchildren as a younger mom is something they accept, but wouldn’t change a thing about.




How Businesses Benefit from Hiring People with Disabilities

Jan-wheelchair-imagePeople with disabilities are the largest untapped minority group in the workplace. 84% of the 56 million people with disabilities in the United States find themselves unemployed. Many believe this is because people with disabilities are unable to work. Yet, this damaging stigma is a myth. Those with disabilities are able to work with as much right to a job as any human.

In 2015, the employment rate gap between people with and without disabilities was over 40%. Even though discrimination is illegal in the workplace, many employers pass over people with disabilities. They believe the cost and effort of employing a worker with a disability are too high. This unfounded belief is simply wrong. Case studies and research show many benefits to hiring those with disabilities.

1. Increase in Productivity

People commonly believe those with disabilities are unable to perform their duties and productivity will decrease. A study at Deloitte refutes this. It showed inclusive teams performed better than their peer groups by 80%. Employers also found that their employees with disabilities were hardworking. Individual productivity and overall productivity increases in companies who provide accommodations for their employees.

2. Create a Positive Image Inside and Out

Hiring people with disabilities improves your diversity. Diversity makes your company look better in the consumer’s eye. Disabilities are a largely untapped source, both in employment and marketing. Hiring from the minority group broadens your consumer base and improves customer interactions. Diversity also improves the employee morale inside your company. Studies show employees think better of the business they work for if there is greater diversity. Creating accommodations also shows that you care which improves employee- employer relations.

3. Receive Quality Work

A myth suggests people with disabilities will not be able to perform their job. They will get hurt more often and will miss more days. However, the statistics support the exact opposite. 9 out of 10 people with disabilities rated average or better in their work performance. Almost 100% of people with disabilities rate average or better when it involved work safety. 86% of them rated average or better on work attendance. Many employers noted their employees with disabilities are more dependable, loyal, and productive than their peers.

4. Reduce Tax Burden

Another great reason to hire them is the tax incentives the government provides. The three main tax cuts are Disabled Access Credit, Barrier Removal Deduction, and Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC). Disabled Access Credit focuses on small businesses. It provides credit for any accommodations that a business gives its employees. Barrier Removal Deduction gives a tax cut up to $15,000 a year. You only have to remove barriers that prohibit access to people with disabilities in or around your building. Finally, WOTC is a monetary incentive to hire those with disability and can range from $1,200 to $9,600.

5. Raise Your Revenue

Many believe hiring someone with a disability will lower your revenue. Cost of access, health care, and other expenses will outweigh the benefits. But, hiring those with disabilities increases your profits. These benefits come from marketing, staff retention, and worker’s compensation.

Hiring a person with a disability widens your market and improves public image. This leads to more sales from new customers and a new demographic. Loyalty among those with disabilities is higher in the workplace. Staff retention increases 72% compared to their abled colleagues. This saves you money by reducing hiring and training costs. Worker’s compensation also tends to be lower with workers who have disabilities.

Hiring those with disabilities is increasingly beneficial. Many employers found their employees needed no accommodation at all or one that didn’t cost a dime. If employers did need to invest, they found the company earned the money back several times over. People with disabilities are creative, hardworking, and a vastly untapped work source. Improve your business today by creating a diverse and inclusive workplace. You’ll be impressed by the difference.

 




Family Planning: Daycare or Stay-At-Home?

Jan-childcare-imagePlanning for a family can be an exciting and daunting step, when you think of all the changes having a baby leads to. There’s the rewarding feeling of creating a bond with a tiny little human, even when you’re too tired to see straight. And then there’s the financial drain that comes with an extra person who must be fed, clothed and cared for 24/7. Child care, alone, is often one of the largest monthly expenses for working parents, unless you’re lucky enough to have a friend or relative who can’t get enough of changing diapers. This leaves many weighing the benefits and implications of child care vs. staying home with a new baby.

 

Those most impacted by this life-changing financial decision are millennials. In 2014, millennial moms accounted for almost 90% of all moms that year, up 50% from a decade ago. According to reports on the average salary for a millennial, in 2013, the median annual earnings for millennial women working full-time, year-round were $30,000, compared with $35,000 for their male counterparts. According to the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, the cost of center-based daycare in the United States can run up to $18,773 a year ($361 a week). With less than half their salaries left over, many millennials have some soul searching to do about what’s best for their families.

 

Assuming one has some financial flexibility, and can go without what’s left of his or her salary after childcare costs, how does one take on this decision? There are several factors to consider. Are you happy in your career? Are you driven to move your career forward? Do you dread the thought of being away from your child? Ultimately, you need to decide how this decision will affect the well-being of you and your family.

 

These days, American companies are starting to wake up to the idea that better parental leave is good for business. They are able to compete for a higher standard of employee by offering longer paid leaves. In addition, a new mother or father with an 8-week-old baby is not getting the quality of sleep he or she should, and may suffer at work. It may sound obvious as a parent, but companies are starting to recognize this as a priority benefit. These companies often combine short-term disability leave and paid parental leave, as their parental leave strategy. A few companies even offer on-site child care as a benefit to their employees, offering the best of both worlds.

 

An expectant mother or father can spend days, weeks or even months trying to figure out what to do. But when that little human comes into the world, everything changes. It’s good to have a plan. But it’s also good to be open to changing that plan. You may find that work is the perfect escape from the trials and tribulations of parenthood.




Tolerating Gluten Intolerance

Jan-celiac-imageAt 18 months old, my son suddenly changed from the happiest little dude in town to a miserable and often inconsolable kid. Without warning, he became thoroughly unhappy, bouncing between periods of lethargy and periods of frustration. His sleep, which had been challenging anyway, as it is with most little ones, became a constant battle; he struggled to get comfortable and would wake several times each night. His enthusiasm for eating and trying new foods disappeared, causing us to coax most meals into him. And, perhaps most troubling, he began to loose weight.

His pediatrician was stumped. She couldn’t identify an illness. There were no injuries to explain the situation. No significant changes in his daily life.

Eventually a blood test was ordered, mostly to rule out celiac disease. When the results showed extremely high tTG levels, the doctors thought there must have been an error. To confirm, an endoscopy was performed. Sure enough, numerous ulcers in his small intestines were discovered.

I was positive this was karma’s way of punishing me. Over the preceding couple of years, several friends had joined the anti-gluten trend and decided to remove the protein from their diet for no reason, as far as I could tell, other than following a fad. So I began telling people that I had become intolerant of gluten intolerance. My son’s diagnosis felt like payback.

We immediately removed gluten from the little monster’s diet, and almost immediately his mood improved. Within a couple of weeks, he began to put the lost weight back on, and was once again the happy, exhausting kid he had previously been.

An Invisible Autoimmune Nightmare

My son’s sensitivity is high. After diagnosis, we began regular check ins with a gastroenterologist. At our first visit, we learned it could take as long as a year for his body to fully heal. We also learned that a single gluten-containing crumb small enough to fit under my fingernail would be enough to make him feel sick for a day or two.

For reasons unknown, the gluten protein causes the villi in the small intestines to flatten out, which then prevents them from absorbing the nutrition passing through the body. This not only results in discomfort, but in some cases the body is so deprived of nutrition and vitamins, that the disease can prevent growth and may lead to additional problems such as anemia, osteoporosis, and weakened bones.

It’s Everywhere!

We became gluten fanatics almost overnight. It was fairly easy to cut out the obvious problems – wheat, rye, and barley – but we soon discovered it’s more complicated than just avoiding bread and crackers. The stuff shows up in soaps, shampoos, soy sauce, candies, some hot dogs, dry-roasted nuts, vitamin supplements, toothpaste, and laundry detergents! We had to make special play dough to send with him to daycare, because the store-bought stuff isn’t safe. If they blow bubbles on the playground and he pops one, they have to wash his hands before he sticks a finger in his mouth. When I repaired a small crack in a wall at home, he had to be out of the house until dust from the drywall and joint compound was thoroughly cleaned up, because even those have gluten in them!

Awareness is on the Rise

The good news is having celiac disease in 2018 is a lot better than it would have been even 10 years ago. Our local grocery store has an entire gluten-free section. Most products list all ingredients on their labels, often highlighting known allergens. And overall awareness of gluten intolerance is high. We’ve learned to avoid most cereals, breaded foods, and even some non-wheat grains, as they can have trace amounts of gluten if processed in a facility that also processes wheat. We learned that even if a pizza joint offers a gluten-free option, wheat flour in the air could impact our pie. And we’ve learned that “gluten-free” is definitely not the same as “Certified gluten-free.”

Luckily, in addition to special sections in the grocery store, many restaurants are also proving options for a growing population of celiacs. Even in our relatively small city, there are several gluten-free restaurants. And the local gluten-free bakery is worth a visit, whether you have an intolerance or not.

The Numbers Seem to be Growing

While celiac disease is estimated to impact only 1% of the population, general gluten intolerance is on the rise–four times more common today than it was in the 1950s! It’s not clear why more people are becoming sensitive to the protein, but theories range from changes in wheat, to too much gluten in processed foods, to poor diet and excessive use of antibiotics, contributing to an overgrowth of candida in the gut.

Only One Treatment…For Now

There is currently no cure for celiac disease, and the only real treatment is a gluten-free diet. However, thanks to more people suffering from an intolerance, there is more research underway today than ever before. Several new drugs are being tested, and trials of vaccine-like treatments have already begun in Europe and Australia. It’s possible that an effective solution will be developed before my son grows up and has to opt for gluten-free beer (yep, most beers have gluten, too).

Until then, we’ll keep the house gluten-free, make our own play dough, read every label, and visit that celiac-safe bakery as often as possible. And lots of chocolates are gluten-free, so we have that going for us!




Three Ways to Impact Retention This Year

Jan-Retention-imageOne thing that keeps many HR directors up at night is the threat of losing employees. Whether it be a promising new hire or someone who has been with the company for over 20 years, having someone give their notice (or just stop showing up altogether) can be enough to throw things off for weeks at a time. Improving employee retention can be difficult, but there are plenty of things you can do to push things in the right direction.

 

Approximately ⅓ of new employees will quit a job within their first six months. Tired of losing valuable people? Here are three things you can do in 2018 to improve retention.

Focus on Maintaining Mutual Clarity

There’s no better reason for someone to up and leave their job than not understanding what their role is. Given the nature of siloing, however, scenarios such as this play out all the time in corporate settings. It is a supervisor’s responsibility to ensure that employees are never in the dark about performance, earning potential or expectations being held for them. Without providing this necessary framework, your employees will not only have a hard time succeeding—they’ll dread getting out of bed each morning to come to work. The answer? Regular, one-on-one sit downs, during which you can discuss performance, motivations and goals.

Offer Flexibility

No one wants their day to be characterized by a rigid work environment where they’re being watched 24/7 and expected to track every last second of their time. Flexibility means everything to the modern workforce, and with such options as hoteling and telecommuting becoming more and more common, there’s little reason to not embrace these needs. Offering additional flex-time and the option to telecommute to employees when it makes sense can not only help to reduce stress levels within the organization—it may even serve as a tool for saving on overhead.

Develop an Inclusive Company Culture

Creating a culture for your organization can be a lengthy process, and there’s really no right or wrong way to approach it. The culture of a company is the combined result of values, goals, interests and vision—it should speak to what the business is truly all about. This is where employee engagement comes in, which can have a huge impact on retention. Employees that feel engaged and actively involved in the culture of an organization will be much more likely to stick around than those operating on the fringe. Foster a safe, positive work environment that looks to all employees for feedback/development, and company culture will build upon itself in time.

 

Don’t lay awake at night thinking about employee turnover. Take the right steps, and you can enjoy high retention rates in the years to come.




Put Muscle Into Your Metabolism

Jan-BuildMuscle-imageHow’s your metabolism these days? If your body isn’t looking or feeling the way you’d like it to, maybe it’s time to take a closer look.
As we get older, especially in our 40s, our metabolism tends to slow down. Even for people who jog or cycle a few times a week and maintain an average weight, their metabolism can continue to decline. What’s going on?

 

The basics of your metabolism are simple. You eat food, most of it becomes glucose (sugar), insulin delivers the glucose to cells, and how well all of this happens is your metabolic rate.

 

For too many Americans, diet is the primary cause for a slowing metabolism. Consuming too much sugar or carbohydrates can lead to more stored body fat that sets off a chain of problems involving blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure.

 

Faster at Any Age

How to speed up you metabolism is simple, but first there are some misconceptions to get past. Getting older doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about your metabolic rate. In fact, with some important changes, an older person’s metabolism can outperform that of a 20 something. Being thinner isn’t necessarily an advantage for having a faster metabolism. And regular exercise such as running, cycling or walking is all you need to help manage your metabolism.

 

Muscle for Metabolism

To create a healthy metabolic rate, building muscle is the answer. More muscle burns more sugar for fuel. And the more muscle you have, the faster your metabolic furnace runs. Strength training – yes, working with weights – is absolutely essential to ward off useless fat. You don’t have to be a gym rat to change your metabolism. Simple resistance training even at home can start to build more muscle mass.

 

With a focus on strength training, you’re engaging the most important metabolic tissue in your body. A pound of muscle burns far more calories than a pound of fat. Unlike cardio training that is important for the heart and lungs, weight training consumes more sugar and delivers more strength. All you need to do is to start resistance work on the muscles you have. You can start at sixty and older and still get great results.

 

Getting Started

If you haven’t done resistance training before or it’s been a long time since you last did, here are few suggestions to get started. Like anything new, start slowly to avoid burnout or injury. If you have any concerns about lifting weights or using weight machines in a gym, be sure to consult with your physician. Begin with light weights and work on good form. You’re looking for a complete range of motion with good posture and alignment. You can start a program at home, but to really get results, visit a nearby gym and seek the advice of a good trainer. Just spending two–three days per week doing resistance training will start putting good muscle into your metabolism.