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Thursday, February 23, 2023

Best Dementia Prevention Is Not Drugs

To significantly reduce your risk of getting dementia, the simplest remedies involve exercising and taking care of your body. 

Having a family history of Alzheimer’s or other dementia can be anxiety-provoking at best. But researchers have found how to reduce your risk of getting the disease, even if your parents had dementia. This protective remedy isn’t found in a pill, it doesn’t have to cost a single penny, and nearly anyone can manage it. The key is exercise.

A trio of large, long-term studies have emerged that look at how much activity and what kind is best to confer protection. The combined research looked at hundreds of thousands of participants over years, sometimes decades, to reach their conclusions. 

Improved Eyesight, Hearing Yield Results  

Another recently published study found links to dementia in participants with poor eyesight and hearing. In this look at almost 3,000 adults aged 65 and up, dual sensory impairment was linked with a 160% increase in dementia risk and a 267% greater risk of Alzheimer’s. The study concluded that “evaluation of hearing and vision in older adults may help to identify those at high risk of developing dementia.” 

Worldwide, researchers estimate that 1.8% of all dementia cases could be prevented by healthy vision alone, according to Dr. Gill Livingston, a psychiatrist at University College London and chair of the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care. The group is concentrating on behaviors and interventions that alleviate conditions — untreated high blood pressure, hearing loss, lower education levels, obesity, depression, physical inactivity, diabetes, smoking, and low levels of social contact— known to increase the risk of dementia. Three more were added in 2020: excessive alcohol consumption, traumatic brain injuries, and air pollution.

“Globally, 80 to 90 percent of vision impairment and blindness is avoidable through early detection and treatment, or has yet to be addressed,” says Joshua Ehrlich, an ophthalmologist and population health researcher at the University of Michigan. Why the link to dementia? Neural systems depend on stimulation from sensory organs to retain function. 

Vigorous exercise gave the most protection, but even doing household chores offered a meaningful reduction in the risk of getting the disease — even if there was a family history of dementia. 

Huge Study Tracks Exercise

The first study tracked more than half a million participants who did not have dementia, asking if they had genetic variants that have been found to be associated with dementia, or if they had immediate family members with the condition. 

This study looked at whether there were links between physical activity and the risk of getting dementia. Previous studies had failed to define physical activity well, so researchers wanted to know if participants regularly climbed stairs, walked, biked to work, played sports or worked out on weight machines, and on and on. 

Participants were tracked for 11 years, after which 5,185 showed signs of dementia. Participants who regularly engaged in “vigorous” physical activity fared the best, reducing their risk of getting dementia by a whopping 35%. But even those who only engaged in housework had a 21% lowered risk.

Creating and continuing a habit of daily or near-daily exercise “is likely to have a very profound synergistic effect,” says Dr. Joel Salinas, an assistant professor of neurology at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine, who specializes in treating people with dementia. “You get a lot more bang for your buck in terms of helping to promote your own health through physical activity.”

Study Survey Urges Any Exercise

The second study reviewed the results of 38 research projects involving over two million people. Scientists found that after controlling for factors such as age, education and gender, participants who engaged in any form of exercise lowered their chance of getting dementia by 17% vs. those who did not. Walking, running, swimming, dancing and more all helped to fight off dementia. 

Adults Benefit from Childhood Exercise

Finally, a third study involving 1,200 children aged 7 to 15 for more than three decades suggested that adults who had higher levels of fitness as children functioned at a higher cognitive level in midlife. 

“Your brain is part of your body and is going to benefit from anything you do that is good for your general health,” says Dr. Sandra Weintraub, a neurologist at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. 

Aim for 150 minutes or more of moderate or high-intensity exercise per week, says Dr. Salinas. It’s “likely to have a very profound synergistic effect,” he says. “You get a lot more bang for your buck in terms of helping to promote your own health through physical activity.”

Monday, February 20, 2023

Do Retired Adults Need Life Insurance?

You may think that because the kids are out of the nest, there’s no more need for life insurance. But there are several ways it could benefit you in retirement. 

Most people understand the need for life insurance when a breadwinner is supporting children and perhaps a spouse, especially if their home is mortgaged. But what about the need for life insurance when your working days are over? You might jump to the conclusion that you should cancel life insurance policies. But there are several situations where life insurance can be quite useful, even in your golden years. 

Paying for surprise expenses. If you have a cash value policy, you can make a withdrawal or take out a loan against the policy to cover unexpected expenses, although it will reduce your death benefit. 

Pension replacement. Some pensions are not transferrable to a spouse or other dependent upon death, so life insurance can cover that gap.

What Other Insurance Do Retirees Need?  

As long as you are evaluating your need for life insurance, let’s consider what other types of insurance you will need in retirement.
  • Homeowners or renters insurance. You may be tempted not to carry homeowners insurance if your house is paid off, and who really needs renters insurance? But these can be costly mistakes from which you can’t recover. Keep your property insurance current.
  • Travel insurance. If you travel a lot, you may want to buy a product that provides emergency medical services, as well as trip delay or cancellation insurance. Another way to get these benefits is by signing up for certain travel-oriented credit cards, so check if you’re already covered.
  • Car insurance. Whether or not you get complete coverage for your new Tesla, or just the state-mandated minimum to take care of your beater car, don’t overlook vehicle insurance.
  • Umbrella policy. If you have frequent visitors to your home, a renter under your roof, or assets someone might like to go after, an umbrella policy provides substantially increased liability coverage at an affordable price. 

Estate planning tool. Your heirs can use the payout from your life insurance policy to pay estate taxes, rather than selling assets during a market downturn. 

 •      Covering funeral costs. Insurance payouts are available quickly so family members can pay for your burial expenses.

Protect against stock market drops. Cash value life insurance can afford you some protection when other assets fall. You could also borrow from a life insurance policy to avoid selling assets to maintain your lifestyle in a down economy. 

Smooth asset distribution to heirs. Perhaps you’re leaving the house to your firstborn, your IRA to the second child, and your third child will inherit your life insurance policy. However you split it, life insurance can help even out inherited assets. 

Cover debt. Nearly half of homeowners 65 and older are still paying down a mortgage, and many are in debt for student loans for themselves or from co-signing a loan for a grandchild. Continuing life insurance can be a good idea to cover those debts after you’re gone. 

Provide for special needs children or spouse. Covering loved ones can be a big incentive to continue paying for life insurance in retirement. 

Covering business debt. If a business you own has borrowed a large sum, the bank may require you to carry life insurance. Likewise, business partners often each carry their own policy to aid in succession planning. 

You can see that there are a wide variety of reasons for starting or continuing life insurance in your senior years. But let’s look at some reasons for not having life insurance as an older adult.

High cost. Since life insurance pays upon death, it’s going to be more expensive the older you are. You may do better to invest the money you would have paid in premiums in the stock market, bonds, or another asset. 

Cash value fees. Life insurance has more than one component (insurance plus investment). Commissions and fees can be high.

Other assets provide for you. If most of your retirement income is produced by IRAs and other retirement sources invested in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and bank savings, and/or you own real estate, they are transferable to heirs through a will or trust. 

If you already have life insurance policies in place, here are a couple of things to consider: 

You can probably let your term policies expire as long as any dependents have access to other sources of plentiful income. 

Cash value policies (whole life or permanent life rather than a term policy) purchased a number of years ago may have considerable value, and it grows tax deferred. You may be able to pull out some of the value tax-free for any needs. Consider letting your policy grow until a time when the money is needed. It may be possible to surrender your policy in order to convert it to a life annuity for lifetime income. Just make sure this will not trigger a tax consequence. 

As you can see, answering the question of whether you need life insurance after retirement can be a complicated proposition. This is where you’ll want to bring in your financial advisor and perhaps a tax professional to help you come up with the right answer. They can help you make the best decision for your own unique situation.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Got the Winter Blues? Try These Remedies

If the short days and cold of winter are getting to you, we’ve got some great ideas for feeling better fast!

The daylight hours are finally starting to stretch out … but way too slowly for some of us. What we all need is a pick-me-up, but that can be hard to find when you don’t feel like getting off the couch. 

Most of our suggestions are free or low-cost. The point isn’t to shop yourself into a better mood. After all, research shows that the high of spending money on things is temporary, and sometimes followed by remorse over a smaller bank account. Accordingly, we sought things that almost anyone could do with very little money spent. 

Pick one idea from our list every day for a week, try it out, and prepare to feel a whole lot better!

  • Treat yourself. Light a scented candle and enjoy the aroma spreading around the room. Floral scents are known to be particularly good at lifting moods, but if you prefer vanilla or pumpkin spice, go for it. Another option is to buy a latte or macchiato and sit in your favorite coffee house. Buy (or bake) something wonderful and sit down to savor every bite. Or get some bath salts and have a good soak. 
  • Read. Iceland tops the happiness chart and its citizens read more books than any other nation. "Reading and embracing stories has been shown to increase our empathy, make us happier, and develop new neural pathways,” says Helen Russell, author of The Atlas of Happiness. If you’re not in the mood for a long novel, you don’t have to tackle War and Peace; pick up a poetry book and flip to random pages. Read the poems quietly or out loud for new viewpoints.
  • Eat, drink and be merry. Actually, eat and drink in a social setting and the merriness will follow. Russell’s book research uncovered a study that found levels of happiness went up nearly 11% when volunteers drank alcohol in a social environment. Invite a friend over for a glass of wine or a cup of tea or gather at a nearby bar for light imbibing and heavy socialization. 
  • Be kind. Shovel someone else’s sidewalk. Leave some cookies on a neighbor’s doorstep. Give a compliment to the next five people you encounter. Help a stranger carry packages into the post office. Write a card to a friend and thank them for specific help that person has given you, perhaps by listening to your woes or helping you see how to handle a difficult situation. Give praise to a child. Stifle a judgmental comment and offer a smile instead. Giving to others makes us feel good.
  • Do a five-minute declutter. It doesn’t have to be five minutes, but it should be very doable. Set a timer and quit when you’ve reached your goal, or make it your goal to clean the top shelf of a closet rather than the whole thing. Maybe you’ll want to keep going, but if you just reach your goal, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and order. Donate discards to a free-cycle group or take them to a donation center and give yourself another pat on the back.
  • Learn something. There is no age limit on learning. Set yourself a small goal, such as spending 15 minutes online reading up on the life of orcas or octopuses. (Your grandchildren will be in awe). Use YouTube to learn how to replace a light switch or grout tile. You don’t have to actually do it; understanding how it’s done can be its own reward. Install a language app and devote five minutes a day to Italian. Check if your local library is holding any events, or go to the next meeting of your local historical society. 
  • Paint a wall. A can of paint can lift your spirits. Choose one wall to do in an accent color that will brighten your mood every time you walk in the room. Uh oh … did you decide the new look isn’t as attractive as you thought it would be? Pick another color and try again. Don’t be afraid of bright, bold colors, especially if you choose a smaller wall to cover. 
  • Reflect sunshine. If only we could put in more windows to fill our houses with light! That’s usually impractical, but interior decorators have a trick to make rooms seem more full of light than they actually are. Hang a big mirror or set it against a wall where it will reflect the sunshine from a favorite window view and make your room appear larger in the bargain. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Best Phone Plan for Seniors

Phone companies are battling for your business. Take advantage with a low-cost plan that meets your needs. 

More than 90% of older adults in the US have a cell phone, according to a 2021 Pew Research Center survey, and usually it’s a smartphone. Baby boomers aging into the senior space have been using the devices for years and are likely to want all the features their younger counterparts insist on. The older cohort may just need to talk and text in order to keep up with family and friends. There’s a plan for everyone to get a great deal on phone service these days.

One thing you don’t want to do is look for a cheaper plan with your current carrier online. If you’ve got an account with them, they probably know who you are and their software will only show you more expensive plans or bundles. You’ve got to call or head down to your local store to get the lowdown — or find a plan you like in this article and tell them what you want.

Features for Older Adults

There are several plan options you may want to look at before exploring a new carrier and/or service. Pick those that best suit your style of usage, whether that’s smartphone guru or weaning off your old landline. 

How Much Data Do You Use?  

Before you start looking around for a plan, you need to know how much data you use per month to see if the plan fits your needs. iPhone users can find that information by going to Settings>Cellular. Android users should follow Settings>Connections>Data Usage. If you need help, any carrier can walk you through the steps and tell you if you need unlimited data or a lesser amount.
  • Talk and Text. If you don’t have a smartphone, or all you want to use it for is making calls and texting, then talk and text is for you. These plans are super cheap and sometimes come with perks for us older folks.
  • Unlimited. At long last, phone companies have reasonably priced plans for people who use apps, check out YouTube or stream videos, and otherwise use their smartphone a whole lot. These include unlimited talk, text, and data so you will never get dreaded overcharge fees added to your bill ever again. 
  • Prepaid. You may already pay your phone bill automatically every month, but plans labeled “prepaid” are a different beast. Not much different — you will still pay automatically but they often involve a lower cost than you had originally, and you will have to call or show up at your carrier to find out about them. You can also surf the net to discover any deals, but don’t expect to find your carrier reaching out to you, offering a lower monthly bill.
  • No Contract. After the big carriers have been roping us in for years, tied to years-long contracts, they are now being challenged by smaller carriers who go month-by-month. Many of the big boys (we’re talking about you, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint) have seen the competition and decided to reform at long last. So go ahead and raise your eyebrows if a carrier says you need a long contract for your phone business and do plenty of checking around. 

Let’s get down to brass tacks and start talking about the type of coverage you need, who can give it to you cheapest, and how much it will cost. 

  1. You want great coverage combined with all the data you can get your fingers on? Verizon scores best of the major carriers for performance and reliability, so it’s a great pick if you travel around the country or just want to know you don’t have to go down to the telephone pole at County Road 62 to get service. (Probably — always check around to see which carrier works best in your home area). Better yet, Verizon’s Start Unlimited Plan costs just $30 per month and comes with unlimited talk, text, and data. Seniors 55+ who live in Florida should ask about Verizon’s 55+ Unlimited Plan that has extra discounts.
  2. If you gobble data like a turkey talks, check out T-Mobile’s three 55+ plans that range from $27 to $45 per month. 
  3. For those who are more comfortable sticking to calls and texts, and those who don’t want a newfangled smartphone, look into Republic Wireless’ Unlimited Talk & Text Plan for $15 monthly or less if you pay a year upfront.
  4. Don’t need unlimited but want to have the option of using some data? Consumer Cellular’s Unlimited Talk & Text + 3GB gives you all the chatting and texting you can handle, plus a little data to browse the news or check the weather. Get it for $25 a month, with an extra 5% discount for AARP members.
  5. Want a cheap plan that’s super easy and has no contract? Mint Mobile gives you unlimited talk and text plus 4GB of 5G data per month for $15.
  6. Want a senior-friendly phone and cheap monthly fee, plus an urgent aid button and hearing aid compatibility? You’ve got it with Lively, which offers plans starting at 250 minutes of talk for $14.99 per month. 

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Avoid an IRS Tax Audit With 10 Tips

Tax season is here, and we’ve got a few pointers for keeping Uncle Sam from giving your return a closer look.

Bleah, taxes! You’ve been prepping for your CPA or getting ready to fill out tax forms yourself and feel done, done, done with the whole subject. We don’t blame you. But making sure that you don’t have to endure the extra hassle and headache of an audit down the road is worth educating yourself about what might trigger one, and how you can avoid it.

The good news is that your chances of getting audited are small. Far fewer than 1% of Americans have undergone an audit in recent years, and most of these were by mail rather than in person. However, in 2020 the IRS announced it would be hiring additional auditors. 

Some audits are random, but most begin with an anomaly in the tax return itself that causes an eyebrow to raise somewhere in the vast offices of the IRS. Let’s try and avoid that happening to your return by sidestepping the following audit triggers and making sure you conform to the rules.

  1. Making Big Bucks. Everybody likes to have a healthy income, but if yours is significantly higher than most, or if you got a big payout this year, your chances of an audit go up. That just means that you want to listen to your CPA and have all your ducks in a row.
  2. Deducting Outsized Losses. If you’re taking deductions for bad debt or securities that have declined, in particular if you report them as ordinary loss, you may be in for increased scrutiny. Losses from the sale of rental property can also catch the attention of the IRS, particularly if that loss offsets W-2 income, pensions, or income from other sources.
  3. Failure to Take Required Minimum Distributions. Owners of IRAs face a hefty 50% penalty for not taking RMDs at age 72 and older. There is an exception allowing those turning 72 to delay the first payout until April 1 of the following year. Also, if you are still working you can mostly avoid taking money out of your current employer’s 401(k) until after you retire.
  4. Writing Off a Hobby Loss. Did you fudge a little and try to write off your hobby as a business on Schedule C? Careful there! The IRS doesn’t like it when your stamp collection, jewelry making, or dog breeding “business” loses money year after year and offsets income from other sources. Your business needs to make money three out of five years (two out of seven for horses) and have a reasonable expectation of profitability.
  5. Hiding Gambling Wins or Claiming Outsize Losses. Whether you got lucky on the slots in Las Vegas or made the right wager at Pimlico, Uncle Sam has a hand out for his cut and he will know if it’s missing, because the casino or racetrack will report it on Form W-2G. Recreational gamblers should report winnings as “other income” on their 1040; professionals report it on Schedule C. 
  6. Improperly Claiming Day-Trading Losses. Day traders have some enviable tax advantages. Their expenses are fully deductible and free from self-employment tax. But the IRS is looking for folks who try to trade frequently for a month or two to qualify, but don’t. Valid trading must be continuous over the full year and show an attempt to profit via short-term price changes. 
  7. Not Reporting Virtual Currency Transactions. The IRS has taken a very deep interest in taxpayers who sell, receive, trade, or in any way deal with bitcoin or other virtual currencies, including assembling teams of agents to work exclusively on crypto audits. Virtual currencies are treated as property. See these frequently asked questions for details.
  8. Forgetting to Report a Foreign Bank Account. If you’ve had reason to put money in a bank abroad, maybe for travel or to buy property, you must report it if the balance totaled $10,000 or more at any time in the tax year. Foreign banks will nearly always disclose information to the IRS, so come clean about accounts outside the US.
  9. Claiming Rental Losses. The IRS takes a second look at returns claiming large rental losses. That’s because passive loss rules prevent the deduction unless you actively participate in the renting of your property or if you are a real estate professional spending more than half your working hours and more than 750 hours per year materially participating in real estate. If you qualify, make sure you can prove it.
  10. Running a Business. There are plenty of legitimate businesses claiming deductions on Schedule C, and you’ve earned them. But it’s unwise to try and claim excessive deductions or only a portion of your income because the IRS is looking out for these tricks. The agency pays particular attention to sole proprietorships with more than $100,000 of gross receipts, cash-heavy businesses like hair salons, restaurants and bars, and business owners who report large losses but also have significant wages or other income. 

The bottom line is that if you’re filing more than a simple tax form, it’s a good idea to find a CPA or other tax professional to assist you in filing. They see hundreds of returns every year, and they will likely know if yours could trigger further scrutiny from the IRS. They can tell you what information you need to have in case the IRS comes knocking, and often serve as an intermediary if needed. Consider the cost of your tax professional as insurance against an audit. The peace of mind is worth every penny.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Famous & 65

Look who's turning 65 this month

Find out which celebrities are turning 65 this month!

Image Source: Wikipedia

February 16 - Ice-T [Tracy Marrow], rapper and actor

Rapper, songwriter, actor, and producer Ice-T was in the third grade when his mother died of a heart attack. His father raised him for the next four years until he, too, had a heart attack and died. Marrow was shuttled off to an aunt and shared a bedroom with her son who was an avid fan of rock music, sparking an interest in heavy metal music in the thirteen-year-old.

As a high schooler, Marrow stayed away from alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. He started memorizing passages from books by an author named Iceberg Slim, and he’d recite them at school to the delight of his friends. They’d say, “Yo, kick some more of that by Ice, T,” which was the inspiration for his moniker. 

The next stage of his life was marked by cannabis sales, theft, and pimping before he began learning how to use a turntable and rap. But he simultaneously began a career as a bank robber, only avoiding prison time later because the statute of limitations had run out. However, Ice-T admonished young people that "street credibility has nothing to do with going to jail, it has everything to do with staying out.”

Ice-T began recording in earnest in 1983, starting with hip-hop before moving on to rapping in later songs, and particularly gangsta rap in his 1991 album, O.G. Original Gangster, which helped define the genre. A plethora of successful music followed, intertwined with acting stints that included a role as drug dealer Danny Court on the TV show New York Undercover which earned him the 1996 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. 

With successes too numerous to detail here, Ice-T influenced acts from the Beastie Boys to Run-DMC. He is married to Nicole “Coco” Austin, with whom he has a daughter. He’s an expert at Brazilian jiu-jitsu and lives in New Jersey.

Image Source: Wikipedia

February 16 - Lisa Loring, actress 

You likely remember Lisa Loring as the child star who played Wednesday in the original 1964-66 sitcom, The Addams Family. She was also on the CBS soap opera As the World Turns as Cricket Montgomery in the early 80s, followed by roles in the slasher films Blood Frenzy and Iced

In common with many child actors, Loring’s personal life has been rocky. Her parents divorced after she was born, and she was raised by her mother, who died from alcoholism when she was just 34. Loring married at the incredibly young age of 15 and had a daughter, but the union only lasted a year. Three more marriages followed, the last one ending in 2014. 

The Addams Family franchise has perhaps fared a bit better. Originally a cartoon in The New Yorker, it’s been made into a film twice, most recently in 2019.

Image Source: Wikipedia

February 21 - Mary Chapin Carpenter, country-pop singer-songwriter

Born in New Jersey to a singer-songwriter mom, Mary-Chapin Carpenter moved to Tokyo for two years when she was 12 and her father was tasked with starting up an Asian edition of Life magazine. She got a degree in American civilization from Brown University, at the same time performing in local, Washington D.C. venues. 

Starting with cover songs, she quickly progressed to using her own material and soon signed on with Columbia. Her most vaunted album was the quadruple-platinum Come On Come On released in 1992. It produced seven singles, including “I Feel Lucky,” “The Hard Way,” “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her” and “I Take My Chances,” among others. In 1994, Carpenter released “Shut Up and Kiss Me” that became her only song to top the Hot Country Songs.

Carpenter’s career has lasted through Covid, when she streamed acoustic presentations online for her fans and received a Grammy nomination, her 18th, for an album of acoustic songs performed without an audience called “One Night Only.” Her current tour features material from her 2020 album The Dirt and the Stars.

Image Source: Wikipedia

February 26 - Susan J. Helms, retired astronaut

Americans can be extremely proud of Susan J. Helms, retired NASA astronaut and United States Air Force lieutenant general. Before leaving working life in 2014, Helms crewed four Space Shuttle missions and lived on the International Space Station for more than five months. In 2001, she and fellow astronaut Jim Voss set a record for the world’s longest spacewalk at eight hours and 56 minutes.

Helms has held a slew of top-level positions including commander, Joint Functional Component Command for Space at Vandenberg Air Force Base. She was recently voted into the National Academy of Engineering pursuant to her accomplishments in both civil and military space programs.

She can also lay claim to Top Gun status, having flight tested 30 different types of military aircraft over her long career. Her shuttle missions included Endeavour, Discovery, Columbia, and Atlantis. She was a member of the Return to Flight task group following the tragic Columbia accident. 


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors