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There’s A Catch That Comes With Taking A 23AndMe Test

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With all the holiday discounts, it may seem like now’s the time to buy an at-home DNA test. The genetic testing kits break down your family history, traits, wellness and health risks. All you have to do is send a sample of saliva away in the mail and ― voilà! ― a couple of months later, you’ll know yourself better than ever.

But while the kits may seem like the perfect stocking stuffer, some health experts say there are a few key details you should definitely consider before you do a direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic kit. Some of those test results could wind up making an impact on other aspects of your life. Below are a few things experts want you to be aware of before you swab.

Interpreting results can be tricky — and can leave you with misinformation.

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One of the biggest red flags with DTC genetic testing is the fact it comes down to an interaction between you and a computer. There is no one helping you understand your report, and, as a result, many people wind up playing a guessing game about their health.

“You are sending your spit, they’re extracting DNA, and you’re getting testing performed ― that test result comes back to you and you may or may not interpret it correctly,” said Gail Vance, a member at the College of American Pathologists and professor in the department of medical molecular genetics at Indiana University.

For example, say you opt for the BRCA test in your 23andMe kit to determine your risk for breast and ovarian cancer. The 23andMe test actually only looks at three specific BRCA gene mutations, which primarily appear in the Ashkenazi Jewish population, according to Vance. If you’re not Ashkenazi Jewish, the BRCA mutations that 23andMe may find might not necessarily pertain to you, she said.

There are also thousands of mutations that exist in the BRCA genes, so at-home kits like 23andMe that only test for a handful of those mutations hardly cover the full span. If your test comes back negative, you may falsely assume you have no risk for cancer when in reality, a full test hasn’t really been done.

All of this is basically to say that you’re not exactly receiving a definitive answer just from the kit alone.

“You are sending your spit, they’re extracting DNA, and you’re getting testing performed ― that test result comes back to you and you may or may not interpret it correctly.”

– Gail Vance, member at the College of American Pathologists

The same goes for other health conditions. Genetics is only one piece of the puzzle. If your at-home DNA kit suggests you might be at risk for something like diabetes, for example, that doesn’t mean it’s a definitive diagnosis, according to Vance. And on the flip side, a negative test result doesn’t mean that you are out of the woods. If you don’t have a predisposition for a health condition like diabetes or heart disease based on your DNA results ― but say you’re overweight or you smoke ― then you still have a risk.

Finally, 23andMe provides a small snapshot of your health, not the whole picture. According to Vance, it’s best to follow up with your health care provider, who can run additional tests in an accredited laboratory and confirm any conditions you may (or may not) be at risk for.

“If you have something that’s positive, you should probably have that interpreted in the context of your health and your family health by a medical practitioner,” Vance said. “If you’re negative, you should look at that negative result again in the context of your medical health, your family health, your environment and your lifestyle.”

Certain insurance premiums could increase after your results.

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Let’s start with the good news: Thanks to the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act ― aka GINA ― employers and health insurance providers cannot discriminate against Americans based on genetic information. Your health insurance is in the clear.

Unfortunately, though, GINA does not protect members of the U.S. Military, Indian Health Service, Veterans Administration, federal employees and those who work for a company with fewer than 15 employees, Vance explained. Additionally, GINA does not apply to life insurance, disability or long-term care insurance in most states, meaning that these premiums could very well fluctuate based on your test results.

“Yes, life insurance carriers can adversely discriminate and rate for risks when it comes to previous genetic testing results,” said Jason P. Veirs, owner and president of InsuranceExperts.com, who specializes in life, disability, health and long-term care insurance.

That being said, most providers don’t specifically ask about genetic testing (yet) nor can they require you to get genetic testing done, Veirs said. However, if you have taken a genetic test and the insurance company asks for it, you technically need to disclose that information.

“The insurance carriers also rely on the applicant providing accurate health information, therefore, if you’ve had testing that showed a proclivity or susceptibility towards a certain cancer or disease ― even if not performed by a physician ― then it would most likely have to be disclosed on the application,” Veirs said.

Lastly, if you’ve gotten genetic testing and it’s in your medical records, it will pop up during the underwriting process, which can spike up your rates. Veirs recommended securing a policy prior to getting any testing done. Once your insurance is in place, the carrier cannot ding you for any positive genetic test results, he said.

Your results could lead to added anxiety.

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There’s a chance you could find out some information, whether it’s related to your health or your family, that could lead to increased anxiety. Make sure you’re mentally prepared to get all the details before sending off your swab, said Ellen Matloff, founder and former director of the Cancer Genetic Counseling Program at Yale School of Medicine and CEO of My Gene Counsel.

“People learn all sorts of unexpected things from these tests that they think, ‘Oh, sure, I’d want to know this information’ and a lot of times they aren’t ready for it,” she said.

“People learn all sorts of unexpected things from these tests that they think, ‘Oh, sure, I’d want to know this information’ and a lot of times they aren’t ready for it.”

– Ellen Matloff, founder of the Cancer Genetic Counseling Program at Yale School of Medicine

Matloff also stressed the importance of being aware that genetic tests can have a broader impact on your extended family. Understand the risks and know that a family surprise or two may pop up. And if you test positive for a certain health risk or mutation, keep in mind that might mean family members may also be at risk.

“DNA is a family affair and getting into this could impact people other than you,” Matloff said.

When it comes to these at-home genetic testing kits, you have options. Ask yourself why you’re doing the test and if you’re ready for any curveballs. You can decide not to unlock the family connection tool or bypass the health assessment.

And always, always read the privacy policy. When you spit into a tube and mail it away, you’re sharing some of your most personal information. Determine whether or not you’re comfortable trusting a third party with your DNA samples. You can always opt out of it or request to have your genetic information destroyed.

Ultimately, at-home genetic tests like 23andMe can be a fun and interesting tool, but it’s important to follow up with a health care professional who can help interpret and clarify your results. They can make sure you understand any questions the test may have brought up.

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4 things kids need to know about money

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(NC) Responsible spending includes knowing the difference between wants and needs. Back-to-school season, with added expenses and expectations around spending, is the perfect time to not only build your own budget for the year ahead, but also to introduce your own children to the concept of budgeting.

The experts at Capital One break down four basic things that every child should know about money, along with tips for bringing real-life examples into the conversation.

What money is. There’s no need for a full economic lesson,but knowing that money can be exchanged for goods and services, and that the government backs its value, is a great start.
How to earn money. Once your child understands what money is, use this foundational knowledge to connect the concepts of money and work. Start with the simple concept that people go to work in exchange for an income, and explain how it may take time (and work) to save for that new pair of sneakers or backpack. This can help kids develop patience and alleviate the pressure to purchase new items right away that might not be in your budget.
The many ways to pay. While there is a myriad of methods to pay for something in today’s digital age, you can start by explaining the difference between cash, debit and credit. When teaching your kids about credit, real examples help. For instance, if your child insists on a grocery store treat, offer to buy it for them as long as they pay you back from their allowance in a timely manner. If you need a refresher, tools like Capital One’s Credit Keeper can help you better understand your own credit score and the importance of that score to overall financial health.
How to build and follow a budget. This is where earning, spending, saving and sharing all come together. Build a budget that is realistic based on your income and spending needs and take advantage of banking apps to keep tabs on your spending in real-time. Have your kids think about how they might split their allowance into saving, spending and giving back to help them better understand money management.

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20 Percent Of Americans In Relationships Are Committing Financial Infidelity

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Nearly 30 million Americans are hiding a checking, savings, or credit card account from their spouse or live in partner, according to a new survey from CreditCards.com. That’s roughly 1 in 5 that currently have a live in partner or a spouse.

Around 5 million people — or 3 percent — used to commit “financial infidelity,” but no longer do.

Of all the respondents, millennials were more likely than other age groups to hide financial information from their partner. While 15 percent of older generations hid accounts from their partner, 28 percent of millennials were financially dishonest.

Regionally, Americans living in the South and the West were more likely to financially “cheat” than those living in the Northeast and Midwest.

Insecurity about earning and spending could drive some of this infidelity, according to CreditCards.com industry analyst Ted Rossman.

When it comes to millennials, witnessing divorce could have caused those aged 18-37 to try and squirrel away from Rossman calls a “freedom fund”.

“They’ve got this safety net,” Rossman said. They’re asking: “What if this relationship doesn’t work out?”

As bad as physical infidelity

More than half (55 percent) of those surveyed believed that financial infidelity was just as bad as physically cheating. That’s including some 20 percent who believed that financially cheating was worse.

But despite this, most didn’t find this to be a deal breaker.

Over 80 percent surveyed said they would be upset, but wouldn’t end the relationship. Only 2 percent of those asked would end the relationship if they discovered their spouse or partner was hiding $5,000 or more in credit card debt. That number however is highest among those lower middle class households ($30,000-$49,999 income bracket): Nearly 10 percent would break things off as a result.

Roughly 15 percent said they wouldn’t care at all. Studies do show however that money troubles is the leading cause of stress in a relationship.

That’s why, Rossman says, it’s important to share that information with your partner.

“Talking about money with your spouse isn’t always easy, but it has to be done,” he said. “You can still maintain some privacy over your finances, and even keep separate accounts if you and your spouse agree, but you need to get on the same page regarding your general direction, otherwise your financial union is doomed to fail.”

With credit card rates hovering at an average of 19.24 percent APR, hiding financial information from a partner could be financially devastating.

But, Rossman adds, it’s not just about the economic impact but also the erosion of trust.

“More than the dollars and cents is that trust factor,” he said. “I think losing that trust is so hard to regain. That could be a long lasting wedge.”

Kristin Myers is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

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7 Examples Of Terrible Financial Advice We’ve Heard

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Between television, radio, the internet and well-meaning but presumptuous friends and family, we’re inundated with unsolicited advice on a daily basis. And when it comes to money, there’s a ton of terrible advice out there. Even so-called experts can lead us astray sometimes.

Have you been duped? Here are a few examples of the worst money advice advisers, bloggers and other personal finance pros have heard.

1. Carry a balance to increase your credit score.

Ben Luthi, a money and travel writer, said that a friend once told him that his mortgage loan officer advised him to carry a balance on his credit card in order to improve his credit score. In fact, the loan officer recommended keeping the balance at around 50 percent of his credit limit.

“This is the absolute worst financial advice I’ve ever heard for several reasons,” Luthi said. For one, carrying a credit card balance doesn’t have any effect on your credit at all. “What it does do is ensure that you pay a high interest rate on your balance every month, neutralizing any other benefits you might get from the card,” Luthi explained. “Also, keeping a 50 percent credit utilization is a surefire way to hurt your credit score, not help it.”

Some credit experts recommend keeping your balance below 30 percent of the card limit, but even that’s not a hard-and-fast rule. Keeping your balance as low as possible and paying the bill on time each month is how you improve your score.

2. Avoid credit cards ― period.

Credit cards can be a slippery slope for some people; overspending can lead to a cycle of debt that’s tough to escape.

But avoiding credit cards on principle, something personal finance gurus like Dave Ramsey push hard, robs you of all their potential benefits.

“Credit cards are a good tool for building credit and earning rewards,” explained personal finance writer Kim Porter. “Plus, there are lots of ways to avoid debt, like using the card only for monthly bills, paying off the card every month and tracking your spending.”

If you struggle with debt, a credit card is probably not for you. At least not right now. But if you are on top of your finances and want to leverage debt in a strategic way, a credit card can help you do just that.

3. The mortgage you’re approved for is what you can afford.

“The worst financial advice I hear is to buy as much house as you can afford,” said R.J. Weiss, a certified financial planner who founded the blog The Ways to Wealth. He explained that most lenders use the 28/36 rule to determine how much you can afford to borrow: Up to 28 percent of your monthly gross income can go toward your home, as long as the payments don’t exceed 36 percent of your total monthly debt payments. For example, if you had a credit card, student loan and car loan payment that together totaled $640 a month, your mortgage payment should be no more than $360 (36 percent of $1,000 in total debt payments).

“What homeowners don’t realize is this rule was invented by banks to maximize their bottom line ― not the homeowner’s financial well-being,” Weiss said. “Banks have figured out that this is the largest amount of debt one can take on with a reasonable chance of paying it back, even if that means you have to forego saving for retirement, college or short-term goals.”

4. An expensive house is worth it because of the tax write-off.

Scott Vance, owner of taxvanta.com, said a real estate agent told him when he was younger that it made sense to buy a more expensive house because he had the advantage of writing off the mortgage interest on his taxes.

But let’s stop and think about that for a moment. A deduction simply decreases your taxable income ― it’s not a dollar-for-dollar reduction of your tax bill. So committing to a larger mortgage payment to take a bigger tax deduction still means paying more in the long run. And if that high mortgage payment compromises your ability to keep up on other bills or save money, it’s definitely not worth it.

“Now, as a financial planner focusing on taxes, I see the folly in such advice,” he said, noting that he always advises his client to consider the source of advice before following it. ”Taking tax advice from a Realtor is … like taking medical procedure advice from your hairdresser.”

5. You need a six-month emergency fund.

One thing is true: You need an emergency fund. But when it comes to how much you should save in that fund, it’s different for each person. There’s no cookie-cutter answer that applies to everyone. And yet many experts claim that six months’ worth of expenses is exactly how much you should have socked away in a savings account.

“I work with a lot of Hollywood actors, and six months won’t cut it for these folks,” said Eric D. Matthews, CEO and wealth adviser at EDM Capital. “I also work with executives in the same industry where six months is overkill. You need to strike a balance for your work, industry and craft.”

If you have too little saved, a major financial blow can leave you in debt regardless. And if you set aside too much, you lose returns by leaving the money in a liquid, low-interest savings account. “The generic six months is a nice catch-all, but nowhere near the specific need of the individual’s unique situation… and aren’t we all unique?”

6. You should accept your entire student loan package.

Aside from a house, a college education is often one of the biggest purchases people make in their lifetimes. Often loans are needed to bridge the gap between college savings and that final tuition bill. But just because you’re offered a certain amount doesn’t mean you need to take it all.

“The worst financial advice I received was that I had to accept my entire student loan package and that I had no other options,” said Gina Zakaria, founder of The Frugal Convert. “It cost me a lot in student loan debt. Now I tell everyone that you never have to accept any part of a college financial package that you don’t want to accept.” There are always other options, she said.

7. Only invest in what you know.

Even the great Warren Buffett, considered by many to be the best investor of all time, gets it wrong sometimes. One of his most famous pieces of advice is to only invest in what you know, but that might not be the right guidance for the average investor.

In theory, it makes sense. After all, you don’t want to tie up your money in overly complicated investments you don’t understand. The problem is, most of us are not business experts, and it’s nearly impossible to have deep knowledge of hundreds of securities. “Diversification is key to a good portfolio, and investing in what you know leads to a very un-diversified portfolio,” said Britton Gregory, a certified financial planner and principal of Seaborn Financial. “Instead, invest in a well-diversified portfolio that includes many companies, even ones you’ve never heard of.”

That might mean enlisting the help of a professional, so make sure it’s one who has your best interests at heart.

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