Wednesday, July 26, 2017

How to Retire Without a Car

For many Baby Boomers, their automobile plays a significant role in their life.  It may be a status symbol or feel like your ticket to freedom, giving you the ability to go wherever you want, whenever you want.  Whether you drive a tiny red sports car, a sedate sedan, or a big SUV, it may be difficult for you to imagine living without a car.  However, a large number of young adults have already discovered they can get along just fine without a personal vehicle, and Baby Boomers are learning a lot from their adult children and grandchildren.

Owning a Car is Expensive

Owning an automobile can be costly, whether or not you are making payments on it.  Even if your car gets good gas mileage and you are no longer commuting to a job, gasoline alone may cost you $100 to $200 a month.  In addition, you will need to pay for insurance, tires, oil changes, repairs and your state registration fees.  Eventually you will probably need to replace the car, which could require a large outlay in cash and/or an even larger monthly payment.  As a result, owning a car could become too costly for many retirees.

Health Conditions Could Keep You From Driving

As we age, many people develop health issues or take medications which make it difficult or impossible for them to drive.  While you may be healthy and active when you first retire, you may eventually develop vision problems, Parkinson's Disease or be undergoing chemotherapy and no longer able to drive safely. In addition, many medications used by seniors, including sleeping pills, painkillers and other prescriptions are not safe to take before driving.

Affordable Alternatives to Driving a Car

Fortunately, there are reasonable alternatives to owning an automobile.  If you move to an over-55 retirement community, such as one of the many Sun Cities across the US, Laguna Woods Village in Southern California, or The Villages in Florida (to name a few), you may be able to drive around your community and to local shopping areas in a golf cart.  Electric golf carts are generally significantly less expensive to own and operate than automobiles.  Because of their lower speeds, they also tend to be safer to operate. Golf carts are not your only choice for transportation.

Many retirement communities have their own community buses to drive residents to various activities.  Some Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) have vans which will take people to nearby businesses, doctor's appointments, churches, movie theaters, shopping centers, etc.  

If you occasionally need to travel outside your immediate neighborhood, public transportation such as cabs and buses are an affordable alternative for the occasional trip to a business appointment or local airport. A $20 or $30 cab ride three or four times a month is still much cheaper than owning and maintaining a personal vehicle.

Cities with Walkable Neighborhoods and Public Transit

If you do not want to move to an over-55 community, you can still find great neighborhoods where you will not need to own a car. The Millennial Generation has proven to us that it is possible, affordable and enjoyable to live in safe, walkable communities with an assortment of public transportation choices. Many small towns would fit this description, as well as popular neighborhoods within some large cities.

Forbes Magazine's February 28, 2017 issue included an article titled "No Car, No Problem." In the article they published a list of great communities which are not only walkable, but also have access to public transportation, Uber, Lyft, and/or car rentals by the hour.  They eliminated cities with high crime rates, assuming that seniors would not want to walk around a dangerous community.  You can find their full list at, but below are their top nine recommendations, including the city and specific neighborhoods they mentioned:

Arlington, VA - Clarendon/Courthouse, Ballston, and Lyon Village
Boston, MA - Beacon Hill, Back Bay, North End
Denver, CO - Capitol Hill, Downtown, Cherry Creek
Fort Lauderdale, FL - Colee Hammock, Flagler Village, Downtown
Minneapolis, MN - Lowry Hill East, Lyn-Lake, Whittier
Portland, ME - Parkside, West Bayside, Downtown
Providence, RI - College Hill, Federal Hill, Fox Point
San Francisco, CA - Nob Hill, North Beach, Hayes Valley
Seattle, WA - Belltown, Queen Anne, Downtown

What if You Want to Remain in Your Current Community?

If you do not want to move to an over-55 golf cart accessible community or to one of the cities mentioned above, take the time to explore the transportation options within you own community.  It is a good idea to do this before you lose your driver's license, become ill, have major surgery, or decide to give up your car for other reasons.

Contact the local bus company to find out about the routes in your neighborhood.  You may even want to practice riding the bus before you actually need to give up your car. Go to the local senior center and find out what transportation options are available specifically for senior citizens.  Many towns offer special on-call vans or buses for senior citizens and the disabled, or they offer discount coupons for local cab rides.  Some will provide free or low-cost transportation to the closest train or subway station, which will greatly expand the areas you can reach without driving a car.

In addition, you will need to drive less if you take advantage of grocery delivery services or online shopping.  In addition to, you can also use the websites of Walmart, Target, Macys and most pharmacies.  If you cannot get out to these businesses on your own, knowing they will deliver whatever you need to your door can be a tremendous relief.

With a little planning and preparation, you may discover how easy it can be for you to give up your car without feeling isolated or deprived.

If you are looking for more information about where to retire, financial planning, Social Security, Medicare, common health issues, changing family relationships and more, use the tabs or pull down menu to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Watch for my book, Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement, which will be published by Griffin Publishing in 2018.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Surprises in Retirement

If you are not yet retired, what do you think it will be like when you finally walk away from your job for the last time?  If you have already retired, did it turn out to be what you expected?  What surprised you the most?  Were the surprises pleasant or disappointing?

Most people find that at least some aspects of retirement were not quite what they expected.  Some people were disappointed and lonely.  Other people were delighted by how quickly their lives become filled with new activities.

The varying reactions to retirement may be a result of different personalities.  In other cases, it could be because of inadequate financial resources, which make it tough to "live the dream."  Whatever the reason, below are some of the surprises many people have expressed about retirement.  If you are not retired yet, knowing what has surprised other people may help you better prepare for retirement; if you have retired, it may help you realize you are not alone in what you are experiencing and it may not be too late to make changes which will help you enjoy your retirement more.

What Surprises People Most about Retirement

Loss of Self-Worth - We had a neighbor whose father came to stay with her after retirement.  He was very quiet and kept to himself.  My neighbor told me her father was depressed and out-of-sorts because he had retired from a job as the Superintendent of Schools for a large school district.  He had literally supervised thousands of employees until the day he retired.  Afterwards, he felt "worthless" and didn't know what to do with himself.  While he could have turned his energies towards volunteering, local politics, or finding other ways to help people, he just hung around her house and remained depressed.  People need to have a reason to get up each morning if they want to have a satisfying retirement.

It Can be Easier than Expected to Leave Your Job Behind - On the other had, after working decades for a company, many people are surprised at how quickly they can put the past behind them and find new activities, interests and friends.  The people who are able to leave the past behind seem to flow more smoothly into retirement.  Surprisingly few people talk much about their former career once they retire.

It is Expensive to Retire - If you have been telling yourself you will be comfortable living on half, or even 80 percent, of your current income, you may be shocked to learn that the amount of income you need will be just as high as it was while you were working.  It is true you will not spend as much on the cost of commuting to a job, buying lunches from restaurants, or maintaining a work wardrobe.  However, these cost savings could be replaced by expenses related to engaging in new hobbies, eating more meals at home, traveling, and spending more for medical expenses.  In particular, Medicare premiums could be higher than expected and will shoot up dramatically if you get a financial windfall (taking a retirement buyout or selling stocks), because you will be required to pay a Medicare surcharge.  Those who opt to purchase a Medicare supplement may be surprised by the cost, as well.

Financial Planning Really Does Pay Off - Those retirees who had the self-discipline to put aside a nest egg for retirement are often pleased to discover their plan worked out well for them after retirement.  In the same way, those who managed to pay off all or most of their debt prior to retirement are also happy to see the difference it makes in the quality of their retirement, and how much easier it is for them to ride out the ups and downs in the economy.  For example, if your home temporarily loses value during a recession, it is not as stressful if you do not have a large mortgage against it. For those who have not been able to save as much as they hoped prior to retiring from their career, many retirees are surprised to discover how easy and rewarding it is to find a part-time job after retirement.

Your Health Can Improve - Many people find that having the time to play golf, take exercise classes, focus on their diet and visit their doctor has made it possible for them to lose weight and improve their health, especially during the first few years after retirement.  It is not unusual in the retirement community where I live to hear people say they never thought it could be so easy to walk 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day or participate in swimming and tennis competitions.

It Can Be Painful to Face Mortality - People who never thought about how much longer they might live while they were still working, can become overwhelmed and depressed when they develop a serious illness or lose a spouse or close friend.  Visiting friends in skilled nursing facilities or attending their funerals forces many retirees to face their own mortality.  While some people are at peace with their own mortality, others become depressed.

It is Easier than Expected to Make New Friends - Many retirees are hesitant to move to new locations when they first retire because they believe it will be hard for them to make new friends.  However, since retirement also means having more free time, most retirees have discovered it is easier than ever for them to take classes, join clubs, volunteer, and spend time with other people. In addition, having more free time also leaves you free to attend weddings, birthday parties, the baptisms of grandchildren and other special events with friends and family. Most new retirees find they have more time than ever to spend with old friends and they are able to make new friends, as well.  For those who have lost a spouse, it is not unusual for them to begin dating again and even remarry.

If you are interested in learning more about retirement 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.

Watch for my book, Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement, which will be published by Griffin Publishing in 2018.

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

Some info based on Wall Street Journal report "The Biggest Surprises in Retirement," Feb. 13, 2017.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Opioid Addiction in Retirees

According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, the current opioid crisis in the United States is this country's worst drug epidemic ever.  Unlike drug problems in the past, this one is not limited primarily to the younger generation.  Opioids are killing Americans of all ages.  Doctors have been over-prescribing pain medication for years, without realizing the impact it was having on their patients, including the elderly.  The results have been devastating for many senior citizens, as well as their children and grandchildren.  Families have been devastated by the effects of opioids.

Opioid Addiction in Retirees is a Significant Problem

According to an article in the June 2017 AARP bulletin titled "The Opioid Menace: A Nationwide Addiction to Opioids Threatens Older Americans," as well as other sources, the statistics are shocking:

*  In the single year of 2015 alone, nearly one-third of all Medicare patients (or about 12 million people) were prescribed opioid painkillers by their doctors.  Over the past year or two, some doctors have reduced the number of prescriptions they write for these drugs and the majority of states now put caps on the quantity of opioids a Medicaid patient can receive.  Unfortunately, these actions are not enough. Far too many patients are still receiving prescriptions for these dangerous drugs, often for chronic pain, minor injuries, dental procedures and out-patient surgeries.

*  Also in 2015, approximately 2.7 million Americans over the age of 50 were believed to have abused prescription opioids.  By abusing the drugs, it means the patients were taking more of the medication than their doctors had prescribed or for reasons other than why it was prescribed.

*  Despite efforts to reduce the number of opioid prescriptions being written, a survey in 2016 indicated that 99 percent of physicians continue to prescribe these medications for longer than the recommended three days.  To make matters worse, some patients "doctor shop," constantly looking for new doctors who will write them a prescription, which they can easily fill if they pay out-of-pocket for it rather than using their insurance or Medicaid.  Other people steal painkillers from the medicine cabinets of friends or relatives, order the drugs from foreign pharmacies, or switch to lower cost heroin, which is an illegal opioid drug made from morphine.  Frequently, the heroin is mixed with Fentanyl, which makes the drug much more addictive and can be lethal.

*  People over the age of 65 are being hospitalized in record numbers because of opioid abuse.  In fact, the number of such hospital admissions has quadrupled in the past 20 years.  Most cases involve people who never dreamed they would become drug addicts.

*  Opioid addiction is a deadly disease.  An incredible 42 percent of all opioid overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2015 happened to people over the age of 45.  The real number of such deaths may be much higher, since many deaths could have have been misdiagnosed or simply listed as "natural causes," especially in the very elderly.  This is not an addiction problem which is limited to teens and young adults.

*  The older you are, the greater your risk of becoming dependent on these drugs.  Doctors are more likely to prescribe them for your pain and, because of slower kidney and liver function, the drugs may remain in your system longer.

*  Of course, opioids also are killing our adult children and grandchildren, causing stress and worry for many retirees.  As reported in a Jacob Soboroff television special, made for MSNBC, called "One Nation Over Dosed," on June 24, 2017, opioid overdoses are currently the number one cause of death for people under the age of 50 in the United States, resulting in more deaths than those from car crashes, HIV or guns for people in the peak years of their lives.  Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid which can be thousands of times stronger than heroin, is so dangerous it is possible to die just from touching it or breathing it in.  As mentioned above, this drug problem is destroying families across our nation, often leaving young children orphaned and causing grandparents to have to raise them. 

What are the Most Common Opioids?

Many people have been prescribed these dangerous drugs without realizing it.  Their doctors may have prescribed them "a little something" for pain after surgery or to alleviate back pain.

Among the common names for opioids which the average person may have used are OcyContin, hydrocodone, oxycodone, Vicodin, Percocet, Demerol, morphine, Tylenol #3 and #4, Cotylenol, Tylox, Roxanol, Fentanyl and several others.  If your physician offers you a prescription painkiller rather than suggesting you try an over-the-counter product like Motrin or Aleve, you should ask a lot of questions about the product.  You can become dependent on an opioid after just a few days of use.

Everyone should also be aware that even opioid painkillers will not completely remove the pain from a serious injury or health issue.  An over-the-counter medication may not be quite as strong, but could be adequate to "take the edge off" your pain until time and healing naturally lessens the pain.  Other approaches, such as meditation, relaxation techniques, massage, physical therapy, or acupuncture may also help you get through a period of either short-term or chronic pain.

What to Do If You Suspect You are Addicted to Opioids

If you or a loved one has been taking an opioid painkiller and you suspect an addiction problem, there are a few steps you can take.

Admit there could be a problem.  It is not a moral failing; it is a medical condition.  The sooner you deal with it, the better the outcome is likely to be.

Talk to the doctor who has been prescribing your medication, or another doctor, about your suspected addiction concerns.

Seek treatment as soon as possible.  Do not try to stop cold-turkey.  You may need to go through a gradual withdrawal process.

Most important of all, avoid taking these drugs unless absolutely necessary, take as few pills as possible, stop as soon as you can, and seek help if you have trouble weaning yourself off of them.

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

Watch for my book, Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement, which will be published by Griffin Publishing in 2018.

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Laguna Woods Village Statistics and Amenities

Laguna Woods Village, CA has numerous amenities.
When you are looking for a retirement community, it can sometimes be difficult to get specific information about it.  If you only go to their website, you will typically read an abundance of superlatives about how wonderful the community is, but find very few actual details.  As a result, when Laguna Woods Village in Orange County, California released a list of very specific statistics about the community, as of 2017, the information was exactly what potential residents would want to know if they were interested in living in this retirement community on the edge of Laguna Beach, California.  This information can also serve as a basis for potential retirees to compare the communities they are considering, even if Laguna Woods Village is not on their list.

Statistics About the Community of Laguna Woods Village

* Rated one of the Top Ten Retirement Communities in the U.S. in 2017 by
* Voted Best Senior Living Community in Southern California by the Orange County Register
* Built on 2,100 acres of rolling hills in Orange County, California
* Housing consists of 12,736 condos and co-ops with 94 different floor plans
* Most of the housing was built between the mid-1960s and the mid-1970's
* Many of the condos and co-ops have been extensively updated over the years
* Only a 10 minute drive to the beach from most parts of the community
* Averages 255 days of sunshine per year

Statistics About the Residents of Laguna Woods Village

* Average new resident is 66 years old, although many are in their 50s
* Average current resident is a median age of 76.7
* Approximately 18,500 residents live in the community
* Average of 1.45 residents per household
* Approximately 65% female and 35% male
* Approximately 96% have at least a high school diploma; 42% have a bachelor's degree or higher
* Median household income of $38,674 (in 2017)
* Median home value was $211,500 (in 2017), although home prices can range from below $150,000 to over $1,000,000

Race and Ethnicity in Laguna Woods Village

* White 87.3%
* Asian 10%
* Black 0.7%
* Other 0.6%
* American Indian 0.1%
* Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander 0.1%
* Hispanic or Latino 4%

(I realize those numbers do not quite add up, but those are the figures they published.  I assume that the 4% of residents listed as Hispanic or Latino would also be included in the white category.)

Safety at Laguna Woods Village

* Lowest crime rate of ANY city in Orange County, California
* Guarded 24 hours a day with 14 security entrance gates
* Private security force which roams throughout community 24 hours a day
* Contract with Orange County Sheriff's Department to provide additional police services, as needed. 

Amenities in Laguna Woods Village

* Over 250 clubs and organizations, most with a full slate of activities
* 814 seat performing arts theatre with a wide variety of choices in entertainment
* Two professional golf courses - a championship 27-hole course and a 9-hole walking course
* Five swimming pools
* Equestrian center with 38 stalls for horses, a riding ring and guided trail rides; residents do not need to own a private horse in order to go on trail rides or take lessons
* Two community gardens with private plots which can be reserved by residents
* Transportation system with 8 fixed bus routes and on-demand rides to local retail, dining and medical facilities
* Community television channel with exclusive programming
* Three fitness centers; two are staffed by trainers
* Ten tennis courts
* Table tennis facility, pickleball courts, and archery facility
* Seven clubhouses including an American Contract Bridge League accredited facility
* College level extended learning classes on-site provided by the Saddleback College Emeritus program
* Three multimedia computer labs
* Professional workshops including facilities for jewelry making, slip casting, woodworking, ceramics, photography, sewing, painting and more.

If this sounds like a community which might appeal to you and your spouse, you may want to pay the community a visit.  There are a number of hotels in the area and most local Realtors would be happy to show prospective buyers around.  You can also sign up for one of the New Resident Orientation Meetings by making reservations at (949) 268-2337.

Even if you are considering a different retirement community, reviewing this list of amenities and activities can help you come up with a list of questions to ask the Realtor about the community you are considering.

If you are interested in an overview of retirement planning, watch for my book Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement which will be published by Griffin Publishing in 2018.

If you would like more information about where to retire, financial planning, Social Security, Medicare, common medical problems, changing family relationships and more, 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 of Laguna Woods Village golf course taken by author.