Of course you know that there are certain aphrodisiacs that can help heat things up in bed. And then there are other foods that don’t exactly make you feel sexy (we’re looking at you, three pieces of cheesy pizza before bed). But what you may not know is that your sultry vibes don’t just stem fromwhat you eat—it stems from how you think about what you’re eating, too. We asked Alexandra Jamieson, author of the new book Women, Food, and Desire: Embrace Your Cravings, Make Peace With Food, and Reclaim Your Body, to explain how your relationship with food—not just the food itself—impacts your sex drive. And it turns out, there’s a way bigger connection than you may think.
Let’s start with this basic fact: How you think about food and how you think about sex are inextricably linked—and that’s because they both have to do with pleasure. And guess what? The pleasure link begins, not surprisingly, in your formative teenage years: “When girls are in their early teens, they start picking up on cultural cues that say they should be dieting, even though they already associate food with pleasure since they’ve been eating for their whole lives,” says Jamieson. “At the same time, young women alsostart becoming aware of the body’s ability for pleasure—but there can be a lot of shame around experiencing that physical pleasure for the first time.” So what happens is that the mixed messages around pleasure and shame become linked from an early age.
Sadly, you don’t “grow out of” the mixed messages as you age. The problem still stands with many women—and it’s rooted in the fact that they stillhave a love/hate relationship with food. “I work with a lot of women who are fighting a constant war with their bodies and with their cravings and have been since their teens,” says Jamieson. “They deprive themselves of calories as a way to feel good about themselves or because they think they should.” But going back to the pleasure thing, deprivation keeps your body in a constant state of discomfort because you want to feel the pleasure but aren’t letting yourself. And when you feel discomfort with your body, you feel it everywhere, all the time—including in the bedroom. “If you don’t feel that your body deserves pleasure, then you’ll develop a disconnect with it in all areas—and you won’t be able to feel pleasure in the bedroom,” she says.
So what can you do to get over the pleasure disconnect so that you can start enjoying food and sex more? Hint: This is not a free ride to give into all of your cravings and stuff yourself with cake to improve your sex life. There’s a healthier way to do it, and it’s a lot more nuanced. First, stop rushing your meals, and start savoring your food a lot more. “Smell it, feel it against your lips, inhale the aroma,” says Jamieson. “Slow down, and enjoy it. When your senses are fully present, you’ll feel more pleasure, and, thus, you’ll be sending a signal to your body that it deserves to feel good.” (Learn more about how to eat mindfully.)
Next up: Give in to your cravings with a friend, not alone. “Make a moment of it,” says Jamieson. “Many women give into their cravings in a guilty way, behind closed doors. They want chocolate but think it’s bad, so they just stuff it in their mouths to get it over with. You’re more likely to enjoy it if you’re with someone you love, and when you enjoy it more, you’re less likely to think that cravings are bad.” Then let the great sex commence!
Next time you pour yourself a hearty bowl of oat flakes, think about this: Your super nutritious morning meal might be contaminated with a health-harming mold. A new study from the American Chemical Society analyzed almost 500 breakfast cereals made with various grains, and the oat-based cereals were found to contain worrisome levels of a common toxic mold that’s been linked to cancer.
The toxin, called ochratoxin (OTA), occurs naturally when food isn’t stored properly; it’s been caught lurking in everything from pork to peas. OTA is regulated in Europe because it’s been found to cause kidney cancer in animals, and the World Health Organization believes it may be a human carcinogen as well. Yet it’s not monitored here in the United States.
To get a sense of how much of the stuff might be hiding in U.S. cereals, a research team writing in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistrydevised a study. Researchers bought 489 types of cereal made from corn, wheat, oats, and rice. After analyzing samples, they found that up to 48 percent of the cereals were contaminated with OTA. The good news is, the level of contamination didn’t typically exceed the healthy limits set by European regulations. What is troubling, though, is that eight percent of the oat-based cereals tested did come in over that healthy threshold. Ick.
Researchers concluded that the processing and storing of oats needs to be monitored more closely. But what does it mean if your favorite way to start the day is with a bowl of oatmeal or a yummy oatmeal smoothie? Don’t give it up. “While OTA is not harmless, most studies are done in animals and not people, and the levels in our diet are at least 25 times lower than the threshold set by the EU,” says Maggie Moon, R.D., a Los Angeles-based nutritionist and owner of Everyday Healthy Eating. Still, it’s a smart idea to safeguard your cereal by bagging the cardboard box and storing it in a cool, dry place in an airtight container. “I’d hate for someone to cut out a healthful food like oatmeal because of this study, but it is a good reminder to pay attention to food safety,” says Moon.
Any good diet should include three things: carbohydrates (to fuel exercise), protein (to repair muscles), and fat (to keep you satiated). How you distribute those grams makes all the difference. Calories below based on a 150-pound, 5’4″ woman, age 28.
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20-35 percent fat
50-55 percent or more from carbs
15-20 percent protein
Total daily cals: 2,500 (training 1 to 1.5 hours per day)
HERE’S HOW THAT LOOKS IN A DAY’S WORTH OF MEALS:
Overnight oatmeal with 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, 1 cup blueberries, and 2 Tbsp maple syrup
Latte with 8 oz coffee and 1/2 cup 2% milk
1 Strong and Kind Honey BBQ KIND bar
Hummus wrap with 1/4 cup roasted red pepper hummus, 1 cup arugula, 1/4 cup sliced tomatoes, 1/4 cup sliced cucumbers, 1/4 cup sliced green peppers, 1/4 cup sprouts, and 1 slice of Swiss cheese
1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt with 1/4 cup dried craisins and 2 Tbsp chocolate chips
Green smoothie with 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1 Tbsp ground flax seed, 1 banana, and 2 cups spinach
Stir-fry with 1 cup cooked brown rice, 5 oz chicken, 1 cup broccoli, 1 cup chopped bell peppers, 1/4 cup water chestnuts, and 2 Tbsp teriyaki sauce
Total Calories: 2,474 (30 percent fat, 53 percent carbohydrates, 18 percent protein) Total Fat: 84 grams Total Carbohydrates: 333 grams Total Fiber: 41 grams Total Protein: 112 grams
20 percent protein
45-50 percent carbs
25-30 percent fat
Total daily cals: 2,100 (training 1 hour per day)
HERE’S HOW THAT LOOKS IN A DAY’S WORTH OF MEALS:
Spinach and mushroom scramble with 1 egg, 2 egg whites, 1 cup spinach, 1/2 cup mushrooms, and 2 Tbsp grated Swiss cheese
1 whole-wheat English muffin
1 oz almonds
Black bean burrito bowl with 2 cups shredded lettuce, 1/2 cup cooked brown rice, 1/2 cup cooked black beans, 3 oz shredded chicken, 1/4 cup salsa, and 1/4 avocado (sliced)
2 Tbsp hummus with 1 cup sliced cucumbers
1 whole-wheat thin sandwich bun with 1/4 pound lean ground beef burger patty (90% lean), 2 slices of tomato, and 2 pieces of lettuce
1 cup butternut squash (sliced into fry shapes and tossed with salt, pepper, 1 tsp oil, and a pinch of chili powder), roasted at 400°F until crispy and golden, about 40 minutes
1 cup shredded kale tossed with 1 tsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp parmesan cheese (season to taste with salt and pepper)
1/2 cup frozen mango, thawed, with 1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt Total Calories: 2,110 (30 percent fat, 46 percent carbohydrates, 25 percent protein) Total Fat: 72 grams Total Carbohydrates: 241 grams Total Fiber: 43 grams Total Protein: 134 grams
20 percent protein
25 percent fat
55 percent carbs
Total daily cals: 1,400 (to drop 1 to 1.5 pounds per week) Breakfast
1/2 whole wheat English muffin (toasted) with 1 cup spinach leaves (steamed), 1 poached egg, 1 slice of tomato, 1 slice of avocado, and salt/pepper/a pinch of red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp caramel sauce
3 cups spinach leaves with 3 oz salmon (like the pouch kind or leftover from dinner the night before), 1/2 cup trimmed green beans, 2 Tbsp sweet onions (sliced paper thin), 1 hard-boiled egg (sliced), and 2 Tbsp low-fat honey dijon vinaigrette
1 piece string cheese
1/2 cup mango chunks (thawed from frozen or fresh)
4 oz shredded chicken with 2 Tbsp low-fat Caesar dressing, 1 cup butterleaf lettuce (torn), and 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes (sliced) in 1 whole-wheat tortilla
1 cup tomato soup
1/2 cup frozen yogurt
Total Calories: 1,399 (23 percent fat, 56 percent carbohydrates, 22 percent protein) Total Fat: 36.9 grams Total Carbohydrates: 199.4 grams Total Fiber: 27.4 grams Total Protein: 80.7 grams
Standing desks are a legitimate Thing at the Women’s Health office, and we’re extra thankful for them today: Tim Cook, the CEO at Apple,reportedly said yesterday at a conference that “a lot of doctors believe sitting is the new cancer.”
We’ve been trying to spread the word about “sitting disease”—or the myriad health problems correlated with spending too much time on your backside, even if you work out—since 2009. Subsequent research has shown that a sedentary lifestyle can wreak havoc on everything from your mental clarity to your breathing (and, yes, is also associated with an increased risk of cancer).
But is sitting really the new cancer? “What we’ve always said is it’s much like smoking in that it’s something people do—and we used to smoke not knowing it’s a health hazard,” says Marc Hamilton, Ph.D., a professor at the Inactivity Physiology Laboratory at Pennington Biomedical Research Center, who’s been researching the effects of inactivity on the body for more than a decade—and says there have been more than 1,000 studies on the topic since his article about it was published in 2004.
“What they’ve consistently shown is that sitting too much is not the same as exercising too little,” he says. “Every hour of the day matters to human physiology, and you can’t just look at these few hours you may exercise.”
Hamilton’s most recent research actually shows that people who are the most sedentary are more than twice as likely to have diabetes than people who are the most active throughout the day—and that risk is way higher than what people eating high quantities of sugar face.
“I think what Tim Cook and others are probably saying is we need to wake up and deal with this issue,” says Hamilton. “Exercise is good for you for one reason, but light activity is good for you for another reason—so you can’t assume that one will replace the other.”
It’s similar to how eating healthfully doesn’t mean you can skip your workout—and vice-versa.
“Now we have a whole other way of addressing another public health problem that previously was ignored,” says Hamilton. “It’s not bad news to hear there’s a new risk factor out there because now we know there’s another way to stay healthy.”
Dr. Iezzi might want to see the innovation extended to patients who have lost the utilization of their eyes, for example, injured troopers or individuals with cutting edge diabetes or glaucoma.
“Furthermore, while Mr. Zderad has 60 purposes of incitement, on the off chance that we had the capacity expand that number to a few hundred purposes of incitement, I think we could amplify the innovation so that patients could perceive faces and maybe even read,” he finishes up.
“It’s unrefined, yet its noteworthy,” said Zderad cheerfully, as he initially utilized the gadget.
Zderad will now have the capacity to see his family once more, including his 10 grandchildren and his wife, Carmen. What’s more how can he recognize her, having not seen her for 10 years? “It’s simple,” says Zderad, “she’s the most wonderful one in the room.”
Toward the end of a year ago, Medical News Today provided details regarding the narrative of a lady with quadriplegia who is presently ready to utilize her psyche to move an automated arm, showing “10° cerebrum control” of the prosthetic.
Chronic pain is a long term pain that persists for three to six months, well beyond the expected period of healing. Living in constant pain can be exhausting and depressing. There are many types of pain, including deep somatic pain which is a dull aching pain and visceral pain which originates in the organs.
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Everyone has felt pain at one point in their lives. However, imagine if that pain persisted for months and months without getting better or going away. There are 1.5 billion people worldwide who are suffering fromchronic pain.
Usually the pain can be treated by traditional pain killers, including morphine, ibuprophen and paracetamol. However, the same treatments have been used for years with varying effects and no one has been able to discover the cure for chronic pain yet. There are a number of clinical trials that are currently ongoing which are looking into finding new treatments for chronic pain relief.
A clinical trial is when human volunteers are used in order to further research which will help to develop medical knowledge about the best possible treatment for the condition. The researchers will test potential treatments for chronic pain so that they can discover something that is better than what is currently on offer. If you choose to take part in the clinical study, you can help the researchers to develop a treatment for chronic pain that will benefit patients in the future.
Usually the clinical trial participants will be assigned at random to either taking the new treatment for chronic pain or taking the current standard treatment. The randomisation is important because it helps to avoid any potential bias – usually the participant doesn’t know which of the drugs they have been given.
Why not consider taking part in a clinical trial for chronic pain? You will be able to have access to some of the best current treatment and you will receive top of the line medical care. Alsowhen you take part in paid medical trials you will be helping future generations by allowing researchers and scientists to get closer to a cure.
Potential Future Treatments for Chronic Pain
There have been many important clinical trials in which researchers have discovered how chronic pain actually changes the brain. There are also several very promising research areas that could potentially lead to better treatment approaches.
Over the last 50 years or so we have had medication that has fit into four different classes – non steroids such as ibuprofen or aspirin, opioids such as morphine, anti-epileptics such as gabapentin and antidepressants such as amitriptyline. There have been less than 10 new medications with different mechanisms of action that have become available over the last 50 years and only one of them was designed specifically for its mechanisms of action.
There has been a greater focus on clinical trials for chronic pain research recently, as the human population is aging and there is a higher demand for a new treatment. In the past decade or so, researchers have learned a lot about chronic pain and have developed new scientific approaches so that they can successfully develop effective medications.
According to both animal and human studies it has been found that chronic pain changes the brain structurally, functionally and chemically. It induces the brain circuits to function abnormally, which includes the circuits that are involved in autonomic responses, cognition and other complex behaviours.
One of the current options being studied is neuro-rehabilitation, which might possibly allow for the reversal of the maladaptive changes that the brain goes through. Researchers are looking for new approaches for the treatment of chronic pain with this in mind, such as direct stimulation of the motor cortex.
There are other drugs, such as ketamine, which are thought to be potentially helpful thanks to their anti-inflammatory effects. Another potential treatment is the ability to replace neurons through cytotheraputic technologies such as embryonic stem cells. This theory is currently being tested on animals, but it might offer potential success in humans as well if it can be tested.
If you are considering taking part in a clinical trial for chronic pain management, take your time to find the right trial to suit your needs. There are many options out there, so select a trial that is in your local area and that will fit with your particular condition. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the trial and how it works, in order to make sure you are comfortable with what you are signing up for before you participate.
NEW YORK — U.S. stocks rose modestly Friday after late news of merger talks among two semiconductor companies boosted the technology sector and helped major indexes snap a four-day losing streak.
The Wall Street Journal reported chipmaker Intel is in talks to buy rival Altera, citing people familiar with the matter, sending the PHLX semiconductor index up 2.8 percent.
We’ve seen a lot of M&A news recently and it’s helping the market.
Intel (INTC) shares jumped 6.4 percent to $32 as the biggest boost to the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 indexes. Altera (ALTR) shares surged 28.4 percent to $44.39.
“We’ve seen a lot of M&A news recently and it’s helping the market,” said Stephen Massocca, chief investment officer at Wedbush Equity Management in San Francisco.
“There is definitely an M&A cycle going on, so that is a good thing.”
Equity markets were largely unfazed by Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s comments at a monetary policy conference in San Francisco. She said the U.S. Federal Reserve is giving “serious consideration” to beginning to reduce its accommodative monetary policy and a rate hike may be warranted later this year, although a downturn in core inflation or wage growth could force it to hold off.
“I don’t think there is anything new or different here,” said Massocca.
The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) rose 34.43 points, or 0.19 percent, to 17,712.66, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index (^GSPC) gained 4.87 points, or 0.24 percent, to 2,061.02 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) added 27.86 points, or 0.57 percent, to 4,891.22.
Health care also helped buoy indexes as biotech stocks bounced 1.9 percent higher after suffering a 7 percent drop in the prior four sessions, while energywas the worst performing S&P sector as crude prices resumed their decline.
Looming Earnings Season
Investors have been cautious ahead of the start of earnings season, as traders look to see how much the strong U.S. dollar will hurt corporations’ bottom lines. For the week, the S&P 500 fell 2.2 percent, the Dow lost 2.3 percent and the Nasdaq declined 2.7 percent.
U.S. consumer sentiment fell month-over-month in March, a survey released on Friday showed, though the decline was smaller than forecast.
The final reading of gross domestic product for the last quarter of 2014 wasunchanged at a 2.2 percent rate of expansion. After-tax corporate profits fell at a 1.6 percent rate in the fourth quarter as a strong dollar dented the earnings of multinationals.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,842 to 1,187, for a 1.55-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,592 issues rose and 1,106 fell, for a 1.44-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.
The benchmark S&P 500 index posted 6 new 52-week highs and 6 new lows; the Nasdaq composite recorded 38 new highs and 38 new lows.
Volume was light, with about 5.66 billion shares traded on U.S. exchanges, well below the 6.78 billion average so far this month, according to BATS Global Markets.
What to watch Monday:
Cal-Maine Foods (CALM) reports quarterly financial results before U.S. markets open.
The Commerce Department releases personal income and spending for February at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
The National Association of Realtors releases pending home sales index for February at 10 a.m.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas releases its survey of manufacturing conditions in Texas at 10:30 a.m.
If you’re being audited by the Internal Revenue Service this year, you’re either an unlucky or extremely unfortunate individual.
Budget cuts have steadily decreased the number of IRS audits from 1.4 million in 2013 to 1.2 million last year. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told reporters in January that the number of audits would fall again this year after continued belt-tightening.
With the IRS budget falling 17 percent in the past five years, the number of audits this year is expected to hover around 1 million. Koskinen noted that his agency has left an estimated $6 billion to $8 billion on the table since 2010 because its enforcement division is understaffed by roughly 5,000 fewer employees than it needs. Further staff reductions should leave another $2 billion uncollected this year.
This isn’t exactly making life easier on the few folks who do get audited. In fact, it makes a certain few increasingly subject to scrutiny. “There are only two reasons to get audited: One is if you’re randomly selected and the other is if you throw up some kind of red flag,” says Matthew M. Jehn, a certified financial planner with Royal Oak Financial in Worthington, Ohio. “Home office deductions are typically something that can throw up a red flag if they’re too egregious with what’s written down.”
If you’re unlucky enough to fall into either of Jehn’s two categories, our team of tax preparers and financial advisers offer a plan for how to handle your audit:
1. Make Sure It’s Legit
Paul Gevertzman, a certified public accountant and tax partner at Anchin, Block & Anchin, in New York City, notes that fraudulent tax examinations do happen and fake audit notices have only increased in frequency in recent years.
“You hear so many stories about people getting phone calls and emails, basically scams, from people pretending to be tax examiners,” he says. “These things are out there. If the first contact is something other than a written letter, there’s a very good chance that it’s not legitimate and you need to check it out before you provide any kind of information or make any kind of payment.”
2. If It’s the Real Deal, Calm Down
“Breathe: It’s not cancer, it’s an examination by the IRS,” says Susan Lee, an enrolled agent and certified financial planner in New York City who specializes in tax preparation for freelancers. “It’s not to be taken likely, but it’s not the end of the world unless you’ve committed fraud intentionally.”
This is going to go a lot more smoothly if you read the letter and see what the IRS or the state wants before heading into the audit. Larry M. Elkin, a certified public accountant, certified financial planner and president of Palisades Hudson Financial Group in Scarsdale, New York, notes that federal and state tax offices send out huge numbers of notices advising taxpayers that they owe money. He adds that most result from simple data or reporting errors the tax authorities believe you made. If you gathered your tax information carefully and had someone competent prepare your return, there is a good chance the notice is incorrect.
“Some people have this tremendous fear of being audited, but the important thing is not to panic and just deal with what you have to do,” says Gevertzman. “Most agents are public servants like police, firemen sanitation workers. We shouldn’t be prejudiced against tax examiners: Some of my closest friends are tax examiners and they’re all good, hard-working people who aren’t out to get you.”
3. Don’t Go In Alone
Unless you’re especially deft at preparing your taxes and dealing with IRS or state auditors, you’re likely going to want someone to either coach you or — in the case of an in-person audit — be in the room to help out.
“If they are the one who signed off on your return, then they are required at a minimum to show that they used the information you gave them to put on your tax return,” Jehn says. “If they screwed up, they run the risk of having a claim filed against them, but usually something gets messed up and you didn’t give your CPA or tax preparer the right information.”
The problem, as Elkin points out, is that skilled professional representation is expensive, and only the auditor knows how many hours the process will take. They don’t care about your fees and, if they know what they might be in advance, they’ll offer to settle for that amount. Elkin suggests cash-strapped filers at least consider this option, but notes that everyone else should want as much help as possible and get out of a hired representative’s way.
“The audit process works best when it is limited to the issues the auditor raises,” he says. “Your presence invites incomplete or incorrect off-the-cuff answers to the auditor’s questions. An effective taxpayer representative (usually a CPA, attorney or IRS-authorized enrolled agent) will find out what the auditor wants to know, gather the information and present it clearly and concisely without triggering collateral issues.”
4. Don’t Give Auditors More Time Than They Need
Elkin points out that you have a few months after the end of the year to file your tax return, but the authorities generally have three years thereafter to examine it and ask anything they want. Those with heavy caseloads who like to ease the burden by asking taxpayers to waive the three-year limit, however, are doing you no favors.
“Waiving the statute allows the agent to drag out the process, inflating the taxpayer’s cost for representation and increasing potential interest and penalty charges,” he says. “It lets the agent raise additional issues if new legislation, regulations or court decisions provide support. You get no benefit.”
4. Don’t Underestimate Auditors or Get Steamrolled by Them
There’s a big reason Gevertzman suggests handing power of attorney to a third party in the event of an audit: Because the IRS is after a specific sum but has no problem going for more if you put it on the table. “In most cases, I prefer that my clients never deal directly with a tax agent,” he says. “Agents out there are trained to ask unrelated questions that seem innocuous, but they ask them in such a way that they get a taxpayer to say something that they don’t even realize they’re saying about a related business, a related company or their personal lives. That opens a Pandora’s box that, once it’s open, it’s open and you have to deal with that.”
That said, the agent’s word isn’t gospel. Many of our financial experts agreed that agents aren’t always experts in the law they’re enforcing. That leaves those representing themselves vulnerable to unnecessary penalties and payment, but offers tax professionals a chance to not only save their clients some grief, but to educate the agents themselves.
“Field agents often lack a detailed knowledge of applicable tax law, or may seem to make up rules that are not in the tax code or regulations,” Elkin says. “That’s because they are typically some of the least experienced and least trained personnel in the enforcement staff. Those with greater knowledge tend to be promoted to review-level positions.”
If you have a particularly surly or bullying agent — which our experts deemed rare — you have the right to speak to their supervisor, request a new agent or, in extenuating circumstances, even request a change of venue.
5. Get Organized
Having the evidence to back up your income and deductions is always helpful. Granted, it’s usually more helpful the first time around before you get audited, but the audit offers you a chance to not only refute the auditor if you feel they’ve made an error, but defend your own errors as accidental if that’s the case.
The state and IRS go a lot easier on folks who flat out didn’t get their 1099s or misplaced them than those who outright withheld them. Get copies of those documents, or get substitute documentation if they’ll allow it.
“When you respond, present as complete a package as possible.” Gevertzman says. “That doesn’t mean offering answers to questions that weren’t asked, but leading them to everything so they don’t have to ask additional questions.” That’s the key to surviving an audit: Making it as easy on the auditor as possible. By being disorganized and antagonistic, you can make an audit a lot harder on yourself than it needs to be.
“It’s like being in a relationship with a partner where you expect them to mind-read: It may work, but I haven’t seen it,” Lee says. “You have to respect the point of view of the agent. They’re hard-working people who have to get through this and meet their metrics, and being disrespected by a person who may or may not understand isn’t high on their agenda.”
6: If You Have to Pay, Settle Up Quickly
While Gevertzman says taxpayers can ask auditors to waive penalties in the interest of getting them their money more quickly, he notes that they’ll never waive interest payments. Those add up quickly, which is why our advisors suggest paying the full sum as soon as your finances allow.
“Though tax enforcement is theoretically about collecting the correct tax rather than more tax, revenue agents do care about revenue,” Elkin says. “If they are not going to find a lot of money by auditing you, they will want to move on to a more productive assignment.”
Since the state and IRS aren’t going to offer you a great rate on an installment plan and will only put liens on your earnings if you skip payments, it’s best to let them know upfront that there’s no more cash coming their way. If you’ve made a mistake, concede it. If you owe something, pay it. If you can show the auditor authoritative proof that there’s nothing more to investigate, do so and let them move on to the next unfortunate taxpayer.
“A tax return is nothing more than a report card,” Jehn says. “It’s numbers in and numbers out. … As citizens, it’s our duty to pay as little taxes as legally as possible.”
A growing number of seniors are turning to state-of-the-art digital tools — via smartphones, GPS, voice activation and sensors — that enable them to age in their own homes.
With aging in place technology, you can discreetly keep tabs on Mom — tracking her daily activities on a cellphone, tablet or computer, and getting notified by text or e-mail if something seems out of the ordinary. Gadgets and apps can remind seniors to take their medication and let others know if they don’t. Besides telling time, smart watches can provide feedback on one’s vitals, such as blood pressure, that can be relayed to professionals.
About 10,000 boomers a day are turning 65, and close to half of women ages 75 and older live alone. By 2017, experts expect this market to reach $30 billion. “The aging-in-place technology field is exploding,” says gerontologist Katy Fike, who co-founded San Francisco-based Aging 2.0 in 2012 to advise start-ups geared to boomers and seniors. In the past few years, her company has met with more than 1,000 entrepreneurs in seven countries.Here are some of the products geared to helping older adults maintain their independence.
Personal Emergency Response Systems
With personal emergency response systems, you push an emergency button on a keychain or from a cord around your neck or wrist. Then an operator assesses the situation and can dispatch help or notify family. They used to work only at home with a base station connected to a landline. The m-PERS (the “m” stands for mobile) works wherever you are — on the golf course, out to lunch, in the garden or visiting the grandkids in another state.
Rita Labla, 79, of Yuba City, California, lives alone and drives, but she struggles with congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She has also fallen. “When she’s out of sight, you never know what’s going on,” says her daughter, Loretta Burke, 61, who lives three miles away. Last July, Burke gave her mother a GreatCall Splash m-PERS. “We were all concerned she wouldn’t use it. Instead, she has it with her all the time,” Burke says. “It’s like her bodyguard.”
Labla agrees. “I feel much more secure with it,” she says. Labla knows she can press it if she thinks someone shady is following her in the parking lot, she gets lost on the road or she has a problem at home.
By checking their smartphones, tablets or computers, Burke and her siblings can track their mother via GPS. You can order a GreatCall Splash atwww.greatcall.com or 800-650-5921 ($50 for purchase, $35 activation fee and monthly service starting at $20). In the next few months, GreatCall plans to add a feature that summons help if it detects a fall — even if you haven’t pressed the button.
Another go-anywhere medical alert system, Philips Lifeline’s GoSafe (www.lifelinesys.com, 800-380-3111) already offers a waterproof pendant with fall-detection capability — for a one-time fee of $149 plus $55 a month. MobileHelp (www.mobilehelp.com, 800-989-9863) has a similar system ($37, plus $50 a month; fall detection is an extra $10 a month).
Sensors are another way to make sure Mom or Dad is safe at home. Wireless sensors placed around the house where a parent goes daily — perhaps the bed, the refrigerator, a favorite chair or the bathroom door — can tip you off if they aren’t triggered.
Sarah King, 83, lives in a basement apartment of her daughter Donita Kniffen’s home in Dardenne Prairie, Missouri. Still, sensors from Evermind (https://evermind.us, 855-677-7625) have come in handy. Kniffen, 52, programmed Evermind so she receives a text the first time her mom’s TV, microwave or reading lamp is turned on. She also gets an alert on her smartphone if none of the sensors has been triggered during periods of the day when her mother should be up and about. Instead of calling every morning to make sure her mother is OK, Kniffen goes on her smartphone to check the sensors. (The sensors come with a one-time cost of $199, plus a $29 monthly fee.)
Michael Demoratz, 54, a social worker who lives in Tustin, California, chose a combination PERS/sensor system from BeClose (http://beclose.com, 866-574-1784) to keep tabs on his mother, who lives in Pennsylvania. He placed motion sensors in her living room, between the bathroom and bedroom and on the cellar door, which was the site of two previous accidents.
Demoratz receives a daily e-mail. Green means his mom’s activity is ordinary, yellow out of the ordinary and red abnormal. If she were to press the panic button, Demoratz would get a text from the company. “My mother feels reassured because she knows I have been alerted,” he says. BeClose’s ability to spot variations in behavior is the system’s most valuable feature, Demoratz says. “If I have objective data, my mother can’t just say she’s fine when I call,” he says. “I can tell her I notice she’s not getting up or out much and is spending a lot of time in her chair. Then I can ask why she’s so sedentary.”
Every year, Demoratz takes a vacation to Europe. “This year, from my phone, iPad, desktop or anyone’s computer, I will know exactly what is going on with my mom in real time — whether she is sitting, in bed, in the bathroom or if she has left the house,” he says. “Talk about peace of mind.” (The system costs $499 for the equipment and $99 a month.)
New products can provide reminders and let loved ones know whether you’re taking your medications.
Lively (www.mylively.com, 888-757-0711) has just come out with a safety watch that not only tells time but acts as a medication reminder and a medical alert system. You attach a sensor to the pill dispenser, and the senior gets a reminder on a smart watch she wears. Remote caregivers get a notice by smartphone or computer when the medications are taken or perhaps forgotten.
The system also lets you push a button in an emergency. A pedometer feature counts your steps, thus giving you feedback on your activity level. Colleen Sturdivant, who lives in Piedmont, California, says her mother, Jane Kennedy, 76, likes the step-counting feature. Since her recent hip replacement, the step counter shows her that she’s getting stronger every day by increasing her steps. Sturdivant likes the feature that notifies her of her mother’s whereabouts, which can be shared with her sister and two brothers through an online dashboard. (The system costs $50, plus $28 to $35 a month.)
A more low-tech system is Reminder Rosie (http://reminder-rosie.com, $130), a talking clock. You manually program it with your voice or a loved one’s voice, for the day, week or sometime in the future (perhaps, “time for my afternoon pills”). Mike Gilman, 65, a retired New York state tax collector, takes eight pills a day at different times. “Rosie is the most fantastic thing,” he says. Besides jogging his memory about his medication, Gilman uses the device to remind himself when to send birthday cards to family and friends.
If you want a free app for your smartphone or tablet, CareZone (www.carezone.com) centralizes information about your medication and other important information, such as doctor appointments. You can share this information with family members. You can set daily medication reminders that buzz your phone, followed up 10 minutes later if you forget.
Keeping in Touch
Technology can help seniors living alone feel connected to friends and family — and sometimes even to medical professionals. With a touch screen from grandCare Systems (www.grandcare.com, 262-338-6147), you can look at a photo of a grandson’s Halloween getup or a video replay of his baseball home run. You can listen to music, play word games, read the news or surf the Internet. No need to know how to use a computer.
Randall Schafer, 61, of Houston, Texas, uses his grandCare system to Skype with his mother, 90. (She just pushes a button to videochat.) “My mom is in love with our dog, Daisy,” Schafer says. Her “face lights up” when she sees the schnauzer, he says. The system can also transmit health data, from glucose and blood pressure to weight and oxygen readings. For example, a blood pressure cuff with a wireless Bluetooth medical device will record and relay the readings to caregivers. (The system costs $699, plus $49 a month.)
Another system that offers social opportunities — as well as care coordination, calendar sharing and health-data collection — is Independa (www.independa.com, 800-815-7829). All the information is on your TV rather than on a special screen or computer. You can be watching TV, and up pops a screen saying your daughter wants to say goodnight. You can accept and videochat — or not, if you’re engrossed in the show. An adult child can go to the Independa caregiver portal via e-mail and send a message or upload photos to your TV screen.
One feature called “Life Stories” lets parents record their memories for their adult children. You or your parents can play the remembrances at any time and e-mail them to other family members. Independa also has introduced a mobile app for caregivers for the soon-to-be-released Apple Watch. The system costs $799 to $1,399, depending on the size of the LG smart TV embedded with Independa services. If you have your own TV with an HDMI connection, which is now commonly used, you can hook it up to an Independa AnyTV Companion box, which costs $399. Both systems charge $30 a month.
Virtual Pet Therapy
A unique social engagement tool is the GeriJoy virtual care companion (www.gerijoy.com, 855-437-4569), which costs $249 a month. Consider it pet therapy with a twist. A virtual “talking” dog or cat on a tablet screen interacts and converses with a loved one. Many people name their pet, which is operated around the clock by GeriJoy representatives who work remotely.
To start a conversation, you touch the dog on the tablet screen and talk. Your pet will “wake up” and start chatting. (Perhaps the pet will say, “Did you have a good sleep? You look fabulous today.”) When you ask a question, your virtual companion responds immediately, even if it means the human helper has to look up an answer on the Internet (“How did the Red Sox do last night?” for example). Daily conversations and events are kept on a written log, which the family can access through a secure Web site.
Becky and Craig Jio bought GeriJoy for Craig’s mother, Lucy, who has Alzheimer’s disease and lives with them in Santa Clara, California. She doesn’t like to leave her room. “GeriJoy is good company,” Craig, 45, says. She especially loves a silly picture that Becky uploaded of a man with an ultra long nose and tongue. “When it pops up, she cracks up laughing,” Becky says.
The Jios are convinced that GeriJoy has improved her mood. When the system was down for a week with hardware problems, Craig says, “my mother got depressed. Now that it’s back, she’s happier. That makes everyone happier.”
Coming Down the Pike
In the future, a growing number of seniors will be connected remotely with service providers who will be able to detect changes in physical and mental health as well as mobility, says David Lindeman, director of the Center for Technology and Aging, a research group in Oakland, California. “We are in a new era of connected aging,” Lindeman says. “We will be getting more and more information brought to us in a variety of ways so we can support our loved ones.”
Look for more developments in the “smart home.” Entrepreneurs are working on a carpet woven from optic fibers that analyze your gait and help predict if you may fall or are physically declining. Consumer-friendly devices will help long-distance caregivers, with the touch of a tablet or cellphone, to turn off Dad’s stove if he forgets or to close the blinds.
Also on the horizon is the growth in “wearables,” which includes smart jewelry and clothing with sensors and chips woven into fabric. The sensors will track movement, collect health data and transmit to a mobile device.
Don’t like the look of today’s PERS pendants, wristbands and key chains? Cuff Inc. (www.cuff.io) is introducing products, priced from $29 to $199, that look like elegant jewelry. The gadget, which is inserted in specially made bracelets and necklaces, sends notifications, tracks activity and acts as a safety device.
Sensogram Technologies, in Plano, Texas, is working on SensoTRACK (www.sensotrack.com), a device that you wear on your ear. It captures oxygen saturation, respiration and heart rate as well as mood. The goal is to prevent or to catch a problem early.
We will be seeing more social and caregiving applications, too. Laurie Orlov, founder of Aging in Place Technology Watch (www.ageinplacetech.com), believes voice-activated robots might someday be good helpers and conversationalists. “It is inevitable that companion robots will learn, adjusting responses to become the companion we need, responding to our commentary and reminding us to take our medication so that we can remain independent,” Orlov says.
Have you ever planned to run into the grocery store “for a few items,” only to emerge an hour later with a shopping cart full of bags? Do you have no idea how you got to that point?
While you are responsible for your extra spending, there are influences at play that may have encouraged you to spend more than you planned.
To be clear, we’re not saying stores are duplicitous or nefarious; they’re just doing their job, and their job is to get you to buy as much stuff as possible. But when you’re aware of their secrets, it’s a lot easier to resist the lure and stick to your budget. Here are 10 tricks of the trade to watch out for.
1. Putting Produce Front and Center
There’s a reason fruits and veggies are the first thing you see when you walk into any grocery store; it’s because stores know that when you stock up on healthy food first, you won’t feel bad about splurging on some (higher-profit) junk food later on.
2. Taking You on a Trip
Speaking of layout, ever notice that the basic items you need the most often (bread, eggs, milk, meat) are always at the ends and back of the grocery store, so you have to do a whole lap to stock up on them? That’s intentional; stores are hoping you’ll see some items you weren’t planning on buying during your journey and decide to impulsively throw those into your cart as well.
3. Giving Away Freebies
Free samples are a twofold strategy. First, if you like what you try, there’s a good chance you’ll buy it. Second, things like sample giveaways and cooking demonstrations encourage you to linger longer in the store-and lingering can lead to more purchases.
4. Ending Prices With a 9
Research has shown that people are more likely to buy an item if it ends with the number 9, especially if you round down one cent from an even price. A $9.99 bottle of olive oil seems more affordable to us than a $10, because that extra cent (even though it’s only one cent) pushes the item up into the next price bracket in our minds.
5. Upping the Ambiance
Bright lights, relaxing music, colorful display and the link are designed to put you in a better mood and encourage you to take your time and linger — the result, again, being more spending. Likewise, the lack of windows in a grocery store allow you to lose sense of time, as you can’t get time cues from natural sunlight.
6. Targeting Your Eye Level
Items at eye level are the easiest to spot and the first to grab our attention, so stores often place their higher-margin goods in this zone. Take a good look up and down the shelves, and you’ll spot plenty of similar items that cost less.
7. Putting Like Items Together
Chips and dip are always in the same aisle, as are pasta and pasta sauce. Soda is usually right near chips and other snack foods. While this seems nice and convenient for us as shoppers, it’s also a tactic to get us to buy more because in our minds, it seems to make more sense to grab one as long as you’re grabbing the other.
8. Giving You More Carrying Capacity
It’s been shown that doubling the size of a store’s shopping carts can lead shoppers to buy as much as 40 percent more. Some stores also place shopping baskets throughout their store so that if you came in to grab a handful of items and your hands are full, you can easily buy more just by picking up a basket.
9. Seemingly Hot Sales
Colorful stickers on shelves draw your eye to items that are currently on sale, and it’s hard to resist the pull of a good bargain. But those items aren’t necessarily the best deal. Just because something is half-off or “buy one, get one,” that doesn’t mean you can’t find a similar item (especially a generic) that’s cheaper, even though it’s full-price.
10. Tempting You at the Checkout Line
When you’re waiting in line for the cashier, your eye naturally wanders over the gum, candy and snacks along the checkout line. They’re small things, and they seem cheap enough, so it’s easy to toss them into your cart without thinking much of it. They’re almost always discretionary items and impulse purchases.
How to Resist Temptation
With this said, how can savvy shoppers resist the well-planned lure of temptation? Here are a few tips to make your grocery store shopping a success.
1. Shop With a List
Don’t enter a store unless you’re armed with a list of things you plan to buy during that trip. Don’t deviate from that list, even if you see a tempting sale or notice something along an aisle that makes you think, “Hmm, I could probably use that…” If you spot an item that you want to buy, force yourself to return to the store on a future trip to get the item. There’s a good chance you won’t want it anymore.
2. Do the Math
Use the calculator on your smartphone to figure out the unit price of an item. (Some stores will display it in the corner of the price sticker on the shelf.) This will help you determine if a sale item is really a good deal or not.
3. Limit Your Carrying Capacity
If you only need three things, don’t get a basket. If you only need 10 things, get a basket or one of those small two-tier miniature carts. Don’t give yourself the ability to buy more; when you’ve reached your carrying capacity, it’s time to check out.
4. Stay Laser-Focused
Head straight for the things on your list, and don’t let your eyes wander at flashy end caps or nearby items on the shelves. Imagine you’re on a mission to see how little time you can spend in the store. Get in, get what you need, and go home.