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Friday, March 25, 2011

Help Take the Tension out of Tax Season

As a professional organizer for older adults, I’m quite busy this time of year helping my clients prepare for their tax appointments. Many of the older adults I work with have some type of limitation including low vision or memory loss so we take special care to create “systems” and find ways to assist with finding and filing paperwork. 

These systems we’ve indentified not only work for those with certain limitations, but might also be beneficial for many of us to help stay organized and avoid that last minute panic when trying to get your taxes done. Here a two ways to help take some of the tension out of tax season:

1) Make a home for those documents!

It might seem obvious, but having one place or a “home” for certain paperwork is a must! I have found that for some, the simple manila folder works just fine and can be labeled for the different types of paperwork including financial or health related documents that you may need for taxes. For others, a 3-ring binder works very well to keep paperwork in one place and can be separated and labeled by the different categories.

As I work with clients we may come across paperwork, receipts or documents that are for the current year rather than the previous year, which would not be needed for the upcoming tax appointment. Even though a year away, I always go ahead and start a tax folder or create a “home” for the current year’s paperwork, which not only gets it out of the way but gives you a head-start on next year’s tax prep!

2) Clear the Clutter!

And finally, when sorting paperwork I always come across items that are not needed for tax purposes or may not need to be saved for long periods of time. It is very important to have a secure place for your vital documents (marriage and birth certificates, mortgage paperwork etc.) but other non-essential docs may just be taking up space in your office.

Suze Orman’s “Financial Clutter, What to Keep And What To Get Rid Of” list is a great resource to help you determine what paperwork is important and what can be shredded or recycled to help you clear the clutter  (and will allow you to focus on what’s important for that tax appointment!)

I have provided the link to Suze’s Financial Clutter tip sheet below or you can also find it at under her “Resource Center.”

Christie Munson, CSA, lives and works in Phoenix, AZ and is the Communications Manager for a retirement community and a Professional Organizer, specializing in senior services. She can be contacted via email at

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Value of Retirement Portfolio Diversification

Recent global events reinforce the value of diversification. Broadly speaking you can make assumptions, but no one truly knows what the future holds. Who could have predicted the devastating impact of recent events in Japan?

To protect against such events, wise planning calls for broad diversification. Generally speaking, you can diversify with different types of investments (e.g., stocks, bonds, money market, commodities), geographically (imagine if all your holdings were centered in Japan), and by market capitalization (large companies, smaller companies, etc.). This does create the potential for missing upside returns in those areas that are showing the most growth. However, and more importantly to most of us, wise diversification also can reduce downside risk.

The impact of current events also highlights the general nature of investing in the financial markets. Doing so does offer the potential for solid earnings and long-term growth. Under most circumstances, over most periods of time, investing in global stock markets provides the best opportunity to increase investment assets. This can be an important part of protecting your retirement portfolio against inflation. At the same time, especially on a shorter-term basis, negative price movement is always a possibility. So, for funds that are earmarked for long-term goals, global stock market investments can shine. However, for funds earmarked for shorter-term uses (i.e., anything less than around five years or so), the stock market is most likely not the place you want those funds.

Blog posting provided by:

Michael Snowdon, CFP ®

Michael is president of WealthRidge, a wealth management and financial planning firm, and is a professor emeritus of the College of Financial Planning. His focus in financial planning is to coach people in the process of meeting their goals and achieving their dreams.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Collaborative Law: A Senior's Approach to Divorce

70 is the new 50! In the 21st century we are now facing the stark reality that more people of retirement age are getting divorced. This poses a set of challenges that previous generations rarely faced. Today, we have blended marriages, multiple sets of children and grandchildren, friends from the current marriage and former marriage, and lifestyle issues. How can a divorcing couple maintain dignity and save the relationships from devastation? One possible solution is a Collaborative Divorce.

Collaborative Law is an innovative approach to family law which is sweeping the country. It is an approach to family law matters in which the parties and their attorneys commit to each other in writing that the case will be settled completely out of court. If the case does not settle, the parties must retain other attorneys to litigate the matter.

The typically long, emotionally draining, and often economically disastrous litigation process ends up with an agreement or judicial decision with which neither party is particularly happy. Enlightened Collaborative lawyers have the answer to how a marriage may end without the potential emotional and financial devastation often associated with litigation.

Although the vast majority of family law cases do settle out of court, the significant difference is the manner in which a Collaborative family law matter is settled. It is often particularly important to older adults that, even though they are dissolving a marriage, they remain as amicable as possible. As parties to a divorce grow older, the parties often have relationships, not only with long-time friends, and children of their marriage, but also with their grandchildren. Collaborative law is geared only toward a peaceful, “out of court” resolution and may assist the parties in maintaining their important relationships even though the marriage relationship is dissolved. Collaborative attorneys are specifically trained in collaborative negotiation skills. The process involves informal discussions and conferences attended by both spouses and their attorneys. Additionally, psychological professionals are often employed to “coach” the clients toward a shared, peaceful resolution that is geared toward the future well-being of the parties and the family. The psychological professionals may assist the parties in learning constructive, rather than destructive, forms of communication. This communication education can be especially important when children and grandchildren are involved.

Divorce, at any age, can be difficult financially. However, when the divorce occurs after age 60, it can be financially devastating. Lifestyle changes are imminent. Who gets the social memberships? How are adult children going to respond? Will I get to see the grandkids as often? Who will help if I become ill or incapacitated? Who will make decisions according to my powers-of-attorney?
Other questions which will need answers are:

• Spousal Maintenance (alimony): Will I get help?
• Property Division: Must we sell the house?
• Health Care: Medicare, COBRA, Long Term Care
• Pensions/IRAs/etc.: How are they divided? How does a QDRO (Qualified Domestic Relations Order) work?
• Social Security: Can I get more than my small amount?
• Debt: Who is responsible and how will this effect my credit rating?
• Income Taxes: What are the tax traps in a divorce?
• Other Stuff: What about my will and powers-of-attorney?

These and many more questions should be answered in the divorce process, thus, the need for an experienced Family Law Attorney and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst becomes apparent. They can answer your questions, and help you make the right decisions for yourself and your family, and potentially save you many years of heartbreak and financial devastation.

In Texas, collaborative cases are not scheduled on the court dockets in the same manner a traditional case is docketed. The only time a party and attorney go to court in a collaborative case is to enter the agreement and ask the Court to grant the divorce. Thus, while the case is pending, parties to a collaborative divorce do not bear the financial or emotional burden of preparation for hearings or trials, or numerous court appearances.

About the authors:

Carol Griffin is an attorney practicing Family Law in Houston, Texas. She has been licensed 19 years and has handled Collaborative cases for about 8 years. You can contact Carol at or 713-461-5288.

Dirk Cummins is a practicing Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA), a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC), and a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) in Houston, Texas. He entered the financial services industry in 1981. You can conctact Dirk at or 713-609-9805.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Positive Retirement Attitude - An Absolute Must!

A successful retirement takes courage, commitment and desire. A client can have an elaborate retirement plan but if he or she doesn’t have the conviction to follow it, the plan is nothing more than words on a page.

For some people, retirement is so overwhelming they consciously or subconsciously sabotage their retirement plan by adopting a negative attitude. They accept the feeling that ‘it’s all over’, that the changes required are too hard and they are likely to fail. They look back at their life remembering the ‘good old days’ rather than welcoming the adventures that lie ahead.

Here are some actions you can take to help clients become more positive!

1. The next step. Help your clients accept reality – their career is behind them. Point out the pitfalls of dwelling in the past and lamenting about the things not accomplished.

2. Regularly review the retirement plan. At every opportunity review a client’s retirement plan - what’s working and what may need changing. Underscore where he/she is successful. The more positive images, questions, implicit beliefs and self-talk that can be created, the more positive the client’s mind-set. If you catch your client drifting into a negative mind-set, stop and refocus on the positive.

3. Associating with positive people. A positive retirement comes from surrounding ourselves with positive people and having the will to keep trying until we get what we want. Encourage your client to seek out and befriend positive people including those considered successful in retirement.

4. Recognizing ability. People with positive attitudes believe with conviction they deserve love and success. Help your clients recognize their ability to create a happy retirement.

Lisa accepts the challenges of retirement. When she left the workforce, her retirement vision was, and still is, to make good things happen. She welcomes each day and treats it as an adventure. As part of her journey she seeks out new people to meet and get to know; she plans one major trip a year, and spends time with her grandchildren. Lisa attends community concerts and often drives in the countryside with her camera looking for scenes to photograph.

Determined to have fun in her retirement, Lisa does it without spending a lot of money. Her zest for life is infectious and her positive attitude makes her delightful to be with. As a result, people gravitate to Lisa and her social circle keeps growing in quality and quantity. Lisa’s assertiveness and confidence continues to build, as does her sense of purpose.

As part of Lisa’s planning, she regularly discusses her retirement progress with her advisor. Together they explore Lisa’s successes and possible changes. Lisa and her advisor have formed an important partnership in her quest for a happy and productive retirement.

Your clients have a choice. Be negative, repel others and look at the future with dread or be positive, attract like-minded people and view the future as a new and wonderful opportunity!

Pairing a well-formulated retirement vision with a positive attitude puts your clients on the way to creating a rewarding retirement lifestyle. As an advisor, you can help them get and stay on the right track.

Richard (Rick) Atkinson, Founder and President of RA Retirement Advisors, is an expert in pre-retirement planning. He is author of the best-selling book, Don't Just Retire - Live It, Love It! Rick facilitates workshops for clients of advisors and others. He is available for speaking engagements. Twitter: @dontjustretire.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Cancer, heart disease links to gallbladder - Medical Research News - AARP Bulletin

AARP released an article today discussing a new study that has found a link between heart disease, cancer and gallbladder disease.

The study has found that those individuals who have had their gallbladders or gallstones removed are at an increased risk of death from heart disease and cancer.

Read the AARP article by following the link below.

This blog posting is being shared via AARP

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

How the Fear of Aging Leads to Memory Loss

Did you know that the fear of aging may speed the aging process and is the single most powerful agent creating exactly what we fear the most – memory loss and decline? The Society of Certified Senior Advisors is excited to announce that we will be hosting this must-see educational webinar titled, Mind Matters, that will take an oval look at what our society has learned about the brain and the body/mind connection over the past two decades.

During this webinar, attendees will learn:
1. What everyone should know about advances in Brain Fitness
2. The importance of the body/mind connection for health and memory
3. How the processing of sales and marketing communications changes with age
4. Specific steps you need to take to get your message heard
5. How the season of life impacts how we perceive reality

This powerful webinar is being presented by Richard (Dick) Ambrosius, whom in 1981, helped launch a movement when he founded a company specializing in marketing to those in life’s second half using an approach he called positive aging. Dick is the author of Choices & Changes…a primer on life planning, Positively Aging, and The Art of the Possible. As a speaker, Dick blends both humor and motivation with stories, practical examples and creative problem solving.

If you are a professional working in the senior market, a caretaker or relative of an aging adult, or if you happen to be a senior yourself, don’t miss out on this amazing adventure through the power of the mature mind and brain.

Register today for this live event that will take place on Wednesday, March 16th, 2011 at 12:00 p.m. MST. This webinar is free to all CSAs and $49 for members of the public.

The Society of Certified Senior Advisors (SCSA), provides free resources and educational webinars for our members as an ongoing commitment that we have in helping professionals to understand the complex and dynamic lives of modern senior citizens.

Here are some other relevant webinars that might peak your interest. Download them now:

Medicare Webinar:

Beyond Driving with Dignity:

Medicare, Medicaid, Supplemental or Long-Term Care Insurance: Who Pays the Bill?

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors