Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Trilogy Retirement Communities in California

In the past year, four couples my husband and I know have purchased homes in Trilogy Retirement Communities scattered throughout California.  We have visited several of our friends in their new homes and looked at photos of the others.  All of them are proud and pleased with their new homes and communities.

All the homes are beautiful, modern, well-designed for an aging population and surprisingly affordable.  My friends paid an average of about $280,000 to $320,000 for homes that include a wide variety of amenities and upgrades.  All of them had solar panels included in their purchase price and now pay less than $10 a month for electricity.

Trilogy at Rio Vista

Our friends all love their Trilogy communities, but there is one community that I have personally visited.  That is because three of the couples we know purchased homes in the community of Trilogy at Rio Vista.  This Northern California community has a golf course and is also located on the Sacramento River Delta, which makes it possible for people to enjoy fishing and boating close to home.  There is a beautiful 27,000 square foot clubhouse, indoor lap pool with spa, outdoor pool, exercise facilities, indoor track, tennis courts, community restaurants, billiards room, learning center and more.

The indoor facilities are especially appealing because the area along the Sacramento River can get quite hot in the summer and very chilly and rainy in the winter.  However, there are also many beautiful days with temperate weather when people can enjoy outdoor activities.  Sailing or fishing along the nearby river are popular activities.

Our friends' homes are also very attractive, one-story, comfortable homes.  We have enjoyed dinner with one of the couples in their home, barbecuing on the patio and enjoying a pleasant summer evening outside.

After listening to their enthusiastic descriptions of their new lifestyles, I decided it was time to do a little more research and share my findings about other Trilogy Communities in California.

Discover the Trilogy Communities in California

Trilogy at Rio Vista
Rio Vista, California
(near the Sacramento River between Napa and Sacramento)
(Home prices start in the mid $200's)
(707) 374-1100

Trilogy at the Vineyards
Brentwood, California
(Contra Costa county east of the San Francisco Bay Area)
(Home prices start in the mid $400's)
(800) 685-6494

Trilogy at Monarch Dunes
Arroyo Grande, California
(near Nipomo, along the Central California coast)
(Home prices start in the mid $500's)
(800) 685-6494

Trilogy at Glen Ivy
Corona, California
(Home prices start in the high $300's; development fully built out)
(951) 808-5131

Trilogy at the Polo Club
Indio, California
(Home prices starting from the high $200's)
(in the Coachella Valley east of Palm Springs)

Trilogy Enclave at Rice Ranch
Orcutt, California
(Home prices start in the mid $400's)
(Santa Barbara County)

What People Like About Trilogy Retirement Communities

My husband and I considered purchasing a home at the Trilogy retirement community in Glen Ivy about ten years ago.  We loved the development, but we were still in our 50's and it was too far from where my husband worked at the time.  The community has a golf course and an indoor swimming pool, surrounded by an indoor track, an outdoor pool, tennis courts, exercise facilities, walking trails and more.  With the large, attractive clubhouse and well-designed homes, nestled next to the Cleveland National Forest, we found the community and the homes very appealing.

Since then, Trilogy has improved their home designs with new options that include solar systems that will dramatically reduce your electricity expenses.  The solar systems are rolled into your purchase price.  You can also customize your home with your choice of kitchen counters and cabinets, flooring, lighting and optional design features in the floor plans. All the new communities offer swimming pools, well designed homes, gorgeous club houses and a wide variety of amenities that are sure to appeal to the over 55 age group, including classes, gyms, tennis courts and, in some cases, golf courses.

There are additional Trilogy retirement communities in the states of Washington, Nevada, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and Arizona.  This gives retirees a wide variety of options on both coasts.

If you are interested in additional ideas about where to retire in the United States or overseas, financial planning, common medical issues as we age, or changing family relationships, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

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

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Senior Discounts You Will Love!

Let's be honest ... there aren't a whole lot of benefits to getting older.  However, one benefit we should all take advantage of are the senior discounts.  Starting at age 50, you will start to be eligible for certain senior price breaks at a number of businesses.  More special deals kick in at age 60 and there are an even larger range of discounts available by the time you are 65.

In addition to the ones listed below, make sure you are aware of any special discounts in your area ... free classes, reduced price meals at local restaurants, special days at museums, etc.

It is important to know, however, that in general you must ASK in order to get your senior discount.  The businesses are happy to forget about them, unless you ask.

Senior Discounts You Can Use


AARP Discounts - Once you turn 50, be sure to sign up for AARP.  Your membership will only cost about $16 a year, and it will make you eligible for a whole range of discounts including hotels deals, especially at Best Western and La Quinta, as well as other travel packages.  Restaurant discounts at Landry's, McCormick & Schmick, Rainforest Cafe, Outback Steakhouse, Denny's, and other places.  Sears Department Stores offer a discount on their Road Handler tires.  You can also get reduced prices on prescription drugs that are not covered by your medical insurance.  The AARP magazine and website will provide you with more information about the deals that are available.  However, my husband and I simply ask about AARP discounts everywhere we go, especially when we are traveling, going into museums, or visiting tourist attractions.

Restaurant Discounts - In addition to the restaurants that offer a discount through AARP, there are other restaurants that offer a price reduction on their own, including Arby's, Boston Market, Chili's, Subway and Wendy's.  However, as mentioned earlier, you have to ask for them.  Some businesses will require you to register for the discounts before you can get them.

Special Deals on Travel - Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, and US Airways all offer discounts for people over the age of 65.  However, my husband has pointed out that it is smart to see if you are able to get an even lower fare by using discount ticket sites.  He has found that often the senior prices are not the best deals.  Dollar Rent-a-Car offers discounts to seniors, whether they are members of AARP or not. Amtrak also offers a 15% price reduction on the lowest available rail fare for people over the age of 62. Bus service discounts are also available in many cities.  Lower prices on cruises are also available.  Make sure you check out Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Lines for their special offers.

Department Store Price Breaks - Many stores offer senior discounts, but again you have to ask for them.  Sometimes the deals are only available on certain days.  For example, Kohl's has lower prices on Wednesdays for customers who are 55 and over.  Ross has the same deal on Tuesday's.  Belk offers 15% off on the first Tuesday of each month.  Banana Republic offers 10% off all the time for customers over the age of 50.

Lower Prices at Drug Store  - Rite Aid offers 20% off your entire purchase on the first Wednesday of every month, if you are over the age of 65.  I keep a list of items I buy regularly, such as vitamins and shampoo, and pick those items up on that day each month.  You have to register your Rite Aid card in order to get the price break, and then it is automatically entered when you check out on that day of the month.  In addition, I qualify for Plenti points for purchases that I make at Rite Aid and Macy's, as well as for my AT&T phone bill.  These points add up quickly and can easily be converted to cash that I can spend in those stores.  Every little bit counts!

Movie Theater Discounts - Most movie chains offer a special price for seniors.  Our local theater not only has a normal senior discount that is available all the time, but on Wednesdays and Thursdays the price is even lower. 

More Price Reductions for Seniors - The senior discounts that are available are constantly changing.  For a current list, be sure to check out The Senior List website for a current list.  Look for the tab at the top of the page.  You might be surprised what you will find.

You will also get more helpful ideas from this this list of Senior Discounts for People Over 50 that was listed on the Mogul website.

Looking for more helpful retirement information?  Use the tabs or pull down list at the top of this article to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles on where to retire, financial planning, medical issues, and changing family values.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

How to Draw Down Retirement Assets

As you approach your retirement, one of the first things you may wonder is how to draw down your assets.  How much money can you take out of your IRA, Roth IRA, 401(k) or other savings, investments and liquid assets, and still feel confident that your money will last the rest of your life?  What laws will affect the amount of your withdrawal?  What asset withdrawal system will work the best for you?

Start with a Retirement Budget

The first thing you need to do is carefully list all of your current expenses and come up with an accurate budget.  Next, go through the budget and adjust it to account for any expenses that you believe will be higher or lower after you retire.

For example, if your employer currently pays for your medical insurance, or you have a company car, those expenses may be higher after you retire.

On the other hand, if you currently pay high individual insurance premiums and you plan to use a Medicare Advantage Plan with low premiums after retirement, your medical expenses may be lower.  In addition, if you have high fuel and auto costs due to a long commute, those expenses will be reduced, too.

Don't forget to include the cost of hobbies and travel during your retirement year.  Owning a boat or traveling extensively can add a substantial amount to your retirement costs.

Obtain Accurate Estimates of Your Pensions and Social Security Benefits

Once you have estimated your expenses, you will need to get an accurate estimate of what you will receive in pensions and Social Security benefits.  You should be able to obtain this information from your pension plan administrator and from the Social Security administration.

Compare your retirement expenses to your retirement income.

If there is a gap (and for most people there will be), you will either need to downsize or fill that gap from your liquid assets.

What is the best strategy for doing that?

Required Minimum Distribution Rules

If your assets are in an IRA, you are required to draw minimum amounts from your account once you turn 70 1/2.  The amount you must withdraw is calculated based on your life expectancy, using factors listed in IRS Publication 590.  The owner of an IRA simply divides their total year-end portfolio balance by the life expectancy factor listed for their age.  Each year you will need to repeat this process.  The amount you must withdraw will vary depending on your age and the success of your investments.  The withdrawal percentage increases as you age.

According to Kiplinger's Retirement Report for May, 2015, this strategy out-performs other systems for drawing down your assets.  In addition, if most of your assets are in a traditional IRA, this is the strategy that you are required by law to follow.

Spending Only the Portfolio's Interest and Dividends

For those retirees who have their money invested outside traditional IRA's, in a Roth IRA or investment account, for example, they may hope to leave the principal to their heirs.  As a result, they may decide to only use the portfolio's interest and dividends for their personal expenses.

There are two potential risks with this type of asset withdrawal plan:

1.  They might not have enough interest and dividends to meet their needs.
2.  They might choose stocks based only on their dividends, rather than on whether they are good long-term investments with growth potential.

However, assuming you do not have either of those problems, this system works well for people who hope to leave an estate to their loved ones or to a favorite charity.

The Four Percent Withdrawal Rule

Another option that is simple to follow is for the retiree to simply withdraw 4 percent of their liquid assets the first year and then increase that base amount by three percent of the withdrawal amount each year, to account for inflation.  In other words, if you have $100,000 in assets, you would withdraw $4,000 the first year, $4,120 the second year, $4,243 the third year, etc.

With this plan, it is very unlikely that you would outlive your assets.  Even with only a tiny return on your investments, they should about 25 years.  If you started at age 65, your assets would last until age 90.  If you receive an average return over the years, your assets could last much longer.

However, if you were hoping to leave money to your heirs, it is possible that you would draw down all your assets and there would be nothing left.  If returns remain very low during that period of time and you lived well past the age of 100, it is also possible that you could outlive your assets.

How Should You Draw Down Your Assets?

One factor you will need to consider is how large your retirement deficit is and which asset withdrawal plan will best fill that gap. 

That is why you need to start with a reasonable budget first.  If you know that your gap is going to be larger than you can fill using any of the asset draw-down systems, you may need to make some adjustments to your lifestyle ... perhaps moving to a smaller residence, paying off your mortgage or other bills before retiring, or making additional adjustments.

With adequate retirement savings and a little financial planning, you should be able to retire and not spend your "Golden Year" fretting over your finances.

If you are looking for more retirement ideas, including financial planning, where to retire, medical issues and family relationships, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of this article.  They will connect you to hundreds of additional retirement articles.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

TIA Mini Strokes - Transient Ischemic Attacks

Recently, I was shocked to learn that a good friend of mine had experienced three mini strokes, also known as TIA's or Transient Ischemic Attacks, in the past four months.  When she told me what happened, she described her first TIA this way:

She was discussing a new project with her boss when, inexplicably, she realized that nothing her boss was telling her made sense, even though my friend was familiar with the project and knew she should understand what was being said.  She asked her boss to write the details down for her and then she left the room.  Although she could walk and talk, looked normal and was even able to cover up her confusion, she still realized that she couldn't understand most of what was being said to her.  She went outside and sat on a bench outside her office building.  A few minutes later, a co-worker came out to check on her and realized there was a problem.  They called an ambulance.  Her confusion gradually passed and she was feeling much better by the time she reached the hospital.  She was shocked to learn that she had experienced a mini-stroke or TIA.

Our conversation completely stunned me, especially when she told me that it has happened twice more since that first event, despite the fact that she is being treated for the condition.  This woman has a high powered job as the supervisor over a number of employees in a California state department.  She is normally assertive and comes across as self-confident and capable.  I was shocked to hear that something like this had happened to her.  I was equally surprised to hear that she was able to hide it from her superior, while she was in the middle of experiencing a TIA.  Is it possible someone else I am with in the future could experience a TIA, and I would not even recognize it?

I realized how important it is to learn the symptoms so I would recognize them, should this ever happen to me or someone I am with.

Facts about TIA - Transient Ischemic Attacks

*  A TIA has similar symptoms to a major stroke, but they usually last only a few minutes and cause no permanent damage.

*   Like a major stroke, TIAs are typically caused by a build-up of plaque in your arteries which can release a blood clot that blocks the blood supply to part of your brain.  In a TIA, the blockage is temporary so the symptoms pass quickly.

*  About one-third of the people who have a TIA will eventually have a major stroke.  In about half of those cases, it will happen within a year.

*  TIAs are sometimes regarded as a warning of an impending stroke.

Risk Factors for TIAs

*  Some risk factors you cannot avoid: being over age 55, being male, being black, having sickle cell disease, or having a personal or family history of strokes or TIAs.  My friend is a 59 year old white female, so it is obvious that people who don't fit the typical "profile" can also experience a TIA.

*  Certain lifestyle choices can make you more susceptible to TIAs: smoking, heavy drinking, poor diet, lack of exercise, illegal drug use (particularly cocaine), or using birth control pills.  My friend does not smoke, drink or use illegal drugs.  She still experienced a TIA.

*  There are other risk factors that you can treat to lower your risk: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, peripheral artery disease, obesity, carotid artery disease, or high levels of homocysteine. My friend has lost weight, but did have a history of obesity and was pre-diabetic, both of which could have contributed to her TIA.

As you can see, almost anyone can have a mini stroke.  Even if you do not think you are at risk, you should still pay attention to any symptoms you might experience.

Symptoms of TIA Mini Strokes

*  You may experience weakness or numbness on one side of your face, or in one arm or leg.

*  Your speech may be blurred or garbled.  You may also have trouble understanding what other people say.  (This was the only symptom that my friend experienced, and that was frightening enough.)

*  You may experience temporary blindness in one or both eyes, or double-vision.

*  You may feel dizzy or uncoordinated.

Remember, like my friend, you may only experience one of these symptoms.  Even if your symptoms seem mild and go away after a few minutes, it is important that you see a doctor right away in order to prevent a major stroke.

Treatment for Transient Ischemic Attacks

After a variety of tests to diagnose the cause of your TIA, your doctor will choose a treatment regimen for you. Below are some of the common treatment plans:

*  Anti-platelet drugs such as aspirin, Plavix or Aggrenox.

*  Anti-coagulants such as Coumadin, Warfarin or Heparin.

*  Carotid surgery to clear out the plaques.

*  Angioplasty or the insertion of a stent in your carotid artery.

For additional information, you may want to read this article from the Mayo Clinic:

For more information on retirement and aging, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of helpful articles on other health issues you could experience, financial planning, where to retire and changing family relationships.

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Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Baby Boomer Body Maintenance Plan

The majority of Baby Boomers are looking forward to living longer than previous generations.  In fact, I have read that if you are healthy at age 65, the average person can look forward to living well into their 80's. Information about increasing our longevity seem to be everywhere.

Unfortunately, the longer we live, the more likely we are to deal with some of the difficulties of having an aging body ... poor eyesight, deafness, hair loss, weight gain, osteoporosis, heart disease and, perhaps the biggest worry of all, mental decline.

With a little forethought and "maintenance," however, most people will be able to minimize these problems or, at the very least, postpone them longer than they may have thought possible.

You might be surprised to know that our body actually starts to decline long before we realize it.  As a result, you are never too young to begin taking better care of it.  The longer you can postpone health issues, the more likely it is that you will enjoy good health when you reach your 70's and 80's.

As a result, it was with great interest that I read an article titled "Stretch Your Timeline" in the March 2, 2015 issue of "Time" magazine.  In this article, they explained when different systems in our body begin to break down and how to slow down the process.  Below I have summarized their findings so we can all create our own personal body maintenance plan.

How to Maintain Your Body

Skin - I was shocked to learn that the collagen and elastin in our body begin to decline at a rate of about 1% a year starting at age 18.  Every teenager who is considering cooking herself in the sun or in a tanning salon should know about this.  In addition to protecting your skin with sunscreen, no one should start smoking if they hope to have nice skin later in life.  One worrisome issue that "Time" pointed out is that apparently some compact fluorescent light bulbs can also damage the skin.

Lungs - We begin to lose about 1% of our lung function per year starting at age 30.  Exercise will slow down the process and, although "Time" didn't specifically mention this, I'm sure this is another reason to avoid smoking.

Bones - By age 35, our bone mass begins to decline at a rate of 1% a year.  Weight bearing exercise, including jumping up and down, can help maintain your bone mass.

Muscles - Once again, exercise can come to the rescue and slow down the muscle loss that is common after the age of 40.

Eyes - Another part of our body that begins to decline at age 40 are our eyes.  Smoking speeds this up, as well as sun exposure.  Don't smoke and wear good quality sunglasses whenever you are outside, even on an overcast day.

Kidneys - Around age 50, your kidney function will start to decline.  People who drink plenty of fluids are less likely to experience as much kidney decline ... so drink water every day.

Gut - By age 60, our gut starts to absorb fewer nutrients.  As a result, it becomes even more important that you begin to make sure you are eating nutrient dense, healthy foods and avoid empty calories.  Discuss with your doctor any vitamin shortages that come up in your blood work, and find out if you should be taking extra Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, or other vitamins and minerals.

Ears - Another issue that develops in our 60's is hearing loss.  In fact, one out of three people between the ages of 65 and 74 have measurable hearing loss.  I was shocked that there does not seem to be much you can do to avoid it, other than avoiding loud music and other loud sounds.

Heart - Heart disease usually begins to appear around the mid-60's.  However, it actually started back in our 20's or 30's, when our peak aerobic capacity began to decline at about 10% per decade.  While "Time" didn't mention anything specific to do in order to postpone the decline in the aerobic capacity of our hearts, we know that exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating healthy are all ways to extend the life expectancy of our heart.

Brain - If we do everything else, but lose our cognitive function, there is almost no point to having a healthy body.  Fortunately, the same activities that keep the rest of our body healthy will also benefit our brain ... avoid smoking, get exercise, and eat a healthy diet.  In addition, we need to keep our brain active by engaging in social activities and doing things that stimulate our brain ... playing games, working puzzles, or learning a foreign language are all good ideas.

If you want to learn more about how to take care of your aging body, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of this article.  They will connect you with hundreds of additional articles on medical information for Baby Boomers, where to retire, family relationships, travel and more.

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