Friday, August 30, 2013

When to Take Your Social Security Early

As most readers of this blog know, I am a big proponent of waiting as long as possible before you begin to take your Social Security benefits.  This is because the longer you wait, the larger your check will be each month.  This has always seemed like an easy, clear-cut decision for me, and I often wondered why intelligent people I knew were choosing to take their benefits early.

Recently, in a conversation with one of my friends, I realized that waiting to take your benefits until you are age 66 or older is not the best business decision for everyone.  In fact, for many people, it can be a much better financial decision to take your benefits early.  If you need to stop working before you reach age 66, it can take ten to twelve years to make up for the money you would lose by going without Social Security for a couple of years.  In fact, as result of this conversation and a meeting I had at the Social Security office, I have actually decided to go ahead and apply for my benefits at age 64.

Reasons to Take Social Security Early

1.  In my situation, my husband has a serious illness which may shorten his life.  Although we hope he will live many more years, if he does die before me I will receive Social Security widow's benefits based on his earnings.  Meanwhile, since I recently retired from a job at age 64, I can go ahead and collect my own benefits now, which will amount to about 42 percent of my husband's Social Security.  We decided together that there was no reason to postpone my benefits for two years, during which time I would have lost over $24,000, since it would take more than a decade for us to make up that amount of money from the slightly increased benefits I would have received by waiting.  In other words, if the family breadwinner is in poor health, it may be wise for the spouse to begin collecting benefits as soon as possible.  If my husband manages to live another 15 or 20 years with his illness, we might regret the decision.  However, that was a risk we were willing to take.

2.  Even if there is no spouse involved, you may be wise to take your Social Security benefits early if you do not expect to live until your late 70's or early 80's.  Many people with a debilitating chronic illness may choose to make this choice.  Although you will receive a smaller payment when you collect early, you could receive the payments for many more years.  According to estimates by the Social Security Administration, a person who begins to collect at age 62 will receive payments that are only about half as large as a person who waits until they are 70 years old.  However, because they will receive benefits for eight additional years, the break-even point will occur in their late 70's.  If your health makes it likely that you will not live until your late 70's, then you may receive more in total earnings by collecting early.  In addition, if you don't need to use all the money in your early 60's and you invest some of it, the break even age may even be older.

3.  Some people may also decide to take their benefits early because of lifestyle choices.  For example, if they want to travel or pursue a second career, taking their benefits early may make it possible for them to pursue their goals while they are still young enough to enjoy the experience.  However, in this case it is important for people to realize that they are making a life-long decision.  Once they are tired of traveling or pursuing the second career, they cannot go back and ask for more money.  This choice is more risky than the ones mentioned above that were based on life expectancy.  If you are healthy and live a long time, you may end up regretting your decision to collect your benefits early, since your income will be so low.

4.  A fourth legitimate reason why some people may choose to take their Social Security benefits early is when unemployment or illness leaves them with no other income options.  In many cases, people are grateful that they have earned these benefits so that they have some source of income when it is no longer possible for them to earn money any other way.  Of course, most financial planners still recommend that people rely on some other source of income, if at all possible, and postpone collecting their Social Security as long as possible.  If they do this, the income they receive later may be even more meaningful.  However, if you have no other choice, you may be grateful that you have the money available.

No matter when you decide to collect your Social Security benefits, between the ages of 62 and 70, you need to do research and talk to representatives in the Social Security office before making a final decision.  Everyone's situation is different.  Do not base your decision on what your friends are doing.  Finally, despite the reasons I gave above for collecting early, if you can postpone collecting for a few years, it is still the best decision for many people.


If you are planning your retirement, you may also want to check out the index articles below.  Each of them contains links to a variety of articles on that topic:

Gifts, Travel and Family Relationships

Great Places for Boomers to Retire Overseas

Great Places to Retire in the United States

Health and Medical Topics for Baby Boomers

Money and Financial Planning for Retirement

You are reading from the blog:

Copy of old Social Security card courtesy of

Monday, August 26, 2013

Have a Better Cruise Experience

Going on a cruise is one of my favorite vacation experiences and apparently this is also true for many other Americans, especially retirees.  I love being able to visit multiple locations without having to arrange for transportation from city to city.  I also enjoy the freedom from constantly packing my luggage and moving to a new hotel every few days.

While I already consider cruising one of the easiest forms of travel, I also have a few tips that may make it an even more practical travel choice.  While you may not want to try all these things, pick out a few and see if they make your next cruise even more pleasurable:

Tips for a Better Cruise

Limit your luggage.  I usually take far too much clothing on my cruises.  Depending on whether you are going to a tropical location or cruising near Alaska or North Europe, you should be able to get by with just a few color-coordinated outfits that work well if you mix and match them.  Throw in one dressy outfit.  A knit "little black dress" is practical and it won't wrinkle easily.   You can change the look with a dressy jacket, jewelry or scarves. Your room will be more comfortable if you don't overpack and you  may not have to wait to have your luggage delivered to your room if you are able to just carry your bag on board by yourself.

Don't overspend on cruise extras.  For example, your regular dinner table will serve fabulous meals every evening.  Do you really want to spend extra money to go to a specialty restaurant on the ship?  You may also want to steer clear of the gift shops.  Often they carry the same lines of high priced souvenirs that are for sale in upscale hotel gift shops everywhere.  Unless you forgot to pack a swimsuit or you really want a sweatshirt with the name of your cruise line printed on it, you can probably skip most of the items in the gift shops.

Don't spend all your days in port taking excursions. Instead, spend some time exploring the ports on your own, especially if you can rent a car or take a cab and get away from the tourist sites that are clustered near the port. One of the delights of traveling to new locations is getting to experience new adventures.  If you are cruising in Hawaii, for example, you may want to visit the erupting volcano on the Big Island and tour the Pearl Harbor Memorial on Oahu, and it may be easiest to see these attractions if you sign up for a tour.  However, you do not want to spend all your time and money on excursions.  You can happily wander around many of the port towns on your own.  When we have traveled in Hawaii, the Caribbean, Alaska and Europe, whether we were on a cruise or not, my family and I enjoyed getting away from the tourist attractions and exploring the towns on our own.  We signed up for a few excursions and tours, but we always left ourselves plenty of free time, too.

Eat right and get exercise.  While you are on your cruise, it is easy to eat all day long.  Food is available almost everywhere!  However, if you sit around on deck chairs, eating and drinking all day, you will start to feel sluggish after a few days.  Take advantage of the fitness facilities.  I enjoyed taking a yoga class and my husband competed in a golf tournament on one of our cruises.  Rather than going to the breakfast buffet, where we knew we would be tempted to overeat, we asked to have a bowl of fruit, tea, coffee and oatmeal delivered to our cabin each morning.  We also tried to eat a reasonable lunch.  After being good during the day, the generous five course dinners we enjoyed each evening were a luxury that we could consume with less guilt.

Don't forget to enjoy all the on-board opportunities to do something new.  The cruise social director has usually planned lots of fun activities for your enjoyment.  Take a dance class, enter a talent competition, learn a few new casino games, and watch the world-class entertainers.  There are always exciting activities going on aboard a ship.  Have fun and participate.  You might not have the chance to see or do some of these things again.

For more helpful tips, you may also want to read my recent blog post:   Is It Safe to Cruise on Your Next Vacation?

If you are retired are approaching retirement, you may also want to check out the index articles below.  Each one contains links to a number of articles on that topic:

Gifts, Travel and Family Relationships

Great Places for Boomers to Retire Overseas

Great Places to Retire in the United States

Health and Medical Topics for Baby Boomers

Money and Financial Planning for Retirement

You are reading from the blog:

Photo of cruise ship courtesy of

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Explore the Ed Slott Retirement Rescue Plan

On several occasions in this blog I have mentioned the fact that many Baby Boomers are not prepared for retirement.  I frequently encourage people to postpone their retirement as long as possible in order to maximize their Social Security.  I have also given suggestions to help readers find a fun retirement job.  However, for most people these actions will need to be supplemented with at least some retirement savings.  This reality may be discouraging to those of you who know that you have not done enough financial planning.  Fortunately, for most of us it is not too late to turn things around, protect our assets, and have a more financially secure retirement.  With just a little information and a few simple steps, you can get started on the road to a better retirement.

Ed Slott is a highly respected investment advisor, CPA and IRA specialist who was recently featured on PBS in a program called "Retirement Rescue."  In this televised program, he outlined what people should be doing in order to have a financially secure financial plan for retirement.  Listed below are some of the suggestions he has, as well as a link to Ed Slott's books from Amazon.  It wouldn't be fair to review his ideas without giving you an opportunity to buy his books directly, so he can profit if you decide to use some of his advice.

Avoid Taxes

No matter how much or how little you have saved towards retirement, you want to make sure you get to keep as much of it as possible.  Ed Slott recommends that you make a plan to minimize the taxes you will pay after retirement.  You don't want to give the government any more money than necessary.

Move you money from accounts that are taxed to accounts that will not be taxed.  Yes, it really is possible!  In fact, I've made this same suggestion in my blog in the past.  My husband and I recently moved our investments from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA.  We paid taxes on the value of the investments we currently have in the account.  However, the investments we have can now grow and, when we withdraw the money in our 70's, we will not have to pay income taxes on our withdrawals.  In other words, we paid taxes on our retirement assets now so we won't have to pay taxes on them later ... which is exactly what Ed Slott recommends.  There is a waiting period before we can can begin to withdraw the profit on our retirement savings, but it is worth it to us.

Another advantage of the Roth IRA is that we will not have to begin withdrawing the money as soon as we turn 70 1/2.  Our money can continue to grow tax free until we want to withdraw it.  There are no mandatory withdrawal rules.

Mr. Slott also says that another way to reduce your taxes is by purchasing permanent life insurance.  There is a federal tax exemption for the proceeds of a life insurance policy.  This is a major benefit for your dependents, and can be particularly helpful for a spouse who is left behind when the breadwinner dies.  Mr. Slott believes that permanent life insurance is an investment.  The money that is paid in premiums grows tax free and you can tap into the value, while you are still alive, if you need the funds to help fund your retirement.  Whatever is left becomes cash to help support your dependents.  If you decide to buy life insurance for this purpose, make sure you are buying permanent life insurance that builds a cash value.  It costs more, but it can benefit both you and your heirs later on.  Since I am no insurance expert, you may want to read one of Mr. Slott's books in order to be certain your fully understand this option.

Minimize Your Investment Risk

Mr. Slott also believes that the majority of people should not rely on the stock market for their investments.  It is much too volatile and unpredictable for people who are retired or near retirement age.  He points out that far too many people lost a substantial amount of their retirement savings in the last stock market decline.  Consequently, he recommends that people put some of their money into annuities that will give them a guaranteed stream of income for the rest of their life.

One suggestion he has that intrigued me is to buy annuities in a Roth IRA.  This will provide a guaranteed income stream that is tax free!  He also points out that it is important that you use a reliable, well-known annuity company and respected money managers when you choose an annuity.

I have to note that annuities are one area that is controversial.  Some retirement specialists believe in annuities and others strongly believe that they are a bad idea and that you can do better if you invest your money conservatively in dividend paying stocks, government bonds or similar investment products.  You will want to consult your own investment adviser (or perhaps several) before making a final decision on which investment instrument is the best way to provide you with supplemental retirement income.  Some advisers recommend finding funds that pay dividends and also allow your principle to grow. 

A Better Approach to Saving Money

We all like to save money and this desire may cause some people to be reluctant to spend money on their retirement planning.  However, now is the time to spend the necessary money needed to invest in your retirement.  Pay taxes now; buy life insurance; buy annuities or invest your money in funds.  According to Mr. Slott, it is important to spend some money now, so that you can have a much larger retirement income later.

Reduce Uncertainty

We all want to avoid uncertainty about our future financial security.  Ed Slott points out that following his program will reduce or eliminate the amount of insecurity and uncertainty you will have about your financial future.  If you follow his recommendations exactly, it is true that you will have avoided uncertainly by avoiding taxes and buying annuities.  You will know exactly how much your assets are worth and how much income you will have.  This is why he says you can rescue your retirement by simply following his suggestions.

Avoid Inactivity

Finally, Ed Slott also says that one of the worst killers of retirement planning is inactivity.  If you don't take any of these steps to protect your assets and rescue your retirement, the inactivity could result in disaster.  The sooner you begin to take at least some of the steps mentioned above, the better your results will be.  No matter how old or young you are, everyone should sit down and make a plan that will maximize the amount of retirement income they will have after they retire.

Where to Get More Information

You will almost certainly want to get more specific information on how to follow this investment program if you decide to give it a try.  If so, you can use this link to order Ed Slott's Retirement Rescue books from Amazon.

Obviously, I cannot include all of the details of his plan in this blog post ... and it wouldn't be fair to Mr. Slott if I did.  However, I have found his advice to be so thoughtful and helpful that I wanted to be sure that my followers knew about it.  The whole goal of this blog is to make sure that as many people as possible have a satisfying, comfortable and fun retirement.  Financial insecurity will go a long way towards making sure that happens.

In addition, you may want to get information on other retirement issues by checking out the index articles below.  Each one contains links to a number of related articles on that topic:

Gifts, Travel and Family Relationships

Great Places for Boomers to Retire Overseas

Great Places to Retire in the United States

Health and Medical Topics for Baby Boomers

Money and Financial Planning for Retirement

You are reading from the blog:

Photo of Ed Slot courtesy of

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Colonial Heritage near Historic Williamsburg, Virginia

Do you love history, yet you want to live in a modern retirement community with lots of popular amenities such as golf, swimming pools, a clubhouse and exercise facilities?  If so, you should consider moving to the charming Colonial Heritage over-55 retirement community by Lennar Homes near historic Williamsburg, Virginia.  It's the perfect spot for people who enjoy both early American history as well as the comforts of modern America.

Whether you are interested in volunteering as a docent in Colonial Williamsburg, or you want to spend your days playing golf, working with wood or enjoying other community activities, this is a wonderful place to retire.

Facts about Retiring in Virginia

Before you decide on a retirement community, of course, you need to decide if retiring in Virginia is the right choice for you.  One of the appeals of Virginia is that home prices and the overall cost of living is reasonable as soon as you get away from the Washington, DC area.  One of our daughters went to college in Virginia and, when we visited her, we fell in love with the charming small towns, quaint farms, and the drive along the Blue Ridge mountains.  The entire state only had a population of about 8 million people in 2012.

If Social Security is going to be your primary source of income after retirement, there is another reason why you might love living in Virginia.  Your Social Security benefits are exempt from income taxes.  In addition, the real estate websites tout the fact that there are no state inheritance taxes.

Williamsburg, Virginia

 According to Money Magazine, Williamsburg is Number Five on their list of the "Best Places to Live". 

In additional to the interesting attractions in the township of Colonial Williamsburg, the city has two hospitals ... important for residents who are planning to age in the area.  Both the Norfolk and Richmond airports are less than an hour drive away.

The weather in the mid-Atlantic states is more temperate than you'll find in the Northeast.  The average high temperature in July is 89 degrees, and the average January low is 28 degrees.  Thunderstorms are common, with July being the wettest month of the year.  We have experienced a few Virginia thunderstorms, and they are quite dramatic, so be prepared!

Residents of Williamsburg are also a short drive away from the Virginia coast.

Amenities at the Colonial Heritage Retirement Community

Once you have decided that living in the Williamsburg, Virginia area is the right choice for you, you need to decide whether you would prefer to live in the town or in a nearby master planned community.  While the town has a lot to offer, here is a list of the amenities available in the lovely Colonial Heritage retirement community.

Over-55 gated community
Elegant clubhouse
18 hole championship golf course
Tennis courts
Indoor pool with floor to ceiling windows
Outdoor resort style pool
Two community restaurants
Meeting rooms, card rooms and a billiards room
Fitness room / Athletics center
Arts and crafts room
Woodworking shop
A variety of community organizations including the history and culinary clubs.

Homes and Home Prices

Lennar Homes, a respected national home builder, is the developer of Colonial Heritage.  They are actively in the process of building a neighorhood of charming low-maintenance homes on 1500 acres.

In 2013, home prices in the community ranged from about $260,000 to $460,000 for a single family home.

Homeowner's dues in 2013: $258 a month.

Contact Information

Colonial Heritage
7015 Statesman
Williamsburg, Virginia 23188
(877) 785-3662

More Information:

If you are interested in learning more about historic Colonial Williamsburg, you may be interested in reading one of these books from Amazon:

Insider's Guide to Williamsburg 16th: and Virginia's Historic Triangle

Official Guide to Colonial Williamsburg


"50 Best Master-Planned Communities in the U.S." Where to Retire Magazine, July/August 2013.

If you are currently planning your retirement, you may also want to look through the index articles below.  Each one contains links to a variety of additional resources.

Gifts, Travel and Family Relationships

Great Places for Boomers to Retire Overseas

Great Places to Retire in the United States

Health and Medical Topics for Baby Boomers

Money and Financial Planning for Retirement

You are reading from the blog:

Photo of Colonial Williamsburg courtesy of

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Golf Carts vs Golf Cars for Retirees

According to Federal Highway Administration estimates, in 2009 Americans drove over 65 million miles while using almost 70,000 golf cars and golf carts on public roads and streets. This is the only year in which the federal government tracked these types of vehicles.  However, the information they gathered is quite interesting and shows how popular these vehicles are becoming across the United States.  Although they appeal to people in all age groups, retirees are finding the vehicles to be especially useful.  In fact, it is estimated that nearly one-half of the golf car and golf cart drivers in the U.S. are age 65 or older.

Why Golf Carts and Cars are Gaining in Popularity

There are a number of reasons why people are finding these vehicles appealing:

1.  Most of the golf cars and carts that you see today are battery powered electric vehicles. This makes them very economical to drive.

2.  With prices ranging from $2,500 for a used golf cart, up to $25,000 for a fancy, custom one,  and as much as $32,500 for a Think car, many people find that they are more affordable than keeping a traditional car.  Federal tax credits of up to $2,500 have also made the vehicles even more affordable.

3.  In many places, these cars and carts can be driven on the street, and they are easier to park than the average automobile.  In fact, the American Custom Golfcars company estimates that 85% of the vehicles their company manufacturers will never be seen on a golf course!

4.  Some locations are particularly golf cart friendly, such as the islands in Newport Bay, here in Southern California, or a number of small towns and master planned communities across the United States, especially golf course and over-55 communities.

5.  In some neighborhoods, retirees who have lost their driver's license can continue to legally get around their community while using a golf car or cart.

6.  The Think Car promotes itself as the car that requires about as much attention as a mobile phone.  Plug it in and it is ready to go in the morning.

7.  Both golf cars and carts are quiet and clean ... perfect for people who are concerned about the environment.

However, before you purchase one of these vehicles and decide to hit the roads in it, you will want to know about the different laws that govern each of these types of vehicles ... especially the laws in your area.  The laws can be very confusing, so be sure to check the rules in all the local jurisdictions where you will be driving.  Listed below are some of the rules that apply here in Southern California.  You will see that regulations can vary from town to town, even in communities that are only a few miles away from each other.

Golf Cart Rules

The California Department of Motor Vehicles does not require that golf carts be registered if they are only used within a mile of your home.   Brake lights and turn signals are not required, although it is highly recommended that you have a street ready vehicle if you are planning to primarily drive it on public roads.

However, it is important to note that, according to California state law, golf carts may only be driven on roads with a speed limit of 25 m.p.h. or less.  This eliminates many thoroughfares within the state.

City rules may override the state laws.  For example, in the town of Newport Beach, both golf cart and golf car drivers must have a driver's license if the vehicles are driven on public roads. 

On the other hand, in the nearby town of Laguna Woods, where the vehicles are primarily driven on private roads and trails, drivers are not required to have a driver's license.  In fact, Laguna Woods has plans to expand the number of golf cart trails that are currently available to make the area even more accessible to these vehicles.

Golf Car Rules

The California Department of Motor Vehicles does require that golf cars be registered.  These low speed vehicles are also expected to have some of the street ready safety features common in regular cars, such as brake lights and turn signals.

According to California state law, golf cars (which are also referred to as neighborhood electric vehicles or low-speed vehicles), are limited to roads with a posted speed limit of 35 m.p.h. 

The Think car is able to go up to 70 mph, so it may be allowed on roads with a higher speed limit.  You should check with local authorities to see what rules apply to you.

Golf Car vs Golf Cart

What is the difference between a golf car and cart?  Golf carts are typically open on the sides (although special covers can be purchased) and they are what most of us are accustomed to seeing on the golf course.  By comparison, the most common type of golf car is the Ford Think.  I have seen some of these on Balboa Island, in Newport Bay, where I frequently like to take walks.  Although they look like miniature cars and are fully enclosed with side doors, they can be smaller than some golf carts.

Golf carts tend to be less expensive than golf cars.  However, they are not as protective in cold or rainy weather.  In addition, in California and some other states, they can only be legally driven on roads with a speed limit of 25 m.p.h. or less.  Golf cars are slightly more protective and can be legally driven a bit faster.  The type of vehicle that is best for you may depend on the climate where you live, the speed limit in your neighborhood, whether you plan to primarily use it on the golf course or on public streets, and local regulations regulating the use of these vehicles.

Whichever type of vehicle you have, it is reassuring to know that in many places these vehicles will allow you to continue to stay mobile within your own neighborhood, even after it is no longer possible for you to hold a driver's license or drive long distances.  For many seniors, this is the best reason of all to own one!


"Golf Car Drivers Take to the Streets," Laguna Woods Globe - OC Register.  Tuesday, August 1, 2013.

If you are getting ready to retire, you may also want to check out the index articles listed below.  Each one contains links to additional articles on the mentioned topic.

Gifts, Travel and Family Relationships

Great Places for Boomers to Retire Overseas

Great Places to Retire in the United States

Health and Medical Topics for Baby Boomers

Money and Financial Planning for Retirement

You are reading from the blog:

Photo of golf carts courtesy of

Sunday, August 11, 2013

How to Collect Social Security and Retire Overseas

If you are thinking about retiring to another country, one of your concerns may be how to get Social Security overseas.  First, I want to assure you that it is possible to receive your benefits and that many Americans around the world are living comfortable lives on their American Social Security benefits.  However, you will want to check everything out carefully to avoid any unnecessary complications before you make the commitment to move to another country.

Key Points to Know About Collecting Social Security Abroad

The Social Security Administration will provide you with their Publication No. 05-10137 entitled "Your Payments While You Are Outside the United States."  You can get it on the Social Security Administration website at  I suggest you read it carefully and I am not going to attempt to rewrite the entire brochure in this post.  However, here are some of the key points you will need to know:

You can get your benefits in nearly any other country, although there may be special procedures you will have to follow.  For example, if you are in certain countries you will have to go to the U.S. Embassy or consulate to pick up your checks.

Currently, you cannot receive payments if you move to Cuba, North Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam or some of the countries that make up the former Soviet Union.

Retirees who move to Armenia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Russia can receive their checks, but they fall into the category of places where you will need to pick up your checks at an embassy or consulate office.

The list of countries that have these restrictions changes from time to time.  You can always get the most curent information on the Social Security website.  If you are moving to a location that has had a checkered relationship with the U.S. government, you will want to contact your local Social Security office and investigate how you will receive your benefits before you make the move.

If you move to another country and get dual citizenship in that country, while retaining your U.S. citizenship, you can continue to collect your benefits.  There is also a long list of countries on the site where you can become a citizen of that country alone and still receive your U.S. benefits; examples that fall into this category are Austria, Canada, France, Israel, Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom.  If you are considering becoming a citizen of another country and dropping your U.S. citizenship, you will want to check the Social Security website first to make sure the country where you will be living is on the approved list.

Survivor and Dependent Benefits

If you are receiving your Social Security benefits as a dependent or you are getting widow's survivor benefits, it is possible that you will not be able to continue to collect those benefits if you continue to live overseas after the primary beneficiary dies.  There are special requirements that you will need to meet and you should check with the Social Security office to make sure you meet these requirements.

Direct Deposits vs. Checks

While you are living in another country, you can arrange to have your payments deposited in a bank in the United States or in the country where you are now living.  There are advantages to having direct deposits that go into a U.S. dollar account, since you can avoid currency conversion and other fees.

Income Taxes on Your Benefits

Your benefits are subject to the same taxes you would have to pay if you lived in the United States.  The amount of taxes you will pay depends on the amount of other income you have.  If you are living on Social Security alone, you will probably not owe any taxes on your income.  If you have tax free income, such as distributions from a Roth IRA, you will probably not have to pay.  However, if you are receiving distributions from a traditional IRA or income from other taxable sources, your benefits could be subject to Federal income tax laws.

In general, Social Security benefits from the United States are tax free in many other countries as long as we have a tax treaty with that country.  If you live in a country without a tax treaty, your benefits might be taxed by that government.  In addition, if you have become a citizen of another country, you may be expected to pay taxes to the government of that country.  You will want to investigate the tax consequences of any move to another country.

Reporting Requirements

When you live in another country and collect your U.S. benefits, you need to keep the Social Security Administration informed of changes in your family status such as a marriage, adoption of a child, a child who becomes 18,  a child who is or becomes disabled, an annulment or divorce, a change of address, and similar events that could affect your eligibility or the eligibility of your dependents.  The SSA will send you a questionnaire periodically.  However, if there are changes, you should not wait until the next questionnaire to report them.


You will not be covered by Medicare in another country.  If you do choose to sign up for Medicare, it will only provide you with coverage when you are in the U.S.  However, you may still want to sign up while you are living abroad because your premiums will go up by 10% a year for each year you remained out of the U.S. and were not enrolled.  If you come back to the U.S. in your later years, your Medicare premiums will be substantially higher if you have not been paying them all along.  The decision is up to you, but it is something you should consider when you turn 65.

It is not unusual for people to decide to go ahead and have their Medicare premiums deducted from their Social Security checks and, in addition, buy an insurance policy in the new country where they are living.  In many cases, medical insurance is quite inexpensive in other countries.  In this way, the retirees are covered in their new country and they have basic Medicare coverage when they are visiting family in the U.S.  They also will be able to keep the lowest Medicare premiums if they choose to return to the U.S. permanently.

If you are currently making retirement plans, you may also want to read other posts from this blog.  They are listed and linked in the index articles below:

Gifts, Travel and Family Relationships

Great Places for Boomers to Retire Overseas

Great Places to Retire in the United States

Health and Medical Topics for Baby Boomers

Money and Financial Planning for Retirement


Social Security Administration Publication No. 05-10137 "Your Payments While You Are Outside the United States"

You are reading from the blog:

Photo of sample Social Security card is courtesy of

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Senior Hunger is a Growing Problem

Recently, the newspaper in our California retirement community contained two letters to the editor that distressed me.  The letters exposed a serious problem that has been going on right under my nose, not only in my own area, but in communities across America.

In the first letter to the editor, a woman wrote in to say she had discovered that one of her neighbors was eating pet food in order to survive.   The woman who wrote the letter expressed her shock that such a thing could be happening in affluent Orange County, California and she was distraught that she had neighbors who could not afford to buy fresh, healthy food.

A week later, a local church wrote their own letter to the editor.  They were reaching out to our community with the news that they operate a well-stocked food bank in the neighborhood and that they would happily provide food to anyone who was having difficulty obtaining food.  They mentioned that they could provide both basic staples as well as fresh fruit and vegetables.

These letters were particularly interesting to me since our community requires that residents prove they have a household retirement income of at least $42,000 (in 2013), as well as substantial assets in addition those required to make their home purchase.  New residents must provide this financial information before they can purchase a home in our age restricted community.  Of course, the income and asset levels are adjusted every few years and they were much lower a decade or two ago.  Sadly, even people who had adequate financial resources when they originally moved into the community may have eventually found themselves under financial stress after 30 or 40 years.  Over the decades, assets can easily be used up and cost of living increases do not keep up with inflation.

After reading about hunger in my own neighborhood, I began to wonder how common it is for senior citizens to be experiencing food shortages across the United States.  I thought my readers who are newly retired or who plan to retire soon would also be interested in this information.

Senior Hunger Facts from Meals on Wheels

According to Meals on Wheels, in a report released in May of 2012, hunger is a serious problem among the elderly:

One out of seven seniors is threatened by hunger.
8.3 million seniors were threatened by hunger when surveyed in 2010.
Hunger among the elderly has increased 78% since 200l, and 34% since 2007.

Meals on Wheels is one of several programs that has been organized to help millions of people eat a more healthy diet while continuing to live in their own homes.  This worthwhile organization welcomes volunteers and may be able to assist you if you need food.

If you want to find a local chapter, you can go to the Meals on Wheels website at:

For those who are able to help, you may want to make a donation to this worthwhile organization or volunteer to deliver food to senior citizens in your community.  My own grandmother delivered Meals on Wheels when she was in her 80's!  I have several neighbors who also deliver meals throughout our neighborhood ... which makes it all the sadder when I realize that there are still people living here who slip through the cracks.

Feeding America Also Helps Senior Citizens

Another organization that is attempting to provide food assistance to the elderly is Feeding America.  They serve about three million elderly people every year.   They have several different programs designed specifically to help feed senior citizens:  brown bag lunches, senior nutrition sites (such as local senior centers where lunch is served) and home delivered meals that are coordinated through organizations such as Meals on Wheels.

The seniors who use these programs often have reported that, without the help, they would have to choose between either buying food or medicine or paying their utility bills.

This one fact from the Feeding America website was of particular interest to me:  They expect the number of food insecure seniors to increase by 50% by the time the youngest Baby Boomers reach age 60 in 2025.   In other words, millions of my fellow Baby Boomers are expected to be living with "food insecurity" during their retirement years.  That is the primary reason I posted this article.  Should you find yourself in this situation, I hope you will have this information at your fingertips so you know who to contact for help.

How To Make Sure There is Enough Food for the Seniors You Know

For senior citizens, the hunger problem is particularly complex.   That is because their problem may not be a lack of money for food, but an inability to drive to the store or prepare the food. Some elderly individuals with arthritis in their hands find it too daunting to use a can opener or use other items in their kitchen.  Therefore, we cannot assume that our neighbors are eating well simply because we believe they have an adequate income.

First, if you or someone you know is not eating properly, assess the cause and see if you can address the specific problem.  Is it a lack of money, lack of transportation, or an inability to safely prepare the food?

Once you have determined the problem, see what can be done to address it.  For example, if money is an issue, contact your local Social Services department to find out about food stamps.  In addition, locate the nearest food bank and see what supplies are available there. If the problem is transportation, many communities (like my own) have organized programs that match up people who can no longer drive with people who are willing to provide free rides to the store or doctors' appointments.  If it has become difficult to prepare food, contact Meals on Wheels or Feeding America to see if prepared meals can be delivered to your home.  If you do not know how to access these programs, contact your local senior center.  Many of them provide low cost lunches to senior citizens.  In addition, the senior center will be able to put you in touch with local charities and organizations that are available to help.

Senior hunger in America is a problem that we can address.  Let's reach out to our neighbors to make sure they are not suffering needlessly.

If you are interested in learning how to do a better job of preparing for your own retirement, you may want to check out the index articles below.  They each contain links to a number of other articles on that topic.  It is my sincere hope that better long-term planning may help my readers avoid some of the problems mentioned in this article:

Gifts, Travel and Family Relationships

Great Places for Boomers to Retire Overseas

Great Places to Retire in the United States

Health and Medical Topics for Baby Boomers

Money and Financial Planning for Retirement


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Photo of empty plate courtesy of

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Cresswind at Lake Lanier Active Adult Community

A few years ago, a Baby Boomer couple we know moved from Southern California to Georgia, just outside of Atlanta.  They were attracted there because of the affordable home prices and the fact that their grown children both live on the East Coast.  The longer they have lived in the Atlanta area, the happier our friends have become with their new home and the Georgia lifestyle ... despite the fact that they have had to grow accustomed to periodic thunderstorms, occasional snow and an abundance of mosquitoes!  They feel that the beauty of the area and the relaxed lifestyle more than compensates for those minor hardships.

Although our friends did not move into an over-55 community, it would have been an easy option for them.  One popular retirement community that is located about an hour's drive northeast of Atlanta is Cresswind on Lake Lanier.   Lake Lanier is nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and is considered one of America's favorite lakes, with several million visitors a year.  The lake has 38,000 surface acres of water and 540 miles of shoreline.  There are numerous golf courses, resorts, restaurants and other recreational facilities located around it.  Being able to retire along the shores of this gorgeous lake is a dream come true for many Baby Boomers.

Amenities at Cresswind

To many retirees, it is not enough to simply have a lake house on the shores of Lake Lanier.  Boomers are also looking forward to an active retirement with a variety of ways to stay busy.  That's exactly what you will find at Cresswind.

Here are some of the features that are making this community especially attractive to active retirees:

Security gated entrance with a stunning waterfall
214 acres of maintained greenspace
Private marina with boat slips for residents
40,000 sq. foot clubhouse
Demonstration kitchen with gourmet cooking classes
Rooftop bar overlooking the lake
Aerobics room
Hobby workshop
Arts and crafts facilities
Learning center
Indoor and outdoor pools
Tennis courts
Walking paths
Horseshoe pits
Bocce and pickleball courts
Outdoor movie theatre
Approximately 100 clubs run by homeowners

It is important to note that there is no golf course inside the community of Cresswind, an amenity that many retirees have come to expect.  However, within a short drive there are several gorgeous golf courses that are open to the public.

Home Prices and Features at Cresswind

Home prices range from the low $200,000's to the upper $300,000's for single family homes, which makes this community affordable to many retirees.

Floorplans are available in both two and three bedroom models, some with basements.  Among the features you can expect in your home are:

Granite counters in kitchen
Recessed can lighting
GE appliances
Aritokraft birch cabinetry
Oversized showers
Cultured marble tops in bathrooms
EMC security systems with monitoring included
Shaw Danner hardwood flooring in foyer, kitchen and breakfast rooms
Two car finished garages with LiftMaster garage door openers
Exterior flood lights
3-zone irrigation system             and much, much more!

Because there is no golf course, the monthly Homeowner's Dues are more affordable than in some other communities.  In 2013, they were $269 a month.

Community Recognition

This is an award winning community that has won both local and national recognition:

Named the 50+ Housing Community of the Year in 2012 by the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association.  The community received awards in several categories, including community, building, and marketing.

Chosen by Where to Retire magazine in their July/August 2013 issue as one of the 50 best master planned communities in the United States.

Contact Information:

If you are looking for a retirement community in the Southern or the Mid-Atlantic states, you will want to pay a visit to Cresswind.  Here's their contact information:

Cresswind at Lake Lanier
3007 Scarlet Oak Lane
Gainesville, GA  30504

(770) 532-4926

If you are interested in reading more about the Georgia lifestyle, tourist attractions and places to visit before making a decision, you may want to use this link to books about Georgia from

If you are currently making retirement plans, you may also want to read some of the other articles linked in the index articles listed below:

Gifts, Travel and Family Relationships

Great Places for Boomers to Retire Overseas

Great Places to Retire in the United States

Health and Medical Topics for Baby Boomers

Money and Financial Planning for Retirement

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Photo of Lake Lanier courtesy of

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Best Companies Offering Jobs for Seniors

Many Baby Boomers are nearing retirement age, only to find themselves unemployed or underemployed at the very time when they planned to continue to work and postpone retirement as long as possible.  If Boomers hope to have a comfortable retirement, most of them need to wait until their mid to late 60's before they collect their Social Security and pension benefits.  However, if someone is unemployed in their early 60's, or barely scraping by in a low paying job, they may begin to feel that they have no other alternative but to give up and take an early retirement.

If this describes your situation, it may help to know that AARP and the Society for Human Resource Management has put together a list of companies that have been recognized as having the best practices for recruiting and retaining mature workers ... those of us who are over the age of 50.

The companies on the list were chosen because they have fair recruiting practices, opportunities for their employees to receive special training, educational assistance and career development, a willingness to put in place workplace accommodations, excellent health, pension and retirement benefits, and a variety of work options including flexible scheduling, job-sharing and phased retirement.  In other words, not only are these great places to work, but they are accommodating about transitioning their employees gradually into retirement.

The Healthcare Industry Has Some of the Best Jobs for Baby Boomers

Insurance companies and healthcare facilities seem to lead the pack as far as offering excellent opportunities for people over the age of 50.  The good news about this field is that many community colleges and trade schools across the nation offer one and two year certification programs to train people to work in a variety of healthcare fields.  Consequently, if you find yourself years away from retirement and you are willing to be retrained, this may be an excellent area for you to pursue.  Over 40 percent of the companies on the AARP list were involved in some aspect of healthcare.

Listed below are the employers who were particularly commended by AARP for their senior friendly employment practices:

National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Scripps Health
Atlantic Health
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Mercy Health System
WellStar Health System
West Virginia University Hospitals
Monongalia General Hospital
TriHealth Inc.
Yale-New Haven Hospital
Department of Veterans Affairs-Veterans Health Administration
Saint Vincent Health System
SSM Health Care
Mountain States Health Alliance
Central Florida Health Alliance
Avera McKennan Hospital and University Health Center
Tufts Health Plan
BlueCross and BlueShield of North Carolina
Ochsner Health System
Massachusetts General Hospital
Pinnacle Health System

If you do not live within commuting distance of one of the above institutions, but you would like to work in the healthcare industry, contact the human resources departments at the insurance companies, hospitals and medical facilities in your community and ask about the opportunities they may have for older workers.

Universities and Colleges

Other organizations that offered great job prospects for people over the age of 50 were institutions of higher learning.  While you may be thinking, "I'm not qualified to be a college professor," universities offer many other types of job opportunities including with their custodial, food services and clerical staffs. Many of these jobs pay well and have good job security.

Here is the list of educational institutions that were recognized by AARP for their great employment opportunities for seniors:

West Virginia University
Cornell University
George Mason University
Swarthmore College
School Board of Brevard County
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
University of Pittsburgh
American University

Even if you do not live near one of the institutions mentioned about, if you have another college or university in your community, don't forget to check out their employment opportunities when you are looking for a new job.

Best Private Corporate Employers of Seniors

The AARP and the Society for Human Resource Management also included a variety of private companies in several different industries on their list.  If you live near one of these companies you may also wish to explore your employment options with one of them:

The YMCA of Greater Rochester, New York
Bon Secours Virginia
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
S&T Bank
FCCI Insurance Group
Stanley Consultants Inc.
Southern Company
Michelin North America Inc.
Cianbro Corporation
Solix Inc.
Securian Financial Group
One Nevada Credit Union
MEI Technologies, Inc.
Coconino County
Winston-Salem Industries for the Blind
Lee County Electric Cooperative
Perkins Cole LLP

Federal Agencies that Made the List

There were also a few federal government and regulatory agencies that made the AARP list, in addition to the Veteran's Administration and National Institutes of Health, mentioned above:

Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)

Whatever your background, there may be companies in your area that are looking for someone with your skill levels.  Whether you are looking for full-time work or the best part-time jobs for seniors, you will want to pay particular attention to hospitals, colleges, universities, insurance companies, utility companies, federal offices and financial services employers in your community.  These seem to be the types of institutions that have the best attitude towards hiring older workers.


If you are currently making your own retirement plans, you may also want to check out the index articles listed below.  Each one contains an introduction plus links to a number of articles on that topic:

Gifts, Travel and Family Relationships

Great Places for Boomers to Retire Overseas

Great Places to Retire in the United States

Health and Medical Topics for Baby Boomers

Money and Financial Planning for Retirement

You are reading from the blog:

Photo of National Institutes of Health courtesy of wikipedia commons: