Keep Your Brain Young

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Just like the rest of the body, the brain needs to be kept in shape, too. Here are a few tips to keep the brain healthy and ward off cognitive impairment:

  1. Stimulate your mind. Puzzles or any other mental challenges are a great way to generate new cells in the brain and develop plasticity (the brain’s ability to rewire itself). Crosswords, sudoku, or any math exercises are great.
  2. Exercise. Moving your body — especially aerobic activity like running or fast-paced walking — can help prevent mental decline.
  3. Watch what you eat. Another great way to keep the brain in shape is through nutritious foods which can prevent diseases, like diabetes, that take a toll on the brain. Think: colorful vegetables, high fiber foods, low sodium, and less processed foods. Antioxidant rich foods, like berries and citrus, help reduce oxidative stress (which creates a toxic imbalance) and can even lessen the effects of dementia.
  4. Improve your blood pressure.High blood pressure has been linked to cognitive decline. Keep blood pressure low by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, reducing stress, and limiting alcohol.

Combat Digital Addiction

Texting with friends, scrolling through social media feeds, and checking our email just one more time: Every day we become a little more reliant on digital technology to do our work, stay informed, and remain connected with friends and family. The more we lean into technology, the harder it can be to get away from it.

Having a digital addiction means having the inability to control our use of technology — an affliction that approximately two-thirds of the population appears to have to some extent, according to Trend Hunter. Break the habit (or avoid it!) with these four tips.

  1. Track tech habits. Measuring and acknowledging how much time you spend on technology puts the problem into perspective. This information alone may be an incentive to cut back. Apps like Moment (InTheMoment.io) and QualityTime (QualityTimeApp.com) help you track and manage time spent on technology.
  • Don’t trust yourself. We may think we can just kick the digital habit at any time, but that’s the problem with a habit. Avoid temptation by removing digital devices from reach. Lock them up or give them to someone else to hold on to for a certain amount of time or at certain times of the day. Also, keep them out of the bedroom at night.
  • Turn off notifications. Every time you’re notified about a new email, message, or news update, there’s a compelling reason to drop what you’re doing and check in with your tech. Disable all but the most urgent notifications from your web and mobile apps.

Ease into a digital detox. It’s healthy to take a break from technology, but like any addiction, start small. Have a meal without your smartphone at your side. Then go for a shopping trip without it. You don’t need to quit using technology altogether; instead, focus on easing up on your dependency

How To Keep Your Credit Score High in Retirement

Don’t let a bad credit score get in the way of a comfortable retirement. Here are a few ways to keep a good credit score when you retire or improve a credit score that could use a boost.

  • Keep those long-held credit card accounts, even if you rarely use them. Using credit cards regularly (but not excessively!) helps establish or improve your credit score.
  • Purchase some items on credit even if you have the savings to pay them off right away. This is an excellent method to improve a lower score. Make your payments on time and avoid fees to keep your bill low.
  • Check your credit score on a regular basis. You can get one free copy every 12 months from each of the big three companies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). This not only helps you track whether your efforts are working, it also gives you a better chance to spot potential red flags like identity theft. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com to get yours.


Beware of what the FTC calls “imposter” websites claiming to offer free credit reports. Get more information here:
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0155-free-credit-reports

Extend Your Engine’s Life

Image by Devolk from Pixabay

Replacing a vehicle’s engine is costly and inconvenient. Keep yours running as long as possible with a few key good habits.

  • Avoid quick acceleration. Don’t race a car’s engine when you start it up, especially in cold weather. Accelerate slowly when you begin driving, and don’t drive at high speeds or accelerate quickly when it’s very hot or cold outside.
  • Avoid idling. It’s common to let a car “warm up” by letting it idle before driving, but this results in soot deposits on cylinder walls, oil contamination, and other conditions that can have a long-term, negative impact. Note: if it’s very cold out, you should warm the engine up before driving to allow oil and other fluids to circulate.
  • Combine errands. Driving for a longer period of time during low-traffic hours is easier on your engine and better for the environment.
  • Maintain wheel-well splash guards. These help keep water, slush, and salt from splashing into the engine compartment, which can cause damage.

5 Tools to Vanquish Your Inner Critic

Most people have some form of internal critic—a nagging voice that highlights all your mistakes and pretends your triumphs don’t exist. Some consideration of both positive outcomes and ramifications of your actions can be healthy, but when you let your inner critic take over it can cause severe and long-lasting damage to your self-esteem. So take control!

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Start by paying closer attention to what that little voice is saying. It may even help to write down what you’re thinking. When negative commentary is in front of you in black and white, you may be better able to see what’s true and what’s not. Once you’ve got a clearer idea of what your inner critic is telling you, here are some tools to help turn down its volume.

  • Separate from the criticism. Rephrase negative thoughts as if someone else is saying them to you, rather than you talking to yourself. When they come from outside, it’s easier to refute criticisms with evidence to the contrary.
  • Reframe negativity. Instead of focusing on a feeling that you “messed up,” try saying, “it was a valuable learning experience and I’ll handle it differently next time.”
  • Don’t dwell on the past. Rather than spending hours or days thinking about a misstep you made, apologize out loud to whoever you think you failed and explain what you’ll do to avoid repeating the same error. This can help you move past the issue and stop thinking about it.
  • Beware exaggeration. Frustration can lead to an inner dialogue peppered with “never” and “always,” but life is rarely so binary. Shift from, “I never do anything right” to something truer—such as, “I do some things well and can learn to do other things better.”
  • Be your own best friend. If your best friend let you in on what their inner critic says, you’d offer support and gently point out why those critiques aren’t accurate. Learning to apply this same kindness to yourself is an important tool in the effort to boost self-confidence.

A Brief Guide to Tipping

Knowing when and how much to tip for services rendered can be confusing. While leaving one is technically optional, a tip is a critical part of the wages that waitstaff, taxi drivers, barbers, delivery drivers, and other essential workers earn. In fact, many states allow workers to be paid far less than minimum wage if they also get tips.

Plan to tip the people who serve you in restaurants, hotels, bars, taxis (or rideshares), and beauty salons. And while your own financial situation should go into the decision of how much to tip, here are some general guidelines.

  • Restaurants: A tip of 15-20% indicates you’re pleased with the service. Leave more for a truly five-star experience. If the service was bad, consider talking to a manager before you simply skip the tip. Note that many restaurants will automatically include a gratuity for a large group, so find out if the tip has already been added to your bill before you pay.
  • Hotels: If you get help bringing your bags to your room or hailing a taxi, be prepared with $2 per bag hauled or $5 per taxi hailed. If the bags are heavy or the doorman has to stand in the rain for you, tip more. Leave
    $3-5 each day for housekeeping.
  • Bars/Clubs: Tip the bartender $1-2 per drink, or 10-15% on a bar bill. For coat check at the club, $2-3 per coat is good (even if there’s a charge for the service).
  • Salons: Tipping your hairdresser or nail technician 15-20% is a great idea.
  • Taxis/Rideshares: Tipping about 15% for taxis or rideshares is fairly standard, though if the driver helps you with heavy bags consider tipping more.
  • Delivery: For food deliveries, tips of 10-15% are a good idea (more if the weather is terrible). For package deliveries, however, no tip is expected.

Keep in mind that tipping etiquette varies considerably in other countries, so before you travel be sure to read about the local tipping customs.

Americans Are Gaining Confidence in the Economy

Americans Are Gaining Confidence in the Economy | Simplifying The Market

The September Jobs Report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate dropped to 7.9%. Though that percentage is well below what experts projected earlier this year, it still means millions of people are without work. There’s no way to minimize the tremendous impact this pandemic-induced recession continues to have on many Americans.

However, the latest Home Purchase Sentiment Index from Fannie Mae shows how more and more Americans believe the worst is behind us, and their personal employment situation is good. The index revealed:

“The percentage of respondents who say they are not concerned about losing their job in the next 12 months increased from 78% to 83%, while the percentage who say they are concerned decreased from 22% to 16%. As a result, the net share of Americans who say they are not concerned about losing their job increased 11 percentage points.”

Americans Are Game-Changers Too

Americans are naturally optimistic and have always responded to challenges with both resiliency and resourcefulness. Today is no different. As an example, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) just reported:

“Americans are starting new businesses at the fastest rate in more than a decade, according to government data, seizing on pent-up demand and new opportunities after the pandemic shut down and reshaped the economy.”

Why would someone start a business in the middle of an economic crisis? The WSJ explains:

“The jump may be one sign that the pandemic is speeding up ‘creative destruction,’ the concept…to describe how new, innovative businesses often displace older, less-efficient ones, buoying long-term prosperity.”

The WSJ also notes that these new businesses will have a positive impact on the overall employment situation, as new businesses “are a critical engine of job creation. Startups have historically accounted for around one-fifth of job creation.”

Bottom Line

For the millions of Americans still unemployed, we hope for a quick return to the workforce. We should, however, realize that over 90% of people are still employed, and some are venturing into new business start-ups. Perhaps the next big game-changing company is right around the corner.

Real Estate Continues to Show Unprecedented Strength This Year

Real Estate Continues to Show Unprecedented Strength This Year | Simplifying The Market

The 2020 housing market has surpassed all expectations and continues to drive the nation’s economic recovery. The question is, will this positive trend continue throughout the rest of the year, especially given the uncertainty around the current health crisis, the upcoming election, and more?

Here’s a look at what several industry-leading experts have to say.

Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist, National Association of Realtors

“Home sales continue to amaze, and there are plenty of buyers in the pipeline ready to enter the market…Further gains in sales are likely for the remainder of the year, with mortgage rates hovering around 3% and with continued job recovery.”

Frank Martell, President and CEO, CoreLogic

“Homeowners’ balance sheets continue to be bolstered by home price appreciation, which in turn mitigated foreclosure pressures…Although the exact contours of the economic recovery remain uncertain, we expect current equity gains, fueled by strong demand for available homes, will continue to support homeowners in the near term.”

Zillow

Zillow’s predictions for seasonally adjusted home prices and pending sales are more optimistic than previous forecasts because sales and prices have stayed strong through the summer months amid increasingly short inventory and high demand.

The pandemic also pushed the buying season further back in the year, adding to recent sales. Future sources of uncertainty including lapsed fiscal relief, the long-term fate of policies supporting the rental and mortgage market, and virus-specific factors, were incorporated into this outlook.”

Bottom Line

Many economists are in unison, indicating the housing market will continue to fuel the economy through the end of the year, maintaining this unprecedented strength.

How to Prepare for a Bidding War [INFOGRAPHIC]

How to Prepare for a Bidding War [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

How to Prepare for a Bidding War [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Some Highlights

  • With so few houses available on the market today, being ready for a bidding war is essential for prospective homebuyers.
  • From pre-approval to making your best offer, here are three tips to make sure you can act quickly and confidently when you find the perfect home.
  • Let’s connect today to be sure you have the guidance you need as the competition for homes heats up this season.

Do You Need to Know More about Forbearance and Mortgage Relief Options?

Do You Need to Know More about Forbearance and Mortgage Relief Options? | Simplifying The Market

Earlier this year when the nation pressed pause on the economy and unemployment rates jumped up significantly, many homeowners were immediately concerned about being able to pay their mortgages, and understandably so. To assist in this challenging time, two protection plans were put into place to help support those in need.

First, there was a pause placed on initiating foreclosures for government-backed loans. This plan started on March 18, 2020, and it extends at least through December 31, 2020. Second, homeowners were able to obtain forbearance for up to 180 days, followed by a potential extension for up to another 180 days. This way, there is a relief period in which homeowners have the opportunity to halt payments on their mortgages for up to one year.

Not Everyone Understands Their Options

The challenge, according to Matt Hulstein, Staff Attorney at non-profit Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, is, “A lot of homeowners aren’t aware of this option.”

There’s definitely traction behind this statement. In a recent survey by The National Housing Resource Center, housing counselors from across the country noted that many homeowners really don’t know that there is help available. The following graph indicates the reasons why people who are in this challenging situation are not choosing to enter forbearance:Do You Need to Know More about Forbearance and Mortgage Relief Options? | Simplifying The MarketThe Urban Institute explained:

“530,000 homeowners who became delinquent after the pandemic began did not take advantage of forbearance, despite being eligible to ask for the plan…These responses reflect a need to provide better information to all homeowners. (Lump-sum payment is not the only repayment option.)

Additionally, 205,000 homeowners who did not extend their forbearance after its term ended in June or July became delinquent on their loans. We need to examine who these people are and why are they not extending their option.”

Clearly, a more focused effort on education about forbearance and relief programs may make a big difference for many people, and a clear understanding of their options is mission-critical. Some communities, however, have been impacted by the economic challenges of the pandemic more so than others, further confirming the need to deliver education more widely. The Urban Institute also indicates:

“Black and Hispanic homeowners have been hit harder than white homeowners…nearly 21 percent of both Black and Hispanic homeowners missed or deferred the previous month’s mortgage payment, compared with 10 percent of white homeowners and about 13 percent of all homeowners with payments due.”

Options Available

It’s important to note that any homeowner experiencing financial hardship has the right to request forbearance. If you’re unfamiliar with the plans available, contact your mortgage provider (the company you send your mortgage payment to each month) to discuss your options. It is a necessary next step, as you may qualify for mortgage relief options or forbearance.

One option many homeowners may not realize they have is the ability to sell their house in this time of need. With the growing equity that homeowners have available today, making a move might be the best option to protect your financial future.

Bottom Line

If you need additional information on your options, you can review the Protect Your Investment guide from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the Homeowner’s Guide to Success from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). For the majority of people, our home is the most important asset we have, and you should use all the help available right now to be able to preserve your investment.