5 Tools That Can Sharpen Your Memory

Posted by AllWays Health Partners Blog Team on April 07, 2022

No matter what age you are, exercising your brain in a focused and deliberate way can provide numerous benefits, from better attention to faster learning, and keeping your memory sharp is a major part of this.

Having good recall is important—you’d never find your car keys or remember birthdays without it—but memory skills can go deeper than everyday function. For instance, a study in the journal Memory found that people with good memory tend to have a stronger sense of purpose overall, and that contributes to better mental and physical health.

Considering the ripple effect that comes with improved memory, that means keeping your memory in shape is crucial. Ready for your brain workout? Consider these five tools as a starting point:

1. Language learning app

Even if it’s been decades since you sat in a classroom, learning another language—or you never had those classes at all—you can still give your brain a major boost by studying a second language.

According to research in Frontiers in Neuroscience, just a few months of a language program can lead to functional changes in the brain, especially among older people. There are plenty of language-learning apps that are easy to use and many offer a free trial, with options like Duolingo, Babbel, Pimsleur, and Rosetta Stone. Apps like these have both reading and listening comprehension, which fires up different parts of the brain.

2. Music player

From digging out your retro cassette player to asking your smart speaker to fire up your favorite playlist, it doesn’t matter you get music delivered, it’s the tunes that provide benefits. Even better? Make sure the music is upbeat.

According to a study in the journal PLOS ONE, listening to music you describe as “happy” can prompt creativity, problem solving, and a positive mood, which all contribute to better memory function. For some people, even having music on in the background can help with memory capacity, especially if you’re listening while learning new information.

3. Jigsaw puzzles

Whether it’s a 1,000-piece puzzle that takes over your dining room table or a simple 100-piece version you can snap together in an hour, jigsaw puzzles have been shown to use multiple types of cognitive function and can even protect your brain as you get older.

Not only are you challenging your memory and concentration, but doing a puzzle can also help reduce stress, according to commentary from Baylor University. That’s particularly true if you make it a social activity, another way to give your brain a break from being busy and overwhelmed.

4. Light dumbbells

Could a pair of 5-pound or 10-pound dumbbells really help your memory? There’s plenty of research that suggests strength training is a big-time brain booster. Although cardio exercise shows benefits as well, lifting weights seems especially protective for memory.

For example, a study published in the journal Acta Psychologica found that even one session of strength exercises can improve memory performance, even after short-term stress—which tends to reduce memory function. Regular training is even better: Research from The University of Sydney in Australia showed that lifting weights can slow and even halt age-related brain changes, especially the parts of the brain vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease.

5. Mindfulness and sleep app

The connection between quality sleep and optimal memory function is well established. In fact, sleep affects all of your brain functions, including mood, judgment, perception, and learning. Research from Harvard University notes that sleep is when your memories get organized and stored, so skimping on your shuteye can have serious effects on both short-term and long-term memory.

If you struggle with sleep, consider trying an app that focuses on mindfulness, relaxation, and deep breathing exercises, such as Headspace, Calm, Smiling Mind, and 10% Happier.

No matter what tools you choose, one of the most important aspects of boosting memory function is consistency. Just like building your muscles through strength training, keeping your memory in shape is best done by getting into a regular habit that becomes part of your everyday mix.

Will I Have Enough Money to Retire?

Presented by: Matthew A. Clayson

Will I have enough money to retire? It’s a common question and one that has increased in magnitude lately — especially for people in their 40s and 50s.

Indeed, the uncomfortable truth is that only about half of Americans believe they are on track to retire when they want to, according to a recent MassMutual Consumer Sentiment Survey. And more than half worry about running out of money in retirement.

That can generate a feeling of frustration. You’ve been working hard for over 20 years. You’ve been saving as much as you can. Then, the market crashes, and your savings disappear. It’s not too late to bounce back.

Even if you’re 55 years old and decide that today is the day to begin saving in earnest, you still have time to build up income for retirement.

On your mark, set your priorities, go

Determine what you want out of your retirement…what are your priorities? Sit down with a pen and paper and start a list. Empower yourself to make the important decisions today that will set tomorrow in motion:

  • When do you want to retire?
  • Where do you want to live?
  • What kind of lifestyle do you want to lead? How much will you want for spending each month?

These are just some of the questions you should be asking — and answering — yourself about retirement catch-up. So, take the first step and start making some decisions.

Save more, spend less

The most obvious advice still applies: save more, spend less. But there’s more to it than that.

Create a budget to help you stay on track — and actually stick to it every month. Decide where you can trim your expenses. What can you live without now so you can have more later?

If your budget isn’t working, you may want to consider downsizing to a smaller home or a less expensive location to help maintain your standard of living. This may be a difficult exercise, but remember you’re trying to catch up.

Speaking of catching up, if you will be age 50 or older at the end of the calendar year, you can take advantage of retirement catch-up contribution options to accelerate the growth of your retirement accounts. The IRS updates contribution limits periodically; checking for the most recent information can help ensure that you are making the most of the options available to you. The bottom line: make the maximum contributions possible to your employer’s retirement plan, including any available catch-up options.

Think outside the box

There are certain financial products and savings instruments that you may not be familiar with, but that may help you get more out of your money. Many people opt to consult a financial professional to help become aware of retirement catch-up options and lay out a plan.

In addition, there may be opportunities to earn extra income, either by working extra hours or turning hobbies into side businesses, that can be considered to help catch up on retirement savings.

Delay retirement (The beach will wait for you)

People are working longer than ever before. Delaying your retirement by three years from age 62 to 65 can boost your assets significantly — thanks to the combination of making extra contributions to your employer-sponsored retirement plan, not taking withdrawals, and allowing your funds more time to grow.

In addition, if you anticipate receiving Social Security retirement benefits, it’s important to understand that monthly benefits differ substantially based on when you start receiving them and the filing option you choose. For every year you postpone collecting benefits beyond your full retirement age (typically 66 or 67), you can earn an annual delayed retirement credit of up to 8 percent. That’s a big bump in benefits every year up to age 70.

On the flip side, filing for benefits before your full retirement age can permanently reduce your monthly income. Benefits will decrease based on how early you retire. What’s worse, if you begin receiving Social Security benefits early, your surviving spouse may not be able to receive your full Social Security benefit if you pass away.

The bottom line is that there are real steps and strategies you can take today to help secure your future. It’s never too early or too late to evaluate your current retirement savings plan — or create a new one.

Feel free to reach out to us with any questions and if you would like to speak with our retirement planning specialist.

Matt Clayson is a registered representative of and offers securities and investments services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC(www.sipc.org). Supervisory Address: 101 Federal Street, Suite 800, Boston, MA 02110. 617.439.4389. CRN202502-1735773

The Coronavirus Pandemic is More Than a Health Crisis

Presented by: Matthew A. Clayson

The coronavirus pandemic is more than a public health crisis. It’s an economic wrecking ball. Since the first reported cases in early 2020, COVID-19 has induced both a global recession and a record setting recovery. It contributed to the highest U.S. unemployment rate since the Great Depression, causing businesses to falter and families to face financial hardship.

Stocks have experienced a wild ride. The pandemic initially wiped out more than $11 trillion of wealth, but Wall Street quickly stabilized as lockdowns lifted and vaccines were introduced, hitting an all-time high in January 2022. But investors now fear a new threat: the surge in “Covid inflation” caused largely by ongoing supply chain disruptions. Against the backdrop of economic uncertainty, it’s not yet clear how long it may take for households hit hardest by the pandemic to get back on their feet financially, but we do know from past experience with economic crises that there are steps families can take today to potentially restore their financial wellness faster.

Those steps include:

Staying calm

If you contribute to a retirement plan or invest in a brokerage account, your future account balance depends on what you do right now. So, avoid making moves based on emotion rather than rational planning.

If you already have a retirement savings program under way, with asset allocation appropriate to your risk profile and long-term goals, you probably want to continue following your plan. Guidance from a trusted financial professional is can also be key.

Paying off credit cards

When the COVID-19 crisis is over and you’re back at work, you’ll need to begin paying down any debt you incurred, which includes credit card bills and retirement account loans.

One way to rid yourself of debt faster is to use any tax refunds you receive to that end. Bonuses and annual raises from your employer may be in short supply this year, but as the economy recovers and your compensation (hopefully) climbs, you may also be able to use that extra income to pare down debt.

More immediately, explore opportunities to trim waste from your budget—including unused gym memberships, premium cell phone plans, dinners out, etc.—and direct those savings to reduce the amount you owe.

Start by paying off the debt that costs you the most. Generally, that means credit cards balances. Many charge interest of 18% or higher, which makes it difficult to dig out and limits your ability to fund other financial goals.

Repaying your retirement account loans

If you took advantage of government leniency and tapped into your retirement savings to help make ends meet, you should also do everything you can to make yourself whole.

Considering a refi

If you’re strapped for cash, you might also consider refinancing your loans to lower your monthly payments.

For example, it might make sense to refinance your mortgage loan if you plan to remain in your home for at least five more years. Depending on your financial picture, however, it could be wise to refi if you can lower your interest rate by even 1 percent, especially if helps you to eliminate paying private mortgage insurance because the equity in your home has reached 20 percent. Be aware, however, that if you turn the clock back on the term of your loan, say, starting it over at 30 years, you will likely pay more in interest over the life of the loan, despite the lower monthly payment.

Insulating yourself for next time

No one knows yet when the COVID-19 crisis with its variants will end, but we can safely assume it will not be the last financial crisis we face.

As you take steps to restore your financial well-being today, don’t forget to insulate your finances for tomorrow.

If you don’t already have one, start putting money away for an emergency fund to pay the bills during bouts with unemployment, or when unexpected expenses crop up such as home repairs and medical bills. Having savings set aside prevents you from having to rely on credit cards or drain your retirement account in a pinch.

Most financial professionals suggest setting aside at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses in a liquid, interest-bearing account.

You should also review your insurance coverage to be sure that your family is protected no matter what. Beyond basic health insurance, you may wish to consider life insurance to protect your loved ones in the event that you should pass away prematurely, and disability income insurance to help replace a portion of your income if you should become injured or too ill to work.

Finally, review your investment portfolio carefully to be sure it’s still on course to meet your financial goals.

You may have discovered, as investors often do during market volatility, that your appetite for risk is not what you once thought. By working closely with a trusted financial professional, you can potentially reallocate your assets as needed to create a portfolio that is diversified enough to help you ride out future storms, but not so conservative that you sacrifice potential growth.

The coronavirus has threatened our health care system and economy like never before, leaving millions of American families struggling to pay the bills. As we continue to practice safe social distancing and make medical progress to combat COVID-19, it helps to know that there are steps we can take today to put our financial house back in order as quickly as possible.

Matt Clayson is a registered representative of and offers securities and investments services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC(www.sipc.org). Supervisory Address: 101 Federal Street, Suite 800, Boston, MA 02110. 617.439.4389. CRN202502-1735773

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