Kindergarten Jitters

On Friday I took my 4 1/2 year son to kindergarten. It was tough! My husband and I had been telling him that he was going to start school soon and we were diligently mentally preparing him for the occasion – so he knew that it was the day.

Boy did he know! As soon as he woke up he refused to get dressed. He did not want me to put on his shirt, his pants, his socks, nothing! He refused very vocally, running around the living room, screaming and crying for at least 15 minutes. After much cajoling, he finally succumbed to my pleas and let me dress him.  By that time I was already exhausted and he was sweaty, it was only 8:15 in the morning! Going down the stairs was a wrestling match. He fought tooth and nail and almost knocked down his daddy. Again, the screams and pleas, ” No, school!!!” he screamed.

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Morning before school started

I was a bit taken back by this scenario. our little Michael had been in pre-school for 2 years know and I honestly thought that he would be a pro at this now. I thought he was used to the mob of kids who were his peers and the authoritative figure of the teachers. Perhaps the comfort of home and the memories of all the fun activities he participated in during the summer months took a hold on him yesterday. He somehow instinctively knew that he was in for a whole new ball game. Kindergarten. This is when the real school work starts. During this year he will get homework and will have to work in school most of the day, learning how to read, write and possibly some math.  The days of all fun and games is done. Now the real work begins. My little baby is growing up.

The genetic disorder many of us have and don’t know about.

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Thank you Elisabeth Sperling for this picture of me!

Alpha 1 Antitrypsin Deficiency is a genetic disorder that affects about 1 in 1,500 to 3,500 individuals from European ancestry. This disorder may cause lung disease and liver disease, with the first signs and symptoms of lung or liver disease showing up between ages 20 and 50. The problem this genetic deficiency causes is that it does not let the body produce enough enzyme to protect the lungs and liver against exposures to potentially hazardous pollutants.  So the less protected we are, the higher the chance of developing a problem.

Many individuals are undiagnosed until they develop a lung condition called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or liver disease. The problem is that people who don’t know they have this genetic disorder may get involved with unhealthy lifestyles such as smoking, drinking, living in polluted areas with bad air quality and hold hazardous occupations such as firefighting, car painting,or mining that can directly affect the severity and outcome of the disease.

That is why it’s good to know if you carry the genetic deficiency. If you’d like to get tested, do it through this awesome organization, Alpha-1 Foundation http://www.alpha1.org.

The test is free and confidential. It is provided through https://www.alpha1.org/Newly-Diagnosed/Learning-about-Alpha-1/Testing-for-Alpha-1 

I’ve started spreading the word about this genetic disorder. Here I am teaching a group about the details of Alpha 1 Antitrypsin Deficiency. I came to know about this genetic disorder when my son was diagnosed with it at 6 months of age. Thankfully he is only slightly deficient so we just have to make sure he makes smart decisions and leads a healthy lifestyle – no smoking, eats healthy, gets plenty of exercise and stays away from highly polluted areas and jobs that can increase risk of respiratory issues. I’ve been tested and also have the deficiency. Now I’m getting my family tested since this is a genetic issue that is passed on through family.

Celebrate Life Party?

 

 

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During the weekend I had a very interesting experience. I was driving towards home to pick up my son when I looked to my right side and noticed a sign in the park that read,                    “Celebrate Life!” I was so intrigued by this that after picking up my son, I made a split decision to go back to the park where the sign was to inquire about it. I just felt compelled to go and find out what that sign was about. After all, usually you would see birthday party or baby shower parties in this park. Folks from around the area enjoy celebrating special occasions here and they usually have beautiful elaborate decorations set up….but I’ve never seen this type of decorative sign before.

So I drove to the area where the sign was and there before me were several chairs laid out in a circle and two women were sitting together chatting. There was another table with four women sitting around playing dominoes, and there was a third table set up with snacks and small kids’ toys.

I approached the two ladies sitting together chatting and they both welcomed me with happy faces and bright smiles. I asked what the sign was all about, I told them I had seen it while driving and it caught my attention. One of the ladies, Maribel Beltrez a program therapist who lives in the area replied, “In the midst of darkness we need to know that we are here for a reason, we have this set up because there is so much negativity going on the world that we need to take a moment to celebrate the good, to celebrate life!”

This really grabbed my attention and tore at my heart strings. It’s true why not take time to celebrate life for all the good things that happen in the world, with our families, with our friends and with us?

Celebrate Life

Maribel said that she and her friend Evelyn Lopez who works as a banker, organized this get-together to have a good time with friends and celebrate themselves and the great things that that they do. She said that the party was for who anyone one who walked by and wanted to join in.  “The party is for everyone, let people see your good, it’s your day, your life is important, said Maribel.

These two wonderful women Maribel and Evelyn,  made me realize that yes, we can have a party to celebrate life. We don’t need a special occasion. Let’s have a party to celebrate life, to celebrate us because as they said, we are all here with a purpose, so yes, let’s go ahead and celebrate!

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Just got your first job? Start planning for retirement!

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You aced your interview and are now working in your first job after graduating college. Your human resources manager just handed you a packet of information about benefits, including vacation and sick time, the work lunch program and oh yes, your 401k or IRA plans. Where do you start?  Retirement is the furthest thing from your mind but you know you’ll to fill out the paperwork, so might as well do it right.

401k plans

Let’s start by explaining a 401k plan. These plans, referred to as a defined contribution or qualified profit sharing plans allow you to contribute part of your wages into funds comprised of mutual funds, variable annuities or life insurance that allow your money to grow due investment growth and compounding interest. Compounding interest is the act of adding interest to the principal of a deposit or loan so it can earn even more interest. This is a great strategy that will help your money grow at a quicker pace.

401k’s are not taxed while gaining investment earning. Your employer will make contributions to your account based on your salary level and investment earnings accumulate tax-deferred. You become vested in your plan between 3 to 6 years depending on your employer and if you leave before becoming fully vested, you forfeit all or part of your plan’s accumulated value. Distributions are only taxed after you reach retirement age or terminate employment. Be careful, if you take money out of your plan before age 59 1/2 it is subject to a 10 percent penalty. However, this tax does not apply if you withdraw due to a qualifying disability. Annual contribution limit for a 401k is $18,000.

There is the traditional 401k, a safe harbor 401k and a Simple 401k plan. The most flexible is the traditional 401k. In this plan, the employer can make contributions on behalf of employees, to match what the employees contribute or do both. Participants make pre-tax contributions through payroll deductions.

The safe harbor plan unlike the traditional 401k is not subject to annual nondiscrimination testing which is the annual ADP or ACP nondiscrimination test. In a safe harbor plan, employees must adhere to certain contribution and vesting requirements.

A simple 401k plan is used by small businesses with 100 or less employees who received at least $5,000 in compensation from their employer in the preceding year. It enables employers to offer cost effective retirement plans to their employees.

IRA’s

There are two types of Individual Retirement Plans (IRAs), a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA. You can contribute $5,500 to a traditional IRA up to the age of 70 1/2 and deduct it from your salary if you and your spouse, if married are not covered by a retirement plan at work. If you have a retirement plan at work, your deduction may be limited. You can withdraw money anytime but know that earnings you withdraw are taxable. If you take out money before turning 59 1/2, you may have to pay an additional 10% tax penalty. However, you must start withdrawing from your account by April 1 following the year in which you turn age 70 1/2 and by December 31 of later years.

A Roth is different in that you can contribute at any age if you have taxable compensation and your modified adjusted gross income is below a certain limit. You contribute after tax money that you’ve earned so it is not tax deductible to an annual limit of $5,500. Unlike the traditional IRA, you are not required to start taking distributions at a certain age. You do however pay a 10% tax penalty if you withdraw before 59 1/2.

How to choose a fund

When analyzing which fund to put money into, don’t just go by the name of the fund, this could be misleading. Find out what is the objective and strategy of the fund. Look at Morningstar and Yahoo Finance to help you with your research. Also, check out long term returns to give you an idea of how the fund has behaved throughout the years. Consider if you want your investments automated such as in a target fund, asset allocation fund or life cycle fund or if you would rather actively manage your investments. It all depends on how comfortable you feel.

Remember, check out fees, invest in the long term and diversify your portfolio but take some time to decide.

https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/individuals-retirement-arrangements-getting-started

https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/traditional-and-roth-iras

Radical retirement: Can you retire in your 30s or 40s? What you need to know

Many workers would love to retire in their mid-30s or early 40s to enjoy their youth, health and families. But is this realistic?

Retiring super early can be a downright dangerous idea, says Mike Lynch, vice president of strategic markets at Hartford Funds.

“If you stop funding your retirement and start using it 30 years ahead of schedule,” says Lynch, “it is therefore unlikely that you will receive Social Security benefits. And if you do, the amount will be significantly reduced due to early retirement.”

Check out the rest of my story:  http://www.bankrate.com/finance/retirement/can-you-retire-in-30s-40s.aspx#ixzz4IFU8fqTO

Be Careful of Black Henna Tattoos

Image from Flickr: Evonne

Image from Flickr: Evonne

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the temporary black henna tattoo used in place of the traditional henna can be potentially harmful to some people. The ink used in henna may actually be hair dye or a mix of other ingredients such as a coal-tar hair dye containing p-phenylenediamine (PPD), “which can cause dangerous reactions in some people” according to the FDA By law, this PPD chemical is not permitted in cosmetics used to stain the skin. The report states that these black henna tattoos may be used in temporary tattoo kiosks at beaches, boardwalks as well as ethnic or specialty shops. Depending on the state, it’s possible no one is checking the safe practices of the artist. Some people have had bad reactions to this black henna temporary tattoo occurring within immediate contact to two to three weeks later. Some reported problems include redness, blisters, raised red weeping lesions, loss of pigmentation, increased sensitivity to sunlight, permanent scarring and ongoing skin sensitivity.

 

If you have a reaction to or concern about a temporary tattoo or any other cosmetic, contact your health care professional. In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asks you to contact FDA’s Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program at 1-800-FDA-1088 or online at http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/default.htm. You can also contact an FDA consumer complaint coordinator in your area. A list of coordinators can be found at: http://www.fda.gov/safety/reportaproblem/consumercomplaintcoordinators