Monday, November 13, 2017

NYTimes column on structured volunteer work for retirees; more on 401(k) and early Social Security benefits

Glenn Ruffenach has a provocative article about the community engagement issue, “The Best Way for Retirees to Find Meaningful Volunteer Work”, here
I wonder about people needing an organization to give them purpose and direction, and as the article says, organizations vary in their ability to do this. 

I rather like the idea of setting up my own initiatives, and I’ll be talking about that soon on Wordpress in conjunction with my own “downsizing”.  I had a meeting about that today, and some of the things that were said were surprisingly sensitive.  Personal engagement in other people’s business is sometimes called for.
The article also covers topics already familiar here, 401(k) and taking early retirement benefits at 62.  The decision is not irrevocable, and she says you have 12 months to change your decision and pay it back (but this rule has been changing), 

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Could "community engagement" eventually be required for some social security benefits?

Although Tuesday’s election results may have firmed up Medicaid expansion hopes in some states, a broader issue coming up is the proposals in some more conservative states to require more “community engagement” from Medicaid beneficiaries (as well as welfare).  Robert Pear has an interesting story in the New York Times. 
Community engagement usually means at least one or more of the following:  reportable employment, regular volunteer work (that is supervised by a non-profit), taking vocational or college courses, or intensive job hunting.  This sounds a lot like what is usually required to collect unemployment after a layoff (volunteerism may not always count  -- remember that line in the 2002 Minnesota comedy movie “Great Lakes”: “Does this count as a job interview?”

What I wonder is, what if this became a requirement for some social security benefits, at least early benefits or below certain ages, as part of deficit cutting reform (or maybe after another debt-ceiling fight)?  Is it reasonable to expect of able-bodied seniors?

This could certainly have an effect on the kind of journalism I do, which does not pay its own way. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Well, I downsized this month, but not until I moved

Well, this month, I “downsized”.  I sold “my” house (belonging to my late mother’s trust), and bought a spacious one-bedroom highrise condo for cash with the proceeds.  I left it in the trust’s name, after some controversy.

There were a lot of things I just didn’t know as I went into this process, and was pretty much committed to it by mid-August.

The actual move happened in mid October and went in several steps.  But dealing with the huge amount of accumulated stuff in the house turned out to be a much bigger problem than I had expected.  That even has moral implications, if you want to think about it.

In the YouTube video above, note that the downsizing really starts before you move, by reducing clutter. 
I’ll be covering some of the more detailed and more controversial questions on a newer Wordpress blog in November. 

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Puerto Rico bonds and potential wipeout after Trump's comments, and retirees

Puerto Rico ‘s bonds tumbled further in value after President Trump suggested wiping out their debt, rather than restructuring it with normal bankruptcy procedures.

Some retirees find that financial planners advise them to purchase instruments for developing countries or even US territories for higher yields.  This is obviously risky, as some bonds could be wiped out, which is unusual compared to stocks.

I haven’t noticed any problems in my own stuff.  But it does highlight a problem for retirees who want to “coast” and not work so hard to “make money” which sounds like an ideological issue for some people.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Retirees often become trustees themselves: know the rights of beneficiaries

Often the wishes of people for others (especially family) after they pass away are set up in trusts instead of just traditional wills alone, in order to avoid going through probate. Trusts are often revocable while the original owner is alive and become irrevocable after death. Typically the executor (who will often be one adult child) can then revise and amend the trust and make it a grantor trust to simplify IRS tax filing.

It is becoming more common, as people live longer, for even the adult children to have become seniors themselves, and to be dependent on the trust for their own income.  But there can be tricky areas.

Trusts typically have distribution provisions for various beneficiaries, which start after some number of months for paying claims.  Sometimes one or more family members may continue to live in a particular home owned by the trust.  Typically they have the right to sell and downsize, but sometimes this gets tricky if the new property has to remain within the trust.

A party can be a beneficiary of a trust without necessarily getting a scheduled distribution. Beneficiaries can be removed from or added to trusts when they are revised, although the language of the original trust can make this more difficult.  Beneficiaries may be persons or organizations, typically religious, political, cultural, or other non-profits. 

A beneficiary has a self-interest in the trust even without immediate distribution because of the expectation that it may receive a future benefit when a trustee himself or herself dies. But the beneficiary does not have the same standing as, say, a stockholder in a company.

Elderlaw has a piece on the responsibilities of the trustee to beneficiaries.  Somewhat controversial is the idea that trustees are supposed to report annually to beneficiaries, even those who receive not distributions.  This legal requirement makes more sense for individual beneficiaries than it does for organizations, who really don’t have the time and staff to keep up with estates that may pay them only in the future but not now.  Often a beneficiary gets a monthly small contribution from a trust through an automated process at a bank. Some organizations are not set up well to process these, and they don’t offer the opportunity for matches, and fall outside the usual fundraising for non-profits.  Also, an organizational beneficiary might not be tax-exempt (say, a PAC).

A trustee should be careful about adding a beneficiary if it’s an organization. The organization may believe, somewhat incorrectly, that the beneficiary status and occasional gifts imply absolute loyalty to all of the organization’s political objectives.  An established beneficiary organization in an "inherited" trust could pose ethical dilemmas for a trustee if he/she did not accept the purposes of the beneficiary. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

It keeps getting harder to save for retirement

The Washington Post Business Section Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017 has a long article by Jonnelle Marte, “Why it’s so hard to save for retirement”, with an exposition of the career of Ted Benna. 
The basic problem is that, while the 401(k) was a good idea, employers expected it to replace defined benefit pensions, which they tended to freeze starting in the late 1990s.
Another problem is that social security offsets were often designed around the idea of starting early retirement at 62, despite the fact that people live longer.  Careers from the past simply weren’t sustainable for enough decades.  

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Seniors can face sudden driving restrictions as medical scrutiny of prescriptions steps up

The tendency for some physicians to require more frequent visits to renew prescriptions raises the risk that problems, not causing overt symptoms, could be found.  In some states there are mandatory reporting requirements about drivers on physicians.  These states are California, Delaware, New Jersey, Nevada, Oregon and Pennsylvania, as outlined in a 2011 New York Times article by Jane Gross.  

In most other states, doctors may report elderly drivers.  It is typical for rules to prohibit driving for six months after a stroke, three months after a TIA (enough to cause medical treatment), and perhaps three months after pacemaker implantation.  Amazingly, driving while on oxygen if often permitted, partially.
Here are three references for Virginia:  NoloDMV reporting form, and DMV policies