Thursday, October 31, 2013

Retirement Communities in Maine

When many people think of over-55 retirement communities, they often believe that the vast majority of them are located in the Sun Belt states of Florida, Texas, Arizona or California.  However, as nice as many of these locations are, many people do not want to move far away from their families, friends, doctors, churches and social network.

Recently, one of my readers asked me about retirement communities in Maine and I promised to do some research to discover what is available.  I was pleasantly pleased to discover that people who want to retire in Maine will have all the same options that are available in Sun Belt locations.

Full Spectrum of Retirement Choices Available

Maine has any type of retirement housing you are likely to need, both when you first retire and when you begin to age and need more help, including active adult communities, assisted living homes, senior apartments, continuing care, and dementia facilities.

Readers can find a comprehensive list of the facilities that are available in Maine at this website:

Gorgeous Highland Green Active Adult Community

In addition, I wanted to mention one specific award-winning, over-55 community that is specifically geared towards active Baby Boomers:

Highland Green
7 Evergreen Circle
Topsham, ME 04086


This charming community is located near the college town of Brunswick and also provides easy access to the cultural opportunities available in Portland.   Because Highland Green is located along the coast of Maine, there are abundant recreational opportunities available in the area, including fishing, sailing, boating, hiking and simply relaxing at the beach.

Golfers will love the beautiful nine-hole golf course; non-golfers will appreciate the fact that you only pay if you use it.  Golfers and non-golfers alike will love the natural beauty that the golf course brings to the community.

Highland Green has a strong neighborhood feeling.  Approximately half of the residents are from Maine and the other half are people who retired to Highland Green from another state.

The homes in Highland Green are modern and energy efficient, built in a classic New England style.  Residents can choose from lots that are next to the golf course, adjoining conservation land, or that back up to wooded forest land.  All the home designs have a main living area that is one-story with two bedrooms and two bathrooms, ranging in size from 1,400 to over 3,000 square feet. The homes also have nine foot ceilings and extra tall windows.

In addition, homes may contain options such as basements, lofts, fireplaces, crown molding, chair rails, studies, sunrooms and screened porches, depending on the desires of the buyers.

Visit their website (linked above) for more information.

For More Retirement Help

There are also hundreds of additional articles in this blog about places to retire, financial issues, medical concerns, family issues and more.  Use the tabs at the top of the page to find links to the articles that interest you most.

Please feel free to leave a comment, below.  All comments are emailed to me and I will respond in this blog, if possible.

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Beware of Advance Pension Loans

As if there are not enough scams that target older Americans and retirees, now there are people who are trying to cheat them out of their retirement income by offering to lend them money against their pensions.  

You have probably seen ads for payday loans.  The loans that are targeted at retirees are essentially the same as payday loans, except they are called advance pension loans.  The annual interest rate on these loans can be as much as 100%, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

An interest rate of 100% is outrageous, especially since the loans are taken out against secure pensions which are generally guaranteed as long as the person is alive. 

Warnings Against Advance Pension Loans

The CFPB is warning retirees to avoid these types of loans.  They report that the loans are being offered in very deceptive ways.  This is an important enough issue that I wanted to pass on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau warnings.
The companies making the loans are often secretive about the terms of the loan and may be very aggressive about getting people to sign up.  In addition, as mentioned before, the interest rates are usually outrageous!

How Advance Pension Loans Work

In particular, the lenders purposely target retired military personnel, police officers, firemen, state employees and others who are entitled to a government or private pension.  The lenders typically offer to loan the recipient a lump sum and, in return, they ask for access to the retiree's pension information until the loan is paid off.  Since the interest rate can be 100% (and sometimes more), it can be almost impossible for someone on a tight fixed budget to ever be able to repay the loan. 

These lenders are often operating illegally.  It is against federal law for pensions to be assigned to a third party; however, the lenders are getting around the law by opening special joint bank accounts with the retirees in order to hide what they are doing. The pension is deposited into the bank account and the lender removes it.

Since the lenders often do not reveal the exact terms of the loan, the pensioners frequently do not have any idea how much they will have to repay and many have no idea what they are getting themselves into.
The problem has become so serious that New York's Department of Financial Services has launched an investigation into these predatory lenders.  Several have already received subpoenas.  The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, released a statement saying that these deceptive practices will not be tolerated.

The national Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is also concerned and they have issued a nationwide alert.

How to Protect Yourself from Predatory Lenders

How can a consumer protect themselves from these predatory lenders?

1.  Do not give a lender access to the bank account where you receive your pensions.  Do not enter into an agreement with someone in which you pledge your pension in return for a loan.

2.  Do not borrow money from an unfamiliar organization or loan company.  Go to your bank or a trusted financial advisor if you need money in a hurry.  There are better options and you may be able to take out a personal loan or a loan against one of your assets, while getting much better terms such as a lower interest rate, particularly if you have a long-term relationship with your bank.

3.  For more ideas, check out the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau article below.  (It is the third link listed in the Resources section.)

Resources for this story: 

In addition, if you want more retirement planning information, check out more articles using the index tabs at the top of this page.  In particular, you will want to check out the Retirement Money tab.
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Sunday, October 20, 2013

What Will You Do After You Retire?

Like many recent retirees, I worried that I would get bored once I stopped working.  In fact, I have known many Baby Boomers who are nearing retirement age who have expressed this fear.

Frequently, they make statements such as, "I don't want to play golf every day," "I don't want to get roped into babysitting my grandkids too often," "I'm not the type to play bridge all the time," or "I hate just sitting around the house watching TV."

As I have mentioned before, I live in an over-55 retirement community with lots of activities ... more than any human being could possibly do.  Within weeks of retiring from my job, I had signed up for a circuit training class three days a week and a yoga class twice a week.  I also joined the Writer's Club and was pleasantly surprised by the number of published authors in my community.  Before retiring, I had already been involved in horseback riding and walking on the beach every weekend.  In other words, I quickly got involved in a wide variety of activities.

In addition, I also drive two of my grandchildren to school every morning during the school year.  While they could ride their bikes or walk to school, I actually enjoy having the freedom to pick up these two grandkids and spend that twenty minutes or so in the morning with them.  One day a week, when my granddaughter has a late start at school, I take her to Starbucks and we sit and chat for half an hour before I drop her off.  This extra time with my grandkids has been one of the perks of retirement.

I've also discovered that I like cooking again ... at least once in a while.  Let's face it, when you are a working wife and mother, it gets to the point where dinner is whatever you can put on the table.  In the past, I was most inclined to stop and pick up a pre-cooked chicken, order pizza or sushi, or do something easy that required the least cooking possible.  Now I'm preparing full meals that take a little more effort.  While I still fall back on my easy meal ideas a few times a week, I find that I am cooking more often than I have in years ... and actually enjoying it.

Of course, I also write this blog and provide content for a number of websites.   This not only is a creative outlet for me, but also provides additional retirement income, doing something I love.

However, this is my personal experience.  So, prior to writing this post, I also decided to canvas some of my friends who do not live in a retirement community and do not have grandkids that live nearby.  What surprised me is that they have no trouble filling up their free time, as well.

Some of them have signed up for classes from the local community college or senior center.  They also enjoy being able to engage in activities that they couldn't spend much time on before ... painting, writing books, hiking, reading and having lunch with friends.  They are cooking, gardening, spending time with grandkids, traveling, redecorating their homes, volunteering for charities, driving Meals on Wheels, and so much more.

While our level of activity will, of course, decline as we get older, I have discovered that Baby Boomers are finding a wide variety of ways to stay busy and enjoy their retirement.  In fact, one refrain that I heard over and over again is, "I'm so busy now, that I don't know how I found the time to work!"

So, if you are hesitant to retire because you believe you will be bored or you won't have enough to do, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.  Anyone who has the energy to work all day will be eager to find more enjoyable things to do after retirement!  Jump right in ... the water's fine!

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

2014 Social Security Raise Expected to be Tiny

Social Security recipients are going to receive a tiny increase to their benefits again this year.  The preliminary estimate is that the increase will be only about 1.5 percent.  Considering that the average monthly benefit is currently about $1,162, this means the estimated increase will amount to approximately $17 for the typical beneficiary.

The size of the COLA not only affects retirees on Social Security, but also disabled veterans, disabled civilian workers, federal retirees, and SSI recipients, as well as their survivors.  The same cost of living estimates are used for all these groups.  This percentage may also be applied to other types of pensions, so this tiny increase will affect millions of retirees and disabled Americans.

Last year the increase was only 1.7 percent and, prior to that, there were no increases at all for the previous two years.  Over the past few years, more and more Social Security recipients are beginning to feel the pinch.  It is also becoming more difficult for them to put aside money for emergencies or unexpected expenses such as medical co-pays and car repairs.

The reason given for the low 2014 cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, is because consumer prices have not gone up much during the past year, according to government figures. In addition, fuel prices have actually gone down over the past year.  For people who are still working, lower fuel prices are certainly helpful, although this may be a less significant benefit for people who no longer commute and use their cars very little.

Some advocates for senior citizens say that the way the government measures inflation is unfair to retirees, as they tend to spend a higher percentage of their income on health care.  The low COLA doesn't help them very much since medical costs have actually risen an estimated 2.5 percent over the past year.  This is one reason that so many retirees feel that they have been falling further behind.

Things may become even more challenging for retirees over the next few years.  Congress is currently looking at making changes to all the entitlement programs, including Social Security, Medicare  and federal pensions.  The goal is to make these programs more sustainable in the long run, which is a worthy goal.  However, this plan is likely to make it even tougher for retirees to survive on their benefits alone.

For example, if the government switches to a chained CPI to calculate future cost of living increases, as has been suggested recently by several members of Congress, we can expect to continue to receive extremely low Social Security cost of living increases in the coming years.

AARP has been actively fighting against the use of a chained CPI to calculate future cost of living increases.  However, it may be a hopeless battle, since this currently seems to be the most popular recommendation for entitlement reform.  I will continue to keep my readers up-to-date on developments with regard to this issue.

(The number used in this post for the 2014 COLA will be revised should the actual increase be higher or lower than 1.5%)


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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Baby Boomers Moving Downtown and Uptown

When I sold real estate in Dallas, Texas in the 1990's, my last project was a gorgeous high-rise loft building on the edge of downtown, with a fabulous view of the city lights.  Several of the buyers were people who had decided to shuck their suburban homes, their lawns, and their yard work, and move to this classy loft building.

In the 1990's, these people were considered urban pioneers.  They were moving into an area that had very few support services such as grocery stores, pharmacies and dry cleaners.  However, what they lost in convenient shopping at suburban strip malls they replaced with easy access to the city's top restaurants, bars, theaters, museums and cultural events.  Most of these high-rise buyers felt it was a fair trade-off.

Recently, both Realtor Magazine and USA Today wrote articles indicating that this trend has become even more common among Baby Boomers over the past decade and a half.  Many empty-nesters who are no longer worried about schools and playgrounds are deciding that they want to live closer to adult amenities.

While high-rise condos and luxury apartments in the downtown area of most cities can be more expensive than life in the suburbs, some Boomers with grown children have discovered that they can now afford to indulge this lifestyle.  After all, they no longer need to have three-bedrooms and a large amount of square footage.  In addition, hopefully they are no longer supporting their kids!

The trend towards downtown living can be seen in cities across the United States.  Here are sixteen cities that were specifically mentioned in the Realtor Magazine and USA Today articles:

Dallas, TX
Phoenix, AZ
Austin, TX
Nashville, TN
Portland, OR
New York, NY
Boston, MA
Philadelphia, PA
Pittsburgh, PA
Denver, CO
Sarasota, FL
Washington, D.C.
Boulder, CO
St. Petersburg, FL
Seattle, WA
Baltimore, MD

There are a few disadvantages to high rise living.  First, you have to carry your groceries and other packages much further.  You no longer have a garage situated right next to the door into your kitchen. Second, highrise living usually involves significant downsizing at the time you move into a condo or apartment.  Third, living downtown means you are more likely to experience issues with traffic when you need to go places that are not within walking distance.

As a result, I have also noticed over the years that some Baby Boomers prefer not to move to a high rise in the downtown area of the city and, instead, choose to live in uptown townhouses, since they are still convenient to all the restaurants, bars and theaters that the downtown area had to offer.

If you are looking for an opportunity to experience a new type of lifestyle, ask your Realtor to show you some examples of downtown highrises, lofts and uptown townhouses in your city.  You might be surprised at how appealing these homes can be when you no longer need to be concerned about schools and other child oriented neighborhood amenities.


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Thursday, October 10, 2013

How to Fix Medicare

Something needs to be done about Medicare.  If no adjustments are made to the current program, in another ten years it will no longer be able to cover the full amount of seniors' hospital bills.  Different proposals are being floated by politicians in Washington and by advocates for senior citizens, and these proposals were recently evaluated by AARP  in the October, 2013 ARRP Bulletin.

Here are the two approaches currently being considered to solve the Medicare problem.  They are completely different and, according to the AARP analysis, the second option is by far the most preferable.  Since many of my readers are politically active, I thought I would lay out the choices so you can advocate for the changes that you believe would be best.

Option #1 - Increase Medicare Copays to Seniors

Some Washington politicians have proposed that senior citizens begin to be charged copays for certain services, such as their home health care visits.  For example, the suggested amounts range from about $100 to $600 for each 60 day period of home health care.

AARP points out that this was tried once before and it was later repealed because it placed such a heavy burden on many seniors.  Such a bill would cause some seniors to forego home health care and other services, which could actually cost Medicare more if patients end up being hospitalized.  In addition, it could simply switch the burden for these services to Medicaid, which would then put a heavier burden on the states.  Finally, the premiums for Medigap insurance policies would also increase.

Option #2 - Reduce Medicare Fraud and Abuse

There is a new bipartisan bill before Congress that is known as the PRIME Act - "Preventing and Reducing Improper Medicare and Medicaid Expenditures Act."  This bill is aimed at saving taxpayers an estimated $60 - $90 billion a year in Medicare fraud and abuse.  Here are some of the highlights of the bill:

* It makes it more difficult for criminals to steal the identities of physicians and bill for Medicare services that have not been performed.

* Increases the penalties for stealing the identities of patients.  It outlaws the illegal sale, purchase and distribution of Medicaid and Medicare ID numbers.

* Increases the federal reward for fraud tips and establishes a Senior Medicare Patrol.

* Cracks down on doctors who improperly bill Medicare.  Steps would be taken to close loopholes, stop double billing and generally do a better job of tracking payments.

* Penalizes private companies that handle bill paying for Medicare if they do not meet specific payment accuracy goals.

Share Your Opinion With Congresss

Personally, I believe that every possible effort should be made to decrease Medicare fraud before higher fees are charged to senior citizens.  I cringe every time I hear a news story about doctors being arrested for billing Medicare for treatments that either never took place or that were unnecessary.  Even if fees eventually need to be increased, I believe that the PRIME Act should be passed, first.

What do you think?  Do you have other suggestions for lowering Medicare costs and keeping it more sustainable?

No matter which Medicare option you prefer, you can express your opinion to Congress by calling 1-877-940-1510.

With discussions occurring right now over the budget and debt ceiling, now is the time for you to let members of Congress know how you feel.  Sooner or later, this issue will affect nearly every American citizen.

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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Minto Homes - Florida Retirement Communities

Until recently, I had never heard of Minto Homes.  Much to my surprise, however, I learned that Minto is a Canadian company that has been building quality projects for over 60 years.  Over the past few years, they have expanded into the Florida housing market, offering choices in a wide range of prices from about $200,000 to $1,000,000 in master planned communities.

If you are considering a relocation to Florida, there is a good chance that you may see some Minto houses in several of the more popular neighborhoods ... both those that are age restricted for senior citizens as well as those that are open to everyone.  Therefore, I thought it would be helpful to my readers to learn more about this well-respected home builder.

You can also find links to other articles about a variety of retirement communities in the United States and overseas by using the tabs at the top of this blog.

Shown below are the current developments in which Minto is involved.

Mento Homes in Florida

Harbour Isle on Anna Maria Sound

This is your opportunity to live along the beach on a private island in Anna Maria Sound (pictured above).  New homes range from about $380,000 to $500,000.  Although this is not a golf community, there are a number of golf courses nearby.  Within the community you will find a private clubhouse, pool, cabanas, and a marina.  The homes are energy efficient and your homeowner's dues include maintenance, for a carefree lifestyle.

Sun City Center in the Tampa / Sarasota area

This over-55 community contains paired villas as well as single family homes.  Prices for Minto homes in the community range from about $170,000 to $500,000.  There are other builders who also build residences in Sun City Center.  The community has its own hospital and several nursing homes.  There are about 20 golf courses, two indoor pools, an outdoor pool and many other amenities.  Minto offers a stay and play program that may interest you, too.  For just $99, you can stay in a Minto home in Sun City Center for two nights, while enjoying some of the amenities on the property.  This is a great way to decide if this neighborhood is right for you.

Twin Eagles near Naples

Minto has recently completed  two new model homes in this luxury development that contains two highly rated golf courses and a lavish clubhouse.  Single family home prices start at about $500,000 and go up to over $1,000,000.   If you purchase a home from Minto in this community, it currently comes with a free golf membership, although the members are responsible for paying annual golf dues.

Town Park in Port St. Lucie

This is another adult community for those who prefer to live in an age restricted neighborhood.  Home prices are very affordable, ranging from the $200,000's to the $300,000's.  The community offers a wide variety of amenities and is near a number of restaurants and retailers.

Better Business Bureau Report on Minto Homes

In doing research online, I did not find any complaints or angry articles written about Minto Homes.  I thought it was also worthwhile, however, to check out their Better Business Bureau report, just to be on the safe side.

The Better Business Bureau gives Minto Homes an A-.   The BBB has received four complaints about the company during the past three years.  Only one of the complaints occurred in the past 12 months.  Of the complaints that were file, one complaint was over advertising or sales; the other three complaints dealt with problems with the product or service that was offered.  All of the complaint files have been handled and closed by the BBB.

The BBB report goes on to say they they know of no government actions against the company and they have nothing negative to report regarding the company's adertising

Contact Information:

In addition to finding more information on the websites listed in the source section below, you can also call Minto directly at:


Sources for the Information in this Article,_Florida

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Myths About Over 55 Retirement Communities

Having living in an age restricted over-55 retirement community for more than nine years, I have noticed that there are a lot of myths about these communities.  As a result, I thought this would be a good time to clarify a few things and dispel some of these myths.

What You Should Know about Active Adult Communities

1.  Many people believe that in order to move into an over-55 community both members of a couple must be at least 55 years old.  However, only the husband or wife needs to be age 55 or older.  Their spouse can be any age.  It is also possible for a resident who is over the age of 55 to have a roommate who is at least age 40, or they can have an adult of any age as their live-in caregiver.  There are also special exemptions for residents who have a dependent adult child who is mentally or physically handicapped, although you may have to provide evidence of the adult child's disability.  Contact the retirement community that interests you to see if they have any specific requirements or limitations, such as whether live-in caregivers can use the amenities.

2.  Often younger people of retirement age believe that everyone in an age restricted community is extremely old.  The truth of this may depend on how old the community is.  For example, the community where I live was founded in the 1960's.  Therefore, there are a number of residents who have lived here for 30 years or longer. Consequently, the median age is 76, although it has been falling in recent years because of the influx of younger retirees. There are thousands of residents who are much younger than the median age.  In fact, the Baby Boomers club is the most popular and fastest growing club in our community.  If you are looking at a new age-restricted community, the median age may even be under age 70.

3.  Sometimes people are hesitant to move to one of these communities because they have the impression that everyone is either a shut-in or that they spend their days sitting on the front porch in rocking chairs.  While there are definitely some shut-ins in any retirement community, the vast majority of people are very physically and mentally active.  In our community, we have a group of synchronized swimmers, horseback riding classes, tennis courts, two busy golf courses and a wide variety of exercise programs including line dancing, circuit training, yoga, water aerobics, and much more.  There is a large group of bridge players and over 200 clubs. There are also regularly scheduled dances throughout the community. 

4.  Another misconception is that your children and grandchildren will not be able to stay overnight in your home with you.  In truth, guests under the age of 18 can legally stay up to 60 days a year.  In fact, when one of our daughters moved to Southern California from another state, she and her two young children stayed with us for about six weeks until she found a job and an apartment of her own.

5.  Baby Boomers who still have active careers may feel uncomfortable about whether they should move into any place labeled a retirement community while they are still working.  However, about a quarter of the people who live in our community have jobs.  Some of them work full-time, like my husband, and others work part-time, as I did until I recently retired.  Not only do many people work outside the community, but our retirement community also offers jobs to hundreds of residents.  These residents hold a wide variety of jobs including positions as gate guards, bus drivers and office clerks.  Many retirees find that working part-time for the homeowner's association is a great way to supplement their retirement income.  In fact, homeowner's associations in retirement communities may be one of the easiest places for retirees to be able to find part-time jobs.

6.  Another mistaken impression some new residents have is that these communities are so safe that the residents do not need to practice good personal security.  As a result, it is not uncommon for people to leave their homes unlocked while they go for a walk, leave their cars unlocked when they visit friends, or leave their purses sitting in plain view on the front seat of their cars.  (I have frequently observed all of these behaviors.) Good personal security is as important in a retirement community as anywhere else.  While these communities usually do have a low crime rate, crime does exist.  It isn't wise to tempt outside visitors and workers in the community by practicing lax security.

I hope this has dispelled some of the myths that you may have had about living in a retirement community!  If you have other questions, please leave them in the comment section and I will modify this article to answer the readers' inquiries.

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