Retirement Readiness Improves as Americans Save More

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Sponsored News – Are people wising up when it comes to ensuring their retirement won’t be like something out of “The Hunger Games”?
Maybe.
Two years ago, Fidelity Investments (Fidelity.com) came up with a unique way of measuring not only how close working Americans are to meeting their post-retirement expenses, but also how different generations — baby boomers, Gen Xers, and Gen Yers — stack up against each other. The one standout back then was boomers.
But now that same gauge, the Retirement Preparedness Measure (RPM), is signaling more widespread improvement — thanks in large part to what John Sweeney, Fidelity’s executive vice president of retirement and investment strategies, ascribes to “across-the-board progress in savings, and investments being allocated in a more age-appropriate way.”
Specifically, the number of people likely to afford at least their essential expenses in retirement jumped 7 percentage points since 2013, from 38 to 45 percent, according to the firm’s biennial “Retirement Savings Assessment” study.
On the flip side, of course, that means 55 percent are estimated to be “at risk of being unprepared to completely cover” essentials like housing, food and health care.
That said, what’s especially illuminating about the RPM is the color-coded breakdown — with dark green being the best — showing how retiree households are currently prepared to withstand a down market compared to 2013:
* Dark Green. Twenty-seven percent are on track to cover more than 95 percent of their total estimated expenses (up 4 percent).
* Green. Eighteen percent are headed toward only covering essentials, with no money for travel and entertainment (up 3 percent).
* Yellow. Twenty-three percent are off track and would likely require “modest” lifestyle adjustments (up 4 percent).
* Red. Thirty-two percent definitely “need attention,” to put it mildly, though that’s down significantly from 43 percent.
So which generation is faring best?
Well, boomers saved the most — stashing away 9.7 percent of their salaries (up from 8.1 percent, which is still below Fidelity’s recommended rate of at least 15 percent). However, millennials showed the most improvement by boosting their savings from 5.8 percent to 7.5 percent.
For those curious how they’re doing, Fidelity now allows anyone to access their personal retirement score online. And if you are flashing “code red” — or just eager for a more comfortable retirement — certain “accelerators” can help.
Saving that aforementioned 15 percent of your income, for example, brings the study’s median RPM score of 76 — smack in the yellow zone — up to the green zone’s 84. Replacing portfolios that are either too conservative or too aggressive with more age-appropriate asset mixes can help improve the score, too.
“The score reaches 100 if you combine delaying retirement with the other two accelerators,” says Sweeney.

The ABCs of ACA — Advice for Business Owners in 2016

(NewsUSA) – Sponsored News – Health care reform is continuing to change how businesses offer health insurance coverage, and there are several regulations to remember throughout the year. As of Jan. 1, 2016, a new phase of regulations is now in effect as a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Business owners have to be sure they are using the necessary tools to remain compliant and meet ACA reporting requirements, which include the administrative work that comes along with health care reform. Below are a few tips from Aflac, the leading provider of voluntary insurance at the worksite in the United States, for business owners and human resources representatives to keep in mind to stay on track all year:1. Remember that the Employer Shared Responsibility requirement is now in effect. This means employers with at least 50 full-time equivalent employees are required to offer affordable health coverage that pays at least 60 percent of the cost of covered benefits for employees and their dependents. If employers do not comply, they may be penalized if one or more of its full-time employees receive a premium tax credit for purchasing individual coverage on one of the public health insurance exchanges.2. Learn who needs coverage. Applicable large employers with 50 or more employees, including equivalents, are required to provide coverage to full-time employees who work at least 30 hours a week, as well as dependents under the age of 26. However, businesses are not required to offer coverage to part-time employees or the spouses of part-time or full-time employees.3. Adhere to IRS reporting requirements for employers. Applicable large employers and businesses with self-funded health plans are required to report information regarding the health coverage of employees to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).It’s important for business owners to keep track of any changes in employment status for each employee, provide ppropriate health coverage and report necessary information to the IRS. There are many resources to help businesses stay on track with requirements. A good place to start is with your local broker and insurance agent or by visiting aflac.com/health-care-reform

Major Maryland Piano Store to Close Its Doors

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Sponsored News – Just in time for Earth Day, a new book introduces young readers aged 7 to 11 to a whole new world of unique and compelling endangered species, environmental awareness, teamwork and, best of all, a rollicking, outlandish group of characters that entertain the whole family.
The Nocturnals: The Mysterious Abductions, by Tracey Hecht, focuses on a group of animals who form an unlikely team to solve the mystery of why other nocturnal denizens of their forest are disappearing. Dawn the fox, Tobin the pangolin and Bismark the sugar glider embark on a fantastic adventure that takes them to the depths of the earth and places their survival at stake.
R.L. Stine, author of the bestselling Goosebumps children’s series, describes the book as “an enchanting story about a group of animals who band together to protect their friends and find adventure. The characters are delightful, and the nighttime landscape is captivating. It was just as I expected — because the best stories always take place in the dark!”
The book is aimed not only at children, but at their parents, and is written with an ear toward being read aloud to educate all ages about the importance of protecting animals and the environment. The story combines snappy dialogue with plot twists and action, and slips in education about different types of animals and how they live and behave.
Author Tracey Hecht noted in an interview that the benefits of shared reading aren’t limited to pre-readers.
“I didn’t stop reading aloud to my kids — I still haven’t — and it’s the best part of my day,” she said. “I keep books everywhere and I?think of reading like a conversation — just have it. Just pick up a book and have it. You’ll be amazed at how well it bridges the gaps,” she emphasized.
Children, parents and teachers can visit www.nocturnalsworld.com for more information about the book, including a sample chapter that introduces the main characters. In addition, the website offers bonus animated shorts, activities and educational materials, including a Next Generation Science Guide, templates for animal trading cards and library resources including guidelines for middle grade book clubs.

Is Your Smile Unforgettable?

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – La creatividad se dispara cuando los niños se disfrazan y se les da la oportunidad de expandir sus propias identidades personales.
Los disfraces pueden despertar la imaginación bien sea cuando es el momento de pensar en Halloween, o solo durante un día al disfrazarse para una fiesta del té con amigos imaginarios.
Los niños que aspiran gobernar el reinado pueden ir en búsqueda de Elena de Avalor, una adolescente valiente y aventurera que aprende a liderar su reinado como una princesa heredera.
Abajo podrás encontrar algunas divertidas maneras de equiparte para tu próxima aventura familiar de la misma forma en que Elena lo haría.
* Disfrázate para la aventura: Las princesas tienen que estar listas para gobernar, y qué mejor manera de hacerlo que usando el vestido rojo de Elena. Ningún vestido está completo si no se tienen los zapatos y accesorios tales como zarcillos, un brazalete y un cintillo de flores.
* El baile: las chicas se pueden disfrazar de la princesa heredera de Avalor con el vestido del baile real el cual pondrá el ritmo a la canción principal, “My Time”, que sonará en el show. Agrega más accesorios, como lo son zarcillos, una tiara, y zapatos.
* Canta. ¿Quieres inspirar a tu hija con música? La guitarra de Elena está personalizada con su firma y tiene tres modos de juego: puede tocarla usando cuerdas verdaderas, tocar tres canciones, o cantar con Elena.
* Gobierna el mundo. ¡La aventura de Elena no estaría completa sin su cetro! Así como Elena cree que la magia viene desde lo interno, las chicas podrían querer activar las luces y poderes mágicos en pleno show con la onda del cetro mágico de luz. La varita mágica también hace sonar la canción principal “My Time”, presentada en el show.
Para más información, por favor visite el sitio web www.jakks.com.

New Ways to Layer Lighting With LEDs

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Sponsored News – Almost any room can be transformed into a picturesque space by lighting it based on its architectural makeup and focusing on its aesthetic features and blind spots. According to the American Lighting Association (ALA), appropriate interior lighting will diminish shadows, accentuate textures and draw attention to just the right areas.
Until relatively recently, conventional lighting techniques relied on a select few types of lighting to effectively layer the lighting in a room. Now LED lighting — deemed safer, sturdier and more durable than CFL light bulbs by the Department of Energy – is becoming a go-to lighting source for all areas of the home.
Three layers of light.
Layered lighting makes use of three main lighting functions: general, accent and task lighting. A wide wash of light is usually exerted by a ceiling light for general illumination. A decorative layer of light might come from sconces or a table lamp. For specific tasks, pendants and undercabinet lighting are a couple of examples of appropriate lighting. The concept of layering the three lighting types remains true, but the idea behind layering itself is changing as much as the light sources themselves are.
A constant in any residential lighting project is making sure it results in an area in which you will actually want to spend your time, says Terry McGowan, ALA director of engineering.
To guarantee that you enjoy a room, the lighting should be easy to navigate and easy on the eyes. This is usually the job of ambient (general) lighting. To complement all-purpose lighting, LED lights have traditionally been used in the subsequent layers of accent and task lighting. It is with accent lighting that LED lights may be the most useful.
For example, “track lighting is often used for accent lighting so the lighted area can be easily adjusted in size, color or direction,” says McGowan. “Note that some new types of LED track lighting can be adjusted by hand to change the color or size of the light beam, and there are even fixture types with built-in adjusting systems that can be operated by a remote control or a cell phone app.
“For all layers,” McGowan continues, “consider controls that not only turn the lighting on and off, but dim it as well. LEDs can be easily dimmed, and, almost as easily, their color can be controlled so that the lighting can match the time of day or the preferred appearance of the space.”
Using adjustable lights ensures that a room can uphold a unique design element, yet will not be overly flooded with light.
For more about how to use LED lighting in your home, please visit a local ALA-member showroom or go online to americanlightingassoc.com.

Climb Stairs Without Hurting Yourself

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Four years after the first set of baby boomers hit the retirement age of 65, this segment of America continues to grow at record numbers. In fact, over the next 18 years, boomers will be turning 65 at a rate of about 10,000 a day.
As this important pocket of America’s population grows older, it is redefining the institutions of aging in a number of ways. For starters, the once-traditional retirement age of 65 doesn’t necessarily mean retirement anymore.
Adjusting aging attitudes notwithstanding, one fact remains: Father Time, will take its toll on the health of this aging populace. For many, that might mean more minor aches and pains that come with growing older. For others, it means more serious matters.
That’s why millions of baby boomers have traditionally moved to warmer Sun Belt locations where sunshine and active lifestyles prolong one’s health and outlook on life. Interestingly, while many northern snowbirds are still making the traditional migratory retirement path to places like Florida, a number of retirees are reluctant to abandon their roots, and remaining in their lifelong homes year-round.
Whatever the case might be, aging Americans are downsizing toward more convenient and maintenance-free homes. And one of the most visible trends being adopted are modifications being made to a home’s troubling set of stairs.
Whether it’s gimpy ankles, worn-out knees or just the simple fragility of getting older, walking up and down a set of stairs has never been more dangerous. Sure, one can be vigilant in always holding onto the railings when going up and down a flight of stairs, or taking slow, measured steps.
The reality is, however, even young, healthy people frequently trip. When this happens to our aging loved ones, these accidents can be catastrophic.
That’s why installing motorized stairlifts are increasingly becoming popular, allowing people to comfortably navigate their tiresome steps. One of the largest providers of these life-saving items is Florida-based Acorn Stairlifts.
Founded in 1992, Acorn Stairlifts features contemporary and innovative stairlift technology and is recognized by the Arthritis Foundation as the only manufacturer to earn their prestigious Ease-of-Use Commendation. This means that Acorn Stairlifts have been independently tested with real-world arthritis sufferers to determine that they are safe, comfortable and easy to use.
Other common safety features are sensors on the foot platform that will stop the lift when triggered, light-touch controls designed for individuals with limited manual dexterity and remote control options so other family members can help when needed. To learn more, please visit www.acornstairlifts.com

Getting Engaged? How to Spend Your Dollars Wisely

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Blame it on Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.
The average cost of a wedding — excluding the honeymoon — has now soared to $31,213, according to the wedding planning website TheKnot. And experts cite the “images of celebrity wedding extravagance,” a la last year’s $12 million “Kimye” nuptials in Florence, Italy, as at least one factor influencing couples’ spending choices.
Obviously, no one’s saying you have to shell out that much. But with this being prime time for popping the question — 39 percent of all marriage proposals occur between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day — there is one trend that’s become both almost a must and a potential money-saving opportunity.
“Personalization,” TheKnot reports, “is on the rise.”
Here’s what you need to know:
* The wedding venue. Scenic farms with barns are big with brides and grooms. “I think it has a lot to do with photography,” Lorin Holmes, co-founder of VermontWeddings.com, told USA Today. “When couples get married, they’re really looking for interesting, unusual details.” And hey, when you consider the $50,000 tab to hold a reception at the New York Public Library — anything cultural or historic is also hot — the average venue booking fee of $14,000 starts to look pretty good.
* The reception. The big news flash here is that spending on cocktail hours jumped 7 percent. So think signature cocktails — TheKnot’s spiked chocolate milkshake recipe sounds yummy — rather than an open bar.
* The engagement ring. If you’ve been reading the glossies, you know the splash celebs like Elizabeth Hurley and Jessica Simpson made sporting ones with colored gemstones. And while it needn’t be her birthstone — Simpson’s is ruby, but Hurley’s sapphire jibes with the month her then-fiance was born — the right romantic touch can make for the ultimate in personalization.
“It can also be the month a couple met or her favorite color,” says Jason Kordvani, president of product development at Davani (DavaniJewelry.com), a family-owned company specializing in colored gemstones that has a nearly 50-year rep for creating some of the most gorgeous engagement rings around.
And here’s the kicker: Whether sapphire, emerald, ruby or some other stone, as Kordvani notes, couples are also often pleasantly surprised to discover they can get “a larger, more important-looking ring at much less cost than a diamond.” The firm itself offers styles ranging from the more affordable Davani Bridal to the show-stopping Luxury Collection.
As if thinking of those Kimye nuptials, he adds: “People want big rings like the ones celebrities wear.”

What Happened to the American Dream?

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – That the middle class is being squeezed is a popular sentiment nationwide. Deciphering whether or not this sentiment holds true, however, may be a secondary concern. According to analysts, the prevalence of this perspective alone has severely limited market growth in the United States over the past decade.
In the investment community, many potential investors, especially those with smaller amounts of investment capital or limited experience, are shying away from investing due to perceived risks perpetuated by public sentiment. The number of Americans investing in securities of any type is now at only 54 percent, down 13 percent from its peak in 2002.
But just because Americans are not investing does not mean the money does not exist. The Wall Street Journal reported that the Federal Reserve estimate of privately-held wealth in the country is approximately 80.7 trillion dollars, potentially establishing United States citizens as the world’s largest investment bank, by far.
This means that hundreds of billions of potential investment dollars remain sidelined. This is money that could potentially fuel the next wave of growth in the United States. The economic stimulus could be significant enough to reduce the national debt, eliminate annual Federal deficits, replace failing infrastructure nationwide and secure Social Security for future generations, even at lower tax rates.
“This equates to an unimaginable amount of money,” says REGULUS CEO David Emery. “If even a small portion not now being productively invested could be deployed in support of Main Street businesses, the economic impact would be tremendous.”
Part of the obstacle for many firms is a blend of complicated regulations and vague promises of a fair return. For many middle-sized entities, especially, accessible capital is limited. While small businesses and large corporations have a multitude of resources to choose from, medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) ranging from 20 to 500 employees have a more difficult time attracting the necessary capital to take their businesses to the next level.
REGULUS Corporation has pledged to create opportunities for these underserved components of the U.S. economy. Specifically, the organization is helping SMEs make sense of rules, regulations and procedures, such as the ever-important JOBS Act, officially known as Public Law 112-106.
For entities interested in business advice and strategy, REGULUS desires to promote the best traditions of free-enterprise capitalism by allowing private citizens to increase their own wealth which, in turn, helps other fellow citizens to build something of value.
To learn more, visit REGULUS at www.reguluscorp.com.

Avoid Drugs and Surgery With Chiropractic Care

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Talk about bad odds.
Americans have an 80 percent chance of experiencing back pain in their lifetimes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But making matters even worse is this: Say you do experience such pain, and you’re told — as too often is the case — that your only options are either drugs or surgery. The former is potentially addictive. And as for the latter…well, many believe this headline from a publication focused on natural health says it all: “Back Surgery: Too Many, Too Costly, and Too Ineffective.”
The truth is, there’s a third option that a growing number of experts now say should be used before anyone even thinks of making patients go through either or both of the others.
That option? Chiropractic care.
“Medical care certainly has not solved the everyday symptom of low back pain, and even may be reinforcing and exacerbating the problem,” renowned orthopedist and spine researcher Gordon Waddell, MD, says.
Indeed, numerous studies have found that chiropractic care, with its drug-free and non-invasive focus on spinal manipulation, results in:
* Better outcomes
* Lower costs
* A much higher degree of patient satisfaction, as witnessed by the 94.3 percent positive rating reported by the military health program TRICARE among participating active and retired Army personnel.
“It’s gratifying that patients and practitioners are seeing the wisdom of considering chiropractic first, medicine second, and surgery last,” says the not-for-profit Foundation for Chiropractic Progress’ Gerard Clum, DC.
To learn more or to locate a doctor of chiropractic, visit www.F4CP.org/findadoctor.

High Tech Pearls Are Captivating the Younger Jewelry Consumer

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Pearls are the perfect, malleable medium for today’s ever-changing fashions. But don’t mistake some of today’s modern pearls with Grandmother’s simple strands. Add a little tech, color and carvings, and you take that classic right into the 21st century. Yes, it’s true: Today’s pearls are appealing to a new generation that is discovering their beauty and luster while enjoying some amazing new characteristics.
Think pearls can’t be high tech? Think again! One designer in California, Chi Huynh of Galatea Jewelry by Artist, is known for creating numerous variations on the cultured pearl. His latest invention (patent pending) is called the Momento Pearl. To make it, Huynh inserted a tiny NFC chip into a cultured pearl. When you use it in combination with the company’s proprietary Galatea App, you can upload voice and text messages, images and web links. Simply tap the pearl against an Android phone to hear the voice message and see what you’ve uploaded.
How about a little color in your pearl? Huynh has also patented a cultured pearl with a colored stone bead inside. When the pearl exterior or nacre (pronounced “nay-ker”) is carved, the color is revealed. Described as one of the greatest developments in pearl culturing since Kokichi Mikimoto invented the process in the early 1920s, the “Galatea Pearl” is one of the rarest pearls in the world. They are available as pendants, earrings and rings in 14k gold.
Why not carve pearls like marble to make miniature sculptures? Hand-carving pearls have always been a hallmark of Huynh’s Galatea jewelry designs. More than 75 percent of the company’s jewelry use carved pearls rather than the more traditional smooth-surfaced pearls. Normally, pearls are valued for their color, luster (the “shine” on its exterior), uniform and blemish-free surface. Huynh revolutionized traditional beliefs about cultured pearls, calling his carved pearls, “Pearls without Boundaries.” They may not be for pearl traditionalists, but that’s what makes them so appealing to a younger audience.
And speaking of that younger audience, the company’s “King Pearls” are large, dark Tahitian pearls with unique carvings depicting dragons, dolphins, crosses and other modern designs.
All in all — with pearls on center stage with fashionistas — pearls are a jewelry mainstay whose time it is to break out of the box. And Galatea is just one company that has proven this to be true.
For more information, please visit www.galateausa.com.