Monday, September 30, 2019

Do You Need Protection from Cell Phone Waves?

Many small companies are making claims about protective discs and pocketing more than petty cash.

The BioElectric Shield offers protection against electromagnetic radiation and “other people’s energy.” All you need to do is wear a necklace, which comes in four levels and costs from $207 to $5,227. For boys and men, there’s a wristband. How do you know if you need one? The company says you’re a candidate if you use a cell phone or laptop, live in a city of more than 35,000 or if you get headaches and have anxiety or other physical problems. Um, so that’s pretty much every American. And there are loads of companies hawking various products with similar claims. Some suggest setting your water on their patterned coaster to make it safe. Others want you to wear a bracelet. Yet another offers a tower of quartz crystals for EMF (electromagnetic fields) protection or “gridding your home.” Could this possibly be a scam?

What is EMF?

Nearly everyone is exposed to artificial electromagnetic fields. Cell phones, routers, Bluetooth devices, microwave ovens and power lines all produce electromagnetic radiation. There are two main kinds: ionizing (x-rays, radon and other high-frequency forms) and non-ionizing (radio waves and very low frequency waves). Radiation is made of light particles that travel in a wave pattern at the speed of light. You can’t hear them or see them. Your own body gives off this energy at a very low frequency.


Limiting Risk From Cell Phone Emissions

Decreasing your exposure to electromagnetic emissions is possible, and it’s not difficult. A little physics lesson is in order here, but it’s quick and easy. Radiation is exponentially reduced the farther you are from it. Its strength decreases as you move away from the source. If you are 2 inches away, you get one-fourth the amount of radiation compared to being 1 inch away. If you move the device 4 inches away from your body, then you get 1/16 the amount of radiation. It doesn’t have to be far away to dramatically reduce the radiation you receive. Knowing that, here are tips to limit your exposure:

  • Use wired accessories instead of wireless. A wired earpiece is better than Bluetooth.
  • Text more and talk less to spend less time with your phone at your head.
  • Use speakerphone when you call.
  • Wait for a good signal. A weak signal makes your phone work harder and emit more radiation.
  • Tilt the phone away when you’re talking. Cell phones produce more radiation when they’re transmitting than when they’re in receiving mode.

One caveat: The specific absorption rate (SAR) of a phone is the maximum radiation a human body absorbs when it’s transmitting. Since all U.S. phones are tested and have to comply with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) SAR standards, you might think it would be easy to choose a low-emissions phone by comparing SAR ratings. However, the worst-case value doesn’t necessarily reflect absorption during actual use, so it’s not recommended to use for comparison. However, there is more information from the FCC about SAR.

The number of cell phone users in North America is currently 304.4 million. As more people have adopted this technology, the number of calls per day and the length of these calls have gone up. However, due to technological advances in the phones themselves and an increased number of transmitting stations, the exposure to electromagnetic radiation from cell phone use has generally lowered. In any case, is it dangerous?

We know that ionizing radiation, the kind in ultraviolet sunlight, X-rays and nuclear explosions, is dangerous. It carries enough energy to break or alter your DNA, which is one of the ways cancer can start. But what about non-ionizing radiation that is much lower in power, such as radio waves and the waves from your cell phone?

Low-Power Radiation

Scientists have done a lot of testing, and the results are inconclusive. Researchers have conducted experiments on lab animals and cells exposed to radiation, and they have completed observational studies in many populations. Do heavy cell phone users have more health problems, such as higher rates of brain cancer, than lighter users? There has been no definitive proof that cell phone radiation harms human health.

Three extensive studies have inspected the relationship between head and neck cancer with cell phone use. None of them could find conclusive, consistent evidence of a link, but there were slight upticks in a few cancers in certain subsets of the studies. Other research has looked to see if any of these cancers has increased since the advent of cell phone use. An analysis of the incidence of cancer in the U.S. between 1993 and 2013 found no change in the incidence of malignant central nervous system cancers among children aged 0 to 19 years.

The only biological effect of radiofrequency radiation in humans is heating (such as what happens in your microwave). Your ear and head will become warmer when you hold a cell phone up for a call, but not enough to measurably increase body temperature. That said, it doesn’t hurt to be cautious.

Reducing Radiation

There is no research that defines a threshold where radiofrequency signals pose no threat, according to Jerry Phillips, Ph.D. and a professor of biochemistry at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

When you call, text or use data, your phone sends and receives data pinging between its antenna and the closest cell towers, explains Leeka Kheifets, Ph.D. and a professor of epidemiology at the UCLA School of Public Health. Radiation from Bluetooth and Wi-Fi devices is similar to that of cell phones, falling somewhere between the radiation levels from FM radios and microwave ovens. But the distance Bluetooth and Wi-Fi has to travel tends to be short, say, between your router and laptop or between your wireless speaker and your smartphone. So the radio frequency can be transmitted at a lower power than that needed for your cell phone. Lower power reduces the effect radiation might have on living tissue.

Another plus for most Bluetooth devices and routers: They aren’t held against your head while you use them. “Distance is your friend,” says Kheifets. He recommends using Bluetooth headphones rather than holding a cell phone up to your ear for calls, or turning on speakerphone to put space between your body and the phone, because Bluetooth headphones have a weaker signal.

Increased Caution

Exposure from a single home router may be small, but the effect is less certain in places where multiple routers and dozens of laptops are on at the same time, such as in a school. Children may be more vulnerable to radiation exposure. Some U.S. schools have worked to mitigate possible effects. In 2016, the Maryland State Department of Education issued recommendations to limit exposure, and Wi-Fi is not allowed in French nursery schools.

Do Necklaces and Wristbands Work?

According to the Federal Trade Commission, there is no scientific proof that electromagnetic “shields” significantly reduce exposure. Products that block the earpiece or any part of your phone may even be harmful if they interfere with the phone’s signal, because they’ll cause the phone to draw more power to keep in touch with the base station, possibly increasing radiation. However, there are many practical things you can do to reduce radiation. We’ve made a helpful list in the sidebar, and each suggestion is free. It’s always wise to look at what the science says about possible dangers and act accordingly. Just beware of scammers who count on your ignorance to entice you to put money in their pockets.


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

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How Your Thoughts Impact Spending

Yale’s most popular class is free and it changes how you spend your money.

Many of us worry ourselves sick, literally, about money. We may barely have enough for today’s bills, much less saving for retirement. Or we just feel like we need more to keep up with our friends and neighbors. We invest a considerable amount of time and energy thinking about how to get more dollars in our pockets, and sweating over watching them come out again as we pay for both needs and wants. What if changing how we think and act could break this cycle of anxiety?


Yale’s most popular class ever, Psychology and the Good Life, is now available to anyone for free online at Coursera.  The 10-week class is taught by Laurie Santos, a professor of psychology and cognitive science. Hundreds of high-achieving students at the Ivy League institution say the class changed their lives for the better. They’re a smart bunch; Yale’s acceptance rate is only 6.3 percent of applicants. So what was it they didn’t know?

People are prone to predict incorrectly how much they’ll enjoy something in the future. Santos talks about a handful of “annoying features of the mind” that cause us to go after material things that have almost no enduring impact on our happiness. Think about that expensive sweater that was going to turn you from frumpy to fantastic, or the car that would make you feel sooo important.

“Scientists didn’t realize this in the same way 10 or so years ago, that our intuitions about what will make us happy, like winning the lottery and getting a good grade — are totally wrong,” Santos says.

She references a renowned study done in 2010 at Princeton.  After surveying more than 450,000 Americans, researchers discovered that happiness did tend to rise with income, but only to a point. At about the level of $75,000 per year, the correlation came untied.

Change Your Headgame

Be smart and try some of the following strategies to improve your mental well-being.

  • Get off the spending train. Check out Colorado’s own Mister Money Mustache, one of the original financial freedom fighters. Silly name, phenomenal content.
  • Empty your mind. Whoever thought having an empty head was always bad doesn’t understand the power of meditation. Check out seven kinds of meditation to find one that’s right for you. When life gets crazy, you’ll stay calm and cool.
  • Pass it Forward. Give in your community with this nonprofit that connects givers (and we all have something we can give) to those who need a little help. 
  • Do something kind without expecting anything in return. Anonymous acts of kindness can be the best of all. There’s no one who should think more highly of yourself than you.

Since then, other studies have shown a closer link between income and happiness at higher levels, such as the 2012 Skandia International Wealth Sentiment Monitor, which found the two to go hand-in-hand to $160,000. Bummer! But Santos thinks the wealth factor is overrated.

Mind Over Matter (and Wallet)

Santos says the more recent study is important, “but I don’t think it changes the message of the class, which is that high wealth has a teeny effect on happiness. The key is that it’s way less than what we predict, and it’s a lot less effective than the other practices we suggest.” Phew.

“Money doesn’t increase happiness in the way that we think,” Santos says. “Our minds are lying to us about how much of an impact extra cash will have on our happiness.”

So what will bring about an internal smile?

  • Learning new skills for a more positive life outcome. Go for a talent that isn’t related to more money or career advancement.
  • Increase your kindness factor. Spend more on other people, less on yourself.
  • Spend more time with friends and family. Make a conscious decision that they are the priority.
  • Spend less on things that don’t last. The new sheets, the new car, the new perfume — send the money you would have spent on them to a charity, or just let it ride in your bank or investment account. 
  • Make every day a healthy one. Create habits of journaling, meditating and exercising. 

Happiness and Depression

Santos says that what works for you may not work for the person sitting next to you. Try different things to see what puts a smile on your face, or eases that nagging anxiety within. The Yale students need a solution as much as anyone.

“In reality, a lot of us are anxious, stressed, unhappy, numb,” says Alannah Maynez, 19, a freshman who took the course. “The fact that a class like this has such large interest speaks to how tired students are of numbing their emotions — both positive and negative — so they can focus on their work, the next step, the next accomplishment.”

In fact, a 2013 report by the Yale College Council found that more than half of undergraduates at the school sought mental health care sometime during their student years there. And it isn’t just a problem at Yale; colleges and universities across the country report a rise in students needing mental health services. The class is a start.

“Students want to change, to be happier themselves, and to change the culture here on campus,” Dr. Santos said in an interview. “With one in four students at Yale taking it, if we see good habits, things like students showing more gratitude, procrastinating less, increasing social connections, we’re actually seeding change in the school’s culture.”

Happiness of Nations

The correlation of happiness to money breaks down on a national level, too. The 2013 World Happiness Report found that the happiest nations are not those that are the wealthiest. The survey discovered that the happiness of people in Mexico, for example, was greater than that of U.S. citizens. The happiest people are scattered across Scandinavia: Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden are all in the top 10.

If the study has you wondering if there’s an English-speaking country that rates well, you’re in luck. There are two: Canada came in 6th for happiness and Australia grabbed 10th place. The United States has the world’s largest economy, but slid into 17th place for happiness out of 156 nations surveyed.

"The highest-ranking nations have an average income 40 times greater than the lowest, but the ability to have someone to call on in times of trouble is only twice as likely in high-ranking nations,” explains John Helliwell, a University of British Columbia economist who specializes in the study of macroeconomics and well-being. “That suggests that improvements in factors such as generosity make a much greater impact than earning more cash."

Rewiring: You Do the Work

The class requires little formal homework, which may be one reason for its popularity. However, Santos says it’s the “hardest class at Yale.” To get any benefit, students have to hold themselves accountable to learn new strategies for happiness and use them throughout a lifetime.

Students go out with assignments to perform acts of kindness and make new social connections. The final is a “Hack Yo’Self” project for personal self-improvement. How will you change your habits to tell your brain that money isn’t always the answer? Check out our sidebar for ideas to kick-start a more financially worry-free life.

Click below for the other articles in the September 2019 Senior Spirit


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

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Save Thousands a Year in Retirement With This One Strategy

Less than 5% of Americans use this lifestyle change to save big money after they quit working.

Living abroad can stretch your retirement dollars more than any other single change, but few Americans take advantage of this hack. Maybe it’s because they don’t know how easy it is to investigate living in a new country and connect with expats. Or it could be they’re unaware how much they could save by living outside the U.S.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person age 65 and up in the U.S. spends $46,000 per year. That’s a hefty amount to fund, especially when 42 percent of baby boomers have nothing saved for retirement, according to the Insured Retirement Institute’s 2018 report. Social Security won’t cover that kind of lifestyle when the average payment is $1,300 a month.

Substantial Savings

It’s true that the thought of leaving family and friends to reside in a foreign country is not for everyone. But it can be a grand adventure with the right mindset. It doesn’t have to be permanent: a stay of five or 10 years abroad in early retirement can boost finances enough to fund a return to the States in later years.

As one example, beach lovers might explore the white sands of Nha Trang, Vietnam, where it’s possible to live comfortably on less than $900 a month, including rent. You’ll find plenty of friendly locals and expats, as well as great weather year-round and a good health care system at a much lower cost than stateside.

Looking for a good climate with more entertainment options? Consider Panama City, Panama. Choose a modern high-rise or live in a colonial building in the old quarter. There’s a vibrant art scene with plenty of modern conveniences and a European feel. You can get by in the city for $1,500 a month, including rent of about $1,000. Add in more meals out and entertainment for a budget of $2,500 a month.

Your money goes a long way, thanks to Panama’s Pensionado program that gives all retirees, including foreign ones, discounts on a wide variety of services. Take half off entertainment costs, 10% to 20% off medical services, and a quarter off an airplane ticket and utilities. You’ll also receive a one-time import tax exemption for moving your household goods, and a tax exemption every other year on a new car.

Hidden Costs

So you think you’ve got your costs nailed down for your move abroad? There are some sneaky expenses that can crop up outside anyone’s budget. Check your numbers and make sure you’ve allocated money for these hidden costs:

  • Exchange rate fluctuations. Britain is a great deal right now, with the pound low compared to the dollar. But what will that look like in five years, or 10? Plan for the worst-case scenario, and you won’t be left scrambling.
  • Extra fees for not being a local. Getting your driver’s license or applying for a tax I.D. may be a pain in the U.S., but you know the ropes. In another country, you’ll be at the mercy of a system that may be happy to charge foreigners a few extra bucks (or a lot of them) for navigating the system. You may need an advisor, broker or consultant who comes with a hefty price tag.
  • Health insurance fees. Since Medicare won’t cover people living outside the States, you’ll need to purchase a plan in your home country. Some offer a national plan, while it’s best to buy a private policy in other countries. And be sure to ask about premiums as you age. 
  • High utility bills. Some locales may look enticing until you realize that utility bills run hundreds of dollars a month. Check fees for phones, internet, power, natural gas and car fuel.
  • Maintaining two residences. A major mistake can be failing to make a clean break with your old life. If you hang onto your house and car in the U.S. “just in case” without renting them out, you may be in for a surprise. Maintenance of the yard and mail collection combined with home insurance can be costly. Make sure to suspend car insurance, although it’s better for your car not to sit when you’re not home. 
  • Extra spending. You didn’t think you’d miss the grandkids so much — so you make several extra trips a year back to the U.S. Or the health of a relative stateside takes a dip, and you feel like you must come help. Or you can’t find what you’re used to locally, and decide to import what you’re missing. Even a jar of peanut butter is pricey.

Where to Go

International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index is a great place to start checking on possible retirement destinations abroad. Here are their top countries for 2019, ranked on cost of renting, cost of living, healthy living and climate:
  1. Panama
  2. Costa Rica
  3. Mexico
  4. Ecuador 
  5. Malaysia
  6. Columbia
  7. Portugal
  8. Peru
  9. Nicaragua
  10. Thailand

Or, you may want to consider the countries where the most Americans retire, tracked by following Social Security checks. They are Canada, Japan, Mexico, Germany and the United Kingdom.

If city living is still a bit pricey for your budget or you prefer a more quiet lifestyle, consider locating a few hours south on the Azuero Peninsula, where a beach-side house rents for under $800 a month. The Pensionado program still applies.

Remember that although your Social Security check will follow you, Medicare won’t. You’ll have to buy health insurance no matter where you go. Check possible relocation areas for both the quality of their health care and the cost of health insurance.

Other Expenses

Don’t forget to add in other expenses when you calculate spending. It’s likely you’ll want to fly back to the U.S. on a regular basis. The savings you’ll get from living in Nha Trang may be obliterated by the cost of airfare, which is almost $1,500 to Atlanta one way. On the other hand, fly round trip between Atlanta and Panama City for about $700, or take budget-conscious Spirit Airlines for a mere $310. The latter includes the clothes on your back (the airline suggests you wear several layers instead of packing because a suitcase is not included in the price) and a purse or satchel, but hey, it’s cheap, and the flight only lasts 63 minutes.

You’ll also have the one-time cost of relocating you household and any pet(s). Some countries require a retirement visa for lengthy stays. At the high end, discerning nations like New Zealand require a NZ $750,000 (about $495,000 in U.S. dollars) investment over the two-year visa term and an additional NZ $500,000 ($330,000 U.S.) to live on. Definitely not a budget country!

Enjoy Your Stay

Moving abroad can be intimidating, but it should be something you’re looking forward to. If you’re dreading the move because you’re only making it to save money, then rethink where you’re headed.

Spend time researching the many appealing vacation spots located around the globe, and visit the one you’re most interested in. It’s a good idea to go back in different seasons, and stay for an extended period of time. A remote beach spot may seem ideal until you’re there for three weeks and realize that museums, theaters and other entertainment is hours away.

Retirement Isn’t Vacation

It’s easy to get into vacation mode when staying in another country. After all, that’s what you’ve always done in the past. You go out to eat, take in the local attractions, and generally act the tourist. Ah, but that’s expensive. You need to start thinking like a local.

Where do the locals go out to shop, to eat, to be entertained? Are there street food vendors who rival some of the best restaurants in town? Is it a lot cheaper to go out for lunch than make reservations for dinner? Are there restaurants that cater to the local crowd, with prices to match? Just like in the U.S., you need to search out the best deals on food, drinks and entertainment to stay within your budget.

Research is Key

Look into as many locales as interest you, then pick a handful for serious research. Check for access to health care, the cost of living, and visa and residency requirements. Taxes can become more complicated, so you may need an attorney or tax specialist to help out.

If you’re moving to a country where the first language isn’t English, you’ll be wise to start learning the lingo well ahead of your move. Even if the local population has English speakers, anything can cost more if you need a translator (think driver’s license, rental agreement, etc.).

Above all, approach your move with a smile and a spirit of adventure. Of course there will be bumps in the road, but attitude is everything. Whether it’s for a few years or a lifetime, your new location will offer novel opportunities to make new friends and share exciting experiences.

Click below for the other articles in the September 2019 Senior Spirit


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

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Travel Anywhere Like a Pro

Travel gets way easier with these simple apps that practically make you a local.

Are you still using your 2014 copy of Fodor’s to get around Europe? Have you been planning a road trip by making list after list of what you need to bring and where you’ll be staying? Do you avoid countries where English isn’t spoken because you’re scared you’ll try to ask where the bathroom is and end up at a military installation?

If you haven’t downloaded some travel apps to help you plan, pack, navigate and speak, you’ll be amazed at how easy they can make travel these days. Even old folks like us can learn a new trick, or maybe five, to get around just like those know-it-all millennials do. The thing is, they DO know how to use their smartphones to make travel a snap.

No more lost reservations, missed roadside attractions or wandering the byways because you have no idea where you are. Just check the list below and choose the apps you need to be that savvy person who can navigate like people who travel for a living!


Skyscanner will reserve not only flights, but also hotels and rental cars. Just like on Google Flights, you can check out the best days for cheap travel and get alerts when prices drop. It also displays Top Deals from your local airport, so you can get inspired to take an unplanned trip to Yugoslavia or Ecuador.

Kayak is another well-known site for booking air, hotel and rental car all in one place. It compares hundreds of sites, and will display results from cheapest to most expensive for those hunting for a deal. It also offers a calendar of outgoing and return flights, so flexible travelers can pick the least expensive days to fly.

Hopper prides itself on getting you the cheapest airplane ticket by telling you when to buy with push notifications. Save up to 40% by letting the app’s algorithms analyze billions of flights while you don’t have to do a thing.

Skiplagged also finds flights and hotels at good prices. It’s easy to use by even the most technology-impaired traveler, and you can filter hotels by the criteria that are most important to you, such as free parking or an outdoor pool.

Airbnb and VRBO are for travelers who want to get away from the impersonal sterility of hotels and live like a local. Book a cabin, a room in someone’s home or an entire house with one of these handy apps. You can stay at a farm, in a train car, a treehouse … the list is endless. Prices range the gamut depending on how stark or swanky you want to go.

Hotel Tonight lets you make a same-day reservation in 12 countries (and more to come). If you need a last-minute reservation, this app is your best friend.

Trip Folders

TripIt is the bomb for holding your entire itinerary. All you need to do is forward emails for hotels, restaurants, flights and car rentals to, where they will be safely stored and organized. Shell out a little extra for the pro version, and you’ll get alternate flight information if yours is cancelled, as well as notifications about delays.

TripAdvisor lets you check out just about anything related to your trip … restaurants, hotels, bars and more. Use the handy Near Me option to find nearby spots with great reviews. The great thing about this app is that it works almost anywhere in the world. A must-have.


Packpoint checks the weather forecast for your upcoming trip, asks you to select likely activities, and gives you a personalized packing list. You’ll never forget your bathing suit again!

Airport Services

MyTSA is a government-sponsored app to help you through airport security. It details the confusing rules around what you can and can’t pack in your carry-on and stowed luggage, and updates you with crowd-sourced wait times at any airport. You can even request live assistance from the Transportation Security Administration.

Guide Apps

Triposo has free guides for offline use in many countries and regions. It also provides practical information that includes language basics. It gives suggestions based on location and weather, and can calculate a route. It will even work with Yelp to give you dining options.

Pocket Earth takes away the worry that you’ll miss that amazing place you should have checked out. Detailed worldwide maps are ready to use offline to avoid eating your expensive data, and many travel guides are included. Sorry, Googlers, it’s for iOS only.

Star Walk 2 lets you play astronomer no matter where you are. Point your phone up to the night sky, and bingo! You’ll see the location of every star, planet, comet and satellite … even the Space Station! Plus, you get 3D models of celestial bodies and real-time motion tracking.


LocalEats lets you avoid all the chain restaurants and find the best local spots by price, neighborhood or cuisine. Best of all, restaurants cannot pay to be listed but are hand-picked by the discerning staff. (We all want a job here!)


Free Wi-Fi Finder for Apple devices can save your booty when you need to connect but can’t find a hot spot. The data is locally stored, so it works when you’re desperate. As a bonus, the app will map the locations where Wi-Fi is available for free.


Google Translate can help you out in more than 100 languages. If you download a language ahead of your trip, it can even work offline. Hover your camera over the restaurant menu to avoid the fried monkey brains. Instant translation is available in 38 languages, or use two-way instant speech translation in one of 32 currently available tongues.

SayHi Translate is a user-friendly wonder that will help you with 41 languages in the standard pack. Better yet, it’s geared toward conversational speech rather than a more formal business approach. And if you need a specific dialect, you can unlock it with an in-app purchase. Apple only.

iTranslate gets high ratings for translating among 100 languages, and it works on your Apple Watch. Get the free version, or spring for Pro at $4.99 a month to add off-line capability, website translation, voice mode and verb conjugations.

TripLingo does more than most translation apps: You’ll get tips on the culture as well as the language. Get your voice translated to the local lingo and receive key phrases, obtain a Wi-Fi dialer to make calls from abroad, and consult the guide for tipping, safety and cultural norms. You’ll even get tips on how to flirt!


GlobeTipping keeps you from being cheap, while not making you the world’s bank. That’s right, it tips you off (pun intended) on how much to give in more than 200 countries, and even throws in a calculator for those jet-lagged days.

Uber and Lyft rideshare apps will take you where you want to go with a local driver in his or her own car. All you have to do is input your pickup and drop-off locations to get a driver to come to you. Select “pool” to share your ride and lower the cost.

WhatsApp allows you to message or call just about anywhere in the world. This free, data-friendly app supports video chats and voice memos, too. Stay in touch with everyone back home without emptying your wallet.

Duolingo is for the traveler who has booked her trip months ahead and wants to learn a little of the local language. The app can take you from beginner to more advanced sessions, or use it to brush up on your high school French. It concentrates on phrases you’re most likely to use while traveling abroad.

Nord VPN is great to have if you’re in a country where sites like Facebook and Google are blocked, or if you’re jonesing for some TV from your home country. Get around local restrictions by using a virtual private network (VPN), which can also keep your online activity private while you’re connected to public or hotel Wi-Fi networks. At a cost of only $12 per month, it works on your phone, tablet or laptop.

Phew! If you find the list overwhelming, start with a single app and learn how to use it before adding more. You don’t need all of the options we’ve listed, and you’ll learn your favorites over time. The perfect app is the one you like most. So try a variety of them and see which ones work for you. Talk to other travelers about their favorites. Before long, you’ll be advising others on which travel apps to use!

Click below for the other articles in the September 2019 Senior Spirit


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

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Are Microwaves Safe? Is Microwaved Food OK to Eat?

There are still a lot of myths surrounding microwave ovens and the food cooked in them.

Amana Corporation introduced the first countertop microwave oven, invented by American engineer Percy Spencer, in 1967. Vietnam, civil rights and flower power were the topics of the day. Ah, times have changed! But microwaves have had amazing staying power, and practically every household uses one to at least reheat the morning coffee.

However, the device is still misunderstood by many who worry about exposure to microwaves and whether or not food that comes out of the units is as good for you as what emerges from a traditional oven. Most of us don’t really understand what microwaves are, making us doubtful about how they work. Rest assured your little microwave oven is safe… and the food coming out of it may actually be more nutritious than anything else you cook!

How It Works

It’s no wonder people are suspicious of the lowly microwave oven when they hear it works by exposing food to electromagnetic radiation in the microwave frequency range. That sounds vaguely like atomic fission to most laymen, but it turns out microwaves are next door neighbors to the ones that bring you radio programs. That’s right, they’re very similar to the waves powering your car’s radio.

Microwaves agitate the polar molecules in food (mostly the water molecules) to rotate, producing thermal energy. Polar molecules are simply those with positive and negative poles. Microwaves are fast and efficient heating foods with a high moisture content over the outer one to one-and-a-half inches. Microwaves don’t penetrate well into thicker pieces of food, so cooking may be uneven. To remedy this, simply allow the cooked food to rest after cooking is completed to allow the heat to travel through the item.

Does the Food Become Radioactive?

Um, no. And just to brush up on science, light is visible radiation. In fact, most microwaves are used for TV broadcasting, ocean navigation and telecommunications. The reason eggs and hot dogs will explode in your microwave is because they heat unevenly and steam can’t escape, not because a nuclear reaction is taking place!

Now for the really good news. Since some nutrients, such as vitamin C, break down as they’re exposed to heat, the quick cooking times from microwaves can actually help preserve them. And if you think steaming your veggies on the stovetop is better for you, think again. The water absorbs some of the nutrients. In fact, broccoli will retain more glucosinolate (a cancer-fighting nutrient) by cooking it in a microwave than boiling or frying it.

Real Risks

All this is not to say that microwave ovens, just like conventional ovens and stoves, don’t come with risks. You can burn yourself just as easily on hot food from a microwave oven as any other, and if you don’t cook your meat through, you could expose yourself to bacteria or other organisms.

But most of us don’t use a microwave for a lot of cooking. This is because most microwave ovens are useless for browning and caramelizing food, which is the best part! They just don’t get hot enough, except when we’re talking about very fatty foods like bacon which can reach much higher temperatures than boiling water.

While you now know why real chefs won’t be using microwaves for much on reality cook-offs, they’re perfectly safe for you to use at home. Go ahead, heat up that chili! And add a side of veggies while you’re at it. It’s alright to feel a little smug about the extra vitamins. 

Click below for the other articles in the September 2019 Senior Spirit


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Famous and 65

Look who's turning 65 this month

September 6 - Carly Fiorina, Political Candidate and Former CEO of Hewlett-Packard

You may remember Fiorina for her stint in the 2016 presidential primary, first as a candidate and then as Ted Cruz’s vice-presidential running mate until he ended his campaign (the 7-day period set the record as shortest vice presidential candidacy in modern times in America). Fiorina was also unsuccessful in her Senate run in 2010, but even though her political aspirations were thwarted, her boardroom success is legendary.

The daughter of an abstract painter mother and highly successful attorney father, Fiorina moved around the world as a child and studied philosophy and medieval history at Stanford University. She was a Kelly Girl during her summers and began full-time work as a receptionist for a real estate firm, rising to become a broker. In 1980, she got a master’s in marketing, and in 1989 added a master’s in management.

Her education and wide experience eventually led to Hewlett-Packard (HP), where she served as CEO, where she was the first female to lead a Fortune Top-20 company. More recently, Fiorina has chaired the Good360 charitable organization and her own Fiorina Foundation, as well as fundraising for Republican candidates.

September 21 - Shinzo Abe, Japanese Prime Minister

You might say that Abe was destined to rule Japan. His father and grandfather were both politicians, and his great-grandfather was a general in the Imperial Japanese Army. Abe’s mother is the daughter of a Japanese prime minister. Abe was born and raised in Tokyo and got a bachelor’s in political science. He even studied in the U.S. for three semesters at the University of Southern California’s School of Public Policy.

Abe married the daughter of the president of a chocolate manufacturer in 1987. Akie is a socialite and former radio disc jockey, and she doesn’t hide her views, which often conflict with her husband’s. Her outspokenness has earned her a nickname as the “domestic opposition party.”

Abe himself is a conservative, often described by political reporters as a right-wing nationalist. Perhaps Abe is best known for his economic policies, dubbed “Abenomics,” in which the country seeks monetary easing, fiscal stimulus and structural reforms, much like the United States has done following the Great Recession.

September 30 - Barry Williams, actor

Best known as Greg in The Brady Bunch, Williams was a Southern California boy who counted actor Peter Graves as a neighbor growing up. He made his first screen appearance on Dragnet, and went on to have cameos on Adam-12, That Girl, Mission: Impossible, The Mod Squad and Here Come the Brides… all before his work on The Brady Bunch. Williams could sing, and went on to appear in Broadway musicals such as Romance/Romance.

Williams made hay out of his role as Greg Brady by appearing in a number of Brady Bunch TV movie reunions, and garnered a Former Child Star “Lifetime Achievement” Award for his role in the show. His 1992 book “Growing Up Brady: I Was a Teenage Greg” was a New York Times bestseller and adapted into a 2000 made-for-TV movie.

To get a look at four of the old “Brady” kids in 2017, including Greg, check out their TODAY interview. 

Click below for the other articles in the September 2019 Senior Spirit


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Disappearing Health Care Coverage

Jobs that until now offered generous retiree health care benefits are doing an about-face to save money.

Workers are taking on more and more of the costs of being retired as employers shift the risk away from corporations.

"Employer-sponsored retiree health coverage once played a key role in supplementing Medicare," say Tricia Neuman and Anthony Damico of the Kaiser Family Foundation. "Any way you slice it, this coverage is eroding.”

In 1988, 66 percent of large firms that offered health coverage also provided retiree health plans. By 2015, that number had shrunk to a mere 23 percent.

The disappearing benefit: Employers have been cutting out retiree health coverage. (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Health Savings Accounts to the Rescue 

If you qualify, there is one way to counter the erosion of medical benefits. Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are available to Americans not yet on Medicare who are covered by high-deductible health insurance plans. You fund an HSA with your own money, but it’s tax-free going in and tax-free coming out, as long as you use it for an eligible health-related expense. The annual limit for a single adult is currently $3,500, or $7,000 for a family, with a $1,000 catch-up contribution available for those 55 and older.

The money is held by an administrator, many of which offer low-cost investment options such as market index funds. You can spend your HSA on deductibles, premiums, copayments, medical equipment and the like. Or, save your receipts to be refunded (or not) later, and let your (tax-free) account grow over time. Get HSA basics here, or go to the IRS for complete HSA rules.

Check here for some of the best HSA fund administrators and general advice. Oh, and if you don’t have the extra cash to put into an HSA, but you qualify and have a traditional individual retirement account (IRA), use the one-time rollover option to fund your HSA. Why? You’ve just sheltered that money from tax liability when it’s withdrawn in exchange for agreeing to use it for medical costs. And health care expenses, like death and taxes, are a certainty.

Many Americans are under the impression that Medicare will pay their health care costs when they retire, so why worry? That impression is a mistaken one.

"The drop in retiree health coverage has important implications for retiring boomers who are approaching their Medicare years with a different set of insurance needs and choices than their parents' generation," the Kaiser analysts write.

The Medicare Part A deductible for hospital services is $1,364 for 2019, and you’ll pay $341 of coinsurance for every day over 60 that you’re in the hospital. Medicare Part B, for physician and other outpatient services, has a $185 deductible, and you must pay for 20 percent of services.

Those numbers may not faze retirees with large nest eggs, but for those who haven’t feathered their nest, chronic illness or a single acute medical event can create a financial crisis.

Kaiser’s employer survey revealed that the drop in employer-sponsored health care has come at the expense of those least able to bear it. Among the largest employers (5,000 or more employees), 42 percent continue to offer retiree health benefits. This number drops to 20 percent for companies with 200 to 999 workers. The highest rates of coverage were in state and local government (73 percent), communications and utility firms (62 percent) and finance (49 percent). The former two are highly unionized. But if you’re a low-wage earner in retail (12 percent covered) or agriculture and construction (15 percent covered), it’s much less likely you’ll have employee health care benefits in retirement.

Ripple Effects

It’s bad enough for the retirees themselves, but these reductions in benefits have far-reaching consequences. Left with holes in their coverage, many retirees opt for Medigap policies and pay the monthly premiums. This drives up costs for the federal government, in turn. People with Medigap policies tend to use more health care services because trips to the doctor or clinic are fully covered. Today, 1 out of every 4 Medicare enrollees has a Medigap policy.

Legislated limits on Medigap plans may well follow. A broad consortium of policymakers from right, left and center ideologies have advocated to prohibit Medigap plans from covering deductibles. If this happens, an increasing number of retirees may look to Medicare Advantage for relief. These plans offer smaller provider networks and caps on annual spending. But they’re also pricier for the government.

The trend in reduced retiree benefits is not likely to reverse. However, it’s important to keep in mind that Medicare is not a panacea and health care is not solved once Americans turn 65. If anything, the growing number of older adults will drive changes in health care delivery in the near future.

When States Default

Almost a quarter of Americans are not covered by Social Security. Instead, they depend on pension funds, many of which include health care benefits. But these benefits are eroding.

It’s no secret that many public pension plans are in trouble. During the Great Recession, many states and local governments reduced employer contributions, effectively borrowing from those funds.

The problem varies in intensity across the states. By the end of 2015, pension funds in Kentucky, New Jersey and Illinois had 40 percent or less of the assets they required to meet their obligations. Puerto Rico was even worse: the U.S. territory was 1.57 percent funded. The total gap for post-employment benefits in all 50 states is near $600 billion, according to government data gathered by Eaton Vance Corp.

Some states are acting preemptively and denying health care coverage to new employees. This can take hiring from difficult to near impossible. In Butner, North Carolina, new recruits for correctional facilities jobs no longer get health care benefits in retirement. Roughly 30 percent of the county’s correctional officer positions were unfilled in May 2019, according to Charles Johnson, corrections official. The entire state will end retiree health care for new hires in 2021.

Kansas already tells retirees to pay the full cost of health care, sending monthly premiums as high as $1,000. Three-quarters of enrolled retirees have since dropped out, according to Duane Goossen, the state’s acting secretary of administration. But the plan worked. Liability dropped from $6.1 trillion down to $508,000.

North Carolina Treasurer Dale Folwell expects eliminating health care benefits for future retirees will strengthen the state’s finances. With $28.5 billion in unfunded retiree health care liability, North Carolina was desperate. “It’s not emotional and it’s not political,” says Folwell. “It’s mathematical.”


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

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Are You Spending Enough in Retirement?

Worried that their money may not last as long as they do, many retired adults underspend their nest eggs.

It may seem crazy that some people don’t spend enough in retirement. After all, most of us worry that we won’t have enough amassed to get us through the years after we stop working. The percentage of people with pensions is declining, investment returns are expected to be reduced in coming years, and retirees may live longer in the future. So what gives?

How Much is Enough?

Most of us have calculated how much we think we’ll need to retire. We may have used the rule of thumb to save 25 times our salary at the end of our career. Others have followed the 4 percent rule, which holds that a portfolio invested in 60 percent stocks and 40 percent bonds can safely yield 4 percent (increased annually for inflation) over a 30-year retirement period.

Say you have $1 million saved up when you retire at age 65. Using the 4 percent rule, you would withdraw $40,000 the first year, adjusting that figure upward every year thereafter to cover inflation. Add to that Social Security, a pension and any other sources of income for your total annual budget in retirement.

Following the 4 percent rule has been touted as a good way to make your savings last, and there’s a lot of research to support that. Many online calculators use the approach to project how much you’ll be able to safely spend. However, today’s financial professionals may use a more conservative 3 percent estimate, due to low bond yields and projections that future stock market returns may not match historic levels. But in the same way that your budget today doesn’t reflect what it was 10, 20 or 30 years ago, your budget in retirement is unlikely to remain static.

Financial Planning Software

Like many, you may have used online calculators to figure out how your savings stack up against projected spending in retirement. There are endless variations on the theme available, from BlackRock’s new LifePath tool, which produces an estimate based strictly on your age and total savings, to Personal Capital, a robust wealth management tool that provides Monte Carlo simulations for future predictions.

These tools are great for do-it-yourselfers who want estimates at their fingertips. However, it’s wise to use a financial advisor or financial planner for these important calculations. These professionals have industry software that is not available on the internet, and can provide a detailed analysis and projections. Combined with the professional’s experience and knowledge, the result is a comprehensive plan that can be altered over time to accommodate changing circumstances.

Not every professional and their approach is a good fit for every client, however. In addition to varying personal styles, there is a wide range of industry software that financial planners can choose from. You may want to ask if a professional uses goals-based software that estimates whether or not you can save certain amounts toward retirement or a college fund, for example, or a program based on cash flow that accounts for every dollar spent. Does the professional assume straight-line spending, or use Monte Carlo simulations? Does the software include tax brackets and deductions, and can it plan around your state’s tax rules?

For a chart of the “Financial Planning Software Landscape” and a detailed discussion of the many iterations available, check out industry guru Michael Kitces’s blog on the subject. It can help you find the software you prefer, which you can use to search out a financial professional who syncs with your style and needs.

Retirement Budget Patterns

“This is my 35th year in practice, and I can tell you none of my clients has ever spent on a straight line,” says Neal Van Zutphen, a certified financial planner (CFP) with the firm Intrinsic Wealth Counsel in Tempe, Arizona. “Your spending habits and your spending needs will change over time.”

This is an important concept, because the tendency is for spending in retirement to go down as we age. CFP Michael K. Stein has termed these three stages the Go-Go years, the Slow-Go years and the No-Go years, and we teach these terms in the Society of Certified Senior Advisors' Working with Older Adults class.

Research seems to back up this pattern. In its Consumer Expenditure Survey, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the mean spending for households headed by 55- to 64-year-olds was $65,000 in 2017. That number fell to $55,000 for households headed by 65- to 75-year-olds, and then dropped again to $42,000 for those headed by someone aged 76 or more.

That trend has shown up in a spending patterns study by J.P. Morgan Asset Management. Reviewing customer data, the firm found that the decline was accentuated for retirees with $1 million to $3 million in assets, according to Katherine Roy, chief retirement strategist.

“It appears that the more you have, the steeper the spending decline in real terms,” Roy says. The impact on retirees is profound. Roy estimates that financial planning tools designed to cover a 30-year retirement “could overstate spending in late retirement by 30 percent or more.”

Which Profile Fits Your Spending?

However, this may not be true for everyone. When the firm grouped its customers according to their spending patterns, the data showed a surprising result. Clients were put into 1 of 4 categories: health care spenders, globe-trotters, homebodies or foodies.

Although there is overlap for everyone, it may be important to figure out which group fits you best, according to Wade Pfau, a professor at the American College of Financial Services and director of retirement research at McLean Asset Management. The first three groups saw very little to no reduction in their spending habits over time. The biggest group, the 39 percent of retirees who fell into the food and drink category, saw their spending decline as they got older.

What About Health Care?

Hold on, you may be thinking, what about the cost of medical treatment and prescription drugs as I get older, and what if I need a nursing home or move into assisted living? Most of us are aware that those involve substantial expenses.

It’s true that increases in spending in the later years of retirement are almost always related to health care, according to the Health and Retirement Study, a project of the National Institute on Aging and the University of Michigan. However, according to David Blanchett, head of retirement research at Morningstar, those in their 70s and 80s usually spend less than their younger counterparts.

“The real change in annual spending through retirement is clearly negative,” says Dr. Blanchett. He feels that financial advisors need to communicate that information to their clients. “They can say, ‘The most common assumption is that you’re going to increase your spending by inflation, but here’s the deal: The average person doesn’t do that.’”

Dr. Blanchett offers a fix for calculations that overestimate spending as we age: Run the program with the assumption that spending goes up by one percentage point less than inflation.

“How does that change how you can spend your money?” Dr. Blanchett asks. “One thing it can do is free up money when you can most enjoy it. Take that cruise when you’re 65 or 70 because you’re probably not going to be able to take it when you’re 80.”

Barriers to Spending

There are other barriers to adequate spending besides faulty projections. Some people have enough saved for a more lavish lifestyle but find it nearly impossible to spend beyond daily needs. Financial writer Michael Kitces refers to this as a “consumption gap” in his Nerd’s Eye View blog.

"Where I have seen it be a problem is on the behavioral front," says Jeffrey Farrar, managing director of Procyon Partners in Wilton, Connecticut. He says that some clients obsess over an arbitrary net worth number and fail to enjoy their wealth.

Or, as Luis Rosa, founder and CFP at Build a Better Financial Future in Las Vegas, says, “Do you want to be the richest person in the graveyard?” He uses this question to jumpstart conversations with clients who are overly frugal.

The failure to spend may be largely psychological. After a lifetime of saving, clients may be loath to see their balance go down. They may have an irrational fear about running out of money before they die. After all, says David Nash, owner of Magister Wealth in San Antonio, “You are advocating against the good habits that gave them this enviable circumstance.”

Running calculations to show they have plenty of money may not be the answer. "You can't satisfy an emotion with a number in your bank account," says Jeffrey Stoffer, founder of Stoffer Wealth Advisors in San Rafael, California. "The emotion is fear and it doesn't just go away when you hit a magic number."

Financial professionals can use various tactics to assuage the worry these clients feel around spending their money. First, discuss the big picture using a financial plan. This can drive home the point that sacrificing their lifestyle doesn’t really buy them anything. Second, use a random Monte Carlo simulation to project balances in even the worst of circumstances. Finally, suggest an annuity for clients with anxiety around spending. Having a fallback every month that pays for essentials can help them view the rest of their portfolio as “fun money.”

The Very Wealthy

Another category of retirees who may not be spending enough are those whose estates will exceed the estate tax exemption when they die. Currently, that stands at a whopping $11.4 million. But there’s a kicker. There are no guarantees the exemption won’t be reduced, perhaps significantly, in the future. The top estate tax rate may rise, too. If you died today, Uncle Sam would take 40 percent after the exemption, but that number was 55 percent as recently as 2001, when the exemption was $675,000.

Instead of paying the government upon death, these lucky retirees should be distributing wealth to loved ones and favored charities while they are still alive. Working with a financial professional, they may choose to donate cash, appreciated securities and/or property. Vehicles such as donor-advised funds or a private foundation may be useful to administer funds.


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

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Taking It to the Road

It’s the height of road travel season, and we bring you three of our favorite trips, along with tips for planning!

You’ve been meaning to take that trip, but things keep getting in the way. The garden needs attention, your porch is crying out for some fresh paint and your list of “little” jobs to do around the house is longer than the one for groceries. And here you thought retirement meant free time to do what you wanted! Well, the doctor says you need to hit the road.

“Travel serves many purposes,” according to Gregory Jantz, Ph.D. and a mental health expert in Edmonds, Washington. “Any time we change our environment, we have the potential to change our perspective. And when you change your perspective, you may find pleasure in things that maybe you didn’t know you’d enjoy.”

So make sure the oil’s been changed recently and load up the car or RV for a road trip this summer, doctor’s orders! Now, where to go? How about one of these three classic trips to put a new spin on your perspective?

Trip 1: Pacific Coast Highway

With more than 650 miles of Pacific Ocean coastline, California State Route 1 is perhaps the premier beach route in all of North America. Jaw-dropping vistas await you from Mendocino County in the north, to the road’s southern terminus in Orange County. You’ll travel through the famous seaside town of Carmel, and wine country is only a short side trip away.

Your first stop has to be Fort Bragg Beach, which has the distinction of being made of glass. Literally. After being used as a dump and suffering years of neglect, the beach was completely cleaned up and reopened. The only reminder of its past is the sea glass sand, made from bottles and jars smashed up and pounded smooth by the waves.

Next, visit Point Reyes National Seashore. Sitting just north of San Francisco, more than 7,000 protected acres of rocky sand and seagrass hills await. Head to the lighthouse or take a dip in the waves, which may hold the region’s colony of elephant seals.

Ah, San Francisco! You’ll travel the Golden Gate Bridge by car along your route, but stop and rent a bicycle to take you back over, meandering along the ocean until you catch a ferry back. Take a trolley to Fisherman’s Wharf and gobble up some heavenly fresh sourdough bread while you watch the sea lions cavort. Or take a trip to Alcatraz, the notorious former island prison in the bay. For a fun twist, rent a three-wheeled motorcycle with audible guided tour included and hit some iconic spots that are a little less-known.

Next, you may want to plan a stop at Moss Beach Distillery. Fans of Unsolved Mysteries will be on the hunt for its Prohibition-days ghost, the Blue Lady, who is said to haunt the building. But all can appreciate its stunning location on a cliff overlooking a scenic, secluded beach — one of hundreds along your route.

You’ll know you’ve arrived in Big Sur when you spot the open-spandrel arch bridge that has been featured in a host of commercials and TV shows. The view from the Bixby Bridge is indeed stunning, and if it makes you a tad peckish, there are a bevy of seriously good eateries in town to satisfy your appetite.

You may normally turn up your nose at a group tour, but it would be a tragic mistake to miss Hearst Castle. The home of newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst, the adjoining cottages hosted dozens of starlets and other famous icons of the day who socialized at meals served in the main house, which is a fantastic museum on its own. By all means, wander down to the tile-enclosed Roman pool where Howard Hughes, Joan Crawford and Charlie Chaplin stroked the water. And guess what?! Join The Foundation at Hearst Castle for a mere $950 minimum, and you can be one of the first to enjoy one of five pool nights this summer … the first time the pool has been open to the public.

It’s not over yet! Spend your next-to-last day at historic Santa Monica Pier. Ride a carousel pony, check out the aquarium, or walk the beach while engaging in some people-watching. Tomorrow, you’ll take the last leg of the highway to Capistrano Beach. Stop by the mission in San Juan Capistrano, and get a ridiculously touristy souvenir at the Trading Post. Opened in 1947, it’s been around longer than most of us!

Apps for Travelers

Embrace technology with applications that enhance your travel experience. The Furkot road trip planner can help you find great places to go and even book your stays all across the U.S. and around the world. It can calculate driving time, plan a route and suggest overnight stops. You can also play around with the itinerary you create and make last-minute changes. But wait, there’s more! Furkot can schedule motorcycle rides, biking holidays and walking tours as well.

Roadtrippers is another service that helps map your route and find the best places to visit and stay. You can even access Roadtrippers Magazine on the homepage to get ideas for trips you’d like to take. A quick look at recent issues reveals where to find a luminescent super bloom, a look at the world’s first open-air augmented reality planetarium and where to ski on the Fourth of July.

Trip 2: The Badlands

That’s right, scenic South Dakota. If you’re raising an eyebrow at this rural Midwestern destination, you just don’t know what you’re missing. The nation’s rolling prairies have their own stark beauty as you drive twisting roads through this remote corner of the Mount Rushmore State, home to the Black Hills.

From Rapid City, it’s an hour over to Wall, home to Wall Drug. If souvenirs aren’t your thing, check out the giant animated T-Rex. Then hit the Western Art Gallery restaurant for some homemade doughnuts, a hot bison burger and a five-cent cup of Joe to fuel your next leg. Admission is free, and so is ice water, which is an irresistible draw in mid-August.

Stay on Highway 240 south to Badlands National Park and the Badlands Loop Scenic Byway. You’ll see some of the most gorgeous canyon lands in the country, and they’re far from empty. Keep an eye out for bison, pronghorn antelope, deer, prairie dogs, hawks and eagles as you motor through. Spots marked “scenic overlook” are not to be missed in this uncrowded jewel of a park. Catch the evening program at 9 p.m., when grandkids can meet Smokey the Bear, gaze at stars and learn how the park was formed.

Take a turn down I-90 to Highway 79 and you’ll hit Sturgis, famed for the annual gathering of motorcyclists (some behaving badly). Then move on to Bear Butte State Park, perhaps for some hiking on ground sacred to Native Americans — it’s like going to church outdoors.

Only half an hour in the other direction you’ll hit Deadwood, a total time warp. The town is a trip 200 years back to the Old West. Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane called the town home, and both are buried in the Mt. Moriah Cemetery there.

Next, travel down Highway 385, turn onto Highway 16, and follow the signs to Mount Rushmore National Memorial. You’ll see presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln painstakingly carved into the side of the mountain. Boardwalk trails lead to the base of the mountain for a closer look at these bigger-than-life heroes in American history. You can even taste Thomas Jefferson’s ice cream recipe at local Carver’s Cafe.

Take Iron Mountain Road as you leave, a winding, scenic route with one-lane tunnels and gorgeous mountains views. You’re headed to Custer State Park, and on the way you may see bison roaming freely in the prairies. Stay at State Game Lodge, just like Calvin Coolidge did in 1927. Sign up for a Buffalo Safari Jeep Tour for an off-road adventure into the native lands.

Trip 3: Blue Ridge Parkway, Plateau Region

This four-day trip covers a long weekend, or stretch your journey by covering more of the Parkway if you have the time. Use the Interactive Parkway Map to plan your trip. It not only shows you the route, but can identify lodging, food, local art galleries, breweries and more. Your usual navigation apps (Waze, Google Maps) won’t reliably guide you on this federally-maintained scenic byway because it isn’t fully mapped in those systems, and cell coverage is iffy. So write down your route, and bring along a print copy of the Blue Ridge Parkway Directory and Travel Planner.

Let’s get started! We begin in Asheville, North Carolina, home of the Biltmore Hotel. From there, we travel to a charming overnight destination in Virginia, the Grassy Creek Cabooses. Traveling through the plateau region offers vista after vista of stunning mountains and valleys on a paved ribbon of road where you’ll average about 40 mph. Shaded rhododendron and mountain laurel hug the ground under a canopy of deciduous trees, interspersed with clearings. This area of the country is still largely rural and unspoiled.

At the Grassy Creek Cabooses, historic cabooses from old trains are sprinkled about an enormous meadow, offering seclusion and comfort. You can hop in the Jacuzzi tub in your private bathroom or grill up dinner while taking in one of the renowned sunsets over the mountains as the bird chatter dies down for the night.

The next morning on your way to Floyd, be sure to stop off at the historic Mabry Mill, made for photographs. Nearby, Puckett Cabin and the Blue Ridge Music Center are also worthy of a stop. You’ll find stunning overlooks in between. In the town of Floyd, you’ll return to Wi-Fi service, but don’t waste a lot of time on email. Instead, check out the exhibit at the local Floyd Center for the Arts, a boon for the local crafting community. The town itself is highly walkable and boasts delicious craft beer, galleries with handcrafted furniture, the Cocoa Mia homemade chocolate emporium and a huge vintage store with floors full of antiques and goods to bring cheer to the heart of upcyclers. Check in at the Hotel Floyd before setting out to Villa Appalaccia, where you’ll find a winery and excellent dining options.

Head back south along the Parkway toward the last stop of your trip at Primland Resort in Dan, Virginia. This 11,000 acre luxury retreat grows food for the restaurant at its onsite garden. Choose a vegan dinner, or plan to track your own game entree with a guided hunting trip earlier in the day. Quaff a moonshine cocktail, or choose a locally produced wine or beer. The sustainable resort has its own observatory where you can view the moons of Jupiter, or take a plunge in the chlorine-free pool after a long hike about the grounds. Enjoy, because tomorrow you are headed back to civilization!


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

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