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How a Krav Maga Class Gave Me More Than Self-Defense

January 24, 2020

Though hesitant at first, I was awarded for stepping out of my comfort zone
By Lisa Kanarek

 

My family would describe me as anything but a risk-taker. “Grandma drives faster than you!” my youngest likes to tease me. So when I announced I was going to veer out of my comfort zone and sign up for a self-defense class, my children, my husband and even my mom with the lead foot were a bit skeptical.

I searched online for self-defense classes and kept finding this term: “Krav Maga.” In Hebrew, it means “contact combat.” This method of self-defense, created in the 1930s by Imi Lichtenfeld and used by the Israeli army, is a hybrid of several techniques, including boxing, wrestling, judo and Muay Thai (Thai boxing).

A gym near my house was offering a free, two-hour session. I submitted my name and phone number and for the next five days leading up to the class, I questioned whether yoga would have been a wiser and safer choice.

Summoning the Courage

The morning of the class, I pulled up to the gym, grabbed my water bottle along with the small dose of courage I brought with me and walked inside. A bald, stocky guy with arms the size of my thighs, stepped out of his office. He smiled, introduced himself as the chief instructor and handed me a clipboard with a release form. I signed the form and joined a group of men and women gathered on the mats.

“When some students first come into the gym, they feel intimidated,” says Brian Meyers, owner of Catalyst Krav Maga Academy in Overland Park, Kansas. They’re afraid of getting hurt or hurting someone and are very cautious. When the fear goes away, they really start to progress.”

By the time the class ended, I was full of energy, like I had downed a triple-shot espresso.

After a brief orientation, our instructor taught us the neutral stance and the fighting stance. Then, we learned how to kick and knee someone where it counts and how to strike using the palms of our hands.

After the instructor demonstrated various choke-escape techniques, I thought “What did I sign up for?” Seconds later, I reminded myself I was on a quest to push my boundaries.

We reviewed a few more moves before he directed us to pair up. As a woman in my 50s, I wasn’t sure anyone would rush to be my partner.

OK, Maybe I Can Do This

Credit: Lisa Kanarek

Lisa Kanarek (left) does some punching training with fellow Krav Maga student Kendra Hernandez

I looked around and spotted a woman at least 20 years younger than me. She agreed to work with me on some self-defense scenarios. With her back facing me, I tugged on her ponytail. She placed her hands over mine, turned and delivered a few swift pretend kicks.

Then it was my turn. I followed the same steps, escaped her grip and felt my confidence swell. No one had to tell me I was unstoppable. I could feel it in my bones, the same ones attached to the muscles I knew would be sore the next day.

By the time the class ended, I was full of energy, like I had downed a triple-shot espresso. All I needed was a cape and a Spandex outfit with built-in Spanx.

This was unlike any other classes I had taken, especially ones related to fitness. During the entire session, I stayed alert, especially as I held a pad large enough to protect my chest and thighs while my partner punched and kicked.

“The overall health and fitness benefits that you get with doing the Krav Maga workouts keep you healthy, moving and active,” Meyers says.

Newfound Confidence

Before I entered the gym, I never imagined I would have the confidence and courage to throw a punch or an elbow strike that could deter someone twice my size.

Almost two years later, I still attend classes three times a week. And as one of the oldest females in the class — a few are half my age, while others are between five and 15 years younger — I push myself to keep up, to try harder and, more importantly, to not quit.

“You don’t have to be a twenty-year-old athlete,” Meyers says. “Krav Maga is more about where and how to strike, as opposed to being a super athlete.”

Finding a Community

In addition to sharpening my skills, I’m making friends. I’m part of a community that includes computer programmers, students, teachers and small business owners.

Not only do I enjoy spending time with my Krav Maga classmates during training sessions and at get-togethers outside of class, I know these friends figuratively have my back and literally would stand alongside me to protect it.

“The women I have trained are looking to get in shape, but are also looking for the community aspect,” says Anne Kirk, director of women’s self-protection for Krav Maga Universal in West Chester, Pa. “It’s easier and there is more accountability.”

Power and Pride

Through taking Krav Maga classes, I’ve gained a sense of power that extends beyond the gym. Whether I’m walking to my car or strolling through my neighborhood, I’m more aware of my surroundings.

I know that defending myself is not about strength, it’s about strategy. At the same time, I’m calmer and less anxious — a perk my family enjoys.

On particularly stressful days, I’ll leave my home office, slip on my boxing gloves and pummel the heavy bag hanging in my garage. I’ve increased my strength and I feel confident about protecting myself (although I hope I never have to test my skills outside of the gym).

I’m proud of the risk I took in signing up for classes. As for my driving, not much has changed. After a recent lunch date, my mom, in her 80s, suggested I accelerate to at least the speed limit. She didn’t want to be late for her tennis match.

By Lisa Kanarek

Lisa Kanarek is a freelance writer. She has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post and Reader’s Digest, among others.

 

4 LinkedIn Features to Power Your 2020 Job Search

January 21, 2020

They'll help you learn about openings and pay and let you stand out
By Nancy Collamer

If you’ve resolved to find a job in 2020, I think you’ll want to know about four features LinkedIn rolled out over the past two years that might help you land one. They’re available to all LinkedIn users, so you don’t need to pay for a LinkedIn Premium membership (about $48 to $65 a month) to enjoy them.

I’ll detail the features in a just moment. But first, a reminder that before making any updates to your LinkedIn Profile, and I mean any, be sure to turn off the notifications LinkedIn sends to your network. You don’t want to mistakenly alert your employer that you’re in job search mode or unnecessarily annoy your friends.

To silence those pesky LinkedIn notifications:

  1. Go to your LinkedIn home page and click on your Me photo icon
  2. Under the Account Tab, select Settings & Privacy 
  3. On the Settings page, scroll down to How others see your LinkedIn activity section
  4. Click on Share job changes, education changes, and work anniversaries and then toggle the Yes/No button to No

When you do want others to see your LinkedIn notifications, toggle back to Yes.

This tool can help you find employers that pay well — and gear up to negotiate a great starting salary.

Now, here are details on the four LinkedIn features that can help power your job search this year:

1. LinkedIn Pages (formerly known as LinkedIn Company Pages) In late 2018, LinkedIn launched LinkedIn Pages, a terrific feature that can help you learn about millions of potential employers — and connect easily to their jobs. The refreshed Pages hold a treasure trove of information for job seekers, including salary data, funding and investor news, links to videos and more.

Two especially helpful features on LinkedIn Pages:

  • Job alerts: If you’re interested in a particular company, nonprofit or government agency, sign up for its job alerts (you’ll find the Job Alert button when you click on the Jobs Tab in the left-hand column of the employer’s page). As a bonus, when you set an alert, LinkedIn will let its recruiters know you’re interested in job opportunities, which might increase your chances of hearing directly from employers when they are hiring.
  • Follow button: You can receive automatic updates from prospective employers in your LinkedIn feed by clicking on their  “Follow” button. That information can prove invaluable when networking, prepping for interviews or deciding if an employer is a good fit for you.

2. Customize your LinkedIn news feed with #hashtags LinkedIn now gives you the ability to follow #hashtags in your LinkedIn news feed. So, for example, if you’re interested in shifting into the green space, you can follow hashtags for #sustainability or #greenjobs. It’s a great way to diversify your feed to include stories about where you want to head, as opposed to simply where you’ve been.

To follow #hashtags, input the term you want to follow (preceded by the # symbol) in the main LinkedIn search bar. Then, click on the Follow button to get automatic updates in your feed.

3. Salary Insights Tool I reviewed this tool when it was introduced in 2016 (under the name LinkedIn Salary) and found it lacking. But I’m happy to report that following an overhaul in early 2018, it’s now greatly improved. Salary Insights provides a detailed breakdown of salaries by job title and location. The data comes from salary ranges provided by employers. But if an employer hasn’t provided salary information, LinkedIn shows an estimated range based on member-submitted data.

You can see how salaries differ from employer to employer. You’ll also find salary insights parsed by region, years of experience, industry focus and company size, among other filters. It’s a lot of data to digest, and like other salary research tools, not every job title is represented. But this tool can help you find employers that pay well — and gear up to negotiate a great starting salary.

To see this tool in action, go to the LinkedIn Salary page and input your desired job title and location in the search bar labeled “Discover your earning potential.”

4. LinkedIn Skills Assessments  Finally, I want to close with a LinkedIn feature that is still being refined and not yet available to all users but looks promising enough to merit a mention. In September 2019, LinkedIn rolled out LinkedIn Skills Assessments — 15 to 20 timed multiple-choice questions about particular skills. If you pass the test because of your skills, you get to display a verified skill badge on your LinkedIn profile. If you don’t, your results will stay private.

By being able to verify your skills, you can better stand out from the job-hunting pack and become more discoverable to opportunities. According to LinkedIn, preliminary results show that candidates who completed LinkedIn Skill Assessments were about 30% more likely to get hired than those who didn’t.

Currently, LinkedIn offers skills assessments in tech, business and design, with plans to expand into other areas (if available, you’ll find them in the skills section of your LinkedIn Profile).

Regardless of your Skills Assessment results, LinkedIn will tell you how you did on its test and unlock relevant free LinkedIn Learning courses for a limited time period (a benefit that’s normally reserved for Premium members).

Good luck in your 2020 job search!

By Nancy Collamer

Nancy Collamer, M.S., is a semi-retirement coach, speaker and author of Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit From Your Passions During Semi-Retirement. You can now download her free workbook called 25 Ways to Help You Identify Your Ideal Second Act on her website at MyLifestyleCareer.com (and you'll also receive her free bi-monthly newsletter).

 

Preparing for the Unexpected Death of a Spouse

January 14, 2020

The financial topic is one couples hate to think about, but should
By Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell

When my husband, Dale, passed away at age 57 from a sudden, massive heart attack two days before Thanksgiving in 2018, the last thing on my mind was the finances. This quickly changed, however, when I realized that as a relatively young widow of 54, I had just lost our second income.

To exacerbate my situation, due to my age and not having dependent children at home, I was ineligible to draw even partial Social Security income until turning 60. Nor could I withdraw from our retirement funds without heavy penalties and taxes until age 59 ½. On top of all that, my sole income from my freelance writing business would be subject to the higher single-payer tax bracket the following year.

However, I had learned an important life lesson from my parents when I was just 17; it proved invaluable after Dale’s death and could help you if you’re married and under 60.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average age of widowhood in the United States is a surprisingly young 59.

When I was 17, my father also died suddenly of a massive heart attack at 58, and my mother was thrown into a similar situation. So, when Dale and I got married, 32 years before he died, we bought term life insurance policies. And we always carried extra life insurance through his job.

Those decisions saved me financially.

An Emotionally Draining Time

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average age of widowhood in the United States is a surprisingly young 59. That means there are many women who fall into the “donut hole” of not being able to draw Social Security benefits and who may have lost an income that had been essential for paying the bills.

Women are more likely than men to lose their spouse. And due to income inequality, they’re also typically more apt to be in a worse financial position if their spouse dies before they’re eligible for retirement benefits.

“Losing a spouse is a horrific event and if it happens unexpectedly, there is absolutely no time to plan,” said Michelle Brownstein, a Certified Financial Planner and vice president of private client services with Personal Capital in San Francisco.

One of the key ways to plan for this tragic possibility is to ensure both spouses have life insurance.

“Life insurance can really be that income replacement,” said Brownstein. She recommends owning term life insurance. “The earlier you purchase it, the better term life policy you can get and this will allow your spouse to continue to pay the bills without changing his or her lifestyle.”

Understanding the Household Finances

Another key component to being financially prepared in case a spouse dies: ensuring that each person in the relationship understands the couple’s finances and the way the household is run.

“After a marriage, one person typically takes the lead,” said Brownstein. “If that person passes, and the other doesn’t understand how the household functions day to day, it can make a very stressful time even more stressful.”

Rachel DeCarolis, wealth manager for Northstar Financial Planning in Windham, N.H., said although it may be an uncomfortable topic, spouses also need to discuss how the finances would change if something unexpected happened to either of them.

“Talking about how the income would change and how expenses would change could mentally get you in a good place,” said DeCarolis.

What One Couple Did and Didn’t Think About

Barb and Grant Froman didn’t necessarily plan for such an event before Grant died from a sudden massive heart attack at 54 in June 2018. However, the couple had been planning well for their financial future, with the idea of retirement in mind.

They had life insurance and investments, mostly from an inheritance Barb received from her mother’s estate. They carried no credit card debt and their home and vehicles were paid off.

“You pay on the life insurance year after year, never really thinking about it until something like this happens. And I suddenly looked at it and went, ‘Wow. Thank God for this,” said Froman, 55, who lives in York, Pa.

Although her only routine expenses are for things like utilities and food, Froman said she hadn’t thought about some other costs.

“There were a lot of things Grant could fix that didn’t require us spending money to pay someone, such as oil changes, carpentry, electrical and plumbing that I am finding has to be done by someone else,” said Froman.

Froman said she’s been helped by the assistance of an excellent financial adviser. Working with one when you are married can let you see whether you’re prepared for the worst and what to do if you’re not.

“Find a financial adviser that is a fiduciary, not one who is trying to sell products,” said Brownstein.

4 Recommendations for Widows

Here are four recommendations for women who are already widows:

Ask your adviser where you stand on drawing survivor’s benefits. Same-sex couples who are legally married and have been for more than a year are eligible for the same benefits as heterosexual couples. If you have a child at home age 16 or under, you’re likely eligible to draw Social Security benefits for the child.

Talk with a financial adviser or an attorney if your spouse had debt that you did not jointly own, as well as any outstanding medical bills. Depending on your state, you may or may not have to pay off that debt.

If your spouse was a veteran, see if you’re eligible for VA benefits.

Look into joining the local chapter of the Modern Widow’s Club, if there’s one where you live. The 20 chapters of the Modern Widow’s Club (10 more are coming in 2020) seek to empower widows, including providing financial advice from professionals.

By Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell

Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell is a freelance writer whose work has appeared on Forbes.com, AOL.com, Mainstreet.com, Creditcards.com, Bankrate.com and elsewhere.

20 Questions to Help You Reach Your 2020 Goals

January 10, 2020

Scheduling time for reflection will never be a waste of time
By Megy Karydes

When making New Year’s resolutions, some people choose to set an intention or goal and some choose a particular word to help them stay focused. Others, like Chicagoans Tracy Marks-Seglin, founder of Strategic Words Communications, and her urban planner husband Dave, think about what they want less (and more) of in the coming year and write those things down.

Regardless of how you approach the start of a new year, you’ll likely reflect on the past year and how you can make the coming one better. Since we’re entering a new decade, this type of reflection can take a bigger meaning in 2020.

So, here are 20 questions that can help you reach your goals in 2020 and beyond:

  1. How do I define success? This may differ each year, so think about your definition for 2020.

“A lot of the time, we set goals to please other people: a spouse, family member or colleague.”

  1. What am I most proud of in the last year — or the last 10 years? Start 2020 by celebrating your wins, says Amy Throw, president and chief encouragement officer with Amy Throw Group, a Saint Charles, Ill.-based coaching firm for women.
  2. What did I enjoy doing the most in 2019? And what didn’t you enjoy? Don’t waste those learnings. “If you jump into 2020 without taking a moment to reflect, you can’t leverage 2019’s lessons and insights,” says Cathryn Lavery, productivity expert and founder of BestSelf Co., a personal development firm in Austin, Texas.
  3. Whom do I want to become? “This is a deeper question that once answered, allows you to set up a lifestyle, and consistently improve to get closer and closer to your goal,” says Jody Michael, executive coach and founder of Jody Michael Associates, a coaching and consulting firm in Chicago.
  4. What are my nagging regrets or unresolved issues from this year or earlier? Michael Hyatt, author of Your Best Year Ever and former chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, encourages people to write these down. Then, he says, consider what you can do in the coming year to address them.
  5. What do I want more of in my life? Tracy Marks-Seglin and her husband, who are 54 and 58 respectively, write the answers on strips of paper on New Year’s Eve. Then, they hang the strips in a triple-ziplocked bag (to protect them from the elements) from a backyard tree and open them the following New Year’s Eve to see how many came to fruition. “At that point, we’re either really happy or mildly disappointed,” Tracy laughs.
  6. What do I want less of in my life? Marks-Seglin and her husband repeat the above exercise of writing these things down on strips of paper. But rather than hang these from a tree, they burn them in the fireplace. “Burning the things we don’t want is so visceral and feels so freeing,” she admits.
  7. What do I want to focus on? That’s a question suggested by Rebecca Kiki Weingarten, a professional and personal development coach at New York City-based TradeCraft Coaching and Consulting.
  8. What can I stop procrastinating? Create a list of the “I SHOULDS” that you keep delaying and ask yourself what’s holding you back, says Throw.
  9. What goals do I want for my own life, not for others? “A lot of the time, we set goals to please other people: a spouse, family member or colleague,” says Hyatt.
  10. What support systems do I have in place to help me reach my goals? And, conversely, figure out the roadblocks to plan for; note these so you can think through strategies to deal with setbacks and slumps, says Weingarten.
  11. What is one new thinking pattern I can discipline myself to use in 2020? Throw says that knowing this will require developing new habits.
  12. What is one good habit that I have? Look for ways to better profit from it.
  13. What is one habit I want to change? After you come up with this, determine how you can fix it.
  14. What is one behavior or activity I will say NO to in 2020? Coming up with the answer will make it easier for you to say YES to an activity that will get you closer to your big bold audacious goal, Throw notes.
  15. How can I parlay what I love doing into other opportunities? Marks-Seglin takes a hard look to identify what makes her happy personally and professionally. Then she works backward to think of ways she can incorporate these into other parts her life.
  16. How can I be 1% better today than I was yesterday? For Jennifer Wisniewski, a certified life coach in Chicago, New Year’s resolutions seem to be more about the goal than the process. “If your concentration is only on the outcome, you will probably give up before that goal is reached,” she says. Use the “1% better” marker to focus on the present rather than looking at the future for your happiness, she advises.
  17. When am I most relaxed to properly give myself the time I need to go through this process? Schedule the time, so it’ll happen.
  18. What is the one big, bold audacious goal that gets me most excited? Throw says: Think how can you employ your natural skills, experience and successful behaviors to work toward this goal.
  19. What can I do right now or in the next day, week or month, to help reach my one big goal in 2020? The hardest part for some people is getting started. “It can take longer than you thought it would to make real changes happen,” Weingarten says.

These 20 questions might be too many — or too few — for you. But you can use them as a starting point to help identify what makes you happy and what you need to put into place to help reach your 2020 goals. Good luck!

Megy Karydes
By Megy Karydes
Megy Karydes is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Politico, Forbes, Fortune, USA Today and elsewhere. She is also an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University, where she teaches graduate-level communications courses.

Coping With Complicated Grief

January 7, 2020

After loss, it's a different path to 'the new normal' for those with depression
By Suzanne Boles

“Thank you for the intervention. Friends and family came to be with me. I agreed to be admitted to hospital. Am waiting for a bed. I had a horrible breakdown. I am sorry for worrying you.”

This was my message posted on Facebook to friends on October 19, 2014. It was over a year since my husband, Bob, passed away. Every day since he died on June 8, 2013 was like walking through thick, muddy water with a constant fog clouding my head.

I was a willing participant in the loss and grief cycle from day one. I had no interest in the future. The past was painful, the present bleak. Every day I woke up crying, for days, weeks, months, and soon a year passed. Depression is part of the initial journey. Many people feel like they can’t survive without their loved one. The agony is enormous, but the pain starts to diminish with time.

It is natural to experience intense grief after someone close dies, but complicated grief is different.

My story was different. The depression was pervasive and continued, even escalated. I journaled the experience, intermittently, in a blog. Posting my thoughts gave me temporary relief. Then I’d go down the rabbit hole again. What I didn’t realize was that I was experiencing something more than a normal grief journey. Though not diagnosed, researching my symptoms led me to what’s known as Complicated Grief.

The Intensity of Complicated Grief

According to The Center for Complicated Grief (CG) “[it] is a form of grief that takes hold of a person’s mind and won’t let go. It is natural to experience intense grief after someone close dies, but complicated grief is different. Troubling thoughts, dysfunctional behaviors or problems regulating emotions get a foothold and stall adaptation. Complicated grief is the condition that occurs when this happens.

“People with complicated grief don’t know what’s wrong. They assume that their lives have been irreparably damaged by their loss and cannot imagine how they can ever feel better. Grief dominates their thoughts and feelings with no respite in sight.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, CG can be determined “when the intensity of grief has not decreased in the months after your loved one’s death. Some mental health professionals diagnose CG when the grieving continues to be intense, persistent and debilitating beyond 12 months … Getting the correct diagnosis is essential for appropriate treatment, so a comprehensive medical and psychological exam is often done.”

The Diagnosis That Probably Saved My Life

I had seen several therapists. They tried to help, under the assumption that I was grieving as any woman would after the death of her husband. What I didn’t tell them was that my sadness had escalated to suicide ideation.

On the evening of Saturday October 18, 2014, I posted on Facebook: “Please take care of my cats.” My cry for help wasn’t a mystery to friends who were following my downward spiral. Phone calls went out from people in several cities to friends who lived near me who came to my house, then later family. Despite my uncharacteristic reaction screaming at everyone who entered the door and yelling at them to leave, I eventually calmed down and agreed to be taken to the hospital.

I was put in a room with no windows and a security guard. Some family members came in. The doctor followed and told me the medication I’d been taking for many years to control my clinical depression wasn’t working. When that happens, ironically, it can make you more depressed.

That diagnosis rocked me to the core and probably saved my life. Every day had been torture. And now I had someone who was telling me they could help me and life could actually get better.

I agreed to be admitted to hospital and new medication was prescribed by a hospital psychiatrist. I stayed there just over a week, eventually getting day passes, then a weekend pass. After my release, I was closely monitored to ensure my medication was doing what it should have done. I started seeking other ways to help me out of the dark pit and took part in several Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) programs, or what I refer to as retraining the brain to focus on the positive.

Live in the Moment

Today, I lead what those newly grieving are told is “the new normal life” because, when our loved ones die, life as we knew it is inevitably changed forever and will never go back to what we thought was our normal life. As Buddhist monk and peace activist, Nhat Hanh, said, “It is not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not.”

The new life can be good if we come to terms with our losses; remember them with loving kindness; embrace our family, friends, and new people who come into our lives and accept that nothing is ever permanent in life. The biggest lesson I learned is to truly live in the moment and enjoy each precious day as a gift.

If you, or someone you know, has been suffering with extreme grief symptoms for over a year it might be time to seek help.

Coping with Grief and Loss

While grieving a loss is an inevitable part of life, there are ways to help cope with the pain, come to terms with your grief and eventually, find a way to pick up the pieces and move on with your life. Here are some suggestions from Help Guide: 

  1. Acknowledge your pain.
    2. Accept that grief can trigger many different and unexpected emotions.
    3. Understand that your grieving process will be unique to you.
    4. Seek out face-to-face support from people who care about you.
    5. Support yourself emotionally by taking care of yourself physically.

By Suzanne Boles

Suzanne Boles is a feature writer, content creator and writing coach. Her work has appeared in Costco Connection Magazine, on Headspace.com and Profitguide.com and in many business publications. She lives in London, Ontario Canada.

How Meditation Can Help With Chronic Pain

December 30, 2019

Experts say meditation can work as well as medications for some people
By Patricia Corrigan

You’ve probably figured out that taking a few deep breaths in a stressful situation can calm you down. And you may know that practicing meditation on a regular basis helps many people cultivate serenity. But did you know that some studies show meditation can alleviate pain?

“We have pretty strong evidence that mindfulness meditation is helpful for chronic pain conditions,” says Wen Chen, chief of the basic and mechanistic research branch at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health’s Division of Extramural Research in Bethesda, Md. The center is part of the National Institutes of Health.

“We experience pain where the body is injured, but we also experience the psychological and social aspects of pain. Mindfulness meditation works on the psychological aspect,” Chen says.

Meditation is an ancient practice, and we know very little about how it works,” she adds. “We do know that it’s low risk, it’s not invasive and you can do it on your own. Lots of people find it beneficial.”

And it appears that an increasing number of Americans are finding meditation beneficial for a variety of different reasons. In 2012, only 4.1% of adults in the U.S. practiced meditation, but by 2017, the number had increased to 14.2%.

Wen Chen

A government-sponsored site with an overview of mindfulness meditation reports that research about the practice’s ability to reduce pain “has produced mixed results,” but in some studies, “scientists suggest that meditation activates certain areas of the brain in response to pain.”

Reducing Pain Through Mindfulness Meditation

An estimated 11.2% of the U.S. adult population suffers from chronic pain, according to a research post Chen published three years ago.

“Prescription opioid medications present serious risks, both medically and socially,” she wrote, and she cited a study that provides “compelling evidence for the existence of a non-opioid process in the brain to reduce pain through mindfulness meditation.”

“With mindfulness meditation, you accept the (pain) message, and gradually, your body and brain stop sending it. It’s like turning down the volume control.”

So what is mindfulness meditation? One evidence-based form, known as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), is an eight-week program developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in the 1970s.

A teacher-certification program has placed its instructors in almost every state, but you also can learn the method through Kabat-Zinn’s MP3s and CDs. Plus, some pain-management programs offer mindfulness-based stress reduction training, so check with your doctor.

“MBSR has a breathing component where you focus on your breathing as you meditate. That aspect of slow breathing is very helpful,” Chen says, “and quite a few researchers point toward the breathing component as quite important to relieve pain. Just twenty minutes of mindful breathing can often do the trick.”

She adds that in addition to looking at MBSR, researchers also are evaluating mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, a modified form of psychotherapy, and progressive relaxation techniques for pain management.

Other Benefits of Meditation for Pain Control

Danny Penman

Danny Penman, a journalist in Bristol, England with a Ph.D. in biochemistry, teaches and writes about meditation. He is the co-author with Vidyamala Burch of the book Mindfulness for Health: A Practical Guide to Relieving Pain, Reducing Stress and Restoring Wellbeing, published in the U.S. as You Are Not Your Pain.

The British Medical Association honored the book with first place in the organization’s 2014 Medical Book Awards competition. In 2013, a clinical trial conducted at the University of Manchester in England showed that the eight-week program outlined in the book is “highly effective at reducing anxiety, stress and depression.”

Other clinical trials have shown that mindfulness is “at least as effective as the main prescription painkillers,” Penman says.

Powerful painkillers do dull the sensation of pain, but the medications also lose their effectiveness over time and have addictive qualities. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, roughly 21% to 29% of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them and between 8% and 12% develop an opioid use disorder. About 80% of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.

“We all have to come to terms at some point with illness or suffering, and I believe that in the longer run, mindfulness is at least one of the answers,” Penman says. Pain, he adds, is a message, and the body and the brain keep sending that message.

“With mindfulness meditation, you accept the message, and gradually, your body and brain stop sending it. It’s like turning down the volume control,” he says.

Professional Reassurance: ‘You Can’t Fail at Meditation’

While still in school, Penman started meditating as a means of stress reduction. In 2006, he was in a paragliding accident.

“Once my pain was under control, I started meditating seriously, and after a couple of weeks, I was able to reduce my painkiller intake by two-thirds,” he says. He later trained as a meditation teacher specializing in pain relief.

Many of us know people who say they have tried meditation, but failed. Penman says that’s not possible.

“You can’t fail at meditation. Ironically, the moment you think you’ve failed is a moment of mindfulness because you have come back into the present moment and are no longer wrapped up in your other thoughts,” he says.

Some people who think they have failed “build a catastrophe around it, letting in fears and anxieties that can amplify their pain,” Penman says.

“Meditation is like physical exercise,” he continues. “The more you do it, the more you begin to relax, and the easier gets. You may still have doubts or fears, but it gets easier each time you do the basic practice and focus on your breath. The more you meditate, the more you will benefit.”

Whether you’re just starting or giving mindfulness meditation another go to help cope with pain, once you understand what to do, you need to set aside only 10 or 20 minutes each day for the practice.

Over time, it will become a comfortable habit, so Penman suggests you simply begin. He says, “The hardest thing in the world is taking that first breath.”

By Patricia Corrigan

Patricia Corrigan is a professional journalist, with decades of experience as a reporter and columnist at a metropolitan daily newspaper, and a book author. She now enjoys a lively freelance career, writing for numerous print and on-line publications. Read more from Patricia on her blog.

How to Find Charities That Are Making an Impact

December 24, 2019

Charity raters generally haven't evaluated this key measure — until now
By Richard Eisenberg

One frustrating thing for people eager to give wisely to charities: finding ones that truly make an impact. The big charity raters have done a great job sizing up nonprofits for overhead costs, transparency and executive pay. Impact, however, wasn’t part of their scoring — it was too hard to assess.

Recently, though, a new charity rater known as ImpactMatters has stepped into the breach for prospective donors by rating nonprofits on the amount of good achieved per dollar spent. It doesn’t review all charities or even all types of charities, as I’ll explain, but does an impressive job for the ones it does analyze, with star ratings.

And the nonprofit Open990.org is making it easier to compare charities head-to-head for things like their salaries and expenses and revenue.

Both sites are free and I think could be quite useful when choosing where to make your charitable contributions before the end of 2019.

How ImpactMatters Rates Charities

ImpactMatters, which is funded by several foundations and private donors, rates nonprofits that directly deliver services. Specifically, it focuses on these eight areas: homelessness, health, clean water, veterans, poverty, hunger, climate change and education.

Of the 1,077 nonprofits ImpactMatters has rated, 59% have 5 stars, 28% have 4 stars and 13% have lower scores.

It doesn’t rate nonprofits that operate through advocacy or by trying to change people’s minds (too hard to measure, though some in the nonprofit sector criticize ImpactMatters for not rating these types). Nor does ImpactMatters rate what are called “donor-use” membership-based charities, such as religious organizations, community associations or institutions like museums.

“We have three principles when rating charities for impact,” says ImpactMatters co-founder and executive director Elijah Goldberg. “Outcomes — what changes as a result of their work have been meaningful? What would have happened without the program? And, the most neglected principle in some ways: comparing the outcomes to the costs.”

Most nonprofits are doing something good and improving lives in some way, Goldberg says. “The question is: Do you give money to one of them or to another that is doing something similarly, but more efficiently?”

Of the 1,077 nonprofits ImpactMatters has rated on its scale of five stars (best) to 1 star (worst), 59% have 5 stars, 28% have 4 stars and 13% have lower scores. That’s a far smaller group than the estimated 1.9 million nonprofits, but it’s a decent number for direct-service ones of all sizes.

So how exactly does this rater determine whether a charity is making an impact?

“In our first iteration, we did impact audits. That meant a lot of contact with the nonprofits,” says Goldberg. “We discovered that took a lot of time.” Now, the rater does its exhaustive analysis without direct interactions, but  gives the charity an opportunity to review the rating.

4 Ways to Use ImpactMatters

There are four ways you can use ImpactMatters.

  • You can search for a particular charity you’re interested in to see if there’s a rating.
  • You can review the site’s Toplists, which show all the ratings for a particular type of charity.
  • You can look at the 5-Star Nonprofits list, which includes Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States; Sightsavers (helping cure blindness) and Fellowship Deliverance Ministries (providing homeless shelters).
  • You can look at any of its 44 local giving guides  which shows the best-rated groups in particular metro areas, from Atlanta to Washington, D.C.

The Charity Navigator website, which has traditionally rated charities on financial measures, now also offers information about impact. It does this by including ratings from places like ImpactMatters and GlobalGiving, a crowdfunding platform for grassroots charitable projects.

How Open990.org Can Help You Research Charities

If you’d like to research charities based on how well they’re run and enjoy perusing data, check out Open990.org. Heather Kugelmass says she co-founded it with David Borenstein, Charity Navigator’s former director of data science, to “democratize access to nonprofit data.”

The site pulls together in one place data the financial information forms charities file with the Internal Revenue Service, known as Form 990. Then, Open990.org turns the forms into profiles for laypeople. “We highlight what people are most interested in,” Kugelmass says.

So, if you want to bore down into how a particular charity is run and not get bored doing it, you can see how its programs have changed over time as well as how its expenses and revenues have evolved.

You can search by the organization’s name or geographic location or cause area (such as: Education). You can search based on size, if you especially want to donate to either a large charity or a smaller one. And you can search by things like expenses or highest-paid individual at the nonprofit.

If You Want to Donate to Local Charities

Some people prefer donating to small nonprofits where they live because they like to see the effects of their contributions in person. If you’re one of them, you’ll want to do your own impact assessment by visiting local charities and asking their executives questions whose answers satisfy you.

Danielle Holly, CEO of Common Impact (a group that connects corporate employees to community nonprofits), says donations to small, local nonprofits are “especially meaningful” to those organizations. That’s because these types of charities, Holly says, are less likely than national and global ones to get large corporate or foundation sponsorship.

Charity-rating sites like Guidestar and Charity Navigator may be able to help you ensure that these groups are well-managed and efficient.

RIchard Eisenberg, editor at Next Avenue wearing a suit jacket in front of a teal background.
By Richard Eisenberg
Richard Eisenberg is the Senior Web Editor of the Money & Security and Work & Purpose channels of Next Avenue and Managing Editor for the site. He is the author of How to Avoid a Mid-Life Financial Crisis and has been a personal finance editor at Money, Yahoo, Good Housekeeping, and CBS MoneyWatch. Follow him on Twitter.

One frustrating thing for people eager to give wisely to charities: finding ones that truly make an impact. The big charity raters have done a great job sizing up nonprofits for overhead costs, transparency and executive pay. Impact, however, wasn’t part of their scoring — it was too hard to assess.

Recently, though, a new charity rater known as ImpactMatters has stepped into the breach for prospective donors by rating nonprofits on the amount of good achieved per dollar spent. It doesn’t review all charities or even all types of charities, as I’ll explain, but does an impressive job for the ones it does analyze, with star ratings.

And the nonprofit Open990.org is making it easier to compare charities head-to-head for things like their salaries and expenses and revenue.

Both sites are free and I think could be quite useful when choosing where to make your charitable contributions before the end of 2019.

How ImpactMatters Rates Charities

ImpactMatters, which is funded by several foundations and private donors, rates nonprofits that directly deliver services. Specifically, it focuses on these eight areas: homelessness, health, clean water, veterans, poverty, hunger, climate change and education.

Of the 1,077 nonprofits ImpactMatters has rated, 59% have 5 stars, 28% have 4 stars and 13% have lower scores.

It doesn’t rate nonprofits that operate through advocacy or by trying to change people’s minds (too hard to measure, though some in the nonprofit sector criticize ImpactMatters for not rating these types). Nor does ImpactMatters rate what are called “donor-use” membership-based charities, such as religious organizations, community associations or institutions like museums.

“We have three principles when rating charities for impact,” says ImpactMatters co-founder and executive director Elijah Goldberg. “Outcomes — what changes as a result of their work have been meaningful? What would have happened without the program? And, the most neglected principle in some ways: comparing the outcomes to the costs.”

Most nonprofits are doing something good and improving lives in some way, Goldberg says. “The question is: Do you give money to one of them or to another that is doing something similarly, but more efficiently?”

Of the 1,077 nonprofits ImpactMatters has rated on its scale of five stars (best) to 1 star (worst), 59% have 5 stars, 28% have 4 stars and 13% have lower scores. That’s a far smaller group than the estimated 1.9 million nonprofits, but it’s a decent number for direct-service ones of all sizes.

So how exactly does this rater determine whether a charity is making an impact?

“In our first iteration, we did impact audits. That meant a lot of contact with the nonprofits,” says Goldberg. “We discovered that took a lot of time.” Now, the rater does its exhaustive analysis without direct interactions, but  gives the charity an opportunity to review the rating.

4 Ways to Use ImpactMatters

There are four ways you can use ImpactMatters.

  • You can search for a particular charity you’re interested in to see if there’s a rating.
  • You can review the site’s Toplists, which show all the ratings for a particular type of charity.
  • You can look at the 5-Star Nonprofits list, which includes Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States; Sightsavers (helping cure blindness) and Fellowship Deliverance Ministries (providing homeless shelters).
  • You can look at any of its 44 local giving guides  which shows the best-rated groups in particular metro areas, from Atlanta to Washington, D.C.

The Charity Navigator website, which has traditionally rated charities on financial measures, now also offers information about impact. It does this by including ratings from places like ImpactMatters and GlobalGiving, a crowdfunding platform for grassroots charitable projects.

How Open990.org Can Help You Research Charities

If you’d like to research charities based on how well they’re run and enjoy perusing data, check out Open990.org. Heather Kugelmass says she co-founded it with David Borenstein, Charity Navigator’s former director of data science, to “democratize access to nonprofit data.”

The site pulls together in one place data the financial information forms charities file with the Internal Revenue Service, known as Form 990. Then, Open990.org turns the forms into profiles for laypeople. “We highlight what people are most interested in,” Kugelmass says.

So, if you want to bore down into how a particular charity is run and not get bored doing it, you can see how its programs have changed over time as well as how its expenses and revenues have evolved.

You can search by the organization’s name or geographic location or cause area (such as: Education). You can search based on size, if you especially want to donate to either a large charity or a smaller one. And you can search by things like expenses or highest-paid individual at the nonprofit.

If You Want to Donate to Local Charities

Some people prefer donating to small nonprofits where they live because they like to see the effects of their contributions in person. If you’re one of them, you’ll want to do your own impact assessment by visiting local charities and asking their executives questions whose answers satisfy you.

Danielle Holly, CEO of Common Impact (a group that connects corporate employees to community nonprofits), says donations to small, local nonprofits are “especially meaningful” to those organizations. That’s because these types of charities, Holly says, are less likely than national and global ones to get large corporate or foundation sponsorship.

Charity-rating sites like Guidestar and Charity Navigator may be able to help you ensure that these groups are well-managed and efficient.

RIchard Eisenberg, editor at Next Avenue wearing a suit jacket in front of a teal background.
By Richard Eisenberg
Richard Eisenberg is the Senior Web Editor of the Money & Security and Work & Purpose channels of Next Avenue and Managing Editor for the site. He is the author of How to Avoid a Mid-Life Financial Crisis and has been a personal finance editor at Money, Yahoo, Good Housekeeping, and CBS MoneyWatch. Follow him on Twitter.

6 Ways to Deal With Sentimental Items When Decluttering

December 20, 2019

Start slowly, create categories and seek help if you need it
By Rachel Hartman

Organizing. and getting rid of, extra belongings can make it easier to downsize, clean a home and entertain guests.

But what should be done with a stack of boxes containing memorabilia stashed in a closet? Or a basement filled with items that represent the past 30 years?

“Clutter is real, and stuff follows us to the end,” says Felice Cohen, author and professional organizer based in New York City who teaches online organization classes to older adults.

“Sentimental clutter is the hardest clutter to part with.”

Sorting through last week’s coupons can be much easier than tackling a bin filled with memories from the past.

“As someone at the beginning of decluttering our large home in preparation for retirement, or at least moving into an apartment, we, like many friends, are dealing with the added, painful issues of what to keep from the home of close relatives who have passed away,” says Joel Poznansky, 61, who lives in Bethesda, Md. “There are questions about items — like overly revealing love letters or divorce papers that raise significant issues — fraught with overwhelming emotions.”

Those emotionally charged items can be tough to evaluate rationally. “Sentimental clutter is the hardest clutter to part with,” Cohen explains.

Strategies for Successful Decluttering

While not painless, approaching a stash or houseful of sentimental things with the following strategies may make the process manageable:

  1. Group the memorabilia. “Memorabilia is very overwhelming to deal with, both from a volume and emotional perspective,” says Lisa Dooley, an organizing coach and author of More Space, More Time, More Joy!

To simplify decluttering, gather all keepsakes and mementos and put them in one spot. In addition to the easy-to-find items, empty drawers, closets and other storage areas. “Believe it or not, dealing with it piecemeal is even more time consuming, because we have no idea where it will pop up next,” Dooley explains.

  1. Start with what’s easy. After putting it in a pile, don’t tackle everything in one day. Start slowly, such as setting a timer for 15 minutes or half an hour. Take a break and head back to the pile the following day.

You’ll likely spot items that you don’t use or value, such as a broken lamp from your first marriage or stained clothing you don’t remember purchasing. Deal with those first. “If it’s been damaged by water, heat or animals, it is beyond saving,” Dooley notes. “Throw it out now and move on to what you can work with.“

  1. Create categories. It’s not unusual for a home’s memorabilia pile to span multiple generations, including everything from antiques to handmade blankets, children’s artwork and an assortment of grammar school yearbooks. Sort the belongings into groups, such as collections, pictures and old documents.

“Classifying items by type provides structure, which decreases the likelihood of becoming too emotionally overwhelmed,” says Sheri McGregor, a life coach and author of Done With the Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children.

Then, focus your attention on one group at a time. “Going through old photographs is one decluttering category,” McGregor says. “Sorting through a son or daughter’s school mementos is another. So is deciding about heirlooms such as family china or jewelry.”

  1. Redirect items. If you come across items you don’t want to keep in the family, selling is an option. But don’t count on receiving a windfall.

“Many of the collectibles gathered over a lifetime may not have much resale value anymore,” says Luis Perez, CEO of Remoov, a San Francisco-based company that helps people declutter. “Baseball cards post-1960s have little to no value at all.”

For belongings you think your children or grandchildren would appreciate, consider giving them as gifts now or marking them to be passed on later. Also, keep in mind that while collections or college textbooks might have personal meaning to you, others might not be interested. “A library card or a playbill from a play you love can mean nothing to your children,” Poznansky says.

If family members aren’t interested, you can try to donate the wares to a secondhand store. Or create a new keepsake, such as a quilt made with T-shirts from places you visited or a collage of old photographs.

  1. Set parameters. “If you’re moving to a smaller place, make a comparison to your current situation,” McGregor says. Then, aim to declutter as much as you need to fit the new place, such as 40 % or half of the boxes.

A friend or relative might be able to help you evaluate what to keep and what to pass on. If you’re struggling to downsize, a professional organizer could provide support.

“Some organizers specialize in photo and memorabilia management,” Dooley says. Others focus on the mental health and emotional journey of parting with things and serve as a bit of a life coach.

  1. Enjoy the process. “Don’t look at it like decluttering and getting rid of your past, but as a journey through a long life,” Cohen says. Hold your wedding dress in your hands or flip through a photo album and take the time to remember what life was like then.

“Sometimes you just need to remember, to share a story one more time, to be able to part with something,” explains Cohen.

If you’re not ready to get rid of something now, and space isn’t a concern, put it aside for a year. Then revisit the item to see if you’re at a point where you can let it go.

And hold on to special discoveries you come across. “Keep toys you remember your children particularly enjoying — or that you would enjoy playing with with your grandchildren,” Poznansky says.

By Rachel Hartman

Rachel Hartman is a freelance writer specializing in finance, business, lifestyle and travel topics. She has written for Parenting, Yahoo Finance and MSN Money, among other outlets.

Understanding the “Why”

December 19, 2019

by Taylor McMahon, nurse navigator and educator, Oakmont campus

I take my roles as nurse navigator and educator very seriously. I promote quality of life for our residents, and that comes in many variations, but mostly through early identification of individuals at the highest risk for readmission, those who need help with medication management and those who need education about their condition. My dual role is an essential piece to getting our residents back to their home, feeling in control and staying out of the hospital.

Patients with COPD have a higher risk of returning to the hospital. So when I had a short-term rehabilitation patient with COPD who did not understand her medications or why adhering to a medication routine was essential, I got to put my navigator and educator skills to good use.

I sat with her and we talked about her current knowledge of COPD. I’ve discovered that I am most successful when I understand what the patient understands about their condition. It is important to explore knowledge gaps so that education can be tailored to each patient.

In this patient’s case, we discovered that she was not using her inhalers the correct way, and was only using them on days she didn’t feel well.

After using the teach back method, she was able to demonstrate the correct way to use her inhalers, and understand the “why” of adhering to a medication routine.

She could tell me why she needed to take her medications exactly as the doctor ordered, and how those medications were helping her lungs. She felt empowered and was much more willing to take the steps to manage her condition. All it took was getting to know her and assessing her base of knowledge.

As part of the navigator role, I follow an extensive evidenced-based checklist to ensure that we do everything we can for a safe discharge. Making the follow-up doctor appointment, medication reconciliation, follow-up phone calls and talking to the home health provider for a smooth hand-off are just a few of the steps I take.

As I was helping my patient prepare for discharge, I was so proud when she told me that I gave her back control of her life. The role of navigator and educator has made such a difference at The Willows, our skilled nursing center. This is my “why.”

Holiday Season Scams: How Not to Get Taken

December 17, 2019

From travel 'deals' to puppies to gift cards, watch your wallet!
By Michele Wojciechowski

It’s the most wonderful time of the year — unless you get scammed.

“In this season of generosity, people let down their guards and tend not to be as skeptical as they would be the rest of the year,” says Christopher Elliott,  founder of the consumer-advice nonprofit Elliott Advocacy and author of How to be the World’s Smartest Traveler.

With that in mind, here’s a guide to some scams that proliferate around the holidays and how to avoid getting fleeced by them:

Vacation-Booking Scams

Booking places to stay during the holidays or for a vacation gift can be convenient when done online. But before you do, be sure it’s the real deal.

“If you book now, I can get you a reduced rate. But you have to book now!”

“Scammers know that this is a great time to rip people off with fake vacations. This is their busiest time of year,” notes Elliott.

In fact, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) just released an eye-opening study of rental scams involving vacation properties.

The report says: “BBB has received numerous reports of people who arrive at a vacation property with their families and luggage after having made advance payments only to discover that the location doesn’t exist or is not available for rent, leaving people stranded with nowhere to stay and finding their money has disappeared.”

Elliott says crooks often demand victims wire money before their trip. “Never wire money,” he cautions. “When you pay with a credit card, you’re protected under the Fair Credit Billing Act. So, you can dispute a charge and get your money back. But if you pay with anything other than a credit card you will have fewer protections. Wiring money is the worst because once that money goes somewhere, there’s no way to send it back.”

Vacation scammers also like to use tactics to rope you in. For example, they’ll use the scarcity ploy: “If you book now, I can get you a reduced rate. But you have to book now!” Or: “If you don’t send that money now, this deal will be gone. I’m just looking out for you.”

When searching for online travel deals, stick with legitimate, trustworthy brands, Elliott advises, like Priceline, Expedia, Orbitz or Kayak. “Or go directly to your airline or hotel website,” he adds. “If you see a site that has a deal that’s too good to be true and it’s a site you don’t recognize, go look somewhere else.”

Timeshare Scams

Many legitimate companies sell timeshares, where you lock in the right to use the same accommodation year after year, often for holiday vacations. But many timeshare companies are run by crooks.

The timeshare scam usually works like this: The scammer invites victims to a presentation at a mall or a pop-up store on the premise of traveling for less money. The attendees write checks and then the fraudsters disappear.

“If they’re engaging in high-pressure sales tactics or they won’t let you take the contract home to read through it — those are the tell-tale signs of a scam,” says Elliott.

Another timeshare scam: companies that claim they have people who’ll buy or rent the owners’ units, take the owners’ cash (perhaps $2,500 or more) and then fail to make good on their promise.

These types of scams are so prevalent, sometimes the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) gets involved.

In October 2019, the FTC announced it was mailing more than 8,000 refund checks totaling $2.7 million to people scammed by Pro Timeshare Resales into paying an upfront fee to resell their timeshares. The company was forced to surrender assets and banned from reselling timeshares.

Puppy Scams

Another prevalent scam this time of year involves puppies bought online, says Katherine Hutt, national spokeswoman for the BBB. Frequently, they’re meant to be holiday gifts to family members.

“According to the BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report, pets are the number one online purchase that turns out to be fake,” says Hutt. “Scammers create websites filled with adorable photos and offer great prices, but then keep adding charges such as extra shipping fees, ‘required’ vet visits and shots. Each request for more money makes it seem as if your new family member is that much closer to coming home, but, in reality, the puppy never existed in the first place.”

The BBB gives the following tips to avoid puppy scams:

  • If possible, try to pick up the puppy in person. Puppy scams depend on buyers trusting that the animals will be delivered to them.
  • Be careful about buying a puppy from anyone you don’t know, and be especially skeptical if the price is much lower than normal.
  • Avoid wiring money or using prepaid cards or gift cards to pay for transporting animals. Instead pay by credit card in case you need to challenge the purchase later.

Gift Card Scams

The BBB also sees crooks stealing the value of gift cards during the holidays.

“Scammers can copy the numbers off unsold cards — even those displayed in a store — and, once you purchase the card, they can download the cash value before you even realize it’s gone,” says Hutt.

Another gift card scam to beware of: discounted gift cards advertised on social media or in text messages. These cards could be fake or could be real cards that are either stolen or worthless, Hutt says.

If you buy a gift card in a store, the BBB advises, make sure it’s not damaged and that the PIN isn’t exposed. Also, register the card if the retailer allows.

By Michele Wojciechowski

Michele "Wojo" Wojciechowski is an award-winning writer who lives in Baltimore, Md. She's the author of the humor book Next Time I Move, They'll Carry Me Out in a Box. Reach her at www.WojosWorld.com.@TheMicheleWojo

 
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