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Music Soothes

“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Berthold Auerbach

You know that rush you get when the first few notes of your favorite song come through the speakers? It’s similar to an electric charge where your body just can’t help but respond. That jolt of happiness arrives because your brain releases dopamine, a “feel-good” neurotransmitter when you hear your favorite melodies. And while listening to music is a great way to lift your mood, it also brings countless other benefits. Even those who prefer silence may change their “tune” after reading this.

Music Eases Pain

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” – Bob Marley

Research has revealed that patients who listen to pleasant music report having less pain than those who either don’t listen to any music or who listen to music the listener finds unpleasant. Moreover, music can interrupt the pain signals before they even reach the brain by a reaction organized in the spinal cord. Researchers at Drexel University found that listening to pre-recorded music and participating in music therapy lessened pain, so long as the tunes were meditative, classical or of the patient’s choosing.

The Right Compositions Increase Focus

When tasks are readily understood and repetitive, listening to music can provide a huge boost in productivity. It can also increase creativity and ideation. Before pulling out the iPod, however, it’s important to note:  for this benefit to be realized, music should be played at a moderate noise level and shouldn’t contain lyrics. Consider playing ambient tunes, such as beach waves or slower melodies, or the result could be distracting.

Music Brings Better Zs

Put away the sleep-inducing meds and consider music instead. Approximately 1 in 3 Americans contend with insomnia. If you fall into this category, you may benefit from listening to classical music for 45 minutes before saying goodnight. Studies show that doing so results in significantly better sleep, even when the rest of a person’s routine remains the same.

Music Helps Improve Visual and Verbal Skills

Numerous studies report that music education at an early age helps children gain communication, verbal, and visual skills. Even at an older age, children experience a greater verbal IQ after participating in extra-curricular music classes. For younger kids, a mere one month of musical training that includes basic musical concepts, such as melody, rhythm, pitch, and voice results in a greater linguistic understanding.

Music Reduces Depression

“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” – Maya Angelou

Hearing music encourages people to reconnect with the healthy part of themselves. It boosts the immune system’s effectiveness by increasing the production of the antibody immunoglobulin A and natural killer cells. When people feel healthier physically, their moods naturally elevate. Next time you’re stuck in a funk or getting ill, try turn on the radio or jam with your favorite beats for a quick upturn.

So tune into your favorite tune and reap the benefits!

This blog was adapted from

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Retirement planning with long-term care

Qualified retirement plans (IRAs, 402(k)s, 403(b)s and the like) are a great way for families to be able to grow their wealth for the future and do so tax-deferred. There are numerous research articles that have proven that the tax deferral is extremely impactful when it comes to being able to accumulate wealth for a family.

Unfortunately, we often see clients who have spent their entire lives accumulating their retirement accounts but are now faced with the reality of long-term care costs.  Families of those who are going or have gone into a nursing home quickly discover that retirement plans such IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s are countable resources when it comes to long-term care and Medicaid planning. Although many states allow different ways to protect retirement plans, currently Pennsylvania is not one of them.

One of the more difficult conversations that we have to have with financial professionals who represent our clients is that when a loved one enters a nursing home the only way to be able to protect assets for the spouse or for the family is to liquidate a retirement account.  Obviously, liquidation of a retirement account is not an ideal situation because not only will it trigger immediate tax consequences, but there are also other unintended consequences such as potential increases in Medicare premiums, etc.

Of all of the things that we do at Bellomo and Associates, the concept of a retirement plan and crisis planning is probably the most difficult and toughest conversation we need to have.  It does not make logical sense to liquidate a retirement account and trigger tax consequences and other consequences that are unintended, but if a person will likely remain in a nursing home for an extended period of time, it is often the only way to preserve that asset to ensure that it is there for the spouse or loved ones.

When this conversation comes up, we often talk to the family and to the advisor about not making an emotional decision but rather a decision based on data. Certainly, there is no way to know how long a loved one will live in a nursing home, but depending on the diagnosis and prognosis for the person, we can often make an educated guess.  If it is expected that the person will live for several months to several years, we often end up liquidating the retirement account because then we are able to protect either 100% of the assets for the spouse or 50% for the family members. 

These calculations are done not only by our office but also by the accountants and financial advisors who work with our families. We are very lucky to work with many competent professionals, and often are able to take a very difficult conversation and make it simple.  Although not ideal, preserving those assets for the family and for the future is often better than trying to save a few tax dollars in the short-term and losing it all in the long term.

If you or your family member is faced with this difficult decision, please contact your professionals immediately to help guide you through that conversation.