Saturday, July 28, 2012

Live in Ecuador Comfortably on Social Security

For anyone looking for a beautiful, tranquil and cheap place to retire, Ecuador should be at the top of your list.  According to, Ecuador has been at the top of their Global Retirement Index for the past three years in a row.  Here are some of the reasons why:

Affordable Retirement in Ecuador

Americans moving to another country want to be certain that they can afford to live there comfortably, especially if their primary source of income is their Social Security.  In the colonial city of Cuenca, a furnished two-bedroom apartment rents for about $300 a month, and you can buy a condo for approximately $75,000.  A three-bedroom waterfront condo can be rented for $900 a month, if you take out a multi-year lease which will also keep your expenses steady.  Long term leases are a good alternative to buying.  According to International Living, you can live very well in Ecuador for less than $2500 a month, sometimes much less.

The official currency in Ecuador is the U.S. dollar, which makes it very easy to know exactly what you are spending for everything.  A number of banks will accept direct deposits of your Social Security check and there are ATMs almost everywhere.

Another community that is appealing to relocating Americans is Bahia de Carquez on the coast of Ecuador.  Like Cuenca, it has medical facilities, restaurants and groups of other expatriots who get together regularly.

Some things, such as furniture and American style clothing, can be more expensive in Ecuador.  However, if you buy your clothing during visits back to the United States, and you rent a furnished apartment, these expenses should not be too serious a problem.

You will also find that the grocery stores are well-stocked and carry nearly everything you are accustomed to buying in the United States, although not all brand names will be available.

Medical Care in Ecuador

One concern many Americans have when they move to another country is the medical care.  This past January, a couple I know was traveling in Ecuador, when the wife suddenly collapsed in her hotel room as the result of a brain aneurysm.  This could have been fatal, even if it had happened in her home in the United States.  However, she was taken to a hospital in Ecuador where she had a world-class brain surgeon repair the aneurysm, using the latest techniques.  She is back home in the United States, and her neurologist here has expressed his amazement at the quality of the repair.  If you met her today, you would have no idea that this happened to her only six months ago.

In addition to the modern medical facilities in Ecuador, healthcare is quite affordable.  You can buy inexpensive health insurance there, even if you are over age 65.  A retired couple can get health insurance for less than $100 a month from Nova Ecuador, the national insurer.  In addition, a trip to a doctor only costs about $25 - $35 without insurance.

Beauty and Climate

Of course, no matter how cheap a place is, or how wonderful the medical care is, you would not want to move there if it wasn't a lovely, pleasant place to live.  Ecuador has a diverse terrain, ranging from charming beach towns to spectacular mountain villages.  The weather is very temperate.  In Cuenca, the average daily high temperature is in the 70's, with cool evenings.  Some people consider the Ecuadorian climate to be the best in the world.

New Friendships

According to the U.S. State Department, approximately 1.5 million American retirees are living in other countries.  In addition to the opportunity for fun and adventure in another country, many people enjoy the tight-knit groups of friends they find in many foreign countries.   There are currently approximately 5,000 to 10,000 American expatriots living in Ecuador, with the numbers growing every year.

Use Caution When Moving to a New Country

Just because you are living in another country, you should not drop your natural sense of caution.  Even in Ecuador there are thieves, as well as white collar criminals.  Don't be too trusting until you have had time to get to know what you are doing there.  Learning Spanish will help you speak with the local people, although many do speak English.  Contact a local attorney before you move to Ecuador, in order to begin the process of establishing residency once you are there.

If you are interested in learning more about where to retire in the United States or abroad, financial planning, medical issues and changing family values, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Some of the other articles that may interest you are:

Retiring in Luxury to Hua Hin, Thailand
Americans Retiring in Panama
Best Places to Retire Outside the US
Cheap Places to Retire (in the US)
The Best Sunny Places to Retire (in the US)
Finding Niche Retirement Communities (in the US)

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Retiring in Luxury to Hua Hin, Thailand

As part of our ongoing series of great places to retire on Social Security, many Americans have discovered the famous beach resort community of Hua Hin, Thailand.  Out of a population of approximately 85,000, about 10 percent of the residents are ex-patriots from other countries.

This lovely beachside city is the site of the Wang Klai Kan Won Palace, now used as the full-time residence of the King of Thailand.  It has a tropical climate, with pleasant temperatures that average from 76 to 89 degrees Fahrenheit.  The occasional rainfall amounts to about 39 inches a year.

What to Do in Hua Hin

This small city has good transportation, with its own domestic airport and modern rail service that can easily link residents to the major international airports in Bangkok and Suvarmabhumi.  The beach extends for five kilometers and is considered beautiful and clean.  Among the popular activities in the area are the beaches for snorkeling and swimming, golf courses, fishing, eco-cruising, spas, waterfalls, elephant camping, kite-boarding, national parks and a wide variety of restaurants and shops.  There is a nightly street market where visitors can enjoy shopping and dining on local seafood that is prepared on the spot. 

There are also fun karaoke bars, discotheques, and beer bars scattered throughout the city, especially near the seaside hotels.  Festivals are an important part of life in Hua Hin.  Among the annual events retirees can enjoy are the International Kite Festival, the Hua Hin Jazz Festival, and the Jua Hin Vintage Car Rally.  Residents and tourists can also enjoy modern shops, as well as restaurants and clubs at the local hotels.  A photo of the Market Village is shown shown here.

Health Facilities in Hua Hin

Hua Hin has several modern medical facilities, including the San Paulo Hospital, Hua Hin Red Cross, Bangkok International Hospital, and Hua Hin International Polyclinic.  The Dr. Pairat Eye Clinic is also located there.  Medical procedures in Thailand cost from 20 to 80 percent less than the same procedures in the U.S., and many people believe that the care you will receive is even better.

Living in Hua Hin, Thailand

American residents to this area will discover that English is widely used, and they can enjoy a high standard of living on a modest budget.  According to a  U.S. News article entitled "The Ideal Retirement Haven You've Never Heard of," a couple could live comfortably here for $1,100 a month.  Since most American retirees actually earn significantly more than this from their Social Security alone, this can be a very appealing location to consider.  Sample prices:

2 bedroom furnished ocean view apartment: $1000 - $1200 month
2 bedroom furnished home away from beach: $600 - $900 month
Full time housekeeper:  $300 month
Two-hour massage:  $20 - $35

For retirees wanting to take college classes, Webster University, which is the only international American accredited University in Thailand, has its main campus in the area.

Looking for more retirement ideas?  Use the tabs or the pull down menu at the top of this page to find links to hundreds of other helpful articles on where to retire in the United States or abroad, financial planning, medical issues, and changing family relationships.

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You may also be interested in some of these other blog posts:

Americans Retiring in Panama
Best Places to Retire Outside the US
Cheap Places to Retire (in the US)
The Best Sunny Places to Retire (in the US)
Finding Niche Retirement Communities (in the US)


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Crimes Against the Elderly

Many Baby Boomers are moving into retirement communities while they still have living parents who also live in a retirement community or an assisted living facility.  Unfortunately, with so many people over the age of 55 living in these neighborhoods, they have begun to attract the attention of criminals who are looking for easy victims.  As a result, Baby Boomers not only have to worry about keeping themselves safe from these predators, but many of us also have to worry about our parents, who can often be more trusting and less suspicious than their Baby Boomer children.

Crime Statistics Involving Elderly

According to the Project America website, for every 1000 people age 65 and over, here are the annual crime statistics:

Simple assault: 1.5
Personal theft:    .8
Robbery:           .6
Aggravated assault:  .3
Rape or sexual assault: .1

Overall, about 2.5 out of every 1000 people age 65 and over will be the victim of a crime every year.  Obviously, the longer you live, the greater your chances of being victimized.

Financial Crimes Against the Elderly

According to the same Project America article, the Department of Justice is especially concerned about financial crimes against the elderly.  In 1998, about one-third of the elder abuse cases that were discovered included financial exploitation, and the statistics have remained similar since that time.  This can include relatives that steal money from senior citizens, financial advisers who are dishonest, and strangers who trick retirees into paying bills they do not owe or donate to charities that do not exist.

Telemarketing Fraud Against the Elderly 

In addition, the elderly have reported about $40 billion in losses as a result of telemarketing fraud, and this problem is growing yearly.

On my Lies and Liers blog, I wrote a post about a phone call I received.  The post is titled "Lies and Liars: Computer Virus Scams," and the incident so infuriated my husband that he reported it to the Federal Internet Crime Complaint Center at  This government agency shares this information with other law enforcement agencies, both local and national.  I highly recommend that anyone who experiences a similar phone call report it to the Federal Internet Crime Complaint Center.  While you are unlikely to get reimbursed for any losses, this site is the first step in trying to end these types of crimes.

These phone calls take many forms.  In the case I wrote about, a stranger called and tried to trick me into letting him take control of my computer so he could show me that I had a "computer virus" on it.  When people have fallen for this scam in the past, the caller has loaded a virus onto their computer and then sold the victims anti-virus software.

Other Hoaxes Directed at Senior Citizens

One of the disadvantages of living in a retirement community is that we receive so many fraudulent calls.  The issue has become serious enough that we have begun screening most of the phone calls we receive at our home.  If we do not recognize a name or phone number for an incoming call, we let our answering machine pick up the call.  Then we decide if we want to return it.

Many seniors continue to be tricked into giving strangers their Social Security number and other identifying information because they are being told it is necessary in order to receive government assistance to pay a portion of their utility bills or other obligations.  This is another complete fraud, often targeting the elderly.

Crimes that Pull At Your Heart Strings

Some of the worst crimes are those that rely on your charitable nature or desire to help others.  One of the most horrifying one is "The Crying Teenager Hoax."  In this hoax, a crying teen calls, pretending to be your grandchild or other relative.  They ask you to wire them money in another state because they have been in a car accident or arrested.  Thousands of seniors have sent wire transfers to strangers, believing they were helping a young relative.  Sometimes it is days before they realize they have been cheated.

Other Types of Crimes Against the Elderly

It is a shame that we need to remain constantly vigilant.  However, as a resident of an over-55 community, I realize that I have received more fraudulent phone calls since I moved here than at any other place I have ever lived.  In addition, a member of our Homeowner's Association Board of Directors told me this morning that many of the elderly in our community have been robbed by their home healthcare workers and other people who are supposed to be "helping" them.  This is especially shocking, because we live in a community that is considered one of the safest in California!

No matter how old we live to be, or how safe we deem our community, we are never too old to be the victim of a crime.  We can never let our guard down ... for ourselves, our parents, our friends or our neighbors.

If you are interested in learning more about retirement planning, financial issues, where to retire, medical concerns and changing family relationships, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Bankrate List of WORST States for Retirement

In 2012, I ran across an interesting news story from Bankrate, Inc., entitled "10 Worst States to Live in During Retirement."  Their list included a large part of the southern United States.  Of course, this is in direct conflict with many of my other posts in this blog in which I published lists of wonderful places to retire that had been created by CNN Money, Kiplinger Magazine, and AARP.  All of their lists had promoted many of the southern states as affordable, sunny places to retire.

Is the South Really a Bad Region for Retirement?

The Bankrate article peaked my interest because, like most of you, I wanted to know their criteria.  Why were these states suddenly considered undesirable?  Bankrate based their information on statewide statistics for short life expectancies, high crime rates, and high poverty levels. As I thought about these statewide statistics, I realized that their criteria might not have much affect on many of the people who choose to retire in the South.  Here are my thoughts:

First, your personal life expectancy is determined by your health, your heredity and your lifestyle.  The statewide average life expectancy will not have much affect on you, especially after you have already reached the age of 60 or older. 

Second, no one wants to live in a state with a high crime rate.  However, not every town in these states has an abnormally high crime rate.  In addition, if you live in an over-55 community or an assisted living facility, your home or apartment is likely to have a very low crime rate.

Third, one reason many of these states are attractive to retirees is because they often have a low cost of living.  While a large number of retirees who live in these states may have incomes below the poverty line, the amount of Social Security you receive is not based on the state where you live.  You are likely to live on Social Security much more comfortably in an affordable state like Louisiana or Georgia than an expensive state like New York or California.  In fact, the low cost of living in these states may be the very reason why so many low income retirees have chosen to live in them, and the reason why there are so many retirees in these states with incomes below the poverty line!

Keeping these thoughts in mind, here is the Bankrate list:

Bankrate List of States With High Crime, High Poverty and Low Life Expectancy

(Life expectancies are listed after each state)

Louisiana - 75.4
Georgia - 77.1
New Mexico - 78.2
Texas - 78.3
Arkansas - 76.1
Tennessee - 76.2
South Carolina - 76.6
Mississippi - 74.8
Alabama - 75.2
Kentucky - 76.2

The crime rates in these states ranged from 2,794 (Kentucky) to 4,498 (South Carolina) per 100,000 residents.

The percent of retirees living in poverty in these states ranged from 9.7% (Tennessee) to 12% (New Mexico).

How Can Texas Be Considered a Bad State for Retirement?

In looking over the statistics for the various states, I particularly objected to Bankrate's inclusion of Texas on their list.  After all, the life expectancy in Texas was 78.3 (the highest on their list),  The state crime rate of 4,233 per 100,000 residents was high, but it is not that high everywhere in the state.  Many small Texas towns and suburbs have a low crime rate.  The poverty rate of  retirees at 10.7% might only reflect that many low income retirees find it a desirable place to live.  Texas has shown up over and over again on the lists of other organizations as a great place to retire.

These statistics show that we have to evaluate everything we read carefully.  Making decisions about retirement is confusing enough, without having to wade through conflicting opinions!

If you are interested in more ideas about where to retire in the U.S. and abroad, financial issues, medical concerns and changing family relationships, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of helpful articles.

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Online Dating Scams and Benefits

Are you lonely and hope to find someone to spend time with ... perhaps even marry?  Many senior citizens have turned to online dating sites, and there is nothing wrong with that.  You will see these sites advertised on Yahoo, along the sidebar of this blog and in other reputable locations.

However, if you do decide to sign up for a dating site, there are a few common sense precautions you should take.  Below is some information to help you enjoy these sites, while protecting yourself ... and your savings account.

What You Should Know About Online Dating

I have actually covered the topic of online dating scams in detail in another blog which I write.  You can read that detailed article here:

Lies and Liars: Online Dating Scams

As you will discover in the above article, while many people are nice on these sites, there are a few scammers that you could encounter, and they are looking for vulnerable people to become their next online dating victims.  The scammers put together new, imaginary identities for themselves, and create a wonderful back story.  They depict themselves as being caring, thoughtful, loving, fun, well-traveled and interested in a wide variety of sports and hobbies.  They may use stolen pictures of attractive middle-aged people.  Sometimes they pose as men or women with successful professional careers.  Who wouldn't want to date someone like them?  They sound great, but they are really scammers who are simply trolling for their next victim.  You do not have to be a victim of this small group of scammers, however!

How To Protect Yourself From Online Dating Scams

Although you will find more details in the article I mentioned above, below are the basics that everyone should know.  While these actions will not guarantee that you will not be scammed, they can dramatically reduce the chances.

*  Go slow in forming relationships with someone on an online dating site.
*  Use paid dating sites; the people on them have to use credit cards and real identities.
*  Give preference to sites that do criminal background checks.
*  Do not give out personal information for a long time ... where you work, live, etc.
*  Speak with them on the phone or by Skype before meeting them.
*  Meet at a neutral location several times before meeting them privately.
*  Avoid long-distance relationships ... they may not live where they say.
*  Become very suspicious if they begin to need money for a sick relative, a business problem or in order to buy tickets to visit you.
*  Google the person's name and check them out on or to see if there are complaints about this person scamming someone else.

Advantages of Online Dating Sites

While there are some risks involved with dating sites, they can also be a wholesome, positive way to meet someone.  Thousands of couples have met and gotten married after getting to know each other through online dating.  There are good people on these sites.

Many of the Baby Boomers I know are divorced or widowed, and they are hoping to meet someone new.  They no longer hang out in bars, and their circle of friends may not be as wide as it was in their younger days.  Often the clubs and organizations they do join are made up primarily of members of their own sex.  As a result, they aren't sure how to meet members of the opposite sex and form new romantic bonds.  They may want to date, but just not know how to meet other eligible people near their own age.  This is why an online dating site can be a pleasant way to meet someone you might want to date.

Fortunately, the majority of the people on these sites are nice, honest, respectable people like yourself.  Many of them really are attractive, considerate and fun-loving people.  Just take your time and follow the recommendations above and you are much more likely to have a positive online dating experience.  Don't rush into anything and, if you have any doubts, discuss them with your friends.  They can help you make sure you are thinking clearly and not putting yourself at risk.  In fact, there is nothing wrong with bringing along a friend the first few times you meet a stranger.  You'll be much more comfortable ... and safer!

To stay up-to-date on all the latest scams, swindles and hoaxes, you are invited to follow my Lies and Liars blog, as well as this one.

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Retirement Income from Annuities vs Investment Income

As you approach retirement, one tough decision that people need to make is how they should invest the money they have saved for retirement.  Far too many people run through this money during the first few years after they quit working.  This can often be an especially big problem for those retirees who take early retirement.  Many of them do not have a plan to make sure their money lasts the rest of their lives.  Before you start spending your retirement savings, here are some points to consider.

Investment Income for Retirement

Financial planners recommend that you do not take more than 4% per year from your retirement savings, in order to be sure that your savings will last the rest of your life.  If you have saved $50,000 in your IRA, 401K and other accounts, this means you can start taking out $2,000 a year.  In this way, the principal will last 25 years, plus you will have your accumulated interest to draw on.  If you retire at age 65, the money will last the majority of people all of their lives.  With interest rates so low, however, some financial planners have reduced the percentage to 3% a year, if retirees want to be absolutely sure their money will last.  Three percent translates to about $1500 a year on $50,000 in savings.  This is a fixed amount which you cannot increase, even if you experience financial problems as a result of inflation.

Another approach to handling your retirement savings is to re-evaluate every few years how much you can remove.  In other words, start out taking only $1000 a year for the first five years.  Then, gradually increase the amount as you age.  To figure out how much you can take in later years, subtract your age from 100.  Then, divide your remaining savings by that number.  If you never take out more than that amount, your money should last the rest of your life (assuming you do not live past 100).  For example, if you are 75, and you still have $38,000 left in savings, divide that $38,000 by 25.  This comes to $1520 a year that you can remove from savings.  When you reach 80 and have about $33,000, divide that amount by 20 and you can start taking $1650 a year from savings.  This allows you to benefit from increases to your principle from the interest you have received, and helps protect you against inflation.

A third approach is to simply invest your money in the highest dividend paying stocks, Treasury bills, or bank C.D.'s you can find and simply use whatever interest you get, without ever touching your principle.  However, if you choose a bad stock or interest rates dip (as they have over the past few years), you could end up with very little income.  On the other hand, you maintain control of your principle, and you can pass it on to your heirs.

A lot will depend on how much money you have saved and how much you need to live on.  If your current expenses are so high that you are tempted to use more than 4% of your savings in one year, it is very important that you downsize immediately or you will go through your savings much too rapidly.

Annuities to Supplement Your Retirement Income

Annuities are an entirely different way to handle your retirement savings.  You turn your savings over to an annuity company and they pay you a fixed income for the rest of your life.  In most annuities, the monthly amount is locked in.  The amount you are paid is designed to pay you interest and use up your principle.  There are different types of annuities.  One popular example is the New York Life Insurance annuity that is promoted by AARP.  With this annuity, if you do not collect long enough to at least earn back your original investment, the difference will be paid to your chosen beneficiary.  Here are some sample payouts (in 2012) based on the age you are when you make the original investment:

Age 65 -- 5.8%
Age 75 -- 6.9%
Age 85 -- 8.1%

Based on these figures, if a 65 year old invested that same $50,000 in an AARP / New York Life annuity, they would immediately begin receiving $2900 a year in income.  That is far more than the $1000 to $2000 a year they would pay themselves if they decided to manage and draw on their own savings.  However, the amount never goes up.  Another disadvantage is that you can only pass the money on to a beneficiary if you have received less than $50,000 in payments by the time you die.  In other words, if you started receiving the annuity at age 65 and died at age 82, there would be nothing left to pass to an heir.  Many people who collect an annuity feel that they should save a portion of the income they receive in the early years, to help with rising expenses in later years.

This is not meant to be an endorsement of the AARP / New York Life annuity. There are other annuities from other companies that offer different options, and some of them may work better for your needs.  This was only meant as an example, so you can understand how annuities can help you handle your retirement income.

Annuities vs. Investment Income

There is no solution that is the correct one for every person.  A great deal depends on whether or not you hope to leave money to a beneficiary, and how successful you think you will be if you handle your own money rather than turn it over to someone else.  You also need to consider how much income you will need immediately upon retirement.  Many people actually use a combination of two or more of these plans.  Whatever you decide, it is good to have a full picture of the options available to you before you begin recklessly living off your savings during the first few years after retirement.

If you are interested in learning more about ideas for retirement income, financial planning, where to retire, medical issues for retirees, and changing family values, 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, July 8, 2012

Money Saving Tips for Good Healthcare

When it comes to saving money on our health, every little bit helps.  For many retirees, their medical expenses, including doctor visits, eyeglasses and drugs, can make up a significant portion of their income.  Anything they can do to save money on health expenses, medical bills, and exercises classes will help improve their overall health and quality of life.

Whether you are a Baby Boomer who will be retiring in the coming years, or one who is already retired, here are some suggestions from the July-August 2012 issue of the AARP Bulletin that may help you save money and take a step towards better health.

Save Money on Exercise Classes

Until recently, I paid $12 per class to take yoga at a popular yoga school in our neighborhood.  Then I discovered that I could take free yoga classes at a number of nearby locations.  Some of the classes are taught by junior college instructors who come to our retirement community.  Others are taught by retired yoga instructors who want to share their knowledge with others.  When I began to explore what was available, I learned that I could also take free chair aerobics classes, Tai Chi classes, Pilates classes, line dancing, weight training, and more.  If you want to stay in the best physical condition possible, contact your local Community College or Senior Center to see what free classes may be available in your neighborhood.  Be sure to ask local colleges if they have an Emeritus program.  These are classes specifically designed for senior citizens and they may be offered free or at a low cost.

You should also check with your health insurance provider.  Many of them, including a number of Medicare plans, include free or low-cost membership in health clubs in your community.

Save Money on Health Care

AARP also had several excellent suggestions that may enable people to get easier access to affordable doctors, dentists and ophthalmologists. 

Doctor visits:  Go to and find a list of federally funded health centers that provide dental and medical care.  You will pay based on a sliding scale, depending on your income.  In addition, see if you are eligible for low cost health insurance through Medicaid. 

Other dental needs:  In addition to seeing a dentist at a health center, you may also want to contact a local dental school for low cost care.  You can also find resources for affordable dentists at  If you are eligible for Medicare, you may want to add a supplemental policy for dental and vision care. 

Eye care:  For those who have reached aged 65, contact to see if you qualify to have a voluntary ophthalmologist perform an annual eye exam at no cost.  As mentioned under dental needs, if you are on Medicare, you may also want to add a supplemental policy for dental and vision care.

Healthcare Law:  Since January 1, 2014, the Affordable Care Act requires that nearly everyone should have access to free preventive exams and tests, including mammograms, colonoscopies, and bone density scans.  This will enable many more people to have access to these life-saving tests, as well as others, with no co-pay or deductible.

Clinical Trials: If you have a chronic or serious illness, and you do not feel you can afford treatment, you may want to try a clinical trial.  To find trials that could help you, go to  My own husband has been in a clinical trial for his chronic kidney disease for five years and we have both been very happy with the success of his trial.  Of course there are risks, which each person needs to weigh carefully.  However, if there is no other way for you to afford treatment, or if traditional treatments do not seem to be helping you (as was the case with my husband) this is one approach to consider.

Cheaper Prescriptions

Prescription medicines can be a major expense for some people.  I was recently standing in line behind an elderly woman at the drug store, and the prescriptions she was picking up totaled over $700.  I don't know how she felt about it, but I was stunned!

One way to save money is to use generic versions of drugs whenever you can.  In addition, prices differ from store to store.  It is definitely worth it to shop around.  Don't forget to check out Costco and Sam's Club, even if you are not a member.  They are required by law to fill prescriptions for anyone.

The Affordable Care Act is also gradually closing the "doughnut hole" which makes consumers pay the full price for their prescriptions after they have met a deductible.  This will help millions of people.

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

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Important Medicare Tips for Boomers

Baby Boomers are turning age 65 at the rate of 10,000 a day.  When they do, they become eligible for Medicare.  It is extremely important that Baby Boomers prepare for this milestone and sign up for Medicare a few months BEFORE their 65th birthday.  A delay can cause them to spend extra money for Medicare premiums for the rest of their lives!  You should apply for basic Medicare, even if you are still working and you are eligible for insurance through your employer.

Here are a few additional facts that every Baby Boomer needs to know before they turn 65.

Medicare Tips for Baby Boomers

1.  Enroll in Medicare as soon as possible.  You can contact your local Social Security office for an appointment and sign up while you are there.  You may especially want to handle your application this way if you are also applying for your Social Security benefits at the same time.  However, another choice is to apply for your Medicare benefits online in about 10 minutes by using the government website at  You can complete the application once you are 64 years and 8 months old.  You do NOT want to wait until after your 65th birthday.

2.  If you are still working when you turn 65, and you are covered by a medical insurance plan through your employer, you still need to file for Medicare Parts A and B, even if you will not be using those benefits for a few years.  Again, you need to do this before your 65th birthday, so you can save money on premiums when you do begin to rely on Medicare.

3.  Medicare is divided into four parts:  Original Parts A and B, which help cover hospital and doctor bills; Part C, which is an extra Medicare Advantage program you purchase to cover some of the expenses not covered by A and B; and Part D, which is drug coverage.  When you choose a Medicare Advantage plan, or Part C, those plans usually also include Parts A, B and D so that everything is together in one convenient plan.

4.  There are many different Medicare Advantage plans, and most of them will offer informational meetings in your community.  However, one of my friends simply called her current doctors and asked them which Advantage programs they liked the best.  She found there was one particular plan that kept being mentioned, so that is the Advantage program she chose.  You should also know that there are different prices and benefits available for the various plans, too, so shop around.  They are all required by law to provide the same benefits as basic Medicare and most of them provide additional benefits and/or lower co-pays and deductibles than basic Medicare.

5.  Instead of a Medicare Advantage plan, you may wish to purchase a Medicare Supplement plan, instead.  In this case, you have both basic Medicare AND an additional insurance policy.  The premiums are usually higher than they are for a Medicare Advantage plan, but you may find a plan that will result in zero co-pays and your complete choice of doctors in a PPO plan.  This is very appealing to some people who feel it is worth paying extra.  However, for many people, a Medicare Advantage plan that includes their favorite doctors is an excellent choice.  Go to a few informational meetings and decide which choice is best for you ... a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medicare Supplement plan.

6.  If you believe that you cannot afford your Medicare premiums, ask for help from your local Social Security office or through an insurance consultant with the Affordable Care Act.  Low income retirees can qualify for help and I encourage them to take advantage of the assistance programs.

If you are interested in learning more about Medicare, health issues that can arise in retirement, financial planning, where to retire, changing family relationships and more, 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, July 1, 2012

Exercises for Your Brain

Over the past year, several readers of this blog have asked me about the best exercises for the brain.  I listed a few in an article I wrote called "Brain Activities to Lower Alzheimers Risk," which some of you may have missed.  I'll repeat those exercises here, but I am also going to add some that I have recently heard about.  After all, we need all the advise we can get, if we want to keep our brains in top shape as we age!

In the AAA Westways Magazine for July/August, 2012, there was a short article about brain boosters.  What I particularly liked about their article was the statement, "any type of exercise will help the brain."  That was certainly good news, because most of us do not strictly follow a brain building program! 

Another thing I liked about the Westways Magazine list was the fact that their exercises are designed especially for people who are traveling ... which a lot of us Baby Boomers will be doing, especially after they retire.  By putting all the different exercises together, I've come up with the following list.

My List of Exercises for the Brain

Try cross-training for the brain. (Use the opposite hand to do common activities, such as eating or brushing your teeth)

Practice memorizing lists of words, by using silly word associations.

Do crossword puzzles, soduku or similar word games.

Learn something new and difficult, such as playing an instrument, speaking a new language, or developing your computer skills.

Socialize.  There is a great deal of research that shows it hurts your physical and mental health to let yourself become isolated.  Get out and meet people.  Join a club.  Learn to play bridge. (If it is new to you, it is even better for your brain.)  Make sure you are having fun with other people several times a week.

Do cardio exercises to get the blood pumping to your brain.  Try walking fast, riding a bike or using a treadmill or the exercise equipment at your local gym or hotel fitness center, when you are on the road.  When you are on a trip, you should also walk as much as you can.  The fresh air and exercise are both good for your brain.

Do strength building exercises, like push ups, or use free weights to build strength.  Building muscle also helps keep the blood flowing.

Dance!  Put on some music you love, and dance, dance, dance.  If you enjoy it, sign up for line dancing classes or jazzercise.

Try using two or more senses at once.  Walk up and down the aisle of a train or plane while you are traveling, which requires you to keep your balance, while using your eyes, sense of touch, etc. 

Laugh.  More and more often I hear about the benefits of laughing aloud several times a day.  It is good for our heart, brain and overall health.

Take a few deep breaths several times a day.  Inhale, hold your breath; exhale, hold your breath.  Repeat.

Sleep.  People who have at least seven hours of sleep a night seem to do better on many different types of health evaluations.

Finally, it is important to eat well.  While this is not an exercise, it should be mentioned in any article about brain health.  Include good quality protein and a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet every day.

If you are interested in more information about your health as you age, financial planning, where to retire, changing family relationships and more, 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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