Monday, December 28, 2015

Alzheimer's, terminal lucidity events, and the Soul


There is an event called “terminal lucidity” that has been observed very near death in some Alzheimer’s Disease patients. Tara MacIsaac explores the issue in an Epoch Times article (Sept. 2, 2014), “Do Alzheimer’s, Dementia prove that the soul doesn’t exist?

The article provides caregiver reports of some Alzheimer’s patients who suddenly remembered everyone in their lives shortly before their passing. The article also shows some photographs of brains of Alzheimer’s patients, comparing them to normal brains.


PMW Atwater, a Virginia writer in the Charlottesville area (not far from the Monroe Institute, maybe) notes that Ronald Reagan had a lucid moment before he passed, and comments more on this, and also discusses the soul of consciousness of the unborn child during the last trimester in her blog post from 2004, “Alzheimer’s and the Afterlife?

If (as in some horror films, even “Wolfen” (1980)), you “know when you’re dead”, that proves that conscious awareness of selfhood outlasts the body. You could be caught in a “Focus 23” and know you will not revive, but be conscious of your identity.  The sense of time could change (since time is a dimension in physics) so the worst horror could be to be stuck in that state forever, unable to awaken. But logically you can’t “not know your dead”.  It seems illogical not to exist once you have existed.


I think that some of us come back.  Look at some super-gifted kids.  The have so much knowledge as children of science and math (and often music) that they must have learned it before.  It’s a great bargain to pick up another adult life, where you left off, with  15-21 year old body. Not a car trade-in or heart transplant, but a body transplant.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Adults live closer to Mom than we think, partly because of caregiving as well as economics


Here’s a front page Christmas story, by Quoctrung Bui and Clair Cain Miller in the New York Times that bears on eldercare, “Short ride to Mom’s House reveals a Changing America”.   The article notes that the typical adult in the US lives a median 18 miles from Mother. Lower income, racial minority, and unmarried people may live closer.  The distances are smaller in the Northeast and deep South.

“The United States offers less government help for caregiving than many other rich countries. Instead, extended families are providing it, whether they never moved apart, or moved back closer when the need arose.”

In the 1930s, young adults typically didn’t have their own places until they got married (so it was for my parents).

But as a single adult, I’ve lived in New Jersey, New York City, Dallas, and Minneapolis, but returned home (perhaps prematurely) to Drogheda in Arlington VA in 2003 when Mother (who passed at the end of 2010) was 89.

A recall a curious statement by George W. Bush in his second (2005) inauguration. “Liberty for all doesn’t mean independence from one another”.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Poor and manual labor workers hurt by increasing Social Security retirement age


Eduardo Porter, in his “Economic Scene” in the New York Times Business Day today, writes “Aging society changes story on poverty in old age” .  A subtext is “As things stand, Social Security will replace less of a retiree’s career wage”.

Porter makes the important point that the easiest solution, of gradually increasing retirement ages (which we have been doing) penalizes poorer workers in more dangerous occupations, people less likely to benefit from longevity.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Nursing home employees take abusive pictures of residents and put them on social media, to the horror of families


Charles Orenstein has a disturbing story extracted from ProPublica in the Washington Post, “Abusive photos on social media pose rising threat to nursing home patients”.  There are two original stories on ProPublica, one specifically about abuse of Snapchat (where "messages disappear all by themselves," as Hillary Clinton brags) and  and a more general story about inappropriate use of social media.

The photos were often degrading with nudity, and they show the practical difficulties families face when placing elders in nursing homes, even at $8000 a month.  In home care, which for my mother ended with her passing at the end of 2010, tends to cost about $12000 a month with agencies.  My mother did receive poor care in an SNF after her initial coronary bypass surgery in the late 1990s.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Caregiving in English fiction


Carol J. Adams offers a curious op-ed on p. 9 of the Sunday Review in the New York Times, “Jane Austen’s Guide to Alzheimer’s”.  She is referring to the 1815 novel “Emma” by Austen, which is supposedly based on a character similar to Emma herself.  I checked the plot on Wikipedia where the summary refers to Henry Woodhouse (Emma’s father) as a valetudinarian, but doesn’t say he is demented to the point of needing actual constant caregiving.

Adams is even working on a book on Jane Austen and caregiving. I wonder if the same theme occurs with George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans). “Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe” (1861, and I read it in Tenth Grade) is really about “adoption” but does deal with taking on responsibilities for others that one did not choose, even when one has hoarded one’s own private world previously.

She does refer to the need to “time off” from family caregiving, as she describes her experience with her own mother. She also describes being a "parent to her parent" (almost like in "Interstellar").

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Hormone treatment for early prostate cancer may increase risk of Alzheimer's disease


A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology , reporting research at Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania, reports that men who take testosterone-blocking drugs to treat (early stage) prostate cancer run an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.  Melinda Beck has a story on p. 3 of the Wall Street Journal on December 8, 2015, link here.  The treatment is called, rather bluntly, "chemical castration".
 
I had an elevated PSA with my physical in 2010 and was encouraged to see a urologist.  But the level went down on its own by 2011, after Mother’s passing, probably because of less stress and a lower fat diet when doing own cooking.

In the past medical journals, going all the way back to the notorious “Modern Home Medical Advisor” red book of the 1950s that used to sit on the attic stairs, talked about castration and administration of female sex hormones as a treatment for prostate cancer.  I saw this as involuntary “sex change”.  My own father died just before his 83rd birthday of aggressively metastasizing prostate cancer, but was ill for only four weeks. He was given DES at the end, but probably didn’t want to face the implications of treatment like this.  He didn’t believe in living through absolutely anything.

Catching cancer early does increase the likelihood of cure, but it can require challenging social support from others.

The story is interesting also in that it does seem that testosterone really does mediate intellectual development for teens.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Newspaper letters vary on whether boomers have paid their dues with regard to Social Security


On December 2, 2015, the Washington Post offered several readers’ letters on “Fixing Social Security”, in response to an earlier piece by Robert Samuelson’s column “Generational War, anyone?” on Nov. 30.
 
One of the letters stresses that the Reagan reform of Social Security financing in 1983 forced baby boomers to pay for their own freight in advance.  The measure built up a surplus, which through tricky accounting has been allowed to fund other deficit spending over the decades.  So you wind up with politicians like Boehner asking for sacrifice through means testing because “we don’t have the money”.  But it does seem that some readers believe that well-off retirees should not get benefits, even if they paid for them through FICA.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Teenager invents a device to monitor grandfather with Alzheimer's


Upworthy reports that a teenager, Kenneth Shinozuka, has invented a device that his family uses to keep track of his grandfather with Alzheimer’s.  The device is a sensor worn inside a sock that sends a message to a computer or smart phone of the caregiver when the patient wanders.

The story by Eddie Geller is here.
 
Assisted living facilities usually maintained locked wings on which Alzheimers’ or dementia patients are housed.
 
At home, the caregiving may become very hands-on, something which I resisted with my own mother.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Smaller nursing homes provide more personalized care


Some innovations in nursing home care are reported by Constance Gustke on the “Persona; Business” page of the New York Times Saturday, p. B5, “Putting the ‘Home’ Back in Nursing Homes”, or (online) “Small residences for the elderly provide more personal, homelike care”, link here. The article describes residences for no more than ten people, and as the practice of adopting private homes as “group homes” for the elderly needing some combination of assisted living and nursing care.  But the care may be more expensive ($1100 a month in a Michigan facility, which sounds like more than a conventional nursing home would be, close to round-the-clock care with aides). The option may help keep the extremely frail "home".


Update: December 2

Vox has a piece by Valery Hazanov, Dec. 2, "What working in a nursing home taught me about life, death and America's cultural values", link here.  Valery says that childless people have a particularly tough time in nursing homes.  When someone is in pain, then the pain is a preoccupation, unless the person has interest in things outside the self, maybe preferably family members and people, but an interest in art, culture, literature, music, chess, and the like certainly helps.  

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

New research shows other ways Alzheimer's progresses, with a "flowing" protein; On course to bankrupt Medicare


CNBC (which hosted a GOP presidential debate, however unevenly) has a major article “Alzheimer’s: A Disease on Course to Bankrupt Medicare”, link here. This article has been widely tweeted today.

There is a lot of attention not only to beta-amyloid, but also to “tau”, a “contagious” protein (rather like a prion) that can develop inside neurons and move to other neurons.

There is also work on whether to give people with no symptoms but with a family history of Alzheimer’s (or certain positive diagnostic tests) preventive medication.

I have certainly wondered if the increase in Alzheimer’s is mostly the result of people (especially women) living longer and not dying of cancer and heart disease as early as they did when I was growing up, when extreme disability was often viewed through a personal moral lens.  Everyone dies of something.   But now, with much longer periods of disability at the end of life, social and extended familial support becomes even more important, even though people have fewer children and even attempt marriage at all (although same-sex marriage might actually reverse that a bit).

In the meantime, if people live forever with disability, yes, Medicare will go bankrupt.  You can see the math without doing it.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Seniors looking to downsize could take advantage of the "McMansion" fad, but need due diligence


A factor that may encourage some seniors to downsize is the practice in many affluent suburban areas of tearing down old homes and building “McMansions”, when local zoning allows it and builders find enough customers who can afford the homes (which happens in northern Virginia).

A senior who believes his older home might be of interest (particularly after a real estate agent or builder suddenly contacts him or her) needs to do a lot of due diligence.  He may owe capital gains taxes if he in turn rents (but some of the gain might be exempt if he lived in the home). If the home was inherited, it could get complicated (whether or not there is a trust or grantor trust).  The homeowner will need to talk to a tax attorney – which could cost a little just for the consultation time if the situation is at all complicated (which is likely). It doesn’t appear that older seniors can stretch out the profits by purchasing annuities, unless I’m missing something.

Seniors contemplating downsizing need to "do the math" and think like insurance companies selling annuities.  Does the money you clear from selling your home pay for rent for the rest of your life expectancy?

Another point to remember is that, if a home is really a target for a tear down in the more immediate future, the land price should rise quickly, meaning the owner can get more money by holding out.

It's also well to note that many financial planners advise seniors to be wary of invitations to place "pocket listings" on the theory that these require less time and disruption of the seller. The Washington Blade has a cautionary piece by Tim Savoy here.
  
More details on this matter may be forthcoming this winter. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Seniors spared big premium increase in Medicare by budget deal, which also extends debt ceiling


Vox has more details on the budget deal, which is said to avoid a possible crisis on the debt ceiling as early as Nov. 3, as well as relieve some seniors with possibly astronomical increases in their Medicare Part B premiums, story by Sarah Kliff, here
 
Seniors will get a “loan” from the Medicare general fund and have to pay it back with slightly greater premium increases over the next few years. 
  
The problem comes about because this year there is no COLA increase in Social Security, and current recipients are “held harmless” by laws.  The lack of COLA comes in part from lower gas prices, which doesn’t help seniors who don’t drive. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Same old questions on debt ceiling and payment priotization -- and Social Security -- are returning


Marilyn Geewax at NPR has an article Oct. 24 on the debt ceiling, whose progress this week seems very uncertain, “Why you shouldn’t stare up at the debt ceiling and yawn”, link here.   It seems relatively inconclusive, but it appears that some Republicans don’t take seriously how much damage they can do to financial markets.  Perhaps they’re used to playing chicken, because that’s how a lot of people manipulate others.

I’ll give the discussion link of payment prioritization from Lawrence Tribe’s comments (New York Times), from back in January 2013 again.  Notice I have a question where I pose a theoretical scenario where some Social Security beneficiaries could lose all future benefits suddenly.  The legal experts shoot me down (look for “Boushka”), thankfully.  They would also shoot down what NPR says.

Since Social Security is a “bond holder”, it has as good a claim as any other creditor.  But theoretically, Congress could impose immediate means testing on all future payments, even for current retirees, because of Flemming v. Nestor – which effectively means that FICA is a tax or possibly an “insurance premium” for social insurance like welfare, but not a contribution to a constitutionally guaranteed annuity payment (like an annuity premium in the life insurance business).

The surest way to protect existing past FICA “contributions” (as “property”) is to pass a law privatizing them – turn them over to the private life insurance business, but under heavy regulation.  I do support gradual or partial privatization.  The GOP supports this.  But why doesn’t the GOP guarantee that the US government will always pay its bills already due?


Update: Oct. 26

Jacob Lew's own op-ed in USA Today on the dangers of an "accident" with the debt ceiling.

Update: Oct. 27

Various media reports on a budget deal to raise the debt ceiling, such as ABC's here.  See posting Tuesday.  

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Social Security doesn't treat working women fairly compared to stay-at-home spouses


Max Ehrenfreund has a good summary on p. A12 of the Washington Post of the way Social Security seems to “penalize” working women, p A12 Saturday, October 24, 2015, link here

Social Security was, after all, implemented in the 1930s, when most families had one earner, the husband supporting the wife and children.  World War II would change that long before Betty Friedan, feminism and gay liberation came along.  But the math of survivors’ benefits works in such a way that non-working surviving spouses of long-standing one-earner (and high earner) marriages do very well. Women who worked but erratically (maybe because of motherhood, maybe because of poverty) are much less well served. 

Of course, same-sex couples will enter the mix, but this means little so far. 
  
But the idea of social security as an “annuity” that you paid for with FICA is somewhat weakened indeed when you see this argument. 

Keep in mind one other idea in reading the simulations in the article here -- they assume taking benefits at full retirement.  Many employers pressured retirees into taking Social Security early with "Social Security offsets" and "Social Security bridges". 
  
Keep your eyes on the debt limit situation, folks. 


Monday, October 19, 2015

Debt limit issue comes back, this time with some urgency; Social Security Trust Fund obfuscation comes up again


The debt ceiling issue has come storming back, with a scary analysis from the Bipartisan Policy Center here. Lew has a video about a possible “terrible accident” on Yahoo!  But it isn’t affecting markets yet.

The latest estimates are that the Treasury could run out of cash Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, -- haha, an election day in suburban northern Virginia.

Boehner’s leaving the House is said to complicate the issue.



My own November Social Security check comes Tuesday, Nov. 10 (because Wednesday Nov. 11 is a holiday).

Last two times around (in 2011 and 2013) I wrote a lot of columns about the legal protection to Social Security payments, because of the “Trust Fund Accounting Trick” (which some pundits say is the way Bill Clinton created the appearance of a budget surplus in the 90s).  I won’t rehearse these today, but I suspect that the debate on Social Security payment mechanics will resurface in the next few days.  The best discussion of this got written in comments in the New York Times in early 2013 by a couple of law professors (see Issues blog Jan. 13, 2013). Earlier cycles on this issue led to the coining of new words, like “Timocracy”.

Will Congress act at the last minute, as it always has?  BPC says that this time Halloween timing (and High Heels Race in Washington) could make it testier.  In the meantime, other moralists talk about sheltering seniors whose social security payments got missed.  Is it our responsibility to be ready for every possible failure of our system?  That drives the Second Amendment crowd.

This issue will evolve in the next few days.  No doubt we will hear from Porter Stansberry and Ron Paul.  Is this why they were predicting an October crisis? I get concerned when I hear "conservative" persons in Congress threaten government shutdowns of Planned Parenthood.  Conservatives pay the bills already incurred.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Getting the relevant points right on Social Security sustainability: big NYTimes story Saturday


The New York Times continued the debate on Social Security Saturday with a long article in the “Your Money” section here.

The upshot is that Democratic proposals to increase the FICA tax rate and/or limits to tax higher earners probably would shore up the solvency of the system.

Looked at more closely, some GOP proposals, like that of Chris Christie, seem to focus on lowering the expected benefits for younger workers.  I’m OK with this if there are some alternative savings vehicles (partial privatization, essentially the purchase of very long term annuities from life companies) to make up the difference.

One of the points in the article is that longer lifespans is not the big deal it is usually said to be;  longer lives would account for 20% of the shortfall.  More of the difficulty comes from lower birthrates. Ironically, admitting more refugees, if employable, could help with the problem long term.


Friday, October 16, 2015

Means testing for current Social Security retirees? The idea won't go away, partly because rich people live longer than poor people


There is another desperate Letter to the Editor in the Washington Post this morning on Social Security, “Don’t reduce benefits for current retirees”, as a reaction to Douglas Elmendorf’s Oct. 12 op-ed, “A fairer approach to fiscal reform”, all links from here.
 
Indeed, Elmendorf seems to be back into means testing territory. He even recognizes, near the end, that most middle and upper income class people believe they “earned” their benefits through paying FICA (which their employers matched) and would have saved the same amounts privately if allowed to.
 


He, as have other observers (even Republican Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey) is also concerned that richer people live longer, and that raising the retirement age gradually (in expectation of longer lives) affects the poor more.  So are we back in the world or welfare, or “personal responsibility”?

One thing to note, seniors need better ways to extend their work careers than the shallow hucksterism that was pushed at me.
 
In the meantime, CNN Money has a column “What older workers don’t know about social security”, here. Note that if the Trust Fund is depleted, current retirees are guaranteed 75% of their current benefit indefinitely. Also, if retirees have benefits reduced because of the Annual Earnings Limit, they can recover what was withheld after reaching full retirement age.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Part B Medicare premiums will rise sharply, and not everyone shares the burden fairly


The New York Times warns Social Security recipients in an editorial “The Unlucky Millions Paying More for Medicare”) Sunday, October 11, 2015, p. 8, that new recipients are likely to pay much more for Part B premiums starting in 2016, link here. Medicare Part B premiums are normally deducted from Social Security checks or direct deposits. 
    
Social Security recipients will not get a cost-of-living increase in 2016.  (Some media sources report that falling gasoline and crude oil prices are the primary reason.)  Under current 1997 law, current recipients are “held harmless” for increased costs from Part B, so they are passed on to new benes.

The Part B Medicare deductible will increase from $147 in 2015 to $223 in 2016, and fall back to $169 in 2017. Make sense?

Monday, October 05, 2015

Downsizing and retirement: Probably a good idea when the kids are gone (or when there are no kids)


Assisting living centers like Emeritus and Sunrise sometimes offer seminars on “downsizing”.  Harriet Edelson has a story in the New York Times, “Downsizing offers a fresh start for older adults”, here.

Indeed, in my situation, I’ve disposed of some quantity of mother’s material goods, but a lot remains.  It’s incredibly time consuming to go through it and physically dispose of it.
  
For my own life’s possessions, the CD and record collections are valuable, but I like the way younger adults build their collections in the Cloud with mpeg and pdf’s.  Books can be kept on Kindles or Nooks (which could, however, fail – but then it seems Amazon or BN will move the collection to a new device).


The biggest problem that older adults, still active, have is taking care of oversized older houses, that have components that overt time can break.  Travel requires extensive preparation, which gets a lot easier if you move to a modern high rise (even not for seniors, just a well supervised building).
For me, the most convenient location in the world would probably be around Columbus Circle in NYC – high enough to be safe from floods and hurricanes, but close to everything.  (The Village and SoHo are exposed, as is lower Brooklyn).  But that’s why Donald Trump can charge such unaffordable amounts for his condos in the area.  They are convenient.   Security is generally good. 
  
They do make life for some independent people work smoothly, where you don’t need a car and so much is within walking distance, let alone subway.

I’m not the kind to put a lot into a Barbara Cochrane-style showing of a house.  Imagine owning one alone in a flood-prone coastal area (like S.C. this week – even far inland), or wildfire-exposed area in California.  You’d need contingency planning done A+.

Monday, September 21, 2015

NBC Today honors World's Alzheimer's Day with fashion guest


NBC Today honored World Alzheimer’s Day, September 21, 2015, by presenting fashion designer B. Smith, with early onset, and her husband Dan Gasby, link here. Husband Dan wanted to recognize caregivers, who find they didn’t sign up for this by choice.  15 million Americans now care for someone with Alzheimers.   He recommended keeping a journal.  There is a social media initiative to recognize caregivers, Take One Moment, not well explained on the show, the link on Facebook seems to be here.

The Alzheimer’s Association also has a Longest Day on the Summer Solstice, here.

Picture: Church birthday party, no relation to Alzheimer's, just art work.  


 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

California legislature approves legal physician-assisted end-of-life with many restrictions


The California legislature has approved a bill that would allow (for the terminally ill) physician-assisted suicide, but with considerable procedural restrictions, as in the NBC story here

It’s unclear if Jerry Brown will sign it.

The ability to extend life is creating more questions about death with dignity and ending suffering, in some cases.   It is normally acceptable to end life support if that is the patient’s living advanced directive.  

Many medications relieve suffering (as from inability to swallow) in hospice settings at the end of life, and using these is not controversial

NBC also reports that an argument used in a ruling by the Canadian Supreme Court could gain traction here. That is, in Canada, the fundamental right to life and liberty can be construed as including the right to end one’s life, in some circumstances.

Yes, Jack Kervorkian provoked a lot of debate back around 1993, the same time that gays in the military was being debated. 

 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Large employers trending toward making retirement plan participation mandatory, then outsourcing it


Russell Research and Employee Benefit News have reported on up to three trends in modern management of employee retirements plans.

The basic link at Russell ("The Future of Retirement") is here.
  
One idea is some sort of mandatory risk sharing between employer and associate.

A second idea seems to be making some participation in retirement saving mandatory.
  
A third idea is outsourcing to large third party providers (like large life insurance companies) for mixes of defined benefit and defined contribution plans.
  
EBN’s own link is here

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Family Health Group passes a reading list to me for new retirees


I did get an email from “For Family Health” asking me to pass along a series of links for how that groups believes seniors should plan healthful retirement, within an extended family context.
  
Bloom has a “Guide to Happy Retirement” addressing the desirability of work in retirement, here.
  
A group that does certification tests has a training session about talking to kids about a grandparent’s terminal illness.
  
There is a guide for home and family caregivers (as opposed to hired or paid).
   
There is some old-fashioned advice on the diet.  Eat your vegetables. 
  
There is a list of most common health concerns (emphasis on respiratory and colon).
  
There is a home health care group’s guide to Alzheimer’s, including biology.
  
There is a paper from NIH on what seniors should ask their primary care physicians. 

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Prudential sponsors "Race for Retirement" in DC in October


Prudential Insurance is sponsoring a “Race for Retirement” of 4.01 Kilometers at RFK Stadium in Washington DC on October 4, 2015. 


Here is the link.  
  
“One short run, to help us all save in the long run” is the caption.  Or, “running for a really good cause: YOU”.  It asks for a pledge to save.

 

Friday, September 04, 2015

Sometimes, momentum keeps seniors going, with little medical attention


I may be “sloughing” on this blog – not a lot of new that is really new (the debate on means testing keeps getting recycled, and filial responsibility as a news topic hasn’t done much recently). But one thing I’ve noticed, given my recent 72nd birthday (July 10), is the importance of keeping my own momentum.

Yes, I have some issues.  Hip arthritis, constipation (which may be related to blood pressure medication), some nuisance headaches. Some irregular heartbeat (sometimes when waking up from intense dreams).  But if I went to the doctor over these, they’d do every possible test under Medicare, and I’d spiral down into hospital culture.  Medical protocol doesn’t always save lives.

But once I get to the next stage in my own work (yesterday’s post on the main blog), I’ll start getting more conscientious. I should do the colonoscopy, but right now I can’t deal with the disruption of the prep.  If they find something, then what?  I don’t have the social support to do “just anything”. 
  
My paternal grandfather never got medical attention, was active on his Iowa farm until one Saturday morning he lay down and died at 89 after breakfast. That’s the way it was then.  There wasn’t the pressure to watch everything.  It was a lot better for some people.

 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

So, how does stock market volatility affect retirees? Look at yourself as a "company"


How much do stock prices really matter?

To a retiree living off of “rentier” wealth (not able to earn enough by labor or annuities or other benefits), it sounds like an important question when we have a volatile market.

One way to understand this is for me to imagine I am a company.  I issue shares, on the theory that my books, blog posts, and future movies or music should make money. The “par value” for the shares would be based on my net worth (as equity) at a starting point, according to the accounting equation:
E = A – L

I would get cash (liquidity) from the event.  Then shares of me could be traded in market, and would go up and down, increasing or decreasing market capitalization. If the price was low, and I was liquidated, I would have E left over.  But if the price was too high, then I could go bankrupt (but would be protected by incorporation).


A small business site explains how this works for most small businesses in most states, here. When you incorporate, there is a record of how many shares you are allowed to issue (regulated by the state).
  
Another site that explains some of this is here.  
   
A retiree typically is concerned about liquidity.  A stock market (or bond market) decline is bad if the retiree suddenly needs cash (for uncovered medical bills, maybe for property taxes, legal problems, etc).  The market value of his or her holdings may be undervalued according to the “accounting equation” for each company in his or her portfolio, but that does not help him get cash in the short run. Over the long run (dollar cost averaging), the market value of a company tends to average out closer to its real value. 

Of course, since companies (or individuals acting like companies) own securities, these become assets to be computed into these holders’ own accounting equations, which are affected by stock prices. 
  
What sounds strange right now is that stock values seem so dependent on the unreliable behavior of a large competitor and authoritarian, and even by name, Communist, country – China.  Investors need to get over this preoccupation with a country that just fifty years ago, under Maoism, made peasants of almost everybody.  But our dependence on importing their “cheap” dormitory-style labor is part of the moral problem.
  
As Donald Trump says, China is not your friend.  Certainly not Wall Street’s.

 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Glenn Beck appears on CNN, repeats Stansberry's theories without naming him; not good for "lazy" retirees


Tonight, CNN aired Glenn Beck commenting on the yo-yo stock market selloff.  (China’s was tanking again tonight.)

Beck said that the Fed was printing money, not charging interest, and that the markets were figuring out that the stock market isn’t based on anything because currency isn’t based on anything.

He said (like Porter Stansberry) that soon the dollar won’t be the (or a) reserve currency for the world, but right now the US was the least bad of all of them (like poop floating in a toilet bowl). 
So the government is using political power to silence currency hawks, like him, Ron Paul and Stansberry.

It is strange that CNN Money makes a case for optimism based on what a Communist Chinese government decides to do to re-charge its own economy,here
  
Beck has hosted Stansberry before, link. If the stock market is based on nothing because the dollar is based on nothing (or, as the Chinese think, pooh), then so is the bitcoin based on nothing. But intellect. 

What if he’s right? Is the "government" silencing he currency hardliners?

Picture: Rockville, MD, but looks like a nullianac (from Clive Barker's "Imjica").  Not sure what currency the reconciled dominions use. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Stock market "crash" makes retirees ponder, again (and, yes, Porter Stansberry gets mentioned)


So, what to make of the latest “correction” in the stock market?
  
I don’t recall two successive days with big drops since the 2008 crisis.  My own “portfolio” dropped about 1% over the two days.  But the accounts filled mostly with bonds (especially munis) actually gained.

This "correction" is proportionately much less than, say, the October 1987 crash. 
  
There have been some doomsday predictions about what happens if the Fed raises rates in September.  I think it probably won’t, and will wait until the end of 2015.

But I'm told that a senior like me should care about an authoritarian country like China. I even get unsolicited proposals to go there myself.  
     
And there is Porter Stansberry’s prediction that ATM’s stop working in October, and that the US becomes like Greece.  I really don’t get this at all. But it is true that oil and commodity prices fell much faster than experts expected (link ).  That ought to be good in many ways, as states can probably hide gas tax increases and fund critical infrastructure repairs, or even fund more use of renewable and non-carbon emitting transportation energy sources.   You can read about Stansberry here or on my “cf: blog September 2014.   Here’s another account, link which raises a troubling question if just publishing “misleading” financial information in a newsletter is a tort, or should be protected by the First Amendment, but that question belongs on my main blog.

Scary is that Ron Paul   (former presidential candidate) joined his message, which has more to do with our own government's printing money than China's devaluation and oil prices.  Paul predicts our own currency crisis (like Stansberry).
Paul has another "cheesy" (lead-you-on video) that he advertises on CNN here.   Of course, if the Chinese yuan is less reliable now, doesn't the dollar seem more secure by comparison?  

Back to the mainstream: For many retirees the best thing is to wait things out,  as Jason Zweig wrote in the weekend WSJ here. It's noteworthy that this time there are no institutional failures being speculated on the horizon. 
But retirees with large IRA’s have to pull out a certain percentage each year (if over 70-1/2) and that can lead to losses.

On the other hand, people still building IRA’s while still working just keep buying stocks and using dollar-cost-averaging to balance out in the long run.

For some retirees, the wisdom of living off of assets and investments (becoming a rentier) becomes controversial.  Yet the job market really hasn’t provided opportunities that aren’t in many ways cheesy. Would I have wanted to become a “financial planner” in 2005, two years before the big crash started?  Would I want to become a tax preparer and help “married” couples get out of taxes by strategic divorce?  (Gay marriage could be providing a book for tax preparation now, admittedly).  Could I survive as an Uber driver?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Virginia publishes legal guide for financial caregivers


The Commonwealth of Virginia has become one of the first states to publish a free PDF document laying out in ordinary language the responsibilities of “financial caregivers”, those responsible for the financial affairs of incapacitated adults, usually but not always elderly.  The primary link is here.

The categories are “power of attorney” (most common), “conservator” (or guardian), trustees under revocable living trusts, and government benefits.
   
I was in the first category when my mother was alive, but we set up a revocable trust in 2009, which became irrevocable on her passing in 2010 (and was amended to becoming a grantor trust in 2012).

Local stations reported an example where a woman had responsibility for a 35-year-old driver after being disabled when struck by a drunk driver. A typical local report is here

 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Does the top 1% really favor means testing of Social Security now?


Check this column on p. A19 of the New York Times Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, p. A19, by Paul Krugman, “Republicans Against Retirement”, link here

 The top one percent seems to be for cutting Social Security benefits to those who “don’t need it” (Them!).  The average Republican voter still wants to protect Social Security. Trump reportedly has little against Social Security as it is.

For someone in my bracket, my benefit is tied to the amount of FICA tax that I (and my many employers) paid while I was “working”.  I think of it largely as an annuity. 

But legally it is still “welfare” (the Nestor opinion), and a hard-liner could say, I was simply taxed when working to pay for others.  Too bad to be caught in the middle, but that’s the breaks.  Even Harry Browne had wanted to stop Social Security at some point because it’s a pyramid.

So I still like gradual privatization, or the right to move future benefits into a private annuity plan, to protect it from politicians.

 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Dreams, and dementia


Just a brief personal note that makes a point.  Last night, I had an intense dream that I had caused a fatal auto accident.  I wanted it to be a dream and woke myself up, although the after effects lingered for a while.  But it struck me that in a dream, however real it seems, I have no idea of how I got there, in a particular situation, whether desirable (even erotic) or terrifying. That point was well made in the 2010 movie “Inception”.

It is often said that someone with dementia (or Alzheimer’s) may have no short term memory of what has just preceded the “now”, but yet she perceives herself as being the same person.  The dream comparison may provide some insight into how this can be.

Conversely, writing down dreams and keeping a log of them (which I do, privately, off line) may be a good way to exercise short term memory.

 

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Life-prolonging treatment sometimes just prolongs suffering


The Washington Post has a feature story in “Health and Science” on Tuesday Aug. 4, about the idea that much medical care for the elderly can prolong life for months or years but not even palliate physical suffering. The story by Kristin M. Kostick and Jennifer Blumenthal Barry, link here, is “Deferring death can mean a life of suffering”, link here

The story concerns a husband and wife, Robert, 73, and Beverly, married for 53 years.  Now, she does the nursing care for his left ventricular assist device (LCAD).  Now Robert is considered in end-stage, where only palliative care is possible.  (He did pass away soon, before the story was written.)

My own mother had coronary bypass surgery in 1999 at age 85, and got eight very good years, and then three in which she declined, to pass away at the end of 2010.  The main diagnoses were congestive heart failure and aortic stenosis.  The possibility of a pacemaker, or of an LCAD, was never suggested.
  
I did have hospice at home and hired caregivers.  But I might have wound up having to do much more of this myself.

 

Monday, August 03, 2015

Home health agencies using franchising business models more, could affect how much caregivers earn


“Health Affairs” has published some important material about the home health industry, as with this article by Andrea McClain, who examines “a day in the life of a self-employed caregiver”, here
  
Caregivers who work directly for families can make more than those employed by agencies, and in recent times there has been more development of trademarked franchises for caregiving agencies.  There is a “viewpoint” column by Mariya Strauss on p. 17 of the Aug. 3, 2015 issue of “In These Times” (publication link article not online yet), “Treating old people like hamburgers” discussing the franchising.  The article reports Health Affairs as saying that 62% of the industry is run by franchises. 
  
I preferred not to employ anyone directly when I looked after mother, but used two agencies.  Since I was functioning as a “journalist”, I felt that being a direct employer at the same time could generate an ethical conflict.
    
But it’s clear that caregivers employed directly probably can get paid much better.

 

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Are benefits for today's seniors impoverishing millennials?


Steven Rattner has an op-ed in the New York Times, Sunday, August 2, 2015, p. 3 in Review Section, “Making life too hard for millennials”, link here.

Despite having more college education, the younger generation makes less and has less net worth and more debt.  Arguably, that’s because of policies that spend more money on seniors, for benefits seniors didn’t completely earn on their own before.

We heard a lot of that during two separate spoofs over the debt ceiling, in 2011 and 2014. The question of means testing Social Security would then come up, as would the question as to whether Social Security benefits are an earned annuity (paid for by FICA taxes over the years) or a welfare benefit.  In a practical sense, seniors perceive the former, legally, it’s more the latter.

Two big things stand out in my own situation.  One is how wasteful Medicare can be.  I don’t go to the doctor often for small things.  Why?  I know the doctor will feel obliged to do a cascade of tests, possibly finding things I am just as well off not knowing in practice.  At 72, momentum works to my advantage.  Spending for my mother, who passed at 97, was really excessive and unsustainable.

Another is the complexity (and ambiguity) of tax codes, including states that have an income tax.  Both federal and state (VA) have tripped over my amended return (which I filed after noting I had missed a few securities paying dividends, trying to return about $130 to each jurisdiction); the state wanting forms that don’t even exist.  The time I spend on matters that make very little difference in the total amount owed gets ridiculous.  And I was even pressured to become a tax preparer myself!
  
One more point, mentioned in Rattner’s piece, is neglect of infrastructure, which affects my ability to be productive my own way in retirement, and certainly affects the job market for top wage earners.

In the meantime, I can go to imdb and note the resumes of both Gregory Smith and Richard Harmon, both young and both whom I know, and say to them, “you’re paying for my Social Security” by working on so many movies and TV shows by such a young age.  They’re both Canadians, supporting ME. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

How Social Security puts single women at a disadvantage


Time Magazine, Aug. 3, 2015, p. 48, offers a perspective by Haley Sweetland Edwards, “The next Social Security crisis: Why American women are bearing the brunt of the retirement cruch”, link here  (paywall).


The focus is on single and sometimes divorced women, and on women who were not able to compete on their own in the workplace.  There is also discussion on how caregivers are paid (or aren’t) and how that affects their eventual social security.  And women outlive men.

There is also a discussion of the connection to marriage and family values.  The writer notes that poverty lowers marriage rates, not the other way around. 
  

 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Washington Post reminds us how SSDI can affect entire Social Security program; same FICA tax pool


The Washington Post has a very useful editorial Tuesday discussing how funding for Social Security SSDI insurance works, link here.
  
Many people don’t realize that their FICA taxes support both “old age” (for lack of a better word) retirement (starting possibly at 62, with political pressure to keep on increasing full and early retirement ages) and disability insurance payments, which hopefully most workers never use. 
   
SSDI payment loads may have increased partly because of expanded workforce (women), longer careers, but also lax regulations in some areas.  But increasing the portion paid for SSDI can mean that the trust fund for retirement gets in trouble even sooner.
  
I think that the solvency of the Social Security Trust Fund over time would be a good topic for a Vox Media “Card Stack”.  I tweeted them this idea recently.  None of this involves SSI, which is a completely separate program.  

Sunday, July 26, 2015

More on the growing Alzheimer's crisis: should early screening be done? Do women it develop more quickly?


Kathleen Parker offers an op-ed on the growing Alzheimer’s crisis in the Washington Post July 24, here,  notes that it affects women longer than men (partly because women live longer), and notes the new drug zinfandel, which may help brain proteins “fold” correctly.

But Dwaine Rieves, on p. A15 Saturday, argues for doing brain scans for early Alzheimers or the propensity, in an op-ed here.  But one question would be, could the history of such a scan (with “positive” results) interfere with purchasing long term care insurance?
  
On July 21, the New York Times reported, in a piece by Benedict Carey, studies showing women’s dementia may progress more rapidly than men’s, link here

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Merrill Lynch sets up seminars for employers on longevity


Merrill Lynch (under Bank of America) will offer client employers longevity training programs, according to this story on Employee Benefit News, apparently at USC in Los Angeles. 
  
The training is supposed to deal with development of products for associates that move beyond the usual 401(k) matches which have tended to replace defined benefit plans with many employers.
  
But a bigger issues is the sea change in career expectancy.  Before about the year 2000, employers had gotten used to the idea that professional employees tended to retire early, by 62, and had even designed products with provisions like “social security bridge” or “social security offset” predicated on starting Social Security at 62.  Often retirement had been encouraged even at age 55.  It’s clear that such an strategy is no longer sustainable.
  
Associates need to keep current on job skills as they move into their 60s and even 70s now.  
  
Employers need to become more pro-active with hands-on training of more senior employees than in the past.
  

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

ABC preaches on why women outlive men


ABC News has a story on five reasons women live longer than men, here. Some of the reasons are well known:  women have two X chromosomes, take fewer physical risks, and have heart disease later (and more gradually).  More important is that women have stronger social networks and accept interdependence better than men.  A new reason, on the “Index” last night is that men are more likely to carry body fat in the abdomen.

  
And the conventional wisdom used to be, men didn’t have that problem until they got married.

 

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Pondering Greece and Puerto Rico: we all need to be able to keep working until at least age 70


The situations in Greece and Puerto Rico still continue to have implications for retirees, even in the U.S. How much can they affect the stability of portfolios?
  
The latest news is that “Europe” gave Greece until Sunday to come up with a “plan” or else Greece will have to start printing its own currency.  There simply won’t be any more euros in circulation in the country. This sounds like the New York City financial crisis in 1975: "Ford to City: Drop dead!"

And Vox has a good brief analysis of the Puerto Rican crisis here.  One interesting point is that as people leave the island, those that remain carry a larger portion of the debt.
  
The Washington Times has chastised Greece for its leftist programs, and a retirement age of 60. 
However, the Left criticizes the whole idea of capital and depending on debts related to social services being paid.  Almost any portfolio today has some investments in companies or governments that may not be sustainable.
  
In the meantime, it seems to me, in retrospect, that the whole idea of “early retirement”, so often pimped by major employers for cost cutting since the 80s, has become unsustainable.  I stopped my IT career at 58 at the end of 2001, as a result of 9/11, mother’s situation, and even my “online reputation” as a pundit.  Really, we need to keep working until at least 70. I guess I don't practice what I preach because of the "It's free" problem. 
     
“Techies” like me are supposed (after age 60) to go out and become pimps for lifestyle services on social media.  That isn’t sustainable either.  Employers need to think about how to keep associate real-job skills up for decades at a time.  Newer tech companies like Facebook and Google, while run by “youth”, probably do understand this.
   
So then, think again about what is going on overseas (Greece isn’t the only one) and in our own backyard.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The "file and suspend" technique that married couples use to increase social security benefits can help same-sex couples too


One of the biggest benefits to same-sex couples from recognition of marriage equality comes from social security survivorship benefits.
  
  
Couples have the ability to play with the retirement age, which single people don’t.  The technique is called “file and suspend” and is explained well in this Reuters article by Mark Miller, link.   Of course, as a personal matter, this works for older people inclined to get into and keep intimate relationships, a moral irony. 


Monday, June 29, 2015

Greece, Puerto Rico imminent defaults come together, maybe leading to a financial Hurricane Sandy, like Porter Stansberry predicts


There is a lot of talk today about the drop in financial markets because of the default in Greece. But there’s more, because Puerto Rico, as a US territory, is simultaneously getting attention because the likelihood of default, and, like a state, it cannot declare bankruptcy. The Puerto Rican situation could prove more dangerous to most US retirees living like  parasitic Piketty “rentiers” (like me). I did cover the situation in Greece earlier today on the International Issues blog.
  
Robert J. Samuelson has a sobering article on p. A15 of the Washington Post Monday, June 29, 2015, “The next financial crisis?” link here.  It considers developing countries like China as most likely to cause instability.  Some right-wing economists have suggested that China, though, could call in US debt and undermine the dollar as reserve currency (the Porter Stansberry theory, supported now by Ron Paul, as discussed June 25 on my “cf” blog).  The Washington Times often runs Stansberry’s material.  Actually, Donald Trump may well believe this theory. “China is not our friend”.  Neither was the tiger Richard Parker.


Yahoo Finance has two important articles today, one on whether US markets have enough “distance” from Greece, and another on Puerto Rico.

 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Maryland governor's lymphoma treatable for older people only when there is a good social support network


Republican governor Larry Hogan of Maryland has been diagnosed with Stage 3 Non-Hodgkins B-cell lymphoma at age 59.  This was an aggressive type. He says he noticed a golf-ball-sized lump on his neck shaving in early June.  The development of tumor seems to be pretty sudden, and the quantity of tumors found by MRI’s was shocking.  Brian Witte of the Associated Press has a story here. Surprisingly, he had few symptoms in how he felt.
  
He expects a few days of intense chemotherapy and then 18 weeks of intermittent treatment and to keep working. He says he was told the rebound from side effects will be great. His chances for complete remission are said to be good.
  
  
Older people can get many non-Hodgkins lymphomas.  Many are slow growing, as is multiple myeloma.  Some may have viral causes.  Agreeing to aggressive treatment when one doesn’t have many symptoms is problematic unless one has a strong social support network.  Childless and never married or divorced older adults may have weak support networks and little incentive to go through this when they don’t have symptoms yet.