The Demand for Highly-Skilled Foreign Workers Is Undeniable

There is little doubt that highly skilled natives and immigrants have worked together for years to drive innovation in a broad range of fields and to build America’s private sector.

However, despite ample evidence of the complementary nature of the work done by highly skilled foreign-born professionals, the anti-immigration community in the United States is once again attempting to cast doubt on the value of their economic contributions.

One of the latest attacks is a report that calls into question the worth of degrees awarded by colleges and universities virtually anywhere outside of the United States. Yet this attempt by the anti-immigration crowd is marred by the use of an irrelevant data set that in no way measures a foreign-born worker’s professional knowledge or subject matter expertise.

The data set used in the report comes from the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC)—an English-language test of literacy, numerical proficiency, and computer savvy administered in the United States and 23 other countries. PIAAC is not intended as a measure of specialized knowledge in any particular field of study. Rather, it assesses the practical, day-to-day, “core competencies” of adults in reading, writing, math, and using a computer—in English.

The report finds that, among college-educated natives and immigrants who took the test in the United States in 2012 and 2014, natives significantly outperformed immigrants on all measures. The report also finds that this performance gap persists even for immigrants who have been in the country for more than five years before taking the test and who presumably had time to improve their English-language skills.

While all of this may be true, the report uses the gap in PIAAC scores to support a conclusion that goes far beyond what PIAAC actually measures. Namely, that “policy-makers should therefore be cautious in treating foreign degrees as evidence of ‘high-skill’ immigration.”

Yet PIAAC doesn’t measure the specialized skills of degree holders; it only measures core competencies in the use of the English language, numbers, and computers. It does not assess the engineering expertise of an engineer or the sociological expertise of a sociologist.

If foreign degree holders were as unskilled as the report implies, they would not be in high demand among U.S. employers. But they are. Consider that, each year, the statutory cap on H-1B temporary visas for highly educated foreign professionals is now filled in a matter of days after becoming available.

On average, H-1B workers earn higher wages than comparable U.S.-born workers, even after accounting for differences in age and occupation. This holds true in fields like computer and information technology, engineering, healthcare, and post-secondary education. In other words, employers aren’t saving money by hiring H-1B workers, which suggests that these workers have skill sets which are in high demand.

The economic importance of highly skilled foreign workers—who may have earned degrees both here and abroad—is also apparent from their sheer numbers in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math). They account for over one-third of all software engineers, more than one-quarter of computer programmers, over one-quarter of electrical engineers, nearly half of medical scientists—and the list goes on. Some of these professionals received their higher education in the United States and some did not. But all are in demand.

In short, the report begs the question of why immigrants with foreign degrees are in such high demand by U.S. employers if they aren’t actually qualified in their fields of study.

This latest anti-immigrant report misuses PIAAC scores in a cynical attempt to denigrate anyone who received a higher education beyond the borders of the United States. But this attempt doesn’t withstand scrutiny because PIAAC scores were never intended to measure specialized bodies of knowledge that highly skilled foreign professionals possess. Knowledge was not invented in the United States, and there are very knowledgeable people who were actually born in other countries.

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3 Mega-Celebrities Who Died Without A Will: Do Not Follow In Their Footsteps!

A will documents who gets what (and when) after you die. Without a will, state law doles out your belongings. In many cases, your assets may end up in the hands of complete strangers.  That’s exactly what happened to these three mega-celebrities:

  1. James Dean. Dean died intestate (without a will) in 1955 at the age of 24. State law awarded most of his meager estate (he had only made three movies) to his father – now most of that is in the hands of his father’s relatives. 

His father did use some of that money to create a foundation to maximize the commercial value of his name, likeliness, and image. Ironically, Dean has consistently been one of the top 10 highest earning deceased celebrities up until 2012. His income in 2015 alone was $8.5 million and he’s been deceased for over 60 years!

  1. Jimi Hendrix. Legendary singer and guitarist Jimi Hendrix died intestate in 1970 at the age of 27. Like Dean, the state awarded most of his estate to his father who created a family trust. 

By 2002, his father had grown trust to $80 million. Jimi’s father left the fortune to his adopted daughter. In turn, she created trusts for almost everyone in the family – except Jimi’s own brother Leon. Although he sued, he never got a dime of the estate now worth $175 million. Clearly, there’s another story there.

  1. Pablo Picasso. Famous painter Pablo Picasso died intestate in 1973 at the age of 91.  Given his age, it’s surprising that he did not assign a beneficiary to his estate (which today would have been valued at nearly $200 million). 

His heirs, including Paloma Picasso, battled in courts with everyone who wanted part of his fortune – including the French government who alleged that Picasso owed millions in back taxes. His children received the bulk of his estate in the end, but not without a great deal of heartache.

Despite the differences in age, the above celebrities left millions of dollars on the table and started an avalanche of lawsuits by those who wanted a piece of the pie. The takeaway? Do not follow in their footsteps!

Make Your Intentions Crystal Clear in a Will or Trust

Regardless of whether you’re a famous actor, singer or painter – or a regular working Joe or Jane, you have the power to make sure that your family, friends, or organizations get what you want them to have. The process is simple – make your intentions crystal clear by creating a will or other form of estate planning tool such as a trust drafted by an experienced attorney.
Call our office today to find out what you need to do to protect and provide those you choose and get a will in place.

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USCIS Final Regulation Puts Registration On Hold, Changes Petition Selection Order

On January 31, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a final regulation that changes the process U.S employers will have to follow in order to hire foreign workers under the “H-1B” program.

The rule applies to H-1B petitions subject to the statutory “cap” of 65,000 H-1B workers per fiscal year.

Employers will be required to register in advance online to be eligible to submit an H-1B petition. However, USCIS suspended this registration requirement to complete testing and “otherwise ensure the system and process are fully operable.” USCIS also plans to engage in outreach and training programs.

USCIS adopted this final regulation at a break-neck speed. On December 3, 2018, the agency asked for public comments. By the end of the 30-day comment period (January 2), USCIS had received 817 comments. The law requires USCIS to consider all comments before issuing a final regulation. Remarkably, USCIS says that it did this in less than 30 days.

Under the new registration system USCIS will provide employers at least 30 days’ advance notice in the Federal Register of when the very first registration period will begin. Employers whose petitions are selected in the lottery process will then have 90 days to file an H-1B petition.

Several commenters on the proposed regulation, including the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy (SBA AO), expressed concern that unscrupulous employers could “flood” the system with bogus registrations.

USCIS claims that safeguards intended to ensure that there is a bona fide job offer will enable it to investigate for a “pattern and practice of abuse” any employers who submit many more registrations than actual petitions.

The immediate change under the regulation is that—effective April 1, 2019—USCIS will reverse the order in which petitions are selected. Employers file petitions in April for H-1B visa numbers that become available in the next fiscal year, which starts on October 1.

Before enacting this rule, USCIS selected petitions for the 20,000 H-1B visa numbers available to workers with a master’s or higher degree from U.S. colleges or universities meeting certain requirements. USCIS then put all unselected petitions into the pool of petitions for the 65,000 H-1B “cap” visa numbers. Under the regulation, petitions for the 65,000 will be selected first.

Some commenters argued that this reversal in the selection process violates the H-1B statute creating the “master’s exemption,” which a regulation cannot do. USCIS disagreed, claiming the law was unclear and its interpretation a reasonable one. It remains to be seen whether anyone will challenge the regulation in federal court on this basis.

USCIS’ explanation for the change is not particularly persuasive, however. USCIS hedges, saying that the re-ordering “will likely increase” the number of H-1B workers who qualify for the “master’s exemption.”

It estimates that the number of “U.S. master’s” petitions selected would increase “by 16 percent (or 5,340 workers) each year.” But USCIS also says it is “not able to quantify the impact” of re-ordering because of the random-selection (lottery) process it uses when demand exceeds supply, and repeats that its purpose in reordering is to “increase the probability” of selecting more “master’s exemption” H‑1B workers.

USCIS admits that “it is unclear which group [“master’s exemption” or foreign advanced degree-holders] has more value to the economy because so many factors need to be considered.” USCIS raises but never answers how foreign degrees compare on wages to U.S. degrees or in what industries workers with bachelor’s degrees have higher wages. Yet, USCIS rejected the SBA AO’s request that USCIS reanalyze the impact on small businesses.

Instead of taking the time to study important questions about the real-world consequences of re-ordering H-1B petition selection, USCIS has “fast-tracked” a change which may be detrimental to small businesses and to certain sectors, such as public-school systems seeking foreign language teachers or health care providers in rural areas who rely on international medical graduates.

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How to Prepare Your Heirs to Receive, Protect and Grow Their Inheritance

When we think of vast family wealth, most of us know the name Cornelius Vanderbilt, the railroad and shipping scion of one of the richest families in America in the 19th century. When he died in 1877, he left a fortune of $100 million — more than the U.S. Treasury held at the time.

That massive fortune — which would be more than $200 billion in today’s dollars — has been gone for over 40 years. It did not survive past three generations, primarily due to mismanagement of successive generations of heirs.

This Forbes article looked at ways to prepare heirs for an inheritance, with an emphasis on protecting and growing that inheritance. Here are some tips:

Share Your Vision

Conduct a family roundtable where the heads of the family come together with everyone and share their hopes and dreams for the family, as well as how they plan to reach their goals for the future. The idea is to start an open multi-generational dialogue.

Tell Your Story

To help younger generations understand the importance of protecting and growing inherited wealth, it helps if they first understand the values and visions of their predecessors. Sharing family memories, experiences and life lessons from older generations is a  key component to ensuring the family story continues on. 

Record Your Story

Your lasting legacy should be much more than just money; it should also be about those valuable intangibles that make your family unique, told through your insights, values and experience. We do this through our legacy planning process, helping you capture and pass on your own story and your aspirations for your loved ones through a special recording we produce for each of our clients.

Gather Together

Annual family retreats or gatherings around holidays also help solidify family values and nurture common goals. Consider holding an annual retreat where multiple generations can gather to make plans for the future and renew family harmony.

Khan Academy Reinforces Critical Education Skills - for Free!

The quality of the education a child receives through public or private school systems can vary greatly. The end product is a function of many variables, including teachers, administrators, parents, and of course, the children themselves.
 
In a school setting, the teacher-to-student ratio can have an enormous impact on how well any given child progresses in her academic pursuits. Tutoring is often the fallback option for parents with children struggling to keep up in class, but that’s not always affordable for everyone.. So what else can be done?
 
The Khan Academy; that’s what. The Khan Academy is a free, non-profit, online educational resource with the mission to “provide a world-class education for anyone, anywhere.” A lofty goal to be sure, but what it easily does provide is readily available online help to students, parents, and even teachers.
 
The Academy offers video-based tutorials coupled with machine-graded assessments and comment threads. This allows students to select a subject, watch the video, and take a test to see what they learned. The comment thread allows students to make observations or clarifications that are helpful to other users. Subjects mirror the traditional fields of study in the school systems and can even be set up for Spanish-, French-, and Portuguese-speaking students. It also has components which help students prepare for college entrance exams.
 
Parents can use the Academy in several ways depending on their particular situation. If they have a child who is self-motivated, it may be as simple as pointing her in the Academy’s direction. If not, then a parent may approach the Academy as a student - to brush up on a particular subject matter - in order to directly help the child. The Academy also has a feature that allows a parent or others to participate as the coach of an enrolled student. This allows the child to navigate the courses independently, with the coach following along, monitoring progress, and stepping in with additional help as necessary.
 
The Khan Academy is a great resource to meet the remedial or supplementary educational needs of students (and parents). There are far too many able children who get left behind scholastically in today’s world. But that doesn’t have to be the case with your children. There are many resources available for parents, like the Khan Academy, and they are getting easier to access all the time.

The Four Tricky Cons of 2016

Electronic technology has brought about tremendous benefits for today’s society. We can access goods, services, and information, all at the touch of a button. The flip-side of that coin, however, is that this same technology has also spawned countless new opportunities for dishonesty and crime.
 
It is unlikely that any person who has a telephone, cell phone, or computer has not been the subject of an attempted criminal act, or at least of a scam that may precede an actual crime.
According to a survey by True Link Financial, approximately $12.76 billion is stolen from older Americans each year through identity theft and scams. To help protect yourself, be aware of the most common scams out there..
 

“I’m Calling from Microsoft Tech Support.”
 

If you receive a call from someone saying they are from Microsoft and a problem has been detected on your computer, don’t believe them. Microsoft does not make these types of calls. The people making the calls are trying to lead you to a website that will unleash malware designed to steal your usernames and passwords for online accounts where they can access your banking and credit card information.  If the caller gets you to go to a website, it may look very official, but remember, Microsoft will never contact you this way.
 

“I’m Calling from the Internal Revenue Service."
 

According to the AARP Fraud Watch Network, this is one of the most often-reported scams. The caller will state that you either owe back taxes that must be paid immediately or that you are due a refund that can be collected online. In either case, the goal is to get you to a website that will launch malware on your computer in an attempt to seek your financial information and bank account numbers or that will facilitate the theft of your identity. The caller will likely sound very authoritarian and may even be able to state the last four digits of your social security number. But even if the caller gives you a number to call to “verify” that the call is from the IRS, or gives you a “case code number,” don’t participate. Like Microsoft, the IRS will never initiate contact with you by phone. Instead, it will always send a communication through the U.S. Postal Service.
 

Calls from No One
 

A common precursor to scam calls is a call on your phone where no one speaks. You may hear clicks on the other end. But rather than assume it was a wrong number, assume it was an automated call to validate a working telephone number that can be called later by a scammer. It is best to have caller identification on your phone and you may not want to answer calls from numbers you don’t recognize.
 

Chip Cards
 

The new chip cards for debit and credit use are much safer than magnetic swipe cards in that they change the code each time they are used. While that provides more protection when a retailer suffers a data breach, scammers are catching up quickly and using new and different tactics. They will send emails pretending to be from your financial institution stating that financial information must be provided via a particular linked website. The link will cause malware to be released which searches your computer for account numbers, passwords, and other financially sensitive information.
 
The best rule to follow in thwarting scammers is to never navigate to a website or click on a link when directed to do so by an unsolicited caller. If you receive an e-mail or phone message asking you to call a number, don’t call that number. Instead, locate the appropriate number for the entity and call that number to determine whether the communication was legitimate.
 
Yes, technology makes things much easier for us, but it also makes us more vulnerable. It is best to proceed with caution in all things financial and put the brakes on when things don’t seem to add up.

Can Family Caregiving Change Your Reputation (and Self-Perception) For the Better?

Are you the unappreciated black sheep in your family? Have you wished you could redeem your reputation and at the same time shift your own perception of yourself?

Consider taking on the role of family caregiver for an elderly parent, a niece or nephew, or even having a baby of your own.
 
One AARP commentator suggests that family caregiving may be a way for a child to recover from a negative image in the eyes of his or her family. In his article “How a Black Sheep Can Become a White Knight,” clinical psychologist Barry J. Jacobs describes how a child on the “outs” with her family made inroads by caregiving for her parent.
 
Jacobs suggests that caregiving may be the perfect time for caregivers to “seek to change their family reputations.” He describes, for example, a workaholic who cares for his disabled wife as well as a one-time rebellious teen who reconnects with her parents through caregiving.
 
Jacobs gives three tips for you, if you want to try to recover your image or reputation within your family:

  • Consistency is the key. Jacobs suggests that building dependability is important because family members will be on guard for errors, if you have not appeared reliable in the past.
     

  • Say you’re sorry and make amends. Even if you previously apologized for wrongs done, when you are taking care of a family member, your words may be better received and making amends, means not just saying you are sorry, but taking full responsibility, stating what you learned and showing how you are making it right.
     

  • Provide genuine loving care. Jacobs says that the primary purpose of taking care of someone you love is to reflect your values and not to gain recognition. You may need support here because caregiving is often a thankless role. Look for caregiver support groups in our area. Or contact us for referrals.

Permission To Love Your Children

This is your letter of permission to go ahead and simply love your children.
 
Put down those expectations that are ingrained in someone else’s idea of what it means to be successful in the world and stare a few moments longer into the precious eyes of the child who stands before you.

Instead of asking how their day was, inquire about what lights their passion, what made them smile today, and what was one place they would like a do over.

Institute a random dance party in the middle of the grocery store in the second before a meltdown threatens to take you all to a place you’d rather not visit. It’s okay if everyone turns and looks at you cause you’re making memories and we could all use more of the happy sort in this lifetime.

Say I love you over and over again not just in words but in the foods you put before them at dinner time or the extra marshmallow on the hot chocolate.

Listen more and talk less with the sort of full attention you pay to the most important conversations you have because they are just that the most important moments of truly getting to know who your child is out there in the world.

Touch more in cuddles and tickles and wrestling matches. Especially the bigger ones who are making their way farther out in the world so they can always remember your arms are a safe haven.

Undo the places where you were done wrong by, so you don’t accidentally pass them along to the most precious person you’ve had the honor to know in this world.

Laugh from the bottom of your belly side by side on the couch watching the movie you swore had no value but your child was dying to see. Hold in the breath that longs to pull it apart and choose instead to see it through the eyes of wonder that are your child’s.

Yes, each day, find one, just one simple way to love more, that being that is your child. It’s life’s most precious work. I promise.

Conscious Money Challenge: Know How You Are Invested

If you have money invested in the stock market, whether through a retirement account or a straight brokerage account, I challenge you today to find out exactly what your money is invested in and make a conscious choice about what you are supporting in the world.

If you aren’t sure how to do this, grab your last account statement (or go online) and find the 5 letter code that indicates where your money is invested. Then, type that into Google and review the breakdown of holdings. For example, AGTHX, the Growth Fund of America, sure sounds nice, doesn’t it?

But, if you look a little closer …

After typing AGTHX into Google you will see that if you are invested in what they call the Growth Fund of America, you are actually investing in Phillip Morris (the tobacco company that hid data on nicotine’s addictive properties), EOG Resources (fracking), and Amgen (a company accused of suppressing a true cure for cancer to promote it’s own bottom line — unverified).

The process often goes like this, a new employee is told, “We’ve set up a 401k for you, now you need to pick your investments.”

The employee looks at the options offered, and picks something that looks safe or that has a positive sounding name such as “Growth Fund of America.”

Most employees simply don’t know any better. So the first question for all of us is, “Do I want to stay blind or am I ready to wake up?”

And if you are ready to wake up, the next logical question is, “Am I really desiring to support big tobacco, fracking and big pharma? Or do I want to do something else with my money?”

We can take control by not investing blindly just because we want that “safe” 5% return for our retirement.

What will retirement be like anyway if we are living in a world without clean water (fracking), where we cannot get access to our own natural healing (big pharma), and where lying to addict people is considered acceptable (big tobacco)?

We vote with our dollars, but not just through what we buy, but also with HOW WE INVEST. Using robo-funds, or financial advisors who only care about their own commissions or getting your money under management, or simply ignoring it because it’s too complex, is not conscious investing.

How to Continue Your Family Values for Generations

Most of us want to make a mark in the world. That’s a big part of what gives our lives meaning. And whether or not we have children, our history and stories can be a unique and irreplaceable gift to our families. With just a little effort, we can preserve our family values for generations to come.
 
It can be difficult to pass on our traditions and our values, however, especially when we feel no one is listening. Too often, by the time younger generations care about life lessons and stories, the older generations are gone or their memories have faded.
 
In the “old days,” life’s lessons were passed along orally or by hand. But writing things down takes substantial time and effort, and let’s face it, not all of us have the patience or the penmanship for it.
 
But today, video technology makes preserving our family values easier than ever. Using a camera, computer webcam, or even your cellular phone, you can preserve your values and stories for your family. All you need to do is list what you’d like to talk about, then get the camera (or microphone) rolling. Here are some things you can talk about:

  • Generations that came before you;

  • Your childhood and immediate family;

  • Funny stories about you and other family members;

  • Family traditions;

  • Family values; and

  • Lessons you have learned about yourself and the world.

Work-Life Balance: A Personal Perspective

Pick up the latest copy of just about any business magazine, and you’re likely to find at least one article on work-life balance. Employers all over the country are talking about how to retain employees, particularly millennials, by enhancing work-life balance. But the conversation really can’t stop or start with employers.  It must start with you.
 
For the next two weeks, use a tracking calendar to track all of your waking time. It’s easy to do this using a google calendar that you set up specifically for identifying what you spend each hour of your day doing.
 
Then, at the end of the week, identify how much time you spent on self care, how much time you spent on family, and how much time you spent working. 

You’ll quickly be able to see where you might be out of balance.

While it may be counter-intuitive, investing in your self care first, family second and work third, is the equation that will keep you happier at home and at work, which ultimately translates to a more positive bottom line for you and your employer.

If you are out of balance, first and foremost, take personal responsibility by using a time blocking calendar to block time each week for self care.
 
This may mean putting time on your calendar for exercise, medical and dental appointments, pampering, and play.
 
Block this time and keep it as sacred as you would a meeting with your boss, or one of your co-workers or clients.
 
Then, block time for family activities. And notice what you have left over for work.

If you find that you cannot realistically complete your work in the time you have left over, consider having an honest and direct conversation with your boss (or yourself, if you are the boss), about how you can get more support.
 
Knowing what you want and asking for it are the first steps to taking personal control of your circumstances and creating the life you want, and it gives your employer the opportunity to have you doing your best work and retain you as a team member they want for the long-term.
 
How does this tie into estate planning for your family?
 
Proactively planning for death is one of the best ways we can come into alignment during life. We support you to make the most of your life by guiding you to face the reality of death through our estate planning process.
 
Your real wealth is not just your financial wealth, but includes your most valuable non-renewable resources, time, energy and attention. Through our planning process, we can help you reclaim what really matters.

Clean Burials: New Mushroom Suit Removes Body Toxins

If you have ever wondered about the impact your body will have on the environment when you are gone, you are not alone. Traditional burial and cremation both present significant environmental challenges.

When traditional burial is used, embalming fluid—typically a formaldehyde cocktail—is injected into the body to delay decomposition. While these chemicals achieve the desired effect (preserving the body, particularly for viewing by family and friends), they remain in the body after burial and may seep into the soil.

Cremation, on the other hand, comes with its own set of environmental concerns. The non-profit Funeral Consumers Alliance of Southern California reports that “an average of 28 gallons of fuel” is used in a typical cremation, releasing ”approximately 540 pounds of carbon dioxide.”

Recognizing the lack of eco-friendly options, two designers created the Infinity Burial Suit and related products. The handcrafted suit is made from infinity mushrooms, developed by the designers to quickly decompose body tissue and excretions, as well as industrial toxins. The company which sells the suit suggests that “[t]he cultivation process promotes acceptance of and a personal engagement with death and decomposition.”

While it can be difficult to think about death and the decomposition of our bodies, the fact is that we will all die. Once we come to terms with this, we can become proactive in arranging things our way. Accepting death allows us to plan our own funeral/burial and plan a legacy of love for our family after we’re gone.

Writing Your Life Story

How often do you wish you knew more about your family? When we’re young, we don’t necessarily pay attention to the stories our elders tell us. Later in life, we often become interested in knowing who and where we come from.

We want to learn more about what makes us who we are, and we may even become interested in genealogy. Unfortunately, for many people, the resources that were there when we were younger have become faded memories and the people who could fill us in have already passed on.

A new idea by the website FamilySearch makes recording memories easier than ever for younger generations.

A common life lesson is to take large tasks and break them into smaller parts to make them achievable. FamilySearch has taken the task of writing your life story and broken it into 52 discrete parts that you can do once a week for one year. When you’re finished, you’ll have captured the memories your loved ones will value and created a true legacy for your family.

The questions posed on this website will allow you to catalog many things about yourself, such as the following:

  • The basics about you, such as your full name, how you got your name, where you were born, and where you grew up;

  • Information about your immediate and extended family, including memories of your parents and the work they did;

  • Important genetic information that could be helpful to your descendants, such as unusual genetic traits and medical conditions that run in your family;

  • Information about family traditions and how you spend your holidays;

  • Your memories about your schools and your friends;

  • Information that you have learned about yourself and the world, such as your greatest strengths and challenges, as well as your life philosophies; and

  • Funny stories you remember, such as fads while you were growing up and tales about pets.

You can even add pictures. FamilySearch makes it easy to store your life story online, so your family can access it easily.

We believe capturing your values, insights, stories and experiences is so important, in fact, that we incorporate Family Wealth Passages into our estate planning process through a “Family Wealth Legacy Interview” with every plan.

When Is the Purchase of Long-Term Care Insurance Worth It?

People who are nearing the age of 65 should be making plans for the transition from private health care to Medicare. It is not a simple process or one that happens automatically. You have to initiate the enrollment process at a specific time or suffer a monetary penalty.

It is important to understand that applying for Social Security benefits and enrolling in Medicare are two totally different things. Don't confuse your eligible age for Social Security with the eligible age for Medicare. For Medicare, it is 65; there are no variations based on your date of birth.

Can I Sign Up Whenever I Want?

If you are turning 65 and are not covered under a health insurance plan through your employer or your spouse's, you must enroll in Medicare during an initial enrollment period (IEP) that applies just to you. The period runs for a seven-month span beginning and ending on either side of your 65th birthday. The fourth month of the period is the month in which you turn 65. That is how you establish your window of opportunity.
If you passed the age of 65 while covered under a plan through your or your spouse's employment, you have a special enrollment period (SEP). The SEP covers any time before the employment ends, and for eight months thereafter. A word of caution here: employers with less than 20 workers may require employees turning 65 to enroll in Medicare and have the employer plan serve only as a backup insurer.

What If I Missed The Deadline?

If you failed to enroll during your initial or special period, you must enroll in a general enrollment period (GEP) which is in effect from January 1 to March 31 of each year. In such a case, you will be charged a penalty of 10 percent of the premiums for each full 12-month period after the end of your IEP and the beginning of the GEP.

The good news for some who enroll during a GEP is that they may not have to pay any premiums for Medicare Part A coverage, so there is no penalty to be assessed. If you have contributed Medicare tax while employed for 40 quarters (10 years), you have enough credit to get Part A coverage for free. Part A covers hospital and skilled nursing facility charges. Part B, which covers doctor's services, outpatient services and medical equipment, always comes with a premium, and an enrollment penalty will be assessed as long as you are in the plan.
 
While the process can be complicated, these are some of the more important facts people need to know about Medicare enrollment. There are still other factors that may apply to individuals, especially anyone who is disabled and receiving Medicare benefits prior to age 65. As such, contacting the Social Security Administration (or if you need more help, contacting us) well before your 65th birthday is the smart thing to do.

Even Celebrities Like Queen Latifah Act as Caregivers for Their Aging Parents

We may not think about it often, but even celebrities take care of their aging parents. Actress, singer, and songwriter Queen Latifah plays an active role in caring for her mother, Rita Owens, who was diagnosed with heart failure more than 10 years ago.

Owens learned of her condition when she passed out at work one day. She moved from New Jersey to California to recover and be close to her daughter. There, Queen Latifah cared for her mom and acted as a coordinator for a network of healthcare providers, family, and friends.

After her recovery, Owens was able to return to her home in New Jersey. Now, the two are working with the American Heart Association to raise awareness of heart failure.

Queen Latifah’s story is far from unique, and can help you remember that if you are a caregiver of an elderly or sick parent, you are not alone. And there are resources available to support you.

AARP reports of a study that found more discontent in relationships between U.S. elderly parents and their adult caregivers than in five other countries. In the U.S., 20% of the relationships were rated as disharmonious. In the five other countries surveyed—England, Germany, Israel, Norway, and Spain—less than 10% were similarly ranked. Here in the US, it is sadly “normal” for caregivers of elderly or sick parents to feel frustrated, unappreciated, and resentful. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. With advance planning, strong communication, and family coordination, the potential for a disharmonious relationship can be greatly reduced. 

Signing Up for Medicare: The Facts For You or Your Parents Nearing Age 65

People who are nearing the age of 65 should be making plans for the transition from private health care to Medicare. It is not a simple process or one that happens automatically. You have to initiate the enrollment process at a specific time or suffer a monetary penalty.

It is important to understand that applying for Social Security benefits and enrolling in Medicare are two totally different things. Don't confuse your eligible age for Social Security with the eligible age for Medicare. For Medicare, it is 65; there are no variations based on your date of birth.

Can I Sign Up Whenever I Want?

If you are turning 65 and are not covered under a health insurance plan through your employer or your spouse's, you must enroll in Medicare during an initial enrollment period (IEP) that applies just to you. The period runs for a seven-month span beginning and ending on either side of your 65th birthday. The fourth month of the period is the month in which you turn 65. That is how you establish your window of opportunity.
If you passed the age of 65 while covered under a plan through your or your spouse's employment, you have a special enrollment period (SEP). The SEP covers any time before the employment ends, and for eight months thereafter. A word of caution here: employers with less than 20 workers may require employees turning 65 to enroll in Medicare and have the employer plan serve only as a backup insurer.

What If I Missed The Deadline?

If you failed to enroll during your initial or special period, you must enroll in a general enrollment period (GEP) which is in effect from January 1 to March 31 of each year. In such a case, you will be charged a penalty of 10 percent of the premiums for each full 12-month period after the end of your IEP and the beginning of the GEP.
The good news for some who enroll during a GEP is that they may not have to pay any premiums for Medicare Part A coverage, so there is no penalty to be assessed. If you have contributed Medicare tax while employed for 40 quarters (10 years), you have enough credit to get Part A coverage for free. Part A covers hospital and skilled nursing facility charges. Part B, which covers doctor's services, outpatient services and medical equipment, always comes with a premium, and an enrollment penalty will be assessed as long as you are in the plan.
 
While the process can be complicated, these are some of the more important facts people need to know about Medicare enrollment. There are still other factors that may apply to individuals, especially anyone who is disabled and receiving Medicare benefits prior to age 65. As such, contacting the Social Security Administration (or if you need more help, contacting us) well before your 65th birthday is the smart thing to do.

Life Is Multifaceted: Teach a Child to Be Open and Embrace Complexities

When you picture a “normal” family, what do you see? Is it the traditional notion of one male parent and one female parent, two kids, and a family pet? Or do you see something different? Or perhaps you reject the notion of a “normal” family altogether?
 
Recent court and legislative activity have opened the institution of marriage to same-gender couples. Regardless of your political position or whether you think this is a wise move, it is happening. Today 1 in 4 children under the age of 18 are being raised by single mothers without a father in the picture at all. And nearly 30% of all families today are single parent families. 5% of children aren’t living with a “traditional” parent at all, but with grandparents or other family members.
 
Simply put, mainstream society is changing in our country.
 
Sometimes, with affluence comes reinforcement of our personal norms. We often attend institutions – like churches and schools, for example—where most everyone else looks and thinks like we do.
 
While we may feel most comfortable in these arenas, we need to push the boundaries with our kids for their sake. Regardless of our politics, visible American culture is changing. We cannot expect voluntary segregation of our society—by race, socioeconomic status, or any other factor—to continue.
 
So how can we help our kids be open to cultural and familial differences and to embrace the complexities therein?
 
Children are best prepared through modeling and practice. This is the true inheritance we leave behind.

Be cognizant of the cultural norms you promote without saying a word, through your choice of neighborhoods, entertainment, institutions, and even the company you keep. It is critical that American children remain open to differences and complexities, to enable them to work and play with those who may be different from them as our society moves forward to keep in step with the ever evolving nature of our world.
 
Ultimately, estate planning isn’t just about passing on your money. We call it Family Wealth Planning because it’s about passing on your whole family wealth, which includes your values, insights, stories and experience, most of which is passed on without awareness. When you can bring awareness to this planning, beyond just the financial pieces, you are giving your children a true gift that doesn’t just last a lifetime, but many generations.
 
Parents experiencing our Family Wealth Planning process repeatedly tell us that the process itself guides you to see many of the parts of true inheritance that you are likely overlooking, and the process itself has them feel better about themselves as parents as well as adult children of their own parents.

Singer Kelly Clarkson Starts Blended Family: What She Needs to Consider

Starting a new family is always exciting and even a tad scary. This natural apprehension can be enhanced when a couple creates a blended family. Bringing children from different parents together presents challenges - and those challenges are multiplied when the couple have new children of their own.
Former American Idol star Kelly Clarkson recently added a new baby to her family. Kelly and her husband, Brandon Blackstock, have been married a little over three years. Kelly and Brandon already had a little girl together and Brandon brought two children into the marriage. So the new baby, Remy, brings the couple’s children to four.

The big risk of conflict for Kelly, Brandon and their children is that if Brandon dies before Kelly and specific and clear provisions are not made for Brandon’s children from his prior marriage, significant conflict could result between Kelly and her step-children that is totally avoidable with advance planning now.

Merging two families into one presents financial issues which can cause significant disruption later if a couple does not deal with them early on.

Three significant issues include: differing opinions on prenuptial agreements, different financial goals, and different ideas about how assets should be handled after death. While these are not insurmountable problems, dealing with them upfront can prevent grief and hard feelings later.

A well-drafted prenuptial agreement can prevent later misunderstandings. Some people are concerned that asking for a prenuptial agreement shows they lack confidence in the marriage right out of the box. In truth, however, a prenuptial agreement actually protects both parties and the relationship by surfacing hard issues while there is significant love in the field. 

This is particularly important in blended families, where the partners may have different expectations of how assets will be split if the marriage ends or when one of the partners dies. With skilled counsel (who actually knows how to counsel not just lawyer), the prenuptial agreement conversation can actually create more closeness.

Newly married couples may also have differences of opinion about budgets and financial goals. These issues are generally magnified in blended family situations. One or both partners may have accumulated assets or debts before their marriage, so it is critical that both consider and discuss their full financial picture including assets, debts, cash flow, budgets, and goals.

It is especially important that partners in blended families talk about what they want to happen with their assets when they die. Working with a Personal Family Lawyer specifically trained in counseling blended families will help the couple clarify and document their goals so there is not a fight between the survivor’s children and the survivor of the partnership after the death of the first to die.

Solid estate planning is always important, but it is even more so in blended families.  

Parenting: Build Your Child’s Resilience to Support Their Ultimate Success

If you are like most parents, your primary objective is to support your children to be prepared to   handle the pressures of adulthood.  If you have wondered what the most important thing you can do to support your child now, this article has your answers and it may not be what you think.   If there is one human trait which helps to navigate all of life’s stages, it is resilience. Resilience is the ability to bounce back, move forward, and learn from negativity and setbacks in life. As a parent, the greatest gift you can give your child is the gift of learning how to make mistakes, learn from them, and grow as a result.

How you do this may be surprising. The foundation for developing resilience in your child is threefold: 1) to develop resilience in your own life; 2) to allow your child the freedom to make mistakes, the security to learn from those mistakes and the opportunity to move forward after those mistakes; and 3) to let your children see you make mistakes and role model resilience for them with vulnerable power. 

You want to strike a balance between open communication with your children, sharing your mistakes and lessons, and shielding them from information that may create unnecessary insecurity.

Here’s an example of what I mean: imagine that you face a situation at work that creates adversity for you. You could come home and complain about your coworkers, your boss or your team, or you could take full responsibility for where you might be creating a stressful situation and share with your child what you are going to do to face the challenge head on and make it better.  And, wherever you notice that you could have done better, or made a mistake, tell your child about it and what you learned as a result.

And, when your child makes a mistake, celebrate the opportunity to learn, rather than reinforcing the “wrongness” of the experience. Remember, some of the most successful people on the planet failed first. What made them an ultimate success? They had the resilience and support to recognize that failure was simply part of the journey and to keep going.

So how does estate planning fit into developing resilience in your children? First and foremost, resilience comes when your children know that no matter what happens, you love and accept them and will always be there for them. It is having that deep knowing that creates the security that allows your children to take the risks that others can’t or won’t. That’s the ultimate foundation of true life success.

When you’ve handled your estate planning and talked with your kids about what you’ve set up (when they are old enough, we’ll invite them in for a family meeting to explain your plan and why you have made the decisions you did), they get the clear message that you’ve done everything possible to be there for them, even if you cannot be there physically.

And by including them in the process, when they are old enough, they began to see that you trust them, that you are working with them to design a future that is positive for your whole family and that you trust and respect their input.

If you don’t feel that your kids are trustworthy enough to be included in your estate planning process, let’s have a conversation about where you can get the support to heal the core generational wounds being perpetuated throughout your family line and how we can support you in resolving them now. 

Donate Empty Pill Bottles to Help Others

When we pick up our prescriptions, we take the containers for granted. By contrast, in many countries medical care is very difficult to come by. It is expensive, and not many qualified medical providers work in impoverished communities.

In developing countries, medicines when actually obtainable are often dispensed into hands, pockets, leaves or any other available container.

Charitable organizations have started collection efforts to help those less fortunate than us. One example is the Malawi Project.  The goal of the project was to provide clean, used pill bottles for reuse in Malawi, Africa. The method was simple: Collect your used pill bottles, remove the labels fully, then send them to the project’s headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana. The program ceased operation at the end of 2015, but M25m continues its collection of this typically disposable resource, giving new purpose to something many of us take for granted.

Animal shelters and boarding kennels often also need prescription bottles to facilitate caring for animals. These organizations often lack adequate resources to purchase bottles for medication distribution.
You may also want to check with local governmental organizations for information about how to recycle bottles in your community. For example, Pinellas County, Florida publishes a resource with ideas about how to benefit others through donating pill bottles. Here are a few examples in that community:

  • Stray animal shelters;

  • The local Society for the Protection of Animals;

  • A local grocery store; and

  • A local church.

 While it may seem inconceivable that something as small as a pill bottle is worth much, its value as a basic medical resource can make a significant difference to people and animals in our country and all over the world.

We look at estate planning as more than simply passing on your money to the next generation; instead it’s a whole lifestyle shift to looking at how you can do the most good in the world while you are living and leave the world better off after you are gone.

If you are a parent of young children, getting your little one’s involved in efforts such as these early in life teach them what you value and how even small contributions can have big impact. Passing on your values begins with conscious choices made on a daily basis and estate planning is one of the best ways we know of to consciously plan for a life that truly matters.