Improve Your Life: What 10 Things Should You Do Every Day To Improve Your Life?

10 things that scientific research shows can help improve your life.

1) Get out in nature

You probably seriously underestimate how important this is. (Actually, there’s research that says you do.) Being in nature reduces stress, makes you more creative, improves your memory and may even make you a better person.

2) Exercise

We all know how important this is, but few people do it consistently. Other than health benefits too numerous to mention, exercise makes you smarter, happier, improves sleep, increases libido and makes you feel better about your body. A Harvard study that has tracked a group of men for more than 70 years identified it as one of the secrets to a good life.

via Improve Your Life: What 10 Things Should You Do Every Day To Improve Your Life?.

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Thank$giving: A Money $tory

Do you live in a bubble? Perhaps you live in a community where financial success is pretty much assumed. Where no one talks about money or hardship. Perhaps they even look at money as a symbol of their success.

It’s a bubble.

Meet Sam, who lived in that bubble, but never let it define him or alter his happiness.

He sat in our meeting room thinking about the question “What do you want your life to look like in retirement?”

Sam smiled broadly, “I have very few wants, other than to live simply and share my life with those I love. I don’t need fancy trips or fancy cars. I look forward to the day when my full time work career is over and I can continue to simplify my life. I’ll invest the extra time I gain with some of the organizations I care about. I have been mentoring some under-privileged kids in reading and math.”

via Thank$giving: A Money $tory.

Gratitude – A Key to A Richer Life

Gratitude – A Key to A Richer Life

Henry Van Dyke said:  “Be glad of life, because it gives you the chance to love and to work and to play and to look up to the stars; to be satisfied with your possessions; to despise nothing in the world except falsehood and meanness, and to fear nothing except cowardice; to be governed by your admirations rather than by your disgusts; to covet nothing that is your neighbor’s except his kindness of heart and gentleness of manners; to think seldom of your enemies, often of your friends…and to spend as much time as you can, with body and with spirit. These are the little guideposts on the footpath to peace.”

From Cicero to Buddha, many philosophers and spiritual teachers have celebrated gratitude. The world’s major religions, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Hindu, prize gratitude as a morally beneficial emotional state that encourages reciprocal kindness. Pastors, priests, parents and grandparents have long extolled the virtues of gratitude, but until recently, scholars have largely ignored it as a subject of scientific inquiry.  This has changed with the recent study by Dr. Michael McCollough, of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and Dr. Robert Emmons, of the University of California at Davis, who have discovered that gratitude plays a significant role in a person’s sense of well-being.

The results of the study indicated that daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism and energy. Additionally, the gratitude group experienced less depression and stress, was more likely to help others, exercised more regularly and made more progress toward personal goals. According to the findings, people who feel grateful are also more likely to feel loved. McCollough and Emmons also noted that gratitude encouraged a positive cycle of reciprocal kindness among people since one act of gratitude encourages another.

McCullough says these results also seem to show that gratitude works independently of faith. Though gratitude is a substantial part of most religions, he says the benefits extend to the general population, regardless of faith or lack thereof. In light of his research, McCullough suggests that anyone can increase their sense of well-being and create positive social effects just from counting their blessings.

To do this (count your blessings), many people recommend that you keep a gratitude journal.  Just sit down once a day and write – “Today I am grateful for …” and then make a list of everything (or at least five things) that you are grateful for.   If you would rather do this online, you can visit http://www.iamthankful.com/gratitude-journal/ .  This site has much more information about Gratitude and allows you to log in and create your own online gratitude journal.   The following site http://ramkitten2000.hubpages.com/hub/100-things-thankful  is one example of things to be grateful for.

I have also found the following 6-minute YouTube video by Louie Schwartzberg  to be a very powerful tool in discovering and understand gratitude:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nj2ofrX7jAk  .

I think that Albert Schweitzer summed it up best when he said “To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kind that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude.”

The Dream Box

A great article by John A. Warnick – a friend and the founder of the Purposeful Planning Institute.

Do you have your Dream Box?

Steve

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“The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream…in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs. Dreams are the seedlings of realities.” — James Allen

It was a parochial school near the center of Denver, Colorado. 98% of the second grade students in this classroom were “school lunch eligible”, meaning their family’s income falls below the poverty line. I was an observer in the classroom as the teacher delivered a lesson on “setting goals”. The teacher finished and invited the five adults in the back of the classroom to mingle with the students and to admire their Dream Boxes.

I had noticed a Hispanic boy a few rows in front of me. He had raised his hand enthusiastically each time the teacher had asked a question but never been called upon. I approached his desk and said, “I’m Mr. Warnick, what is your name?” Jose grinned shyly as he uttered his name.

“Jose,” I asked, “what is this box on your desk?”

“That’s my Dream Box,” he replied, slowly opening the box to reveal a variety of rocks and other stuff. The sides of the box, top and bottom were covered with pictures cut from magazines and other material and then pasted on as a collage of dreams and goals.

Read the complete article here:

via The Dream Box – Seedlings.

Retirement Plan Contribution Limits for 2015

The IRS recently announced their new retirement plan contribution limits for 2015. Some have changed, some have not. Here are the highlights.

401k, 403b, 457 and government TSP plans.

The maximum annual amount that can be deferred from your salary will increase from $17,500 in 2014 to $18,000 in 2015. This limit includes 401(k) plans as well as 403(b), 457 plans, and the government Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).

In addition the catch-up amount for those who will be 50 or over at any point during 2015 will increase from the current $5,500 to $6,000 in 2015. This means that those 50 and over can contribute a maximum of $24,000 during 2015 via salary deferral up from $23,000 in 2014. As a reminder, the catch-up contribution is available to you even if your regular contributions are limited due to your employer’s 401(k) plan failing it’s non-discrimination testing.

Action item: If you are able to contribute the maximum amount be sure to change your salary deferral amount before your first pay period in 2015 to ensure that your deferrals reflect these higher limits for the entire year.

SEP-IRA and Solo 401(k) contribution limits

These self-employed retirement plans are also impacted by the changes in the retirement plan contribution limits for 2015.

You can find out all of the new limits here at Roger Wohlner’s site, here:

via Retirement Plan Contribution Limits for 2015 | The Chicago Financial Planner.