The Right Way to Launch a Kid

It’s the new weekday-morning ritual across America.  Young children walk out their front doors starting around 7 am to head to school.  But then there’s a second wave: 20-and-30-somethings come out of their parents’ homes, climb into hand-me-down cars and drive to work.

    What’s going on?  Simple: One-third of adults between 18 and 34 live with their parents—the highest percentage since the 1940s, reports the Pew Research Center.  Among people in the mid-20s with at least a high-school diploma, 50 to 60 percent report that they get financial help from parents, up from 30 to 40 percent in the mid-1980s, according to Patrick Wightman, a research scientist at the University of Arizona.  Children are relying on their parents for far longer than did previous generations.

    It can be confounding.  At their age, many of us couldn’t wait to get out of our childhood homes and declare our independence.  Have we helicopter parents raised a generation of coddled kids who can’t function on their own?

    Not necessarily.  The Great Recession beat down starting salaries.  Millennials face high costs for housing and education.  Average student debt, for example, has more than doubled over the past decade.  “Today’s world isn’t what it was when we got out of school,” says Miami-area mom Ann Helmers, 60.  

    Of course you want to help your adult children get on their feet.  When done right, such support translates into better-educated people with more successful careers.  The problem is, your help can hurt the rest of your family and can threaten your financial security.  It can also give your kid a free pass to shirk adulthood’s hard work and difficult choices.

    So the question isn’t whether to help your child launch financially, but how.  Use this guide to help your adult kid take flight without jeopardizing your finances or relationships.

DEMAND A PLAN

    Maybe the just-minted college graduate in your family landed an entry-level marketing job that just won’t cover her living expenses.  Or maybe your son is living at home with you, sending out resumes between marathon Xbox Live sessions. Whatever your child’s employment status and ambition, she needs to come up with a road map for her professional goals—and the support she hopes to get from you.

    One case where that worked out well:  When his eldest son, Bennett, graduated from college, Jeffrey Zink, 63, agreed to help him financially—but only if Bennett, now 26, was willing to create a budget and stick to it.  “I wanted him to be cognizant that there are financial ramifications of how and when you spend your money,” says Zink, a business consultant and motivational speaker.

    After Bennett landed an advertising-sales job in New York City, Jeffrey agreed to pay about $300 a month toward Bennett’s expenses, though Bennett had to find affordable housing and stay on budget.            “If you have a handle on your spending,” Jeffrey says, “you’re not as stressed, and you can be so much more productive and happier.” It worked out: Bennett no longer needs Dad’s help.

THE ADVICE:

Get real about budgets.  If you’re working on one with your child, draw on your experience to flag expenses that might be easily overlooked, such as transportation, and suggest places to cut costs.  “It’s an education,” says Joe Heider, a financial planner based in Cleveland. Revisit the budget every few months, since incomes and situations are likely to fluctuate, says Kathleen Hastings, a certified financial planner with FBB Caapital Partners in Bethesda, Maryland.  

Get nosy.  If your underemployed child is living at home, hoping to land a dream job, have her go into detail about her job search: the types of jobs she’s looking for, geographic areas she’ll hunt in and the amount of time she’ll spend daily on the job search.  Share a Google Doc in which parent and child can keep a log of the latter’s activities.

BE SPECIFIC AND EXPLICIT

    When Sydney Chernish graduated from college in 2009 and wanted to relocate to Los Angeles for a job, her parents—Anne, now 69, and Bill, now 76—offered to help her out by covering her student loan payments and some regular health and wellness costs.  That would be it, says Anne, a financial planner in Ithaca, New York. The plan succeeded: Sydney is now financially independent and has a job as an associate brand manager in New York City. During the transition, “I had roommates, I didn’t take vacations, and I rarely ate out,” she recalls.

    Libby Salbert, 64, drew up an informal contract when she helped her daughter Maya, 24, buy a home in Nashville.  The agreement specified that Libby would cover the down payment and pay the mortgage and expenses until Maya graduated from college and got a job.  “I gave her a six-month grace period,” says Libby, a single mother. It took Maya seven months to land a full-time position, but she now covers household bills and pays half the mortgage; her boyfriend pays rent to Libby.  It’s a win-win, says Libby, who also lives in Nashville: “When I decided to help her buy the house, I thought, I could leave her more money when I die, or I could help her buy the house now and see her enjoy it.”

THE ADVICE:

Earmark expenses.  Match your allowance to specific outlays—say, the phone bill or health insurance.  Avoid lump sums, says Anne Chernish, as they can seem like entitlements.

Put it in writing.  Set down not just what you’ll pay for but also how long you’ll cover it and under what conditions.  This need not be a legal document—just something to head off misunderstandings. One exception: For a big purchase, such as a house, formalize details related to ownership and survivorship.

Think ahead.  Skip help that might lead to bigger problems.  “If you lend money to buy a home your son or daughter can’t afford,” Heider says, “you’ve brought yourself into what could be a long-term drain on your resources.”

SET YOUR LIMITS:

    Although you’ve heard this before, it bears repeating:  Helping your kid shouldn’t get in the way of your own financial well-being.  That’s especially important because you’re probably at an age when your earnings are peaking and you could be power-saving for retirement.  Your kids will be grateful for your caution (eventually), Hastings says: “The best gift you can give your child is your own financial independence.”

    But spouses often disagree about the help they should give.  Liz Hovey, 57, a New York City college instructor, says that because she and her husband have different family backgrounds, she expects it will be difficult for them to decide when and how to draw the line when it comes to financial help for their children after college.  Hovey got a preview of the issue last year, when the couple’s daughter didn’t follow through on a promise to work over the summer. “It’s not easy for my husband and me to agree on how to enforce the consequences,” she admits.

    Things can get particularly sticky in blended families, where a parent and stepparent may feel disparate levels of responsibility toward the same child.

THE ADVICE:

Trust your gut.  Sure, you can review your finances (try the AARP Retirement Calculator at aarp.org/retirement). But there are simpler ways to test if you’re too generous.  Is your credit card debt rising? Do you resent your child’s standard of living? That annoyance is a sign, says Brad Klontz, who teaches financial psychology at Creighton University.

Form a united front.  Be open with your spouse (or your ex) about how much you want to give.  Since that’s often influenced by your upbringing, says Klontz, discuss how your parents dealt with this issue.  Find common ground, and promise never to give money to an adult child in secret.

PREPARE FOR PROBLEMS:

    Stuff happens:  A job doesn’t work out, or a friend’s destination wedding goes over budget.  You’ll have to use your judgment as to how much slack you offer.

    Sometimes it’s no slack.  A few years ago, Louis Barajas, 56, a certified financial planner based in Southern California, gave his then 23-year-old daughter a $1,000 interest-free loan to pay off high-interest-credit card debt.  The condition he set was that she repay him a minimum of $100 a month. “There were times when it wasn’t easy for her to pay me, and I let her be uncomfortable,” he says. After she settled the debt—in seven months—Barajas gave the money back to her as a gift and reward.  “The point is, she learned the discipline of paying me,” he says.

    Other situations call for more flexibility.  When Hastings’ granddaughter was hospitalized with pneumonia last year—and at risk for permanent lung damage if she relapsed—Hastings and her husband offered to pay for a nanny to care for the child for six months, so her parents could go to work and not worry about sending their daughter back to day care.

THE ADVICE:

Enforce the rules.  Are you lending money to your child, perhaps to buy a car or house?  Insist that your child make payments as agreed (ideally in writing) or suffer the consequences.  When Hastings lent her daughter and son-in-law money for a house, she used a mortgage servicer that helps relatives lend money to one another.

Bend the rules.  Don’t dole out cash everytime your child is short on money.  But emergencies, particularly health-related ones, can be liegitimate exceptions.  Just guard against pleas for help that go from being emergencies to habits.

Consider pulling the plug.  No matter how little help you’re giving your adult child, Klontz advises, reassess your support if you see no forward motion.  Danger signs: Your child continues to hold out for the perfect job, cycling through a series of jobs where “my boss doesn’t appreciate me,” or he collects master’s degrees like merit badges.

HELP WITHOUT MONEY:

    You don’t need to pay up to provide assistance, You have resources and access to deals your child can’t get.  As much as you might want your kids out of the house, letting them live at home, paradoxically, can help launch them—if you handle it right.  Ann Helmers, 60 and her husband, Terry, 64, housed their son and daughter after their respective college graduations. They stayed for free, says Ann, a director of career services at the University of Miami, “but that was the limit of what we felt was appropriate.” Barajas, on the other hand, suggests charging rent. “When the kids move out,” he says, “ you can give them back the money to help them get started.”

THE ADVICE:

Embrace discomfort.  To give your child an incentive to leave, ask for contributions to household upkeep—either with money from a not-so-dream job or via household chores.  For more motivation, hold back on paying for creature comforts such as dinners out and gym memberships, says financial planner Anne Chernish.

Get package deals.  Let your child buy services through you for a better price than he can get on his own—a cell plan, for one, or health insurance if your child is under 26.  The Helmerses let their children stay on their auto-insurance policy if the kids paid their share of the premium. “The discount was substantial for them,” Ann says.

 

(written by Sarah Max for AARP The Magazine, February/March 2018)

Cultivate Better Sleep

Insomnia? Allergies? Stress? Let’s clear the air. Some
houseplants not only remove toxins in our environment but
also promote drowsiness, several studies confirm.
JASMINE: Jasmine fragrance, working in ways similar to
barbiturates, eases anxiety and encourages sleep. German
researchers tested the scent on mice and watched them curl up
and sleep.
ENGLISH IVY: This plant helps clear the air of mold spores,
says a former NASA scientist who has researched how to keep
space station air clean.
LAVENDER: Lavender bouquets and essential oils are
popular as sleep inducers, but try a houseplant, too.
ALOE VERA: A hardy succulent, it vacuums up unhealthy
indoor chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
while you catch your zzz’s, another NASA study showed.
BOSTON FERN: Back in the day, upscale hangouts were
called fern bars because of this ubiquitous decoration. Turns
out that Boston ferns remove formaldehyde from the air.
SNAKE PLANT: No green thumb? This plant, an air cleaner, is
about the simplest to care for.

(Written by Claire R McIntosh for AARP Magazine, Jan/Feb 2018)

Crazy Smart Things to Pack

(Seasoned travelers reveal 12 common items that are must-haves for almost any trip—and they’re not what you’d expect).

Ask a veteran traveler what he or she considers essential to pack, and you’ll likely hear the usual: comfy shoes, earplugs, a pashmina, Ziploc plastic bags and even an empty water bottle (to fill once you are past security).  Me? I never leave home without a set of clothespins, a sheet of cardboard, blunt-nose scissors and a small roll of duct tape (which I created by rolling duct tape onto a cut-down cardboard toilet-paper tube).

Crazy? Perhaps. Smart? You bet.  I’ve found a plethora of ways to repurpose common household items to make trips by car, air or ship easier and more comfortable.  Turns out, other road warriors do the same, either through necessity or on-the-spot inventiveness. I asked for their secrets, and they dished.  Here are 12 travel hacks worth trying (and packing).

Clothespins:  Clamp drapes closed to truly black out your hotel room or ship cabin.

Cardboard:  Cover colored lights from TV’s thermostats, light switches and other devices in hotel rooms with a small piece of cardboard secured by duct tape.  Remember to remove the cardboard before you check out.

Cotton twine:  About eight feet should do it.  You can tie suitcases together when a zipper fails.  It doubles as a clothesline and, for security, can secure a chair to your hotel doorknob at night.

Blunt-nose scissors:  You’ll need these to cut the cardboard, tape or string.  Airline regulations prohibit long, pointed scissors in a carry-on, so get the ones designed for preschoolers.

Plastic straws:  Keep necklaces separate and untangled.  Unclasp the necklace, slip one end through the straw, the re-secure the other end.  

Paper clips:  Replace a zipper pull, or hook pants or a shirt that has lost a button.  A paper clip is the perfect size to hit the reset button on electronic devices, too.  Or, bend one around a circular object to create a custom key chain (should your room key be an actual key).

Binder clips:  Use this as a money clip to carry cash separate from your main wallet.  The two wire handles can also be used as a key chain. Or, prop up a smartphone when watching videos on the airplane; secure drying laundry to balcony furniture so that it doesn’t blow away; and in a pinch, use them as cuff links.

 

Clean, empty prescription pill bottle:  Hold a week’s worth of cotton swabs and floss picks, keep jewelry organized, and prevent earrings from getting bent or damaged.  At the beach, stash some cash and a key in one while leaving your wallet in a secure location. You can also use pill bottles to keep change sorted, especially when traveling to multiple countries, or as a re-closable container for a small snack such as a handful of almonds or hard candies.

Balloons:  Drape your clothes over an inflated balloon for a portable drying rack.

Empty cereal box:  A cereal box can become a trash can on road trips.  It’s easy to pass around without hassle, unlike a plastic bag.

Dental floss:  This is an excellent substitute for thread to reattach a button, and it can even be used as a knife for softer food such as cheese.  Get unflavored floss unless you like your brie minty fresh.

Multi-plug power strip:  A power strip is not so crazy, but it’s such a good hack that I had to include it.  It’s easier to plug multiple devices into one power strip. And, you are less likely to forget a charger upon departure when all are plugged into a single location.  Plus, when traveling internationally (where there are different configurations on wall outlets), you need only a single plug adaptor. Use the adaptor to plug in your power strip, and then everything else plugs into the strip just like at home.

 

(Written by Laura Daily for AAA World, January/February 2018)

13 THOUGHT IDEAS FOR APRIL

  1. April Fools! Write about that time someone played a practical joke on you.
  2. Kids say the darndest things. Share some recent things that kids you know have said
  3. What is your biggest regret?
  4. What are you most looking forward to this month?
  5. We all have some tips and tricks. Share them!
  6. Have you read an inspirational post? Why did it inspire you?
  7. Take a break!
  8. Share some little known facts about you.
  9. What’s on your wish list?
  10. Write a story for Tell a Story Day.
  11. Give your opinion on something…even if it’s controversial.
  12. Share the things that scare you.
  13. Gardening this spring? Tell us what you are planting.

 

These are great conversation starters!  Let’s use some of these at the next Bailey Park get-together!

 

APRIL IS ALSO:

  • National Humor Month  
  • Keep America Beautiful Month  
  • Lawn and Garden Month
  • National Poetry Month
  • National Pecan Month
  • Records and Information Management Month
  • Stress Awareness Month

 

What books have you read recently?   

What stress management techniques do you use?

10 Questions to answer before you Retire:

Let me dispel a big myth right now: Early retirement is not for everyone.

Early retirement won’t magically fix everything we wish was different about us or our lives, and it comes with its own set of pitfalls and stresses. To some of us, those things are worth it, but we can only know that if we do some real introspection and planning. and not just financial planning, but also planning around personal fulfillment, health and self worth.

To help sort this out, we’ve put together a list: The ten questions you should be able to answer before you retire early.

No matter what stage you’re at in thinking about or planning for early retirement, take some time to think through these questions and their answers. If you struggle to answer any of them, then early retirement may not be right for you, or may not be right for you right now, and that’s okay! Not everyone has to share this vision for their future.

Particularly if you don’t have a clear vision of what you want to retire to, there’s nothing wrong with working a little longer, or even a lot longer. Not liking your job — being clear on what you’re retiring from — is not enough of a reason to retire early. The answer may be much, much simpler: find a different job, or a different career path.

If you’re committed to retiring early, but don’t have good answers for all of these questions, then let them kick start some additional thinking and planning that will pay off once you pull that ripcord and wave arrivederci to your career.

The Ten Questions to Answer Before You Retire Early

1. How will you support yourself or your family without a job? (And will that change over time?)

The answer could be any number of things — earning dividends from stocks you own, selling shares of index funds, collecting rent on an investment property or ten, doing part-time work, or some combination of the above. The answer can also change over time, focusing primarily on one strategy until you reach age 59 1/2, for example, and then shifting to live off your 401(k) or IRA after you reach the eligible age.

Other pieces to consider: will you follow the 4 percent rule? Have you put together a realistic budget that will account for all potential expenses and things you want to do in retirement? Have you done multiple projections to ensure that you’re saving enough before retiring to provide enough income for the full period that you’ll need it, even if the markets don’t provide good returns every year? If you have kids, will you plan to pay for their college?

3. How will you get health care?

It’s no secret that health care costs bankrupt people all the time. How will you ensure that that never happens to you? Will you buy health insurance through the federal exchange (or your state’s, if they have one) until you reach age 65 and qualify for Medicare? Have you done the calculations for the income you plan to have, and ensured that your retirement budget can cover the full cost of premiums and copays (as well as the possibility of needing to go up to the out-of-pocket maximum)? Will you plan to live abroad and avoid buying insurance in the U.S.? (Or are you a lucky Canadian, who doesn’t have to worry about such things?)

4. How will you keep your body and mind healthy?

What is your plan for eating healthily, exercising and stimulating your mind in early retirement? Does that plan look a lot like what you already do now, or does it involve some drastic changes? As Maggie would say, early retired you is still you, so ask yourself if drastic changes are really realistic, or if you need to start making incremental changes now to make sure staying healthy is doable once you’re retired. On the mental front, will you embrace new technology and other societal changes as you age? Will you befriend younger people? Will you engage in activities or hobbies that expand your thinking, and force you to form new neural pathways?

5. What are you retiring to?

This question is perhaps the most important of all. Nothing is worse than saving for years to retire early, burning bridges in your career, and then discovering that you’re bored. Consider well before that happens what you will do with your new-found time in early retirement. What will excite you about getting out of bed every day? How often will you check things off of your bucket list? What do you want your contribution to the world to be?

6. What will your living situation be?

Do you plan to stay put where you are for retirement? Do you plan to move into a smaller home that’s easier to maintain and which frees up some capital? Do you plan to relocate? Do you plan to pay off your mortgage, or budget rent or mortgage payments into your retirement spending plan? Do you plan to go nomadic and live the RV lifestyle? For aspiring RVers, do you have a plan for if or when you decide you ultimately want to put down roots, and now need to pay rent or buy a home? Have you budgeted adequately for miscellaneous housing expenses like property tax, rent increases and utilities?

7. What do you want a day in retirement to look like?

What will an average day in your new retired life look like? What activities will you do every day? How will you spend most of your time? Will you spend a lot of your time surfing the web and watching TV? When you look at your vision for each day, does it sound both realistic and fulfilling to you?

8. What will your social circles and interactions be like?

Who will be your primary friends once you retire? Will you be able to see them more often, or will their work schedules prevent them from spending time with you during your new free time? How will you make new friends? If you have a partner, do the two of you plan to spend most of your time together, or apart? Will you have your own hobbies, or share most of your hobbies with your partner?

9. How will you and your partner, if you have one, stay on the same page about money and life goals?

Are you both equally committed to retiring early, and do you share the same vision of what’s worth sacrificing to reach your goals? Have you mapped out your big goals for your lives together? Do you both feel comfortable with your retirement budget and projections, or does one of you feel they are too aggressive or risky? Are you both committed to the discipline and frugality needed to ensure you don’t outlive your retirement savings? Do you regularly check in with each other to make sure you’re still on the same page about money and life goals? If you’re currently single, does your vision allow for flexibility if you one day get in a serious relationship?

10. How will you define yourself and derive self-worth post-career?

Once the job title is gone, how will you see yourself? What will you do to ensure that you see yourself as a worthy person making contributions in the world? How will you find fulfillment without a job? How will you give back? What will you want to have accomplished, looking back on your life at age 80 or 90?

 

I must say, our Bailey Park Community really does offer the best of all worlds mentioned in this blog.  Some of the residents still work but most are retired.

Our residents exercise in the gym, walk around the park, swim in the pool and play pickleball and shuffleboard in the spring, summer & fall.

They do keep each other company, check on each other, and have a monthly get-together in order to get to know each other better.   They have gone out to dinner as a group, gone to comedy and music shows, visited museums and some travel together!

Exercises for the “Over 55” Crowd

“Age does not depend on years, but upon temperament and health. Some men are born old, and some never grow so.” – Tryon Edwards.

 

This statement holds true as aging is a state of mind – you are as old as you think you are!

A healthy lifestyle during your younger years will help you reap the health benefits even in golden years of life. Due to longevity and advancement in medical healthcare, many elderly people live their golden years fruitfully. These seniors also want to stay fit and live a healthy life in their twilight years. As age catches up, you require changes in your lifestyle, diet and your exercise regimen. With growing age the efficiency of various organs and body systems decline and weaken. When young, the body can cope up with stress both physical and mental, but as you grow old the realization of healthy lifestyle, exercises and regulated diet sets in. When aged, you find it difficult to perform the simplest of tasks. Practically every senior citizen is aware that exercise is extremely important to maintain a healthy body and mind. Senior citizens can start with simple exercises and do not have to necessarily do anything strenuous. Exercise and diet should complement each other for a long lasting happy life. Read on to know some senior citizen exercises.

 

Exercises For Senior Citizens

 

  • Walking is one of the necessary and core exercises that a senior citizen can start with. It helps in making the body flexible and also uplifts the mood. Walking should be done on regular basis to keep your body fit and healthy.
  • Yoga is very helpful in maintaining a balance between body, mind and soul. It is an old traditional form of exercise that includes breathing exercises and meditation. It helps to maintain a balance between body, mind and spirit. Senior citizens can benefit from practicing yoga every day, as it helps to control stress, high blood pressure, blood glucose levels and relaxes the body. Swimming is a very good exercise for the whole body that has many health benefits. It reduces stress, keeps you fit and is very relaxing.
  • Senior citizens can also practice light weight exercises and light physical exercises like walking slowly on a treadmill, aerobics, muscle flexibility and stretching exercises.
  • Aerobic exercises are good for senior citizens who want to maintain good health and physical agility. These exercises are rhythmic in nature and engage in workouts like dancing, jumping and moving steps on the beat to tone up muscles. They are extremely beneficial in improving blood circulation, reducing blood pressure, improving respiration and improving general health.
  • Muscle flexibility exercises for senior citizens help in maintaining muscle elasticity and relaxation of mind. These exercises involve stretching the muscles slowly and concentrating on breathing with each movement.
  • Stamina building exercises like riding, walking, stepping, cycling and swimming can help improve energy and endurance levels of senior citizens. While you plan to start this exercise, do it slowly, and work up to increase your stamina and strength. You can gradually increase the duration of the exercise depending on your tolerance and fitness of the body.
  • Senior citizens can practice exercises that can be done in a sitting position.  These exercises concentrate on flexibility of muscles, range of motion, and cardio. These exercises involve exercise tools like, like light weights, ball chairs and bands. They help in strengthening muscles and relaxing the mind.
  • Health benefits for senior citizens can be derived not only from exercising also by maintaining a healthy diet. Only exercising will not give you optimal results, as any exercise should also include healthy, controlled and balanced diet. 

 

Some Tips to Remember

 

  • Exercise regularly for at least thirty minutes a day.
  • Start your exercise regimen slowly and increase it gradually.
  • Wear right kind of shoes and comfortable clothes.
  • Consult a physician before you start any exercise. Check your medical parameters like blood pressure and sugar level regularly.
  • Start by stretching and warm ups before vigorous exercise. Work on your balancing exercises, as it will help you in lowering your risk of injuries due to falling.
  • Keep record of your progress and exercise sessions.
  • Exercise daily. 

How Vet Scams Work

(Operation Protect Veterans is exposing schemes like these 5 that are aimed at ex-military members)

 

  1.  Pension Predators.  Billie Jo Slater of Mounds View, MN, borrowed against her late husband’s military pension to pay for her dog’s emergency surgery, but the $2,100 loan turned into a $21,000 debt.  Shady companies are giving money to vets upfront in exchange for monthly payments transferred from pension accounts that add up to many times the amount borrowed. In August, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson filed a lawsuit against two companies she said exploited veterans.  “People should be very cautious about giving away their future pension benefits to get just pennies on the dollar,” she said.
  2.  Phone Scams.  In May, Veterans Affairs issued a warning:  Watch out for “mimic phone line” scams. The alert was triggered by reports that scam artists had set up a phone line with a number that was very similar to a real veterans hotline number.  (The number for that program, Veterans Choice, starts with 866; scammers were using an 800 area code.) When a vet accidentally calls, he or she is talked into disclosing credit card information with the promise of $100 rebate.  “VA would never ask veterans for this information,” a spokesman said.
  3.  Investment Fraud.  Federal regulators have warned that some former service members are using their military ties to lure vets into risky or downright illegal investments.  For example, in January 2017 former Marine Clayton Cohn, now 31, was sentenced to 52 months in prison for defrauding investors—many of whom had served with him in Iraq.  According to the case brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Cohn raised almost $2 million from investors by lying about previous successes as a stock trader.  He then spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on things like a Hollywood mansion and a luxury automobile.
  4.  Predatory Lending.  Veterans with home mortgages backed by the VA are being targeted by companies that aggressively call and send letters to coerce them to refinance.  After receiving many complaints, the Governmen National Mortgage Association, known as Ginnie Mae, investigated and found the loans were not to help veterans but to generate fees, and some veterans ended up with a higher mortgage, said Michael Bright, Ginnie Mae’s acting president.

5.  Benefits Scams.  In October, Elizabeth Honig, 52, of Morganville, NJ, was sentenced to two years in prison for stealing from a VA program that was set up to help older vets train for new jobs.  She signed up nearly 200 veterans, but few got any real training. Many were never eligible for the program, federal prosecutors said. She was ordered to repay $2.8 million.

Blueberry Zucchini Bread

  •  3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pint fresh blueberries
  •       1 teaspoon salt
  •       1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

Prep time:  15 minutes                   Cook:  50 minutes                 Ready in: 1 hour 45 minutes

      Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease 4 mini-loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar. Fold in the zucchini. Beat in the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Gently fold in the blueberries. Transfer to the prepared mini-loaf pans.
  3. Bake 50 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted in the center of a loaf comes out clean. Cool 20 minutes in pans, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.

 

IS IT TIME TO SPLURGE?

(Having a nest egg is great, but don’t sacrifice needlessly)

Here’s a surprising question. Do we become too frugal when we retire? Those of us who have spent
years pinching our pennies to fatten our nest eggs often find it hard to get out of the habit. At the age
when we ought to start spending those savings, we become afraid to touch them.
There are reasons for caution. We don’t know how long we’re going to live; we fear unexpected health
care costs in later age; we are earning practically nothing from savings and worry about losing money
when stock prices fall. But there’s evidence that we sometimes worry too much—and risk depriving
ourselves of pleasures that we can afford.
I’m thinking of the friend who flies to see her grandson only once a year because she wrongly believes
that an extra visit would knock her nest egg out of whack. Or the one who has enough money to buy
hearing aids but is so shocked by their cost that she stays partially deaf.
Are you stuck, too? Could you spend more on hobbies, grandchildren, charities, fun, without that
nagging dread that the money will run out?
For those of you who have only a small amount of savings and live on Social Security and perhaps a small
pension, these questions are probably moot. You likely already spend all your income and need your
savings for emergencies.
For those who are better fixed, however, over-caution might be crimping your style. A 2016 study from
Vanguard’s Center for Retirement Research finds that, on average, savings continue to rise after people
retire. A similar study from Texas Tech University finds that even people taking required minimum
distributions from their individual retirement accounts tend to save some of that money rather than
spending it all.
Maybe you want to leave more to heirs. But those of you with discretionary income might also
underspend because you’re unsure how much of your money you can afford to use.
Here’s one way to figure it out: Add up the income that you can reasonably count on in retirement in
the form of regular checks, excluding interest and dividends. That would include Social Security, any
pensions or annuities, and any other life-time sources. To that, add, 4 percent of the value of all your
financial assets, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, CDs and cash. This effectively includes your
interest and dividends. The total is roughly the amount you can spend each year and still feel sure that
your money will last at least 30 years. If you’re spending less than that amount, you can afford some
extra grandchild visits, a family visit to Disneyland or Yellowstone, or a week abroad.
There’s no harm in spending even more of your disposable income in early retirement (the go-go years)
because you’ll inevitably cut back later (the no-go years). As you get older, it’s normal to worry about
running out of money. But don’t worry so much that you forgo joy.

(written by Jane Bryant Quinn for AARP Bulletin, December 2017)

GUARD YOUR MEMORY

(New research reveals what works—and what doesn’t)
There is no pill or procedure to help you maintain your memories (yet). But researchers have found
several lifestyle factors that can influence your brain’s ability to remember facts and events with fewer
glitches. They’re a moving target, however, yesterday’s “proven” memory boosters don’t always stand
up to testing. Heather M. Snyder, senior director of medical and scientific operations for the
Alzheimer’s Association, says studying cause and effect on the brain is difficult, because it requires large
study groups over long periods of time. “it’s a very protected organ,” Snyder says. “You can’t just take a
look.” Here is what the latest research advises.

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY. Take it. Aim to be as active as you can in daily life; that means small actions such
as sitting less and taking the stairs instead of the elevator. You should also get 150 minutes a week of
purposeful activity—walking briskly, playing tennis, riding your bike, swimming laps, lifting weights and
the like. A 2017 report by the National Academy of Sciences determined that fitness may be the best
tool we have against cognitive impairment and dementia. And there’s some evidence that exercise can
help your brain become healthier in as little as six months.
BRAIN GAMES. Leave it…mostly. Last year, the Federal Trade Commission ruled that a digital brain
games company made misleading claims about its impact on brain health. The truth is that puzzles and
games may help your brainpower—but only when it comes to doing puzzles and games. Researchers
recommend “cognitively stimulating activities,” meaning anything that engages your brain and helps it
do new things, explains Ronald Petersen, MD, director of the Mayo Clinic’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research
Center. For instance, your brain might benefit from photography classes, designing a quilt, working with
technology or researching your genealogy. Even listening to music may help, a new study in the Journal
of Alzheimer’s Disease says.
DITCH MY ANTIPERSPIRANT? Don’t sweat it. The fear that aluminum in antiperspirants was linked
to Alzheimer’s disease came from research conducted in the 1970s and 1980s, which found this element
present in the neurons of people who had the illness. That research also scared people away from
cooking with aluminum pots and drinking out of aluminum cans. But we’re exposed in so many ways to
this element (it’s the third most common in the earth’s crust” that the small amount you’d get from
antiperspirants or cookware isn’t likely to increase your risk.
EATING THE MEDITERRANEAN WAY. Take it. Unfortunately, no single food is likely to be the cause
of—or cure for—memory dips. But an overall healthy eating plan that involves piling whole grains,
fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts and olive oil onto your plate and cutting back on red meat may help keep
your brain in shape. In fact, a 2017 study of nearly 6,000 people in the Journal of the American
Geriatrics Society suggested that people who ate this way had a 35 percent lower risk of cognitive
impairment than people who didn’t follow this diet. This combination of foods may seem like a familiar
recommendation: Scientists are discovering that your brain and your heart have similar needs. And in
this case, your taste buds will probably approve, too.

VITAMINS AND SUPPLEMENTS. Leave it. There’s no evidence yet that downing supplements helps
your memory over the long term, especially when it comes to two popular ones: vitamin E and omega-
3s (in fish oil). A review paper published in April concluded that vitamin E neither prevents Alzheimer’s
nor improves the minds of people who have it. It’s worth checking with your doctor to be sure you’re
getting the nutrients you need for your overall health. But if your body’s stocked up on everything, your
brain probably doesn’t need extra vitamins.
FRIENDS AND FAMILY. Take them. Doing things in groups where ther’s a friend or coach to provide
feedback seems to make new activities (like learning a language or taking up watercolor painting) even
better for your brain. The social aspect also may help you stick with your new pursuit. This is essential
because the benefits may fade after you stop doing it.
GINSENG. Leave it. People take this herbal remedy with hopes of boosting brainpower. But a 2010
scientific review of the best research found no convincing evidence that it could help prevent
Alzheimer’s. And here’s compelling reason not to reach for it: Ginseng can interact with diabetes drugs,
the blood thinner warfarin and some depression medications. It also may contribute to headaches,
sleep problems and digestive issues.
MANAGING BLOOD PRESSURE. Take it. High blood pressure may damage small blood vessels in the
brain. This may be particularly true for women: Research published in the October issue of the journal
Neurology found that women who developed high blood pressure in their 40s had a 73 percent
increased risk of dementia compared with those who had normal blood pressure. Be sure to talk to a
doctor about how to control it.

(by Marty Munson for AARP Bulletin, December 2017)