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).

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).

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.