Tag Archives: personal health

2 Studies of Why Wellness Fails

Henry David Thoreau famously said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation…”

People who lead desperate lives don’t make good subjects for wellness programs, nor, for that matter, lifestyle advice from doctors. Below are two real life examples of ordinary people I’ve chatted with about matters of personal health. After both of these conversations, I was quite humbled.

Case 1

I had a chance conversation with a pleasant but overweight woman I’ll call Donna, a cashier in a big city grocery store, who was about 50 years old. We were having a nice chat, and I asked her if she had opportunities to exercise after work. Donna said that, after being on her feet all day, she had to go home and put her feet up. That prevented her from having much of a social life, too. Donna said she would never have a better job, that she’d never buy a new car, nor afford vacations or holiday trips. Her rent was so high, it was all she could do to makes ends meet. Donna said her only fun in life was buying a take-home pizza and a six pack of beer once or twice a week. Take that away, and Donna said she had nothing. Truthfully, and sadly, in my heart I could not blame her.

Case 2

A few years ago I had a lengthy cab ride in Baltimore and struck up a good conversation with the cab driver, a friendly, middle-aged man I’ll call George. He asked what I did for living, which resulted in a good chat about personal health. George smoked, had high blood pressure and diabetes and was overweight. He said he’d tried to get those things under control but just couldn’t. The interesting part of the story is why he couldn’t control his health risks. George said he’d lived in Baltimore all his life and had the same set of friends since grade school. One night a week, they’d go bowling, eat huge meals and drink way too much beer. Also, once a week or so they’d go to a sports bar and do the same thing. George truly believed he’d have to give up his lifelong friends if he were to cut out that lifestyle. He knew it was slowly killing him, but he just wasn’t willing give up. It was hard to blame him either.

Those are two true stories of people trapped in a lifestyle they can’t or won’t willingly forfeit. Huge numbers of people are in the same boat.

Some people are going to comply with doctor suggestions on lifestyle without any help at work. But, if Thoreau is right, there are many people out there like Donna and George.

Bad lifestyle choices can be terribly complex. They virtually never arise from the lack of the kind of information that wellness vendors push as the solution.

It’s Time for a Data Breach Warning Label

The breach at Home Depot is only the most recent in a torrent of high-profile data compromises. Data and identity-related crimes are at record levels. Consumers are in uncharted territory, which raises a question: Is it time to do for data breaches and cybersecurity what the nutritional label did for food? I believe we need a Breach Disclosure Box, and that it can be a powerful consumer information and education tool.

Once just a normal part of doing business, data breaches today can sap a company’s bottom line — and that’s the best-case scenario. At their worst, data breaches represent an extinction-level event. The real-world effects for consumers can be catastrophic. Because there is a patchwork of state and federal laws related to data security—some good, some bad, all indecipherable—and none that work together, it’s impossible to know just how safe your personally identifiable information is, and has been, at the places where you shop and with the companies and professional organizations where you do business.

Data security, identity-related consumer issues and privacy are all areas screaming for big-picture solutions. This is a situation in search of a paradigm shift—one that produces tools that enable consumers to make informed choices.

There is a precedent that could serve as a template. It was passed in 1988, though not implemented until 2000. You may recognize its name—it’s called the Schumer Box. This is the law that put the fine print of credit terms and conditions in your face—bigger, bolder and easier to understand. You see it all the time featured in those countless pleas for your credit business that land in your email and your mailbox.

The Schumer Box is simple. It requires that financial services companies provide certain information to the consumer when making a pitch for their business—information like long-term rates, the annual percentage rate for purchases and the cost of financing—and that the information be displayed in a standardized fashion. The Schumer Box is to credit cards what the nutritional label is to food.

A Concise Disclosure for Breaches

The Breach Disclosure Box that I am proposing would need to be simple, too. While I believe it is important to create a system that informs consumers about breaches, bear in mind that all breaches are not alike. There are breaches where the only piece of compromised information was a credit card number, which can be easily replaced and for which the consumer had zero liability. Then there are breaches involving Social Security numbers, detailed banking data or personal health information. These are very different situations. But they all share one thing in common: Something about you is “out there” and can be used by a criminal to commit either a crime against you or in your name.

The “solution” — regardless of a breach’s severity — is the same. I place “solution” in scare quotes because it’s a misnomer to talk about solutions and identity-related crime in the same breath. There is no solution to the pandemic, only containment strategies and best practices.

The Breach Disclosure Box would be a crucial part of data-related best practices at the consumer level where it’s all about the 3 M’s: Minimizing your exposure, monitoring your public records and financial accounts and managing any damage that occurs from data compromises.

Best practices can mean the difference between having a bad day and being financially ruined (or worse), and knowledge of a company’s data security track record can help consumers be better-informed about the risks they’re taking – and ultimately to decide if the risk is worth it.

The Breach Disclosure Box would also be a catalyst for companies to step up their game on data security as well as design and implement a breach preparedness plan that promotes an urgent, transparent and empathetic response to any compromise of consumer and employee data.

While the following list of Breach Box disclosures could be longer or shorter, the basic idea of a Breach Disclosure Box is essential to consumer safety in this ever-changing and crafty world of data-related crime and data breaches. The box should list:

  • How many times has this company been breached within the past five years?
  • If there has been a breach, what kind(s) of information was exposed?
  • Does this company encrypt all consumer and employee data?
  • Does this company have a breach notification policy?
  • What did the company offer affected consumers?
  • What type(s) of information are customers obligated, or not obligated, to provide?
  • Best practices for avoiding victimization (The 3 M’s)

The contents of the Breach Disclosure Box would ultimately have to be framed by lawmakers and interested parties intent on limiting the amount of ink spilled (or bytes used) to comply with whatever the legislation looks like when it leaves committee; but this bipartisan issue goes way beyond blue state-red state politics. When it comes to data-related crime, we’re all in the same state—a state of emergency.

9 Things to Know Before Buying Life Insurance

Life is unpredictable. So, even when doing very well in life, you are never sure what the future holds for you or your beloved family. Perhaps nothing  provides more peace of mind than securing your family’s financial future for the day “when you are not there.” The question is: How?

It takes more than just saving

  • You will have a hard time securing your family’s future just by saving and cutting expenses.
  • A life insurance policy can fulfill your family’s immediate cash flow requirements.
  • Your family can face no, or minimum, disruption financially if something happens to you.
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Getting the best of an insurance policy

  • You need a well-thought-out insurance plan and must pay attention to various aspects of a policy.
  • Remember: Insurance is a long-term investment, and it’s difficult to make changes in a policy’s terms later.

Here are 9 things to bear in mind before buying or upgrading an insurance policy:

1. Figure out your insurance needs

  • Your insurance needs depend on whether you are single, married with children, married without children, a single parent, an empty nester or a retiree.
  • The first thing you need to figure out is who and what needs to be covered under your life insurance policy — mortgage, utilities, healthcare, education of any children, etc.
  • Ideally, your family, home and the status of your career should be reflected in your insurance policy.

2. What type of insurance do you need?

Term insurance

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  • It has no investment component.
  • It provides coverage for a specific period at fixed premiums.
  • Compared with cash-value insurance, term insurance has lower premiums
  • You need to decide the amount and period of coverage – 10, 15, 25 or 30 years.
  • In the event of the insured’s death, beneficiaries get the face value of the policy tax free.

Cash-value or permanent life insurance

  • It covers the lifetime of the insured.
  • Permanent life insurance is of many types: whole life, universal life and variable life.
  • Such policies have a cash value – you are paid back a portion of your premium.
  • Tax is not charged on such policies until you withdraw the cash value or surrender your policy before your death.

3. Make sure premiums are affordable:

  • Keep your financial limits in mind.
  • Go for a policy whose initial, as well as future, premiums are within your range.3

4. Read policy terms carefully

  • It’s imperative to carefully review the terms, coverage premiums, benefits, renewals and termination clauses of the policy before buying it.
  • Understand the time period for providing the insurance benefits to beneficiaries in case of untimely death.
  • Your beneficiaries should also have information about your insurance policy and its terms and conditions.

5. Study before dropping or replacing a policy

  • Weigh the pros and cons before dropping your current policy in favor of a new one.
  • Insurance companies charge to drop or replace your current policy with a new one.

6. Keep track of renewal policies

  • Even if your health status changes, most term insurance policies can be renewed for a term or more.
  • The premiums for renewed term policies are higher.
  • Ask about the amount of premiums to be paid if renewal is sought after a certain age.
  • Ask for the age up to which you can renew your term insurance policy.

7. Review your policy every few years

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  • You can upgrade your existing policy if your requirements change.
  • Take inflation, current economic status, changing family size and future plans into count while reviewing your insurance policy.

8. Be accurate on your application

  • Hiding personal health information or filing wrong information to get lower premiums can later lead to the loss of coverage and benefits.
  • Insurance companies can deny full benefits to beneficiaries if you die of an illness you had before signing the policy and did not reveal.

9. Avoid solely depending on your employer’s insurance

  • Life insurance should be 10 to 12 times of your salary, but your employer may not offer that amount.
  • You’ll lose your coverage if you change your job or your health declines.
  • Employer-provided life insurance tends to get more expensive as you age.