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Friday, December 30, 2011

December 31

Despite the fact that my grandmother had numerous grandchildren, she spent a great deal of time with our family and me, in particular. We had a special connection; I was the fortunate recipient of what she had gleaned over the course of her life concerning her extensive travels, long-time relationships, and eclectic experiences. It was a blessing that she introduced me to everything beautiful—art, literature, theater, ballet, fashion…

Nana and I had a holiday tradition which took the form of meeting on the last day of the year to review the last 365 days we had both completed. It was sheer fun for me, having no idea that she was teaching me something valuable about reflecting on decisions, actions, and goals. She showed me how to renew my vows to myself.

On December 31 we always spent the day in Manhattan. Dressed to the nines, we lunched at some chic little restaurant, always one of Nana’s favorites. Armed with our calendars and Shirley Temples (although I’m pretty sure that Nana’s was a “Dirty Shirley”) we began the ritual of evaluation.

Reviewing the year, many things became clear because it was all there in black and white in our detailed calendars—the satisfying successes, the dismal disappointments, and all the things that fell in between. It was clear to me that failures offered the most insight.

These days, I appreciate Nana’s teaching the value of reflection more than ever. I am hoping to continue this tradition with a grandchild I may have some day.

Happy New Year to all of you!

Laraine Jablon

Laraine Jablon, BA, MA, is a writer specializing in social and health concerns of seniors. She lives in Nesconset, New York, and welcomes your thoughts.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Caring Across the Miles this Holiday Season

If you are a caregiver for an aging parent, the holiday season may offer a chance to spend additional time with your family. But for some who live a far away from aging parents, this time of year might be a troublesome reminder of the distance between you and the family member who may need some level of care or assistance.

While this might seem challenging, it’s a very common circumstance. According to AARP, * “One-quarter of people caring for elderly relatives do so at a distance.” I’m sure this number continues to grow with more and more families living in different parts of the country!

Most, if not all, caregivers have experienced the ever-expanding pressures and expectations that come with caring for an elder parent. One suggestion is to build a long-distance team to help lighten your caregiving load.

The Caring for your Parents: The Complete AARP Guide suggests, “Even an only child – or an only responsible child – can’t and shouldn’t try to take care of a parent by herself. She should build a caregiving team with close family members, good friends of her parents, caring neighbors, doctors, clergy, and paid caregivers.”

Another option can be enlisting the help of a Geriatric Care Manager - a counselor, social worker, nurse, gerontologist or other specialist - who can coordinate a wide range of elder care. You can learn more about Geriatric Care Managers through the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers at

A friend and colleague of mine created a wonderful book entitled, **50 Ways to Love Your Mother, which offers lots of simple and fun gift ideas for aging parents. Her tips include the general cost and also if the gift is easy to send if local or long distance. Sometimes just the simple things, like sending a special card or practical gift, can offer a lot to an elder family member who may be living miles away.

*Caring for your Parents: The Complete AARP Guide, AARP, 2006
** 50 Ways to Love Your Mother, Jane Monachelli, M.A., L.P.C., 2006
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, December 21, 2011

TAX TIME for SENIORS - educational webinar

Registration is now open for January's educational webinar, TAX TIME for SENIORS, presented by Beanna Whitlock of Whitlock Tax Service, LLC. Tax season is just around the corner and Beanna will present on the problematic areas of tax filing for Seniors, including:

• How to discover the magic of "bunching" deductions to save your Seniors tax dollars.
• Be mindful of not leaving Senior tax dollars on the table and discover an effective IRA planning strategy.
• Learn how to insure that your Senior taxpayers pay the lowest legal amount of tax.
• And more

Beanna Whitlock is an Enrolled Agent in private practice as Whitlock Tax Service, LLC located in San Antonio, TX.

A tax law instructor for more than 30 years with emphasis on Limited Liability Company and Ethics and Professional Conduct presentations. Beanna has taught tax professionals across the country and is an adjunct professor for Auburn University. She is a faculty member of the Society of Certified Senior Advisors, CSA and the National Center for Professional Education. She is the Executive Director of the ncpefellowship, a web based organization providing educational resources and practice management tools at

She has testified before Congress, Treasury and the IRS Oversight Board. She has served on the IRS Information Reporting Program Advisory Council as well as the IRS Commissioner’s Advisory Committee (CAG). She served as the IRS Director of National Public Liaison for Commissioner Mark Everson and is a recipient of the Commissioner’s Award for Excellence of Service.

She has been honored by Accounting Today as one of the 100 Most Influential in Accounting for an unprecedented 7 years.

Known for her fierce defense of the tax professional community, Beanna is frequently consulted by accounting and tax publications regarding issues concerning the tax professional community.

Register Now!

Date: January 19th, 2012

Time: 11:00am (PST); 12:00 (MST); 1:00 (CST); 2:00 (EST)

Cost: Free for CSAs; $49 public Register Now!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Don’t Call Us Guys

Please call us gentlepeople. Or just say hello.

Here are the ground rules for my argument: according to Unabridged, which is based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary 2011, the word gentleperson is the singular pronoun referring to a form of address for a lady or gentleman. Gentlepeople is the plural pronoun that can be used when speaking to a group of people.

Either word will do nicely, thanks. Folks or a simple greeting will work, too. As a senior, I think I am not alone in my lack of appreciation for being greeted as guys. When I am in a shop or restaurant with one or two friends I would prefer that you call us folks or anything except the ubiquitous you guys. I understand that this is considered standard English usage in the twenty-first century, but it is not accurate. One key aspect of effective language is clarity. At best, calling us you guys is ambiguous, and as a devotee of language, I always prefer to avoid ambiguity if possible. The informality can be confusing--at worst rude.

Distinctions in both formal and informal language exist for a reason. Many of us still care deeply about the use of English and its pragmatics. We care about its variations, rich with nuances; we love that it is a living, breathing mode of expression.

Still, it boils down to the fact that we women are not guys when we’re out alone; nor are we guys when we’re out with our men. We are gentleladies or gentlepeople. Or hello works.

~Laraine Jablon

Laraine Jablon, BA, MA, is a writer specializing in social and health concerns of seniors. She resides in Nesconset, New York, and welcomes your thoughts. Lhjablon@gma

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Laughter: The Best Medicine

Laughing is a delightful distraction and mood booster, especially when we are ailing or feeling blue. Then there’s the old adage about its being the best medicine, and many of us have wondered about its true impact on our wellbeing. In the interest of finding this out, health professionals have been studying its medicinal effects for years.

There is a growing body of research indicating that a good giggle may improve immune function, lower blood pressure, and reduce stress and depression. Despite the fact that there are relatively few long-term studies, the findings are compelling.

According to Michael Miller, Cardiologist and professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine, the clinical evidence is extremely positive. “There is a potential upside, in terms of vascular benefits and overall health,” he explains. “These findings certainly support laughter as a reasonable prescription for heart health, and health in general, especially since there is no downside.”

There is also prior research that strongly suggests that people who laugh need less pain medication post-surgery. Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary anthropologist claims, “If laughter triggers endorphin activation, then it may have direct health benefits because there is a possibility that endorphins help to ‘tune’ the immune system.” Think: cool tune-up for our bodies.

Perhaps the major benefits of laughter stem from our playful interactions with our friends, family, and lovers--good, old-fashioned, fun that benefits all of us.

You may want to read the October 24, 2011 article in The Washington Post by Carolyn Butler, “Laughing May Help Ease Blood Pressure, Boost Mood and Enrich Health in Other Ways.”

~Laraine Jablon

Laraine Jablon, BA, MA, is a writer specializing in social and health concerns of seniors. She is based in Nesconset, New York, and welcomes your thoughts.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Best Time of Year to Retire

Have you ever been asked, “When is the best time of year to retire?” A simple question but one which has a number of factors to be considered. Not only are there financial implications to think about but also consideration should be given to the season at the time of retirement. Talk to your clients about the following:

A. Cost of Living

Some employer benefit programs state an employee must be retired on or before July 1st (meaning the last working day would be June 30) to receive any cost-of-living increase on a pension granted for July 1st. This means an on-going pension will actually be less if your client retires in July or August compared with retiring on or before July 1st.

B. Vacation Payoff

The first week of January may be appealing to begin retirement especially if your client is carrying more than the maximum accrual for vacation. The client could get paid for the total as long as he/she retires before the end of the first pay period in January. Retiring in January also gives the person the entire year to absorb any lump-sum payoff.

C. Tax Considerations

Tax considerations and the best time to retire are different for each individual. It’s worthwhile for your client to estimate taxes based on different dates throughout the year and I strongly recommend getting advice from a tax advisor a year or two before a client plans to retire.

D. Season

Regardless of when a client chooses to retire, it is important to plan activities or events to counter or coincide with the season. For example, if a client retires in January, he/she may want to start with a trip to the sunny south or take a ski holiday. However, if he/she chooses to retire in the winter months (January – March), and happens to live in one of the Northern States or Canada, your client may face many grey, cold, snowy days that can give the inaugural weeks of retirement a bleak feeling.

Retiring in the spring (April – June) and the prospect of gardening and being outdoors may be appealing. Or perhaps your client prefers the summer (July – September) and spending additional time at the cottage to officially launch their new life. The fall months (October – December) may be ideal as this is a time of completion, celebration and planning for the New Year.

When planning for retirement, speak to your client about the time of year best suited for he or she and their spouse from a financial, seasonal and goal perspective. This ‘value added’ conversation is additional evidence you are a caring advisor who wants to help with your client’s retirement planning.

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, December 2, 2011

Andy Rooney: Curmugeon

Prickly and witty.

Many of us will miss Andy Rooney’s weekly segment on “60 Minutes” in which he addresses mostly mundane subjects with varying degrees of befuddlement, vexation, and on a rare occasion, pleasure. He was one of the most popular broadcast figures in the country—and truly a curmudgeon.

A little history: after his discharge from the army following World War II, Rooney worked as a freelance writer, churning out material for entertainers such as Arthur Godfrey, Victor Borge, Herb Shriner, Sam Levenson, and Gary Moore. He wrote entertaining, clever essays that made creative writing look so easy, like fluid fun. Later on, he wrote his weekly piece for “60 Minutes” that made him the homespun philosopher who entered our homes every Sunday for so many years. There were 1,097 segments in all; quite a legacy.

Rooney loved Christmas, football, tennis, among a few other things. Very few. He was much better known for the things he found objectionable, which was almost everything: he complained about wash and wear shirts that you can wash, but not wear; about any music he could not hum. He hated waiting on lines for any reason, and New Year’s Eve--he loathed it.

Beauty parlors were not filled with beauties, he observed, and he was outspoken on the subject of higher education. He believed that most college catalogs “rank among the great works of fiction of all time,” and that anyone who can come up with the money to attend college would find it “almost impossible to flunk out.” He was also blunt about his feelings for CBS, his long-time employer, and he made no secret of his dislike for Laurence A. Tisch, the network’s chief executive from 1986 to 1995.

While millions of followers delighted in his “60 Minutes” presentations, there were also a lot of people who took issue with his off-handed comments concerning serious subjects about which they felt deeply. Sometimes he made insensitive comments about suicides and minorities—definitely not good. At these times he was viewed as offensive, sarcastic, or outrageous. A complex man, Rooney’s area of expertise encompassed the smaller, lighter pieces about which he wrote. I used to hope that he would adhere to them.

On occasion, Rooney’s outspoken opinions got him into trouble with CBS News. In 1990, he found himself suspended for three months without pay in response to comments he had made about black and gay people. He later apologized for the statements that got him into hot water, but managed to offend the same groups again--in addition to women and Latin Americans. Ugh.

A few years ago, I passed him on the street in Manhattan. There was no mistaking him, with his bushy eyebrows, jowls, and scowling countenance. Wanting to respect his privacy, and avoid being insulted for interrupting his solitude, I did not tell him that I was a fan of his work. I kept walking; he would have preferred that and even thanked me for doing so.

~ Laraine Jablon

Laraine Jablon, BA, MA, is a freelance writer specializing in social, health, and spiritual concerns of seniors. She resides in Nesconset, New York, and welcomes your thoughts.