Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Family Responsibility Laws and Long-Term Care

Did you know that over half the states in the U.S. have family responsibility laws which could make you financially obligated for the nursing home bills of your parents?  Filial responsibility laws could also make your children legally responsible if you need to move into a skilled nursing or memory care facility.  Just as shocking to some people, if one of your children cares for you in their home, your other children could be forced to pay your caregiver child part of the cost of your care.

Which States Have Filial Responsibility Laws?

Family responsibility laws cover over half the people in the United States.  Below is a list of states which currently have filial responsibility laws on the books, although the laws may vary slightly from state to state and are unevenly enforced:

Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.

How to Protect Your Family from Filial Responsibility Laws

Fortunately, there are actions you can take to protect yourself and your family from becoming financially liable for nursing home bills incurred by you or your parents.  The most important thing you can do is to have a plan.  Below is a range of possible options.  You only need to choose one.

1.   Put aside money for your future care.  People who have sufficient savings, cash value in their life insurance, or home equity are usually in good shape to pay for their own long-term care, although they may have to borrow against their insurance or home. As a result, they will not pass on the burden for their care to their children.  For example, if your elderly parents have enough money, insurance, or home equity to pay for their care, you will not be responsible for covering the cost, unless they use up all their assets.  At the same time, if you have also accumulated enough savings, you will protect your children from being liable for your care.

2.  Buy long-term care insurance.  Another option is to buy long-term care insurance which will pay for skilled nursing care, memory care, or an in-home caregiver.  The younger you are when you purchase this insurance, the less expensive it is.  You must be able to pass a physical to get it, so it may be too late for some applicants.

3.  Move into a CCRC.  A CCRC is a Continuing Care Retirement Community.  Typically, a senior citizen sells their home to "buy in" to the CCRC.  In addition, they pay a monthly fee which covers their food, housing and normal care.  If they need extra care as they age, they either pay for the extra care when they need it, or the cost is taken from their original "buy in" fee.  The facility guarantees they will be taken care of for the remainder of their life.  If there is money left over from the "buy in" fee at the end of their life, a portion of it will be returned to the family.  In most cases, you must be able to live semi-independently and not need skilled nursing or memory care when you move into the CCRC.  However, you do not need to be in perfect health.  For example, in most cases you can be undergoing treatment for cancer or other illnesses, as long as you are able to walk on your own and live in your own apartment at the time you move into the facility.  This takes a little advanced planning.

4.  Confirm that you are qualified for Medicaid.  If you do not have equity in a home and very few assets, you may qualify to receive Medicaid, a government program which will cover your long-term care.  However, if using Medicaid is your plan, you should make sure you are eligible and that either you or someone in your family is prepared to complete the application as soon as you are admitted to a skilled nursing or memory care facility.  Medicaid is a common way of handling these expenses.  In fact, Medicaid (called MediCal in California) is the most common payer of nursing home expenses in the state of California, as well as many other states.  If the family does not complete the necessary forms in a timely way, however, the family can still be liable for any expenses incurred until they make sure the paperwork has been properly dealt with. Whoever completes the forms will need access to all your financial information, including tax returns and bank accounts, so they can prove that you are eligible.  There is a catch with using Medicaid ... if the patient has recently gifted too many assets to their heirs, they may not qualify until those assets are first used to cover the nursing home costs.

5.  Choose a family member who can care for you in their home.  This is something you need to decide in advance and everyone in the family should be in agreement about who will care for you, which relatives will relieve your caregiver periodically so they can get a break, and how your expenses will be covered while you stay in your family member's home.  It would be helpful to have a family meeting and write out the plan in advance.  It would also be helpful to have a back-up plan, such as Medicaid, in the event your care becomes too much for a family member to handle.  For example, my sister cares for our mother who has dementia.  Our mother has wandered off a few times and fallen on several occasions.  If it becomes impossible for my sister to keep our mother safe, we have all accepted that she may eventually have to move into a memory care facility.

However you decide to handle the long-term care expenses of your parent or yourself, it is important to have a plan so you do not trigger family responsibility laws and leave some other family member saddled with unexpected expenses.

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

For more information on financial planning, where to live after retirement, Social Security, Medicare, common medical problems 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:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credit:  morguefile.com


"Filial Responsibility: Can the Legal Duty to Support Our Parents be Effectively Enforced?" by Shannon Frank Edelstone, American Bar Association's Family Law Quarterly, 36 Fam. L.Q. 501 (2002)

"Family-Responsibility Laws Could Cost Your Clients" by Jamie Hopkins, Barron's, April 24, 2017

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Travel Scams to Avoid

One of the joys of retirement is the ability to travel whenever and wherever you want.  However, this freedom also exposes retirees to a wider variety of scams and fraud.  Anyone who is planning to travel during retirement needs to be aware of the most common types of travel scams.  We all need to learn how to minimize our risk and avoid becoming the victims of crooks, so we can truly enjoy our newly discovered freedom.

An article in the April, 2017 AARP Bulletin, titled "Vacationers are Easy Prey for Scammers," explained some of the types of scams which are common and could easily ruin the best planned vacation.  Below is a brief summary of these scams.

Hotel Scams

According to the article, hotels are full of scammers who are lurking around the lobby watching for potential victims.  One of their common tricks is to call your room after you check in, pretending to be the front desk, and ask you to repeat your credit card number and security code number over the phone.  They claim the clerk at the desk wrote it down wrong when you checked in. This is more likely to happen in small or boutique hotels, often in other countries. Do not fall for this trick.  In addition, be sure you use the room safe and interior deadbolt when you are in your room, and take advantage of any other security measures available at the hotel.  Be sure to look through the peep hole before opening the door.  If you are not expecting someone to be at your door and the person does not look like a hotel employee, call the front desk to confirm they are supposed to be there.

The Good Samaritan Scam

In this scenario, someone steals your wallet and then calls your cell phone to tell you they found your wallet and will mail it to your home.  As a result, you do not cancel your credit cards.  However, while you believe you were fortunate that such a good person found your wallet, they are actually crooks who are using your cards, knowing you will not close the accounts because you think the wallet is being mailed back to you.  While there are good people who will return your property if they find it, you would be well-advised to close the credit card accounts, anyway.  This is a good reason to bring only a few credit cards with you on a trip.  You should also make a copy of your cards, including the contact numbers for the card companies.  Keep the copies in a safe place, separate from your wallet.  It will make it much easier to close the accounts if your wallet is missing.

The Phony House Rental or B&B

If you decide to avoid hotels and stay in a rental home or quaint bed and breakfast, make sure you use a legitimate agency and check them out thoroughly.  Call the Better Business Bureau in the U.S. or the local tourist bureau in a foreign country.  Just because the company has a fancy website with gorgeous pictures of beautiful accommodations does not mean the place actually exists.  You could send in your deposit or payment, only to discover that the place does is not real.

Keep Your Distance from Strangers

There are more ways that you could become a victim while on vacation (or even in your own neighborhood). The helpful stranger who offers to retrieve a dropped purse or clean up a spill, may actually be trying to pick your pocket or steal your wallet.  Friendly people standing near an ATM could be looking for an opportunity to watch you input your PIN and, later, steal your debit card.

Someone offering to use your camera or cell phone to take your picture could actually be trying to steal the item.  This last crime makes me particularly sad.  I live near Laguna Beach, where I walk frequently.  I often offer to take photos of tourists who are struggling to get a selfie with their family.  While most locals may be genuinely kind and helpful, it is smart to keep up your guard and not let your cell phone or camera out of your sight.

Unsolicited Emails from Strangers

There are crime groups which send out thousands of emails every day containing special "offers."  They may offer to provide low-cost accommodations, help in obtaining an international driver's license, or other assistance for someone planning a trip.  Always investigate every company you use, especially if you have not used them before.  Sometimes they will have names which sound similar to legitimate companies.  Be very skeptical of unsolicited offers, no matter how good they sound.  In fact, if the deal sounds too-good-to-be-true, it probably is.

Be Careful How You Pay When You Travel

Whenever you are traveling, the least risky way to pay for gas, food and accommodations is with a credit card.  If you pay with a debit card, the money will be taken directly and instantaneously from your bank.  This means it could be more difficult to get your money back if you have been scammed.  If you write a check, they could cash it before you realize you have been scammed.  Be suspicious of any place which does not accept credit cards.

Be Careful, But Have Fun!

If you are cautious and suspicious of strangers and unknown companies, you are more likely to be able to relax and enjoy your vacation.  Just because we Baby Boomers are getting a little older, it does not mean we are easily fooled.  We have the ability to protect ourselves from the crooks who would like to ruin our vacations.

If you would like more information about scams affecting senior citizens, where to retire in the U.S. and abroad, financial planning, 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.

For an overview of retirement planning, watch for my book, Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement, which is being published by Griffin Publishing in 2018.

You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credit:  Laguna Beach photo taken by author

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Margaritaville Retirement Communities

Baby Boomers are putting a new twist on retirement.  One of their musical icons, Jimmy Buffett, is opening a creative type of retirement community, which will be named after his hit song, Margaritaville.  The new retirement communities will be designed to create the laid-back, casual lifestyle which many Baby Boomers desire.  These active adult communities are being built in conjunction with developer Minto Communities.  The first one will be opened in Daytona Beach, Florida, with the sales office opening in fall 2017 and will be named Latitude Margaritaville.  The second one will be built in Hilton Head, South Carolina and is scheduled to have its sales office opened in 2018.  If these are successful, more are likely to follow.

Features at Latitude Margaritaville

Many of the features in this $1 billion neighborhood will be similar to what Baby Boomers have come to expect in similar active adult communities in Florida and other retirement hotspots.  There will be approximately 7,000 homes.  Community amenities will include a spa, lap pools, fitness facilities, retail shops, a band shell for live outdoor entertainment, and a free shuttle to Margaritaville's own private beachfront club.

Residents will be allowed to drive their personal golf carts throughout the community.  This will be a convenient way for them to access some of the Margaritaville themed restaurants, including Cheeseburger in Paradise and the Five O'Clock Somewhere Bar ... the perfect places to look for that "lost shaker of salt."

The idea is to create a fun place to retire.  The developers hint that Jimmy Buffett himself may show up for an occasional concert.

Margaritaville Theme

The idea behind the community is based on Jimmy Buffett's song lyrics.  In case you are not familiar with the song, some of the lines which inspire the community are:

Nibblin' on sponge cake,
Watchin' the sun bake;
All of those tourists covered with oil.
Strummin' my six string on my front porch swing.

I blew out my flip flop,
Stepped on a pop top;
Cut my heel, had to cruise on back home.
But there's booze in the blender,
And soon it will render
That frozen concoction that helps me hang on.

Wasted away again in Margaritaville
Searchin' for my lost shaker of salt.
Some people claim that there's a woman to blame,
But I know, it's my own damn fault.

Home Choices in Latitude Margaritaville

If the song lyrics are not enough to inspire you to want to live there, residents can choose from two and three bedroom house plans which are priced from the low $200,000s to the mid-$300,000s.  All of the styles include dens and garages.  The community promotes their houses by describing them as "your new home in Paradise."

Buyers may want to ask if each home comes with a bottle of tequila and a free blender!  If not, be sure to bring your own along.  You'll fit in just fine.

For more information about Latitude Margaritaville, check out their website and watch a video at:


If you are interested in learning more about other places to retire in the United States or overseas, financial planning, 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 helpful articles.

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

You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credit:  Margaritaville Twitter page.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Be Prepared for Emergencies

Whether you are age 30, 60, or 90, there will be  times during your life when you will be affected by some type of emergency.  It could be an injury, a health setback, an unexpected expense or a natural disaster.  While it is impossible to be prepared for every eventuality, it is important for everyone to plan for the most likely emergencies which could affect us.  Below are a few common types of events which might happen to a retiree, and how to protect yourself.

In addition to the list below, you may want to add to this list emergencies which could be common in your specific family or community ... such as early coronary events in your family, or neighborhood flooding during times of heavy rain.

Financial Disasters

According to Investopedia, in 2016 people in their 60s had a median savings account of about $172,000.  This means that half of all retirees had less than that ... many of them much less.  If you are living off Social Security, plus additional income based on dividends or interest on your savings, you do not want to spend the principal in order to purchase a new car, buy a hot water heater, replace a roof, or pay the deductible for surgery or other medical treatments.  The obvious solution is for everyone to save as much as possible prior to retirement and designate a portion of that savings as an emergency fund which you do not depend on to cover your essential living expenses.

In addition, you may want to discuss with your financial planner or investment advisor whether your money is invested conservatively enough to be protected, in the event of a drop in the stock market or other major financial reversal.


According to the National Council on Aging, about one in four people over the age of 65 falls each year.  Falls are the most common cause of fatal injuries and are a common cause of hospital admissions.  Keeping your body strong and getting regular exercise is the first line of defense in preventing falls.  Everyone should make sure their homes are well-lit and contain no loose rugs or other items which could cause you to trip.

You may also want to purchase a medical alert device, especially if you live alone.  You wear them like a pendant or bracelet and use them to quickly contact an agent who can call an ambulance, neighbor or relative for you, in the event of a fall.

You should also talk to your doctor if your blood pressure medicine or other medications make you feel light-headed or dizzy.  They may be able to change your prescription.

House Fires

According to FEMA, older Americans are much more likely to die in a house fire than younger adults. If you have trouble hearing, take sleeping medications, or have difficulty getting out of bed by yourself, you have an especially elevated risk of dying in a house fire.  Make sure your home is equipped with plenty of very loud smoke and fire detectors, as well as a carbon monoxide detector.  Change the batteries frequently, at least every six months.

Install nightlights in your home and plug them into outlets near the floor, so they can guide you to an exit. The air is clearer near the floor, so crawl out if you have trouble finding your way.  Be sure some of your nightlights have a battery backup, in case the electricity goes out.  Sleep with your bedroom door closed so you do not succumb to smoke inhalation if a fire starts in another room.  Check to see if you can get outside to safety from a bedroom window if the fire is burning between you and an outside door.

Natural Disasters

If you live independently, you need to be prepared to handle any natural disaster which could affect you.  Depending on where you live, that could include hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, blizzards, earthquakes or wildfires.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says on their website that "being prepared can reduce fear, anxiety, and losses that accompany disasters."

Because you may move a little slower as you age, it would be wise to prepare a "get away" bag that contains some emergency cash, a change of clothes, a two-week supply of your medications, copies of your insurance documents, a list of important phone numbers and any other important items you will want to have ready if you ever have to hop in the car and leave quickly. Put paperwork and medications in waterproof plastic bags. If you have a back-up pair of glasses or an extra hearing aid, put those items in your bag, too. You may also want to include a flashlight, battery operated radio, small first-aid kit, photo id, and copies of items such as your birth certificate, Social Security card, Medicare card, etc.

Make sure the bag is not too heavy for you to lift by yourself.  If it is, get someone to help you put it in your car, where you can easily reach it and transport it to an emergency shelter, if you are evacuated.

Homeland Security has an online booklet called 30 Tips for Emergency Preparedness.  Print it out, read it, and keep a copy in your bag.  In a true emergency, you may have trouble remembering what you should do.

Make sure your bag is large enough for you to toss in any last minute items you may want to grab as you run out the door ... a tablet computer, phone charger, new medication, wallet, pet food, or similar items you may want to add, if you have time.  Some people have two bags ... one conveniently stored in their home and one they keep in their auto at all times.

In the event the disaster cuts you off from roads and outside help for a few days (for example, if the roads are flooded), you may also want to keep emergency supplies of food and water in your home.  A battery operated cell phone charger could also help you stay in touch with the outside world.  If you have a pet, make sure you have provisions for them, as well.

More Emergency Considerations

Depending on your health condition or other problems, you may also have to prepare for emergencies which are unique to you and your family.  We all have a tendency to tell ourselves that "someday" we will put together emergency supplies, save more money, or think about what to do in the event of a disaster.  Do not wait.  Do it now and you can relax knowing that, while you cannot possibly prepare for every eventuality, you will have done everything you can to protect yourself, your spouse, other family members, and your pets in an emergency.

If you are interested in learning more about how to prepare for common problems 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.

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

You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credit:  morguefile.com 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

How to Live Longer - Add Years to Your Life!

No one knows how long they will live.  There are no guarantees that anything you do will absolutely assure you will live to be 100 years old. However, research indicates your genetics account for only about 25 percent of your longevity.  The rest is up to you.  There are definite actions you can take which make it much more likely you will add years to your life.

In an article called "50 Great Ways to Live Longer" published in the March, 2017 issue of the AARP Bulletin, scientific and government studies helped them compile a list of proven tips for increasing the length of your life.  Not all of the AARP suggestions are listed in this post.  When I read the list, some of their tips seemed to correlate to a longer life, but may not have been the cause of it.  For example, there is a correlation between living in California, New York or Vermont and having a longer life, especially if you have a low income.  Conversely, if you live in Nevada, Indiana or Oklahoma, your life expectancy could be much lower.  However, that does not mean your state of residence is actually the cause of why some people live longer than others.  Individuals can live either a long life or short life in any state, depending on their personal lifestyle.

While there are no guarantees in life, it is still worthwhile to follow the suggestions listed below.  They are based on scientific research and could make a tremendous difference in the length of your life, as well as how much you enjoy living those extra years.

Tips for a Longer Life

1.  Take Extra Vitamin D - The amount should be based on a blood test, but Vitamin D deficiency can contribute to a variety of health problems which you can easily avoid.

2.  Avoid painkillers - Only take the minimum amount or eliminate them completely.  This includes both prescription and over-the-counter painkillers.

3.  Get at least six hours of sleep a night - It will cut your risk of heart disease and strokes.  Try to get seven or eight hours of sleep, if possible.  It will make your health and life better in a number of ways.  It may even make it easier to maintain a healthy weight.

4.  Have frequent sex - It has been shown to not only increase the length of your life, but your enjoyment, as well. 

5.  Get married - Married people, especially men, have a lower risk of heart disease.  Of course, if you are in an abusive or miserable marriage, this suggestion may not work for you.

6.  Eat a healthy diet - Research shows the right diet for longevity includes fully ripened fruit, coffee, green tea, vegetables, whole grains, whole milk, olive oil, fish, nuts, spices and plenty of water.  You should also reduce your consumption of added sugar and alcohol.  While you're at it, take care to prevent food poisoning when preparing your meals.  Keep your work surfaces clean, separate meat and vegetables, wash your hands and refrigerate ingredients which could spoil.

7. Find a purpose in life - You may find your purpose in volunteer activities, helping your family, attending religious services or becoming involved in anything else which is meaningful to you.  Having a purpose can add years to your life; it can also make you look forward to getting up each day.

8.  Lead a generally healthy life - We have all heard most of it before. Stop smoking, lose weight, exercise daily (including walking and climbing stairs, if you can), read books, get a flu shot and find a woman doctor (statistically, they have better outcomes).  In addition, monitor your own health and see your doctor if any aspect of your health changes, such as unexpected weight-loss, unusual fatigue, bleeding, or changes to the skin.

9.  Fill your life with friends and love - Socialize frequently with friends, get a pet, spend time with the grandkids, and forgive your family for past hurts.

10.  Practice safety - There is no point to eating right if you die from an accident.  Accept the fact that auto accidents are higher for people over the age of 70 and are exceptionally high for those over 85.  Among the safety steps you should take are:  drive less as you age, avoid distractions while you are behind the wheel, be careful walking across a street (even in crosswalks), make sure your home has fire and radon detectors, and remove anything in your house, such as rugs, which could contribute to a fall. Do not store items on high shelves where you would be tempted to stand on a chair or stool to reach them.

If you follow the steps above, you are much more likely to live a long life.  In addition, your quality of life is likely to be better.  That alone makes these suggestions worthwhile.

Are you interested in more information about common medical issues as you age, where to retire, financial planning, 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.

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

You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credit:  morguefile.com