Friday, December 16, 2016

Republicans introduce Social Security reform bill with modest means testing


Republicans are considering a Social Security reform bill that raises the retirement age to 69, and gradually means tests benefits, especially for some spouses and dependents, apparently even for some current retirees.  But the means testing is “mild”:  it would eliminate COLA increases for singles earning over $85000 and couples over $170000 a year.

Criticism says that it places the burden of funding on the poor and middle class (often unaware of the actuarial  math when voting for Trump).

The bill was introduced by Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX).

It’s called the “Social Security Reform Act of 2016”, Johnson’s link . It is supposed to add 75 years of sovereignty to the Social Security Trust find.

The story by Sarah MacManus appeared in Bipartisan Report.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Filial piety has some limits; don't let your parents be reckless with money


In a column today (which I note is World AIDS day) Michelle Singletary, “The Color of Money”, comes out for filial piety by saying, “I absolutely believe that we all should be on standby to assist relatives in need”.   Take care of your own first.

That’s all in a column today, “Don’t let your parents drag you under financially”.  Singletary gives a couple of narratives of how parents became spendthrifts.  In one case, a parent declared bankruptcy after getting dental implants when dentures might have sufficed.  (Complete implants typically cost over $60000, spent over several months).   Were the adult kids on the hook for the bankruptcy? Probably not, but state laws can be tricky.

Many people just don't get the mathematical idea of compound interest, the stuff of middle school algebra tests today.  You're money lasts a lot longer if you avoid debt altogether.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Should empty nesters "downsize" or "rightsize"? Is high rise living more secure?


On Wednesday, Nov. 23, Harriet Edelson wrote a detailed article for the Washington Post about empty-nest seniors downsizing. 
  
It’s interesting that an old house, even if paid for, can be a “burden” if there is constant concern of what can fail.  Seniors, especially those very mobile, may want smaller places, newer, more secure, and in areas accessible to public transportation and amenities.  A new place with onsite security makes long-term travel much easier. 
  

   
High rises may often be more secure for some people, but that isn’t always the case.  The condition of the property and the quality of management onsite is a major factor for security too.  

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

More seniors than ever before have large mortgage balances; more on reverse mortgages


Paula Span has a disturbing story on p. D5 of the New York Times today, Tuesday, November 22, 2016, in a series called “The New Old Age”.  The article title is “Swimming in a rising tide of mortgage debt” or (online), “They’re growing older: their mortgage debt deepens.”

The article examines the growing number of seniors whose loan balance is at least 80% of the value, and even of seniors who are still underwater.

Frequently, senior incomes drop with retirement, or with under-employment in the job market, and their ability to pay off mortgages weakens.



Then, there are ways to get hurt by reverse mortgages that is, by what a loan officer or sales person tells you.  You still have to pay taxes and insurance and keep the home livable.  It’s not a good idea to take a spouse off the title.  Charles Guinn (“Aging in Place Specialist”)  talks in the video.  

Thursday, November 03, 2016

UCLA professor (Bredesen) shows lifestyle changes can often reverse early-onset Alzheimer's


A UCLA  neurology professor at UCLA, Dale Bredesen, reports that patients with early onset Alzheimer’s disease make major regains in cognition with lifestyle changes, which include “Mediterranean diet”, 12 hour fasts, and plenty of sleep, and vigorous exercise.  The Buck Institute has a detailed article here.

The story was reported on the NBC Today show early Thursday.


 
My own mentation, at 73, sometimes experiences “senior moments”, of not remembering a particular name for a minute or so, and then the name suddenly comes to mind and gets restored in other brain cells (rather like making another copy of a file to a different directory on a computer).


Friday, October 07, 2016

Proposals to means-test social security benefits, or privatize it, continue to flow in


The Washington Post featured three op-eds Oct. 6 on the sustainability of social security (“The Missing Debate, p A15, Friday Oct. 7), but the most challenging seems to be Rcahel Greszler, “Return to the system’s anti-poverty roots

Greszler does not want to means test current or near retirees, but believes for younger workers it should become totally means tested, and be largely replaced by a privatized system that would be managed largely by life insurance companies as quasi-annuities with special tax rules.  That would certainly create some jobs in the life insurance software industry, as the products would have to be programmed by companies like Vantage.



But the Foundation for Economic Education, in a piece by Brenton Smith, wants to “just end it” and stiff everyone who paid into it.

There are also proposals to cut benefits for everyone by about 20% and then means test.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Social situations, when someone seems to have memory issues


A situation came up in a social conversation some time back, about how to react to an elderly person who keeps asking the same question repeatedly (short term memory). 

My own way to react is to talk about the subject matter (in one case it was sports) as if nothing unusual was happening.  Just repeat the facts.  Don’t draw attention to the interpersonal aspects. 


But it seems others think this kind of social situation needs special handling. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Long Term care premiums keep rising


Michelle Singletary has an important column “Tough questions about long-term care insurance” on the front page of the Washington Post business section Sunday, September 25, 2016.

Federal (and other retirees) are facing stiff increases in premiums for the same coverage, or accepting lower maximum monthly coverages, or lower lifetime payouts.  As people live longer the present value of the expected claims increases, so insurance companies continue to increase rates.

Some people are at risk of forfeiting everything they have spent on LTC premiums to date if they cannot afford the increases.

I still have a single premium policy bought from Lincoln Life in 2011.  It still sends a 1099 to me every year, but the income doesn’t count.

The New Jersey ElderLaw Center has a video on the income tax deductibility or exclusion of nursing home or home health aide expenses, and of taxation benefits paid from LTC policies, here.  

Thursday, September 08, 2016

AARP columnist addresses issue of responding to door-to-door salesmen


Sid Kirchheimer has some valuable columns at AATP on scams, recently door-to-door sales scams.
 
One such scam involves home security systems, as he explains on July 7, 2016 here.   He has a more recent column on p. 16 of the September (Vol. 57 #7) printed membership newsletter (not online yet), “Who’s that knocking” where he talks about a lot of other door-to-door scams.



On my “IT Job Market” blog, Aug. 15, 2016, I questioned whether door-to-door selling should even be a legitimate business practice today, given the practical home invasion risk.  But then, how do a lot of people even make a living if too many of the “haves” are hunkered down, with no one watching their backs.  In past generations, door-to-door was a legitimate occupation. Maybe no more.

In fact, a pest control contractor told me that “no trespassing” signs only attract (or perhaps anger) the more aggressive D2D sales people.  This presents, as they say in “The King and I”, a puzzlement.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

New medication may be one of the most promising for early Alzheimer's


Aducanumab, a new medication that clears plaques in the brain, may become one of the most promising treatments yet for early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, and there are indications that cognition losses can be reversed.  The Guardian has a story by Ian Sample, here.

PBS Newshour has an even more detailed story, with comparative (to placebo) brain scans here , from Scientific American by Karen Weintraub.


 
The CBS video above (1 year old) discusses Alzheimer’s trials, as well as a malaria vaccine, and the idea that fathers tend to gain weight compared to non-fathers.

The new drug was reported on ABC World News Tonight Wednesday but the story is not yet up on ABC,

Monday, August 29, 2016

For-profit companies build alternatives to assisted living, nursing homes with obscure help from Medicare


The for-profit world of private equity companies is now building “active senior” centers to keep them out of assisted living or nursing homes. Sarah Varney has a detailed story in the Aug. 21 Sunday Business of the New York Times. A little known Medicare rule allows this development.
 
The specific home is in Denver, and the company is InnovAge .

I would wonder if high altitude affects some seniors.  Would Flagstaff, AZ or Leadville CO be OK for a senior home?

Thursday, August 11, 2016

"Recall Guide" website for pharmaceuticals recommended by visitor


A reader recommended a site called “The Recall Guide”, as a particular resource for seniors to double-check their prescription and OTC medications, for FDA recalls and maybe drug interactions.

This free tool is an easy way to keep track of side effects and any dangerous recalls for any medications you are on. I personally use it to keep track of any dangers with my medications, and I think it would be helpful for members of your community as well. You can view the website here.

The side has articles on medical devices, generics and off-label, and legal liability of pharmaceutical companies.

Always be careful with over-the-counter stuff.  Recently I took a little more expectorant over the counter for an allergic cough and had to deal with a persistent sense of mild nausea for a few days, which seems to be a known (central nervous system) side effect of taking a larger dose.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Single and no kids: You need a will


Lawrence S. Jacobs has a valuable column in the Washington Blade, “Seven Myths of Estate Planning



In the July 22, 2016 issue, page 9, he offers an “advertorial”, on “Myth #4L Are you obligated to leave money to your relatives? No way”.  If you don’t have kids and don’t have a legal spouse, that is.  But you need to say so in a will; otherwise the law says the relatives (however lacking in merit or character) can get in line when you’re in your Afterlife – and the indications (if you believe the Monroe Institute) are that you are likely to know it, and not be able to do a damn thing about it, even as a ghost.  You have to be reincarnated (born) again to get another chance.

Monday, July 18, 2016

A parent's prenup on remarriage could put adult children at greater risk of filial responsibility


Here’s a curious column, in response to a letter, by Carolyn Hax in the Washington Post today, Style, p/ C8, “Oh, brother, why prenup hangup?” Like the movie, "Brother, Where Art Thou?"

The writer’s mother remarries and the new stepdad insists on a pre-nup.  Could “Prenupped” wind up, as an adult child, with a greater risk of responsibility for her mother’s bills later in life as a result?  Think about  it.  She could lose access to the stepfather’s money.

Monday, July 04, 2016

Newspaper LTE's want to see Social Security stopped for rich retirees even now


There are two important LTE’s regarding Social Security in the Washington Post today, link here.    One of the letters, from Arlington, suggests the radical step of folding Social Security taxes back into general income taxes, and immediate means testing of benefits, and returning the program strictly to a welfare benefit (which, in a constitutional sense, it really is, according to Flemming v Nestor).  The writer suggests that retirees who have enough other income to pay tax now on 85% of the Social Security income shouldn’t get the benefit, even if was promised in the past by the pseudo-annuity set up of FUCA.

A radical, not modest, proposal.


Friday, June 03, 2016

Financial planning industry wants to take Obama administration to court over "best interest of clients" rule


Various trade groups are gathering to fight an Obama administration rule that financial planners work in the best interest of their clients (which sounds like common sense), as in this story by Jonnelle Marte Friday in the Washington Post, p. A12, link here.
   
The trade groups claim that financial planners face increasing threats of class action litigation.
The story catches my attention because I was approached several times in retirement to do this myself.  I wonder, how do you know if you’re acting in your client’s best interest if, in 2005 or so, you had advised he or she take out a subprime mortgage?
 
There is so much cheesiness in this business these days.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

NYTimes has detailed booklet-length story of a former nurse with Alzheimer's; W Post reports on dangers of hospital discharges


In the Sunday New York Times May 1, N. R. Kleinfeld has a booklet-length insert “Fraying at the Edges”, documenting the life of former nurse Geri Taylor, of Manhattan, slowly descending into Alzheimer’s, at age 69.

The story begins when one morning she cannot recognize her own face in the mirror.  She recounts getting off a Chelsea IRT subway station and not knowing why she was there.  There is an insert that shows the loss of ego, to not having an idea of herself. An alarming symptom is not being able to remember how to do simple household repairs (like a caught window blind).

The Washington Post has a story April 29 by Jordan Rau, about the danger for many older patients just after returning home from the hospital.  But for some episodes, like some strokes, Medicare does pay for limited SNF nursing home stays if the patient is expected to get better.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Investigative journalist documents his odyssey into Alzheimer's


Investigative journalist Greg O’Brien has a disturbing article on the front page of the Outlook section of the Washington Post today, “I’m documenting my Alzheimer’s while I still can”.  He relates flying with his adult daughter, not being allowed to travel alone, and becoming confused about the purpose of an airplane fuselage exit door.

I can recall, in the fall of 2010, trying to schedule a trip for mother to Ohio by plane and having her picked up by a relative, and having to drop the plans.  She would pass away in December.

Yet, O’Brien writes his declining narrative cogently, as he says he is running on “cognitive reserve”. He notes with some irony that comic hero Clark Kent is a journalist.

I will sometimes look for a particular word, or name of someone not in my recent circulation, and have a “senior moment”, but the term or name always returns in a minute or so.

My own mother started occasionally getting lost driving in the latter part of 2008, two years before her final passing at 97.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Financial planners now have to look after best interests of investors (oh, well, starting in 2017)


The Labor Department has promulgated new administrative rules requiring financial advisers (when acting as fiduciaries) to act in the best interest of their clients who are saving for retirement. Tara Siegel Bernard has a QA on the Business Day section of the New York Times today, April 7, 2016, link. The rules start going into effect in April 2017 but must be fully in place by 2018.



This rule could certain affect a lot of seniors who went into the financial planning business (which I was “invited” to do by declined).

In other news, there is a lot of pressure from lobbyists not to let Puerto Rico declare bankruptcy ("Super Chapter 9") or have a bailout, and the territory has said it will need a moratorium and can miss its next payment.  This could affect retirement funds holding their debt. Lobbyists have warned that some states (like Illinois) could follow suit, but there would be considerable legal bars to that happening. Any solution, some portfolios could be affected. Seniors depend on bond holders paying their debts.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The "second career" as "retirement" approaches


Rodney Brooks has a valuable column in the Washington Post Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016, in the Business Section, in “On Retirement”, “Plan the second act before the first one is over”.
 
He also says, keep your original long track job as long as you can. But until recently, it had become fashionable for big employers to expect expensive 55+ associates to consider buyouts and an early start on that dream future.



I probably made my own decision for my second career on Aug. 6, 1994, when I had just turned 51, sitting in a diner in Sterling, CO, having a burger, and reading an off-hand, obscure story in a local paper about another military gay discharge.  When I came out of the restaurant and resumed driving my rental car (toward Scottsbluff and eventually Cheyenne), I had resolved to write my book.

Once I had self-published and self-instantiated, there was no turning back.  I would keep working at my long-track old career until the end of 2001, even doing a corporate transfer to Minneapolis in 1997, before the post 9/11 layoff.

I did this at a time when it was possible to lead a double life, even somewhat publicly.  Now that seems impossible.  By the mid 2000’s it was apparent that if I was going to do anything else other than journalism and content creation, I’d have to bury what I had done, almost like in the movie “Containment.”

Just like new college graduates, retirees often find themselves pushed into selling other people’s stuff.  You can’t sell someone else’s message if you’re too much into your own narrative.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Seniors should assess their likelihood of poverty honestly


Mark Rank has an op-ed on p. 9 of the New York Times Review, Sunday, March 9, “Calculate your economic risk” asking, what are the chances you will experience poverty in the near future?

The probabilities in any age group are disturbing, and they seem related to the difficulty many people experience in bringing in enough steady income in legitimate labor (not cheesy hucksterism).

They also may relate to ideas like misappropriation of “generational wealth”.

The biggest risks are to people whose assets are in illiquid or volatile assets, including property and real estate, combined with low skills in ability to make a living through work.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Employers still wonder how to use seniors effectively in the workplace


Elizabeth Olson has an interesting story about the difficulty of pursuing age discrimination claims in the workplace in the New York Times today, “Trying to make a case for age discrimination”.

The story focuses on two professors at an Ohio college, but then ventures into the employment market in general.

Typically, in a layoff, employers create subgroups of employees and list them in such a way as to prove they didn’t discriminate for age.

But there’s no question that the higher salaries and often health insurance claims give employers an incentive to pare older workers.

Back before 2000, it was getting common to expect salaried professionals to expect to retire around 55.  The economy can no longer afford this, with an aging population adding whole old generations, and fewer kids.

There’s also pressure on retirees to become “hucksters” of life-style related things (sometimes estate planning, or tax preparation) for which it’s not too easy to make a go of things when too many people do it.
 
I’ll throw out the idea that seniors may have a lot to offer news organizations – because they remember how things were several decades ago, and can offer perspectives on political events missing from the commentary of thirty-somethings, so focused on tech.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

NY Times covers use of music and art to keep seniors healthy; also, the controversy over testing for Alzheimers genes


Jane E. Brody has a column under “Well” in the New York Times Personal Health column Tuesday March 8 (“Science Times, p. D7), “A creative path to healthy aging” .  Music, dance, painting and pottery are becoming useful in keeping senior minds, in retirement communities, active.  She mentions programs like EngAGE in California, and Music and Memory.  This is an area of possible employment or careers for musicians and entertainers.

One retirement community in Maryland (is it Brookdale?) has been running a TV ad with employees, even young males, describing the work of bonding with people with dementia.  The idea of orienting oneself to do that sounds, well, revolutionary.

The New York Times has a painful story by Gina Kolata on screening for genes that makes one more susceptible to early-onset dementia and Alzheimers, as early as age 50, same newspaper, p. D3  This has been reported also for Huntington’s Disease, especially in the UK.  There is an “essentialist” argument for screening before having children, as well as to let future adult children know what to expect.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Church forum on end-of-life care issues presents "Five Wishes" and "POST" directives


On Sunday, March 6, 2016, the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC hosted, after the pot luck, a forum called “Stepping on Out”, by retired physician Dudley F. Rochester, MD, from Charlottesville VA.  Dr. Rochester presented, on Power-Point, his “Handbook of End-of-Life Care Issues.”  I did not find the exact document online.
  
The presentation was in two parts, A and B (not the same as Medicare!).  Part A was “Medical considerations for end-of-life care”.  The main point was that, since people are living longer, they are likely to be disabled for a longer time at end of life. After age 75, the “great age”, very sudden death from cancer, heart disease, and of course accidents, becomes less likely, and a gradual decline more probable, especially for women.  The two biggest problems are likely to be frailty and dementia.

The range of care levels includes aggressive life-saving care, through limited medical care, to comfort care, which can include palliative care.  With six months or less life expectancy, Medicare will authorize hospice care, which usually starts at home.

Rochester emphasized that it is desirable for those above the “Great Age” to avoid the ICU, or Intensive Care Unit.


The doctor mentioned that aggressive CPR on the elderly can result in rib fractures, since pressure goes two inches. He discussed tube feeding, and indicated that through the abdominal wall is often more comfortable, and is usually preferable to intravenous feeding (the “IV Critic” problem).
  
In Virginia and most other states, you have the right to discontinue treatments.
“Part B” was “Expressing, recording and communicating your wishes.”  The important concepts were naming a “health care agent”, proving an “advanced medical directive” including a living will, and providing a durable power of attorney.  The word “durable” means that the provisions are in effect if you are incapacitated.

He provided a comparison of the Virginia AMD, the FiveWishes AMD , and the POST Adjunct to Advanced Medical Directive  allowed in Virginia in 2014.

There was no discussion of how services are paid for.  Medicare doesn't pay for most custodial care (except hospice, or short term skilled care when the patient will recover). There was no mention of filial responsibility, still an obscure topic. 
  
“Stepping On Out” is also the name of a charity in the UK that produces greeting cards made by adults with learning or intellectual disabilities.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Trump generally sounds "OK" in leaving current social security beneficiaries alone, but he does waffle all the time


Whatever other controversy Donald Trump creates, his stand on Social Security sounds reasonable.  Continuing “promised benefits” is not paying an entitlement, it’s “honoring a deal” (to pay back for FICA).

He also has suggested a one-time tax on the wealthiest (including him) to shore up the trust fund deficit, but it’s hard to see how that would work.

A site called “On the Issues” takes this up here.

But Market Watch reports on an interview by Scott Pelly in which at one time Trump had reportedly suggested raising the retirement age to 70.

But in November CBS News had polled the candidates on their positions on Social Security, with varying results.  At the time, Trump had denied he would raise the retirement age.   Steve Vernon wrote the story for CBS and Money Watch, here.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Carrots alone don't get people to save for retirement


Here’s a nice little article in Business Day in the New York Times February 24, 2016, “Nudges aren’t enough to solve society’s problems”, by Eduardo Porter. The main focus of the article concerns getting people who don’t make high enough wages on the job to still continue saving for retirement in IRA’s, which “carrots” only (no sticks), particularly in an environment where few companies offer defined benefit programs any more.  There is a problem in that lower income people are more focused on their near term well being, and often don’t develop the cognition to think about their futures (into old age) strategically.  They expect to depend on “family”.  Somehow the title of the article reminds me of the little movie “The Mudge Boy”, “M” instead of “N”. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Hospice care episodes increasing in length, increasing bills for Medicare


Christopher Weaver, Anna Wilde Mathews, and Tom McGinty have a booklet-length article in the Wall Street Journal Friday, February 19, 2016, “Lengthy Hospice Care Boosts Medicare Bills; more dementia patients and others who die slowly are receiving care, causing costs to rise”

Hospice care (which usually starts at home with visits) is supposed to be offered when life expectancy is six months are less.  My own mother started it in November 2009 and passed away in December, 2010, using it thirteen months (the extensions had to be applied for two weeks at a time).  She spent four days in the actual facility, but the day before she declined suddenly to the point of going in (there are very definite signs that death is imminent), her signs had been the best for a long time.  In some cases, people might recover well enough to come out for a while.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Some popular anti-heartburn drugs could lead to dementia; Time Magazine presents longevity, and the hope of a new anti-Alzheimer's medication


Seniors have been advised that some popular anti-heartburn and anti-reflex drugs may increase the risk of dementia over age 75.  These are called the proton pump inhibitors, and include Prilosec, Nexium and Pevacid.  They don’t seem to include over the counter tablets like Rolaids and Tums.  (Rolaids were off the shelves for a long time because of a production problem.)  The CBS News story by Dennis Thompson is here. The German study was published in JAMA of Neurology Feb.. 15.

  

Time Magazine has an issue, Fb. 22, 2016, “The Long View of a Very Long Life”, coverage starts on p. 59. Laura L. Cartensen writes about “The New Age of Aging”.  There is discussion of the fact that extended families have more generations alive at one time, and mention of the demographic challenges of fewer kids, but not of the sacrifices that can entail; there are charts about exercise and home ownership. On p. 64, Alice Park covers “Alzheimer’s from a New Angle”, and a new drug, LMA11A-31.  The drug keeps existing brain cells strong and resistant to amyloid. Alexandra Sifferlin writes “It’s The Little Things” on p. 80. The article also talks about animals that live a long time (clams can live 500 years). There is a story on the Time issue in “Dating Dementia”. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Presidential candidates, except for Trump, take positions on Social Security, with some possible surprises


Yahoo! Finance has an important chart on where the candidates stand on Social Security reform, story link here. Donald Trump has yet to take a stand.

Kasich, Bush and Rubio want to means test beneficiaries with higher income.  It’s not clear if that could include accumulated net worth or liquid worth (that is, penalizing rent-seeking behavior – not real likely).  Curiously, neither Clinton nor Sanders mentions means testing.



Cruz wants private accounts for Social Security, increase in retirement age and a lowering of COLA.  Accounting for switching to a private option would be complicated, but I have supported this idea, to keep benefits out of play as a potential bargaining chip for politicians.

Only Hillary Clinton wants to improve benefits for caregivers (not even Sanders, and that is a surprise.)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Negative Interest Rates could also pressure seniors


Retirees should probably become mindful of the notion of negative interest rates. The term is defined in Investopedia here.

Countries may literally charge companies and individuals for “hoarding” cash in accounts as a way to stimulate spending.  In theory, in some cases, negative interest rates could encourage the buying of equities and help the stock markets.  They could encourage consumer spending, or clean-energy spending (such as electric cars).

They are the financial equivalent of the moral objection to “gawking” or “kibitzing”, making all of life a spectator sport to judge others.



Despite the Fed action to raise rates in December, today Federal Reserve chairman told Congress that negative interest rates “are not off the table”  (USA Today) given the big sell-off partly related to nosediving oil prices.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Longer lives mean more use of nursing homes, more problems with senior debt


Tuesday, Tara Bahrampur placed a telling story on the Front Page of the Washington Post, “’I won’t put you in a nursing home’; a vow that sometimes can’t be kept

That’s one thing to say with a spouse.  It’s another with an elderly parent.  That probably would have happened with my own mother had she not passed at 97 at the end of 2010.

It seems to me that there could be a connection between “filial responsibility laws” that I’ve discussed here before, and the paid family leave debate.  It is more reasonable to include eldercare as covered in any such legal arrangement with employers if there is recognition that filial piety is indeed a legal requirement.  Since that blip in Pennsylvania in May, 2012, people have started to forget this.

Michelle Singletary  today has a column about seniors with a burden of debt.  I’ve noted that major indices in the stock market have dropped about 12% during this latest round of “corrections” of China and oil prices (since last summer). My own experience is that this amount of drop in valuations leads to about an 8% drop in net worth (the rest is some unusual spending), excluding real estate.   Valuations matter a lot more to people who own the securities than they do to the balance sheets of the companies themselves (and their employees).  But valuations don’t accurately reflect real wealth of A society the way a stable physical (and social) infrastructure does.  So, let Taylor Wilson reinvent the entire power grid and get rid of our dependence on oil once and for all.  And let Jack Andraka, if he is right about stem cells and nano-medicine, have us (or at least his generation) living to age 1000.  What then about having babies?

Monday, February 08, 2016

We may be near an "alien tipping point" on greatly increasing longevity, especially for the brain itself


Sunday, Fareed Zakaria interviewed a physician on his GPS program, about slowing down aging.

 The story isn’t up yet, and I didn’t get all the details down, but two points are worth mentioning.
 
One point concerned Jimmy Carter’s remission from metastatic melanoma in his brain.  A new generation of drugs can turn off the surface markers on cancer cells that keep normal immune cells from fighting them.  And these markers may be more generic in nature than previously thought.  So a drug might be able to provide remissions for many different cancers (the supposed “cure for cancer”) than just one at a time.

Another point is research to use stem cells to prevent aging.  Our own natural stem cells seem to stop generating new tissue at about age 25, which is when the brain reaches its biological summer solstice (having to do with both pruning and probably growing very specialized circuits connected to one’s own identity and abilities), so to speak.  That’s good for “kids” in medical school.  (That’s why people in their mid or late 20s often wonder how they could have been duped into irrational beliefs five to seven years before.  Reid Ewing’s outgrowing body dysmorphia and desire to “advise his younger self” is an example, probably, of biological brain maturation – resulting in learning to “see around corners”, as Dr. Phil describes it.)  The brain retains the “wisdom” of its previous growth well into old age, unless dementia sets in.


So the natural question is, whether stem cells could be used to slow or reverse the aging process, not only in the brain but in connective tissue, skin, and other organs.  Could one’s own stem cells be harvested and saved?  Would this become a technology of the rich?

But it is conceivable that these technologies, around a pivot point in medicine, could drastically prolong life spans.  Imagine if the rate of aging from age 25 or so could be cut to 10% of what it is now (a premise of the alien visitors in the NBC series “The Event”).

It’s one thing to prolong life, but it is another to prevent or reverse profound disability or dependence.  My own mother was very independent, and her coronary bypass surgery at age 85 in 1999 gave her about eight more good years.  But then the decline was very difficult to deal with.  Childless myself, I could not “afford” to make her reaching 100 a personal goal.  Extending life of its own sake was anathema.  She passed away after her 97th birthday in 2010.

It may be that stem cell infusions, and better health habits (exercise, hyper-running as in Tom Foreman’s book, avoiding pollution, and a vegan diet) could radically reduce aging and prolong productive life spans by decades.  But the social and moral consequences are right now incalculable.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

During the final days of life, the nature of dreams may change


CNN journalist Tom Foreman (Books blog, Jan. 10 and Feb. 1) has shared on Facebook a link to an interesting New York Times story by Jan Hoffman, “A New Vision for Dreams of the Dying”.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that “lucid dreams” can replace what is no longer realistic for me to expect to experience physically.  (I can find out what a particular relationship “would be like”.)
But these dreams, in the last weeks of life, seem to be of a different quality, a coda to life, beyond even a recapitulation.

Foreman says he read this at the airport, waiting to fly back from the Iowa caucuses.
 
I can remember doing some interesting reading myself at both Reagan and Dulles.  

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Libertarians say: Privatize Social Security now and keep promises to seniors forever


I’ll pass along the libertarian solution from Dr. Mary Ruwart and her “Cliff Notes” for “Healing Our World”, a blog post called “How to create enough wealth to retire the national debt, keep our promises to seniors, and more!”.
 
Much of what she proposes is reducing government services, or people’s dependency on them, so that privately held wealth increases.  Translate: privatize “Social Security” completely. (Chile sets an example.)  But what I recall from Harry Browne’s books in the 1990s was admission that promises to some seniors in one generation would have to be broken (by sudden means testing) to fix the problem.  I even recalling this point coming up an LPVa convention in Manassas VA in, as I recall, May 1996.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Social Security expands "deeming" requirement on some couples, as per HR 1314; some dependents on those with suspended benefits lose out


There is a lot of hoopla about a recent trojan change in Social Security included in with HR 1314 late in 2015.

First, a good thing is that it extended any threat from the debt ceiling until early 2017 (for a new president), so there’s no threat of disruption from another round of “parlor timocracy”.  Social Security explains that here.

Further, it seems that some funds were moved from retirement to disability through 2022, which might some day destabilize the retirement fund.



But the main course is the extension of “deeming” for couples to age 70 (it had been through full retirement age at 66).  It also means that those receiving subordinate benefits (like spouses, ex-spouses, and certain other dependents) on the basis of a primary worker who has suspended his or her benefits, will soon stop receiving the benefits.  Forbes explains this best in an article by Laurence Kotikoff, Oct. 28, 2015.    There are a lot of other catchy links about this problem on the web (and scare ads on newspaper sites) that provide little or no real explanation.  But this seems to be the first time people receiving existing benefits will be cut off.

Again, the bill seems to penalize people with complicated relational or family situations and with less personal independence.

Friday, January 15, 2016

When you live off of accumulated wealth rather than work, well, other people's problems affect you


Kiplinger has an article in Yahoo! about what retirees should do now, that the stock market is in correction and could get worse.

The problem is, us retirees often depend on accumulated (sometimes inherited) wealth to support us without working for someone else, or having to work about being cheesy in selling people things.
But what supports you in the stock market is the expectation that the assets you have can make money around the world, and they’re easily disrupted by forces you have no direct control over.
 
 Most portfolios have some oil, which obviously goes down.  Most portfolios do business with China, which has the karma problem of maintaining growth while abating pollution, becoming answerable to human rights problems (post-Communism) and most of all exploiting workers living in dorms.
So we retirees become the “Guilty Remnant”.  Think of that the next time a telemarketer calls and you don’t want to talk to him at all. He or she has to make a living.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Seniors may need "social network" preparation for natural disasters


Page B4 of the Saturday New York Times has a piece by Constance Gustke, “The Importance of Preparing for a Natural Disaster” especially for the elderly. But the byline on the front “Business Day” page read “A strong social network can help older Americans get the help they need in time of emergency.”  And that doesn’t mean Facebook.

There’s a story about an elderly woman who had lived 45 years in Middletown CA without incident, before a catastrophic fire.

Overwhelming fires, long tracking tornadoes, river floods (from unusual tropical rain events), and hurricanes may be becoming stronger because of climate change.  The most likely of these is the fire issue.

Other less likely catastrophes could come from terrorism or even from space weather (such as extreme solar storms).  Earthquake danger would seem to be rather constant, but California is overdue, and rarer huge (volcanic) events are possible in other parts of the country, especially Yellowstone and the Pacific Northwest.

Seniors who downsize can take care to make sure that they move into properties well above any possible flood risk, and away from fire prone areas in exurbs.  The latter may be harder to predict, as grass fires in the plains happen as well as mountain forest fires.  For tornado risk, areas south of Dallas-Ft. Worth generally have lower risk of large tornadoes than farther North (despite the Dec. 26 incident) or East because cold air masses usually don’t penetrate that far south.  Despite the popularity of Florida, it seems to me that coastal living should be avoided, although some people tell me that the best high-rise properties in Florida are built to withstand Category 5 hurricanes.  I don’t know if that’s really true.

Becoming homeless in a widespread catastrophe could happen to anyone.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Andrew Biggs writes definitive article on current status of Social Security, based on CBO (in WSJ)


The Wall Street Journal offers a perspective by Andrew G. Biggs, “New evidence on the phony ‘retirement crisis’”, p. A11 Tuesday. The CBO estimated retirement incomes based on promised Social Security benefits, and found most workers and spouses born in the 1960s and retiring before 2030 as doing reasonably well, if you include some savings and other retirement plans.  The problem is that the Social Security administration is underfunded by 24% over the next 75 years with respect to promised benefits.



Removing all wage ceilings on the FICA tax would make up 41% of the shortfall.  Raising the FICA tax alone would require a total tax (employee and employer) of 16.87% (right now it is 12.4%).
 
In the video above, Lindsey Graham (R-SC) wants current retiree to give up some of their COLA increases (based on means), but the COLA is much less than a few hundred dollars a month. He talks about Simpson-Bowles .

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Social Security in an election year


The New York Times has a major editorial today, for New Year’s Sunday, “Social Security in an Election Year” .
 
The Times seems to be with Democratic proposals that the Wage Base should be increased as well as (or instead of retirement age) but believes that more should be done for lower income people who don’t benefit from longer life expectancies.  The NYT remains somewhat askance on privatization, which would return control to Wall Street.

No one is facing the question cleanly, whether “better off” Social Security recipients today “have a right” to regard their FICA contributions (and their employers’) as like annuity premiums.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Lifelong learning good for seniors, and might help fend off dementia


Here’s an encouraging story by Harriet Edleson in the New York Times Saturday, January 2, 2016, “In school for the sake of keeping the mind stimulated”  or, online, “Older students learn for the same of learning”.

The article concerns the 150000 students at the Osher Life Long Learning Institutes , under the Bernard Osher Foundation.

My own needs would be to learn to use Sibelius (music composition software) better, and video editing through Final Cut.  I’ll have to look into the Tech Center right here in Crystal City, but maybe Osher offers something.