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Baby Boomer Retirement

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

Updated: 2017-04-22T03:35:35.540-07:00


STEP Program for Overseas Travelers


One of the joys of retirement is the ability to travel virtually anytime you want. You are no longer tied down by your job's allowable vacation schedule or your children's school holidays. You can even move to another country, if you choose. However, when traveling overseas, it's not smart to simply throw caution to the wind. Make sure you take full advantage of the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), as well as their other services.Emergency Help from the U.S. State Department Enrolling in the STEP program will give you the latest security updates. It will also make it easier for the local U.S. embassy or consulate to contact you if there is an emergency. You can either use the internet to enroll at or you can go to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate and enroll there.The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service which allows U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to register their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. According to the STEP website, the program can help you: Receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country, helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans.Help the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency.Help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency.Other State Department Services which Help Foreign Travelers In addition to signing up for the STEP program, you should regularly check the State Department's website.  It is different from STEP.  Instead of waiting for them to contact you, it is a site where you can check out the current Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and Worldwide Cautions.  This could help you decide on the best or worst travel destinations before you make your reservations.  If you are planning to retire overseas, it could also help you decide which countries and areas within the countries are best for American expatriots.One helpful page on the State Department's website is the State Department Travel page.  You can get information about passports and other travel related information there.If you are planning to move to another country, you can contact the local consulate or embassy for information on a wide variety of services available to U.S. citizens, including passport renewal, obtaining federal benefits overseas (such as receiving your Social Security benefits in another country), transmission of citizenship to your children, documenting their birth overseas as U.S. citizens, and obtaining visas. Whether you are planning to spend time in another country for a week or live overseas for decades, it is important that you take full advantage of all the services available from the U.S. State Department, as well as our embassies and consulates around the world.If you are interested in more information about traveling overseas, moving to another country, where to retire, financial planning or common medical issues, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional topics.If you are beginning to plan your retirement, watch for my book, Retirement Awareness, which will be available in the Fall of 2017 from Griffin Publishing and Watering Seeds. You are reading from the blog: credit:[...]

California Active Adult Retirement Communities


Are you looking for an over-55 active adult retirement community in California?  Do you believe that California is too expensive or has other issues which would make it undesirable for you to live there?  Most of the retirees who currently make California their home have been very satisfied with the decision, including those who have relocated from other states.  Here is some of the information you should know.Cost of Living in CaliforniaAdmittedly, parts of California, especially near the coast, can be more expensive than living in other states.  Homes in some areas can cost more than similar ones in other retirement meccas, such as Florida, and California also has a state income tax.  However, there are both condos and single-family homes throughout California which may be more affordable than you expect, including many in the $150,000 to $400,000 price range.  Many of these condos and homes can be found in the large number of active adult retirement communities scattered throughout the state.In addition, property taxes are lower per $100,000 valuation than in some other states which do not have a state income tax, such as Texas.  Many people have found that the added expense of paying a state income tax on their modest retirement income is offset by the lower property tax rate.  Of course, you would have to talk to your financial advisor or income tax professional to see which of the states you are considering would work out best financially for you.Weather in CaliforniaThere are a wide variety of climates in California.  Along the coast in Southern California, you will find mild temperatures most of the year.  The inland desert area around Palm Springs, in the Coachella Valley, is pleasant in the winter, but extremely hot in the summer. It has been a popular place to retire for decades, with everyone from former President Gerald Ford to Sonny Bono and Bob Hope taking up residence there in their later years.Northern California is colder and wetter in the winter than Southern California, but mild and sunny in the summer.  For those who enjoy winter sports, the California mountain ranges are sprinkled with ski resorts in Southern, Central and Northern California and many people who enjoy outdoor sports have purchased mountain cabins in rural areas, where they have been able to retire very affordably.  Fishing lakes, golf courses, vast park lands and other recreational areas can also be found throughout the state and hundreds of thousands of retirees have found comfortable places to retire near their favorite spots.Consider an Active Adult Retirement CommunityOne popular choice is to retire in one of over 100 active adult retirement communities which are scattered around California.  These age restricted communities for people age 55 and over contain homes and amenities designed to be fun, convenient and accessible for people as they get older, even if they have limited mobility.  Below you can learn more about some of the more popular, affordable choices available in California.A Popular Retirement Community in Southern CaliforniaLaguna Woods Village, just outside of Laguna Beach, is one of the most popular retirement communities in the state, with 18,000 residents.  Located just five miles from the Pacific Ocean, it also contains golf courses, swimming pools, tennis courts, gyms, clubhouses, a theater, a stable with horses for resident use, and many other amenities.  Condos are available in a wide range of prices, from $150,000 to over $1,000,000.  The biggest downside to the community is that it was developed in the 1960s and 1970s, which means many of the condos need to be updated, although some of them have already been modernized by the current owners.  There is so much to do in this community that a friend of ours who lives there refers to it as "Camp Laguna."Other Affordable Southern California Retirement Communities include:Oceana in OceansideFour Seasons in BeaumontTerra Lago in the Coachella Va[...]

Mental and Social Planning for Retirement


No matter how much money you may have saved towards your future, there is more to retirement planning than simply having enough income.  You also need to give some thought to your goals, social needs, activities, where you want to live and how you want to spend your life after retirement.Many people will live between 20 and 30 years after they stop working.  A few could even live as long as 40 years after retirement.  That is a long time to spend sitting around, watching TV.  Instead of being bored for decades, this is a time when you can choose to make a difference in the lives of others, live passionately and enjoy the years you have left.  What will you do when you retire?How to Have an Emotionally Satisfying RetirementPut Together a "Bucket List" - What things have you always hoped to do in life, but never had the time?  Is there someplace you always wanted to visit?  Have you dreamed of taking art or music lessons? Play in a band? Travel around in an RV? Live on a sailboat?  Move to another country?  Write a novel?  Join the Peace Corp?  Nearly everyone has a secret dream which they never had the time to fulfill.  Think of retirement as your opportunity to pursue your goals.  Do research on what you need to to do in order to achieve at least one of your goals ... and possibly more. You can even start working on your bucket list before you actually retire.Decide Where You Want to Retire -  While the majority of people at least start out their retirement living in their pre-retirement home, many people will eventually move either to a retirement community, assisted living or someplace closer to their children and grandchildren.  When the time comes, where would you like to retire?  Not only do you want to choose a place which is safe, comfortable and easily accessible as you age, you will also want to take into consideration your emotional health.  Will you be near people you love?  Will you be able to engage in activities you enjoy?  Is it near a hospital and your doctor? Is it safe and walkable? These are all important aspects of choosing a retirement home. Plan a Social Life - Whether you decide to live near your family or in a dream location, it is very important that you maintain a social life.  It has been shown repeatedly that people who have an active social life are less likely to develop dementia or other health problems.  Decide what activities are important to you and make sure they will continue to be accessible as you age.  Your retirement will be happier if you can easily get to your preferred religious services, sporting events, entertainment venues, a senior center, exercise facilities and other activities.  You do not want to feel restricted to your home.Have an Exercise Plan - After you retire, it is far too easy to relax in your favorite chair, put up your feet, turn on the TV and tune out the rest of the world.  You've earned it ... right?  The problem is that relaxing too much can make your more likely to become obese, develop heart disease and possibly become susceptible to other illnesses, as well.  Instead, everyone should aim for at least 30 minutes a day of exercise which is brisk enough to cause your heart rate to increase.  It can be walking, jogging, bicycling or taking an exercise class.  Believe it or not, exercise improves your brain function, reduces stress, helps your overall physical health and can give you a positive mental attitude.  That is a lot of benefit for 30 minutes of your time each day after retirement!Plan to Eat Right After Retirement - At some point, nearly all seniors will eventually live alone, especially women.  It is very easy to slip into the habit of eating frozen dinners and a bowl of cereal for all your meals.  It can seem like a lot of extra trouble to prepare fresh vegetables and balanced meals.  However, it is important to eat right if you want to[...]

How to Prepare Financially for Retirement


Whether you are 30, 40, 50 or 60, everyone needs to take steps to plan to retire someday.  Of course, the younger we are when we start, the better prepared we will be to retire when the time comes.  No matter what your age, what are some of the things we need to do in the years before we stop working?  How can we make sure we are financially prepared when the time comes?Steps in Retirement PlanningSave Money in an IRA and/or a 401(k) - If you work for an employer with a 401(k) or 403(b) plan, take advantage of it.  Have your employer withhold some of your pretax income and put it towards your retirement.  Some corporations will even match the donations of their employees, which means you will be able to accumulate wealth twice as fast!  The younger you are when you start saving, the better off you will be when you finally stop working.  However, even if you are in your 50s when you start, you may still be able to put aside 10 to 15 years worth of savings, which could make a huge difference in the quality of your retirement.If you are self-employed or do not have a 401(k) or 403(b) plan where you work, save money in an IRA instead.  You can even have both, if you have enough excess income.  However, if you save too much money, not all of it may be tax free.  It is still beneficial to save as much as you can towards retirement.Talk to a Financial Planner about How to Invest Your Savings - If you are in a 401(k) or 403(b), your employer may give you a menu of mutual funds, tell you to pick one or two, and that is where they will invest your contributions.  The same thing could happen with an IRA, if you decide to set up an automatic withdrawal and investment program.  Most of us could use a little help in choosing the best investment plan, however.  It will probably be worth your time and money to talk to a certified financial planner or investment advisor representative.  Get their recommendations on how to invest your savings for growth when you are young, and for income when you get ready to retire.  Be sure to diversify your investments so you do not have too much money in one type of fund or investment.Pay off Your Debts As You Approach Retirement - Nearly everyone will have a more comfortable retirement if they keep their debts to a minimum after they retire.  The closer you are to retirement, the more important it is to have a plan to eliminate all your student loans and credit card debts.  If you can also pay off your home and car, you are going to have a lower cost-of-living once you are living on Social Security and your savings. Get an Estimate of Your Future Social Security and Pension Income - Everyone should periodically get estimates of how much they can expect to receive in the future from Social Security benefits and any employer funded pensions.  Everyone needs to know how much income they can expect to have after retirement. You also need to understand how much you could increase your income by postponing your retirement by a few years.Come Up With a Retirement Budget - Estimate how much it will cost you to live after you retire.  If you have a large gap between your current expenses and anticipated income, investigate the steps you can take to reduce your expenses by downsizing, for example, and how you can increase your income by taking steps such as postponing your retirement age.  If necessary, you may also consider getting a retirement job which will help increase your income.  It can be a fun job, as long as it produces enough income to make your feel more financially secure.Talk to Your Financial Planner or Advisor about Turning Your 401(k) or IRA into Income - Once you are ready to retire, find out how much money you can withdraw from your IRA and still be assured you will have enough money to last the rest of your life.  Discuss the 3 percent withdrawal rate, dividend funds, annuities, bonds and other invest[...]

Hidden Costs in Assisted Living Facilities


The cost of living in a skilled nursing home, assisted living facility or memory care unit varies greatly across the United States.  Charges can vary from around $3,000 to $7,000 a month for basic expenses, but hidden fees can drive the cost much higher.  It is these unexpected charges that sometimes cause the greatest stress for families trying to keep a relative in a comfortable facility.Basic Costs for Senior Living While the exact prices will vary at different facilities and in various parts of the country, below is a list of sample basic charges from a facility which offers different levels of care in Orange County, California. Their basic charges are for independent living.  The costs increase as the resident begins to need more types of care.The least expensive level is independent living.  This includes meals, weekly housekeeping, and access to activities, exercise classes, a fitness center and swimming pool.Below were the basic monthly charges for one person living in the sample facility in 2016:Junior Studio          $3177Small Studio           $3167Large Studio           $3539 - $3609One Bedroom         $4162 - $4343Two Bedroom         $5324 - $5429If two people are living in the same apartment, there is an additional monthly fee of $1000.  Upon moving into this particular facility, there is also a non-refundable processing fee of $1500.Residents can also expect these monthly rents to increase periodically.Additional Hidden Costs of Assisted LivingWhat many retirees and their families do not expect is that there could be a number of necessary extras which can dramatically increase the cost of living in the typical assisted living facility.  Below are examples of some of the possible fees.  While these are just a sample of possible charges, based on one facility, everyone should ask about the cost of these services before they select a residence, because these charges can potentially amount to thousands of dollars above the cost of basic housing.Medication Management:        $410 - $525 a monthDressing / morning hygiene:     $400 a monthUndressing / evening hygiene:  $400 a monthEscorting residents to meals/activities:  $300 a monthChecking on resident every two hours:  $500 a monthIncontinence Care:                  $600 a monthCueing (reminders):                 $120 a monthStand-by during showers:         $480 a month for 7 showers a weekFull Assistance in showers:       $700 a monthTreatments for wounds, etc:     $10 per treatmentBlood pressure or sugar monitoring:    $40 per checkLaundry:                                 $100 a monthOther types of assistance:         $4 to $15 per service  As you can see, someone could easily be charged as much as $3,500 to $4000 over the basic apartment rental, if the resident needed a great deal of personal assistance and attention.  Of course, few people will need all of those types of assistance.Memory Care Facilities are All-InclusiveIf you or your loved one needs to move into a Memory Care Residence, the expectation is that they will need 24 hour a day personalized care, so many types of assistance are already included in the $6844 a month fee for the sample residence.  However, there could be additional charges for any special medical or personal services they need.Ask About Hidden Expenses Before Choosing a FacilityWhile this article used examples of charges from only one facility, it is intended to educate aging seniors and their families on the types of hidden expenses they m[...]

How to Choose a Financial Advisor


Do you rely on your friends, neighbors or brother-in-law when it comes to investing your money?  How much do they know about different investment products such as insurance, annuities, mutual funds, tax-free bonds and stocks?  Even if they know a little about those products, do they know which ones are the best for you?  You need to find a fiduciary such as a Registered Investment Advisor or Certified Financial Planner who is knowledgeable and will put your needs first.What Should an Investment Advisor Do For You?A fiduciary should work for you.  They should put your needs first ... above their own.  They should offer a variety of products and combinations of products which are designed to meet your goals ... whether that is to increase the value of your assets, protect your portfolio for the benefit of your family, or provide a lifetime income for you and your spouse.The fiduciary should do this and, at the same time, help you avoid high commission products, funds which are heavily front-loaded, or investments which give large incentives to the salesmen.In fact, a fiduciary should be creating a comprehensive investment plan designed to meet your needs, without causing you to pay unnecessary or excessive commissions.What Are Examples of Fiduciaries?The type of investment advisor you are seeking could be a LPL - Financial Advisor, a CFP - Certified Financial Planner, an IAR - Investment Advisor Representative, or someone with a similar background, education and designation.The person you choose should have knowledge about tax planning, asset allocation, risk management, retirement planning and estate planning.  They should also know about a wide variety of investment products, including life insurance, annuities, growth stocks, dividend stocks, tax-free bonds and funds.  They should be capable of putting together a balanced portfolio which is diversified.  They should not rely on just one type of product or products from only one company.How Can You Find a Reliable Financial Advisor?Your first step in choosing a financial advisor is to see if they are a Certified Financial Advisor, an Investment Advisor Representative, or one of the similar designations mentioned above. Next, ask them what agency oversees their business.  It should either be FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) or the SEC (the Securities and Exchange Commission).  Some advisors may be registered with both.  Your advisor or other employees of their company may also hold insurance licenses, be a CPA and or have other professional designations and certifications.  Go to the appropriate regulatory agencies and check out both the advisor and their company.  Confirm they are licensed and see if any complaints have been filed against them.  You are also looking to see if the information the agencies have is the same as what the advisor has told you.  You need to be confident they are not touting a phony degree or designation which does not exist.You can also used the website Brightscope to see what licenses they hold and if there are any disclosures about them.Finally, you may simply want to Google their name and see what comments there are on the internet about them.  A few vague complaints may not be a problem.  However, too many negative comments and indications of disciplinary actions against them could be a red flag.When Should You be Concerned About Your Financial Advisor?Financial advisors are required by law to avoid conflicts of interest and to put the needs of the client above their own.  They should give you a wide range of advice, but not make you feel you are getting a "hard sell" on any particular products.A Financial Advisor should also keep you informed and disclose any news which might arise affecting your investments and financial planning.Despite the research you have done prior to hiring a financial advi[...]

Beware of Collectible Gold Coin Investments


Retirees are often warned about the wide variety of scams which are aimed at them.  The August/September 2016 issue of AARP Magazine devoted several pages to a scam that has cost many older Americans thousands of dollars after they purchased what they thought was a very secure, safe investment ... collectible coins.Risks of Collectible Coins The problem develops when people who are not experienced coin collectors make purchases without having the items examined by an outside appraiser.  Because the value of the quality of a coin can be subjective, buyers are often charged far more than the items are worth.In addition, the price of gold and silver can fluctuate wildly.  People often invest in precious metals when they feel insecure about world events or the stock market.  They think owning gold and silver is a safe, secure way to protect their assets and many people like the idea of owning investments they can hold in their hands and keep in their safety deposit box or in a lock box at home.However, the price of gold and silver bullion is frequently at its highest during times of uncertainty and international instability.  Once events calm down and the world situation becomes more stable, the price of bullion drops and, along with it, the value of collectible coins.Between the subjective nature surrounding the quality of a collectible coin and the wild fluctuations in the price of gold and silver, it is possible for investors to lose a large portion of their assets very quickly.Thousands of Americans Have Lost Money in Collectible Coins A U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging report from 2014 estimated that over 10,000 Americans have been the victims of precious metal cons and the losses have amounted to about $300 million.According to the AARP article mentioned above, investors are often the victims of "bait and switch."  They see an ad for precious metals at near-dealer prices.  When they contact the business, the sales people talk them into purchasing "collectible" coins rather than bullion.  They are told the coins will appreciate faster.  However, the mark-up for these coins is often so high that it is actually nearly impossible for the buyers to ever recover their purchase price, let alone make a profit.How to Minimize Your Risk if You Invest in Collectible Coins While there are reputable dealers, it is important that investors minimize the amount of their savings which is invested in precious metals.  Some financial advisors recommend they limit their exposure to 5 percent or less of their total holdings.  They should also work with either registered brokers or dealers who are accredited by the Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG).  It is also important to do plenty of research and educate yourself.  Don't rush into it.  See more than one dealer and consider getting an independent appraisal of any coins you consider purchasing.Senior citizens are the victims of scams more often than any other age group.  Don't let your retirement get derailed by unscrupulous salespeople. Are you interested in more information about financial planning for retirement, where to retire, common medical problems, 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 articles.You are reading from the blog: credit: [...]

Medicare Changes Planned by Congress


There is a great deal of nervousness and confusion surrounding changes to Medicare in the coming years.  In fact, many retirees and working adults near retirement age do not realize these changes were already set in motion in 2014 and, unless something happens to stop them, they could dramatically change the way people on Medicare receive their benefits.  As a result, I did more research on the current plans, the changes which are coming and, finally, I consulted AARP through their Facebook page to get clarification on exactly what is being proposed.What are the Current Medicare Choices?Currently, Medicare recipients have three choices for receiving their benefits.1.  Basic Medicare only - Medicare pays about 80 percent of approved costs for hospitalization and doctor visits, including a short period of time in a skilled nursing or rehabilitation facility each year, when medically appropriate.  The medical procedures, lab tests and care which Medicare will cover are specified as defined benefits.  The beneficiary pays the cost of anything not covered by the government fixed benefits. 2.  Basic Medicare plus a supplemental insurance policy - This is currently the most popular choice for the majority of retirees, with beneficiaries using basic Medicare as their primary insurance carrier and buying a supplemental policy as a way to cover the 20 percent of their medical bills which are not covered by basic Medicare.  Beneficiaries pay a premium for their supplemental policy.  The premiums vary widely depending on the size of the co-pays and deductibles.3.  Medicare Advantage plans - These plans are currently a type of voucher system with both a defined benefit and a defined contribution from the government.  Medicare pays a monthly premium (defined contribution) to the insurance company you choose, and the insurance company takes care of covering your medical care (defined benefit).  You may find a policy with either no additional premiums or which only have a small additional premium over the government's defined contribution.  You do not deal directly with Medicare; you only deal with your doctors and chosen insurance carrier.  Under a Medicare Advantage Plan, you have a defined benefit.  This means your policy has to cover AT LEAST all the benefits you would receive under basic Medicare.  It also has a defined contribution, which is the size of the voucher the government pays your insurance carrier.What Would Be Different Under the Proposed Medicare Changes?Essentially, under a 2015 House Budge Resolution which came out of a committee headed by Paul Ryan and was passed by the House of Representatives in 2014, Congress would like to drop the government's responsibility for guaranteeing a basic level of medical care for all senior citizens.  Medicare beneficiaries would no longer be assured they would have defined benefits.  Instead, ALL beneficiaries would be switched to a voucher system where they could purchase a Medicare plan which is either fee-for-service or from a private insurance carrier.The government would no longer guarantee that seniors would be entitled to specific medical benefits.  You would pick an insurance company which could offer a range of choices, depending on how much you are willing to pay in additional premiums, above the government voucher.  As a result, the poorest Medicare beneficiaries are the people most likely to choose policies with no additional premiums. This means they could have high co-pays, high deductibles, fewer choices in physicians and fewer benefits.  AARP is concerned the poorest people could end up deeply in debt in order to cover medical expenses they incur late in life.Analysis by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and MedicareOne organization which is following this issue c[...]

Products for Safer Aging in Your Home


By the time you are in your 70s or 80s, there is a very good chance you will either be living alone or with a partially disabled spouse. Since the vast majority of senior citizens choose to live independently in their own home or apartment, seniors may feel more secure if they take advantage of modern technology to help them age safely.As you age, you may begin to feel lonely and isolated, especially if it becomes difficult to drive or walk long distances.  You may also become uncomfortable if familiar neighbors move away and strangers occupy the neighboring homes.  In some cases, you could become unsure who to rely on in an emergency. However, there are a few simple purchases you can make which will keep you connected to the outside world and help you feel safer.There are a wide variety of safety options available.  Most of them are useful long before you need them because of aging.  The items mentioned below fall into three categories ... items which will keep you safe from intruders, tools to make it easier to get help in an emergency, and products to reduce accidents in your home.  Products to Protect Yourself from IntrudersSecurity Systems - Security systems are available from a number of companies including ADT and Costco.  When activated, they will sound an alarm if someone enters a door or window.  If the system you choose is connected to a monitoring company, the agent can contact the police or fire department if there are signs of an intruder or fire.Ring Video Doorbell - If you simply want to know who is ringing your doorbell, the Ring Video doorbell has a camera which connects to your smartphone and will show you who is standing at your door, whether you are home or not.  It also allows you to speak to the person without opening your door.  You can even tell the UPS deliveryman to leave a package at your door, so you do not have to open the door to a stranger, especially if you are not expecting a delivery.Motion-detector lights - If the area around your home is dark, motion-detector lights which come on automatically when anyone approaches will make intruders more visible and likely to flee if they are trying to break into your home.  It will also make you more aware of the fact that a person or animal has approached your home. Home Depot, Lowe's and lighting supply companies can sell you the light fixtures and arrange installation, although some of the devices can be easily screwed into an existing fixture.Products for Contacting Assistance in an EmergencyPersonal Safety Devices - You have probably seen the television ads with an elderly person falling and calling out, "Help, I can't get up."  The older you are, the greater the possibility this could actually happen.  There are several companies, such as Great Call, Life Alert and Medical Alert, which have products that can solve this problem.  You wear a bracelet or pendant and, should you need an ambulance, the fire department, or the police, you only need to press a button in order to be connected to a response agent who will call a friend, neighbor or the appropriate emergency service for you. Some of the devices work only in your home when you are near the transmitter.  Others will work wherever you go.  Make sure you understand how the system works before you purchase it.Jitterbug and other Smart Phones - If you do not want to wear a medical alert pendant or bracelet, you could purchase a product like the Jitterbug phone which is an easy-to-use cell phone, texting and email device; it also doubles as a personal safety device which comes with Great Call's safety app.  You simply press an icon on the face of the phone and will be connected directly to a response agent who can get you the help you need.  If you do not want to purchase a new device, you can[...]

Strengthen the Memory of Your Spouse


Most of the focus on dementia, including Alzheimer's Disease, has been on what you can do to reduce your own risk of losing your memory.  But what if you are worried about your spouse's memory?  Is there anything you can do to help them?  According to the "Healthy You" column in the August/September 2016 issue of AARP Magazine, there are actually a number of steps we can take if we start to notice that our spouse is starting to have memory issues ... and you don't even have to tell them what you are doing!How to Help Your Spouse's Memory (and Your Own)The good news is that anything you do to help your spouse's memory will also help improve yours.  In this way, you both benefit.  Below are their recommendations:Babysit your grandkids occasionally - According to Australian research, watching grandchildren once or twice a week stimulates our memories, but only if it doesn't become a daily grind.  Keep things fresh and new by doing it no more than twice a week.  Having fun with your grandchildren will also prevent a common problem as we age ... isolation and loneliness.Both of you should lie down for a daily nap - A German study showed that getting enough rest improves our memories and a 45 to 90 minute nap has been shown to help us retain more information.Explore your creativity - Mayo Clinic researchers discovered that having an artistic hobby during both middle age and old age reduces your likelihood of cognitive decline by a whopping 73 percent!  Encourage your spouse to pull out that old paint set, pick up the guitar, sign up for classes, or join a group.  While you're at it, explore your own creative side, too!Do home repairs together - Doing home repairs is another way to draw on our creative juices.  Columbia University discovered that measuring, building, painting and making repairs requires us to activate our memories.  Exercise together - Over and over again, different researchers have shown that any exercise that is good for the heart is also good for the brain ... since our brain is using about 20% of the blood in our body at any given time.  The effect of exercise on the the brain is so impressive that the Georgia Institute of Technology discovered that just one 20 minute exercise session can improve a person's long-term memory by around 10 percent!Have a drink together - Up to one or two alcoholic beverages in a day have been shown to help your memory, in some studies.  However, if you don't drink, don't take it up in the hope that it will improve your health.  There are other techniques which are just as effective.  In addition, too much alcohol can do more harm than good and alcohol often has negative interactions with many of the medications senior citizens are prescribed.Eat a healthy diet - A balanced diet is an important part of any memory prevention program.  Among the foods which were specifically mentioned in the AARP Magazine article were asparagus, shrimp, split peas and walnuts.  In other articles I have read, dark green vegetables and fatty fish are often recommended, as well. How to Tell If You Need to See a Doctor (or Send Your Spouse to One) about Memory LossLet's face it.  All of us occasionally forget a name, miss an appointment or lose our keys.  When does that normal memory loss become something which should worry us?  The AARP Magazine article suggested you should discuss memory loss with your doctor if you answer "yes" to two or more of the questions listed below:Do you look forward to lunch with friends, but forget to go?Do you have trouble following a recipe you have made many times before?Do you always have to rely on notes or your phone to remember things?Do you have trouble remembering today's date or what season it is?Are you paranoid and beli[...]

Medical Malpractice and Healthcare Mistakes


In a 2016 study by Johns Hopkins University, researchers discovered that over 250,000 deaths a year are caused by healthcare mistakes.  This means that medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the U.S., after heart disease and cancer.In addition, government investigators released a report in July, 2016 which revealed that approximately one-third of patients in rehab facilities are harmed while undergoing treatment.  The types of harm range from being given the wrong medication to being given an infection or bedsores. What are some of the most common types of medical malpractice and what steps can you take to protect yourself and your loved ones?  According to an article in the September, 2016 AARP Bulletin titled "12 Ways the Healthcare System May Be Harming You," below are the most common problems and how to avoid them.A WRONG MEDICAL DIAGNOSISDoctors often miss even common causes for a patient's symptoms, so it is important for everyone to read up on their diagnosis, ask for their test results, get re-tested if they have doubts and get second opinions if they still have doubts about the diagnosis they have been given.SLOPPY CAREOne common issue today is that an estimated 45 percent of patients do not get the recommended care for their condition.  It is important patients ask in advance for the details of their treatment.  If the doctor seems vague and non-specific, get a second opinion.  Again, it never hurts to read up on your diagnosis and the common ways it is treated.  If your doctor does not not appear to be following a common treatment protocol, ask the reason for the variance.  It could be that another illness you have makes your treatment more complicated.  However, every patient has the right to understand what to expect.INADEQUATE HYGIENEWith everything we know about germs, including both bacteria and viruses, most patients assume that medical professionals take care not to infect their patients.  Sadly, this is not the case.  The CDC estimates that 721,800 infections are picked up in hospitals every year!  This means that about 1 in 25 hospital patients are suffering from an infection they picked up during their treatment.  About 75,000 of those infected patients die each year.  Patients and family members need to make sure the medical staff washes their hands and/or uses hand sanitizer regularly.  In addition, all visitors, including family members, should be careful to use good hygiene, as well.OTHER COMMON PROBLEMS AND HOW TO AVOID THEMCommunication lapses between various caregivers and medical personnel - Ask questions and try to have another person with you at the hospital and during doctor visits.  Make sure everyone who is treating you knows your full medical record.Confusing information at the time patients are discharged - Confirm that both you and another family member understands your discharge instructions, including what medications you should take, which ones to avoid, and what activities are allowed.Prescription drug mistakes and conflicts - Be certain your doctor knows all the prescriptions and over-the-counter supplements you are using.  Question the hospital caregivers or the pharmacist if a drug you are prescribed looks or tastes different than it did in the past.Doctors who are not up-to-date on the latest guidelines - Does your doctor know the latest recommendations for treating your condition?  You can investigate your care at the National Guideline Clearinghouse at  Ask you doctor if there is a reason why they are not following the latest treatment protocol.Unskilled doctors - While most doctors do an excellent job of caring for their patients, just 1 percent of doctors are responsible for nearl[...]

What is the Average Amount of Social Security?


How much will your Social Security benefits be, compared to what the average recipient receives?  Every year, the government mails you an estimate of the amount you can expect to receive in Social Security benefits when you retire.  When you look at those statements, how do you know if your benefits are about average, higher than average, or less than what the typical recipient will receive?  This article will help you determine if your retirement is on track compared to other retirees.  How Much Social Security Does the Average Retiree Receive? The numbers below are based on January, 2017 figures. If you are reading this after 2017, you can expect that the benefits will have increased slightly.  However, because the cost-of-living increases are typically modest, these numbers are unlikely to change dramatically.According to, the numbers below are for the average retiree.  Average Social Security benefits:     $1,360 a month / $16,320 a yearAverage Social Security for couple:  $2,260 a month / $27,120 a yearAlthough this is not a large amount of money, according to current government estimates, it does mean the average individual or couple will receive enough income from their Social Security benefits to not fall below the poverty line.While your Social Security income may not officially leave you in poverty, the amount is often substantially below what the average working individual or couple received in earned income, especially during the decade or two before they retired.  Consequently, the typical retiree often sees a significant drop in income, if their Social Security benefits are their only source of income during retirement.How Much Will Your Benefits Increase Each Year?Social Security benefits only increase at the rate of inflation, because retirees periodically receive a cost-of-living increase.  However, over the past few years, the cost-of-living increases have been either mostly or entirely eaten up by increases in Medicare premiums.  In other words, Social Security recipients frequently do not receive any increase in their annual benefits, even when there is inflation.To make matters worse, the government is considering changing the way it estimates the rate of inflation for Social Security beneficiaries.  Currently, they use the CPI-W, which is the abbreviation for the Consumer Price Index for Workers.  This is the increase in the cost of consumer goods and services which the average worker has experienced over the period of a year.  However, the government wants to change to using a Chained CPI. The Chained CPI is a less generous Consumer Price Index which assumes that, as prices go up, a retiree will substitute their purchases for less expensive items. Therefore, cost-of-living increases can be smaller.  The Chained CPI does not take into consideration the fact that many retirees are already purchasing the least expensive items they possibly can.In addition, neither Consumer Price Index considers the fact that many retirees actually spend more money on certain items after they retire.  For example, they may spend more on medical care or to hire people to help them do yard work or clean their homes.What Happens to a Couple's Social Security if one Spouse Dies?Another problem is that a married couple will see their household income drop by approximately 33 to 40 percent when one spouse dies.  This is because the surviving spouse will only be paid the higher of his or her own benefit or that of their deceased spouse ... but not both.  Since their house payments, property taxes, utilities and similar expenses will not decrease when their spouse dies, the surviving spouse may suddenly find themselves in wor[...]

Tips for a Sharper Brain and Better Memory


While most of us will not completely lose our memory to Alzheimer's Disease or another form of dementia, there may be times when nearly all of us feel as though our thinking is a bit fuzzy or we cannot remember as well as we used to.  At the same time, we are constantly amazed by some of our peers who seem to stay "sharp as a tack."  Is there anything the rest of us can do to have a sharper brain and clear memory?  According to a number of leading experts, the answer is "Yes."The Connection Between Your Heart and BrainOur brain is dependent on the nutrients which our heart sends its way.  According to Dr. Hannah Gardener in the Department of Neurology at the University of Miami, the stronger our heart, the less cognitive decline we will experience.  She suggests that everyone strives to meet as many of the goals on this list as possible:Stop SmokingHave a BMI of under 25Be physically active at least 150 minutes a weekHave a total cholesterol under 200 mg/dLHave a healthy blood pressure under 120/80 mmHgHave a healthy blood sugar under 100 mg/dLEat a diet rich in fruits, veggies and whole gains; low in sodium and sweetsEven if you cannot achieve all of the above goals perfectly, the closer you come, the better off your brain will be.Follow the MIND DietThis blog has discussed the MIND diet before.  It is short for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.  MIND is much easier to remember.  Below is a brief summary of the diet, although anyone who wants to follow it would be smart to get a more detailed book on the subject.DO EAT6 servings of salad a week7 servings of other vegetables a week2 servings of berries a week5 servings of nuts a week3 servings of whole grains a day1 serving of fish (not fried) every week3 servings of beans a week2 servings of poultry a weekUse extra-virgin olive oil instead of butterOptional: 1 glass of wine a dayLIMIT THESE FOODSButter - no more than one tablespoon a dayCheese - no more than one serving a weekRed meat - no more than four servings a weekFried foods - less than one serving a weekSweets and pastries - no more than five servings a weekExercise Your BrainResearch has shown that people who regularly give their bodies and brains a work-out are able to postpone the signs of cognitive decline.  Here are some of the things everyone should do:Get exercise - walk, cycle, swim and lift light weights - 150 minutes a weekPlay games - chess, board games, puzzles, etc.Meditate - spend your "down time" meditating a few minutes every dayExplore Your Artistic Side - sing, act, draw, paint or play an instrumentRead - in particular, read books as well as newspapers or magazinesOther Health and Lifestyle ChangesIn addition to the above recommendations, research has shown a link between socializing with others and having a higher level of cognition.  On the other hand, people who are lonely tend to have poorer brain health.  Stay in touch with family and friends.  Join a club.  If you are religious, get involved in a place of worship.  Sign up to take classes.  The more time you spend interacting with other people and learning new things, the more likely you will be able to postpone dementia.In addition, see your doctor regularly and treat any other problems you may have, including emotional ones.  People who have depression in middle age are at a higher risk for cognitive decline in later life.  People who have sleep problems also see more rapid mental decline as they age.  Talk to your doctor about any health issues you are experiencing and get them treated.   Medications and DementiaIf you believe that you or a loved one is experiencing signs of dementia, see your d[...]

How Much Retirement Income Will You Have?


Many people mistakenly believe that every time they misplace their car keys or forget an appointment, it is an early sign of dementia ... including Alzheimer's Disease.  The truth is that everyone sometimes forgets something.  However, that does not mean that early diagnosis of dementia is not possible.  Researchers have discovered that changes in behavior or personality could be a better way to predict dementia than occasional forgetfulness.Mild Behavioral Impairment Could Indicate Brain ChangesDr. Zahinoor Ismail of the University of Calgary and his team of researchers have compiled a checklist of symptoms which could be a red flag for doctors and families who are watching for signs of mental decline.  In putting together the checklist, they discovered that the brain changes that eventually lead to dementia can affect other parts of the brain years earlier.  In fact, people can develop signs of behavior impairment as much as a decade or two before they begin to show memory loss.Symptoms of Behavioral ChangesAmong the behavior changes which could be symptoms of future dementia are:Has the patient lost interest in their favorite activities?Are they getting unusually anxious, aggressive or suspicious?Are they making crude or inappropriate comments in public?Have they developed signs of depression?Are they experiencing "sundowning" ... agitation or memory problems which are worse late in the day?Have they become apathetic?Do they get anxious about activities which have always been routine?Are they losing their impulse control?Have they started flaunting social norms?Are they losing their appetite or showing less interest in food?Dr Ismail emphasizes that these changes should be new problems that last more than six months.  In addition, they should not be problems that can be explained in other ways, such as by a clear mental health diagnosis or the recent death of a loved one. These need to be new behaviors. Early Treatment Can Delay Alzheimer's Disease and Other Types of DementiaIf you notice that you or someone you love has developed recent personality or behavioral changes, it could be worth it to discuss the problem with your family doctor.  There are treatments which have been successful in slowing the progression of dementia.  It is also possible that early treatment could be even more successful if it is started as soon as mild behavioral impairment is noticed.Medications are available to help people control their depression, anxiety and irritability, which could make life easier for both the patients and their family members.Other Ways to Slow Down DementiaMany researchers believe working crossword puzzles and playing a variety of brain games could slow down the development of dementia.  While these games may help, it is possible that social activities could be even more important.  Researchers from the University of Wisconsin reported their findings that "complex jobs that require working with people may help the brain build resilience against dementia, what's called 'cognitive reserve.'"  In addition to being engaged in complex activities with other people, researchers from the University of South Florida discovered that reaction-time training could significantly decrease your risk of being diagnosed with dementia.  In the study, led by Dr. Jerri Edwards, 14 percent of people in a control group that received no intervention were diagnosed with dementia a decade later.  Those who had received just ten hours of reaction-time training over a five-week period lowered their risk of a dementia diagnosis to 12 percent; those who continued to get extra booster training lowered their rate of diagnosis to 8 per[...]