Saturday, December 23, 2017

Retirees in their late 70s work menial jobs as their pensions have failed them

Peter Whoriskey has a stinging article on how the capping and sometimes termination of pension benefits is affecting older Americans in this Washington Post article, “I hope I can quit working in a few years”.


The story has many examples of many seniors in their 70s working menial jobs (one as a greeter at Walmart at 79).  Most workers have not been able to save enough to get ahead of the game. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

MetLife and the pension risk transfer business

The Wall Street Journal has an important story in the pension risk transfer businesses, where large insurance companies contract to take over the obligations of employers who want to reduce pension exposure risk.

In particular, Leslie Sicsm reports that MetLife has hired an outside law firm to help it trace and fulfill the obligations it has taken on. 

The company wants to account for its obligations by Feb. 1.

Recently MetLife transferred some of its retirement annuities (mine in particular, through Wells Fargo) to Brighthouse. 

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Trump's tax plan hurts some retirees and is not that good for big business (Forbes)

The pro-business Forbes magazine in an article by John Wasik, is quite critical of the Trump-GOP tax plan, in its various incarnations, especially the Senate bill which has now passed. It's  turnaround from September when the publication had predicted a result good for seniors. 

The article notices the loss of medical expense deductions, which could be hard on seniors just before age 65, still not on Medicare but depending on “private”, often employer-sponsored retiree health insurance.  (Mine with ING, which ended in 2005, wasn’t too bad, but after all I had worked for an insurance company;  they had more incentive to be fair with it.  It turns out United Health Care did take care of a major skin cancer at age 64, almost 100% coverage)   The article gets into other areas, like college financial aid (which affects retired parents and grandparents).   What seems remarkable about this article is that it looks at the GOP’s supposed “pro-rich” tax bill as not very good for most companies and employers at all.   And this is from a publication related to Steve Forbes.

Trump seems to be ignoring the showdown that will come soon with Social Security, the next time we have a debt ceiling crisis. 
There are ads that claim that Trump's tax plan will hit Medicare Advantage customers particularly hard. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Time Magazine offers special report on growing demographic crisis in eldercare

The Nov. 27-Dec. 4 2017 issue of Time Magazine has a big story complex, “Crisis in Elder Care” (p. 48).  On. p. 50, JoNel Aleccia and Melissa Bailey has an article very critical of the performance of hospices, and Edwards has an article on p. 54 (white on black) explaining how nursing home residents have to sign away their right to sue (and accept arbitration) when they enter.

All this in a Time issue with a cover that reads “The 25 Best Inventions of 2017”.

Edwards’ article focuses particularly on how population demographics have evolved since the 1950s, as well as the changing roles of people in the family, in a society that is less labor intensive in many areas.  There is a federal rule against binding arbitration which the Trump administration seems to have put on hold. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Retirees often become trustees themselves: know the rights of beneficiaries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

It keeps getting harder to save for retirement

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

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Opioid crisis seems to drive Medicare and insurance companies to demand more doctor visits to scrutinize all prescription refills

I got a text late last night that the CVS store couldn’t refill my Losartan blood pressure medicine because it required re-authorization.  I checked, and quickly saw that the refills had been less then previously.

I call the doctor’s office and I’m told that the insurance (I presume that’s Part D Medicare) now insists on more frequent monitoring, every six months, not every year.  From a Medicare perspective, that encourages more doctor visits, more revenue for doctors, and more hits on the federal deficit for Medicare spending.

This seems to be driven by the opioid crisis, which I have nothing to do with.  But “big government” has dragged me into it anyway. 

There are some remote issues with some blood pressure meds.  They can, in rare cases, lead to afib or cardiac arrests.   Still, this is opening my own life, at least, to possible unnecessary disruption and interruption. 
A lot of people live as long with very little medical intervention as with a lot.  My paternal grandfather lived to 89 with almost no doctor visits (on a farm, with physical activity).  So some of us who don’t use the benefits a lot support those who do need it.  That’s how health insurance works.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Seniors in nursing homes and assisted living centers sometimes had to flee Irma in large numbers

Moving disabled seniors to shelters, in large numbers, from nursing homes and assisted living centers was indeed harrowing before the arrival of Irma, according to this Washington Post story by Aaron C. Davis and others on Sept. 9.  The link is here

In some cases, distant relatives bought them plane tickets north and arranged for special services to take them to airports. 

Some with Alzheimers were told they were going “on vacation.” 

All of this could be construed as an argument for keeping disabled seniors in their own homes with adult children when possible, but in this case, seniors had already moved to Florida. It’s always been common for seniors to retire on coastal communities, increasing risk.   

Picture:  Naples FL, mine, 2004. 

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Consumer Reports covers assisted living costs

Consumer Reports has a cover issue, “Who Will Care for You?” with a big article  on p. 30 (Oct. 2017 issue). 

There is an interesting chart of the cost of a year’s rent in an assisted living facility, which for Washington DC is over $80000 a year.  Florida and North Carolina are among the cheapest, at $36000.
Lower birth dates and longer life spans are part of the problem.  I wonder, do big families help?  Or are seniors who live alone (like I do) likely to stay sharp longer because they have to?  I know other seniors (from FL) who are still into fitness training, bicycle races, swims, and the like.    Physical fitness and stronger immune systems seem to counteract a future of dependency. 

Monday, September 04, 2017

Congress still could threaten retirees as debt ceiling plays out

Politico Playbook has the latest analysis on the debt ceiling issue, with a deadline in very early October.

Trump seems to want to raise it cleanly (which is a refreshing change from his earlier ideas of “deals” with creditors).  But he offered to tie it to a veterans bill, which some hard liners rejected, and now there is a “big mess” (or “big problem”).  Now the latest is to tie it to Houston relief efforts.

I would be concerned about attempts to bargain away other people’s lives, like immediate cutoff of some social security benefits for people who “don’t need it”.  Boehner seemed to threaten than back in 2011. 
I leaves one watching his own back all the time. 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Trump winds down the myRA flexible retirement program for lower income people

The Trump Administration will wind down the myRA program, a flexible IRA that had been set up for low and moderate income people with more flexible withdrawal rules.

On Truth-Out and TalkPovery, Alysha Alani describes the program explains how she helped low income clients in the Seattle area with the program.

Wikipedia attribution link for Seattle area aerial picture under CCSA 4.0 by Aditayade

Monday, August 21, 2017

Suggestions for narrowing HOA rules for home-based businesses

I’ll continue the post from Thursday Aug. 17, assuming that many retirees are likely to have home-based second careers.

Condos, townhome, and homeowner associations ought to spell out “reasonable” exceptions to flat no business use of condos. 

1.  County/city ordinances
2   No sings, banners, decorations
3   No personal traffic to unit beyond what is normal for a residence; no being open to the public like a retail store or even church.
4  Generally professional services (like physicians) are not allowed, except in units set aside for this.  In Northern VA, it is common to have townhome “office parks” set aside for such use and sold as office condos.  In some communities there could be specific exceptions, like piano teaching.
5   No storage of large volumes of items for sale (Extra Space Storage or similar facility should be used for large volumes of items, only a small sample in the unit.)
6.  No unusual equipment not normally found in a residence -- just ordinary computer and broadband Internet work as a writer  / blogger could do   (income comes from book sales and from Internet ads on Google/Amazon) 
7.  UPS Store (not the condo building) is the normal mailing address for deliveries
8.   No explicit mention of home address (or of seller's identity, for that matter) in social media  (mention of a residence to whitelisted social media contacts for purely social purposes is OK)
9  There is no objection to normal telecommuting with a conventional employer (even where work from home is permitted) as long as it doesn’t require visitors or unusual equipment.
10  Permitted home-based businesses are normally sole-proprietorships.
11   However, for some HBB entities created as sole proprietorships, home address might be listed in state sales tax and business records as a clientized "physical address" available as public records (probably not easily found online but conceivably found by a determined party -- there are companies which provide this information outside normal search engines).   A HOA should give guidance before closing if this is acceptable. If not, a homeowner would presumably have to look for a genuine commercial space (which might be a small place in a distant small town to keep costs low) as the official “physical location” of the business entity.  Most states or local governments don’t accept UPS stores as physical business addresses, just mailing addresses.  These concerns could also affect homeowners who want to run fundraising campaigns for 501c(3)’s in their units;  the organizations they support may need separate physical addresses. 

HOA’s often forbid short term subleases, like Airbnb.  They should inform purchasers of their rules on this before closing. In some cities, Airbnb is heavily regulated, but some developers will build pricey condos in trendy neighborhoods with the expectation that Airbnb-positive policies will be selling points.  Some professionals who travel a lot (such as well established people in film) seem to like to buy such units.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Progress report in senior retiree rental qualification

Some more investigation as I assess my own situation with respect to possible moving, suggests that in northern Virginia, at least, landlords will allow retirees to use large cash checking account balances (at least more that the total amount of a lease) as an alternative to the monthly income rule, which normally would be you make at least 3 times the rent.
Income usually includes pensions, social security, scheduled IRA distributions, and annuities.  With low interest rates, it tends to be difficult to make an annuity generate a lot of income unless it is short term. (See April 21 post.) 

This can get more serious in time if political circumstances endanger senior net worth or Social Security income, like failing to raise the debt ceiling. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Condo and other homeowner's associations erratic on home-based businesses, endangering retiree second careers

Retirees downsizing and wanting to buy condos should probably be careful if they work with home-based businesses.

This sounds like something that could come up more often in the future.  Retirees may have started second careers with “homework” and could conceivably face being forced to stop with cease-and-desists if they are not careful before they buy.

Most communities (counties and cities) have fairly consistent rules on HBB’s in separate homes.  Generally they don’t allow businesses that cause traffic to increase, produce noise, pollution  or structural risks,  and so on.  Some have more explicit rules for possibilities like day care centers, which others prohibit. However, in the past in some places, as John Stossel pointed out on 20-20, some rules were more motivated by protectionism by larger businesses or even unions, or by a desire to force business persons to rent commercial space. In Charlotte, a woman wasn’t allowed to keep a cookie-baking business without a commercial kitchen (which most larger churches do have). In Chicago, New Jersey, and even Los Angeles, back in the 1990s, freelance writers where chased when working at home. But these abuses have gotten less problematic as telecommuting has become more problematic. (Note: Houston has no zoning, as I remember.)

You would think condos would, by and large, follow the rules of their own community zoning.  It appears that some do, but there are many with outdated rules banning all trade or business activity.  Then it’s hard to see if this really applies to the blogger who never has visitors or takes deliveries and really makes a living from Internet ads or subscriptions (the “Blogtyrant” model).  A few HOA’s fear litigation unless they ban everything.  Some HOA’s may not be technically savvy (until techies get elected to their boards).  And now, given the political climate, a few HOA’s could fear owners attracting hostility to the building, endangering other residents.


Another problem could occur when business owners submit tax documents to localities or states and must disclose the fact that their businesses are located in their homes. 

I found a few articles explaining these trends:   Chicago, HOALeader, MicondoLaw, New England.

Many condos do not allow owners to offer Airbnb-like rentals (in highly urban areas where prices are higher it is more likely to be allowed, even expected by owners; but  cities are struggling with it, add new special licensing rules and limiting annual use, as hotels object to the competition.  It sounds like turf protection and commercial protectionism, but other people say it is their jobs.

Update: Aug. 23

Some feedback suggests that some condos are concerned that an organization will operate from a condo without anyone living there.

Friday, August 11, 2017

FEMA teams with Red Cross to ask for volunteers to install smoke alarms

The Red Cross has partnered with FEMA to sponsor a volunteer program to install fire and smoke alarms in homes.

FEMA sent out the email today, which sounded odd for it to be asking for volunteers.  The Red Cross link is here.

The program appears to need people to physically install the alarms in low income homes.It probably requires quite a bit of training. 

Independent smoke and CO alarms not connected to anything and battery operated can be purchased. 

I thought it was odd to see this from FEMA, but during the 1980s FEMA had started a “civilian reservist” program, which was written up in the Dallas papers when I was living there.

Smoke and fire alarms associated with security systems are often professionally installed and don’t need battery replacement, as they are powered by the system (the master battery for such a system needs to be replaced about every four years.)  It is desirable that systems have wireless rather than physical cable connection so they can’t be cut. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

UBS publishes snazzy retirement guide

UBS Investor Watch has a little online booklet “Retiring old clichees: Bucking convention, retirees find happiness and seek growth”, link here.

The presentation compares the issues of being both emotionally and financially ready for retirement. Once retired, most retirees like the flexible schedules of not having to commute to work.

The presentation acknowledges that health concerns can quickly become important.
It also doesn’t take into consideration that external stability in the economy and politically, even national security now, matters. 

Friday, August 04, 2017

Retirees need to be wary of scams in refinancing mortgages

Retirees should be wary of mortgage refinancing scams, such as this story from Tidewater Virginia.  The victim lost her home, and putting the scammers in prison doesn’t get her home back.  

I would wonder if the same problem could exist with reverse mortgages touted to seniors, which could be discovered after passing by the estate. 

The scam seemed to be a weakness in an Obama administration loan modification program intended to help people with the housing crisis of 2008. 

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Still more dribbles on senior qualification for rentals

I’m getting a little more info on the issue of retirees renting regular apartments and qualifying based on assets.

The latest feedback is that many landlords will consider assets favorably as long as they are liquid (cash or in accounts that don’t lose principal).  It sounds like they’d need to see at least a year’s rent. Maybe not all.  When retired people qualify on income alone, the rent is supposed to be no more than 3 times the income –but I wonder if that refers to subsidy.  4 times is more common. 

Some landlords offer varying length leases with lower monthly rents for longer leases.  It is logical that they would be more amendable to the whole-term-in-advance approach. 

At current low interest rates, it is difficult to convert a cash asset basis into annuity income. 

If Congress ever did make cuts in social security to existing retirees, like as a result of a debt ceiling crisis, that could destroy qualification. Theoretically this is constitutional, and one could conceive of a cutoff based on assets, as if to penalize having saved all one's life. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

More information on senior housing, especially for LGBT, dribbles in

A couple of items to report.

Wednesday night, I attended a work and information session on LGBT seniors in Arlington VA.  The details are on my GLBT issues blog today.  There was considerable concern that outside of a few big cities, LGBT seniors feel compelled to “stay in the closet” when living in senior centers.  This is perhaps particularly common with never married women.

There was talk about a project to build communal living centers housing about 15-20 each in about ten cities.

I did not hear any extra information on requirements for HUD-subsidized senior housing which I thought would be discussed.

Furthermore I was surprised that some people there from Arlington social services were not more familiar with how landlords in conventional apartment handle qualification of seniors (June 24 and April 21 postings).

I had a chat with a realtor today, to follow up on the “strategic plans” I discussed on the “BillBoushka” blog July 5. 
I do have some more idea on how landlords of modern general market building handle senior renters.  It sounds likely many would want a year’s rent in deposit.  You would have to be careful that you could get your money back in case of a disaster and the building could not be inhabited.  More details will be coming. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Are states getting tougher on driver's license renewals for seniors?

One piece of practical information that older people may need would be the ease of renewal of driver’s licenses.

Many states require in-person renewals and vision tests more often after a particular age.  It is a good idea to have a regular vision examination at intervals more frequent than those required by the BMV rules for your state (or, in particular, any state you would move to). 

Here are three references:  “Claims Journal”,  “GHSA”, and IIHS.

A few states, like North Carolina, have laws that allow DMV to restrict drivers’ licenses based on doctors’ reports or even reports from the public about unsafe driving.

A few states, like Oklahoma and Alabama, have very few or no restrictions on older drivers.  These tend to be states that are more rural, socially conservative, have fewer (really) big cities, and, particularly, more exposed to natural disasters, especially tornadoes.

One question that comes up is driving after recovering fullyfrom a stroke  (or WebMD).  The available literature suggests that this can be done.  Yet I remember reading somewhere, like in Virginia, that there is a minimum waiting period of six months.

Seniors, generally economically and physically better off at the moment, who value their independence often have a practical disincentive against overuse of doctor visits and Medicare, to avoid being caught up in endless appointments and restrictions.  “Them Republicans” seem to know that and want to take political advantage of it.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The "skin in the game" argument for healthcare -- especially for seniors

Here’s an interesting perpective in the Washington Post by Paul Waldman on the “skin in the game” problem with respect to health insurance, link.

Now, I’ve applied the idea of “skin in the game” to a different issue, not just “free speech” but “the privilege of being listened to”.

What I do find in the health area as a senior, is that if you go to the doctor for a minor problem, you may be dragged in to endless appointments and tests, which can be disruptive. They may not be necessary.  Or they may save your life. Yet, as a senior, I know every one of us will "die of something". 

In the past, older people often did live into their 80s and 90s based on pure momentum with little medical care, if they had good enough genetics.  On my father’s side, a grandfather hardly ever saw a doctor until he lay down and died at age 89 after breakfast one Saturday morning on a farm.

In the old days, there was simply less we could do about a lot of things, so massive screenings for things wasn’t attempted.  If you got aggressive colon cancer you had a colostomy and soon died anyway (that’s what happened to a piano teacher). But if colonoscopies had been available then, there was little that could be done.  Likewise, coronary bypass surgery became more common in the 80s, but wasn’t attempted on much older people until the late 90s, as with my mother (I was shocked she was eligible for it).  Chemotherapy for cancer was well established by the mid 70s, but a lot of it wasn’t very effective for a couple more decades. 

Health care costs a lot more now because we can do a lot more to save lives for the people who need it.  But not everyone ever needs it. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

NYTimes surveys problems with LGBT retirees, but mixed housing concepts (popular in Minnesota) seem like a way to go to me

Tammy La Gorce has an important research piece on p. 6 of Sunday Business July 9 2017 for LGBT retirees: “Finding a welcoming, affordable place to grow old” with the subtitle “Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender retirees ace numerous housing challenges”, link .

One problem might be qualifying for a standard apartment if not needing the special services.  As I covered June 24, there are special HUD rules for qualifying for subsidized rent in 55+ (or 62+) centers that usually offer extra services, including some meals and social services.  At least one retirement center in northern Virginia has a fully equipped stage theater for plays, often high school or local groups.

Another issue might be that an LGBT retiree might not fit into the social climate of some retirement places (probably more likely to be a problem for men than women).

Some places in New York City appealing to LGBT retirees are said to have long waiting lists.

In Washington DC, the DC Center for the LGBT Community has sponsored activities for retirees and there is some increased interest in the problem with events planned in Arlington by AGLA. A couple years ago, the Arlington library screened an independent film on LGBT retirees.

One observation is that some apartment buildings in some cities (like Minneapolis) have a certain percentage of units set aside for subsidized housing and for retirees.  In Minnesota, when I lived there, it seemed there was more interest in modern high rises having very mixed populations, ranging from U of M graduate students or medical students all the way to retirees and some people with disabilities.  This seemed to be a welcoming environment.

Update: July 15

I'm told personally that LGBT retirees tend to stay "in the closet" in suburban retirement homes.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

People with million dollar nest eggs wind up on Medicaid if they are in nursing homes with dementia long enough

In Massachusetts, a woman retires with $600,000 in savings, inherits a house through a trust, sells it, moves to an apartment, at age 76, in 1998.  In 2016 she dies at 94, after about three years supported by Medicaid in a nursing home.

A New York Times story in Business Day by Ron Lieber Saturday gives a tale of how increased longevity, especially for women, in increasing the likelihood of dementia and how a very comfortable nest egg can disappear.  The link is here.  But all of this follows years of corporate employment culture (until about the time of 9/11) where it had become acceptable and expected to “retire” after 55 with corporate downsizings and mergers (as happened with me).  The narrative also covers the filial piety of her adult children. All of this despite having long term care insurance and lots of retirement pros helping. (Is that the kind of job I was supposed to take?)

This is one reason why Medicaid cuts proposed by the GOP have become controversial.  Medicare doesn’t pay nursing home costs (except for short stays in skilled nursing facilities when you will get better), but Medicaid pays for it when assets are spent down enough – and the rules for giving away assets to adult kids to qualify for Medicaid have understandably gotten much stricter in the past 15 years.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

DC Housing Expo does provide information on how to qualify for subsidized senior housing; could change under Trump in October

Continuing a discussion that I started here April 21, I visited the Washington DC Housing Expo, 9th Annual, this morning at the Convention Center downtown.

I visited an area about senior housing.  I was told that HUD has rules for “Section 8” and for some subsidized senior housing, especially apartments for 55+.  Often they are less expensive than comparable apartments for the general population as a result of subsidy, and typically offer one meal a day, and referrals to other properties for assisted living should that become necessary.

Most properties have a monthly income range, minimum to maximum yearly, for qualification.  Income could include social security (probably before Medicare taxes), pensions, any annuities already set up with financial institutions or life insurance companies, and allow counting of 0.06% per month of provable assets (that would be 0.72% a year), toward qualification.  The typical maximum is around $55000 a year for subsidized housing.

Consultants were concerned about what happens in a GOP Congress and Trump presidency for the FY that starts in October 2017.  But if subsidies were reduced, it’s conceivable that the formula for counting personal assets would become more generous, based on the ideology of more self-sufficiency.

There were some attorneys present.  Generally, the “open market” for apartment buildings does not really have an industry standard for counting a retiree’s personal assets, the way it does for mortgages.  A retiree with substantial cash could find it easier to purchase a property with cash than rent.   But some landlords would be willing to work with pre-arranged savings accounts with automatic withdrawals for rent.

For what look like desirable modern, secure and well-supervised properties, from a very preliminary look, for both rent and purchase, prices look substantially less in places like North Carolina (either Raleigh-Durham or Charlotte), Texas (Austin or DFW), and more upscale midwestern cities like Minneapolis (where rent for a modern property appears to be about 2/3 of what it would be in Washington or close-in suburbs).

Use of personal assets for qualification of retirees seems to be somewhat problematic because it could be spent, could lose value in equity markets, or be challenged if inherited (the “English novel” or “Cousin Rachel” problem).  Landlords prefer to see the ability to earn income dynamically last as long as possible (as population ages) rather than coast on benefits and savings.  Wealth inequality has some subtle downsides indeed.

I’ll get into this more on Wordpress soon.  No, I don't want to live in a tiny house (ladder loft and kitchen).

Update: July 15

I'm told personally that the waiting lists for subsidized 55+ apartments are generally long.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Senate health care bill: dwindling of Medicaid could lead states to use filial responsibility laws in some nursing home situtions

Criticism of the Senate “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017” (Issues blog) includes the likelihood of cuts of Federal support to Medicaid in coming years, which could mean that more seniors who depend on Medicaid for nursing home care would no longer receive it, in many “red” or less generous states.

That could mean a much greater burden on adult children.  “Lookback periods” were strengthened about 12 years ago limiting senior giveaways to qualify for Medicaid for nursing home care.  States having filial responsibility laws might be more likely to go after adult children.  (In more recent years, this has happened only once to my knowledge, in Pennsylvania in May 2012, covered here then).

I’ll put Saraah Kiff’s “VoxCare” analysis of the Senate bill and all the discussion of Medicaid here.   I notice the language "repeal the individual mandate and replace it with nothing."

Monday, June 19, 2017

Retirees in older homes should realizing that old wiring gets dangerous

Retirees who “age in place” a lot of times live in older homes.  And with expanded life spans, even second generations are likely to be of retirement age and living in old homes.

I’m not big on all the review site hype, but Angie’s List does have some good advice on electrical sfatey and preventing electrical fires.

A particular risk can be aluminum wiring, which was sometimes installed in the late 1970s and early 80s and then was discontinued because of safety issues.

Wiring becomes unstable over the years, sockets can wear out (and become hot), major fuse circuits can wear out or be from a group known to  be deficient, and sometimes new appliances (especially some security systems) can require re-wiring.   Here’s the article.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Japan seeks immigrants as eldercare-givers

As an example of population demographics, an Asian site reports that Japan wants to immigrate up to 10,000 potential eldercare workers in the next three years because of its exploding elderly population, with low birthrate, link here.

Of course, this would raise the question of whether more retired people in the US should consider this.  There have been positions called “senior home companion”, minimum age 60, with a small stipend payment, in some states, but it may require more socialiability than a lot of retirees (me) have.

One way to stay out of medical trouble is to keep your momentum.  Keep getting everything done. Doctor’s appointments get in the way. Time eventually will run out, and it will be "pencils down".

Friday, June 09, 2017

AARP documents explosive problems with opioids among seniors, including selling prescription drugs to dealers

The AARP Bulletin for June 2017 has some alarming material about the opioid crisis and senior citizens.

AARP’s main link for “The Opioid Menace” is here.

The Cover Story, “The New Dealers”, by Joe Eaton, maintains that some seniors are selling prescription painkillers to drug pushers for extra money.

Seniors are more likely to become hooked on prescription drugs than younger adults if their liver and kidney function have impairment.  It’s shockingly easy to get hooked on medication.
I take Diclofenac Sodium intermittently for arthritic pain, and it is very effective, usually within about an hour.  But I don’t seem to need it continuously.  The specialist who prescribes it does have access to the mandatory annual blood work which a “family doctor” does

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Can chess, learning foreign language help forestall Alzheimer's

MSN has jumped into the Alzheimer’s debate with a link about “9 tips to reduce risk”, link here.

There’s a lot of emphasis on diet (omega fatty acids and Mediterranean) and exercise.  There probably needs to be more attention on mental exercises, like chess.

One physician recommends learning a new language.
There is the issue of “senior moment” – having trouble remembering the name of someone from the more distant past but remembering the person and who he or she was very clearly nevertheless.

How important are social connections, for their own sakes?

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Volunteers work with ombudsmen to keep nursing homes in line with respect to patients

Susan Jaffe has a Washington Post story in Health and Science Tuesday, May 2, “Volunteers check on nursing homes” (print), or “Volunteers help ombudsmen give nursing home residents ‘a voice’ in their care, link at Kaiser.

This would sound personally demanding, to ask a volunteer to go to bat for a patient against a corporate establishment, but that’s essentially what a family friend had to do for me back in 1999 while I was in Minneapolis, after my mother’s coronary bypass surgery at 85 (which I thought was unprecedented at the time) and SNF stay here in Virginia (it had roaches).  It was a situation that might have ended my own job secondarily.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

People can be charged with elder abuse after interventions by Adult Protective Services; and sometimes the person charged is elderly

Here’s a cautionary story about a woman charged with elder abuse in central Virginia.   But the woman charged was herself 72, and the abused relative, 97, was not a parent. And this was a case of neglect or inaction.  The extreme ages of the persons in different generations are remarkable but this is becoming more common with longer lifespans. People in their 70s can be caring for parents of people of their parents' generation and find this overwhelming.

These sorts of interventions by an adult protective services are infrequent, but the tale is a warning, about leaving an adult with dementia alone.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Correlation between artificial sweeteners and dementia?

A recent study shows a correlation between use if artificially sweetened beverages and dementia (including Alzheimer’s) and strokes, according to several news stories last week, such as this one in the Guardian.

However, when data was looked at closely and other factors were included (such as diabetes), the idea of a causal connection seemed less likely.

But some studies did not find a connection between drinking normal sodas and dementia.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Do retirees need to be concerned about continual income qualifications when renting (when they have "enough" assets)? Well, maybe

There is a lot of talk about “downsizing” for retirees these days.  In my current situation, I am considering it myself.

There is also a lot of literature that suggests that many retirees are better off renting than owning, if that frees up a lot of cash for liquidity.

But one problem that so far seems under-reported in the news is that many landlord are skittish about renting (houses or apartments) to people whose actual income would no longer qualify them for leases, even when these people have accumulated considerable assets.

I have found a variety of opinions about this matter on the web.

One of them (a forum on Bogleheads) suggests a lot of difficulty.  Likewise, with a forum on city-data.

But USNews, in a 2016 posting by Susan Johnston Taylor, sounds more hopeful.

I had checked into this question back in 2003, when, turning 60, and having been forced to “retire” from ING (at the end of 2001), I contemplated coming back to Virginia from Minnesota to look after mother. From the period of 2004-2007 I paid myself an annuity from an ING IRA, increasing the rate of payout to a shorter 3 year period, in case I wanted to rent an apartment and needed to display “income”.

At the time, I found that garden apartments (the kind that tend to rent to lower income people and immigrants) were quite strict on the actual income requirements.  I found that the larger highrises (especially one where I had lived before) sounded more willing to consider total assets.
There are a lot of wrinkles on this issue.

In 2010 (July 19), I discussed the concept of "continuing care retirement communities", like the Goodwin House in northern Virginia  Typically there is a large buy in (over $200,000) which may be partially or fully refundable. The resident lives in a normal apartment until he or she needs assisted living, if that become necessary later.  But some building like this (like the Jefferson in Arlington VA) are set up as condos.

This brings up the topic of "senior apartments" when compared to CCRC's (above) or assisted living (ALF), as explained here.   Some senior apartments (age restricted in different ways at 55 (other household under 55 allowed) or 62 (none else allowed) may be cheaper and easier to qualify for than the general apartment market (Griswold).  Laureate uses the term "independent living apartments".

The basic reluctance of many landlords in the more open conventional corporately managed apartment world would come from several places.  One is that they have no idea how the retiree will spend the assets.  If the assets are not liquid or in unsound investments, they could disappear.  Some landlords (larger companies) ironically quote privacy concerns, and also says that FHA rules and anti-housing discrimination laws compel them to treat all applicants exactly the same.  But it would seem that the older the retiree is (especially past 70-1/2, past full retirement), the less reasonable their theories sound. But again, these concerns seem most applicable to a senior that wants a "younger person's" life without the typical senior environment.

In theory, a retiree could set up an annuity that pays enough to qualify. I have such an annuity (from Brighthouse, formerly Met Life)  Let’s say you have about $3000 a month in income from a pension plus social security.  To qualify for a modern high rise apartment, that might cost around $3000 a month (say in northern Virginia or the Maryland DV suburbs, or in much of Brooklyn, Queens or Bronx, or northern New Jersey around New York City) the math would men you’d need to generate $7500 a month income (equivalent to about a $90000 a year job) so the math works out that you’d need close to $1 million in additional assets to purchase a large enough annuity.

But some of the more optimistic settings suggest that you can demonstrate a liquid account (cash or cash-like) of one to three years rent, or possibly set up an automatic payment with such an account.  But three years of such an account would need to be over $100,000.  Some people have set these up and then gotten rid of them once they get a lease.

As you think this through, you can see why it may be easier to purchase a condo with case from a sale of a larger house than find a desirable long term lease. And sometimes it still may be much more advantageous to do so given tax rules.

The state where you live would matter.  A state like Florida that is used to having more retirees (who have some political clout, regardless of party) would logically find a real estate industry better prepared for issues like this.

I wondered about this yesterday while taking a Manhattan tour of “Trump”.  Is the Trump family in the retirement community business?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Elder abuse as a specific crime slowly getting more attention from states

About 38 states have defined abuse of an older or incapacitated adult as a specific crime. A few include neglect as a crime (which could be particularly touchy – like a relative’s leaving an elder with diagnosed dementia alone).  Elizabeth Olson has a detailed article on the problem in the Sunday New York Times today Easter Sunday, 2017, Business Section, p. 8, “Declaring war on financial abuse of older people: Fraud against loved one pushed one woman to speak out for stricter protections”.
The article talks about increased responsibilities for adult protective services in many states, and for recent pressures on financial planners or banks to report activities that could be suspicious.  A good question could occur after the fact of death, if inheritance is misused and there are few beneficiaries and some are unable to look out for themselves.  Could the “public” be viewed as having a “stake” in how inheritances are used?

Monday, April 03, 2017

Senior housing provider ranks states on their handling of assisted living needs

A Place for Mom” has a map rating states as to how good a job they of informing residents of assisted living options for seniors.  The map was tweeted this morning, link.

The best state was Missouri, and oddly Massachusetts is one of the worst (“Manchester by the Sea” notwithstanding).  I almost had a job interview with state social services in Missouri in 2002, so it doesn’t surprise me.

Maryland and Virginia ranked well.

Senior housing and assistance does sound like a business the Trump family could delve into, because of the real estate operations,

Friday, March 10, 2017

Puerto Rico teachers' pension crisis is a cautionary tale for a lot of public workers

Mary Williams Walsh has a disturbing front page story in the New York Times Friday, “Pension crisis in Puerto Rico fleeces young” . The article focuses particular on the teachers’ fund.

Teachers were excused from Social Security FICA contributions and the “cash value” (so to speak) of their contributions did not begin to accumulate until late in their careers.

The article describes it as a legal Ponzi scheme.

Puerto Rico has had a minor effect on the portfolios of retirees who have moved into bonds for more stability.  But it certainly sets a bad example.  The story is also cautionary to public employees who may have outdated arrangements that seem to end-around social security taxes.

The conservative National Review, in a stinging article by Ike Brannon and Logan Albright, writes, “Puerto Rico is using a phony pension crisis to sabotage reform”.
Wikipedia attribution link for p.d. map of the territory.  I have never visited it, but it was a popular “gay” destination from NYC in the 1970s.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

New York Times "Retirement" insert today makes some potentially controversial recommendations (term instead of whole life)

The Sunday New York Times (March 5, 2017) has a special business insert section, “Retirement, with many current articles by Kerry Hannon and others.

The focus of the whole section is the longer life expectancies, especially for women, compared to shrinking retirement social nets provided by employers.

Of particular interest is the column Life Stages, on p. 5.   It recommends that breadwinners, by the time they are in their 40s, buy term life insurance (not whole or universal life), with zero cash value at the end.  These have the lowest premiums.  Whole companies, like PrimeVest, have dedicated themselves to marketing to customers to sell conversion of whole life to term.  I had a rather curious job interview about this possibility on the spring of 2002 while still in Minnesota.

The insert also indicates that women typically have larger out-of-pocket medical expenses than men.
The section also maintains that 19% of Americans continue work after age 65.  I work, but most of it is “for free”, well, sort of, and this is a long term bad example for other people besides me.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Recalled pharma can matter to seniors

A visitor has suggested that I mention a site “Recall Report”, that keeps track of medications  for which there are adverse reports, as with unexpected side effects or even with packaging safety.
The site is here.
The spokesperson says: 

"Recall report is one of the web's most comprehensive consumer recall sites, with focus on prescription drugs and their side affects. Recall Report also has hundreds of pages on health conditions associated with prescription drugs, including those listed at the site. 
With dedicated areas of our website for health conditions at ‘’, we have more medical information than any other consumer recall website. Likewise, you can find very comprehensive and targeted health information for different demographics in our Health Info section at " (i.e. students).”

I wanted to note that my 1099 from Social Security tells me I paid $760 in Part D premiums last year.

   I’ve gotten about $100 in benefits, as the Losartan is very cheap.  Most stuff I buy over the counter because I don’t like doctors.  The Zyclara, for an old squamous cell actinic keratosis in the temple are, though, costs almost $1000 (from England), most of it covered (but not refilled last year).