Women and Health

Building Community: An Antidote for Mindless Spending

Building Community

In the hustle and bustle of urban life, it’s easy to fall into the trap of mindless spending – buying things we don’t need in search of fulfillment. But what if the key to a more fulfilling life lies not in the latest purchase but in the community around us? In this blog article, we’ll explore the positive effect building community can have on your physical, emotional, and financial well-being.

The Urban Isolation Phenomenon

Living in a city, especially as a single woman, often comes with a sense of isolation. Despite living among thousands or even millions of people, the connections can feel superficial.

Indeed, loneliness is becoming increasingly common among adult Americans. According to research from Cigna and Morning Consult, 58% of U.S. adults consider themselves to be lonely.

Some of us fill this void with material possessions, a temporary fix to a more profound need for connection. Unfortunately, when left unchecked, emotional spending can lead to buyer’s remorse, clutter, and even financial strain.

The Transformative Power of Building Community

The good news is there’s a transformative power in building a community. In fact, research indicates that the stronger our sense of belonging, the better our mental health and overall well-being.  

This isn’t just about knowing your neighbors’ names or attending the occasional block party. It’s about creating a network of support and shared experiences that enrich our lives in ways shopping never can.

It begins with the simple things: a smile to a neighbor or a stranger you pass on the street, a hello to the barista who makes your morning coffee. These small interactions can make us braver and bolder in connecting with people.

Participating in local initiatives, such as Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build events, can also foster a sense of belonging. These activities unite women from diverse backgrounds to work on meaningful projects, creating a bond through shared goals and achievements​​.

Moreover, volunteering for causes dear to your heart can open doors to new friendships and connections. It’s a way of giving back that enriches the community and your life.

Finding Your Tribe

Taking cues from small towns, where community ties tend to be more robust, we can bring a similar sense of closeness into our urban lives by frequenting shops, cafes, and service providers in a favorite neighborhood. The more often you see and recognize people, the more they will recognize you, encouraging interaction and a sense of community.

To find your local tribe, explore where your interests align with others, whether through local clubs, online platforms, or community centers. Be it a book club, a yoga class, or a gardening or dining group, these are places where you can find like-minded individuals and potential friends.

For example, I discovered Jill Daniel’s Happy Women Dinners when looking for more community. Jill plans lunches and dinners, usually with a female book author as the featured speaker. If you’re curious, the best place to find more details about these events is by visiting Jill’s Instagram account.

Boost Your Financial Well-Being by Building Community

Building a community isn’t just an antidote to the loneliness of urban living; it’s a powerful response to the culture of mindless spending. In turning towards each other, we find what we’ve been searching for – connection, belonging, and a sense of purpose and fulfillment that no shopping spree can provide.

As you build these connections, something remarkable happens. The urge to fill the void with material possessions diminishes. You’ll likely find joy in experiences, shared moments, and a supportive community’s richness rather than shopping and spending. This, in turn, sets the stage for a brighter future, benefiting your mental and physical health, as well as your financial well-being.

For more personal finance tips and strategies for improving your overall well-being, please visit our free resources page.

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Feeling Mentally Drained? You May Need to Go on a Decision Detox

Decision Detox

If you find it difficult to stick to good habits and are having trouble reaching your goals, it may be the result of decision fatigue. A decision detox can help you get back on track.

We all have those days where we feel like there are just too many choices. Should I go grocery shopping today after work or tomorrow morning? What should I make for dinner tonight? When can I squeeze in a workout?

In fact, it’s estimated that the average adult makes about 35,000 remotely conscious decisions per day. And researchers at Cornell University estimate we make roughly 227 decisions each day on food alone!

It may seem like all this decision making is the obvious consequence of a busy life. Unfortunately, it’s draining us of our mental energy, which can have real consequences on our lives—and finances.

What Is Decision Fatigue?

Coined by social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister, decision fatigue is the emotional and mental strain resulting from a burden of choices. It’s one reason many of us feel exhausted after a stressful day at work even though we were sitting down most of the day.

As your mental energy decreases, you’re more likely to let basic desires take over and make whatever decision seems easiest at the time. For example, you might decide to pick up takeout on your way home rather than cook the healthy dinner you planned.

When decision fatigue sets in, our ability to consider the long-term impact of a decision goes out the window. Meaning, there’s nothing wrong with you if you’re having trouble accomplishing your goals. It just means you may need to go on a decision detox. 

How to Do a Decision Detox

A decision detox doesn’t mean eliminating all decisions from your life altogether. The goal is to make fewer decisions so you can clear mental space for what matters.

Here are five strategies for reducing decision fatigue and boosting your mental energy:

Decision Detox Tip #1: Anticipate Routine Decisions

Do you find yourself wasting time on similar decisions every day? Like what to wear or eat for breakfast? The fewer decisions you make early in the day, the more energy you’ll have for more important decisions later.

The solution is to plan accordingly. For example, you can choose your outfit the night before so you’re not struggling to put something together in the morning. If you have trouble deciding what to eat most days, try prepping your meals for the week on Sunday so you always have healthy options in the fridge.

The same is true for routine financial decisions. Consider automating your monthly bill payments and setting up automatic transfers to your emergency fund and retirement savings.

Decision Detox Tip #2: Set Healthy Boundaries and Learn to Say “No”

Many of us have a hard time saying no, especially if it lets someone we care about down. But people pleasing can be mentally draining. If you tend to agonize over how to respond to invitations or requests for your time, you’re contributing to your decision fatigue.

An effective decision detox includes setting healthy boundaries. It’s not easy, but it can save you valuable mental energy. If you haven’t read it, Essentialism by Greg McKeown is a great book for helping you focus on what matters in your life, so you can confidently say no to everything else.

Decision Detox Tip #3: Avoid Making Decisions When You’re Tired, Hungry, Stressed, etc.

There’s a reason everyone says not to go grocery shopping when you’re hungry. Or to avoid major decisions when you’re stressed or grieving. When we’re in survival mode, we’re more likely to take the path of least resistance. That may mean buying food that tastes great but isn’t exactly nutritious or making an impulsive decision that we later regret.

If you feel like you’re slipping into survival mode, there are a few things you can do to pull yourself out. Spend a few minutes meditating, go for a walk, or connect with a friend. Adding these types of activities to your decision detox can help you restore your mental energy and make better decisions more consistently.

Decision Detox Tip #4: Designate Times to Check Email, Texts, and Social Media

Most Americans check their phone about 160 times per day, according to a recent study. If this sounds like you, your smartphone habit may be working against you. For example, if you see a new text or email come in, you may feel compelled to respond immediately. Unfortunately, even communication that feels easy—like responding to a friend about where you want to meet for lunch later—can zap your mental energy.

As part of your decision detox, try designating specific times for communication and scrolling your social media feed. You may be surprised how much more you can get done when your phone isn’t constantly distracting you. And how much more energy you have at the end of the day! 

Decision Detox Tip #5: Don’t Be Afraid to Delegate

Lastly, just because you can do it all yourself doesn’t mean you have to. Our time and energy are finite resources. Sometimes reaching your goals means asking for help.

Whether it’s at work, at home, or in your financial life, look for areas where you can delegate decisions to someone else. If delegating allows you to spend more time and energy on things that bring you joy, it’s probably worth it.

At Curtis Financial Planning, our goal is to be a fiduciary financial partner to our clients so they can focus more time and energy on what they love and do best. If you believe we may be a good fit and can help you achieve your financial goals, please schedule a call.

And if you’re ready to go on a decision detox in your financial life, check out The Happiness Spreadsheet—a fresh, inspiring approach to budgeting that aligns your spending with your values.

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Women and Long-Term Care Insurance: Preparing for Your Future Well-Being

Women and Long-Term Care Insurance

Long-term care insurance is important for a wide variety of individuals to have. But women face a unique set of challenges that often makes it even more important. For starters, women tend to live longer than men after retirement age, which often means women should be financially prepared for more years than the average.

Long-term care insurance can help you become more financially and emotionally prepared for the future. But that’s not the only reason you might consider it. Women are also more likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, making it crucial that long-term care insurance is there to fall back on when you need it most. The same is true when your partner falls ill, since women often become caretakers for their husbands later in life.

But the truth is that long-term care insurance is complicated, and it isn’t necessary for everyone. So, let’s talk about who needs and qualifies for it, how it works, and the benefits and downsides.

How to Determine if You Need Long-Term Care Insurance

70% of people turning age 65 will need some type of long-term care services in their lifetime. Long-term care services include assistance with activities of daily living. Activities like bathing, eating, medication management, and dressing are some of the most common. There are many different reasons that someone might need this type of assistance. Often, it’s due to an injury, degenerative health condition, or a cognitive disorder like Alzheimer’s.

When you are working with a professional to determine what types of insurance coverage you need, their first question in terms of long-term care insurance might be: is there someone who will take care of you in the unfortunate circumstance that you may no longer be able to care for yourself? As a result, individuals without spouses or children often seek long-term care insurance earlier in life than others.

Who Qualifies for Long-Term Care Insurance?

This may come as a surprise, but not everyone is eligible for long-term care insurance. There are no age requirements for purchasing long-term care insurance. But getting the timing right is crucial because several pre-existing conditions will render you ineligible. A few of these include:

  • AIDS
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Parkinson’s
  • MS
  • Any dementia or progressive neurological condition
  • A stroke
  • Metastatic cancer

If you’re in good health and eligible, the optimal age range to shop for long-term care insurance is between 57 and 65.  Keep in mind that premiums go up as you get older.

How Does It Work?

The benefits and specifics of your long-term care insurance will vary depending on the policy. Some policies involve direct payments to care providers, while others offer reimbursement to the policyholder. Most policies require that a professional service take place to receive the benefit, regardless of the way it is paid out. This means that individuals can’t receive care from a family member and then request compensation. However, if this family member is part of a home care agency, that is a different story.

Benefits and Downsides

There are several benefits to obtaining long-term care insurance. Typically, these types of care plans are flexible, making it easy to structure them to meet a variety of unique needs. Long-term care can take place in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or in your home, depending on your comfort level and other individual factors.

And having long-term care insurance in place when you need it can help you avoid having your post-retirement budget derailed by exorbitant and unexpected nursing home bills. But there are downsides to consider here, too. Primarily, the health restrictions and cost-prohibitive long-term care policy options.

The best way to determine whether long-term care insurance is right for you is to speak with a professional. Everyone is different, and your needs are different, too. If you’d like to speak with a financial planner about how long-term care insurance may fit into your retirement plan, we’d love to chat.

Download your free guide: What Issues Should I Consider When Purchasing Long-Term Care Insurance?



For more information on women and long-term care insurance, check out our recent Financial Finesse podcast episode:

What Every Woman Needs To Know About Long-Term Care Insurance.


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5 Unique Things to Buy To Help Ease Your Anxiety 

Photo Credit: Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

I have gotten a special thrill out of being a curator of delightful, beautiful or delicious things and sharing them with my friends.

With the pandemic crisis, I think we can all use more simple pleasures to lift our spirits and ease our anxiety. 

In the act of treating ourselves or others, we can support independent businesses in their time of need. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.

CHIC PROTECTIVE MASKS

Coin 1804 Protective Masks in Camo Or Python Prints – these masks made by fashion brand COIN 1804 in Los Angeles are not medical grade masks. But they will do in a pinch when you are out for a walk or running errands. They are comfortable, easy to take off and on, fully cover your nose and mouth, and are cute! Check out COIN 1804’s wide and surprisingly affordable men and women’s casual, chic clothing while you are on the site.


SILK PILLOWCASES

I regret all the years I didn’t know how wonderful it is to sleep on a silk pillowcase! Articles touted how they prevent wrinkles and bed hair, but what I love is how good they feel on your skin. Cool and smooth and luxurious. It’s important to buy 100% mulberry silk for the best experience. I purchased mine from Fishers Finery 
and Brooklinen  and I’ll be checking back for sales often. I know I’ll never use a cotton pillowcase again.

BUD VASES

For a perfect well-priced gift or a treat for yourself, go no further than Heath Ceramics and their bud vase – $26.00. It’s simple, clean lines and lovely colors are always pleasing to the eye alone or with a few buds tucked inside. As if that wasn’t good enough, Heath produces it in seasonal colors, so you have a reason to go back for more. If you buy the vase as a gift, you can include a Heath designed letterpress card for $5.00.

STORAGE BASKETS 

Being at home gives me the urge to organize and find new, esthetically pleasing ways to store things. One of my favorite storage vehicles is from Design Within Reach. It’s the Restore Basket designed by Mika Tolvanen for Muuto. It comes in 3 different sizes and is constructed of polymer felt made from recycled PET bottles. The basket holds its shape, is easy to carry, and doesn’t scratch surfaces. I use them in my office and at home. Currently, some of the colors are on sale, and they do add new colors from time to time.

CBD FACE SERUM

A friend of mine recently sent me a “COVID-Care package,” and inside was a vial of St. Jane Luxury Beauty Serum for the face. It’s the most fantastic face oil formulated with all Vegan ingredients, including sunflower and grape seed oil combine with 500mg CBD to help nourish and calm the skin. I have sensitive skin, and my face loves it. 

If you try these products, I hope you like them as much as I do.

And, I’m sure these independent businesses will appreciate your orders during this time of need. 

If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy this one as well.

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THE CARES ACT REVIEW PART V: Health Provisions

Photo by Ani Kolleshi on Unsplash

One of the objectives of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) is to help people get the care they need with fewer obstacles and less-in-person contact. It adds to the health provisions in a bill passed in March – the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).

The CARES ACT health provisions will be most beneficial to families with High Deductible Health Insurance plans (HDHPs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) or flexible spending accounts (FSAs), which are pre-tax savings accounts for healthcare expenses. However, Medicare Part D participants and anyone who gets a test for COVID-19 will benefit too.

EXPANDED USE OF HSAs
Temporary provision:
-Telehealth services used to be subject a deductible, now they are covered before a patient has met the plan deductible. Usual cost-sharing, such a co-pay, is still allowed. This provision will sunset in December 2020.

Permanent and retroactive to January 1, 2020 provisions:
-It’s now ok to buy over-the-counter medical products, such as OTC drugs and surgical masks, without a prescription and get reimbursed by an HSA. With the prior rules, effective since January 2011, a prescription was necessary for reimbursement.
-Certain menstrual care products such as tampons and pads are now reimbursable medical expenses.

PLANNING TIP: For individuals and families experiencing cash flow issues some of the existing HSA rules can help. For example, there are no time restrictions or deadlines for when you can reimburse yourself from your HSA. You can claim reimbursement for eligible items if you have proof of purchase as far back as when you first opened the account.

PLANNING TIP: While HSA can’t be used to cover your share of employer-provided medical insurance, they can be used by unemployed people to pay premiums on an independent policy or coverage through COBRA.

COVID-19 TESTING WITHOUT COST SHARING
The FFCRA mandates that private insurance companies and Medicare cover COVID-19 testing and a vaccine for free. The CARES Act extends free testing to any services or items provided during a medical visit that results in coronavirus testing. Medical visits can be in-person, a telehealth visit, an urgent care or emergency room visit. This benefit remains in effect only while there is a declared public health emergency. It’s not certain if self-administered tests (if and when available) will be covered.

The CARES ACT also clarifies that Medicaid must cover such tests regardless of whether they are authorized for emergency use by the FDA.


PRESCRIPTION SUPPLY BENEFIT

Medicare PART D recipients can order up to a 90 day supply of medications. Prior to the CARES Act passing, a PART D insurance plan had the option to relax their “refill too soon” restrictions but now they are required to do so. The change is designed so that all Part D enrollees can get an extended supply of medications during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

PLANNING TIP: Place orders of your medications for 90-day supplies to save trips to the pharmacy and the hassle of having to reorder in less time.

SOME OTHER HEALTH PROVISIONS
-Reauthorization of programs to strengthen rural community health, the Healthy Start program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
-Dollars to support domestic food assistance programs (breakfast and school lunch, SNAP, emergency food assistance.
-Funding for the Defense Production Act, Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, Disaster Relief Fund, FEMA, Indian Health Service, CDC, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, CMS, Public Health and Social Social Services Emergency Fund and others.

If you missed Part IV: Review of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) go here.
And, for a comprehensive article about HSAs, go here.

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The CARES Act Reviewed: Part III Expanded Unemployment Benefits

Photo Credit: Annie Spratt, Unsplash

MILLIONS OF PEOPLE ARE OUT OF WORK

With millions of people out of work due to the Coronavirus, the CARES Act provides much-needed relief in the form of expanded unemployment benefits. It covers workers previously ineligible for benefits, including self-employed, part-time workers, gig workers, freelancers, and independent contractors. It also helps those who have recently exhausted their weeks of benefits and those who haven’t earned enough to qualify for state unemployment. And, it offers benefits to those who are personally affected by the virus due to being ill themselves or being a caretaker to a family member who is sick and many more.

A new program of this size and scope will take a lot of time to get set up and it’s challenging to get the most up-to-date and accurate information. For people who are applying for benefits, the wait-times are long, and state websites are crashing. And there are stories that some workers won’t get the full benefit due to not being able to document their income fully. But it will help many people.

DETAILS
Here are details that I have been able to glean so far:

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation

This is an addition to regular state unemployment checks.
Those who have lost their jobs will get whatever their state usually provides for unemployment, plus $600 per week for up to July 31.

Federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation:

People who have exhausted their regular State benefits (which max-out at 26 weeks in California), could get up to 13 more weeks, for a total of 39 weeks.

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

For newly eligible workers.
The program will provide temporary unemployment assistance to the self-employed and people unable to work for many reasons due to the COVID-19 emergency, for example, people who have contracted the virus, caretakers, people who can’t work because of quarantines, or the person’s place of business has closed. This program does not require a person to actively seek work to receive benefits like most state programs. The benefits are available for the duration of the covered person’s inability to work, beginning retroactively to January 27, 2020, and ending on December 31, 2020, up to a maximum of 39 weeks. These benefits will be no less than $600 a week.

Federal Incentives to Create Short-Time Compensation Programs

The Federal Government will fund 100% of the costs for states that currently have an STC program (California has one) and 50% for those states that choose to implement one through December 2020. These programs are also known as work-sharing or shared-work programs and are an alternative to layoffs for employers experiencing a reduction in available work.

Note: This bill leaves out those workers who are able to work from home, and those receiving paid sick leave or paid family leave. New entrants to the workforce who cannot find jobs would also be ineligible.

Here are some additional resources:

If you missed Part II: Retirement Account Provisions, go here

Next up: The CARES ACT and Small-Business Provisions

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Women and Wine: A Love-Hate Relationship

There has been a distinct shift in the way I and women I know feel about wine. Before it was considered sheer pleasure – enjoying a glass with a meal, wine-tasting with friends, and developing a palate. Then, somewhere along the line, it became more of a routine: come home from a day of work and pour a glass while making dinner. Then, maybe another one. Drinking wine became a little less “special occasion” and more of an everyday occurrence.

Women, Wine and Health
While we continued to enjoy wine, we followed the various studies that would come out about women, wine and health. Many concluded that moderate alcohol intake lowered the risk of heart disease because it acts as a mild blood thinner. Some studies touted the heart-healthy benefits of red wine because of an antioxidant compound, resveratrol, found in the skins and seeds of grapes. But there were also studies that showed a stronger link to women, alcohol and an increased risk of cancer, mostly driven by breast cancer.

Like many health studies, those about alcohol intake were often conflicting or inconclusive, but it did sew seeds of doubt as to whether that daily glass or two of wine was such a good thing for our health. We have begun to think that maybe we’d be better off without it. However, like many behaviors that become habits, we have found that wine drinking is not so easy to stop. In a recent gathering with a few women colleagues, discussing our goals for the coming year – 3 out of 5 said they’d like to curb their wine habit.

The Love-Hate Relationship 
Herein lies the love-hate relationship. We know that wine is probably not great for us – it may cause disease, it’s full of sugar, it makes us lazy, and it can be addictive. But, its pleasures are compelling: a glass of wine signals the end of a hard day of work and the start of a relaxing evening, it evokes a feeling of “la dolce vita,” and the alcohol takes the edge off whatever may be bothering us at the time.

My feelings about wine drinking have shifted. I have decided that I don’t want to drink wine as much as I used to. I don’t like the possibility that it might make me sick, is addictive, and I don’t want the extra calories. So I’ve taken steps to curb my habit: I’m not drinking wine on most weeknights, and I have substituted kombucha or mineral water with lemon in my wine glass.

Just out of curiosity and (because I’m a financial advisor!), I did a calculation to see how much money one could save by curbing a wine habit. To keep it simple, these are the broad assumptions:

– There are five glasses of wine to a bottle (5 ounce pours)
– Two glasses of wine consumed per night Monday-Thursday
– A bottle of weekday wine costs an average of $30.00
– Three glasses of wine consumed per night Friday-Sunday
– A bottle of weekend wine costs an average of $50.00.

Calculation:
2 glasses x $5.00 x 4 x 52 = $2080.00
3 glasses x $10.00 x 3 x 52 = $4680.00
Grand total: $6760.00 per year.

So another added benefit to reducing wine consumption is better cash flow!

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