Wednesday, October 29, 2014

GreatCall 5 Star Medical Alert Device

As we age, there are many reasons why it could be a smart move to get some type of medical alert device.  In the past, most of these devices only worked in or near your home.  Even then, they were often a life-saver, especially if someone fell and became injured when they were home alone.

Today, however, the technology has improved and it is possible to get a very affordable GPS device that you can have with you wherever you go ... at home, in the grocery store, while visiting friends and relatives, or even while taking a quiet stroll by yourself in the park. The advantages of one of these GPS medical alert devices are tremendous. 

While I am sure that other companies may now be selling these new medical alert devices, one of my friends, a very active woman in her early 70's, told me about this one that can be ordered online from Amazon.  The price is very affordable and in line with the devices that only work in your home:

The device she told me about is the GreatCall 5Star Responder Wireless Personal Security Device.  It costs about $40, plus a small monthly service fee of about $15 a month.  There are no contracts or cancellation fees.

If you push the button on your GPS activated device, you will be connected to a live 5 Star Agent.  They are available 24 hours a day and are prepared to help you deal with a variety of security issues, including contacting the police or medical personnel, as needed.   The people who respond to your alert are trained responders who can use the GPS feature on your device to locate you, which is especially important if you are not sure of the address or cross streets where you are located.

In a true emergency situation, you can hold the call button down for 5 seconds and you will be connected directly to 9-1-1.

The 5-Star responders can also connect you with people on your personal emergency list, such as a neighbor, a relative or your doctor's office.  They also have nurses available on their own staff who are trained to help you determine if you are experiencing a serious medical event, such as a heart attack.

The device is small and can easily be attached to your clothing, belt, purse or keychain, so you always have it nearby.

If you live alone or you have a parent or other relative who spends a lot of time alone, this device, or one like it, could literally save a life. 

More information:

GreatCall 5Star Responder Wireless Personal Security Device

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Garden Park at Daybreak - Fabulous Senior Living in Utah

Are you interested in living in one of the top rated senior communities in the United States?  Garden Park is a beautiful age-restricted neighborhood within the ten year-old community of Daybreak near South Jordan, Utah.  It was recently selected as the Gold Winner in the category of "Best For-Sale 50+ Community in the United States containing over 200 Homes" by the National Association of Home Builders.

What Makes Daybreak So Special?

In just ten years, the new home community of Daybreak has become one of the most popular places for people of all ages to move in the state of Utah.  In fact, approximately one out of six new homes that are currently sold in the Salt Lake Valley are purchased in Daybreak.

Daybreak has been designed with the 5 minute rule in mind.  This means that there are lots of fun things to do within a 5 minute walk of nearly every home in the village, including parks, shops, community gardens, swimming pools, tennis courts, sports fields, restaurants, businesses, schools and miles of bicycle trails.  In addition, the community is built alongside a beautiful lake.

The goal of the developers is to create a vibrant community for people of all ages, while maintaining a healthy environment.

What Makes Garden Park a Gold Medal Winner?

Garden Park is the section of Daybreak that has been specifically designed for the over-55 crowd.  Residents live in individual homes, townhomes or apartments, many with no stairs and all of them with no yard work ... which is very appealing as we all get older.  Those homes that do have stairs often have downstairs master bedrooms so that only your guests have to trek up and down the steps.

Most of the homes are within an easy stroll to the SoDa section of Daybreak that contains shops and restaurants.  The community is also near the University of Utah Healthcare Center. 

Garden Park residents can use all the amenities of Daybreak, including the beautiful lake where they can enjoy activities like going kayaking or taking sailing lessons.

In addition, Garden Park has its own 10,000 square foot clubhouse with a pool, gym, billiards room, and aerobics classes.  There are benches and lounge areas where you can sit outdoors, enjoy nature or meet new friends.  Residents may want to take an exercise class, stroll alongside the lake or plant vegetables in the community garden.  Residents especially love the peace and tranquility of the lakeside setting.

Townhomes can be purchased in the $200,000 to $250,000 price range.  Single family cottages start at around $250,000 and larger homes currently sell for over $500,000.  Many of the single family homes and cottages have charming front porches that make it easier to get to know your neighbors.

If you are considering moving to this region of the country when you retire, Garden Park at Daybreak has everything you could want.

If you wish to visit this community or learn more about it, here is the contact information:
(801) 254-6090

For those of you who are still deciding where you would like to retire, use the tabs at the top of this blog for links to hundreds of articles about where to retire here and in other countries, medical issues, financial planning, family relationships and more.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

2015 Medicare Changes, Premiums and Deductibles

Have you been wondering about next year's Medicare changes and what you will be paying in basic premiums in 2015?  According to articles by Kiplinger and MarketWatch, here is the information you will want to know.

2015 Medicare Premiums and Deductibles

The good news is that almost everyone's Medicare Part B premiums, which are deducted from the Social Security benefits of the majority of recipients, will remain unchanged at $104.90 a month.

For those who rely on basic Medicare alone, they will find that, in addition to no change in your basic Medicare premiums, your total deductibles will change very little, as well. For example, the Part B deductible will remain the unchanged at $147.

If you are admitted to a hospital under Medicare Part A, your deductible will increase $44 over the 2014 rates.  This means the deductible will rise to $1,260 in 2015 for the first 60 days you are in a hospital.

If you go into a skilled nursing facility, you will now pay $157.50 a day, but only for days 21 through 100.   For the first 20 days, you will continue to pay nothing.

On average, stand-alone Part D (drug) premiums are rising only by about $1 a month, to $32, according to Kiplingers.  However, this can vary quite a bit, depending on your Part D plan.  When the Kaiser Family Foundation did a nationwide analysis, they found that the average stand-alone Part D plan will actually rise to nearly $39, up from about $37.27.  My husband's Blue Shield Part D drug plan is $74.50 a month. You need to check with your provider to see what your actual premium will be.

Premiums for High Income Earners

If you have an adjusted gross income of $85,000 for an individual or $170,000 for a married couple filing jointly, you will have to pay an additional surcharge on your Medicare premiums.  Depending on your income, the surcharge can range from $42 to $230.  The highest rate is only for those single individuals who earn over $214,000 or married couples who earn over $428,000 ... which pertains only to a tiny percentage of retirees.  With the basic rate and the surcharge added together, the wealthiest people will pay $335.70 a month per person for their basic Medicare premiums.

Filling in the Gaps

Most people are not satisfied with the medical coverage provided under basic Medicare alone, since it can leave patients with large medical bills.  The majority of retirees usually either choose to use a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medigap Supplemental Insurance plan.  In every state, there are a variety of Medicare Advantage plans and Medigap Supplemental Insurance plans available.  There are many factors you need to consider in choosing a plan ... from which ones your favorite doctors will accept, to the drug coverage they provide and the premium you can afford.

Approximately 320,000 people who are in Medicare Advantage plans across the United States will have to change plans at the end of 2014.  A few companies have discontinued plans and others have launched new plans.  Nationwide there will be 1,945 Medicare Advantage plans available.  Even those people who do not have a plan that is being discontinued may want to do some comparison shopping before deciding whether or not they are better off staying with the plan they have.  The open enrollment period is from October 15 through December 7, 2014, so you can make changes starting today.

Many hospitals and senior centers will hold seminars during the next few weeks to help you choose the policy that is right for you.  Even if you already have a policy you like, it can still be worthwhile to attend the seminars to see if there is an even better program available or one at a more affordable price.  If you have not received any announcements in the mail, you may want to call your local hospital or insurance provider to see if there are any informational meetings being held in your area.

In addition, you can compare policies at this website:

The more information you have, the more likely you are to be satisfied with your Medicare plan.

Add-ons You May Wish to Include

Most policies offer you the option of also buying a dental and/or vision plan.  I highly recommend that retirees get these additional benefits, which can cost an extra $20 to $60 a month.

Source of 2015 Rate Change Information:

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

What Is Your Retirement Number?

Have you figured out your retirement number, yet?  Until recently, I had never heard of the extremely helpful retirement planning book called "The Number: What Do You Need For The Rest of Your Life and What Will It Cost?"

This is one of the more fascinating retirement planning books I have read.  To make it even better, the author includes a touch of humor in the way he discusses this very serious topic.  It was even mentioned in a recent segment on "Good Morning America."

What I appreciate most about this book is that it gives you simple, easy-to-follow guidance in coming up with a reasonable estimate of the amount of money you need to save and the amount of income you should have in order to enjoy the type of retirement that will be comfortable for you.  This is not an average of what most people need; it is a way of estimating the very specific needs of you and your spouse.

What Numbers Do Retirees Need to Know?

Retirement Income:  Have you come up with an estimate of how much income you will have when you retire?  How much will you need?  This author estimates that most people will need about 85% of their final working income.  In other words, if your last year's salary was $75,000, then you will need about $64,000 a year to retire with a lifestyle that is similar to the one you enjoyed during your working years.  Of course, if you make dramatic changes, your actual expenses could be higher or lower than that.  How are you going to reach that $64,000?  Half of it or more could come from Social Security.  The rest will need to come from a pension, a retirement job or investment income.

Retirement Savings:  This book suggests that people should have put aside eight times their last year's income.  If you are earning that same $75,000, that means you should have saved $600,000.  Again, this may change from person to person depending on other sources of retirement income you may have and your planned lifestyle after retirement.  Some of this retirement savings may be what you have put aside in an IRA or 401(k).  Some of it could come from the equity in your home or other property if you sell it and move someplace less expensive.

Withdrawal Rate:  While there was a time that people estimated they could withdraw 7% a year from their savings, this is considered far too aggressive today.  Instead, most people should limit their withdrawals to about 3% to 5% if they want the money to last the rest of their lives.  It is best to withdraw less in the early years and more in the later years when you may not have the ability to work part-time or do other things to supplement your income.  If you have managed to accumulate the $600,000 mentioned above, at 3% this would come to about $18,000 in income a year.  At 5%, this would amount to about $30,000.  If your goal is to reach the $64,000 in retirement income that you would need to replace a $75,000 salary, and you and your spouse together have at least $34,000 in Social Security benefits, then this gives you "your number."

This book is not only informative, but humorous and will help many Baby Boomers, as well as younger adults, put more thought into how they are going to achieve their number ... and what they will do if that number seems impossible to achieve.  Don't worry.  This book will not leave you feeling as though there is no way for you to reach a "number" that will work for you.

If you would like to pick up a copy of this book, here's a quick link to help you find it on Amazon:

"The Number:  What Do You Need For The Rest of Your Life, and What Will It Cost?"

If you want to read about other approaches to retirement planning, use the tabs at the top of this page to find links to hundreds of articles about money issues, family relationships after retirement, health concerns, and where to retire, both in the United States and other countries.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

How to Manage Your Retirement Funds Yourself

Recently, this blog has covered the issue of converting your retirement savings into retirement income.  I have discussed rolling over your 401(k) into an IRA, choosing a good investment adviser and how to select an annuity for retirement income.

However, what if you do not want to hire an investment adviser, buy an annuity, or let someone else manage your money?  What are the do-it-yourself options for selecting the best investments and funds?

Use a Discount Broker

Discount brokers like Schwab and TD Ameritrade have large menus of products that are geared towards people who feel confidant in their ability to choose their own investments.  Both of them have NTF (no-transaction-fee) funds from which you can choose.  However, this does not mean that there are no hidden costs involved with the selection of these funds.  For example, Vanguard and Dodge & Cox will not pay the necessary fees that would make their funds available to consumers for free.  Since these two companies operate some of the best-performing funds, you could lose out on potential future performance if you opt for a less successful fund simply because you do not want to pay an up-front fee.  Consequently, while you can get NTF funds at the discount brokers, you also need to decide if you would be better off paying a fee in order to put your money into a fund that has a better performance record.  Make sure you take the time to do your research.

Purchase an ETF

A few month's ago, I wrote a blog post about Warren Buffet's advice for retirees.  It was based on a speech he gave at one of the annual meetings for Berkshire-Hathaway.  In his speech, Warren Buffet recommended that most retirees would do best at handling their investment savings if they simply purchased ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds) in a variety of industries over a ten year period.  In this way investors would take advantage of dollar cost averaging and they would also be diversified over a number of different industries.

In a recent Money Magazine article titled "The One Retirement Move You Must Get Right," the authors also suggested that do-it-yourself investors should consider purchasing ETF's.  It's a good investment strategy that doesn't require you to pick individual stocks and cross your fingers that you have chosen winners.  So, both Warren Buffet and Money Magazine concur ... go with ETF's.

Set Up an Automatic Monthly Investment Account

Another approach to handling your own investments is to set up an automatic monthly investment account.  Some discount brokers offer their clients the opportunity to invest monthly in funds for free or for just a few dollars a month.  It is a great way to invest and spread the expense out over a long period of time.

Pay a Fee to Get the Fund You Want

Another option is to select the highest performing fund that interests you and pay the fees, which can range from $17 at Scottrade, $50 at Ameritrade or $76 at Schwab.  These fees can be well worth it to you if you are going to get a higher rate of return or save on annual expenses.

As I mentioned before, you will have to do the research to see which investment options are the most affordable and practical for you, while offering you the best rate of return.  Ask the different brokerage firms to send you information on all the funds and ETF's that you are considering.  Read all the information thoroughly.  Once you feel confident, form a plan and move forward with your choices in an organized, consistent manner.

You may also want to read these recent articles:

Should You Rollover Your 401(k) into an IRA?
How to Choose a Good Investment Adviser
How to Choose an Annuity for Retirement Income


"The One Retirement Move You Must Get Right," Money Magazine, July 2014, page 44

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