You don’t have to be a senior citizen to have a “senior moment.” We’ve probably all wandered into a room and then forgotten why we went there in the first place or blanked on a name or a fact that we swear we used to know.
The good news is that an occasional mental lapse isn’t a reason to worry that you’re developing memory problems, even if you are a senior (although, if it becomes problematic, a call to your doctor won’t hurt). After all, we live in a world where we’re assaulted with information on a moment-by-moment basis. Sometimes, it’s amazing that we don’t forget more things.
Luckily, just as you can keep your body in shape, you can do the same with your brain, which continues to form new connections throughout your life. Here are nine ways to work out your brain and keep your mind sharp, whether you’re 25 or 65.
Numerous studies show that there are several basic habits that not only help you live a longer, healthier life but can also reduce the risk of cognitive decline:
They’re good health habits for everyone to practice, and the brain-boosting ability is a nice bonus.
Over time, recall becomes easier as your brain lays down new pathways. The practice and memorization involved in learning another language can help your brain process information more efficiently and improve your ability to focus and avoid distraction.
Your brain works hard every single day. Give it the quiet time it needs to restore itself with 10-15 daily minutes of meditation and mindfulness, which calms the body, slows breathing, lessens anxiety and stress, and may even improve your memory.
Think it’s too late to learn to play the guitar? Ride a horse? Fix your own car? Use Photoshop? Turns out, we’re never too old to learn a new skill—which stimulates your brain’s neurons and forms more neural pathways, protecting your brain against aging.
The process of putting together a jigsaw puzzle challenges your brain and exercises multiple cognitive abilities as you look at each piece and figure out where it fits. It doesn’t matter whether your puzzle is 100 pieces or 1,000; the workout still happens.
The more senses you use together, the better for your brain. Try to engage all five senses by concentrating on what you can smell, taste, touch, hear and see simultaneously. It can be a fun way to experience a farmer’s market or a new restaurant.
Switch it up a bit by using your non-dominant hand to brush your teeth, comb your hair, write yourself a note or tackle another daily task. The concentration involved in doing this can prompt your brain cells to create molecules that stimulate growth.
A variety of hobbies and interests have been found to be more helpful for your memory than one activity, done over and over. When you change up your schedule regularly, your mind learns to adapt. So go for a walk, read a book, learn to cook new cuisines, play cards with friends, try a new hobby or take an interesting class.
Research continues to show that strong social connections are vital for brain health. Get in touch with old friends you haven’t seen in a while and be open to meeting new friends. If it’s hard for you to get out, stay in touch via email, phone calls, or pandemic-tested video-chat tools like smartphones and Zoom. Many communities and local libraries offer online or in-person events that can help keep your social ties strong as well.
No matter what your age, try incorporating some of these tips into your daily life. You’ll not only sharpen your cognitive skills, but you’ll also learn new and exciting things and hopefully make some friends along the way who can enjoy them with you.
If there’s ever a month when it’s good to be prepared, it’s September. Between back to school, back to work and extracurricular activities, life gets hectic—especially at mealtimes. Enter the concept of meal prepping: planning and preparing meals for the week ahead. It can mean the difference between relaxed and healthier meals during the week and keeping your local pizza joint on speed-dial.
Meal prepping is so popular now that a quick online search will bring up thousands of results, from the basics of meal prep to recipes to Instagram-worthy photos. Like so many other things, however, the value of meal prepping depends on the individual and the situation. That’s why we’re taking a look at the basics, so you can decide if it’s right for you.
At its essence, meal prepping is cooking a meal (or meals) in advance and dividing it up into smaller portions for the week. The general goal is to prep anywhere from three to seven days’ worth of meals at a time (more on this later).
The meal prepper carves out a few hours during the week for a cook-and-portion-fest. The most efficient preppers set up an assembly line of food and the containers to hold the portioned meals (the most popular tend to be glass containers with locking lids, but you can use any food- and microwave-safe storage containers that are BPA-free). Once they’re done, the containers go into the refrigerator, and voilà, you’ve got one less thing to worry about during the week.
Many of the recipes you’ll find for meal prep will be either bowl-type meals (taco bowls; fried rice with a protein; salads) or meals you can assemble just before eating (chicken lettuce wraps; oatmeal topped with fruit; food in divided containers to keep foods from becoming soggy).
Foods that work well in prepped meals include:
EatingWell magazine has a good guide for those new to meal prep if you’d like to get a feel for the process.
Meal prep fans swear by the efficiency and convenience of meal prepping, while others like the idea of reducing waste or being able to stick to an eating plan. On the flip side, some people don’t want to cook—and still others aren’t fond of the lack of variety or the idea of eating leftovers so often.
If you’re trying to meal prep for a large family, the process can become more labor-intensive due to the number of meals you’ll need to cook and how many containers you’ll need to use. However, it can be a quick and economical way to plan menus for the week for singles and couples.
This will depend on your individual situation, your level of caution and the laws of food physics. Like any leftover, food quality starts to deteriorate after a day, especially if you’re not always faithful about following the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) refrigerator and freezer storage guidelines.
How you pack your food, the temperature of your refrigerator and freezer, and the delicacy of the foods you choose can affect food safety. Plus, not everyone has the same tolerance for wilted lettuce or bruised berries. That’s especially true if you or someone you prepare meals for are immune-compromised. In that case, “off” food can cause serious health issues. For all these reasons, you might feel more confident prepping no more than two to four days of meals at a time.
Depending on who you talk to, meal planning and prepping is either the greatest thing since sliced bread or just another task they don’t have the time or patience to take on. Neither opinion is wrong; it truly is just a matter of what works for each person.
The good thing is, if you want to see what’s involved, there are literally (yes, literally) thousands of useful resources online to help you get started. A quick Google of “meal prep for beginners” will get you everything you ever wanted to know (and more) about meal planning and prepping.
Whatever you decide, happy prepping—or happy pizza-ing!
When you own a small business, it can be tough to match larger employers when it comes to pay and benefits. So how can you retain your best employees in a competitive climate on a small-business budget—without pricing yourself out of business?
By shining in the intangibles, like job satisfaction, growth potential and an enjoyable work atmosphere. Here are several suggestions for affordable ways to keep your small business’s staff happy and around for the long term.
Engaging cultures start at the top and are built on open communication, respect, recognition and clarity for all on how each individual is essential to the success of the business. Make it a point to meet with each employee on a regular basis to ask how they’re doing, ask about any challenges they’re facing and find out what can be done to help them achieve their career goals. Listen carefully, stay transparent, honestly acknowledge what they say to you and act on feedback when possible—or explain why it’s not possible at the moment. Make a habit of recognizing team members publicly for their hard work and contributions.
(Bonus tip: Consider forming a culture committee with employee representatives from each department to help ensure that your business culture is one that truly represents and includes everyone.)
In addition to your recognition, why not assemble a kit your employees can use to thank and praise each other for their hard work? The items in the kit don’t have to be elaborate. Thank-you cards, stickers, fun small trophies from the dollar store, coupons you and the team can create (e.g., “Use of the VIP parking spot for the day” or “Leave work one hour early”), $5 gift cards, candy bars, and a dry-erase or bulletin board where thank-yous can be posted for everyone to see are a good and inexpensive start.
One of the most lasting effects of the pandemic is its impact on the workforce, which now feels empowered to request time for that no-longer-mythical concept of work-life balance…or they’ll find an employer who will provide it. Everyone has obligations that don’t always blend nicely with work schedules—and everyone deserves time to fulfill them. If your employees can work remotely, consider allowing them a day or two a week to work from home. If you’re not a remote-type business, there are still a number of options you could consider to help take the burden off your employees and their families, such as staggered or reduced schedules, shorter workweeks or extra paid personal days.
Many of us have charities or causes that are dear to our hearts—especially Millennial and Gen Z workers, who are focused on living their values at home and at work. Give your team yet another reason to be proud of their workplace by giving back to your community. An annual (paid) day that enables employees to work with their individual causes, or a whole-team day spent working with Habitat for Humanity or helping out at local community events, sends a strong message that you want to make a difference, too.
Give your team a chance to grow, get up to date with the latest technology or make it easier for them to move into positions of more responsibility with the ability to access professional development options. A number of online learning platforms, such as LinkedIn Learning, Skillshare, Alison, Udemy and Coursera, offer reasonably priced courses that make it affordable for you to offer your employees an online learning subsidy.
Since some employers don’t make a habit of remembering employee birthdays, separate yourself from the pack by commemorating days that are important to your employees—birthdays, employment milestones like anniversaries—with a greeting card, a bag of candy, a special certificate or a gift card. Everyone loves to feel appreciated on their special days.
When employees are unhappy, their work suffers, which means your business suffers. When you prioritize your employees’ experience, you help improve every aspect of your business, from employee retention to productivity to customer service. Even if you’re unable to pay top dollar, ideas like the ones above can help you keep your team engaged, smiling and proud to work for a small business that walks the walk—right alongside each member of the team.
If you are like most business owners, you probably think you can’t afford to offer a retirement plan to your employees. In fact, a recent Pew Research survey shows expense as the top reason for not offering a retirement option. This is a huge problem when you consider that studies also indicate that the majority of Americans’ retirement accounts are funded through an employer-based contribution plan.
Aside from the fear of cost, we also understand that choosing a retirement plan can feel overwhelming. But in reality, setting up a retirement plan in your business may be easier and more affordable than you think. You should also consider the many possible perks, such as:
· Available tax credits and other incentives for starting a retirement plan.
· Employer contributions on behalf of employees are tax-deductible.
· Retirement plans are a highly desirable bonus that may help you retain employees and attract high-caliber candidates.
Considering all of this, it may be time to look into a retirement plan for your business. Start by reviewing our concise list below. Be aware that this list is not all-inclusive; additional plans can be viewed by visiting the IRS website.
SEP (Simplified Employee Pension)
Best for: Self-employed people and businesses of any size
A SEP plan allows employers to contribute funds for themselves and their employees—up to 25 percent of each employee’s pay. With a SEP, only the employer contributes to the plan while employees maintain ownership of the money within the account. A SEP has no filing requirements for the employer, nor does it have the setup and operating costs of a conventional retirement plan.
SIMPLE IRA (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees)
Best for: Self-employed people and businesses with up to 100 employees
The SIMPLE IRA allows both employers and employees to contribute to the retirement account. There is a mandatory matching contribution for employers of up to 3 percent of an employee’s compensation or fixed contribution of 2 percent. Like the SEP, a Simple IRA has no filing requirements.
Best for: Self-employed people and businesses of any size
With a 401(k), employees contribute a portion of their salary to their retirement account, which is invested in securities. Employee contributions are pre-taxed and not reported as taxable income. Employers can contribute to the employee’s plan, and these contributions are tax deductible. Be sure to review current 401(k) retirement plan qualifications on the IRS website for more detail.
Best for: Self-employed people and businesses of any size
This represents the least restrictive retirement plan that is funded by the employer. Employers don’t have to contribute every year, nor is there a set amount required by law. Contributions must go into a separate account for each employee, and employers have to document how the profits have been determined for each staff member. Contributions are not taxed and earnings grow tax-deferred.
Fear no retirement plan!
Again, setting up a plan for employees can be much easier and cost-effective than you think. Start with this article and then continue to conduct your own research as you work to identify the best plan for your business. Be aware that there are other plans available, which can be reviewed in more detail on the IRS website.
Need help with retirement plan analysis?
No two ways about it: Cable TV is expensive.
According to a 2020 report from Allconnect, a company that assists customers with setting up phone, cable and internet services, the average household cable package runs $217 per month. That’s more than some households pay for their major utilities. Perhaps that’s why, according to Business Wire, paid TV services will account for less than 50% of all U.S. TV households by 2026.
If you’re ready to cut the cable cord, you have a number of streaming video services to explore—but since streaming has exploded, the decision can be confusing to navigate. Read on for some information that may help.
Before you start shopping, make a list of the shows and channels (including local stations) you regularly watch. Note that you may not be able to get every channel you want, so you may have to settle for the service that offers the most channels. Also, be sure you’ll have multi-stream options if you want to watch more than one program on different TVs simultaneously—for instance, parents on the living room TV and kids on a bedroom TV.
Take some time to compare the pricing between services, including ads vs. no ads and service add-ons. Most services do include a cloud DVR, but be sure to note the number of recording hours available to you, and how long you can keep the recordings.
Some free services (read: supported by ads) include Roku Channel, Pluto TV, Tubi TV, Freevee, Sling Free, Crackle, Plex, Hoopla Digital (offered via local libraries), PBS Kids, YouTube Kids and Kidoodle TV. Also check out the free apps for NBC, ABC, PBS, CW and other favorite networks.
If you’d prefer to skip streaming and just watch local channels on your TV, you won’t have to pay for a service, but you’ll need to buy a digital antenna if you don’t have one built into a smart TV. Luckily, there are a number of affordable options. To see the strength of your local broadcast signal, input your address into the FCC’s digital TV reception maps.
Many streaming services offer a free trial period. This will allow you to check out the video quality and the ease of using the service’s interface (some can be more confusing than others). Remember, though, since most will ask you to enter a credit card number, it’s up to you to keep track of when the trial ends, so you can cancel the service without being charged should you decide you don’t want it.
A streaming service is dependent on the internet, so you’ll need a streaming device to watch your service of choice. Depending on what the service supports, this could be your computer, smartphone or tablet, an app built into a smart TV, your game console or a device like Apple TV or a Roku. And if you have more than one TV, you’ll need to connect a device to each set. Make sure you’ll have enough data and speed to support everyone watching TV, movies and cloud DVR without buffering issues.
If you’d like a starting point for comparison shopping, check out some of the multi-channel streaming options below. All include Cloud DVR, although the details vary.
Other streaming services available include Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, Discovery+, Disney+, HBO Max, Netflix, Peacock and Paramount+.
The great thing about streaming services is that you don’t have to settle for a so-so package offered by a cable company; you can build a custom package that works best for your household. Just be sure to do your homework, don’t over-subscribe (too many options can get expensive) and take advantage of the free trials before you buy.
And happy (cord-free) viewing!
From pandemic lockdowns to a great resignation, the working world has been through an unprecedented amount of turbulence in the last couple of years. This has resulted in continuing employee recruitment and retention challenges that threaten the very existence of many small businesses.
Even in the smallest business, automation is a good way to fill the gaps and reduce the stress on your team. In fact, if you’re using apps like Google Workspace or Hootsuite, you’re already seeing what the power of automation can do for your business.
If the first thing you thought of when you read the word automation was people losing jobs, you’re not alone. However, automation technology can fill in the gaps in your business processes. It can also increase productivity, improve efficiency and elevate—not replace—your employees by giving them a chance to flex and expand their skills.
Battered by temporary closures and mass resignations, today’s small business owners must know how to pivot and fill in gaps when there simply aren’t enough people to do the work. That’s where automation can step in and help save the day for both owners and employees.
According to workflow automation tool Zapier, 63% of the 2,000 small and medium-sized businesses surveyed for its 2021 State of Business Automation Report say automation enabled their business to respond to worsening conditions during the pandemic—whether that meant moving online to sell their products and services, automating curbside pickup or completely changing their business model.
Even in so-called “normal” times, running a business involves many monotonous tasks. In the Zapier report, 94% of workers said they perform repetitive, time-consuming tasks in their work, which can contribute to low employee job satisfaction if there’s no possibility of satisfying work to do.
Automating repetitive manual tasks like data entry, document creation, lead management, or inventory management and distribution (all automatable tasks) can free employees to take on more productive and fulfilling work. In the same Zapier report, 65% of knowledge workers said they felt less stressed at work because they didn’t have to worry about handling boring manual tasks.
As a bonus, automation also grants business owners the freedom to move away from day-to-day tasks and concentrate on more strategic plans to improve their businesses.
As you get your automated functions up and running, start reinvesting your employees’ talents and skills into areas with a higher return on investment. For instance, an employee who does payroll entry may want to expand into other areas of human resources or be interested in marketing or sales.
The gains business owners discover with automation have enabled small businesses everywhere to create efficient, scalable systems and processes that can compete with larger businesses. Even adopting one or two of these automation functions can continue to help your business grow and prosper as life gets back to normal.
Be ready to jump in and start simply. The idea isn’t to automate everything at once; it’s to keep your business growing and your employees professionally fulfilled.
Every business is different, but luckily there are automation options for just about every situation. A possible place to start is this list of the top 10 software apps used in automated workflows, according to the Zapier report:
Let’s take the stigma out of the word automation and make it work for us, rather than the other way around.
An age-based guide to meeting your retirement goals
Wherever you are in life, everyone should have one common goal: Save for retirement! Of course, depending on your age, your retirement savings objectives will be different.
This article was developed to help you understand what you should be doing now to help ensure a comfortable retirement. Whether in your 20s or 60s, we have sound, helpful tips to help get you to your retirement goals. Based on age range, the following sections offer insight into the most important initiatives:
In your 20s, strive to accomplish the following:
· Set up an emergency fund so you can cover fixed expenses for least 3 to 6 months should you lose your job, become ill, etc.
· Secure health insurance.
· Start a retirement account and set up regular contributions.
In your 30s, strive to accomplish the following:
· Eliminate student loan debt as quickly as possible.
· Save for a down payment on a home—at least 10 to 20 percent to build immediate equity and avoid the added cost of private mortgage insurance.
· Secure life insurance and establish a will.
· Aim to contribute 15 percent (but not less than 10 percent) of your pre-tax income to retirement.
In your 40s, strive to accomplish the following:
· Eliminate all non-mortgage consumer debt—this includes looming student loans and credit card debt.
· Pay extra on your mortgage principal to save on interest.
· Start college funds for your kids—they’ll be off to university before you know it!
In your 50s, strive to accomplish the following:
· Max out your retirement options to stay on track with meeting retirement goals.
· Create a living trust to ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes (and to avoid the time and expense of probate).
· Continue to pay extra on your home mortgage.
· Research long-term care insurance and secure insurance as needed.
In your 60s, strive to accomplish the following:
· Fine tune your retirement goals and work with your financial advisor to adjust your plan as needed.
· Review your life insurance and will to make sure both reflect your current situation and wishes.
· Create a living trust if you have not already.
Saving for retirement should be on everyone’s radar—no matter your age. The time is now to put a solid plan in place. Trust that you’ll be happy you did as you approach your retirement years!
As summer winds down and the calendar turns to September, let’s take a look at what kind of calendar you’re turning.
In an over-scheduled world, a calendar is a necessity for staying organized—especially if you’re juggling work and household schedules. But there are so many types available that the choices can be overwhelming. That’s why we have a roundup of the advantages and disadvantages of the most popular types of calendars.
Calendar apps/online calendars
Popular options for work and/or home:
Popular options for work and/or home:
You may want to maintain your calendar using a combination of the types listed above. For instance, use your Google Calendar to enter and view appointments on the go, and then transfer those details on a weekly (or monthly) basis to a physical calendar in a central location. Or you could use a monthly calendar and assign each household member a different color for tracking their specific schedules.
The best way to find what works for you is through trial and error. Choose a system that will be easy to use not only for yourself, but your entire household.
Owning a business is hard.
And yet many small business owners still try to handle everything themselves. Business planning? Check. Cash flow, revenue analysis, financial projections? Check—and double-check. (And triple-check, just to be sure.)
If you’re an overworked business owner, you might defend your choice by saying:
“Hiring someone for all those functions costs money. I can’t afford that yet.”
Understandable. But what would you say if there was a way to have these functions handled for you? A way to free you up to concentrate on growing your business—and all for an affordable fee?
You may have thought of an accountant as someone you only see at tax time, but a growing number of accounting firms offer other valuable business services. And one of the most useful and in-demand for the small business owner is advisory services.
Think of advisory services as filling the function of a CFO, without the salary and benefits. Just like a CFO, an accounting professional can focus on the bigger picture to help you look to the future—monitoring the short- and long-term financial health of your business and guiding you with strategic business planning and financial projections.
It’s a great compromise for the business owner who prefers to do what they do best—be an entrepreneur and grow their business—instead of toiling over the day-to-day minutiae of running the business.
Your advisor/accountant meets with you regularly to discuss financials and offer insight into your data via reports on budgeting and tax planning/minimization. She or he will also help you track and analyze revenue and profit, general and payroll expenses, credit card fees, cash flow, and industry-specific Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Because ongoing analysis is critical to the long-term success and sustainability of your business, these regular meetings help keep your business goals on track.
Your advisor/accountant can help you answer a number of important questions, such as:
Down the line, accounting professionals can also offer vital services like payroll and bookkeeping to a growing business, as well as advise you on the accounting software that works best for your situation. Plus, they’re well-versed in business situations that affect different phases of a business’s life—from improving internal controls and creating persuasive financial presentations for loan applications or potential investors to mergers and acquisitions, succession planning, and exit strategies.
If you’d like to free up your time to concentrate on growing your small business, ask us how we can assist you with advisory services that can give you a fresh perspective—and keep you focused firmly on the future.
Scheduling “me time” used to be a luxury for those who could afford it—now it’s a necessity for everyone.
With the constant stress of daily life between work, home and everything in between, it’s gotten harder and harder to find time to focus on ourselves. And it doesn’t help that we seem to constantly be on the go and need to be productive during every waking hour.
That’s why it’s important to schedule time in your day—even if it’s just 15 or 20 minutes—with no distractions, to calm the world inside your mind. Those few minutes can help you feel more grounded and enable you to shut off outside distractions. Calming your mind from outside noise will help you feel better mentally and physically and will help shape how you react to the world around you.
In this article, we dive into why self-care is important and provide tips to help you get started.
“Me time” can sometimes be misconstrued as someone being selfish by putting their needs first. But the last several years have shown us that this is actually something everyone needs to schedule into their busy lives. “Me time” isn’t selfish—it’s a necessity for mental health.
Taking “me time” can help you gain better focus. It’s an opportunity for you to concentrate on you and your needs without worrying about everything else around you. When you take time to focus on relaxing your mind, you’ll be able to get back to the grind with a fresh perspective.
Additionally, you’re giving yourself the chance to recharge your mind and body. You’re focusing on what you need for yourself outside of work, family or any other external factors. It’s taking time to tackle your own to-do list that has nothing to do with anyone else. Things like finally finishing that book, starting that new blog, or jumping on the elliptical machine for 20 minutes—it’s all about you.
Scheduling time for yourself can be hard, but it’s important. It should become a daily habit, just like brushing your teeth or taking a shower. It’s good for your mind and your body, and it’s good for those around you. Here are some ideas to help you start making self-care a part of your daily routine.
We know that it can be hard to take time to focus on yourself, and you may not know exactly where to begin. That’s why we’ve curated these eight tips to help you on your way.
The first step is always the hardest. But remember that scheduling time for yourself is important. Even on airplanes, you’re supposed to put your oxygen mask on before helping others. It works the same way with self-care: You have to take care of yourself first. When the chaos of the world is tumbling down around you, put on that oxygen mask and take a deep breath.
As we get ready to ring in 2022, we’ve rounded up 22 tax deductions you’ll want to have on your radar as you gather receipts and documents and consider end-of-year tax write-offs.
These expenses are tax-deductible but don’t assume all of them apply to your business. Check the rules for each one at irs.gov or contact our firm for assistance so you can start planning ahead for next year, too.