Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Downsizing Tips for Seniors - How to Handle the Change


Sooner or later, many seniors discover that they need to downsize.  They may be moving to a smaller home in a new community, to a retirement condo, or to an apartment in an Assisted Living community.  Regardless of where they are moving, the decision can be complicated and often seniors feel overwhelmed.  What should they keep and what should they get rid of?  How do they choose?  Where do they begin?  No wonder so many seniors feel paralyzed by all the decisions they have to make.
This month we have a guest post from Michael Longsdon from Elder Freedom, which describes itself as "an organization of advocates working for the older adults of our community. It is our mission to help locate resources, events, and engagement opportunities to help enrich the lives of seniors." Mr. Longsdon has helpfully put together this information which will make it easier for seniors to downsize.

In addition to the information below, you may find it helpful read a book such as:  "Decluttering at the Speed of Life."  It has some great ideas for sorting through your belongings and purging your home of what you do not need.  

Three Strategies for Downsizing Which Every Senior Needs to Know

by Michael Longsdon
Downsizing is a popular lifestyle move today. The potential benefits include everything from stress relief to discovering what you truly love in life. But for seniors who are moving to a new house, there are more complex emotions and physical hurdles in your path. Here are three strategies for downsizing which every senior needs to know before it is time to pick up the new keys.
Downsizing 101: Paring Down the Smart Way
Getting rid of possessions can be fraught with emotion. Ideally, you should be getting rid of things which are merely taking up space. But in many cases, you will struggle to let go of objects which have some significant history. Whether it is a painting which you do not like, but kept because of family ties, or a piece of furniture you did not want, but have grown to love, detaching from possessions is a process.
Ideally, you should start working toward downsizing well in advance of a move. Sifting through belongings should not be a rushed process. Instead, start with one room in the house and begin sorting everything into piles. Choose a bin for donating, a box for keeping, and have the trash can conveniently located, too.
Consider how much space you will have at your new place and pare down accordingly. Think critically about each item and decide whether you need it. Creating a focus for your life moving forward can help. Think about whether the item will benefit you in your new life. Will it bring you joy, or will it remain in a box for years after your move?
Choose things which make you happy and contribute to your daily enjoyment of life, in general.
House Search: How to Find the Right Fit for Your Golden Years
Finding the right home to live in through your golden years is crucial for your future happiness. Your first consideration is whether to buy an already-accessible home or one you need to modify. An older property, or one needing upgrades, will cost less up-front than a modern and well-equipped home.
Depending on the remodeling costs, you may find that purchasing a home that already has what you need is ideal. For example, the areas where remodels are most likely necessary are the bathroom and kitchen. The average cost to remodel a bathroom in Fort Worth ranges between $5500 and $14,000, while the average cost nationally for a kitchen remodel is around $22,000. 
If you have the budget—and specific ideas about the layout or features of your home—opting for a remodel might be the best option. Conversely, choosing a home with accessibility features already in place is often a wise choice, especially if you do not have time to manage a project.
Features such as wide doorways and halls, grab bars in restrooms, low kitchen countertops, and low-graded entries are highlights of universal design homes. In universal design, accessibility is streamlined into the overall home layout and plans—no remodeling necessary.
Decide what is best for your budget, timeline, and enjoyment of your new home before making an offer on a new place.
Making the Most of Your Move
Moving can be emotional and stressful, and if you are downsizing after living in your family home for decades, the move can feel traumatizing. The best plan for preparing for a move is to start as early as possible. This way, you can take time to adjust to the idea of living somewhere new.
Research your new neighborhood and find out what is amazing about it, and consider local amenities and community perks. While moving always has drawbacks, there are many positives you should recognize, too.
If you are interested in learning more about where to live after your retire, financial planning, Social Security, Medicare, or common medical issues after retirement, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of other additional articles.
You are reading from the blog: http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com
Photo credit: Photo provided by Elder Freedom

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Camping Tips for Retirees - Stay Safe and Have Fun!

One of the advantages of retirement is that you can go camping whenever you want, not just on your children's school holidays.  This opens up the possibility of traveling around the country to various state and federal parks, spending extended periods of time in beautiful places you always dreamed of seeing.  America has some fabulous, scenic locations, and retirement means you can visit them whenever you wish, including in the "off-season."

There are many financial and health benefits to camping vacations, as long as you take a few precautions to avoid becoming the victim of a crime or injury. The information and tips below should help make your camping trips even more fun and rewarding.

Retirees Save Money on National Park Camping

Once you are over the age of 62, you will qualify for an American the Beautiful Senior Pass, which makes camping vacations even more affordable.  In 2019, a lifetime senior pass sold for $80 and an annual senior pass was available for $20 a year.  In addition, there was an extra $10 charge to purchase the passes online or by mail.  The senior pass covers your entrance fees and day use fees, and may give you a discount of up to 50 percent on your camping fees, boat launch fees and similar services.

According to their website: "Each pass covers entrance fees at national parks and national wildlife refuges, as well as standard amenity fees (day use fees) at national forests and grasslands, and at lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A pass covers entrance, standard amenity fees and day use fees for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle at per vehicle fee areas (or up to four adults at sites that charge per person)."

In addition, you may want to check your state park service to see if senior citizens are eligible for discounts on camping, entry fees or other charges in the state parks.

Finally, don't forget that seniors are eligible for discounts at many other tourist sites, especially if you are a member of either AARP or AAA.  Don't forget to ask for your senior discount, even if you stop at a motel or restaurant. You've earned these discounts; enjoy them! 

Camping Has Health Benefits for Retirees

While any opportunity to relax and take a vacation is good for you, there are special reasons why a camping trip may have extra health benefits.

Researchers at the University of Michigan discovered that being out in nature, even for a short time, can increase your recall ability by 20 percent.  They speculated that part of the reason for this is that it is easier to stay mindful when our brains are not overstimulated by traffic, crowds, and noise in the city.  This is a good reason to sit back and practice a little solitude and peaceful meditation while in the forest.

You are also more likely to hike and stay active when you are camping out, away from your computers, television and other electronic distractions.  One study showed that a two-hour walk in the woods could trigger a 50 percent increase in white blood cell activity, giving your immune system a boost.

In addition, you will probably be breathing pure, highly oxygenated air from the surrounding trees and other vegetation, far from sources of air pollution.  While spending time outdoors, you may also get more Vitamin D from the sun.

Remember Camper Safety!

Depending on where you are camping, as well as your plans and activities, you may need to take special safety precautions.

If you are going to hike in unfamiliar locations, everyone should consider purchasing a GPS tracker from Amazon or a sporting goods store. These trackers will help you stay on the trails and will make it easier for rescuers to locate you if you get lost or injured.  If you like to hike, taking a tracker with you could literally save your life.

In addition, it is a good idea to hike and camp with a backup solar charger for your cell phone.  You may not have cell phone service in all areas but, if you do, it is important to keep your phone charged so you can reach someone in an emergency.  Even without cell service, you can use a cell phone as a flashlight to attract the attention of rescuers and, in some cases, the GPS will work, even if you are unable to make calls.

Other important safety equipment every camper should consider purchasing includes flashlights, a first aid kit, bear spray, a whistle, water purification drops, and a portable radio.  All these items, and more, can be purchased from a sporting goods store or on the Amazon page for camping safety equipment.

In general, you should practice the same safety procedures while camping that you would at home.  For example, keep your car and camper locked when you are not around. If you tend to travel alone, you may want to join a camping club and caravan to various camp grounds with other senior citizens.  It will be more fun to travel with a group of friends and it will be safer.

Do not leave food lying out where it could attract wild animals.  Dispose of leftovers and food wrappers in properly designated trashcans, preferably away from your campsite.  Stay in approved camping areas and check-in with park rangers.

Do not go off-trail in remote areas.  Do not leave a campfire unattended.  Keep a bucket of water or a fire extinguisher handy.  Do not go near the edge of cliffs.  People die regularly around the Grand Canyon from slipping off the rim.  If you decide to take a selfie, do not turn your back towards a cliff or on wild animals, such as bison or bears.  In fact, do not get to close to wild animals, even if you are facing them. Stay aware of your surroundings.  

Have Fun and Stay Healthy!

If you want to get the most enjoyment from camping after retirement, plan to have fun, enjoy new experiences, and meet fellow campers. Learning new skills, getting fresh air and exercise, socializing with interesting people, and reading about the places you are visiting are wonderful ways to maintain your mental facilities.

If you become ill, Medicare works in all 50 states, but not outside the U.S.  If you venture into Mexico or Canada, you need to have a special travel plan to obtain medical care overseas, in the event you need it.  Discuss this with your Medicare insurance provider.  Make sure your Medicare Supplement or Medicare Advantage plan will provide care for you in all 50 states, and find out what arrangements they have for travel outside the U.S. 

Take the time to eat well while traveling, too.  Avoid relying on easy snacks like chips and cookies, or foods you pick up at fast food restaurants on the road.  Bring along plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, which often can be wrapped in tin foil and heated over a campfire or prepared on a grill.

Explore new locations.  If you aren't sure where to camp along the way, you may want to get a copy of the "Smart RV Travel Guide For The Lower 48 States: List of RV and National Parks, the Cost, the Amenities, What to See and Do in Each State."

For more travel tips for retirees, or information on financial planning, where to retire in the US and overseas, common medical issues, Social Security and Medicare, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

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

Photo credit:  Twitter account of Leisure Travel

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Medicare Open Enrollment - Annual Election Period - What Should You Do?


It is nearly time for the start of the Medicare Open Enrollment or Annual Election period which runs from October 15 until December 7 each fall.  As a result, we have invited our Medicare expert, Danielle Roberts, to explain what you may wish to do during this Medicare Annual Election period.  This is your opportunity to make changes to your Medicare Advantage plan and Medicare Part D plan.  

Danielle Roberts explains what you can and cannot do during this period of time.  It is important information for all Medicare beneficiaries. The more you know about how Medicare works and when you can make changes to your plan, the more you will benefit from the program.  If you have more questions after reading this article, you can contact Danielle Roberts or her staff directly at Boomer Benefits.  You can also find additional contact information for Boomer Benefits in the sidebar of this blog, under the information about our Medicare Expert.

What to do During Medicare Open Enrollment

 by: Danielle Roberts


Like other insurance programs, Medicare has designated enrollment periods. In fact, there are different enrollment periods for each part of Medicare. Some occur only once in a beneficiary’s lifetime, while others happen annually.

The Medicare Open Enrollment period in the fall is a very important enrollment period that affects nearly every beneficiary every year. It is also one of the most misunderstood enrollment periods.

What is the Open Enrollment period?

The main reason beneficiaries misunderstand this period is because of its name. There are multiple enrollment periods with the words “Open Enrollment” in the title. The Medicare Fall Open Enrollment period is often mistaken to be a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) Open Enrollment window. However, that is not the case and these two periods are very different.

The Medicare Open Enrollment period in the autumn of each year is also known as the Annual Election Period. Calling it the Annual Election Period is a good way to differentiate it from other Medicare enrollment periods. 

This period occurs every year in the fall between October 15th and December 7th. During this period, Medicare beneficiaries can enroll in, change, or dis-enroll from Medicare Advantage plans and Part D drug plans

They cannot, however, use this time to apply for a Medigap plan without going through medical underwriting. This is the part most people get wrong.

Medicare beneficiaries can apply to change Medigap plans at any time throughout the year. However, if they are outside of their one-time 6-month Medigap open enrollment window, they will have to answer health questions. So, it’s important for them to realize that they cannot use the period in the fall to enroll in a Medigap plan without underwriting.

How should beneficiaries prepare for the Open Enrollment period?

Medicare beneficiaries who have enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan or Part D drug plan should look out for their Annual Notice of Change during September. This letter explains the changes the carrier plans to make to that specific plan for the next year. Every beneficiary needs to review this notice and decide whether they are okay with the changes or if they’d like a new plan.

Although Medicare beneficiaries are not required to change Medicare Advantage and Part D plans every year, they should review the other plans in their area to see if there is a more cost-effective option.

The next step is to contact a Medicare brokerage that represents several insurance carriers and plans. Beneficiaries should review and compare plans with the broker to learn which plan they should switch to during the Open Enrollment period. 

When comparing plans, beneficiaries should be looking for a plan that:

·       Includes their doctors in the network
·       Covers their important medications
·       Is the most cost-effective of the available options

Some Medicare Advantage plans offer extra benefits, such as free gym memberships. Consider a benefit like this as a cherry on top. Beneficiaries should not base their decision solely on the fact that a plan has a free gym membership and the other more cost-effective plan does not.

When choosing health insurance, you want the plan that will satisfactorily cover any major illnesses or injuries. Extra benefits are nice, but not the most important thing.

What to do During the Fall Open Enrollment Window

Once the period starts on October 15th, beneficiaries can apply to change their Medicare Advantage and Part D plans. It takes a few weeks to be approved after the application is completed since millions of other beneficiaries are also changing plans at this time of year. All changes made during the Open Enrollment period go into effect on January 1st of the next year.

Beneficiaries should not cancel their current coverage until they have been approved for their new plan. If a beneficiary cancels his Medicare Advantage plan to apply for a Medigap plan and then gets denied by the Medigap company, the beneficiary may not have enough time to get re-enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan before December 7th

So, to review, every beneficiary should review their Annual Notice of Changes in September, research local plans, and apply for the plan within the time frame. Taking these steps ensures a smooth transition into your new coverage. 

About Danielle Robert's company, Boomer Benefits:

"Founded in 2005 in Fort Worth, TX, Boomer Benefits is an award-winning insurance agency for national insurance carriers such as Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, Cigna, Mutual of Omaha and many other A-rated carriers. We are licensed in 47 states. Over the years, we’ve learned just about everything there is to know about Medicare, and we’ve become known as the baby boomers insurance agency. We pass that knowledge on to you – absolutely free. There is never a charge for our services. Boomer Benefits Consulting is free."

Readers can contact Danielle Roberts and her wonderful staff at Boomer Benefits at:

1-855-732-9055


If you are interested in learning more about Medicare, Social Security, financial planning, where to retire, common medical issues and more, use the tabs or pull down menu to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

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

Photo credit:  Boomer Benefits

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Disadvantages of Early Retirement - When Should You Stop Working?

Many young adults make it their goal in life to retire young. Some occupations, such as firemen, policemen and government jobs, even make it possible for people to begin collecting a pension in their 50s, rather than making them wait until their mid 60s, which is the full retirement age for Social Security.  Despite the fact that you may have always dreamed of retiring early, and even could begin to collect a pension in your 50s, it may not be in your best interest to retire at such an early age.

Statistics show that about 50 percent of Americans retire between the ages of 61 and 65.  Another 20 percent or so retire even earlier.  This means that roughly 70 percent of Americans retire before they reach their full Social Security benefit age of 66 or 67.  If you are thinking about doing this, too, what are the risks?

You May Live Longer Than You Think

About one-third of retirees will live to be in their 90s.  You could be among them.  Americans are living much longer than they were when the "normal" retirement age was set at age 65.  If you stop working in your 50s, this means you could live another 40 years without a reason to get up each morning and follow a routine. You will gradually fall further and further out of the mainstream, separated from co-workers, and no longer developing new skills in your profession.  Gradually, you may stop learning, stop interacting with new people, stop getting out of the house on a regular basis.  New technology could become too complex for you to deal with.  Eventually, you may simply stop trying to keep up with a changing world.

You May Not Have Enough Money to be Retired for Decades

Think about how much you paid for common items when you were in your 20s.  In my case, my first new car, purchased right off the showroom floor, cost me about $2,000.  When my husband and I married, we purchased a newly built lakefront home in California, near San Francisco, for about $35,000.  In less than four decades since then, the prices of everything have gone up 10 to 15 times, or more.  That home is worth about 20 to 30 times what we paid for it.  If I live another three decades, which is possible, prices could easily increase another ten-fold.  How many people are prepared to cover their future expenses, when they factor in inflation?  What if you need to purchase a new car, put a new roof on your home, pay for the funeral of a family member, replace your air conditioner, or cover the cost of other big ticket items?  What will that do to your retirement savings?  Even if you avoid making any large purchases during the remaining years of your life, everyday expenses such as property taxes, food, and utilities could increase faster than your Social Security benefits. You could gradually deplete your retirement fund.  As you make these withdrawals, you are likely to wonder if your money will last the rest of your life.

You May Face Financial Setbacks

If the value of your home drops, the stock market falls, or you face a catastrophic loss from a flood, fire or medical crisis, it will be difficult to recover financially, if you are not working.  You may have to dip more heavily than expected into your savings in order to recover, and then you will have even less money left for the future.  You may find yourself going deeply into debt, or you may need to sell your home and other assets, just to survive.

Early Retirement Deprives You of Years of IRA Contributions and Growth

When you turn 50 years old, you are allowed to begin making larger "catch-up" contributions into your retirement accounts.  However, if you retire early, you miss out on those extra years of contributions, as well as the potential tax-free growth in your savings.  This means you are even less likely to be prepared for decades of withdrawals and setbacks.  The more money you put aside before you stop working, the more prepared you will be.

Delaying Retirement Means Larger Social Security and Pension Checks

In addition to losing out on retirement savings, if you retire early your guaranteed benefits from Social Security or a pension will be smaller.  The longer you delay retirement, the more money you will have in benefits, and the more secure you will be financially.  If there is just one reason which will help you decide to delay retirement, it is your future financial security.

Medicare is Currently Not Available Until Age 65

If you are not employed and you are under the age of 65, you should check out what your medical insurance will cost before you retire early.  If you must purchase an individual policy from a private company, it could be quite expensive.  In addition, you need to consider the cost of your prescriptions, deductibles and co-pays, particularly if you have a serious chronic condition which could land you in the hospital.  Are you prepared to cover this expense for several years until you are eligible for Medicare?

Will You Be Bored During Decades of Retirement?

Many people have a bucket list of things they would like to do as soon as they retire ... travel, play golf, spend more time on their boat, or indulge in a favorite hobby. However, have you considered what it will be like if you try to do these things every single day for decades?  Will you eventually get bored?  Will you keep up a healthy routine?  Will you eat right, get exercise, and socialize with other people?  Or will you become lonely and depressed, often spending hours watching television?  For most people, their jobs are an important source of social interaction.  How will you replace the regular socialization and friendships you had while you worked?

It Could Be Hard to Find a Job Later

What if you quit your current job and, after a few years, realize you are going through money faster than you expected or discover you are lonely and miss working?  It could be difficult to find a job again, either at the same company or a different one.  If you do find a new position, you may discover that you have to start over in an entry-level position, rather than at the higher salary you were earning at the peak of your career.  There are a number of senior citizens who bag groceries at my local grocery store. There are others who take tickets at the local movie theater.  I am sure they had more responsible and better paying jobs before they retired.  They would probably have been better off working a few extra years in their late 60s than going back to work in their 70s or 80s.

If you really want to quit your current job, you may be able to find a compromise, rather than fully retiring. Instead of retiring from your current job and waiting you see what happens, you may want to move into a fun new career directly after quitting the job you currently hold.  It is easier to find a new job when you are currently working than it is if you have gone years without a job. The longer you go without a working, the harder it may be to find a new position.  In fact, finding a fun, new job which always fascinated you may be a smarter move than simply retiring early.  This is the time of life to go to work in that art gallery or gift shop, or to join a non-profit, or start a second career.  Even if you earn less money than you were before, at least you will be doing something interesting and fulfilling, you will postpone collecting Social Security, you may be eligible for a company health plan, and you will avoid some of the other hazards of retiring too young.

Retiring Young Could be the Death of You

According to research cited by Bloomberg, people who retire before the age of 65 are more likely to die early, even when the researchers accounted for the fact that some people retire early because they are in poor health.  There could be a number of factors at work here.  Studies have shown that people are more likely to get depressed and bored after retirement, and depressed people do not take care of themselves and tend to die younger.  Whatever the reason for the faster decline, simply by working longer you are probably going to be in better health in the final years of your life, which means you will enjoy your retirement even more!

If you are interested in learning more about retirement planning, Social Security, Medicare, common medical issues as you age, or where to retire, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of other useful articles.

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

Photo credit:   Pixabay