Can’t focus in the mornings? Maybe meditation can help.

Meditation guide Rebekah Borucki is determined to prove that we all have time to meditate, even if only for a few minutes. Her book, “You Have 4 Minutes to Change Your Life,” focuses on just that: four-minute meditations.

Sure, you could meditate outside. Or, you could follow our plan and stay in bed.Justin Borucki

While many people consider meditation to be a tool for relaxation, it can also be a way to help direct focus and welcome energy. Borucki spoke to TODAY for our Morning Routine series, and shared this simple meditation to help get your mornings off to a better start.

Step 1: Affirmation

Instead of lunging for your smartphone the second you wake up, stay in bed and do this instead: Repeat “thank you” three times.

“You would do this first thing in the morning before you do anything else,” Borucki said. “What this does is set the tone of gratitude for the day. You’re grateful to have a brand-new day in front of you.”

Step 2: Breathe

It’s (almost) that simple. Focus on your breaths and think “inhale” on your inhale, and “exhale” on your exhale. Focusing on the words helps deter distracting thoughts. Do this for 10 breath cycles. (Tip: You can use your fingers to keep track of the count.)

Then start sending the breath to different parts of your body.

“Inhale and fill up your lungs and imagine the breath going all the way to your fingertips,” Borucki said. “You go through all the different parts of the body until the breath reaches down to the toes. It should take about five breath cycles for the breath to circle through the entire body.”

Step 3: Intention

The final step is to set your intention for the day. To encourage a great morning, Borucki suggests this one: “I am energized and ready for the day.” Repeat that three times.

“This invigorates you and wakes you up to possibility and sets a tone of optimism,” she said.

Or, you can always come up with your own intention.

“When you repeat it over and over again, it seals the thought into your subconscious and you can carry it with you for the rest of the day,” Borucki said.

And that’s it! The morning meditation should take between three and four minutes, depending on how long your breaths are. The best part? You don’t even have to get out of bed.

 

Nov. 9, 2016, 2:29 PM EST / Source: TODAY

By Rheana Murray

https://www.today.com/series/morning-routine/4-minute-meditation-secret-better-morning-t104730?cid=eml_tst_20190729

 

This original article was written by Marla Tabaka for INC

With the dawn of every New Year, pledges are made by hopefuls everywhere to do or change something big in their life and business. Most of these commitments are shelved or forgotten altogether soon after we ring in that very same New Year.

“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
–Carl Jung

An annual attempt at implementing meaningful change isn’t the answer. It’s a commitment to continual, deep levels of introspection that brings successful, happy people to the top. If you want results, begin with what’s on the inside instead of pushing to control what’s on the outside.

The questions below will get you started. I promise you, the discoveries (if you dig deep and are honest with yourself) can lead you to meaningful change and the things you want most in life.

1.     What is my ideal definition of success?

2.     Is this definition well-rounded, to include all of the important aspects of my life?

3.     What are my top three values and how do they apply to my business?

4.     Do I factor in these values when I make business and personal decisions?

5.     Do I feel good about the way I treat the most important people in my life?

6.     Do I feel and express enough gratitude and appreciation for what I have?

7.     Is my stress level too high?

8.     What are three things I can do regularly to reduce stress? What stops me from doing them?

9.     What do I most often choose to ignore?

10.  What are three things I want to pay closer attention to in 2018?

11.  Can I be a better listener?

12.  Do I carefully consider other people’s suggestions before I dismiss them?

13.  If I had a realistic magic wand, what would be my top three wishes?

14.  If there were any negative consequences, or fears, related to achieving my success, what might they be?

15.  When I ask the people I most respect to describe my leadership skills and qualities, what would be their top five responses?

16.  When I ask those same people about areas of improvement, what might those be?

17.  What are top three money-making activities I don’t devote enough of my time and attention to?

18.  Other than money, what stops me from getting the systems and people in place to give me adequate freedom to scale my company?

19.  What is the single, most significant change I can make in 2018?

20.  What do I need to grow my business, but don’t have?

21.  What actions can I take to get closer to, or acquire the things I need to grow?

22.  If I’m really honest with myself, how strong is my confidence and self-worth?

23.  Am I willing to consider that there are things I can do to improve my life/business, but don’t have the confidence to take action? What would those things be?

24.  What would I be risking if I did some of the things that are outside of my comfort zone?

25.  What am I risking by not doing these things?

26.  On a scale of 1-10, how optimal is my self-care?

27.  What single and achievable commitment can I make to improve my self-care?

28.  What enjoyable activity do I not engage in often enough (or at all)?

29.  Are there any relationships that I want to repair or improve?

30.  Are there any toxic, extremely negative people in my life?

31.  Do I have enough support from friends, family, mentors, and my coach to help me achieve the personal and professional growth I desire?

32.  What are the most amazing things I’ve achieved in the last year?

33.  Do I acknowledge and celebrate my wins, even the smaller ones?

34.  Do I remain a victim to an experience or belief that I’ve been unwilling to let go?

35.  Is there anyone with whom I feel angry or resentful?

36.  How does it benefit me to hold on to these feelings?

37.  In what areas of life and/or business do I feel most vulnerable?

38.  What am I most proud of? Do I give myself enough credit?

39.  If someone were to observe the inner workings of my business, would my values and a healthy culture be visible to them?

40.  Do I verbally express praise and thanks to my employees, and others who support me?

41.  Do I easily get frustrated or angry with people who don’t do things the way I do them?

42.  Deep inside, do I know that there is more than one way to achieve the same outcome, or better?

43.  Might it serve me well to trust people more? Am I overly controlling?

44.  Do I believe that everything must be hard, or that things never go right for me?

45.  When was the last time I had a good laugh?

46.  Do I feel guilty about not spending enough time with my kids–or others who are important to me?

47.  Do I have every confidence that my business is scalable, or do I have doubts about it?

48.  What am I most afraid of? Is my worse-case scenario really likely to happen?

49.  Am I living my passion?

50.  Am I willing to ask for (and in some cases pay for) the support I need?

This original article was written Rheana Murray for Today.

For years, I shunned the idea of setting a New Year’s resolution — I knew it wouldn’t stick.

But then, I found one that did.

At the end of 2014, facing professional burnout and an uncertain future, I chose one word to usher in 2015, a word I hoped would guide me during the more hectic times: calm.

It became my one-word mantra for the year. The goal was to navigate 2015 with that word in mind, making choices in both my personal and professional lives that would lead to calm. The next year, I chose kind. The year after that? Confidence.

This year, I rang in 2018 with creativity, making a quiet promise to myself to not let passion projects slide amid work and relationships and family and everything else that begs our attention throughout the year.

The one-word resolutions don’t dominate my life. Instead, they’re just loose themes. If I’m struggling to make a decision about something, I’ll choose the option that best aligns with that year’s word. If I find myself drifting off course, I simply remind myself to get back on track — no guilt required.

I don’t need a gym membership or a new hobby or more money or anything else that many other common New Year’s resolutions call for — just a little intention, and I’m all set.

So if you’re looking for a New Year’s resolution but can’t bear to fail at yet another promise to yourself to lose 10 pounds, feel free to borrow mine. Here are a few tips: The idea is to focus on the big picture, not the details. This resolution is about creating a fuller life, not about feeling guilty about the small things.

Choose something that you want more of. Maybe it’s passion or health or peace or even sleep. But keep it simple: Only one word allowed. What is your life missing right now? Choose that.

Oh, and one more thing? Don’t worry that it’s already a few days into January. After all, you’ve got the whole year!

 

Nobody looks up to a mediocre business leader. Human nature is to admire the excellent. Seeing other people do magnificent work shows us what is possible, and inspires us to achieve higher heights of our own.

But wanting to be excellent and consistently producing excellent work are two different things. That’s why the vast majority of people abandon new year’s resolutions so early on.

Contrary to what many may believe, performing at a high level, particularly in a manner that brings you the business results you crave, doesn’t require freakish talent, superhuman willpower, or abundant motivation. These elements are all unreliable.

Consistently being excellent is fueled by one simple thing: establishing the right habits.

In his book The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World’s Greatest Philosophers, author Will Durant concluded:

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation; we do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have these because we have acted rightly…We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.

And through his research on what separated the performance of Olympic swimmers from others who didn’t fare as well, Dan Chambliss came to a similar conclusion:

Excellence is mundane. Superlative performance is really a confluence of dozens of small skills or activities, each one learned or stumbled upon, which have been carefully drilled into habit and then fitted together in a synthesized whole. There is nothing extraordinary or superhuman in any one of those actions; only the fact that they are done consistently and correctly, and all together, produce excellence.

Data shows it takes 66 days of doing a task consistently, for your brain to be rewired enough for the action to become a habit. That’s a little over two months. Most people give up on a new activity that will propel them toward their goal far sooner than that.

As a result, operating in excellence remains outside their reach. No bueno.

Here are four principles to remember as you work to establish your excellence inducing habits, so you can perform better than ever before.

1. Make your habits embarrassingly small.

When most people set out to create a new habit, they make the mistake of going too big. So if they are a couch potato, they try to commit to going to the gym every day.

I made a similar mistake when I began writing for my business. Several of my virtual mentors said they wrote 2,000 words a day. So I resolved to do the same. But because I was starting from a place of writing inconsistently, the reality of having to produce such a large volume of words on a daily basis soon proved daunting.

And even though I started off strong, I soon started missing days until I was back to my old bad habit of writing inconsistently.

I succeeded in making writing a habit a few months later when I started with a goal of producing just 50-words a day. I could accomplish the task in less than 5-minutes. And because my target was so tiny, I felt silly for not doing it. And almost always, after I reached my 50-word quota, I’d keep going, because I was already in motion, and no longer felt the pressure to produce.

When working to establish a new habit, make your goal tiny. Make it so small, that it requires minimal effort to complete your task for the day.

2. Follow the 20-second rule.

In his book The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor shared research, including his own experience on how removing barriers, even minor ones that save as little as 20-seconds, is enough to push you forward toward establishing positive habits.

Thus doing things like sleeping in your gym clothes helps to reduce friction associated with working out in the morning. Author and podcast host Srini Rao writes a partial sentence every night to reduce the friction in starting his writing each day. And I’ve reduced friction to cooking at home, by grocery shopping every Sunday. This prevents me from using the excuse of not having healthy food stocked as a reason to eat out.

3. If you break the chain, simply start again. Quickly.

We are all human. And sometimes even with our best-laid plans, you may not be able to complete a task during your quest to establish a habit. If you do miss a day, don’t fret. Be kind to yourself, and start again.

Make the miss an outlier, rather than a negative trend. The sooner you pick your habit up again, the easier it will be to regain your positive momentum.

It’s time for you to make excellence a habit. Today is a great day to start.

 

This original article was written by Sonia Thompson for INC.

This original article was written by Bill Murphy Jr. for Inc.com

There are 100 days left in the year. How are your 2017 goals coming along?

For most people (me among them), there are things you wanted to accomplish that you haven’t even started yet. Fortunately, 100 days is a great time period for achieving goals. It’s a sufficient block to achieve progress, but short enough to leave no room for procrastination, which leads to a greater likelihood of success.

I know this from experience, having used 100-day plans several times to achieve big professional and personal goals. Among them:

  1. Getting in shape to run a marathon, after basically being a non-runner
  2. More than quadrupling the average monthly readership of this column, from about 250,000 people to well over one million
  3. Studying for and successfully passing the state bar exam, while simultaneously running a media startup

Below I’ll explain my process for mapping out a successful 100-day plan. The planning likely takes between 30 and 60 minutes to complete. Implementation is then up to you.

1. Draft a goal.

You need a goal, obviously, and steps 1 and 2 of this process are about choosing the right one. To be more specific, you need on objective that is worthwhile, quantifiable, and at least arguably achievable.

2. Question the goal.

A wise man once said, “It’s better to be at the bottom of a ladder you want to climb, then halfway up one that you don’t.”

To avoid getting on the wrong ladder, you need to ask yourself “why” while you’re setting your objective. As in, “Why do I want to achieve this particular goal?”

After you answer that question, you’ll need to ask it again, and preferably once more. Each time, it’s likely you will reveal a larger goal. For example:

Those sound like three good “why” questions to me. The point is to ensure that whatever you’re going to spend 100 days trying to accomplish will ultimately help you achieve a higher purpose. Otherwise, what’s the point?

3. Map the milestones.

You have a goal. You have 100 days. Now you need to map it out. You can divide these any way you like, but I find it most useful to divide everything into three 30-day increments, followed by a 10-day final increment.

This gives you four milestone dates before the end of the year (if you’re reading this article on the day it was published): October 22, November 21, December 21, and December 31.

Next, work backward, as if you wanted to achieve the final milestone–the full marathon, for example–on the 90th day, December 21. The last 10 days will either be a cushion, a time to push past your goal, or a celebration, depending on how successful you are.

I’m still old school enough to like using a large, printed calendar to record these dates and objectives, but a digital one can work as well.

4. Schedule the inputs.

You now have a 100-day calendar with four milestones marked. Next, you need to fill in the remaining 96 days, with the specific things you believe you will need to do to achieve the milestones.

Each day should be filled in, even if–in the case of a marathon training plan–there might be days on which your daily input is: Nothing. Rest. Take a day off.

Unless you’re far better at planning than I am, I’d use pencil (or a digital calendar). You’ll likely wind up revising many of the days’ tasks and inputs as you proceed. And that’s OK.

Literally, this is a marathon, not a sprint. It also doesn’t matter greatly if in putting together your inputs, you realize you will need a bit longer than 100 days to achieve your goal. You’ll still have a lot of reason to be proud if you need a few extra weeks and wind up celebrating your success on January 21, for example.

5. Track the outputs.

Now we move from planning to actually doing–and it’s super important to track your progress each day.

If you were supposed to run five miles yesterday, did you? If you were supposed to cold-call 20 potential widget customers, did you make the calls? And if you didn’t meet your daily goal, how does that shortfall affect your daily goals for the next few days?

Do you need to adjust them to make up?

Or have you overachieved already, and thus bought yourself a little bit of extra time? (This is why we write the daily inputs in pencil; few people can get through the entire plan without adjusting it here and there.)

Tracking may well involve letting others know about your goals and inviting them to hold you accountable. For example, when I was training to run a marathon, I did so with a group of other aspiring runners. When I was working to find more readers for this column, I checked in with my editors.

This is also the reason why you want that extra 10-day cushion at the end. By banking 10 percent of your 100 days, you significantly increase the odds you’ll achieve the final goal on time.

Let me be the first to congratulate you!

I find this plan to be simple but not necessarily easy. However, it’s worked for me multiple times–including one I didn’t mention before: The just-over-100 days that elapsed between the time my then-future wife and I got together, and when I convinced her to say “yes” when I asked her to marry me.

Thus, I’m a firm believer, and I hope it works for you as well.

It’s great to have a big salary and a fat bank account balance. But if you dream of getting rich, it’s your net worth that really counts. This figure encompasses all your assets minus the debts you owe. If you hope to end up with $1 million someday, you need to know where you’re starting.

To calculate your net worth, make a list of everything you own, including the estimated value of each item. This includes things such as:

Add them together. Then, make a list of your debts — including the mortgage, student loans, car loans and credit card balances — and total that cost. Subtract the total value of your debts from the total value of your assets to find your net worth.

Now that you know your net worth, focus on growing it to $1 million. It might seem like a long shot right now, but follow these tips from savvy financial experts to make your dream of great wealth a reality.

Manage Your Money Wisely

If you don’t earn a sky-high salary, you probably think a net worth of $1 million is out of the question. But that’s not true. Knowing how to work with what you have can make all the difference.

“Growing your net worth has little to do with your income and more to do with how you manage your money,” said Kevin Michels, a certified financial planner (CFP) with Medicus Wealth Planning in Draper, Utah. “We have a few clients who never made a six-figure salary and have well over a $1 million net worth.”

Understanding and optimizing your cash flow is the key to success, Michels said. Find the right balance between investing and paying off debt to make the most of your salary.

Your income might be significantly less than a friend earns. But if you live within your means and your friend doesn’t, there’s a strong chance your net worth will rise to $1 million faster — and stay there. Rather than becoming discouraged by a salary that’s lower than you’d like, learn to better allocate your funds.

Acquire the Right Assets

Crystal Stranger is an enrolled agent and president of 1st Tax, a nationwide tax firm that serves small businesses. She sees the tax returns of thousands of people each year, and she said there are many ways people accumulate $1 million in net worth.

However, none is easier or more automatic than buying real estate, she said. “All you need to do is buy $1 million worth of rental property that rents for at least (a) break-even amount, and let the tenants pay it off over a 30-year period,” she said.

The number of properties you will need to buy largely depends on your income and the cost of housing in your area, Stranger said. If you’re trying to figure out how to increase your net worth to $1 million, she advised real estate investing as a realistic way to do it. “Plus, real estate is a relatively good hedge for inflation and source of income into retirement,” Stranger said.

Of course, real estate isn’t for everyone. Other assets that can help increase your net worth include investments, business interests and personal property such as jewelry or art.

Reduce or Completely Eliminate Debt

Most Americans repay their debts in the wrong way, said Greg Knight, a certified financial planner and founder of Engage Advising in Oakland, Calif. “For example, if you have three credit cards with minimum balance payments, many people round up each minimum payment,” he said.

Knight said to stop doing this and instead make extra payments on the card with the highest interest rate. When that card is paid off, he advised applying the money you once used for the payment on that card — plus any extra money you can spare — to the next card, and so on.

A fee-only certified financial planner should be able to run a payment plan for you and calculate the amount of money saved in interest, and how quickly you’ll be able to pay off the debt, Knight said. “This method usually yields a substantial savings in interest, and pays off the debt faster,” he said.

Not owning a car is another savvy way to reduce your expenses. Consider this if you live in an urban area with reliable public transportation. If you must own a car, opt for a used car, Knight said. He urged used car shoppers to get a report of a vehicle’s history from Carfax. Doing so can help ensure you don’t buy a lemon.

“A well-priced used car in excellent condition will save you in sales tax, registration fees and insurance,” Knight said. “It could be a lower payment than a new car as well, depending on your down payment and financing arrangement.”

Pay Yourself First

Knight said paying yourself first needs to become your golden rule if you plan to build a net worth of $1 million. As soon as you start earning money, allocate some of it to savings. You must learn to save, and to build a cash reserve that can be harvested periodically to pay down debt or invest, he said.

Knight recommended saving either a specific percentage of your paycheck or a specific dollar amount and always adhering to that plan. Your early goal should be to create a cash reserve and a retirement account, and to pay down debt, he said.

“If you are single, you should target six to nine months of cash to cover total monthly expenses,” Knight said. “If you are a couple with two incomes and shared finances, you should keep three to six months (worth of) cash reserve of total monthly expenses. Once you exceed these amounts, you can then use your cash reserve as part of your investment portfolio or to pay down debt.”

Invest Your Money Wisely

Sharon Marchisello — author of the personal finance e-book “Live Cheaply, Be Happy, Grow Wealthy” — and her husband grew the couple’s net worth to more than $3 million while holding jobs with five-figure salaries. Careful investing was a factor in their financial success.

“If you don’t invest, your money probably will not keep up with inflation,” Marchisello said. She recommended starting with a no-load mutual fund that invests in an index, such as the S&P 500 or the total stock market. Stock choices should be based on your age and risk tolerance, Marchisello said.

Thoroughly researching your investments is a must, she said, as anything else is just gambling. Returns will vary by the performance of your selected stocks and the amount you invest.

If you don’t understand the stock market, seek assistance before making a purchase. Part of knowing how to increase your net worth is being open to guidance along the way.

 

Develop Good Money Habits

Wondering how to increase your net worth? Knowing how to handle money is the key. As someone who grew her net worth to more than $3 million without a six-figure income, Marchisello knows a thing or two about good money habits.

Living within your means and eliminating expenses that don’t add value to your life will help you get ahead, she said. One major way to do this is to keep housing expenses to around 30 percent of your income. Choosing a car you can afford and keeping extras — such as dinners out, vacations and designer clothing — to a minimum also play a huge role in succeeding financially.

Always pay your bills on time, Marchisello said. Late fees can add up fast, so if you tend to miss deadlines, enroll in autopay.

She also noted the importance of starting a retirement savings account as early as possible and paying yourself first. Developing healthy money habits will involve a period of transition at first, but it will become second nature in no time.

dolgachov / Getty Images 

Seek Assistance From a Financial Professional

Not everyone excels at finance, and that’s OK. If money matters aren’t your thing, learn how to increase your net worth to $1 million by working with an expert.

“If a person or family does not have an understanding or does not have time to take care of their finances, seek professional help from a financial advisor, preferably a credentialed financial advisor such as a CFP,” said Scott Smith, a certified financial planner, principal and senior advisor at Olympia Ridge Personal Financial Advisors in Rochester Hills, Mich.

A financial professional can help you calculate your net worth and create a strategy to work your way up to the $1 million mark. Having the steps outlined in front of you will make your goal feel more realistic.

Earn Income on the Side

Smith said finding a “side hustle” can help you earn more income. Whether your salary isn’t as high as you’d like or you want to monetize some of your free time, taking on a side gig will get your net worth closer to a $1 million. Find your best fit, as there are many ways to earn extra cash.

For example, if you’re a teacher, consider tutoring in the evenings and teaching summer school. You won’t have as much free time as your colleagues, but the sacrifice will improve your financial health.

If you don’t have time for a steady part-time gig, there are plenty of ways to earn extra cash when it fits your schedule. House-sit for friends, become a tasker for TaskRabbit or get paid to answer online surveys. You can even sign up for Ebates to get cash back every time you shop online, which can add up fast.

Maximize Your Retirement Savings

Even if your retirement is decades away, putting money aside now is a smart way to increase your net worth. The average employee defers 6.8 percent of his income to a retirement account, but 20 percent defer more than 10 percent, according to Vanguard’s “How America Saves 2016” report.

Many companies offer a program to match your contributions up to a certain percentage. Such contributions can help your nest egg grow fast. Maximizing these contributions is a must, said Paul Jacobs, an Atlanta-based certified financial planner, enrolled agent and chief investment officer of Palisades Hudson Financial Group.

“If your employer offers matching contributions and you don’t take advantage of it, you’re effectively leaving money on the table,” he said. “If you’re looking to invest for retirement, it’s important to set aside as much as possible.”

If you change jobs, Jacobs recommends rolling over your balance into your new company’s plan instead of cashing out, or leaving the money in your old plan. “Many people cash out their 401ks when they leave their job, and end up being hit with a double whammy,” he said. “In addition to having to pay income tax on the cash, the funds can also be subject to a 10 percent penalty.”

This original article was written by  for GOBankingRates.

This original article was written by Anna Bahney for CNN Money.

Fights about money are one of the leading causes of divorce in America. A third of couples say they get into it about money at least once a month, according to Ameriprise Financial.

But money fights are rarely about the numbers in your bank account.

More often they’re about trust, communication and power, says Megan Ford, a financial therapist based in Georgia.

“In the heat of conflict, it can seem like you’ll never understand one another or find common ground,” says Ford.

Here’s how to stop the screaming and get to the heart of the issue so you and your partner can build your relationship — and your bank accounts — together.

1. Get on the same page — literally

Most people budget, but many do it in their heads. If you’re keeping competing accounts or frankly have no idea where they money goes, it’s time to get the numbers out into a neutral, equally accessible space.

Deputize an online budget app (like Mint or You Need a Budget) or a regularly updated spreadsheet as your third-party referee.

Even if your arguments aren’t explicitly about dishonesty, a good place to ground the discussion is in the hard, cold facts of who spent what when.

2. Make time for money talk

Don’t sit around stewing about your partner’s apparent inability to make a dent in his credit card debt. Or speculating on how much she actually spent on those shoes.

Better to agree ahead on a money talk night. (It’s no date night, but budgets do pair well with wine and pizza.)

The idea that talking about money is, “impolite, taboo, and not in good taste is still very much present and significantly affects how open some couples feel about discussing it,” says Ford, who is also a licensed marriage and family therapist.

Money is cause for a lot of anxiety, guilt, and shame, she says. Talking about it can make us feel vulnerable.

The goal is to create a designated safe-space to talk about money challenges in a calm way with facts and figures — not name-calling and finger-wagging.

3. Step back, Judgy McJudgerson

It’s really important to listen before you judge your partner’s financial decisions or behaviors.

Even if your partner’s expensive cheese obsession or belief that their HBO subscription is a mandatory expense may seem silly or irrational to you, part of being in a healthy partnership is working to understand your significant other better, says Ford.

Ask your partner why they act or think a certain way about money. Perhaps his parents did it that way. Maybe it’s a coping strategy she developed when she was dead broke.

“Work on seeking to understand as a way to lessen conflict,” says Ford.

4. Target challenges, build on agreements

If you can both pull apart the things that set each other off, you’ll better understand the minefields that keep your stress levels up.

What talks cause you trouble? Do you get into it when you’re trying to prioritize needs versus wants? Maybe you’re particularly sensitive to a partner’s questioning your purchases.

“Knowing where things aren’t working can help you better identify what you need to work on specifically, so that you don’t feel that you’re trapped in perpetual conflict around every single thing that involves money,” says Ford.

And if you look for them, there are likely exceptions to the conflicts — things that you actually agree on. Build on those.

Not only can they provide a change of perspective, they may become your mutual financial goals.

5. Know when to get help

Some money mistakes that spike stress levels — like late payments, high interest credit card debt or plummeting credit scores — can take years to recover from or eliminate.

Better to get help early if behaviors aren’t changing and your financial situation is unraveling. Don’t hesitate to call in the reinforcements. From government approved credit counselors to government approved debt education there are resources available to help. Likely more are available in your community through non-profit organizations or educational institutions.

Even if you aren’t bleeding money, you may be leaking cash due to communication missteps. You and your partner may benefit from working with a certified financial planner or a financial therapist, like Ford, who can help you make sense of both the money and your honey.

This original article was written by Sari Harrar for AARP The Magazine.

THE LOWDOWN: As the kids move out, many 50-somethings splurge on homes, vacations, cars. But with retirement years looming, that could be a mistake. Welcome to your most critical financial decade.

In Your 50s You …

… rule America’s wealth … Over-55s have $1.6 trillion in spending power — controlling 75 percent of the nation’s wealth and 70 percent of U.S. disposable income.

yet have major money worries. That wealth isn’t evenly shared. Just 1 in 4 people in their 50s feel confident their savings will last through retirement.

You took a huge hit in the Great Recession of 2007–2009 … The average net worth of 50-something households topped $200,000 by 2007, then plummeted to $140,000 in 2008. Recovery has been modest.

and plan to work a long, long time Fifty-nine percent of 50-somethings expect to hold down a job until 65 or older — and 26 percent plan to work until at least 70 — according to a 2016 survey.

but may be too optimistic. Reality check: Nearly half the retired women and men in one national survey said they had to stop working sooner than expected — 41 percent due to a health issue, 26 percent due to their employer’s decision.

You may have stopped saving for retirement … A record 30 percent of people in their 50s say they no longer contribute to their retirement accounts; 16 percent have withdrawn money prematurely.

… and may be carrying historic credit card debt. Credit card debt is highest in the nation — $9,096 per person — among those in their early 50s. One in 7 may not get out of debt in their lifetime.

You spend a lot … Today’s 50-plus consumers spend at a rate two and a half times that of younger consumers. “People tend to kick up their heels in their 50s when the kids are gone,” notes Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

… especially on vacations. Adults over 50 spend almost half of all vacation dollars and account for 80 percent of luxury travel — over $120 billion a year.

You love home renovations … Age-55-plus households account for nearly half (47 percent) of all spending on home renovations, about $90 billion a year, one survey found. The most popular projects: a home office, jazzed-up curb appeal, and kitchen or bathroom upgrades. Meanwhile, 37 percent plan to move into a new home. The fallout: The average mortgage of a boomer today is $186,240.

… but also face rising household expenses Between 2013 and 2014, 55 percent of 50-somethings spent more on groceries and 44 percent spent more on utilities.

… yet are helping kids and aging parents. One in 5 people in their 50s say they’re assisting an older parent financially; 62 percent do the same for a grown child.

Try This Now

Get Smart About Retirement

In your 50s you’re still working, investments still have time to grow, and your mental prowess for making financial decisions is at its peak. Here’s what to do now.

Pay off credit card debt.“With investments earning 2 to 5 percent, it makes no sense to be saving for retirement if you’re not also paying off your credit cards,” says Michael Finke, chief academic officer at the American College of Financial Services.

Bump up automatic contributions. “If your employer offers a plan with automatic withholding, increase the withdrawal by at least a few percentage points,” Finke suggests.

Beware the call for cash. Your future security is more important than a lavish resort wedding for your daughter. Make sure you’re taking care of your financial needs, too, Finke says.

Have a plan. Having a financial plan could help you increase your retirement income by 20 percent or more, research has found.

Hold out. By working longer, you can smartly delay Social Security payments. Waiting until age 70 to start collecting gives you monthly benefits 76 percent higher than you’d get at 62.

This original article was written by Lindsey Olander for Travel and Leisure.

Summertime, and the living is easy—especially if you’re spending June in one of these amazing destinations.

There’s much to celebrate this month, not least of all the end of another school year. As such, destinations kick into high gear as crowds young and old seek out the best places to spend their long-awaited summer vacation.

Blame it on the heat, the sunshine, or the fact that picnic-in-the-park season is in full swing, but summer, for many, exudes an air of romance. Come June, the allure of Venice is irresistible: gondola rides down glittering canals, afternoon coffee breaks at sidewalk cafés, endless gelato between art galleries. You’ll find just as much magic in what some have dubbed the Venice of the North, Stockholm, where locals emerge from hibernation to don flower crowns and usher in the solstice. Meanwhile, summer in tropical Kaua’i—a Hawaiian fantasyland of cascading waterfalls, impenetrable rain forests, and rugged coastlines with some of the best beaches in the world as well as some of the best sunsets—is as beautiful as it gets.

But Kaua’i isn’t just for lovers; it’s also a favorite destination for families, especially in June. Now that school’s out, multi-gen vacationers make a beeline for its pools, surf, and laid-back lifestyle. Closer to home, Boston is another crowd-pleaser. Whether you’re looking to catch a ball game at Fenway Park, take in some history by the harbor, or shop to your heart’s content on Newbury Street, Beantown offers something for every age and interest. This year, the National Park Service celebrates its centennial, and parks nationwide—including those in Colorado—are welcoming a record number of visitors with newfound interest in their pristine landscapes.

However, just because June is widely considered the best time of year to visit many destinations doesn’t mean you can’t score a good deal. Frequent thunderstorms and humidity keep a lot of would-be visitors away from places like Cuba and Bangkok—but those that do have a better chance of finding better hotel rates and thinner crowds. The same goes for Beijing, one of the cheapest places to travel anywhere all month.

Whether you seeking the sun—and the crowds—or looking to escape them, these are the places to go to ring in the summer season. Trying to make plans for April, May, or the rest of the year? We’ve got you covered.