Choosing the right financial products for all stages of life



Thrivent Financial for Lutherans has put together a high-level overview of the financial information you should be aware of and consider during the various stages in your life. This is intended to be informative only, and everyone’s needs will vary based on their personal situation. You should always seek advice from a licensed professional when considering the purchase of financial products.

20s

In your 20s, you’re usually just starting off in your first job and struggling to make ends meet; beginning to build a financial portfolio is probably not at the top of your to-do list. However, this can be a critical time as it can set your financial foundation for the rest of your life. A top priority should be building an emergency savings account to help you get through an unexpected loss of a job or a large and unexpected financial obligation. This should be separate from your normal savings and should only be drawn from under extraordinary circumstances.

Also consider looking into disability income insurance, to make sure your income and savings are both protected if you were ever unable to work due to a long-term illness or injury. Disability income insurance will serve you well throughout your career and the sooner you purchase, the better-protected you’ll be.

Additionally, this can be a time to begin thinking about starting an investment portfolio, if you have the means, as the longer you’re invested the greater potential for long-term growth. Work with a financial professional to ensure your investments align with your appropriate level of risk for your specific situation.

30s

Your 30s are the prime time to continue building a solid financial future. Hopefully you’re comfortable in your career, perhaps have gotten married and may even have begun building a family. This is when your financial options start to open up and you may want to start thinking about life insurance to offer protection for your family’s future against an unexpected death and loss of income. Term insurance for yourself and coverage for your children are usually affordable, easy to procure and can offer additional financial protection for you and your family.

This is also when you should be getting serious about your savings plans.- Retirement savings should be at the top of your mind, as you’ve started to make more money in your 30s and are becoming more comfortable navigating your bills and expenses. IRAs, 401(k)s, annuities and other retirement savings tools are important for you at this stage – the earlier you start saving, the more you’ll accumulate. And it’s never too early to start thinking about college savings for children.

40s

In your 40s, many people have teenage children, tackle new challenges and opportunities in their professional lives and have established a level of income they can rely on comfortably. You can start to work with your child to investigate the various options (savings, aid, loans, grants, etc.) to help pay for post-secondary education. This also might be a time to start considering additional life insurance, as your assets and need for protection have grown as you’ve prospered both personally and professionally.-

Since you’re probably about halfway through your career, you should also start to keep an eye on the retirement horizon and on your overall retirement strategy. Make sure it aligns with your goals and dreams for after your career ends.

50s

Your 50s are an exciting time in your financial life. Your children have probably left the nest and retirement is just around the corner. You should think about establishing a floor of guaranteed income, possibly by purchasing an annuity or insurance product, to meet your essential expenses that will continue into your retirement. This is the time to start considering how you want to live in retirement and beyond. What level of income would you like after you retire and how will you maintain your standard of living? Are you protecting your savings from the high costs of extended care? Whether you’re looking to purchase long-term care insurance or not, this is also a time when you should discuss your extended care plans with loved ones, and how that might affect everyone involved.

60s

In your 60s, your retirement has probably arrived or is right around the corner. This is where managing assets, investments and financial strategies are critical. Even at this stage of life, it is important for you to have some of your financial assets in an investment portfolio carefully managed for growth consistent with your risk profile. Meeting regularly with your financial representative at this life stage will help you stay on track with your financial goals.

This is also when you should consider leaving a legacy through a life insurance policy that designates your children or a favorite charity as a beneficiary. The death benefit from life insurance can ensure that your spirit of generosity lives on and the causes you care about will be supported in the future. Another option for securing your future is Medicare supplement insurance, which will help with medical bills not covered by Medicare. This protection can help safeguard your retirement assets from additional costly medical bills.

No financial journey is the same. We all have different needs and goals at different stages of our lives. However, with a solid financial program in place along with the support of a financial professional, you can be prepared to make a lifetime of wise financial choices.

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Birdfeeder basics: Bring on backyard birds with the right feeders

(BPT) – When you dine, do you prefer clean and attractive tableware? Does ambiance enhance your enjoyment of your food? Birds feel the same way about their dining habits – the type and cleanliness of your bird feeders directly affects the number and species of birds that will visit your backyard this season.

To attract birds, you need to understand not only what they prefer to eat, but how they like to eat it. For example, while many species prefer seed, some birds like to eat their seed from elevated platforms, others prefer hanging feeders and still others are content to forage on the ground. All birds appreciate a clean feeder to prevent the spread of disease, and none of them like those pesky, seed-stealing squirrels any more than you do.

The bird experts at Cole’s Wild Bird Products offer some guidance for choosing the right feeder styles to attract the maximum number of feathered friends to your yard:

* Keep it clean – Everyone knows you should clean your feeders regularly to prevent disease, but many feeders are a pain to disassemble, clean and reassemble. Many people keep feeders less than pristine because of the hassle of cleaning. Look for feeders that make the process easy. All Cole’s tube feeders have a Quick Clean feature that allows you to remove the bottom of the feeder with the push of a button for easy cleaning access- no need to completely disassemble the feeders to clean them.

* Tube feeders are terrific – For versatility and wide appeal, it’s hard to beat a tube style feeder. These workhorses of the feeder world can handle seeds both large and small – from sunflowers to petite mixes. Tube feeders make great all-purpose feeders or excellent starter feeders for people just beginning backyard birding. Most songbirds will happily dine at a tube feeder.

* Some seeds are special – Niger is a favorite seed type for finches, siskins and several other appealing species, but not all tube feeders can handle this oily seed. If you’ll be serving niger, consider a specialty feeder like the Nifty Niger Feeder. The feeder dispenses the seed through special, tiny holes to limit the amount of waste.

* Cater to the clingy – Some birds, such as chickadees, titmice, woodpeckers and bluebirds, like to cling to the feeder. For these birds, a mesh feeder can be just what the diner ordered. Mesh feeders satisfy a bird’s desire to cling while also keeping larger birds from hogging the feeder. The Mighty Mesh Feeder is great for serving Nutberry Suet, Suet Kibbles, Suet Pearls, raw peanuts and any sunflower-based seed blend.

* The beauty of bowl feeders – Bowl feeders are another versatile style, and are great for serving not only seeds and seed blends, but also dried mealworms, fruit and suet in either kibble or pearl forms. The Bountiful Bowl Feeder comes with an adjustable dome cover that you can raise or lower to prevent larger birds and squirrels from getting to the food – and it also helps protect feed from rain.

* Hummingbird feeders are something to sing about – Hummingbirds are endlessly fascinating to watch, but you have to be quick to catch a look at them. Your best opportunity is when they’re eating, and a hummingbird feeder can help extend your viewing time. The Hummer High Rise feeder gives hummers a penthouse-view with elevated perches and keeps ants out of the nectar with a special built-in ant moat.

* Those darn squirrels – As much as you enjoy watching their antics, you probably don’t want squirrels on your bird feeder. These persistent bandits can wipe out a seed supply in minutes and damage even the best-made birdfeeders. One way to keep squirrels away from all your feeders is to install a Tough Bird Feeder Guard from Cole’s on your existing feeder poles. The simple device uses static pulse to train squirrels not to climb on feeder poles. Use your favorite feeders on your own shepherd staff or pipe-style poles and add the Tough Bird Feeder Guard to keep squirrels away. Only the tube portion of the guard is charged, so the pole and birdfeeder are safe to touch for humans and birds alike.

For more info on birdfeed blends and where to buy, visit www.coleswildbird.com.

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Ask the Pharmacist: Controlling asthma during allergy season



“We know that most asthmatics – more than half, actually – do not take their asthma medication properly, and that is leaving their condition uncontrolled and increasing their risk for an ER visit due to an asthma attack,” says Paul Reyes, Express Scripts pharmacist and host of the Ask the Pharmacist radio series. “The biggest mistake asthma patients make is stopping their therapy when they feel better, not realizing that their condition will worsen if they don’t use their mediation as prescribed.”

Asthma is a chronic condition caused by inflammation in the airways and lungs that makes it difficult to breathe. Asthma causes recurring periods of wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and coughing, which often occurs at night or early in the morning. Many factors can inflame an asthma patient’s airways, including infections, pollutants, weather changes and external allergens such as pollen, pet dander, cigarette smoke or dust mites. Studies show that 70 to 80 percent of asthma patients have seasonal allergies, thus increasing their risk for an asthma attack during peak allergy season.

Asthma affects people of all ages, but it most often starts during childhood. Of the 25 million Americans who have asthma, 7 million are children, with lower income children being at particularly high risk. A number of environmental factors, including living in an urban area, have been shown to contribute to the prevalence of asthma.

Reyes offers some important tips for preventing and controlling asthma attacks:

* Know the triggers: Keep a journal of substances that cause symptoms, or ask your doctor about a test to discover which allergens affect you. Knowing what your triggers are and, whenever possible, avoiding them, can reduce symptoms and risk of an attack. If seasonal allergens are affecting you, talk to your doctor about adding a seasonal allergy medication to your asthma therapy regimen.-

* Understand your therapy: Asthma therapy can be complicated and difficult to maintain, and often includes different types of mediations each with unique instructions. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you’re not sure how to use your medications. They can help you understand how medications work, and if you use an inhaler, how to use it properly. Also, keep your child informed about the basics of his or her condition and work with the child to make sure he or she knows how to use the medication and what should be done in the event of an emergency.-

* Take as directed: Follow the instructions provided by your doctor or pharmacist and do not stop therapy without consulting your physician first. If you are feeling better and are not experiencing symptoms, that means your medication is working and you need to continue using it as prescribed. Set reminders so you don’t forget to take your medication. If a home-delivery pharmacy is an option, this can help ensure an adequate supply of medication is always on hand.

* Care for kids: If your children are enrolled in school or daycare, make sure their caregivers are provided with detailed instructions on how your children’s asthma medication works and when they need to take it. If your child spends time away from home with family or friends, make sure that he or she continues to take the medication as prescribed. Asthma symptoms often become more pronounced in the early morning or late at night, so consistency will help your child stay on track with his or her medications and reduce the risk of an attack.

For more resources and information, visit Express Scripts’ Healthcare Insights blog at lab.express-scripts.com.

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How to put together a casual, yet professional look


When the directive comes down from management that your workplace is moving to a casual dress code, it’s usually cause for office-wide celebration. More and more companies these days are recognizing the importance of keeping their employees comfortable, and are adopting looser standards for their corporate dress codes.

If your company goes casual, it doesn’t mean you should stop paying attention to your professional appearance. Take advantage of the relaxed standards of a more casual dress code, but try to avoid some of the pitfalls that might cause you to look sloppy and unprofessional.

Play the situation

When you’re spending the day in the office, casual attire that fits into your dress code is totally appropriate. But the dress code doesn’t always apply to every situation you might run into during the course of your workday. If you have an important meeting with an associate from another company, more formal attire is appropriate, whether it’s spelled out in your dress code or not.

Keep it clean

No matter how relaxed the dress code is, it’s never a good idea to wear jeans with holes in them or a coffee-stained shirt. Like it or not, wearing frayed or worn clothes will negatively affect how co-workers perceive you.

Get the right fit

Even with casual items like jeans and polo shirts, finding the right fit can mean the difference between a crisp and well-put-together and stylish look and a drab appearance. Dark jeans present a crisper look that’s more appropriate for business settings and styles with a wider cut around the boot usually pair better with loafers, boots and casual dress shoes – even though your tennis shoes may be comfy, leave them at home for play time.

When shopping for work-appropriate jeans, wear shoes and a shirt you’d normally wear for work to get an idea of what style fits best with your work attire. Several clothing brands offer a number of work-appropriate jeans for men and women for less than $30 a pair. It’s important to note that you don’t have to break the bank for a professional yet casual look.

You should avoid certain styles of jeans in the workplace. Men: While your build and personal style might allow you to brilliantly pull off skinny jeans on the weekends, don’t be tempted to wear them in the office. Women: You might turn heads with the way you wear those low-rise jeans, but opt for something less revealing for the workplace.

Err on the conservative side

If you have to ask yourself if your outfit is too revealing, chances are it is. Women should refrain from low-cut blouses, just as men should resist the urge to ditch the t-shirt underneath that button-down shirt. If your dress code is casual enough to allow for T-shirts, refrain from wearing anything containing messages or images that could be deemed by anyone as offensive. You can impress your friends with your witty T-shirt on the weekends, but your peers – or superiors – may not share their sense of humor.

While there are certain things to avoid when composing your work-casual look, remember to enjoy the freedom and comfort allowed by your relaxed dress code. By keeping your wardrobe stocked with casual attire that fits your body well, looks clean and crisp and is appropriate for the workplace, you’ll maintain comfort while exuding professionalism and confidence. 

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Opportunities for students to pursue challenging and exciting careers in STEM subjects

(BPT) – Pursuing a career in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) subjects opens plenty of exciting and challenging opportunities for today’s students. Many of these opportunities exist in the Navy, including technically challenging missions that require intelligence and critical thinking.

These careers can range from working on the world’s most complicated and best anti-air and anti-missile systems to developing the next generation of vaccine technology. Talented, committed individuals with a STEM education will be critical to maintain the U.S. as a world technology leader.

Demand is high for STEM-related employment, thanks to more than 50 percent of the Navy’s scientists, engineers and related disciplines qualifying for retirement, as well as the projection of 1.2 million new STEM jobs created over the next five years. The Navy is committed to working to ensure there is a qualified STEM workforce in the pipeline.

As part of this commitment, the U.S. Navy is partnering with organizations across the U.S. to help promote an interest in STEM subjects among elementary to college-level students. The Navy STEM for the Classroom tool is also available for teachers and students, providing lesson plans and interactive tools to increase learning in these subjects.

One program incorporating STEM subject learning with real world experiences is the SeaPerch program, an innovative underwater robotics program sponsored by the Office of Naval Research that connects students and teachers inside or outside the classroom to construct an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV).

Students will follow an established curriculum to physically build an underwater robot from a low-cost, standard kit, learning important lessons like:

* Ship, submersible and submarine design (Naval architecture)

* Maritime and ocean engineering principles

* Robotics

* Problem-solving

* Teamwork

Each underwater ROV creation can be tested against others in organized competitions across the country.

Students with a background in STEM courses have the opportunity to work with some of the most awe-inspiring ships, submarines, air craft and communications systems in existence, develop unmanned vehicles and robotics that keep people out of harm’s way, and pioneer advances in everything from nuclear propulsion to biofuels to medical research. A STEM-related career in the Navy provides almost limitless possibilities for leadership and relevant experience.

In addition, enlisting in the Navy allows students interested in STEM subjects to continue their learning with ongoing development opportunities during nearly all stages of their career in the Navy. These opportunities include:

* Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) scholarship program

* Naval Academy is the undergraduate college for the Naval Service and allows a student to become a midshipman while learning about the Navy’s rich history

* Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate Program which offers up to $168,300 for students finishing a degree in math, engineering, physics or chemistry, and allows them to begin the process of becoming a commissioned Navy Nuclear Officer

* Civil Engineer Collegiate Program gives students pursuing civil engineering degrees the opportunity to pursue projects around the world right out of college. This program also offers up to $113,100 while finishing a college degree

For more information about opportunities to serve in the Navy, call 866-408-1241 or visit navy.com.

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Give your landscaping a no-maintenance makeover

(BPT) – Low- and no-maintenance features top the list when making over outdoor living spaces because less time maintaining means more time enjoying.

Low-maintenance landscaping outranks native plantings, water features and food/vegetable gardens according to the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) 2014 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends survey. Landscape professionals love to share their secrets and show off their craft when redesigning outdoor spaces for low or no maintenance. Armed with know-how and using sweat equity, do-it-yourselfers also can employ tips that professionals use for a no-maintenance landscape makeover.        

Landscaping with hardscapes

Landscape professionals use retaining wall systems for a variety of landscaping solutions. Segmental retaining walls are commonly used to transition elevations, shore up slopes along foundations and define spaces such as creating planters, tree rings and other features.

“Hardscape products like retaining walls and pavers are important tools for both landscapers and do-it-yourselfers in creating low-maintenance landscapes,” says Scott Arnold, manager of Villa Landscapes in St. Paul, Minnesota. “With just the standard VERSA-LOK retaining wall unit, you can easily create seat walls, curved couches, columns and other features.”

Retaining wall systems combined with concrete pavers can be used to create beautiful raised patios, replacing high-maintenance wooden decks, says Arnold. In addition to being as cost effective as a wooden deck, a raised patio offers several advantages.

“A deck railing can be replaced with wrought iron fencing or a low seat wall so the view is unobstructed,” Arnold says. “Raised patios also look great with a contrasting paver course or rock barrier for potted plants, and steps to the ground can be created with retaining wall units.”

Retaining wall units and interlocking concrete pavers come in a variety of colors, shapes and textures to complement any landscape design and are often used to create design continuity in outdoor spaces. Tree rings can be coordinated or color-contrasted with raised patios, retaining walls and other hardscapes.

Permeable pavers are an environmentally sound and low-maintenance solution where impervious surface limits, storm water management, water quality and water conservation are issues.

“Permeable pavers are a best practice for storm water management and quality issues because they prevent runoff and let rain water infiltrate in place naturally,” says Burt Plett, product manager of Willow Creek Paving Stones. “Permeable pavers reduce the need for irrigation in drought-prone areas, unlike poured concrete or asphalt.” It’s best to consult a landscape professional who is experienced in installing permeable paving systems so that they work properly and consistently, Plett says.      

Low-maintenance landscaping practices

Landscaping practices can make it easier to control weeds and manage lawn care as well. The use of rock mulch and natural rock in gardens and beds, as walkways and as stepping stones offers an attractive solution to weed control and also lessens the need for irrigation. At least three inches of rock mulch or four inches of natural mulch will prevent weeds. A landscape fabric under stepping stones and rock mulch offers even more insurance against weeds.

A simple way to cut down on trimming is to add a course of pavers along the bottom of a retaining wall, tree ring or planter so the mower can get close to the wall, says Arnold.

Maintenance-free outdoor accessories

Selecting maintenance-free outdoor furniture and accessories is an easy way to make over a space. Outdoor furniture made of recycled HDPE like Comfort Craft requires no storage or maintenance other than cleanup with soap and water. Unlike wood, Comfort Craft furniture won’t chip, splint, crack or rot and never needs painting.

Hardscape kits – containing everything needed to create a fireplace, firepit, water feature or grill island – are some of the most popular low-maintenance landscaping products, Arnold says.

“Using easy-to-install kits like those from Willow Creek Paving Stones, homeowners and contractors alike can create beautiful features such as grill islands, bar islands, fire pits and fireplaces that are long-lasting and low-maintenance,” Arnold says.

 

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