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Small Steps to a Better Year Ahead

By Ann Needle

According to the University of Scranton (PA), a scant 8% of Americans reported ever achieving a New Year’s resolution. If this sounds familiar, perhaps these promises to yourself were just too big to keep.

This year, try taking smaller steps to a better life; minor moves that are simple to make — and easy to keep doing all year. These steps can lead to a healthier wallet and fitter body and could lead to bigger things. But even if they don’t, small improvements add up to an overall better you.
This week, we focus on finances, exercise and nutrition.

Financial Health at Home and Work
Information courtesy of Bob Kilkenny, CPA, who lives and works in Stow at his own accounting service.

•PAY YOURSELF FIRST – With pensions going the way of the dial phone, saving your own money has become essential to considering retirement at all. Thankfully, retirement accounts with tax perks abound, from individual retirement accounts to 401(k)s. And, many accounts make it easy to invest, offering direct deposit from your paycheck. “Even if you think you can’t afford it, and it’s small dollars, any contribution you make adds up,” Kilkenny stressed. “And you can always increase it later.”

• CHECK YOUR INSURANCE — Kilkenny urged residents to look over any insurance policies to assure each covers what you think it does. Do you remember homeowners a few years ago, taken aback when they discovered that a homeowner’s policy doesn’t usually cover flood damage? The same notion goes for the self-employed homeowner who sees clients in a home office. “If that client slips and hurts themselves on the ice on your steps, your home insurance probably won’t cover that,” Kilkenny noted.

• MAKE A PHONE CALL—If you are planning a major financial or business move in the coming year — from purchasing a home, to buying a truck for business or hiring a new employee pick up the phone and make a quick call about it to an accountant or other adviser. Kilkenny emphasized that this call is essential in finding out know how these moves could impact you tax-wise.

• GET MOVING, BUT DON’T PANIC—If you plan on having someone else do your taxes, take a moment to gather the paper work NOW, so the preparer has time to focus on the finer details that could save you money, Kilkenny said. But, if all else fails and you end up filing for a tax extension, he pointed out, “It’s been shown that those getting extensions aren’t audited any more than taxpayers meeting the April deadline.”

Movement and Nutrition
As a certified personal trainer, June Melia consults with clients on nutrition and exercise though her business, Fit By June. She also has conducted classes for the Stow Recreation Dept. She recommends the following small steps:

• THINK—Take a few moments to explore why you really want to improve your health. Melia said of her clients, “If people say they want to lose weight so they can wear a bikini on vacation, I ask what that means to their life. Maybe it’s really that they want to be able to run around after their kids”–something that could offer a lot more motivation in the long run.

• HAVE FUN– “If your goal is to get on the treadmill an hour a day, and you hate the treadmill, then you’ll have an empty treadmill sitting in your house,” Melia cautioned. Sticking with a physical activity means finding something you enjoy, whether it’s salsa dancing or horseback riding lessons, she said.

• FIND 20 MINUTES DAILY — “Everyone should be getting 20 minutes a day of exercise,” Melia emphasized. “And that’s ahead of the curve for most of the population.” This could be as simple as getting off the train to work a stop or two early, playing with the kids, or strolling one of Stow’s many walking trails in the evening, she said.

• ADD TO YOUR DIET — If your resolution has to do with your diet in any way, Melia cautioned, “It’s important to think about adding things in instead of taking things out. Rather than saying I’ll take away a cookie every day, focus on adding spinach into your dinner, or a handful of blueberries to breakfast.”

Registered dietician Peg Mikkola has worked with Minuteman Senior Services for more than 30 years, and has consulted on health issues with clients of Stow’s Council on Aging. Here are a few of her “small steps” movement and nutrition tips:

• LOSE LESS WEIGHT — Most people looking to drop some pounds should be happy with a 1- to 2-lbs. loss per month, Mikkola said. If this doesn’t sound like much, “Look at where you will be next year if you do this! If you have to starve yourself, you won’t stay with a program very long.”

• TAKE 100 STEPS — Mikkola suggested an easy way to get more exercise into your life is to “consciously walk at least 100 steps in your own home, if not outside; you may find this easy and can add on every day.” Another way to do this, she added: “If sitting watching TV, get up and walk around during commercials, and do some slow arm and leg lifts.”

• PACK SOME PROTEIN – “Although most Americans probably get plenty of protein, seniors who are alone and don’t eat regular meals often fall short on their protein intake,” said Mikkola. Everyday foods packed with protein include poultry, eggs, nuts and seeds, beans, fish, cheese, and lean beef.

In a future issue, we will look at additional small steps in other areas that you can take toward a healthier, happier year ahead.