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Alexa’s capabilities are seemingly endless and they’re expanding all the time. In addition to being a great way to keep yourself organized, entertain your kids, and find your favorite songs, Alexa has many benefits for seniors and caregivers. While Alexa is not a replacement for a caregiver and safety must always be the first consideration, using Alexa to support caregiver roles can be tremendously helpful.
Reminders Many seniors take several medications at different times of day. It can be a lot to organize and remember. With Alexa, you can set up reminders for different medications throughout the day. And because it’s voice activated, programming the reminders is as simple as talking to it.
Staying Oriented For people who struggle with memory loss, Alexa is an ideal companion. You can ask her what day it is or what time it is as often as you like and she won’t ever get upset or bored. Alexa can also help with general information such as what’s on TV or finding answers to historical questions.
Alleviate Boredom Want to listen to the radio or find a new audiobook? You can easily do any of that with Alexa, without getting out of your favorite chair! Or if you’re feeling like a good laugh, Alexa’s a real comedian with infinite jokes and riddles to keep you entertained.
Planning With reports on everything from weather and traffic to stocks and sports, Alexa has all the information you need to plan a trip or surprise for someone special. To go along with that and help you stay organized, Alexa makes it easy to create and organize as many lists as you want – and you can access them from anywhere!
Peace of Mind Thermostats and lights on timers are just the beginning. Using Alexa’s smart home features help reduce costs and improve safety. It’s great for everyone’s peace of mind. Of course, caregivers and seniors also need to consider safety and emergency situations. That’s where Ask My Buddy comes into play. While it doesn’t take the place of calling 911, it does help reach family or other specified contacts in the case of an emergency.
Communication Phones and emails will always be valid ways to communicate, but if you’re not near a computer or phone they can be inconvenient. With Alexa, you can send messages between any of the Echo devices. So if you have one and the senior in your care has one, you can message each other any time and retrieve the messages with a simple voice command.
Although Alexa is not a substitute for a caretaker or other professional help, she can be an excellent addition to provided care services. By making communication and easier and providing access to a variety of information and reminders, Alexa’s ever-growing skill set has something for everyone.
Whether you’ve just started thinking about saving for retirement or having been saving enough, you can ramp up your efforts and still put aside enough to retire. There are five specific steps you should take to start increasing your retirement savings today.
1. Max Out Your Contributions
People younger than 50 can contribute up to $18,500 of pretax income to a 401(k) or other employer sponsored savings plan each year. After turning 50, that amounts jumps to $24,500. By maxing out your contributions, you not only increase your retirement savings, you also reduce your taxable income. This may mean cutting some spending now, but consider your long-term goals and figure out what you can reasonably cut back on now for the long-term benefit.
2. Invest Extra Money
If you get a raise, a bonus, or a refund from the IRS, invest all of it in your retirement accounts. In the event that you’ve maxed out your contributions to tax-advantaged funds, look at alternatives such as stocks or mutual funds. While it can be tempting to spend these extra dollars, approaching your retirement savings fiercely is the best way to make up for lost time.
3. Take Calculated Risks
Typically, financial planners suggest shifting towards a more conservative investment approach the closer you get to retirement. However, if your portfolio is still small, it may make sense to skew it towards slightly higher risk growth equities. Even someone who’s 60 years old may have 20 or 30 years to plan for part of his or her retirement funds. Be careful, though, and avoid chasing “magic bullet” investments.
4. Reconsider the College Fund
While it’s admirable to want to help your kids pay for their education, the truth is that there are many financial aid options available to them, while you have only one way to fund your retirement. Particularly for parents who had their children later in life, it may be worth focusing on savings for your retirement and helping your children find alternative ways to pay for college.
5. Work a Little Longer
Anyone born after 1960 qualifies for Social Security benefits at 67, however, the government will increase your payments by up to 8% every year until the age of 70 as an incentive to delay collecting. You may decide to retire from your current career and work at something else, but each year you can hold off can dramatically increase your retirement income.
People should start saving for retirement as soon as they enter the workforce, but the fact is that most people don’t. Truthfully, most Americans don’t think about saving for retirement until their nearly old enough to retire. And those who do try to plan, often don’t consult a financial advisor and have a tough time figuring out how much money they’ll need to live comfortably once they stop working. That’s where the Spend Safely idea comes into play.
Basically, the Spend Safely plan suggests waiting until age 70 to withdraw from social security and to use the IRS’ required minimum distribution table to figure out how much to withdraw from other savings each year.
Even if you retire earlier than age 70, you can use a version of the Spend Safely strategy. A study by the Society of Actuaries determined that this strategy works best for people with $100,000 to $1million saved for retirement.
Although this strategy differs slightly from what most financial planners suggest, it may be a safe way to plan. Typically, financial professionals suggest a “4% rule” where you’d withdraw 4% of retirement savings the first year and increase the amount each year to coincide with the rate of inflation. Depending on the return rates, this strategy may not be as effective as it once was.
Instead, trending studies suggest using Social Security like an annuity and consider it to be about 75% of your retirement income. That way you can keep the rest of your retirement savings in high-return investments for as long as possible.
Of course, no strategy can make up for inadequate savings and how much you can withdraw from savings can vary greatly based on market fluctuations. But, the Spend Safely strategy is simple to follow and enables you to get as much income as possible without running out.
In the past, estate planning involved allocating financial and physical assets and ensuring your wishes for burial and memorial were laid out for your loved ones. Today, there’s an additional aspect to consider – digital assets. Banking, social media accounts, shopping accounts, and personal domains all need to be handled properly. To help your loved ones ensure your digital assets are protected, you need to create a digital estate plan.
Make a List of All Your Accounts
This may be more extensive than you first think. Include hardware such as tablets, mobile, phones and laptops as well as cloud storage accounts, e-reading software, social media, banking, email, etc. Be sure to include user names and passwords as well as the location (url or device) for each account.
Decide How You Want Each Asset Handled
You may want some accounts deleted or deactivated while others you may want to save or transfer to others. Although your wishes may conflict with some companies’ terms of service, it’s still important to communicate your desires. If any of your digital assets have monetary value – say an online stock trading account – be clear about what you want done with those assets and who should manage the accounts.
Name a Digital Executor
Unlike the executor of your will, a digital executor is not a legally binding term – at least not yet. The concept is the same, though. Your digital executor will work to ensure your wishes are met. You can opt for this to be the same person as the executor of your will or choose someone else. They need to be someone you trust to handle your passwords and other sensitive data.
Be sure all this information is stored securely and also easy for your loved ones to find. The best places to do this are with your attorney, online, or in a locked safe or bank deposit box. Once you’ve stored it, be sure you let some key people in your life know where it is.
Make It Legal
In some states (though not yet NH or MA), it’s possible to add your digital estate plan to your will as a codicil. Laws are always changing, so check with your attorney to see if you can make your digital estate plan a legally binding document. Pro tip: don’t include passwords and other login information in your will. This avoids continual updates. Instead, include information about where login information is stored.
In today’s highly digital society, including digital assets in your estate planning is more important than ever. Take the time to ensure your data is safe and your loved ones know how you want your online data handled.
Talking with loved ones about their wishes, such as DNR or other end of life measures, is an emotional difficult conversation. Doctors and other health care providers often find themselves in the middle of parents and their children trying to negotiate a truce. Thanks to an agreement that started in 2016, healthcare providers who accept Medicare are allowed to bill for this type of service.
Docs Say This is a Good Thing
During the first year, nearly 575,000 Medicare beneficiaries took advantage of this service. The conversations made it easier for whole families to be clear about their loved ones wishes, to be in agreement with the doctors, and made it possible for these conversations to happen without unnecessary stress. Nearly 23,000 providers billed around $93 million for this service in 2016 and about $43 million of that was covered by federal programs.
Doctors who’ve made use of this program see the benefits. It helps everyone involved make informed, patient-centered decisions. They see their role in these conversations bringing families closer together and offering loved ones a support place to discuss their fears and concerns.
The Other Side of the Coin
With anything like this, there’s also some controversy. Opponents fear that patients who expect life-sustaining care in their later years may be counseled away from receiving it for financial reasons. Other caregivers point out that such a scenario is far more likely to happen if there’s not a medical professional helping guide the discussion.
It’s Still New
Since this program just began in 2016, many healthcare providers are still learning about it. They’re figuring out how to code for it and bill for it correctly. So, if you’re looking to have an end of life discussion with your family and doctor, be your own advocate and ask them about it directly. They may need that push to learn about the new program.
For help getting other end of life documents in order, please contact me. I’d be happy to help you.
With every birthday, it can feel like we’re further away from our youth. On some level, that’s true, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Sure, there’s more candles on the birthday cake and a few more wrinkles when you look in the mirror. But guess what, you’ve got access to perks and benefits the younger you never would. And I’m not talking wisdom – though that’s nice too. I’m talking about tangible perks that save you money.
Before you can protest that it’s embarrassing to ask for your “senior discount” or other perks, think of it like this. You’ve EARNED it. Just as when you retire, you’ve earned the right to collect money from social security and retirement accounts, you’ve also earned the right to discounts. Why? You’ve gone through a rite of passage – and let’s face it, it’s always nice to save money.
You don’t actually have to be retired to join, despite the word “retired” being used in the organizations title. As soon as you hit the age of 50, you can join. Membership entitles you to discounts on everything from travel to entertainment and shopping to shopping and health care, even professional services like lawyers.
Individual restaurants, airlines, hotels, stores and service providers often offer their own discounts to people age 50 or 55 and older. You may need to ask – don’t be afraid to do so! After that many spins around the sun, you’ve earned it.
Transitioning from working to being retired and on a fixed income often means downsizing. Having a personal assistant or daily money manager to help with this transition is often beneficial.
One option in the downsizing process is to move to 55+ housing. These communities offer a chance to live among people your own age and often with similar hours and tolerance levels for things like noise. Frequently, 55+ communities also have other onsite amenities such as hair salons or dining facilities to make your life easier.
For help with your downsizing efforts or keeping all your discounts organized, contact me.
Phone scammers have been around almost as long as the telephone itself. Modern technology such as robo-dialers, spoofing devices and VOIP calling have only made it easier for scam artists to look like a legitimate caller when they’re actually out for your hard-earned money. One of the latest scams is taking advantage of our nation’s veterans. With Memorial Day just around the corner, it’s even more upsetting that anyone would set up a scam targeting those who’ve served our country.
Thankfully, there’s a way to avoid it. Here’s how the scam works. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has a program called the Veterans Choice Program (VCP). The idea of the program is to allow eligible vets to use approved health care providers outside the VA system. To verify their eligibility, veterans or their family members need to call a toll-free number.
And that’s where the scammers come in. They’ve set up a number that’s nearly identical to the real VCP number. A simple misdial puts vets in touch with the scam artists rather than VCP, and they won’t even know it. When veterans call this incorrect number, they think they’ve reached VCP. The fake line’s message makes callers believe their entitled to a rebate of some kind – all they have to do is give up their credit card information.
This should be a big red flag. Neither VCP or any other government agency will ask you for account information. If you do give out your card number, the scammers will debit the account, you won’t receive a rebate and you’ll have to cancel your credit card.
To avoid this scam, take a few simple steps.
1. Be sure to call 866-606-8198
2. If you’re not sure you’ve gotten the right number, hang up and call again
3. Do not share your credit card information
If you or someone you love has been a victim of this scam or other identity theft, it can be reported to the government. The VA also has its own identity theft prevention program.
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Many seniors take great comfort in their pets. They provide companionship and entertainment. In some cases, they also provide opportunities for exercise and socialization. Sadly, some seniors feel they must give up their beloved pets because they’re unable to get them to the vet, groomers, etc. or obtain the necessary supplies. Thankfully, there are services to help! And they’re not just for seniors – busy home owners with pet families can take advantage of them too!
A typical trip to the groomer involves convincing your pet to get in the car or carrier, driving to the groomer and leaving your pet there to get shampooed and clipped. Some pet owners may try to do the grooming themselves. Depending on the pet’s temperament, this may be a sure route to a wet home and angry pet. Instead, mobile groomers come to your home with the necessary supplies. They shampoo and clip your four-legged buddy in the comfort of their own home, meaning there’s less stress for everyone involved.
Back when communities were smaller and close knit, doctors made house calls. Some vets still do, if you request it. Larger communities also may have a mobile vet clinic that comes to your door, like Ark Animal Hospital. This not only saves you the hassle of getting your pet to the vet, it’s less stressful for them too.
Pet Food and Prescriptions Delivered to Your Door
Human medications have been available for delivery for a while. With sites like 1800petmeds your pet’s favorite food and needed prescriptions can be easily ordered and shipped to your home. They even offer a convenient auto-refill option so you never run out of the medication and other supplies your four-legged family members need.
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You’ve worked hard your whole life. In the process, you’ve scrimped and saved and kept money aside for the day you can retire. It’s finally here! You’re excited, but you’re also wondering “now what?” You had no idea that the process of retiring would be a full-time job all its own. There’s more paperwork involved than you filled out buying your home years ago. You’re a bit overwhelmed and just want to skip ahead to the part where you can sleep in and spend your time doing hobbies and other things that appeal to you.
This is normal. As the baby boomer generation retires in large numbers, you’ll find that many of your peers feel the same way. Breathe. Then walk through these steps to help you take control of all of it.
First, your company needs to know your intentions. They’ll likely have a lot of paperwork you need to fill out to set the wheels in gear that enable you to collect your pension and pull out funds for your company-sponsored retirement accounts. Make an appointment and ask them to help you with the paperwork.
Each retirement account you have has slightly different requirements for taking money out once you retire. Don’t struggle through understanding it all yourself. Instead, make an appointment with your financial planner to help you work through all the details and file any necessary paperwork to set things in motion.
Many people downsize their homes upon retirement. Some even buy an RV and see the country. This is a positive change, but can certainly add to the feelings overwhelm. If downsizing can wait, put it off until other details are in order. If it can’t, break it into small pieces. Pack on room at a time. Work with a trustworthy realtor to list your home and find your new one.
Ask for Help
Think about what resources you have for help. Can you ask your kids or neighbors for help with some of the heavy lifting? Still feeling overwhelmed? Hire a professional to help you!
To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, “The only certainties in life are death and taxes.” There’s another certainty – both of those are accompanied by paperwork…lots and lots of paperwork. Understandably, it can be uncomfortable to complete end of life paperwork, but it’s necessary and makes things easier for those you love. The more specific and complete you are when filling out these forms, the easer it will be for your loved ones to ensure your wishes are met.
Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)
A basic DNR form tells doctors not to perform life-saving procedures. This form is often used if someone is suffering from cancer or other life-threatening illnesses that also impact quality of life. Completing this form helps your family and medical staff know your wishes and removes stressful decisions from their hands.
Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST)
This is a more specific version of a DNR. It typically includes three or four levels of intervention which you can elect to accept or decline. Unlike a living will, a POLST form instructs your physician about what do. A living will informs, but does not instruct. In some states, such as Massachusetts, is called a MOLST. Depending on where you live, it may also be called a MOST, POST or TPOPP. Whatever the name, the intention is the same – to instruct your doctors and medical staff which level(s) of treatment you’d like to receive.
Formally called a Last Will and Testament, this provides legal instructions about what should be done after your death. Most people associated this with your assets, but a will does more than that. You can also include funeral and burial instructions as well as create donations and trust funds with your assets. Some people also use their Last Will and Testament to leave final, personal messages for their loved ones.
None of this paperwork is comfortable to think about, or to complete. Keeping it all in order and update is necessary. For help keeping it all organized or connected with appropriate professionals, please contact me.