Beginning Retirement in Vermont

August 13, 2019  
Filed under Aging Parents, Feature Stories, Mature Matters

According to recent studies, Vermont is one of the best states for retirement. A beautiful state with close-knit communities, there’s no doubt that this state offers a peaceful atmosphere.

But are you ready to retire?

If you’re ready to begin considering retirement, there are many different things you’ll have to begin looking into. The cost of health care services, Social Security benefits, Medicare eligibility, and where to retire are all huge factors when making this decision.

Typically, people have looked at 65 years old as the ideal age to begin retirement. While in most cases this can kickstart your Medicare eligibility, it can also kick Social Security into high gear.

Thus, beginning one’s retirement journey.

Beginning Retirement in Vermont

The decision on when to take advantage of your retirement options is a big one to make.

There are several different options to investigate when making this choice, and you’ll want to really take your time in making these decisions carefully. These decisions could very well have a direct impact on your monthly benefit amount that you’ll receive.

Let’s look below at the three withdrawal options for these benefits:

Collecting Benefits Full Retirement Age

At this age, an individual may receive a full allowance of their monthly Social Security benefits. This age is determined by your birth year.

Full retirement age is typically considered 65 years old for anyone that was born before 1937. Anyone who was born after 1938 could have a full retirement age of 67 years old.

Collecting benefits Early Retirement Age

Beginning at the age of 62 years old, you may begin to collect your early retirement benefits.

However, by choosing to begin receiving benefits earlier than your full retirement age, your monthly benefits received will be lower every month.

You May be Eligible for Delaying your Retirement

By going with this option, you’re choosing to delay your retirement benefits. One of the benefits of going this route is that you could potentially inflate your monthly benefits if you’re eligible.

These increases do end at 70 years old.

With several different options available to you for a retirement plan, how do you choose the best retirement options suited for you? Retirement is about relaxation, not about worry.

Be sure to go with the plan that will allow you to pay any and all expenses that may arise, while still feeling comfortable enough to enjoy these glory days.

 Affordable Healthcare During Retirement

An important thing to keep in mind when exploring your retirement options is the healthcare. Will you still be able to afford healthcare services needed?

Healthcare costs can add up quite quickly and while Medicare may help with many of your healthcare costs, it doesn’t always cover everything you may need it to.

Medicare supplement plans can be incredibly beneficial in picking up those extra costs that may not have been fully anticipated.

The best thing retirees can do is to create a plan for savings and stick with it. By saving funds for retirement early in life, you’ll have a much greater chance at living comfortable in retirement.

Social Security & Retirement

Social Security is a financial safeguard for retirees. The program was established in 1935 and is based on earnings that employees make and contribute into the system.

Throughout the course of your employment, you’ll pay into Social Security, so that you’ll be able to receive those benefits later in life when you are ready to retire.

You can sign up to start the application process for Social Security benefits by:

  • Going online to SocialSecurity.gov and applying
  • Calling Social Security at 1-800-772-1213
  • Applying in-person at your local Social Security office

Medicare & Retirement

Medicare coverage while retired is full of benefits. Original Medicare (Parts A and B) may help cover a lot of medical services and procedures while you’re retired but may not cover everything. You will be faced with plenty of out of pockets costs.

Prescription drug coverage and supplement plans can help assist with those copayments, deductibles, medication costs, and any coinsurances to help ease a bit of financial burden associated with not working anymore.

You can sign up to join Medicare by:

  • Going online to SS and apply
  • Calling Social Security at 1-800-772-1213
  • Applying in-person at your local Social Security office

Retiring in Vermont

With your retirement plans now moving forward, you’ll have a clearer picture of what to expect with retirement-related costs. Medicare coverage, Social Security benefits, rising healthcare costs, and choosing a location in which you love.

Are you ready for retirement in Vermont that are filled with lots of maple syrup, cheddar cheese, and plenty of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream?

Three Steps to Act with Purpose in the Midst of Struggle

August 9, 2019  
Filed under Aging Parents, Health & Wellness

By Dr. Scott Symington

We all struggle. It doesn’t matter who you are, how much money you have, or how good you look to the outside world. Life is hard—even painful sometimes.

As a clinical psychologist in private practice, much of my work is helping people address internal struggles: anxiety, chronic worrying, depressed moods, and destructive patterns of behavior. Out of this clinical work, I’ve observed a powerful agent of change that is often overlooked and underutilized. That is, the pathway to freedom is accelerated when you learn how to act with meaning and purpose in the midst of your struggle. You can’t necessarily control the anxiety or unhealthy craving from showing up but you do have a choice in how to respond. You can tap into the human spirit and use the nervous energy or problematic feeling as a reminder and catalyst to express the best parts of who you are. Here’s an illustration:

Recently, a woman in her sixties came to see me to address a fear of flying. My client’s daughter had just given birth and lived on the opposite coast. The client was determined to lay eyes on her new granddaughter but the thought of the long flight was an anxious one.

From the beginning of treatment, this client’s personality shone brightly. She was a warm, vivacious woman who naturally encouraged others. It was her trademark. She was known as the bright light who lifted people’s spirits. You couldn’t help but smile and feel good in her presence. Unfortunately, it was this very part of herself—the part that was a blessing to others and personal source of joy—that the anxiety squelched. When she was caught up in a cycle of anxious worry, she found it difficult to be the person she wanted to be. The bright light faded as she clammed up and turned her attention and concern inward.

In preparation for the upcoming flight, we worked on leveraging and tying her gift of encouragement to the anxious energy. Instead of the anxiety clamping down on a beautiful part of her personality, we explored how she could use the anxious energy as a way to bolster this positive part of self.

As the day of the trip approached, she had a plan. Regardless of how she was feeling, she had a focus and a heartfelt mission. Instead of going away in her mind and investing in the worries, she was determined to use the anxious energy for positive action—to be an encourager.

She found plenty of opportunities. She thanked the ticket agent for her professionalism and helpfulness. On the escalator, she complimented a woman on her outfit. While going through security, she thanked a TSA agent for his patience and sense of humor. Winding her way through the airport toward the gate, she left a wake of warm feelings and lifted spirits—a disposition she carried throughout the trip. Instead of allowing the anxiety to stifle her personality, she used the historic struggle to express the best of who she was.

You can do the same. You can transform your struggle into an opportunity for purposeful action. To get started, try following these three steps:

1. Reflect on those times in your life when you expressed the best parts of who you are. As you recall these memories, ask yourself, What behaviors was I engaged in? In other words, start making a list of concrete actions you take when you’re living out your values and in a positive flow with life. Maybe it’s encouragement or engaging in acts of service or expressing gratitude. Whatever it is try to list 5 to 10 specific behaviors that reflect your best.

2. After you have your list, predict the challenge and make an action plan. Maybe it’s a predictable urge to drink at 5PM or an upcoming dentist appointment. Identify the upcoming challenge and be ready to act on one or more of the positive behaviors on your list. For my client above, on the day of travel she was prepared to be a super encourager. Find your own superpower.

3. Keep responding to your internal struggle with purposeful action. This is not a one-and-done situation. If you keep applying step 2 you will create a new response pattern that will transform your life and struggle. The very source of pain can become an automatic reminder and catalyst for positive action. This is very satisfying! You get to flip the struggle on its head and use it for good.

Whatever your struggle is, begin acting with purpose today. Don’t let your personal challenge constrict your life or steal your joy. Use the worries or overwhelming feelings as a reminder and springboard to express your best. Engage in a loving action or do something that reflects a bright part of your person. Try following the three steps outlined above for a couple of weeks and then let me know how it goes!

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

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.

New AARP Research on Grandparents Busts Stereotypes on Attitudes, Employment, Finances and Lifestyle

April 18, 2019  
Filed under Aging Parents, Health & Wellness, News


Research Finds That Age of First-Time Grandparents Rises from 47 to 50; Number of Grandparents in Workforce Increases from 24 to 40 Percent

AARP released its Grandparents Today National Survey highlighting the latest trends among grandparents in the United States. Since 2001 the number of grandparents has grown by 24 percent from 56 million to 70 million. The research found that grandparents spend an average of $2,562 annually on their grandchildren, equaling approximately $179 billion dollars per year. The youngest grandparent is about 38 years old, with 50 being the average age of becoming a first-time grandparent.

The research found that grandparents have, on average, four to five grandchildren, down from six to seven in 2011. The number of grandparents in the workforce has increased in the past seven years, with 40 percent of grandparents currently employed up from 24 percent in 2011

“Today’s grandparents are an economic force that cannot be ignored,” said Alison Bryant, senior vice president of research, AARP. “They are living longer, working longer, shattering stereotypes and supporting their grandchildren in a variety of ways, including financially and culturally. Nearly all grandparents are providing some sort of financial support, helping to ease the costs of raising kids.”

Key Financial Findings:

The research found that grandparents enjoy the positive aspects of grandparenting such as supporting dreams and sharing roots, history and culture, and experiences. But grandparenting can have a downside for some: 13 percent of grandparents struggle with the financial expectations of being a grandparent, including the cost of traveling to see the grandchildren. Seven percent of grandparents have taken on debt to help their grandchildren pay for college and one in four of those grandparents have cosigned private student loans for their grandchildren and/or incurred credit card debt that has not yet been paid back in full.

View the Grandparents Today National Survey – Financial Fact Sheet.

Other key findings of the research include:

  • 94 percent of grandparents provide some sort of financial support to their grandchild(ren);
  • 87 percent would accept an LGBT grandchild;
  • 34 percent have grandchildren of mixed or different race/ethnicity;
  • 71 percent say their health status is very good or excellent;
  • 89 percent say their relationships with their grandchild(ren) is good for their mental well-being;
  • 29 percent live more than 50 miles away from their closest child, up from 19 percent in 2011;
  • 11 percent have a grandchild living with them, consistent with 2011 results;
  • 5 percent of those in multigenerational households are primary caregivers of a grandchild living with them.

Older Vermonters Caucus

March 18, 2019  
Filed under Aging Parents, Mature Matters, Things to do

V4A has been extremely appreciative of the establishment of the Older Vermonters Caucus initiated by Representative Daniel Noyes. Now into our second legislative session, we want to be sure you are aware of this great opportunity to learn about significant topics related to the lives of our older Vermonters. Some topics are to be addressed through legislation and the Caucus creates a valuable opportunity to discuss impact. In the January 10, 2019 issue of the Stowe Reporter, Representative Noyes provided this description for the Older Vermonters Caucus:

“The goal is to learn and discuss the impact of proposed legislation, understand and collectively develop ideas to move that issue forward.”

Each week, guest presenters are invited to speak on specific issues. For instance, we have all learned about the work and services of the five Area Agencies on Aging, the Older Americans Act, the work at the State Unit on Aging through the Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living. Upcoming sessions will include presentations on senior centers and adult day programs; home delivered meals, congregate meals and nutrition; caregivers for older Vermonters and much more!

The Older Vermonters Caucus meets every Thursday from 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. during the legislative session. All caucuses are open to the public. Please see the schedule below for the remaining topics, dates and room numbers.

Vermont State House, 115 State St., Montpelier, VT

January 17 – Room 10 Commissioner Hutt Meet & Greet

January 24 – Room 10 Intro to Older Americans Act

January 31 – Room 10 Area Agencies on Aging

February 7 – Room TBD Older Vermonters Advocates

February 14 – Room TBD Family Leave

February 21 – Room 10 – Minimum Wage

February 28 – Room 10 – Town Meeting prep – What have we done/Budget

– – Town Meeting Break – –

March 14 – Room 10 – Home Health / Choices for care

March 21 – Room 11 – Nursing Homes

March 28 – Room 10 – Home Delivered Meals, Congregate Meals, Nutrition

April 4 – Room 10 Tax Issues & Social Security Expedition

April 11 – Room 10 Senior Centers and Adult Days

April 18 – Room 10 Older Vermonters as Care Givers

April 25 – Room 10 Health & Wellness: falls preventions, mental health, substance abuse

May 2 – Room 10 Older Vermonters and Elder Justice / Elder Abuse

May 9 – Room 10 Older Workers

May 16 – Room 10 Transportation and Housing, including SASH

May 23 – Room 10 How did we improve the lives of older Vermonters?

 

For more information contact: Rep. Daniel Noyes 802-730-7171

Designer creates dress shirts infused with magnets for those with limited mobility and dexterity

February 14, 2019  
Filed under Aging Parents, Health & Wellness

When your career is coaching college football and you spend two hours outside of practice exercising every day, one of the last concerns on your mind is being diagnosed with a serious medical condition. The unthinkable happened to Don Horton, however, when he was told he had Parkinson’s disease. Don’s diagnosis not only led to changes with his body, career and life, it inspired his wife Maura to return to the workforce as an entrepreneur and the inventor of MagnaReady —  the first fashionable dress shirt infused with a magnetic closure system designed specifically for people with limited mobility and dexterity.

 

The idea for MagnaReady came after Don returned home from an away game with the North Carolina State University football team. He shared a story with his wife that night about how after the game he was in the locker room getting ready for the flight home and discovered that he was unable to button his dress shirt because of the side effects of Parkinson’s disease. One of his players at the time, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, came to Don’s aid, helping him to button his shirt. The humbling experience was one Maura never wanted her husband to have to go through again.

 

“The moment I heard my husband’s story, I knew I had to take action and give him back the ability to perform the simple task of dressing independently, a task most of us take for granted every day,” said Maura, CEO of MagnaReady. “I used my background in fashion to come up with the basic design for a magnetically infused shirt, and after some trial and error, I had a finished product that seamlessly combined quality with functionality.”

 

She knew there were millions of other people with Parkinson’s and other mobility-limiting conditions who could benefit from her invention. Maura added the role of entrepreneur to her already busy schedule and launched the MagnaReady business.

 

For more information visit: www.magnaready.com.

 

Beware: More than One-Quarter of Vermont Adults Confirm First-Hand Accounts of Relationship Scams

February 14, 2019  
Filed under Aging Parents, Mature Matters, News

 

BURLINGTON, VT – As millions of Americans meet others on matchmaking websites, dating apps and social media, 27 percent of Vermont residents polled in a new AARP survey reported that they, a family member or a friend have encountered attempted financial scams while seeking friendship or love interest online.

To help empower people to take steps to protect themselves and their family members, the AARP Fraud Watch Network has launched an educational campaign to raise awareness of online-based relationship fraud schemes.

The idea of going online to broaden one’s social networks continues to gain in popularity.  More than half (53 percent) of Vermont adults have used the internet to find new friends, dates and/or romantic partners, according to the AARP survey.  But scammers also use the dating sites, apps and social media.  The AARP survey found that 10 percent of state residents have either been victimized by an online relationship scam or know someone who was.  More troubling, 59 percent of the victims reported suffering a negative effect on their physical and/or emotional health.

“Many of us, along with our family members, have successfully made new friends or even established deeper relationships online,” said Greg Marchildon, AARP Vermont state director.  “But as with every other aspect of life these days, you must be aware that the criminal element lurks there also.  Our message is: protect your heart – and your money.”

The AARP educational campaign includes advertising, webinars, podcasts, a fun video and a tip sheet.  Each of the campaign’s content elements urge consumers to recognize the warning signs that their online suitor may

actually be a fraudster:

  • They profess love too quickly.
  • The person immediately wants to leave the dating website and communicate with you through email or instant messaging.
  • Your new romantic interest sends you a picture that looks more like a model from a fashion magazine than an ordinary snapshot.
  • He or she repeatedly promises to meet you in person but always seems to come up with an excuse to cancel.
  • They make a request for money, for any of a variety of reasons: travel, medical emergencies, visas or other official documents, or losses from a financial setback. Ten percent of respondents in AARP/Vermont’s survey said a friend or romantic partner whom they have only met online has asked them to help them financially in some way.

Response to daily stressors could affect brain health in older adults

November 20, 2018  
Filed under Aging Parents, Health & Wellness

Taking typical daily annoyances such as a long wait at the doctor’s office or a traffic jam on the freeway in stride may help preserve brain health in older adults, while emotional reactions could contribute to declines in cognition, a new study from Oregon State University has found.

“These results confirm that people’s daily emotions and how they respond to their stressors play an important role in cognitive health,” saidRobert Stawski, an associate professor in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences and the study’s lead author. “It’s not the stressor itself that contributes to mental declines but how a person responds that affects the brain.” Read more

Spotting Fraudsters: Don’t Become a Victim

November 5, 2018  
Filed under Aging Parents, News

By: Dr. Stacey Wood, Ph.D.

 

Fraud takes many different forms these days, with identity theft being foremost among them. Just about anyone can become a victim. Some groups are at greater risk than others of falling victim to identity theft. The groups most at risk for identity theft are children and adults with caregivers, users of social media, business owners, high-level employees, college students, and young adults. Learning how to protect yourself is essential for avoiding fraud.

Read more

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