Financial planners ask their clients these questions to determine if they’re in control of their money.
So Just how fiscally fit are you?
Do you have a will? Yes, that’s a bummer of a leadoff question, but it’s one of the first that Ed Gjertsen
II, past chairman of the Financial Planning Association, asks new clients. The answer, he says, hints at
how organized your finances are. Dying without a will, he adds, leaves “a real mess” for your family.
Rx: An estate planning lawyer can write a will and related documents; expect to pay a few thousand
dollars. Going DIY (say, via website) costs less, but stick to your state’s rules for signing the will or it
could be invalid.
How much credit card interest did you pay last month? The perfect answer: “Zero,” of course. Annual
credit card interest rates now average 16 percent, so carrying a monthly balance can gnaw through your
money like a hungry beaver.
Rx: Get motivated by math. Tell yourself you’re not repaying a debt; you’re making an investment with
a guaranteed 16 percent tax-free return, says New York City financial adviser Gary Schatsky. That’s what
you get when you no longer have to pay 16 percent interest on a debt.
If a tree fell onto your roof today, could you pay for repairs tomorrow? Financial planners advise you
to have money in the bank for medical care, layoffs or other crises. But only 48 percent of Americans
have at least $2,000 in savings to cover such bills.
Rx: Divert a bit from each paycheck—for example, $25—into an emergency bank account (not your
primary account). Ask HR to split your payroll deposit, making savings automatic.
Can you pass the seven-day cash challenge? Find yourself spending more than you make? Everyday
food and fun purchases, for instance, can add up fast. Gjertsen tells clients to withdraw the cash they
thnk they’ll need for the week and skip using plastic. “People invariably are out of money by
Wednesday or Thursday,” he says.
Rx: A good way to start reining in expenses is to track discretionary spending. Use a spreadsheet or an
online service such as Mint.
How much of your income goes to retirement savings? Advisers have formulas for how much money
you’ll need to retire in comfort, but those can be “terrifying,” says Jill Gianola, a Columbus, Ohio,
planner. Focus instead on saving now, likely your peak earnings years.
Rx: Aim to save 15 percent of your paycheck, Gianola says. If you can, opt for the extra “catch-up”
contributions to your IRA or 401(k) that people 50 and older are allowed to make.
By Michelle V Rafter for AARP Magazine
(Simple rules for hitting the ground as softly as possible)
It was nearly 30 years ago that Mrs. Fletcher from the LifeCall commercials first uttered her plaintive cry:
“I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!”
Back then, it was campy and funny. But in the intervening years, chances are that you, and perhaps
some of your loved ones, have taken some nasty spills. It’s not just the elderly, though, who end up on
the ground: A study in the Journal of Allied Health showed that 50-to- 60-year- olds fall more than older
folks. We’re more active, and that puts us more at risk of falling. Also, the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention found that people are more likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury from falling than
from any other cause.
And we’re all going to fall down: The world is full of banana peels. So while avoiding a fall is job one,
knowing how to take a fall when it’s inevitable is a crucial skill.
“Be smooth, don’t panic, stay loose,” says Alexa Marcigliano, who is really good at falling down. A
professional stuntwoman, she’s taken serious spills in shows such as Orange is the New Black and
Blindspot. Here’s her four-point plan for a safe crash landing.
Step 1. Stay Bent…The moment you sense you’ve lost your balance, get ready to fall with bent elbows
and knees. “When people panic, they become rigid,” Marcigliano says. “In the stunt world, we never
reach out with locked arms. Bend your elbows and have some give in your arms to soften the impact.”
When you’re rigid, you’re more likely to suffer a set of injuries called FOOSH—doctor-speak for “Fall on
outstretched hand.” The result is often a broken wrist or elbow.
Step 2. Protect your Head…If you’re falling forward, be sure to turn your face to the side. Falling
backward? “Tuck your chin to your chest, so your head doesn’t hit the ground,” Marcigliano advises.
Step 3. Land on the Meat….”One of the things we try for in stunt falls is landing on meaty parts of your
body—the muscles in your back, butt or thighs. Not bone.” If you keep your knees and elbows bent and
look to land on muscle, you’ll be less likely to crack your elbows, knees, tailbone or hips.
Step 4. Keep Falling…Your instinct will be to stop your body as quickly as you can. But your safest route
is to keep rolling—indeed, the more you give in to the fall, the safer it will be. “Spread the impact across
a larger part of your body; don’t concentrate impact on one area,” Marcigliano says. The more you roll
with the fall, the safer you’ll be.
By Michael Zimmerman for AARP Magazine
Harvard researcher, Robert Waldinger, MD, spends his days studying the science of happiness. Just in
time for the holidays, he sat down with AARP THE MAGAZINE to explain how we can give ourselves, and
others, the gift of a longer, happier life.
As the director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, which has tracked the lives of men for 80
years, Robert Waldinger, MD, loves to share surprising findings about what makes people healthy and
happy. Among them: The quality of your relationships at age 50 is a better predictor of your future
health than your cholesterol levels. And while alcoholism and smoking are top health threats, loneliness
ranks nearly as high.
In other words, “What Makes a Good Life?”—the title of Waldinger’s hugely popular TED Talk—turns
out to be…strong relationships. That’s why the holiday season, with its forced march toward
togetherness, is a great time to set your life on a better course. Waldinger, 66, a psychiatrist and Zen
priest, believes the best life is heavy on connection.
Q. Which relationships are most important to our health?
A: The research doesn’t show you have to have a ton of friends and love cocktail parties. It just means
you have some close connections. It could be one. It could be two.
Q. So what type of relationship qualifies as healthful?
A: My predecessor, George Vaillant, asked a question, on a couple of questionnaires, that I love: “Who
would you call in the middle of the night if you were sick or scared?” Some people couldn’t list anyone.
For some, though, it was a child; for some people it was a friend. For many it was their spouse. You can
fight like cats and dogs, but if you have a sense of “If I ever need my husband, he is there for me,” that’s
Q. What about these relationships helps us live longer?
A: If you sit and have a conversation about something you’re worried about, your body literally calms
down—your blood pressure might come down, your stress hormone levels might go down. There’s
some evidence that it’s not so much stress but how you manage stress that may play a big role in who
ages and who doesn’t. So now we’re bringing people into the lab and stressing them and seeing how
quickly they recover, looking at things like inflammatory cells and DNA regulation through epigenetics
Q. Does childhood influence how people handle stress later?
A: There’s a real thread between the warmth and orderliness and predictability of childhood and how
people do over time. But there are healing relationships all through life, and people who come from
terrible childhoods sometimes do well.
(by Kathleen Fifield for AARP Magazine)
An important new book tells business and consumers what to expect during the silver tsunami…
Joseph Coughlin is a man you want on your side. He is one of the world’s formost experts on aging and
the founder and director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Age Lab. Up in Cambridge,
Massachusetts, “Dr. Joe” directs teams of brilliant young designers, engineers, social scientists, doctors
and researchers who study this complex subject with intellectual ferocity. Lucky for you—and for
us—Joe, who is 56, also serves as a member of the board of directors of AARP.
A tireless researcher himself, Joe has written more than 100 scholarly papers, as well as a book on aging
and transportation. Through his lab, he has created groundbreaking tools to teach the young the
challenges of life as an older person. One of his most notable advances is AGNES, the student-named
suit, that attempts to convey some of the physical issues faced by many people in their late 70s and
older, the better for the brainiacs to study them. When you step into AGNES’ shoes—and gloves and
goggles—it’s a little harder to see, hear, bend and manipulate tiny cellphone buttons. She’s an instant
compassion machine for millennial whiz kids.
But what I particularly want to tell you about is Joe’s important new book—The Longevity Economy:
Unlocking the World’s Fastest-Growing, Most Misunderstood Market—which he described to me as “a
call to arms and instruction manual for how to redefine old age as an opportunity.” We’re living longer
than ever, he says, and these bonus years are opening up vast new possibilities for products, services
and experiences. “But most businesses are stuck in an outdated mindset,” he adds, “and can conceive
of the ‘older market’ solely in terms of health care and senior housing.”
“Old age is a myth,” Joe says. “While there are certainly physical and existential realities to again, we
have been taught the false narrative that to be old is to be a taker, never a giver.” That’s despite the fact
that we, the people over age 50, are working, playing, volunteering, donating, buying stuff and
contributing to a better world to the tune of 7.6 trillion in 2015, well over half of all U.S. consumer
spending. Boomers alone control 70 percent of the disposable income in this country.
In fact, we are frequently cast as a modern society’s burden. We, the walking, talking proof of
humankind’s greatest success—longer lives!—will crash the health care system, drain Social Security and
wreck the economy itself, critics warn. It’s a set of pernicious stereotypes about aging that needs to be
challenged now, Joe says, and that’s what he set out to do in this book.
Sad, too, that the f-word never gets much of a workout when talking about getting older. The f-word as
in F-U- N, Joe notes. “Building the future of fun in a society where 100 years old is the new normal is
perhaps the longevity economy’s largest growth opportunity.”
As Joe says, this is not just about the old—it’s about all of us. With Joe on our side, it’s not a bad time to
be getting old.
(Robert Love, Editor in Chief of AARP Magazine)
This image courtesy of www.campbellskitchen.com
There’s a reason this casserole is called “The King.” This easy king ranch casserole is super simple to make and tastes amazing. Once you try this recipe for Beyond Easy King Ranch Casserole, you’ll have your new go-to dinner recipe! This is one of those budget casserole recipes that you won’t have to fuss over to make. Just combine ingredients you may already have at home, like cream of mushroom soup, sour cream, chili powder, tomatoes, cubed chicken, corn tortillas, Cheddar cheese and green onions. All you need from here is a jar of picante sauce, which you can pick up at any grocery store, and you’re good to go! This is one casserole recipe that “rules” every time.
Serves: 8 (about 1 cup each)
- 1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Campbell’s® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup (Regular or 98% Fat Free)
- 3/4cup Pace® Picante Sauce
- 3/4cup sour cream
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 medium tomatoes, chopped (about 2 cups)
- 3 cups cubed cooked chicken or turkey
- 12 corn tortillas (6-inch), cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces)
- sliced green onion
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Stir the soup, picante sauce, sour cream, chili powder, tomatoes and chicken in a medium bowl.
- Place half the tortillas in a 2-quart shallow baking dish. Top with half the chicken mixture. Repeat the layers. Sprinkle with the cheese.
- Bake for 40 minutes or until the mixture is hot and bubbling. Sprinkle with the green onion. Serve with additional picante sauce and sour cream.
UNDER-THE- WEATHER MAN (aka the common cold):
WHAT IT FEELS LIKE: A sore throat and runny nose, followed by up to 10 days of coughing and sneezing.
IT COULD BE: A common cold—basically a viral infection that’s spread through the air, from shaking
hands or by touching a surface such as a doorknob that has viruses on it, then touching your eyes,
mouth or nose.
WHAT TO DO: Invent a cure and become a billionaire. Short of that, get lots of rest and drink plenty of
fluids. Over-the- counter medicines may soothe symptoms but won’t shorten the sickness.
DR ROTTEN FEVER (aka the flu):
WHAT IT FEELS LIKE: A cough (dry or with clear phlegm) accompanied by a sudden high fever, chills,
body aches, sore throat, fatigue and general misery.
IT COULD BE: The flu. “Influenza tends to come on like a truck,” says Todd Astor, a pulmonologist at
Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
WHAT TO DO: Get thee to a doctor ASAP. If you start taking an antiviral medication (Tamiflu) within 48
hours, it shortens your misery by a day and may reduce your risk for serious complications.
LUNG PHOOEY (aka pneumonia):
WHAT IT FEELS LIKE: A cough (often with yellow or green phlegm) accompanied by a fever, shaking
chills, difficulty breathing, chest pain, weakness and occasionally mental confusion.
IT COULD BE: Pneumonia, an infection of one or both lungs that causes their air sacs to fill up with fluid.
WHAT TO DO: See your physician, who may take an X-ray and prescribe an antibiotic. Some types of
pneumonia will put you in the hospital; others, such as “walking pneumonia,” don’t make you as sick.
THE PHLEGMISH MASTER (aka bronchitis):
WHAT IT FEELS LIKE: A cough (often with phlegm but not always), soreness in the chest and a fever.
IT COULD BE: Bronchitis. This is what people often refer to as a chest cold. It’s inflammation of the
bronchial tubes—the airways of the lungs swell and produce mucus, making you cough.
WHAT TO DO: See your doctor (especially if you have a fever), who may take an X-ray to rule out
pneumonia. Drink plenty of fluids, and breathe in steam from a hot shower.
COUGHUS INTERRUPTUS (aka pertussis):
WHAT IT FEELS LIKE: Uncontrollable, violent coughing that makes it hard to breathe, forcing you to
inhale deeply, often making a “whooping” sound. Other signs include a runny nose with a low-grade
IT COULD BE: Whooping cough, or pertussis. A highly contagious respiratory disease, it’s caused by
bacteria that make your airways swell.
WHAT TO DO: See your physician for antibiotics ASAP—you won’t get as sick if you start taking them in
the first couple of weeks of having symptoms.
(As written in the December 2017 / January 2018 AARP Magazine)
(Be considerate but smart in protecting your own money)
When you fly as much as I do, you can recite the safety briefing by heart, especially the part about
putting on your own oxygen mask before you help anyone else. The same sort of warning should be
given to the 43 million American adults who are family or friend caregivers—particularly when it comes
to their own finances. According to a 2011 study, the average lifetime cost to caregivers is $304,000 in
lost wages, pensions and Social Security. That doesn’t count the $7,000 in cash that 7 out of 10
caregivers pay each year (on average) from their own pockets to cover other costs. “How do you igve up
that much and still retire yourself?” asks Age Wave CEO Ken Dychtwald. If caregiving looms in your
future—and it likely does in you’re a daughter, an only child or the one (if you are, you know what I
mean)—take time now to protect your financial life.
STEP 1: Calculate the gap. The average cost of a full-time home health aide is $49,000 a year; a
semiprivate room in a nursing home: $86,000. Think you and your parents won’t need long-term care?
So do 63 percent of people over 50, note Age Wave. Yet 70 percent will, a clear disconnect. So ask your
parents about the size of their nest egg, how quickly they’re spending it, whether they have long-term
care insurance and how much equity they have in their home. If they won’t discuss this, a
compassionate financial adviser may be able to bring you together. Compare your parents’ assets
against their projected expenses, and you have your gap.
Step 2: Figure out how to fill the gap, without bankrupting yourself or your family.
Look for free resources. Go to benefitscheckup.org, set up the National Council on Aging, to
learn about federal, state and private benefits programs that apply to your charge.
Make a budget for what you can contribute—physically and in dollars. (Shockingly, 50 percent
of caregivers don’t track what they’re spending.) Then ask your siblings what they can pitch in;
just because you’re delivering the care doesn’t mean you have to foot the entire bill. Every
dollar you don’t spend can be put away for the future, so you don’t perpetuate this cycle with
STEP 3: If a gap remains, consider Medicaid. An unmarried parent may need to spend down assets to
qualify (nursing home residents can have only $2,000 in countable assets in most states). If your parent
is married, it’s more complicated; in general, the healthy spouse can keep one-half of assets, up to
$120,900 (not including the house). Call an elder-law attorney for help. You can locate a lawyer
through elderlawansers.com or naela.org, the site of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.
STEP 4: Regardless of the gap, look into getting paid.
Two government programs—one from Veterans Affairs, the other from Medicaid—offer
additional financial support that can be used to pay family caregivers. If your parent is a veteran
(or spouse of one) who served at least 90 days of active duty with at least one day during a
period of war, check out what the VA has to offer. Be forewarned: Waiting lists for some
Medicaid programs are so long you might never see any money.
Have your parent pay you if assets are available. But first talk to an elder-law attorney about
drawing up a contract, notes Miles P Hurley, a certified elder-law attorney in Atlanta. This
document, he says, should answer questions such as “Is this child going to quit a job to provide
the care?” and “How many hours a day is the child supposed to pbe providing the care?” It’s
crucial to do this in a way that doesn’t jeopardize Medicaid eligibility—which is why you want to
involve a lawyer, preferably from the state where your parent lives.
STEP 5: Protect your own earning ability. If you’re midcareer, it’s very challenging to leave a job for
caregiving, then step back into the workforce at the same salary, explains C. Grace Whiting, COO of the
National Alliance for Caregiving. “Sometimes physically caring for a loved one may seem to be your only
option,” she acknowledges, but it may make more sense to continue to work while supporting someone
else who provides care. It can also be a good idea to ask for more flexibility from your employer. Given
that it costs six to nine months’ salary to replace a management-level employee, it’s not surprising that
many employers believe it’s less expensive to make an accommodation. Adds Lisa Winstel, COO of the
Caregiver Action Network, “Saying to your employer ‘I’m a family caregiver’ is not as taboo as it was five
or 10 years ago.”
(by Jean Chatzky for AARP Magazine; December 2017 / January 2018)
New Study suggests a ‘public health crisis’
Adult drinking in the U.S. has become a “public health crisis” in the past decade, with the steepest rise
among those 65 and over, according to a recent federal study.
The increase in alcohol use, in high-risk drinking behavior, and in alcohol abuse and dependence for
those 65-plus was at least double that of the general population, said the study, published in JAMA
Psychiatry and sponsored in part by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). It
compared drinking levels in 2001-2002 with those in 2012-2013.
The increases were “substantial and unprecedented relative to earlier surveys,” the JAMA Psychiatry
article said. One of the most troubling findings was a 107 percent increase in the number of adults 65
and over with “alcohol use disorder,” which as defined by the NIAAA is often characterized by
compulsive alcohol use and a negative emotional state when not using alcohol. “Even as an expert in
the field, it shocked me,” said Brenda Iliff, executive director of Hazelden of Florida, an alcohol and drug
The study didn’t look at causes of the increase. But experts cited the aging of boomers as one possible
factor. “Baby boomers had higher levels of drinking and drug use. They’re bringing this along,” said
NIAAA Director George F Koob. Another possible factor: recent economic stresses on older Americans.
“The 2008 recession had a toll on the most vulnerable,” said Bridget Grant, the lead author of the study.
Richard Grucza, an epidemiologist at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, challenged
the findings, saying changes in methods mean “you can’t really compare the results.” But Koob stood by
the study, saying the results for older Americans were consistent with other research.
(As written in the AARP Bulletin of October 2017)
Make Winter Bearable
(Learn seasonal survival from the masters of hibernation)
Embrace hyperphagia, or overeating. Instead of feasting on holiday treats, act like a bear and grab
pawfuls of nuts and berries. They’ll tune up your brain and immune system.
Lose weight fast-er. Bears’ winterlong fasting helps them lose about 20 percent of their pudge. Your
variation: intermittent fasting. Eat only during an eight-hour window each day.
Shake it off. Dave Garshelis, a bear expert with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, notes
that hibernating bears do a lot of shivering, which preserves muscle tone. Similarly, human fidgeting
can burn 350 calories a day. And a Japanese study showed that setting the thermostat at 62 degrees
impacts your metabolism and could cause significant fat loss in six weeks. Hey, Boo Boo, spring is just
around the corner!
(written by Peter Moore for AARP Magazine)
This pie version of buckeye balls candy has a chocolate wafer crust, a sweet and creamy peanut butter filling, and is covered with a chocolate ganache.
- 1 cup crushed chocolate
- graham crackers (about 10 crackers)
- 2 tablespoons packed dark brown
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup creamy peanut butter
- 6 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
How to Make It
Make crust: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9-inch square pan with foil, leaving a 1-inch overhang; mist bottom with nonstick cooking spray. Mix crumbs with sugar and butter and press into bottom of pan. Bake until crust is set, 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
Make filling: Beat all ingredients except cream with an electric mixer on high speed until smooth, 2 minutes. In a separate bowl, beat cream until stiff peaks form, 2 minutes. Fold whipped cream into peanut butter mixture; pour into pie shell, smoothing top. Cover, pressing plastic wrap directly onto surface of pie. Freeze for at least 5 hours, preferably overnight. Remove pie and place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
Make glaze: Place chocolate in a bowl. Bring cream and butter to a boil and pour over chocolate. Stir until combined and chocolate is melted. Let cool to room temperature. Remove plastic from pie; spread glaze evenly over top. Chill pie, uncovered, until glaze is set. Keep pie in refrigerator or cooler until ready to eat.
Pioneering drugs that remedy once-intractable diseases; clever products that make everyday living easier for people with injury or illness; innovative technologies that provide relief at a touch of a button—by all measures, 2017 has been a year of astounding health care advancements. Here are some of the ways medical trailblazers and researchers are creating fresh possibilities for you and your family.
NEW HOPE AT STAGE 4
Adrienne Skinner awoke from cancer surgery to stunning news. “I came to, and he told me we couldn’t do it,” Skinner says of her surgeon, who had planned to remove a tumor from the end of her bile duct. “He said, ‘Cancer has invaded your liver. It’s stage 4. It’s systemic.’” She was diagnosed with ampullary cancer, a form so rare that no standard treatments existed. Until now.
After some “pretty nasty” chemotherapy, Skinner, 60, of Larchmont, New York, became part of a clinical trial for pembrolizumab, marketed by Merck as Keytruda. The drug helps the body’s immune system fight the disease. Skinner started infusion treatments in April 2014. In July her surgeon took another biopsy. “He said, ‘If somebody hadn’t told me you had cancer, I never would have known,’” she notes. The tumor was gone.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has since approved further uses of Keytruda, such as for patients with a genetic mutation called mismatch repair deficiency. The drug continues to be tested for use by patients without the mutation. It is approved for some head and neck, lung, bladder and metastatic melanoma cancers, as well as Hodgkin lymphoma.
During clinical trials, the medication was famously used to treat former President Jimmy Carter, who two years ago announced he had cancer in his brain and liver and said his fate was “in the hands of God, whom I worship.” Four months later, his cancer was gone.
Skinner has seen similar results. She’s back at work and makes a point of swimming and playing tennis. “I’m running around like a maniac. I’m out gardening right now,” she says. “I know what a gift is, and I know the gift of life.”
Written by Mandy Fetterman for AARP Magazine
Hair-Saving Device. Two years ago the FDA approved scalp-cooling caps, which help breast cancer patients keep their hair during chemotherapy. Now one such device, the DigniCap, has also been approved for patients with other solid-tumor cancers. That could help nearly 800,000 Americans avoid chemo-related hair loss. Why it’s key: One in 12 women with breast cancer avoid potentially lifesaving treatment for fear of going bald. Says patient Lauren Jones of the Paxman Scalp device: “It’s liberating.” (by Sari Harrar for AARP Magazine)
Computerized Treatment. Three words cancer patients should know: Watson for Oncology. IBM’s artificial intelligence supercomputer can take test results and comb through tens of millions of medical documents to make recommendations for care. “One doctor doesn’t have the computing power to crunch all the world’s data,” says Jay Wohlgemuth, chief medical officer of Quest Diagnostics. Last year, IBM and Quest expanded Watson for use by clinics. Doctors send a tissue sample to Quest, which identifies genetic mutations and sends data to Watson to unearth lifesaving treatments. (by Lexi Pandell for AARP Magazine)
Ovarian Cancer Sniff Test. Dogs can smell certain cancers. Researchers in Philadelphia are developing an electronic nose to do the same. It could be available within five years. This is important because the first stages of ovarian cancer are nearly invisible to ultrasounds or via exams.
(by Virginia Sole-Smith for AARP Magazine)