Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Love E-filing? Here’s What You Need to Know to Protect Yourself From Tax-Related Fraud

As we dive deeper into the “digital age” many more of us are turning to online resources to file our tax returns. And why not? It saves time and money, makes the task of gathering information about our expenses, assets, income and relevant tax codes less daunting and allows us to receive tax refunds more quickly. According to the IRS, 90% of online filers receive their refunds within three weeks or less, as opposed to paper filers whose returns often take much longer to process (not to mention that there’s no sure-fire way to know whether your return has even been received).

Even the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) advocates for electronically filed tax returns over paper, and has reported a 7.5% increase in self-prepared taxes in 2014,compared to 2013.  

As we prepare for tax season, however, it’s important to stay informed about scams that target e-filers. The IRS is warning about new tax phishing scams. Phishing can be described as “the fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.” These malicious messages vary, but they are all after one common goal: monetary profit.

Individuals sending e-mails like the one above aim to collect as much personal information (i.e. your name and Social Security number) as possible, in order to file a fake tax return and collect a refund.  The scammers disguise their identity, impersonating IRS officials, TurboTax, and other companies/organizations alike, claiming they need your personal information so you may successfully file taxes online or receive a tax return.

Most of these e-mails lead the message recipients to select a link where they complete a form about themselves, while in other situations, a link can download malware (malicious software) onto a computer, compromising the stored information within the device.

The IRS advises taxpayers to ignore these fraudulent e-mails, urging users to avoid clicking on these suspicious links. The IRS, by the way, will never contact you via e-mail to ask for your personal or financial details. If you’re suspicious about a message you’ve received, send it to phishing@irs.gov.    

Filing your taxes online provides tremendous cost savings and other benefits, but it’s always prudent to be aware of activities that appear suspicious. QUESTION the things you see online, CHECK for validity, and ASK your friends or neighbors.

Resources to help keep you safe:

To obtain more information on other tax-related scams, you can learn more here:

What if you have already fallen victim of your tax refunds being stolen? Find out ways you can recover: http://tinyurl.com/hotl4zz

The Piers Project is funded by a gift from the family estate of Ellie Piers to benefit the FrontPorch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing’s (CIW’s) ongoing mission of using technology to enhance wellbeing among older adults. Piers lived at Carlsbad By The Sea, a Front Porch retirement community in Carlsbad, CA. Her contribution allows the CIW to address cyber security through education, training, and the use of technologies that promote Internet safety, especially in the greater San Diego area.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

4 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

Use these 'light' tips to brighten your days.
Patricia Corrigan for Next Avenue

When the sun wakes up late and slips away before the workday ends, when many a day is dark and gray, when it’s Groundhog Day and even an early spring seems far away, many large, hairy mammals — Punxsutawney Phil, included — choose to hibernate. But not us!

We slog through, knowing that the passage of time will bring brighter days ahead. But we can do more than wait it out. Here are four easy ways to beat the winter blues and create a little sunshine of your own:

1. Bring light to others’ lives

“I’m 87 years old and I can still finish The New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle,” a friend wrote in a holiday note to me. She added, “And I love hearing from you!”

My aunt, who is 86 and lives in rural Illinois, also likes hearing from me. The joy is evident in her voice when I call to report any new funny stories about my grandson or even when I call just to say hello.

I care about both these women, and about other
distant friends as well. Talking with them brightens my day and theirs, too.

No matter how behind in life you are, consider making time right now to pick up the phone and bring some sunshine into the lives of your older relatives and friends.

After the call(s), keep that smile on your face. Research shows that
when you smile, your mood elevates and you feel less stressed.

In an article for Forbes,
Roger Dooley writes that if you smile in public, those around you will be lifted as well. “UCLA scientist Marco Iacoboni notes that our brains are wired for sociability,” Dooley reports. “In particular, if one person observes another person smile, mirror neurons in that person’s brain will light up as if he were smiling himself.” (Or herself, I’m certain.)

2. Open a box of light

 In mid-December, my friend Carol Porter posted this on Facebook: “I’m enjoying an early Christmas present to myself — my new light box! I sit next to it for 30 minutes daily, relaxing with coffee, calendar, notepad, tablet, organizing my day and thinking beautiful thoughts as the bright light bathes my retinas.”

When Carol complained of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) — also known as the winter blues — her doctor gave her a brochure about a company that makes several varieties of high-powered therapy lights and lamps.

 “A light box mimics outdoor light. Researchers believe this type of light causes a chemical change in the brain that lifts your mood and eases other symptoms of SAD,” says the Mayo Clinic. A light box may be an effective treatment on its own or, the Mayo Clinic adds, “in combination with an antidepressant medication or psychotherapy.”

Think you may suffer from SAD?
The Mayo Clinic lists these symptoms:
• Irritability
• Tiredness or low energy
• Problems getting along with other people
• Hypersensitivity to rejection
• Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
• Oversleeping
• Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
• Weight gain

Carol likes her lamp a lot. Sitting by it, she exhorts, “SAD, be gone!”

3. Light up the night

 Me, I like the dark. (Cue “Over at the Frankenstein Place,” from
The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which starts out with this evocative line: “In the velvet darkness of the blackest night…” What, you’re not a fan?)

Night is when I write, read, listen to music and relax. I also like vanilla-scented candles, and one recent rainy evening I gathered up five of them, put them on a placemat in the middle of my dining room table and lit them all.

I turned off the lamps and then, with a clear sight line from the living room couch, I sat with a glass of wine, enjoying my impromptu candle party and the subtle scent of vanilla.

4. Treat your “defects” lightly

 “The truth is that the older I get, the more I like my defects. Old age is the best moment to be and do whatever you enjoy.” That’s Alma speaking. She’s the 81-year-old main character in Isabelle Allende’s book,
The Japanese Lover: A Novel, about a woman who carries on a secret affair well into her later years. What’s especially intriguing about Alma’s quote is the encouragement to embrace our flaws and emphasize our eccentricities.

 Another important self-improvement tip comes from a recent book by
Allen Klein, who insists it’s time to stop blaming other people for anything.You Can’t Ruin My Day: 52 Wake-Up Calls to Turn Any Situation Around is Klein’s 25th book on harnessing the power of humor to make a better life.

 “You are the only person who can ruin your day,” Klein writes. He says our reactions to any thought or action determines how we perceive that thought or action, and we have ultimate control over our reactions.

 To bolster his case, Klein, 77, quotes rabbis, Japanese proverbs, Desmond Tutu, Chinese philosophers, Pema Chodron (an American Buddhist nun) and even Alexander Pope, the 18th century poet.

 The gist of Klein’s message? Lighten up.

© Twin Cities Public Television - 2016. All rights reserved.



Thursday, January 19, 2017

How to Become a Boomer Tech Genius

Credit: Thinkstock
Humorous and helpful ideas to get savvy about electronics and apps

By Barbara Crowley for Next Avenue

(Editor’s Note: This article is a reader-submitted essay.)

I believe my generation, the boomers, will change the way the world views aging.

I think we’ll do this by railing against getting old, whereas the generations before us just sat back and accepted it.

Suppliers of cosmetics, plastic surgery, pharmaceuticals and vitamin supplements have voluntarily joined our cause. Actually, these businesses don’t see it so much as a cause, but as a potentially lucrative demographic — now tagged the “grey market.”

For most of these businesses, the focus is “anti-aging.”

I take issue with that term. The dictionary definition of “anti” is “opposed to.” Can you really be opposed to aging? Like you have an option and can cast your vote?

Is There An Aging App?

The technology industry, on the other hand, doesn’t really care if the boomers age. They just want us all to do it with a mobile app.

Tech innovators in the aging and caregiving arena believe that smartphones, smart homes, smart cars and big data will improve the lives of aging adults and their caregivers enormously.

I believe they are right. I just don’t know how to use that stuff very well.

I’m not tech-frightened. I consider myself a tech-curious-eager adopter. I’m excited for the future. I look forward to Rosie the Robot finally coming to live at my house! I will wear newfangled digital devices that track my heart rhythms and space-age socks that can decipher whether I am about to fall down and break a hip, or rat me out if I don’t take my medication. These devices will keep me safe and help me live longer.

Still, technology can be complicated and not always intuitive, especially for those of us who used typewriters and pay phones during our formative years.

My Solution: Adopt-a-Genius

So how can we attain tech savvy and then keep up with upgrades?

One idea: When I go to the Apple Store, a “Genius” helps me with a question about my iAnything and all the words coming out of his/her mouth make perfect sense. Then I go home and forget what I learned. So maybe the solution for both United States economic growth and older adults who struggle to make their technology work is to literally adopt an Apple “Genius.” It’s perfect!

The “Genius” gets free room and board and uses the money saved to pay off student loans. We adoptive boomers benefit by having a live-in IT person who doesn’t roll their eyes when you ask how to post a photo to Instagram like your real kid does.

Finding Tech Instruction

I am pretty sure Apple won’t implement my “Adopt a Genius” program anytime soon (unless they can get us to agree to their Terms and Conditions).

So here are a few practical options to help us navigate the world of technology:
Oasis Connections: They partner with local libraries, job help centers, senior centers and faith-based organizations to help bridge the “digital divide.”
Osher Lifelong Learning Institute: Some of the most popular classes at this wonderful organization provide instruction on computers, smartphones and other mobile devices.
In New York City, try Older Adults Technology Services, which provides hands-on training to improve computer skills and learn how to search for reliable health information, city services. It also encourages social engagement, which is a good thing, too.

© Twin Cities Public Television - 2016. All rights reserved.


Friday, January 13, 2017

Where to Volunteer on the MLK Day of Service

Credit: Thinkstock
By Richard Eisenberg for Next Avenue

In honor of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Day of Service, consider for a moment these two quotes from the esteemed civil rights leader:

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” and “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.”

With those words in mind — and 2017 marking the 23th anniversary of the law creating this day of service — I hope you’ll look for a way to do something for others on MLK Day and volunteer. Be great. (Some nonprofits have Martin Luther King Jr. Day volunteering projects on Tuesday, too.)

Volunteer to Commemorate Dr. King

“Volunteering as a way to commemorate the efforts of Dr. King is probably a better way to honor him than going to a sale at your neighborhood department store,” says Delores Morton, president of programs at Points of Light, the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service.

It’s easier than ever to find places that could use your help. And it’s not too late. Simply go online to sites that let you find and sign up for volunteering opportunities by your Zip Code and particular interests.

For example, Points of Light has created a special Volunteer Opportunity Search tool just for Martin Luther King Day. “We’re trying to open the door as wide as possible to help people volunteer,” says Morton.

The VolunteerMatch site, which connects nonprofits with people who want to work for them, has a similar feature. (Next Avenue has a link to VolunteerMatch’s general tool to find opportunities and lets you search specifically for ones well-suited to people 55 and older.)

A Day On, Not a Day Off

Or you could visit MLKDay.gov, the website of the U.S. government’s Corporation for National & Community Service, and use its Find a Project tool. This agency urges people to support MLK Day of Service “as a day on, not a day off” — which I think is a pretty great description.

Any type of volunteering would be welcome, of course. But Morton says Points of Light encourages people to honor King by assisting the poor, the homeless and the hungry.

Her group and the Corporation for National & Community Service awarded $125,000 to support Martin Luther King, Jr. Day projects in eight U.S. locations, where 175,000 volunteers will join up to feed the hungry, clean up parks and schools and more.

Daily Point of Light Awards

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Points of Light will also give out its 5,135th Daily Point of Light Award — an honor given to everyday people creating change through volunteering. Christine Wright and her grown daughter, Melanie Stevenson, of the Birmingham, Ala., area, will receive the award jointly for bringing their family to volunteer every MLK Day for more than a decade.

This year, they’ll be helping Habitat for Humanity build a house that’ll provide a permanent home for a Birmingham family displaced by a tornado in 2011. And they’ll work on a landscaping project at a Birmingham elementary school.

Which reminds me: If you have a friend, neighbor, relative or work colleague whose volunteering work is worth honoring, nominate him or her for a Daily Point of Light Award on the Points of Light site. “It’s not about how many hours of service you conducted or how long you’ve served or how big the impact,” says Morton. “It’s about celebrating people doing great work. Points of Light is counting on people to raise up those stories.”

Upon accepting the presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention, George H.W. Bush famously said: “Any definition of a successful life must include serving others.” Monday will be a good day to help make your life — and perhaps the lives of many others — a success.

© Twin Cities Public Television - 2016. All rights reserved.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Being Older Is Better for Many Travel Discounts

Those milestone birthdays can add up to major savings
Credit: Getty Images
The next time you travel, ask about a “senior discount.” You may discover there are fabulous perks to reaching those milestone birthdays. Many hotels, restaurants, transportation companies, entertainment venues and big-box stores offer age-related discounts, although they’re often not publicized.

It’s no wonder travel companies seek opportunities to woo older travelers. U.S. News & World Report recently reported that boomers control 70 percent of all disposable income in the United States. Moreover, older travelers are likely to have more time to travel. A report by AARP found that boomer travelers anticipate taking four or five trips a year.

Whether you are traveling in the U.S. or abroad, here are some tips for finding age-related discounts to whittle down the costs of your next vacation:

Check Websites and Make Calls

When planning a trip, check the sites of the travel-related companies you’re considering using. Many have special pages with information about age-related discounts (often called “senior discounts”) available through a search or a pop-up box that let you insert your age when booking to obtain a lower rate.

If you can’t find a written discount policy online (sometimes it isn’t there and sometimes it’s simply hard to find), call and ask if you are eligible for a price break due to your age. Some airlines, for example, only offer such discounts on the phone, not online.

Ask a Travel Agent

Finding age-related discounts can be challenging and time-consuming. And because these offers change (and disappear) frequently, websites compiling them and travel guides aren’t always accurate or up-to-date.

With the complexity of do-it-yourself trip planning and booking, many midlife travelers are once again using travel agents. Experienced travel advisers often know about specific discounts and are able to compare them to other promotions.

Read the Fine Print

My optimistic husband always says that “older is better” and that certainly is the case when it comes to age-related discounts. Determine whether you meet the eligibility age for a senior discount. These vary widely, with some discounts available to those age 50, 55, 59, 60, 62, 65 and over.

Be sure to read the policies for securing the discount, too. You may be required to ask for the lower rate at the time of booking or purchase. The discounts may have blackout dates or only be available on certain days of the week. Hotel rooms offers may be on a space-available basis, with only a limited number of rooms at the special rate.

Moreover, age-related discounts usually can’t be combined with other promotions.

Consider Joining AARP
The AARP Member Travel Benefits website is a web portal cataloging an extensive number of member discounts that AARP has negotiated with hotel chains, car rental companies, cruise lines, tour and rail operators, restaurants, entertainment venues and more — typically ranging between 5 and 25 percent.

AARP also offers a Member Advantages Offer Finder app for iPhone, iPad or Android devices that enable travelers to find nearby offers and discounts, and to download a digital version of their AARP identification cards.

To join AARP, you need to be age 50 or older and pay an annual membership fee of $16 per year.

Carry Your ID Cards

Although you may not be required to produce proof of age to get a discount, come prepared with a valid driver’s license, photo ID or Medicare or AARP card. Some offers require signing up for a free senior membership ahead of time.

Comparison Shop

Even when senior discounts are available, don’t necessarily assume that they’re the best deal you can get from the purveyor. For example, a “two for one” cruise deal may be cheaper than booking a discounted senior fare.

Also, older travelers often have the advantage of being able to travel during shoulder seasons, when airfare and hotel rates are lower than the senior rates, or they can rearrange the timing of their trips to take advantage of special deals.

Just Ask

Most importantly: Since there is a certain randomness to the availability of these discounts, don’t be embarrassed to ask for one.

Even within national chains, individual stores may have different policies. When my friend was packing for a trip to the west coast, she discovered she could purchase designer jeans at a TJ Maxx in Delray Beach, Fla., with a 10 percent senior discount, available throughout that particular store on Mondays. Keep your ears open and ask budget-conscious friends about their finds.

Don’t know what to ask for? Check out the following examples of age-related travel discounts available in spring 2016. This list is intended to be illustrative, not exhaustive, and some may no longer be available.

Hotel Deals

  • At Hyatt properties, those 62-plus save up to 50 percent on the Hyatt Daily Rate at participating hotels and resorts in the continental U.S. and Canada.
  • On a space available basis, Marriott International offers discounts of 15 percent and more to those 62-plus at over 4,000 properties worldwide.
  • At Wyndham Hotel Group Hotels, guests 60-plus can request senior discounts of up to 10 percent off the Best Available Rate.
  • Guests 59-plus can take advantage of a 10 percent senior discount at the 425 Red Roof Inn locations across the U.S. The senior rate option is listed on the booking page.
  • In Spain, Paradores Hotels offers Golden Days Promotion discounts on rooms (10 percent) and breakfast (30 percent) to those 55-plus.

Transportation Deals

  • Along with other perks and amenities, most U.S. airlines, car rental firms and bus companies have done away with senior discounts, but there are a few available:
  • Southwest Senior Fares for those 65-plus, available on both domestic and international flights, offer the advantage of being fully refundable.
  • According to the Delta Air Lines site, senior discounts are available “in certain markets” with additional information available only by phone.
  • Although there are some exceptions, Amtrak travelers 62-plus are eligible to receive a 15 percent discount on the lowest available rail fare. On cross-border services operated jointly by Amtrak and VIA Rail Canada, a 10 percent discount for those 60-plus applies.
  • Those 65-plus can apply for a Reduced-Fare MetroCard for half-price fares on MTA subways and buses in New York City, but, as with many other local transportation systems, including BART in San Francisco, they may need to file an application in advance.
  • Hertz offers a special 50 Plus Car Rental Deal discount code to renters 50-plus.
  • Greyhound Bus Lines offers a 5 percent discount to those 62-plus on passenger fares to a network of more than 3,800 destinations on their own buses and participating connecting bus companies.
Restaurant Deals
Some restaurant chains offer senior discounts, but these are highly variable. They may be on certain days of the week, vary by location within the same chain, or be limited to certain senior menus. A few examples:
  • At some franchised restaurants, like Applebee’s, discount decisions are made locally.
  • IHOP offers a menu that is specially “proportioned and priced” for those 55-plus.
  • Old Country Buffet has a 60-plus club membership with discounts and complimentary extras.
Attractions and Entertainment Deals

  • U.S. citizens over age 62 can buy a lifetime Senior Pass for $20 that includes entry to the 59 national parks and more than more than 2,000 other recreational facilities managed by the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA Forest Service, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In addition, the Tennessee Valley Authority honors the Senior Pass for entrance or camping discounts.
  • Many museums offer age-related discounts. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Philadelphia Museum of Art offer discounted admissions for those 65-plus, as does the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum for those 62-plus.
  • Admissions at the Minnesota Zoo are discounted for those 62-plus.
  • On Wednesdays, Station Casinos offer “My Generation” deals on dining, gaming, movies, bowling and more ”Young and Fun Day” with up to 20 percent off spa and salon services and 25 percent discounts on certain shows, and more for those 55-plus.
  • Those 65-plus get discounts at the Mob Museum and Neon Museum in Las Vegas.
  • At AMC Theatres, discounted tickets are available to patrons 60-plus.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Learning to Swim at 80

Credit: Getty Images
Tackling a lifelong to-do can be really enjoyable

By Louise Jackson for Next Avenue

Every Thursday night, I drive to the gym, wriggle into a swimsuit that does nothing to hide my bulging belly or my wrinkled, sagging underarms, put on swim goggles that make me look a bit like someone from outer space, grab my cane to help keep my balance while walking from the dressing room into the pool area and slowly ease down the steps into water smelling of chlorine.

I’m 80 years old and taking a swim class for the first time in my life.

How Do You Go Eight Decades Without Learning to Swim?

You’d think, given the description of my general appearance in one of today’s swimsuits, I’d be embarrassed to be seen at the pool. And I did think about that beforehand, but I looked around the women’s dressing room one day and realized I was in good company. People’s bodies come in all sizes and shapes and using my appearance as an excuse for opting out of an activity I really wanted to try seemed self-defeating. So, in spite of my misgivings, I paid the class fee.

If you grew up near a lake or a town with a swimming pool, or your parents swam, it may surprise you to learn I’ve never taken swimming lessons. But I grew up on a small ranch in Central Texas during an extreme, extended drought and all the swimming holes became wading pools.

Further, the cause of polio was yet unknown. We looked with fear at Life magazine photos showing long rows of children in iron lungs, unable to breathe on their own. The media warned parents about exposing their children to large groups in strange situations. Driving 20 miles each way, just so a child could learn to swim, was never even considered.

Better Late Than Never

After I became an adult, I watched with envy as others swam. I eventually taught myself to float and even to swim, after a fashion, but always wanted to do more, to be better. Finally, when my gym decided to offer adult swim lessons, I reminded myself of the old adage, “Better late than never,” and have just completed half the eight-week course.

To my surprise, even though I’m the oldest person in the class, I haven’t felt the least bit awkward and I’m doing pretty well in spite of some breathlessness due to A-fib. Everyone else has to struggle, too. We’re there because we want to learn to swim or swim more skillfully. It’s a new and demanding experience for each of us.

I’ve made friends with all sorts of people — young men who grew up in deserts, moms who want to swim with their children and a few younger seniors who, like me, hope to stay healthy as long as possible. One young woman even told me, “I want to be like you when I grow up!” (I think several bulges may have shrunk a bit on hearing those words!)

Feeling Sore — But It’s Worth It

One caveat if you’re thinking of following my lead: You may feel stiff and sore after the first several classes. That could be true even if, like me, you’re no stranger to gentle exercising like walking or Tai chi. Swimming demands the use of muscles in totally different ways.

Still, take heart. The aches don’t last and each session feels less demanding, as you build endurance.

For me, the water is no longer an awkward environment. My balance, slightly impaired by a small stroke, isn’t a problem in the pool. I look forward to learning new skills and getting better at the ones I’ve already learned.

Last week, we began the breast stroke. It used my leg muscles in different ways than the freestyle, and I’m stiff again. But that’s OK. It feels good to think I’m getting stronger and more supple with each new activity.

I figure, if you’re lucky, you get older. But aging doesn’t mean you should stop learning and staying in shape. Swimming is fun! I’ve already signed up for another eight lessons, beginning in the new year. It’s my Christmas present to myself.

© Twin Cities Public Television - 2016. All rights reserved.


7 Ways to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

Are you sabotaging yourself? Here's how you can fulfill your commitments.

Credit: Getty Images

It’s that time of year again. A new beginning, a clean slate. But how often do you actually make good on your New Year’s resolutions? If the answer is “not very,” you’ll want to read the seven ideas below that can help you follow through in 2017.

The start of a new year naturally creates incentive for making changes. Days that seem like transition points motivate people to take advantage of the “fresh-start effect,” research shows. Birthdays, the beginning of a semester, and the start of a new week all fall under this new transition time. Researchers at the Wharton School came to this conclusion after they discovered that visits to the university fitness center spiked during these turning points. Another
study published in Psychological Science further backs this up. Participants found motivation from imagining a fresh start in the form of moving in to a new apartment. They were asked to imagine their new digs and also ranked their level of motivation to pursue their goals. Those who imagined that the move was their first one in nine years (versus an annual event) were more motivated to make progress on their goals.

This feeling of a new beginning appears to empower and make it easier to leave our past self and failures behind and embrace our new potential for success moving forward, researchers surmised. A new year represents a new chance to start over and try again.

However, “most people don’t keep their resolutions because they are more committed to making the resolution than following through,” says Gina Gomez, a certified life and business coach in Lake Forest, California. “In fact, only 8 percent of people who make resolutions actually achieve their goal. You must make the commitment and take action.”

Gomez and other experts offer the following tips for making this year the year you finally reach yours.

1. Get clear

You can’t get to your destination if you don’t know where you’re going, says Gomez. “If you want to lose weight, take that dream vacation, fall in love or watch more episodes of The Good Wife, get clear about what specifically you want and why you want it and identify at least three steps on how you’re going to get there.”

 2. Take the first step

Once you have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish, begin turning that into reality. “If you’re stuck, take the first step to finding the resources to help you achieve that goal,” says Gomez. This may include hiring a coach, reading travel books or signing up on a dating site.

 3. Follow through

It’s not enough just to plan and take the first step. Once you have your game plan, follow it. Think of your New Year’s resolution the way you would a business plan, says Gomez. “It does no good to have one if you don’t use it.” Set manageable goals, include some rewards, find an accountability partner and keep track of your progress. “This enables you to stay motivated and get consistent results,” she adds.

4. Reign yourself in

Ultimately, the ability to follow through on a New Year’s resolution involves the ability to regulate our impulses, says Timothy J. Bono, assistant dean for assessment and analytics at Washington University in St. Louis. “Our impulse might be to eat a lot of junk food or waste time on social media instead of using it more productively. To override those impulses, we need willpower, or what psychologists call self-regulatory strength.”

Bono likens strengthening willpower to becoming stronger physically. “If we can get ourselves to exercise willpower in small, everyday behaviors — maybe we resist the temptation to get the candy bar when we’re in the checkout line at the grocery store — those are the opportunities that allow our self-regulatory strength to grow.” The more you practice, the easier it becomes.

5. Expand your reach

In midlife, it’s tempting to have all your New Year’s resolutions focused on dealing with home life and empty nest syndrome if your kids have left, says Kristen Carpenter, director of Women’s Behavior Health at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “A better approach is one that enhances multiple areas of your life. For example, resolving to live in the moment helps achieve both personal and career goals.”

6. Prioritize

A long list of resolutions makes it less likely you’ll be able to do all of them, so order them. “If you already feel as if you’re being spread too thin, you likely will not be able to keep multiple New Year’s resolutions,” says Carpenter. “To edit your list, first rank your resolutions in order of importance and then keep only the top few. This gives you a better chance of meeting your goals.”

7. Align yourself

Ask yourself if your resolutions align with your values, says Carpenter. “If you’re crafting resolutions that are not in line with your values [e.g., training for a triathlon that takes you away from your family for weeks at a time], reevaluate your list and replace the resolutions with ones that are more cohesive to your overall goals. Otherwise you’re setting yourself up to fail.”

Follow these expert tips to create your best year ever.

© Twin Cities Public Television - 2016. All rights reserved.