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Brain Food: How Eating Right Helps Depression and Anxiety

Brain Food: How Eating Right Helps Depression and Anxiety

Foods to boost mental health
A healthy diet is key to a healthy mind. Here are some great foods that may boost your mental health.

You hear it all the time – “You are what you eat.” Well, as it turns out, that’s not so far from the truth. Because of this, it’s crucial to eat healthily. When medication or therapy alone isn’t enough for your mental health, adjusting your lifestyle can give you the edge you need. If you’re suffering from depression or anxiety, certain foods may help ameliorate your symptoms. SSDA USA is here with some of the best foods to boost mental health.

Probiotics

Probiotics are microorganisms that improve gut health by encouraging the production of good bacteria and other beneficial gut flora. But what does the gut have to do with mental health?

Well, interestingly enough, what you eat can influence your mental health via the gut-brain axis. The gut has a complex network that communicates with the brain for many purposes, some of which include to regulate mood and to alert the brain of immune system problems.

Because probiotics encourage the growth of “good” microorganisms, it’s important to get plenty of them to ensure excellent gut and brain health. For instance,
the gut produces approximately 95% of the body’s serotonin, a feel-good chemical. This means that many problems with mood are related to one’s diet. According to a recent study, the consumption of foods rich with probiotics is inversely related to symptoms of depression.

Additionally, according to one study, certain types of probiotics could potentially help alleviate symptoms of anxiety, too. Conclusive research demonstrated that Lactobacillus rhamnosus, a probiotic bacteria, helped reduce symptoms of anxiety in rodents exposed to stressful situations. However, the study found no conclusive evidence regarding human subjects. While scientists must conduct more research, the available data certainly looks promising.

Therefore, to help reduce symptoms of depression (in addition to potentially reducing symptoms of anxiety), you may want to eat plenty of fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and yogurt, all of which are rich in probiotics. Also, some cheeses, certain olives, and miso are good sources of probiotics. We suggest speaking with a certified nutritionist or registered dietician for the most well-rounded understanding of which foods would be best for you.

Antioxidants

When the body comes into contact with certain stressful or environmental conditions, the body produces free radicals. Free radicals occur when oxygen molecules split into single atoms that have no paired electrons. Because of this, such atoms constantly seek electrons to pair with, and they end up attacking the body’s cells and DNA. Free radicals have been linked to central-nervous system diseases, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and genetic degenerative diseases, and other conditions.

Ultimately, antioxidants help guard against free radicals.

Antioxidants also cover a broad range of substances found in many different foods, and each antioxidant reacts with the body in different ways. Vitamin A, for example, can help vision and kidney health. Vitamin C helps the body repair damaged tissues and aids the immune system. There are many other antioxidants, too, such as beta-carotene (found in carrots), selenium (found in mushrooms and seafood), and manganese (found in certain nuts).

Perhaps most important, however, is the fact that there is a link between antioxidants and mental health. When used in conjunction with medication, antioxidants have the potential to lower severity of anxiety. Other studies have shown that antioxidant levels are lower in adults that suffer from depression, and that raising antioxidant levels helps symptoms fade.

There are many foods that have antioxidants. Some foods with high amounts of antioxidants include dark chocolate, certain fruits (strawberries, blueberries, etc.), leafy greens (cabbage), fish, and beans.

Protein

Long chains of amino acids form together to create proteins, essential components in the body’s function. Proteins help regulate muscle mass and metabolism, and are necessary for life. Additionally, protein helps regulate satiety and mood. Because of this, proteins can be some of the best foods to boost mental health.

Proteins are so important to mental health because the neurotransmitters required for brain function come from the amino acids that make up protein. Tyrosine is a component of dopamine, an important part of the reward system. Tryptophan helps synthesize serotonin, an important part of mood regulation. Low levels of either of these neurotransmitters can make depression and anxiety worse.

It makes sense that to help regulate your mood, you should regulate your protein intake. Studies have shown that high-protein snacks can help aid mood and enhance cognition. Moreover, protein (whey protein, especially) helps lower the body’s level of cortisol, thereby diminishing the effects of the body’s main stress hormone.

Various different proteins are abundant in different types of foods. It’s important to consume the nine essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are necessary amino acids that the body cannot make on its own. When a protein contains all nine amino acids, that protein is called a complete protein.

Foods that contain complete proteins include meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products, and eggs. Incomplete proteins are in certain vegetables, grains, nuts/seeds, and beans/legumes. If you’re vegetarian/vegan and cannot get your complete proteins from animal products, try combining grains with vegetables, or nuts with legumes.

Healthy Fats

Not all fat is bad! Your body requires healthy fats in order to survive. However, it’s important to know which fats to consume and which ones to stay away from.

Unsaturated fats are healthier for the body than saturated and trans fats. The two types of unsaturated fats are monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat.

One important type of polyunsaturated fat is omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are called essential amino acids because they are required to survive and are not made by the body. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to bolster heart health, lower triglycerides, lower bad cholesterol, and even lower severity of depression. This is probably because omega-3 fatty acids are quite literally a part of cell membranes, so it makes sense that they’re crucial in regulating mental health. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in seafood, e.g. oily fish such as salmon.

Monounsaturated fats are crucial, as well. They help regulate weight, reduce the risk of certain diseases, have some anti-inflammatory properties, and can help regulate mood and reduce anger. In fact, replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fats correlated with fewer instances of depression. You can find monounsaturated fats in nuts, oils, seeds, avocados, and eggs.

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are the way to go when it comes to the type of fat you consume. Trans fats and saturated fats are less healthy. For instance, while trans fats are technically unsaturated, they contribute to high levels of bad cholesterol, low levels of good cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, and raise the risk of type 2 diabetes. Saturated fats could potentially be worse. With enough saturated fats, the brain’s dopamine signaling is disrupted. This significantly impairs proper mood regulation and may contribute to problems with depression and anxiety.

So, try to eat more unsaturated fats, and limit your intake of trans fats and saturated fats. Not all fats are created equal, so know what you’re eating to stay healthy and boost your mental health. Further, speaking with a certified nutritionist or registered dietician would be a great resource to help you put together a meal plan best for your body type.

Healthy Sugars

Just as there are healthy and unhealthy fats, there are healthy and unhealthy sugars, too. The key thing to be mindful of is if the sugar in your food is natural or added. Natural sugars occur organically in foods like fruits, milk, and other unprocessed foods. When you consume such foods, you get naturally occurring sugar with essential vitamins and minerals along with fiber, which slows the absorption of sugar and prevents blood sugar spikes.

Added sugars, however, are worse for your health. Foods with added sugars often have vitamins, minerals, and fiber stripped away. This means that your bloodstream absorbs sugars more quickly, leading to blood sugar spikes.

Long-term elevated blood sugar levels correlate with an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, obesity, nervous system problems, vision problems, cardiovascular problems, and other serious conditions. In fact, high levels of sugar intake are linked with increased risk of depression and reduced ability to learn and form new memories.

Therefore, monitor your sugar intake. Get your sugar from natural sources, and avoid foods and drinks that have added sugars. While soda and candy are sweet to eat, the negative impacts they have on your health are quite unsavory to think about.

Need Help Managing Your Disability Benefits?

While eating healthy is important for managing your disability, it can be difficult to do so without the right medical and financial resources. If you need help acquiring social security disability benefits, contact Social Security Disability Advocates USA today! Our attorneys work hard to help ensure your initial application or appeal meet the designated requirements set by the Social Security Administration.

You can reach us anytime at 602-952-3200. Additionally, you can fill out an online form or take advantage of our LiveChat feature to get in touch with us. Don’t keep your social security questions to yourself. Contact SSDA USA today!

This is attorney advertising. SSDA, LLC is a group of attorneys that pursues claims for Social Security Disability benefits on behalf of its clients against the Social Security Administration. SSDA, LLC is in no way a part of the Social Security Administration. Further, the information on this blog is for general information purposes only. Nothing herein should be taken as legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, a representative-client relationship.

Why Every Child Needs to Play

Why Every Child Needs to Play

the importance of play in child development
SSDA USA is here to tell you about the importance of play in child development.

Some people may think that playing with their children is a waste of time. They deem such activities as frivolous and unproductive. This could not be further from the truth. In fact, playing helps children develop their physical, social, and cognitive faculties. There are plenty of reasons children should play. SSDA USA is here with the scoop on the importance of play in child development.

Cognitive Development

Play is incredibly important in children’s cognitive development. Whether playing with parents or peers, children can bolster their ability to pay attention and behave appropriately in various settings, including the classroom. With continued play over the long term, these faculties will strengthen. Without play, children become disadvantaged in these regards.

Furthermore, the benefits of play include improved executive functioning (the process of learning), greater language skills, and better early math skills. In fact, independent play at an early age is more effective than childhood instructional videos. Play also allows increased mental flexibility and resilience, greater emotional stability, creativity, and multitasking faculties.

Social Skills

An integral part of play is social interaction, and because of this, children that play more have improved social skills. When children play with parents or with peers, they learn how to bond with other people. They learn what behaviors are socially acceptable, the importance of teamwork and cooperation, problem-solving skills, conflict-resolution skills, and other key social skills that become even more important as they grow. Play can also enhance children’s reasoning skills and their ability to put themselves in hypothetical scenarios, teaching them to think outside the box naturally.

Play can be especially helpful for children with disabilities. A healthy level of play helps children cope with stress. Children with chronic or life-threatening illnesses surely could especially use some stress relief. Play helps lower the body’s levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) and releases oxytocin, a feel-good hormone crucial for social development. This is because play allows both children and parents to escape reality and immerse themselves in imaginative and joyful scenarios.

According to one study, “Every child needs to play in order to develop oneself and to form a distinctive personality.” Moreover, “Play is not just about having fun but about taking risks, experimenting, and testing boundaries.” This isn’t a trivial matter – it’s a critical component of child development.

Academic Performance

Some curricula have increased academic pressure on children in preschool and elementary school. As a result, many schools have reduced recess time, or cut recess altogether. Because of this, children have less time to play, and supposedly have more time to study. However, more study time and less recess time does not correlate with higher academic success.

In fact, the importance of play in child development extends deeply into the classroom. Recess is a necessary part of academic performance. When children learn through play, they are more ready to engage in academic activities with zeal and ardor. Allowing adequate amounts and types of play contributes to socio-emotional skills, academic success, economic success, and an overall more positive sense of well-being as children mature.

Physical Health

Outdoor play and physical activity can contribute to positive benefits such as proper bone and muscle functioning. Additionally, regular physical exercise can lower risk of childhood obesity. Additionally, exercise can help with the prevention of disease as well as the recovery from such diseases. Physical activity also helps promote proper growth – and this is throughout life, not just in the short term.

Another awesome benefit of exercise and outdoor play is that it stimulates the brain and releases growth factors and can boost immune system function. As increased oxygen goes to the brain during physical activity, dopamine and other feel-good chemicals get released, and long-term outdoor play can help with decision-making and emotional health.

To be clear, outdoor play and engaging with nature is much more effective than indoor play with electronic devices. One study has shown that children that play outdoors more often have better distance vision than those who do not. This is because playing outdoors engages possibly all sensory faculties. They get to see the sky, smell the flowers, hear the wind, touch the grass, and taste the (parent-approved) berries from bushes. Children who play with iPads or other electronic devices, however, only use two to three of their sensory faculties – sight, hearing, and sometimes touch.

Don’t forget – outdoor physical activity also boosts the following:

  • Gross motor skills – games such as hop-scotch and tag encourage children to make the most of their motor capacities with large movements that require many actions.
  • Fine motor skills – certain playgrounds encourage children to press buttons, turn wheels, and interact in other ways that require careful and precise contact.
  • Overall health – Getting sunlight is essential for healthy vitamin D levels, helps regulate melatonin levels and proper sleep cycles, and can help guard against depression.

Concerned For Your Child’s Health?

It’s well established that play is essential for child development. It helps children physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and in other ways. However, what’s even more important is making sure you have the resources to take care of your child. This is especially true if they have a disability.

If you or someone you know needs help filing for social security disability benefits, contact Social Security Disability Advocates USA right away! We have professional attorneys that know how to fight for your benefits. Contact us anytime via an online form or through our LiveChat feature. Additionally, you can call us at 602-952-3200 to get in touch with us.

Don’t keep your questions to yourself. Contact SSDA USA right away!

This is attorney advertising. SSDA, LLC is a group of attorneys that pursues claims for Social Security Disability benefits on behalf of its clients against the Social Security Administration. SSDA, LLC is in no way a part of the Social Security Administration. Further, the information on this blog is for general information purposes only. Nothing herein should be taken as legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, a representative-client relationship.

Why every child needs to play infographic
Boost Your Cognition: Guards Against Dementia and Other Neurodegenerative Diseases

Boost Your Cognition: Guards Against Dementia and Other Neurodegenerative Diseases

methods to manage cognitive faculties
SSDA USA is here with methods to manage cognitive faculties.

Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other neurodegenerative diseases are incredibly difficult to deal with. The individual with the condition as well as their family and friends must make many life adjustments to cope with the illness. Fortunately, while there are no cures for such conditions as of yet, there are plenty of things that can help boost cognitive functioning. SSDA USA is here with some suggested methods to manage cognitive faculties.

Meditation

Meditation is proving itself to be one of the surest methods to manage cognitive faculties. While research on meditation is still in its infancy, some studies suggest that it has a positive impact on attention, memory, verbal fluency, and cognitive flexibility. These findings are supported by MRI scans that show increased cortical thickness, which is key to maintaining a healthy brain.

Additionally, other results show that meditation could lead to increased volume in the hippocampi, a key region of the brain dealing with learning and memory. Furthermore, there have been structural alterations observed in other areas of the brain dealing with attention and perception.

peaceful meditation

Meditation has other benefits, too. It reduces the body’s level of cortisol (a critical stress hormone), which in turn has the potential to lower levels of anxiety and depression. This allows meditators to have a greater amount of control over their emotional health. People who meditate regularly may also have improved cardiovascular systems, improved decision-making skills, and may be more resilient against pain.

Exercise

Even moderate amounts of physical activity are good for the brain. Exercising lowers inflammation and allows the brain to release growth factors that contribute to healthy brain cells and new connections between neurons. Physical activity also pumps additional oxygen to the brain, and proteins and feel-good hormones (such as dopamine) get released in the process. Moreover, stress-inducing hormones get flushed out during exercise, often leaving individuals happier than they were before.

Moderate exercise may also enhance immune system function when performed regularly. Furthermore, exercise can help regulate mood and mental/emotional health, maintain learning and decision-making faculties as individuals age, and can even improve sleep.

Dieting Right

assorted healthy foods

A healthy diet makes a healthy brain! Food rich in omega-3 fatty acids positively affects key synaptic connections involved with learning, memory, and general cognitive function. In fact, not having enough omega-3 fatty acids can contribute to some mental conditions such as depression.

Along with this, diets with high amounts of saturated fat can lead to the degradation of cognitive functioning in both humans and animals. It’s also important to get enough vitamins, minerals, and other proteins to ensure optimal cognitive preservation and function.

Staying away from too much sugar is also just one of many effective methods to manage cognitive faculties. In fact, maintaining a healthy diet lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, improves sleep and mood, and can help you stay energized throughout the day.

Kicking Bad Habits

Guilty pleasures such as alcohol and cigarettes, while possibly enjoyable in the moment, can lead to long-term health problems if done regularly. For example, cigarettes contain (among other harmful substances) nicotine, a powerfully addictive chemical that can cause cardiovascular problems, sleep disturbances, dizziness, heartburn, and many other negative conditions. Quitting smoking can result in a lowered risk of heart attack, lowered risk of certain cancers, reparation of damaged nerves, and an improved sense of well-being.

Alcohol, too, can damage the body. In fact, it can even lead to brain shrinkage. A plethora of conditions results from overconsumption of alcohol. Everything from hepatic encephalopathy to atrial fibrillation is on the table. There is no safe amount of alcohol for the body. Therefore, refraining from drinking alcohol will help maintain your body’s health.

Learning Another Language

This is one of the most effective methods to manage cognitive faculties. Learning another language keeps your mind sharp and your brain healthy. Additionally, people who know more than one language are more likely to have greater attention spans and greater amounts of concentration.

textbooks on many languages

Also, bilingual people that developed dementia were 4.5 years behind monolingual people. In other words, learning another language has the potential to possibly prevent or delay symptoms of some neurodegenerative diseases.

Playing Games

Some games have the potential to boost your cognition. Commercially available games such as Brain Age or Lumosity have the potential to enhance memory, attention, and other cognitive faculties. More specifically, games that train your processing speed have the highest likelihood of guarding against neurodegenerative diseases. Training your memory and reasoning skills is good, too, but keeping your brain’s processing speed up will ensure that your mind is quick and agile. Even some casual video games, too, could potentially boost cognitive function, despite all the flak they receive.

Getting Plenty of Sleep

A good night’s sleep can work wonders for your body and mind. To begin, sleep deprivation can cause problems with memory, attention, and learning capacities. Additionally, people that don’t get enough sleep can routinely become moody or difficult to deal with, in addition to having poor reaction times. With enough sleep deprivation, a person could even suffer from hallucinations!

woman sleeping blissfully

Lack of sleep can affect your body in other ways, too. For example, sleep deprivation can negatively impact your immune system and make you more prone to getting sick. But this is just the start.

Not sleeping enough can result in too much cortisol in the body, which will then break down collagen, a key ingredient in keeping your skin healthy. Therefore, people that don’t get enough sleep may end up feeling and looking worse than if they had a good night’s rest.

Socializing

Humans are social creatures, and even the most introverted person craves social interaction from time to time. The fact is that socializing has many benefits for your physical and mental well-being.

Social interaction can lead to increased self-esteem, reduced stress/anxiety, lowered risk of depression, and more. In fact, socializing is one of the best ways to manage cognitive faculties. There is mounting evidence suggesting that socializing can ward off dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases. Though more research must be done, the results look promising.

Of course, there are plenty of other benefits that come with social interaction. Socializing may help with cardiovascular problems, immune system problems, and may even increase individuals’ lifespans. Socializing also acts as a support system and allows people to get through difficult life changes with less worry.

Engaging in Art and Music

man carving clay pottery

The visual and performing arts aren’t just for entertainment – they are practical methods to enhance cognitive functioning. For instance, producing art can lead to spatial improvement in cognitive faculties as well as enhanced functioning of the default mode network (DMN), regions of the brain that experience decreased activity with the onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia. Additionally, producing art can lead to psychological resilience against stress and other negative mental factors.

Music, too, is quite beneficial when it comes to cognition. Listening and playing music could potentially enhance listening skills, vocabulary, memory, self-control, and concentration. In addition to these benefits, learning an instrument can be an engaging leisure activity that also provides discipline. In fact, the very structure of the brain alters itself to optimize the reward system around playing music.

Performing Other Activities

There are plenty of other activities that can stimulate the brain! Reading, writing, gardening, working on hobbies, and other engaging activities will keep your mind in tip-top shape. Staying active and not leading a sedentary lifestyle can help keep your mind sharp, as well. Don’t limit yourself to the activities on this list!

Find other methods to manage cognitive faculties that you enjoy, and stick to them. You could take a nice walk outside, or perhaps clean up your home a bit. All the aids against cognitive decline can’t be listed here, so try new things that you enjoy doing.

Have Questions About Methods to Manage Cognitive Faculties?

While the above methods are certainly good for boosting cognition, you and your family may have questions regarding how to apply for social security disability benefits for your loved one with a neurodegenerative disease. If so, contact Social Security Disability Advocates USA today! Also, check out the infographic below for quick reference on how to boost cognitive functioning.

Our advocates are always standing by to address all your social security disability application and appeal questions and concerns. You can contact us at any time by calling us at 602-952-3200. Alternatively, you can get in touch with us via an online form or by taking advantage of our LiveChat feature. Don’t keep your questions to yourself; contact an advocate today!

This is attorney advertising. SSDA, LLC is a group of attorneys that pursues claims for Social Security Disability benefits on behalf of its clients against the Social Security Administration. SSDA, LLC is in no way a part of the Social Security Administration. Further, the information on this blog is for general information purposes only. Nothing herein should be taken as legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, a representative-client relationship.

Boost your cognition infographic
All About Art Therapy and How It Can Help You

All About Art Therapy and How It Can Help You

Potential of art therapy
SSDA USA is here to explain the potential of art therapy and how it can help you.

Many people think that drawing, sketching, painting, and other methods of creating art are trivial and inconsequential. But is this really true? Could it be that making art really does help people, especially those suffering from disabilities? Social Security Disability Advocates USA is here to more closely examine the potential of art therapy.

What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is a method through which certified art therapists examine the emotions of their patients with the goal of improving mental and possibly physical well-being. Although its roots go all the way back to the 1700s, art therapy didn’t begin as a profession until the middle of the 20th century. British artist Adrian Hill invented the term “art therapy” in 1942. Hill, at the time, had been recovering from tuberculosis while in a sanatorium and discovered the positive effects that creating art can have. He documented the earliest of his work as an art therapist in his book Art Versus Illness: A Story of Art Therapy.

Artist Edward Adamson heard of Hill’s work, and the two partnered together to help patients in many other British mental hospitals. Adamson even opened a studio where patients could create art without fear of judgment or ridicule. Many other proponents of art therapy emerged during this time, and the British Association of Art Therapists formed in 1964.

Around this same time, American art therapists such as Margaret Naumburg and Edith Kramer began practicing. Naumburg’s attitude on art therapy, however, is different from Adamson’s. She believed the art was a symbolic extension of the patient that should be examined and analyzed. This is contrary to Adamson’s idea of letting patients draw whatever they wanted, free of judgment.

The American Art Therapy Association formed in 1969, and art therapy has ever since been considered a serious treatment option by doctors and patients alike. While most art therapy nowadays encourages analysis and examination, in tandem with Naumburg’s thoughts, it’s still certainly a good form of self-expression, as well.

Is There Any Evidence That It Works?

While quality research on art therapy is still emerging, the available data suggest that art therapy has positive impacts. Art therapy can help improve quality of life, ease stress and work burnout, help correct problematic behaviors, and aid against certain other psychological ailments. It can also bolster coping mechanisms and build social skills.

Art therapy can also be used in conjunction with other forms of therapy (e.g. cognitive-behavioral or group therapies) for optimal treatment. Additionally, there are possible positive benefits when it comes to aiding individuals suffering from a traumatic event and people with learning impairments. Really, scientists are only just beginning to explore the potential of art therapy. It’s possible that it may be able to help in ways beyond our current knowledge.

Is Art Therapy for Everyone?

While art therapy certainly has its benefits, it may not be for everyone. One should only pursue art therapy with the guidance of a licensed medical practitioner. Additionally, art therapy isn’t a cure or treatment for all conditions. Serious physical conditions, for instance, may not benefit much from art therapy and should be addressed via other methods. However, people with serious brain injuries, dementia, cancer, and some other serious conditions can still find meaning in art therapy.

Keep in mind, art therapy is not the same as an art class. It’s a serious form of communicating one’s inner thoughts as opposed to trying to copy the environment around them. Because of this, people suffering from abuse, violence, anxiety, depression, and other conditions could benefit from art therapy. This is because it allows them to express themselves without needing to worry about technique or criticism. It can be difficult for such people to deal with judgment, and art therapy tries not to hinder their expression. Art students without serious physical or psychological conditions, however, may benefit more from traditional art classes instead of art therapy.

What Does It Cost?

The cost of art therapy varies, depending on the program and what each individual seeks. For instance, a 50-minute group session from The Art Station costs $45.00. Compare that with an entire summer program offered by The Art Therapy Project that costs $2,000.

On average, though, art therapy sessions range from $100–$200 depending on the length of the session and whether it is an individual or group session. The good news is that people receiving benefits from the government (such as social security disability benefits) may be able to use their funds towards such therapies. Of course, one must make sure that their day-to-day essentials (e.g. bills, housing, food) are paid before spending money on therapy.

If you want to find an art therapist near you, try out this art therapist locator. You’ll be able to see if one practices in your area.

Want to Know More About Therapy and Social Security?

If you suffer from a disability and have questions about social security benefits, contact an attorney right away! SSDA USA is always standing by and ready to address your questions and concerns. Call us anytime at 602-952-3200. Alternatively, you can feel free to reach us online via a contact form or through our convenient LiveChat feature. Don’t keep your questions to yourself; contact us today!

This is attorney advertising. SSDA, LLC is a group of attorneys that pursues claims for Social Security Disability benefits on behalf of its clients against the Social Security Administration. SSDA, LLC is in no way a part of the Social Security Administration. Further, the information on this blog is for general information purposes only. Nothing herein should be taken as legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, a representative-client relationship.

Retirement: From Saving to Spending – The Costs and Calculations

Retirement: From Saving to Spending – The Costs and Calculations

saving and spending strategies during retirement
SSDA USA is here with saving and spending strategies during retirement.

Getting ready for retirement? Want to know how to get the most out of your old age, survivors, and disability insurance program (OASDI) benefits? Social Security Disability Advocates USA is here to help shed some light on this federal government benefits program. We’re also here to share potential saving and spending strategies to think about during retirement. Also, we’ll bring up ideas that you may want to discuss with a financial planner to help you remain financially stable before and after you reach retirement age.

Retirement Facts

Social security retirement benefits are not meant as an income replacement. In fact, social security retirement benefits may only account for approximately 40% of your income. For instance, the average monthly retirement benefit in 2018 was $1,461, according to the Social Security Administration. This amount on its own could make it a challenge to cover basic living expenses for another twenty or even thirty years after retirement.

This can seem quite dismal when coupled with the fact that a majority of Americans may retire sooner than expected, from health-related to familial reasons. Then, if you add in unexpected costs such as medications, surgical procedures, and others, this minimal amount can quickly be drained faster than planned.

Luckily, there are some things you can do to help better prepare for retirement.

Planning

Planning for your retirement is one of the most prudent things you can do. Here are just a few things you may want to think about to potentially optimize your benefits.

Work Longer

The Social Security Administration requires 40 work credits in order to release your retirement benefits to you. Now, you earn one credit for every $1,360, and you can earn up to four credits per year. Essentially, then, you could have 40 work credits in only 10 years.

However, you shouldn’t stop working after only 10 years. Why? Well, the SSA uses your 35 highest-earning years when calculating your retirement benefits. Therefore, if you stopped working after 10 years, 25 zeroes will be averaged into their calculation. This will significantly reduce your benefits.

Working longer will make sure you don’t have any zeroes averaged into the benefits’ calculation. And, if you make more money than you did in the past, the SSA will continue to use and update your highest-earning years, even if you’re past your full retirement age.

For those who can no longer participate in gainful activity, they may be eligible to qualify for other SSA disability benefits.

Delay Benefits

Depending on when you were born, your full retirement age is probably 66 or 67. However, you don’t have to start receiving benefits at your full retirement age.

The earliest you can start receiving social security retirement benefits is age 62. Though, keep in mind that taking benefits early will permanently reduce your monthly benefits. For instance, if your full retirement age is 66 but you take your benefits at 62, your benefits will be permanently reduced by 25%. If your retirement age is 67 and you take your benefits at age 62, your benefits are reduced by 30%.

Luckily, as mentioned before, you also have the option to delay your benefits past your full retirement age. Depending on your full retirement age, your benefits can permanently increase by up to 8% for each year you decline to receive benefits, up to age 70. This could help in the long run, especially if you have a longer life expectancy.

Calculate Your Needs

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to not properly calculate your needs in retirement. Many people think that when they retire, their expenses will go down. This is often not true.

Retiring means you’ll have more time for family, friends, hobbies, traveling, and other things. However, as you get older, you may also have more medical bills and other expenses. Additionally, you may also want to leave a nest egg/inheritance for your loved ones. All these things will take time, effort, and money to properly build.

Therefore, it’s best to plan ahead and try to include every variable you can think of. For instance, how often do you plan on traveling? Are you accounting for inflation? What will you leave behind? Are you considering unexpected lifestyle changes? These things all contribute to the costs involved in your retirement planning, so think carefully when calculating the costs involved.

Saving

Once you’ve done what you can to plan ahead, you should start to save your money properly. Here are some ways you can do that.

Start Saving NOW

That’s right, start saving now. It’s never too early, and it’s never too late. Saving any amount of money will always help you in the long run. Even better, though, is if you start saving money early.

You could consider a 401(k), Roth IRA, Traditional IRA, or some other form of personal retirement fund. No matter what you choose, saving money will always benefit you. In fact, saving $75 a month starting at age 25 will leave you with more money than if you save $100 a month starting at age 35. Therefore, you should never think that a small amount won’t make a difference. Saving even a little bit of money regularly adds up quickly, and you won’t regret doing so.

Stick to a Budget

While the pressures of the present moment can be a lot to handle, budgeting your time and money will pay off by the time you retire. Try to eliminate frivolous expenditures. Additionally, create a financial plan and stick to it!

Know how much you’ll need for bills, groceries, and other essentials, first. Then you may set some money aside for entertainment and other costs, too. Whatever your budget is, though, don’t deviate from it.

Furthermore, don’t treat any extra income as excuses to deviate from your budget. If you get a raise or bonus from your employer, that’s great! Congratulations! However, don’t use that money on things you don’t need. Save as much as you can. If you continue to save money no matter how much you make, your retirement fund will only grow.

Pay Off Your Debts

One of the most monumental hindrances to a comfortable retirement is debt. The earlier you can pay off your debts, the easier your retirement will be. Letting your debt grow is a drain on your financial resources and mental vigor. You don’t want to have to worry about the compounding interest on that loan, or the next payment you need to make on your car.

While it’s not abnormal to have some debt by retirement age, you should try to owe as little as possible. This way, you’ll have more money to save for the things you actually want to spend your money on. Therefore, start paying off your debts as soon as possible. You may not have as much money in the present because of this, but your future self will thank you.

Spending

Once you’ve come up with a plan and saved accordingly, there is the issue of spending your money when you do decide to retire. There are some good practices, and some not-so-good ones. Consider these things when spending your retirement money.

Spend Judiciously

Just because you can spend your money freely during retirement doesn’t mean you should stop being prudent. Many people face unforeseen medical expenses, loss of loved ones, unexpected bills, and other costs. If you spend all your money at once, you won’t have enough to pay for those unknowable circumstances.

Of course, it’s OK to enjoy your retirement. Try to find ways to travel and work on your hobbies! You can feel free to do what makes you happy. Just keep in mind, though, that you should still have some money saved in case something occurs that’s not in line with your plans.

Consider Your Methods

One way to optimize your saving and spending strategies to think about during retirement is to pick a good method. There are different ways of approaching how to spend your retirement benefits. You could spend your funds based on a stable plan, increasing plan, or dynamic plan.

A stable plan assumes you will spend the same amount every month. This is an effective choice if you want to keep it simple. However, such a plan wouldn’t account for inflation, which could affect your lifestyle later in retirement.

Contrastly, an increasing plan assumes that your costs will go up as you progress in your retirement. This plan is good for the long run, but if you want to enjoy vacations earlier in your retirement, it may not be the best option.

Finally, a dynamic approach considers other variables such as giving yourself time off during the winter for vacation. A dynamic plan allows you to be more liberal with your spending during your time off. However, you must be diligent and disciplined when you’re not vacationing. Otherwise, you won’t have enough money to enjoy your time off the way you would like.

Whichever method you choose is solely up to you. Just consider your needs and wants before you stick to a plan.

Stay Up to Date

It’s important to stay in the loop about your retirement benefits. The Social Security Administration offers projections of what your retirement benefits might look like. You should always contact the Social Security Administration if something looks incorrect. Check in with them every once in a while to make sure you’re receiving the correct amount. For help with managing your retirement benefits, contact Social Security Disability Advocates USA.

Need More Information Regarding Disability Benefits?

If you have questions about income limits, eligibility, or other items that could affect your social security disability benefits, contact SSDA USA today! Our attorneys are always standing by, ready to address your concerns. You can call us anytime at 602-952-3200. Additionally, you can get in touch with us via an online form or through our LiveChat feature. Consultations are always free, so don’t keep your questions to yourself. Contact an attorney today!

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