Wednesday, May 24, 2017

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 Socialization

Since 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 tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

For an overview of retirement, watch for my book Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement, which will be released by Griffin Publishing and Watering Seeds in the fall of 2017.

You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credit:  morguefile.com

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

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 Checkup

Of 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 Expenses

Once 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 Planner

Even 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 some of your current assets should be placed in a Roth IRA, to reduce your future taxes.

After going through all the numbers, first by yourself and then with a financial planner, you will feel much more confident about your retirement plans. Your goal is to be comfortable and confident when you stop working.

For an overview of retirement planning, watch for my book Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement which will be published by Griffin Publishing and Watering Seeds in the fall of 2017.

If you are interested in learning more about financial planning, where to retire, common medical issues and changing family relationships, 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:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credit:  morguefile.com

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

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 Scammers

While 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 rush to send them money.  Take your time.  Whenever you consider sending money to someone, even a relative, discuss the decision with other family members. If necessary, call the police or the U.S. State Department and ask for their help in confirming that the situation is legitimate, particularly if the "crisis" is occurring in another country.  

5.  Never click on links in emails which are sent by strangers.  You should only click on links in emails sent by friends if you are expecting the link.  Your friend's email service could have been hacked.  Email links can allow scammers to take over your computer remotely.  Once they do, they can find anything you may have on your computer ... banking information, contacts, photos, passwords, etc.  For example, I have told my friends that if they send me a joke or interesting story and I have to open a link to read it, I will not open the link unless I am expecting them to send me this information.  We can't be too careful.

6.  Be careful about what you say on social media.  Make sure your Facebook posts have a privacy setting of "Friends only."  Do not reveal too much about yourself; especially do not give details about where you live and then announce when you are out-of-town.  Some people make it far too easy to be robbed.  In addition, be careful of the social media questionnaires which ask personal information about you such as your birth date, place of birth, maiden name, etc.  Combined with other information about you which is publicly available online, dishonest people can easily steal your identity.

7.  Make sure your computer is as safe from intruders as possible.  Although any computer can be hacked, some people make it far too easy.  Use both antivirus and anti-spyware software.  Keep your computer software updated.

8.  If you receive harassing phone calls, block the number.  No matter how lonely you may be, talking to strangers on the phone is not safe, no matter how old you are.  They may have done their research on you before making the call, including looking up your first name and the names of family members.  They may pretend to have met you and try to gain your confidence, before tricking you into making a "donation" to a worthwhile cause or asking for money for some other purpose.  Keep phone calls from solicitors, charities and other strangers short.  Hang up on them, if necessary.  We always tell phone solicitors that we do not conduct business over the phone, and then quickly end the call.  After the call, we block the number so they cannot keep calling back.

Finally, if you believe you have been cheated or tricked by a scammer, take the time to report the incident to the police.  If the scammer was pretending to be from the IRS, your bank or another business, notify the government agency or business involved so they can help you prevent this from happening to someone else.

If you are interested in learning more about handling finances in retirement, where to retire, common medical issues, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

Watch for my book, Retirement Awareness, which is being published by Griffin Publishing and Watering Seeds and will be available in the fall of 2017.

You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credit:  Photo property of author.