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Baby Boomer Retirement

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

Updated: 2017-10-19T13:21:41.456-07:00


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 their plan.  Annual maximum out-of-pocket expenses could rise for some beneficiaries, as well.  Check your Evidence of Coverage schedule from your plan administrator to see how you will be affected.If you have[...]

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 whom you will get your care. Some plans require you to choose a primary care doctor who can then refer you to your oncologist and other specialists.Medicare Advantage plans often have lower premiums than Medigap, but yo[...]

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 Mandatory Seat Belt law.How Grandparents Can Stay Up-to-Date on Childcare RecommendationsThe rules above are just the tip of the iceberg, and new suggestions for proper child and infant care are released frequently, inclu[...]

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 be diplomatic and discrete in dealing with other family members, especially if their client is dying, goes on hospice or becomes stressed when certain relatives are around.What You Can Do to Help the CaregiverWhether you[...]

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 is expected to be larger than what retirees have seen in recent years, when it has ranged from 0 to 0.3 percent, it is still expected to be smaller than the average increase of 2.6 percent which retirees saw over the past 30 years.  The COLA could be as low as 1.5 percent. In fact, 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 concerned 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.  As a result, many retirees have seen virtually no actual increase in their checks over past few years. 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.  The real problem in maintaining Social Security payments is that fewer children are being born and this will cause a sharp decline in the number of working adults by 2035.  This is the actual reason why it may be necessary to slightly increase Social Security taxes or make other changes.Myth:  "Social Security is Too Dangerous for Congress to Touch"The Barron's article indicated that this is a myth because Congress has made changes to Social Security in the past, most notably in 1983.  According to Barron's, any one of the following possible changes, or a combination of them, would solve the problem:* Decrease the promised benefits by 20% for those who have not yet retired OR* Increase the Social Security payroll tax, which is split between the employer and employee, from 12.4 percent to 15.2 percent OR* Raise the [...]

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 in the United States, especially for people who are near retirement age or who have already retired.  If you have suffered a severe financial setback which leaves you deeply in debt, bankruptcy may be the best op[...]

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 and multipurpose areas.Estimated Cost of Florida Senior Living FacilitiesIn addition to being able to rent rather than buy into a Sonata Senior Living Community, there are other factors which may help you afford to liv[...]

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 have equity in a home and very few assets, you may qualify to receive Medicaid, a government program which will cover your long-term care.  However, if using Medicaid is your plan, you should make sure you are eligi[...]

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 particularly sad.  I live near Laguna Beach, where I walk frequently.  I often offer to take photos of tourists who are struggling to get a selfie with their family.  While most locals may be genuinely kind[...]

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 DisastersIf you live independently, you need to be prepared to handle any natural disaster which could affect you.  Depending on where you live, that could include hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, blizzards, earthquakes or wi[...]

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, they have better outcomes).  In addition, monitor your own health and see your doctor if any aspect of your health changes, such as unexpected weight-loss, unusual fatigue, bleeding, or changes to the skin. 9. [...]

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 walkable, but also have access to public transportation, Uber, Lyft, and/or car rentals by the hour.  They eliminated cities with high crime rates, assuming that seniors would not want to walk around a dangerous commun[...]

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 debt prior to retirement are also happy to see the difference it makes in the quality of their retirement, and how much easier it is for them to ride out the ups and downs in the economy.  For example, if your home [...]

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 system longer.*  Of course, opioids also are killing our adult children and grandchildren, causing stress and worry for many retirees.  As reported in a Jacob Soboroff television special, made for MSNBC, called "[...]

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 fitness centers; two are staffed by trainers* Ten tennis courts* Table tennis facility, pickleball courts, and archery facility* Seven clubhouses including an American Contract Bridge League accredited facility* College l[...]

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                                 28. Nepal4. Saudi Arabia         [...]

Help for Retired Grandparents Raising Grandkids


Like millions of other couples in the U.S., the man and his wife who handle our taxes are also raising one of their granddaughters.  A widow in my book club raised two of her grandchildren until they finished college.  Several other retired people we know have raised their grandchildren for at least part of their childhood.  Unfortunately, this issue creates a number of problems for senior citizens, including where to live.Journalist Leslie Stahl, from 60 Minutes, addressed some of the problems involved in raising grandchildren in her book Becoming Grandma: The Joys and Science of the New Grandparenting and in an article she wrote for the website Next Avenue called  "A Place to Live for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren."Millions of Grandparents are Raising their Grandchildren According to Ms. Stahl, there are almost 3,000,000 grandparents in the U.S. who have legal custody of some or all of their grandchildren.  Approximately 18 percent of these families live below the poverty line.  They face a number of issues, including where to live.Limited Housing Options Make it Difficult for Grandparents It is against federal law for children under the age of 18 to live with parents or grandparents in an age-restricted over-55 retirement community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) or other type of senior facility.  Children are also not allowed in low-income housing for the elderly or in senior apartment complexes.  As a result, grandparents who make the tough decision to raise their grandchildren are often forced to move, sometimes into situations which are not safe for them or their grandchildren and which are not well-designed for the elderly.The sole exception to the lack of housing for grandparents who are raising their grandchildren is the Grandparent Family Apartment Complex which is located in the Bronx in New York.  The complex was build in 2004.  According to Leslie Stahl, it is the only complex of its type in the United States, although there is unquestionably a need across the country.  In addition to providing affordable housing, the complex offers different types of support to the grandparents and children, including transportation, legal services, mental health services, after school care, tutoring, support groups and parenting classes.  These programs at the Grandparent Family Apartment Complex seem to be making a significant difference in the lives of the children.  Their high school graduation rate exceeds that of the surrounding community.Why Grandparents are Raising their GrandchildrenThere are many reasons why grandparents feel compelled to take over the custody of their grandchildren.  The children's parents may have died in an auto accident or from diseases.  In some cases, the parents may not be equipped to properly take care of their children because of mental illness, abusiveness, addiction, or alcoholism.  In other situations, the parents may be deployed with the military or could be in jail. Sometimes the problem is a teen pregnancy and the grandparents decide to continue raising both their child and their grandchild.  Whatever the cause, grandparents who have already raised their own children often find themselves starting over again with their grandchildren.Housing Solutions for GrandparentsWhile their options are limited, there are a few things grandparents can do to make the situation easier for both them and their grandchildren.More affluent grandparents, of course, have more options about where to live.  They may be able to remain in the [...]

Should You Loan Money to Adult Children?


Retirees and those approaching retirement frequently face a common dilemma ... should they give or loan money to their adult children?  A Pew Research Center survey in 2015 discovered that approximately 61 percent of people with adult children had helped their kids out financially during the preceding year. The decision to help or not to help can be difficult, especially if grandchildren are involved.  Many retirees wonder when they should agree to co-sign a lease, help their adult children purchase a car or assist them financially in other ways, and when they should say "no."In a January, 2017 article in AARP Magazine, titled "The Bank of Mom and Dad," Stephen Perrine, the author, suggested four questions to answer before you either lend or give your children money.  He also presented several examples to help people understand how to apply the answers.Questions to Answer Before Lending Money to Adult Children1.  Is the money intended to be used for something they simply want, but don't need; or will it add real stability and security to the child's life?  (Necessary)2.  Will this be a one-time or short-term gift or loan, or will it be something which will require an ongoing financial commitment lasting for years?  (Short-term)3.  Will your financial assistance require you to co-sign a contract?  Could it hurt your credit?  Is there a financial risk to you or your adult child?  (Financially safe)4.  Can you give or loan this money to your child without it damaging your relationship?  Could it cause future tension or resentment?  (Emotionally safe)How to Decide Whether to Help Your Adult Children FinanciallyWhen you consider the above questions, obviously the best time to help your child financially would be when it is necessary, short-term, financially safe, and emotionally safe.  Of course, life is not always that simple.Ideal situation:  When one of our granddaughters needed braces and her mother, our divorced, hard-working daughter, could not handle the added cost by herself, my husband and I were happy to step in and make the monthly payments.  Towards the end of the contract, our appreciative daughter had secured a better paying job and took over the payments herself.  At the time we decided to help, we believed our decision was necessary, short-term (although it went on for a couple of years), financially safe and emotionally safe.  We could afford the payments and our daughter could not. We had no problem making the decision.Complex situation:  Not all decisions are as clear as the one above.  For example, what if your child "needs" a car to get to work.  Should you help them with the down-payment or co-sign the loan?  If they are asking for your financial assistance, you are within your rights to only offer a limited amount of help, especially if your decision could put you at financial risk.  You may want to insist they purchase a practical, used car.  You might decide to provide a down-payment, but not co-sign a loan.  If you do decide to co-sign the loan, you need to understand that it could affect your own credit, particularly if your adult child begins to miss payments or make late payments.  Could you afford to take over the payments if your child defaults?  In this case, the purchase of a car might seem necessary, but it would not be short-term assistance, financially safe or emotionally safe, since it could create a strain in your relationship with your child.Other types of situations:[...]

Affordable Retirement Cities with Pleasant Climates


Are you looking for a pleasant, affordable city which is a good choice for retirement?  Do you want to have access to quality healthcare, cultural diversity, and mild weather?  The website put together their 2017 list of "Best Cities to Retire on the Cheap," and one of the cities listed below might be the perfect choice for you.The major the factor which considered was the overall affordability of the city.  As they point out, however, there is no benefit in finding a city with cheap housing if the weather is so cold in the winter you pay exorbitant prices to heat your home.  You would probably be no better off financially, and you would have to deal with the downside of aging in an area which frequently experiences snow, ice and other weather extremes.  When they put together their list, therefore, in addition to affordability they also considered climate, healthcare, economic vitality and both geographic and cultural diversity.  In other words, these are cities which are not only affordable, but have a number of other advantages which would make them attractive to retirees.Before moving to any of these cities, retirees will want to do more research to make sure they can afford to live in the city of their choice and to determine if they will have access to activities which interest them.  You will also want to plan an extended vacation, if you are unfamiliar with the city.  However, some of these cities should definitely be on your list of ones to consider if you hope to relocate to a fun, affordable city after retirement. Affordable Retirement Cities According to Caring.comTucson, Arizona - For decades, people have retired to this city with a population of just a little over a half million.  This makes it easier to meet other newcomers in your age group.  Traffic is not a major problem and there are plenty of ways to stay active ... yoga studios, shopping centers, restaurants, and more.  There are eight hospitals in the city. Because it is in the high desert, the weather is milder than many other parts of Arizona.Dover, Delaware - The state capitol of the small state of Delaware is equally small .. with a population of less than 40,000 people.  Despite its tiny size, the city has a strong economy, plenty of places to shop and eat out, plus you are halfway between New York City and Washington, DC. This gives you the opportunity to hop on a commuter train and experience world class entertainment, while living in a city which is far more affordable than either New York or Washington.Bend, Oregon - For retirees who want to live in a city but be close to a wide variety of outdoor activities, including golf, snow skiing, hiking, fishing, boating and mountain biking, this city could be the ideal spot for you!Sarasota, Florida - Built in the 1920's along the Gulf Coast of Florida, the Art-Deco downtown is adorable.  The Ringling Brothers Circus wintered here in the past, so expect to see circus memorabilia around town.  There is also an opera, symphony, ballet, music festival and other ways to stay active.Boise, Idaho - This city gets an average of 21 inches of snow a year, so you will still have to deal with bad weather in the winter.  However, it is affordable and has an abundance of hiking and biking trails in the city.San Luis Obispo, California - This small California city near the Central coast is home to Cal Poly University and is affordable compared to many other California coastal cities.  The weather is ver[...]

How to Report a Scam or Fraud


No matter how hard we try, the vast majority of us will eventually become victims of a scam or fraud.  Our downfall could be identity theft, a con artist, overly aggressive debt collectors, internet or phone extortion, phishing emails or other types of crimes.  Whenever something like this happens to you, it is important to contact authorities and help them fight these crooks.Scammers are Criminals First, it is important to understand that these types of behaviors are illegal and the people committing these crimes can be fined or sent to prison for cheating you.  In many cases, the phone calls and emails originate in other countries.  Whether the criminals are in the U.S. or another country, they can still sometimes be caught and punished.Second, you should recognize the fact that these scammers and con artists are well-trained.  They know who you are and how to get information from you.  They are experts at tricking you into sending them money or giving you the information they need to steal money from you.  Everyone needs to be constantly vigilant and learn how to protect themselves from scams and fraud.Finally, you should not be embarrassed if you become a victim of one of these crimes.  Often there is nothing you can do to prevent them.  The internet is full of identifying information about millions of Americans.  Facts about you have often been obtained illegally by scammers who use sophisticated means to hack into computers and steal information.  It is not your fault.  You should never be too embarrassed to report any fraudulent use of your identity.If you do become a victim of a scam or fraud, it is extremely important to notify law enforcement, so these criminals can be hunted down and stopped. How to Report a Scam or FraudWhen to Contact Local Police, the District Attorney or your State Attorney GeneralIf the fraud was committed by someone locally, such as a dishonest contractor, a door-to-door sales person, or a local business, contact your community police department, your county district attorney, and your state's attorney general.  File a complaint and provide them with as much specific information as you can.  In addition, you may want to file your complaint with the FTC, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Postal Inspector, or the Internet Crime Complaint Center.  Their information is listed below.You should also contact the local authorities, as well as your financial institution, if your credit or debit cards have been lost, stolen or used fraudulently.If you are not satisfied with the results after you have reported one of these crimes, you may also want to contact the crime fighting reporter for a local television station.  They may be able to get more attention than you can on your own.Federal Trade 382-4357Use the FTC to report identity theft, overly-aggressive debt collectors and any situation in which you have been the victim of a fraud.  You may not hear back from them after filing your report.  However, the FTC compiles a database of scams and uses the information they collect to build cases against specific con artists. One person's complaints about a scammer might not make a difference.  Hundreds or thousands of complaints could result in a criminal investigation.  You are helping to protect others when you file a complaint, even if you never get your money returned or hear back from the FTC.Consumer Financial Protec[...]

Friends and Family Prolong Your Life


Are you looking for a fun, easy way to live longer?  According to research done at the University of California in San Francisco, and reported in the AARP Bulletin, spending more time with your friends and family can increase your life expectancy.The researchers followed 1,600 adults who had an average age of 71 at the beginning of the study.  They took into consideration their socioeconomic status and their overall health.  Those people who self-identified as being lonely consistently died at a higher frequency over the six years of the study.  During that period of time, 23 percent of the lonely people died; only 14 percent of those who were satisfied with their level of companionship died.How Retirees can Increase their SocializationSince loneliness can contribute to early death, it is important we take steps to make sure we do not become too isolated as we age ... which is easy to do when we no longer go to a job.  Below are a few suggestions for increasing the time we spend around other people, particularly after we retire.1.  If you have relatives nearby, make sure you reach out to them and try to spend time together.  Your adult children and grandchildren can immeasurably enrich your life.  If you are not retired yet, but have older relatives or siblings who live in your area, plan activities which include them.2.   If you live in a mixed age community and no longer spend much time with your neighbors, make an effort to get to know them.  An occasional block party or neighborhood ice cream social benefits people of all ages.3.   Find out if your community has a senior center.  They often have exercise classes, parties, dances and, sometimes, low-cost lunches which seniors can enjoy in the company of other people.4.   Call your local community college to see if they offer classes for senior citizens.  Many colleges offer emeritus classes which are either free or very low cost.  Going to classes which you enjoy is a fun way to meet other people with similar interests.  Suggest a few of you go out to lunch or for coffee either before or after your classes so you can get to know each other better.  5.    Make an effort to join a club, organization or place of worship.  Participating in these organizations can help you stay connected with other people.  The more involved you are, the better off you will be.  It is not enough to attend an occasional club meeting or church service.  Volunteer.  Join a committee.  Go to social events.  These experiences will enrich your life.6.  Regularly speak with your friends and neighbors.  You may even want to set up a specific time every day, or several times a week, when you call and chat with a friend.  If one of you doesn't answer and there is no explanation for the absence, agree that you will contact family members, a neighbor, or local police so someone will do a "welfare check" on you.  It will bring you and your friends peace-of-mind if you all know that you are looking out for each other.7.   Do not rebel against the idea of moving to an independent or assisted living facility.  While some people still have a negative image of these living arrangements, sometimes comparing them to old-style nursing homes, the truth is that most people thrive in these facilities.  Today's senior housing facilities have a wide variety of fun a[...]

Your Pre-Retirement Checkup


If you are getting close to retirement, it is time to do a pre-retirement checkup.  You want to feel confident you will have enough retirement income to support yourself and your dependents; you also want to have a plan to make sure your money lasts the rest of your life.  While no one can guarantee your assets will last a lifetime, you do not want to retire until you feel fairly certain you will not outlive your money.What is involved in a pre-retirement checkup?  How do you make sure you are ready to retire?Organizing a Pre-Retirement CheckupOf course, you should have been looking over your retirement plans throughout your working years, not just when you are about to retire.  The earlier you started planning, the more likely you are to have a satisfying retirement.  However, about five or six years before you think you will retire, you need to evaluate your plans more carefully.Start with your annual Social Security benefit estimate.  How much income do you expect to receive at different potential ages?  Would you be better off if you postponed your retirement by a year or two, or even until age 70, in order to increase your income?  Remember, if you are married and have been the primary breadwinner, your spouse will also be affected by your decision.  The longer you wait to retire, the higher your income will be, as well as the income of your spouse.Next, look at the size of your retirement savings account.  Many financial planners recommend retirees start by only withdrawing 3 percent a year, gradually increasing that amount by 0.03 percent a year, so they are sure their money will last the rest of their lives.  If you add that amount to your Social Security benefits, will you have enough income to maintain your current standard of living?Do you have any other income which will supplement your Social Security and savings withdrawals?  For example, are you eligible to receive a pension in addition to Social Security or will you have a small income from a hobby, part-time job, rental property or other source?Evaluate Your Living ExpensesOnce you have a fairly good idea of how much income you will have, it is time to evaluate your current cost-of-living.  Are there expenses which you expect will be lower after you retire, including commuting costs, eating out, and buying work clothes?  Are there some expenses which you expect to be higher, such as taking trips or eating more meals at home?If your estimated retirement cost-of-living far exceeds your future potential income, you may consider relocating to a less expensive area, getting a smaller home or taking other steps to reduce your expenses.  You may be able to make some of these adjustments before you retire and use the money you save while you are working to build up your retirement savings.Talk to a Financial PlannerEven if you believe your retirement plans are in good shape, this is a good time to meet with a financial planner or investment advisor.  You want someone who will charge you an hourly fee to review your investments or a flat fee to manage your assets, and not someone who relies solely on commissions from the investments he sells you.  Ask the advisor to look over how your retirement assets are invested and recommend changes which could increase the growth of your assets over the remaining years before you retire.  Once you retire, you may want the financial planner to real[...]

Protect Yourself from Fraud and Scams


Retirees are extremely likely to become the targets of scams or fraud.  As a result, we must be extraordinarily careful about our interactions with businesses and people who contact us by phone or on our computer. We are continually bombarded with phone calls and emails from dishonest people who try to trick us into turning over our personal information or money.  Many of these scammers are very persistent and deceptive.  Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between legitimate and fraudulent websites.  The only way to stop these scammers is to learn how to protect ourselves and then report the crooks who try to cheat us.What are the Most Common Scams Against Seniors?There are a number of ways in which scammers are able to cheat us.  They may call, pretending to be a grandchild in trouble, and beg for money.  They might win our confidence on an online dating site and ask us to "loan" them money to help them out.  They could impersonate an IRS agent and threaten us with jail if we do not immediately pay our back taxes, which they demand in the form of gift cards or other untraceable types of instant money.  Sometimes they ask for donations to official sounding charities.Scammers can also trick us by sending fraudulent emails from sites which look similar to the official sites of our bank or credit card company.  They might download malware on our computer and lock us out, until we pay a ransom.It seems as if the different ways scammers can attack us are endless and they are continually coming up with new approaches.  We have to continually be vigilant.How to Protect Ourselves from ScammersWhile there seems to be no limit to the variety and creativity of the scams which threaten your financial security and peace-of-mind, there are steps you can take to make yourself less vulnerable.1.  Ask plenty of questions if a family member calls and asks for money.  No matter how much of an emergency it appears to be, make sure you are actually talking to your relative and not a complete stranger.  We have told our adult children and grandchildren not to get their feelings hurt if they ever call asking for money and we pepper them with questions.  We explained to them there are very aggressive scammers who pretend to be members of a family and beg for financial assistance ... often while "crying" so it is difficult to identify their voices.  As a result, we would need to ask numerous questions before sending anyone money.  These questions might include where they went to school, their best friend's name, or their address as a child.  We have also told our family members we would call them back on their cell phone and discuss the request with other family members, to make sure the request is legitimate.2.  Be suspicious if an "authority figure" calls and demands money.  Whenever a stranger calls pretending to be an IRS agent, the manager of your bank, or an representative from your credit card company, do not provide them with information they should already have such as your credit card number, date of birth or full Social Security number.  If you are in doubt, hang up and call the company or business directly, using the official customer service phone number for your bank or credit card company. The IRS will never unexpectedly call you demanding an immediate payment.3.  Do not send money to stranger[...]

Short on Retirement Savings


How much money do you think you will need in order to retire comfortably?  The honest truth is you probably need more, much more, than you actually have.  According to, half of Baby Boomers, the generation which is currently retiring at a rate of 10,000 people a DAY, have saved less than $100,000.  Over one-third have saved less than $50,000.  This means a substantial number of Baby Boomers have not saved enough money to produce a modest retirement income, even when combined with their Social Security benefits, and they are at a serious risk of outliving their retirement savings.Breakdown of Baby Boomer SavingsThe report at showed the following statistics for Baby Boomers as of December, 2016:37% - Saved less than $50,00013% - Saved between $50,000 and $100,00014% - Saved between $100,000 and $200,00012% - Saved between $200,000 and $300,00009% - Saved between $300,000 and $500,00015% - Saved $500,000 or moreHow Much Does the Average Retiree Spend?According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the typical household whose head of house is age 65 or older spent $44,664 in 2015.  That cost-of-living has probably increased since that time.How Much Income Can the Average Retiree Expect?Social Security is designed to replace approximately 40% of an employee's pre-retirement income, although many Baby Boomers mistakenly believe it will replace 90% of their income, instead.  In 2017, the average single retired person collects $1,360 in Social Security benefits.  The average couple receives $2,260 in benefits.   This translates to an income of $27,120 a year for a retired couple, far below the $44,664 the average household spends.  At a 6 percent return, only the people who have saved $350,000 or more (less than one-fourth of retirees) will have enough savings to make up the difference between their income and the average cost-of-living for the typical retired couple. To make matters worse, many certified financial planners recommend retirees withdraw no more than 4% of their retirement savings per year at the beginning of retirement, and increase that amount very gradually, in order to be confident they will not run out of money during the remainder of their lifetime. This means they would actually need to have $450,000 or more in savings in order to maintain an average lifestyle.  Unfortunately, the vast majority of retirees do not come close to having that amount of savings.What to do if You Have Not Retired YetIf you are getting close to retirement, but you have not stopped working yet, here are a few steps you can still take to deal with a shortage in your retirement savings.1.  Start cutting your expenses now, while you are still working, so you can adjust to your future cost-of-living and, at the same time, free up more income for savings.  It is better to make small sacrifices now, if it means you will be more comfortable later in life.2.  Increase the amount of money you have going into an IRA, 401(k) or 403(b). 3.  Postpone retirement until age 70, which could increase your Social Security benefits by approximately 24% over what you would receive if you begin to collect at age 67.  This action alone could substantially reduce the amount of savings you will need during retirement.4.  Pay off all your bills, including your auto loans and mortgages, if possible, to mini[...]