Tuesday, March 24, 2015

30-something friend from media, libertarian background writes big column on saving for retirement

Timothy B. Lee, whom I met in my days in Minneapolis when he was an undergrad at the U, has a big piece on Vox today “How to save for retirement without getting ripped off by Wall Street”, link here
I had an advantage, getting out of college without debt (thanks to parents).  Frankly, not having a family meant (yes, gay, the way it was for my generation) meant not having to borrow money for overpriced houses and cars and furniture.  I bought music (records and CD’s), tech gadgets, and eventually communications services and self-publishing infrastructure, but none of that required more than average credit card use.  I also paid off balances due each month, so no interest charges.
Discretionary income, and not having children, is a big deal, for social policy, particularly as the population ages, and as we may run into filial responsibility laws.
I agree with the column on stocks.  Use dollar-cost-averaging, and don’t play the volatility in the market, unless you want to make a living as a day trader, which is not for the squeamish. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Scientists debate whether consciousness persists, even indefinitely, after "death"

Sunday, Fareed Zakaria’s GPS mentioned the possibility of “storing consciousness” in some sort of hologram after “death”, as a kind of library of someone’s life, across space-time.  The video isn’t there yet, but the Daily Mail, in a piece by Emily Kent Smith and Tania Steere, reports on a variety of accounts that suggest that consciousness may persist a long time after “death”, link here
Not everyone has the positive NDE suggesting Heaven.  Some report a drowning sensation.  Maybe time stops, and consciousness at the end persists “forever”.  We don’t know, despite Scientific American’s insistence that the brain creates consciousness.  But I’m not so sure.  Maybe consciousness controls the Universe (or Multi-verse) and biology is part of the cycle commonly, to reinforce consciousness to oppose entropy.
In any case, suicide doesn’t sound like an easy way out.  And we really don’t know how much suffering might really occur with murder, or with even the death penalty.
The video above invokes Monroe Institute ideas.  “You are concerned with where you are” in a new family of souls.  But, really, it will seem pretty normal.
Back in the 1990s, the old Omni Magazine had an article suggesting downloading consciousness before someone dies.  You don’t need a body.  The idea occurs in the recent film “Chappie”.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

New studies discount the effectiveness of heart stress tests

NBC News has an interesting story and video on the efficacy of stress electrocardiograms, vs. other tests like computerized tomography, by Bill Briggs, link here

The story includes cases where stress tests (as well as resting electrocardiograms) were relatively normal, but tomography found severe blockgage, after only vague chest discomfort.  In the cases reported, a male patient got emergency coronary bypass surgery at age 50.
David Letterman did that in 2000, not being allowed to go home from the doctor’s office.  Esquire drew a cartoon of him as a member of the “Zipper Club”.
Wikipedia attribution link for p.d. photo by BlueOctane of stress test in progress, here. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

New bionic artificial heart could change transplant protocols, greatly extend life spans

ABC News reports, in a story by Sydney Lupkin, on a new bionic heart that does not beat and than could revolutionize heart transplant surgery, link here
The question is, could devices like this extend life indefinitely for people with heart disease.  My own mother died at 97 at the end of 2010, specifically from aortic stenosis associated with gradual congestive heart failure, eleven years after coronary bypass surgery in 1999. 
Of course, we remember that Barney Clark lived some months with an external artificial heart way back in the late 60s.  He eventually succumbed to other organ failure, including kidneys.
But could we afford to keep people living even that much longer, with otherwise extreme disability.  What about even more “burden” on families?  Is this a good idea?  I wouldn’t want this. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Journalists covering Social Security for gay couples confuse SSI, SSDI, and normal retirement; they're all different

A recent story about how the Social Security administration is handling same-sex marriage, and same-sex couples after DOMA was struck down, has led to some confusion among the various kinds of programs the SSA administers.

The main issue appears to be SSI, Supplemental Security Income, which Social Security explains here. There have been some cases where SSA kept paying benefits as if the beneficiaries were single and then tried to recoup them.  That story is covered on the GLBT blog.   SSI is paid for by general tax revenues, not the retirement Trust Fund.
Buy Social Security Disability does come from the Trust Fund and can be paid before age 62 to individuals who become too disabled to work in certain circumstances, link here.  There was a lot of discussion about this fifteen years ago.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Retired nurse in Arkansas spends her own pension to feed other seniors; malnutrition in seniors not often covered

The issue of senior hunger has caught the attention of the press, especially in Fort Smith AR, which National Geographic visited recently in making its film “Hunger in America”, local story link here.   There is a retired nurse, Charlotte Tidwell, who spends here entire pension running a food bank, along with the Antioch Consolidated Association for Youth and Family.  A local news station added to the report, as here

NBC News reported Wednesday how she spends her own retirement (see my main blog, entry yesterday), reinforced in a story called “Pension Meals” in “One News Page” here

Monday, March 02, 2015

Financial planners find that they need to target-market retirement services by ethnicity and gender

As employers move away from defined benefit plans and hire companies to help associates manage their own 401(k)’s, some financial consultants are tailoring their messages to specific classes of clients, especially for female clients and those with Latino background.
That’s the thrust of a New York Times story Feb. 20 by Tara Siegel Barnard in the “Your Money” column in the New York Times, link here
Investment advisors found that the multi-generational sensitivities of some ethnic groups meant that advisors had to tailor their pitches differently.
This is not something I would have been happy doing,