Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How Far Should You Live From Your Adult Children?

If you are planning to retire soon, one important question you may have to ask yourself is how far you are willing to live from your adult children.  Do you want to live within a short drive, a long drive, or an air flight away?  There are advantages and disadvantages to each.

It is important that you spend some time thinking about the different concerns you have before choosing a new retirement location.  You don't want to make an expensive mistake, if you can avoid it.

When my husband and I were visiting potential colleges with one of our teenage daughters, the admission's officer said to the parents who were gathered, "Please do not move and forget to tell your children your new address!"  That got a laugh from the crowd.  However, it is apparently not unusual for some parents to send their kids off to college and then move into a retirement community or downsize to a smaller home ... neglecting to give their new address to their children for a few months!

Many people wrestle with the decision of where they want to live after they retire.  Below are some thoughts for you to consider.

Retirement Near Your Adult Children

Whether your kids already live in your hometown or they live across the country, is it your goal to retire someplace near them?  Do you envision seeing them on a regular basis and being involved in your grandchildren's daily lives?  Sometimes this is wonderful ... and sometimes things do not work out the way you envision.  Questions you need to ask are:

Do your children want to see you on a regular basis?
Do your children agree that you should spend a lot of time with your grandchildren?
Will your children start using you as a regular babysitter and/or pet sitter?
Is it possible that, after you move close to them, your children may end up getting a new job and moving somewhere far away?
How will you feel if you move near them and they get transferred somewhere else?
Will your feelings be hurt if they spend the holidays with their in-laws instead of you?
Will your adult children become too dependent on you?
Will you be expected to host all the major family dinners and special events?

Retirement a Long Drive From Your Children

Do you think you will be more comfortable if you are within driving distance of your children, but not close enough that they will regularly depend on you for babysitting and hosting all the holiday meals?   Is that your ideal living arrangement?  If so, here are the questions that you should ask yourself:

How far are you willing to drive to attend a grandchild's birthday or special event?
How often are you willing to make the drive?
Where will you stay during your visits ... in a hotel or with your children?
Will you have a guest area for your children when they visit you?
Will your other friends and relatives be willing to visit you there?
What happens if your adult child is transferred to another region of the country?

Retirement That is an Airplane Flight Away From Your Children

What if you must take an airplane in order to visit your children?  Many of the questions that pertain to a long drive will also pertain to taking a flight.  However, there are a few other issues you may need to consider:

How much will it cost to fly to see your children?
Will you have to take different flights to see different children?
How often will you be able to afford to fly to see them?
Are you willing and able to help pay for your children to visit you?
Where will you stay when you visit your children ... in a hotel or with your children?
Will you have a guest area for your children when they visit you?
Will your other friends and relatives be willing to visit you there?

Our Personal Experience with Retirement Distances

My husband and I have adult daughters who live in all the categories mentioned above.  One lives just 7 miles from us and we see her and her children several times a week.  Yes, we often babysit the kids, pick them up from school, pet sit when they go out of town, and help out financially.  We also host all the holiday dinners.  Those are the advantages or disadvantages (depending on how you look at it) of living near your adult children.

Another one of our daughters lives an 8 hour drive away.  We see her every few months.  Sometimes we drive to see her and sometimes she drives down to see us.  We are much less involved with her children, but we see them more often than we do the grandchildren who live an air flight away.

Two of our daughters and their families live on the other side of the country from us.  We go and see them once a year and they come to see us once a year.  Fortunately, we are able to combine the trips when we visit them, since they only live a couple of hours' drive away from each other.  However, we see much less of those grandchildren and that will probably remain true most of their lives. Using Skype and Facebook helps to make the distance between us seem shorter.

Which decision is right for you?  Only you can decide that.  However, it is important to consider all the possibilities before you make a final decision.

However, before making the decision, you may also want to read my next post on this topic.  It contains comments of both grandparents and young people and the way they feel about having grandparents who live either nearby or far away:

For more information about what you should consider when choosing a retirement community, use the tabs at the top of this page.  They contain links to hundreds of additional articles about where to retire.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tips for Boomers Who Live Alone

Sooner or later, the majority of people will spend some time living alone.  Even if you are currently married, it is likely that one of you will outlive the other.  "Gray" divorce, involving people over the age of 50, is also becoming more common.  Most of the time, single Baby Boomers are quite capable of handling this living arrangement and may even enjoy the freedom that they have.

However, it is likely that there will also be times when most single seniors will wish they had someone else around to lend them a helping hand, especially when they are sick, have surgery, or when they are dealing with other types of life emergencies. 

These are the times when you need to have a plan.  Below are some suggestions to make life easier for you when you go through these difficult times.

Preparing for Emergencies When You Live Alone

Everyone should know how to order their groceries online or by phone.  This will make life so much easier if you are sick or recovering from surgery.  Practice by ordering your groceries this way once in a while, for example when the weather is bad and you don't want to get out.  Then you will know exactly what to do when the time comes that you have to order your groceries.  You won't be trying to learn something new when you are already under stress.

Meals on Wheels - In addition to being able to order your groceries, you may also want to investigate the local Meals on Wheels service.  Many of these organizations will provide meals temporarily to people who are recovering from surgery or permanently for people who are experiencing other issues such as severe arthritis that could make it difficult for them to prepare their own meals.  In addition, it can be comforting to know that someone will check on you each day when they deliver the meals.  You will probably be asked to donate between $2 and $8 per day for the meals, but the service is well worth it.

Medical Alert Devices - Meals, of course, not the only problem you might have when you live alone.  As you age, one of the biggest risks you will face is from falling.  You could also suffer from other medical emergencies, such as experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack or a stroke.  As a result, people who spend a lot of time alone may want to invest in a medical alert pendant.  There are a variety of companies that offer this service, such as the GreatCall Medical Alert Device.  Depending on the company you choose, the service that is connected to your medical alert device (for a small monthly fee) will be able to connect you with 911, a nurse, a neighbor or the relative of your choosing, so you can quickly get help when you need it. Make sure you compare several brands and choose the device that suits your lifestyle.  Some only work when you are in or near your home.  Others work off a GPS system, which means you can use them wherever you are ... on a trip, while taking a walk, or at the local mall. 

Medical Alert Engraved Bracelets - If you have a condition such as epilepsy or diabetes that could cause you to pass out or have a seizure, it would be wise to wear a bracelet that identifies your medical condition and any other relevant information that would be useful to emergency personnel, in the event you cannot speak.  You can order medical alert bracelets online, although you may want to talk to your doctor first about specifically what information you will want to include on your bracelet.

Transportation can be another issue when you live alone.  What happens if you lose your drivers license or if there is simply a short period of time when you cannot drive ... because of foot surgery, for example?  Many communities offer transportation services in the form of buses that will come directly to your home or low cost taxi vouchers.  Some communities even have volunteers who will drive seniors to medical appointments.   Contact your local senior center or city hall to find out what transportation resources are available in your area.

Online Banking - Learn how to pay your bills by using online banking and have your Social Security, pensions and other sources of income automatically deposited.  This will dramatically simplify bill paying for you.  I even know of people who have all their bills charged to their credit card and then they simply pay that one credit card bill each month.  I advise this only for people who do not overspend and end up with a credit card bill that is more than they can afford. Either way, learning how to use online banking will save you money on stamps and reduce the time you need to spend paying bills.  In fact, many of your bills can be set up to be automatically paid every month, with no additional effort from you.  That means you will not forget to pay a bill, especially if you are sick or hospitalized for a period of time.

Try to build up a circle of friends who you see periodically.  Not only is the socialization important for people who live alone, but it is reassuring to know that there are people who would miss you and come looking for you if you unexpectedly did not show up for a routine get-together.  You may want to take a class, form a walking group, join a book club, or get involved in similar activities.  Have coffee with a neighbor once a week.  Volunteer at the library or your local senior center.  These types of activities will also help you fight one of the biggest issues for people as they age ... loneliness.

Phone calls, emails and text messages are other ways that you can stay connected.  As you age, you may want to contact an adult child, a sibling, or a close friend several times a week, just to reassure them that you are OK.  In some communities, you can sign up to have an automated phone call made to your home every day at a certain time, when you are virtually always at home ... such as 7:00 in the morning or 10:00 in the evening.  If you do not answer, they will send someone out to check on you.

Household help - If possible, hire a person or two who can help you around your house ... with cleaning, yard work, pool maintenance or similar services.  This will give you at least one more person who will be checking on you periodically.  In addition, it will make it less likely that you will get injured doing something risky or stressful ... such as shoveling snow, washing windows on a ladder, cleaning your gutters, etc. 

Finally, put together a list of emergency numbers and keep it in a prominent place.  You may also want to keep a copy in your car and carry one in your purse or wallet.  Make sure it contains contact numbers for your doctors, relatives, neighbors and anyone else you might need to reach in an emergency.  When you are upset or confused, it could be difficult to remember even familiar phone numbers.  In addition, if you are unconscious, this list could make it easier for others to get in touch with your family or physicians.

In addition, add ICE as a connection on your cellphone.  That stands for: In Case of Emergency.  Then, enter the phone number of someone who should be contacted in an emergency.  Emergency personnel have been trained to check your phone for this entry, if you should be found unconscious or incapacitated in some way.  

Taking the right precautions will make it much easier for you to live comfortably alone and could postpone the time when you will have to move into assisted living ... which most of us want to postpone as long as possible.

If you want other helpful retirement planning information, check out the tabs at the top of this article.  They contain links to hundreds of other useful articles.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Where Retirees Pay Low Taxes

Once you leave the work force, many retirees are concerned about how to pay low taxes so they can really stretch their Social Security and pensions and make every penny count.  After all, if you are going to receive $1200 to $2400 a month in Social Security (a typical range), the money will go a lot further in low-tax, low cost-of-living states like Texas or Washington rather than states like California or New York.  Below is some of the information you will need to know in order to make the right retirement decision for you.

States With No State Income Tax

The first issue that you need to consider is whether or not you will have to pay state income tax on any of your retirement income.  The states listed below, do not have a state income tax on regular income, although there are some other issues, mentioned below, that you want to consider.

New Hampshire
South Dakota

New Hampshire and Tennessee do tax your dividends and interest income.  In addition, some of those states, like Texas, have unusually high property taxes that can amount to more than residents would have paid in income taxes in other states.  It is important for retirees to consider ALL the taxes that they will pay in their new location, including sales, personal property, estate and inheritance taxes.

Cities with Moderate Taxes and a Desirable Quality of Life

Paying low taxes is not enough to guarantee a pleasant retirement.  Most retirees also want to enjoy a pleasant lifestyle, as well.  In other words, they are looking for places where they will be able to afford to live on their retirement income while, at the same time, being able to have fun in locations where they feel safe, with good transportation and access to quality healthcare.

Many retirees also want to be able to live in the same region of the country where their adult children and grandchildren live.  Often they want easy access to parks and beaches or lakes.  They may be looking for a mild climate.

With all those considerations in mind, here are "Eight Tax-Friendly Cities" that, according to Where to Retire magazine, may meet your overall needs:

Fort Lauderdale, Florida
St. Marys, Georgia
Spartanburg, South Carolina
Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Manitou Springs, Colorado
Tempe, Arizona
Boulder City, Nevada
Payallup, Washington

Of course, this is just a sampling of the possible choices that are available.  As you can see, several of the listed cities are actually in the states that do have a state income tax.  This is because the magazine looked at the entire tax burden that people experience, including property and sales taxes.  Even if those particular cities will not work for you, you may consider other affordable and interesting towns within those same states.  In particular, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Arizona are popular and affordable retirement meccas.

As you can see, you may not wish to move to a state simply because it does not have income taxes, until you carefully study what other taxes you may be expected to pay, as well as the overall cost-of-living.

The best state for retirement may be different for each individual.  Some of the questions you may want to ask yourself:

Do you plan to buy or rent in my new location?
How do home prices and rents compare from state to state?
What will be the total impact of the taxes you will be paying?
What is the overall cost of living?
What will it cost to enjoy your favorite pastimes, hobbies and activities?
Will you have convenient access to healthcare and other services?
How much will it cost to travel to visit your loved ones?

Once you have researched the answers to these questions and considered the amount you will be paying in taxes and other expenses, then you will have gone a long way towards deciding the best place for you to live economically during retirement, while paying the lowest taxes possible.

"8 Tax-Friendly Cities," Where to Retire magazine, January/February 2015 issue, pg. 52.

For more ideas about good places to retire, use the tabs at the top of this article to find links to dozens of other articles, including where to retire both in the United States and in other countries.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Long-Term Care for Low Income Retirees

In other posts on this blog, we have discussed the reasons why people may benefit from purchasing Long Term Care insurance, the various alternatives to this insurance, and the Veteran's Administration benefits that could help you pay for assisted living or nursing home care.

What if none of these options will work for you?  Perhaps you cannot afford long term care insurance or poor health prevents you from passing the physical.  You may not have served in the military, at least not when a war was going on, so you do not qualify for VA benefits.  

In addition, Medicare is not an option because it will only pay for short-term care, such as when you need to spend a few weeks in a rehabilitation facility after you have surgery.  

Do not give up on your ability to find affordable long-term care, however.  If none of the above programs are an option, there are other choices which can help the low-income elderly pay for permanent care, once they reach a point in their lives when they are declining physically and/or mentally.

First, a significant number of the elderly are eligible for long-term care through Medicaid.

Who is Eligible for Medicaid?

In order to be eligible to receive long-term care and have it paid for by Medicaid, you need to meet these criteria:
  1. You have to be willing to apply all of your existing assets towards your care.  This is usually not an issue for people who have few remaining assets and are approaching the end of their lives.
  2. You must have a low retirement income, which applies to nearly everyone living solely on the average amount of Social Security.  Even if your retirement income is greater than the median Social Security payment, you may still qualify if you have high medical expenses.
  3. In the case of a married couple, they do NOT need to exhaust all their financial resources in order for one of them to have their long-term care covered by Medicaid. In most cases, the healthy spouse can keep their home and certain other assets, although they may still have to make significant sacrifices in order to contribute to their partner's care.

Medicaid for Ailing Elders

Medicaid is designed to be a safety net for Americans who need more care than they can afford to pay for privately. Medicaid can be used to pay for long term nursing home care in all states. In a number of states,  Medicaid will also pay for assisted living communities or other options such as in-home care. 

In some states, residents can even access Medicaid through a program called PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly).  PACE will cover all of the senior's care and medical needs through a single agency.  The goal of PACE is to help people who have traditionally been sent to nursing homes to stay at home, with support.  You can learn more about that program at 

State Medicaid Guidelines

Every state has its own guidelines, requirements and paperwork, so you will need to contact your State Medical Assistance office for more details about how their programs work.  Here are two websites that can help you:
You may also want to speak with an elder law attorney who can help guide you through the complicated process of completing a successful Medicaid application.


Veteran's Aid Can Help Both Veterans and Their Spouses

Don't forget that there are also programs to help Veterans who have served in the military during a time when our country was at war.  Many widows and widowers of veterans are not aware that they may also be able to receive benefits to help cover long-term care.


How to Apply for VA Benefits

Like Medicaid, the application process for your VA benefits can be extremely complicated.  To get help, you may want to contact a Veteran Services Officer. They are volunteers who are located throughout the United States,  and you can find them through organizations like the American Legion, or Veteran of Foreign Wars (VFW) lodges.

To apply for VA health care or determine eligibility,
  • Call (877) 222-VETS: Health Benefits Service Center
  • Contact your local Veterans Benefits Office or Medical Facility
  • Visit the Department of Veterans Affairs website


How to Find the Right Assisted Living or Nursing Home Program

How can you find the right program or facility to take you or your loved one?  Where do you start?  How can you get help completing the complicated applications necessary in order to get Medicaid or MediCal to pay for your care?  There are companies that will help you find an available bed in the appropriate facility and they will often assist with the application process, as well.  Here are two well-known companies:

A Place for Mom
(866) 344-8005

California Nursing Home Solutions
(They handle the Medi-Cal Applications, etc. for you)
(800) 773-6467
In addition, you may want to contact nursing homes, assisted living facilities or senior centers in your area and ask if they can help you with the MediCal or Medicaid application process.  Many of them can walk you through the process or they can refer you to a specialist who can help you.

For additional retirement information, use the tabs at the top of this page.  They contain links to hundreds of additional articles on retirement.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Age In Place - Retire Where You Live Now

Although this blog often contains articles about exotic places to retire, according to AARP about three-quarters of retirees would like to stay in their current home or, at the very least, in their current neighborhood.  There are a few issues that can make this difficult, however,  First, your current home may be too expensive to support once you are living on a fixed income.  Second, it may not be properly designed to accommodate someone who is aging, especially if they develop any disabilities (which is the situation for about two-thirds of people by age 85).  For example, a multistory home, like the ones in this photo, may need to be adapted or replaced with a single story home, if you plan to age in place.

However, despite a few challenges, you do not have to give up your dream of retiring where you currently live.  You just need to plan properly.  Below are some things to consider, as well as some tips to make it easier for you to age in place.

Can You Afford to Stay Where You Are?

Are you going to be retiring with a mortgage or high taxes and maintenance costs on your current home?  Now may be the time to look for a smaller home in your current area.  Sometimes just moving a short distance to a smaller house will make it easier for you to continue to live in your present neighborhood.  This means you do not have to change the places you shop, the doctors you see, the church you attend, access to your family and friends, etc.

It's important that you make this change before you retire.  You don't want to go through your savings before you move and you want to make major lifestyle changes while you are as young as possible.  It will be much easier.  In addition, if you need to have a mortgage on your new home, it will be easier to qualify for the loan and you will get a lower interest rate if you make the move while you are still working.

Modifications You May Want to Make to Your Retirement Home

Whether you decide to stay in your current house or move to a smaller one nearby, you may need to make some modifications.  It is smart to do these things while you are still working and before you are living on a fixed income.  Making these modifications could help you stay out of a nursing home and in your own home much longer.

Here are some of the changes you may want to make:

A downstairs bedroom with full bathroom
OR Getting a stair lift for your staircase
Grab bars in the bathrooms
A shower chair
Automatic night lights in a variety of outlets (including battery powered night lights
Non-slip mats under area rugs
Raise your electrical outlets so that they are easier to reach
Replace door knobs with levers
Rearrange cabinets so you never need to climb on a chair to get commonly used items 

Some of these items, such as owning a shower chair or installing night-lights, can be done immediately and very inexpensively.  Other changes, such as designing a downstairs master bedroom with full bathroom or installing a stair lift, can be more complicated or expensive.  However, in some cases you could remodel your current home by expanding a downstairs half bath into a full bath and making minor alterations to a rarely used downstairs room that is currently being used as a formal dining room, den or home office.  If this will not work for you, then it might be best to move to another, nearby home.

You may also be eligible for financial assistance in remodeling your home to make it work for you, especially if you have some specific disabilities.  Check the resources at the bottom of this article for links to sites that can provide you additional information about obtaining financial assistance to make modifications to your home.

Depending on the health issues you or your spouse have, there are some specific modifications you could do that would make your home more handicapped accessible.  For example, if someone in your home uses a wheel chair, you may need wider doorways, a more accessible bathtub and lower kitchen cabinets.  You should take these alterations into consideration if you are doing any other remodeling in your home.

Be Sure You Can Call For Help When You Need It 

If you are living alone in your home, without nearby relatives or caregivers, you need to make sure it is easy for you to summon help when you need it.  For example, you might want to get a medical alert device that you wear as a pendant.  You might also want to install an alarm system on your home or obtain other high-tech devices so you know if someone enters your home.

Adding a few simple items of technology will increase your security and make you less likely to feel helpless after a fall or injury.

For example, medical alert devices that you wear as a pendant can be used to connect you with a live operator when you push a button.  The operator can call a relative or neighbor for you or, when necessary, contact emergency personnel.

A security system will discourage burglars.  It can also be setup with a loud chime that will alert you if anyone enters your home while you are there.  If the alarm goes off when you are not at home, the company will automatically notify the police that there has been an unauthorized entry.  In addition, if a fire starts in your home, you will be awakened by a piercing alarm and the fire department will automatically be summoned. 

Making use of these high-tech devices could save your life and make it much safer and easier for you to age in place and stay in your own home.

Join Your Local Senior Center

If you decide to remain in your own home when you retire, it would be a smart decision to become involved with your local senior center.  They provide a variety of services that include exercise programs, entertainment, activities, informative classes, low-cost meals and access to a variety of senior services such as free tax preparation, meals-on-wheels or transportation to doctor's offices. 

For the same reasons, you will want to stay involved in your current activities as long as possible, including your church or temple, book club, bridge group, or social organizations. 

Participating in as many community activities as possible is important for your physical and mental health.  They will also help you avoid one of the most serious problems experienced by many people who age in their own homes, away from other senior citizens ... loneliness.

You will also want to use the tabs at the top of this blog for more information about retirement planning.

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