Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Perfect Distance From Children and Grandchildren

How Far Away Should You Retire From Your Children?

In my last post, I listed a series of questions that retirees should ask themselves before choosing their retirement home.  They all boiled down to determining the perfect distance you should live from your children and grandchildren.

This is an issue that most retirees have to consider when they begin to make their retirement plans.  As I asked in the earlier article, are you willing to live an airplane flight away, a long drive away, or in the same neighborhood as your adult children and grandchildren?  The truth is that there is no single answer that is right for everyone.  There are many different factors to consider and, no matter what you decide, there will be advantages and disadvantages.   In addition, if you have multiple children, you may live near some of them and a long distance away from others.  No matter how near or far away you live, there are challenges you will need to consider.

In my earlier post, I gave readers a list of questions to consider that would help them decide how far away they wanted to live from their children.  This week's post should help you draw the conclusions that are right for you.  In the last sections of this post you will find comments that have been left by real grandparents and teens who have their own opinions of the right distance to be away from their family.

Retiring an Airplane Flight Away From Your Children

Have you always dreamed of living in a milder climate or, possibly, an exotic country?  Those early years after you retire may be the single best opportunity you will have in your lifetime to live somewhere new and fun.  Now is your chance to live wherever you want, without regard for your job or other obligations.  This decision, however, could take you far away from your children.  Are you willing to leave your adult children and young grandchildren behind in order to have your own adventure?

There is no reason to feel guilty about choosing to spend your 60's, 70's or even your later years living someplace where you have always wanted to spend time, whether that is Florida, Arizona or Costa Rica.  Some people have found that making a move like this has even strengthened their family relationships.  Their children are left to make their own decisions, without feeling that their parents are always there to look over their shoulders.  When the parents and children get together once or twice a year, either at the children's or parent's home, the visits are likely to be more fun ... something everyone looks forward to.  In between visits, the grandchildren can use Skype or FaceTime to show their grandparents their Halloween costumes, holiday gifts or soccer trophies.  Facebook makes it easy to stay in touch and see what your family is doing, too.

One downside is that you may find it more difficult to stay in touch with former friends and neighbors, since that connection may not be as strong as the bond you have with your children. However, this will be offset when you reach out to people in your new community and make friends there, as well.

Another risk you take is that it may be harder to reach family members quickly whenever there is an emergency.  If you or your spouse has to go into the hospital, it could be very difficult for your children to make arrangements to get there.  If a grandchild has a medical emergency, it will be equally difficult for you to be there to help out.  In some cases, resentments may develop between the generations because of the distance.

Retiring a Long Drive Away From Your Children

One way to handle the disadvantages of living an airplane flight away from your children is to live a long drive away from them.

In this case, you will have all the advantages of being able to live where you want, visit with them a couple of times a year, and use Skype and Facebook to stay in touch.  At the same time, it will be easier for you and your old friends to meet occasionally or join each other for special events.

In addition, in an emergency you can reach other family members within a day ... which can be very comforting.

One of our daughters lives an eight hour drive away from us.  When she had an emergency and was rushed to the hospital last summer, it was a relief to be able to hop in our car and arrive at the hospital that evening.

Retiring in the Same Community As Your Children

Your final option is to live in the same general area as your adult children.  This can mean living within walking distance or living twenty or thirty miles away from them.  In either case, it can make it easy for you to get together regularly and spend lots of time with your grandchildren.

It can also mean that you become their first choice whenever they need a baby sitter or pet sitter.  Depending on how close you live, they may ask you to watch the kids after school, drive them to school, or take them to baseball practice and other after school activities.  Are you willing to be that involved in the lives of your grandchildren?

On the other hand, you might end up seeing less of them than you expect.  They may not want you to be at their house for every holiday and they may not want to spend all their free time going to your place for Sunday dinner, either.  Are you going to feel resentful and left out if they choose to spend some of their holidays and free time with the in-laws or friends ... leaving you to fend for yourselves?

You also have to ask yourself if you are going to be more tempted to interfere in their lives if you live nearby.  Are you going to pepper them with questions about every decision they make or constantly make suggestions about how they should do things?

Living near your children and grandchildren can create its own unique set of problems.  It can require more patience and discretion on your part, if you wish to get along with your adult children.  You may have to learn to hold your tongue and let your children know that you respect their decisions.  Are you prepared to take a back seat and not intervene, even when you disagree with decisions they are making?  What if you think they are making poor financial decisions, drinking too much, or not raising their children correctly?  Keeping your mouth shut can be a lot easier when your children live a few hundred or a few thousand miles away.

Deciding Where To Retire

As you can see, there is no single choice that is right for everyone.  In fact, you may end up moving closer to one adult child and further away from others.  This is very common in families today, since so many young adults have to relocate for their careers.

You also have to consider the possibility that you might move someplace to be near a particular child, only to have that child move away.  This happened to a friend of mine when the husband of her only daughter was transferred by his company to a state that is 1,500 miles away.  My friend is very resentful that her children and grandchildren are no longer living nearby, yet she does not want to move to the cold weather state where they now live.

What Real People Have Said About The Distance They Live From Family

I sometimes write for a site that has both young and older readers.  As a result, I asked readers on that site the question of how far away retirees should live from their adult children.  I received a wide range of opinions.  Here are some of the more interesting answers that they gave:

From a grandmother who lives near her kids:  "I am a grandma and all my children and grandchildren live less than a 5 minute drive away. My daughter and I walk frequently to each other's houses and I could walk to my son's house. Soon, I will take care of my youngest grandson a couple of days a week and am glad that we are all very close together. It makes it easy to help out and I can have the kids over for a short time. When my son and family lived a 30 min drive away, visits were more committed. Still, we are close, but we respect each other's space. I don't stop by without being invited or at least have communicated if they are up for a visitor and they do the same. We all like each other a lot and like to spend time together."

From another grandmother who likes a little distance: "When it comes to our kids, I think distance actually does make the heart grow fonder."

From a grandmother who resents her daughter's move:  "This question touches a nerve. My daughter wants me involved in the lives of her kids, but moved to a far away state. It costs me thousands to see any of them. Yes, they could Skype or text, but they don't. The problem is, with several options, their generation is overwhelmed. So they use none of it."

From a teenager:  "I am a teenager. As someone who has lived away from both sets of grandparents and has had very limited communication with them, I would definitely say that grandparents and their children and grandchildren should live relatively close. Every time I visit my grandparents, I can only stay for a few weeks at most. The rest of the time, I can only call them over the phone. I really really wish that I lived closer to my grandparents so I could be with them more!"

As you can see, opinions vary widely.  Some of the comments I received also indicated that not all grandparents want to be regular babysitters.  (I received that comment from men, although I am sure some women feel the same way.) Other grandparents seem to welcome the opportunity.  In the end, the best advice is to choose a retirement home in a location that seems best suited for you.  Once you have done that, everything else is likely to fall into place, making everyone happier.

You may also be interested in reading my last post on this topic at:

If you are looking for ideas about wonderful retirement locations, use the tabs or the pull down menu at the top of this page to find links to hundreds of other articles about retirement.

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Photo credit: Photo of Laguna Beach taken by author, Deborah-Diane; all rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How Far Should You Live From Your Adult Children?

If you are planning to retire soon, one important question you may have to ask yourself is how far you are willing to live from your adult children.  Do you want to live within a short drive, a long drive, or an air flight away?  There are advantages and disadvantages to each.

It is important that you spend some time thinking about the different concerns you have before choosing a new retirement location.  You don't want to make an expensive mistake, if you can avoid it.

When my husband and I were visiting potential colleges with one of our teenage daughters, the admission's officer said to the parents who were gathered, "Please do not move and forget to tell your children your new address!"  That got a laugh from the crowd.  However, it is apparently not unusual for some parents to send their kids off to college and then move into a retirement community or downsize to a smaller home ... neglecting to give their new address to their children for a few months!

Many people wrestle with the decision of where they want to live after they retire.  Below are some thoughts for you to consider.

Retirement Near Your Adult Children

Whether your kids already live in your hometown or they live across the country, is it your goal to retire someplace near them?  Do you envision seeing them on a regular basis and being involved in your grandchildren's daily lives?  Sometimes this is wonderful ... and sometimes things do not work out the way you envision.  Questions you need to ask are:

Do your children want to see you on a regular basis?
Do your children agree that you should spend a lot of time with your grandchildren?
Will your children start using you as a regular babysitter and/or pet sitter?
Is it possible that, after you move close to them, your children may end up getting a new job and moving somewhere far away?
How will you feel if you move near them and they get transferred somewhere else?
Will your feelings be hurt if they spend the holidays with their in-laws instead of you?
Will your adult children become too dependent on you?
Will you be expected to host all the major family dinners and special events?

Retirement a Long Drive From Your Children

Do you think you will be more comfortable if you are within driving distance of your children, but not close enough that they will regularly depend on you for babysitting and hosting all the holiday meals?   Is that your ideal living arrangement?  If so, here are the questions that you should ask yourself:

How far are you willing to drive to attend a grandchild's birthday or special event?
How often are you willing to make the drive?
Where will you stay during your visits ... in a hotel or with your children?
Will you have a guest area for your children when they visit you?
Will your other friends and relatives be willing to visit you there?
What happens if your adult child is transferred to another region of the country?

Retirement That is an Airplane Flight Away From Your Children

What if you must take an airplane in order to visit your children?  Many of the questions that pertain to a long drive will also pertain to taking a flight.  However, there are a few other issues you may need to consider:

How much will it cost to fly to see your children?
Will you have to take different flights to see different children?
How often will you be able to afford to fly to see them?
Are you willing and able to help pay for your children to visit you?
Where will you stay when you visit your children ... in a hotel or with your children?
Will you have a guest area for your children when they visit you?
Will your other friends and relatives be willing to visit you there?

Our Personal Experience with Retirement Distances

My husband and I have adult daughters who live in all the categories mentioned above.  One lives just 7 miles from us and we see her and her children several times a week.  Yes, we often babysit the kids, pick them up from school, pet sit when they go out of town, and help out financially.  We also host all the holiday dinners.  Those are the advantages or disadvantages (depending on how you look at it) of living near your adult children.

Another one of our daughters lives an 8 hour drive away.  We see her every few months.  Sometimes we drive to see her and sometimes she drives down to see us.  We are much less involved with her children, but we see them more often than we do the grandchildren who live an air flight away.

Two of our daughters and their families live on the other side of the country from us.  We go and see them once a year and they come to see us once a year.  Fortunately, we are able to combine the trips when we visit them, since they only live a couple of hours' drive away from each other.  However, we see much less of those grandchildren and that will probably remain true most of their lives. Using Skype and Facebook helps to make the distance between us seem shorter.

Which decision is right for you?  Only you can decide that.  However, it is important to consider all the possibilities before you make a final decision.

However, before making the decision, you may also want to read my next post on this topic.  It contains comments of both grandparents and young people and the way they feel about having grandparents who live either nearby or far away:

For more information about what you should consider when choosing a retirement community, use the tabs at the top of this page.  They contain links to hundreds of additional articles about where to retire.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tips for Boomers Who Live Alone

Sooner or later, the majority of people will spend some time living alone.  Even if you are currently married, it is likely that one of you will outlive the other.  "Gray" divorce, involving people over the age of 50, is also becoming more common.  Most of the time, single Baby Boomers are quite capable of handling this living arrangement and may even enjoy the freedom that they have.

However, it is likely that there will also be times when most single seniors will wish they had someone else around to lend them a helping hand, especially when they are sick, have surgery, or when they are dealing with other types of life emergencies. 

These are the times when you need to have a plan.  Below are some suggestions to make life easier for you when you go through these difficult times.

Preparing for Emergencies When You Live Alone

Everyone should know how to order their groceries online or by phone.  This will make life so much easier if you are sick or recovering from surgery.  Practice by ordering your groceries this way once in a while, for example when the weather is bad and you don't want to get out.  Then you will know exactly what to do when the time comes that you have to order your groceries.  You won't be trying to learn something new when you are already under stress.

Meals on Wheels - In addition to being able to order your groceries, you may also want to investigate the local Meals on Wheels service.  Many of these organizations will provide meals temporarily to people who are recovering from surgery or permanently for people who are experiencing other issues such as severe arthritis that could make it difficult for them to prepare their own meals.  In addition, it can be comforting to know that someone will check on you each day when they deliver the meals.  You will probably be asked to donate between $2 and $8 per day for the meals, but the service is well worth it.

Medical Alert Devices - Meals, of course, not the only problem you might have when you live alone.  As you age, one of the biggest risks you will face is from falling.  You could also suffer from other medical emergencies, such as experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack or a stroke.  As a result, people who spend a lot of time alone may want to invest in a medical alert pendant.  There are a variety of companies that offer this service, such as the GreatCall Medical Alert Device.  Depending on the company you choose, the service that is connected to your medical alert device (for a small monthly fee) will be able to connect you with 911, a nurse, a neighbor or the relative of your choosing, so you can quickly get help when you need it. Make sure you compare several brands and choose the device that suits your lifestyle.  Some only work when you are in or near your home.  Others work off a GPS system, which means you can use them wherever you are ... on a trip, while taking a walk, or at the local mall. 

Medical Alert Engraved Bracelets - If you have a condition such as epilepsy or diabetes that could cause you to pass out or have a seizure, it would be wise to wear a bracelet that identifies your medical condition and any other relevant information that would be useful to emergency personnel, in the event you cannot speak.  You can order medical alert bracelets online, although you may want to talk to your doctor first about specifically what information you will want to include on your bracelet.

Transportation can be another issue when you live alone.  What happens if you lose your drivers license or if there is simply a short period of time when you cannot drive ... because of foot surgery, for example?  Many communities offer transportation services in the form of buses that will come directly to your home or low cost taxi vouchers.  Some communities even have volunteers who will drive seniors to medical appointments.   Contact your local senior center or city hall to find out what transportation resources are available in your area.

Online Banking - Learn how to pay your bills by using online banking and have your Social Security, pensions and other sources of income automatically deposited.  This will dramatically simplify bill paying for you.  I even know of people who have all their bills charged to their credit card and then they simply pay that one credit card bill each month.  I advise this only for people who do not overspend and end up with a credit card bill that is more than they can afford. Either way, learning how to use online banking will save you money on stamps and reduce the time you need to spend paying bills.  In fact, many of your bills can be set up to be automatically paid every month, with no additional effort from you.  That means you will not forget to pay a bill, especially if you are sick or hospitalized for a period of time.

Try to build up a circle of friends who you see periodically.  Not only is the socialization important for people who live alone, but it is reassuring to know that there are people who would miss you and come looking for you if you unexpectedly did not show up for a routine get-together.  You may want to take a class, form a walking group, join a book club, or get involved in similar activities.  Have coffee with a neighbor once a week.  Volunteer at the library or your local senior center.  These types of activities will also help you fight one of the biggest issues for people as they age ... loneliness.

Phone calls, emails and text messages are other ways that you can stay connected.  As you age, you may want to contact an adult child, a sibling, or a close friend several times a week, just to reassure them that you are OK.  In some communities, you can sign up to have an automated phone call made to your home every day at a certain time, when you are virtually always at home ... such as 7:00 in the morning or 10:00 in the evening.  If you do not answer, they will send someone out to check on you.

Household help - If possible, hire a person or two who can help you around your house ... with cleaning, yard work, pool maintenance or similar services.  This will give you at least one more person who will be checking on you periodically.  In addition, it will make it less likely that you will get injured doing something risky or stressful ... such as shoveling snow, washing windows on a ladder, cleaning your gutters, etc. 

Finally, put together a list of emergency numbers and keep it in a prominent place.  You may also want to keep a copy in your car and carry one in your purse or wallet.  Make sure it contains contact numbers for your doctors, relatives, neighbors and anyone else you might need to reach in an emergency.  When you are upset or confused, it could be difficult to remember even familiar phone numbers.  In addition, if you are unconscious, this list could make it easier for others to get in touch with your family or physicians.

In addition, add ICE as a connection on your cellphone.  That stands for: In Case of Emergency.  Then, enter the phone number of someone who should be contacted in an emergency.  Emergency personnel have been trained to check your phone for this entry, if you should be found unconscious or incapacitated in some way.  

Taking the right precautions will make it much easier for you to live comfortably alone and could postpone the time when you will have to move into assisted living ... which most of us want to postpone as long as possible.

If you want other helpful retirement planning information, check out the tabs at the top of this article.  They contain links to hundreds of other useful articles.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Where Retirees Pay Low Taxes

Once you leave the work force, many retirees are concerned about how to pay low taxes so they can really stretch their Social Security and pensions and make every penny count.  After all, if you are going to receive $1200 to $2400 a month in Social Security (a typical range), the money will go a lot further in low-tax, low cost-of-living states like Texas or Washington rather than states like California or New York.  Below is some of the information you will need to know in order to make the right retirement decision for you.

States With No State Income Tax

The first issue that you need to consider is whether or not you will have to pay state income tax on any of your retirement income.  The states listed below, do not have a state income tax on regular income, although there are some other issues, mentioned below, that you want to consider.

New Hampshire
South Dakota

New Hampshire and Tennessee do tax your dividends and interest income.  In addition, some of those states, like Texas, have unusually high property taxes that can amount to more than residents would have paid in income taxes in other states.  It is important for retirees to consider ALL the taxes that they will pay in their new location, including sales, personal property, estate and inheritance taxes.

Cities with Moderate Taxes and a Desirable Quality of Life

Paying low taxes is not enough to guarantee a pleasant retirement.  Most retirees also want to enjoy a pleasant lifestyle, as well.  In other words, they are looking for places where they will be able to afford to live on their retirement income while, at the same time, being able to have fun in locations where they feel safe, with good transportation and access to quality healthcare.

Many retirees also want to be able to live in the same region of the country where their adult children and grandchildren live.  Often they want easy access to parks and beaches or lakes.  They may be looking for a mild climate.

With all those considerations in mind, here are "Eight Tax-Friendly Cities" that, according to Where to Retire magazine, may meet your overall needs:

Fort Lauderdale, Florida
St. Marys, Georgia
Spartanburg, South Carolina
Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Manitou Springs, Colorado
Tempe, Arizona
Boulder City, Nevada
Payallup, Washington

Of course, this is just a sampling of the possible choices that are available.  As you can see, several of the listed cities are actually in the states that do have a state income tax.  This is because the magazine looked at the entire tax burden that people experience, including property and sales taxes.  Even if those particular cities will not work for you, you may consider other affordable and interesting towns within those same states.  In particular, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Arizona are popular and affordable retirement meccas.

As you can see, you may not wish to move to a state simply because it does not have income taxes, until you carefully study what other taxes you may be expected to pay, as well as the overall cost-of-living.

The best state for retirement may be different for each individual.  Some of the questions you may want to ask yourself:

Do you plan to buy or rent in my new location?
How do home prices and rents compare from state to state?
What will be the total impact of the taxes you will be paying?
What is the overall cost of living?
What will it cost to enjoy your favorite pastimes, hobbies and activities?
Will you have convenient access to healthcare and other services?
How much will it cost to travel to visit your loved ones?

Once you have researched the answers to these questions and considered the amount you will be paying in taxes and other expenses, then you will have gone a long way towards deciding the best place for you to live economically during retirement, while paying the lowest taxes possible.

"8 Tax-Friendly Cities," Where to Retire magazine, January/February 2015 issue, pg. 52.

For more ideas about good places to retire, use the tabs at the top of this article to find links to dozens of other articles, including where to retire both in the United States and in other countries.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Long-Term Care for Low Income Retirees

In other posts on this blog, we have discussed the reasons why people may benefit from purchasing Long Term Care insurance, the various alternatives to this insurance, and the Veteran's Administration benefits that could help you pay for assisted living or nursing home care.

What if none of these options will work for you?  Perhaps you cannot afford long term care insurance or poor health prevents you from passing the physical.  You may not have served in the military, at least not when a war was going on, so you do not qualify for VA benefits.  

In addition, Medicare is not an option because it will only pay for short-term care, such as when you need to spend a few weeks in a rehabilitation facility after you have surgery.  

Do not give up on your ability to find affordable long-term care, however.  If none of the above programs are an option, there are other choices which can help the low-income elderly pay for permanent care, once they reach a point in their lives when they are declining physically and/or mentally.

First, a significant number of the elderly are eligible for long-term care through Medicaid.

Who is Eligible for Medicaid?

In order to be eligible to receive long-term care and have it paid for by Medicaid, you need to meet these criteria:
  1. You have to be willing to apply all of your existing assets towards your care.  This is usually not an issue for people who have few remaining assets and are approaching the end of their lives.
  2. You must have a low retirement income, which applies to nearly everyone living solely on the average amount of Social Security.  Even if your retirement income is greater than the median Social Security payment, you may still qualify if you have high medical expenses.
  3. In the case of a married couple, they do NOT need to exhaust all their financial resources in order for one of them to have their long-term care covered by Medicaid. In most cases, the healthy spouse can keep their home and certain other assets, although they may still have to make significant sacrifices in order to contribute to their partner's care.

Medicaid for Ailing Elders

Medicaid is designed to be a safety net for Americans who need more care than they can afford to pay for privately. Medicaid can be used to pay for long term nursing home care in all states. In a number of states,  Medicaid will also pay for assisted living communities or other options such as in-home care. 

In some states, residents can even access Medicaid through a program called PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly).  PACE will cover all of the senior's care and medical needs through a single agency.  The goal of PACE is to help people who have traditionally been sent to nursing homes to stay at home, with support.  You can learn more about that program at 

State Medicaid Guidelines

Every state has its own guidelines, requirements and paperwork, so you will need to contact your State Medical Assistance office for more details about how their programs work.  Here are two websites that can help you:
You may also want to speak with an elder law attorney who can help guide you through the complicated process of completing a successful Medicaid application.


Veteran's Aid Can Help Both Veterans and Their Spouses

Don't forget that there are also programs to help Veterans who have served in the military during a time when our country was at war.  Many widows and widowers of veterans are not aware that they may also be able to receive benefits to help cover long-term care.


How to Apply for VA Benefits

Like Medicaid, the application process for your VA benefits can be extremely complicated.  To get help, you may want to contact a Veteran Services Officer. They are volunteers who are located throughout the United States,  and you can find them through organizations like the American Legion, or Veteran of Foreign Wars (VFW) lodges.

To apply for VA health care or determine eligibility,
  • Call (877) 222-VETS: Health Benefits Service Center
  • Contact your local Veterans Benefits Office or Medical Facility
  • Visit the Department of Veterans Affairs website


How to Find the Right Assisted Living or Nursing Home Program

How can you find the right program or facility to take you or your loved one?  Where do you start?  How can you get help completing the complicated applications necessary in order to get Medicaid or MediCal to pay for your care?  There are companies that will help you find an available bed in the appropriate facility and they will often assist with the application process, as well.  Here are two well-known companies:

A Place for Mom
(866) 344-8005

California Nursing Home Solutions
(They handle the Medi-Cal Applications, etc. for you)
(800) 773-6467
In addition, you may want to contact nursing homes, assisted living facilities or senior centers in your area and ask if they can help you with the MediCal or Medicaid application process.  Many of them can walk you through the process or they can refer you to a specialist who can help you.

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