Saturday, December 26, 2020

2020 Taught Us Resilience - Finding the Good in a Tragic Year

There is no question that 2020 has been one of the most unusual and challenging years in our lifetime.  While most Baby Boomers are old enough to have suffered through a variety of setbacks, difficulties, family deaths, medical problems, and other issues during their lifetimes, we have not been immune to the added burden of living through the unexpected 2020 pandemic and the resulting financial stress.

Millions of people lost jobs in 2020. Some lost their businesses. Others lost family members, either to Covid-19 or another illness. To make matters worse, 2020 was also politically very divisive, with hotly contested national and local elections. People were stressed, lonely, worried about money, and concerned about our nation.

So, bearing in mind all the difficulties we have experienced as a nation, how can we end the year by putting a positive spin on things?

Most of us survived! First, of course, is the fact that those of you who are reading this have survived one of the bleakest periods of time we have experienced in our lifetimes. You may feel beaten and scarred.  You may be worn out, sad over the loss of loved ones, and in financial pain. However, we all have reason to hope that the worse is behind us or will soon be behind us as the vaccine begins to roll out for more people. When we feel ready, we will be able to move forward, start to rebuild our lives, and pray for a brighter future.

We have learned to be grateful for the things we have - Over and over, especially around Thanksgiving and Christmas, I heard people giving thanks for the simple things in life ... food, a roof over our heads, and people we care about, whether we have been able to see them in person or not.  I also heard people say they were grateful for the problems they did not have.  So many have suffered so much, nearly all of us can acknowledge that there are people we know who have had it much worse than we have.

We have learned to appreciate our friends and family - While staying at home for months at a time, many of us really looked forward to phone calls, letters, emails, greeting cards and Zoom meetings with friends, family, book clubs and other groups.  Outdoor picnics, family dinners and religious services became the few times we saw anyone in person, other than the people we live with.  Taking a walk and chatting, while wearing a face mask and standing six feet from our neighbors became the new norm, and we adjusted to it well.

We have been able to laugh at the absurdities of 2020 - As stressful as 2020 has been, many of us found humor in some of its more absurd memories. How many of us hoarded toilet paper, cut our own hair, gave up wearing makeup, and had fun shopping for the craziest face mask? My husband bought one that made him look like he was sticking his tongue out at other people. All our grandchildren chose fun face masks ranging from puppy noses to skeleton faces. We read 2020 jokes and memes almost daily, and we were able to laugh through the pain.  What a gift! 

If you have been slow to find a way to see things in a more positive way, you might it helpful to read the Dan Harris book "10% Happier:  How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works -- a True Story."  (Ad) It could help you find ways to be happier, too. 

Covid-19 gave us the perfect excuse to get out of unwanted social engagements - On the other had, we all have those obligatory social commitments we dread, and Covid-19 gave us the perfect excuse to not attend.  For one year, we were able to avoid those awkward visits with relatives, unwanted house guests, and required social events.

Vaccines are on the way - While we may be able to see some positive things from 2020, the truth is that most of us are happy to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Vaccines are on the way.  A few people have already received their first vaccine shot. While it will take months before the doses have been distributed and the majority of people have been vaccinated, it is a relief to know that there is reason to hope that the end of the pandemic is in sight.

Finally, 2020 is over!  For those of us who were able to get through the year, most of us can look forward to a better life in 2021. While it is unlikely that any of us will soon forget the events of 2020, and the impact the year had on our life, at least we can put this year behind us ... and that is a relief!

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

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Saturday, December 19, 2020

Top Retirement Posts in 2020 - What Concerned Baby Boomers the Most?

Every December, one of my final articles on this blog is a summary of the posts which engaged our readers the most during the year.  The topics which are of most interest change from year to year, and this annual report reflects what was on the minds of the majority of our readers in 2020. 

Considering that 2020 was a particularly unusual year, it should come as no surprise that Covid-19 weighed heavily on the minds of all Americans, not just Baby-Boomers.  Consequently, seven of the top ten articles from 2020 dealt with Covid-19 in some way.  In preceding years, articles about dementia attracted the most attention on the Baby-Boomer-Retirement blog.

During 2020, in addition to posts about Covid-19, the remaining popular articles dealt with Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and when to use do-it-yourself programs to write your own will. (Ad) Below is the list of the top ten articles from 2020 on the Baby-Boomer-Retirement blog, with links to each of them, so you can read them easily.


Covid-19 will Lower Social Security Benefits for People Born in 1960 - This was the #1 article on this blog during 2020 because it dealt with both Covid-19 and the effect it will have on Social Security benefits for nearly everyone. In particular, it explains why Covid-19 will seriously reduce the benefits of people born in 1960.  A significant number of older workers lost their jobs this year, and some were forced into early retirement, requiring them to take their Social Security benefits years earlier than they planned.  Some workers chose to retire early because they were afraid to go back to work during the pandemic. Both these events are likely to affect their retirement income for the rest of their lives. What most of us did not know, however, is that people who happened to be born in 1960 are are going to be affected more than everyone else.  This is because of the way Social Security benefits are calculated.  Whether or not you were born in 1960, you will want to read this article. 

Doctor Visits and Covid-19: Dealing with Medical Appointments - Americans of all ages have been concerned about whether or not it is wise to get routine medical treatments during the Covid-19 pandemic.  Should you go to the doctor's office or try to handle everything over the phone or during a video chat?  What should you do about routine physical examinations, getting your teeth cleaned, or emergency healthcare?  How should you handle a change in your health, such as heart palpitations, difficulty breathing, an unusual rash, sudden exhaustion or weakness?  This article will help answer those questions.

In-Home Caregivers and Covid-19: Why Your Caregiver Should Continue to Come -  This was a guest post by Kelsey Simpson of Comfort Keepers.  She explained why it is important for people who need a caregiver to continue to allow them to visit their homes.  The risk of living without the care you need could be more dangerous than your risk of getting Covid-19 from a careful caregiver who follows the recommended Covid protocols. 

Do-It-Yourself Wills - The Pros and Cons - This post was written in January, 2020, before we knew that Covid-19 was beginning to enter our country. Once the pandemic was recognized, the article grew even more popular, as a wide variety of people, including younger adults, began to think about writing a will.  This is an important topic, because roughly 60% of American adults do not have a will. With thousands of people dying every day just from from Covid-19 alone, it has made everyone more aware of the importance of letting others know how they want their property distributed, if they should die.  It is a grim topic, but an important one.

Insulin Co-pays Capped at $35 for Medicare Beneficiaries in 2021 - What You Need to Know -  This was a guest post written by our Medicare expert, Danielle Kunkle Roberts.  It explains why diabetics need to make sure they have one of the new Medicare plans for 2021 so they they can take advantage of the special, lower co-pays for insulin. Anyone who is diabetic or pre-diabetic, and is at risk of becoming insulin dependent, should contact an insurance broker, and make sure they enroll in an appropriate plan.

Beware Coronavirus Scams - Fraud is Increasing! -  This was a heartbreaking article to write. The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has caused businesses to close and people to be laid-off. As a result, many Americans are in a tough financial situation.  Millions of people are unemployed and some of them have had difficulty claiming their benefits.  Impoverished people are becoming desperate and, as a result, more and more of them are falling for ruthless scams, often costing them what little money they have left. This article goes into detail about the specific scams you need to avoid. 

Covid-19: Older Workers and Retirees can Lower their Financial, Emotional and Physical Risk - This article investigates the Covid-19 issues which have created problems unique to older Americans, with suggestions on how to mitigate those issues, when possible. No matter what effect Covid has had on you and your family, this article will be helpful. 

Covid-19 and other Infectious Diseases: How to Lower Your Risk - This article contains practical suggestions on how to reduce your risk of getting Covid-19, as well as other infectious diseases such as pneumonia, influenza, norovirus, meningitis, tuberculosis, MRSA, strep throat and the common cold.  The good news is that many of the same behaviors which will protect people from Covid-19 will also protect them from other diseases. The more we adopt these behaviors, the healthier we will be!

Covid-19: Avoid People You Love - You Could be Contagious and Not Know It - While the last article explained the steps we can take to protect ourselves from infectious diseases like Covid-19, this article explains how to protect other people, especially the people we love.  While it has been hard to keep our distance from loved ones who do not live in our homes, staying away right not could be one of the most loving things you could do. 

Medicare vs. Medicaid - Different Government Programs - People are often confused about our federal Medicare and Medicaid programs.  While both provide healthcare to their beneficiaries, the requirements are different.   This article explains the programs, as well as their similarities and differences.  If you are confused about Medicare (who isn't?), you may be interested in reading the new book by this blog's Medicare expert. It is titled, "10 Costly Medicare Mistakes You Can't Afford to Make."  (Ad) It could save you a lot of money and frustration.

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

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Photo credits: Screenshot of Baby-Boomer-Retirement blog

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Why Family Caregivers Reject Help and How to Help Them Anyway

At some point in our lives, we may become a caregiver for another family member, or we may know someone else who is a caregiver.  The work can be overwhelming and exhausting.  A family caregiver may be "on call" 24-hours a day, seven days a week.  The work can be physically demanding, depending on how much assistance the patient needs.  In the case of caring for someone with dementia or Alzheimer's Disease, it can be all-consuming to make sure they do not wander away or accidentally hurt themselves.

Surprisingly, family caregivers often reject help when it is offered to them.  Whether it is a relative who offers to give them a break for a weekend, or a local nursing home or adult day care center which offers temporary respite care, the caregiver may refuse to even consider using the available help.

Unfortunately, refusing to accept assistance can put the caregiver's own life at risk.  People who care for family members who are chronically ill tend to die four to eight years sooner than they would have without this added responsibility.  In fact, sometimes they die before the family member they have been caring for.

Why do caregivers die sooner than expected?  Stress is a major factor in heart disease, strokes and cancer, and being a caregiver can be extremely stressful.  In addition, the caregiver is typically the person who must leave the home to do the shopping or handle other business.  This makes them more vulnerable to catching Covid-19 or other contagious diseases.  Being a caregiver is a high risk occupation.

If you are concerned about a family caregiver, how can you help them?  You may want to start by understanding why the caregiver resists getting help, and by learning everything you can about their situation.  It could also be helpful to read a book such as "When Caregiving Calls: Guidance as You Care for a Parent, Spouse or Aging Relative." (Ad)  If you become more knowledgeable about how to take some of the burden from them, they may be more willing to accept your help..

Why Caregivers Resist Getting Help and How to Solve the Problem

Protecting the Patient - The caregiver may believe that leaving the patient with someone else could put the patient in danger.  As a result, they are reluctant to leave them, even with a friend or family member, unless the other person seems completely capable of handling any situation which could arise. If you sincerely want to help, you may be able to overcome this objection by offering to "shadow" the caregiver for a few days, learning everything you can about the patient's medical condition, and winning the confidence of the primary caregiver. Gaining all the knowledge and experience you can will help them feel more relaxed when you offer to take over for a few days or even just a few hours.

The Caregiver May Feel Guilty - Some people, especially older couples in long marriages, or parents of an ill child, may feel that it is their sole responsibility to be the caregiver. They may feel they signed up to take care of this person no matter what happens, so they may feel guilty leaving them with someone else.  It might help to have them talk about their guilt with a therapist or family clergyman.  It could also help if you can explain to them that their loved one could actually benefit from the stimulus of being with others or going to adult day care a few times a week.  The patient may become bored with the same routine day after day, which can actually worsen their condition.  A little variety could cheer them up.

The Caregiver and the Patient May Both Fear Having Strangers in the Home -  We have all heard horrible stories about paid healthcare aides who physically or mentally abused their patients or stole from them.  Even though these situations are very rare, the fear can be real.  As a result of these stories, both the patient and the caregiver may be extremely uncomfortable about letting someone else help, especially a paid home health aide or other stranger.  The caregiver may also believe that a paid healthcare aide will not be able to handle an emergency. If anything goes wrong, for example if the patient has a seizure, the family caregiver may be consumed with guilt over leaving their loved one with someone else. This may be true even though the event could have happened regardless of who was there. It may be possible to reassure a family caregiver by asking the healthcare aide or other assistant to start by just helping out for short periods of time.  It might also reassure them if the aide only works under the supervision of the primary caregiver, who can use the time when the aide is in the home to do other things, such as rest, work in their garden, putter in the kitchen or work on their favorite hobby.  

They May Prefer their Privacy - It can be very uncomfortable for either a patient or their family to have home health aides, friends, or relatives in their home all day long.  Instead of making them feel more relaxed, they may feel more stressed, believing they need to entertain or talk to these other people all day.  It could be easier if the caregiver takes advantage of a little free time by leaving the house, visiting friends, going shopping, or simply retreating to their bedroom and taking a restorative nap.  Someone who is trying to give a family caregiver a little time off should encourage the primary caregiver to use the time to do whatever they want or need to do, and not feel obligated to treat the helper as a guest. The paid healthcare aide or helper should also ask the patient whether or not they want to talk or do anything.  The patient may welcome a new visitor who is willing to listen to their stories or play a card game, or they may just want to be left alone, depending on the circumstances.  Honor their preference, if at all possible.

Pride May Be Standing in The Caregiver's Way - Some caregivers are proud of the fact that they have always been able to manage things on their own, without help.  Now, it may feel like a loss if they suddenly feel dependent on others to help them.  You might remind them that they are helping other family members when they give them the opportunity to help take care of their loved one and spend some quality time with them.  

If you want to assist a caregiver in your family, or if you are the family caregiver, you may find encouragement in the book, "The Conscious Caregiver: A Mindful Approach to Caring for Your Loved One Without Losing Yourself."  (Ad)  This book could also give you some great suggestions for ways caregivers can take better care of themselves.

The Cost of Paid Help May Seem Unaffordable - Getting outside help, either in the form of a paid home health aide or at an adult day care center, can be expensive.  However, in certain situations Medicare, Medicaid or the Veteran's Administration may cover the cost of temporary help. In some communities, the charge for adult day care is based on the family's income and the cost is charged on a sliding fee scale. If the patient is near the end of their life, hospice care is usually free and is covered by Medicare. Friends and relatives can help the caregiver explore the various programs and find out what different levels of assistance might cost and how they could pay for it. Other family members may even want to help out financially with the cost. For example, an adult child living in another city might offer to pay for adult day care one or two days a week, which could take a huge strain off the caregiver.  

If you truly want to give a break to a caregiver, despite their resistance, you have a variety of options.  You just have to let them know you are sincere in your desire to help, you are capable of providing the assistance they need, and everyone will benefit from the new arrangement. It may take a little time to break down the caregiver's resistance, but don't give up.  It could literally save the caregiver's life.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

If you are interested in reading more about common medical issues as we age, where to retire, 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.

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Saturday, December 5, 2020

Health, Life and Disability Insurance - What Do You Need and Why Do You Need It?

There are so many types of insurance we can buy that it can be confusing and overwhelming.  Obviously, most of us cannot afford to have every type of possible insurance, but we can benefit by carefully weighing our choices and deciding which ones we are most likely to need.  In some cases, such as disability insurance during our working years, we may hope we never need it, but the knowledge that we have it can bring us peace of mind.

Recently, the writer of a website that helps businesses comply with disability insurance requirements, sent me a list of questions she is frequently asked.  She thought that my blog might be a better site for answering those questions, and she even sent me links to articles which she believed would help answer the questions.  After reading her list, I agreed these are important issues which people need to understand.  As a result, I thought I would briefly give my readers an overview of different types of insurance they want to consider, whether they are near retirement or not.

I also highly recommend that you discuss different types of policy with your insurance agent, get quotes, and decide which ones are within your budget and are important to you.

You may find it useful to read a little about the insurance you are considering, from an unbiased source, before you talk to your agent.  A good choice is "Insurance for Dummies."  (Ad) This inexpensive and easy-to-read book covers all kinds of insurance, including auto, homeowners and renter's insurance, as well as the policies listed below.  It could help you avoid costly mistakes and the purchase of unnecessary insurance.

Common questions about different type of insurance

What is the Difference Between Burial Insurance, Life Insurance, and Funeral 

If you are like many people in my retirement community, you are bombarded with ads for a variety of types of insurance, including small insurance policies to cover the cost of your burial, accidental death insurance (which only covers you if you die of an accident, not as a result of an illness), and regular life insurance, which covers you regardless of how you die and allows you to use the proceeds for whatever reason your heirs wish, including paying for your burial.  What you need depends on a variety of circumstances.  If you have no heirs, for example, you may just want burial or funeral insurance (or you may want to skip the insurance and pre-plan your funeral). 
If you want to make sure a spouse or your children are taken care of after you die, then a regular life insurance policy would be a better option. The amount of life insurance you need will depend on your current and anticipated future income, which you are trying to replace.  You should also consider your current debt, which you would not want to pass on to a widowed spouse. There are two types of life insurance ... term and whole life.  Term is more affordable, but has an expiration date. When you replace it, the cost is likely to be much higher. You should discuss with your insurance agent which type you should buy, how long you will need the policy, and what you can afford.  You can learn more about the differences between the types of policies in this article:

Why You Should Get Health Insurance

Some people, especially those who are young, single and on a tight budget, may believe they do not need to buy health insurance. They may assume that they are so healthy, they are unlikely to get sick.  They do not expect to be injured, either.  As a result, they may neglect to get health insurance.  However, there are many programs which can help low income people pay for their health insurance and, by having insurance, they could save a great deal of money in the future if they do become injured or get ill. None of us know when we may be unexpectedly hospitalized, and no one wants their credit ruined by enormous, unaffordable medical bills.  The two articles below will help you understand the advantages of having health insurance.

Will My Health Insurance Cover a Retirement Home or Assisted Living?

A lot of people assume that if they have health insurance or Medicare, they will be covered in the event they need to move to a retirement home or into an assisted living facility.  This is NOT true.  While some health insurance policies and Medicare will pay for a short stay in a medically necessary skilled nursing or rehab facility, none of them will pay for someone to live permanently in a retirement home, or assisted living facility.  You can learn more about this in the article below. In addition, be sure you read the answer to the next question.

Should I Get Long-Term Care Insurance?

The answer to whether or not you need Long-Term Care Insurance is, "It depends."  That is not a very specific answer, but everyone's situation is different.  Here are some of the things you need to consider:
If you are wealthy or have a high retirement income, and can afford to pay out-of-pocket for caregivers or an extended stay in a skilled nursing facility, there is probably no reason to buy this insurance, unless you want it to protect your assets.  
The middle class are the people who are most at risk of financial ruin from a long stay in a nursing home. This is especially true if they have savings, a business, or other assets which they want to protect. With a cost of $6000 or more a month to pay for a skilled nursing home, you can use up your assets very quickly.  Consequently, these are the people who are most likely to benefit from Long-Term Care Insurance.  It is also possible to solve two problems at once, by purchasing a life insurance policy which can be converted to long-term care insurance, if you need it.  Then, if you never need long-term care, your heirs will get the benefit of the insurance.  If you do need long-term care, you will not have to spend your assets down in order to cover the cost.
Ironically, if you have a very low income and have few assets other than your home,  Medicaid may cover the cost of medically necessary long-term care, after you or Medicare have paid for the first few months of care. The rules for getting Medicaid to cover your long-term care are complicated, so it is wise to learn all you can about long-term care, Medicaid, and nursing home care.  The article below will help you, but you will also want to learn as much as you can about Medicaid, how to qualify, and how to apply.  There is actually a book available on this specific topic with the very long name:  "How to get Medicaid to pay for ALL or some of Your Long-Term Care Expenses without having to wait 5 years, without having to sell your house, and without going broke first." (Ad)  As I said, a very long title, but the book contains some very important information for people who are trying to decide if Medicaid will cover the long-term care expenses of a loved one.
Requirements for Long Term Medicaid Disability:

Do You Need Disability Insurance?

A few years ago, one of our daughters, a school teacher who was in her 30s at the time, developed a health issue which required her to stay home from work for several months.  She quickly used up her vacation time and sick leave.  Fortunately, only the year before she had purchased disability insurance.  It enabled her to continue to get almost her full paycheck, while she recuperated.  She was so thankful she had purchased that policy.  Like many young adults, it never occurred to her that disability insurance was not already included in the deductions taken from her paycheck.  It also had not occurred to her that anything might happen which would require her to miss work for any length of time. She was glad she went ahead and added this insurance, despite not thinking she would ever use it.
It may be worth it for every working person to confirm whether or not they are covered by disability insurance and, if not, find out how they can obtain it.  The premiums are typically quite low, and it can bring real financial security to someone in the event of a serious accident or health issue.   You can learn more in the article below.

What types of insurance do you need?  As you probably already realize, virtually everyone should have auto, health and either renters or homeowners insurance.  But what about other types of policies?  The need varies from person to person.  Take a little time to explore your options, learn as much as you can about insurance, and take action to make sure you utilize insurance as part of your plan to meet the future needs of you and your family.

Don't forget that you may want to read a little about the insurance you are considering, from an unbiased source, before you talk to an agent.  I recommend "Insurance for Dummies."  (Ad) It is an inexpensive and easy-to-read book which covers all kinds of insurance, including auto, homeowners and renter's insurance, as well as the policies mentioned in this article.  The authors are not trying to sell you insurance, but they are trying to help you learn how to use it to avoid unnecessary expenses.

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

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Photo credit:  Pixabay

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Pensions and Lottery Winnings: Lump Sum or Monthly Payments - Which is better?

Many companies offer their employees a choice when they retire. They can either take the pension they have earned as a lump sum or as a monthly income for the rest of their life.  Whichever decision you make can have a significant effect on your future.  Unfortunately, employees often have very little time to decide, and the decision is usually irrevocable.  

People in other situations often face a similar dilemma.  What if you win a large sweepstakes prize or hit the lottery?  Should you take all the money in a lump sum, or take it in monthly or annual payments?  

Often the temptation is to take all your money at once and invest it however you wish.  However, do you know what the tax implications of that decision might be?  What if you make poor investment decisions?  What if you use the money to start your own business, and it fails?  What if you suddenly get unexpected requests for financial aide from everyone you know?  What happens then?

One the other hand, what if you take the pension or cash prize in payments for the rest of your life, and then die a year later?  What would happen to your money, then?

Whether you are trying to decide how to handle a pension you earned, or a lottery you won, you need to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of whichever choice you make.  The recommendations below, based on an article in the Money section of the September 2020 AARP Bulletin, may help you weigh your options.  

When a Lump Sum Payout is Best

* If your private employer is financially weak and not part of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., it is probably a smart idea to take the cash as a lump sum.  Religious organizations are examples of employers who often are not part of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.  If your employer closes down over the years, or cannot afford the promised pension, they may default on their pension payments.  

*  If you have a history of being a successful investor, or if you have a trusted financial advisor, you may be able to handle the lump sum well on your own.  However, do not let a financial advisor pressure you into taking a lump sum so he can speculate with it.  If he promises that you could "make a killing," or if he "guarantees" he can make you a lot of money, you should be skeptical.  No one can guarantee that your investments will always do well.

*  Take the lump sum if you already know you will have a sufficient monthly retirement income from other sources, and you want to use the lump sum to pursue other goals, such as helping your children pay off student loans or putting a down payment on a house.  However, do not become too generous with the money unless you are absolutely sure that your own retirement needs will be fully taken care of for 20 to 30 years.

*  Take a lump sum if you are confident you can be discreet with the money and not attract the kind of attention which will cause scammers and casual friends to suddenly show up and "desperately" need your help.  Are you capable of maintaining a quiet, private lifestyle and turn down frequent requests for money and gifts?

*  Take a lump sum if you have reason to believe you will not live long, or if you are unable to choose a beneficiary who will receive the money should something happen to you.

When Monthly Pension Payments are Best

*  According to the National Endowment for Financial Education, about 70 percent of lottery winners lose ALL their windfall within a short time, in some cases within a few weeks.  If you want to make sure you will still be able to enjoy your earned pension or lottery winnings for the rest of your life, then it is a smart idea to take monthly payments.  Then it will be almost impossible for you to spend all the money too quickly, leaving you penniless.

*  If you are financially undisciplined, it is probably better to take monthly payments.  This will prevent you from quickly giving away all the money to your friends and family, leaving yourself with nothing.  It will also prevent you from splurging on expensive homes, cars, boats, jewelry and trips, spending, spending, spending until you are out of money.  It takes discipline to handle a large sum of money responsibly, without quickly going through it all.

*  If you are worried about how to handle the money so it will last the rest of your life, then it may be best to simply take the monthly payments.  If you are anxious about how to say "no" to demanding relatives, then you will feel much less stress if you can tell them, "I'm sorry, but I only receive a small amount of money each month."  They will stop thinking of you as a potential bank!  Even when you choose to give them a little financial help, the amount you can offer will be substantially less.

*  If you are not a sophisticated investor and could easily fall victim to smooth talking friends and acquaintances who have lots of great "investment" ideas, then you may be better off taking the money in monthly payments.  Then you will always know you will have this income, without putting it at risk.

*  If the payor of the monthly payments is reliable and dependable, such as the state lottery, Publisher's Clearinghouse, or an insured pension plan, then taking monthly payments could be a good choice.   It is better to have a dependable monthly payment from an organization where the money is guaranteed, than hope to get a similar return from your own investments, which would not have a guaranteed return.

Whichever decision you make, it is wise to first discuss your choices with an attorney and a tax expert.  They can help you determine which choice is better, and whether you should set up a family trust to accept and distribute the money, who should get the distributions if something happens to you, and what the tax implications would be.  This is especially true if you are getting a particularly large sum of money. 

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

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Photo credits:  Pixabay/Kahll

Saturday, November 21, 2020

The Low Acid Diet for GERD, Inflammation and Your Overall Health

Do you suffer from acid reflux, heartburn or GERD?  Is your throat hoarse or do you cough frequently?  Do you ever get an uncomfortable lump in your throat or have occasional trouble swallowing?  You may be suffering from excess acid in your diet, and if the problem is left untreated you could end up with esophageal cancer or other serious health conditions.  It is even possible that excess acid in your diet and the resulting chronic inflammation which it can cause may contribute to Alzheimer's Disease, heart disease or diabetes.

Millions of Americans suffer from the symptoms of too much acid in their diet.  They often respond to their discomfort by using antacids, and these over-the-counter medications can temporarily mask the problem.  However, antacids do not necessarily heal the damaged esophagus, nor do they prevent the underlying problem.  Only changing the diet to a less acidic one can permanently cure the problem.  It is even possible to get relief by just changing to a low-acid diet for as little as 28 days.

Solving the Problem of Stomach Acid

According to Dr. Jonathan Aviv,  the Clinical Director of the Voice and Swallowing Center, who has researched this issue extensively, there are certain foods which you should avoid and, conversely, other foods which you should choose in order to lower your consumption of acid. 

You can get a detailed explanation of the problems caused by a high acid diet, as well as the best foods to eat, helpful menus, and more in Aviv's book, "The Acid Watcher Diet: A 28-Day Reflux Prevention and Healing Program."(Ad)

In his book, Dr. Aviv recommends following a strict healing diet for 28 days, followed by a less restrictive eating plan once you have healed the delicate tissues in the esophagus and other parts of your digestive system.

Getting Started on the Acid Watcher's Diet

People who are affected by stomach acid need to avoid:

Carbonated sugary drinks

During the initial 28 days of the diet, you will also want to avoid:

All carbonated beverages
Raw Onions
Raw Garlic
Other high acid foods

Choose to Eat more foods with a pH of 5 or higher such as:

Lean animal proteins
Whole grains
High pH fruits and vegetables
Aromatic herbs and spices

Eventually you will be able to add back some foods such as:

Some alcoholic beverages, such as potato or corn based vodka
Cooked garlic and onions
Select dairy products
Apples and peppers
Occasional sliver of dark chocolate

What Are the Potential Benefits of the Low Acid Diet?

Higher energy
Less bloating
Weight loss
Less indigestion and heartburn
Less phlegm in the throat
Less inflammation 

How to Get More Details

If you are concerned about the amount of acid in your diet and the damage it is causing your health, you will want to read Dr. Aviv's book "The Acid Watcher Diet: A 28-Day Reflux Prevention and Healing Program." (Ad)  It explains why there has been an increase in the amount of acid in our food since the 1980s and how to reduce it in our current diets.

The book also contains food lists, menus, and recipes to help you eat a diet which will reduce the amount of acid you consume.  After just four weeks, you could feel better and be healthier.

Benefits of Eating a Low Acid Diet

At first you may think that changing your diet is too much trouble. You may believe you can just live with your indigestion and eat what you want.  However, are you willing to suffer all the future consequences of that decision?

Eating a high acid diet can cause more than indigestion.  It can lead to esophageal cancer, throat burn, heartburn, bloating and irritable bowel syndrome. It can also cause chronic inflammation which has been linked to a wide variety of disorders, including Alzheimer's disease, heart attacks, psoriasis and diabetes.

Regardless of what health problem you may be experiencing, you have nothing to lose and, possibly, a great deal to gain by giving the low acid diet a try for a few weeks, at least. 
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Saturday, November 14, 2020

Retirement Resources for Baby Boomers - Where to Find the Information You Need

Occasionally, I come across helpful resources for people who are retired or are planning to retire.  Sometimes these resources are websites or organizations which I refer to when writing posts for this blog.  Since it would be impossible to write a post about every potential resource available, I thought it would be helpful to include a resource page on this blog for my readers who are seeking more information on a topic of interest to them. 

From time to time, as I discover new resources, I will add to this list.  People often send me links to their websites, or ask me to share links to books and articles they have written or agencies they represent. Sometimes they ask me to share articles they found helpful.  If I review the information and believe it adds a unique, helpful resource, without a bunch of ads, I may include it.

To the best of my ability, I will include links and information which appear to be worthwhile.  If you discover one which is out-of-date, or no longer useful, please let me know in the comments section so I can delete it and, when possible, replace it with a better one.  If you know of additional resources you believe should be shared, please add the information in the comments section, along with your explanation of why it would benefit other retirees.  However, I do not wish to advertise specific brands or products.

Resources Which Retirees and Future Retirees May Find Helpful

General Retirement Information - This organization represents the interests of retirees, whether you join the AARP or not.  They lobby the U.S. government for better Social Security, Medicare and retirement plans.  Members also receive their magazine and a bulletin, with a wealth of current information. In addition, members are eligible to get discounts for hotels, car rentals and other products.  AARP also sells their own line of Medicare Advantage and Supplement plans, but I recommend people do their own research in this area. - This blog has been ranked by Feedspot as one of the top 50 retirement blogs in the world.  It is a type of "reader's digest" of useful information for retirees and people planning their retirement, relying on information from a wide variety of sources.  It often provides brief summaries of much longer articles from other sources, and also includes original posts written by experts who offer to guest post on the site.

Government Agencies - This is the site to learn about your Medicare options, apply for a Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plan, and get a replacement Medicare card.  You should use it in conjunction with the Social Security Administration website in order to get all the information you need about government programs available to senior citizens. - The Social Security Administration website is one of the most important government websites for retirees.  You can use it to apply for and manage your Social Security and SSI Disability benefits, as well as learn about how the various programs can help you.  Most of the questions you have about Social Security can be answered on this site. - The Government Publishing Office in Pueblo, Colorado is a government bookstore. It provides free and low cost brochures on a multitude of topics of importance to seniors, including information on reverse mortgages, handling money, food safety, health, and travel information.  Take the time to explore what they have to offer and order an assortment of short, clearly written brochures to help you take better care of yourself, your money and your future. -  This is the website for the U.S. Department of State - Bureau of Consumer Affairs.  If you are planning a trip to another country, this website offers travel advisories, warnings and general advice for keeping you as safe as possible.  The information is updated frequently, depending on the circumstances in each country.  They will even tell you if there is a particular region of a country to avoid.  Because it is available online, you can also check the website if you are already overseas.

Help as You Age

Moving for Seniors:  We can all feel a little overwhelmed about the idea of moving as we age, whether we are downsizing to a smaller home, moving to be closer to family, or realizing we need to move into assisted living.  This guidebook offers practical ideas to help the move go more smoothly.

Investment and Retirement Planning

Sarwa Retirement Planning - Everyone should speak with an investment planner at some point to make sure they are on schedule to save enough money to reach their retirement goals.  At least annually, they should check back with the investment planner to determine if they would benefit by making changes to their plan.  Although I have not personally used Sarwa, they are part of the new trend in robo advisors and the information they provide on their website is very helpful and worth reading, to give you a basis for comparing them to other investment planners you consider using. Sarwa is a Dubai-based company, but it serves customers worldwide and it administers your money through Interactive Brokers.  All investment accounts at Sarwa are protected SIPC products. SIPC protects the securities of an account up to $500,000 against insolvency or bankruptcy.

Investment Retirement Guide - This guide is a free web resource which is dedicated to providing the most up-to-date and accurate information about financial decisions that affect retirement.  Creating and sustaining sufficient retirement income and savings is an essential part of a secure retirement plan. While it may feel overwhelming, it's important to know what your options are. Retire Guide recently published an easy-to-understand guide to retirement income and investing. Their intent is that this guide helps to encourage those planning for retirement to make smart investment decisions.

Medical Facts, and - WebMd, the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic websites all provide accurate, up-to-date information about a variety of medical problems.  Your personal doctor should always be your first choice for reliable medical diagnosis, treatment and information.  You should not use these websites to self-diagnose your symptoms, or self-treat them. However, these sites can provide you with general health information and facts about a condition you have been diagnosed with, as well as help you better understand your condition and common treatments.  

You may also find this information helpful.  These articles include information on how to plan for your medical expenses after you retirement, plus a senior cancer guide, and information about mesothelioma. Again, these are not meant to replace the information provided by your personal physician, but these articles could be a useful supplement.  

Medicare Assistance

Boomer Benefits at or (855) 732-9055 -  This agency is licensed in nearly every state and their agents can assist you with finding the best Medicare Supplement or Medicare Advantage plan to meet your specific needs in your community. They are insurance brokers, and we have received very good reviews about them.

Senior Safety - Products to Protect You from Various Risks

Medical Alert Devices - If you are at risk of falling, having a heart attack, a stroke, or a seizure, or if you live alone, you may benefit by having a medical alert device which will connect you to an operator or call 911 for you in an emergency.  You can find a variety of brands of devices and compare the different options available at  (Ad)

WebCam Safety - This article provides information on how to make adjustments to your WebCam to prevent people from spying on you. Since so many people are now communicating through webcams, this information could be especially protective:

Nursing Home Safety - This website helps family members identify examples of nursing home abuse in the care of their loved ones.  On the website they describe nursing home abuse as the "willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinements, intimidation, or punishment with resulting physical harm, pain, or mental anguish."  You can learn more on their website at:         

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Do you or someone you know have cancer?  Show how you feel about this dreaded disease by wearing this "Cancer Sucks" bracelet in a choice of steel, gold, or rose gold.   You can find this bracelet, as well as a variety of other jewelry and gift ideas, at either of my online gift shops:

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If you are interested in reading more about common medical issues as we age, where to retire, 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.

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Saturday, November 7, 2020

Quick Recovery from Stress or Negative Thoughts

Did you smile today? Why not give it a try?
Everyone feels down sometimes, and we all have to deal with stressful situations.  Whether you are feeling overwhelmed by politics, world events, bad health, the death of a loved one, or a problem in your family, it is beneficial to know a few tricks to help you quickly improve your mood and put your worry aside, even if only for a short time.

No matter what you are dealing with, WebMD pulled together a list of suggestions to help you feel better in under 15 minutes.  Below is a brief summary of their tips, and some ideas on how they can be applied in your life.  Don't limit yourself to these suggestions.  Be flexible and creative.  Think of your own ways to make these tips work for you. 

Meditation -  This practice scares some people who believe they cannot "empty their mind."  In truth, that is not even necessary.  All you have to do is make some time for yourself, relax, close your eyes, and breath.  You may find it helpful to count while you do it ... for example, inhale for 5 seconds, hold, and then exhale for 7 seconds.  While you are busy counting, you cannot focus on your worries at the same time. Some people find it easier to pray than meditate. In fact, prayer can be very meditative, especially when you use a repetitive prayer for a period of time. When meditating, do not worry if you doze off.  It shows you are relaxing.  You will feel amazingly calmer after this practice, as well as more positive and patient.

Spend time outdoors - Sunshine and fresh air are perfect antidotes for the blues.  You do not have to do anything extraordinary.   You can work in your garden, take a walk in the park, or even just relax on your patio watching the birds and little animals that make their home in your backyard.  Time outdoors can give you more energy, improve your memory, and make you less anxious.

Laugh often and easily -  What makes you laugh?  Do you enjoy silly pet videos online?  What about jokes and cartoons?  Do you have a favorite sitcom or movie you like to watch?  Researchers have found that even the act of faking a smile can make you feel better. A real, genuine laugh can do even more!  It can brighten your day, release feel-good endorphins, and stimulate your heart, lungs and muscles.

If you enjoy reading uplifting, positive books, an excellent choice is "10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works" by Dan Harris. (Ad)

Make a Gratitude List - Reminding yourself of the good things in your life and around the world is a great way to improve your mood.  If someone in your life has upset you, writing down all the good things about that person can have a positive effect on that relationship.

Practice compassion - When other people repeatedly upset you, it can be very helpful to pray for them.  If you prefer not to pray, simply think about them and mentally send them good wishes for their health and happiness.  Doing this will help you feel better about yourself and may improve your relationship with that other person.

Take a Walk - This simple activity can improve your mood, reduce your stress, and increase your creative thinking.  The exercise will flood your body, including your brain, with oxygen.  It strengthens your muscles. And, as mentioned above, spending time outdoors comes with its own benefits.

Listen to your favorite music - Are you getting stressed from watching the news, or is something in your life causing you to worry about the future?  Turn off the news and distract yourself from your worries by tuning in to your favorite music.  Whether it is soft and soothing, or loud and energetic, it is sure to take your mind off negative events.  If it moves you to dance, or you decide to sing along, it will have even more benefits.

Do something productive - We all have that mental list of little tasks which need to be completed, but we never quite get around to doing.  Accomplishing something simple, such as making a necessary phone call, answering an email, or making a small home repair, can make you feel so much better about yourself.
When I was raising my children, a parenting tip I learned was to never ask a young child to "clean their room."  That was too broad a task and could overwhelm them.  Instead, ask them to pick up and put away five or ten items.  Then, check the room and, if necessary, help them put away a few more things.  Before my children knew it, the room was clean, and we had finished the task without a temper tantrum.  Today, I still use the same "trick" on myself.  Instead of telling myself I need to put away that big pile of laundry, address that stack of Christmas cards, or clean out my closet, I tell myself to just do ten small things.  I have found that once I have finished that task, I will usually just keep going and complete the job!  If it is more than I can finish in one day, I remind myself of how much less I will have to do the next day. Doing something productive makes us all feel better about ourselves at any age!

Connect with other people - People who spend too much time by themselves are more likely to be lonely and depressed.  The best defense against these feelings is to reach out to other people.  Call someone or arrange a video meeting with your family or a small group of friends.  Send a birthday card, email, or text to friends and family members.  You will feel happier and you will build up your support system, which is invaluable if something goes wrong and you need help.  Even during times when we must quarantine because of a pandemic, it is important that we reach out to others and put in the effort to maintain our relationships.

Eat healthy snacks - You will have more energy and have a better outlook if you enjoy fruit, nuts and whole grains for your snacks, rather than sugary drinks and cookies.

Help someone else - Need a real boost to your self esteem?  Do something for someone else.  Volunteer, even if you just make calls from home. Donate to a charity. Drop off a plate of cookies to a neighbor. Help a relative get through a difficult time. Smile at people you pass in the street.  If you are wearing a facemask, give them a little wave or nod of the head.  When we lift up other people, we lift up ourselves.

Stretch - Yoga is considered a healthy way to reduce your stress and supply your muscles with the food and oxygen they need.  If yoga sounds too difficult for you, just take some time each day to stretch all the muscles in your body, while taking deep breaths.  It will relax them, loosen them up and it is a great way to start your day!

Hug someone - During the Covid-19 pandemic, and whenever there is a contagious disease going around, one of the activities people miss the most is the simple act of hugging their loved ones.  One study even says that hugging can increase our immune system.  So, as long as you are at home with your immediate family and it feels safe, enjoy that hug!

Focus on your self-talk - Are you overly critical of yourself whenever something goes wrong?  Make a list of positive mantras to use instead of that negative self-talk.  Tell yourself that everyone makes mistakes.  You will do better next time.  It was not a big deal.  You're still a good person. Those types of statements will turn your day around.  One positive statement which I particularly like is "It is never too late to start your day over."  It is a great way to put your troubles behind you, especially if you are feeling guilty over loosing your temper or getting upset about a minor issue.

Send thank you notes - This is a wonderful way to become more grateful for the good things in your life.  I also like to keep a stack of "Thinking of You" cards on hand, to send to people I have not heard from in a long time.  Everyone likes to receive a personal, hand-written note once in a while!

If you keep some of these actions in mind, you will find that you can reduce your stress and turn those negative thoughts around!
Do not forget to be creative and find your own little ways to inspire and uplift yourself.  Read books that cause you to smile, make you happier, or inspire you. A good place to start is "10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works" by Dan Harris. (Ad)

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

If you are interested in reading more about common medical issues as we age, where to retire, 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.

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Saturday, October 31, 2020

Medicare Annual Election Period - Avoid Making Mistakes!

For the past few years, this blog has benefited from the wisdom of our Medicare expert, Danielle Kunkle Roberts.  She is the founder of Boomer Benefits and her company provides Medicare assistance to senior citizens in nearly every state.  Her contact information is always available in the side bar of this blog.  This month, she has written a helpful post which explains the most common mistakes people make during the Medicare Annual Election Period.

 If you are concerned about avoiding other potential Medicare mistakes, you will also want to read her new book "10 Costly Medicare Mistakes You Can't Afford to Make." (Ad)  It is full of excellent tips which everyone should know about before applying for Medicare.

Mistakes to Avoid During the AEP

by Danielle Kunkle Roberts

Medicare has several different enrollment periods. Some happen only once in your life, while others happen annually. The Annual Election Period (AEP), also called the Fall Open Enrollment Period, occurs every year from October 15th until December 7th.

The Annual Election Period (AEP) is for people who are already enrolled in Medicare, so if you are new to Medicare, the AEP will not pertain to you. During the AEP, you can enroll in, change, or drop a Medicare Advantage plan or Part D plan. The AEP does not apply to Medigap (Medicare Supplement) plans, however. You can apply for Medigap at any time, but if you are outside your Medigap Open Enrollment Period, you might have to pass a medical underwriting before a new company will accept you. 

Knowing exactly what the AEP is designed for and how to prepare for it will help you avoid these mistakes.

Mistake:  Missing your Annual Notice of Change

Every year, Part D and Medicare Advantage plans must send out an Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) letter to their beneficiaries. If you have a Medicare Part D plan or Medicare Advantage plan, you should receive your ANOC by September 30th.

Your Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) will either be mailed or emailed to you, depending on your preference. This notice will explain all the changes made to the plan for the following year, such as premium and formulary changes. Some insurers send letters with instructions for viewing your plan changes online. If your insurer is one of those, the notice you receive may not actually contain changes to your plan.

It’s important to review your Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) every year before the Annual Election Period (AEP) is over. If you ignore your ANOC and stick with your current plan, you may be surprised to discover on January 1st that your plan dropped one of your daily medications from the formulary or canceled a benefit you relied on.

The Annual Election Period is generally the only time you can change Part D plans each year, so if you’re unhappy with your current plan, make sure you explore your options and make the switch during the AEP.

On the other hand, if you are enrolled in Medicare Advantage, you have a second chance to change your coverage during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (January 1st – March 31st).

Mistake:  Dropping your Medicare Advantage plan before getting approved for your Medigap plan

If you decide to switch to Original Medicare and Medigap during the Annual Election Period, make sure you are approved for a Medigap plan before you drop your Medicare Advantage plan. Unless you have Medigap guaranteed issue rights, you may be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition.

Outside your Medigap Open Enrollment Period, it may take a few weeks for the insurer to approve your application. This is especially true if the company wants to review your medical records.

Wait until you get your approval letter and effective date to drop your other coverage. Otherwise, you could find yourself past the Annual Election Period with no opportunity to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan until the following year.

Mistake:  Not using the Medicare Plan Finder Tool to shop Part D plans

Medicare created an online Plan Finder Tool several years ago that has become a one-stop-shop for Part D plans. It is the go-to place to compare all Part D plans offered in your ZIP code. The Plan Finder makes it easy to compare multiple Part D plans at one time.

At Boomer Benefits, we recommend that our Medigap clients use this tool during the AEP to shop for Part D plans. Since most Medicare enrollees have access to dozens of different Part D plans, the Plan Finder is really the easiest way to compare premiums and formularies. 

Remember, all of our Medigap clients have access to our client service team for help with issues related to Part D, even if your plan is with a company we do not represent. This is a completely free service for our Medigap clients. 

You will also have access to an annual Part D video which explains how to use the Medicare Plan Finder Tool to make sure you find the most cost-effective plans in your area every year.

Mistake:  Not enrolling in a new Model Part D plan as an insulin-dependent beneficiary

Starting January 1, 2021, there is a new program called the Part D Senior Savings Model. The 2020 AEP is the first time you can enroll in one of the new Model Part D plans. Enrolling in a Senior Savings Model Part D plan will cap your insulin copayments at $35 or lower.

If you take insulin and it’s covered by Part D, not Part B, be sure to enroll in a new Senior Savings Model Part D plan during this year’s AEP. Doing so will cap your insulin spending at no more than $420 for 2021.


For many Medicare beneficiaries, the Annual Election Period (AEP) is a stressful time of year. But if you know the purpose of the AEP and how to prepare for it, you’ll glide right through and get the coverage you need.

If you are shopping for Medicare Advantage plans, Boomer Benefits can help you find the most cost-effective plan in your area. You can also give us a call at (855) 732-9055 if you have a Medicare Advantage plan, but would like to switch to a Medigap plan. You can learn more at

Be sure to check out Boomer Benefits co-founder Danielle Kunkle Roberts’ new book, "10 Costly Medicare Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make." (Ad) This best-selling book discusses ten other mistakes it is all too easy to make throughout your Medicare journey.

Are you interested in learning more about Medicare, Social Security, common medical problems, financial planning, where to live in retirement and more?  Use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Graphic credit: Book cover