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Baby Boomer Retirement

Useful information for retirees and the 10,000 Baby Boomers who turn 65 every day!

Updated: 2017-12-13T06:16:41.468-08:00


Get Paid to Retire in these Locations


Did you know there are places where you can get money or property if you move there?  People often worry about the high cost of retirement, especially if they know their retirement income will not be large enough for them to survive in their current location.  Many people have spent their working years in expensive cities like New York, Seattle, Boston, Los Angeles or San Francisco.  When they approach retirement, they are distressed to realize there is no way they can afford to retire in their current location.  Where can they go?One solution is to look for affordable places which will actually pay you to relocate!  Yes, there are places which desperately want more residents and they are willing to offer financial incentives to those who will move there. Kiplinger and a few other online sites provided the information for the list below.The locations on the list offer a variety of rewards for people willing to relocate, including housing allowances, free lots or home building sites, tax rebates, help with student loan repayment and more. Depending on the incentives which are offered, your entire family may even be motivated to relocate somewhere new.  As a result, this list does not contain just those offers which would be appealing to senior citizens, but also those which might make life easier for other family members, as well.Places Which Will Pay You to Live ThereRural Kansas - If you would like to move to rural Kansas, and you have not lived in the state for the past five years, 77 of the state's 105 counties offer state income tax waivers for up to five years.  Seventy of those counties also offer student-loan repayments of up to $15,000, if you have a young adult in your family who would like to relocate with you.  They must have received an associate's, bachelor's or post-graduate degree and meet other requirements. A few of the counties are also offering free lots or other incentives. This could be an opportunity for your entire family to get a fresh start.  Kansas also has an affordable cost-of-living and some couples will find they can live there on the average amount of Social Security alone.The State of Alaska - When my husband and I traveled in Alaska about ten years ago, we were amazed by the number of people we met who had spent their working years in the "lower 48 states" and then retired to Alaska.  The incentive is that Alaska pays mineral royalties to all their residents each year.  The annual royalties have ranged from less than $500 to over $2,000 per person in the family.  You cannot be absent from the state for over 180 days a year and you cannot have been convicted or incarcerated for a felony or certain misdemeanors.  Residents must apply each year between January 1 and March 31.  The royalties are a terrific way to supplement your retirement income.  In addition, many of the retirees we met were working during the summer in the tourist industry as bus drivers, store clerks and tour guides.  In the dead of winter, residents of Alaska often take their vacations or visit relatives who live in more moderate climates, so you are not stuck living there all year long.  In fact, you can spend half the year living in a more temperate climate, while still receiving the annual royalties.Harmony, Minnesota - This town of roughly 1,000 people will give you a $12,000 cash rebate if you build a new home in the community.  There are lots available in the town for about that price, so basically they are giving you the cost of a home building site.  There are several large companies in the area which create some job opportunities for people nearing retirement or other members of their family. If you enjoy outdoor life and an affordable, small town environment, this offer could make it possible for you to build your own retirement home.The Province of  Saskatchewan, Canada - If you are willing to relocate to Canada, the Province of Saskatchewan wants to attract and keep more college graduates.  If you or o[...]

Do You Have Alzheimers or Dementia?


As we grow older, every memory lapse can cause us to worry and wonder if we are getting some type of dementia, especially Alzheimers.  The slightest mistake or moment of confusion can strike fear in our hearts.  If we are married or have elderly parents, we may carefully observe everything they say and do, watching for signs of cognitive impairment.  When we do see the symptoms, it can be heart-breaking.My own mother, pictured here, died of dementia in her mid-80s.  By the time she died, she was very confused about where she was living and who lived with her.  She could no longer drive or handle money. She recognized my father and sister, but was hostile towards most other people.  Her dementia was obvious, but that is not always the case.  How do we know if everything is operating normally with our brains, or when we should be worried?Fortunately, the Cleveland Clinic has put together a list of behaviors which are normal, along with a list of memory problems which can indicate a serious problem.Normal Cognitive Aging of the Brain*  Trouble remembering a phone number*  Forgetting where you left your car keys*  Taking longer to perform basic math*  Forgetting why you entered a room*  Momentarily forgetting the next step in a process*  Forgetting the name of a public figure or a person you have not seen in a while*  Taking longer to come up with the right wordAbnormal Cognitive Impairment or Signs of Dementia*  Difficulty managing your finances*  Problems performing tasks which involve a sequence*  Failing to recognize familiar people*  Getting lost in familiar places; inability to follow directions*  Problems following your medication prescriptions*  Trouble remembering how to do things you have done many times before*  Asking the same questions repeatedly*  Difficulty following conversations*  Easily losing your train of thought*  Increasingly poor judgmentRelax if the Cognitive Impairment is MildIf the majority of your memory lapses fall in the top category, it is time to relax.  Some memory and cognitive problems are normal for everyone, beginning in your 60s.  Feeling stress, or worrying and obsessing over your memory will only make things worse, so lighten up on yourself.What to do if the Cognitive Impairment Seems AbnormalIf you or someone you care about is having memory lapses which fall in the second category, you need to become more proactive.  There are several actions you can take.  Most of these actions are a good idea, even if your memory seems normal:*  Talk to your doctor about prescription medications which could help slow down the dementia symptoms*  Ask your doctor to make sure you are not experiencing a B12 deficiency, thyroid problems, or side effects from your medications*  If you are experiencing hearing or vision loss, sleep apnea, or depression, get those problems treated because they can lead to dementia*  If you smoke or drink too much, give up these high-risk behaviors*  Eat a heart healthy, Mediterranean-style diet that is plant based; anything which is good for the heart is also good for the brain*  Get at least 30 minutes of exercise, such as brisk walking, a minimum of 5 times a week*  Keep your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and other blood factors at optimal levels *  Play online brain games, particularly those which involve speed of processing.  They have been shown to be the most effective games at slowing down your cognitive decline.  Check out Luminosity or any number of brain game apps on your smartphone or mobile device. *  Stimulate your brain in other ways, such as reading books, solving crossword puzzles, learning a foreign language or how to play a musical instrument.*  Stay socially engaged with other people.  Isolation increases your dementia risk. Learn more about dementia from the Cleveland Clinic website.If you are interested in learnin[...]

Annual Medicare Open Enrollment Period


We are fortunate to have another guest post from Medicare expert, Danielle Kunkle, who has provided us with a clear and detailed explanation of the annual Medicare Open Enrollment Period.  This is timely information, because we are currently in the middle of open enrollment.   It is important for seniors to understand they are not limited to the open enrollment period if they are signing up for Medicare for the first time.  You are also not affected if you have a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plan.  However, if you are unhappy with your current Medicare Advantage or drug plan, the information below will be useful.Medicare Open EnrollmentThe Medicare Open Enrollment period each fall is a time when Medicare beneficiaries can make changes to their Medicare Advantage plans and Part D drug plans.  This annual enrollment period runs from October 15 to December 7.Beneficiaries will receive an Annual Notice of Change letter from their current insurance company in September.  This letter will outline all the changes to the plan for the following year.   It is common for the plan's monthly premiums or co-pays to change.  Pay close attention, as well, to see if any of your medications are being added or dropped from the plan's formulary.If you are unhappy with the changes which are being made to your current plan, the fall open enrollment period is the time to look for new coverage.  We recommend you visit to use their Plan Finder Tool.  You will enter your zip code, your medications and your preferred pharmacies.  Then, this handy tool will crunch the numbers and tell you exactly which plans for next year will offer you the lowest possible out-of-pocket spending.It's important to note that the Open Enrollment Period in the fall only applies to drug plans and Medicare Advantage plans.  It does not affect your Medicare Supplement (Medigap plan).  Unlike drug plans and Advantage plans, your Medigap plan does not change its benefits from year to year.You can actually change your Medigap plan at any time of year, though in most states it will require you to answer health questions and go through medical underwriting to do so.The graphic along the sidebar will help you understand the Medicare Open Enrollment period.About the author:Danielle Kunkle is the co-founder of Boomer Benefits, an insurance agency specializing in Medicare-related insurance products.  They help baby boomers new to Medicare learn about their benefits and coverage options across 47 states.If you are interested in learning more about Medicare, Social Security, financial planning, where to retire, common medical issues and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.Watch for my book, Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement, which is being published by Griffin Publishing early in 2018.You are reading from the blog: credit:  Google ImagesInfographic credit:  Danielle Kunkle[...]

Health Benefits of Helping Others


As the holidays approach, many of us have a strong desire to reach out and help others.  Often, we are overcome by feelings of gratitude for the good things in our own lives and we want to make life a little easier for others.  However, did you know there are actual health benefits you receive when you help someone else?  It really does appear to be more blessed to give than receive.Health Benefits You Receive by Helping OthersYou May Live Longer - No one is quite sure why this is true, but several studies indicate that helping others increases your longevity.  In one study, reported in the Huffington Post article "19 Healthy Reasons to Help Others," 423 married couples over age 65 in Detroit were asked if they helped anyone other than each other in the previous year with tasks such as transportation, errands, shopping, housework, or childcare. The people who helped others were approximately half as likely to die over the next five years than those who didn't.Helping Others Reduces Your Stress - When you reach out to help others, your body releases oxytocin, which lowers stress and increases your sense of trust and tranquility.  Oxytocin is also known as the compassion hormone.  It helps in cell repair, in the storage of nutrients, and in growth.  No wonder helping others helps us live longer!Caring About Others Improves Your Immune Function - In an 1988 experiment, Harvard researchers discovered that immunoglobulin A levels increased when subjects were shown a video about Mother Teresa.  They didn't even have to actually help someone else; they just had to watch someone else helping people.   You Will Feel Great About What You are Doing - One of the best reasons for helping others is that you simply feel good.  There are chemical reasons why we feel better, including the fact that our body releases dopamine, which soothes us, and sometimes serotonin, which is a brain chemical often used to treat depression.Volunteering Can Help Ward off Loneliness and Depression - In fact, just helping someone else could be therapeutic for someone with mild to moderate depression.  One group which has seen this first hand is Alcoholics Anonymous.  Members who help others stay sober are less likely to be depressed themselves.  The same principal holds true in other organizations where people who suffer from a medical condition, for example, help others who suffer from the same health problem.Helping Others Can Improve Your Physical Health -  In an article from Harvard titled "Volunteering may be Good for Body and Mind,"  they discovered that helping others can lower your blood pressure and improve your longevity.You Can Keep it in the Family -  According to the Huffington Post article, parents who teach their children to be caring and compassionate also receive the health benefits of volunteering.  While I have no research to prove it is also true for grandparents, as well, there have been studies which have shown that grandparents who spend a few hours a week taking care of their grandchildren tend to be happier.  In other words, anytime you reach out to help others, no matter who it is, it benefits you, as well.  There is something else you should feel good about.  If you help your grandchildren be more caring and compassionate, you may be improving their lifelong health, too.Tips for Getting the Most Benefit from Helping OthersJust a Few Hours of Volunteering is all You Need -  According to the Huffington Post article, it doesn't take a lot of time to reap the health benefits.  Just two hours of volunteering a week is enough to reap the maximum benefit.  Of course, you can do more if you want, but two hours is all you need to benefit. Find Something You Care About - It will not benefit you if you force yourself to commit to a volunteer opportunity which you do not care about.  In other words, make sure you actually want to help t[...]

Should you Retire with a Mortgage?


While the majority of homeowners manage to pay off their mortgages before retirement, more people than ever before are retiring while they still owe money on a mortgage.  According to a 2013 survey done by the Federal Reserve, in 2001 approximately 74 percent of homeowners had managed to pay off their mortgages prior to retirement.  By 2013, that number had dropped to only 61 percent.  The median mortgage loan still had 17 years left before it would be paid off.  For some senior citizens, a large, lengthy mortgage could put their retirement at risk. Others, however, will be able to handle the expense.  What should people consider before beginning retirement with a mortgage?Can Your Retirement Budget Handle a Mortgage?People who retire with a large investment income in addition to Social Security and/or a pension will often be capable of handling a mortgage, especially if they are able to maintain an income which is nearly the same as their pre-retirement income.  They may even find that the mortgage deduction they get on their taxes benefits them enough to make it wise to have a mortgage.Homeowners with a modest retirement income will need to look at the numbers more carefully.  If they have owned the home a long time and can afford the payments, it may be wise to continue to live in the home until it is paid off, especially if they only have a few years left on their mortgage.  By that time, it would feel as if they were getting a raise in their retirement income, since their expenses would drop.  On the other hand, they need to realize that they may not get a tax benefit, since they may only be using the standard deduction when they file their taxes.  They need to look at their long-term financial situation.What If You Cannot Afford Your Mortgage?If you decide your retirement budget will not be able to handle your current mortgage, you have a few options.You could try to pay off the mortgage prior to retirement, while you are still employed.  You could make extra house payments or refinance your loan into a 15 year mortgage, as long as you do it ten or fifteen years prior to retiring.  However, you do not want to take money out of your retirement savings accounts or add to other debts in order to pay off your home faster.  Those moves would either reduce your future retirement income or increase your other expenses, which would not actually solve the problems caused by having a mortgage you cannot afford.A popular choice is to sell your current home and use the equity to buy another one which is less expensive.  You might even be able to pay cash for the new home.  If not, you will at least end up with a much less expensive mortgage which will better fit into your retirement plans.  You could look for a smaller home in your current neighborhood or consider moving into an active adult retirement community.  Many retirement communities have homes which are modestly priced and well designed for people who are aging.  This could also save you from spending money to modify your current home so it is accessible for someone using a wheelchair or walker, which could be an issue for you or your spouse in your later years.Should You Consider a Reverse Mortgage?Reverse mortgages can be very helpful for retirees who want to remain in their home until they die.  However, it is not a good idea to get a reverse mortgage too early in your retirement, especially if you hope to retain some equity in your home so you can leave to your children, or if you hope to use your equity to cover the cost of a nursing home or memory care facility at the end of your life.  Before getting a reverse mortgage, you need to weigh the pros and cons very carefully.You do not need to pay back a reverse mortgage as long as you remain in your home.  However, the debt and interest continue to accrue and, eventually, you may no longer have any equit[...]

Vacation Timeshare Risks and Benefits


There are over 9.2 million timeshare owners in the United States, and many of them are retirees.  Timeshares can be an affordable way to own a portion of a vacation home and many people love the time they spend in them.  They make it possible for owners to budget and pay for their annual vacation over time.  Millions of people look forward to spending a week or more each year in a luxurious condo in a beautiful resort.  Many timeshares give owners the ability to trade their week in one resort for a week in a different one, which means owners can travel to a wide variety of vacation destinations over the years.  Some of them even give owners the option to trade their week for a trip on a cruise ship.Timeshare CostsPrices range from about $10,000 to $40,000 and give the owner the right to stay in a resort for one week a year, for as long as you own the timeshare.  Used timeshares can sell for significantly less.  While some owners purchase the timeshares for cash, others make monthly payments for a set number of years, until the purchase price has been paid off.In addition to the purchase price, the annual maintenance fee averages from about $500 to $1000 a year and owners must also share in paying the annual property taxes.  Owners should expect both of these expenses to rise with inflation.  The maintenance fee may go up faster than the inflation rate, because the property will age and need more attention.  There may also be special assessments whenever a major upgrade needs to be made.  Some timeshares bill the owners for the utilities for one week of usage a year.  For those owners who want to trade their week at one resort for a week at a different one, there may be an additional fee to make the trade.If you own your timeshare for many years, you may come to see that purchase price as a real bargain.  The longer you own it, the less you will have spent per year on your vacations.  However, if you decide you do not want it after a few years, it can be nearly impossible to recoup your costs.Risks of Owning a TimeshareWhile timeshares may be a great deal of fun and used by your entire family, there are risks to this type of property ownership.   While buying a timeshare may seem like a great idea during the prime years of your career, it can become a burden if you lose your job, suffer a financial setback, or become too ill to use it any longer, which is a common problem for older owners.Common Problems with TimesharesAlthough most owners are very happy with their decision to own a timeshare, there are potential problems you need to consider before you make the purchase. 1.  If you are making payments on the purchase price, plus paying the annual maintenance fee, property taxes and other costs, your timeshare may be more expensive than you expected.  In addition, you have to consider other vacation related expenses you will have when you use it,  such as the cost of traveling to the location and spending money on restaurant meals and local attractions.2.  Owning a timeshare could limit your choice in vacation destinations.  While many timeshare operators such as Marriott and Hilton have multiple locations, there may be times when you would like to take a vacation somewhere exotic, or stay someplace other than one of the resorts owned by your timeshare operator.  If your annual vacation time is limited, you may have to choose between letting your timeshare week go to waste, gifting it to a friend, or using it when you would rather have stayed somewhere else.  3.  Timeshares can be very difficult to resell.  Once you own it, it is your property.  In addition, if you or your heirs are not able to resell it, your adult children might inherit it, depending on the terms of your contract, and it can become their responsibility to keep up with the annual maintenance [...]

Home Safety Modifications for Senior Citizens


The vast majority of Americans plan to continue to live in their pre-retirement homes as long as possible.  In order to make that possible, many of them will need to make a few modifications to their homes so they are more accessible and safer.  Some of the modifications may be minor and can be done by the homeowner.  Others may require hiring a contractor. Whether you do it yourself or hire someone to make the changes for you, the safer you can make your home the less likely you are to have an accident and be injured.  This is important because, according to the Centers for Disease Control, every year one out of three adults age 65 and older will experience a fall. Below is a list of common modifications and suggestions for hiring a reliable contractor so you will be able to safely stay in your home as long as possible.Common Home Safety ModificationsPower stair lifts - If you own a two-story home and do not have a bedroom and full bathroom on the main floor, a power stair lift may make it easier for you to stay in your home even if you have surgery or find it difficult to climb stairs for other reasons.  Stair lifts can be expensive, so talk to several companies before making a decision.  Despite the cost, installing one will probably be cheaper than moving.Grab bars in the shower or tub - If you add bars to the shower wall and an inexpensive shower chair, you can more easily continue to enjoy showers with less fear of slipping and falling.  A professional may be required to secure the bars to the wall, so it is done without cracking your tiles.Walk-in tub - For those who prefer a bath to a shower, a walk-in tub is much safer than a traditional tub which requires you to step over the edge to climb in and out.  Contact several companies and try sitting in the tubs in the showroom before making your final selection.Hand rails in hallways and stairs - If you have stairs around your home, make sure you have handrails to hold onto as you age.  Be especially aware of short outdoor stairs which often do not have rails alongside them.   A simple rail installed next to the stairs can make it much safer for you to use the steps.Wheelchair / walker ramps - If the only way to currently enter your home is by using stairs, you may want to add a ramp so it will be easier to enter if you ever need to use a wheelchair or walker, even temporarily.  You do not want to wait until you need a ramp before you consider adding one.Lower counters in kitchen and bathrooms - For the same reason you do not want to wait until you need them before you lower your kitchen and bathroom counters, you may want to investigate the idea of lowering yours before you find yourself using a wheelchair.Changing door and cabinet knobs to levers - Levers are easier to use if you develop severe arthritis in your hands.  They are also attractive and easy to install years before you need them.  If you are handy, you may be able to handle this improvement yourself.Widen doorways to accommodate a walker or wheelchair - There are narrow wheelchairs which can go through nearly any normal doorway.  However, if you are a very large person or have an unusually narrow door or tight space, you may want to see if you could widen the openings.  You may even consider making changes to your floorplan to open up the living area of your home.Electrical Alterations - If you bring a contractor into your home to do other work, you may also consider asking them to raise your outlets and lower your light switches so both are easier to reach if you loose some of your mobility.Make Simple Changes to Prevent Tripping - If your floors are covered with an assortment of rugs, you may consider removing them or using rubber mats under them to prevent their movement.  In addition, look for any other dangerous situations in your home, such as electrica[...]

Choose a Financial Planner or Advisor with Experience


While many people do not want to admit it, very few of us are experts at handling our own retirement investment accounts.  It is difficult for us to fully understand all the different choices in mutual funds, annuities, dividend paying stocks, growth stocks, life insurance and other investment options which are available.  In addition, even fewer people fully understand the tax and estate planning implications of the different investment choices.  As a result, it is very important to choose a financial planner or advisor who is qualified to give us the investment advice we need.Investment Advisor CertificationsFirst of all, you will want to choose someone who is experienced, has completed a course of study, passed a challenging exam and is fully certified.  There is literally an alphabet soup of designations for financial advisors and you will want to confirm your advisor has at least one of them. This is by no means a complete list, but some of the common types of certifications are:Certified Financial Planner (CFP) - They must complete a program which covers stocks, bonds, taxes, insurance, retirement planning and estate planning.Chartered Financial Analyst  (CFA) - Their courses of study include accounting, economics, portfolio management and security analysis.Investment Advisory Representative  (IAR) - Like the others, they must take classes and pass an exam.  They are also required to register with the SEC.  They give advice on investing in stocks, bonds, mutual funds and other types of investments.  They may also manage portfolios.As mentioned above, there are also other types of certifications. Some advisors may have more than one designation.  It is important to make sure the advisor you use is properly registered, is in good standing with the government agency which regulates them, and adheres to a code of ethics as a fiduciary, which means the advisor will put your interests above their own.Questions to Ask Your Investment AdvisorYou will want to get recommendations from friends, your lawyer or your CPA when you choose your investment advisor.  Find out how much experience they have and if their clients have been satisfied with their service. Once you have found an investment advisor whom you trust, you need to ask them an assortment of questions which will help you decide if they have your best interests at heart and if they can provide the services you need:1.  How do they get paid?  What fees and commissions can you expect to pay?  How often?  Will you pay a quarterly management fee or will you pay a commission for each transaction?  Which will be the better value for your account?2.  Will they manage your portfolio prudently?  Will they keep your costs to a minimum?  Will they diversify your investments and re-balance your portfolio periodically?  Do they avoid conflicts of interest such as steering you towards certain types of investments which would pay them higher commissions?3.  Are they willing to work with your attorney to help with your estate planning?4.  Are they willing to coordinate with your CPA to help you decide the type of IRA you should have, when you should take investment losses and when you should make charitable contributions?5.  Can they help you set up a stream of income during retirement?  Will they help you decide the best time to take your Social Security?  Will they help you learn how much you are required to withdraw from your IRA each year and how to make your IRA last as long as possible?  Will they help you plan a realistic retirement budget? What You Cannot Expect from a Financial PlannerNo matter how experienced and careful they are, there are a couple of things you cannot expect from your financial planner.Do NOT expect them to be able to time the stock marke[...]

2018 Social Security COLA and Medicare Premium Increases


Most retirees in the U.S. have been hoping they would finally get a meaningful increase in their Social Security checks in 2018.  Over the past few years, most retirees have seen such small cost-of-living increases in their Social Security that the benefit was eaten up by rising Medicare premiums and other expenses.  Unfortunately, for the vast majority of retirees, this year will be no different.The Social Security Administration recently announced the COLA for 2018 will be 2 percent.  For someone receiving $2600 in Social Security benefits (near the top of the range), this will amount to $52 a month, bringing their total benefit to $2652.  However, as you will see in the details below, beneficiaries will not be able to keep all of that increase.For someone currently receiving the average benefit of $1330 a month, their COLA will amount to approximately $26.60, raising their monthly benefit to $1356.60. Unfortunately, typical beneficiaries will only be able to keep a tiny portion of that increase.While receiving any increase in income sounds positive, the truth is that most retirees should not expect to see a meaningful net increase in their Social Security benefits in 2018.  This is because the amount which will be deducted for Medicare premiums is expected to rise to $134 a month.  Many current Medicare beneficiaries only pay between $109 to $112 a month.If your Social Security benefit is so low that deducting $134 a month would actually reduce the size of your current benefit check, then the Medicare premium will be adjusted so you will not pay the full amount until your Social Security benefit is high enough in the future to absorb the full $134, and that is assuming Medicare premiums do not rise more in future years.Below are details of the above examples:If your Current Social Security Benefit is $2600 a month:Current Social Security: $2600.00Current Medicare cost:     -112.00    Current Income:          $2488.002018 Social Security:     $2652.002018 Medicare cost:          -134.00    2018 Income:              $2518.00Net extra income is $30 a monthIf your Current Social Security is $1330 a month:Current Social Security:  $1330.00Current Medicare cost:       -109.00      Current Income:           $1221.002018 Social Security:      $1356.602018 Medicare cost:           -134.00    2018 Income:               $1222.60Net extra income is $1.60 a monthObviously, the exact amount you will receive in your 2018 checks will depend on what you currently receive and whether or not you have your Medicare deducted from your Social Security benefits.  (About 30 percent of beneficiaries do not have Medicare deducted from Social Security, either because they participate in a public employees pension plan instead of Social Security or because they have delayed collecting their Social Security benefits).   However, it is important to note that no matter how much Social Security you currently receive, your 2 percent COLA is likely to be much less significant than what you probably hoped to receive in 2018.If you have a high income, which is defined as $85,000 for an individual or $170,000 for a couple, your Medicare premium will be even higher than $134.You can get more details about how things will change in 2018 at Expect Additional Increases in Medicare Co-Pays and Drug PricesIn addition to higher Medicare premiums, beneficiaries may also pay higher Medicare co-pays and drug prices, depending on [...]

Medicare and Cancer Benefits - Prevention, Diagnosis and Treatment


On occasion, this blog allows guest experts to submit a post on a complicated topic.  This week, I am delighted to have a post on how Medicare will cover the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.  The post also goes into detail on the differences in your coverage if you have a Medigap or Medicare Advantage plan.This post on Medicare and cancer benefits was written by Danielle Kunkle, the co-founder of Boomer Benefits, an insurance agency specializing in Medicare-related insurance products in 47 states. Her contact information is included at the end of this article. Medicare and Cancer Benefits If you have cancer or a family history of cancer, you may have concerns about how Medicare will cover treatment of cancer. Treatment for cancer can be expensive, but Medicare will be an enormous help with diagnosing and treating this health condition.Medicare provides a wide range of cancer services from preventive care all the way to surgery and chemotherapy. Understanding Medicare’s coverage of cancer treatment starts with first understanding the parts of Medicare.Original Medicare Parts A and BPart A is your hospital insurance. It will pay for hospitalization, skilled nursing, blood, home health care and hospice.Part B is your outpatient insurance. It covers doctor visits, lab-work, durable medical equipment, surgeries, ambulance and many other medical services. In relation to cancer, Part B will also pay for chemotherapy, radiation, second opinions before surgery, drugs administered in a clinical or hospital setting, and physical therapy or rehab care.Medicare Part B also provides mental health care to deal emotionally with your diagnosis and preventive care screenings, such as mammograms, cervical screenings, prostate exams and colonoscopies.Medicare Part D Drug CoveragePart D is for your retail prescription drugs. Although Part D is optional, it is really very important when it comes to cancer care. This is because some cancer medications and anti-nausea medications are now in an oral form which you pick up yourself at a pharmacy. You will want good coverage for these potentially expensive medications.Your Part D pharmacy card will provide drugs to you at a copay level instead of you paying full price. Most importantly, all Part D plans provide catastrophic coverage. After your spending reaches a certain annual limit, the insurance company then must pay 95% of the cost of your medications for the rest of the year.Common Questions Regarding Medicare and CancerHere are some of the most common cancer questions we receive in relation to Medicare’s coverage of cancer treatment.Is Immunotherapy covered by Medicare?Immunotherapy is a form of treatment which helps the body’s immune system fight cancer. Medicare Part B provides coverage for most intravenous medications which are considered reasonable and necessary. Check with your doctor before beginning treatment.What will be my cost for cancer treatment under Medicare?You are responsible to pay for your hospital and outpatient deductibles, which are set by Medicare each year. You are also responsible to pay 20% of the cost of your Part B services. There are Medigap plans available which pay after Medicare pays its share. The one with the most comprehensive coverage is Plan F, which will cover 100% of your cost-sharing responsibility.Medicare beneficiaries can enroll in any Medigap plan without health questions during the first 6 months after their Part B effective date. There are no pre-existing condition exclusions or waiting periods if you apply during this Medigap open enrollment period.If a Medigap plan is not in your budget, another alternative is Medicare Advantage. Also called Part C, Medicare Advantage plans are private plans which pay instead of Medicare. These plans usually have a network of doctors from w[...]

Safety Rules for Grandchildren


Many of today's grandparents are very involved in the lives of their grandchildren.  Three million grandparents are currently raising their grandchildren; millions more regularly babysit them. However, at the 2017 Pediatric Academics meeting, the attendees discussed the fact that many safety rules have changed over the past few decades and grandparents could be unintentionally putting their young grandchildren at risk.  Whether you are actively raising your grandchildren or occasionally babysitting them, it is important to learn the new rules for keeping them as safe as possible.Why Grandparents Are Not Aware of Safety Recommendations Grandparents are often confused by the changing recommendations. Young parents are constantly bombarded by new recommendations on how to keep their children safe.  Grandparents, however, are only rarely included in the visits to pediatricians and they are even less likely to have conversations with their peers about the best way to feed, transport and care for an infant.  As a result, they are frequently left out of the loop when new suggestions are released by experts.  In addition, some grandparents are resistant to the idea that things have changed since they raised their kids and they need to change their child-rearing ideas, too.Modern Safety Recommendations for Infants and Young Children1.  Today's pediatricians recommend that babies be put to sleep on their back, not on their sides or stomach as they were in the past.  Caregivers should not put blankets, toys or pillows in the crib with an infant. Making these changes can reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), which is the leading cause of death for infants between the ages of one month and one year.2.  If a child is burned, butter is not the proper treatment for it.  If the burn is severe, call the child's pediatrician or take the baby to the emergency care or urgent care center nearest your home.3.  Injuries should be cleaned and covered with a bandage to reduce the risk of infection.4.  When a child has a fever, they should NOT be put in an ice bath, although this treatment was common 30 or 40 years ago.  Today's experts point out that this treatment can drop the body temperature too much and cause hypothermia.5.  Infants should be transported in a rear-facing car seat as long as possible.  Toddlers should ride in a forward facing car seat with a five point restraint system. Older children can use booster seats after they outgrow their car seat.  The exact age and size of the children in each type of seat varies from state to state, so make sure you know the requirements for your state.  Before you offer to car pool with another parent or grandparent, make sure your vehicle can accommodate all the necessary car seats and booster seats.  Many cars can only accommodate a maximum of two car seats in the back seat. Children cannot ride in the cargo area of an SUV or station wagon, which was common a few decades ago.  Below are the laws in the State of California, according to the California Highway Patrol website in 2017.  The laws may vary slightly in the state where you live:2017 California Child Safety Seat LawsChildren under 2 years of age shall ride in a rear-facing car seat unless the child weighs 40 or more pounds OR is 40 or more inches tall. The child shall be secured in a manner which complies with the height and weight limits specified by the manufacturer of the car seat.​Children under the age of 8 must be secured in a car seat or booster seat in the back seat. Children who are 8 years of age OR have reached 4’9” in height must be secured by a safety belt. Passengers who are 16 years of age and over are also subject to California's Ma[...]

How to Hire a Home Care Agency


At some point, nearly everyone who lives long enough is going to need a little extra help.  If you or your loved one does not need to live in a skilled nursing or memory care facility, a home caregiver may be able to provide all the assistance you or your family member needs.  Whether you are hiring the person for yourself, a spouse or a parent, what are some of the issues you need to consider in choosing the right caregiver and agency?Choose a Licensed Caregiver AgencyAlthough it may be tempting to hire a private individual as a caregiver, it can be a risky move.  Most district attorneys and law enforcement officials have dealt with cases in which valuables or money were stolen by unlicensed, private caregivers.  In addition, an unlicensed caregiver is more likely to ask for "loans" or not be qualified to provide proper care, especially in an emergency.  They may have had little or no training or experience in dealing with medications, lifting people who have fallen, knowing when to call 911 or handling other situations.  A better solution is to deal directly with an agency which is bonded and responsible for training and assisting you in choosing the appropriate employee for your situation.What to Look for in a Licensed Caregiver AgencyThe State of California has a Home Care Services Consumer Protection Act which requires agencies to meet certain requirements.  Even if you live in another state, these are guidelines you should look for in any agency you may choose to employ:*  They should conduct background checks on their employees*  They should provide an employee dishonesty bond*  They should provide training (although in California only 5 hours are required)*  They should carry liability insurance*  They should keep records on any reports of suspected abuse*  They should provide workers compensation coverage for their employeesWhat to Look for in the Caregiver Who Comes to Your HomeWhether you are hiring the caregiver for yourself or a family member, you want to make sure they will be a good fit and able to handle the job.  You should insist on meeting the caregiver before they begin working alone with you or your family member.  There are certain issues to consider:*  You need to recognize that a caregiver is NOT there to provide medical care.  The caregiver is employed to provide needed assistance with activities of daily living such as grocery shopping, cooking, feeding, bathing, dressing, dispensing medication at the appropriate times, or moving the client from the bed to a wheelchair or making similar transitions.  They may also drive them to medical appointments and social engagements.*  The caregiver should be a self-starter, recognize when something needs to be done, and be willing and energetic enough to do it.*  The ideal caregiver should have a caring personality.  They should smile often, be willing to give a hug occasionally, listen to repetitive stories, and laugh at the funny ones.  Since they may be the only person their client sees regularly, they need to be able to fill of the role of both caregiver and friend.*  They should be willing and able to keep their client as active as possible, helping with their physical therapy exercises and enabling them attend their favorite social events or fitness classes. *  The caregiver should be observant and intuitive, able to recognize when "something doesn't feel right."  They should be comfortable letting other family members or medical personnel know if they suspect there is a problem and be ready to call 911 in an emergency.  They should also be good communicators and able to explain any changes they see.  *  They should b[...]

Social Security Myths and Misunderstandings


We have all read a host of discouraging news stories about Social Security, including that it is going bankrupt, people are living too long, and everyone should collect their benefits as soon as possible.  Many of these articles are unhelpful because they are based on distortions and myths about Social Security. These misunderstandings can cause people to make poor financial decisions which may hurt them for the rest of their lives.  As a result, I was pleased to see an article addressing these Social Security myths in the September 11, 2017 issue of the highly reputable business newspaper, Barron's.You may want to look for the issue yourself at your local news stand or library.  However, here is a brief summary of what they had to say about the six most common myths about Social Security, as well as my comments:Myth: "Healthy Payment Hikes are Back"Although the COLA or cost-of-living increase for 2018 will be larger than what retirees have seen in recent years, when it has ranged from 0 to 0.3 percent, it is still smaller than the average increase of 2.6 percent which retirees saw over the past 30 years.  The 2018 COLA will only be 2 percent. Unfortunately, recent increases have been so low that the Senior Citizens League estimates Social Security benefits have lost 30 percent of their purchasing power since 2000.  While any increase at all is better than nothing, many senior citizens are finding that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to survive on Social Security.Not mentioned in the Barron's article is the fact that all or most of the COLA in recent years has been eaten up by increases in Medicare premiums.  This will be true in 2018, as well, when the Medicare premium for most people will increase to approximately $134.  As a result, many retirees have seen virtually no actual increase in their checks over past few years and that will continue to be true in 2018. Myth:  "Social Security is Going Broke"There is NO danger that Social Security will completely run out of money, because people are continually paying into the program.  The trust fund, which supplements the amount brought in by current workers, has enough money to pay full benefits until 2033.  After that, the Social Security Administration could still pay out 77 percent of promised benefits until 2090 and 73 percent of promised benefits after that, just based on the ongoing payroll deductions of the workforce. Those lower payments would only happen if Congress does absolutely nothing to fix the problem. Most experts believe that if Congress increases the amount of Social Security taxes withheld from paychecks, slightly postpones the full retirement age or makes a few other small changes discussed later in this article, full benefits could be paid out for many decades in the future.  Myth: "American Longevity is the Reason Social Security is Having Financial Problems"This may surprise many people, but U.S. longevity for people over the age of 65 has not increased very much over the past few years.  In fact, the Barron's article reported that in 2015 longevity for Americans over 65 decreased for the first time in over 20 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  In fact, according to an October 27, 2017 post by @Tad_Doughty, who manages several hundred million dollars in assets:"The U.S. age-adjusted mortality rate -- a measure of the number of deaths per year -- rose 1.2 percent from 2014 to 2015, according to the Society of Actuaries.  That's the first year-over-year increase since 2005, and only the second rise greater than 1 percent since 1980.  At the same time that Americans' life expectancy is stalling, public policy and[...]

Financial Solutions for Retirement Problems


The best laid retirement plans can sometimes be derailed by a variety of financial challenges. Sometimes you simply may not have planned well.  You may have over-estimated your future income and underestimated your future expenses.  However, even if you have planned carefully and spent years trying to put something aside for retirement, a recession, high medical bills or a family emergency can result in a major setback.The good news is that no matter what the reason for your financial problems, there are actions you can take to salvage your retirement. The most important thing you can do is face the issue head on and take action as soon as you realize you have a problem.  Below are a few common challenges which could hurt your retirement, along with possible financial solutions.Not Enough Money in Your Retirement Savings AccountsAccording to an article titled "Money Missteps" in the April 2017 AARP Bulletin, as recently as 2013 almost 30 percent of U.S. households headed by someone over the age of 55 did not have a retirement savings account or a future pension.  No money saved at all for retirement.The sooner you recognize and deal with your financial shortfall, the better off you will be.  As frequently mentioned in other posts in this blog, you have a number of choices:  Continue working until age 70 before you start to collect your Social Security benefits, supplement your Social Security with a part-time job, downsize your home, move to a less expensive area, or get a reverse mortgage (assuming you have equity in a home.)  Most importantly, you want to avoid building up debt in order to finance your retirement.  Eventually, that will only make your situation worse.You Have Retirement Savings But It is Dropping in ValueAs we all discovered during the Recession of 2009, sometimes our retirement savings accounts can lose money faster than we ever expected.Depending on your situation, you may want to talk to a financial planner to discuss your overall retirement plan and investment portfolio.  They could recommend moving your savings into a different mutual fund or into a safer, less volatile investment.  In addition, they may suggest you reinvest all the income from your retirement savings and add more money until you are able to re-build the value.   This could delay your retirement plans, but will probably be worth it in the long run.You Have No Equity in Your HomeSome people hope they will be able to take out a reverse mortgage against their home equity to finance their retirement.  However, what can you do if your home has lost value and you now owe more than it is worth?If you can afford the house payments and the house is in good repair, you may want to continue making payments until inflation and your payments rebuild your home equity.  It could take a few years, but might be worth it in the long-run.  If it is not an option for you to keep making the payments, you may be able to refinance your home through the Federal Home Affordable Refinance Program at  If you do not qualify, you could try to get your bank to agree to a short sale.  That is less damaging to your credit than waiting for foreclosure.You are Buried in DebtUnfortunately, some people experience a job loss, a serious medical problem, a natural disaster or other financial catastrophe in the years just before they hoped to retire ... or right after they have begun their retirement.  If they are too sick or too deeply in debt to recover, they may believe they have no hope to ever retire and/or may have to spend the rest of their life drowning in debt.Medical bills are the most common reason for bankruptcy[...]

Sonata Senior Living in Florida


Are you looking for a senior living solution in Florida which would allow you to transition from Independent Living, to Assisted Living or Memory Care, as needed?  Whether you are looking for a residence for yourself, your spouse or your parent, the nine Sonata Senior Living communities in Florida could be a good choice.  They provide a range of living arrangements, 24-hour care and high quality amenities, including a variety of fun and interesting activities.Where are the Sonata Communities Located?Below is a list of the various communities and the services they offer.  They are all located in Florida:Sonata Viera in Melbourne - Assisted LivingSonata West in Winter Garden - Independent Living & Assisted Living Serenades in Winter Garden - Assisted Living & Memory CareSerenades in Longwood - Assisted Living & Memory Care Serenades in The Villages - Assisted Living & Memory CareSonata South in Boca Raton - Assisted Living & Memory CareSonata South in Boynton Beach - Assisted Living & Memory CareSonata South in Coconut Creek - Assisted Living & Memory CareSonata South in Delray Beach - Assisted Living & Memory CareAs you can see, their communities offer memory care facilities on the same campus or nearby.  These facilities are arranged in home-like villages or neighborhoods designed to help people with dementia feel more comfortable.  Most residents begin their Sonata lifestyle in an independent or assisted living apartment.Resort Style Florida Retirement Sonata West is their newest community and will have both independent living and assistedliving facilities.   The management also emphasizes what a great value it is.  Compared to many other senior living facilities, it does appear to be an affordable option.Unlike many Continuing Care Retirement Communities, Sonata does not require the residents to "buy in."  The monthly rental fee includes a private apartment with full-size appliances (including your own washer and dryer), cable TV and internet, regular housekeeping and linen services, flexible dining options (including continental breakfasts and a variety of options for lunch and dinner), weekend brunches, scheduled transportation and other amenities.  If you no longer drive, you can use their "At Your Service" chauffeur service to go shopping, to doctor visits or the theater.  They even have an activities director to help plan parties, entertainment, outings and special events for the residents.  This is not a boring, old-fashioned senior apartment complex or nursing home.The Sonata Harmony Assisted Living residences are also rentals and include all of the services listed above, as well as a personalized care plan and a 24/7 staff, including trained nurses, whose goal is to encourage physical, emotional and spiritual wellness.  People who need a little extra help are sure to feel pampered in a Sonata Harmony community.The Sonata Serenades Memory Care facilities are focused on helping residents feel as normal as possible.  They are designed in neighborhoods or villages with extra safety features and dementia certified caregivers and staff.  Their design elements were chosen to be soothing and safe, while giving residents some freedom to roam around the community, including the outdoor spaces.  They have open floor plans, color-coding (to help residents find their way around), and reduced glare lighting.  They also have special programs to keep the residents active, well, and able to enjoy the best quality of life possible.All the facilities encourage socialization through the use of elements such as front porches, courtyards[...]

Family Responsibility Laws and Long-Term Care


Did you know that over half the states in the U.S. have family responsibility laws which could make you financially obligated for the nursing home bills of your parents?  Filial responsibility laws could also make your children legally responsible if you need to move into a skilled nursing or memory care facility.  Just as shocking to some people, if one of your children cares for you in their home, your other children could be forced to pay your caregiver child part of the cost of your care.Which States Have Filial Responsibility Laws?Family responsibility laws cover over half the people in the United States.  Below is a list of states which currently have filial responsibility laws on the books, although the laws may vary slightly from state to state and are unevenly enforced:Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.How to Protect Your Family from Filial Responsibility LawsFortunately, there are actions you can take to protect yourself and your family from becoming financially liable for nursing home bills incurred by you or your parents.  The most important thing you can do is to have a plan.  Below is a range of possible options.  You only need to choose one.1.   Put aside money for your future care.  People who have sufficient savings, cash value in their life insurance, or home equity are usually in good shape to pay for their own long-term care, although they may have to borrow against their insurance or home. As a result, they will not pass on the burden for their care to their children.  For example, if your elderly parents have enough money, insurance, or home equity to pay for their care, you will not be responsible for covering the cost, unless they use up all their assets.  At the same time, if you have also accumulated enough savings, you will protect your children from being liable for your care.2.  Buy long-term care insurance.  Another option is to buy long-term care insurance which will pay for skilled nursing care, memory care, or an in-home caregiver.  The younger you are when you purchase this insurance, the less expensive it is.  You must be able to pass a physical to get it, so it may be too late for some applicants.3.  Move into a CCRC.  A CCRC is a Continuing Care Retirement Community.  Typically, a senior citizen sells their home to "buy in" to the CCRC.  In addition, they pay a monthly fee which covers their food, housing and normal care.  If they need extra care as they age, they either pay for the extra care when they need it, or the cost is taken from their original "buy in" fee.  The facility guarantees they will be taken care of for the remainder of their life.  If there is money left over from the "buy in" fee at the end of their life, a portion of it will be returned to the family.  In most cases, you must be able to live semi-independently and not need skilled nursing or memory care when you move into the CCRC.  However, you do not need to be in perfect health.  For example, in most cases you can be undergoing treatment for cancer or other illnesses, as long as you are able to walk on your own and live in your own apartment at the time you move into the facility.  This takes a little advanced planning.4.  Confirm that you are qualified for Medicaid.  If you do not ha[...]

Travel Scams to Avoid


One of the joys of retirement is the ability to travel whenever and wherever you want.  However, this freedom also exposes retirees to a wider variety of scams and fraud.  Anyone who is planning to travel during retirement needs to be aware of the most common types of travel scams.  We all need to learn how to minimize our risk and avoid becoming the victims of crooks, so we can truly enjoy our newly discovered freedom.An article in the April, 2017 AARP Bulletin, titled "Vacationers are Easy Prey for Scammers," explained some of the types of scams which are common and could easily ruin the best planned vacation.  Below is a brief summary of these scams.Hotel ScamsAccording to the article, hotels are full of scammers who are lurking around the lobby watching for potential victims.  One of their common tricks is to call your room after you check in, pretending to be the front desk, and ask you to repeat your credit card number and security code number over the phone.  They claim the clerk at the desk wrote it down wrong when you checked in. This is more likely to happen in small or boutique hotels, often in other countries. Do not fall for this trick.  In addition, be sure you use the room safe and interior deadbolt when you are in your room, and take advantage of any other security measures available at the hotel.  Be sure to look through the peep hole before opening the door.  If you are not expecting someone to be at your door and the person does not look like a hotel employee, call the front desk to confirm they are supposed to be there.The Good Samaritan ScamIn this scenario, someone steals your wallet and then calls your cell phone to tell you they found your wallet and will mail it to your home.  As a result, you do not cancel your credit cards.  However, while you believe you were fortunate that such a good person found your wallet, they are actually crooks who are using your cards, knowing you will not close the accounts because you think the wallet is being mailed back to you.  While there are good people who will return your property if they find it, you would be well-advised to close the credit card accounts, anyway.  This is a good reason to bring only a few credit cards with you on a trip.  You should also make a copy of your cards, including the contact numbers for the card companies.  Keep the copies in a safe place, separate from your wallet.  It will make it much easier to close the accounts if your wallet is missing.The Phony House Rental or B&BIf you decide to avoid hotels and stay in a rental home or quaint bed and breakfast, make sure you use a legitimate agency and check them out thoroughly.  Call the Better Business Bureau in the U.S. or the local tourist bureau in a foreign country.  Just because the company has a fancy website with gorgeous pictures of beautiful accommodations does not mean the place actually exists.  You could send in your deposit or payment, only to discover that the place does is not real.Keep Your Distance from StrangersThere are more ways that you could become a victim while on vacation (or even in your own neighborhood). The helpful stranger who offers to retrieve a dropped purse or clean up a spill, may actually be trying to pick your pocket or steal your wallet.  Friendly people standing near an ATM could be looking for an opportunity to watch you input your PIN and, later, steal your debit card.Someone offering to use your camera or cell phone to take your picture could actually be trying to steal the item.  This last crime makes me par[...]

Margaritaville Retirement Communities


Baby Boomers are putting a new twist on retirement.  One of their musical icons, Jimmy Buffett, is opening a creative type of retirement community, which will be named after his hit song, Margaritaville.  The new retirement communities will be designed to create the laid-back, casual lifestyle which many Baby Boomers desire.  These active adult communities are being built in conjunction with developer Minto Communities.  The first one will be opened in Daytona Beach, Florida, with the sales office opening in fall 2017 and will be named Latitude Margaritaville.  The second one will be built in Hilton Head, South Carolina and is scheduled to have its sales office opened in 2018.  If these are successful, more are likely to follow.Features at Latitude MargaritavilleMany of the features in this $1 billion neighborhood will be similar to what Baby Boomers have come to expect in similar active adult communities in Florida and other retirement hotspots.  There will be approximately 7,000 homes.  Community amenities will include a spa, lap pools, fitness facilities, retail shops, a band shell for live outdoor entertainment, and a free shuttle to Margaritaville's own private beachfront club.Residents will be allowed to drive their personal golf carts throughout the community.  This will be a convenient way for them to access some of the Margaritaville themed restaurants, including Cheeseburger in Paradise and the Five O'Clock Somewhere Bar ... the perfect places to look for that "lost shaker of salt."The idea is to create a fun place to retire.  The developers hint that Jimmy Buffett himself may show up for an occasional concert.Margaritaville ThemeThe idea behind the community is based on Jimmy Buffett's song lyrics.  In case you are not familiar with the song, some of the lines which inspire the community are:Nibblin' on sponge cake,Watchin' the sun bake;All of those tourists covered with oil.Strummin' my six string on my front porch swing.I blew out my flip flop,Stepped on a pop top;Cut my heel, had to cruise on back home.But there's booze in the blender,And soon it will renderThat frozen concoction that helps me hang on.Wasted away again in MargaritavilleSearchin' for my lost shaker of salt.Some people claim that there's a woman to blame,But I know, it's my own damn fault. Home Choices in Latitude MargaritavilleIf the song lyrics are not enough to inspire you to want to live there, residents can choose from two and three bedroom house plans which are priced from the low $200,000s to the mid-$300,000s.  All of the styles include dens and garages.  The community promotes their houses by describing them as "your new home in Paradise."Buyers may want to ask if each home comes with a bottle of tequila and a free blender!  If not, be sure to bring your own along.  You'll fit in just fine.For more information about Latitude Margaritaville, check out their website and watch a video at: you are interested in learning more about other places to retire in the United States or overseas, financial planning, common medical issues, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.Watch for my book, Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement, which will be published by Griffin Publishing in the fall of 2017.You are reading from the blog: credit:  Margaritaville Twitter page.[...]

Be Prepared for Emergencies


Whether you are age 30, 60, or 90, there will be  times during your life when you will be affected by some type of emergency.  It could be an injury, a health setback, an unexpected expense or a natural disaster.  While it is impossible to be prepared for every eventuality, it is important for everyone to plan for the most likely emergencies which could affect us.  Below are a few common types of events which might happen to a retiree, and how to protect yourself.In addition to the list below, you may want to add to this list emergencies which could be common in your specific family or community ... such as early coronary events in your family, or neighborhood flooding during times of heavy rain.Financial DisastersAccording to Investopedia, in 2016 people in their 60s had a median savings account of about $172,000.  This means that half of all retirees had less than that ... many of them much less.  If you are living off Social Security, plus additional income based on dividends or interest on your savings, you do not want to spend the principal in order to purchase a new car, buy a hot water heater, replace a roof, or pay the deductible for surgery or other medical treatments.  The obvious solution is for everyone to save as much as possible prior to retirement and designate a portion of that savings as an emergency fund which you do not depend on to cover your essential living expenses.In addition, you may want to discuss with your financial planner or investment advisor whether your money is invested conservatively enough to be protected, in the event of a drop in the stock market or other major financial reversal. FallsAccording to the National Council on Aging, about one in four people over the age of 65 falls each year.  Falls are the most common cause of fatal injuries and are a common cause of hospital admissions.  Keeping your body strong and getting regular exercise is the first line of defense in preventing falls.  Everyone should make sure their homes are well-lit and contain no loose rugs or other items which could cause you to trip. You may also want to purchase a medical alert device, especially if you live alone.  You wear them like a pendant or bracelet and use them to quickly contact an agent who can call an ambulance, neighbor or relative for you, in the event of a fall. You should also talk to your doctor if your blood pressure medicine or other medications make you feel light-headed or dizzy.  They may be able to change your prescription.House FiresAccording to FEMA, older Americans are much more likely to die in a house fire than younger adults. If you have trouble hearing, take sleeping medications, or have difficulty getting out of bed by yourself, you have an especially elevated risk of dying in a house fire.  Make sure your home is equipped with plenty of very loud smoke and fire detectors, as well as a carbon monoxide detector.  Change the batteries frequently, at least every six months.Install nightlights in your home and plug them into outlets near the floor, so they can guide you to an exit. The air is clearer near the floor, so crawl out if you have trouble finding your way.  Be sure some of your nightlights have a battery backup, in case the electricity goes out.  Sleep with your bedroom door closed so you do not succumb to smoke inhalation if a fire starts in another room.  Check to see if you can get outside to safety from a bedroom window if the fire is burning between you and an outside door.Natural DisastersI[...]

How to Live Longer - Add Years to Your Life!


No one knows how long they will live.  There are no guarantees that anything you do will absolutely assure you will live to be 100 years old. However, research indicates your genetics account for only about 25 percent of your longevity.  The rest is up to you.  There are definite actions you can take which make it much more likely you will add years to your life.In an article called "50 Great Ways to Live Longer" published in the March, 2017 issue of the AARP Bulletin, scientific and government studies helped them compile a list of proven tips for increasing the length of your life.  Not all of the AARP suggestions are listed in this post.  When I read the list, some of their tips seemed to correlate to a longer life, but may not have been the cause of it.  For example, there is a correlation between living in California, New York or Vermont and having a longer life, especially if you have a low income.  Conversely, if you live in Nevada, Indiana or Oklahoma, your life expectancy could be much lower.  However, that does not mean your state of residence is actually the cause of why some people live longer than others.  Individuals can live either a long life or short life in any state, depending on their personal lifestyle.While there are no guarantees in life, it is still worthwhile to follow the suggestions listed below.  They are based on scientific research and could make a tremendous difference in the length of your life, as well as how much you enjoy living those extra years. Tips for a Longer Life 1.  Take Extra Vitamin D - The amount should be based on a blood test, but Vitamin D deficiency can contribute to a variety of health problems which you can easily avoid.2.  Avoid painkillers - Only take the minimum amount or eliminate them completely.  This includes both prescription and over-the-counter painkillers.3.  Get at least six hours of sleep a night - It will cut your risk of heart disease and strokes.  Try to get seven or eight hours of sleep, if possible.  It will make your health and life better in a number of ways.  It may even make it easier to maintain a healthy weight.4.  Have frequent sex - It has been shown to not only increase the length of your life, but your enjoyment, as well.  5.  Get married - Married people, especially men, have a lower risk of heart disease.  Of course, if you are in an abusive or miserable marriage, this suggestion may not work for you.6.  Eat a healthy diet - Research shows the right diet for longevity includes fully ripened fruit, coffee, green tea, vegetables, whole grains, whole milk, olive oil, fish, nuts, spices and plenty of water.  You should also reduce your consumption of added sugar and alcohol.  While you're at it, take care to prevent food poisoning when preparing your meals.  Keep your work surfaces clean, separate meat and vegetables, wash your hands and refrigerate ingredients which could spoil.7. Find a purpose in life - You may find your purpose in volunteer activities, helping your family, attending religious services or becoming involved in anything else which is meaningful to you.  Having a purpose can add years to your life; it can also make you look forward to getting up each day.8.  Lead a generally healthy life - We have all heard most of it before. Stop smoking, lose weight, exercise daily (including walking and climbing stairs, if you can), read books, get a flu shot and find a woman doctor (statistically, th[...]

How to Retire Without a Car


For many Baby Boomers, their automobile plays a significant role in their life.  It may be a status symbol or feel like your ticket to freedom, giving you the ability to go wherever you want, whenever you want.  Whether you drive a tiny red sports car, a sedate sedan, or a big SUV, it may be difficult for you to imagine living without a car.  However, a large number of young adults have already discovered they can get along just fine without a personal vehicle, and Baby Boomers are learning a lot from their adult children and grandchildren.Owning a Car is ExpensiveOwning an automobile can be costly, whether or not you are making payments on it.  Even if your car gets good gas mileage and you are no longer commuting to a job, gasoline alone may cost you $100 to $200 a month.  In addition, you will need to pay for insurance, tires, oil changes, repairs and your state registration fees.  Eventually you will probably need to replace the car, which could require a large outlay in cash and/or an even larger monthly payment.  As a result, owning a car could become too costly for many retirees.Health Conditions Could Keep You From DrivingAs we age, many people develop health issues or take medications which make it difficult or impossible for them to drive.  While you may be healthy and active when you first retire, you may eventually develop vision problems, Parkinson's Disease or be undergoing chemotherapy and no longer able to drive safely. In addition, many medications used by seniors, including sleeping pills, painkillers and other prescriptions are not safe to take before driving.Affordable Alternatives to Driving a CarFortunately, there are reasonable alternatives to owning an automobile.  If you move to an over-55 retirement community, such as one of the many Sun Cities across the US, Laguna Woods Village in Southern California, or The Villages in Florida (to name a few), you may be able to drive around your community and to local shopping areas in a golf cart.  Electric golf carts are generally significantly less expensive to own and operate than automobiles.  Because of their lower speeds, they also tend to be safer to operate. Golf carts are not your only choice for transportation. Many retirement communities have their own community buses to drive residents to various activities.  Some Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) have vans which will take people to nearby businesses, doctor's appointments, churches, movie theaters, shopping centers, etc.   If you occasionally need to travel outside your immediate neighborhood, public transportation such as cabs and buses are an affordable alternative for the occasional trip to a business appointment or local airport. A $20 or $30 cab ride three or four times a month is still much cheaper than owning and maintaining a personal vehicle.Cities with Walkable Neighborhoods and Public Transit If you do not want to move to an over-55 community, you can still find great neighborhoods where you will not need to own a car. The Millennial Generation has proven to us that it is possible, affordable and enjoyable to live in safe, walkable communities with an assortment of public transportation choices. Many small towns would fit this description, as well as popular neighborhoods within some large cities.Forbes Magazine's February 28, 2017 issue included an article titled "No Car, No Problem." In the article they published a list of great communities which are not only walk[...]

Surprises in Retirement


If you are not yet retired, what do you think it will be like when you finally walk away from your job for the last time?  If you have already retired, did it turn out to be what you expected?  What surprised you the most?  Were the surprises pleasant or disappointing?Most people find that at least some aspects of retirement were not quite what they expected.  Some people were disappointed and lonely.  Other people were delighted by how quickly their lives become filled with new activities.The varying reactions to retirement may be a result of different personalities.  In other cases, it could be because of inadequate financial resources, which make it tough to "live the dream."  Whatever the reason, below are some of the surprises many people have expressed about retirement.  If you are not retired yet, knowing what has surprised other people may help you better prepare for retirement; if you have retired, it may help you realize you are not alone in what you are experiencing and it may not be too late to make changes which will help you enjoy your retirement more.What Surprises People Most about RetirementLoss of Self-Worth - We had a neighbor whose father came to stay with her after retirement.  He was very quiet and kept to himself.  My neighbor told me her father was depressed and out-of-sorts because he had retired from a job as the Superintendent of Schools for a large school district.  He had literally supervised thousands of employees until the day he retired.  Afterwards, he felt "worthless" and didn't know what to do with himself.  While he could have turned his energies towards volunteering, local politics, or finding other ways to help people, he just hung around her house and remained depressed.  People need to have a reason to get up each morning if they want to have a satisfying retirement.It Can be Easier than Expected to Leave Your Job Behind - On the other had, after working decades for a company, many people are surprised at how quickly they can put the past behind them and find new activities, interests and friends.  The people who are able to leave the past behind seem to flow more smoothly into retirement.  Surprisingly few people talk much about their former career once they retire.It is Expensive to Retire - If you have been telling yourself you will be comfortable living on half, or even 80 percent, of your current income, you may be shocked to learn that the amount of income you need will be just as high as it was while you were working.  It is true you will not spend as much on the cost of commuting to a job, buying lunches from restaurants, or maintaining a work wardrobe.  However, these cost savings could be replaced by expenses related to engaging in new hobbies, eating more meals at home, traveling, and spending more for medical expenses.  In particular, Medicare premiums could be higher than expected and will shoot up dramatically if you get a financial windfall (taking a retirement buyout or selling stocks), because you will be required to pay a Medicare surcharge.  Those who opt to purchase a Medicare supplement may be surprised by the cost, as well.Financial Planning Really Does Pay Off - Those retirees who had the self-discipline to put aside a nest egg for retirement are often pleased to discover their plan worked out well for them after retirement.  In the same way, those who managed to pay off all or most of their d[...]

Opioid Addiction in Retirees


According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, the current opioid crisis in the United States is this country's worst drug epidemic ever.  Unlike drug problems in the past, this one is not limited primarily to the younger generation.  Opioids are killing Americans of all ages.  Doctors have been over-prescribing pain medication for years, without realizing the impact it was having on their patients, including the elderly.  The results have been devastating for many senior citizens, as well as their children and grandchildren.  Families have been devastated by the effects of opioids.Opioid Addiction in Retirees is a Significant ProblemAccording to an article in the June 2017 AARP bulletin titled "The Opioid Menace: A Nationwide Addiction to Opioids Threatens Older Americans," as well as other sources, the statistics are shocking:*  In the single year of 2015 alone, nearly one-third of all Medicare patients (or about 12 million people) were prescribed opioid painkillers by their doctors.  Over the past year or two, some doctors have reduced the number of prescriptions they write for these drugs and the majority of states now put caps on the quantity of opioids a Medicaid patient can receive.  Unfortunately, these actions are not enough. Far too many patients are still receiving prescriptions for these dangerous drugs, often for chronic pain, minor injuries, dental procedures and out-patient surgeries.*  Also in 2015, approximately 2.7 million Americans over the age of 50 were believed to have abused prescription opioids.  By abusing the drugs, it means the patients were taking more of the medication than their doctors had prescribed or for reasons other than why it was prescribed. *  Despite efforts to reduce the number of opioid prescriptions being written, a survey in 2016 indicated that 99 percent of physicians continue to prescribe these medications for longer than the recommended three days.  To make matters worse, some patients "doctor shop," constantly looking for new doctors who will write them a prescription, which they can easily fill if they pay out-of-pocket for it rather than using their insurance or Medicaid.  Other people steal painkillers from the medicine cabinets of friends or relatives, order the drugs from foreign pharmacies, or switch to lower cost heroin, which is an illegal opioid drug made from morphine.  Frequently, the heroin is mixed with Fentanyl, which makes the drug much more addictive and can be lethal.*  People over the age of 65 are being hospitalized in record numbers because of opioid abuse.  In fact, the number of such hospital admissions has quadrupled in the past 20 years.  Most cases involve people who never dreamed they would become drug addicts.*  Opioid addiction is a deadly disease.  An incredible 42 percent of all opioid overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2015 happened to people over the age of 45.  The real number of such deaths may be much higher, since many deaths could have have been misdiagnosed or simply listed as "natural causes," especially in the very elderly.  This is not an addiction problem which is limited to teens and young adults.*  The older you are, the greater your risk of becoming dependent on these drugs.  Doctors are more likely to prescribe them for your pain and, because of slower kidney and liver function, the drugs may remain in your syste[...]

Laguna Woods Village Statistics and Amenities


Laguna Woods Village, CA has numerous amenities.When you are looking for a retirement community, it can sometimes be difficult to get specific information about it.  If you only go to their website, you will typically read an abundance of superlatives about how wonderful the community is, but find very few actual details.  As a result, when Laguna Woods Village in Orange County, California released a list of very specific statistics about the community, as of 2017, the information was exactly what potential residents would want to know if they were interested in living in this retirement community on the edge of Laguna Beach, California.  This information can also serve as a basis for potential retirees to compare the communities they are considering, even if Laguna Woods Village is not on their list.Statistics About the Community of Laguna Woods Village* Rated one of the Top Ten Retirement Communities in the U.S. in 2017 by* Voted Best Senior Living Community in Southern California by the Orange County Register * Built on 2,100 acres of rolling hills in Orange County, California* Housing consists of 12,736 condos and co-ops with 94 different floor plans* Most of the housing was built between the mid-1960s and the mid-1970's* Many of the condos and co-ops have been extensively updated over the years * Only a 10 minute drive to the beach from most parts of the community* Averages 255 days of sunshine per year  Statistics About the Residents of Laguna Woods Village* Average new resident is 66 years old, although many are in their 50s* Average current resident is a median age of 76.7 * Approximately 18,500 residents live in the community* Average of 1.45 residents per household* Approximately 65% female and 35% male * Approximately 96% have at least a high school diploma; 42% have a bachelor's degree or higher* Median household income of $38,674 (in 2017)* Median home value was $211,500 (in 2017), although home prices can range from below $150,000 to over $1,000,000Race and Ethnicity in Laguna Woods Village* White 87.3%* Asian 10%* Black 0.7% * Other 0.6%* American Indian 0.1%* Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander 0.1%* Hispanic or Latino 4%(I realize those numbers do not quite add up, but those are the figures they published.  I assume that the 4% of residents listed as Hispanic or Latino would also be included in the white category.) Safety at Laguna Woods Village* Lowest crime rate of ANY city in Orange County, California* Guarded 24 hours a day with 14 security entrance gates* Private security force which roams throughout community 24 hours a day* Contract with Orange County Sheriff's Department to provide additional police services, as needed.  Amenities in Laguna Woods Village* Over 250 clubs and organizations, most with a full slate of activities* 814 seat performing arts theatre with a wide variety of choices in entertainment* Two professional golf courses - a championship 27-hole course and a 9-hole walking course* Five swimming pools* Equestrian center with 38 stalls for horses, a riding ring and guided trail rides; residents do not need to own a private horse in order to go on trail rides or take lessons* Two community gardens with private plots which can be reserved by residents* Transportation system with 8 fixed bus routes and on-demand rides to local retail, dining and medical facilities * Community television channel with exclusive programming* Three fi[...]

Cheapest Countries for Retirement


With millions of Baby Boomers expected to rely almost entirely on Social Security benefits when they retire, many of them will choose to move to another country.  When they do, they will find they are not alone.  Currently, there are approximately 8 million Americans living in foreign countries.  According to the Social Security website, "over half a million people who live outside the United States receive some kind of Social Security benefit, including retired and disabled workers, as well as spouses, widows, widowers, and children."Although you cannot use Medicare in another country, you are able to have your Social Security deposited in a foreign bank, or in an American bank with foreign branches.  In most other countries, you also have the option of signing up for their national healthcare plan and have basic Medicare in the U.S. at the same time, should you want to return to the U.S. in the future.Source of Information on Cheapest Places to RetireIf you are interested in retiring in another country, you will want to research your options carefully. There are a number of books and articles available on the internet.  On Feb. 18, 2017, Money Magazine published an article called, "These Are the Cheapest 50 Countries to Live."  While their article was not necessarily geared towards retirement, I found the information useful for anyone who is considering retiring in another country.  All the countries on their list are less expensive than the United States.The author, Elyssa Kirkham, based her information about the countries with the lowest cost-of-living on research from GoBankingRates, which looked at the purchasing power of the dollar in each country, cost to rent an apartment, price of groceries and the consumer index.Issues The Researchers Did Not ConsiderThe researchers did not consider factors such as safety, the political system, or lifestyle.  While many of these countries could be very attractive to American citizens, others might be quite undesirable ... such as Syria, Russia and Serbia. The list of countries is further down in this article.  If you want more details about how each country ranked, you can find the full article at "Cheapest Countries to Live." Do Your Own Research Before Moving to Another Country  As I have mentioned above and in other articles in this blog, it is important for readers to do their own research, check the State Department website for warnings and advisories about travel in those countries, contact local agencies or tour companies and, finally, visit the country before deciding whether you want to move there permanently.If you still feel that such a move would be a good idea, you would then be wise to consult with a lawyer, CPA and Realtor in the country of your choice. They could help you find a safe, affordable place to live and keep you on the right side of the law in your new country.List of Cheapest Countries to Retire1. South Africa                         26. Montenegro2. India                                     27. Albania3. Kosovo        &nb[...]