Tech Items Every Savvy Baby Boomer Needs

July 31, 2019  
Filed under Feature Stories

Lisa Cini

 

By Lisa M Cini

 

As you get older, daily tasks can become increasingly difficult. There are many gadgets on the market that can make life easier for baby boomers. The following are a few interesting gadgets you may want to have to make your daily life a bit easier.

 

Have a Security System Installed

Being home alone can be scary for many older people. Even if their spouse lives with them, there will be times when they will be at their house completely alone. Having a security system installed can help give you peace of mind that you are as safe as you can be at all times. The system will ensure that no one gets into your house when you are away from home and provides you with an easy way to get emergency assistance if you need it, without even having to dial a phone.

 

Have a Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat Installed

There are many older individuals who are living on a fixed income. They need to save money wherever they can and reducing electricity costs can be a great way to save. A Wi-Fi smart thermostat may be the best way for you to easily decrease your heating and cooling costs right away. Once the thermostat is installed, you can lower or raise the temperature on the thermostat to a cost-effective degree. Twenty to 30 minutes before you come home, you can go to an app on your phone to set the thermostat to a temperature that you feel is more comfortable. This means that the house will be at a comfortable temperature by the time you arrive, but you will not have to pay to maintain that temperature at all times.

 

Wear a Smart Wearable Device

A smart wearable device allows you to track your sleep cycles, heart rate, and the steps you take each day. It can also help you to know how many calories you are burning throughout the day. Smart wearable devices connect wirelessly to your cell phone so that you can look at the results on a larger screen and track the data for an extended period of time. This can be great information to have when you go to see your doctors because you will have tracked data you can show them.

 

Add Voice-Controlled Devices to Your Home

There are many times when it can be difficult to do things in your home simply because they require you to read very small print. Instead, you can have voice-controlled devices in place that will make it easier for you to do the things you want to do. There are now televisions that can be voice controlled, so you can find any programming you want to watch and even change the volume with your voice alone. There are also devices that you can use to research a topic that interests you, listen to your favorite music, or even have a recipe read to you.

 

Trying new gadgets can seem overwhelming or scary to many older people. It is important to realize that most devices that are on the market are designed to be easy to use and do not take long to master. This is because the manufacturers know that anything too complicated will not be popular with elderly individuals. These gadgets can help you live a more fulfilling, comfortable life for as long as possible.

 

 

Safe365 Launches First-Ever Free Mobile Care App for Seniors

July 29, 2019  
Filed under Aging Parents, News

Despite our hyper-connected world, elders are often by themselves and vulnerable in many situations, leaving family members worried about their safety. But now a free app is providing newfound protection and peace of mind for all people involved. Safe365 is being launched as the first free mobile telecare application for seniors. Through the app, family members know at all times where their loved ones are, if they have arrived safely home or at their destination, or if a confused senior loved one may have wandered away.

The app has other functionalities as well: an emergency button for the senior to press to get help; automatic notifications when your family member enters or leaves a certain area; an option to warn when a mobile device is running out of battery, or whether they have or not Internet access, etc. What also sets Safe365 apart is its intelligent notifications based on pattern detections of the elderly user. The machine learning aspect in the app helps hone in on habits of the family member and can send out an alert when something outside that habit takes place.

The app maximizes the use of GPS technology but also sports a social and “e-motional” side to it as well. It connects elders with their families via features like photo and mood sharing. It also offers an infinite scrolling social feed with latest family actions much like an Instagram-type app. Safe365 is available around the world with user presence in 193 countries around the world

“We are not following trends, but rather we are the first to develop an app for the elderly in an engaged, social and emotional way,” says Guillem Viladomat, CEO of Safe365. “Busy schedules sometimes keep us from remembering tasks involving elderly family members and make us feel guilty. With Safe365 it feels like you are connected to your family 24/7. Safe365 helps extend years of self-reliance for our loved ones, even delaying expensive senior housing solutions.”

Although Safe365 has been designed to be a safety locator for the elderly, it is open to any type of audience that can adapt the app’s functionality to their needs. For example, it can also serve as a GPS locator for children in case parents want to know their kids’ location when they return only from school or are headed to or from a friend’s house.

For more information on the full capabilities and benefits of Safe365: www.Safe365.com

Big Variation In Part D Costs Means Most Medicare Beneficiaries Overpay for Prescriptions

July 29, 2019  
Filed under Money, News

A new analysis  from The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) of 12 frequently – prescribed drugs illustrates that Medicare recipients frequently overpay for their medications.  “Because Medicare doesn’t negotiate drug prices there are wild swings in prices between Part D drug plans,” says Mary Johnson, The Senior Citizens League’s Medicare and Social Security policy analyst.  The difference in cost for the same drug between drug plans can be in the thousands of dollars for the most expensive drugs, and hundreds of dollars for more common prescriptions. Since the start of Medicare Part D in 2006, Johnson has volunteered to help friends and acquaintances shop for Part D plans.

Although Medicare has an annual Open Enrollment period, when beneficiaries can compare drug plans and switch to lower costing drug plans, few retirees actually do so.  “In most areas of the country, the Medicare beneficiaries have more than two dozen Part D plans to sort through, and the average person just don’t know where to begin, or that free, unbiased help is available,” Johnson says.  “Consequently, Medicare beneficiaries winds up overpaying for prescriptions that could be obtained for a lower cost from a different drug plan.”

Johnson compared the lowest and highest cost between drug plans for a list of 12 frequently – prescribed drugs.  The list includes commonly prescribed brand name and specialty drugs, as well as two widely – used generics.  The analysis found: 

  1. The difference in drug prices between the lowest and highest costing plans, can be in the hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars.  For brand name and specialty drugs, the most frequent reason that the drug costs so much more in the highest costing plan is lack of coverage.  The drug is not listed on the high cost plan’s formulary.  For example, the lowest cost plan for Sovaldi, a drug used to treat Hepatitis C, charges $5,600 in co-insurance (for a one-year treatment).  The highest cost drug plan charges $100,800, the full cost of the drug, because Sovaldi is not on the plan’s formulary.
  2. New Part D plan drug pricing programs may lower costs for those who seek out the savings.  Recent Congressional scrutiny on drug pricing may be spurring some drug plans to drop prices.  One of the biggest cost-savings found is a new drug plan pricing program that lowers the cost of insulin.  In the 2018, the lowest cost Part D plan charged an $80 copay for a 100/ML of Lantus Solostar.  In 2019, a different plan had lowest cost copays charging as little as $6.00 – $11.00 for Lantus Solostar, in the Cigna-HealthSpring Rx Secure — Extra Part D plan.  The highest cost plan, which does not cover Lantus, charges the full price, $383.18 per 100/ML.
  3. High premiums don’t necessarily purchase better coverage.  The generic blood pressure medication, Lisinopril, is one of the most commonly used prescriptions by Medicare beneficiaries.  The least expensive Part D plan charges $0 copay for the drug, and the plan’s monthly premium is just $14.50 in the zip code used in the analysis.  The most expensive plan charges a co-pay of $9.19, and the plan has a monthly premium of $93.30.   Counting premiums, that’s a difference of $1,055.88 for the entire year.

“To avoid overpaying for prescriptions, and to find the most affordable coverage, the importance of comparing drug plans during one’s initial enrollment in Medicare, and during Medicare’s annual Fall Open Enrollment period October 15th -December 7th can’t be overstated,” Johnson says.  Most people 65 and over take more than one prescription drug, and to get the best plan, consumers need to compare plans based on all the drugs they actually take.  In addition, consumers should compare prices between pharmacies, including mail order, which can also vary.

Free one-on-one assistance is available to help compare and select plans through state health insurance assistance programs.  Many of these programs operate through Area Agencies on Aging, or senior centers.  Local program contact info can be found at: https://www.shiptacenter.org.

The Senior Citizens League is working for enactment of legislative measures that would lower prescription drug costs.  To learn how to get involved, visit www.SeniorsLeague.org.

 

Seniors’ Health Faces Risks From Vulnerable Technology

July 25, 2019  
Filed under Feature Stories

 

By: Chris Holbert, CEO of SecuraTrac.com

 

People worry about smart devices like Alexa, Google Home and connected televisions listening to everything they do. But seniors who rely on mobile personal emergency response devices (mPERS), like the buttons that can be pressed to call for help in the event of a fall or another medical emergency, could truly be at risk for hackers listening-in on their daily lives.

 

A security flaw in the design of some devices has security experts recommending they be recalled because they can expose real-time locations and let anyone remotely listen in by activating the built-in microphone. The Chinese-manufactured white-label location tracker was rebranded and sold by more than a dozen companies — including Pebbell by HoIP Telecom, OwnFone Footprint and SureSafeGo – according to researchers at Fidus Information Security.

 

While most people have smart phones with them at all times these days, they are not always the best option for reaching help if an emergency does occur. mPERS devices are not only to detect a fall they go beyond the capabilities of a cell phone and are able to auto-dial family or a response team for help if a fall occurs. The battery life of mPERS devices is far superior to smart phones, lasting up to 30 days in sleep mode, and most devices feature an SOS button that can easily be pressed in an emergency without the need to focus on dialing numbers.

 

Beyond the features of the mPERS device, seniors, caregivers and family members comparing these devices need to also consider the technology in the device and the platform on which the device operates. Research any previous recalls, security breaches, find out how often the software will be updated and if the hardware will be replaced if it becomes obsolete. These steps will help ensure safety and peace of mind at all times.

 

Holiday Gifts for Gardeners

July 25, 2019  
Filed under Home & Garden

Indoor herb kits keep gardeners growing all year, while providing fresh herbs for flavoring and garnishing meals.
Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Gardener’s Supply Company

By Melinda Myers

Holidays are a wonderful time to gather with friends and family, share a special meal and exchange gifts. Finding the perfect gift for those we love can be overwhelming and stressful. No need to fret; give the gift of gardening that provides seasons of joy.

It doesn’t matter if your recipient is young or old, new or experienced, an avid gardener or one who just likes the benefits gardening provides. You can find something special for everyone on your gift list.

Small and large space gardeners will appreciate help keeping their tools handy as they work their way through their landscape. Give them a bucket, pair of gloves and a few tools to keep by the door for those quick planting, weeding and deadheading sessions. Or decorate an old mailbox and turn it into tool storage to be mounted in the garden. Their tools will be handy and they’ll spend less time and fewer steps hunting down forgotten tools.

Or purchase a tool caddy.  Look for one that’s colorful and waterproof like the Puddle-Proof Tote that holds and keeps hand tools, gloves and seeds dry.  Help them wrangle larger tools for easy transport from the shed to the garden and from bed to bed with a wheeled tool caddy that handles larger tools. The Mobile Tool storage caddy (gardeners.com) has pockets for small tools, secures large handled tools and provides a place to hold compost, cut flowers or vegetables. It’s easy to maneuver, eliminates multiple trips to the shed and is perfect for gardeners of all ages and abilities.

Tools are always a favorite of gardeners. Newbies need to build their tool collection while experienced gardeners may need to replace broken or time worn hand tools. Consider giving a harvest basket, bucket or tool caddy filled with some basics. All gardeners will appreciate a new innovative tool that makes gardening easier or more fun. Look for ergonomic tools that are built to ease stress on joints and allow gardeners to work longer with less pain.  Multifunctioning tools like the Golden Gark Rake that rakes, scoops and sifts helps save storage space and the need to haul around multiple tools.

Help your favorite gardener keep their green thumb in shape all winter long. Provide them with pretty pots, potting mix and seeds. Look for kits like the Galvanized Organic Kitchen Herbs Growing Kit that provides all they’ll need to grow their own fresh herbs. Increase their indoor gardening success with supplemental lighting. You’ll now find light stands that sit on the table, mount on the wall or attach to plant pots. Furniture quality Bamboo Mini LED Grow Light systems provide energy efficient lighting in a set up pretty enough for any room.

And for those that like the flowers but have limited time or interest in growing, give them a waxed amaryllis bulb.  They won’t need to water or fertilize. Beginning and experienced gardeners will watch in amazement as this plant bursts into bloom with no effort on their part.

Don’t know what to send? Cut flowers, flowering bulbs and plants are sure to generate a smile in just seconds. Take care of special occasions throughout the year in one single order. Place one order for 3, 6, or 12 months of blooming beauty delivered right to your loved one’s door, providing joy throughout the year.

So, break out your gift list and look for ways to give the gift of gardening. Your family and friends will appreciate your thoughtfulness all year long.

Miracle-Minded Empowerment: A Simple Guide to Getting Out of Your Own Way

July 25, 2019  
Filed under Feature Stories

by John J. Murphy

Have you ever had one of those experiences where you feel like you’re in exactly the right place at exactly the right time with exactly the right people? Almost seems miraculous, doesn’t it?

Well, guess what? You’re having that experience right now. Right where you are. Reading this article. With me. And this is no bizarre coincidence or synchronicity. It is meant to be.

How do I know this? Because it’s happening. It’s happening now and it’s happening all the time, every minute of every day. We are always right where we are supposed to be – in the eternal now, the only time that ever matters. This is the first step toward true empowerment and ultimately, enlightenment: Knowing where you are, and knowing you are here for a reason. In other words, being present.

If this sounds a bit heavy or “out there,” relax and take a deep breath. It gets deeper.

According to many great spiritual teachers, past and present, we are always reaping what we are sowing. Judgement Day is not a future phenomenon. It’s on-going. Better known today as the “law of attraction,” like energy attracts like energy. We get what we give. What goes around comes around. And yes, misery loves company. Joy does too.

So, imagine this. You are about to give a keynote speech at a big event or take an important exam in school. How do you feel? What “vibe” are you putting out? Are you anxious and afraid? Or are you poised and calm, like an experienced quarterback under great pressure? What signal are you sending the universe – including the people around you?

Here’s the key. If you’re stressing out, it’s because you aren’t present. Your mind is thinking about all the things that might go wrong. What if I screw up? What if I say something stupid? What if I flunk? What if I embarrass myself? What if people laugh at me, or ridicule me? What if I lose? It’s happened before. I’ve made mistakes. It could happen again. Whoa boy!

Projections of the mind (typically based on the past) trigger reactions in the body (e.g. the release of stress hormones) and the body emits – through the heart center – an energetic frequency. This frequency can “light up the room” or suck the life out of it. It’s all about energy. Think of this like radio signals. You have the power to change channels. You can tune into dark, depressing, attack thoughts or you can dial into positive, healthy, healing thoughts. You hold the dial. And the thoughts you think influence the vibration you send from the heart.

The HeartMath Institute calls this vibration heart coherence. They even offer a software with a sensing device that “reads” your heart coherence, which changes depending on what you are thinking and how you are breathing. Change your thoughts and control your breathing and you change your energetic signal. This is very similar to the mood shift people often experience when they listen to soothing music. Again, it’s about energy and vibration.

You can change your heart coherence using meditation and deep breathing techniques – coupled with positive thinking. One technique, developed by the HeartMath Institute, is called the Quick Coherence Technique. This meditation practice involves deep, heart-focused breathing coupled with thoughts of gratitude and appreciation. It is very simple and something you can do anywhere. I use it throughout the day.

Now imagine that instead of giving a big speech or shooting a game-winning free-throw, your alarm clock goes off in the morning. It’s a new day. The day is uncertain, just like the speech or free-throw, but you know you get to choose how you feel. You govern your heart coherence. What will It be? Will it be one of faith or fear? Enthusiasm or anxiety? Eagerness or stress?

Now you might ask, what difference does this really make? How can someone’s heart coherence influence anything else in the world? Is there any evidence of this?

The answer is yes. There are some very interesting and compelling scientific experiments on this topic, including studies from the HeartMath Institute. Gregg Braden, a world-renowned author and scientist, references several experiments that show how our thinking and emotions influence our DNA, and our DNA influences light particles (i.e. the “stuff” the universe is made of). Put simply, we affect the world around us by how we feel. We are all putting out signals that attract similar frequencies back to us. We are reaping what we are sowing – energetically.

So, miracle-minded empowerment begins with awareness. We pay attention to how we feel – in the now. We mind our minds. We pay attention to what we pay attention to. We choose positive things to think about and we let go of any emotional baggage weighing us down. We experience world peace through inner peace and forgiveness. We recognize that we are always right where we are supposed to be, here and now, with the people we are supposed to be with. No regrets. No grievances. No shame. No guilt. No grief. No fear. Everything is in perfect harmony and balance. We let go and we let flow!

Retire to Europe on Less Than $35,000 a Year in These 7 Places—Internationalliving.com

July 23, 2019  
Filed under Travel

Despite common assumptions about costs being high, a retirement in Old World Europe can, in fact, be affordable. In a new report, the editors at Internationalliving.com pinpoint seven spots in Europe where it’s possible to retire comfortably for less than $35,000 a year.

Source: Internationalliving.com

It’s not hard to retire to Europe and enjoy a high quality of life on less than $35,000 a year. In welcoming, warm-weather, good-value escapes, expat retirees can find great bargains and stretch their dollars.

“Europe as a value retirement destination seems kind of counter-intuitive,” says Dan Prescher, senior editor with International Living. “But it takes a little out-of-the-box thinking. Get outside the big cities and popular tourist destinations, and life can get very affordable.”

International Living has identified seven communities where the weather is good and a relaxed Old World lifestyle is surprisingly affordable.

Provence, France

Provence is a sweeping area at the center of the Alps-Provence-Cote d’Azur (PACA) region of southeastern France. It shares a border with the Languedoc-Roussillon region as well as the Auvergne-Rhône-Alps. France’s second largest city, Marseille, is its capital, but visitors tend to gravitate to smaller popular towns, such as Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, and Arles.

Given that Provence offers some of the best year-round weather in France, it’s an ideal retirement location for those seeking long days of sunshine and blue skies. The region boasts 300 days of sun, and warm weather that stretches from April through October. Winters tend to be cool with some rain, but rarely dip beneath 40 F.

Popular towns near the coastline tend to have inflated prices compared to small inland towns. For example, rent for a small, furnished one-bedroom apartment in Aix-en-Provence runs about $920 per month, while the same amount will get you a large, two- or three-bedroom, fully-furnished house with a garden in the hilly green heart of the Var department, about 50 miles further inland.

Find the right spot in Provence, and a couple can live well renting a one-bedroom apartment for $2,695 per month—$32,340 a year.

 

Seville, Spain

Seville (population about 700,000 in the city and 1.5 million in the greater metro area) is a mecca for those who love gracious living, southern Spanish style. Located on the Guadalquivir River, the largest navigable river in Spain, Seville is about 50 miles from the Atlantic Ocean.

Winters are relatively mild, with average highs in the 60s F and lows in the 40s F. But summer temperatures, especially in July and August, can soar well over 100 F, with next to no humidity. How better, then, to spend the hot days than in a house with thick stone walls to keep out the heat and a placid central patio, perhaps with a tinkling fountain in the center, and masses of flowers around it? This lifestyle has appealed to Sevillanos for centuries…and in this city, tradition runs strong.

The city is justly famous for its Moorish architecture, bull fighting, flamenco dancing, and lively culinary scene. Seville’s Holy Week (Semana Santa) processions are widely considered the most solemn and impressive in Spain, drawing millions of visitors each year. And its feria (fair) in April, with its wealth of street activities, is also a highlight of the year.

In the right neighborhood, a couple can live well in Seville on $2,319 per month including rent, or $27,828 a year.

 

Nazaré, Portugal

Just 32 square miles in area, Nazaré is a livable city on the coast between Lisbon and Porto. While it’s delightful to explore on foot, reliable bus and taxi service is available. There’s a local market in town as well as supermarkets, more than 100 restaurants and cafés, and other amenities.

There’s already an established expat presence here, although the city is not overrun, as some popular places are, like the southern region of the Algarve, for example.

Nazaré’s climate is temperate, with highs reaching toward 85 F in summer, dipping to averages around 50 F in January, the coldest month. It might not suit those who are looking for year-round sun, but even in November, for example, rainfall averages only three-and-a-half inches compared to the five inches the capital, Lisbon, receives.

The town’s market is within easy walking distance from center, where locals and visitors alike can purchase fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, and bakery items like fried pumpkin cake. Perhaps the most attractive part of Nazaré is Sítio, a primarily residential area. Perched high on a cliff above the coast and town, this suburb offers magnificent views and can be reached by walking (for hearty souls), driving, or taking the funicular from below.

And best of all, a couple can rent a large apartment close to the beach and live well on $1,845 a month, or $22,140 a year, in Nazaré.

 

Sorrento, Italy

A dignified small city resting on a bluff, Sorrento is a sun-splashed energetic place. Its position on the Sorrentine Peninsula gives it stunning views of Vesuvius looming over Naples as well as the magical rocky island of Capri. There are relaxing cafes, plenty of shops from posh to practical, and a sheltered shoreline below the cliffs.

The city is sort of divided into three parts—the centro old town, the waterfront marinas below the cliffs, and the newer town beyond the ancient city walls. Despite the summer crowds it draws, Sorrento isn’t merely a beach resort; it enjoys a vibrant year-round life. There is a “cultural university” that offers a range of adult cultural classes and volunteer opportunities, along with the University of Mediterranean Cuisine.

The climate is pleasant with hot, dry summers and mild, moist winters. The average temperature in summer is 85 F tempered by sea breezes, and in winter the average temperature runs around 50 F. Expect some rainy days from November through February, but there are theater shows, cinemas, and museums to get you out, and the train to Naples and big city amenities takes just an hour.

Renting a one-bedroom apartment, a couple can live well in Sorrento for $2,817 per month—which comes to $33,804 a year.

 

Lagos, Portugal

In Portugal’s Algarve region, Lagos is blessed with a year-round moderate climate, with average temperatures ranging from 52 F in winter to 75 F in the summertime, when the normal average population of 22,000 swells with visitors from Europe and elsewhere. While landlubbers enjoy golfing, tennis, horseback riding, and hiking, the ocean offers the best of conditions for kayaking, paddle boarding, surfing, kite surfing, windsurfing and more in the area’s tourist-based economy.

It’s easy to get around Lagos on foot. Much of the city is fairly flat, especially around the lovely marina. Buses and taxis are plentiful, and trains go to other regions of the Algarve and even up to Lisbon and beyond.

Despite the tourist-oriented nature of Lagos, particularly during the peak season of July and August, prices are surprisingly reasonable. Including rent, a couple can live well in Lagos on $2,080 per month, or $24,960 a year.

 

Modena, Italy

Sitting prettily on the ancient Via Emilia, roughly 80 miles north of Florence, Modena is well-connected and well-heeled. This city is one of the most underrated in Italy—a well-to-do city without being stuffy (or over-priced).

Its classy historic center packs a cultural punch with its monuments, museums, art, and entertainment. No wonder Modena consistently ranks high on Italy’s quality of life index ratings.

The university draws young people from around Italy to study law, medicine, and mechanical engineering—not surprising, given the number of automakers in the area. You can visit Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, and Pagani.

Outside town, vineyards swath the hills and plains, turning out frothy Lambrusco and its lively white equivalent Pignoletto.

Maybe it’s the sparkling wines produced here that gives Modena a bubbly demeanor, or maybe the light-hearted pastels of the buildings. Whatever it is, the ambiance of this city of 175,000 residents is pleasant and somewhat reminiscent of Florence with Renaissance influence.

It is well maintained and well-endowed with parks and culture, thanks in part to Ferrari and other local industrialists whose philanthropy keeps Modena green and clean.

The lifestyle here is relaxed, like most places in Italy, but with a touch of class and culture. In the right spot in Modena a couple can live well for as little as $1,617 per month including rent, or $19,404 a year.

 

Granada, Spain

The climate and weather of Granada justify why so many peoples have sought to be here. Set at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, humidity is low, which makes it comfortable to be out and about on foot. Winters can have a chill, but snow rarely lasts in town for more than a day. The hot summers remain dry and humidity-free, nothing that a shaded café and a cold tinto de verano (iced summer wine) can’t counter.

Today, Granada remains a mid-sized town (235,000 people) that one can walk the length of, though the city transit system is so easy, regular, and accessible, it is second to none. Everyone uses it, which makes it both convenient transportation and a social meet-up.

Surrounded by gently rolling foothills, mountains streams, and open meadows filled with olive and fruit trees, Granada is a hiker’s paradise. One can find villages situated in valleys that have been occupied for 5,000 years, and with each new generation, a new layer (and outdoor wine/tapa café) is added to the area’s vivacity.

A couple can enjoy all Granada has to offer for $2,476 per month including rent—$29,712 a year.

 

The full report on these seven affordable European retirement destinations can be found here at Places in Europe Where You Can Retire on $35,000 a Year

How Credit Scores Still Matter in Retirement

July 23, 2019  
Filed under Aging Parents, Money

 

By Jim Akin

 

Retirement doesn’t affect your credit scores directly, but how you manage your finances during retirement can impact your credit and borrowing power.

Does Retirement Show on Your Credit Report?

Credit reports used to calculate your scores do not contain any information about employment status or income level. (Likewise, credit reports contain no information about your age, marital status, ethnicity, religion or race.)

What your credit reports do track is your personal history of borrowing and repaying money, including loans and credit card accounts. Credit reports reflect your history of making payments on loans and accounts that have been active in the past 10 years, even if the loans are now paid off in full or the accounts have been closed. They also record major negative financial events including foreclosures, repossessions and bankruptcies. These entries in your credit report are the raw material credit scoring systems analyze to generate your credit scores.

Retirement Can Affect Your Borrowing Power

While your credit scores won’t change just because you retire, your ability to borrow money could decline somewhat because your income is likely to drop at least incrementally as you shift from collecting paychecks to drawing Social Security and tapping retirement savings.

Lenders often want to see evidence of steady income when considering loan applications, and the concern over having a smaller income is its role in increasing your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. DTI ratio, which you can calculate by dividing your monthly bill payments by your monthly income, is a measure lenders often consider (along with credit score, employment history and other assets you may have) when deciding whether to lend you money.

People often dial back credit usage as retirement approaches—mortgages may be paid off, cars accumulate fewer miles and get replaced less frequently, and household spending winds down as the nest empties—so odds are good the debt portion of your DTI ratio has shrunken. But unless you have zero debt, any drop in income will mean an increase in DTI ratio. Lenders typically look for DTI ratios below 43% when considering loan applications, so as long as you’re below that level, you probably don’t have much to worry about.

Why Credit Scores Still Matter When You’re Retired

Cutting back on borrowing as retirement nears is far from a universal situation (lots of retirees take out new mortgages on condos or vacation homes), and some retirees whose days of big-ticket financing are behind them make the mistake of concluding they can forget about their credit scores. But your credit scores can affect your finances even if you’re done applying for loans and credit cards. Here are a few ways low credit scores can cost retirees money:

  • Higher interest rates on existing debts. Many credit card issuers routinely monitor your credit scores for purposes known in the industry as “account management.” This practice gives card issuers a heads-up of changes in your creditworthiness, and many issuers reserve the right to change the terms of your cardholder agreement if your credit score declines significantly. They may lower your borrowing limit, increase the interest rate they charge or even close your account.
  • Lower rates on insurance. Auto and homeowners insurance companies often use information in your credit report to generate a type of specialized insurance score, which helps them decide what rates to charge you. Reductions in your credit score could mean higher insurance premiums.
  • Security deposits. If you want to rent construction gear or other equipment for a DIY project, or if you just want to get a Wi-Fi router or DVR from the cable company serving your new retirement community, you’ll likely be subjected to a credit check. A fair to good credit score might not prevent you from getting the rental, but it might mean you’ll need to put down a higher security deposit than you would if your score were higher.

How to Keep Your Credit Score High During Retirement

So how do you maintain a high credit score (or build up a score that could stand to be higher) once you’ve entered retirement? The same way you keep up your score at any other phase of life: Understand the factors that promote strong credit scores and avoid decisions that can bring your score down.

The most important steps you can take to avoid hurting your credit score are:

  • Pay your bills on time. Do this every month without fail. If your retirement will include a lot of travel, or if you’ll be dividing time between two homes during the year, this may take some extra care. Schedule automatic payments for as many services as you can, and consider working with creditors, utilities and other vendors to keep all your payment due dates around the same time of the month to make it easier to organize your payments. Plus, you can get credit for paying cell phone and utility bills on time by adding these accounts to your Experian credit report with Experian Boost™. Once they’re in your report, your on-time payments may improve your credit history and increase your credit scores.
  • Avoid excessive credit balances. Pay your credit card balances in full as often as possible (this also saves you from paying interest charges). When you must carry a balance from month to month, do your best to keep it below 30% of your borrowing limit. Experts agree that utilization rates in excess of 30% tend to lower your credit scores.
  • Resist the urge to close older credit card accounts. Even if you’re not using the cards regularly, unless you’re paying fees for them, hang on to cards you’ve had a long time, particularly if you maintained a record of on-time payments for them. Why? Longstanding accounts help boost a credit scoring factor known as age of accounts.
  • Stay active. It won’t mean any major credit score increase, but active credit card accounts—those you use regularly—tend to elevate credit scores slightly more than disused cards. So consider using an idle card to make a small payment each month—for your video streaming service, perhaps. If you set up an automatic payment through your checking account to pay the credit card bill, this will keep the card account active without adding to your monthly activity.
  • Be vigilant. Identity thieves can wreak havoc on your credit by hijacking your credit cards or opening new cards in your name, and senior citizens and children are among the most frequent targets. Review all your bank and credit statements carefully each month, check your credit reports at least annually, and report any unauthorized activity immediately. Consider using a credit monitoring or identity protection service.

Retirement is the time to relax, savor your free time, and enjoy the fruits of your life’s labors and savings. Making just a little effort to keep up your credit scores can help ensure you have the flexibility to get the goods and services you want when you want them, make big or small purchases whenever the time is right, and pay for it all in whatever way is most convenient. You’ve earned that privilege.

So You’re Not The Boss? Here’s How You Can Still Be A Leader

July 23, 2019  
Filed under Feature Stories, Money

Are leaders born or are they developed? It’s a subject that’s long been debated.

 

And in the workplace, can an employee who holds no supervisory job title be an effective leader — before being entrusted with managing people?

 

Grant Parr, a mental sports performance coach, says yes — and adds that it’s almost mandatory if someone hopes to be ready as a leader when promoted to a bigger role in an organization.

 

“Leadership is a choice,” says Parr (www.gameperformance.com), author of The Next One Up Mindset: How To Prepare For The Unknown. “It’s not a title, position, or rank. You don’t have to be a department head, manager or CEO to be a leader.”

 

“Leadership is a group of characteristics, and you can acquire them even if you’re not the boss. You’ll never be a leader when you assume that primetime role unless you have developed the qualities of leadership as part of your preparation for the next big step.”

 

Parr offers five ways to become a leader at a company without holding a leadership-type position:

 

Listen to others’ ideas. “Leadership is about others, not about the self, and it starts with listening,” Parr says. “Being a leader isn’t putting yourself above others, interrupting them, or acting like your ideas are more important than anyone else’s. True leadership brings out the best in others and your culture, and you do that by making them feel valued and giving them a voice.”

 

Be accountable for mistakes. “Own your errors,” Parr says. “It sets an example of accountability that is good for the culture. Too many people, when told of a mistake, assign blame and make excuses. A leader corrects constructively and surveys for solutions. As a subordinate, staying positive and offering ways to fix your mistake, and showing the humility of asking for help, is a path toward being a leader people can trust.”

 

Learn flexibility. “This applies in so many ways,” Parr says. “If you’re stuck on doing something one certain way, you’re headed toward being a micromanager who few would like and fewer would want to work under. Leadership is about tapping into your broad base of workplace talent, expanding knowledge, improving systems and raising the ceiling.”

 

Interact and network. Networking isn’t only about finding jobs, it’s about connecting with people in a way that enhances important relationships and the work environment. “As you learn to interact with different types in the workplace,” Parr says, “you’ll learn which relationships are most effective, how to help those people with their career, and show your ability to direct and lead.”

 

Develop a thick skin. To become a leader, Parr says it’s vital to rise above annoyances and petty slights from others and let them roll off your back. “HR isn’t the principal’s office,” he says, “and if you vent every time about someone doing something irritating, you’ll get the reputation of being a whiner. Don’t complain behind closed doors, gossip, or criticize people behind their backs. No one who does those things can be viewed as a leader.”

 

“People want to be led,” Parr says. “But they don’t want to be bossed around. Great leaders can learn this as underlings on their way to a management position. Then when they get there, they’re ahead of the game — and everyone’s in step with them.”

 

Study: Kidney disease linked to increased risk of falling

July 18, 2019  
Filed under Health & Wellness

Kidney disease causes middle-aged people to be as susceptible to falling as older adults, say researchers from Ball State University.

 

Epidemiology of falls and fall-related injuries among middle-aged adults with kidney disease” recently published by the journal International Urology and Nephrology, found that people with chronic kidney disease (CKD) were at increased risk of falls and related injuries even after adjusting for differences in demographic characteristics, health conditions, and lifestyle factors.

 

Brandon Kistler, a Ball State nutrition professor, led the multi-university team. Researchers conducted an analysis of 186,208 adults between the ages of 45 and 64, including about 5,600 with kidney disease, surveyed in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

 

The study found that no matter the age, adults can take a tumble once kidney disease takes hold, Kistler said.

 

“Numerous physiological changes associated with chronic kidney failure, such as muscle wasting and weakness, may explain the increased risk of falling,” he said “Changes in bone and mineral metabolism causing weak, brittle bones may lead to an increased propensity for fall-related injuries in people with kidney disease, especially those with end-stage kidney disease.”

 

More than a quarter of all study participants (27%) reported suffering a fall within the past 12 months and more than a 10th (11%) also suffered an injury. Prevalence of falls was significantly higher in females (28%), men and women with CKD (45%), and females with CKD (49%) compared to their counterparts. Similarly, prevalence of fall-related injuries was significantly higher in females (13%), men and women with CKD (24%), and females with CKD (27%) compared to their counterparts

 

People with kidney disease may significantly reduce spills by incorporating exercise into their daily routines.  Also, aggressive treatment of other conditions such as depression and arthritis can help reduce falling, said study co-author Jagdish Khubchandani, a Ball State health science professor.

 

“Physical function and exercise are potentially modifiable, cost effective, and evidence-based strategies to enhance mobility,” Kistler said. “Our study suggests that as in other populations, exercise programs that target strength and balance may be an effective strategy for preventing falls and injuries among people with CKD, but prospective trials are needed.”

 

The researchers noted the results of this study have broader implications for clinical practice and public health.

 

“Clinicians first should consider adopting a multifactorial approach to screening for the risk of falling in middle-aged adults,” Khubchandani said. “They should also consider preventive and therapeutic action among high-risk individuals with kidney disease.

 

“Not all the variables that we included in our analyses are modifiable. Clinicians should focus on modifiable factors to prevent falls — such as home safety, medication monitoring, and depression treatment — as opposed to non-modifiable risk factors, including age, gender, and history of falls. Education of individuals with kidney disease about the risk of falls and explanation of various components of fall prevention practice should improve compliance, which in turn should lead to better overall health outcomes for middle-aged adults with the disease.”

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