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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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