Wednesday, July 29, 2015

How to Prevent Colon Cancer

Do you have a family history of cancer, especially colon cancer?  While that increases your risk of developing colon cancer, there is no reason to believe that it is inevitable that you will get it, too.  The vast majority of people can avoid this horrible disease.  Approximately 90% or more of all colon cancers can be avoided with proper screening and lifestyle changes.  In other words, Baby Boomers and other retirees do not have to accept the inevitably of developing this cancer, even if they have a family history of it.

Unfortunately, far too many people fail to take the necessary steps to prevent colon cancer. Here's what you need to know.

Get a Colonoscopy

According to a number of studies, most people can dramatically reduce or even completely eliminate their colon cancer risk, simply by getting colonoscopies starting at age 50.  They may want to start getting them sooner in some cases, especially if they have a personal or family history of colon cancer or inflammatory bowel disease.

Colonoscopies are more than a screening test.  During the exam, the physician is able to remove precancerous polyps.  Since these polyps are usually slow growing, removing them dramatically reduces your odds of developing this cancer in the following five to ten years.  By then, it will be time for another colonoscopy.

Thanks to insurance changes that were made under the Affordable Care Act, this life-changing procedure is either free or very low cost under most insurance plans.  This is a money-saving development for both insurance companies and Medicare.  Very simply, it is less expensive to administer a series of colonoscopies than it is to do surgery and chemo on someone after they have developed colon cancer.

Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Colon Cancer

Prior to your first colonoscopy, and in between the ones you have later in life, there are a few simple lifestyle changes you can make that will also lower your colon cancer risk.  If you make these changes, combined with colonoscopies, it is very unlikely that you will develop this potentially fatal disease.

Here are some practical changes that could make a significant difference in your overall health, including your colon cancer risk:

1. Lose weight.  Obesity raises your risk of developing several types of cancer, including colon cancer.

2.  Enjoy your morning coffee.  According to a National Cancer Institute study done over 15 years, drinking four or more cups of coffee a day can lower your colon cancer risk.

3.  Take a multi-vitamin or combination of vitamins that contain 400 mcg. of folic acid and 1000 IU of Vitamin D.  Both have been shown to cut your colon cancer risk.

4.  Eat a healthy diet that includes onions and curcumin (the yellow pigment in the spice, turmeric). The right diet can also reduce your odds of developing colon cancer.

5.  Stop smoking and drink only moderate amounts of alcohol.  Smokers and heavy drinkers have a higher rate than normal of colon cancer, as well as other health issues.

Remember: These are steps you should take in addition to regular colonoscopies, not instead of them. Only colonoscopies can virtually eliminate the colon cancer risk for the majority of adults.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Lumosity Brain Games for Your Memory

Are you interested in trying to use brain building exercises to improve your mental acuity and, perhaps, postpone the symptoms of dementia?  Scientists have developed a program called Lumosity that you can use for just that purpose.

Because so many Baby Boomers have begun to subscribe to Lumosity, I thought it would be worth exploring.  I began by going to

When I clicked on "Start Training Now," I was asked which aspects of my memory I wanted to challenge.  The choices were:

Remembering patterns and locations;
Associating names with faces;
Keeping track of multiple pieces of information in my head;
Recalling sequences of objects and movements.

Of course, I checked them all!

After I hit "next," I discovered that I was also given choices regarding the areas I wanted to concentrate on in other aspects of my memory.  In each category, I was given four choices.  I checked most of the boxes for each category.  However, I skipped a few that I did not think were particular problems for me.  For example, under "Attention," I did not check avoiding distractions.  I am generally able to stay pretty focused (and my later test score showed that I was correct).  Other people may want to choose that item.

I only made a couple of choices in the thinking speed category.  (When I received my score, however, I realized that I may not think as quickly as I thought I did!)   Under flexibility I checked all the choices.  

After choosing the areas that I thought needed the most development, I was asked to set up an account and give them my email address so I could start my free Fit Test.  They began by asking my gender, level of education and occupation.  This was followed by more questions regarding how much I exercise, how much sleep I get, etc.  Then they generated my assessment tests.

I completed three tests that were designed to assess my speed, attention and memory.  They were a bit more challenging than I expected.

Here were my final results, when compared to other people in my age group of 65 to 69:

Speed - 42% of people
Train of thought - 87% of people
Memory matrix - 61% of people

I was right that I am able to stay focused and maintain my train of thought.  My memory, on the other hand, was only slightly above the typical score.  My speed, however, was slower than my peers, which surprised me.  This is definitely an area that needs work.

After completing the tests, a screen popped up that said they were creating a personalized training program for me.  When nothing changed on that screen after several minutes, I logged off.  Then I went back to the site and my personal results were awaiting me.

Once you have done the free assessment, they invite you to take advantage of their full program.  You can continue to play a few of their games for free, which I have done periodically in the following months.  This is a good way to determine whether or not you think you will consistently use the program.

If you decide that you do want the full, personalized program that is designed specifically for you, those games are not free. However, they do offer a range of price options ... paying for the program monthly, yearly or as a two year subscription.  It can cost as little as $3 a month for an individual who pays two years in advance or as much as $11.95 a month for those who prefer to pay monthly.

If you wait for a few weeks, you will be offered an opportunity to purchase the program at a discount of 25% to 35%.  It is worth it NOT to sign up the minute you do the first assessment.

If you do sign up for the personalized program, the daily games you will be given will be based on the mental areas that you think are most important for you to exercise, as well as the results of your tests.  Lumosity will continually challenge you to perform better and better.

According to the Lumosity website, the exercises are designed by neuroscientists and are continually evaluated through independent research studies at institutions such as Harvard, Stanford, and the University of California at Berkeley.  This program could prove to be a fun, interesting and helpful way for Baby Boomers to keep their minds as sharp as possible.

The site also claims that just ten to fifteen minutes of doing these exercises each day can lead to improvements in your mental function, at least as measured by the Lumosity tests. 

Lumosity members can be found in 180 different countries.  People all over the world are finding that these brain challenges can improve the way they think.

You can try Lumosity for yourself at  At the very least, you may want to take the assessment tests and decide if you think you either need the program or whether it would be helpful to you.

Please note: I have no financial interest in the company, nor do I receive any commissions if people decide to sign up.  I just thought I would give the program a try, since so many Baby Boomers have expressed interest in it.

In addition, it is important to remember:  You may be able to get similar improvements in your thinking skills by doing crossword puzzles, playing video games such as the ones created by BrainAge, playing card games like Bridge and staying socially, physically and mentally active.

If you are interested in reading more about health and retirement issues, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of this article.  They contain links to hundreds of additional articles on a variety of topics related to retirement and aging.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

MIND Diet Reduces Alzheimers Risk

Are you worried about your Alzheimer's Disease risk?  Follow the MIND diet and you may be relieved to know that there is something you can do to cut your risk in half ... simply by eating a healthy diet.  Even better, you do not have to be 100% compliant in order to benefit from this diet.  You just need to follow it most of the time!

This vegetable based diet may also explain the long, healthy lives of people who live in the Blue Zones (the places on earth where people routinely live to be 100 years old and have a lower than normal incidence of dementia).  If the idea of living longer, while staying healthy and thinking more clearly sounds appealing to you, you may want to try following this diet, too.

Facts about the MIND Diet

The MIND Diet was developed by Professor Martha Clare Morris and other researchers at Rush University in Chicago.  It is a mixture of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet (a blood pressure lowering eating plan). 

MIND stands for Mediterranean-Dash Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.

The researchers came up with the MIND diet after following 923 people between the ages of 58 and 98 over a period of nearly ten years.  While the Mediterranean and DASH diets also significantly lowered Alzheimer's risk, this was only true when the participants were rigorous about following those eating plans.  The MIND eating regimen does not need to be followed quite so carefully.  In fact, those who followed the plan only moderately were still able to reduce their Alzheimer's risk by 35%.

If you are interested in trying out this eating plan, what are the foods should you be eating and avoiding?

Foods to Eat on the MIND Diet

Vegetables - both green and other colors
Whole grains
Olive oil

Foods to Minimize on the MIND Diet

Red meat
Animal fats
Sugary foods
Fried foods
Fast food

Eating Rules for the MIND Diet

Eat vegetables and and nuts daily
Eat poultry twice a week
Eat berries twice a week
Eat less than one tablespoon of butter a day

As you can see, even the foods you need to minimize, like animal fats, do not need to be eliminated completely.  Having a little real butter on a slice of whole wheat toast still keeps you within acceptable ranges.

In addition to lowering your Alzheimer's risk, there is evidence that this eating style will also lower your risk of heart disease, as well as certain cancers.  The good news is that there is nothing harmful in this eating style and, if you "cheat" once in a while, you are still reaping the overall benefits.


If you are interested in learning about other health issues that could affect you during retirement, use the tabs at the top of this page to find links to hundreds of other helpful articles from this blog.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Why You Need Extra Retirement Income

A huge divide is developing between the people who will retire on Social Security alone and those who will have extra retirement income ... from a pension, 401(k), IRA, or job.

When American workers are all averaged together, the typical worker is on track to replace only about 58% of their current income when they retire.  Unfortunately, things are getting worse, not better.  In just one year, from 2014 to 2015, the average income replacement estimate for the typical American worker dropped from 61% down to 58%.  This will not provide a lavish retirement, but it could be survivable ... if the average actually reflected the reality for most workers.  However, even these averages are misleading.

In reality, most people fall into one of two groups ... those who are going to rely on Social Security alone and those who will have Social Security plus at least one additional source of retirement income.  The first group will be barely able to feed and house themselves; the other group will be traveling or moving to luxurious retirement communities, enjoying golf and other amenities.

Here is how things actually break down:

Those who have a 401(k) and/or other retirement plan are on track to replace 72% of their current income.

Those who do not have a supplemental retirement income will, on average, only replace about 42% of their current income.

How Much Income Will You Need in Retirement?

According to most financial planners, you should have a goal of replacing about 75% to 80% of your current income when you retire.  This means that nearly everyone will need to have a supplemental source of income, beyond Social Security.  If you are currently in the category of people who are on track to only replace 42% of your income, because you expect to retire on Social Security alone, you may want to start re-thinking your approach to retirement. 

How Can You Supplement Your Retirement Income?

There are a variety of options for supplementing your retirement income.  Many people use a combination of several sources.  Here are some common ideas:

Contribute to a 401(k) through your current employer;
Make large contributions to an IRA or Roth IRA;
Continue working in your current occupation as long as possible;
Start an encore career in a field that interests you;
Get a part-time job;
Earn a pension through your current occupation (although this is becoming less common).

Since no one can be sure how long they will be able to work, either in their current career or in an encore career, before they have to stop working due to health issues or layoffs, the smartest decision is for everyone to contribute to a 401(k), IRA or a private retirement plan during their working years.  Even if you are on the brink of retirement, it is not too late for you to try to maximize payments into a retirement plan so you have some way to supplement your income in your later years.

How Are the Top Retirement Savers Doing It?

The most successful or "elite" retirees are those who have consistently saved 10% of their take-home pay towards their retirement.  About 20% of all workers fall into this group and they are likely to retire, on average, with an income of about 143% of their current retirement income!

These are the people who will be able to feel confident that they will not run out of money, even if they live for decades after they stop working.  In addition, they will be able to do most of the things they always wanted to do after they stop working ... live where they want, go on cruises, take fun trips, etc.

Which Type of Retiree Do You Want to Be?

Obviously, in order to save 10% of your current income, you need to be able to live on 90% of your earnings during your working years.  Some people believe that is impossible for them.  However, imagine what your life will be like if you have to live on only 42% of what you do now.   That will be far more painful.

Whether you are a young adult in your twenties, or a working Baby Boomer in your fifties, it is never too early, nor too late to start saving for retirement.  If you already have a retirement plan, you may want to talk to a retirement expert to find out whether or not you are on track to replace at least 75% of your current income ... and more, if possible.  You can also use a retirement savings calculator, like the one from Kiplinger's.  You can find a link to it under sources.

Remember:  It is up to you to determine whether or not your Golden Years really will be Golden!


Looking for more retirement ideas?  Use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of this page to find links to hundreds of other articles on financial planning, affordable places to retire, health concerns, family issues, etc.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

How to Fix Your Retirement Savings Shortfall

Millions of Americans are not prepared to retire.  In fact, about one out of four Baby Boomers who are approaching retirement have saved absolutely nothing towards their retirement.  Millions more have saved less than $50,000 ... which will not last very long, unless they quickly make some drastic changes in their lifestyle.

However, for those Boomers who are still five or ten years away from retirement, it is not too late to take the necessary steps to have a comfortable retirement.  Below are some of the suggestions the experts make:

Start Saving the Maximum in Your 401(k) or IRA

If you are not maxing out your retirement accounts, you are not taking advantage of the tax savings these accounts can give you, nor are you using your last few working years to fully prepare for retirement.  Workers over the age of 50 are allowed to put $24,000 a year into a 401(k) and $6,500 a year into an IRA.  You may feel that putting $500 to $2500 a month into your retirement accounts is impossible, because your current lifestyle costs too much to support.  If this is the case, now is the time to dramatically and ruthlessly reduce your lifestyle.  If you can barely support your lifestyle while you are still working, it will become even more difficult for you to maintain your lifestyle after you stop working ... especially if you do not have much money saved.

There is no question that it will take hard work and discipline to start saving that much money.  However, you will appreciate the long-term benefits of having this much money saved when you are in your 80's and 90's.  Now is the time to make the necessary adjustments to your cost-of-living so that you start putting as much money as possible into your retirement accounts. 

Use the Equity in Your Home to Finance Your Retirement

If you own your home and have lived in it for a long time, you may have tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in home equity.  This money can be used to finance your retirement, if you are smart about how you use it.  Some people have found they do well if they sell their current home and use part of the equity to purchase a less expensive home, either in the same community or in a less expensive area.  Afterwards, they can invest the remaining equity in dividend paying stocks, an annuity, tax free bonds, or other investments that will provide them with a reliable source of retirement income.  The combination of lower expenses and increased income can help many people salvage their retirement.

Another way to use the equity in your home is by taking out a reverse mortgage.  However, there are a number of risks involved with this plan.  If people initiate a reverse mortgage when they are still in their 60's or early 70's, they may end up spending all the proceeds from the loan far too quickly ... leaving themselves destitute when they are in their 80's or 90's.  It is far wiser to wait to get a reverse mortgage until you are older and fairly confident that the proceeds will last you the rest of your life ... and the life of your spouse.  

Postpone Collecting Social Security Until Age 70

People who wait until age 70 to collect their Social Security benefits can significantly increase their monthly income compared to those to begin collecting between the ages of 62 and 67.  Your benefits increase by 8% for every year you wait after your full retirement age.   This means you will get 32% more than you would have at age 66, and 76% more than you would have at age 62.   By waiting, a retirement pension that might have been only $1500 a month at age 66 can be increased to almost $2000 a month at age 70.  That difference provides as much additional income as $100,000 in savings invested at 6% interest.

Continue Working After Retirement

There are significant advantages to working as long as you can in your 60's and, possibly, your 70's.  Even if you switch from working full-time to part-time, any money you earn equates to less money you will have to take out of your retirement savings.  This, in turn, will give you the time you need to continue to grow your nest egg.  By the time you are no longer able to work, your savings may have grown enough to provide you with a satisfactory lifestyle for the remainder of your life.

Many people also use these years to work part-time and enjoy encore careers that are fun ... as consultants, substitute teachers, writers, artists, photographers or employees of non-profits.  They keep busy, stimulate their brains, bring joy to their lives, increase their socialization and earn extra retirement income.  What better way to make your retirement savings last?

Bottom line:  It is never too late to do something about your retirement savings situation.  You just have to be willing to face reality and make the necessary changes.  You can do it!


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