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posture check and stretch break

Posture Check and Stretch Break

Posture Check and Stretch Breaks!

Table of Contents

Posture Check – Sitting

Workspace Tips

Posture Check - Standing

Stretches - During the Workday

Shoulder Stretch

Side Neck Stretch

Seated Side Torso Stretch

Seated Torso Twist

Shoulder Blade Squeeze

Seated March

Stretches - Work-from-Home

Standing Thigh Stretch/Quadriceps Stretch

Hamstring Stretch

Calf Stretch

Knee-to-Chest Stretch

Lower Back Rotational Stretch

Stretches - After a Day of Standing

Split Squats

Standing Half Moon

Tree Pose

Fold Forwards

Plank

Whether we’re sitting or standing for most of the day, how we’re sitting and standing, how often we move throughout the day, and our movement types can affect our well-being. Adjusting our posture and adding in some simple stretches can positively affect how we feel.

Posture Check:

Working with a bad posture for extended periods of time can lead to muscle aches and pains, so starting with a good foundation is important. Here is an example from the Mayo Clinic1:

Workspace Tips:

Adjust Your Chair and Armrests So Your:

  • Feet are flat on the floor
  • Thighs are parallel to the floor
  • Arms are gently resting with shoulders relaxed

Keyboard, Mouse, and Typing

  • Use keyboard shortcuts for less mouse use
  • Your mouse should be within easy reach and on the same surface as your keyboard
  • Adjust mouse sensitivity so only a light touch is needed
  • Try switching the mouse occasionally to the opposite side you normally use
  • When typing - wrists straight, upper arms close to your body, and hands at or slightly below the level of your elbows

Important Items

  • Keep your most used items close by to avoid reaching
  • Stand to reach any items out of comfortable reaching distance

Phone

  • Use a headset or phone speaker rather than holding the phone between your head and neck

Monitor

  • Monitors should be about an arm’s length away
  • The top of the screen should be at or slightly below eye level
  • For bifocal wearers

Posture Tips When Standing All Day:

Feet

Try to keep your weight on the balls of your feet

Knees

Soften your knees when you’re standing. Locking your knees can close off your circulation and can cause knee and low back pain.

Legs

Stand with your legs slightly apart, with feet about shoulder-width apart, to help increase your base of support and help you use both sides of your body equally.

Core

Tightening your core muscles can take some of the stress of your feet and knees.

Posture Overall

Your head, shoulders, hips, and knees should line up.

Small Movements

  • Shift your weight from side to side occasionally to equalize your weight bearing and activate your core.
  • Bend your knees occasionally throughout the day.
  • To work the muscles on the front and back of your calves a little, rock up on your toes and down on your heels periodically.

Stretches:

Consider your current activity levels and any medical conditions you have before stretching or adding more activity to your day. Taking things slowly and letting your body naturally build up strength and flexibility can be more beneficial for your overall health. The below lists do not cover all stretches you can potentially add to your day - these are just a few suggestions! Always consult your doctor if you have questions or concerns about certain stretches or movements and for advice on stretches that could work for you.

For some stretches to do during the office workday:

Shoulder Stretch

To Start: Sit tall with your feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart

Step-by-Step:

  1. Bring one of your arms across your body and hold it with your opposite arm, either above or below the elbow
  2. Hold for about 30 seconds
  3. Return to starting position and repeat on other side

Side Neck Stretch

To Start: Sit tall with your feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart

Step-by-Step:

  1. Slowly turn your head to look over your shoulder with back against the chair and shoulders forward
  2. Hold for 10-30 seconds
  3. Return to starting position and repeat on other side

Repetition: 6 – 8 times on each side. Rest before a second set

Seated Side Torso Stretch

To Start: Sit tall with your feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart

Step-by-Step:

  1. Place hands behind your head with elbows out to the side, cross your arms over your body, or leave your arms at your sides
  2. Bend your body to one side, bending at the waist but keeping your head facing forward. Hold 5 seconds
  3. Return to starting position and repeat on other side

Repetition: 6 – 8 times on each side. Rest before a second set

Seated Torso Twist

To Start: Sit tall with your feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart

Step-by-Step:

  1. Place hands behind your head with elbows out to the side, cross your arms over your body, or leave your arms at your sides
  2. Slowly twist your body to one side with your head following your body as you turn. Twist from your waist without moving your hips
  3. Hold for 10-30 seconds
  4. Return to starting position and repeat on other side

Repetition: 6 – 8 times on each side. Rest before a second set

Shoulder Blade Squeeze

To Start: Sit tall with your feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart

Step-by-Step

  1. Pull your shoulder blades together
  2. Hold for 5 seconds and then relax

Repetition: 3 – 5 times twice a day.

Seated March

To Start: Sit tall with your feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart

Step-by-Step:

  1. Raise one knee as high as you comfortably can
  2. Return to original position and repeat on opposite side

Repetition: 6-8 times per leg (12-16 times total). Rest before a second set

Some additional stretches to try if you’re working from home or for after the workday:

Standing Thigh Stretch/ Quadriceps Stretch

To Start: Stand with your left side to the wall. Place your left hand on the wall for balance, keeping the arm slightly bent.

Step-by-Step:

  1. Raise your right heel directly up. Reach back with your right hand and grab your foot at the hell, ankle, or sock (whichever is most comfortable). You can also grab your pant leg or just raise your foot as high as you can while still feeling comfortable.
  2. Hold for 2-3 seconds while standing tall and looking straight ahead. Your knee should be point toward the floor and your ankle should be in a straight line with your leg, not twisted to the side
  3. Let go of your pant leg/foot and slowly return to starting position. Then repeat.
  4. Complete one set, then turn around and hold the wall with your right hand when working your left leg

Repetition: 6-8 times with each foot. Rest before a second set

Note: Keeping your standing leg slightly bent can help with balance and avoiding injury. Stand tall and avoid leaning over. Talk with your doctor before trying this stretch if you’ve had hip or back surgery.

Hamstring Stretch

To Start: Stand with your left side to the wall. Place your left hand on the wall for balance, keeping the arm slightly bent.

Step-by-Step:

  1. Place your left heel on the floor in front of you. Learn forward from your hip (not your waist!)
  2. Push your hip back and reach toward your toe with your right hand. Your foot can be point up or flat on the floor, whichever is most comfortable. Your shoulders and back should be straight as you reach forward.
  3. Hold for 2-3 seconds
  4. Return to starting position then repeat.
  5. Complete one set and then turn around and work the other leg

Repetition: 6-8 times with each foot. Rest before a second set

Calf Stretch

To Start: Facing a wall, stand slightly farther than arm’s length away, feet shoulder-width apart. Lean against the wall with both hands on the wall.

Step-by-Step

  1. Bend one leg and place the foot on the ground in front of you. The other leg extends behind you with the knee slightly bent. Both feet point straight ahead.
  2. Slowly move your hips forward, keeping your lower back flat. Be sure the hell of your back foot is flat on the floor, and your weight is in your back heel.
  3. Hold for 10-30 seconds.
  4. Return to starting position then repeat.
  5. Continue alternating legs.

Repetition: 3-5 times with each leg. Rest before a second set

Knee-to-Chest Stretch

To Start: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor

Step-by-Step

  1. Using both hands, pull one knee up and press it to your chest
  2. Tighten your abdominals and press your spine to the floor
  3. Hold for 5 seconds
  4. Return to starting position then repeat with the opposite leg
  5. Return to the starting position and then repeat with both legs at the same time

Repetition: 2-3 times for each stretch. Try to do this once in the morning and once in the evening

Lower Back Rotational Stretch

To Start: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.

Step-by-Step

  1. Keeping your shoulders firmly on the floor, roll your bent knees to one side
  2. Hold for 5-10 seconds
  3. Return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side

Repetition: 2-3 times for each stretch. Try to do this once in the morning and once in the evening

Stretches for after a day of standing

Split Squats

To Start: Stand tall with feet about shoulder width apart.

Step-by-Step

  1. Step forward with one leg and take the other leg back for a long stance.
  2. Slowly drop straight down until your back knee touches the floor. You should feel your front thigh stretching.
  3. Slowly rise up again and repeat with your legs reversed.

Repetition: 2-3 times for each stretch.

Standing Half Moon

To Start: Stand tall with feet shoulder-width apart.

Step-by-Step

  1. Raise your arms above your head until the palms touch, keeping your arms straight.
  2. Bend to the right, slowly, until you can feel the muscles on the left side of your body stretching. Try to keep the rest of your body as still as possible and don’t push your hips to the left.
  3. Hold for 10 seconds
  4. Return to standing position then bend to the left and repeat.

Repetition: 1-2 times for each stretch.

Tree Pose

To Start: Stand tall with feet about shoulder-width apart.

Step-by-Step

  1. Raise one leg and place your foot on the inside of your thigh or your calf, whichever is more comfortable.
  2. Raise your arms above your head and bring your palms together, keeping your arms straight. You can hold your arms above your head or bring them down in front of your chest, palms still together.
  3. Hold for 10 seconds.
  4. Slowly lower your arms and leg.
  5. Repeat while standing on the other leg.

Repetition: 1-2 times for each stretch.

Fold Forwards

To Start: Stand tall with feet about shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.

Step-by-Step

  1. Slowly fold yourselves forwards until you feel a stretch in your back. Don’t push yourself further, just let your arms hang down in front of you. You should feel your back and legs stretching.
  2. Hold for 10-40 seconds.
  3. Slowly roll back up to standing.

Repetition: 1-2 times.

Plank

To Start: Lie on your front.

Step-by-Step

  1. Lift your body off the floor, holding yourself with forearms flat on the floor and only the front of your foot/toes on the floor.
  2. Hold for as long as you can, starting with a 5 second goal.
  3. Slowly lower yourself back to the floor.

Repetition: 1-2 times.

Remember

Don't push yourself when learning a new stretch or getting back into stretching. Take it slow and make sure you're always comfortable in the movement. Consult your doctor with questions and concerns and for advice.

Back to Top

 

1. Mayo Clinic. "Office ergonomics: Your how-to guide." 2. Mayo Clinic "Slide show: A guide to basic stretches. 3. Mayo Clinic. "Slide show: Back exercises in 15 minutes a day."

 

man laying on grass looking up at the sky

Mental Health Awareness - What Can I Do to Benefit My Overall Mental Health?

Mental Health Awareness

Stress

Anxiety

Resilience

What is Mental Health?

As we wind down what has been a challenging and unexpected year, it’s important to take time and check in on our mental health. Our mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being and affects how we think, feel, and act. In 2014, One in five American adults experienced a mental health issue.1

Who has Mental Health Issues?

Anyone can experience stress, anxiety, or other mental health issues, whether they are short- or long-term. The American Institute of Stress reported that in 2014, 77% of people regularly experienced physical symptoms from stress, 73% regularly experienced psychological symptoms form stress, and 33% felt they were living with extreme stress.2 The American Psychology Association found that 67% of adults say they have experienced increased stress amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.3

Some things we can learn more about to better understand our mental health and how to improve it are stress, anxiety, and resilience.

STRESS

What is Stress?

Stress and anxiety are two different responses we can have to a situation or challenge. "Stress is very common, and we all deal with it in our day-to-day lives. It's what we feel when a deadline is looming or in anticipation of an important event or occasion," explains Dr. Ali Sawal, a primary care practitioner at Houston Methodist. Stress is just a part of overall mental health, but it’s important for us to acknowledge and better understand it when considering the potential physical and psychological consequences as well as its potential negative impact on our relationships.

A generally unpleasant feeling, stress can provide short-term physiological changes that help us, like increased concentration and enhanced reaction time.4 However, this is due to our body reacting as if we’re under attack, – increased heart rate and breathing, increased blood pressure, tense muscles- and constantly feeling stressed negatively affects our physical health and emotions.

We have options when it comes to managing our stress. One possible approach is a “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction,” as Cigna defines it. Mindfulness helps us focus only on things happening in the moment, purposefully paying attention to our surroundings (the sights, sounds, smells, etc.), emotions, thoughts, and body.

Examples from Cigna include:

  • When you go outside, take a few deep breaths. What's the air like? Is it warm or cold? How does the warmth or chill feel on your body? Try to accept that feeling and not resist it. Notice any plants, their colors, and the contrast of those colors against the sky and clouds.
  • Eat a meal in silence. Don't do anything but focus on your food. Smell your food before eating it. Notice what your food looks like. Eat slowly and savor each bite. What flavors do you taste?
  • When you can, take some time at the beginning of your day to sit alone and think. Focus on your breathing. Gaze out the window and listen to the sounds outdoors. Or take a slow walk by yourself. Count your steps while you breathe in and out.
  • If you can do this at work, try to stop for a few moments each hour. Note how your body feels. Let yourself regroup and let your mind settle before you return to what you were doing.

More action-based tips include:

  • Exercising. Regular exercise (walking, jogging, a sport you enjoy) is one of the best ways to manage stress.
  • Writing. It can help to write about the things that are bothering you.
  • Letting your feelings out. Talk, laugh, cry, and express anger when you need to with someone you trust.
  • Doing something you enjoy. A hobby can help you relax. Volunteer work or work that helps others can be a great stress reliever.
  • Set a routine. If you had a routine that’s recently been interrupted, create a new one for yourself to follow.

Other tips include setting short term goals, verbally reminding yourself of your abilities, and giving your thoughts a break.

ANXIETY

What is Anxiety?

Remember that stress and anxiety are different. Anxiety is “when stress or worry become so excessive or so persistent that it negatively affects your daily life, as well as your ability to cope with the everyday stressors." Anyone can experience anxiety, but anxiety has no advantages.4

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

  • Excessive or persistent worrying that occurs more often than not
  • Muscle tension and restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Nausea and abdominal cramping
  • Hyperarousal – your body suddenly goes into high alert, can include palpitations and sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Too much or too little sleep
  • Be easily startled

Anxiety symptoms can negatively affect your interpersonal relationships as well, which can increase your anxiety and stress and continuing the negative cycle. Many of the tips for handling stress can apply to managing anxiety, but if anxiety begins to affect your everyday life, remember that it is not a weakness to ask for help.

Talk to your doctor about your symptoms to make sure an unrelated physical issue isn’t causing them. They can usually refer you to a mental health specialist. You can also search for one on your own. A mental health specialist, such as a cognitive behavioral therapist, can help you learn different or new ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to situations can help decrease anxiety and worry.5

RESILIENCE

What is Resilience?

How do we handle stress, anxiety, and other mental health challenges? Cigna defines “resilience” as the ability to quickly recover from challenges. and they have completed several studies on “Resilience” and “Resiliency.” According to the Cigna Resilience Index, resilience is at risk in three in five Americans, with young adults at the highest risk. We’re less likely to quickly recover from challenges if our resilience is low or at risk. Incorporating simple methods for building resilience into our lives can help us in the long-term.

Cigna’s GROW framework

G – Ground yourself in the situation

R – Recognize what you can control

O – Organize the resources you need

W – Work with your community for support

Other ways to maintain positive mental health include1:

  • Getting professional help if you need it
  • Connecting with others
  • Staying positive
  • Getting physically active
  • Helping others
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Developing coping skills

Conclusion:

Our mental health is a big part of our overall well-being. Understanding what mental health is and what affects it can help us better manage our overall health on a daily basis. While we may not have a single simple solution to mental health, we can learn healthy mental health habits and develop them to increase our resilience. As always, you should discuss any health concerns, questions, or issues with your doctor and see what mental health wellness benefits your health insurance may offer and/or cover.

Back to Top

 

  1. https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/what-is-mental-health
  2. https://www.stress.org/daily-life
  3. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2020/report-october
  4. https://www.houstonmethodist.org/blog/articles/2020/dec/what-anxiety-feels-like-and-why-it-happens/
  5. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad/index.shtml
 
 

holiday season safety

What are the Most Common Holiday Related Accidents?

Table of Contents

Decorating Safety

Fire Safety

Cooking Safety

Food Safety

Holiday Gathering Safety

What are the Most Common Holiday Related Accidents?

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates there are about 15,000 annual injuries from Christmas decorating. According to a 2020 CPSC publication1:

  • On average, about 200 decorating-related injuries occurred each day during the holiday season, with about half of the incidents involving falls. And in the 2018 holiday season, about 17,500 people were treated in emergency rooms due to holiday decorating-related injuries.
  • In the last two decades, there were 220 fire or scald/burn incidents turkey fryers, resulting in 81 injuries and $9.7 million in property loss.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)2 estimates that between 2014-2018, the U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 160 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an average of two deaths, 14 injuries, and $10 million in direct property damage annually.

  • Almost half (45%) of home Christmas tree fires involved electrical distribution or lighting equipment.
  • More than 1/5 (22%) of the Christmas tree fires, some type of heat source, such as a candle or equipment, was too close to the tree.

U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 770 home structure fires per year that began with decorations, excluding Christmas trees, in 2014-2018. These fires caused an annual average of two civilian deaths, 30 civilian fire injuries, and $11 million in direct property damage.

  • In more than 2 of every 5 (44%) fires, the decoration was too close to a heat source such as a candle or equipment.

How Do I Protect Myself from Common Accidents This Holiday Season?

The following safety tips are an overview of ways to stay safe this holiday season. Always read the directions for equipment (lights, ladders, fryers, etc.) and follow common sense practices for placing decorations and candles.

Decorating Safety1:

  • Keep potentially poisonous plants – mistletoe, holly berries, Jerusalem cherry and amaryllis – away from children and pets.
  • Avoid placing breakable ornaments or ones with small, detachable parts on lower tree branches where small children can reach them.
  • Only use indoor lights indoors and outdoor lights outdoors and choose the right ladder for the task when hanging lights.
  • Replace light sets that have broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections.
  • Only use lights tested for safety by a national recognized testing laboratory.
  • Follow the package directions on the number of light sets that can be plugged into one socket
  • Never nail, tack, or stress wiring when hanging lights and keep plugs off the ground away from puddles and snow.
  • Turn off all lights and decorations when you go to bed or leave the house.
  • Ensure the ladder is on a level surface and the areas around its top and bottom are clear.
  • Stay centered between the ladder’s rails. Move the ladder instead of overreaching.
  • An extension or straight ladder used to access an elevated surface must extend at least 3 feet above the point of support. Do not stand on the three top rungs of a straight, single or extension ladder.
  • The proper angle for setting up a ladder is to place its base a quarter of the working length of the ladder from the wall or other vertical surface (see diagram).

Diagram courtesy of OSHA.

Fire Safety2:

Candles, fireplaces, Christmas trees, and flammable seasonal decorations will all make appearances this holiday season, and having The National Fire Protection Association reports that one-third of home decoration fires are started by candles and that two of every five decoration fires happen because the decorations are placed too close to a heat source. Never leave candles or fireplaces burning unattended or when you are asleep.

Candles

  • Place candles where they cannot be knocked down or blown over and out of reach of children or pets.
  • Keep matches and lighters up high and out of reach from children in a locked cabinet.
  • Use flameless candles near flammable objects.

Fireplaces

  • Check and clean the chimney and fireplace area at least once a year.
  • Don't burn trees, wreaths or wrapping paper in the fireplace as these can cause flash fires.
  • Always use a screen on the fireplace when a fire is burning

Christmas Trees

  • Place your tree at least 3 feet away from fireplaces, radiators, and other heat sources, making certain not to block doorways.
  • Artificial trees: check that it is labeled “Fire Resistant.”
  • Live trees: cut off about 2 inches of the trunk to expose fresh wood for better water absorption; remember to water it and remove it from your home when it’s dry.

Cooking Safety1:

  • Never leave food unattended on the stove or in the oven.
  • Keep children away from the cooking area and keep flammable items like potholders and paper or plastic bags away from the stove and oven.
  • Only fry a turkey outside and away from your home – not inside your garage or on your porch. Do not overfill the oil in the turkey fryer. The oil can reach temperatures that can cause third degree burns (350 degrees F!).
  • Avoid loose fitting clothing that can get caught in food or fires.
  • Turn pan handles so that they are not over the stove top.
  • Make sure you’ve inspected your fire extinguisher’s pressure gauge (it should be in the green), the hose/nozzle (make sure there’s no cracks, rips, or blockages), the locking pin, and the handle.
  • If a pan catches on fire, cover it with a lid to smother the flames or use a fire extinguisher. Never use flour or water to put out a pan fire. Call 911 if necessary.

Food Safety4:

  • Wash your hands frequently when handling food.
  • Rinse produce before you peel it to help avoid transferring dirt and bacteria from the knife into the fruit or vegetable. Gently wash the produce under plain running water – no soap or produce wash needed. Use a clean vegetable brush for firm produce (melons, cucumbers, etc.).
  • Keep raw meat away from fresh produce.
  • Use separate cutting boards, plate, and utensils for uncooked and cooked meats to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Use a food thermometer to make sure meat is cooked to a safe temperature.
  • Refrigerate hot or cold leftover food within two hours of being served.
  • When storing turkey, cut the leftovers in small pieces so they will chill quickly.
  • Holiday leftovers are safe for three to four days when properly refrigerated.
  •  

Holiday Gathering Safety5:

  • Consider virtual get togethers this year.
  • Limit the number of attendees as much as possible to allow people from different households to always remain at least 6 feet apart. Guests should avoid direct contact, including handshakes and hugs, with others not from their household.
  • Host outdoor rather than indoor gatherings as much as possible. Even outdoors, advise guests to wear masks when not eating or drinking.
  • To increase ventilation, open windows and doors (as much as is safe and feasible based on the weather) or place central air and heating on continuous circulation.
  • Provide and/or encourage attendees to bring supplies to help everyone stay healthy. These include extra masks (do not share or swap with others), hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, and tissues. Stock bathrooms with enough hand soap and single use towels.
  • Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and any shared items between use when possible.

Learn how Personal Accident Insurance or Hospitalization Insurance from ManhattanLife can help you keep your out-of-pocket costs when the unexpected happens.

Back to top.

  1. https://www.cpsc.gov/Safety-Education/Safety-Education-Centers/holiday-safety
  2. https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Fire-causes-and-risks/Seasonal-fire-causes/Winter-holidays/Holiday-fires-by-the-numbers
  3. https://www.emergencyphysicians.org/article/health--safety-tips/holiday-safety-tips
  4. https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep-food-safe
  5. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html
 

holiday scams and fraud

What Can I Do to Protect Myself from Holiday Scams?

Holiday Scams and Fraud

Table of Contents

What Are the Costs of Fraud and Scams?

What are Common Holiday Scams?

What are Signs that It’s A Scam?

Other Scam Warning Signs

How Do I Protect Myself from Scams?

What Do I Do If I’m the Victim of Fraud or a Holiday Scam?

What Are the Costs of Fraud and Scams?

In 2018 alone, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) estimated that “non-delivery” and “non-payment” scams together affected more than 65,000 victims, causing almost $184 million in losses.1 The Federal Trade Commission reported that 3.2 million people filed reports in 2019, and 1.7 million were fraud reports, imposter scams, identity theft, and other reports. More than $1.9 billion was lost to fraud in 2019 – an estimated $667 million of that was lost to imposter scams.2

Fraud and scams don’t just affect individuals. In 2019, the Better Business Bureau found that business email compromise scams have cost businesses and other organizations more than $3 billion since 2016.3

As the number of reported scams and fraud attempts increase every year, it’s important to be aware and informed on how they work and when they’re most prevalent. One of the times that scammers work extra hard is during the holidays, when they can take advantage of the increased amount of shopping and donating. This year especially, as the majority of shopping will be done online, scammers will have plenty of opportunities.

What are Common Holiday Scams?

Non-delivery scams

Non-delivery scams affect the buyer. You pay for something but never receive the item, and the seller becomes hard to reach or unreachable completely.

Non-payment scams

Non-payment scams affect the seller. You ship the item but never receive payment, and the buyer becomes hard to reach or unreachable completely.

Phony Package Delivery Failure

Scammers send realistic-looking email or text notifications of delivery failure and request follow up information. Call the local post office or the delivery service to verify before giving out any information through email, text message, or on the Internet.

Public Wi-Fi

In general, you should avoid connecting to public Wi-Fi to access bank accounts or any other sensitive data. Scammers pay special attention to hotels, coffee shops, and other places that offer free Wi-Fi. When someone tries to connect, the scammer sends pop-ups requesting the person install an app or software before connecting.

Holiday E-Card Malware

Be on alert for an influx of holiday themed emails from unknown senders. If you’re tempted to click on links in an email, you can use your mouse to hover over the hyperlink and verify the destination.

Fake Charities

Scammers will create fake charities to ask for donations. You may receive phone calls, texts, or emails from an official or familiar-sounding charity asking for donations. The email or text may have a link that takes you to a fake website. The link itself could download malware once you click it. Research the charity before visiting any website.

Holiday Vacation Scams

Beware fake travel sites and too-good-to-be-true offers. Research travel agencies before providing any personal information or clicking any links in emails or text messages.

Auction Fraud

The item you receive is not the same as the one pictured on the website. This is most common on auction sites. Look for reviews and a return policy.

Gift Card Fraud

A seller asks you to purchase a gift card and give them the numbers on the back of the card as payment.

What are Signs that It’s A Scam?

The Federal Trade Commission defined 5 P’s to watch out for when it comes to scammers.

  1. PRETEND
  2. PROBLEM
  3. PRIZE
  4. PRESSURE
  5. PAY
5 P's of Scam Warning Signs; Pretend, scammers impersonate someone from an official business or organization; Problem, scammers lie and say there is a problem you must fix immediately; Pay, scammers lie and say you've won something but you must pay a fee first; Pressure, scammers try to make you act rashly; Pay, scammers ask for a specific payment method

Other Scam Warning Signs

  • Huge discounts, especially when featured on social media posts or unfamiliar websites.
  • Spelling errors or poor grammar on a shopping website or in an email.
  • A shopping or travel site does not list a phone number or street address for the business and offers only an email address or a fill-in contact form.
  • The site doesn’t have a privacy policy.
  • An email from an unknown sender asking you to click on a link or download an app to access a deal or arrange a delivery.

How Do I Protect Myself from Scams?

Whether it’s a holiday scam or a regular scam, you can help protect your identity and financial information. Here are tips from the Federal Trade Commission, the FBI, and the Better Business Bureau.

  • Resist the urge to act immediately under pressure. Verify as much information as you can before acting, whether it’s reaching out to family members or your bank directly or researching phone numbers and charity names.
  • Know the facts. For example, the IRS will never request personal financial information by email, text, or any social media, and Social Security numbers are never “suspended.”
  • When shopping on an unfamiliar website, look for clearly stated and easy to find return and refund policies.
  • Look at the reviews. Be more cautious of buyers and sellers who have mostly negative reviews/feedback or no ratings at all.
  • If you’re shopping on a new site or buying from an unfamiliar vendor, search their names with “scam,” “complaints,” “reviews,” or similar terms.
  • Get tracking numbers for your online purchases and check on your delivery estimates often.
  • Avoid sellers who post using one name but ask for payment to be sent to someone else.
  • Avoid paying via wire using a money transfer company, a prepaid card, or a bank-to-bank wire transfer. It’s virtually impossible to recover money sent in these ways. Credit cards can be a safer way to pay in most cases.
    • Most credit cards offer extra protection for online purchases, and many cards offer other benefits like protection for returns. Check with your credit card company for full details and benefits.
  • Watch out for sellers who are suddenly hard to get a hold of after a sale.
  • Avoid buyers who ask for their purchase to be shipped in ways that would avoid customs or taxes inside another country.

What Do I Do If I’m the Victim of Fraud or a Holiday Scam?

If you do become the victim of a holiday scam, contact your bank immediately. You should also inform your local law enforcement agency. You can file a complaint about an Internet crime to IC3 at ic3.gov or report fraud to the Federal Trade Commission.

Sources: 1. FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), 2018 Internet Crime Report. 2. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2019. 3. Better Business Bureau (BBB), The Explosion of Business Email Compromise (BEC) Scams.

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How Can I Reduce My Risk for Flu this Year?

The Flu - Everyday Preventative Recommendations and Flu Shot Facts

When is Flu Season?

While generally considered to start in Fall and end in Winter. We're in November and heading into the peak flu activity period (December into February and sometimes March), but it's not too late to reduce your risk for the flu this year.

How can I Reduce My Risk for Flu this Year?

Everyday Preventative Recommendations from the CDC

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • If you are sick, avoid contact with other people - even if you have mild symptoms, someone could get sick and have a more severe reaction
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes using a tissue - throw the tissue away afterwards
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Clean and disinfect commonly used surfaces and objects
  • Eating right, exercising, getting enough sleep, and managing your stress can all help too

Flu Shots - True or False? 

"The flu vaccine can give you the flu." 
FALSE 
Per the CDC, flu vaccines cannot give you the flu. Vaccines are made with either inactivated (dead) viruses or with only a single protein from the flu virus. The nasal spray vaccine contains live viruses that are weakened so that they won't cause illness. 
Serious allergic reactions are rare and usually occur within a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccine. The most common side effects from flu shots are soreness, redness, tenderness, or swelling where the shot was given. Low-grade fever, headache, and muscle aches may also occur, but they usually begin soon after the vaccination and last 1-2 days. Compare these side effects to the potential effects of actually getting the flu. 
 
You can always talk with your doctor about any concerns you may have when it comes to the flu, the flu shot, and any risks you may have. 
 
"It's better to get sick with the flu than to get the flu vaccine." 
FALSE
The flu affects millions of people every year. While most recover in less than 2 weeks, it can lead to more serious conditions and complications, especially for high risk individuals including,: 
  • Adults 65 years or older
  • Children younger than 5 years old, especially those younger than 2
  • Pregnant women and women up to 2 weeks after pregnancy end
  • People with certain chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, or heart and lunch disease

Flu-related complications can range from sinus and ear infections to pneumonia or inflammation of the heart, brain, or muscle tissues. Flu-related illnesses result in hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and tens of thousands of deaths every year. Anyone can get sick from the flu, and serious problems related to flu can happen at any age. 

"You should get a flu vaccine every year." 
TRUE

Everyone ages 6 months and older should get an annual flu shot. Our immune protection declines over time, and the vaccine is reviewed every year and updated as needed based on which influenza viruses are making people sick. 

"Getting a flu vaccine is more important than ever." 
TRUE

Getting the flu vaccine will not prevent Covid-19, but you can help reduce the burden of flu illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths on the health care system. Getting a flu shot can help you protect yourself and others around you. 

While the flu shot isn't a guarantee against the flu, it can help reduce your chances of getting the flu, especially when the previously mentioned preventative measures are followed.

 

Will My Insurance Cover the Flu Shot? 

Most health plans, including employer, marketplace, and Medicaid plans, cover the flu. You may want to see if your insurance company requires you to go to a specific doctor or facility. 
 

Will My Flu Shot be Covered if I'm Medicare?

You pay nothing if your doctor or qualified health care provider accepts assignment for giving the shot. 
 

What are the Main Flu Symptoms?

Flu usually comes on suddenly and symptoms often include: 

  • Body aches
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Upset stomach, vomiting, or diarrhea
 

Where can I get a Flu Shot? 

You can check with your general practitioner or even at the local pharmacy to see if they offer the flu shot. Just make sure your insurance doesn't require you to go somewhere specific. 
 

Conclusion

While a foolproof protection against the flu isn't quite a reality, we can do plenty to reduce our risk and help protect those around us. It's not too late to get your flu shot! 
 

multi-year guarantee annuity (myga) from manhattanlife

ManhattanLife Annuities: Multi-Year Guarantee Annuities (MYGAs)

Multi-Year Guarantee Annuity (MYGA) Overview

What is a MYGA?

First, let's start with a fixed annuity. A fixed annuity is a contract between you and an insurance company that helps provide you with saving and income options for retirement. 

A MYGA, or multi-year guarantee annuity, is a specific type of annuity designed to help you accumulate savings. With a MYGA, you deposit a single premium amount, and the insurance company guarantees to pay you specific rate of interest for the period you choose (3, 5, 6, or 7 years).

For instance, Mary Ann purchases a 5-year MYGA with $100,000 (her premium) at a rate of 3.00%. Her tax-deferred growth starts immediately! Her single premium earns interest from the contract date, and the interest rate will be credited and compounded daily for an effective annual yield. In 5 years, Mary Ann's money can grow to $115,927! She gets the benefits of a guaranteed low risk investment, compound interest, and tax-deferred growth all in one. 

*The above graph assumes no surrenders or other withdrawals are made throughout the contract lifetime. 

Isn't that like a Certificate of Deposit (CD)?

In a lot of ways, MYGAs are like CD's you could buy from a financial institution. They both offer a fixed interest rate for a specified period. However, MYGAs offer certain benefits when compared to CD's. 

First, MYGAs generally offer higher interest rates than CD's. The average rate on CD's in January 2019 was just 1.25%. By contrast, the average 5-year MYGA rate was 2.87%, with the highest MYGAs crediting upwards of 4.00%!

In addition, all the interest you earn in a MYGA is tax-deferred. That means you only pay interest when you take withdrawals. So instead of being reduced by taxes, more of your money works to earn interest. 

That sounds great! What are the downsides? 

MYGAs are designed to offer you a safe and consistent return on your money. Because of that safety, they may not be able to offer you the higher returns that other, riskier financial products can offer. MYGAs are best suited for people who want to avoid high risk investments or can't afford to lose portions of their savings if the market drops. 

To offer safe returns at a competitive rate, insurance companies generally deduct a fee from surrenders greater than an allowed "free withdrawal" amount taken during the surrender charge period. This fee, called a surrender charge, is often a fixed percentage (such as 8%) of the annuity value (the premium plus interest in the annuity) and generally decreases every year. At the end of the surrender charge period (ranging from 3 to 7 years), you may withdraw your money, start income payments, or start a new guaranteed rate period without a surrender charge. 

Do I always have to pay a fee?

We understand that life happens, and you may need your money sooner than you initially thought. With you and the unexpected in mind, many of our MYGAs include generous free withdrawal provisions which allow you to take a portion of your annuity (usually up to 15% of the annuity value) free of charge. 

What about income? 

MYGAs can also be used to provide income payments. ManhattanLife annuity products offer flexible income options, including life income payments, which can help you worry less about outliving your savings. 

How do I know how much I'll get exactly?

Several factors go into calculating the amount that will be paid out, such as the payout option selected, the interest rate, the annuitant's life expectancy, withdrawals taken throughout the annuity's accumulation phase, and more. 

Several of ManhattanLife's MYGAs have an MVA. What is that?

An MVA, or market-value adjustment, is a feature that allows us to credit a higher interest rate because you take on some additional risk if you fully surrender your contract or take a withdrawal greater than the allowed amount. 

How do I learn more about Annuities from ManhattanLife?

You can have a producer contact you to discuss your goals and annuity options. We offer a variety of annuity products built with our contract holders in mind. You can see an overview of our annuity options here. 

Annuity Terms

Accumulation Phase

The period when your annuity earns interest and before payouts begin

Annuity Value

Single premium minus withdrawals and premium taxes (if applicable) plus credited interest 

Payout Phase

The period when the insurance company begins making payments according to the terms of your contract

Market Value Adjustment (MVA)

An adjustment that may increase or decrease the amount you receive on withdrawals that are subject to a surrender charge. 

Surrender Charge

The exact percentage will be stated in your contract, usually a fixed percentage of the annuity value 

Surrender Value

Surrender value = annuity value times MVA, if applicable, minus surrender charges

 

*Your annuity may be issued by The Manhattan Life Insurance Company or by Western United Life Assurance Company, which are ManhattanLife companies. An annuity is NOT: 1) a certificates of deposit (CD); 2) FDIC or NCUA insured; 3) insured by any federal government agency; or 4) guaranteed by a bank, savings association, or credit union. Guarantees are based on the financial strength and claims-paying ability of ManhattanLife. 

 

2020-2021 manhattanlife medicare supplement

ManhattanLife and Medicare Supplement

Medicare Supplement and ManhattanLife

Over the last five years, we have grown our Medicare Supplement business by over 60%, and we now service over 100,000 Medicare Supplement policies. ManhattanLife has become a household name among agents selling Medicare Supplement policies.

Continuing the Positive Trend

We have continued to strengthen our position in the Medicare Supplement market in efforts to better serve our current and future policyholders.

In July 2020, we announced the launch of our expanded Medicare Supplement partnership with Integrity Marketing Group. In September 2020, we launched a partnership with Farm Bureau, where we are the endorsed Medicare Supplement carrier for Farm Bureau members in Georgia.

This demanding market requires excellent customer service, prompt underwriting, and quick and accurate claims turnaround, and the ManhattanLife team delivers. Our growth and continued success are testaments to the commitment we have to our agents and policyholders.

What you need to know for the 2020 Medicare Annual Enrollment Period

Starting 10/1/2020, ManhattanLife started taking business requesting a 1/1/2021 effective date.

If you are coming off a Medicare Advantage plan and are going through underwriting, we will not require proof of disenrollment.

If you are coming off a Medicare Advantage plan and are applying as Guaranteed Issue, we will require documentation.

We offer Medicare Supplement policies in 36 states!*

* Depending on your state, your policy may be underwritten by ManhattanLife Assurance Company of America, The Manhattan Life Insurance Company, or Western United Life Assurance Company.

Have an agent contact you or visit our Medicare Supplement page for more information.

 

2020 medicare supplement plan chart

Medicare Supplement Plans and You - Know Your Options

What are My Medicare Supplement Options?

If you return to Original Medicare during the Annual Election Period (October 15th – December 7th), you could be eligible for a Medicare Supplement plan.

Eligible individuals can choose between Medicare Supplement plan A, B, C, D, F, high-deductible F, G, K, L, M, and N. It can be hard to decide which one best meets your needs, so we’re here with a quick guide for you.

Remember:

  • The government standardized all plan benefits, and private insurers are

    required to comply with federal and state regulations.

  • No company can offer more or fewer benefits – the only difference is the

    premium you pay.

  • Insurance companies that sell Medicare Supplement plans are required to offer

    Plan A. If they offer any other plans, they must also offer either Plan C or Plan F.

  • Not all Medicare Supplement plans may be available in your state

  • Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and Minnesota are ‘waiver’ states and have

    standardized their Medicare Supplement plans differently (visit Medicare.gov for more details)

*Plan F has a You must pay for Medicare-covered costs up to the deductible amount of $2,340 in 2020 before your Medicare Supplement plan pays. ManhattanLife offers the standard Plan F only.

**For Plan K and Plan L – You must meet your out-of-pocket yearly limit and your yearly Part B deductible before your Medicare Supplement plan pays 100% of covered services for the rest of the calendar year. Plan K deductible: $5,880 in 2020. Plan L deductible: $2,940 in 2020.

***Plan N pays 100% of the Part B deductible, except for up to a $20 copayment for some office visits and up to a $50 copayment for ER visits that don’t result in inpatient admission.

 

When am I Eligible for Medicare Supplement?

First Eligibility Period

If you enroll in Medicare Part B the month you turn 65, a 6-month open enrollment period begins. During this time, you can buy any Medicare Supplement plan sold in your state – even if you have medical issues or disabilities. Insurance companies aren’t allowed to use your medical history or pre-existing conditions as a basis for charging you more for coverage or denying you altogether.

Fall Medicare Annual Election Period and Open Enrollment Period

If you disenroll from Medicare Advantage and return to Original Medicare during either the Medicare Annual Election Period or the Open Enrollment Period, you could become eligible for a Medicare Supplement plan.

Year-Round Options

You may change or enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan any time throughout the year. Depending on your age and situation, your application may go through underwriting and you will be subject to the insurance company’s underwriting guidelines.

 

Remember that with MACRA, Plan C, Plan F, and high-deductible Plan F are no longer available for those eligible for Medicare ON or AFTER January 1, 2020. Anyone who become eligible or who enrolled prior to January 1, 2020 may switch to Plan C or Plan F if it's available in your state. 


For information on the products ManhattanLife offers, visit Medicare Supplement Plans for seniors.

 

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How Much Can a Medigap Plan Save You When Medical Bills Stack Up? We Did the Math.

MEDICARE SUPPLEMENT

A Medicare Supplement plan, also called a Medigap plan, is designed to cover the healthcare costs that Medicare won't. In order to show how important a Medigap plan can be in protecting you from out-of-pocket costs, we calculated how much money a Medigap plan would save you in the event of an unlikely, yet completely possible, serious medical issue.

MEDICARE PARTS A & B

PART A DEDUCTIBLE

In 2020, the Medicare Part A deductible is $1,408. Those with Original Medicare must pay this deductible for each 60-day benefit period. This means that if you were to be admitted to a hospital after 60 days, you would have to pay the $1,408 deductible again. If you were to visit the hospital 4 times in one year, a Medicare Supplement plan, also called a Medigap plan, could save you $5,632. Medicare Supplement plans B, C, D, F, G, and N cover 100% of the Part A deductible, while plan L covers 75% and plans K and M cover 50%.

HOSPITAL STAY

If you need to stay in the hospital, Original Medicare will cover your first 60 days. From day 61 to day 90, however, you will have to pay $352 per day for a total of $10,560.

From the 91st day on, those with Original Medicare would have to pay $704 per day for the next 60 days, called your “lifetime reserve days”. Without a Medicare Supplement plan, you only get 60 lifetime reserve days for your entire lifetime. Once those are used, your stay in the hospital could cost you as much as $4,000 a day, based on an article written in Money Magazine.

If you had any of the Medigap plans offered in your state, you would be covered for all of the costs you accumulated during your “lifetime reserve days”, which would be a total of $42,240. After that, you would also receive an additional 365 days’ worth of hospital coverage. Medicare does not cover any costs after your “lifetime reserve days”, so a Medigap plan could save you $4,000 per day for 215 days if you were to need to spend the rest of the year in the hospital, totaling to $860,000.

Medicare Part A Coverage

 

SKILLED NURSING COSTS:

If you required care from a Skilled Nursing Facility, you would have to pay $176 from days 21-100 if you only had Original Medicare, totaling to $14,080. Most Medigap plans will cover 100% of these costs, apart from plans A, B, K and L.

PART B DEDUCTIBLE

The annual Medicare Part B deductible in 2020 is $198, and is covered by Medicare Supplement plans C and F.

DOCTOR FEES (SAVINGS WILL VARY)

With Original Medicare, you still pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for most doctor services. Medicare Supplement plans F or G would cover 100% of what your left with from doctor fees, as well as 100% of any charges your doctor may charge you beyond the Medicare reimbursement rate. The amounts of these costs will vary based on the services you receive from your doctor and the amount they charge.

BLOOD

Original Medicare does not cover your first 3 pints of blood, which cost about $150 each. All Medicare Supplement plans, apart from plans K and L, will cover 100% of the cost of the first 3 pints of blood as needed. Plan K covers 50% while Plan L covers 75% of this cost.

FOREIGN TRAVEL EMERGENCY

Original Medicare does not cover any foreign travel emergencies. Medicare Supplement plans C, D, F, G, M, and N provide foreign travel health coverage of 80% of your healthcare costs up to $50,000.

DOING THE MATH

If you add all the costs above, a Medicare Supplement, or Medigap, plan could save you over $950,000. Now, it would be extremely unlikely to undergo a medical emergency that would accumulate all the costs above, but serious medical emergencies do happen. As you can see, medical expenses can seriously stack up, and without the protection of a Medicare Supplement plan, you could be stuck with paying for them out-of-pocket.

Have an agent contact you with more information or visit our Medicare Supplement page for more information.

 

For more information on what Medicare Part A covers.

Medicare Costs at a Glance.

CMS.gov Fact Sheet – 2020 Medicare Parts A & B Premiums and Deductibles

 

medicare supplement or medicare advantage choice

17 Reasons Consumers Choose Medicare Supplement Over Medicare Advantage

Below is a list of the main reasons consumers choose a Medicare Supplement plan over a Medicare Advantage plan.

1. All medical bills paid for by insurance

2. The ability to use any doctor or hospital

3. A plan that is simple to use

4. Unrestricted access to specialists

5. Coverage that is guaranteed and will not change

6. The ability to get care, even if you're traveling

7. Unrestricted access to hospitals

8. Nationwide emergency coverage at no additional costs

9. The ability to get Rx filled at preferred pharmacy

11. No copays for office visits

12. Not restricted to a certain network of doctors or hospitals

13. Access to advanced technology, like MRIs

14. Will be able to keep my current insurer

15. The ability to keep your doctor

16. Only one bill a month

17. Different Medicare Supplement plans to choose from

If you are looking for any of these perks in your healthcare coverage, visit our Medicare Supplement Plans page.