Thursday, February 20, 2014

Should You Get Knee Surgery?

Although knee problems can occur at any age, the older we get, the more likely we are to develop stiff, painful knees.  Sometimes this is a result of arthritis and sometimes the pain is a result of an injury.  In either case, we often wonder if the only way we will find relief is to get knee surgery, which is one of the more common medical procedures for people over the age of 60.  Recently, however, researchers have begun to question how effective this surgery actually is at providing lasting relief.

Fake Knee Surgery May Work as Well as The Real Thing

According to a report in the December, 2013 New England Journal of Medicine, researchers discovered that people who had fake arthroscopic surgery for a torn meniscus did as well as those who had the actual surgery.  In this study, which was conducted in Finland, researchers studied 146 patients between the ages of 35 and 65 who had degenerative wear and tear of the meniscus.  The meniscus is a piece of cartilage that serves as a shock absorber between the shinbone and the thighbone.  None of the patients in this study appeared to have arthritis, which indicated that their pain was due solely to an issue with their meniscus.

Half of the patients were given an actual arthroscopic meniscectomy in which a surgeon smoothed out the rough edges of the cartilage.  The other half had a fake surgery in which the doctors made an incision but did not do anything.

After a year, both groups were checked.  There was virtually no difference in the knee pain reported by the two groups!  Two-thirds of the people in both groups said they were happy with the surgery and they would do it again.

This research is significant because approximately 700,000 arthroscopic partial meniscectomies are performed in the United States every year.

How to Postpone Knee Surgery

Some orthopedic doctors are beginning to believe that many people who suffer from knee pain might do just as well if they simply underwent physical therapy to strengthen the muscles that support the knee in order to avoid or postpone surgery.  There is also some evidence that many people could be helped by a change in the type of exercise they do.  For example, experts recommend that patients switch from jogging to swimming or biking as a way to stay in shape, since these low-impact exercises put less stress on the joints.

Patients may also benefit from taking anti-inflammatory medication or getting injections of hyaluronic acid before resorting to surgery.

What to Expect from Knee Replacement Surgery

As a last resort, some patients may eventually need to have knee replacement surgery, but only after they have tried the other options, first.  When nothing else seems to help, knee replacement may be the only alternative left, especially when there is advanced osteoarthritis and the meniscus is completely worn away.

Knee replacement surgery is usually undertaken only when people have reached the point when they can no longer perform even the most common tasks, such as walking a short distance.  In these circumstances, most people experience great relief after the surgery, since they have typically been living with tremendous pain and discomfort.

If you are considering knee replacement surgery, expect to stay in the hospital for three to five days, followed by a stay in a rehabilitation facility for another seven to ten days, and then spending an additional six weeks of physical therapy before your muscle strength is restored.  After surgery and recuperation, you should be able to engage in most normal activities, with the exception of running and jumping.

While this was not mentioned in any of the literature I read on knee replacement surgery, some of the people I have known who had the surgery have also found it difficult to kneel or squat afterwards.  In addition, patients need to know that the replacement parts will not last forever.  They may need to be replaced in fifteen to twenty years.  This is another reason why you will want to wait as long as possible before getting the surgery.  If you have the surgery in your 50's or 60's, you may have to repeat it in your 70's or 80's.  As the materials that are used continue to improve, it is possible that, in the future, new joints may last longer.

The bottom line appears to be that you should avoid getting knee surgery as long as you can by changing your activities, doing strengthening exercises, taking anti-inflammatory medications and getting shots.  Only when these options no longer work for you, should you seriously consider knee replacement surgery.

As always, you will want to discuss your options with your doctor and you may even wish to get a second opinion before deciding on any knee surgery.


If you are interested in reading about other medical concerns as we age, click on the medical issues tab at the top of this page to find links to articles on a variety of topics.  In addition, you may want to check out the other tabs to find articles about where to retire here and abroad, family relationships, financial planning and more.

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Help with Your 2013 Income Tax Returns

It's the time of year, again, that most of us dread ... time to file your tax returns.  As the "Retired and Loving It" contributor for the Squidoo online magazine, my bonus blog post this week provides my readers with two links that may be useful in getting your 2013 taxes completed inexpensively and, possibly, for free.

The first link is from AARP - The American Association of Retired People.  This organization operates a foundation that provides FREE tax assistance to people with low to moderate incomes, especially those who are over the age of 60.  You do NOT have to be retired to benefit from this service.  They have 5000 different locations across the United States.  In order to find the one that is closest to you, you can use this link to the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Locator.

If you do not feel that you will qualify to use the AARP free tax service, you may still be able to save money by doing your taxes yourself.  In that case, you may want to read my article, "How to File Your Own Taxes and Save Money."

In this article, you will get an overview of the different types of software available, including a direct link to the tax software page on Amazon, as well as links to some of the specific tax software programs you can buy from Amazon.  The Squidoo article also includes a list of the documents that you may need to have on hand before you see a tax preparer or use the software you select.  This article will save you time and money by helping you get everything organized before you start.

I also wanted to mention that members of my family have used a variety of tax software products, including the software from both TurboTax and H&R Block.  In general, they thought the TurboTax software was easier to use.  On the other hand, H&R Block seems to have an excellent back-up system if you need to call them to get your questions answered.  Whichever company you choose to use, you can use the links in the Squidoo article to browse through the various choices and pick the one that sounds right for you.  There are choices available for your PC or Mac, including software you can either have delivered to your home or download immediately.

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Get Help Starting an Encore Career

Now that they are reaching retirement age, Baby Boomers are often discovering that they are not quite ready for the rocking chair.  They look at this period of their lives as an opportunity to do the things they always wanted to do when they were younger.  For some, that means travel or pursuing a hobby; for others it may mean doing something meaningful with their lives in the form of a second career.

If you are one of those who is ready to move into a second career, I want to introduce my readers to  It is a website designed specifically for Baby Boomers and others who are searching for a new career in the second half of their lives.

While I only occasionally refer my readers to other websites, is so comprehensive and well-done, it would be impossible for me to provide you with all the information they have already put together on this site.

Why You May Want to Have an Encore Career

There are typically two reasons why Baby Boomers choose to start a second career later in life:

Financial Security

With at least 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 every single day in the United States, many of them are not financially prepared for retirement.  Having a second career to supplement their Social Security benefits can make a difference in whether they are struggling to survive or really enjoying their senior years.  In addition, people who continue working while collecting Social Security benefits find that their benefits can increase a bit faster than the typical annual cost-of-living increase.

Emotional Satisfaction

Another reason for second careers is that some adults have spent decades postponing their "dream job" because they needed to stick with better paying jobs while raising their families.  As a result, I know Realtors who want to be artists, engineers who long to work as a chefs, office workers who dream of becoming caterers, and teachers who have been writing a novel for years while waiting to retire.  Other people long to do something meaningful with their lives, but they don't know what opportunities are available and how to get started.

How You Can Find an Encore Career

What should you do if you know you want to work after retirement, either because you need the money or you need the mental stimulation, but you feel as though you are groping in the dark for something that would really excite you?  That is where can help you get started.

Many of the careers they promote are referred to on their website as careers with purpose.  They even sponsor "Purpose Awards" designed to recognize people who have "moved into second acts for the greater good."  These are people who have committed the second half of their lives to solving significant social problems.  Some of these people have been given cash awards of as much as $100,000 for their extraordinary contributions to society.

When you log onto, be sure to check out the tab labeled Work.  Under it, you will find information about pursuing the top five encore careers:  health care, green jobs (environment), government jobs (including the Peace Corps), working for non-profit organizations, and educational jobs (such as Troops to Teachers).

From there, the website will give you the information you need to get started on your encore career ... whether that means going back to school, applying to a government agency, or using your current education and experience to fill a job opening at a non-profit organization.

How an Encore Career Can Enrich Your Life

I have a friend who joined the Peace Corps in her early 60's after retiring from her job as head of Information Technology for a newspaper.  Her job with the Peace Corps involved teaching parents and teens in small villages in the former Soviet Union about the dangers of human trafficking.  Unscrupulous people had been going to these villages and offering young women jobs as nannies in Europe and the United States.  Once they were out of the villages, however, these young women were frequently forced into prostitution, instead.  My friend remained in her Peace Corps assignment for two and a half years before she returned to the United States and began her official retirement.  However, even though she is now in her early seventies, she continues to frequently meet with other former Peace Corps members and gives speeches about her experience.  Her encore career continues to define and enrich her life.

By the way, when she joined the Peace Corps, my friend told me that there were a number of other people in their 60's and early 70's who were joining at the same time.  So, if this was something you wanted to do in your early 20's, and didn't have the opportunity, it is not too late!

If you are wondering what you might like to do after you retire from your current career, check out  You may be on the verge of an exciting new adventure!

For those of you looking for additional retirement information, click on the tabs at the top of this page for links to articles about where to retire in the United States or overseas, financial information, dealing with medical issues, and a variety of other topics such as family relations and travel.

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

New Benefit for Readers of

I am delighted to let my readers here at know that I have just been selected to be the official Retirement Contributor for the online magazine known as Squidoo, one of the top 250 websites in the United States.  In that capacity, I will be writing articles and reviewing books about retirement, aging, financial planning and related topics for the readers of Squidoo.  This added opportunity will in no way affect the articles that I will continue to write exclusively for my readers here.  In fact, it will give me even more opportunities to provide you with useful information.

As an extra benefit for my blog readers, I've decided that I will add an additional post each week, providing direct links to those Squidoo articles that I think will interest my readers here, whether I have written those articles or not. It may be a link to an article or retirement book review that I have written for Squidoo, or it might be a link to an article written by either the Squidoo Health & Aging Contributor or the Squidoo Alzheimers and Dementia Contributor.  You will have even more access to experts in a variety of fields, simply by following this blog.

The short posts containing a Squidoo article link will be in addition to the normal weekly posts that I will continue to write exclusively for the readers of  My only hope is that you will find that the Squidoo articles are an additional source of useful information.

Today's link is my introduction as the official Retirement Contributor to the readers of Squidoo.  This week's Squidoo article also contains links to a variety of helpful Amazon books and other Squidoo articles that may interest you.  Here's the link:   "I'm The 'Retired and Loving It' Contributor on Squidoo."

The Squidoo articles are completely free, so enjoy this extra weekly bonus link to the articles that I think will interest you.  My normal weekly posts will continue to show up regularly, a few days after each bonus post.

Have fun with this new resource!

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(Photo credit:  Photo is property of author, Deborah-Diane; all rights reserved.)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Problems in Retiring Abroad

Have you narrowed down your retirement options, yet?  Many Baby Boomers are unsure whether they would be better off remaining in the United States or moving to another country.  Moving to another country is an easier choice if you have relatives who live in that country.  However, if you do not have any connections, making a move to a foreign location can be more challenging.

Finances continue to drive the desire to live in a less expensive nation.  Unfortunately, the majority of Baby Boomers today can look forward to very low Social Security benefits that will be supplemented with only a small amount of income from their retirement savings.  When low income is combined with the high cost of living in many parts of the United States, an ever-growing number of Americans are choosing to move overseas to places like San Miguel de Allende, pictured here.  Many foreign countries can seem like paradise to cash-strapped Americans.

Improvements in medical tourism and access to modern conveniences are also fueling the increasing number of ex-patriots who are retiring overseas.  This blog has included a number of articles about the appeal of a variety of locations.  However, in order to paint a balanced picture, there are some specific problems that Americans need to consider before they make their final decision.

Possible Problems When Retiring Abroad

*  Something as simple as having goods shipped to you may be much more difficult when living in a foreign country.  One of our daughter's friends moved to Costa Rica to teach school about five years ago.  Since then, she has married a Costa Rican man and has decided to make that country her permanent residence.  Her first child is due in a few weeks and I asked her how to mail her some baby gifts.  Here is what she told me:  Do not have an American business, like Amazon, ship anything to her directly.  Do not send anything by UPS or Fed Ex; only use the U.S. Postal Service.  Do not put anything in a box; use a padded envelope, instead. In the customs paperwork, refer to the items as "used" rather than "new."   She said that her family has been trying to ship her things for years and, despite the fact she is married to a Costa Rican citizen, it has been very difficult for her to receive some of the items.  Even when she does, the cost of shipping is high if the item is very large.  In addition, when there is a problem, the Costa Rican mail service will not notify her about it.

In other words, you will be far better off if you are willing to make nearly all your purchases locally.  This seems to be what most foreign countries prefer.

*  Another issue that arises when living abroad is the fact that the cost-of-living in some other countries can be as high, or higher, as living in the United States.  If you are moving outside the U.S. as a way to save money, then scratch most major cities in Europe off your list, as well as Australia and New Zealand.

*  No matter where you decide to live abroad, you are likely to have some expenses that you would not incur if you remained in the U.S.  For example, anytime you decide to visit the United States, the cost of travel can be quite expensive.  In addition, while you can get your Social Security in other countries, you are not eligible to receive Medicare.  You have to buy medical insurance in your new country.

*  Another issue to consider is that the cheaper the country, the poorer the country.  This may mean increased crime and fewer conveniences.  For example, the young teacher and her husband, whom I mentioned earlier, live a very modest lifestyle in Costa Rica.  None-the-less, their apartment has been robbed and they have lost items such as television sets and computers. The State Department often warns Americans living overseas to exercise caution and avoid certain areas.  This is good advice, no matter how comfortable you feel in the area around your new residence.

*  If your goal is live inexpensively in another country, you must adapt to that country.  That means eating the types of foods that the locals eat, living in similar housing, doing without cable TV, etc.  Of course, most countries do have subdivisions that are geared towards Americans with larger than average homes, two-car garages, air conditioning, cable television, etc.  However, if you want those types of amenities, expect to pay American prices ... and sometimes more.

*  Depending on where you choose to live, there are other inconveniences you may experience, as well.  You may need to learn a new language and new monetary system.  The legal system and tax codes may be confusing to you.  You may also have fewer rights than people who are citizens of that country ... for example, you may not be able to own property or it may be more difficult for you to work or start a business.

While many American believe that moving to a foreign country will be a dream, other Americans have discovered that it can be a nightmare if they have not prepared properly.  Make sure you visit in advance and speak to Americans who have gone before you.  Meet with an immigration attorney and a CPA to discuss any laws and rules that could have an affect on you.  Have a real estate agent show you some properties for sale or rent, so you know what to expect, both in price and quality.  You are less likely to be surprised if you are well-prepared.

If you are still interested in learning more about retiring in a foreign country, check out the "Retire Overseas" tab at the top of this blog.  That is the section where you will find links to more information about popular retirement destinations.

Use the other tabs to find links to additional articles about the best places to retire in the United States, family relationships after retirement, healthcare issues, and financial planning.

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