We all want to be healthy, and the need seems to increase with the number of birthdays we experience!  How many times did you hear an older relative complain about aching back, sore knees, neck pain, etc., along with a statement about getting older.

Unfortunately, getting older isn’t the be-all and start-all of pain.  Reasons are endless.  Ask yourself how often you are in the recliner daily, as opposed to when you were younger.  One lady I know decided she no longer had to worry about weight or her looks since  she is now a grandmother.  Mercy sakes!  If you stand back, look around at others, you will identify immobility as a culprit.  A man once said, “Give me ten minutes a day, and you will lose weight, pain and the aging process.”  In other words, move continuously only ten minutes a day for improvement!  How hard can that be?  Ah, but the young at heart attitude is, I believe at the heart of it all, no pun intended.

I just saw a television program this morning in which Anderson Cooper, a CNN TV Anchor and son of Gloria Vanderbilt, shared their family album and some stories with Rita Braver on CBS News.  It is highly recommended that you look up and enjoy this interchange.  What I took away was that Gloria never plans (drives son bananas), and always thinks there is another exciting possibility right around the corner.  She is 92, now, but Anderson says she still thinks there might be a guy waiting on a boat in the south of France.  To quote Anderson “My Mom is the most sort of young and optimistic person I know.”

Anyway, she looks pretty health to me!  Pain…what pain?

You will find the full report at and son




Did you notice that CVS Health quit the U.S. Chamber over its stance on smoking?

It seems that the chamber and its foreign affiliates are undertaking a global lobbying campaign against anti-smoking laws.  This campaign is counter to Anthem, Health care Service Corporation, Steward Health Care System of Boston and the Indiana University Health system, (U.S. Chamber members)  who all support anti-smoking programs.  As most everyone does, these days.

According to a chamber spokesperson, “To be clear, the chamber does not support smoking and wants people to quit; at the same time, we support protecting the intellectual property and trademarks of all legal products in all industries and oppose singling out certain industries for discriminatory treatment.”




When you contribute to a Roth account you will probably pay more taxes today so that in retirement your taxes will be lower.  If you already have a retirement account and are considering converting to a Roth, the same will apply to the converted amount.  A Roth is beneficial if you expect to be in a higher tax bracket at retirement, as high earnings time is when you face the biggest tax bills.  So, will you indeed be in a higher tax break then?  No one has that crystal ball since political policies can change, your income may have been affected by a company downsizing, etc.  Motley Fool’s article Rule Your Retirement by Robert Brokamp, CFP has a few guidelines:

If you are single and have $37,450 or less in taxable (not gross) income, or are married and have $74,900 or less in taxable income, you are in the 15% tax bracket in 2015.  The Roth is probably your better bet.

Since younger workers reach their greatest earning years in their late 40’s or early 50’s it makes sense for them.

The closer you are to retirement will require you to use an online tax calculator to estimate your current and retirement tax liabilities in order to feel comfortable with projections.

Most people drop into a lower tax bracket when they retire.

Since we seem to have large government deficits and underfunded entitlements it is expected tax rates will go up.  That would fall to the younger, higher-income individuals or families.


The more income you receive in retirement, the more your Social Security benefit will be taxed.  Withdrawals from traditional accounts are included in your income, which can lead to higher Social Security taxation.  Withdrawals from Roths are not.  So, not only are the withdrawals tax-free, but they might also shield more of your Social Security from taxation.  But remember that contributing to a traditional retirement plan or deductible traditional IRA reduces your adjusted gross income (AGI) which affects other aspects of your tax bill.  Use an online tax calculator or speak with your accountant to understand your best move.

AGE 70 1/2

You must begin taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) from traditional accounts at age 70 1/2, or wait a year and take two distributions.  (Don’t ask, I don’t understand)  I have an account that will not only remind me, but with my approval, forward my correct percentage check, so that I never mess that part up.  Beyond this age of 70 1/2 you can no longer contribute to a traditional IRA, but you do not have to worry about RMDs with Roth IRAs, and you can continue to contribute as long as you have income. Roth 401(K)s and 403(b)s are subject to RMDs when you no longer work for the company, but all you have to do is transfer those assets to a Roth IRA to make them RMD-free.  Woo Hoo!  If you have lots of moolah, keeping money in tax-advantaged accounts as long as possible is obviously beneficial in order for you to leave a nice income-tax-free inheritance to your heirs.


There are tables you can access which tell the limits of how much you can contribute to Roth accounts, and higher-income folks may not be able to contribute to a Roth IRA at all.  However, anyone of any age can do a Roth conversion.  There used to be an income restriction, but that is no longer.  Through work the only money you can’t convert is any non-vested employer matches.  You will still owe taxes on the amount converted.  If you have some sort of financial turn-around after your conversion there is a process called recharacterization you might utilize to change your mind; you have until October 15 of the following year to do that.  The conversion cannot be pieced, or less than the conversion, in recharacterization.  If you are concerned, more than one account could be utilized.

If you are unable to contribute to a Roth IRA because of income limits, you still might have an option.  You can contribute to a non-deductible traditional IRA (at less than 70 1/2, though) as long as he or she has earned income, and immediately convert to a Roth.  If you don’t have any pre-tax money in any other traditional IRA accounts, including SEPs, rollovers, SIMPLEs, you can immediately convert that traditional IRA to a Roth IRA,  (“you”, meaning you can ignore what your spouse has.)  Here is the real bonus:  Because you couldn’t deduct the contribution, and because the account had no opportunity to grow, you won’t owe any taxes on the conversion.  This is also known as the “Backdoor Roth”.


If you are confused, so are experts, at times.  A good bit of caution is warranted, especially when it comes to pre-59 1/2 withdrawals and account rollovers.  So triple-check all and work with your CPA for information and confirmation.  Do not give up, though.  Putting in the time to learn all the details, getting help, and making the moves that are right for you can result in thousands of dollars of after-tax monies.


Hello All!  Ok, Ok, I know I have not written any health information since around Easter.  I hear and feel your pain, no pun intended.  Although things have been pretty busy in the Herman household, I am making a commitment here and now that at least once per month you will get a blog in the areas of health, finance and storytelling.  The poetry sessions will be thrown in from time to time for good measure.  (Hmmmm, been quite a while on that one, so no promises there.)

Today, I want to share with you some information I read in the AARP magazine.  Some of you will remember that you already read it, but since we can’t all look at everything, and if we do read AARP, my bet will be that we meant to remember, but forgot:)

Following are the highlights of a section entitled “Healthy You”:

1.  It seems that you can safely watch 2 hours of TV per day; more than that increases the concentration of triglycerides in your blood and lowers HDL.

2.  A new study finds that a gain of just 10 beats per minute over normal increases your risk of dying from heart disease by 10 to 18 percent.  (What does this mean?  Maybe I shouldn’t do all that exercise!)

3.  I know you have been having at least your 5 servings of fruits and veggies, but if you can go on up to 7+ your risk of an early death can be reduced by 42 percent (per a British study).

4.  Love this one!  A study of more than 21,000 healthy adults who slept five or fewer hours per night were 50 percent more likely to become obese.  Based on this study, I should probably be skinny.  Not.

This in within the last month from the New York Times journalist, Andrew Pollack:

Discussions at the recent annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology included–

New class of meds may unleash the body’s immune system to attack tumors, prolonging the lives of people with the most common form of lung cancer.   In a separate study, researchers say they found that a particular genetic signature in the tumor can help predict which patients could benefit from the immune-boosting drugs.   Wow…we may be getting somewhere!

If you have the signature you should be treated with checkpoint inhibitors.  They work by releasing molecular brakes, or checkpoints, that prevent the body’s immune system from attacking the tumor.  The products on the market so far are Keytruda (Merck) and Opdivo and Yervoy (Bristol-Myers Squibb).  All three drugs are approved to treat melanoma; Opdivo was also approved in March to treat the so-called squamous-cell form of non-small cell lung cancer, which accounts for about one-quarter of the lung cancer cases.

Opdivo also prolongs survival for those with non-squamous cell lung cancer.  Patients who received Opdivo lived a median of 12.2 months compared with 9.4months for those treated with the chemo drug docetaxel.  Opdivo, also known as nivolumab, had far fewer side effects.  The randomized trial, paid for by Bristol-Myers, involved 582 patients with advanced cancer who had already had treatment with platinum-containing chemotherapy.  This summer, Bristol intends to apply to have Opdivo approved to treat non-squamous lung cancer, the majority of lung cancer cases.  It has my vote!

To review more, a version of this article appears in print on the May 30, 2015, page B3 of the New York Times edition, with the headline “New Promise in New Class of Drugs for Cancer”.

Stay healthy, my friends!


Hello All!

Here we are near Easter again.  The time I was planning on being about 20 pounds lighter.  Same for you?  Well, keep plugging along, and whatever you do, don’t give up.  If you give up bad, bad things will follow.  Let’s keep trying with the yield of healthier bodies.  I am not saying that I could live to be 109, the age at which a lady in Ohio just died, but hey, we all have to have a goal!  After that little soap box, I have a few items you may find interesting.

MEDICARE COVERAGE FOR LUNG CANCER SCREENING  According to sources of the National Cancer Institute, in February of 2015 the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued its guidelines for Medicare coverage of low-dose CT screening for lung cancer.  CMS will now cover low-dose CT screening for persons 55 to 77 years old with a 30 or more pack year history of smoking, and are current or former smokers who have quit within the past 15 years. In order to receive coverage of the screening you must participate in a counseling and shared-decision making visit prior to the initial screening.  At this visit benefits and potential of the screening, as well as current and non-smoking abstinence will be discussed.  If you have questions about cancer you may contact the Cancer Information Center at 1-800-422-6237, Monday through Friday 8:00 a,m. to 8:00 p.m. EST to speak with a specialist.  You may also visit the National Cancer Institute’s website to chat with specialists for more information.

ONLINE MEDICAL RECORDS?  Obviously we all have our pros and cons in this regard.  A recent article in the New york Times addresses what we, as patients, can do if we have access to our own medical records.  Some medical centers are making medical information available to patients by online access to physician notes in an initiative called OpenNotes.  In a recent evaluation of the project in three states, more than two thirds of patients reported a better understanding of their health conditions.  Locations who have adopted the OpenNotes concept include medical centers in Boston, Pennsylvania, Seattle, The Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic and the Veterans Affairs.  By now, nearly five million folks in American have the access.  Privacy and potential legal issues slow the process.  However, a patient who has benefited states “This is what the next generation, which lives on data, is going to want.”  If you would like to access the article, see New York Times March 31, 2015 article entitled “The Healing Power of Your Own Medical Records” by Steve Lohr. in print on April 1, 2015, page B1 with the headline “Healed by His Own Data”.

ARIZONA’S LAW REQUIRING DOCTORS TO ADVISE ABORTION DRUGS MAY BE REVERSIBLE  Another NYT article, by Rick Rojas dated March 31, 2015 entitled “Arizona Orders Doctors to Say Abortions With Drugs May Be Reversible”.  The article points out both sides of the abortion issue, and that once again Arizona finds itself on the border of anti-abortion legislation with a law passed late Monday. (March 30, 2015).  The docs must advise women who receive abortion drugs that their procedure may be reversible.   A primary argument seems to be that there is no scientific data behind the effectiveness of this method.  Some believe that given the information it may encourage ladies to change their minds,.  The article appears on the April 1 edition, page A11.


“Wash your hands”…our mothers told us, our teachers told us, nowadays insurance companies and a whole slew of others have decided it was good advice!  O.K. so we are trying to do that, but while that was going on we looked over our shoulder and heard much talk about health care coverage.

From what I can gather, but I am no expert, we have a lot of changes coming that will challenge us in keeping our hands clean.  Minds turn to issues and forget the immediate.  This is why, especially if you are hovering around the age of 50, that you eat too much and forget to wash your hands, too!

However, it looks as though most companies will not stop providing health insurance, but plan to worry about it nearer to 2018 when a 40% excise tax on “high value” health plans is slated to begin.  Whew, so we have a little time to work on this? Not necessarily. “High value” is explained in a recent article as high-risk professions or for employers with many older employees.  Companies do not want to upset the apple cart by refusing to provide health care because the benefit allows the employer to draw workers.  Starting this year, wellness bonuses or awards, and even penalties,  are a hopeful for many employers in order to help keep the costs low.

Not covered at work?  The deadline is pretty close; Feb. 15, 2015.  Those who do not purchase may receive fines of $325 per adult or 2% of family income, whichever is higher. Some could qualify for a hardship exemption.  Do not wait until Feb. 14 to look into these matters.  See your accountant or your tax preparer soon!

I think I will go wash my hands.