The Conquer Cancer Foundation: Funding The Hopes Of Many

Conquer Cancer Foundation Tom RobertsRecently I had the pleasure of participating in a Conquer Cancer Foundation event at the home of my friend, Dr. Thomas Roberts and his beautiful wife Susan. Tom used to be an attending staff oncologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and an instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School before joining Farallon, one of the first hedge funds in the world to manage university endowments.

My favorite thing about Tom is not that he’s a very smart and successful guy. The thing that stands out most about Tom is how nice and thoughtful he is. You might think a man of his stature wouldn’t bother hanging around with someone like me, yet he’s been nothing but kind and magnanimous with his time. We met on the tennis court several years ago and have been good friends ever since.

Tom is on the board of the Conquer Cancer Foundation and I’ve promised to help him spread the word about this devastating disease that has affected so many. Although I cannot match the funds that many generous benefactors have offered, I do have an online platform to help raise awareness. My grandfather died of skin cancer before the age of 65 and my good friend’s father was recently diagnosed with bladder cancer. It seems like everybody I know has been affected by cancer to some degree, whether it be a family member, close friend, neighbor, or colleague.

Here are some cancer statistics:

* One out of every two men and one out of every three women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.

* There will be over 1.6 million new cancer cases diagnosed and nearly 600,000 cancer deaths in the US in 2014.

* Cancer remains the second most common cause of death in the US, accounting for nearly 1 of every 4 deaths.

* There are nearly 14.4 million survivors worldwide.

Taking Care Of A Elderly Family Member’s Health And Finances

Old Man SittingThe following is a guest post by reader Dave Scott who shares his experience of taking care of his 97 year old grandmother. I’m thoroughly impressed with Dave’s sense of duty and attitude throughout this entire article. You can tell he feels it’s an honor to take care of his grandmother and he’s looking for more insights on how to be a better caregiver. I’d like to have an open discussion during the holidays addressing the issues of cost, environment, emotions, responsibility and estate planning. 

It can be a great honor and a huge sense of responsibility to manage all the aspects of a aging family member’s affairs when they are in need of your help. For approximately 20 years, I have been managing my grandmother’s investment portfolio. All other aspects of her life were managed by her with a little bit of help from my father.

In late 2010, all that changed. At the age of 97, my grandmother needed to move into assisted living and was no longer capable of fully taking care of herself. During the same time period, her relationship with my father, her only living child, began to become strained and my father was battling his own health issues. As a result, I made the decision to move my grandmother from her current independent living home in Arizona to reside near me in Texas.

The responsibility dynamic changed, almost overnight, whereby I had just agreed to manage 98% of all of my grandmother’s affairs. I was definitely up for the challenge and thought I was the best suited to take it on. However, it doesn’t diminish the fact that this is not a trivial  undertaking.

Managing all aspects of a family members’ life

Subsidy Amounts By Income For The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)

Patriotic dog and US flagThe Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is a potentially great way to help lower income individuals afford health care. I’m a supporter of ACA despite the trappings of ever bigger government running our lives because disease and accidents do not discriminate between rich or poor. In a nation as rich as ours, nobody should die or get stuck in a permanent loop of poverty just because they can’t afford medical treatment.

The two most common reasons why people don’t retire earlier are: 1) Lack of money and 2) Uncertainty regarding health care access and costs. As an early retiree in 2012 with a full 30 years to go before being eligible for Medicare benefits, I was worried about health care until I did some research on cheap health care alternatives. Now that I’ve spent a good amount of time studying what healthcare.gov has to offer, I’m not worried but thrilled for the potentially millions of other people who don’t have health care or who have no desire to work into their 60s.

I’ve also discovered that even millionaires will be eligible for health care subsidies. More equality is a welcome relief from the constant class warfare rhetoric and discriminatory policies we hear from Capital Hill.

One Very Important Attribute To Look For Before Buying A Property

Peas Thermo Advil BottleEver since writing Obamacare Is A Net Positive For America I’ve been sick as a dog. My throat hurt so much I could barely swallow. Because my throat was also swollen, it was hard to breathe and sleep as well. I called my primary care physician on Wednesday to see if he could check my throat for strep and of course he was closed until Thursday. Seriously, why would a doctor’s office be closed on a Wednesday? Perhaps to get his existing patients to enlist in his $1,500 a year Concierge Service! Smart man.

No problem. I went to a newly opened Urgent Care Unit eight blocks away instead. I had no idea such a facility existed until a good friend of mine pointed it out. The Urgent Care Unit saw me right away and my co-pay was only $5 more at $25. The nurse checked me out, took a sample of the back of my throat and ran tests. It turns out I don’t have strep but a viral infection instead. Hurray! The doctor said it’s actually better to have a viral infection for a sore throat because we’ll almost always heal ourselves within 5-7 days. A bacterial infection needs to be treated with antibiotics and could get more complicated.

The doctor prescribed antibiotics and hydrocodone anyway since he said the strep test is only 80% accurate. He’ll run some more tests and let me know whether I should continue with the antibiotics in several days. It’s interesting to note that the doctor didn’t have to send in the prescriptions to my local pharmacy. I could use the print out and get the drugs anywhere I liked. Another plus for going to an Urgent Care facility.

The office clerk mentioned the Urgent Care facility is open every day of the week from 8am-8pm M-F and 9am-4pm S-S. All the doctors are board certified and emergency physician trained. Suddenly, I’m feeling much more secure as a resident and also a little wealthier as a home owner.

WHEN WE ARE YOUNG WE DON’T CARE FOR HEALTH AS MUCH

Obamacare Is A Net Positive For Early Retirees And The Underemployed

Affordable Care ActWe appreciate our health the most when we are sick. I certainly appreciate my health now because I’ve currently got a sore throat from probably too much sailing in the Bay this past weekend. The wind regularly picks up to 25 mph and makes the temperature on the water feel like 50 degrees instead of 70-80 degrees.

The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) goes into effect October 1, 2013 if Republicans in the House fail to block the movement. Republicans will probably fail since Obamacare has already been given a thumbs up by the Supreme Court, but hold on for some potentially massive pain as I indicated in my newsletter the other week, recommending readers reduce stock positions and buy bonds when the 10-year yield was at 2.85%-2.9%.

As someone who retired 31 years before being able to receive Medicare at the age of 65, you might think I’m worried about health insurance. Health related problems is the number one reason for bankruptcies in America after all. But I wrote a thorough post in the spring of 2013 entitled, “Cheap Health Insurance Options For The Unemployed, Self-Employed, Or Early Retiree” that goes on to explain our options: COBRA, Spousal Health Insurance, Parental Health Insurance, and eHealthInsurance.com, the largest online market place for health insurance plans based right here in the Bay Area.

I’m as skeptical about the government as anyone, but now that Obamacare is going into effect, the options for heathcare are theoretically even better. For those who are seeking financial independence, who are early retirees, or who are just trying to save money to get by, let me argue why Obamacare is a net positive for America.

HEALTH CARE FOR ALL

Finding The Motivation To Stay In Shape: A Conversation With Big Wave Surfer Laird Hamilton

Laird Hamilton posing for me, FS, Oahu, 2013It’s hard to stay in shape as we get older. We move around less, our family demands more of our time, and our jobs stress us out to the point where we eat too much comfort food.

I’m about 10 pounds heavier that I was during college. I always tell myself it’s due to more muscle, but I know it’s a lie because I hardly ever lift weights anymore. When you no longer need to be in incredible shape because you’ve found someone who likes you just the way you are, why bother? All I do is play tennis and do the occasional push-ups and sit-ups now.

Motivation is something I’m perpetually looking for because my motivation meter never seems to stay full. I sometimes feel the paradox of freedom where America allows for a relatively correlated path to attaining what we want. If I want to get six pack abs, I’ll cut out the sweets and do 500 sit-ups every day for three months in a row. If I want to make more money, I’ll work harder at executing new ideas. I really don’t think there’s very much that’s inhibiting our progress other than ourselves.

MAHALO LAIRD

Is There A Correlation Between Physical Fitness And Financial Health?

Udapom Indian DishI don’t care how rich you are. If you don’t have your health, you might as well have nothing. This is why I have a whole Health & Fitness section. Think back to the times when you were sick. Every time, I’m sure you were willing to give up everything just to feel better again.

I’ve got to admit something that’s bumming me out. I’m disappointed so many readers proved my derivative theory correct when I wrote, “Proof Your Weight Is Not Your Fault.” The post is about a convicted killer on death row who is asking to get his sentence commuted due to his weight. If you are 475 lbs and have spent the last 27 years in prison where there are no buffet lines, don’t tell me that genetics doesn’t have anything to do with this person’s weight.

My derivative theory hypothesized many readers would be vehemently against the statement that one’s weight is largely determined by genetics because it takes away people’s illusion of control. In financial speak, “How dare you say my wealth was not of my own doing?” or the now famous Obama mis-quote, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” Readers of personal finance sites are generally fiscally conservative. Spend less than you make right?

I also hypothesized most dissenters would be fit and under 35, the median age of Americans. Have you ever seen those gossip magazines with some beautiful spokeswoman showing the efficacy of their latest anti-aging product? Well shit, of course it works if your model is 22 years old! In other words, there’s an annoying belief that if you’re fit, everybody else should also be fit. Otherwise, you’re just lazy. It’s like the 18 year old kid who eats all he wants and never gains weight, making fun of a 45 year old mother of three for not looking like Jessica Biel. Nice job punk.

The genetics post is meant to motivate folks who are struggling with their weight to stop beating themselves up so much. Don’t hate yourself for not looking like folks we see in magazines or on TV because they are anomalies magnified by the power of media to make it seem like they are ubiquitous. If we can love ourselves more, we can snap out of our funk and climb back up those stairs.

Another goal of the post is to break down stereotypes against those who are obese. I don’t know anybody who is out of shape who is happy to be out of shape, just like I don’t know anybody who is struggling financially who doesn’t want to be wealthier. The post was not directed at fit people. Yet for some curious reason, so many fit folks lashed out. Dear fit people, why does my post concern you so much? Compassion is a part of our humanity.

Now that you know the furtive reasons for my genetics post, it’s time to answer the most logical next question: Is there a positive correlation between physical fitness and financial health? To answer the question, I need your support.

DON’T DO AS I DO, DO AS I SAY, OR ELSE WHATEVER

How Often Should You Get A Physical And How Much Does It Cost?

Physical Exam BedBefore my COBRA (healthcare for departed employees) ran out, I decided to get a physical exam. It’s been three years and it was about time. Many insurance companies offer one free physical every year. Give your insurance company a call to find out if yours is one of them. That’s a $200-$500 “savings” every year if you take advantage of the perk. Depending on your insurance coverage, you will either typically pay a co-pay ($25 in my case), or a co-insurance (generally 20% of the overall bill).

Beyond the co-pay or co-insurance, sometimes there’s something called a “draw fee” as well. The word “draw” in this term refers to the drawing of blood, which is then sent off to a lab to get a multitude of tests done. My draw fee, to my surprise was $24 dollars. Hence, what I thought was initially “free” turned into a $49 dollar physical ($25 co-pay + $24 draw fee). Depending on my blood work, I may have to come back for more, which means another $25 in co-pay.

A $25 co-pay isn’t particularly cheap. I’ve had as low as a $5 co-pay before until I decided to change my plan to be more for “disaster prevention.” You want a low co-pay if you are chronically sick. In 10 years, I’ve seen the doctor perhaps seven times, including physicals. Hence, it makes sense for me to pay a higher co-pay in return for a lower monthly premium. I could take it a step further and do co-insurance, but I elected not to.

THE RECOMMENDED FREQUENCY OF PHYSICAL EXAMS 

Proof Your Weight Is Almost Entirely Genetic And Not Your Fault

Woman Eating Indian Buffet

Nobody can resist all you can eat Indian buffet.

This post might positively change your life forever. After reading this post you will hopefully: 1) stop beating yourself up for why you aren’t in shape, 2) stop feeling guilty about what you eat, 3) stop spending money on diet fads, 4) stop spending money on exercise equipment, and 5) gain more confidence and self-esteem.

I’ve struggled with staying in fighting shape ever since I entered college. As an athlete who played competitive tennis, I was always about 152-155 in high school with a body fat percentage of under 7%. I benched 1.5X my body weight and clocked a 4.5 second 40 yard dash. When tennis season was over, I ran the anchor for the 4X100 and 4X200 relay. Sports was a huge part of my life and I don’t think I can happily live without it.

By the time I graduated college, I permanently gained the freshman 10. After my second year of working 70 hour weeks in NYC, I ballooned to 175-180 lbs. My strength and speed dissipated. I got sick a lot, had horrible allergies, and even came down with the weirdest case of plantar fasciitis.

My breaking point came when a female colleague I fancied nonchalantly said I looked like another out of shape colleague. I was crushed, but knew she was telling the truth as I looked in the mirror to spot the first signs of jowls. What the hell are jowls?!

I proceeded to work out like crazy for six months in the gym upstairs. I even bought those “Ripped Fuel Extreme” pills filled with ephederine, a substance that is now banned! In three months, I got down to 165 and felt better. But you know what? I’ve been 162-170 for the past 13 years no matter how much I exercise or how little I eat. Something must be up!

GENETICS DETERMINES YOUR WEIGHT

Walking And Light Exercise Does Nothing For Weight Loss!

WeightTraining.com Financial Samurai ChallengeI consider myself a health conscience guy who plays tennis three times a week, watches what he eats, and goes on frequent hikes and bike rides. That said, I’ve definitely been overweight before, and I came close again on my recent trip to Europe.

The reasons to stay relatively fit are as follows:

* I don’t want to die before my time. Although we don’t know when we will die, we can at least try and reduce our chances of an early death by eating right and exercising regularly.

* I don’t want to burden my family with unnecessary health complications. Being a burden to loved ones is a terrible, terrible thing. I would hate to see my wife, kids, or relatives have to constantly check in on me because I’ve received brain damage from a stroke, or can no longer go to the bathroom on my own due to some manly cancer.

* I don’t want to financially burden my fellow Americans who will have to subsidize my medical costs thanks to universal health care. As honorable citizens, we should try to give back more to our country more than we receive. This is the best way to ensure the health of our nation’s future.

* I don’t want to let my US Tennis Association teammates down when it’s time to battle other teams. We all train very hard in the off season so that come game time, we’re ready to compete. Being physically fit is standard, but can also be a huge edge as we battle less in shape competitors. Once we are fit, we can then concentrate on our skills and mental fitness which are crucial to winning matches.

* I’m frugal and don’t want to spend too much on new clothes. During the first year of college and the first year of work I had to buy new shirts and pants because I gained about 15 pounds. I’m not big into clothing in the first place, but when you’ve got to buy three new suits of different color, things add up! Dress shirts and jeans are easily $50-$200 each and higher. Imagine being able to fit in your jeans from 10-15 years ago, how much money you can save!

* I don’t want to ignore the plight of others. I grew up in several third world countries and I’ve witnessed immense poverty. When I know there are millions of people starving around the world, there’s no way I can overeat and not remember. America is a country of abundance and it’s easy to consume more than normal. We just have to remind ourselves how lucky we are, as we’re not even being asked to help others, only ourselves.

* I want to feel good. When I was heavier, I didn’t have as much energy and I didn’t feel as good about myself. I’d look at new pictures and come away shocked because they were so different from how I used to look. When you feel good, you look good. And when you look good, you have more confidence to succeed.

Despite all these reasons, I still find it very tough to stay in ideal weight of 152-163 pounds for someone 5 feet 10 inches tall. 152 pounds sounds ridiculously light, but hey, that’s what the doctors and researchers say is ideal weight for a medium bodied person my height, so who am I to make excuses?

The problem is, when I see a batch of lemon meringue mini pastries, I cannot help but eat six of them at a time! When there is all you can eat BBQ ribs, the same thing happens. Tell me I’m not the only one!

PROOF THAT LIGHT EXERCISE DOES NOT KEEP YOU FIT