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North American Company Blog


Happiness for Your Heart's Sake


For years now, researchers have been finding connections between happiness and health. People who find ways to manage their stress and live happier lives tend to live longer and encounter fewer health problems. That’s certainly true when it comes to folks with heart conditions, according to practitioners of a new field called cardiac psychology. They contend that managing your emotional well-being can help maintain a healthy heart in many ways. For example, stress can actually reduce the amount of oxygen going to your heart. Anger can cause irregular heartbeats that could be dangerous for some people. Anxiety and depression also correlate with heart attacks. It’s crucial for anyone with heart conditions, or at high risk of developing one, to seek professional help for stress, anxiety, depression, excessive worry or bouts of anger that overwhelm your life. Physical exercise and relaxation techniques also help, experts say. The bottom line: emotional well-being is a matter of the head and the heart – and it impacts them both.


Read more from Harvard Medical School.




Foods That Make You Healthy and Wealthy


You know that some foods are better for you than others: fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish and lean meats. But which of these nutritious wonders are also among the least expensive foods in your supermarket? Knowing the answer can help steer your grocery shopping toward healthy foods that give you the most bang for your buck.


Brown rice, for example, costs only 18 cents a serving and is simple to cook. The rich-in-vitamins whole grain is among the healthiest starches one can eat. And carrots, with their legendarily high levels of Vitamin A, cost only 25 cents per serving. There are many more examples. So start including menu planning as part of your financial planning, for the sake of your body and your wallet.


For more, see AARP.



Men And Women Agree: The Key To A Happy Retirement Is To Keep Doing What You Love


Men and women agree that the best path to happiness in retirement is to be actively engaged in meaningful activities. The key is to stay busy doing things that you find joyful or rewarding. But when it comes to how they want to spend their time, men and women have different priorities, according to a major new survey from TIAA-CREF. For example, women are far more likely to want to connect with and spend time with family, while men are more likely to want to pursue favorite sports and continue working. What does this mean for a retired couple’s financial planning? Only that married couples who are both retired should make sure their retirement income is sufficient to pay for both spouses’ favored activities – which one shouldn’t assume are identical. Retirement savings can help, but ensuring guaranteed income for life may require a new retirement plan that includes financial products like annuities. Talk to your financial professional to learn more.


Read more at Next Avenue.


Supporting Adult Children? A College Degree May Be The Key To Financial Freedom... Yours And Theirs!


An important piece of the financial planning puzzle may require some help from your kids... by completing that college degree! More than 30% of Americans 18 to 34 live with their parents, and it stands to reason that adult children without solid incomes are more likely to live with their parents or require financial support. If you weren't already convinced by the slew of evidence that having a college degree makes a huge difference when trying to land a good-paying job, here's the latest confirmation: of college students in the class of 2016 who already have landed a job, 72% said the new job requires a college degree in their field of study. While it’s natural to want to help your children no matter how old they are, providing financial support well into your child’s adulthood could impact your own retirement savings. Encouraging your kids to graduate from college is a key component of financial planning for yourself and for them.


Read more at Money.



Is Your Old Life Insurance Policy An Outdated Brick Phone?

By Jeff Ditsworth, CLU, ChFC, Sales Vice President, North American Company for Life and Health Insurance


Did you ever carry a brick cell phone around, perhaps in its stylish leather bag? Believe it or not, these retro brick phones are still sold online (in case you want to turn some heads and get a few laughs). Technology has evolved in the cell phone industry from brick phones to smart phones. We've gone from "comes with its own carrying bag" to " fits in your pocket."  "Weighs only 3 pounds," to "weighs 4 ounces."  "Stores 99 phone numbers," to "stores 20 full length movies." The technological improvements in cell phones are similar to those in life insurance policies.  While it's not necessary to "upgrade" your life insurance every year or two, it's important to understand that the products and market conditions have evolved in 3 main ways drastically over the last 30 years. Life insurance is a financial asset, and like all financial assets, needs to be reviewed. Here's what to look for in your policies: 


1)  Fees and expenses mainly from what's knows as the "cost of insurance" may have decreased due to advancements in medical technology which has increased how long we live. Many life insurance policies written up until just a few years ago were based on mortality tables and medical assumptions from 1980. There are numerous medical conditions that even 10 years ago were assessed additional expenses such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Medical advancements have led to better treatment of these conditions, which increases how long we live. A decade ago, for example, someone with controlled hypertension may have faced an additional 150% to 200% cost of insurance, where today they may not.  


2)  Market conditions have changed drastically in the last 30 years. Think about interest rates. Many of these older life insurance policies were written when interest rates were much higher. Now that they are significantly lower, there may not be enough cash value in the policy to support the fees and expenses as once assumed. Additionally, many policies did not offer the guarantees on the payments or insurance amount that are offered today. Don't wait too long to have your life insurance reviewed - for many that threw their policy in a drawer, set it and forget it, it may be too late.  


3)  New product features have been a game changer for people purchasing life insurance. There have been dozens of positive features and benefits introduced in the past 10 years. In the past, there was only one way to access a life insurance death benefit, and that method may not overly attractive to most people. Today, life insurance companies have developed living benefit features that allow their policyowners to access a significant portion of insurance under certain conditions. When Americans are surveyed, usually a key concern about retirement is how to pay for healthcare expenses in retirement. These new features could be a significant cornerstone to someone's financial plan.  


Now is the time to consult a reputable financial professional to review your life insurance. You may find better pricing, new features, and in many cases significantly better guarantees built into the policy. When we review older life insurance policies, we often find opportunities for people to either obtain larger amounts of life insurance coverage for the same cost of premium, the ability to obtain the same amount of coverage and stop or reduce their payments, or the opportunity to upgrade their insurance to obtain these living benefits and additional features.  Once reviewed, you may find that for your situation, your insurance is perfectly positioned, in that case, wouldn't that make you more confident? It's also a best practice to regularly review your beneficiaries. Left unchecked, these can often lead to ex-spouses or even deceased individuals named as the beneficiary. Wouldn't it be unfortunate if your benefits paid out to someone other than who you intended?  People purchase life insurance when they love someone, have it reviewed to make sure it will be there for them when it's needed.


So... when it comes to your life insurance policy, are you carrying the outdated brick phone, or the new smart phone? Review your policy with a financial professional today!