Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Free Tax Preparation Help

Completing your tax returns can be complicated, especially as we get older and more easily frustrated.  However, there is no need for most of us to handle our returns by ourselves.  The AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is available to help you file uncomplicated personal tax returns, at no cost to you.

How Do I Find a Tax-Aide Volunteer?

These IRS trained and certified volunteers are usually available by appointment at libraries, senior centers, community centers and similar public facilities in neighborhoods all over the United States.  They are available from approximately February 1 to April 15.  Anyone can ask to use the service, but they are particularly interested in helping people over the age of 60 who have low or moderate incomes.

You can use the contact information below to make an appointment and find the nearest location:

What Documents Should You Bring To Your Appointment?

Make sure you show up at your appointment with all the information the preparer will need to complete the return quickly and efficiently.  In particular, be sure to bring in this information:

Proof of health insurance coverage;
If you were insured through the Affordable Care Act, bring Form 1095-A;
Your tax returns from the preceding year;
A photo ID, such as your driver's license, for everyone on the return;
All your income statements (W2, 1099, interest, dividends, Social Security, etc.);
Brokerage statements that show your capital gains/losses and stock sales;
Receipts for prescriptions, as well as other medical and dental bills;
Receipts for health insurance premiums;
Property tax and mortgage interest statements;
Proof of charitable donations;
Documentation for any other itemized deductions;
A check or bank card that shows the routing and account numbers for direct deposit of your refund.

Most of the documentation you need, including the Form 1095-A, W2, 1099s, Social Security statement, brokerage statements, etc., will be mailed to you during the month of January. 

Don't let yourself become upset and frustrated by trying to do your taxes by yourself.  Let professionals help you for free.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Protect Yourself From Medicare Fraud

For those of you who are age 65 or over, you have probably signed up for Medicare and are now enjoying the benefits of this healthcare program.  Now that you are on Medicare, you want to make sure that someone else doesn't enjoy your Medicare benefits, too ... and leave you with unpaid bills and co-pays that could damage your credit until you are able to go through the complicated process of proving that you did not incur these expenses.

These are the type of retirement problems that I never thought about before I retired and they are certainly the type of problems you don't want to bring on yourself.  Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself from Medicare fraud.

How to Prevent Medicare Fraud

*  First, it is important that you and your retired relatives know that Medicare will NEVER call you and ask you for your Medicare number or any other personal information.  They will not try to sell you products such as insurance or supplemental drug plans.  Consequently, there is no reason to ever give your number out over the phone to a stranger who calls you.

*  In addition, there is no reason to carry your Medicare card around with you, unless you are going to visit a doctor, hospital, clinic or pharmacy.  Once you have given this information to your regular healthcare providers, you will not usually have to keep showing them your card.  Furthermore, if you get a Medicare Advantage plan, they will provide you with a separate card that has your plan's member number ... which will be different than your Medicare number.  Of course, you'll want to protect your Medicare Advantage number or your Medigap policy number, as well, so that information cannot be stolen and misused.

*  Keep track of your doctor visits, tests, surgeries and any other medical procedures.  Write them down in a calendar or journal.  When you receive your Medicare Summary Notice (MSN) and your Part D Explanation of Benefits (EOB), compare them to your personal records.  Make sure there are no mystery charges on them.  If there are, call your physician and see if they have an explanation for the charges.  For example, they may have sent a test to an outside lab or another physician for a second opinion.

*  If there are unexpected charges on your bill and no one knows why, report the charges to the Senior Medicare Patrol for your state. They will investigate the fraudulent charges.

You can get more information about preventing Medicare Fraud at: (Website for the Senior Medicare Patrol)

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

How to Have a Happy Marriage After Retirement

Causes of Gray Divorce

Divorce after the age of 50, also know as gray divorce, is becoming more common ... sometimes because of the stress placed on a relationship by retirement.  A marriage that was difficult when one or both spouses were working can become unbearable when two people find themselves together most of the day.

Even if they don't divorce, many people who thought their spouse was simply a little annoying before they retired now find themselves living in misery afterwards.  As a woman in her 60's, I have several married women friends who dread having their husbands retire.  They feel they will never have time to themselves again and that everything they do will be constantly critiqued and criticized ... especially if their husband starts telling them how to run the house. I have known men who suddenly began to "instruct" their wife on the right way to load the dishwasher, vacuum the carpet, or do the laundry.  Whether this is true in your relationship or not, just the fear of it often puts the wives on edge, making them irritable and unhappy about the prospect of retirement.

Another problem that can come up is that some couples may have different expectations about retirement.  For example, the wife may expect that her husband will help more with the household chores.  He may expect that she will now start playing golf or tennis with him more often.  When these things don't materialize, it can cause disappointment, resentment and bitterness.

Another common issue is social dependency.  The husband may want the wife to focus all her attention on him, especially if he has few friends now that he is no longer working.  The wife, however, may have already developed a large social group that she enjoys seeing on a regular basis.  This can also cause jealousy and resentment.

I felt this was an important topic to address in a retirement blog, so I decided to do a little research into ideas that might alleviate some of the fear and resolve many of the issues regarding marital compatibility after retirement.  An important aspect of retirement planning is to feel confident that your relationships will be pleasant, too.  While you may not want to try everything I discovered and list below, it could be worth it to at least give a few of these suggestions a try.

How to Get Along with Your Spouse After Retirement

*  Both the husband and wife should find ways to be of service.  Helping others is rewarding and especially benefits those people who feel they do not have much value after they leave their jobs.  Having self-worth is important for nearly everyone, whether they are retired or not.  In addition, being busy and having activities that give structure to your free time can make your life more enjoyable.

*  Some people who are ready to retire from their lifelong career may wish to continue to work in some other capacity.  This could mean that you keep your current job, but only do it part-time; or it may mean choosing an entirely different career.  It might even be possible to find an encore career in which you are both of service to others and earn an extra income at the same time.  The website can help you find a second career with service organizations in your area.  In addition to helping you feel of service and giving you the opportunity to interact with other people in meaningful ways, working can also relieve any financial stress that might have been brought on by retirement. 

*  Even if it requires marriage counseling, every couple needs to learn how to accommodate each other and avoid hurting each others feelings.  If you have been hurting each other for years, it could take time to re-learn the ways you used to enjoy spending time with each other.  After all, there has to be a reason why the two of you got married in the first place.  Once you manage to get back those feelings, you will be glad that you now have a kinder, gentler, more loving relationship.  If you plan to be happy during the decade or two that you are likely to live together after retirement, both people need to find ways to fulfill their social, spiritual and emotional needs within the marriage.

*  At the same time that you are working on building a better relationship with your spouse, both people also need to develop their own individual, personal interests and respect their spouse's independence.  Both of you need to have the free time to do the things that you enjoy.

*  Sit down and talk with each other about your expectations after retirement.  See which expectations you both agree to ... such as he will take responsibility for certain chores and she will join him in certain activities.  Set up a calendar so you both know what will be going on each day.  For example, on Tuesdays she plays bridge and he plays golf.  On Wednesday afternoons, they go together to a movie.  Avoid nagging your spouse to give up an activity they enjoy, simply because you want them to do the things you like.  They deserve to have time to enjoy their retirement, too!

*  Find some individual space for each person within your home.  He may want a home office; she may want a craft or sewing room ... or the opposite could be true.   Each person needs to have a place they can call "their own" within the home ... even if that space occasionally has to do double duty as a guest room for a visiting adult child.

*  Continue to read, talk to each other and learn as much as you can about how to get along after retirement.  You may both need a "refresher course" from time to time, especially after an argument or a period of high stress. In addition, you could find the articles below helpful.


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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Best Places to Retire Overseas from Live and Invest Overseas

Live and Invest Overseas has a Retire Overseas Index which they use to evaluate a variety of factors that go into helping people decide where they should move if they want to retire to another country, rather than stay in the United States.  Currently, over 600,000 Americans receive their Social Security checks in other countries and countless others have their checks deposited into American bank accounts, while they spend at least a portion of their year in a foreign retirement mecca.

U.S. News and World Report, in an article released on September 5, 2014, took the Live and Invest Overseas data and compiled their own list of ten places you should consider, if you want to live all or part of the year in another country when you retire.  They considered data such as affordability and the presence of other American ex-patriots in compiling this list.

Best Places to Retire Overseas

Algarve, Portugal - low cost of living, fabulous climate, and the 17th safest place to live in the world.

Cuenca, Ecuador - affordable, high-quality healthcare, and this is a country that uses the U.S. dollar, which means retirees do not have to worry about exchange rate problems.

George Town, Malaysia - This charming small city is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Many people speak English, which makes it an easy place to live.

Chiang Mai, Thailand - low cost of living, mild climate and an easy place to find work in the local schools, universities and health care facilities, if you hope to earn extra retirement income.

Dumaguete, Philippines - A couple can live in this University town for as little as $1000 a month and enjoy the gorgeous beaches, as well as many western cultural opportunities like ballet or the theater.  English is the primary language.

Pau, France - Known as the garden city for its lush and abundant greenery, a couple could live in this beautiful university town for about $2,000 a month.

Medellin, Columbia - A beautiful South American city with numerous parks and architectural beauty.  Although we have all heard of the dangerous Medellin drug cartel in the past, according to these reports the city is now considered safe for retirees.  It was named the 2013 World's Most Innovative City.

Abruzzo, Italy - I recently wrote another post about this spectacular and affordable area, titled "Move to the Abruzzo Region of Italy."  It is also included on the Live and Invest Overseas list because of its beautiful beaches, stunning mountains and its affordability.  This is another place where it is estimated that a couple could retire for about $2,000 a month.

Panama City Beaches, Panama - This town offers retirees a beach lifestyle with modern amenities.  Panama is another location that uses the U.S. dollar and has a high-quality healthcare system.

Istanbul, Turkey - We have some Swedish friends who worked for an international company and were often transferred to various parts of the world.  They lived for several years in Texas and then for several years in Istanbul.  They insisted that Istanbul was, by far, their favorite place to live outside of Sweden.  It offers both the experience of living in Europe as well as in Asia.  It is a very affordable place to live at an estimated $1,100 per month.  Our Swedish friends love to play golf and had high praise for the golf courses and the community where they lived in a suburb of Istanbul.

For more detailed information about these locations, go to:

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