Just do it. Your heirs will thank you…..
Does everybody need a will? The straight answer is yes. That’s true even for people who think they don’t have a dime to leave to anyone. What if you were in an accident and died later of injuries, and your estate won a $1 million settlement? Who gets the money?
Admittedly, that’s a little far out. You might get away without having a will if, say, you’re a renter living on Social Security with no savings. If you have savings, a pay-on-death account will pass that money to named beneficiaries when you die.
But there are hitches to any no-will scheme, says attorney Patrick Lannon of Bilzen Sumberg in Miami. To begin with, a random financial asset almost always turns up. Examples might be a rental deposit that’s returned or a medical reimbursement. Those checks will be made out to the deceased. How do your heirs get them cashed?
If you had a will, you’d have named an executor to cash checks, pay off creditors and distribute any money or property to your beneficiaries. Without one, your heirs will have to ask a court to appoint a personal administrator. Usually, it will appoint your surviving spouse or a child. But you risk a family fight over who should be in charge.
Some couples try to go will-free by putting everything into joint names. Joint assets pass to the other owner automatically. So do assets with beneficiary forms, such as individual retirement accounts. But something is inevitably left out—typically, a car, Lannon says. Heirs would need an administrator to transfer title. Even if the joint-asset strategy works for the first death, what happens when the other spouse dies? He or she should make a will, which you both could have done from the start.
When there’s no will, state law dictates who gets the house, car, savings and other assets. Those laws vary widely. A surviving spouse might get everything in one state but only one-third in another, with the rest going to your children. If you have no children, half might go to a spouse and half to your parents.
Lawyers are the best source for reliable wills. Your lawyer will also remind you that you need a durable power of attorney and a health care proxy, so someone can manage your finances and make medical choices if you’re unable to do so yourself.
If you’re allergic to lawyers, you can find free, state-specific will forms online. In most states (not all), handwritten wills are also accepted, provided that they were witnessed properly. DIY should be better than nothing. But be careful.
(Written by Jane Bryant Quinn for AARP.org/Bulletin, May 2017)
Serves: serves 2-3
- 2 tablespoons butter (or vegan earth balance)
- 3 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 large eggs
- ½ cup almond milk (or regular milk)
- 2 tablespoons flour (any kind: white, wheat, spelt*, or a gluten-free blend)
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)
- Preheat oven to 375.
- Combine brown sugar and cinnamon.
- Whisk together eggs and milk.
- Mix together flour and baking powder and stir it into the egg/milk mixture.
- In a skillet, heat butter, add the apple slices and 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar mixture and cook, stirring, until soft. About 5 minutes.
- Pour the batter over the apples and sprinkle the remaining brown sugar on top.
- Bake until it puffs up, about 18-20 minutes.
- Dust with a little powdered sugar.
*note: spelt flour is not gluten free.
STEER CLEAR OF MOVING SCAMS
(4 Tips to protect your stuff)
If you’re among the 35 million Americans relocating this year, add the need to avoid cons to the other stressors that result from moving. About 3,600 complaints were filed last year by people who hired interstate movers (out of 800,000 such moves), a 25 percent increase since 2014.
Here’s how to reduce the risk of scams:
SAY NO TO LOW-BALL BIDS. Watch out for rogue movers who get your business with bargain-price estimates. After filling the truck, they hold your possessions hostage until you pay thousands more. “Hostage load” movers tend to be smaller, unlicensed companies that may advertise on Craigslist or roadside signs. You’re safer checking listings on moving.org, a website run by the industry’s trade group. For moves between states, go to protectyourmove.gov, a federal watchdog website that verifies interstate moving companies’ licenses and complaint histories. One way to save is by moving mid-week or in the middle of the month, in the fall or winter. Costs are highest at the end of summer months, notes Scott Michael, CEO of American Moving & Storage Association.
CLUES TO A RUSE. Don’t even consider outfits that bid jobs sight unseen, that answer the phone with generic greetings such as “movers” rather than a specific company name (unscrupulous movers use multiple names to elude angry customers), or whose websites list no physical address or information on their registration and insurance. Other red flags: movers who demand upfront cash or large deposits, or say they’ll determine charges after loading. Professionals have company-branded vehicles; scammers show up in rental or unmarked trucks.
PREVENT ID THEFT. Risk of identity theft can increase during a move, especially if you’re selling your old place. Before an open house, store jewelry and other valuables outside the home or in a locked cabinet. Same goes for sensitive documents, including birth certificates, passports and wills. During the move, transport these items yourself along with property deeds, car titles, stock certificates and insurance policies. If you can’t personally transport computers, use strong passwords. Shred—don’t just toss—documents listing your Social Security number, birth date or financial accounts.
KNOW YOUR PAPERWORK. Keep a copy of everything you sign—especially the “bill of lading,” which is a legal document that acknowledges the carrier is in possession of your cargo and serves as a receipt. An “order for service” lists what the mover will do, as well as pickup and delivery dates, and an inventory list shows each items you shipped and its condition (cross-check it afer delivery). With nonbinding estimates, movers may be legally allowed to inflate charges about 10 percent. Binding estimates provide a fixed price but tend to be higher. Movers typically provide minimal insurance; before buying replacement-value coverage, check if your homeowners policy covers items lost or damaged during a move. For interstate moves, Uncle Sam requires moving companies to provide you with a booklet called “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” and a brochure called “Ready to Move.”
(Written by Sid Kirchheimer for AARP Bulletin, May 2017)
At age 54, Michael Long was running 100 miles a month in the mountains around his home in Sherman Oaks, Cal. “I was an adrenaline junkie,” Long recalls.
To have time for his active life, he worked as an independent contractor. He had private health and life insurance, but “never thought about disability insurance.”
Then, just after his 55th birthday, Long was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which slowly causes paralysis.
Now that he is no longer working, Long faces considerable financial challenges: He has a host of new expenses, such as personal care assistance to help with daily activities.
Most Americans rate their chances of suffering a disability during their working lives at about 1 in 50 or more. But, in fact, 1 in 8 will become disabled for five years or more during their career. And the risk increases dramatically with age: People 50 or older account for 59 percent of disability claims.
That’s why experts say disability insurance is critical for everyone who relies on income from a job. And if you’re among the roughly one-third of Americans who get coverage through their employers, don’t assume you’ve got the protection you need. Those policies have become leaner over the years.
Workplace plans generally include two policies: The first is short-term disability insurance, which typically covers only 60 to 70 percent of your salary, with a cap of $1,000 a week, if you miss work due to illness or injury for up to three months. After that long-term disability kicks in, and it typically pas 60 to 70 percent of your salary up to caps of $5,000 or $10,000 per month, until you turn 65.
But these payments may be calculated on base salary only, without commissions or bonuses—and the payments may be taxable. If you’re looking to buy your own coverage, forget about short-term policies. You’re better off putting the money into emergency savings, experts say.
If you’ve got a long-term disability plan from your employer, you may have the option of buying additional coverage through it. But don’t. Buy your own policy independently. That way, you can keep it if you leave your job and avoid paying a higher premium to start a new policy at an older age. Plus, your benefits will be tax-free if you ever make a claim.
None of that peace of mind will come cheap, however. Once you’re over 50, long term insurance costs about 4 percent of annual income. Let’s say you’re 50 and earn $50,000 a year; you’ll pay $2,000 a year until you are 65. That’s $30,000. But should you suffer a career-ending injury tomorrow, that policy would pay you about half a million tax-free dollars over that time period.
(written by Josh Garskof for AARP Bulletin, May 2017)
Doctors face a growing shortage of donor organs. This scientist is pioneering bold new techniques to meet the challenge.
Why do we need to grow organs? As people live longer, we’re going to see increases in organ failure and an increase in the demand for organ donation. The transplant wait list for kidneys reflects that. We are pursuing several different strategies with kidneys—3-D printing as well as using discarded human donor kidneys and kidneys from pigs as scaffolds to build new organs.
How do you grow a kidney—or any other organ? If you take a very small piece of the patient’s own tissue—less than half the size of a postage stamp—we can get those cells to grow outside of the body. About four weeks later we can take those cells and apply them to three-dimensional molds in the shape of the organ.
All the body consists of are cells and the glue that holds them together, which is mostly collagen. So the key is to get the cells to grow on a mold created out of a man-made collagen equivalent that becomes a scaffold structure you can put back into the body. It’s much like baking a layer cake. You coat the scaffold with the cells, one layer at a time. Then you put it in an oven-like device that is the same temperature and oxygen level as the body.
What is experimental and what has been implanted? Our team is working on over 30 different organs and tissues, including tracheas, bone, cartilage, muscle and ears, as well as the major organs. We have been able to implant flat structures, such as skin; tubular structures, such as urethra channels; and hollow organs, such as the bladder and vagina. We have not been able to implant the complex, solid organs, such as the kidney, lung and heart. Those are considered the holy grail of regenerative medicine.
At what point do you decide it’s a go with an engineered organ? Before we put a nw technology in a patient, we will have tested it over and over. Then we ask our team very important questions: “Are you willing to put this in your own child? Your own parent? Your own spouse?” Unless all of us around the table agree that this is something we would put in loved ones, we won’t do it.
Talk about genital regeneration for wounded troops. Genitals, of course, are so central to a sense of manhood, and this is an area of research that has become so meaningful to us. We are working on restructuring the phallus from donor organs reseeded with the patient’s own cells that eventually forms a functional phallus, consisting of a circular cylinder holding three rods made of erectile tissue, muscle tissue and the urethra.
We have engineered penile erectile tissue that was functional in rabbits. The new organs had blood vessels and nerves that allowed the rabbits to get erections, mate with females and produce normal, healthy pups.
What ignited your passion for medicine growing up in Peru? We had a family doctor who made house calls, and I was really impressed that he came to the house. I watched him with his stethoscope when I had a cold, and I really admired that personal touch. I realized early that the end goal of medicine is to make patients’ lives better. I always remember the oath we take: First, do no harm. So while we are eager to get these technologies into patients as soon as possible, at the same time we have to make sure when we do so that these technologies are safe.
(Interview by Iris Krasnow for AARP Bulletin, April 2017)
(How we are tricked into doing the right thing by behavioral science)
When I want my children to have a healthy snack, I slice an apple nicely on a plate and put it in front of them. They gobble it up happily. But if I merely put out a bowl of fruit, or tell them to have some fruit, they do nothing.
Increasingly, banks, companies and even the government are using similar tactics to get you to make better financial decisions. You may not even realize it, but the world of business and finance is becoming masterful at nudging you to take action.
The way they are doing it is through what’s called behavioral economics. At the root of this relatively new science is an understanding that humans are, well, human—not the unemotional decision-makers represented in economic textbooks.
On the contrary—we often choose immediate rewards over higher future benefits. We take the path of least resistance, typically by going with the status quo or simply doing nothing.
SEDUCED TO ACT. Take saving for retirement. We all know it’s important, yet studies show that many of us haven’t done a good job of it. Enter behavioral economics. One of its most successful applications has been to get workers to participate in retirement savings plans. For decades, employers cajoled workers—even offering generous matching contributions—to sign up for the 401(k). But human inertia often won out, and many workers didn’t join.
Then employers—with a green light from Uncle Sam—started to automatically enroll workers in the plan; some even gradually increased employees’ contributions over time. Workers can opt out, of course.
But inertia, now working in favor of savings, stops them from doing so. Vanguard, an investment firm that administers 401(k) for employers, found that when companies auto-enroll workers, the participation rates among new hires more than double, to about 90 percent.
The good news is that a growing number of employers, companies and nonprofits are using behavioral insights in similar ways to influence choices to make people better off. Here are (6) examples:
- Making Investment Decisions Easier. Too many 401(k) investment choices can overwhelm, causing workers to put off making any decision. And even when they do select investments, human inertia often causes them never to revisit their choices. Over time, their portfolios can end up being heavily weighted in riskier stocks, putting their nest egg in jeopardy.
The solution: target-date retirement funds. Workers need to select only a single fund with the date closest to their retirement, and a professional money manager does the rest—investing aggressively when workers are younger and gradually becoming more conservative as they near retirement. Target-date funds are usually the default option when employers automatically enroll workers in 401(k)s and now are found in 9 out of 10 workplace plans, according to Aon Hewitt, a benefit consulting firm.
- Making Savings More Fun. People have a natural optimism and are more likely to engage in activities they enjoy. Now banks and credit unions in several states are adding excitement for savers by entering them in raffles with cash prizes. Retail giant Walmart is among the latest to employ this nudge. Every $1 that customers sock away in Walmart’s prepaid-card savings program entitles them to one entry in a monthly sweepstakes with 500 cash awards, including a $1,000 grand prize. Since the program’s launch in August, Walmart says participants’ savings have increased by 35 percent.
- Overcoming Short-Term Thinking. Our best intentions to save for retirement are easily derailed by our desire for cash right now. To overcome this, many employers have adopted a “save more tomorrow” program that asks employees to make a commitment. Workers agree that whenever they get a raise, a portion of it will automatically go toward boosting their contributions to the company retirement plan. Their take-home pay still grows, and they don’t have to cut spending—so increasing the amount they save becomes automatic and painless.
- Managing Cash Smarter. Many sites and apps designed to help us save or invest push a variety of behavioral buttons. For example, Digit is an app that monitors your spending and moves money from your checking account into savings when you can afford it. By getting you to commit to saving upfront and automating the process, you’re more likely to build up your savings without having to make individual decisions to set aside the money. Digit claims that since its launch in 2015, it has helped its users stash away $350 million. An online budgeting service and app called Mint takes information from your credit and bank accounts to track your spending and sends you an alert when you’re going over budget. We tend to view personalized information as more accurate and are more likely to act on it.
- Sparking a Sense of Healthy Competition. We want to be as good as everybody else, and tools that let us compare our finances with others’—and find out where we are falling behind—can get us to act. For example, the financial site Credit Karma allows you to compare details about your credit with that of others of similar age and income in your state. If you don’t measure up, you can take steps to improve.
- Focusing Our Attention. One of the oldest budgeting tricks is to set aside money in different envelopes—each labeled with a specific goal such as a vacation or new car. This sets concrete goals and reinforces self-discipline. Many banks and credit unions now allow customers to do the same thing by setting up subaccounts with different names.
Behavioral economics can be used against you, too—by businesses trying to make a sale or scammers trying to steal. Watch out for these efforts to manipulate you:
- Three months, half off! Your intent often is to cancel before the price goes up. But it ends up being years. Mark your calendar with the date you will cancel the service.
- Limited time only! The pitch man urges you to order in the next 30 minutes and receive an amazing deal. Strip away the emotion or excitement of the deal, and ask yourself if you really want the product.
- Watch the box. A prechecked box on an order form may sign you up for an additional costly service unless you uncheck it. Similar hidden check boxes may have you agree to automatic renewal of services.
- Get your refund now! People are often encouraged to take their tax refund estimate in cash rather than wait for a check from the IRS. These services can come with fees and processing costs, or have strings attached. If you can afford to, resist the urge and get your refund a bit later.
(Written by Gary Koenig for AARP Bulletin, May 2017)
- Makes: 4 servings
- Yield: 8 medallions
- Prep 20 mins
- Marinate 2 hrs to 3 hrs
- Cook 6 mins
- 3/4 cup unsweetened canned coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 1 1/2 – pound pork tenderloin
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup chopped raw macadamia nuts
- 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1 -2 tablespoons coconut oil
- For marinade, in a bowl combine the first five ingredients (through cayenne pepper). Trim fat from meat. Cut meat into 8 slices. Using the flat side of a meat mallet, flatten pork slices between two pieces of plastic wrap to 1/2 inch thick. Add meat to marinade; turn to coat. Cover; refrigerate 2 to 3 hours, turning meat occasionally.
- In a shallow dish beat eggs. In a food processor combine macadamia nuts and coconut. Cover and pulse just until mixture is finely chopped.
- Remove meat from marinade; discard marinade. Dip meat slices in egg, turning to coat. Lightly sprinkle both sides of meat with nut mixture. In a large heavy skillet cook pork, half at a time, in 1 tablespoon hot oil over medium-high heat 2 to 3 minutes per side or until meat is slightly pink in center. Add 1 more tablespoon oil if needed when cooking second half of pork. Serve pork with Paleo Mango Salsa.
Paleo Mango Salsa
- 1 lime
- 1 1/2 cups chopped mango
- 3/4 cup finely chopped red sweet pepper
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
- 1 Scotch bonnet or hot green chile pepper, seeded and finely chopped*
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Remove 1/2 teaspoons zest and squeeze 2 tablespoons juice from lime. In a bowl combine all ingredients.
These 4 financial challenges can trip you up in or near retirement
Here’s how to overcome them!
- YOUR HOUSE IS WORTH LESS THAN YOU OWE ON IT.
Fact: One out of 10 homeowners owe more than their home’s value, a predicament that is called being “underwater”. What you can do if this includes you:
REFINANCE through the federal Home Affordable Refinance Program for underwater homeowners. Find details at harp.gov.
GET THE BANK TO AGREE TO A SHORT SALE, in which the house is sold for less than you owe and the balance is forgiven.
WAIT IT OUT and keep making payments until your home’s value recovers. House prices in areas with a high percentage of underwater mortgages have been going up in recent years—by 5 percent a year in Cleveland, for example, and 10 percent in Las Vegas.
CONSIDER RENTING IT OUT. If you’re retiring soon and moving, rent out the property until prices rebound. Demand has pushed rents up an average of 18 percent over five years.
- YOU DIDN’T SAVE ENOUGH.
Fact: Nearly 30 percent of households ages 55 and up didn’t have any pension or retirement savings as of 2013. What you can do:
CUT EXPENSES and increase income; it’s the magic combination. To find new part-time work, check out job sites such as Freelancer.com, Upwork.com and Retirementjobs.com.
MOVE to the South or the Midwest. These states—led, in order, by Mississippi, Indiana, Michigan, Arkansas and Oklahoma—have the lowest cost of living in the country. For instance, it’s 37 percent cheaper to live in Jackson, Miss., than in Anchorage, Alaska—and it’s warmer, too.
CONSIDER A REVERSE MORTGAGE that allows you to borrow against the equity in the house. The money is repaid when you move, you sell the house or you die. This is not a risk-free solution if you don’t have much equity in your home, if your plan to move soon or if you don’t have the income for taxes, insurance and maintenance.
- YOUR KIDS ARE DEPENDENT ON YOU FOR MONEY.
Fact: Six out of 10 people age 50 and older financially support an adult child or relative. What you can do:
SET BOUNDARIES on how long you’ll help out and under what circumstances.
PUT LOANS IN WRITING and charge interest. The IRS recommends an annual rate of at least 2.05 percent on three-to-nine year loans. If the loan is in writing and your child defaults, you can deduct it as a “nonbusiness bad debt” over one or more years on your tax return.
IF YOU CAN’T SAY NO to your kids, let your accountant or financial advisor talk with them. He or she can decline your participation, and also give your child useful advice.
- YOUR RETIREMENT FUND IS LOSING MONEY.
Fact: Thirteen percent of U.S. mutual funds lost money last year, reports Morningstar, an investment research firm. What you can do:
CHECK MORNINGSTAR.COM to see how a mutual fund compares with its benchmark. If it’s been a laggard for three years, it may be time to cut your losses and sell.
REDUCE YOUR RISKS. An investment that is losing lots when the rest of the market isn’t is too high risk. Review your holdings to see if you should shift to safer, more stable funds.
TAKE A DEEP BREATH AND WAIT. If the investment is solid, and it’s the overall market that’s declining, try to wait it out. Stocks have always bounced back over time.
Written by Eileen Ambrose for AARP Bulletin, April 2017
Your castle, their target. As your most valuable possession—and likely, biggest financial investment—your home is an attractive bull’s-eye for fraudsters. Why? They know you’ll take extra care (and spend extra dollars) to protect and maintain its value. And if you’re a retiree at home, con men see you as easy prey because you have more time to heed pitches that arrive in the mail or at your front door.
The schemes are varied. Here are some of the most popular home scams that have been showing up around the country—and what you can do to protect yourself.
POWER PLAYS. Have you been told that your utility service will be cut off because of unpaid bills? Expect that news, if legitimate, to arrive by mail—not via phone or through in-person demands for payment with prepaid debit gift cards. Have self-described technicians arrived unannounced for an emergency inspection? They could be burglars with fake IDS and rented uniforms. The latest utility scam: Impostor cable-company reps offer a service discount if your pay months in advance with gift cards.
BURGLAR BLOCKAGE. A home security system may thwart some crooks but attract others. Posing as technicians for security companies, some scammers claim they need to repair your alarm system. Then they deactivate it for a later burglary. Others tout free equipment to lock you into more expensive service. Reputable companies don’t operate that way. Also, if you have a GPS device in your car, don’t label your address as “home.” That steers parking lot thieves straight to your residence while you’re away.
CONTRACT CON. Beware the unsolicited contractor who tells you he’s working in the neighborhood and just happened to notice a home repair that you need. Some seek up-front payment or large deposits to “go buy materials” before vanishing. Others pester you to do additional unneeded jobs. Most do shoddy work. A favorite trick is “resealing” your driveway by spreading used motor oil on it. Your town’s building and permitting department can tell you whom to avoid.
FRAUD AT YOUR FRONT DOOR. Whether it’s overpriced magazine subscriptions, home products on a “limited time” offer or a heartfelt plea for a charity, think trouble. Your best defense: Never provide a credit card, check or personal information to a front-door stranger. If you do and have buyer’s remorse, the Federal Trade Commission’s Cooling-Off Rule gives you three days to cancel for a full refund on sales of $25 or more.
Written by Sid Kirchheimer for AARP Bulletin, April 2017
Five tips to deal with borderline diabetes:
1) Low-carb your burger: Get rid of the bottom bun (the one free of condiments and thus flavorless) and eat the burger open faced. That one little change slashes the amount of empty carbs.
2) Don’t eat after 7 pm: It’s better for your digestion and metabolism. If you start feeling hungry and must indulge, have a healthy snack like nuts or fruit.
3) Nix the noodles in your chicken soup. Use quinoa or barley instead. Add chopped cilantro or parsley, lime juice and a little hot pepper for flavor.
4) Keep nuts in your glove compartment. Stuck in traffic and feeling hungry? High-protein nuts will keep you from stopping for junk food.
5) Choose mashed avocado, not mayo. Spread it on whole wheat bread for healthy fat, fiber and vitamins.
(written by Candy Sagon in the April/May 2017 edition of AARP)