Merlino & Gonzalez - May 2020

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May 2020



IN A MANOR OF SPEAKING WE’RE STILL HERE FOR YOU Working Together to Make the Best of Challenging Times

I usually reserve this space for our wonderful colleagues, but in light of current events, it felt necessary to share my own words. I’m sure it’s no surprise that the “current events” I speak of are COVID-19 and its riptide of effects around the globe.

so hard to be. Today, I live in a much bigger house relative to the house I grew up in. It’s more of a struggle to involve myself in my kids’ and wife’s lives simply because of the space we have in our home. But with all the time we spend together in the house now, we’re finding ways to reconnect. We spend a lot of time cooking together every evening, and we say a prayer together at 8 o’clock every night to help everyone with the hardships they’re facing. Being sheltered in place has made me rethink the things that are most important to put effort into. We have the opportunity to turn our big houses into small houses right now. Our constant mandated proximity to one another, even if it’s behind closed doors or on opposite sides of the house, gives us the chance to reconnect with each other. We just have to make the effort. It’s so important during these daunting times to be there for one another. Whether that’s through increased communication with coworkers, video chatting with old friends, or knocking on your son’s or daughter’s door to ask them how their day is going, we have to make the effort. We get through challenging times by coming together. In the wonderful words of Samwise Gamgee from “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,” one of my favorite books: “It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end … because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass.”

Most businesses are closed and homes are locked down, and it’s likely that New York and New Jersey will be the last states to start opening up again when it’s been deemed safe. But through it all, I want to let our clients know that Merlino & Gonzalez is still here and operating at full capacity. We have our full staff working to serve our clients remotely and have made other changes in an effort to keep things as convenient and safe as possible for everyone. Our team is completely available via email, phone, and video conference. We’re also working with messenger services to have important paperwork delivered as needed. Our goal is to eliminate the need for people to leave their homes while still giving them the ability to get the things they need from us. We’ve been successful by upgrading our communication abilities and the capabilities of each team member’s work-from-home environment,so there hasn’t been a drop in quality of work or a delay in getting things done. I’m so proud of how our team has stepped up to make sure our clients are still receiving the help they need. “Stepping up” has presented itself in many ways lately. This pandemic has its incredibly rough effects, but it’s also doing something interesting. It’s giving people the opportunity to recognize the need to step up like never before. For myself and my family, I’m finding that the phrase “small houses lead to tight families” really suits us best during this time. Growing up, I lived in a small house with a rather large family. There were days when it felt like we were all on top of each other, with no privacy or space to stretch. But in many ways, that made our family’s bonds strong. We were in each other’s lives, and we didn’t have to try

–John R. Merlino Jr., Esq.



HEALTH BENEFITS OF FAMILY GARDENING Give Your Kid the Gift of a Green Thumb

kids identify with where their food is coming from, and nothing tastes better than a freshly picked strawberry or pea pod they grew themselves. Jack Gilbert, a scientist at the University of Chicago and a parent himself, and his co-author, Rob Knight, emphasize the health benefits of garden time in their book, “Dirt Is Good: The Advantage of Germs for Your Child’s Developing Immune System.” The two found that exposure to different microbes, like those found in a garden, strengthens a child’s immune system and makes them less likely to develop allergies. If this is your first time gardening, you don’t need much to get started. Grab a few shovels, a pair of gloves for each family member, and fresh potting soil, and you’ll be set. Then, you can decide together which plants you’d like to grow! Carrots are fun because of the surprise factor — just imagine your child discovering that the part they eat grows below the ground! Peas are tasty and fairly easy to grow, as are strawberries. The options really are endless. Depending on the growing season in your area, you can choose to buy seeds or opt for rooted plants. Last but certainly not least, the best part of gardening as a family is the healthy, fresh produce you’ll get to enjoy all summer long!

Springtime often means nicer weather and more time spent outside, but it also means it’s gardening season. That means it’s time to roll up your sleeves and play in the dirt. If you’ve been searching for a way to get the kids away from technology and engaged with the real world, gardening is the perfect activity for the whole family to enjoy. Not only is it fun, but it’s also beneficial for your kids’ development. For example, gardening can improve your children’s analytical abilities. As Dr. Wendy Matthews says, “Gardening exercises important reasoning, initiation, planning, and organization skills.” Furthermore, several studies, including one at Texas A&M University, suggest that gardening improves a child’s attitude toward fruits and vegetables and may make them more likely to choose them as snacks. Gardening helps

HAS BREAKFAST IN BED GONE OUT OF STYLE? What Moms Really Want on Mother’s Day

Serving breakfast in bed to moms, especially on Mother’s Day, has been a widespread tradition for years, but have you ever wondered if it’s what your mom really wants? Here’s a look at the Mother’s Day breakfast in bed tradition and some recent insight into the popular trend. According to Heather Arndt Anderson, author of “Breakfast: A History,” the popularity of breakfast in bed became widespread during the Victorian era, but only for married, wealthy women who had servants. Those women would enjoy their first meal of the day in bed, and then their servants would handle all the spilled scone crumbs and messy breakfast residue. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson dubbed Mother’s Day a national U.S. holiday, and a few years later, the aristocratic English tradition of breakfast in bed sailed across the pond to America. By the 1930s, food and bedding companies capitalized on the tradition and the new holiday by running ads in magazines and newspapers encouraging children and fathers to serve their matriarchs breakfast in bed. Since then, serving mothers breakfast in bed has become a popular Mother’s Day ritual around the world, and it remains so today. However, there is one group whose voice has been left out of the breakfast in bed conversation: mothers.

In a recent study conducted by Zagat, a well-known dining survey site, researchers found that only 4% of moms polled want breakfast in bed. Yes, you read that right. When you factor in the mess of syrup, crumbs, and coffee spilling over clean sheets, it’s understandable. Today’s mothers usually don’t have servants to clean up afterward. The study also revealed what most moms prefer to do for breakfast on Mother’s Day: 53% of mothers like to go out, and 39% prefer brunch instead of breakfast. While breakfast in bed seems like a nice gesture, statistics show that it’s probably the last thing your mom wants to wake up to on May 10. This Mother’s Day, show your appreciation for your mom or the mother of your children by asking her what she would like to do. She deserves the holiday morning she desires, whether that includes a full breakfast in bed or carryout from her favorite brunch joint.



Digital assets can be as valuable as tangible assets. Anything you have some sort of monetary stake in digitally can be considered an asset of value to take into consideration when creating an estate plan. Things like online bank accounts, PayPal accounts, investment accounts, and digital currency are all digital assets that need protection, just like your regular property. But what’s the best way to protect something you can’t put under physical lock and key? Back It Up Even if your account information is stored in the cloud, on a website’s server, or managed by a third-party company, you should always use an external hard drive to back up your information from your computer. You never know if servers will fail or information will be compromised, so keeping an external drive for files and a thumb drive with information like a list of assets and logins is a safe practice. Be Password Smart It’s never wise to use the same password for all your online accounts. In fact, every single account should have a different password assigned to it — one that’s a complex variety of letters, numbers, and characters. It is extra work, but it’s an easy way to protect your

digital assets from being stolen. If you’re worried about remembering passwords, use a password manager software like LastPass or Dashlane. Never write them down anywhere. Invest in Protection When you purchase a computer, it may come with free virus protection software. This can be a good start, but it shouldn’t be the end of your protection. These free versions, and those you can find online, offer the most basic protection, and if you’re not careful about where you download them from, they can actually be harmful. Invest in quality software programs that are designed to provide you with the highest level of protection for your electronic devices. That includes smartphones and tablets. If you have questions about what digital assets you should focus on protecting, call our office so we can help you figure out what to add to your estate plan. In the meantime, implement these practices so your assets stay safe.

take a break


Who says the cookout has to ruin your diet? Try this paleo-friendly recipe for a main dish that’s worthy of your next barbecue.

• 1 1/2 lbs beef rib roast • 1 tsp Himalayan salt • 1/2 tsp black pepper INGREDIENTS


1. Take rib roast out of the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to grilling. 2. Season roast with salt and pepper and allow it to rest for 10 minutes while you heat a gas grill to 600 F. 3. Sear roast for 3–4 minutes on each side. 4. Turn off the grill but continue cooking the steak, flipping every 4–5 minutes, until it reaches an internal temperature of 125 F. Remove from grill. 5. Allow the roast to rest — its internal temperature will continue to climb — for 5–10 minutes. Slice and serve.

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We’re Still Working Hard for You and Our Families What Is Gardening Good For?

Has Breakfast in Bed Gone Out of Style? 3 Ways to Protect Your Digital Assets Grilled Prime Rib Bird-Watching for Beginners

BIRD-WATCHING FOR BEGINNERS Why May Is the Best Month to Start

Bird-watching is like a lifelong scavenger hunt that you can play anywhere on Earth. The activity provides a mixture of science, travel, and beauty, and it’s a chance to get outside


One of the best things about birding is that you don’t need a lot of equipment to do it. As long as you’ve got your field guide and comfortable walking shoes, the only other thing you’ll need is a pair of binoculars. And they don’t have to be fancy. As long as they can zoom in on faraway trees and perches, they’ll work for now. You can always upgrade later.

for feathered adventures and quiet reflection. The month of May is a great time of year to go birding because rising temperatures prompt spring migration. So if you’re eager to begin bird-watching, there’s no better time than now. Here are some tips to get started.


Your very first birding excursion is important because you don’t want to be overwhelmed or underwhelmed. So use your field guide to home in on a single bird and go find it. It may be local, or you can plan a trip to a specific bird’s natural habitat. Stay focused and don’t get distracted by other species. The thrill that comes with spotting your first bird will keep you coming back to find the rest. Bird-watching is a wonderful hobby because it’s easy to get started and can last a lifetime. As long as you can walk, drive, or look out a window, you can be a birder. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and find some birds!


Thousands of species of birds span all corners of the globe. That’s why finding them is an exciting prospect — there’s no end to the hunt! Start by researching birds that are native to your location. Purchase a field guide with pictures of each bird and maps of their range and use it to figure out where different birds live. From there, it’s easy to pick your first spotting goal. You can even get yourself extra excited by watching a few bird documentaries. 4

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