BRING IT TO BARB: Answering your questions on mental health, relationships and life issues


By Barb Rock

7-21-17 B Barb

Dear Barb,

I am 35 years old and I am concerned that when I retire I will not be able to live as comfortable as I currently am living. What is the best approach to saving for my non-working years for myself and my wife?


Thinking Ahead

Dear Thinking Ahead,

You are smart to be thinking ahead. For most people retirement planning is either nowhere on their radar or it’s a major financial priority. Maybe you’re somewhere in between. Regardless of how you feel about the planning process, the important thing is that you’re saving enough money so you can live comfortably in your golden years. However, that goal will be nearly impossible to reach if you aren’t taking steps toward building your nest egg. You won’t magically have money if you don’t save it. Don’t let the years go by until one day you look up, and all that’s left in your nest are a few feathers, i.e. a car that is old and a house that you can’t afford with your retirement money or pension. Assess your retirement savings approach now before it’s too late. There are plenty of people in the same boat. Unfortunately, 44 percent have done nothing about the possibility of going broke during retirement. Here are six signs you’re saving enough for retirement.

1. You have a solid savings plan – any plan is better than living paycheck to paycheck.

2. You’re saving at least 10 percent of your income. If you can’t do 10 percent, do 5 percent but do something and don’t touch it, ever!

3. You have a financial back-up plan. Many invest in real estate or side business they enjoy. Going back to work full time is not a retirement plan. Figure out what lifestyle you want to have and how much that would cost per month now. The mistake many make is figuring their retirement needs and lifestyle will be less, which is not always the case.

4. Your investments are diversified. Instead of having all your money tied up in stocks, also prepare for inevitable economic downturns by having different saving strategies.

5. You’re maxing out your retirement accounts. For 2017, if you participate in a 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, or the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan, you’re allowed to contribute an annual maximum of $18,000. And if you’re age 50 or older, you can make catch-up contributions in the above plans up to $6,000.

6. You’re living at or below your means. If you’re not living within your means, it’s likely you’re not saving enough (or at all) for retirement. Generally, if you’re living paycheck to paycheck, every dollar is being spent on debt and basic living expenses. If this describes you, it’s time to add income and cut back spending.

I have provided counseling sessions for many older individuals who did not plan ahead or who were stay-at-home moms and are now divorced and living with a son, a daughter or in a place that they never imagined. Your future life is dependent on only you. As you may know, “money doesn’t grow on trees.” There are financial advisors you can contact who will walk you thru the steps for planning with little cost which is what I would recommend. It’s their job and they are skilled.

Dear Barb,

Someone told me there is a link between obesity and migraine headaches. I recently gained 40 pounds and it occurred to me that there could be a connection since I have been having more migraine headaches. Could this be why?


Just Wondering

Dear Wondering,

Migraines affect more than 10 percent of the population. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound. Studies have shown that adults with high body-mass index (BMI), a measure of body fat, were 81 percent more likely to have episodic migraines than those with a lower BMI, especially women under 50. Those who are obese have an increased risk of having more of them. It is still unknown which came first – the obesity or the migraine. The medications like amitriptyline or valproic acid are associated with weight gain. The possible connection between obesity and migraines is still under debate. One theory supporting the link centers on inflammatory substances from fat tissue that are released into the system. Fat tissue secretes different inflammatory proteins, and this could be why they get more headaches. There is a possible connection related to the brain that controls the drive to feed. People who have migraines may be more inclined to behaviors associated with weight gain, such as being less active. Would losing weight mean migraines will decrease in frequency? Although weight loss is generally encouraged for people who are obese, that won’t necessarily result in migraine relief. Lifestyle changes can cut the migraine frequency. Eliminate processed foods, high calorie foods and alcohol, all of which can be migraine triggers. Careful eating of what you KNOW to be healthy and keeping more active (less sitting) can be a beneficial lifestyle change. Think of how many times you sit in a day — from the couch to the car, from the car to the movie, from the movie to the car, from the car to the kitchen table and to the couch. How many hours did you sit versus energetic movement. Remember in order to lose weight there must be either a deficit of food intake or increase of activity. It’s a choice. I think, if a migraine headache can be less frequent due to a sacrifice of food or change of activity, it is a better life.

Barb Rock is a mental health counselor for the House of Matthew Homeward Bound program in Tacoma, and the published author of “Run Your Own Race: Happiness after 50.” Send any ques- tions related to mental health, relationships or life issues to her at

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