Parkinson’s disease and pesticide exposures – part 2.

The following is brief review of a literature review published in the British Medical Bulletin in 2006 (1). A literature review is a paper that reviews a great number of published studies on a specific topic. This review looked at published articles dealing with the topic of Parkinson’s and pesticide exposure. The review concluded that many studies have shown an association between pesticides and Parkinson’s disease, however; no one pesticide as been consistently identified. The pesticides that have shown a correlation include organochlorine insecticides, maneb and paraquat. (more on these pesticides and where they are used later). One reviewed study showed an almost doubling of risk in individuals exposed to Pesticides! The researcher also notes that it is difficult to single out a specific pesticide because individuals who are exposed are often exposed to several. The current body of evidence indicates that pesticides are associated with Parkinson’s disease, but, as of 2006, more research is needed to improve techniques for estimating specific pesticide exposure.

The next steps in this blog series are to, 1 identify where the previously mentioned pesticides are used, 2 look at studies identifying additional pesticides, and 3 look at studies that have researched specific pesticide effects on animal neurons.

Also – Parkinson’s disease anatomy fact #2 ( the first was the substantia nigra); The basal ganglia is the portion of the brain that contains the substantia nigra. The basal ganglia is interconnected with the cerebral cortext, thalamus, and brainstem. The substantia nigra is Latin for “black substance.”

Substantia nigra also plays a role in addictive behaviors because some drugs, such as cocaine, prevent the reuptake of dopamine, effectively increasing the amount of dopamine in the brain. However, the addiction has more to do with the mesolimbic pathway then the substantia nigra, which is part of a different dopamine pathway.

Disclaimer: I am currently in the process of researching this issue – so there is definitely a chance I may post corrections in the future!!!! But am doing my very best to report accurate and concise information.

1. Dick FD, Br Med Bull. 2006;79-80:219-31. Epub 2007 Jan 22.

Is your savings account costing you?

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It is not only possible that your savings account is costing you money, but it is highly likely! I searched for a while to see what percent of Americans have money in some type of high yield savings account (i.e. online savings account) but I couldn’t find any hard data. However, I would be willing to bet that the majority of Americans don’t have a high yield savings account and stick with the savings account at their local brick-and-mortar bank. Do me a favor right now…quit what you’re doing and look to see how much money you have in your banks savings account. If you can, figure out what the interest rate is on that savings account. If you can’t find that data, a safe assumption would be to estimate the interest rate is 0.5% or less. So lets play with some numbers because that’s what will hopefully make this real!!!

Lauren has $1000 in her WaMu savings account. First, I should commend her for at least having money in savings as many don’t even have that. But on to more important things. Pop quiz… How much does lauren have in her savings account one year from today? If you multiplied the 0.5% interest to her $1000 she would have $1,005 dollars at the end of the year…right? WRONG! Lauren would really have $970 at years end. But how can that be? Sure her account will show that her balance is $1,005, but you can’t forget to include inflation over that year. According to the average for inflation is 3.43% annually. That means, although her original savings increased in number by $5 over the course of a year, in reality it would be equivalent to only having $970 in her account in todays money. If you are confused I will make this very simple for you. Lauren is paying $30 a year to basically keep her money in a bank that is making 5%-10% interest off her savings. The solution to this problem is a simple one that I’m sure most of you already know…High Yield Savings Accounts!

Go to bankrate.comto get an idea of what interest you could be earning on a high yield savings account. You should easily be able to earn a minimum of 3% interest, which will at the very least keep your money pretty close to increasing with inflation rates. I try to keep my blogs simple. If you want to look up more information on high yield savings accounts without getting bogged down by all the bank jargon go to this blogand check out all the information on them.

I’ll leave you with one more example of what your brick and mortar bank may be costing you.

Lets say Joe has $40K sitting in his local banks savings account. This is Joe’s Wedding Fund for when he gets married 5 years down the road. Let’s see what Joe’s money does over that 5 years. If he leaves it with his brick and mortar Joe will have approximately $41K in his bank account after the five year time period. Not bad, he made $1,000 bucks off it! WRONG!!!!! That $41K in “Five years time money” is really equivalent to only $35K in todays money. Basically Joe’s money is now worth $5K less than when he began. He could have gone on a SWEET honeymoon with that $5K, but now he will be forced to stay at a Motel 6 in Bakersfield, Ca. That sure doesn’t sound like much of a savings account to me.

So here is what you need to do. Keep some money in your brick and mortar savings account (I keep $300) so you can have access to it quickly in case of an emergency. Then throw all the other money that you are keeping for short term savings (less than 5 years) in a High Yield Online savings account…chances are your current bank may even have an online savings account option that has a higher interest rate than your current account! At the very least prevent from losing value in your money. Don’t put it off. Do it today open up an online savings account!

Be the solution not the problem,

Maybe its time for a second job…

As I have mentioned in earlier posts my income is by no means above average. I make $40k a year and am pretty much able to cover all of my living expenses, investment/retirement accounts, and have a little bit of pocket change left to play with at the end of each month. I currently max out my Roth IRA annual contributions and allot 8% of my gross income to my Government TSP (my 401K plan). Fortunately, since I work for the government I know exactly how much I will be making in one, two, five, and ten years as I am on a career ladder and I know exactly what my annual pay increases will be. I don’t plan to alter my investment account contributions much in the future (maybe a slight increase in my 401K contribution). The way I am investing now even at a meager 40K salary I will have millions waiting for me when I retire, with inflation taken in to account over the next 40 years I will still have plenty of money waiting for me when it comes time to throw in the towel. Like most renters, I hate the idea of throwing away my money in rent every month when I could be investing it in a home that I own. But with me contributing nearly 20% of my gross income in to my retirement accounts I dont have much left at the end of the month to put towards my “Buying a house” fund. There are three quick solutions to this problem…

1) Contribute less to my retirement accounts so I can save more for a house. Not really an option since my younger years are the most important time for me to invest to secure financial freedom in my 60’s

2) Get a job that pays more. Wouldn’t it be nice if life was that easy?! I love the job I have now and I like knowing that I will double my salary in three years with the government. Sure I would be open to jobs that wanted to pay me $70K+ now, but I dont anticipate that happening…its just not realistic, at least right now its not.

3) Get a second job. This is by far the most reasonable way for me to save for a house over the next 5 or so years. Fortunately, I am pretty good at math and science and have discovered most people aren’t. I decided to make my second job be in home tutoring for high school students. I get to make my own hours, charge whatever rates I want, network and meet some rich families (because thats who generally pays for tutoring), and I actually enjoy doing it. I currently charge between $30 to $40 an hour for tutoring. I tutor between 7 to 12 hours per week. That means I basically have an extra $1000 a month that I get to put directly in to my emergency fund and house fund. Its amazing what that money can do when all my expenses are covered by my government salary. I put it in to a high-yield online savings account where i can get between 3%-5% depending on current rates. With my tutoring income, and as I receive my pay grade increases with my job, I will be able to save between $50k and $70k over the next five or so years for a house.

So what about you? Do you wish you had just a little bit more money coming in every month? Why don’t you consider getting a second job? Even if you work at a mall 10 hours a week (two five hour shifts) and make minimum wage thats $3,640(AGI) extra dollars at years end! Go out there and pick up a second job doing something you enjoy once or twice a week and enjoy a couple extra bucks in your pocket each month!

Raise Your Potential,

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Pesticides and Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s is a disease characterized by degeneration of dopamine producing neurons in a portion of the brain called the substancia nigra. The reduction in dopamine results in loss of motor control and tremor.

It is known that pesticide and fungicide exposure increases risk of developing the disease. This has been shown in several studies. A study of the small farming community of Fairfield, Montana, revealed that the rate of Parkinson’s in older inhabitants is 1 out of 60, while the national average is about 1 in 272. Further studies have shown a direct relationship. I thought about reviewing several of the studies in this blog, but, to be honest, it would be easy for anyone reading this to google the words “Parkinson’s” and “pesticides” and peruse the results. The point is that we should all think about the contact we have with pesticides. Think about the food you eat, were pesticides used on or around it? Or think about the gardening you may do – what chemicals are you using – what about fungicides – are they used in your home or place of work? What about the house cleaners you use.

I personally have a friend with Parkinson’s and it is a debilitating horrible disease – other neurological disease, such as Alzheimer’s, are equally devastating. It is likely that the neurological damage that characterizes these disease is caused by several factors – but one cause is definitely the environment we live in and are exposure to certain things in the environment – such as pesticides.

I don’t want everyone to be scared, but aware.

The importance of giving…

So Im 22, I make $40k a year, and I definitely feel like life would be easier if I was making $70k+. All through college I only had a part time job and probably averaged only $6k a year, so even though I wish I was making more than $40k it still seems like plenty of money to me. I made my budget and accounted for all of my expenses…401k, Roth IRA, gas, food, etc. I thought I had it all figured out and was pleased to see a decent cash flow in the discretionary income category. I put some money in a high yield savings account, used some to buy a motorcycle, was eating out when I wanted, basically life was good. Then I took a 6 week long financial course during this time (because I love learning). There was a bunch of good stuff presented during the six weeks, but the one thing I realized I was missing in my budget was a charity section. I went home and wrote down on a piece of paper “I will give at least 10% of my income to charity.”

There are a couple of reasons I decided I needed to be giving away some of my money.

1) Im christian and I personally believe it is important for me to tithe to the church and support different ministries and missions. I believe I am called to give whether I make $10 a year or $10 million a year. I think about it like this…I go to church every Sunday and am entertained by the pastor and learn important things to be successful so I should make sure that I contribute to the church so I can continue to have a place to go. If church members didn’t tithe there would be no church…im just doing my part.

2) I know that giving is going to make me rich. No, I don’t think karma is going to be on my side or if I give my money God is going to bless me with a fortune…it might happen, but Im not counting on it. Now that I am giving 10% of my income I have to be even better with my finances and make sure I am watching every dollar I spend. It has made me that much more motivated to contribute the maximum possible to my Roth IRA. It has made me think “Do I really need to go get food from that burrito shop?” I am 100% confident that giving will never financially hurt me and will only increase my chances for financial success.

3) There is no excuse not to give. Sure money might be tight. You might be living paycheck to paycheck. But make sure you hear me GIVING IS IMPORTANT. If you cant afford, or dont want to afford, giving 10% give 5%, 2%, 1%, or $1 the amount doesn’t matter!!!! There are plenty of great organizations out there that rely on people’s donations. My mom contributes to Children’s Hospital every year, another friend sponsors a young teens ability to go to summer camp. Breast cancer, autism, water in 3rd world countries, sponsoring a child in africa the possibilities are endless. When you finish reading this blog I dare you to just go to any organization and give them $1…thats right just $1. I want you to realize that it doesn’t matter how much you give, all that matters is that you give.

Do it! Give money to someone or something. Here is my favorite organization…I strongly believe in their cause.

Did you give a dollar yet? No?! Then GO NOW!

The nitty gritty….

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The Hidden Costs of Growing Up

I find it hard to believe I’m already one year out of college. This thing called “being-an-adult” is tricky. There are a bunch of things to this lifestyle that I never learned in college. Like, insurance….what the heck is that? I do not like knowing I pay almost $300 a month for insurance (rental, car, health, dental, vision) most of which I never actually collect on. Part of me is tempted to go out and break my leg just so I can actually utilize my health insurance (which I am yet to capitalize on. I guess the most important thing to me is to make sure that I really do make a conscious effort to use every dollar of my insurance possible. I make sure to get my semiannual dental checkups, I get a new pair of glasses every year, if I feel really sick you better believe I’m going to be heading to the hospital. My advice to people….use your insurance if you can! Another one of my not-so-favorite hidden expenses…Income Tax. Unfortunately I live in California where we have income tax, sales tax, property tax, and life tax….okay maybe not the last one, but at times I sure do feel like there is. All through college I was considered a Washington resident, but in my first year of post-college life I made the transition to California residency. Unbeknownst to me, dibs were called on 9.3% of my pay check by the the golden state. I guess they have to tax me because the weather is nice year round and there are a lot of beaches…right? I don’t know, maybe I’m just being bitter, but I can tell you one thing…I am definitely not looking forward to further discoveries of these hidden treasures that will somehow find a way to snatch up every dollar of my hard earned pay.

I would be curious to hear if anyone else had similar experiences in their transition to adulthood. Any expenses you didn’t know would come to bite you in the behind? Or anything I’m missing out on that could enlighten me or prepare me for the future?

9.3% poorer than you,