Subscribe: Baby Boomer Retirement
Preview: Baby Boomer Retirement

Baby Boomer Retirement

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

Updated: 2017-06-26T11:18:42.684-07:00


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 family home where they raised their own children or move into a similar community.  Younger grandparents who are still in good physical condition may be able to continue to hold down a job and raise their grandchildren.Low-income grandparents also have a few resources available to them.  For example, they can apply to receive Section 8 housing vouchers or to move into low-income family apartments. Financial Aid for Low-Income GrandparentsIn some state[...]

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:  In the AARP Magazine article, Perrine also discussed other complex situations such as paying for an expensive wedding, co-signing a lease or mortgage, giving or loaning your children money for a down-payment on a home, helping an adult child with young children recover from a divorce, investing in a business opportunity which interests your kids, or paying for graduate school.  In each situation, you need to ask yourself if the gift or loan is nece[...]

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 very temperate and it is surrounded by other affordable small towns such as Atascadero, Nipomo, Arroyo Grande, Paso Robles, and Templeton.  One of my granddaughters went to college in this town and we enjoyed visiting her and strolling through this attractive village.San Antonio, Texas - The charming River Walk, across the street from the famous Alamo Mission, is reason enough to love this appealing Texas town.  The city has a wide variety of urban acti[...]

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 Protection 411-2372If you feel you have been deceived by someone promoting a financial product, such as a loan, bank service, credit report, debt collection, or credit card, contact the CFPB.  Your should also contact them if you believe a company or one of their employees stole your identity.  They will contact the company providing the service and give them 15 days to respond.  The CFPB tries to resolve compla[...]

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 amenities and provide an excellent opportunity to socialize and make friends.Remember:  Being sociable not only makes you happier and improves your outlook, but can prolong your life.  The more involved you are with other people on a regular basis, the better off you will be.If you want to learn more about common health issues as we age, financial planning, where to retire, changing family relationships, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tab[...]

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 reallocate your assets in order to increase your income and reduce your risk.In addition, a financial planner can help you determine how much more money you might need to put aside in savings during your remaining working years, what age you should begin to collect your Social Security, what changes you need to make to your lifestyle, and the tax ramifications of making withdrawals from your IRA or 401(k).  The financial planner can also help you decide if so[...]

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 strangers you "meet" online.  No matter how compelling or sad their story is, there is no way for you to verify they are telling you the truth.  Be suspicious, even if they show you "evidence."  Many of these scammers work in groups and they are very good at vouching for each other or producing realistic looking documents.4.  Be very slow to send money to anyone.  Just because someone else seems to be having an emergency, you do not have to rus[...]

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 minimize your expenses during retirement.5.  Discuss your retirement plans with a certified financial planner to make sure your savings are invested appropriately to maximize your earnings and growth. What to do if You Have Already RetiredIf you have already retired and realize you are going through your savings much more quickly than you expected, you may want to see if you can find a part-time job and reduce the size of your savings withdrawals ... or even [...]

How to Find Jobs Late in Life


Many people nearing retirement age will need to keep working until they are in their 60s or 70s in order to have enough money to support themselves and their families.  However, sometimes people lose their jobs in their 50s, or they work in physically demanding jobs and know their bodies will not be able to take the punishment much longer.  What can people do when they need to change jobs late in life?The good news is that it is quite possible to find new careers or less physically demanding jobs as you age. My husband and I have known a number of people who have started new careers in their later years.  Most of them found the jobs through the normal application process.  However, for those who have trouble finding a new job on their own, there are special programs to help them.How to Find an Job After 50Whether you are looking for a new job because you are no longer physically able to handle your current one, or because you were fired or laid off, you may believe you are getting too old to find another career.  Some people talk themselves into the idea that no one will hire them after they have reached a certain age. However, you may be pleasantly surprised to know there are more opportunities than you realize, if you know where to find them.  Below is a list of organizations which could make your job search a little easier.BankWork$ - This is a free training program which teaches people of all ages how to become bank tellers and customer-service reps.  They will also help you polish your resume and find a job.  You can get more information at of Labor Job Centers - The Department of Labor operates over 2,000 American Job Centers which are committed to helping workers of all ages who either want to be re-trained or find a new job.  These centers are also called CareerOneStop and you can find more information about them at Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) - Although the Department of Labor program mentioned above is for people of all ages, SCSEP is specifically for unemployed people ages 55 and older who have low household incomes.  The program participants are paid the minimum wage while they get experience working for nonprofits and public institutions.  SCSEP is affiliated with the National Council on Aging (NCOA).  You can get more information on the NCOA website at  AARP Back to Work 50+ - This AARP program works with community colleges, nonprofit partners and workforce boards to help people over the age of 55 who do not qualify for SCSEP because their household income is too high.  You can call (855) 850-2525 for more information about the program.Where Else Can You Find Help Getting a New Job?If you have explored the above organizations, but are interested in seeing what other options are available in your community, here are a few additional ideas to help you find a new career, even if you are 55 or older.Attend job fairs in your community - They may lead you to jobs you never considered ... either full or part-time, permanent or temporary. A wide variety of jobs can often be found at these local events.Apply to your local community college - Local colleges frequently offer training programs and job placement assistance with businesses in the community.  Many of them offer training which meets the specific needs of factories, industries and businesses in your town.Contact local unions and trade associations about job opportunities - At the very least, these organizations can often put you in touch with job training and apprenticeship programs.Visit your neighborhood senior center - Senior centers not only hire senior citizens themselves, but they often know of job opportunities for retire[...]

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.  Ther[...]

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 [...]

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[...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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.  AA[...]

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 dev[...]

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, bu[...]

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 guideline[...]

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 [...]

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 m[...]

Early Diagnosis of Dementia is Possible


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 lat[...]

Proposed Changes to Medicare


At the beginning of 2017, over 57 million American citizens, or approximately 15 percent of the U.S. population, relied on Medicare for their health insurance coverage.  With more than 10,000 people turning age 65 every DAY, this number is expected to grow in the coming years.  According to a poll by Kaiser Permanente Healthcare, which offers a popular Medicare Advantage program in some states, 77 percent of people consider Medicare a "very important" program.  Despite its popularity, Congress is fast-tracking their own proposals to privatize Medicare within eight years.What Changes Does Congress Want to Make to Medicare?Since the time Medicare was established in 1965, it has always been a "defined benefit" program, which means they guaranteed a certain level of health coverage.  When the Affordable Care Act was passed, the defined benefits were improved to include free preventive services such as flu shots and screenings for diabetes and cancer.  Under the current program, Medicare pays for 80 percent of the cost of doctor and hospital visits.  The beneficiaries either pay for the remaining 20 percent out-of pocket or they use a private insurance company in the form of a supplemental insurance policy or Medicare Advantage plan to cover most of their remaining expenses.Congress is now considering changing from a "defined benefit" program to a "defined contribution" plan.  Their plan could also be called a voucher system.  Under the proposed plan, the government would give people a voucher to help with the cost of their insurance premiums, forcing senior citizens to shop for their own private medical insurance.  In addition, Congress wants to increase the eligibility age from 65 to 67.  Their goal is to limit how much the government spends on Medicare, despite the fact that nearly all U.S. citizens have been paying into Medicare their entire working lives ... some of them for decades.What this new plan would do is put the responsibility for obtaining insurance on the backs of senior citizens.  The government would give you a voucher which you could use to pay for a discount on a private insurance policy, which you would be responsible for finding.  You would then have to pay any difference between the value of the voucher and the actual cost of your insurance premiums.  There would be no guarantee that the government voucher would cover a specific percentage of your insurance premiums.  In addition, you would be responsible for whatever deductibles and co-pays are required by your new insurance plan.  It is possible that seniors who cannot afford to pay these extra expenses would simply go without insurance or would buy the cheapest insurance with the highest deductibles.  This could cause them to avoid obtaining medical care except in the most extreme circumstances.People over the age of 60 would be able to stay with traditional Medicare.  However, the new plan would gradually decrease the benefits and increase the costs which beneficiaries must pay.  The goal is to eventually "encourage" current Medicare beneficiaries to switch to the voucher program.Could President Trump Veto the Proposed Changes to Medicare?The only way to stop the above changes from going into effect would be if public pressure causes Congress to change its mind, or if President Trump vetoes the changes after Congress passes them.  While he[...]

Proposed Changes to Social Security


Nearly every adult American knows the Social Security Administration will face a financial shortfall when the trust fund runs out of cash in 2034. If nothing is done, both current and future retirees will face benefit cuts of approximately 21 percent.  In order to keep this safety net at full strength, changes have to be made.  The good news is that Social Security is in no danger of going completely bankrupt.  As long as there are people in the workforce, the government will receive payroll taxes which are large enough to cover approximately 80 percent of what they are obligated to pay.  What the government is trying to find, however, is a way to make up for that 20 percent shortfall.If you are curious about the proposed changes to Social Security which are under consideration by the new, Republican-controlled Congress, there is a list of the proposals below.  According to a series of articles posted on the Fox News website, including one titled "7 Ways the GOP's Proposed Social Security Changes Could Impact Your Pocketbook," a number of ideas are under discussion.  Some of these proposed changes will affect current retirees; others will have a larger effect on people who will reach retirement age in the next decade or two.  Some of the proposals will receive wide support; others will be more controversial.It is important to remember that the proposals listed below are just that ... proposals.  The final bill may differ from what is being considered, particularly if citizens become upset by any of these proposals and contact their individual U.S. Representatives and Senators to complain.  Whether you support or object to the ideas under consideration, now is the time to let Congress know your opinion.Proposed Changes to Social Security1.  First, no new revenues are currently under consideration.  The proposals which have been put forth so far do not include any increase in Social Security withholding; nor do they include an increase in the amount of wages which are subject to Social Security withholding.2.  Between 2023 and 2030, the full retirement age (which will be 67 in 2022) would gradually increase to age 69.3.  Beginning in 2023, the way Social Security benefits are calculated would change slightly.  Low-income beneficiaries and people who have worked over 35 years would receive a small increase; those who have above-average incomes would see their benefits decrease slightly.4.  Beginning in December, 2018, cost-of-living increases would be lower because a different consumer price index would be used.  Instead of the the current CPI-W index, a chained CPI would be used.  The difference is that a chained CPI assumes that inflation causes people to make substitutions when they cannot afford their current expenses.  This means they might move to a less expensive home, buy more affordable cars, or switch from name-brand to generic products.  As a result, according to the chain-weighted CPI, the "real" inflation most people experience is not as large as the actual rate of inflation.  The AARP has long opposed this change, arguing that many seniors already have cut out as much as they can and a chain-weighted CPI could cause even more seniors to eventually end up in poverty.5.  Some retirees would receive no cost-of-living increases at all after they retire.  Those af[...]