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).

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Paul Ryan wants to privatize Medicare, slowly but eventually completely

Paul Ryan wants go gradually replace Medicare with an ACA-like system based on grants, which are larger for low-income people, people with less wealth, or more claims.

The NPR has a story here.  The changes would start in 2024, affecting people now 57.

Medicare has enough money until 2028. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

GOP mulls social security cuts for those retiring 2023 or later

News Groop reports on supposed drastic cuts in social security being considered now by the GOP.

Retirement age would gradually rise to 69.  But other changes in benefits would not affect anyone whose benefits start before 2023 (I presume that means full retirement age).
The “earnings test”, which was so controversial when I took early retirement, would be eliminated.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Popular book exposes "file and suspend" loopholes in Social Security, which Congress closed this fall

There’s an interesting account (by Ben Steverman) in the Chicago Tribune about how a book, “Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Social Security”, by Laurence Lotlikoff, Phillip Moeler, and Paul Solman (Simon and Shuster), explained who certain couples could squeeze more out of social security by certain fake delaying tactics.  The most notorious of these was called “file and suspend”.

Congress nixed these techniques this November, although some retirees may be grandfathered a little.

The book, which has sold over 300,000 copies, will be revised soon.