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This Year, Make a Goal to Contribute More to Your 401(k)

Five words or less(NewsUSA) - Are you participating in an employer-sponsored retirement plan? If your company has one, consider yourself fortunate. But if you've been ignoring whatever your company is offering, it's time to get the facts. A good retirement plan will allow you to defer taxes on whatever you contribute to your 401(k) account until you begin to withdraw money, presumably in your retirement. The amount of money you contribute is deducted from your salary when Uncle Sam is tallying up your taxable income for the year. Granted, you won't see the money you contribute until you retire, but committing to a plan like this is one way of both saving on taxes and forcing yourself to save for the future. If your company offers any kind of a "match," meaning it will throw in some money to match your contribution at a certain proportion, you are definitely leaving money on the table by not participating. For example, a company may match 50 cents on one dollar up to 4 percent of pay -- yours could be better or worse. One primary reason a retirement account is such a good idea is compounding interest. Add earned interest to the money you are contributing, plus an employer match, deduct the amount contributed from your taxable income, and you're well ahead of the game. Most 401(k) plans allow you to choose how to invest your money. The plan administrator provides a choice of investments, which may include cash equivalents, bonds, stocks or a mix. When choosing your investments, you can decide exactly how aggressive or conservative you wish to be. IRS increased the contribution limit for employees who participate in 401(k) plans from $17,500 in 2014 to $18,000 for tax year 2015. The catch-up contribution limit for employees aged 50 and over who participate in 401(k) plans increased from $5,500 to $6,000, which is motivating to many baby boomers who are behind in saving for retirement. Sitting down with a tax professional to determine what you can do to minimize your tax burden this year and take advantage of every tax deduction and credit available to you just makes good sense. A licensed tax professional can help. Enrolled agents ("EAs") are licensed by the U.S. Department of Treasury after passing a stringent three-part exam on taxation. They must complete IRS-approved continuing education to keep the license. You can locate an EA in your area using the "Find an EA" directory at www.naea.org.


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Giving the Elderly a Lift -- In Their Home

Five words or less(NewsUSA) - Although home may be where the heart is, for older people, it may not be where they are able to stay. This need (and recognition) to downsize, yet not wanting to because of the memories associated with the home (after all, it's where they have lived for decades and may have raised their families), can be a problem. It may also be impractical due to today's still sluggish housing market. So, what to do? Instead, you might want to consider a stairlift to make your current home more practical. While there are a whole host of reasons to install a stairlift, the most common is that someone has become too infirm to walk up and down the stairs because of age, illness or injury. For Cornelius Rice, 80, of Wilkins, Pennsylvania, it took a nasty fall to admit he needed help from a stair lift to deal with his balance problem. "[A stairlift] makes it convenient for me to get around, and makes it easy on the wife," Rice told the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette in an interview. "She doesn't have to take me here or there now, or be lifting me." Unlike chair lifts of old, new models like those sold by Orlando-based Acorn Stairlifts are powered by two small 12-volt batteries under the seat or by regular house current. The chair and built-in footrest typically fold up when not in use, allowing for easy passage on the stairs. All lifts have sensors around the perimeter of the foot platform that will stop the lift when a sensor is triggered -- be it by a child's toy, a pet or a foot that has slipped off the platform. For Tim McCool, VP of Sales and Marketing for Acorn, having a built in stairlift makes sense for the elderly. "When I first started with Acorn Stairlifts over 10 years ago as a sales rep, one of my first customer interactions was with a woman suffering from ALS," said McCool. "She had to be carried up the stairs just to use the restroom. I talked with her for over an hour, and it's stuck with me all these years, and it's why I'm so committed to what we do to improve people's lives." The biggest challenge, say experts, is getting older folks to admit they need one. Once installed, however, many find they wished they'd done it earlier, said one consultant, who added that older people sometimes don't want to spend the money on this kind of thing because then they have to admit they have a disability. For more information, visit www.acornstairlifts.com.


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4-H Grown: Alumni Asked to Stand Up and Support STEM Education

Five words or less(NewsUSA) - For almost a decade, there has been a dramatic shift by educators to increase kids' interest in careers in science, technology, engineering and math fields (STEM). In fact, one of America's largest youth-development organizations (it's been around for almost 115 years), 4-H, along with HughesNet, the leading satellite Internet service provider, are throwing their collective weight behind 4-H Grown -- an interactive campaign that invites the estimated 25 million 4-H alumni across the U.S. to help direct sponsorship funding to their state by checking in at www.4-h.org/4hgrown/, tagging friends, and casting votes to bring more science innovation experiences to youth in their communities. Through 4-H Grown, the two organizations hope to bring STEM learning experiences to youth across the country, including small communities where resources for interactive learning may be limited. "In our first year of partnership, National 4-H Council and HughesNet helped thousands of young people experience the excitement of STEM, [and] I am thrilled that our new 2015 program will engage even more young people and expand our reach to 4-H alumni to show STEM can be rewarding and fun," says Jennifer Sirangelo, president and CEO, National 4-H Council. The partnership is also giving a $10,000 "Innovation Incubator" Science Sponsorship to the state with the largest number of votes. This sponsorship is new and requires youth across the nation to design innovative science solutions to solve real community challenges. States compete to receive a science sponsorship. Additionally, two young innovators will be selected to receive an all-expense-paid trip to the flagship 4-H National Youth Science Day event in Washington, D.C., where they will participate in the world's largest youth-led science experiment. "Exposing thousands of children to the excitement of STEM is priceless," says Mike Cook, senior vice president, Hughes North America Division. "We're thrilled to continue our work with 4-H to make a difference in kids' lives." For more information, or to support your state in 4-H Grown, visit www.4-h.org/4hgrown.


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Haven't Tried Sardines? Try These

Five words or less(NewsUSA) - Sardines are consistently rated as the most nutritious and environmentally friendly fish you can eat, and yet some people remain suspicious. "Wait! They have bones and scales?" Well, yes, most premium sardines have bones -- which melt away during processing, which is why they have more calcium per serving than a glass of milk. And yes, they do have scales, though they're too tiny to notice. So despite the little fish's sustainability and wealth of protein, calcium and Vitamin D -- and the fact that sardines contain roughly 2,000 mg of omega-3s per 3.75-ounce serving -- many people consider sardines a non-starter. But sardine makers, like Norway-based King Oscar, also offer what is known as "skinless and boneless" sardines, a potential game-changer for the tiny fish. John Engle, president of King Oscar USA, says that skinless and boneless sardines are another kettle of fish entirely. "Skinless and boneless sardines are actually an entirely different species of fish from our traditional 'brisling' sardine. They're slightly larger, and fished from different waters, which allows us to remove the skin and bones from the fish and bring a totally different taste and texture to the can, qualities very similar to tuna." It also allows sardine companies to experiment with new flavors and even recipes. For example, King Oscar's Spanish-Style Sardines are caught off the coast of Morocco and combined with olive oil, red peppers, pickled cucumbers, carrot and a dash of salt and a hint of chili flavor to make for a new twist on a time-tested food, and even potentially begin to change people's perception of sardines. "People eat seafood in a can by the millions -- just look at tuna," said Engle. "I think that by introducing new varieties of skinless and boneless sardines, it'll open up the possibility of eating sardines to people who have heard that they're good for you, but who just haven't been able to get past the 'yuck' factor." One popular food blogger, Kimberly Moore of The Hungry Goddess, is already ahead of the curve. She suggests pairing King Oscar Spanish Style skinless and boneless sardines with paella to put a healthy, savory spin on the rice-based classic. To see Moore's paella recipe, as well as dozens of other recipes and products, visit kingoscar.com or King Oscar's Facebook page.


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10 Tips to Stay Safe During Spring Break

Five words or less(NewsUSA) - It's that time of year again when thousands of college students and young adults will flock to the far reaches of the world for spring break. Wherever your travels take you, it's best to adopt the Boy Scout's motto,"Be Prepared." The following tips will help you get started. 1. Arrive safely. Traffic death rates are three times higher at night than during the day. This means an all-night drive to Florida or any other sunny locale is not a good idea. If you can't avoid night driving, have someone stay up to talk you. 2. Secure your hotel room. Make sure your door is locked and important belongings like passports and wallets are in the safe. For added security, consider bringing along a portable door stop alarm like that from SABRE, a manufacturer of security products for both law enforcement and the general public. The door stop alarm can alert you if someone tries to break in. 3. Ensure you know the name of your hotel. Memorize the hotel's address, and take a card to give cab drivers (especially if you don't know the language). 4. Protect your personal information. Don't tell new acquaintances your hotel name or room number. You never know who has innocent (or not-so-innocent) intentions. 5. Employ the buddy system. Never leave a party with a stranger, but if you do, consider carrying a pepper gel key ring with you. SABRE offers one for less than $15. It's good for four years, has a 12-foot range and up to 25 bursts. 6. Practice safe drinking. Always have one friend who plans on minimal drinking to look out for everyone and watch cups and glasses as well. Only accept drinks you've watched get made or poured in front of you. 7. Ask for help. If you need help, call yourself. Don't rely on bystanders to call for you. 8. Drink water and wear sunscreen. Too much time in the sun can leave you dehydrated and at risk for sunburn or sun poisoning. Take a water bottle and sunscreen when you go out. 9. Open the lines of communication between students and parents. Providing an itinerary for family members is especially important when traveling overseas. In addition, know where the U.S. embassy or American consulate is in the country where you're headed, and check in often. 10. Travel with your personal protection. Small pepper sprays can be checked through major airlines, and personal alarms can be carried on flights with you. If you're out and about exploring, remember that pepper spray is legal to carry in all 50 states. For more information, visit www.sabrered.com.


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Weatherizing Your Home Can Mean Big Benefits

Five words or less(NewsUSA) - The volatility of Mother Nature this year has served as a reminder that electric and gas bills can get out of hand quickly -- especially when a home isn't properly weatherized. "The U.S. Department of Energy suggests homeowners spend nearly 50 percent of their utility bills on space heating and cooling, with heating accounting for the largest portion of money spent," said Stephen Wagner, assistant category manager at ShurTech Brands, LLC, the marketers of the Duck brand. "With so much spent, it's important to take measures to save energy and money. Something as simple as weatherizing can help block air leaks and drafts, helping to keep energy bills low." The good news is that if you haven't already weatherized, it's not too late. The following tips will help prepare your home for not only freezing temperatures but also the warmer summer months: * Start with the attic. The top of the house tends to be forgotten as a source of energy loss. To combat this, Duck brand Attic Stairway Covers can help seal attic stairway openings by helping to block drafts, saving energy all year round. These pop-up covers are flexible and lightweight, easily repositionable to allow attic access and simple to assemble and install. * Check the windows. As houses age, window casings loosen and become drafty. To add a barrier between your home and the elements, consider the Roll-On Window Kit from the same brand. The crystal-clear shrink film requires no measuring and provides an airtight seal over interior window frames, creating an insulating air space between the film and window glass. * Make sure doors are properly sealed. Not only does weatherizing the bottom of doors help prevent drafts, it also protects from dust, insects and pollen during warmer months. Duck brand Double Draft Seal is designed to work on a variety of floor types and has a patented design that offers two layers of protection from drafts -- straps hold the seal in place while it "hugs" the bottom of the door from inside and outside. * Consider the walls. You might not know this, but energy loss can also come from sources such as electrical outlets and switch plates on exterior walls. Socket Sealers prevent drafts by acting as a buffer between the outside temperatures and your home's interior. * Fill cracks and gaps. For stationary components, caulk is the appropriate material for filling cracks and gaps. Around windows and doors, weatherstripping, such as Duck brand window and door weatherstrip seals, provides a barrier against the elements, helping to insulate your home. For those who live in extreme temperatures, try a Heavy-Duty Weatherstrip seal made with EPDM rubber. For more information, visit www.duckbrand.com.


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3 Things to Know Before Ride-Booking a Car

(NewsUSA) - If you were some innocent fleeing a terrorist attack, would you expect to be charged four times the normal cost of a car ride?Alas, that's what happened to some Uber passengers last December when the "off the charts" demand for a quick escape from anywhere near the 16-hour siege at Sydney, Australia's Lindt Chocolate Café automatically triggered the controversial "surge-pricing" that Uber and other ride-booking services also employ here in the U.S.Even some of the app-based companies' (former) biggest fans say that's just a fancy term for price gouging. "#Neverforget, #neveragain," read the hashtags celeb Jessica Seinfeld used in Instagramming a receipt for a whopping $415 Uber fare during a recent New York snowstorm. And so many lawmakers across the nation have their own pro-consumer reasons for wanting to crack down on the industry -- lesser players include Lyft and Sidecar -- that you'd almost think the very idea of summoning a ride on a smartphone was Evil Incarnate.It's your call, but here's what you should know before booking one of those cars:* Your driver may not have been thoroughly screened. Newspapers have reported numerous cases of ride-booking drivers arrested for allegedly raping or assaulting passengers. But efforts to subject the newbies to the same rigorous background checks as taxi and limousine drivers -- akin to a "Not Welcome" sign for lowlifes -- have been fought by all three services."Background screening is a public safety issue," says Gary Buffo, president of the National Limousine Association (www.limo.org). "Competition is a good thing, but everyone needs to play by the same rules."Uber, for one, has touted what it calls its "industry-leading (vetting) standards." But that claim took a hit last December when prosecutors in California alleged, as part of a consumer protection lawsuit against the company, that their drivers weren't being fingerprinted -- thus making its criminal checks "completely worthless."* Good luck suing if you're injured. Some ride-booking services allow drivers to carry personal, rather than commercial, insurance. (Hey, they use their own cars.) Testifying at a recent City Council hearing in Buffalo, New York, Kristina Baldwin, of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, called that a "serious insurance gap."* Surge pricing can be a shocker. Uber did reimburse Sydney riders after getting skewered by the media. But New Year's Eve revelers in New York City, learning a lesson in supply and demand, apparently had no such luck. "The most expensive eight minutes of my life," the New York Daily News quoted one angry passenger.


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For Advanced Heart Failure Patients, There Is Hope

Five words or less(NewsUSA) - NewsusaInfographic - Advanced heart failure is a serious and deadly disease that needs to be managed and understood. As a progressive disease that is rarely cured, it can get worse over time. That is why it might be time to consider other treatment options -- like LVAD therapy. See full-sized image here.


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5 Easy Tips for Taking Care of Your Heart

Five words or less(NewsUSA) - Northern California native June Auld, 76, leads a very full life. Aside from her day job as a mental health professional, she can be found, with her husband, Glenn, cooking for the homeless, providing foster care to guide dogs or taking walks around their neighborhood. It was during one of those full days that Auld began experiencing extreme discomfort in her chest. She and her husband went to the emergency department at Kaiser Permanente San Rafael Medical Center, where doctors immediately began running tests. Doctors confirmed that Auld had experienced a heart attack, and placed a stent in a blocked artery. Auld's decision to seek immediate care at Kaiser Permanente not only saved her life, but saved her from having to undergo more complicated treatment. "The care Kaiser Permanente gave me was fantastic," Auld said. "The day after I got home, I did my walk like I had never had a heart problem, and I've never had any pain or discomfort since." Show your heart some love now and throughout the rest of your life with these five simple, healthy aging tips from Marc Jaffe, M.D., clinical leader, Kaiser Permanente Northern California Cardiovascular Risk Reduction Program. How to keep your heart strong: 1. Be sweet. Instead of chocolate, try blueberries or strawberries. These heart-healthy treats are filled with natural antioxidants that can help keep your arteries open. 2. Move to the beat. Grab a partner and do some fancy footwork. Any activity that gets you moving -- like dancing or walking -- can help increase blood circulation, reduce stress and protect your heart. 3. Do your thing. Activities like painting, writing, yoga and meditation can help slow your heart and breathing rates and lower your blood pressure, all of which are good for your body and your heart. 4. Avoid tobacco. If you smoke, join a tobacco-cessation program to help you quit, and talk to your doctor about medications that can help increase your chances of kicking the habit. If you don't smoke, avoiding secondhand smoke may also help protect your heart, lungs and blood vessels. 5. Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, losing as little as 10 pounds can make a difference and lower your risk of heart problems. Living a healthy lifestyle can help your heart stay strong, so you can live -- and love -- for years to come. See a video about Auld's story on the Kaiser Permanente Care Stories blog. For more information about Kaiser Permanente and heart care, visit kp.org. For questions or advice about a specific condition, talk to your physician.


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The Financial Implications of Heart Disease

Five words or less(NewsUSA) - NewsusaInfographic - Many people share the overly optimistic belief that they are shielded against suffering a heart attack or stroke. But the truth is, no one is immune to life-altering medical events. And, many don't understand the financial implications associated with these health issues. Critical illness insurance can help cover costs resulting from an unexpected illness. See full-sized image here.







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