Neurofeedback helps at any age

submitted by Dr. Maria DiDonato, D.Ed. Psychologist, Achievement & Wellness Center, www.achievewell.net

Marge (not her real name) was a perky, attractive middle-aged woman. She was independent and wanted to stay on the top of her game. She enjoyed her job and felt good about having a meaningful lifestyle. Stress with family situations and job demands were causing her to feel overwhelmed as she tried to keep a positive attitude and maintain balance. Unavoidably, she found herself worrying and developing a depressed mood, making her routine seem burdensome.

The non-medication approach of neurofeedback was appealing to her as she wanted a more holistic approach with her health care. When Marge began neurofeedback, she described anxiety and depressed mood as her biggest concerns. Besides worrying less, she wanted to establish boundaries with others, instead of being everyone’s go-to person. Staying efficient at her job was necessary and important.

Marge began treatment with counseling, neurofeedback and autogenic training. She quickly began experiencing a positive state of mind and more confidence. Neurofeedback training and counseling reinforced her positive mood and thoughts.

Autogenic self-regulation training helped her feel more in control and stay in control. She began setting healthy boundaries with others. Gradually, as she showed improvement, her sessions were less frequent and she became more confident. She was able to recognize that her age would not slow down her alertness and efficiency. Instead, she felt mentally sharper. 

Neurofeedback helps establish a habit of positive brain wave balance. With autogenic training, the individual learns to maintain control with external stressors. Individuals gradually change their lifestyle and coping strategies to a more positive approach.

Older individuals quickly recognize that their cognitive alertness and efficiency is a positive asset and they become more confident with their life experiences. Neurofeedback empowers cognitive efficiency at any age. No one is too old to have a sharper mind.

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Invest for the future, not the past

submitted by Michael Garry, CFP®, JD/MBA, Yardley Wealth Management, LLC

Much financial news purports to be about the future but is really just an account of the past. When stocks have fallen heavily in price, this is routinely reported as, “More bad news for investors today…” In fact, if you are a long-term investor, that could be good news unless you had to sell then. The key is how your portfolio performs from now on, not what happened yesterday. Investment is about the future, not the past. Because the future is unknown, you should strive to manage the uncertainty by diversifying across stocks, sectors, asset classes, and countries.

Everyone’s individual future is different, which means the investment strategy each of you adopts will vary. Some will want a strategy that delivers regular income; others will be more focused on capital growth. Some will be risk takers, others risk-averse.

This is why an assessment of the future and the uncertainty surrounding it should not just be approached from the level of the overall market but from the needs of each individual. That is the role of a qualified financial advisor: to help connect each individual’s circumstances and needs to their goals.

Nobody can control the future. One response to future uncertainty is to speculate and try to position one’s portfolio to take advantage of one possible outcome or another. Another response is to stay highly diversified and to use the information in market prices to stay focused on dimensions of expected return.

By hoping to diversify against risk and ensuring that your portfolio addresses your individual circumstances, this can help ensure that you are making the most of your investment. While you cannot prepare the future for your portfolios, you can still strive to prepare your portfolios for the future.

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Warmer pool, lower bills, cooler world

submitted by Mark Bortman, Exact Solar, mark@exactsolar.com

Finally it seems that spring has sprung! After our long, cold, snowy winter, it is nice to play outside and plant some flowers. Before we know it, it will be time for one of my favorite summer activities – swimming.

I really enjoy swimming. One of the things I don’t like, however, is getting into cold water. Unlike my kids, if the pool is cool, I take forever to get in, if I get in at all.

Of course, there is a way to avoid this – heat the swimming pool. This can be an expensive proposition, however. Natural gas, propane and electric bills can skyrocket to hundreds of dollars during the swimming season, not to mention the untold environmental impacts of mining and burning those fossil fuels.

Of course, there is a way to avoid this, too – harness the natural, free energy of the sun. Solar pool heating systems do an excellent job of adding 10 to 15 degrees to the temperature of an unheated pool. They don’t cost much more to install than any other type of heater but they cost nothing to run! The heat from the sun is free and will never go up in price.

Solar pool heaters work by circulating the water from the pool through solar collectors. These collectors are made from a special blend of polymers and are designed to capture the heat from the sun and transfer it to the water. Each collector is rated for up to 48,000 BTU’s per day.

Although solar pools heater are not as well-known as the other types of heaters, they have been around for over 30 years and their popularity is growing. They have withstood the test of time and their warranty supports this. The panels come with a full 12 year and limited lifetime warranty – far longer than any other type of heater.

As the swimming season starts, think about the difference solar energy can make – a warmer pool and a cleaner environment. Then, make a choice to make a difference.

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Check your beneficiary designations

submitted by Michael Garry, CFP®, JD/MBA, Yardley Wealth Management, LLC

Chances are, when you bought life insurance, you put a lot of thought into it. How much coverage did you need? Were you covering the potential loss of income due to premature death, or were the proceeds to pay estate taxes or provide an inheritance? What kind of coverage did you want?

But many people who shop for life insurance spend almost no time considering how to fill out one of the most important parts of their policy: the part of the form where you name the beneficiary. The contingent or alternate beneficiary designation is usually an afterthought. Once made, those decisions are almost never reviewed. They should be.

The same goes for 401ks, 403bs, IRAs, etc. It doesn’t matter what you want or what you put in your Will, it only matters how you fill out the form.

For retirement plans it is more important than ever to check your beneficiary forms. For the last few years, your beneficiaries have been able to use Inherited IRAs when you die, and they can be much more tax efficient than if you leave the beneficiary form blank or let it intentionally go to your estate (there may be times when you want it to go to your estate, but not many, so it had better be thought through with the help of an Estate Planning attorney).

If you have children, and they are not mature adults, you should probably have a Trust provision in your Will, and your life insurance and retirement plan beneficiary designations should reflect that. It’s not a good idea to leave money or benefits to minor children in their own names. Nor is it usually wise to leave outright gifts to most children in their 20’s. You would know if your twenty-something is the exception!

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Keep your lights on when the power goes out

submitted by Mark Bortman, Exact Solar, mark@exactsolar.com

It certainly has been a tough winter for the power company. Don’t you just hate it when the power goes out? An outage of just a couple hours is no big deal, but the extended outages we’ve had recently sure are frustrating. It seems that it is only getting worse.

In light of this, many people are looking for back-up sources of power. While generators have been the most common option, more people are turning to a quiet, environmentally-friendly alternative: battery back-up.

Batteries, also known as an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS), have been used for years to provide constant power to sensitive electronics such as computers. Recently, these systems have been expanded to be able to power more and bigger loads. The systems can be set up to work automatically and turn on in an instant.

Best of all, if the batteries are paired with solar panels, you can harness the power of the sun to keep recharging the batteries!

A battery back-up with solar power system provides clean, renewable, emergency power when there are unexpected power losses due to work on local power lines, weather disturbances or power outages. The batteries used in these systems are not your typical rechargeable batteries. They are heavy duty, maintenance free, deep-cycle batteries designed for this application.

A big advantage of battery back-up systems is that they are very quiet.  In addition, batteries can be “refueled” by solar power rather than diesel fuel, propane or natural gas.

Typically with the battery systems, we isolate the “critical loads,” the things in your house you want to be sure to run when the power goes out.  Since the number of batteries required depends on what you want to run when electricity from the utility is not available, separating the critical loads helps limit the number of batteries and thus the cost of the system.

Think about an affordable back-up energy solution that can replace the need for fuel based systems such as diesel generators. The solar back-up solution is low maintenance, long lasting and produces low cost renewable energy.

Next time the power goes out, don’t be left in the dark!

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Property division in a Pennsylvania divorce: What’s mine, what’s yours and what’s ours?

submitted by Jennifer Courtney, Esquire, www.courtneylaw.net

In a Pennsylvania divorce, marital property is divided through the process of Equitable Distribution.

The first step to equitable distribution is to identify what is marital property. In order to do so, one must determine when the property was acquired. Property acquired from the date of marriage to the date of separation is presumed to be marital unless it falls under an exception provided by law. Some of the most significant exceptions include pre-marital property, property excluded by pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement as well as gifts and inheritances to one party during the marriage. It is important to remember that any property falling under the exceptions should be kept separate and apart from marital property to prevent commingling. In other words, separate property should be preserved. And even if the asset is kept separate, the increase in value of that separate asset during the marriage may be considered to be marital unless agreed otherwise.

After the property is identified it must be valued. After marital property is identified and valued, the attorneys or the court will apply certain factors under the Divorce Code to decide upon a scheme of division of the marital property. Such factors for equitable distribution include facts such as the length of marriage, the age of the parties, the health of the parties, the incomes of the parties, as well as the disparity in income of the parties, among other factors.

While all cases are fact specific, it is important to remember that equitable distribution in Pennsylvania is not equal distribution and therefore, does not always equate to a 50%-50% division.

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How you can better cope when assisting a loved one or dear friend

by Gregg Rackin, CEO, Care Plus More Homecare

What most people who care for others don’t pay enough attention to is the tremendous and constant stress they are under. Many choose to ignore it. But inside, the stress doesn’t go away, and it can cause a lot of tension, even resentment. That’s why respite (relief) care is so very important when caring for a loved one or friend. It’s easy and it’s more affordable than most think. Talk to a homecare professional who can explain all your options.

Things to think about:

  • Recognize that caregiver stress is REAL. Without some time to yourself, how can you be at your best when caring for others?
  • Have you developed a care plan to best fit everyone’s needs?
  • Have you thought about how to improve your relationship with those you care for? If so, how do you do that?
  • Can stress as a caregiver affect your health?
  • How can respite care (relief) reduce your stress levels?
  • Will help for you and those you care for make things more manageable for everyone?
  • Are you concerned that you may not know the qualifications of the homecare professional coming into your home? Is the homecare professional Pennsylvania licensed, bonded and insured? Does the homecare professional agency screen and train its employees?
  • How long will it take for you to become comfortable with getting the help you need?
  • How much will it cost?

All of these are important questions that knowledgeable homecare professionals can help you answer. Caregiving is one of the most fulfilling jobs anyone can do. It’s also one of the most difficult.

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Solar panels – A gift that keeps on giving

submitted by Mark Bortman, Exact Solar, mark@exactsolar.com

A lump of coal. What a lousy thing to get for Christmas. All kids know that they had better stay off of Santa’s “Naughty” list or that is what they are going to end up with in their stocking.

What kids might not know, however, is how bad that coal really is and what it is doing to the world that they are growing into. Coal leaves behind a long trail of pollution. Mountaintops are removed and acres of forest and wilderness are stripped to get the coal.

There is pollution generated to transport the coal to the power plant. Tons of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, small particles and hydrocarbons are released in the atmosphere when it is burned. Piles of ash and sludge are left over from the combustion. These end up leaching pollutants in the soil and water.

Coal’s negative impact to our environment and our health will be felt not only now by future generations, too. Unfortunately, about half of the electricity we use in Pennsylvania comes from burning coal.

Renewable energy sources such as solar panels, on the other hand, are everything that coal is not. There is no mining, no pollution or harmful emissions, no toxic residue.  Even better, the energy from the sun and wind is unlimited. 

Moreover, once solar panels are installed, they cost nothing to run. They just keep producing electricity – and savings on your electric bill month after month.

Now that is something I’d like to see in my stocking.

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A knockout blow to stress with neurofeedback

submitted by Dr. Maria DiDonato, D.Ed. Psychologist, Achievement & Wellness Center, www.achievewell.net

Rocky (not his real name), a successful businessman, was trying to navigate a stress filled life. He was experiencing shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, stomach problems, nervousness and anxiety. Medical evaluations were benign for any underlying health problems. 

As he looked at his lifestyle, Rocky recognized that his busy work demands, family responsibilities and related situations were exacerbating matters.  Rocky’s previous attempts to help his health situation with medication were only partially successful, and he continued to have difficulty sleeping.

Rocky wanted to gain better control of the anxiety that had been disrupting his life. Soon after starting treatment, he began to notice a calming effect. He felt he was beginning to take control and the neurofeedback, along with counseling, was helpful in quieting his levels of anxiety. 

He also began peripheral biofeedback training for breathing and heart rate, both of which helped with managing stressors that emerge in his daily life. Facing the ever-present life stressors, he now has real tools and a healthier, more positive outlook.

Neurofeedback training helps with regulating brain waves. A form of conditioned response, neurofeedback rewards positive brain waves to help produce calming effects and reduces the stress response. Neurofeedback has been shown to be effective in reducing the responses that are associated with busy lifestyles. 

Heart rate variability training, a complimentary form of autogenic training, allows individuals to learn to control their ongoing stress response in a controlled setting. The training can carry over into their daily lives.

Along with cognitive behavioral therapy, both these methods of biofeedback helped Rocky gain control of his emotional response to his life stressors. He is feeling more in control and is making more positive and permanent changes in his life.

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The importance of diversification

submitted by Michael Garry, CFP®, JD/MBA, Yardley Wealth Management, LLC

Say you were presented with three investment opportunities: one was expected to return 2%, another was expected to return 7%, and the last was expected to return 10%.

Would you simply put all of your money into the investment that was expected to return 10%? You might be tempted to, but probably shouldn’t. 

In order to expect higher returns on your investments, you have to take on additional risk. Since the average investor is risk-adverse, they may want to spread their money out and invest a portion of it in each of these opportunities. This is the concept of diversification.

So how does diversification work?

Pretend that you have a portfolio in which you invested all of your money in one stock, GM. Now say that a news story hits about a manufacturing defect in one of GM’s cars and its stock price drops 3%. Your entire portfolio has now lost 3% of its value.

Now instead pretend that you have a portfolio in which you invested half of your money in GM and half in risk-free T-bills, and now that same news story hits. This time, you’ve only lost 1.5% of your portfolio’s value.

Although a simplified version, this is the general idea behind diversification. Allocating your assets among various asset classes, and to various investments within those different asset classes, can dramatically decrease risks related to firm-specific factors as well as to general economic conditions.

With some amount of diversification, you can decrease the risks more than you reduce the expected returns. This is the so-called “free lunch” of diversification, and it may be the only one in investing!

It’s best to sit down and determine which diversification strategy best fits your needs and risk tolerance and then allocate your assets accordingly.

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