Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Free Ways to Give Thanks by Helping Others

Many of us want to do something to help those in need during the holidays.  One way to do that is to write a check to a charitable organization such as the Red Cross, Salvation Army, UNICEF or a religious non-profit.  Like most of you, I have done all of those things. However, there are many people today, especially retirees and those who are near retirement, who cannot afford to give generously to charities.  Fortunately, this does not mean that there is nothing they can do to help others.  In fact, the cost-free contributions you make may become the best loved, most appreciated gifts of all.

Here are a few suggestions to help you get started and, if you look around your neighborhood, you are sure to come up with more ideas on your own.

Free Ways to Help Others

*  Reach out to your elderly neighbors.  Invite them to join you for one of your holiday meals or take a plate of food over to them.  Even if they already have some place to go on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day, they may really appreciate sharing some of your leftovers with you a day or two later.  Take along a few flowers from your garden or a sweet treat.  The days between the holidays can be very lonely for many people, especially those living a long way from their families.

*  Stay in touch with people who may have lost a loved one in the past year.  Invite them to spend time with you and your family.  If they are not ready for a big family gathering, just taking the time to invite them over for coffee one morning could be greatly appreciated.

*  Don't just limit your help to a meal during the holidays.  Check in on the elderly in your area often during the year to make sure they are OK.  Offer to help with tasks that are easy for you, but may be difficult for them, such as changing light bulbs or blowing the leaves off their lawn.

*   Gather a few friends or take your grandkids to visit a nursing home.  Call ahead to ask when it would be a good time to come.  Go Christmas caroling there or take along some easy crafts or games.  Many elderly people love to see children around.  Encourage your grandkids to chat with the residents.  I had a friend who used to get her teenage grandson to dress like Santa Claus and visit a nursing home in our community.  The residents loved it!

*  If you or your grandkids enjoy making crafts, elderly people in your area may appreciate whatever you make ... whether you bake cookies or knit lap blankets for those who are wheelchair bound.  There are others who may also appreciate homemade gifts.  When I was a Campfire leader, our troop members would make friendship bracelets and similar items of jewelry that were popular at the time.  Then we would take them to a local orphanage for the girls who lived there.  It was a special way for our Campfire girls to reach out to others.

*  Volunteer to help at a local soup kitchen serving meals to the homeless.  This is a wonderful idea to do with your friends or other members of your family.  Soup kitchens often need extra volunteers around the holidays because they have more people who show up to be fed.

*  Volunteer at a food bank, and bring along any extra canned goods you may have.  Food banks frequently need volunteers to fill bags or boxes of food to give to the needy.  The holidays are the perfect time to volunteer because they frequently get more donations to distribute this time of year.

*  Volunteer at an animal shelter.  Many of them need people who are willing to walk dogs or help in the reception area.  Younger members of your family may love to do this with you.

*  Don't forget members of the military when you are reaching out to others.  Do you have stacks of books that you have already read?  Why not send them to the troops who are away from home?  You can do this by contacting -- a non-profit organization that collects and ships books to troops both in the U.S. and those who are stationed overseas.

*  Just be nice.  The holidays can be a particularly stressful time of year for many people.  They may be missing a loved one who died or moved away during the past year.  They may work for a retailer and feel overwhelmed by rude, rushed customers.  They may be having financial difficulties that make it hard for them to afford to buy gifts for their loved ones.  Whatever is going on with the people you encounter, you can either help them have a better day or your actions can make their day worse.  Choose to be kind, polite and considerate to everyone you meet.  You'll feel better about yourself, and you may make a significant difference in the life of someone else, as well. 

If you are retired or planning to retire soon, use the tabs at the top of this page to find articles about retirement financial planning, medical issues, family relationships and the best places to retire.  This blog is a great place to get started towards a happier, healthier and more financially stable retirement.

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

UCI Study on the Brains of the Very Elderly

The University of California at Irvine has been engaged for the past decade in a landmark study aimed at understanding why some of the very elderly are able to stay mentally and physically healthy well into their 90's and beyond.  The results of this research could benefit millions of Baby Boomers who are just beginning to reach retirement age.

The study is being conducted by UCI neurologist Claudia Kawas and epidemiologist Maria Corrada.  It is called the 90+ Study.  It began in 2003 when Kawas and Corrada went to UCI after leaving Johns Hopkins University.

However, the real beginning of this research was in 1981 when a University of Southern California research team mailed 14,000 questionnaires out to residents of the Leisure World retirement community in Orange County, California (now renamed Laguna Woods).  Kawas and Corrada are using the information gleaned on that questionnaire and have set about contacting as many of the people who originally completed it, as possible. Many of them, of course, died over the years.

However, when Kawas and Corrada found someone who was still alive and at least 90 years old, they invited them to join their 90+ Study.  Most were eager to do so.  Participants agree to have their blood tested twice a year, demonstrate their mental acuity by doing things like counting backwards from 100 by 3's, and donate their brains to the researchers when they die.

About one-third of the people in the study have dementia, but the other two-thirds do not.  Kawas and Corrada hope to learn why.  The National Institute on Aging recently awarded them a $9.5 million grant to continue their research.  The money will be used to pay for MRIs and positron emission tomography scans on the donated brains so they can compare those people who have dementia to those that do not.

This is the largest study of the 90+ population in the world, and it will be fascinating to find out what these researchers discover.

Although I am not old enough to be part of this study, I am delighted that it is taking place in the community where I live.  I look forward to watching for future reports on what is being learned and I promise to pass updates on to my readers as new data is revealed to the public.

If you are retired or planning to retire soon, use the tabs at the top of this page to search for more information on medical issues, retirement finances, family relationships or places to retire.  Using those tabs, you will find links to hundreds of helpful articles.

Source of information on the UCI study:

"UCI's 90-plus Study Tackles Age-Old Question" by Lori Basheda.  Laguna Woods Globe, October 17, 2013 (a subsidiary of the Orange County Register)

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Best Cities for Military Retirement

If you are retiring from the military, your retirement needs are likely to be quite a bit different from those of civilian retirees.  The typical military retiree leaves their branch of service in their 40's with a pension that is approximately half of their military pay.  Since many of them still have children they are supporting, they often have to start a second career.  Even if they don't have children to support, they may want to continue working in a civilian job for other financial reasons after they retire from the military.  As a result, they have unique challenges that they need to consider when they decide where they want to retire.

U.S. News recently addressed some of these challenges when they put together their list of the best places for military retirees to live after they leave the service.  The research they used when they complied their list was conducted by USAA, an insurance company that covers military families, as well as by, a website geared towards active and retired military personnel.  They reviewed 380 metropolitan areas in the United States and looked at issues that are important to most military retirees such as low crime rates, good schools, nice climates, nearby military facilities, VA medical services, low unemployment (since many of them will be looking for jobs), local colleges (so they can get re-training), affordable housing, and tax policies that are favorable towards military pensions.  Shown below are the cities they chose.

Best Cities for Military Retirees

Waco, Texas
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Austin, Texas
College Station, Texas
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
San Angelo, Texas
Madison, Wisconsin
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
New Orleans, Louisiana
Syracuse, New York

More Considerations for Military Retirees

You'll notice that three of the ten cities are in Texas.  This may be because Texas is generally supportive of the military, has low unemployment, no state income tax and a low cost of living.  Therefore, if the three cities mentioned on the list don't appeal to you, or they are not near your family, you are likely to find many of the same advantages throughout the state.

This brings up the point that there are other factors that will affect your choice of the right city that may not have been considered by USAA and, such as job offers you might have received, where you grew up, and proximity to other members of your family.

You'll also notice that the above list does not include places that have traditionally been popular with retired military personnel, especially retired members of the Navy, such as San Diego and Honolulu.  Although these are wonderful cities with fabulous climates and nearby military bases, they also have the disadvantage that they are really expensive for people who are primarily dependent on a military pension.  While many members of the military have happily retired to those places over the years, it may be difficult for more recent retirees to find affordable housing in those cities.

The bottom line for military retirees is that the above list may give them some general ideas, but they also need to consider other issues that may be more important for them.  One thing you should consider is the fact that the government will pay for one final move when you retire from the military.  Therefore, you want to spend the last year of your service doing some careful research so you end up in the place where you really want to live.

If you have served in the military during war time, you may also want to read this article about VA long-term care insurance:

In addition, if you are planning to retire or you are already retired, use the tabs at the top of this article to find links to hundreds of other articles that contain ideas about where to retire in the United States or abroad, financial planning for retirement, medical issues, family relationships and more.


You can read their full list of criteria used at:

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Are You Eligible for VA Long Term Care Benefits?

A few months ago, I wrote an article on "Alternatives to Long Term Care Insurance."  Because many people do not think about purchasing this insurance until they are already in their 60's or they have a serious illness, they are frequently turned down or faced with unreasonably expensive premiums. That is why several readers requested that I write an article on some of the alternatives that may be available to them.

When I wrote that article, I was unaware of another possible alternative (although I have gone back and added a link to this article.)  Recently, I was watching a program on the in-house television station for our retirement community and discovered that one in three Americans are eligible to receive veterans long-term care benefits through the Veteran's Administration, but only about one in ten of the eligible people are aware of it!  I thought this was shocking and disappointing.

Qualifications for VA Long Term Care

The VA will provide financial assistance that can be used towards the cost of either a nursing home or an at-home caregiver for either a war veteran or their spouse.  While the money does not fully cover the cost of a nursing home, it can make a significant difference to a family that is struggling to afford necessary nursing care.  It can also go a long way towards covering the cost of a home healthcare aide.

In order to qualify, the former member of the military must be an honorably discharged war veteran or be the surviving spouse of one.  The veteran could have served during WWII, Vietnam, Korea or the Gulf War.  Here's the good part.  The veteran does not have to have actually served in the war zone!  It is also not necessary that the war was going on the entire time they served.

The veteran needs only to have served for one day during a war and had ninety days or more of total military service during the war era.

The veteran could even have served stateside during the war and never actually seen any military action at all.

In order for the spouse to qualify to receive long-term care benefits, they must have been married to the veteran at the time of the veteran's death.

Long Term Care Benefits

If you are eligible, the VA may provide up to $24,000 a year tax-free for a married couple towards their in-home care, personal care, assisted living care, or whatever assistance they need in order to live.  There is no cut-off.  The benefit can last the lifetime of the the veteran and the surviving spouse.

These benefits will not affect your Social Security or Medicare benefits.  In other words, your Social Security and Medicare benefits will not be decreased because you are receiving this VA benefit.

This supplemental $2000 a month can be life-changing for a family struggling to provide care for their elderly parents.

More Facts You Should Know

First, the eligible persons do not have to initiate the request for this program.  This is important because dementia or other health problems may make it difficult for them to apply.  A spouse or adult children can initiate the request for care.  

You do not need to be poor to get this benefit.  You can have assets and income and it will not matter in most cases, especially if you have high medical expenses that are offsetting your income.

Many people have been told, incorrectly, that they do not qualify for this benefit.  In fact, the man who was providing this information for my local television station said that his own mother was initially denied.  If this happens to you, you should appeal the initial decision.  You may wish to contact a specialist to get help.

The application forms are extremely complicated, which is another reason why you may want to get assistance from an accredited VA attorney.

In addition to long-term care, there are also other programs which could help you.  For example, you may be eligible for the VA disability benefits that are due to people who were injured during war time.  You may even be eligible if the injury does not appear until later ... such as in the case of Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange.

For more information, you may also want to contact the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs directly at:

If you are retired or preparing to retire, use the tabs at the top of this page to access links to hundreds of other articles that may be of interest to you, including information about where to retire, your changing family relationships, medical issues, and handling your retirement assets.


William Jordan Associates in Orange County, California is a Southern California wealth management company that assists people in handling their assets.  This company also provides free assistance to people to help them apply for some government benefits, specifically their VA long-term care benefits.  (However, be aware that they also sell retirement and investment services.)
(949) 380-8600

"This Day" television program, Channel 6, Laguna Woods television station, 9/25/2013

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