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Thursday, October 14, 2021

Eight Ways To Make Yourself Popular

Retiring can shrink your circle of friends. Brush up on how to connect and be someone others seek out. 

Most people don’t think about older adults needing to be popular. That ends at high school, right? Wrong. Given COVID distancing, friends moving to downsize or be closer to grandchildren, losing work friends at retirement — getting older can be a lonely place. And it’s easy to let social skills get a bit rusty.

We combed the Internet to find tips for making new friends and keeping old ones. These eight tips are a good reminder for all of us on how to be the sort of person others want to be around. And some of them may surprise you.

Where to Find New Friends

Many older adults feel sidelined by the Delta variant and/or a health condition. Others may need some new ideas about where to hunt for new friends. Here are some likely sources:
  • Your local library has book clubs, game nights, author talks, and other programs. This is also an excellent resource if you need help finding a volunteer opportunity, don’t know how to contact a MeetUp group, etc. Libraries have free computers with internet and staff to help out. 
  • Check MeetUp online for local groups with a shared interest, then try them out.
  • Volunteer at the local food bank, animal shelter, or any other organization helping those less fortunate. 
  • Visit your local senior center. 
  • Join AARP
  • Attend Osher Lifelong Learning classes. 
  • Join a local church or synagogue.
  • Take Fido to a dog park.

  1. Introduce yourself. If you’re in a situation where you don’t know anyone, the best way to break the ice is to go up to someone standing alone and say, “Hey, I’m John.” Sounds way too simple, but there’s almost always at least one other person just as scared as you may be, and the best way to offer relief is just to say “hey.”
  2. Ask questions. Make it all about them, not you. It’s often easiest to ask how they know the birthday girl, or what brought them to this get-together, or if they come to this bar often. Maybe you both know Michelle; a good follow-up is to ask how they met. Or maybe the person wanted to see the West Coast so he signed up for the Pacific Sea Turtle Conference, and your next question can be what sparked his interest in sea turtles. Does he snorkel? Does he love the beach? Has he seen the tide pools here? And you’re off. Of course, it’s fine to throw in a line or two about yourself but keep the focus on the other person. Remember that Barbara Bush would always tell son George growing up that he should ask other people about themselves. He was president and a guest when Barbara and the elder Bush were giving a dinner party at their home. Barbara overheard her son start telling some guests a story about some heads of state and she admonished him, “George, no one wants to hear all about you!”
  3. Be a good listener. Most of us are too worried about what we’re going to say next to really listen. Being a good listener is all about digging a little deeper and then remembering what you heard. If you ask someone how their day is going and they answer “fine” with a smile, ask what made it good. If they tell you they got a hole in one, remember that and the next time you see that person ask if they’ve been out on the golf course lately. It will make them feel special, and you will move up on their esteem meter.
  4. Deliver your opinions with a spoonful of honey. It’s great to have confidence in your beliefs and know where you stand, but smart to offer them sparingly and with a smile. Brilliant statesman Ben Franklin noticed that people were more likely to reject his arguments when he used firm language like “certainly” and “undoubtedly” so he switched to using phrases like “I think...” or “If I’m not mistaken…” Another way to offer an opinion without offending someone is to tell a little story to illustrate your point. Let listeners come to their own conclusion. 
  5. Fake it ’til you make it. Yes, you can! Research shows that making eye contact, staying relaxed and speaking evenly, and using decisive hand gestures signals that someone is confident, even if they know almost nothing about what they’re saying. Demonstrating this social confidence will help you attract and keep friends.
  6. Get good at small talk. We know, you hate small talk! But it’s a learned skill, and it is how people build relationships. It’s all about listening and then keeping the conversation going based on what you’re hearing. Every few questions, you can throw in something about yourself. This is what skilled conversationalists do. Nothing is more wonderful to someone else than to talk about their favorite subject: themself. And by offering a tidbit about yourself, you are giving them the opportunity to ask you a question back. It’s a little like playing tennis: a skilled player in a friendly match can keep hitting it right back to the other person to keep the game going.
  7. What about body language? Don’t get too worked up about how you’re standing, the direction your feet are pointed, or the many other specifics you may have read about. Author and speaker Ramit Sethi advises people to use the acronym “SETHE” to practice the essentials. They are: Smile, Energy, Talk slowly, Hands and Eye contact. He says most of us don’t smile enough, or big enough, when we’re nervous. Practice in front of a mirror or videotape yourself on your phone. Project positive energy — probably 50% more than you think you need. Talk slowly so others can understand you and you will also sound more relaxed and self-assured. Make eye contact. If you’re not sure how much, watch people in films or on TV and then practice in front of the mirror or with a good friend. Most importantly, just work on one thing at a time. You don’t want to be so nervous about getting everything right that nothing works. As Sethi says, “You have your whole life to get good at this.”
  8. Be sincere. A sincere compliment goes a long way. “I love your haircut. Where did you get it done?” works great if you’re being honest. But saying something just for flattery often comes off as shallow and desperate, and actually reduces your social credit. Remember what author and speaker Dale Carnegie said: “The difference between appreciation and flattery? That is simple. One is sincere and the other is insincere. One comes from the heart out, the other from the teeth out. One is unselfish; the other selfish. One is universally admired; the other universally condemned.”

For a more robust explanation of how to be popular, with added videos, check out author Ramit Sethi’s blog. Sethi penned “I Will Teach You To Be Rich” and these days he travels the globe (or at least Zoom!) on speaking tours, but he was once an awkward child and teen. 

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Clean Out Your Closets and Sell Extra Stuff

Decluttering can take a load off your shoulders and bring in some extra money to boot! 

With the holidays coming up, what better way to both make your home look inviting and score a little cash for gifts than to sell unwanted items? It’s never been easier, thanks to the internet and a host of apps. All you need is a smartphone to get started earning.

The first step is weeding out clothing and other items that you don’t need. The process can be very difficult when sentiment is involved. Can you really part with Dad’s favorite chair? How about the vase Mom always had on her kitchen windowsill?

The Kondo Approach

One idea is to take a look at the methods of organizing diva Marie Kondo. She believes that less “stuff” in our lives makes us happier while acknowledging the difficulties of letting go. 

Seller Beware

No matter where you decide to market your extra things, make sure you only give personal information out to the site, and never to prospective buyers. Scam artists are waiting for newbies. They will send a note telling you they want to give that bracelet you have posted to their wife for her birthday, but can you save it until then? and include “their” email address and/or phone number. Never respond to such requests. Legitimate buyers go through the site’s messaging service and never ask for personal information.

Quick Tip: Fold, Don’t Hang

When you’re repacking clothes, folding takes less space than hanging. The problem is that clothes on the bottom of the pile tend to get wrinkled and stay unworn since you never see them. Remedy this by folding into three parts (left, right, center), and then again into three or four parts top to bottom, and packing one-side-up. You will be able to see the side of every item within a drawer, and no item will be crushed beneath another.

Kondo espouses the “three piles” approach: take out all your clothing, for example, ALL of it at once — drawers, closets, anywhere there is a single sock! — and divide into piles to keep, donate, or throw away. You can add another pile: sell. This pile may replace the “donate” stack, or it may be separate. 

As you are going through item by item, mentally thank each piece for its service. Remember that Grandma’s hankie won’t bring her back but place it in a pile with gratitude and love. Keep only those things that spark joy and can still be of use to you. (Good-bye, dress that never quite fits.) See if family members who don’t live with you want items that hold memories. If not, it’s time to acknowledge that the item’s work is done. Perhaps it will go on to make meaningful memories for someone else, but its time with you is over. 

Hassle-Free Sales

People who just don’t have the time or energy to sell online can opt to take clothing to a local brick-and-mortar consignment store. Generally, management will look over your clothes, choose what they want to market, and either pay you a set price on the spot or keep track of each item and pay you a commission when (and if) it sells. Generally, items are kept for 60 or 90 days, and they may be marked down every 30 days. Items that don’t sell are usually donated to a charity for you.

Another way to get items you want to sell off your plate is to use the online consignment store ThredUp. Order a Clean Out Kit and the company will send you a large bag to fill up, complete with a shipping label. Drop it off at FedEx or USPS, and they do the rest. You can opt to get cash or shopping credit for items that sell, and they will donate what doesn’t. They pay 3% to 15% for items that sell for under $20, and up to 80% for those pieces priced at $200 or more. 

DIY Local Sales

Several apps allow you to sell locally. You post the photos and description and use the app’s messaging service to connect with buyers. This can be a great way to dispose of large items like furniture, that are difficult to ship. Craigslist is perhaps the oldest and best-known, but Nextdoor, letgo, and Facebook Marketplace are coming on strong. The advantage of these last three is that your buyer has a profile you can check. All are free to use. No matter which app you choose, never schedule a showing when you are home alone. It’s also helpful to move the item to your garage or porch, if possible, so your house can stay locked. If the item is small enough, load it in your car and meet buyers at a local grocery store (or anywhere there are always a lot of people) or police station. 

You can always opt to give things away for free via the above apps or join the Buy Nothing network, where members give away things they don’t need and pick up items they can use from each other. It’s a great way to recycle and it fits everyone’s budget! 

DIY National/Worldwide Sales

If you want to get top dollar for your items, you need to expand your pool of buyers while utilizing a platform that will help you get views. Facebook Marketplace can be used, or go with the daddy of this method on eBay and gain access to over 183 million buyers for anything from jewelry to cars. Take your own photos, fill out the listing, and then ship your item when it sells. EBay allows you to have an auction-style sale with bids (quicker, but usually the sale price is lower) or set a price. You can opt to allow buyers to make offers. EBay will handle payments and gives sellers a discount on shipping, which is made easy through printable labels the company sends to the seller. 

A plethora of companies have popped up to take share from the generalists, and they’re viable options. Poshmark and The RealReal specialize in designer apparel, accessories, and home goods. Sell tech and small electronic goods on Decluttr and use MaxSold, which specializes in estate sales, for collectibles. 

No matter which route you take, you’ll feel great knowing that you have less stuff taking up space, and the things that are left are ones you care about and enjoy. Some of your things will be giving joy to other people, and some will have ended their usefulness. And some will have put some holiday cash in your pocket. 

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Avoid Dangers of Using Cash Apps

Most of us use cash apps like Venmo to make payments nowadays, but they’re not always safe.  

Using your smartphone to make payments is getting more common than ever. More than 7 in 10 adults now select Zelle, Venmo, Square, or PayPal to reimburse friends, buy produce at the farmer’s market, or pay the plumber. It’s easier and faster than writing a check, and payments are made instantly - without the fees charged by credit card companies. However, consumers need to be savvy to avoid revealing personal information or becoming targets for fraudsters. 

While the vast majority of transactions are legitimate, complaints about transactions are on the rise and it can be difficult to reach customer service. The best way to protect yourself is to follow good use practices. 

Keeping Yourself Safe With Cash Apps

Regardless of which cash app(s) you use, including Google Pay and Apple Pay on your phone, there are some rules you should follow for every single transaction. 

Stay off public Wi-Fi. If you have a plan with low data, it can be mighty tempting to hook up to public Wi-Fi at the local coffee shop, dentist’s office, library, you name it. Your phone may well be set to automatically connect wherever you have used it in the past. But if you do, hackers can steal your financial information. Stay safe and use your carrier’s network or a separately purchased VPN. 

Stay private. Use privacy settings so no one can learn who your friends and family are and use their names to trick you into sending them money. 

Stay wary of emails asking for information. Never, ever send money in response to an email without verifying the source and circumstances. Hackers are very clever about scaring you into sending cash, and they have no conscience. If you get a threatening letter claiming to be from the IRS, Social Security, or even your bank, ignore it or call to verify. If you get an email requesting personal or banking information, your criminal detection reactors should go on high alert. Ditto for those claiming to be from someone associated with a relative. 

"You have to be worried about your email because that is the number one way they are going to come after you,” says Shane Harris, senior director of product management at Mimecast, an international cybersecurity firm with U.S. headquarters in the Boston area.

And never, ever click on a link in an email; just go directly to the site you need to use. 

Venmo is the app of choice for many small businesses and private users. But reject the urge to add all your Facebook contacts to its address book, although it will ask you to. Add individuals as needed and keep all transactions private by going to Settings and selecting Privacy to view your options. 

Transfers on Venmo are free via the usual “slow” route that takes one to three business days. But be aware that prices just got hiked on the faster “instant” option that will get money to someone in just 30 minutes or less. That now costs 1.5 percent of the transaction, with a minimum of 25 cents and a maximum of $15.

Zelle is owned by a partnership involving 7 of the largest banks. Its claim to fame is that you only need to know a person’s email or cell number to transfer money between accounts. The other nice thing: it’s always free, and the money is there within a few minutes. 

Just remember to check carefully that you are using the correct email address or cell number because you can’t get your money back if you make a mistake.

PayPal has long been used by online sales companies such as eBay and is the oldest online payment service. You can use it internationally, and small businesses can take advantage of an option for their invoicing services. The downside is that PayPal tends to charge excessive fees. International transactions using PayPal or a personal bank account cost a stiff 5%, or 7.9% if you use a credit card.

Cash App (part of Square) is used to transfer money to friends and family, just like Venmo. If you set it up to pay out of a debit card account, then the service is free. But don’t make the mistake of linking it to a credit card, which will set you back 3% per transaction and potentially open you up to scams. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Famous & 65

Look who's turning 65 this month

Find out which celebrities are turning 65 this month!

Image Source: Wikipedia

October 17 - Mae Jemison, engineer, physician, astronaut

Jemison, the first female Black astronaut to travel into space, has enough accomplishments to fill many lifetimes. She graduated from Stanford (chemical engineering, African, and African American studies) and then got a medical degree at Cornell University. Jemison was a doctor for the Peace Corps in Liberia and Sierra Leone, then decided to apply to NASA and was chosen for the first group of astronauts after the Challenger disaster. 

But that’s not all. She left NASA to found a technology research company and then a non-profit educational foundation for the sciences. She wrote several children’s books, appeared on Star Trek, and has been awarded a slew of honorary doctorates. She has also had a lifelong love of dance, nearly choosing a professional dance career (she knows African, Japanese, ballet, jazz, and modern styles) over medicine. 

Jemison began Stanford at the tender age of 16. She has asserted that some arrogance is a necessary trait for women to be successful, and lamented teachers who failed to support her lofty ambitions. Aboard the Endeavor, Jemison had with her a poster from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, a West African statuette, a photo of female aviator Bessie Coleman, the first Black American to hold an international pilot’s license, and an Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority banner. 

Jemison is an active speaker with an array of outreach programs, primarily to promote female achievement in the sciences. She is a member of several scientific organizations, including the Association of Space Explorers, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Medical Association, and the American Chemical Society.


Image Source: Wikipedia

October 18 - Martina Navratilova, tennis player

Czech-born Martina Navratilova is one of the greatest tennis players of all time, having won 59 major titles. She had a great rivalry with Chris Evert, including what may be the best woman’s match of all time in the 1985 French Open final. She also displayed amazing career longevity, topping her career by triumphing in the mixed doubles at the 2006 U.S. Open just two months shy of her fiftieth birthday.

The child of a ski instructor father and a mother who was a gymnast, tennis player, and ski instructor, Navratilova started playing the game at age seven with her stepfather filling in as coach. She famously defected from communist Czechoslovakia at the age of 18 after living for two years in the United States. The country renounced her citizenship at the time, although she has reclaimed it now that her native land has become a democracy. She has made it clear that she has no plans to move out of the U.S.

Navratilova is renowned for her expertise on fast, low-bouncing grass, but her titles showcase ability across clay as well. She is one of only three female players to win a “Grand Slam Boxed Set,” claiming victory in women’s singles and doubles, as well as mixed doubles Grand Slam titles. Although she is naturally right-handed, Navratilova has always competed as a southpaw. 

You can read her autobiography, Martina, or one of three thrillers she co-authored with Liz Nickles. Navratilova is active in gay rights, animal rights, and charities that support underprivileged children.

Image Source: Wikipedia

October 20 - Danny Boyle, film director and producer

If you haven’t seen Slumdog Millionaire, the most successful British film of a decade, go treat yourself. Perhaps you could view Shallow Grave at the same time, since it earned a BAFTA for Best British Film. Complete the trifecta with Trainspotting, the tenth greatest British film of the 20th century. All were directed by directorial phenomenon Danny Boyle.

Although currently a “spiritual atheist,” Boyle grew up in a Catholic family with a mother who wanted her son to become a priest. But at the age of 14 Boyle was dissuaded from this vocation by a priest. He muses:

“Whether he was saving me from the priesthood or the priesthood from me, I don't know. But quite soon after, I started doing drama. And there's a real connection, I think. All these directors – Martin Scorsese, John Woo, M. Night Shyamalan – they were all meant to be priests. There's something very theatrical about it. It's basically the same job – poncing around, telling people what to think.”

Boyle’s work can be viewed on the small screen, and he has been active in theater productions. But you may have already seen a critically acclaimed piece of his in another venue; Boyle was artistic director for the opening ceremony Isles of Wonder at the 2012 Olympics


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Is Complementary and Alternative Medicine Right for You?

From massage to St. John’s wort, older adults are trying out non-traditional methods of healing in increasing numbers. 

As Americans age, they are increasingly turning to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to relieve pain and find cures for what ails them. The flower children of the 60s are the baby boomers of today, and they may be more comfortable using alternate therapies than previous generations. These therapies are a lot easier to find nowadays, with herbal remedies in every Natural Grocers and Costco Wholesale store, while it only takes a quick search on the internet to find a local chiropractor.

Watch Out for Supplements

Many people take over-the-counter supplements, such as herbs, to improve their health. A little ginkgo biloba for the brain, a little St. John’s wort to avoid depression. What could go wrong? Plenty, as it turns out. First, the amount and source of active herb contained in each pill or capsule are only loosely regulated — as food, not as drugs. Second, the herbs may interfere with other medications or supplements you may be taking. Some herbs dampen clotting factors in the blood, others can make critical drugs less effective. For a partial list of drug interactions, go here.

Fortunately, pharmacists are being trained to counsel patients on potential problems after the demand for supplements skyrocketed in recent years. But they can’t dispense advice when they don’t know what supplements a patient is taking, and people are often hesitant to reveal that they are self-medicating, even to their doctor. Even if you’re just taking daily vitamins, be sure to tell your doctor and pharmacist every treatment you are taking so they can help you steer clear of potential problems.

Is Cannabidiol (CBD) Legal?

CBD is quickly becoming popular for a variety of uses, including pain relief. It does not produce the high of marijuana. However, its legality can be a bit confusing. Here’s a rundown:
  • All hemp-derived CBD that has 0.3% or less THC is legal under federal law. 
  • States have different laws regarding CBD’s legality, so confirm with your state.
  • Marijuana and hemp CBD laws are not the same; some states allow both, one, or neither.
  • Federally allowed CBD can be legally mailed to all 50 states.
  • There are many options for legally purchasing CBD, including online.

A recent survey of 31,000 adults in the U.S. found that 70% had used at least one kind of CAM treatment at some point. That makes it one of the quickest growing fields of healthcare. The same survey found that the most commonly treated conditions are:
Back pain and back problems
Neck pain and other neck issues
General joint pain and stiffness
Anxiety and depression

Most adults (88%) elected to self-treat, which is not surprising considering insurers usually do not cover CAM. One reason people turn to CAM is that they feel that conventional medicine is too expensive. 

What is CAM?

Complementary and alternative medicine covers a wide range of practices that are meant to enhance or replace Western medicine. While conventional medicine concentrates on treating the disease, such as attacking a virus or bacteria, CAM looks at the whole person: physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, and social components. Often, the goal is to prevent illness before it starts. Treatments are highly individualized and designed to support the body’s natural healing processes. 

Complementary medicine is usually defined as augmenting traditional practices, while alternative treatments may replace Western medicine. So, someone may use meditation to help with the pain of cancer while being treated in a hospital (complementary) or elect to seek out a “natural” cure in place of traditional treatment (alternative). 

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) classifies therapies into five groups:
  1. Alternative medical systems. These are complete systems of health theory and practice. Examples are Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), homeopathy, and naturopathy.
  2. Biological medicine. This therapy uses things found in nature to promote health and healing. Examples are herbs, foods, and vitamins.
  3. Energy medicine. This type uses energy fields to heal. One branch seeks to influence fields surrounding the body. Examples are Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, and qi gong. Another branch, known as bioelectromagnetic-based medicine, employs electromagnetic fields. An example is electroacupuncture.
  4. Manual medicine. Manipulation and movement of body parts are believed to improve health. Examples include physical therapy, massage, chiropractic work, Feldenkrais, and reflexology. 
  5. Mind/Body medicine. This discipline uses techniques to help the mind influence the body. They include biofeedback, deep relaxation, guided imagery, hypnotherapy, meditation, prayer, support groups, and yoga.

Traditional medicine is increasingly embracing CAM. Integrative medicine combines standard practices with safe and effective CAM techniques. Universities such as Stanford and Harvard have M.D. programs for integrative medicine as more and more patients seek multiple therapies to address the mental, physical, and spiritual sides of their health. 

Many practitioners were first trained in mainstream medicine but have switched to other modes of treatment. Examples of actual professionals include an anesthesiologist who has transitioned to acupuncture and a physical therapist (PT) who is tired of letting insurers guide her practice — so she now combines Pilates and yoga with more traditional PT treatments. 

For those looking to get the best care regardless of what insurance may dictate, and who are willing to pay out-of-pocket for the privilege, seeking out CAM practitioners can result in the broadest, and perhaps the best, overall care.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Is a Reverse Mortgage for You?

Reverse mortgages are not what they used to be. You may be surprised to learn how one could benefit you.

If you still think reverse mortgages should always be avoided, you haven’t kept up to date. These financial instruments have a variety of uses, including shouldering the weight of providing income when a portfolio has a bad year. That’s right: the optimal use of a reverse mortgage is likely not as an instrument of last resort. But let’s look at what they are and what they have to offer.

Reverse mortgages take equity that is in your home and convert it to payments to you. You don’t have to pay back the money while you live in the home, as long as you keep it in good repair, pay HOA and utilities, and maintain home insurance. This money is not taxable and won’t affect Social Security or Medicare benefits. 

There are three types of reverse mortgages:
  • Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM). Federally insured and backed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), these are the most common and can be used for any purpose. 
  • Single-Purpose. These are the least expensive and not available everywhere. The lender specifies how it will be used, such as to pay for repairs or property taxes.
  • Proprietary. These private loans are backed by the companies that develop them. They enable borrowers with higher appraised home values to qualify for more funds. 

For our purposes, we will continue by discussing HECMs.

How much you can borrow depends on:
  • Your age. The older you are, the more you can borrow — but you must be at least 62.
  • The appraised value of your home. The higher the appraised value, the more you can borrow.
  • Current interest rates
  • A financial assessment. This looks at your willingness and ability to pay property taxes and homeowners insurance. 
  • How much you owe. The greater the equity, the more you can borrow.

What you should know:
  • There are fees and costs. These vary by lender and it’s important to shop around. Generally, for HECMs, lenders charge an origination fee, closing costs, servicing fees for the life of the mortgage, and mortgage insurance premiums.
  • You will owe more as time goes on. Interest is added to your balance each month.
  • Interest rates may change. Most reverse mortgages have variable rates tied to a financial index. HECMs may offer fixed rates, but often require taking the money as a lump sum at closing. 
  • Interest is not tax deductible annually. Interest is only deductible when the loan is paid off, whether partially or in full. 
  • You must pay costs related to your home. You keep the title to your home, and you are responsible for property taxes, insurance, utilities, fuel, maintenance, etc. Otherwise, the lender can require you to repay your loan.
  • Your spouse might be able to continue living in the home. If your spouse did not sign HECM paperwork, he or she may continue to live in the house after you die if he or she pays taxes and insurance and maintains the property. But your spouse will not get any payments since he or she was not on the loan.
  • You can live in a nursing facility for 12 consecutive months before the loan must be repaid. With HECMs, the borrower can usually live in a nursing center or medical facility for 12 months before the loan must be repaid. The home must be maintained during this period, and taxes and insurance paid.
  • You can’t owe more than the lesser of the loan value or the value of the property. A HECM is a non-recourse loan. The borrower or his/her estate will never owe more than the property is worth, and no assets other than the home must be used to repay the debt. 

Learn more about reverse mortgages at the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information site. If you take one out, be sure to include it as part of your estate plan and let your heir(s) know about its existence. Reverse mortgages can be costly. Costs vary by lender and it’s very important to shop around. Do your homework. Start by reading the “Shopping for a Reverse Loan” section at the Consumer Information site linked at the beginning of this paragraph. If you are considering a reverse mortgage, run the idea by your financial advisor. She/he may be able to recommend a different product, such as a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or other solution in some circumstances. 

Grow Your Retirement Nest Egg With a Reverse Mortgage

In the age of low interest rates, many retirees are electing to keep paying a 3-4% mortgage so the money can be put to work in the markets, which earn about 7% after inflation, on average. Seems like a good strategy, right? 

But it’s not without risk. What if markets drop or produce low returns for a time? And those ongoing payments create a sequence of return risk to the new retiree who must pull the money out of the portfolio month after month, year after year. 

Retirees might do better to consider a reverse mortgage instead. There is no obligation to take money in good times, and it can help retirees in bad markets by providing living expenses so they don’t have to touch investments. Read about this strategy here

There are more good reasons to open a reverse mortgage early on. Financial guru Wade Pfau, who developed the course Fitting Home Equity into a Retirement Income Strategy outlines them here. He argues that using a reverse mortgage as a last resort (a common occurrence) offers the least probability of success as part of an overall portfolio strategy to make money last through retirement. Pfau demonstrates that HECMs can be beneficial to the middle class/middle income market as well as wealthier individuals. In fact, the benefits are increasingly greater when the equity in the home is close to the value of the portfolio. 

Quick Tip: People with no children can take out a reverse mortgage so the house doesn’t sit idle when they move out or die, since the house would revert back to the lender. 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Book Clubs Meet Many Needs

If you’ve been looking for some safe social interaction combined with intellectual stimulation, a book club — or two or three! — could be the perfect answer.

Maybe you were always interested in a book club, but you were just too busy during your career, and now you’re retired. Or you tried one long ago, but you didn’t like the type of books that were chosen, or the members at the meetings. Perhaps you just don’t feel like braving the Delta variant by gathering in members’ homes, even though a book club sounds like a lot of fun. We have an answer for you!

A book club can be structured any way you choose. Maybe you want to meet in members’ homes and enjoy a meal together, or you might prefer the anonymity of a Zoom call-in. After all, you can be in your pajamas and point the camera at your face, and no one will know! Your local library will have book groups, but perhaps you’d prefer the perspective of a national or international group. Or you might want to read nothing but science fiction, or history, or National Book Award finalists. 

If you choose to go online, there are a plethora of options. Do a search for specific themes or check out Facebook groups. Or try one of these tried-and-true options:
  • New York Public Library and WNYC Virtual Book Club. Launched during the pandemic, this book club is the project of the massive NYC library system and public radio station WNYC. Picks tend to be thought-provoking and powerful and are often newer (so watch for when they come out to get on your library’s hold list if you don’t want to spend on a purchase). No matter where you live, you can also check for “book discussions” on the online calendar for the 88 neighborhood branches of the NYC public library system.
  • Oprah’s Book Club. She’s been making selections for years, turning titles into best-sellers. Oprah Winfrey has remarkably savvy taste in literature, having picked such stunners as Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family, a true story about a family with 12 children, six of whom were diagnosed with schizophrenia. Oprah offers the added benefit of a book club newsletter, and videos of herself chatting with the author and pertinent guests on Facebook and Instagram, as well as Apple TV+. 
  • Read With Jenna. Presidential daughter and Today co-host Jenna Bush Hager is a natural fit for a book club host; her mother, Laura Bush, launched a foundation to help America’s libraries. Bush ranges her selections from literary stalwarts to newbie writers across a variety of topics, all under the Today show umbrella. She includes author interviews, discussion questions, and further reading recommendations. See her book comments on Facebook and Instagram and sign up to comment at #ReadWithJenna.
  • Los Angeles Times Book Club. Based on the West Coast, this club often features a California angle. Hosted by news editor and author Donna Wares, the club hosts a community event with every author that is live-streamed on YouTube and the Time’s Facebook page. The April 2020 selection featured the book Always Home: A Daughter’s Recipes & Stories, by Fanny Singer, daughter of famed Berkeley chef Alice Waters. Sign up for a newsletter on the book club site.
  • Goodreads Choice Awards Book Club. Ninety million members discuss a cornucopia of books that they love — or hate! Online groups focus on topics from romance to travel, and everything in between. If you prefer a broader mix and don’t need a small group, the 13,000-member Goodreads Choice Awards Book Club is for you. To join, start or add a discussion thread on the site. 
  • Andrew Luck Book Club. This former Indianapolis Colts quarterback has a penchant for reading, and he offers everything from classics to personal picks. He’s even got selections for “rookies” (young readers). Luck interviews authors for a podcast that is linked to the home page. It’s easy, you don’t even have to join — post comments about the books by using the hashtag #ALBookClub on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. 
  • The Girlfriend Book Club. Born from AARP’s newsletter and website for women 40 and up, this club offers a private Facebook group of 5,000 members open to anyone. Picks are chosen via a group poll, and authors join a live chat on the third Tuesday of each month. Members are talkative and willing to offer suggestions to those looking for their next great read. As an added bonus, there are often free book giveaways. 
  • Now Read This. This collaboration between the New York Times and PBS NewsHour chooses one fiction or nonfiction book each month “that helps us make sense of today’s world.” Picks are historical in nature and usually are already out in paperback, making them affordable if you can’t get them from your local library in time. Online discussion guides and author profiles are useful if you’re convening in a smaller, local group. Join by signing up for the newsletter or on Facebook.

You may want to use books from one or several of these clubs but host your own group in person. For extensive tips on starting your own book club, check out Bookriot’s guide. It covers where to hold meetings, how often to gather, who to invite, how to choose the book, and a host of other questions you haven’t even considered! Remember that you can make adjustments as you go. The main objective is to have fun and make friends or deepen your relationship with old ones. One useful tip is to spend the first hour or so just chatting and catching up with each other, so members will be ready to concentrate on discussing the book afterward. 

If you know someone who is interested in starting a group in a living facility, check out the suggestions here. No one is too old to join. Members with sight issues can listen to books on tape. Free selections are available from the National Library Service.


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Home Security Systems

Cameras, motion sensors, do-it-yourself or professional: there are so many home security options, it’s tough to know where to start. Here’s a simple guide to the best systems.

Buying a home security system these days can seem more complicated than purchasing your home. They’re all a little different, and it’s not like comparing apples to apples when pricing, systems, set-up, and monitoring are all so different. But older adults want to feel safe. We break down the basics and then give you the lowdown on some of the top-rated systems.

First, you need to think about what features you’d like. Here’s a list of common products you may need or want:
  • Video doorbell. Great for knowing when a package has arrived, or who is at the door.
  • Nanny camera. Watch pets or check in with a caretaker or aging parents.
  • Spotlight camera. Record video clips when motion is detected to catch intruders or simply light your path in the dark.
  • Door/Window sensor. Tells you when a door or window is opened to guard entrances. It can also alert you when a cabinet is opened, for example when someone accesses medications. 
  • Panic pendant. Wearable pendant that can send out an alert when pushed to let others know of a fall or other mishap.
  • Glass break sensor. This will protect you from anyone trying to enter via a window by setting off an alarm when glass is broken.
  • Motion sensor. You can use a motion sensor to know if an older adult is following his or her usual routine, such as getting out of bed in the morning. 
  • Smart home integration. Allows the security system to team up with smart home devices so you can control everything with a single app.
  • Wireless monitoring. Uses radio signals to connect home devices, sending alerts to a base station and then pushing a notification to your cell or monitoring center. Simplifies installation and gives continued service during power outages.
  • Two-way talk. Turns a control panel or security camera into an intercom, so you can tell a salesperson to leave, shoo the dog off the couch, or call for help with certain systems.
  • Carbon monoxide detector. Senses carbon monoxide and sets off an alarm. 
  • Flood sensor. Alerts you about pooling water to catch plumbing and appliance issues or flooding.
  • Freeze sensor. Alerts when temperature drops to prevent frozen pipes.
  • Fire and smoke alarm. Senses fire, smoke, or heat to prevent home fires from spreading.
  • Professional monitoring. Whether or not you install the system, you can elect to have a call center take emergency alerts. You’ll have a calm person to guide you and alert fire or police.

Next is figuring out whether you want to install the system yourself or have a professional do the job. 

Systems like SimpliSafe or Frontpoint come preprogrammed and ready to go. They will not have as many options as professional systems, but they are budget-friendly. Most of the equipment sticks on your walls, doors, and windows, so you don’t have to be an Einstein to set it up.

Professional installation can cost a pretty penny, but you can let someone else do the work. Companies like Vivint and ADT send someone out (usually as a free consultation) to discuss priorities, cost, and expectations.

Six Systems That Make the Grade

We went to the internet to find the top six systems:

Vivint Smart Home sells for $599 and $29.99 and up per month for monitoring. You’ll get professional installation with no contract, a trial period of three days, and a warranty that will last as long as your service agreement. It’s compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

SimpliSafe stands out in the DIY category. At $229 and up initially then $14.99 and up, it’s affordable and there’s no contract. You get 60 days to try it out, and it comes with a three-year warranty. It works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Cove offers either DIY or professional installation for an initial $219 and up, and then $14.99 and up per month, depending on options. There’s no contract, a 60-day trial period, and a lifetime warranty. It’s compatible with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Frontpoint starts at $326.96, and you install it yourself. It’s $49.99 monthly with no contract and a 39-day trial period. It comes with a three-year warranty and is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. 

Abode is a DIY product that starts at $229 and as little as $6 per month for a very affordable option. There’s no contract, you’ll have a 30-day trial period and a one-year warranty. It’s compatible with not only Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, but for all you Apple fans it also works with Apple Homekit.

ADT is the biggest professional in the business. Their kit may cost you nothing up front, with monthly monitoring at $27.99. However, it does require a contract so make sure that’s what you want from the get-go. ADT does offer a no-contract product labeled Blue by ADT that starts at $199.15 and $19.99 monthly. It is DIY. Both work with Amazon and Google voice assistants.

Finding the right home security system can take time. Do some research online, shop around, and see if you can find any special deals offered by podcasters, bloggers, or at the company site. The time you put into doing your homework will reward you in the end!


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Want To Live Longer? Move.

A new study has found that older adults who move from low-longevity areas to high ones can increase their lifespan by more than a year. 

Where you decide to live at age 65 can make a measurable difference in how long you can expect to live, according to a new study. “There’s a substantively important causal effect of where you live as an elderly adult on mortality and life expectancy across the United States,” says Amy Finkelstein, a professor in MIT’s Department of Economics and co-author of the paper that lays out the team’s findings. 

Health Capital vs. Place-Based Factors

Researchers have known for a long time that lifespan is greater in certain parts of the U.S., a fact generally attributed to “health capital,” or links with smoking, obesity, and related factors in the regionalized population. However, scientists were able to account for those differences and still quantify for the location itself and its impact on longevity. Their report, published in the August 2021 issue of American Economic Review, is titled “Place-Based Drivers of Mortality: Evidence of Migration.”

“We wanted to separate out the role of people’s prior experiences and behaviors — or health capital — from the role of place or environment,” Finkelstein says. 

Zip Codes Matter

A couple years back, researchers at Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology paired up to look at how life expectancy varied on a micro level between individual zip codes. Their groundbreaking work found that in some cities, the gulf between dying in your fifties or dying in your eighties was separated by only a few blocks.

Factors like income, social class, and overall health appeared to be the drivers for the difference. Income and life expectancy are inextricably linked, although it varies substantially across different areas.

The study utilized Medicare records from 1999 to 2014 to examine U.S. residents from 65 to 99 years old, or 6.3 million beneficiaries. It looked at the 2 million people who had moved from one commuting zone (of which the U.S. Census Bureau defines about 700 across the nation) to another in the 15-year time frame. The researchers were able to account for a wide range of diseases and conditions using a standard mortality risk model.

One way to do that was to compare the outcome for two people who had moved from the same place to two different places. “The idea is to take two elderly people from a given origin, say, Boston. One moves to low-mortality Minneapolis, one moves to high-mortality Houston. We then compare how long each lives after they move,” says Finkelstein.


So where did people live the longest? Perhaps surprisingly, coastal urban centers such as New York City, Miami, and San Francisco had positive effects on lifespan. Some urban Midwestern cities, such as Chicago, also scored high. 

By contrast, many Southern states fared poorly, including Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and northern Florida. Older adults also didn’t live as long in the Southwest, including in certain areas of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona. 

All told, researchers estimated that the health capital component was responsible for about 70 percent of the geographical difference in longevity, while location effects accounted for 15 percent. “Yes, health capital is important, but yes, place effects also matter,” says Finkelstein. 

The Charlotte Effect

While conducting the study, economists uncovered another unexpected pattern. Certain places with overall low life expectancy, such as Charlotte, North Carolina, have a positive effect on longevity for those who move there. Conversely, other areas with high life expectancy, such as Santa Fe, New Mexico, had low effects on improving lifespan for older adults who moved there. 

“Our [hard] evidence is about the role of place,” Finkelstein says, while noting that the next logical step in this vein of research is to look for the specific factors at work. “We know something about Charlotte, North Carolina, makes a difference, but we don’t yet know what.” Further studies are underway. 

One hypothesis is that regional health care practices may impact place-based norms. Health care utilization may also play an important role. “Differences in health care across places are large and potentially important,” Finkelstein says. “But there are also differences in pollution, weather, [and] other aspects. … What we need to do now is get inside the black box of ‘the place’ and figure out what it is about them that matters for longevity.”

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Famous & 65

Look who's turning 65 this month

Find out which celebrities are turning 65 this month!

Image Source: Wikipedia

September 13 - Alain Ducasse, chef

Want to cook like the famous Alain Ducasse? Americans can sign up for the cuisine of the Riviera at his tony cooking school in Paris, mon ami, for a mere $247.98! (Airfare, transportation, and hotel not included). Why? Ducasse made a name for himself when Le Louis XV, where he was head chef, became the first hotel restaurant to merit three Michelin stars, the highest honor possible. He was 33. In 2012, Ducasse held 21 Michelin stars, earning him a second place ranking just ahead of Gordon Ramsay. He was the first chef to own three restaurants in three cities awarded three Michelin stars at the same time.

Check out this Food & Wine article for some at-home versions of his famous dishes. Born in southwestern France, Ducasse grew up on a goose and duck farm, suckling on foie gras and exotic wild mushrooms. At the age of 16 he began his career and quickly garnered success. Perhaps his greatest talent is his ability to pivot from chef to manager and then expand his reach to cooking schools (separate ones for professionals and everybody else) and a portfolio of restaurants around the world. The entrepreneur has also initiated projects such as “Good France”, created “to celebrate the identity, vitality, tradition and diversity of French cuisine and lifestyle.”

Ducasse has furthermore put his stamp on a handful of inns and authored several cookbooks, including the famed Alain Ducasse Culinary Encyclopedia. His foodie empire has thrived, in part due to its founder’s business savvy. The French national became a citizen of Monaco to take advantage of that country’s less onerous tax code. But don’t expect a plate load of butter in Ducasse’s creations; he emphasizes local sourcing for meals focused on sustainability, health, and wellness. Salut!

Image Source: Wikipedia

September 16 - David Copperfield, illusionist

Performing more than 500 sets per year all over the world, you may have seen magician David Copperfield in person. But did you know that he owns a string of islands in the Bahamas, or that he was engaged (for six years!) to supermodel Claudia Schiffer? That he was robbed at gunpoint but used sleight of hand to hide all his cash, ID, and cell phone? Or that he nearly died in 1984 while rehearsing the “Escape From Death” illusion in a tank of water when he got tangled in chains? All true.

Copperfield, born David Kotkin, began performing when he was only 10. At 12, he was the youngest child allowed to join the American Society of Magicians. By the time he was 16, he was teaching a class in magic at prestigious New York University. Two years later, he took the lead role in The Magic Man, the longest-running musical ever in Chicago. He created many of the illusions done in the show.

The famous magician also owns the International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts. It contains not only Houdini’s water torture cabinet and metamorphosis trunk, but the world’s largest collection of “Houdiniana” — more than the Houdini Museum in New York. Wait, you’ve never heard of it? That’s because it isn’t open to the public. Tours are only available to “colleagues, fellow magicians, and serious collectors.” It’s accessed via a secret door in Copperfield’s Las Vegas headquarters. Notes Copperfield, "If a scholar or journalist needs a piece of magic history, it's there.”


Image Source: Wikipedia

September 22 - Debby Boone, singer

Remember the 70s? “You Light Up My Life” dominated the Billboard Hot 100 chart for weeks, and singer Debby Boone won the Grammy for Best New Artist in 1978 following its release. While she never commandeered the pop charts with that strength again, Boone went on to a successful career in country and Christian music, touring with several musical theatre productions and co-authoring books for children along with husband Gabriel Ferrer. She also had such honors as taping “Christmas in Washington” with President Ronald Reagan and other luminaries.

Boone was born into a musical family. Her father is singer/actor Pat Boone, and her mother is the daughter of country music legend Red Foley. When she was 14, Boone began touring with her family, first as The Pat Boone Family and then as the Boones or Boone Girls with her two sisters. The sibling group reached the Billboard charts twice, first with a remake of a Supremes song and later with a cover track from ABBA. 

Boone married in 1979 and has four children. Husband Gabriel Ferrer is an ordained Episcopalian priest and is well-connected in Tinseltown: he’s the son of José Ferrer and Rosemary Clooney, brother to actors Miguel and Rafael Ferrer, nephew of journalist Nick Clooney and (drumroll, please) cousin of actor George Clooney. 

Image Source: Wikipedia

September 26 - Linda Hamilton, actress

Terminator fans will forever remember Linda Hamilton in the role of Sarah Connor, one the actress reprised in the movie’s sequels. The actress was also nominated for a pair of Golden Globes and an Emmy Award for playing Catherine Chandler on the small screen in Beauty and the Beast. Most recently, the actress could be seen inhabiting the persona of Mary Elizabeth Bartowski on NBC’s Chuck

Hamilton grew up reading books “voraciously.” Her doctor father died when she was five, and she later acquired a stepfather who was chief of police in Salisbury, Maryland. She switched to studying acting after a couple of years in traditional university, but her acting professor had a dim view of her prospects, once telling her she had no hope of earning a living in the profession. However, she became one of twelve “Promising New Actors of 1982” after an appearance in the big-screen thriller TAG: The Assassination Game.

Hamilton has been married and divorced two times, once to Bruce Abbott and the second time to film director James Cameron. She has two children and has said that both marriages ended due to her depression and a then-untreated bipolar disorder that triggered violent mood swings. She has since gotten therapy for the condition.