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Sunday, August 30, 2020

Do Bacteria Form Your Personality?

It’s possible that the tiny animals in your intestines have a lot more influence over you than you ever imagined.

Your body has 10 times more bacteria than cells. This microbiome is diverse, containing colonies of 1,000 - 1,200 species of single-celled organisms. It varies from human to human and in the same person over their lifespan. These bacteria help us digest carbohydrates and synthesize vitamins and amino acids. But research over the last decade is uncovering a link between gut bacteria and personality.

An Oxford University study of fecal samples from 655 adults around the world showed correlations between the “big five” personality traits and gut ecology. What could not be determined is whether this was the result of personality influencing the bacteria, bacteria influencing the brain, or a combination of the two.

“Big Five” Personality Traits

This is the list of defined traits used by psychologists and known as the “big five”:

  • Openness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extroversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism

Factors Affecting Number and Variety of Intestinal Bacteria

  • Birth delivery method 
  • Presence of disease
  • Diet and lifestyle
  • Use of certain drugs (i.e. antibiotics)
  • Geographic location of residence
  • Nationality
  • Normal physiological changes associated with age

Thanks to the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research for the above list.

Boastful Mice Become Bashful

Work with animals has suggested that bacteria influence personality. "It was found that if you colonize an aggressive mouse with the gut bacteria from a shy mouse, the temperament of the mouse becomes more similar to the individual from whom they received the gut bacterial transplant," says Katerina Johnson, medical doctor and study researcher. "Therefore in terms of personality traits, it is a credible hypothesis that gut microbes may play a causal role."

In addition, the study was the first to show that babies fed breastmilk grew up to have more diverse gut biomes in adulthood than infants who were raised on formula. “This is the first time this has been investigated in adults and the results suggest that infant nutrition may have long-term consequences for gut health,” according to Johnson. Moreover, there is nascent evidence to suggest vaginal birth gives an infant its mother's microbiome whereas having an infant by C-section transmits more gut bacteria associated with the hospital to the infant.

Johnson’s work confirmed that intestinal bacteria linked to autism demonstrate a correlation with sociability in neurotypical people. People with autism often have gastrointestinal issues, a link that has engendered extensive prior research.

A previous paper co-authored by Johnson and colleague Professor Kevin Foster, both of the University of Oxford, suggests that sociability, anxiety, stress, and depression may all be affected by the makeup of our bacterial colonies. When stressed mice were given a transplant of certain Lactobacillus species, they become more congenial and their brains produced higher amounts of oxytocin.

Image Source:


You may be wondering if you can take a probiotic pill to fight the blues or become more socially engaging. Unfortunately, it’s unknown exactly what role diet may play in the process, which bacteria to use or the effect of underlying health conditions, so the answer at this time is “No.” What you can do on a frequent basis is consume yogurt, which is rich in lactic acid bacteria and has the added benefit of improving bone health.

And increasingly, the medical community is getting behind probiotics that target specific intestinal issues. Different strains of bacteria produce different results. The Clinical Guide to Probiotics by the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics is targeted at practitioners, but with your physician’s approval you can consult it to find the right probiotic for your illness. The free chart, including dosage forms and clinical evidence, is available at AEProbio.

To work, probiotics must remain alive through manufacturing and storage. Supplements are typically superior to probiotics found in food products because of the massive quantity of organisms and stable environment.

It is important to be good to the tiny animals inside you. As their host organism, you should eat a healthy diet to prevent micronutrient deficiencies, common as we get older. And it is not a bad idea to use probiotics to restore balance after treatment with antibiotics.

Click below for the other articles in the August 2020 Senior Spirit


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Thursday, August 27, 2020

What to Do With Your 401(K) When You Retire

What to consider when you are retiring and need to make decisions about what you should do with savings invested in your 401(k) account.

You’ve nailed the savings game at work, and your 401(k) has grown into a nice nest egg. But retirement is on the horizon, and you have not planned for what to do with it after you have left your job. Transitioning from work to retirement can be stressful for most folks, and that includes making decisions about their retirement account.

One-fourth of 401(k) savers aged 45 and up had no idea what they will do with the account when they quit working, according to a survey of 1,000 people by research and consulting firm Cerulli Associates. And another quarter were going to put it in the hands of their financial advisor. Every situation is unique. Here is what you need to know in order to make the best decision (or help your financial advisor make the best one for you).

Check on Your 401(k) Payout Policy

Company 401(k) plans vary widely in what they allow a previous employee to do. More and more employers are giving past workers the option to “pay out X dollars per month,” says Steve Vernon, author of Retirement Game-Changers and a research scholar at the Stanford Center on Longevity. Setting up regular withdrawals works well for many retirees, but some plans allow only lump-sum disbursements or partial withdrawals. If you need monthly withdrawals but your plan does not allow them, consider rolling it over into an Individual Retirement Plan (IRA). Here is a guide on how to roll over funds from a 401(k) to an IRA.

Your Options in a Nutshell

  • Accessing your 401(k) works differently after retirement depending on your age.
  • If you retire after age 59 1/2, you can take withdrawals without paying an early withdrawal penalty.
  • You can choose not to take withdrawals and let the account sit, but you will not be able to make contributions.
  • If you want to continue making contributions, you can roll the account over into an IRA.
  • Both 401(k) accounts and traditional IRAs require you to take minimum distributions beginning at age 72.

Verify Fees

Another reason you may want to consider switching to an IRA is to get lower fees. Some 401(k) plans charge a hefty amount. Ask your employer for details on both investment expense ratios and plan administration fees. Ideally, you should be paying about 0.20% or less, but not more than 1%.

IRAs are often held at a brokerage firm, with minimal (or no) administrative fees and 100’s of products to choose from. Expense ratios for publicly traded assets are available on the internet, or you could call a broker to explore fees.

Compare Your 401(k) to a Similar IRA

Don’t leave your money in an existing 401(k) if an IRA gives you better options.

  • Will an IRA give you better payout options than the 401(k)?
  • Will the IRA lower your costs?
  • Does the IRA offer superior investment choices?

Many large companies have a decent variety of investment options in the 401(k), including ones that are low cost. But it is hard to beat an IRA for payout options, low fees or sheer number and kind of investment vehicles. 

“One big reason why a lot of clients want to move their money from a 401(k) into an IRA is that the flexibility of investment options as well as distribution options kind of goes through the roof,” says Matt Ventura, a senior wealth advisor at Exencial Wealth Advisors, a fee-only planning firm in Frisco, Texas.

Another reason to choose an IRA is for consolidation. If you have old 401(k)s and other savings accounts, you can roll them into a current or new IRA for ease of management.

Income Stream

You will want to figure out how much you will spend in retirement (here is the cost breakdown of an average retirement).  Figure out how much will come from a pension (if any), how much you will get from Social Security and what more you will need to come out of retirement savings to make up the difference. 

Most brokerage firms allow you to request distributions as you need them, whether monthly, quarterly or a on a different time schedule. And in the April after you turn 72, Uncle Sam will demand that you begin taking distributions according to a formula, whether you need the money or not. This is true for regular 401(k) plans and traditional IRAs, which benefit from pre-tax contributions. However, if you have a ROTH 401(k) or ROTH IRA, taxes have already been paid and you will have no required withdrawals. 

In conclusion, the rules around 401(k)s are complex and vary from company to company. It is important for every investor to have a working knowledge of what they are and how he or she may be affected. It is recommended to get a second opinion from your tax advisor or financial professional when in doubt about the best way for you to handle retirement funds. Money management does not stop when you are no longer employed.

Tip: If your 401(k) holds between $1,000 and $5,000, your employer is required to roll the funds over into an IRA if it forces you to exit the plan.

Tip: If you retire (or lose your job) when you are 55 but not yet 59 1/2, you can avoid the 10% early withdrawal penalty for removing money from your 401(k) at the employer you just left. This does not apply to any 401(k)s still held at earlier employers, and it does not apply to an IRA.

Click below for the other articles in the August 2020 Senior Spirit


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Helping Out: The Coronavirus and Beyond

Feeling helpless in the pandemic? Many organizations want and need your volunteer assistance.

Reading the headlines, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the enormity of the pandemic. The problem is so large that it can feel like there is nothing one person can do, or that it is impossible to know where and how to start. But volunteering can be one of the best ways to get back a sense of control. What to do?

There are many ways to help your community, and it is not as hard as you think to find something that you will enjoy. In this article, we talk about a variety of ways to assist others through this difficult time. Some require training or expertise, but many do not. It all depends on how much time you have available. Regardless of what that number of hours may be for you, you will get a feeling of satisfaction knowing that you’ve helped your community through hard times. 

  • Many older adults are feeling isolated and lonely. If you know any in your neighborhood, knock on the door or leave a note. Offer to pick up groceries or a ride to essential appointments. On a larger scale, many communities are seeking volunteers to provide friendly phone calls to homebound adults. One such organization is Dorot. Based in New York City, Dorot provides weekly “caring calls” to battle social isolation.
  • While the pandemic is going on, there is still a need for blood donations to help people such as accident victims or people undergoing surgery. Modern techniques are completely safe and sterile, and free antibody testing is available for all donations at the time of this writing. Schedule an appointment through the American Red Cross
  • Check your Area Agency on Aging to find the local senior center for a city or county. You may find the center itself could use a pair of hands, or it can hook you up with local, state and/or federal programs such as Meals on Wheels.
  • Volunteer Match serves as a clearinghouse to connect organizations that need help with people willing to give their time and talent. They have thousands of opportunities connected to COVID-19, from homeschooling and literacy projects to virtual volunteering. This runs the gamut from grant researchers to finance and funding coordinators. Some positions are entry-level, others offer training, and a few require previous knowledge and/or experience. Most are flexible and will work around your schedule. 
  • Points of Light is the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service. Do you have an interest in music or art? Share it with an isolated older adult in “self-help.” Or perhaps you would like to man a crisis text line to provide emotional support for people under pressure from job loss or general uncertainty. You will be screened and undergo self-paced training before signing up for one four-hour shift per week. Other opportunities include scanning or editing books, translating texts, researching documents to expose human rights violations, or helping make the Smithsonian collection more accessible.
  • The Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) is always looking for retired business execs to support and counsel small businesses. Choose to be a mentor, subject matter expert, workshop presenter or chapter support person. Time commitments vary from a few hours a week to a few hours per year. You will get to collaborate with other executives while having the satisfaction of helping out community entrepreneurs. With small business taking such a hard hit lately, it is a great way to help the economy while making the most of your talents.
  • Contact tracing is certainly a (volunteer) job for our times. Take an online training course from Purdue University Global online at your own pace. At the time of this writing, the course (including materials, readings, assessments, a video and several practice scenarios) is being offered for free. Your passion for public health can help protect your community and reduce the spread of COVID-19. You may be able to get paid for this work. Check here for details.
  • Hunger in America is a reality. Nearly every community has a food bank for people in need. With millions of Americans out of work, there is no better time to help with a food drive, organize donations or distribute food to people who need it. Feeding America has an easy search tool to find the food bank nearest you. 
  • The unique skills of military veterans are sought by Team Rubicon, an organization that responds to natural disasters and humanitarian crises across the U.S. and the world. Disasters don’t stop during a pandemic, and neither does Team Rubicon, which continues to help with floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires and more in areas already struggling with the pandemic. 

As you can see, volunteer opportunities are only limited by your imagination! You may make lifelong friends, find your true passion, or simply discover a way to help your country during challenging times. Your contribution does count, both to the individuals you assist and on a broader level. Donate your time with pride and enjoy the experience.

Click below for the other articles in the August 2020 Senior Spirit


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Three Top Trends From CES 2020

We found the best of tech for older adults and their caregivers from CES 2020 — ranging from a rolling robot to hearing aids.

Every year, the Consumer Electronics Show demos the latest tech gadgets. Held in January, the show predated the pandemic and thus had a full complement of products to preview. With a current market of 115 million Americans older than 50, more and more resources are dedicated to solving their needs and issues. This year was no exception.

One of these items has yet to hit the market, so this is a good chance to take a look at what is in the pipeline. We found a trio of contenders that appear to be strong bets to hit online bestseller lists in the near future. See if you agree:

1. Samsung’s Ballie

This grapefruit-sized rolling robot is like a voice assistant with the added feature of being able to recognize you, follow you around and check off tasks. Did you take your pills? Do your exercises? Ballie knows. Its camera can learn to recognize all types of chores and note if they are done.

Perhaps its most important role is as a fall detector. If it senses a tumble, it can ask the person if it should call 911. Much has been made of the reluctance of older adults to adopt technology that looks like it is meant for older adults. Having a rolling robot shadow you is a whole lot cooler than wearing a pendant.

“Social robots have struggled to find a home in recent years,” said Steve Koenig, vice president of market research at the Consumer Technology Association, in a press briefing. “If you have an aging loved one at home, you want the peace of mind to know that their medication was dispensed. Treating people, like seniors with Alzheimer’s, requires a focus on the human-machine interaction.”

Image Source: Samsung

The always-near, rolling Ballie may encourage more interaction than a voice assistant that sits on a shelf. However, the tech show demonstration didn’t provide a lot of substance. But one other notable ability of the small yellow robot was to summon an ultraviolet light dispenser to sanitize the home. In the era of COVID, that is looking like a win.

Ballie is at present a concept product only, with no release date or price.

2. MedWand

This handheld medical product was one of the winners of the coveted Last Gadget Standing award prize. Weighing in at a mere 4 ounces, it contains a number of devices that enable it to carry out 10 common health tests:
  • Stethoscope to listen to heart, lungs, and abdomen    
  • Otoscope for ear exams 
  • Ophthalmoscope for eye exams 
  • Dermatoscope for skin exams 
  • Throat illuminator for oral exams 
  • Pulse oximeter for oxygen levels 
  • Pulse rate monitor
  • Thermometer 
  • Respiratory rate monitor
  • EKG
It is easy to use, and results can be shared remotely with doctors in real time via computer connection. In other words, telemedicine gets a big boost by having simple exam results available on the spot. The wand’s creator, Samir Qamar, envisions the device being used in homes, hospices, and care facilities for older adults. With a proposed retail price of $399 and a monthly subscription fee that may be covered by insurance, that seems easily within bounds.

As Tim Bajarin, an analyst at Creative Technologies who has attended an amazing 50 CES gatherings, writes: “The role technology will play in health monitoring and self-treatment is already in great demand for eldercare and to anyone that needs to keep track of their health. It will be one of the more important growth markets in tech in the next 20 years.”

3. Hearing Aids

With regulations around hearing devices changing (you no longer have to go to an audiologist to purchase hearing aids), there has been an explosion of innovation in the space. We therefore wanted to bring you a pair of options that look promising.

Phonak, owned by Swiss company Sonova, has opted to serve the high-end market by taking molds of your ears to create custom hearing aids. Check out their Virto Black model if you want a hearing solution that is top of the line, but expect to pay handsomely for the privilege.

Nuheara IQbuds2 Max claim to excel at active noise cancellation for a reasonable $359. Try them for listening to music or podcasts, and to cancel out background noise when you are out and about. These buds are programmable for optimal use in different situations. And they have the cool factor as well: who wouldn’t rather wear Bluetooth ear buds than hearing aids?

We all know that our world can change in a heartbeat. It is comforting to know that tech solutions are never far behind. 

Click below for the other articles in the August 2020 Senior Spirit


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Thursday, August 20, 2020

What Will You Regret in 10 Years?

We can all improve the quality of our lives, but it’s hard to change. Here are five common inner excuses we all use and how to overcome them.

Maybe you have always wanted to paint. Or you wish you could spend more time with the grand kids. Or you have an idea for a little business you could start. But it never happens.

We all know how easy it is to procrastinate. There are a million reasons not to do something. The house needs to be cleaned. My schedule is already full. I might fail. So you stick to your routine, and time slips away. But what if you only had a month to live? How important would those excuses seem then?

Thinking about what you would do if you knew your time was limited can help you identify what you should be doing, right now, to create more satisfaction in the life you have. Following are a handful of common excuses, and how you can choose to act instead.

The time isn’t right.

Don’t wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less-than-perfect conditions. So what? Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident and more and more successful. — Mark Victor Hansen

There will never be a perfect time. So start now on whatever project or dream you’ve been setting aside. Download a podcast to learn about a new topic, join a class (many are available on the internet, even art classes!), make an appointment with a therapist, go on a walk or put $5 in your vacation fund.

Someone else is more important than me.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. —Steve Jobs

Many of us have never discovered who we are because we are busy being the perfect wife, working in the “right” profession or imitating what our friends think and value. The greatest gift we can give ourself is being authentic, and finding happiness in our true self. Forget about what others think you should do and decide what you want to do.

I failed, so I’m quitting.

Don’t quit. Never give up trying to build the world you can see, even if others can’t see it. Listen to your drum, and your drum only. It’s the one that makes the sweetest sound. — Simon Sinek

Everyone fails. Even the people you think walk on water. It is how we learn. It is how we get stronger, gain confidence, and overcome obstacles. Every great gain in life, and every tiny one as well, starts with failure. Embrace it!

No one thinks I can.

What “pick yourself” means is that it’s never been easier to decide to be responsible for your own work, for your own agenda, for the change you make in the world. To have a chance to matter. Not to be finished right now, but starting now. Pick yourself means we should stop waiting and whining and stalling. The outcome is still in doubt, but it’s clear that waiting just doesn’t pay. — Seth Godin

That’s right: you can choose yourself, even if you’ve been told you can’t do it. You can start writing that novel, or learning a new language, or practicing yoga. Seek out people who encourage your growth and do something new.

I’m too scared.

Try and fail, but don’t fail to try. ―John Quincy Adams

Creating new habits is hard. Doing the same thing is easy. We all need to take action to initiate a skill. Hockey star Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” Take one step toward your new goal. Then another. Something will get in the way but figure out how to overcome it. Take another step. Gretzky didn’t get famous in one game. He practiced over and over and over, and he didn’t quit. You don’t need to become famous, but you do need to keep trying.

So, what would you do if you had a month to live? What will you regret you did not do 10 years from now? Your list will change over time, but if you make it now and act on it, you will feel empowered. Find a friend to make a similar list and support each other in your new ventures. One of the best things we can do to feel young as we age is to continue growing our knowledge and allocating our time to people and projects we love.

Click below for the other articles in the August 2020 Senior Spirit


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Monday, August 17, 2020

Famous and 65

Look who's turning 65 this month

Find out which celebrities are turning 65 this month!

Image Source: Wikipedia

August 4 - Billy Bob Thornton, actor

The child of a self-proclaimed psychic and a high school history teacher, Thornton grew up in a shack without plumbing or electricity. But the man had talent that transcended his rough start: he played in bands since he was 10 years old (with considerable success), and was good enough at baseball to try out for the Kansas City Royals (but was injured and never joined the team).

Thornton was late to the acting game, settling in LA in the mid-1980s and supporting himself with jobs in telemarketing, offshore wind farming, and fast food management while trying to gain a toehold in Hollywood. He continued his musical career on drums and as a singer with South African band Jack Hammer. A break came at an industry event where Thornton was working as a waiter; film director Billy Wilder told him to think about screenwriting.

The 1996 indie film Sling Blade was Thornton’s ticket to success. He wrote, directed, and starred in the movie about a mentally handicapped man who is sent to prison for murder. The film won a slew of awards and international kudos, propelling Thornton to fame and performances in such diverse works as Bad Santa and Love Actually.

In spite of his success on the silver screen and as a musician, Thornton may be best known as the former husband of actress Angelina Jolie, with whom he starred while engaged to actress Laura Dern. The love match lasted a mere three years, one as a married couple. In fact, Thornton has been married six times, the last and longest (six years) to makeup effects creator Connie Angland.

Image Source: Wikipedia

August 4 - Alberto Gonzales, US Attorney General

The son of a migrant farm worker father with a second-grade education and a homemaker mother who didn’t go to school past sixth grade, Gonzales became the highest-ranking Hispanic American in executive government when George W. Bush appointed him to serve as  the 80th United States Attorney General. At that time, Gonzales had already served as the Secretary of State of Texas and a Texas Supreme Court Justice.

His tenure was not without controversy, centering on a trio of issues, two relating to the post 9-11 war on terror. The first was warrantless surveillance of US citizens suspected of terrorist leanings, the second encompassed so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” and the last  was the firing of eight US Attorneys deemed to be politically motivated. The last offense led to testimony in front of Congress which was criticized by Democrats and Republicans alike as Gonzales professed an inability to recall important details numerous times. As more and more senators called on him to resign, Gonzales took the cue and left office effective Sept. 17, 2007.

Gonzales reportedly had difficulty finding a job after his resignation, but in 2009 he became diversity recruiter for Texas Tech and taught a political science course. He was featured in the 2008 documentary Taxi to the Dark Side, which garnered an Academy Award.

Image Source: USGA

August 13 - Betsy King, golfer

The 5’6” King ruled women’s golf in the late 80s and early 90s, as she topped the charts at a record total 20 LPGA events, more than any other golfer, man or woman, during that time. She was named Player of the Year three times, among a slew of other titles.

King played on the 1976 national team that also sported future LPGA players Beth Daniel, Sherri Turner, and Cindy Ferro, and scored low amateur at the year’s US Women’s Open. But success eluded her on the LPGA Tour. After joining in 1978, it was six long years until her first win, at the 1984 Women’s Kemper Open.

Her success was not without financial reward, even at a time when female golfers earned considerably less than their male counterparts. King was the first woman to move past both the $5 million and $6 million hurdles in LPGA career earnings. But King remembers the difficulty of going out on a course throughout her career.

"With golf, you never know when it's the best you are ever going to play,” says Betsy King. “In my prime, I thought that I was struggling half the time. You are just brutal in the way you think about yourself."

Image Source: Wikipedia

August 24 - Mike Huckabee, politician and minister 

Huckabee served as governor of Arkansas from 1996 to 2007 and competed for the Republican presidential nomination in both 2008 and 2016. He very nearly became the vice-presidential pick for candidate John McCain, who ultimately selected the less experienced Sarah Palin.

Huckabee’s first job at the age of 14 was on the air at a radio station, presaging his professional career as host of The Mike Huckabee Show on radio from 2012-2013 and the talk show Huckabee that ran on Fox News 2008-2015. Huckabee is also a best-selling author, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, and a bass guitarist. His daughter, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, recently served as White House Press Secretary for President Donald Trump.

Hurricane Katrina walloped southern states, including Arkansas, where Huckabee garnered considerable praise for his handling of the storm’s aftermath. In 2005, Time dubbed him one of the five best governors in the U.S., writing "Huckabee has approached his state's troubles with energy and innovation" and called him "a mature, consensus-building conservative who earns praise from fellow Evangelicals and, occasionally, liberal Democrats.”

Click below for the other articles in the August 2020 Senior Spirit


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Life Settlements: Betting on Insurance during Coronavirus

Life settlements are unique financial options that reward the owners of life insurance policies with more value for their policies as they get older and experience health changes. During the coronavirus pandemic, seniors who own a life insurance policy are actually holding a very valuable asset that is increasing in value as the pandemic gets worse. Life insurance companies are reluctant to issue policies in today’s environment, but the life settlement market is booming.

 Chris Orestis, CSA
Life insurance policies are one of the most valuable and stable assets a person can own, because the death benefit is guaranteed for as long as premiums are paid for the policy. Policy owners have the legal right to sell off an unneeded or unwanted policy through what’s known as a “life settlement.” The majority of people don’t realize that their policy has secondary market value and can provide a lump-sum cash payment while they are still alive. Unfortunately, as many as nine out of ten policy owners will lapse or surrender their life insurance without realizing this—and after making premium payments for years!

Life insurance policy death benefits are guaranteed and are not impacted by the current performance of the stock market-- a $100,000 death benefit last month is still $100,000 today and will still be $100,000 next month. Because life insurance policies are uncorrelated to market and economic conditions, investors value buying life insurance policies as a non-traditional asset to balance their holdings. Life insurance policies in the secondary market are more valuable than ever.

Would you abandon your home without selling it after years of making mortgage payments? Of course not, and no one should abandon a life insurance policy after years of making premium payments either. It is critical that the owner of a life insurance policy understands that he/she can use his/her policy to help cover the expensive costs of retirement, health care, and long-term care while still alive.

A life insurance policy owner can exchange his/her policy for a variety of benefits, such as tax-free payments for long-term care services, lifetime income from annuities, a reduced death benefit with no more premium payments required for the policy owner, or a lump-sum cash settlement.

Key Points
  1. Life settlements are flights to safety as assets during economic crisis.
  2. Life insurance is “uncorrelated” from economic conditions, because death benefit values are guaranteed.
  3. A $100,000 death benefit has not changed from last month to today to next month, no matter what is going on around us.
  4. Seniors are being hit hard by this crisis, not just because they are vulnerable to infection and fatality, but because their investments and income have taken a huge hit as the stock market has melted down.
  5. Many seniors will be facing a decision about making their next premium payment on a life insurance policy. Should they keep a policy, take any cash value instead, or just let it lapse?
  6. For any seniors struggling financially, the life settlement option could be a better move than:
    • Lapsing or surrendering a policy.
    • Liquidating investments or assets in a down market and locking in losses.
  7. This is an immediate financial solution for seniors:
    • A financial solution that can be accessed during a crisis.
    • The settlement is for a policy a senior already owns and has made premium payments on for years.
    • There are no fees to do a life settlement—there are no out-of-pocket expenses.
    • When a person settles his/her policy, the policy owner receives cash, which can often be tax-free and they are no longer responsible for premium payments.
    • The process can be completed from start to finish in ninety days or less.
    • The entire life settlement process is conducted remotely and there is no need for in-person meetings at any time. 
During the coronavirus pandemic, life settlements are immediate lifelines for seniors who could be struggling financially and own life insurance policies in danger of being abandoned, without realizing they could hold significant re-sale value. Senior clients have watched their investments and income take huge losses, and as many contemplate if they can afford to make the next premium payment on a policy, or are wondering what assets they can look to for value—a life settlement could be a much better option for them in this time of crisis.

About the Author

Chris Orestis, CSA is President of LCX Life and He is a nationally recognized senior care advocate and expert in specialty senior-living funding solutions. The author of two books, numerous published papers and articles, and a frequent industry speaker; he is the innovator that brought the LTC-Life Settlement into the market over a decade ago.

Monday, August 10, 2020

15 Amazing Caregiving Tools for Long-Distance Family

Whether they’re down the street or across the country, you worry about your aging parent(s) living alone. But while you may not be able to pick up your life and move in with a senior loved one, you can make a difference in his/her life — even from a distance. Here are fifteen tools and services that help long-distance family members connect and care for their aging loved ones even from afar.

Community-Based Services

One of the most impactful things you can do as a long-distance caregiver is hire hands-on care for your aging family member. These are services you can hire to support a senior aging right where he/she is.

Lawn care and housekeeping

Long before seniors needed help dressing or bathing, they benefited from an extra set of hands around the house. Hiring house and yard services through platforms like HomeAdvisor and Angie’s List takes the burden off of a loved one’s shoulders and reduces the odds of an accident occurring at home. Plus you can read reviews on these platforms to know who could be most helpful.

Pet care

Pet care also can frequently become challenging as we grow older. Since pets can provide valuable companionship to older adults, it’s worth paying for dog-walking and other pet care services to help an elderly loved one have the love of a pet at home.

In-home care

Families have a few options for in-home care depending on a senior’s needs, including companion care, home health aides, and home-based skilled nursing. When hiring in-home care, decide if you’ll go through an agency or hire a private caregiver.

Adult day services

Adult day services can be an alternative or an addition to in-home care. Also known as adult day care, adult day services provide seniors with a social outlet in a supervised setting. There are different types of adult day centers, including centers that specialize in Alzheimer’s and dementia care.

Caregiving Apps and Tools

Whether you’re relying on local relatives, hired caregivers, or a combination of two or more, coordinating care duties and schedules are challenging. These tools help long-distance caregivers get organized so that their aging loved ones receive the support they need, when they need it.

Caregiving apps

Whether you need a centralized place to store medication lists and insurance cards or an easy way to coordinate with local caregivers, caregiving apps have become the solution. Better yet, many of the best caregiver apps are absolutely free.

Secure cloud storage

Caregivers also need a secure place to store important paperwork, like powers of attorney and medical records, for their loved ones. For an option that’s safe yet accessible, turn to the cloud. Cloud storage solutions like Google Drive are encrypted and free for small amounts of storage.

Tracking Senior Health and Safety

As a caregiver, it’s important to know how your loved one is doing day to day. However, that’s difficult to do when you can’t drop in to say hello whenever you want. So, keep tabs on your aging parent’s well-being with helpful, high-tech tools like the following.

Medical alert systems

Medical alert systems have been around for a long time. While modern options include upgraded features like automated fall detection, most medical alert systems still rely on a wearable device paired with a base unit. Unfortunately, that means these systems only work at home, not while out and about.

Wearable mobile trackers

For a portable way to track a senior’s well-being, look to wearable devices like activity trackers and GPS devices for seniors prone to wandering. Since these options are more stylish and discreet than traditional medical alert devices, they’re also a good alternative for seniors who shun wearing such medical alert pendants.

Smart home sensors

To keep an even closer eye on senior loved ones, install smart home sensors that use artificial intelligence to learn a senior’s daily patterns and alert caregivers to unsettling changes. Some smart home devices for seniors will even remind them to take medication on schedule.

Keeping Seniors Safe at Home

Trackers help monitor your senior loved one’s safety at home, but they don’t necessarily make home a safer place to live. To reduce the odds of an accident at home, turn to the following tools and services to keep seniors living safely.

Home security systems

Home security systems not only keep intruders out, but with modern security gadgets like smart locks and doorbells, mobility-impaired seniors can answer the door without straining themselves. That makes the benefit of home security systems for seniors twofold.

Aging-in-place remodeling

To create a truly senior-safe home, families should invest in aging-in-place remodeling. While the services of aging-in-place remodeling contractors aren’t cheap, they can eliminate many accessibility barriers in a senior’s home, including narrow doorways and high thresholds that can make moving around the house for wheelchair-bound seniors or seniors unsteady on their feet difficult.

Professional organizing

Sometimes, the hazard isn’t the house itself but what’s in it. If your parent has a clutter problem, hire an organizer to help downsize his/her stuff and create a safer, healthier home for your loved one aging in place.

Transportation Services for Seniors

Driving can be dangerous for seniors. Unfortunately, so can staying home, as isolation in seniors is linked to a wide range of serious health problems. When it’s no longer safe for a senior parent to get behind the wheel, turn to driving services like these to keep your parent mobile and social.

Rideshare apps

Rideshare apps aren’t just popular among Millennials. Seniors are also using rideshare apps like Lyft and Uber to get around. With no need to provide directions to a taxi driver, rideshare apps help seniors stay mobile, even with mild cognitive impairment.

Supplemental transportation programs

Seniors with accessibility needs or who can’t afford a taxi or rideshare can utilize supplemental transportation programs. These community-based transportation services offer rides to a range of destinations and are typically volunteer-run.

Non-emergency medical transportation

Medicaid beneficiaries can get help getting to doctor’s appointments and adult day services thanks to the program’s non-emergency medical transportation benefit. Contact your state’s Health and Human Services department to learn more.

Caregiving comes in many forms. While some caregivers provide hands-on help with everyday life, others provide care from a distance, using high-tech tools and local services to close the gap between themselves and their senior loved ones. No matter what type of caregiver you are, let these tools help you keep your senior loved ones healthy, happy, and safe.

About the Author 

Claire Wentz is a former home health nurse and recognizes that our aging population means many more people will become senior caregivers over the years.