Friday, September 30, 2011

Cheap Places to Retire

Texas Has a Low Cost of Living,
But a Few Other Places Do, Too!
Are you looking for an affordable place to retire?  Where can you live cheaply and comfortably?  Kiplinger Magazine looked into this issue in their September 21, 2011 issue.  Although this was a few years ago, the places they recommended are still good choices.  Below are some of their findings, along with my personal experience with some of these places.

Texas is one of the cheapest places to live in the United States.   When Kiplinger listed five of the most affordable communities in the US, three of them were located in Texas.  If you are trying to figure out how in the world you are going to be able to survive on your Social Security alone, you may want to do additional research on the communities listed below to see if there is one which appeals to you.

My husband and I lived in Texas for over 25 years, and raised our family there.  I also sold real estate in Texas, and know a great deal about the large, beautiful homes you can purchase there for reasonable prices. We have visited several of the communities on this list, so I have included my own knowledge of these towns, in addition to what Ms. Browne had to say in Kiplinger.

It is important to expect that there will have been some inflation, with higher wages and prices than those listed below.  However, this does not change the fact that these locations offer good retirement opportunities for many people.

Here is the Kipplinger list, along with some basic facts:

Brownsville, Texas was the cheapest place to live on their list, according to Kiplinger.  The median household income was only about $30,000 in 201l and the average home price was $209,000.  Brownsville is right on the Texas border with Mexico, but it is also near the Gulf of Mexico and South Padre Island.  We took our daughters on a vacation there, and rented a condo in a gorgeous gated community.  There are numerous golf courses and sweeping beaches.  Because of the proximity to Padre Island, there are plenty of upscale restaurants and hotels.  However, rents in Brownsville averaged less than $700 a month in 2011 for typical apartments, according to the Kiplinger article.  There is one thing you should know: you need to be prepared for the fact that it gets VERY hot in the summer.  However, the winters are mild and pleasant.

Pueblo, Colorado was the second cheapest place to live on their list and is an ideal location if you want to be in the mountains.  The median household income was about $41,000 in 2011 and home prices averaged about $200,000.  This city of 153,800 people has a wide variety of activities, and yet is very affordable.  The winters can be tough, however, if you are not used to dealing with ice and snow.

Ft. Hood, Texas hasd a median household income of $46,200 in 2011 and an average home price of $220,000.  This town is about 60 miles north of Austin, and is on the edge of a major military base.  As a result, it has an unusually large population of young adults.  However, apartments rented for only about $650 a month.  The area around Austin is very popular in Texas.  Not very far away you will also find Sun City, Texas, which is located in the town of Georgetown.  Many Texans like to retire to the Texas Hill Country, as this region is known.  It is affordable, friendly and a spot where most people can live comfortably on either their military pay or their Social Security benefits.  (Below, you'll notice that Austin, Texas came in number 10 on Kiplinger's expanded list.)

Fort Smith, Arkansas is a charming town on the border of Arkansas and Oklahoma.  The median household income was $37,000 in 2011 and home prices averaged about $250,000.  The average apartment rent was just $500 a month!  This is a comfortable Midwestern town that doesn't get as cold as Pueblo, Colorado in the winter, nor as hot as Brownsville, Texas in the summer.

Sherman, Texas came in on the Kiplinger list at number five.  This town is about 60 miles north of Dallas, near Dennison, another popular retirement location.  Houses averaged about $220,000 in 2011 and apartment rents averaged around $650.  I have driven through this sleepy town many times.  Although it is not quite as metropolitan as some of the other communities in Texas, you can always drive to the large cities of Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington if you seek entertainment ranging from Six Flags, baseball games, elegant restaurants, country western bars, and top-notch symphony orchestras!

Rounding out the Kiplinger list of top 10 cheapest places to live in the United States are:  Springfield, Illinois; Waco, Texas; Fayetteville, Arkansas; Austin, Texas; and Springfield, Missouri.  Of these, Austin, Texas is one of the most popular communities for retirees, as well as young adults.  With several colleges and universities in the city, as well as its location as the state capital of Texas, you will find innumerable activities to keep your mind stimulated and your body busy.  Sun City - Texas in Georgetown is only about 30 miles north of Austin and is an exceptional retirement community.

If you are interested in more retirement information including where to retire, medical concerns for retirees, financial planning, family relationships, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of this article to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

How to Avoid Debit Card Fees Charged by Your Bank

Bank ATM
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As though Americans need more bad economic news, some of the large banks plan to start charging $5 a month to their customers who use their debit cards to make purchases.  The largest bank to announce that they are going to take this action is Bank of America, according to a 9/29/11 Associated Press article titled, "More bad news for bank customers: Debit card fees."

It appears that, even if you restrict your debit card just to purchasing groceries, you will still pay an extra $5 a month as a fee to your bank if you are a Bank of America customer.  In addition, according to ABC news, other banks such as Wells Fargo are also test marketing these fees.  However, the fees are so controversial, that some banks may change their minds.

If you bank does decide to start charging these fees, you could always switch to another bank or use a credit union.  If you stay with your bank, you have a few options for avoiding these fees.

How to Avoid Debit Card Fees Assessed by Your Own Bank

* As mentioned above, if your bank begins to charge unreasonable fees, you can change banks or begin to use a credit union.

* Another possibility is to stop by your bank's ATM machine and take cash with you before you head to the grocery store.  However, it can be scary to carry around a lot of cash.  In addition, you could be embarrassed if you spend more money than you estimated, and end up short of cash.  Also, if your closest ATM is not convenient, you will waste gas by doing this extra driving.

* Another option is to go back to writing checks for your groceries and other purchases.  For the past decade, banks have worked hard to ween all of us from check writing, by encouraging us to use debit cards and pay our bills online.  However, if you only make a few purchases a month, writing checks may be cheaper than the $5 debit card fee.

* It might also be preferable for some people to use a credit card for their purchases, instead of a debit card. One word of warning on this approach:  If you are doing this to save money, you should be sure to pay off the entire balance at the end of every month.  If you carry a balance, and pay interest, it will wipe out anything you might save by trying to avoid the $5 debit card fee.

* One possibility, at least with Bank of America, is to maintain a minimum average balance of $1,500 in your checking account.  They have said that accounts with that minimum balance will not be charged this fee. Of course, you will not earn interest on this money, so that will cost you money in a different way.

If you are looking for more information of use to retirees, click on the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page for links to hundreds of additional articles about where to retire, medical issues, financial planning and more.

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How to Avoid Vitamin D Deficiency

Get Outside and Walk
Photo by
Although Vitamin D is one of the easiest vitamins to obtain, it is shocking that many people are deficient in it.  As a result, we are seeing a return of diseases that should be easy to avoid.  As we age, Vitamin D deficiency can contribute to a number of serious health issues.

Approximately half the people in the world are experiencing a Vitamin D deficiency, according to the, in an article dated 9/21/11.  With so much known about the importance of Vitamin D in maintaining good health, how can this be?

Vitamin D from Sunshine

Vitamin D is known as the Sunshine Vitamin because our bodies are able to make this vitamin when our skin is exposed to a few minutes of bright sunlight every day.  However, as we get older, it is not uncommon for people to spend more time indoors and avoid the hot mid-day sun.  When we do need to be outside, we often take great care to cover all our exposed skin with a thick layer of sunscreen.  After all, dermatologists and other physicians have been telling us for years that we need to keep our skin out of the sun in order to avoid skin cancer.  As a result, our skin is rarely, if ever, exposed to the bright sunlight that we need in order to make our own Vitamin D.

How much sunshine is necessary?  I have read that our bodies can create an adequate amount of Vitamin D if we expose at least our faces and forearms to the mid-day sun for about 20 minutes every other day. This is considered a healthy amount of sunlight by many medical personnel.  However, this is only true if you live in a mild climate, preferably in the southern half of the United States.  If you live in the north, the winter sun is not bright enough to produce the Vitamin D you need.  In addition, it may be too cold in some areas to expose our skin to the outdoor air for 20 minutes.

Illnesses Caused by Vitamin D Deficiency

What are some of the illnesses that can develop if we do not get enough Vitamin D?  We are hearing about more and more new diseases every day that may be related to Vitamin D deficiency.  Here are a few that are either caused directly by a deficiency, or are suspected to have a relationship to a deficiency, as reported in Wikipedia and WebMD: 

Rickets -- characterized by a softening and weakening of the bones and dental deformities.
Osteomalacia -- bone-thinning and muscle weakness
Osteoporosis -- reduced bone density; this is a very common disease as we age
Fasciculations -- muscle twitching
Colon Cancer -- taking 1000 IU daily reduces this cancer by 50%
Breast and Ovarian Cancer -- taking 1000 IU daily reduces these cancers by 30%
Pancreatic Cancer -- taking 400 IU daily reduces this cancer by 43%

In addition, I saw a recent article that linked low Vitamin D levels to Fibromyalgia.

How to Avoid a Vitamin D Deficiency

What should you do?  Ideally, for optimal health, we should all take the time to get some sun on our skin as often as possible ... as long as we do not exceed 20 minutes in a day.  After that, we can slather on the sunscreen.  In addition, to be certain that you are getting enough Vitamin D, you may want to supplement your diet with at least 400 IU of the vitamin every day.  It would be sad to reach this stage of our lives, and let ourselves become ill because we were being so careful to keep our skin out of the sun, wouldn't it?

If you are interested in reading more articles that could be of use to Baby Boomers and retirees, click on the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles on health, where to retire, medical issues, financial planning and more.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Gift Giving Ideas on a Fixed Income

Fashion Island Mall in Newport Beach
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It is not too soon to start thinking about your holiday shopping ... especially if you are on a fixed income.  As the holidays approach, one concern that many retirees have is how they are going to handle holiday gift shopping.  This is one of those extra expenses that is often left off the retirement budget you originally planned.  Before you retire, you need to decide how you are going to pay for all those little extras that can add up to a lot of money.

In our family, we have four grown daughters, three son-in-laws, and seven grandchildren, and we like to purchase gifts for all of them. We have also always bought gifts for my parents, who are still alive, as well as my sister and her family, and assorted other friends and relatives. However, we do not earn nearly as much money as we used to.  There was a time when I could go to the Fashion Island Mall in Newport Beach (pictured here), and purchase a nice gift for everyone on my list.  Today, however, that is not as realistic.  The older we get, the more difficult that is likely to become.

I recently read a darling article about purchasing small or fun items and tucking gift cards into them.  Among the suggestions the author made were putting gift cards in underwear, and coffee mugs!  I don't think I'll buy underwear for anyone on my list, but I do like the idea of buying small gifts and inserting a gift card into each one.  For example, all our daughters and granddaughters have pierced ears and they all like silver earrings.  I'm watching for a good sale on silver earrings.  If I can purchase earrings for all the girls on my list, it will greatly simplify my holiday shopping.  I'm still exploring what small gift I can get for the guys.  Funny coffee mugs might be an excellent idea.

For the three youngest grandchildren, I will continue to purchase them toys, and perhaps give them a little cash to go along with their gifts.  My parents have asked that we no longer send them gifts because they already have everything they need.  However, I know they love chocolate, so I'll certainly send them a nice box of candy.  My sister and I have agreed to stop exchanging gifts this year, which is a relief to both of us.

Giving homemade cookies or nut breads is something simple I can do for many of my friends.  I may make my life even easier by picking up some cute, decorated cookies at the store and giving them to friends.

The bottom line is that now is the time in our lives when we need to start saving money on holiday shopping.  The expense has become so large, that I can no longer handle all the purchases we made in the past.  It is almost a relief to begin to cut back on the big holidays we used to have!

If you have some ideas on how you are going to save money on holiday gifts this year, feel free to pass on your suggestions in the comments section.  Who knows how many other people you could help with your ideas!

For more ideas on saving money, retirement planning, where to retire, health issues and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page for links to hundreds of additional articles.

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Use It or Lose It - Your Brain in Retirement

As you prepare to retire, have you given much thought to how you will spend your time?  Many people look forward to the day they can finally retire, kick back and relax.  However, there is a lot of medical evidence indicating that spending too much time resting our bodies and our minds is not a healthy approach.  Relaxation might be great for a one week vacation, but it is not the ideal way to plan to spend the next twenty years of your life.

According to Dr. Mehmet Oz, in an article he wrote for the May/June, 2011 edition of the AARP Magazine, there are risks in retirement, especially for your brain.  In essence, we must use it or lose it.  It is extremely important that we continue to keep our brains stimulated and it helps to learn something new ... to play an instrument, speak a new language, or learn a challenging new game.

We have always known that this is true when we have talked about our body and our muscles.  If we don’t get up and take frequent walks, we will eventually discover that it becomes harder and harder to maintain our health and stay in good physical shape.  The same principle applies to the brain.

Earlier this year, the RAND Center for the Study of Aging published a study that was done in conjunction with the University of Michigan.  They tested cognitive performance in people from a variety of countries and discovered that cognitive performance was lower in countries that had earlier retirement ages.  In other words, when people stop working and spend too much time in undemanding activities, their mental ability begins to atrophy!

Think about what that means when people strive to give up their careers as soon as possible.  Suddenly, they no longer spend their work days around other people.  They no longer have to read challenging material, or learn new skills.  They are less likely to be engaged with complicated problems that they have to solve.  Their brain begins to lose its edge.

What can you do to prevent this decline?  Many medical researchers suggest that retirement is the perfect time to start a second career, or learn a new language.  Have you always wanted to play a musical instrument?  Retirement may be opportunity you've been waiting for.  You could even get together with your friends and start a garage band.  Why not?  This is the time of your life when you have the time and opportunity to learn anything new that interests you!  Just remember how important it is to keep challenging yourself.

This might also be a fun time to go back to college and advance your education.  Many community colleges offer inexpensive or free classes to senior citizens.  Ask about the Emeritus Program at a college near you.  

You could take up writing, become a yoga teacher, or design jewelry and sell it at craft fairs.  Whatever you do, you should make certain that you are exercising both your mind and your body frequently.  Find activities that are mentally challenging and that force you to interact regularly with other people.  Both the mental stimulation and the social interaction will have a positive effect on the quality of your retirement years.

If you are interested in learning new things that will improve your life after retirement, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of this page for links to hundreds of additional articles on financial planning, health concerns, where to retire and more!

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Women and Social Security

No matter what your age, women need to understand how Social Security works.  For most women, Social Security will play a major role in how much money they will have available once they reach their 60's.  Since you will have some important decisions to make when you begin to collect Social Security, it is very important that you have all the necessary information, so that you make the best possible decisions and maximize your income.  Below are some of the basic facts that you need to know. 

For more personal details about your specific situation, you may want to visit your nearest Social Security office, or read more online at

Facts about Social Security for Women

The first thing you should know is that you can collect your Social Security benefits any time between the ages of 62 and 70 (or even at a younger age, if you are a widow.)  However, the younger you are when you begin to collect, the less money you will receive for the rest of your life.  As a result, many women are smart to postpone collecting their Social Security benefits until they are at least 66.  However, the decision is completely up to you.  If you are ill, cannot work, or desperate for money, you may feel that your situation forces you to collect your benefits sooner.

If you did not earn very much income during your lifetime, you can still collect some Social Security benefits based on your husband's earnings.  This is true even if you are divorced, as long as the two of you were married at least 10 years and you have not remarried.  At your full retirement age (around the age of 66 or 67), you can receive 50% of what your husband receives at his full retirement age.  You will need to compare whether you are better off using your own benefits, based on your own past earnings or whether you would collect more money by receiving half of your husband's benefits.

On the other hand, if you earned more than your husband, then it is possible for him to receive benefits based on your earnings.  The helpful consultants at the Social Security office can help you decide how you can collect the maximum benefits.

You will also be eligible for Medicare once you turn 65, whether your Social Security and Medicare benefits are based on your own earnings or those of your husband.  Medicare will withdraw a premium of about $104 from your Social Security benefits in order to pay for your basic Medicare healthcare.  You may want this used to pay for a Medicare Advantage plans that has more benefits or you may wish to purchase a Medicare Supplement plan in addition to the basic Medicare plan.

If your husband dies, you can collect widow's Social Security benefits.  The amount varies depending on when you begin to collect.  If you wait until your full retirement age, you can collect as much as 100% of what your husband would have collected. 

There are many other factors concerning Social Security that could affect when you decide to collect.  Be sure to check with your local Social Security office as soon as you begin planning your retirement.

It is important for everyone to understand their Social Security benefits, but especially women, because so many American women spend the last few years of their lives in poverty.  You do not want this to happen to you, if you can avoid it.

If you are interested in more retirement information, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of this article to find links to hundreds of additional articles about financial planning, including Social Security, where to retire, medical issues that could arise, family relationships and more.

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Life Lessons to Teach your Grandkids

Like most Baby Boomers, we went through our early adulthood giving very little thought to the fact that someday we would be grandparents.  However, now that we've reached this point in our lives, we discovered that we enjoy our grandkids enthusiastically.  My Facebook page is alive with photos of the grandkids of all my friends, and I enjoy seeing the things their families do together.  We've posted a a number of photos of our grandchildren, too.

Every Sunday, one of our daughters drops by our house with her two children, and we all prepare a large breakfast of scrambled eggs and chocolate chip pancakes together.  It would be easy if we just made everything ourselves, and had it fully prepared when they arrived.  However, my husband delights in the time he spends letting our 11 year old granddaughter help.  She particularly loves to make the scrambled eggs, and has become quite adept at cracking the eggs on the edge of the skillet all by herself.

After breakfast, my husband often spends a little time teaching our 8 year old grandson how to carve and make things out of wood.  On other occasions, we take the kids out fishing for the day.  We've taught them how to sew on a button, and stitch together a simple seam.  We've taught them how to play some of our favorite games, like Mexican train.  We explore the tidepools at the beach looking for little crabs and starfish.  We watch movies and television shows together.

We have other grandkids, as well, although they do not live close enough to see them every weekend.  However, when they come to visit, we really enjoy spending time with them.  Last summer, I was able to spend a day helping our two teenage granddaughters look at colleges.  When our youngest grandson visits, it is delightful to watch him play at the beach.

When we spend time with our grandkids, we are able to use that quality time with them to do much more than pass on skills that we think they would enjoy.  We are also able to teach them life lessons that we think are important.  When they are rude, we gently tell them that there are better ways to ask for things.  When they fight, we discuss other ways they could handle their disagreements. We try to reassure them when they are worried, and encourage them when they are shy.  We try to attend school events and sporting events whenever possible, because they need to know that they have family support, whether they win or lose.  These are the really valuable lessons that we want to teach our grandkids. 

Our daughters are all wonderful mothers, but I think it helps them to have parents who reinforce their values and the lessons that they are passing on to their children.  We always make sure our grandkids know that their parents are the ones who make the final decision on everything.  We don't let them talk us into treats or activities that we know their parents wouldn't like.

The kids love to tease us and we let them, as long as the teasing is not mean-spirited.  This morning, our 11 year old granddaughter was wearing a "scary" skeleton Halloween costume when they arrived for breakfast.  She sneaked up to the kitchen window and peaked in, trying to "scare" us.  It gave us all a good laugh.  Perhaps being able to laugh at their youthful jokes is the best lesson of all!

If you are looking for more information about grandparenting, retirement planning, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page for links to hundreds of additional articles.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Dates for Medicare Enrollment Changes

It can be very difficult to stay up-to-date with all the changes to Medicare and the other programs that are meant to make life a little easier for senior citizens.  We have to constantly be on the alert for changes in programs.  In fact, I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking that it is a bit ironic that all these programs that are supposed to make life easier are actually so darn confusing!

Since 2011, the deadline for changing your Medicare coverage has changed.  Open enrollment is now from October 15 to December 7.  In the past, the enrollment period ran from November 15 to December 31.

If you want to switch your Part D prescription drug plan, or switch from traditional Medicare to one of the Medicare Advantage plans, or even switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to a different one, you need to make those changes during this enrollment period that expires on December 7.

It is important to get the word out on this.  Many people may think they have until December 31 to make these important changes.  However, if they don't make the changes by December 7, their current plans will stay in place throughout the following year, according to the September 2011 issue of the AARP Bulletin.

Of course, if you watch television at all, you will start seeing the newest Medicare plans for your area advertised regularly beginning every September.  In addition, if you are in your 60's or older, you are highly likely to receive advertisements for the different types of Medicare policies in the mail.

If you are still trying to compare different types of coverage before deciding which plan will work best for you, you can check out or call 1-800-633-4227.

At the very least, it is important to understand a few basic facts about Medicare.

Type of Medicare Policies Available

Beneficiaries of Medicare have several choices regarding Medicare:

*  If you work and get insurance through your company, you still need to sign up for basic Medicare.  This will keep you from paying extra high premiums when you switch to using Medicare.

*  Take basic Medicare only, which currently means about $104 a month will be taken from your Social Security or will be billed to you, if you do not take Social Security, yet.  Medicare only covers about 80% of your medical expenses, and there are some expenses that it does not cover at all.  As a result, most people choose one of the two following choices.

*  Take basic Medicare, but add a Medicare supplement plan.  Medicare will still charge you the basic $104 a month.  You will also pay an additional premium, depending on the Medicare supplement plan you choose.

*  Sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan.  The $104 a month will be assigned to the private insurance company and they will provide you with medical care which, by law, MUST include everything provided under basic Medicare.  In addition, most Medicare Advantage plans will also offer a variety of other benefits, depending on the plan you choose.  Some Medicare Advantage plans do not charge any extra premiums.  Others have a small additional premium.  Some include dental and vision plans and low co-pays.  You will need to shop around.  If you have a doctor who is in a Medicare Advantage plan, this is often the most affordable and comprehensive Medicare choice.

If you are looking for more information about Medicare, retirement planning, where to retire, financial planning, medical issues and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of this article for links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How to Postpone Alzheimers and Dementia

As if we don't have enough problems to worry about when we start planning our retirement, most of us also wonder if we will still have fully functioning brains as we age. Dementia, including diseases like Alzheimers, is a very real health concern.

I wanted to pass on this information that I picked up from the website RealAge. com. It is from a September, 2011 article entitled "7 Ways to Prevent Alzheimer's."

Before I reveal their suggestions, it is important for people to realize that there is currently no way to guarantee that doing these things will actually permanently prevent Alzheimers. However, some medical researchers seem to believe that about half of all cases could at least be postponed. As far as I'm concerned, these are facts that are worth knowing about. Below are the actions that Real Age recommends we all take for better brain health.

How to Postpone Dementia

1. Don't smoke. That's one habit I don't have. For those of you who do, this is one more reason to throw that pack away!  Smokers have more than twice the incidence of dementia!

2. Get exercise. According to Real Age, taking a daily walk can keep your brain from shrinking, because it increases the blood flow throughout your body, including to your brain. Who knew??  Of course, walking is also good for other aspects of our health, as well.

3. Keep your blood pressure low. High blood pressure is related to Alzheimers. One food they recommend is watermelon. Apparently, it is very effective at lowering blood pressure. That's wonderful, since it is one of my favorite summer fruits!  Some people may also need to take blood pressure medication.  It if enables you to think more clearly as you age, you may seriously want to consider medication if your blood pressure is high.

4. Get a good night's sleep. This suggestion was a bit more complicated. According to Real Age, if you don't sleep enough, you increase the chances that you will get type 2 diabetes, and diabetes is related Alzheimers. I think this suggestion should have been to simply live a lifestyle that reduces your chances of getting diabetes!  However, even outside of the diabetes link, I have read other reports that suggest that people who have the best quality sleep also are less likely to develop dementia.

5. Go outside. This suggestion seems simple enough. Apparently, when you spend time outside you are less likely to feel depressed, and depression is linked to Alzheimers. (It seems to me that this is one more reason to live somewhere that has mild winters!)

6. Keep learning. Medical researchers have discovered that it is especially beneficial to learn a new language, although any type of learning seems to be beneficial. French classes, anyone?  If you don't want to learn a new language, you might consider music lessons, learning to play a new game or developing other challenging skills.

7. Lose weight. I knew that one would show up. I keep trying, but I am sure that I am going to take a few extra pounds to my grave with me! However, perhaps the fear of not being able to remember the names of my loved ones will make a difference. I'll keep trying ... and I suggest that other people do, too.  However, there is also research that it is better not to be underweight.  It seems that the best situation is to be at your ideal weight or slightly more than that.

In the comment section of the Real Age article, readers made their own suggestions. One person suggested that a glass of red wine once in a while could help our brains. Other people suggested adding tumeric to your food and tea. Tumeric is found in curry powder in the U.S.

The Doctor Oz television show on ABC also did a special about Alzheimers on September 21, 2011. He had as his guests Dr. Andrew Weil and Deepak Chopra. First, he showed slices of a brain with Alzheimers, and you could actually see the holes in the brain. Then, Dr. Oz and his guests mentioned some supplements they use to ward off Alzheimers. Among the products they suggested were: Vitamin D, the herb Ginko, Phosphatidylsirene (also called PS), coffee, magnesium, tumeric, sage and ginger. You may want to look up this television show and watch the entire program.  I want to mention, however, that some of these suggestions are not backed by scientific research.  However, moderate amounts of those products will not harm you, and they might do your brain some good.

The way I look at it, none of these suggestions will hurt me, and I plan to try at least some of them. Anything I can do to prevent or postpone Alzeimers seems worthwhile to me.

If you are interested in reading other articles about aging, retirement, retirement planning, maintaining your health, where to retire or financial planning, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles. 

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Finding the Best Places to Retire

Have you decided where you would like to live after you retire?  Would you prefer to be near your grandkids, near the ocean, close to a lake, or in the mountains?  What about your proximity to hospitals, shopping and sports venues?  The decision of where to retire is not always easy.

We gave a lot of thought to our decision to retire in Laguna Woods Village, California. We chose our location partly because we have a number of relatives who live in California, and we wanted an affordable place to retire which would make it easy for us to visit our family and for them to visit us.

Finding affordable housing is not always easy in the Southern California real estate market, but Laguna Woods Village is one of the less expensive places. We also wanted palm trees, the ability to take walks on the beach, mild weather, and plenty of golf during our retirement years.

However, not everyone can or should retire to Laguna Woods Village. As a result, whenever I discover information about other possible retirement areas, I pass the information to my readers of this blog.

A few years ago, CNN came up with their list of places they think are good for retirement. They put emphasis on recommending places with a low cost of living, crime rates which tend to be below the national average, good medical groups, and where at least 30% of the population is older than 50 years old. Listed below is a little information about each of their top picks. 

Marquette, Michigan on Michigan's Upper Peninsula was number #1 on the CNN list. Marquette has a cost of living that is 95% of the national average. It is near Lake Superior, which can be fun in the summer. However, you should know that the town gets an average of 141 inches of snow a year.  While some people will enjoy this town, it would not be a good choice for everyone.

Cape Coral, Florida has low home prices and a cost of living which is 96% of the national average. The town has 400 miles of canals, and is located on the Gulf of Mexico. This is an ideal location for people who enjoy water sports, although you need to be prepared for an occasional hurricane, too.  While the winters are mild in Cape Coral, the summers can be very hot. 

Boise, Idaho is a small city with a very low crime rate. Violent crime is about half the national average. The cost of living is about 97% of the national average. The town is surrounded by mountains, but the climate within Boise is considered mild.

Danville, Kentucky is a small town with affordable homes and a cost of living that is only 93% of the national average. It's about a forty minute drive from Lexington, and about a 90 minute drive from Louisville. The town has a number of locations which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It gets a little snow in the winter, and you should expect thunderstorms and an occasional tornado alert in the summer.

Weatherford, Texas has a cost of living that is only 87% of the national average. It is a small town about 33 miles from Fort Worth. People who enjoy horses will especially enjoy this community. It gets very hot and dry in the summer, and you can also expect thunderstorms and tornado alerts.

Southaven, Mississippi is a small suburb of Memphis, Tennessee, but located on the Mississippi side of the city. The cost of living is only 88% of the national average. One of the advantages is that are located close to all the big city amenities which Memphis has to offer.

Clarksville, Tennessee is a small city near the Kentucky-Tennessee border. It has a cost of living that is about 88% of the national average. It can be chilly in the winter and hot in the summer, with occasional storms.

Broken Arrow, Oklahoma is a suburb of Tulsa. It has a cost of living which is about 88% of the national average. Like Tennessee, it can be chilly in the winter and hot in the summer, with occasional storms and tornadoes.

Lake Charles, Louisiana is about 30 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico, which makes it vulnerable to hurricanes and floods. However, it is a lovely location for people who enjoy freshwater fishing and similar water sports. It has a cost of living about 91% of the national average.

Winstom-Salem, North Carolina is a charming community with a cost of living which is about 91% of the national average. It has a symphony, arts district, and is home to the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.  This is an ideal location for someone who wants to enjoy affordable access to theater and music after retirement.

Even if you do not choose one of the towns on this list, they will give you a good idea of what to look for in a community ... access to interesting activities, weather which you find bearable, lower than average crime, affordability and access to medical care. 

As you can see, there are plenty of great retirement areas for you to investigate no matter what region of the country you want to live.

To read more about retirement communities, recreation in retirement, financial planning for retirement, the qualifications to move into a retirement community, working in retirement, and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of this article to find links to hundreds of additional posts.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

When Should You Join AARP?

Like many other Baby Boomers, my husband and I do not think of ourselves as senior citizens. As far as we are concerned, other people may be old, but not us! We still believe we are in the prime of our lives. As a result, when we were in our 50's and some friends suggested we sign up for AARP, we were surprised. AARP stands for the American Association of Retired People. As we saw things, we weren't retired at the time and we aren't old, so why would we need this organization?

Take Advantage of AARP Discounts

As we discovered, however, AARP has a reat deal to offer people in their 50s and older. For example, they have negotiated discounts at hotels and motels nationwide. Those discounts alone have more than covered the cost of our annual AARP membership. In addition, members can use their AARP card to get discounts at Walgreens. You can also use it for discounts at tourist attractions, Michaels Stores (on Tuesdays), Chart House Restaurants, cruises, and more. In fact, we never travel anymore without asking if there is an AARP discount, and we are often surprised by how often the answer is "Yes."  For a membership that costs less than $20 a year, the discounts are wonderful!

Stay Up-to-Date with AARP Mailings

AARP will also send you emails and magazines with a wide variety of helpful tips on retirement planning, travel, maintaining your health, and related information.  Frequently, the articles I read in an AARP magazine will spur me to write a post on that topic.

AARP Offers Insurance Programs for Senior Citizens

In addition, they offer several insurance programs for seniors. I want to point out, however, that my husband and I have never used their insurance programs, so I do not know if they are good deals. I only know that they have some special insurance products that are designed for our age group.  At the very least, you can use their insurance products as a baseline for comparison shopping.

AARP is the Major Washington Lobbyist that Represents Retirees

AARP also represents the interests of senior citizens when they lobby Congress over numerous issues which will affect us now and in the future. This service is somewhat controversial, though, since not all seniors think alike. However, I personally believe that AARP does try to do what they can to protect us ... even if I have not always agreed with a few of the positions they have taken.

Advantages of Joining AARP in Your 50's

In general, I am glad that we joined, even though I originally felt silly applying for membership with the American Association of Retired People when I was in my 50s and still working. It has saved me a great deal of money, and provided me with so much information, that it seems like a smart decision now. This is one money saving idea that I am happy to pass on, because I think all senior citizens should take advantage of it!

If you are looking for more information about retirement planning, financial planning, where to retire, health issues that could come up, changing family relationships, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of this page for links to hundreds of additional articles.

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

How to Build an Annuity Ladder

Did you know that 10,000 Baby Boomers are turning 65 every day? This statistic was published in the Sept. 11, 2011 edition of the Sunday Wall Street Journal and, by some estimates since then, the number has increased slightly in the years since then. They also had some interesting information in the same article about the fact that many Baby Boomers are going to be short of money after they quit working. I have read an increasing amount of information since that time about how much financial strain the Baby Boomer generation could experience as they age.

One decision most Boomers are going to have to make in the coming years is how to supplement their Social Security. Between now and the day they retire, Baby Boomers need to plan to pay down their bills, while building up their investments and retirement savings. After maxing out the contributions to an IRA or 401(k), how should Boomers use the proceeds to enhance their future retirement income?  One way to do this is to build an annuity ladder.

Interest rates are currently very low and so are dividend yields. This has been going on for several years and is only expected to change slowly over the next few years, although the Fed has been raising interest rates lately.  Most retirees should not plan to put their money in CD's and live off the interest. Nor should they plan to buy Blue Chip stocks and live off the dividends, at least not now. Most Boomers will not be able to do these things unless yields increase significantly in the next 3 to 5 years. The Wall Street Journal reported that some people are investing in bonds from other countries, like Brazil and France, since their yields are higher than they are currently in the United States.

Make an Annuity Ladder Part of Your Financial Plan

According to the Wall Street Journal article, another way that Baby Boomers are hoping to increase their retirement income is to build an annuity ladder. When doing this, retirees buy a new annuity every 5 years. The hope is that the yields will rise each time they purchase a new annuity.

Here is an example of how that would work.  Let's say you need an extra $400 to $500 a month in retirement income, above what you expect to receive from Social Security and any pensions you might have.  If you have saved $100,000, you could put the entire amount into a lifetime annuity and receive that much in return.  However, you will have tied up all your savings in one annuity, at a time when interest rates and annuity returns are at all-time lows.

On the other hand, it would cost about $25,000 to get around $420 a month for 5 years. At the same time, you could invest the remaining $75,000 for the next five years and expect to increase the size of your remaining nest egg so that it will be worth about $82,000 to $90,000 at the end of that time.

At the end of the five years, you still have a sizable amount of money you can invest.  You can do one of two things with it:

First, you could buy another five year annuity and repeat the process.  By this time, if interest rates have risen, your return would be higher than $420 a month.  This is an annuity ladder.

Another choice is available if interest rates have risen significantly in five years and you can get a 6% return.  In this case, you can find a long-term investment for your remaining $85,000 or put in in a CD at 6%.  Your return would be $425 a month, and you would still have full ownership of your $85,000.

Disadvantage of an Annuity Ladder

While annuity ladders can be one part of your retirement plan, they may not be the best choice for most people.  For example, consider the $420 a month return on the $25,000 described above.  You could just put the $25,000 in a bank account and withdraw $420 a month from it and it would last more than five years, even if you were only receiving 1% interest.  Consequently, there is actually no advantage to purchasing an annuity.  You could simply create your own.

Do the math before buying an annuity.  If you truly believe that your return from an annuity will be better than anything you could possibly earn from other investments, then you may want to make an annuity ladder part of your retirement plans.  If not, you may want to investigate other options.

As always, I highly recommend that you consult a retirement planner, your CPA and other advisers before committing a large amount of your assets to any investment plan.

If you are looking for additional retirement information, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles on financial planning, medical issues, changing family relationships, Social Security, Medicare where to retire, and more.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Why Work Past Retirement Age

Typical of a large number of Americans in our 60s, my husband chose to keep his current job and work past what Social Security refers to as the full retirement age. My husband is now 73.  My husband has continued to work at his career in the investment business.
Why does my husband continue to work?  The primary reason is obvious. We do not feel that Social Security alone will provide enough income for us to retire and maintain anything close to the standard of living we have enjoyed in the past.

However, there are other reasons why anyone may want to continue to work. Below are some of the reasons you may feel this is a good decision for you.

Advantages of Working during Retirement

*  The longer people work, the longer they have to build up their retirement savings.  In addition, if they can postpone withdrawing money from their savings, the longer it is likely to last.  In nearly every way, the longer you work the better your financial situation is likely to be.

*  Fear that inflation could reduce your standard of living in the coming years is another reason to keep working. Think about it.  Could you live today on what you earned 30 years ago?  What seems like a lot of money today may seem like a ridiculously small amount in a few decades.

*  Personally, we have known a number of people who have had to go back to work in their 70s and even in their 80s in order to make ends meet. Many people have decided that they are better off working well into their 60s or early 70s, rather than be faced with trying to find another job in their 70s or 80s.

*  Another advantage of working late in life is that people seem more alert, and more in tune with the rest of the world, when they work. The people whom my husband and I enjoy spending the most time with either have continued to work later in life, or they are actively involved in community service or something else which consumes their time. People our age can become lethargic and irritable when they have nothing to do. We really enjoy spending time with people who work, volunteer, take classes, or who have hobbies which keep them busy and engaged in the world around them.

Disadvantages of Working During Retirement

*  Working in your 60s or even older can be exhausting.  My husband and I have found that naps are helpful. We also take vitamins, try to get exercise and make every effort to keep ourselves in good physical shape. If we didn't, we would not be able to keep working.

*  Working may make it harder to find the free time to do some of the things which you hoped to do when you retire, especially traveling extensively.  On the other hand, if you don't have the money to do those things, then there is little reason to stop working.

If you are interested in tips on how to improve your financial planning, affordable places to retire, Social Security, Medicare, medical issues and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of this post to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

How to Qualify to Move into a Retirement Community

Have you thought about moving to a retirement community.  They can be a lot of fun and are sometimes more affordable than the homes in the surrounding communities.  As a result, they are very appealing to many Baby Boomers and older people. However, do you know if you are qualified to move into one?

Once Baby Boomers decide that they want to move into a senior living community, they have to determine whether or not they are qualified. My husband and I discovered there are strict rules which are set by federal law.  In addition, the individual communities may have additional rules which they impose.

Senior communities are the only type of real estate discrimination which is allowed under federal law. Although age discrimination is allowed in these communities, the communities still must follow federal law regarding discrimination against people on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and disability.

Below are the primary requirements we had to meet before we could move into our home in Laguna Woods Village, the retirement community we chose.  The requirements in your community may be slightly different, although generally they will be quite similar.

Typical Qualifications for Living in a Retirement Community

According to federal law, one of the residents in each home must be over the age of 55.  A resident may have a spouse of any age. Apparently, trophy wives and husbands are welcome! In addition, a resident who is at least 55 years old may also have a roommate who is at least 45 years of age. (No wonder some of the women in my community look so young to me!)

A couple or individual may have a live-in caregiver in their home, as long as they have at least two bedrooms in their home or apartment.  In our community, the caregiver also has to be approved by the homeowners' association.  In addition, the caregivers are generally now allowed to use the community amenities, although they are sometimes allowed to participate with their patient in certain activities, since they need to accompany their patient to community events, classes, etc.

If a resident has an adult child who is mentally or physically disabled, that adult child may also be able to live with the residents, if they have the approval of the homeowner's association. I know of at least one mentally challenged woman who lives in our community with her mother. She loves to go to the stables and feed the horses, and sometimes even goes on a trail ride!

Minor children or grandchildren may not live with you, although they can visit for up to 60 days a year. Sometimes couples have moved into our retirement community while they still had a child who was finishing up college. As long as their college age student only visits during school breaks, there is usually no problem.  However, it is recommend that the college age student behave in a low-key, respectful manner while in any senior community.  Otherwise, the neighbors may start looking for any infraction which could cause the child to be kicked out.

Our Experience with the Retirement Community Qualifications

My husband and I were pleased to know we met all these requirements. As a matter of fact, when we moved into our community, we did have a daughter who was a senior in college. Moving into an over-55 community is one way of keeping your adult children from moving back in with you full-time after they graduate from college!

It is also common in our community for residents to have grandchildren visit for a few weeks in the summer. We love it, and our neighbors seem to enjoy having children around occasionally, too.  Our community allows grandchildren to take horseback riding lessons and one of the pools is open to children for a few hours a day.  We also are located just four miles from a beach and are surrounded by parks, so there are plenty of ways to keep visiting grandchildren busy.  Not all retirement communities may be as welcoming to grandchildren, which is something you may want to ask about before you move into one.

In addition to the federal laws, your community may impose additional restrictions on their residents.  For example, our community does a credit check and criminal background check before allowing residents to either purchase or rent a residence in the community.  It also has income and asset requirements as a way to reduce the risk that people will move in and then be unable to pay their HOA dues.
Personally, my husband and I have had no issues with our homeowner's association.  However, the rules could be stricter wherever you live.  You need to check them out thoroughly before making the final decision about whether a specific community will meet your needs.

If you are looking for additional information about where to live when you retire, financial planning, changing family relationships, health problems or more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page for links to hundreds of additional articles.

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Photo of Laguna Woods Village Clubhouse taken by author, Deborah-Diane

Recreation in Retirement Communities

Are you trying to decide whether or not living in an over-55 retirement community would be the right choice for you? One important issue in choosing a home in the right retirement community is deciding what recreational activities are important to you. For example, my husband and I looked at a variety of over-55 communities and, even more important than the housing, we were interested in the recreational opportunities. For example, one of the communities we considered had an indoor track and swimming pool. Another had a golf course, but not much else.

One of the reasons we chose Laguna Woods Village in Orange County, California is because it had such a wide selection of recreational activities, including horseback riding. Above is a photo of me, in a red jacket, on a trail ride with other residents of the community. Every winter, the riders plant wildflower seeds as we ride along the trail. In the spring, we benefit from acres of gorgeous flowers.

In addition to the horseback riding, the over-55 community where we chose to buy a home has two golf courses (one of which is shown in the photo below), five pools, seven clubhouses, two gyms, tennis courts, over 200 clubs, an auditorium for live performances, and another auditorium appropriate for bands and ballroom dancing. In addition, we are only five miles from the charming community of Laguna Beach, which has its own assortment of restaurants, theaters, art festivals and other activities. With such a variety of activities, I didn't think we would ever get bored or run out of things to do.

In fact, one of our biggest challenges is limiting our activities. We are constantly invited to join clubs, go to concerts, or sign up for activities. Fortunately, everything is very inexpensive. My husband pays $8 for 9 holes of golf, and I pay $6 for a trail ride. One of our granddaughters can also take riding lessons there. Group lessons for beginning riders are $11 for grandchildren.

Across the United States, there are hundreds of retirement communities, including some by such well-know developers as Sun City.  Some retirement communities have golf courses; some are located on lakes or near the ocean; others are near colleges.  You have the choice of being in a cold climate with snow skiing or a more tropical climate with year-around mild weather. Retirees need to consider what they would enjoy doing after they retire before they purchase their retirement home.

Whatever retirement community you choose, give a great deal of thought to the recreational opportunities which are available both in your community and in the surrounding community.  Evaluate how much it will cost you to pursue your favorite hobbies before you buy a house. You want to be able to continue to have some fun as you age. My husband plays golf with people in their 80s and 90s. He hopes to be able to keep up his golf the rest of his life, too!

If you are looking for great places to retire or other retirement advice, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of this page to find links to hundreds of other articles on where to retire, health concerns, financial planning, family relationships and more.

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How to Find a Retirement Community

One of the most difficult decisions Baby Boomers have to make as part of their retirement planning is where to live after retirement.  It is something that my husband and I grappled with for months, and this appears to be true for many other retirees.

Here is a photo of the patio of the attached condo where we are living now. We also have a lovely view of a valley, leading to Saddleback Mountain in Southern California.  We enjoy our peaceful view immensely.

We currently live in a community called Laguna Woods Village in Orange County, California. It is a charming community with a large number of activity choices ... including golf, tennis, swimming pools, horseback riding, live theater, clubs and much more.  The downside is that all the housing was built in the 1960's and 1970's, so many of the condos are dated, unless they have been updated by previous owners.  The upside is that it is one of the most affordable places to live in a very expensive part of the United States, just five miles from the oceanside in famous Laguna Beach.

Properties in this community are available both to rent and purchase. Rents vary from about $1600 to $2800 a month. Purchase prices range from about $170,000 to over $1.25 million.  There is something for nearly everyone.

One of the reasons we chose this community is that it is near one of our daughters and two of our grandchildren.  We also have a number of friends who live nearby.  In addition, my husband still works and it is convenient to his job.
These are some of the things you will need to consider when you begin to start your search for a retirement community, too.

Factors in Choosing a Retirement Community

Proximity to family, especially grown children and grandchildren
Proximity to friends
Opportunity to pursue activities that interest you
Opportunity to continue to work or volunteer, if that interests you
Amenities, such as golf or tennis, which interest you
Proximity to high quality medical care
Proximity to other interests such as sports venues, live theater, etc.

Quality retirement communities are located in virtually every part of the United States, so there is almost certain to be one located within a reasonable drive of the people and places which are important to you.  In addition, this blog contains dozens of articles about retirement communities in a number of different areas in the United States, as well as several other countries.

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

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Do You Hope to Retire?

One of the biggest concerns of millions of Baby Boomers is how they can afford to retire.   With 10,000 or more Baby-Boomers turning 65 every single day, our generation is beginning to be called a senior tsunami.  My husband and I are perfect examples.

Now that I am 69, and my husband is 73, we thought we would both be retired by now. However, life has thrown us a few more curves than we expected. While I retired at age 64, my husband is still working as an investment advisor.  Even with his financial background, the reality of trying to maintain or lifestyle is a challenge.

It's obvious to us that Social Security will not provide enough money for us to retire ... at least not in California! We have some stocks in our IRA, but they do not produce enough income to replace what he has traditionally earned over the years. Considering how low interest rates and dividends currently are, we do not feel that we have enough assets in reserve for both of us to cut loose from our jobs and assume we will be OK for the next 20 or 30 years.

When we look back at how much the cost of things have increased during the last few decades, we worry that our current assets would not cover our future expenses.  In addition, like many Baby Boomers, we worry that Social Security could be cut in the future, since Congress has not addressed the coming shortfall in the Social Security reserves.

What to Expect from

In this blog, which I began in 2011, you can join my husband, friends and I as we explore some of the actions we have taken or plan to take in order to retire.

In addition, you will find articles which explore retirement communities in the United States and abroad, additional sources of retirement income, ways to save money, and issues such as health problems, financial planning, grey divorce, Alzheimers, senior alcoholism, Social Security, Medicare and depression in retirement.

I welcome comments, ideas, and suggestions that readers would like to share with others who are also trying to figure things out. Many of the comments left by my readers have inspired me to write articles about their questions or suggestions.  It seems that we Baby Boomers have spent our lives trying get things figured out, haven't we?

The quest continues right into our slightly tarnished Golden Years.

My goal is to continue to write and build this blog for the remainder of my life ... since we Baby Boomers are going to continue to have an effect on society for decades to come.

Our retirement is going to be a thrilling ride, and I invite you to join me in exploring our options.

If you are looking for information on specific retirement topics, including where to retire in the United States or overseas, medical issues that might affect us, financial planning, changing family relationships and more, please use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of this page for links to hundreds of additional articles.

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