Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Most Popular Retirement Stories of 2016

As we look back over the past year, it is interesting to review the most popular retirement stories of 2016 which were covered by the Baby Boomer Retirement blog.  There were a wide range of topics that appealed to Baby Boomers this year including an overview of Social Security and Medicare, information about voice therapy, longevity tips, housing choices, painkiller addictions, social media scams, family relationships, Alzheimers research and how to earn extra money.

All of these are topics of importance to those who have already retired, as well as those who are preparing to retire.  Below are links to the most popular retirement articles of the past year, as well as more details about the information they contain.  Just click on the links to go directly to the articles which interest you.

2016 Most Popular Retirement Stories

Social Security and Medicare Information - This is an overview article which contains links to a number of other articles that cover many of the questions people have about maximizing Social Security benefits, getting the maximum benefit from Medicare, and more.

Voice Therapy for Senior Citizens - Many people begin to discover that their voices become faint, sore or hoarse as they age.  Senior citizens may believe there is nothing they can do about these problems; however, there are therapies which can improve the quality of their voices.  Learn more about the types of therapies available.

Longevity Tips from Time Magazine - Do you want to live a healthy life as long as possible?  Here are the most current tips that will increase your chances of maximizing the number of years you have left.

Reata Glen and Other CCRCs in Orange County, California - Continuing Care Retirement Communities are becoming increasingly popular with aging senior citizens, especially those who do not have long-term care insurance.  Learn more about them, including specific information about the ones in Orange County, California.

Risks of Social Media Phishing - Social media such as Facebook are popular ways of staying in touch with our family and friends.  However, some of the games and other apps can be used to obtain your personal information.  In addition, when you use Twitter or Facebook to contact the customer service offices of companies, you could be contacting a fake site. Learn more about dangerous social media phishing and how to protect yourself.

Best Senior Housing Choices for Aging Boomers - What are some of the housing choices people have as they age?  This article explains the various options and how they might fit your lifestyle.

Senior Living Communities for Baby Boomers - Information about the types of senior living communities which could appeal to aging Baby Boomers.

Dangerous Prescription Painkillers Addictions: Opiods - Opiod painkiller addiction has become an increasingly serious problem for senior citizens.  Many people who never dreamed they could become addicts, discover that they have slipped into this overwhelming situation after surgery or other painful treatments. 

How to Overcome Resistance to Assisted Living - Do you have an aging spouse or parent who needs to move into an assisted living or memory care facility?  Do they oppose the move?  This article may help you reduce their resistance and help them become more accepting of the idea.

New Alzheimers Disease Research - Alzheimers and other forms of dementia are some of the most feared consequences of aging.  Learn more about the research which is being done and how these dreaded diseases could become less common in the future.

Earn Extra Money from the Sharing Economy - Would you like to use your home, your car, your garage or your talents in order to earn a little extra money?  Learn how easy it can be to join the "sharing economy" and supplement your retirement income.

Family Relationships - How to Stop Arguments - Do you feel stressed when you spend time with your family over the holidays or on other special occasions?  This article will give you tips on how to reduce the tension and, in many cases, stop family arguments in their tracks.  

If you are interested in reading more retirement information, use the tabs or pull-down menus at the top of this page to find links to hundreds of additional articles about where to retire, financial planning, Social Security, Medicare, common medical problems and more.

You are reading from the blog:

Photo credit:  Author

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Family Relationships - How to Stop Arguments

One of the most painful situations for many retirees and younger adults is when they have a feud with a family member or close friend.  Whether this person is a spouse, sibling, parent, adult child, friend or neighbor, the continual stress of squabbling with a loved one can cause depression and place a cloud over all your interactions.  Sometimes it may seem as if you need a megaphone in order to make them hear you ... but the louder you get, the less they seem to hear.

This is a particularly important issue when we consider the fact that having frequent social interactions with others is one way we can reduce our risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease or other forms of dementia.  People who engage in frequent socializing are more likely to retain their memory as they age.  However, who wants to socialize if they feel it will only lead to arguments and friction?

As a result, when a friend emailed me a list of statements we can use to stop an argument, I thought it would be beneficial to pass these suggestions on to others.  While these statements may not be 100 percent effective at always preventing a disagreement, any reduction in conflict is worth the effort.  With that thought in mind, below is a list you may want to print out and keep handy ... especially when you are about to enter into a situation which could be difficult and stressful for you, including family holiday parties and trips to see difficult relatives.

Concepts to Help You Deal with Difficult People

Before we say anything when someone has upset us, it is important to have the right attitude.  As a result, below you will find a few concepts to keep in mind when you are going to be around someone with whom you disagree ... whether it is over religion, politics, money, family or controversial social issues such as gay marriage or abortion.  Remembering these points could prevent you from engaging in an emotional, painful disagreement with them.

Ask yourself: How important is it?
Choose to live and let live
Don't force it
Look for progress, not perfection
Remember that this too shall pass
Accept that another person's opinion of you is beyond your control and none of your business

What to Say When You Do Not Agree With Someone

(Making the statements below do not mean you agree with the other person; you are just willing to let them talk and not engage them in an upsetting discussion.)

No kidding!
You might be right.
That's interesting.
Boy, I had no idea!
I never thought of it that way.
No fooling.
Thank you for telling me.

If Someone You Care About Makes a Decision You Think is Risky

Tell them:  I love you, I believe in you, and I know you will do the right thing for you.
You can also say:  I love you and it will be interesting to see how this turns out.

How to Handle Someone Who Keeps Trying to Convince You of Something

Remember: "No" is a complete answer (don't keep explaining your decisions)
Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don't say it mean.

How to Buy Time When You Do Not Want to Commit to Something

It's possible; let me get back to you.
I'll see if I can juggle some things.
I can't do it, but can I give you a rain check?
I'm not sure; can I get back to you?

How to Bring a Difficult Discussion to an End

This is so painful for me, can we talk about something else now?
This is all I can handle right now; can we talk more another time?
My brain is on overload; I need to think about this.  Can I call you (or talk more) another time?

More Thoughts on How to Stop Arguments

We all need to accept that we are rarely able change another person's mind and we cannot stop another adult from doing whatever they decide to do, no matter how wrong we think it is.  Sometimes, the best way to influence someone else is to maintain the best possible relationship with them.  With this thought in mind, it is better to focus less on arguing with them and more on keeping our conversations friendly, caring, positive and agreeable.

If you are interested in reading more on how to improve family relationships, where to retire, financial planning for retirement, common medical issues and more, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

You are reading from the blog:

Photo credit: 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Casinos Encourage Gambling Addiction in Senior Citizens

Gambling addiction is becoming a dirty little secret among retirees who do not want to admit they could have a problem.  Sadly, however, there is evidence of it in nearly every casino in America and almost everything the casinos do is designed to fuel that addiction ... from the exciting environment to the free drinks. 

A few years ago, my husband and I were in Las Vegas for a family reunion.  While walking through the MGM Grand casino to get to the swimming pool, one of my young grandsons asked, "Why are there so many old people at the slot machines?"  Although my grandson was not aware of it, casinos are now actively marketing to older Americans and many of them are developing serious gambling addictions as a result.

Few People Admit Their Losses to Families and Friends

Over the years, I have noticed that no one ever seems to lose money at the casinos ... at least from what they tell their family and friends.  Everyone is always excited to tell their friends when they win a big jackpot ... or even a small one.  Other times, however, they will only say they "broke even" or were down "a little," but they had so much fun it was worth the small cost because they view it as entertainment.

However, all those glamorous casinos spread around the U.S. were not built because the casinos are losing money.  It is their patrons who are ultimately the big losers ... with just enough winnings to keep people coming back.

The Attraction of Casinos for Older Americans

According to an October, 2016 AARP Bulletin article titled "The Casino Trap,"  nearly half of the 101 million visitors to American casinos are age 50 and older.  U.S. casinos reported over $66 billion in gambling revenue in 2014 and a substantial amount of that came from older gamblers.

Only a few decades ago, nearly all casinos were located in Las Vegas or Atlantic City, NJ.; however, today there are approximately 1,400 casinos in 40 states.  This makes it much easier for almost everyone, even those who are too poor or infirm to travel long distances, to find a casino near them.  In addition, the casinos frequently send shuttles to retirement communities and senior centers to pick up gamblers for the day.

Regular gamblers are also given a wide variety of perks including cheap or free hotel rooms, discounted or free meals, free drinks, entertainment and prizes.  Many lonely retirees view these excursions as a fun way to overcome their boredom and get a cheap trip away from home.  Unfortunately, for many of them, the trips are much more expensive than they would like to admit.

The Older You Are, The Easier it is to Become Addicted to Gambling

One of the most addictive forms of casino gambling are the slot machines ... sometimes referred to as electronic crack.  Psychiatrist Hans Breiter, formerly of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, used MRI scanners to confirm that people playing slots have a similar reaction in their brain to people using cocaine.

There are other reasons, however, for people to easily become addicted to casino gambling.

They may be trying to get relief from loneliness, boredom or grief over the loss of their spouse or friends.

People who are in the early states of cognitive decline or dementia can be especially vulnerable to becoming addicted to the repetitive activity and stimulation of slot machines.  They can also begin to lose their sense of the value of the money they are spending.

Especially interesting has been the discovery that compulsive gambling can be the side effect of certain medications, particularly those used to treat Parkinson's Disease.  As many as 10 to 15 percent of people on Parkinson's medications could develop gambling problems which subside when the medications are removed.  No one knows what other types of medications could also make the elderly more susceptible to becoming addicted to gambling or other behaviors.

People also become addicted because the casinos assign VIP hosts to big gamblers in an attempt to attract them to the casinos and keep them gambling once they get there.  The more the gambler loses, the more the host earns in bonuses, so they often lavish abundant attention on their clients in order to keep them playing.  For lonely people, the attention itself can become addictive.

Casinos Deny That They Contribute to the Problem

Of course, casinos themselves insist that they try to prevent gambling addictions.  They leave brochures in hotel rooms that encourage "problem gamblers" to call an 800 number in order to get help.

People are also able to put their names on a self-exclusion list so they will no longer be encouraged to visit the casinos with promises of free trips and other perks.  However, this will not not keep them from going to a casino and gambling anonymously, using a friend's players card, or visiting casinos where their name is not on the self-exclusion list.

If you suspect that your spouse, parent or another family member could be addicted to gambling, you may wish to call Gambler's Anonymous, talk to their family physician, or discuss the problem with other family members.

Are you interested in learning more about subjects which could affect us as we age?  Use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles on financial planning, where to retire, Medicare, Social Security, and more.

You are reading from the blog:

Photo credit:  Las Vegas photo taken by author

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Keep the Holidays Affordable

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah or another holiday, gift giving can become expensive, especially for someone who is retired and living on a fixed income.  While you want your loved ones to know you care about them, you also need to find ways to get through the holidays without going into debt or spending more than you can afford.  How can you keep the holidays under control?

Holiday Shopping Does Not Have to be Expensive

Start with a Budget and Stick with It -  Make a list of the people who will be receiving gifts from you and decide how much you can afford to spend on each person ... even if it is only a few dollars.  If the list includes grandchildren, remember their parents are primarily responsible for providing what they need.  It is not necessary for you to overwhelm them with gifts.  One or two small gifts is adequate in most cases.  If you are buying gifts for your friends and neighbors, stick with small, thoughtful items, some of which you can purchase at a Dollar Store ... hand lotion, hot chocolate, gloves, or similar presents they can use or consume.  Stay away from knickknacks and collectibles which will only gather dust and your friends probably do not need.

Make a Plan and Shop Early -  Try to make as few trips to the stores as possible.  The more visits you make to the mall, the more likely you are to overspend.  Watch for ads and purchase the items you need when they are on sale.  Keep an eye on internet prices and sign up for email alerts from your favorite chain stores or shopping sites, such as Amazon, Macy's, JC Pennys, Kohls, Best Buy and Target. Many stores will match prices if you find the exact same item online somewhere else for a lower price.

Once You are Finishing Shopping ... Stop - One of the problems many people have during the holidays is when they spend the money they budgeted and then keep going back to the shops, finding more gift items and purchasing them, as well.  Once you have a gift for everyone on your list, relax and enjoy the holidays.

Make Some of Your Gifts - Some of my most cherished gifts are the quilts and embroidered pillowcases which were made by my own grandmothers decades ago.  In return, I crocheted baby blankets for all my grandchildren when they were born, as well as miniature baby blankets for our granddaughter's dolls.  Homemade jam, candy, cookies or cake are wonderful gifts, if you enjoy cooking!

Avoid Buying Gifts for Yourself - Once you are in the mall, a common cause of overspending is buying gifts for yourself. According to the National Retail Federation, 55.8 percent of shoppers admit they spent an average of $130 on themselves while they were purchasing gifts for other people!

More Ways to Save Money During the Holidays

Draw Names if You Have a Large Family - If you have a large number of children, grandchildren, siblings, nieces and nephews in your family, and have traditionally purchased gifts for most of them, you might suggest that everyone make it easy on themselves by drawing names, so you only need to purchase gifts for your immediate family and the one name you draw from your extended family.  Everyone in your family may appreciate this idea since it will reduce their stress and the cost of holiday shopping for them, too.

Have Pot Luck Holiday Meals - Whether it is a New Year's Eve party, Christmas dinner, or Hanukah meal, providing food for a large number of guests and family members can become expensive.  However, if you only offer to provide a main course, plus non-alcoholic beverages, and suggest that everyone else bring a side dish and whatever else they want to drink, it will remove a heavy financial burden from you, as well as reduce your work load.

Remember What is Most Important about the Holidays - While gifts and lavish meals are fun, it is important to remember that these are not what make the holidays special ... it is the time you spend with family and friends.  Focus more on that and less on the money you spend.  You will soon find you will enjoy the holidays more and will be less likely to get stressed or exceed your budget.

If you are interested in other tips to make retirement easier, financial planning, dealing with common medical problems, deciding where to retire, or changing family relationships, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

You are reading from the blog:

Photo credit:  Photo of mall decorations taken by author

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Most Strokes can be Prevented

Strokes are one of the health issues that people fear the most as they age.  Recently, researchers discovered that 90 percent of strokes are preventable!  They learned this by analyzing 27,000 people from every continent on earth.  While there were some regional variations which determined what factors were most important in causing strokes, the list of health issues that contribute to them was surprisingly consistent ... and preventable.

How the Research was Conducted

The study was headed up by Dr. Martin O'Donnell and Professor Salim Yusef of McMaster University.  They were supported by collaborators from 32 countries.  Their study built on the INTERSTROKE study which originally discovered the ten most important risk factors for strokes, based on 6,000 participants who were in 22 different countries.  As mentioned above, O'Donnell and Yusef expanded the research to include 27,000 people from around the world.

What are the Risk Factors for Strokes?

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, was the most important factor in determining stroke risk.  That was true in every region.

However, the researchers came up with a PAR percentage (Population Attributable Risk) for each risk factor that contributed to strokes.  Many of the risk factors are associated with each other, such as obesity and diabetes.  When the PAR numbers were combined, it showed that controlling these risk factors could eliminate 90.7 percent of all strokes.  This was true in all regions of world, in all age groups, and for both men and women.

The Overall PAR Percentages

Hypertension - 47.9
Physical Inactivity - 35.8
Lipids (cholesterol, triglycerides, etc.) - 26.8
Poor diet - 23.2
Obesity - 18.6
Smoking - 12.4
Cardiac problems (including atrial fibrillation) - 9.1
Alcohol intake - 5.8
Stress - 5.8
Diabetes - 3.9

Conclusions from this Study

Professor Valery L. Feigin and Dr. Rita Kishnamurthi, who are with the National Institute for Stroke and Applied Neurosciences, added their own comment to the study.  In it they said, in part, "stroke is a highly preventable disease globally, irrespective of age and sex."

How to Apply this Information to Your Life

Now that scientists have confirmed that over 90 percent of strokes are preventable, individuals can work with their doctors to take action and prevent it.  You can use the list above to determine which areas of your life are most in need of change ... high blood pressure, lack of exercise, high cholesterol and triglycerides, a poor diet, being over-weight, smoking, cardiac problems, excessive alcohol use, stress and diabetes.

The sooner you address any of these issues in your personal life, the less likely you are to ever experience a stroke.

As always, be sure you discuss your health issues with your doctor.  Only they can prescribe medications which could help you control your blood pressure, cholesterol or diabetes.  Working closely with your physician and following their advice are the best ways to prevent strokes.

If you are interested in learning more about common health issues as you age, financial planning, where to retire, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional, helpful articles.

You are reading from the blog:

Photo credit:

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Are We Grateful and Kind or Angry and Bitter?

Among the common problems that many people experience as they age are symptoms of anger, aggression, hostility, and depression.  There are many reasons why people may feel these emotions.  They may be experiencing poor health, pain or loneliness.  They could be developing dementia. They could be upset by politics, the loss of friends as they age, or other sad events in their lives. Even if they have a good reason to be grouchy and irritable, however, giving into these negative emotions can be very damaging both to them and others.

Whenever someone lashes out at people within their family or circle of friends, it is not unusual for the other people to become less willing to help them or spend time with them.  They may lash back.  The angry person could end up destroying their relationships with the very people they care the most about.  That only serves to increase their feelings of isolation and anger.

Health Dangers of Anger

How do you handle anger, disappointment, resentment and sadness?  Do you frequently find yourself feeling irritable and angry?  Uncontrolled anger puts your health at risk and can cause the following health issues:
  • headaches;
  • digestion problems, such as abdominal pain;
  • insomnia;
  • increased anxiety;
  • depression;
  • high blood pressure;
  • skin problems, such as eczema;
  • heart attacks.
Anger can also lower your immune system and make other health conditions worse, including cancer.  It can be very destructive.

In addition, if you have strong feelings of hostility, irritability and anger, you become more likely to get into arguments with the people around you.  You might even find yourself raging out-of-control and getting into physical fights.  You could physically harm yourself or others.

The stress hormones associated with anger can damage a variety of systems in your body, as reflected in the list of health issues mentioned above.

Healthy Ways to Deal with Anger

Under normal circumstances, there are a number of ways you can deal with your anger.  You can try walking away until you get your emotions under control.  You can analyze why you feel so strongly about an issue and try to deal with it less emotionally.  You could try getting physical exercise to release the stress hormones.

However, what if your anger is because of health issues, the loss of a family member, uncontrolled pain, or because you are in the early stages of dementia?  What if the normal ways of dealing with feelings of anger are not enough?

If you find yourself getting angry often or feeling out-of-control, you may want to talk to your doctor about counseling and/or anti-depressants.  You may want to discuss pain management.  You may need to become willing to accept assistance by applying for Meals on Wheels, hiring a caregiver or, if necessary, moving into as assisted living community.  In other words, use every tool at your disposal to treat your anger until you can get it under control.

How to Improve Our Outlook on Life

In addition to the steps mentioned above, there are other actions you can take to reduce your feelings of hostility.

Volunteer - People who feel needed and who take the time to help others tend to have a better outlook on life.

Get a pet - Whether you decide to get a dog, cat or fish in an aquarium, having as pet has been shown to decrease feelings of anxiety and loneliness.

Socialize with others - Many senior citizens spend most of their time alone.  They stay indoors, watch television and eat their meals by themselves.  Anything you can do that breaks up your day and gives you more contact with other people can make a significant difference in your outlook on life.  Local senior centers provide low-cost lunches for anyone who wants to come and eat with others.  Often, these lunches are accompanied by games and other activities.  You may also want to join clubs or take classes in your community.

Attend religious services - Studies have shown that people who regularly attend the religious services of their choice tend to live longer and be happier.

Get rest - People who do not sleep enough are more likely to be grouchy.  Extreme sleep deprivation can even mimic the symptoms of a variety of mental illnesses.  If you are having trouble getting enough sleep, discuss the problem with your doctor and see if behavioral modification or medication can help.

Eat healthy foods - There is some truth to the idea that we are what we eat.  Too much sugar, alcohol or caffeine, for example, can increase feelings of irritability and make it more difficult for us to sleep.

Be grateful - Gratitude is a positive emotion that helps people cope better with stress in their life.  It helps people to focus on the good in their lives and takes their attention off their difficulties, even temporarily.  Start a gratitude list and add to it regularly.

Journal - One place where you may want to keep your gratitude list is in a journal.  Many people also find it helpful to keep a journal of their feelings and experiences.  It can be a healthy outlet and a relaxing way to help you find solutions to the things that worry you. 

Learn to Relax - You may want to take meditation or yoga classes.  Learning proper breathing techniques can lower your blood pressure and decrease stress.  Many people also find it soothing to spend time in nature.

Get regular exercise -  Exercise can improve some health conditions, get us outside, take our minds off our difficulties and change our attitude.  Regular exercise can improve mood and reduce stress levels.

Smile - The act of smiling changes the way we look at the world.  When we smile at someone else, they usually will smile back, which makes us feel even better.

The bottom line is that we are far better off at any age when we reach out to other people, show gratitude for the things they do for us, and treat them with kindness.  We cannot expect others to be kind to us if we react with bitterness and sarcasm.  Practice being considerate of others and we are likely to see that behavior returned.

If you are interested in learning more about the issues that affect retirees, including common health problems, financial planning, where to retire, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

You are reading from the blog:

Photo credit:

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Shop Online Safely and Conveniently

In 2006, the online shopping sales volume for Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving) amounted to about $608 million in sales.  By 2015, the amount of shopping done online on Cyber Monday totaled over $3 billion.  While there is no question that it is convenient to shop online, especially for retirees who may find it difficult to get to a mall and buy gifts for their loved ones, some people still do not feel safe shopping online ... and many of them have good reason to be cautious.

What can you do to make your online shopping experience as convenient as possible, while minimizing their risk?

Tricks to Make Online Shopping More Convenient

Take Advantage of Online Sales - Just because you cannot make it to a mall, does not mean you will miss out on the sales.  While not every online purchase is a great deal, it is still possible to take advantage of sales while shopping online.  The first thing you should do is sign up for emails from your favorite retailers and follow them on social media like Facebook or Twitter.  Between the emails and your Facebook account, you will know quickly if they are having an online sale.  You can also use a service like to be notified of discounts on your favorite items.  PriceGrabber, Bizrate and also help you find the lowest prices on items you want by sending you the current cost of that item at a wide variety of stores, which allows you to make price comparisons.

Try Leaving an Empty Online Shopping Cart - Many consumers have found that, when shopping on sites like Amazon, if they search for an item and put it in their "shopping cart," but then close the page without purchasing the item, they are often notified a few days or weeks later when the item has been reduced in price.  Whether you are shopping for Levi's, Nike's, an iPhone, the latest video game, or a new DVR player, this is a great way to get discounts on items that you do not need to buy in a hurry.

Shop for Discounted Gift Cards - There are websites such as Gift Card Granny and CardCash that sell gift cards for department stores and other businesses at a discount.  It could save you a little shopping money.  At the very least, it is worth checking out.

Consider Amazon Prime if You Mail a Lot of Gifts - At a cost of $99 a year, Amazon Prime is not right for everyone.  However, if you find yourself spending over $100 a year on shipping costs for items you buy for yourself or send to family members in other parts of the United States, Amazon Prime offers free two-day shipping on most items, as well as other benefits such as free e-books, video streaming, and unlimited photo storage on Amazon Drive.

Look for Free Shipping on Other Sites - Some websites offer free shipping on purchases over a certain dollar value.  You can also check out, which eliminates the delivery charges from over one thousand online retailers, including Target, Kohl's and JC Penny.

When in Doubt, Call the Online Representative - Many websites have real people you can call for help with their website.  For example, at the bottom of the page on the Macy's website, there are the words "contact us."  If you click those words, the page that opens up gives you a phone number you can call 24 hours a day to get additional help.  Other sites have their phone number displayed prominently near the top of the page.

How to Stay Safe While Shopping Online

Avoid Shopping on Unfamiliar Sites -  Amazon, Walmart, Kohl's, Target, Macy's, Gap, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Sephora, Ann Taylor and JC Penny are all examples of well-known companies with websites which are reliable and legitimate. (Some of these companies have legitimate links to their sites from this article, for example). There are many other honest companies with good, user-friendly websites, as well.  However, make sure you are familiar with the company before doing any shopping online.  At the very least, ask a friend if they have shopped on the site or check them out through the Better Business Bureau.  Whenever you visit a brick-and-mortar store you like, ask them if they have a website where you can shop.

Do Not Shop Online Using Public Wi-Fi - While it might seem fun to sit at Starbucks with a cup of coffee and do all your holiday shopping, you could be putting your credit card numbers and personal information at risk.  Stick to your home internet connection and make sure your computer security is kept up-to-date.

Make Sure the Site URL Starts with https - Most ordinary websites have a URL that begins with just http; shopping websites should have the letter "s" at the end, which means that it is secured and your financial information is more likely to be protected.  While you are examining the URL, be certain it looks right to you.  If you are shopping at, for example, the full URL is  If the word Amazon is misspelled or there appears to be some other problem, you could be on the wrong site.  Be especially concerned if the URL for the website does not contain the business name at all, but just has a series of letters and numbers instead.

While there are no guarantees that you will completely avoid any problems while shopping online, the above steps will greatly reduce them, making you much more secure while shopping from home.

If you are interested in more tips for retirees, including retirement planning, where to retire, Social Security, Medicare, medical issues and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

You are reading from the blog:

Photo credit:

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Risks of Social Media Phishing

Whether you have ever heard of phishing or not, anyone who spends much time online is vulnerable to having their private information stolen and misused.  Nearly half of Americans over the age of 65, and two-thirds of those between the ages of 50 and 64 are on Facebook.  Many are also on other social media sites, such as Twitter.  As long as most of us stick to sharing photos of our grandkids and staying in touch with friends, we have very few problems ... especially if we keep track of our privacy settings and make sure that the majority of what we share is for "friends only."

However, a large number of people play games, enter contests, or answer questionnaires and surveys on social media.  While most of those programs are innocent, some of them are "phishing" for your personal information so they can steal your identity.  If they ask you for your credit card information, you may be putting your accounts at risk.

According to an article in the July-August 2016 AARP Bulletin, "Staying Safe and Secure on Social Media" by Sid Kirchheimer, below are some of the more common ways you can run into trouble on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Social Media Scams to Avoid

Using Twitter to contact a company's customer service department - Phony companies, with names which are similar to legitimate companies such as banks and credit card companies, have computer programs that lurk our accounts online and watch for complaints and messages that show up on Twitter.  When they spot one, they quickly respond and direct you to send your complaints to a phony website.  Once you enter your log-in information and account number on their website, they can steal your account information and use it or sell it.  You may never even know that you sent your "complaint" to a phony company that stole your information.

Clicking on websites promoted on social media because they offer access to live-streaming games, concerts and other events - These sites often offer a "free trial" of their service and ask for a credit card number.  While these phony companies typically say you can cancel their service anytime after the free trial ends, they sometimes begin to charge your credit card monthly ... and it can be difficult to get them to stop.

Signing up on social media for free gifts or discounts which will be mailed or emailed to you - They may try to appeal to you by offering free cosmetics and samples, or they could offer you access to photos or "secrets" about celebrities.  These are often attempts to get you to give them your name, address, phone numbers, email address and, in some cases, your credit card information to pay for "shipping and handling." Once you have given this information to them, they may sell it on the black market.  Meanwhile, you will quickly discover that the "deals" either don't exist or come with strings attached.  Recently, I experimented with an offer of four Disneyland passes.  Not only did they want all my personal information, but they also wanted me to send them the email addresses of 15 of my friends.  Wisely, I did not do it.

Contest and survey scams - These are similar to the free gift or discount scams.  However, in addition to your name, address and account information, they may also try to trick you into giving them even more personal information by asking questions in their surveys about your job, income, spending habits and purchases you plan to make in the future.  I have noticed that some of these types of scams can be very tricky.  For example, they might have names such as "what kind of flower are you?" and then ask a lot of personal information ... such as your favorite color, what you would buy with $1000, etc.  They frequently ask for permission to access your Facebook account so they can "analyze" the information.  When these scammers combine your Facebook account information to the answers you gave on the survey, they can obtain more information than you realize.

How to Stay Safe on Social Media

The best way to avoid these potential problems is to stick to your main reason for being on social media ... socializing with people you actually know.

Limit the number of "friends" you have on Facebook to people you trust.

Check your privacy settings on Facebook to make sure your posts are visible to "Friends only."  You can change the setting of individual posts, if you have a reason to.   

Don't use Facebook or Twitter to contact corporations ... go directly to their websites, instead.  This is especially true when you are contacting your bank or credit card company.

If an advertised product interests you, make sure you are purchasing it through a legitimate site, such as, or the website of a major store, such as, or  Avoid shopping at unfamiliar companies or clicking on ads which contain misspellings or other indications that they may not be legitimate.  (That is why most of the ads on this blog are from either or Google.  I want my readers to be comfortable knowing that the companies which advertise here are legitimate.  Too bad some of the social media sites are not as careful about who is allowed to buy ads on their sites.)

Don't make purchases from companies you know nothing about unless you check them out first through the Better Business Bureau or similar services. 

Don't give out personal information on social media by answering surveys ... even if they seem harmless.  Keep your personal information private.

Be careful about releasing your credit card information.  Before you make a purchase, you should be convinced that the company is legitimate.

If you are interested in more information about retirement, financial planning, where to retire, common medical problems, health, safety and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

You are reading from the blog:

Photo of cat with computer is property of author, Deborah Dian; all rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

How Much Retirement Income Will You Have?

If you are getting close to retirement, have you taken the time to estimate how much retirement income you will have?  Will it be enough to maintain your lifestyle?  Will you be able to live where you want?  Travel?  Take care of medical expenses?

The truth is that the vast majority of retirees will barely have enough money to take care of their basic needs.  Of course, there are steps you can take to improve the quality of your retirement, but first you need to know how much retirement income you will have.  Once you have figured that out, then you can decide how to fix any shortfalls.

Estimating Your Social Security Income

According to the Social Security Administration, at the beginning of 2016, the average monthly Social Security benefit for a retired worker was $1,346.  The average Social Security for the spouse of a retired worker was $697. This would mean that the average couple living off their Social Security benefits alone would receive $2,043 a month or $24,516 a year. Many people receive less than this average amount. In 2017, the cost-of-living raise is expected to be about 0.3 percent ... or about $4 for a retired worked and $2 for their dependent spouse. 

The amount of benefits increases slightly each year and varies depending on the individual.  However, most people find it is significantly less than they have earned during their working years.

If you have had a high income, earning over $118,000 a year or nearly that amount for the decade before you retire, then the maximum amount you could receive in Social Security benefits if you retire at your full retirement age of 66 or 67 in 2016 would be $2,639.   If your dependent spouse also waited until their full retirement age to collect based on your benefits, they could receive half that, or $1,320.  This means that a high earning couple with one spouse paying the maximum into Social Security could have $3,959 a month or $47,508 a year in retirement income.  While this is far better than the couple receiving only the average amount of Social Security benefits, it would still be substantially less than the $118,000 a year this couple was accustomed to have for their living expenses.

For each year between ages 67 and 70 that the breadwinner postponed their retirement, the amount of their benefits would increase by 8 percent ... for a maximum of a 24 percent increase.  This would bring the total benefits for a couple up to $59,385.  This is a nice increase, but the breadwinner would have to work several more years to receive this amount, and it would still only be about one-half of their pre-retirement income.  The reality is that only about 1 percent of retirees wait until the breadwinner is 70 years old before they begin to collect their Social Security benefits.

Unfortunately, most people do not come anywhere near receiving the maximum amount of retirement income from Social Security.  Approximately 48 percent of women and 42 percent of men begin to collect their benefits at age 62, which means they receive about 25 to 30 percent less than they would if they had waited until age 66 or 67 ... or approximately $1,500 a month for the average couple ($18,000 a year) and only $3,000 a month ($36,000 a year) or less for a high earning couple.

If this is not enough money for you and your spouse to live on, then you will have to supplement your Social Security benefits with your savings or by continuing to work well into your senior years.

Calculating Your Possible Income from Money You Have Saved

According to the Vanguard Funds report "How America Saves 2016,"  the average retirement account balance for people between the ages of 55 and 64 is $177,805.  For younger adults, the average retirement account is much smaller.

Investment advisors recommend that people who want to make sure that their retirement funds last the remainder of their lives start out by withdrawing no more than 3 to 4 percent a year from their account, with modest adjustments as the years go by, depending on how much their balance increases in value in the future.  This means that a couple with the average balance in their retirement account of $177,805 who decides on a modest 3.5 percent withdrawal rate would have an income of $6,223 a year or an extra $518 a month that they could use to supplement their Social Security benefits.

The actual income from retirement savings will vary depending on how successful you have been at saving money in the years prior to retirement.

How Much Total Retirement Income Will You Have?

Based on the numbers above, an average American couple who has managed to save the average amount of money will have a retirement income of approximately $30,739 a year from the combination of Social Security and withdrawals from their savings.

A high earning couple who has saved the same amount of money will have a total retirement income of approximately $53,731 a year if they wait until the breadwinner's full retirement age of 66 or 67 to begin collecting Social Security.  If they wait until the breadwinner is 70 years old, they can add another $11,000 to that amount.

Of course, single individuals will only have their own Social Security benefits or those of their former spouse, if they are a widow or widower.  Consequently, the retirement income of single people will be significantly less than that of a couple, although their expenses will also be less.

What if This is Not Enough Retirement Income?

If you have done the calculations and are starting to realize that your retirement income will not be adequate to live on when you retire, you should start making adjustments early.  Some of the things you can do are:

Cut your expenses by reducing your lifestyle now, including downsizing to a smaller home.

Pay off your home, car and other debts prior to retirement.

Save as much money as possible to increase your retirement income.

Postpone retirement until the breadwinner is 70 and the spouse is at their full retirement age of 66 or 67.

If you are interested in learning more about financial planning, where to retire, common medical issues, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

You are reading from the blog:

Photo credit:

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Top Over-55 Communities in U.S.

Although many people decide to stay in their current homes when they retire, others choose to move into private, age-restricted retirement communities.  These over-55 communities, which now exist throughout the United States, must comply with federal guidelines and may have additional special requirements of their own.  For many retirees and those who are nearing retirement age, life in an over-55 community can seem like a dream come true.  Some people even describe them as "summer camps for adults."

What to Expect in an Over-55 Community

The amenities in over-55 communities vary, depending on the location.  They nearly all have swimming pools, exercise facilities, meeting rooms and art studios.  Many of them have golf courses and tennis courts.  Some have more unique facilities such as fishing lakes, hiking trails, garden centers or equestrian facilities.

Over-55 communities are NOT skilled nursing or assisted living facilities.  The people who live in these communities are able to live independently.  The properties may consist of single-family homes, attached homes, townhouses, condominiums, apartments or a combination.  No matter how the housing is designed, the communities are full of people who want to remain active and involved in a variety of physical, social, artistic and intellectual activities for as long as possible ... years before they are ready for assisted living.

Some people are able to remain in their over-55 communities well into their 90's, especially if they avail themselves of private or community help in the form of caregivers, meals-on-wheels, taxi vouchers and other assistance that makes it possible for them to remain in their private homes.

However, not everyone in an an over-55 community is elderly.  Only one person in the home needs to actually be age 55 or older.  Their spouse can be any age, so it is not unusual to see a wide range of adults living in these communities.  Children under the age of 18 are not allowed to live in the home permanently, although they can enjoy visiting their grandparents, even for a few weeks, in most cases.

Which Over-55 Communities are Ranked the Highest?

The list below shows the top choices from the website  All of the communities listed below are well worth checking out. Of course, everyone should thoroughly investigate any community before moving there.

Even if a community is not listed below, but it is in a town where you would like to live, you should look it up online and personally visit it.  New communities are being built continually and many established ones are very nice, even if they did not make it onto the "top" community lists.

Recent Recommendations by

The Villages - The Villages, FL
Sun City Hilton Head - Bluffton, SC
On Top of the World - Ocala, FL
Sun City Summerlin - Las Vegas, NV
Solivita - Kissimmee, FL
Sun City Carolina Lakes - Ft. Mill, SC
Sun City Huntley - Huntley, IL
Sun City Texas - Georgetown, TX
Laguna Woods Village - Laguna Woods, CA
Sun City Center - Sun City Center, FL

You'll notice that the communities mentioned above include locations in Florida, South Carolina, Illinois, Nevada, Texas and California ... giving retirees options from coast-to-coast.  The communities have also been built by a variety of developers.

Websites to Help You Learn More About Over-55 Communities

There are several websites that list the over-55 communities in every state.  People who are looking for a community will want to read the reviews on these websites, look up the community's website and do additional research, including paying a visit to the locations they are considering.  They will also want to compare several communities that interest them.  Lower in this article you will find a list of questions you should ask.

In addition, it is important to do a Google search on the community to see if people have posted anything negative online about it.  Nearly every community will have some detractors.  However, it is smart to know the potential problems before you fall in love with a location and then discover that it is in a part of Florida where sinkholes are common or in a part of Arizona where water shortages are becoming an issue.

The websites below will help you find a variety of over-55 communities in the states that interest you:

What to Know When Considering an Over-55 Community

When investigating different retirement communities, you may discover that some locations mentioned on the sites above are not actually age-restricted communities.  Make sure you understand whether you are reading about an actual over-55 community or simply a subdivision that is open to anyone, but is especially popular with retirees. 

Occasionally, you may see lists that recommend small towns and neighborhoods that are very appealing to retirees.  Frequently, these neighborhoods have a large number of retired residents, but they also have residents in all age groups.  It is important to know whether or not the community you are looking at is age-restricted.  There are advantages and disadvantages to both, but there are differences in what you can expect in the form of amenities in each kind of neighborhood.  You want to know what to expect, especially if you are traveling a large distance to visit the location.

Questions to Ask When Visiting an Over-55 Community

Another issue you need to consider are the size of the homeowner's dues and which amenities are included or discounted for residents.  For example, if you are comparing two communities and you like to play golf, you will want to know if the cost of playing golf is included as part of your homeowner's dues in the communities that interest you.  If not, are the golf course fees discounted?

What about other activities such as exercise or art classes?  Are they free or low cost?   You will also want to know which home maintenance costs are covered ... exterior painting, grass mowing, and similar services, for example. Prospective residents need to look at the total cost of living in their new community in order to fairly compare them and so they can be sure they will be able to afford to live there for the rest of their lives.  Some newer Sun Belt communities even include solar panels in the purchase price.  That can save the buyer a substantial amount of money each month, especially in hot climates.

You will also want to consider the amenities that are available nearby, but outside the community.  Is there a college in the area that offers interesting, low-cost classes for senior citizens?  If your new community does not have a golf course of its own, are there affordable ones within a short drive?  Are there a variety of restaurants?  Are there stores or a mall within a reasonable distance?  How far will you need to drive to buy groceries?  Is there bus or taxi service available, should it become difficult for you to drive?  How far away is the nearest hospital?  Will you be able to find the types of entertainment that you enjoy ... movie theaters, live theater, sports venues, museums, etc.?

You will also want to know if there are any special rules for residents, such as financial requirements, or restrictions on visits by grandchildren.

Once you have considered all the above items, you should be able to narrow down the choices and find the best over-55 community for you!

If you are interested in more information about where to retire, financial planning, common medical issues, Social Security, Medicare and other common retirement issues, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

You are reading from the blog:

Photo credit:  Photo of Laguna Woods Village golf course taken by author, Deborah Dian

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Social Security at Age 70 Maximizes Future Income

We have all been told by financial and retirement planners that the best way to maximize the size of our Social Security benefits is to wait until age 70 to begin collecting.  However, according to research completed by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, only one percent of retirees who are currently receiving Social Security waited until they were 70 years old before they claimed their benefits.  The median age to claim was 62, which is also the earliest most people can claim, meaning that the vast majority of senior citizens are willing to take reduced benefits rather than wait eight years in order to receive substantially more money.

Why Don't People Wait Until Age 70 to Claim Social Security?

If people can receive more money by waiting to receive their benefits, why don't they?

1.  Most Americans cannot afford to wait. As soon as they decide to stop working, they must begin to collect their benefits because they don't have enough assets to support themselves.  The median household between the ages of 60 and 64 has approximately $202,000 saved for retirement.  At a 4 percent withdrawal rate, that is only $8,000 income a year, which is not enough income to live on.

2.  In addition, 60 percent of retirees stop working sooner than they planned ... which means they need to start taking their benefits earlier than anticipated.  Of that 60 percent, about two-thirds stop working because they lost their job; a little over one-quarter of them retired because of health problems.

3.  Some Americans have been misled to believe that Social Security will soon run out of money, so they rush into claiming their benefits as soon as possible.

4.  A few people nearing retirement believe they can successfully invest their Social Security benefits while they are still working, doing even better than the increased earnings they will receive by waiting.  While a small number may be successful, most of these people will find that their guaranteed increase in benefits is more reliable than their ability to invest the money wisely despite the ups and downs in the market.

When Should You Take Social Security Benefits Early?

Yes, there are times when the smart move could be to take your Social Security benefits as early as possible.

1.  If you have no other way to support yourself because you have lost your job in your 60's or you have developed a major health problem, then your only alternative will be to claim your Social Security ... and be thankful it is available.

2.  You may also wish to collect early if you develop a life-shortening terminal illness.  The average man at age 65 can expect to live until age 84.3; the average woman should live until age 86.6.  If your life expectancy has been significantly reduced because you are on kidney dialysis or have a cancer that has metastasized, for example, then you may have good reason to take your benefits early.

Spousal Benefits Can Complicate the Decision

Even if you fall into one of the categories that would justify taking your Social Security benefits early, there is one reason why you may decide to postpone collecting as long as possible ... the effect your decision will have on your spouse.

For example, if you could receive $3,000 a month at age 70, your spouse would also be entitled to $1,500 a month at their full retirement age of 66 or 67.  If you die after age 70, your spouse would then get their benefits bumped up to what you have been receiving.  On the other hand, if you collect in your early 60's and only receive around $2,000 a month, everything will be proportionally reduced for your spouse, as well.  If you want to be sure your spouse will have enough money to live on after you are gone, you may want to postpone collecting as long as possible.

Does It Make a Difference in Your Total Lifetime Earnings?

While your monthly benefits are higher the longer you wait, will it really make a difference to your lifetime earnings?  The Social Security Administration uses actuarial tables to estimate how much more people can receive the longer they wait.  While, of course, individual results will differ depending on their actual lifespan, the Social Security Administration say, "As a general rule, early or late retirement will give you about the same total Social Security benefits over your lifetime."

Of course, that applies to those people who live an "average" length of time!

If you are interested in learning more about Social Security, Medicare, financial planning, where to retire, common health problems or other issues related to retirement, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

You are reading from the blog:

Photo credit:


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Retirement Income Red Zone Danger

If you have put together a sizeable portfolio prior to retirement, knowing how to protect those assets during your first five years after retirement will be extremely important, especially if you want to be sure they will last the remainder of your life.  These first five years after retirement are sometimes referred to as the red zone ... the time when decisions you make can have the biggest impact on your future.

What Bad Decisions Do People Make in Early Retirement?

When people first retire, they often have a number of of pent-up dreams they wish to fulfill.  They still feel healthy and they may want to move somewhere new, travel, buy a boat or RV, and have a little fun.  After all, they have waited and saved their entire lives for this moment and they want to enjoy it before age and illness slows them down.

Next, retirees often stop saving and putting aside money for the future.  As they pull money from the principal without replacing it, retirees gradually see their assets become depleted.

In addition, retirees sometimes do not prepare adequately for rising expenses or problems that could come up in the future, including extra medical expenses such as health insurance deductibles, expensive treatments, long-term care, etc. They also sometimes fail to prepare for things like replacing their car, hot water heater, furnace or other expensive items.

Even if new retirees do not make any of the above mistakes during their first five years after retirement, their assets could become depleted because of poor investment decisions.

Should You Invest for Growth or Safety?

Investment advisors recommend that your retirement assets should be invested for both growth and safety ... but what is the correct balance?  According to an article by CNBC writer, Kelley Holland, "Five Crucial Retirement Years For Your Money," it is extremely important that you do not have negative investment returns during your first five years of retirement.  When experts from Prudential Insurance examined two hypothetical $1 million portfolios, Portfolio A had negative returns for 4 of the first 5 years, but positive returns for all of the remaining years of its existence.  Portfolio B had all positive returns in the first 5 years, but had negative returns in 4 of 5 years between years 25 and 30.

What were the results?  Portfolio A had dropped to zero within 15 years.  Portfolio B had doubled in value by the end of 30 years, despite the negative returns at the end.

What Should an Investor Do?

After examining the results of these two hypothetical portfolios, experts believe it is important that investors manage their money conservatively early in retirement so their portfolio continues to grow in value, even modestly, during this crucial period.  In order to do this, it would be a mistake for retirees to make risky investments or begin depleting their principal for trips or other large purchases.

Retirees need to work with their investment advisor to make sure their money is wisely invested.  Holland recommends that no more than 40 to 60 percent of a retirement portfolio should be in stocks (and, obviously, these should be Blue Chip stocks, not high-risk ones).

As retirees begin to live off their assets, their withdrawals should be modest and their asset allocation should be conservative, particularly during the first five years.  In other posts on this blog, we have reported that most investment advisors suggest that no more than 3 percent of assets should be withdrawn for living expenses during retirement, with tiny increases in the withdrawal rate as the years go by.  If the principal balance is invested conservatively, the assets of most people should last well over 30 years.

Some investment advisors also recommend that any income from the assets that is in excess of what is needed for living expenses should then be invested in stocks which, hopefully, will appreciate and provide an extra cushion for the future. This extra cushion will be especially helpful if there is a stock downturn in the future ... which is almost certain to happen every few years.

In the end, this plan is the one that is most likely to leave you with enough assets to last the remainder of your life.

If you are interested in reading more tips about handling your retirement income, where to retire, common medical problems, Medicare, Social Security and more, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

You are reading from the blog:

Photo credit:

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Benefits of Senior Roommates

A significant percentage of senior citizens will spend at least part of their lives living alone.  When this happens, they may suffer from loneliness and depression.  In addition, it can be expensive for one person to afford to pay all the bills.  Because of this, senior roommates are becoming a popular trend.

According to an article in the "Answers" book for the Orange County, California Council on Aging, four million American women now live in households with at least two women over the age of 50.

Why Women are Alone as They Age

More than one-third of women over the age of 65 now live alone.  The reasons for this could be the death of a spouse, divorce, or the fact that they never married.

On average, women live about five years longer than men.  In addition, women often marry men who are older than they are ... which means that some women may live a decade or longer after their husbands die.

Another issue is that there has been a huge increase in gray divorce.  Since 1990, the divorce rate for people over the age of 50 has doubled, according to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research.

Advantages of Senior Roommates

When women decide to enter a house sharing arrangement, they can both benefit in several ways.

*  Financially, people supporting themselves on fixed incomes can live more comfortably if they share the cost of housing, utilities and other expenses.

*  The added security of having another person in the home can be one more advantage of having a roommate.

*  Socialization is an additional reason for finding a roommate.  It is easy for people to become isolated, lonely and depressed as they age.  People who live with an amicable friend will always have someone to talk to, eat with, and sometimes they will do other things together ... such as attending movies or traveling.

Is Having a Roommate Right for You?

Not everyone actually wants to have a roommate close to them all the time.  You need to know yourself, and evaluate the home you will be sharing.  Will you have enough personal, private space?  Are you flexible?  Do you have a lot of allergies, health problems or food preferences which could make it difficult for you to live with other people?

What Guidelines Need to be Put in Writing?

If you are planning to live with another person, it may go better if the two of you put your expectations in writing and discuss them first.  Below are some issues your agreement may need to cover:

*  Decide in advance specifically how the expenses will be shared.  Will one person be the landlord and the other the tenant, or will everything be split right down the middle?
*  Decide who will perform which household tasks and how often ... cleaning, cooking, dishes, yardwork, etc.
*  Decide if the two of you are going to cook and eat together or if you will each be responsible for your own meals.
*  Reach an agreement about pets ... if they are allowed, what kind, how large, where they will be kept, etc.
*  Discuss grandchildren with each other.  Will they be allowed to spend the night, how often, where they will sleep, etc.
*  Discuss other relatives, such as adult children, and whether they will be allowed to spend the night.
*  Discuss dating and whether your dates will be allowed to spend the night.
*  Discuss personal habits such as smoking and drinking.
*  If either of you have strong religious or political opinions that could be the source of arguments, you should consider that before making a decision about whether or not you want to live with this person.
*  Discuss other expectations such as entertaining friends, relying on each other to do the shopping, what time the house should be quiet, using earphones to watch TV, when you could each practice playing your musical instruments, etc.
*  Discuss healthcare preferences with each other, in the event of a medical emergency.  Also make sure you both have contact information for relatives, employers, lawyers or other people who would need to be contacted in the event of death or serious illness.

As you can see, there are a large number of issues to consider before you decide if you and your roommate will be compatible.  Everything should be put in writing after you have talked about it.  This will reduce confusion about what you both agreed to.

How to Find a Roommate

In many cases, you may already know someone who is looking for a roommate because they recently lost a spouse or experienced a financial setback.  However, before bringing up the topic with them, ask yourself how well you think you will get along with that person.  Do they have personal habits that you find irritating?  Even someone who talks too much or too loudly can become irritating after a while.

If you are thinking about getting a senior roommate, you can visit the National Shared Housing website for additional help.

If you need other ideas about where to retire, common medical issues, financial planning, Social Security, Medicare or other retirement issues, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

You are reading from the blog:

Photo credit:

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Credit Scores and Retirement

Once you retire, your credit score will still be important.  Even if your mortgage is paid off and you have no plans to borrow money ever again, you will still want to carefully monitor your credit rating and make sure there are no issues with it.

When the credit-reporting company, TransUnion, polled a group of Baby Boomers, nearly half of them said that their credit rating would no longer be important after they retired.  This misconception, however, could cause them to have unexpected problems later in life.

Your Credit Rating Could Drop During Retirement

Even though your credit rating will continue to be important when you retire, the truth is that the score normally declines for most people as they get older ... even if they have an excellent credit history and solid assets.

Why will your credit rating go down? 

Below are some common reasons:

If you are like most people, you will use less credit as you age.

Using your debit card to immediately pay cash for purchases does not help you maintain your credit score.

As you pay off your house, car, credit cards and other debts, your credit report and activity become "thin" and could virtually disappear.

Why is a Low Credit Rating a Problem in Retirement?

Today, many people are living 20 years or more after they retire.  While you may think you will never again make a large purchase during the remainder of your life, eventually you may want to downsize to a smaller home, purchase a new car or have other credit needs.

Lenders will look at your credit score if you decide to get a mortgage on a new home, take out an auto loan, apply for a new credit card, or co-sign for a student loan for one of your children or grandchildren.  If you decide to rent an apartment in a retirement community or other location, the management company and the utility companies will want to see your credit score.  In addition, your auto and homeowners insurance premiums will be higher if you have a low credit score.

How Can You Improve Your Credit Score Without Adding Debt?

The last thing you want to do in order to maintain a high credit score is take on new debt.  However, experts recommend some actions that will improve your credit score ... and they don't involve adding debt.

* Every couple of years, ask your credit card issuers to raise your limits by $500 to $1000.  Whenever you have a high limit, but a low balance, your credit score gets a boost.

*  Do not close old accounts, even if you rarely use them, for the same reasons mentioned above.  It is better to have lots of available credit, but a low balance.

*  Keep your main credit cards active by occasionally making a modest purchase using one and paying off the balance quickly.

*  Be careful to make all your payments on time.  If you travel, set up auto payments with your bank so that none of your payments are ever late.

*  If you have let your credit completely lapse and you don't have any credit cards, you may need to rebuild your credit history.  To do that, you may have to start with a secured card from your bank.

*  Check your credit report regularly to be sure there are no errors on it that could drag down your credit rating.  You can get a free copy of your report every year from each of the three major credit-reporting companies.  You can contact them individually or you can go to  You can also sign up on the free site to find out your current credit rating, get suggestions on how to raise it, and see your credit reports.

Take the above steps, protect your credit, and monitor your credit reports regularly.  Just because you are retired, you should not forget these simple precautions.

If you are interested in learning more about financial planning for retirement, common medical issues, where to retire, Social Security, Medicare or more, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

You are reading from the blog:

Photo credit:

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Dangerous Medications, Vitamins and Herbal Remedies

Virtually everyone in the United States uses either prescription medications, vitamins, or herbal remedies.  In the right doses and combinations, most of them are safe.  However, your prescriptions and supplements can turn against you.  In extreme circumstances, they can cause you to develop new health problems or dangerous drug interactions.

According to an article in the August/September 2016 AARP Magazine, you should periodically have a "Checkup for Your Medicine Cabinet."  You should repeat it annually to make sure the pills you are taking are helping you, not making your health problems worse.

Examine Your Prescription Medications

Check Expiration Dates:  While you do not want to keep any drug after its expiration date, according to the article, you want to be particularly careful about insulin, inhalers, oral nitroglycerin, EpiPens, anti-convulsants, warfarin, digoxin and thyroid medication.  If the drug is in its original packaging, the expiration date should be stamped on the side or bottom.  Otherwise, you may have to ask your pharmacist or follow their recommended "discard by" date.

Avoid Allergy and Sleeping Pills:  There appears to be a link between the long-term use of allergy or sleeping medications and problems with decision-making and dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.  Even common over-the-counter products such as Benadryl and Nytol can cause problems. Find alternative, drug-free ways of dealing with your allergies or insomnia.

Do Not Overdo the Vitamins

Millions of Americans take vitamins.  However, excessive amounts of certain vitamins can cause health issues, rather than eliminate them.  Below are four vitamins that the article particularly recommended people limit:

Vitamin B6 - Over 100 mg. a day can cause temporary nerve damage.

Vitamin A - Over 10,000 IUs a day can cause vomiting, headaches, dizziness and blurry vision.

Vitamin D - Over 10,000 IUs a day can cause poor appetite, frequent urination and kidney problems.

Vitamin C - High doses (which were not specified in the article) can double a man's risk of kidney stones.

Watch for Interactions between Herbal Remedies and Certain Drugs

In an effort to avoid taking too many prescription drugs, Americans often resort to herbal remedies.  However, these preparations can be dangerous, especially when combined with medications that have been prescribed to you.  Make sure your doctor knows what herbal remedies you use.  Below are some that are particularly worrisome:

St. John's wort - It can interfere with your statins and high blood pressure medications.

Ginkgo and ginseng - These herbs can interact with blood-thinning medications, which could dangerously increase your bleeding risk.

Kava - Even when it is not combined with other medications, this herb can cause liver damage.

Bottom Line:  Any time you add a new medication or supplement to your usual routine, discuss it with your doctor to make sure it will not conflict with something else you are already taking.  Regardless of whether or not you have been taking the same drugs and supplements for a long time, check with your doctor if any new symptoms develop.  Sometimes it can take a long time for the toxicity to build up in your body.

If you are interested in learning more about retirement planning, common health problems as you age, where to retire, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

You are reading from the blog:

Photo credit: