Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Covid Prevention Two Years Into the Pandemic

Two years after we first heard about a new coronavirus which was referred to as Covid-19, we are still seeing around 30,000 official deaths a month in the United States. We may never even know the number of unofficial deaths which occurred in people who died prematurely because Covid hastened their death from a chronic health condition. Personally, I know my father, two neighbors, and several friends, all of whom either died from Covid alone, or had their deaths hastened by it. 

Despite these dire numbers, we have made substantial progress in the past two years in our fight against Covid.  Scientists have learned more about the virus, and they have developed vaccines which reduce our risk of hospitalization and death. We have also learned which activities increase or decrease our risk.  Finally, researchers have discovered antiviral and anti-inflammatory treatments which can make a big difference in our outcome, if we do contract Covid. 

Below is a rundown of where things stand, who is most in danger of dying from Covid, how to lower your risk, and what to do if you think you might have it.

What is Your Risk of Dying from Covid?

By early April, 2022, nearly 1,000,000 people had officially died of Covid in the United States, and over 90% of those deaths were in people over the age of 50.  In the 31 days between January 16 and February 16, 2022, there were 75,000 Covid related deaths in the United States, with over 65,000 of those deaths occurring in people over age 50.  In March, the numbers had dipped to "only" 30,000 deaths for the month.  However, that is the equivalent of a commercial jet crashing every day, and is nearly quadruple the 8,000 cases a month we saw in August of 2021.

In the cases of people who died before age 50, many of them had pre-existing conditions, although those conditions could have been as mild as simply being obese, or as serious as having poorly treated diabetes or heart disease.  However, we do not always know why Covid hits some people so much harder than others.

The actual death toll caused by Covid may be higher than we realize, because in some parts of the United States families have been allowed to ask that Covid be removed from the death certificate, especially if the person had any other illness which was the primary cause of death, with Covid acting as the "final straw" in hastening their death.  We also know that in the early days of the pandemic, in places such as New York City, the National Guard was sent to pick up the bodies of people who had died at home or in nursing facilities, and many of those bodies were not tested and not included in the official count.  

The fact is that if you have any chronic health problems, including being overweight, you have an increased risk of dying if you get Covid. If you have a serious health problem and you are over the age of 65 when you contract Covid, your risk is extremely high. Sadly, in some cases, a number of perfectly healthy children and young adults have also died.

What are the Best Ways to Reduce Your Covid Risk?

Over the past two years, we have learned that there are several actions you can take on your own to dramatically reduce your risk of dying.  These are:

Get vaccinated and, when eligible, get booster shots.  As of late March, 2022, the CDC has recommended that people over the age of 50 get TWO booster shots, if it has been at least four months since they had their last shot.  The nation of Israel discovered that people who had two booster shots had a significantly lower rate of death and complications if they contracted Covid, than people with only one booster shot.  In addition, people who had one booster shot had a lower rate of death and complications than people who had only had the original two doses of Covid. 

Lose weight, eat a healthy diet (Ad) and treat your other medical conditions..

Wash your hands frequently, and use hand sanitizer when you cannot wash them.

Maintain healthy levels of Vitamin D, (Ad) either by spending time daily outdoors in the sunshine or taking supplements.  People with low levels of Vitamin D in their bodies tend to have worse outcomes when they contract Covid-19, compared to those with adequate levels.

Wear a facemask when around others, especially unvaccinated people and strangers.  In particular, you should wear an N95 mask that is made in America if you are especially vulnerable.  If you have trouble finding them, a good second choice is a KN95 mask, or surgical masks.  (Ads)  All of these masks provide a high degree of protection, as long as they fit well and do not have gaps around the edges.  I keep some of each type of mask on-hand, and choose my mask depending on what I am doing that day.  If you want to wear a fun sequined or decorative mask, wear a surgical mask underneath it. Fabric masks alone are not very effective at protecting you. The good news is that facemasks will also reduce your risk of catching the flu, bronchitis, and other respiratory illnesses, including the common cold.

Stay home as much as possible if you have a serious, chronic health condition, or if you are getting treated for cancer, or had recent surgery.  Avoid house guests and mingling with others in either your home or theirs. If possible, do as much of your shopping from home as possible.  Check out this recent article on how to order your groceries online from Amazon Fresh. 

Avoid crowded spaces, especially indoors, where you do not know the vaccination status of the people around you.  Research indicates that you only have about 10 percent of the risk of catching Covid if you are outdoors, because the aerosolized virus gets disbursed more quickly in a well-ventilated area. That is one reason why it appears to be a seasonal virus, with fewer cases in the summer months, when more people socialize outdoors. Of course, if you are standing next to an infected person who is close enough to spray your face with their germs as they speak, being outside will not provide any protection. Keep your distance from others and wear a facemask in those situations!

Do NOT expect government mandates to protect you.  Look around.  Most Covid mandates have expired.  Even where a few Covid mandates are still in effect, they are widely ignored.  YOU are responsible for your own health, and you are the person who has to make sure you are protected. You are the person who will pay the price if you develop a bad case of Covid.  Never be embarrassed to take care of yourself.

What If You Think You Have Covid, or You Were Exposed?

If you develop the symptoms of Covid, especially a fever and a bad cough, sore throat, or other cold symptoms, get tested.  If you think you have been exposed, but are not showing any symptoms, or you tested negative on a home test, wait a couple of days and then get tested, again.  It can take two or three days after you show symptoms before a home test may be able to identify the virus. 

If you go to a testing center, they will give you a PCR test.  It will take a couple of days to get the results, but this is the most accurate type of test.

You can use an at-home Covid test (Ad) and get results in 15 minutes, but it may not be as accurate as the PCR tests.  The at-home tests initially miss as many as 30 to 60 percent of Covid cases, often because they are taken too soon after exposure, before the virus has had a chance to replicate in your body. When ordering a test, choose one that has a high approval rating.

Here's a basic rule of thumb with the at-home tests:  If you test positive, you have CovidIf you test negative, you might still have Covid, especially if you have symptoms, such as a fever, cough, sore throat, and loss of taste or smell.  Wait a day or two and test again.  If your symptoms are getting worse, call your doctor and go to a testing center for a PCR test.  The advantage of at-home tests is that they are quick, easy to use, and the government has required that your medical insurance carrier reimburse you for up to eight at-home tests a month!  The disadvantage of at-home tests is that you might have to repeat them several times.

New Treatments for Covid

Do not assume that Covid is "just like the flu" and decide to self-treat it solely with rest and plenty of fluids.  See your doctor to get the latest treatment protocol. Over the past two years we have had about 10 to 15 times as many deaths from Covid as we ever have during a bad season of the flu.  A Covid diagnosis is much more serious and is much more likely to kill you.  

Contact your doctor or healthcare provider as soon as possible.  They have new antiviral and anti-inflammatory drugs which help keep the virus from replicating in your body, or causing an extreme inflammatory response.  Some of the drugs which are getting the best results are the new antiviral drugs molnupiravir and Paxlovid (which contains Nirmatrelvir).  Doctors have also had some success with the cholesterol drug fenofibrate and the antidepressant fluvoxamine, which reduces inflammation.  All of these drugs can be given by pill and taken at home.  New drugs are constantly being discovered, but with all of them it is important to take them as soon as possible after a diagnosis of Covid.  

Monoclonal antibodies are also effective, but they are in short supply and have to be given by an IV.  They have also been less effective with the Omicron variant than they were with the Delta variant.  

Watch for Signs of Long-Covid

Many viral and bacterial diseases remain in our body for decades and can continue to cause health problems in the future.  Examples of these are chicken pox, polio, herpes, and Lyme Disease.  Currently, about 37 percent of people who have survived Covid have developed long Covid symptoms which include lung damage, cognitive impairment, muscle pain, weakness, heart disease, fatigue, severe headaches and depression.  Even people who have had a mild case of Covid have an increased risk of a heart attack during the following year.  No one knows what the impact of Covid could be decades from now.

Vaccinated people have a lower risk of long-Covid, but some of them still develop it.  It is smart for everyone to avoid exposure as much as possible, and to get treated quickly if you get it despite your best efforts.

Check with your doctor if you suspect you may have long Covid.  Many of the health issues can be treated.  In other cases, it may turn out that you do not have long Covid but another health issue which has not been diagnosed.  Do not ignore the problems and assume they will eventually go away. 

What Else Can You Do to Protect Yourself?

Most of us are "tired of Covid" and want to just get past it.  However, it is risky to pretend that Covid is over.  With 30,000 to 75,000 additional people dying of Covid every month, none of us can afford to ignore it.  If you have done well so far, don't let your guard down, now.  

Be particularly careful during the winter. Remember, Covid appears to be seasonal.  Although cases will probably drop in the spring and summer, cases are likely to continue to spike during the winter months, at least until we have better vaccines, higher vaccine compliance, and better access to medications which treat it.  Meanwhile, it is wise to plan large family events such as weddings and reunions for the summer months, hold them outdoors, and encourage everyone to be vaccinated and boosted.

Continue to get booster shots whenever your healthcare provider recommends them, especially as scientists develop new and better vaccines.

Get a flu shot to protect yourself from other respiratory diseases which could make you more vulnerable to Covid.  Some people have been getting Flurona, which is a combination of the flu and Covid at the same time.  When this happens, they have DOUBLE the death rate of people who just get Covid. 

Keep wearing a facemask indoors around other people, particularly unvaccinated people or strangers. We need to practice feeling normal whenever we wear a mask in a store or while traveling.

Avoid crowds, especially indoors in poorly ventilated spaces.

Continue washing your hands often, and avoid touching your face.  Although rare, it is possible to get Covid on your skin and transmit it to your mouth or nose by touching these areas.

Do NOT rely on a previous Covid infection to protect you.  Many people have been infected by Covid more than once.  Some people have had their symptoms reappear only a few weeks or months after recovering from a previous infection. You should continue to take reasonable precautions, even if you have been vaccinated or had an infection.

Maintain your overall health, to make yourself less vulnerable.  Follow your doctor's instructions about the medications you should be on, including supplements which could support your immunity.  Get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Get tested if you develop Covid symptoms or believe you have been exposed to Covid, and contact your doctor quickly if you test positive.  You can purchase at-home Covid tests online (Ad) and have them delivered within a day or two.  Your medical insurance company should reimburse you for the purchase of up to eight tests per month. Medicare began reimbursing its beneficiaries in the spring of 2022. 

Fill any prescriptions for antiviral or other medications quickly.  The sooner you start taking them, the better they work.  Do NOT experiment with unproven treatments when there are proven medications which could be safer and more effective.

Be thoughtful and protect others. You may have a strong immune system, but what about your elderly relatives, or the friend who is recovering from cancer, surgery or a heart attack?  Stay home until you test negative and, in particular, avoid exposing anyone who is likely to get a serious case of Covid if they are exposed.

What If You Do Not Succeed in Preventing Covid?

The truth is that many people will be on their own if they are not successful at protecting themselves from Covid.  Some of the serious consequences are:

Increased death rate: If you do not get vaccinated, you are approximately 97 TIMES as likely to die if you get Covid as your vaccinated peers, according to the CDC.

Financial problems: If you survive Covid, but have a lengthy hospitalization, you could end up losing your job and, depending on your health insurance, have high co-pays and deductibles.  On average, hospitalized patients with private insurance have paid an average of about $4,000 out-of-pocket for their care.  However, some people are underinsured and there have been patients who were forced into bankruptcy because of high medical bills.  In early 2022, about 12,000 people a day are being hospitalized for Covid-19.  Can you afford to be in the hospital for weeks, followed by another few months in a skilled nursing home?

Serious health effects: If you survive Covid, you also have about a 1 in 3 risk of developing Long Covid, with chronic health problems you did not have before.  This can include new heart problems, diabetes, respiratory failure, blood clots, decreased mobility, memory problems and other symptoms of cognitive decline. Long Covid sometimes begins to show up just a few weeks after recovering from a case of Covid, even a mild case of it.  No one knows what health consequences there could be in future years for people who survived Covid, since we have only been aware of the virus for the past two years.

Fortunately, if you take the precautions mentioned above, you have a much better chance of staying healthy and reducing your personal risk, as well as the risk to others.  Then, you can enjoy your life with one less thing to worry about! 

You can find gifts for retirees and others at my Etsy Store, DeborahDianGifts:

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If you are interested in learning more about 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.

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Sunday, February 6, 2022

Ordering Groceries From Amazon Fresh Can Help Many Seniors

As we age, doing our own grocery shopping and carrying heavy groceries from our car into our home can be overwhelming for many senior citizens, especially if they live in an apartment or have to carry their groceries from a parking lot.  During stressful situations, such as when you are trying to stay safe during a pandemic, or after you have had surgery, a simple trip to the grocery store can be overwhelming. Sometimes adult children want to help an elderly relative with their shopping, but it is hard for them to find the time to do it on a regular basis. What is a good solution to address these problems?

Most Americans have ordered a book, a gift or other products from Amazon over the years.  Many people are members of Amazon Prime and use its streaming service to enjoy their favorite television shows.  For any senior who has used Amazon in these ways, they will be pleased to know they can now order their groceries on Amazon and, in most places, have their order delivered within a few hours or, at worst, by the next day.

My Experience With Ordering Groceries Online

During the Covid-19 pandemic, I tried a variety of food delivery services, with varying degrees of success. For a while, I ordered fully cooked chef prepared meals delivered to my home from a local food service. However, the service I used closed down, and even when we were using it, we still needed to buy additional groceries, paper products, cleaning supplies and other items which were not available from a restaurant delivery service. 

We tried a variety of grocery store delivery services, with mixed results, before we realized that Amazon Fresh (Ad) was the ideal solution for us. Since then, my grocery shopping has been so much easier!  My husband also loves it, because he often sits with me while I place our order, and requests a few items he specifically wants added to the list.

How to Order Groceries from Amazon Fresh 

Log into your Amazon Account

Underneath the word Amazon in the upper left, click on the Groceries tab

In our area, we have three choices which pop up .... Amazon Fresh (Ad), Whole Foods, and Bristol Farms. The options may be different in your area, but Amazon Fresh should be available in most parts of the country, especially near Amazon distribution centers.  If not, one of the other available grocery services may be available.

Click on the grocery store you prefer, and begin shopping.

How to Find What You Need

When you click on Amazon Fresh, (Ad) which is the service I prefer, pictures of various grocery items will pop up.  Across the top of the page you will see a series of tabs for different departments in your virtual grocery store:  Fresh Produce, Meat & Seafood, Dairy & Eggs, Frozen Foods, Beer Wine & Spirits, and Household Supplies.  (Beer, Wine & Spirits may not be available for delivery in some parts of the country.)

Click on each tab, browse through the choices, and click on "Add to Cart" for any items which you wish to purchase.  It will tell you if that item is out of stock.  

If you do not see a particular item you want, type the name of it into the search bar at the top of the Amazon page, just as you would if you were searching for a book or other item.  It is a quick way to search for items you do not see immediately on your Amazon Fresh page. 

Occasionally, an item will not be available through Amazon Fresh, (Ad) but can be ordered from the regular Amazon site and will arrive within a few days. It is perfectly fine to use that option for some of your items, especially if you are a member of Amazon Prime and entitled to free two-day delivery.   

Once you have your full order on Amazon Fresh, it is very similar to ordering anything else you have ever ordered from Amazon.  

Go to your Amazon cart and double-check your order to make sure it is exactly what you want.  This is the time to make changes. It is almost impossible to remove an item, once you have placed your order. However, sometimes you can add something to your original order, if the person filling your order has not started, yet. 

Next, make sure they have the right delivery address for you.  Add special delivery instructions if your home is hard to find, or there is other information you want the driver to know. 

The primary difference between an Amazon grocery order and a normal Amazon delivery is that when you place an Amazon grocery order you are able to select a specific delivery day and the time which is most convenient for you.  They will deliver your groceries within the two-hour window you choose ... for example, "tomorrow between 3:00 and 5:00."  

If you order at least $35 worth of food, there is no delivery charge.  However, they will add a tip to your order, which for me has always been either $5, or $7 for my larger orders.  This is offset by the fact that I use my Amazon Prime credit card to pay for my groceries, so I get 5% of my purchase price returned to me as a credit which I can use for future purchases.  The 5% credit usually covers most of the cost of my tip.

If you also needed to put a few items into your regular Amazon shopping cart, because they were not available through Amazon Fresh, you will have to individually check out both your Amazon Fresh order and your regular Amazon shopping cart.  The orders will be delivered separately.

Go ahead and practice. Try out Amazon Fresh (Ad), look at what they have to offer, and just browse.  If you don't like it, simply empty your grocery cart and log off.  There is no harm in trying!  

Delivery is Hands Free

During the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been nice that most of my groceries have been delivered right to my door, and I never have to see the delivery person.  The groceries have already been paid for and the delivery person has been tipped.  They send me a text message to let me know that the food has been delivered and is sitting outside my door. They even remind me to put away the frozen foods quickly.  

I simply open the front door, bring the food inside, and put everything away.  

Future Orders are Even Easier

After you have shopped for groceries through Amazon once, things are even easier the next time.   In the future when you log into Amazon Fresh, you will see a row of photos near the top of your page under the heading "Buy it Again."  You can scroll through these items to see everything you have purchased in the past, and quickly click on the things you wish to purchase again.  Then, simply add any new items to your shopping cart.  Once you have shopped several times, and added a few new items each time, you will quickly have a fairly complete list of all your favorites.  Doing your weekly grocery shopping becomes easier and easier.

In-Person Grocery Shopping Also Becomes Quick and Easy

Of course, I still make a quick trip into a real grocery store, occasionally, usually for something I could not find on the Amazon Fresh site, or because I forgot something when I placed my last order.  However, because I need very little when I go to a grocery store, I can run in, pick up what I need, and leave quickly.  I rarely have anything heavy to carry home, because I make a point to order heavier items such as soda, bottled water, juice, milk and similar beverages from Amazon Fresh.  As a result, it is much less stressful to pop into the store to just pick up a few items I need from my neighborhood store.

Easy Way to Help Elderly or Sick Family Members

Perhaps you do not need a grocery delivery service yourself, but you have an elderly relative who lives alone, and needs help with grocery shopping. You can also use Amazon Fresh (Ad) to order groceries, paper products and cleaning supplies, and have these items delivered to them, as long as they live in an Amazon Fresh delivery area.  

Ask your relative for a list of their favorite foods and other products, and order the groceries for them.  This could be especially helpful if they do not have a computer or they are uncomfortable ordering things online. You can be reassured that the groceries will be delivered right to their door.  For seniors on a tight budget, shopping for them occasionally can also be a thoughtful gift.

Of course, this is also an easy way to help out a new mother in your family, or a sick friend or relative.  You can use the service to have Amazon deliver them a few groceries, until they are able to get out of the house, again. Just make sure you discuss it with them first, so you can set up a delivery time that would be convenient for them!

Relax, sit back in your favorite arm chair, and do your grocery shopping this evening.  It will make life so much easier. 

Enjoy your morning coffee or tea in this cheerful coffee mug which I designed and had professionally manufactured. 

You can find it and more gifts for retirees and others at my Etsy Store, DeborahDianGifts.  Check it out here and see what else you might discover:

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.  You will receive a weekly email with the most current post.
If you are interested in learning more about getting the help you need as you age, Medicare, Social Security, financial planning, common medical issues, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

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Photo credit: Image from Pixabay


Thursday, January 27, 2022

Retirement Income: Making Your Money Last a Lifetime

Currently in the U.S., the typical Baby Boomer between the ages of 65 and 74 in the U.S. has financial assets with a median value of about $50,000 in 2019 values, according to the Federal Reserve.  This sum, in addition to your Social Security benefits and any other pensions you will receive, needs to last the rest of your life. How can you turn these assets and income sources into a comfortable retirement? Most retirees worry that they will spend their money too quickly, leaving them destitute at the end of their life. As a result, they are looking for a practical way to make sure their assets last as long as they do.

What can you do to reduce your risk of outliving your money, while still being able to benefit from the money you have managed to put aside for your retirement?

Compare Your Retirement Expenses to Income

Your first step is to total up how much it costs you to live each month, including occasional expenses such as the cost of travel, home repairs, medical bills, and property taxes.  

Then, total up the amount you will receive in Social Security benefits and other pensions, and compare the two figures.  Hopefully, the comparison of your income to your expenses will be very close. If not, you will either have to cut your cost of living, or make up the difference by increasing your income or retirement assets.  Even if the gap initially seems large, don't panic!  There are many ways to make up the difference.

How to Cut Your Expenses

Your first step is to cut your expenses, especially if you do not have a large amount of retirement savings. There are a number of ways to do this. Here are just a few suggestions:

Downsize to a less expensive home, OR, if possible, pay off your current mortgage, OR refinance the mortgage so your payments are much lower.  Any of these changes could save you hundreds of dollars a month.

Switch from original Medicare and an expensive Medicare Supplement plan and change to a Medicare Advantage plan, instead.  This could save you hundreds of dollars a month.

Get rid of your current landline phone service, and use your cell phone, only.

Look for the least expensive plans you can find for cell phone service, cable television, internet access and similar services you use. Eliminate rarely used streaming services and similar small expenses that have a way of adding up quickly. However, try not to eliminate services which you find useful, or that bring you pleasure, or that improve your safety and security.

Consider a Reverse Mortgage

If you want to remain in your current home, and have a large amount of equity in the house, you might consider getting a reverse mortgage which you could use to pay off your remaining mortgage without requiring you to make payments on the loan.  The downside of this is that the principal on the loan will remain, and interest on the loan will accumulate until you move out of the house.  By that time, the interest could have eaten up your equity, not leaving you anything to pass on to your heirs.  

You can avoid the accumulating interest by making small payments on the second mortgage, if you can afford to.  However, before entering into a reverse mortgage, you should thoroughly investigate how much interest would accumulate, how much the monthly payments would be if you wanted to pay the interest off each month, and any other questions you have.

While a reverse mortgage is not right for everyone, for some retirees it is a good way stay in their homes for the rest of their lives.  The older you are when you begin a reverse mortgage, the better choice this is, because there will be less time for the interest to accumulate and eat up your equity. 

How to Increase Your Income

Once you have reduced your expenses as much as you comfortably are able to, then you need to look at your options for increasing your income.

The longer you work before you begin to collect your Social Security and pension benefits, up until age 70 for a worker and the mid-60s for widow's benefits, the more money you will receive each month.  If you are concerned about having a shortfall in retirement income, wait as long as possible to begin collecting these benefits.

If you have already retired, another way to increase your income is to continue to work part-time after you leave your full-time pre-retirement job. There will be a cap on how much money you can earn, at first, if you are working and collecting Social Security simultaneously, prior to your full retirement age. However, this cap goes away once you are at your full retirement age.  This is another good reason to wait to collect your Social Security benefits.  

If you have not retired yet, check the specific age limits at the time of your planned retirement, so you know if you will have a temporary cap on your earnings.  Once you are able to get your Social Security benefits and work without an income cap at the same time, the extra money could make you much more comfortable.  It could also help you continue to build up your savings, so you will have more money available when you no longer are able to work.

Find an Easy Part-time Job

Consider part-time jobs you can do from home or which will not be too exhausting for you.  For example, you may be able to tutor people online or help neighborhood children with their homework, give lessons in some skill you have (music, art, cooking, etc.), or sell your crafts or artwork.  Depending on your life and work experience, you might also be able to help people prepare their taxes, or deal with common computer problems, or be a dog walker or pet sitter.  If you like to write, you could consider writing online articles for a site like TextBroker.

Do Not Get Scammed!

You should not have to pay anyone anything in order to get a part-time job from home.  If someone asks you to buy something, it is a scam.  Start your own little home business, or work for a reputable company.  Check it out carefully with the Better Business Bureau and by looking for online reviews. 

Decide How Much Money to Withdraw from Savings Each Year

If your Social Security Benefits and pension will not cover your expenses, you can further enhance your income by using a small portion of your savings each month to make up the difference.

The younger you are when you begin dipping into your savings to cover expenses, the less you will be able to use, so wait as long as you can before taking this step. 

If you are in your 60's, it is advisable that you begin by taking out no more than 3% a year from your savings.  Each year, you can take an additional .03% of the total remaining balance to help compensate for inflation. Doing this, the money should last as much as 33 years or more, depending on the interest, dividends and asset appreciation over the years.  If you have a 401(k) or an IRA, you will not be required to start taking minimum distributions from those accounts until you are in your 70s (they periodically increase the age of these required distributions).  However, if you want to begin to enjoy the benefits of your savings before that age, and you feel you can afford it, you are not required to wait that long.  

If you are able to wait until you are in your 70's before you start dipping into your financial assets, you could begin taking 4% a year, increasing it by .04% of the total remaining balance each year.  In this way, your money will last another 25 years or more.  Make sure you take out at least enough to meet the Required Minimum Distribution, so you do not get hit with a surprise tax bill on your assets. 

Finally, if you are in your late 70s or older before making withdrawals, or if you have a reason to believe you are nearing the end of your life, you can start removing 5% a year, increasing the amount by .05% a year of the total remaining balance.  In this way, your money could last 20 or more years, which will meet the lifetime needs of most people.

For a more detailed approach on how to make your money last during retirement, you will want to read, "How to Make Your Money Last: The Indispensable Retirement Guide." (Ad) It delves much deeper into the specifics of making sure you have a financially secure retirement.  

Don't Forget to Set Aside an Emergency Fund

Life comes with surprises, as we all know.  Over the years, you may need to purchase a new car or repair the old one, or you may have an adult child move in with you because of a setback in their life.  You may develop an expensive health problem, need to travel to see a sick relative, or decide to help a grandchild.  You may even need to hire a caregiver for a short time.  If you begin to dip excessively into your total assets to cover these expenses, you could face a major shortfall in the future, if you are not prepared.

As a result, it is good advice to continue to set aside a portion of your income in an emergency savings account.  In fact, if you have adequate financial assets at the beginning of your retirement, you may find it helpful to set aside at least $5,000 to $10,000 in an emergency fund from the very beginning, so you are not forced to sell stocks when they are down.  Add to this fund whenever you can, and only remove money from it in a true emergency.  This extra emergency account will reduce your fear that you might need to dramatically cut the amount you can safely remove from your retirement savings each month.

Interesting Statistics About Retirement Savings

About 75% of grandparents have admitted that they are willing to offer financial help to their families. (Make sure your own expenses are covered first, though. Supporting adult children is one of the most common drains on the finances of retirees.)

About one-third of retirees have more financial assets 17 to 18 years AFTER they retire than they did at the beginning.  This is because they often continue to save money and only use a small portion of their dividends to cover their expenses, which allows their assets to continue to grow.  This means that, with careful planning, you can become more financially secure the older you get. 

Many retirees overestimate what their expenses will be after they retire.  After the first few years, they may find that they are not traveling and entertaining as much as they did when they were younger.

Since the recession of 2008, there has been an increase in the purchase of multigenerational homes.  Because housing averages about 35 percent of the spending for people over age 65, sharing a home with an adult child can save a retiree a lot of money. 

Another helpful guide to financial planning for retirement is the book "The Ultimate Retirement Guide for 50+: Winning Strategies to Make Your Money Last a Lifetime." (Ad)  Good planning is essential in your quest to not outlive your savings.

Bottom Line:  If you cut your expenses, work as long as you can, build your pensions, and grow your savings, you can have a comfortable retirement.  Most of the recommendations in this article came from an AARP Magazine article dated April/May 2021.

After doing a good job of planning your retirement income, you can reward yourself with a gift for yourself or someone you care about.  

You can find great gifts for retirees and your family, at my Etsy Store, DeborahDianGifts.  Check it out here:

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.  You will receive a weekly email with the most current post.
If you are interested in learning more about retirement, Medicare, Social Security, common medical issues as we age, financial planning, where to retire 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 to support this blog, at no extra cost to you.

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Photo credit:  Pixabay
 - Mohamed Hassan photographer


Monday, January 17, 2022

Medicare Costs are Rising - How Can You Control Them?

Despite the fact that Social Security beneficiaries will receive a 5.9 percent increase in 2022, a large part of this increase will be offset by rising Medicare premiums and other healthcare costs.  The premiums for Medicare Part B, the part which covers doctor visits and other outpatient care, is increasing by 14.55% or $21.60 a month.  This will impact lower income retirees more dramatically than their wealthier peers. 

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, approximately one-third of retirees are spending at least 20% of their per capita income on healthcare costs.  In 2018, the average person with traditional Medicare spent $6,150 out-of-pocket. That amount was much higher for some people with large medical bills and expensive medications, and has caused many retirees to have to choose between buying food and paying for necessary medications. 

Deductibles are increasing, too. The annual deductible for Part A, which covers hospitalizations, is increasing 5 percent to $1,556.  The deductible for Part B, which covers doctor visits and outpatient care, is increasing 14.77 percent to $233.  These are not the only rising costs which Medicare recipients can expect.

What About the Cost of Medicare Supplements or Medigap Plans?

Many people purchase a Medicare Supplement plan (often called Medigap policies) to cover all or most of the cost of their deductibles and co-pays. However, the premiums can amount to several hundred dollars a month per person, so many couples and individuals are unable to handle this additional expense over their basic Medicare premiums.  About 20 percent of Medicare beneficiaries choose not to have a Medigap policy, which means they have to pay their deductibles out-of-pocket.  These unexpected bills can be devastating for some retirees who are barely surviving.

High Cost of Drugs and Drug Plans

Drug prices continue to be a major issue for many retirees, too.  You can purchase a Medicare Part D plan to help with the cost of your medication.  However, you will have to pay additional premiums for your drug plan, and they DO NOT cap the total amount that an enrollee must pay out-of-pocket each year for drugs. In 2022, a patient will pay a deductible of $480 until the insurance company and the enrollee have spent a combined total of $4,430 for medications. After that, the patient will pay a percentage of their drug costs, which could be a substantial amount if you have a serious, chronic illness.

Can The Government Help Control Medicare Costs?

There are some actions being proposed which could help with these rising costs, especially the cost of medications. The Build Back Better Plan, currently under consideration in Congress, would cap out-of-pocket Part D drug costs at $2,000 a year, beginning in 2024.  

Build Back Better would also allow Medicare to negotiate prices with drug companies for some of the most expensive drugs, starting in 2025 for Part D drugs, and starting in 2027 for Part B drugs.  The bill would also limit the cost of insulin to no more than $35 a month.

Of course, all this depends on the passage of the Build Back Better bill, or a similar bill designed to help people on Medicare. If no bill is passed, then drug prices will continue to rise, without a cap, for senior citizens. One action retirees can take is to write or call their Congressman and Senators and ask them to support this legislation. Since most of our representatives in Congress are not on Medicare, but on a special Congressional health insurance plan, many of them do not understand how serious the problem is for the average retiree.

What Can Individuals do to Control Their Medicare Costs?

In addition, there are several actions which individuals can take to help control their Medicare costs.

First, make sure you are following all the correct rules so you obtain your Medicare coverage at the lowest possible cost, and do not pay an extra large premium because of a mistake.  The handy book, "10 Costly Medicare Mistakes You Can't Afford to Make," (Ad) will help you make sure you follow all their rules. One mistake, such as signing up at the wrong time, can cause you to pay higher premiums for the rest of your life.

Next, if you have a low income, see if you qualify for both Medicaid as well as Medicare.  Medicaid pays most of the out-of-pocket expenses for low-income retirees, and replaces the need for them to have a supplement or a drug plan.  This can be a substantial savings.  In addition, if you need long-term care in the future, Medicare will not cover it, but Medicaid will.   Applying for both can be very beneficial, if you qualify.

Another tip is to do comparison shopping every year during the open enrollment period to see if you are on the best and most affordable Medicare Supplement and Part D drug plan for you.  Talk to an agent and check the prices of the different plans, taking into consideration your current health problems.  There is a wide variety of plans and premiums available, including both HMO and PPO supplement plans.  Many pharmacies will help you compare different Part D plans to make sure you have one which will cover the largest number of your medications with the lowest possible co-pays.

Finally, you may want to consider switching from traditional Medicare, plus a supplement, plus a drug plan and move to an all-inclusive Medicare Advantage plan, instead. You may want to read my article, "Medicare Supplements vs. Medicare Advantage Plans: What are the Differences?" Medicare Advantage plans must cover everything that is covered under original Medicare, plus many of the same things you would get with a supplement and a drug plan, but with no additional premiums.  Sometimes, Medicare Advantage Plans have a small premium, but typically it is less than $50 a month. In other words, it is like getting an HMO supplement and drug plan for free or at a very low cost. Medicare Advantage plans can save you thousands of dollars a year in premiums.  The disadvantage is that you can only use the doctors and facilities which are part of their plan, except in an emergency.

With a little planning on your part and, hopefully, some help from government legislation and programs, many people have found that they are able to keep their Medicare expenses under control, despite the recent price increases.

Remember to pick up a copy of the cheap book, "10 Costly Medicare Mistakes You Can't Afford to Make," (Ad) to learn how to avoid mistakes and keep your Medicare costs as low as possible. 

Show your support of our country with one of these patriotic t-shirts with the words "America the Beautiful" and a photo of Laguna Beach, California covered in American flags.

You can find these shirts, in red, white or blue backgrounds, and other gifts for retirees and and their families at my Etsy Store, DeborahDianGifts.  Check it out here:

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.  You will receive one weekly email containing the most current post. 

If you are interested in learning more about 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: Amazon book cover, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Google Images


Friday, January 7, 2022

WW - Weight Watchers Personal Points Program - My Review

Like many people, I have dropped in and out of Weight Watchers several times over the past couple of decades. During that time, I have seen many changes as the organization made improvements to their program. The older I have gotten, the more I realize how much I benefit from their weight loss plans.  A couple of years ago, they changed from calling themselves Weight Watchers and switched to simply being known as WW.  They did this in order to stress more overall health and wellness, and not just weight loss. I like the new wellness approach.

Recently, WW also made a bold move to give everyone an individualized eating plan, based on each person's personal food preferences.  After using a variety of WW programs over the years, I have found this one to be the most effective plan, yet.  

Over the past year, I lost about 10 pounds on the old WW plan.  Since beginning the WW Personal Points Program, I lost an additional 10 pounds in just a couple of months, and lost it more easily than I have ever been able to before.  I even managed to lose weight during the Christmas and New Year's holiday, despite the fact that there were a couple of days when I definitely overate. No wonder I like this new plan!

You can sign up for WW, or look over the program choices, by clicking on the link below. Or, read more about the program, below, to see how the new program works. (Ad)

What Everyone Has in Common on the WW Personal Points Program

For the first time in my experience, users are able to earn extra food points by doing things such as drinking 60 ounces of water a day, or eating a cup of non-starchy vegetables.  Increasing the amount of plain water and vegetables we consume seems to be making a huge difference.  If we fill up on water and vegetables, we are less likely to want to fill ourselves up with sweetened beverages and unhealthy, high caloric foods.  

The program also allows us to earn extra food points by getting exercise.  If you wear a fitness tracker, like a Fitbit, (Ad) you can also link the WW App on your smartphone to your Fitbit or similar fitness app.  The exercise you get will automatically allow you to receive extra points so you can indulge in your favorite foods.  The more you walk, run, swim, or participate in other exercises, the more you can eat!

If you sign up to receive their emails, you will also get frequent ideas for wonderful recipes which are delicious and low in points.  Check out the recipes on their app for foods such as low-point chili, and crustless pumpkin pie.  I have made and enjoyed both. I have even served the pie to people who are not going to WW, and they loved it, too. 

I also like the fact that air-popped popcorn is now a zero point food.  Even if you dress it up with some toppings, it is generally a very low point, satisfying snack.

The app can also tell you your personal points for thousands of items from the grocery store or in popular restaurants.  It also has a scanner, so you can check out the number of points in an item while you are still in the grocery store!  They have made it easier than ever to find ways to eat the foods you love, while still losing weight.

How the WW Personal Points Program is Personalized for You

As soon as you download the WW app, it will ask you a few questions and help you set up your personalized food and activity plan, including your very own ZeroPoint foods list. 

For example, the app will ask if you are a diabetic. If you are, you will have a couple of points assigned to fruits you eat, to keep you from consuming too many sugary fruits in a single day.  You can still eat fruit, of course.  You will just have to count the points.  This is part of their wellness plan, to help you keep your blood sugar at appropriate levels.

The app will also ask you to choose the proteins and carbs which you would like to be able to eat as zero point foods. Yes, you get to choose your own zero point foods, from their approved list, of course! In my case, I chose oatmeal, chicken or turkey breast meat, and eggs as my zero point foods.  If you don't like the choices you made the first time, you can always take the quiz, again, and make different choices. In this way, everyone is able to eat foods they enjoy, without worrying about the points.  Everyone's plan is unique.

The app will also suggest a reasonable exercise goal for you, and help you keep track of it.  Learn more about the new WW Personal Point Plan on their site at: (Ad)

What About WW Workshops?

During the worst of the Covid pandemic, when most businesses were closed down, I used the WW app Digital Plan only and did not attend any virtual workshops, although they had a number of choices available.  

However, now that my local WW site has opened up again, I have begun attending the workshops once a week. I find them inspirational and encouraging. 

Whichever choice you make, you can participate in WW and use the app in whatever way works best for you.

Whether you stay at home or attend meetings, you will still get encouraging emails, opportunities to purchase low point snacks and cooking tools which you can buy either at a workshop or online.  Often, they have sales. 

What Other Incentives do they Have?

As you earn points, you will see a little "gift box" at the bottom of your app. If you click on it, you will discover that you can earn a wide variety of gifts.  I have earned jewelry, socks, water bottles, a bluetooth speaker, and other fun items from the WW App.  I also used some of my points to donate meals to a charity.  

In addition, you can find daily workouts, meditations, and suggestions on how to change your habits on your app. It is truly a wellness program for your whole body!

How Can You Get Started?

You can join me at WW by clicking on the link below! (Ad)

Once you click on the link, you will have your choice of whether you want a simple Digital Plan (which I used during the pandemic), or Digital 360 which gives you extra support, or Unlimited Workshops + Digital, which is what I currently use.   All of the choices include the invaluable WW app.  Most of the time, you get a discount when you first join ... a free month or a lower price for the first few months.

Good luck to you. I hope you enjoy the program as much as I do!

Take time to relax and enjoy your morning coffee or tea even more as you sip it from this lovely mug, covered in hydrangeas with the words "Happiness Blooms in my Garden." It's available in either 11 ounce or 15 ounce sizes.

You can find these mugs and more gifts for retirees and others at my Etsy Store, DeborahDianGifts.  Check it out here:

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.  You will receive a weekly email with the most current post.
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 use my link to sign up for Weight Watchers, we may both receive a discount.  However, my review is NOT based on this benefit.  I truly have belonged to Weight Watchers for years, and love the program.

If you are interested in learning more about our health as we age, 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.

You are reading from the blog:

Photo credit: Google Images: Weight Watchers