Merlino & Gonzalez - June 2020

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June 2020




WHAT WILL YOU MAKE OF THESE UNUSUAL TIMES? Family and Planning Are at the Top of My List

Just like John did last month, I want to take this opportunity to talk about my own experiences with COVID-19. It’s certainly brought about a lot of changes and new priorities in many people’s lives, but surprisingly, many of these changes feature silver linings too.

people are spending time with one another truly speak to how important family is in times of hardship.

With this being the case, a lot of people lately have started to think about just how important it is to have a proper plan in place should the unthinkable or unexpected ever happen to them. I’ve always been a proponent of this type of planning, and not just because it’s my job. The fact of the matter is that estate planning is what allows you to control what happens after you pass away. Whatever you want to happen can happen. It’s entirely possible. You can designate who’s going to be in charge of things, who’s going to look after your kids, where your assets will go, and how all the processes are going to be handled. Things can be exactly as you want them with the proper planning in place. But none of it can happen if you don’t take the first steps to make it so. You might be wondering how you can possibly put such personal plans in place when the world seems like it’s trying to keep people from being personal with one another at all. But at Merlino & Gonzalez, we’re doing everything we can to make these important plans achievable. We’ve been answering emails, picking up phones, and scheduling videoconferences regularly. In May, I even held my very first driveway consultation! However you feel comfortable working with us on something so personal, I’m excited to be able to tell you that we can make it happen. Our goal is to provide the peace of mind that planning can bring and do so as safely and comfortably as needed. We’re here for you if you need us. From my family to yours, I hope you’re finding ways to cherish this time we all have together and are creating your own innovative methods for staying positive and productive. We’ll get through this by working together.

At home, just like it’s been for other families, we’ve reached a point where we need to find ways to battle the monotony of things. My wife and I have always found time to spend together, but anyone who has teenage kids will tell you that getting them to spend any amount of meaningful time with their parents can be challenging. But with stay-at-home mandates, we’re now finding so much more time to spend together, which I’m not sure would happen in other circumstances. We take a family walk in our neighborhood nearly every evening, watch movies together, and do entirely too much baking of cookies and brownies to satisfy our collective sweet tooth. That’s probably why we’ve found it so necessary to start going on all those walks! Together, we’ve also come up with creative ways to spend time with family members who don’t live in our home with us. We sent a copy of our favorite family game, Scattergories, to my in-laws, then arranged a time to play virtually together. It was incredibly fun, but it admittedly prompted the realization that virtual visits sometimes aren’t enough. We’ve since carefully orchestrated in-person visits by donning masks and gloves and spending time — 6 feet apart — in the backyard together for lawn games like ladder ball and bean bag toss. The innovative ways



KEEP YOUR BRAIN YOUNG 3 Tips for Good Brain Health From Harvard Medical School

As we age, our bodies change, including our mental functions. Cognitive decline is one of the biggest fears of aging, but it’s not inevitable. Though we’re still learning new things about how our brains work, there’s a lot of scientific research that shows how to keep your brain young. If you want to keep your mind sharp throughout your lifetime, then follow this advice from Harvard Medical School.

cognitive function tests. But test scores aren’t necessarily a sign of future cognitive decline, and Harvard Health Publishing urges readers to maintain good mental health and get restful sleep, as they are “certainly important goals” for improving cognitive function and overall well-being.


Exercising regularly helps all the muscles and organs in your body, even your brain! A good workout can lower your blood pressure and improve your cholesterol levels, which help your brain and your heart. Harvard Health Publishing, a website of Harvard Medical School, also notes that “animals who exercise regularly increase the number of tiny blood vessels that bring oxygen-rich blood to the region of the brain that is responsible for thought.”


It’s not enough to focus on yourself. In order to maintain your long-term cognitive health, you should also focus on your connections with other people. According to Harvard Health Publishing, “Strong social ties have been associated with a lower risk of dementia, as well as lower blood pressure and longer life expectancy.” Make new friends, stay in touch with family members, and maintain positive relationships in your life. They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is certainly true when it comes to your brain health. Do what you can today to protect your mental functions tomorrow.


Poor mental health can lead to impaired cognitive function. Chronic anxiety, depression, and exhaustion tend to cause low scores on

A VOYAGE FOR THE SOUNDS OF EARTH Record Your Own Audio Time Capsule

In 1977, a NASA committee led by esteemed astrophysicist and author Carl Sagan set out to record images and sounds from around Earth, which were then enshrined in two copper records that included music, languages, and natural sounds from around the world. The Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft carry these records, and since the ‘70s, they have explored space and routinely sent transmissions to Earth about what they have encountered. As Sagan said of the Voyager mission, “The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced spacefaring civilizations in interstellar space, but the launching of this ‘bottle’ into the cosmic ‘ocean’ says something very hopeful about life on this planet.” We may still not have definitive answers about extraterrestrial life, but that doesn’t prevent us from thinking about what we might want to tell others about life on Earth. So, why not make your own recording?

kids what they would want to tell future generations or interstellar travelers. What does life on Earth look like to them? Your messages don’t have to be solely futuristic, either. You can record a message to loved ones and have fun sharing it with them. Think of a family member or friend who could use a pick-me- up and create a recording just for them.


Most phones and computers have an audio recorder app, and this should be all you need to make a recording. Start by creating your message. You can improvise or write a script beforehand. Then, use your phone or computer to record it. This file can be shared on different platforms and sent to the people you’d like to hear your message.


Take inspiration from the Voyager mission by setting out to create a recorded message with your family that can serve as a time capsule for others to enjoy for years to come. As a starting point, ask your

Have fun with this project and think of it as your chance to tell others what life on Earth means to you.


SHOULD YOU LEND MONEY TO FAMILY? Not Unless You’re Prepared to Sue Them

We all want to go above and beyond for those we love, but if a family member asks you if they can borrow money, the process may be more damaging than the generosity is worth. Unless you’re prepared to sue that family member, you might be better off telling them no. Lending money to family is a quick way to damage your relationship. If they can’t or won’t repay you, resentment festers. If other family members get caught in the middle of the tension, then it can cause even bigger problems. As if emotions aren’t enough, consider another troublesome fact: The reason your family member is asking you for a loan is likely because they couldn’t obtain one from a traditional source, like a bank or credit card company. If these capable organizations won’t consider them, why should you?

If you’re still determined to give your family a hand, then make sure you lend them money properly and put everything in writing. Draft a loan agreement to be signed by both parties. A reasonable borrower should have no issue signing, but if they’re reluctant to do so, then do not lend them money. Anyone who’s insulted over a request to put the transaction in writing may not intend to pay you back at all. Make sure the agreement states the following: • The exact amount of money to be lent and paid back • The exact dates of lending and return • The interest rate charged for the loan (yes, you must charge interest; otherwise you’re liable for gift taxes) • The payment schedule that must be followed • Penalties for not meeting the above terms Lending money to a family member can be risky, both emotionally and financially. But if you’re willing to do it, then be sure to handle it professionally as you would with a complete stranger. If your family member isn’t willing to accept your terms, then you shouldn’t be willing to bend over backward and risk your financial well-being. That would leave you no better off than the family member who came to you for help in the first place.


take a break

• 2 tbsp olive oil • 1 clove garlic • 1/2 tsp salt • DIRECTIONS INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup tightly packed fresh basil leaves 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (4 oz each)

• 8 Roma tomatoes •

3/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1. For marinade: In blender, combine olive oil, garlic, salt, vinegar, and basil. Cut 2 tomatoes into quarters and add to mixture. Cover and process until blended. Halve remaining tomatoes for grilling. 2. In bowl, combine chicken and 2/3 cup marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Reserve remaining marinade. 3. Heat grill to about 350–400 F. Lightly oil grates. Grill chicken until internal temperature reads 165 F, about 4–6 minutes per side. Grill tomatoes until lightly browned, about 2–4 minutes per side. Discard remaining marinade. 4. Serve chicken and tomatoes with reserved marinade.

718-698-2200 3

394 Manor Road Staten Island, NY 10314




The Most Important Things You Can Think About in Hardship Page 1 Harvard’s Tips to Keep Your Brain Young Create Your Own Audio Time Capsule Page 2 The Risks of Lending Money to Family Grilled Basil Chicken and Tomatoes Page 3 Help Local Nonprofits in Challenging Times Page 4


Help Local Nonprofits in Challenging Times

Over the past several months, families, businesses, and nonprofits have had to navigate life in this challenging “new normal,” and it can be hard to support your favorite nonprofits when times are tough. Here are a few ways you can help these important entities, even when you don’t have resources to spare right now. DONATE While many people donate generously during the holiday season, remember that nonprofits need donations throughout the year, and different nonprofits need different things. A monetary donation can often go a long way, but never feel obligated to give money, especially when your budget may be tight. Instead, consider cleaning out your closet. What clothes, shoes, or other accessories can you part with? What about dishware or small appliances? When you clean out your home and donate unused items, you benefit those in the community who need them most.

VOLUNTEER In a time of social distancing, volunteering may be discouraged, but nonprofits still need volunteers to operate. The good news is that many nonprofits need volunteers for positions that maintain social distance, such as driving. Food banks and kitchens need drivers to pick up donations or ingredients from donors and to deliver food to people in need, such as the elderly or those with disabilities. ADVOCATE Even if you don’t have time or resources to give, you can become an advocate for important causes around your community. While it might not seem like much, sharing information about local nonprofits on social media can make a genuine difference. Nonprofits need exposure, which is greatly boosted through community support. Sharing useful information about nonprofits — or sharing their posts — increases their visibility so more people will take action 4

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