How to Stay Happier in Hard Times

People-2567915_640Financial stress, sickness, marriage issues, and other problems can seem to suck the happiness right out of life. However, you can feel happy even if it seems life is crumbling under your feet. Even when it feels like things are a little too heavy, there is always a way to keep your chin up.

Sometimes it just takes time and riding through the waves of life and time to really heal. We hope these next 5 tips bring you a little peace as you go through what you’re going through.

  1. Notice the little things to be happy about. It’s very easy to think that everything in your life is awful when you’re going through a rough patch. However, if you start noticing the little things, you’ll find that there are good things that happen every day. Little moments throughout the day can lift you up if you let them. Things like butterflies on the breeze, the bashful smile of a baby in the grocery store, or the beauty of the morning sun slanting through the window can give you small bits of happiness each day if you stop to appreciate them.
  2. Smile, even when you don’t feel like it. Scientific studies have shown a direct correlation between one’s facial expression and the way they feel. Sometimes we can prolong our own bad mood – without even noticing it – simply by an unconscious upset facial expression. When you are upset, try scrunching and relaxing your face to get some blood flowing. It can ease some frustration and help you let go of some of the extra negativity you are holding onto, just by releasing the tension. If you can crack a fake smile, even for a second, it can positively influence the way you feel.
  3. Find small ways to pamper yourself. When times are tough, finding just one small way to indulge yourself can lift your spirits. Whether it’s taking time to meet a friend for coffee, allowing yourself a leisurely soak in the tub, or even just sneaking a little piece of chocolate and taking the time to enjoy it can give you the mental breathing room to regroup and help face your troubles. If you can regularly plan out some future regrouping time, it can brighten things by giving you a nice thing to look forward to, even if you’re overwhelmed. Letting a little light in now and then and taking care of yourself can brighten your whole world.
  4. Stop and breathe for just a few moments every day. To combat the feeling that you’re drowning in problems, take a few minutes each day to just breathe. It can be like a life vest, helping you ride the waves. Meditation, prayer, or just quiet contemplation will help you keep your sanity when your schedule is overly full or when you feel overwhelmed.  You might feel like there’s simply not enough hours in the day to take a little “me” time. We’re all busy up to our eyeballs, so even taking a few moments before bed or when you wake up can do the trick. It will either end or start your day on a lighter note. As an added bonus, the better you feel, the better you can care for those who might depend on you.
  5. Vent and then let it go. Some people struggle by circling back to their problems over and over in their minds. If you feel stuck and cannot seem to shake these intrusive thoughts, find a trusted friend to whom you can vent. Don’t have instant access to someone close? Talk to yourself! Just saying things out loud can get your thoughts out of your head and may give you some clarity. If you’re speaking to a friend, remind them you’re not asking for advice or help; you just need to unload some stuff. Like talking to yourself, it can just make things a little more tangible, open, and clear.

When you unload the things that are taking up real estate in your brain, you might find that the weight lifts and you’re able to feel positive and refreshed.

Hang in there! Everything is temporary. Try to not allow the stress to paralyze you. People who take little steps towards lightening their issues tend to bounce back the fastest. You have the power to make the best of what you’re going through, so seize the day and do something just for you.

And remember the old saying, “don’t sweat the small stuff.” It may help you keep things in perspective.

Adapted from

Jeff Bellomo

To join us for one of our upcoming workshops just click here and RSVP!

The Importance of Keeping Good Financial Records

Folder-303891_640Whenever we meet with clients to create estate planning documents, one of the things we suggest they do is to begin keeping a rolling five years of financial records.

By that we mean that they should keep records of all bank statements, checkbook ledgers, statements for investment accounts, records of any gifts they make (though we generally advise against gifting as part of estate planning), sales or purchases of real estate, motor and other types of vehicles (boats, RVs, trailers, etc.) and other similar transactions, for a five-year period. It is rolling in that after the end of the sixth year, they can discard the records from the first year.

For example, if a client started the rolling records on January 1, 2019, then he or she would keep records for all of 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023, and 2024. On January 1, 2025, the client could then discard the 2019 records, and so on, leaving five full years of records.

The reason for this is that, if they or their spouse should need to go into a nursing home or need in-home care, then we can protect some or all of their assets, and qualify them for Medicaid reasonably quickly. (There are income limits to qualify for Medicaid provided in-home care.)

We have written numerous blogs on this subject, so the intent of this blog is not to rehash that information.

In order to be able to file a Medicaid application, the applicant needs to submit five years of financial records. We are well experienced in filing such applications for clients and protecting their assets and can do so reasonably quickly.

However, we can only file the application once we have all of the client’s required financial information and statements. That can take months for the family to collect, can often be quite costly, and delays our ability to file for Medicaid for the client. With nursing home costs in York County running between $10,000 and $12,000 a month, filing delays are very costly to the family, and will quickly reduce the assets which can be protected.

If, on the other hand, you begin keeping financial records now, and keep that rolling five years of records, if the time comes when you or your spouse needs to enter a nursing home, you already have all the records you need, and greatly accelerate the Medicaid filing process, thus saving your family significant time and assets.

Many people say to us that is a lot of paper to hold onto. That is true, but in this day and age, if you have a scanner (most computer printers today are also scanners), then you can scan those records into the computer as they come in. Just be sure to back the computer records up, or better yet, save them to a thumb drive/flash drive. Just don’t lose it!

If you begin this habit today, no matter how young you are, then you and your family will always be prepared in the event you ever have to go into a nursing home. Remember the Boy Scout motto:  Be prepared!

To join us for one of our upcoming workshops just click here and pick the date and time that work best for you!

Jeff Bellomo

New England Clam Chowder

Clam-chowderYet another favorite of the Bellomo from Mom’s cookbooks.

New England Clam Chowder – Makes 8 servings


  • 2 bacon slices, diced
  • 1/2 C. chopped onion (1 medium)
  • 1 C. cubed, pared potato (1 medium)
  • 1½ tsp. salt
  • Dash pepper
  • 3 cans (7½ oz. size) minced clams
  • 2 C. milk
  • 2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
  • 8 soda crackers, crushed  


  1. In medium kettle, sauté bacon until almost crisp.
  2. Add onion; cook until tender – about 5 minutes.
  3. Add potatoes, salt, pepper, and 1½ C. water; cook 10 minutes.
  4. Add clams and liquid, milk, and butter; cook 3 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle in crackers; heat through – do not boil. Serve hot.


Special Needs Trust Planning Success Story

Brothers-1633653_640 (2)A person who was referred by their neighbor who is an individual with special needs recently called our office.  The person’s son had special needs and the family was hoping to qualify him for public benefits (such as Medicaid and SSI), but he was denied several times.  The family attended a special needs trust workshop that we held, and then met with us for a free consultation.

After meeting with them and understanding the facts, we were able to create a special needs trust for the son, to allow him to take the excess resources that he had in his own name and still qualify for public benefits such as SSI and Medicaid.  The value of the benefits to him was substantial. After we completed the special needs trust, the son reapplied for public benefits and was approved.

There are two types of special needs trusts: First-party and third-party special needs trusts.  A first-party special needs trust allows an individual to plan so that he or she can keep excess resources which he or she owns and still qualify for public benefits during his or her lifetime.  

The downside of the first-party special needs trust is that it is a payback trust, which means if there is any money left over, the state of Pennsylvania will get paid back up to the amount of benefits that were provided during the disabled individual’s lifetime.  In this case, however, given how young the disabled son is, we fully expect that the trustee will pay out all money during his lifetime, and there probably won’t be anything left to pay.

The family was ecstatic that he is able to get the benefits that he has been denied several times, and we were pleased to be able to assist them in getting him qualified.  The story does not end there, however.

The son’s grandparents passed away suddenly in a tragic car accident.  However, before their untimely passing, we also had met with them. They had mentioned that their grandson had special needs, and they wanted to provide a small inheritance to him because they knew that he would probably need more than their other grandchildren.  

We created a third-party special needs trust for his benefit for his portion of their estate. This third-party special needs trust, which was funded with the grandparents’ money, does not have any payback provisions to the state of Pennsylvania. The rationale behind this is that the money was never the grandson’s, and therefore the state cannot require it be paid back for their services.  

Happily, we were able to not only get the son qualified for benefits even though he had excess money, we were also able to create a plan which allowed him to continue those benefits even though his grandparents unexpectedly died.  

It is essential that families who have individuals with special needs engage in proper planning, and it is not only the parents who need to make sure that this occurs. Any family that has a child or individual with special needs should seek proper planning advice from a professional who understands special needs trust planning in Pennsylvania.  If you would like to learn more about special needs trust planning, please contact our office by calling 717-845-5390, or click here to fill out our short form online.

Things to be Thankful For

Thank-3148710_640There are so many things in life to be thankful for. This list of 17 was adapted from

Could you imagine what life would be like without any one of these things? The list goes on, of course, but each of us have a lot more to be thankful for than we realize.

  1. Mobility
  2. Your senses – sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell, etc.
  3. Time – everyone’s is limited, every day above ground is a good one
  4. Electricity – think about the last time you lost electricity and all the things you could not use
  5. Trash service
  6. Toilet paper
  7. Indoor plumbing and clean running water
  8. Accessibility to resources like food and water
  9. Your memory
  10. Ability to love and be loved
  11. Access to information
  12. Technology
  13. Clean air
  14. Entertainment
  15. Civil rights
  16. Nature
  17. Music

And, of course, we are all thankful for our family and our health!  

Which are you most thankful for…?  

Given the chance, what would you add to this list?

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