As your parents grow older, you start to worry about them. You certainly don’t want to encourage them to enter a nursing home, but you want to acknowledge that they’re getting older. Perhaps they’re not as fit as they used to be, or maybe they’re a bit more forgetful, and that old home they bought 40 years ago is becoming more work than it’s worth. You might be trying to figure out how to help them while not infringing on their need to maintain independence. 

For today’s seniors, there are a variety of options that make living independently easier to do than it was even 10 years ago. Some seniors opt to move into retirement communities, condos, apartments or smaller homes that are a better fit for their lifestyle. Aging-in-place is also a possibility, depending on whether their home can be modified to accommodate their mobility and senses as both start to fade. Regardless of which option is best for your senior parent, you can help them find the best living situation that enables them to stay independent as long as possible.

 

Helping With Mobility 

When planning on the mobility of a senior, you can’t just think of how things are right now. You have to anticipate future scenarios and needs. That means planning for walkers, wheelchairs, or general problems getting around. 

Take a good look at the floors in the house. If there are any throw rugs, either remove them or make sure they’re securely attached to the floor, especially around the edges. Likewise, make sure carpeting is properly installed. 

Hallways and doorways should be at least 36” wide to accommodate most walkers and wheelchairs. It might not be possible to widen a hall, but you can either find an alternate path through the house or you can look into buying a new home. Homes in Pennsburg currently have a median listing price of $260,000

If you and your parent opt to look at a new living space, keep a checklist of accessibility needs now and in the future. In addition, if downsizing becomes the main goal, look into best practices for minimizing possessions and simplifying their living situation. Having a home that’s easier to manage will enable your senior parent to spend more time doing the things they love. 

 

Two Special Cases: Bathrooms And Kitchens

Regardless of where your senior decides to live, safety is crucial. When it comes to hazards in the home, there are two rooms that stand out for seniors: the bathroom and the kitchen. Both can be problematic, and they deserve special attention:

For the bathroom: 

  • Make sure the entry doorway is wide enough. 
  • Install grab bars and maybe a bench in the shower. 
  • Keep shelving at arm’s level. 
  • Install another grab bar by the toilet. 
  • Consider an elevated, padded toilet seat. 
  • Make sure the lighting is bright without being overly glaring. 

 

For the kitchen: 

  • Replace tile flooring with something softer like wood, cork, or linoleum. 
  • Add places that make it easy to prep food while sitting. 
  • Use contrasting colors for countertops, especially around the edges. 
  • Don’t use an over-the-oven microwave that requires lifting plates of hot food. 
  • Use lighting under cabinets to limit glare. 
  • Install cabinet shelving that pulls out for easily reaching pots and pans.

 

Building Their Independence

Helping seniors stay independent involves more than a new living space or remodeling a home. It also means changing lifestyles and activities. 

One way to help is to research different services in the area. These days, you can get much more than pizza delivered. Pharmacies, grocery stores, dog walkers (an hour-long walk can cost up to $27), and cleaners are just a few of the services that will come right to your front door. While there’s usually a fee, it’s a small price to pay to help a senior remain in control of their life. And, if your senior parent is tech savvy, they can do a lot of this through their smartphone. 

Doctor visits and medications also play an increasingly important and common role in many seniors’ lives. That’s why you should speak to their physicians and make sure you’re listed as another contact. Also, check to see if your parent’s medications are clearly explained and labeled. Many pharmacies can use large print or color-coding to make drug identification easier. There are also mobile and smart health monitors so seniors can keep track of their own medical needs. 

 

Estate Planning

While helping your senior parent find the best way to enjoy their independence, it doesn’t hurt to make sure they have an estate plan in place. Have a conversation to find out whether they have a will, a plan for end-of-life care, funeral arrangement preferences, where they store important papers, and whether they need to give you or another relative power of attorney. Having these plans in place will give your senior parent, and you, peace of mind should anything happen. 

It’s not easy to watch your parents age, especially when their limitations become more apparent. Help your senior parent maintain their independence by discussing which lifestyle choices will serve them best in the coming years. Is it a new living space or home modifications? Maybe it’s finding new ways to shop for groceries or get help with their dog. Or maybe it’s helping them finally put that estate plan in place so they can sleep better at night. Whatever it is, by offering the support and reassurance they need, you can help them stay independent for years to come. 

 

Guest post by Karen Weeks: Karen created Elder Wellness as a resource for seniors who wish to keep their minds, bodies, and spirits well. 

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Enjoying a good life at any age requires some financial planning. Sadly, studies show that more than half of all Americans don’t know how much money they’ll need during retirement. Financial planning ensures you’re able to afford the lifestyle you enjoy throughout your senior years. As a senior, that will mean being realistic about potential healthcare costs, inflation rates, and your budget.

Here are some ways you can manage your money so you can enjoy your golden years.

 

Healthcare Concerns

One of the most significant costs during retirement is healthcare, according to US News. Even if you feel healthy today, it’s wise to plan for whatever the future might hold. 

Spending a few extra dollars on healthcare can save you money by reducing your medical costs in the long run. For instance, an alternative Medicare Advantage plan like those offered by UnitedHealthcare can supplement your healthcare. Medicare Advantage plans provide coverage you can’t get through Medicare Parts A or B. That includes medications, vision, hearing, and some senior-friendly gym memberships or wellness programs. You can also save money on preventative services with a $0 copay through your primary care doctor.

Another important aspect of healthcare is treating your body right. Regardless of age, it’s essential to eat a balanced, nutritious diet. Mayo Clinic reports that malnutrition is a common problem among aging adults. By eating the right foods and caring for your body, you’ll reduce your chances of developing debilitating conditions like compromised immunity and muscle weakness, and be less prone to increased risks of injury, hospitalization, or death.

 

Downsizing

Another way many seniors save money during retirement is through downsizing. If your home is bigger than needed, moving into a smaller space can be helpful. By carefully researching your desired housing market, you may be able to find a home that’s more affordable and easier for you to manage. 

Downsizing can make it easier for you to age in place. As with any move, however, planning is required. How much can you afford to spend, and what’s desired location? Will you move closer to loved ones? Do you need a home closer to public transportation?

According to Forbes, some of the best parts of the country for seniors include Sarasota and Savannah. In addition to having a warmer climate, these areas are surprisingly affordable with a low cost of living and more affordable property values.

After deciding where you’d like to move, you’ll need to declutter and pack your belongings. You’ll also want to determine how you’ll safely transport your furniture and possessions to your new home. To avoid injuries or broken items, it’s usually wise to ask for or hire help for your move. If you don’t have loved ones who can assist, hiring movers can be less expensive than the costs of repairing anything damaged during the move.

 

Living on a Fixed Income

With proper budgeting, you can master the art of living on a fixed income. By tweaking your monthly finances, you can stretch each dollar and still live life to the fullest. Stick to a monthly budget and cut unnecessary spending or nonessential expenses. It also pays to look into senior discounts on housing, insurance, and utilities.

You might also consider hiring an accountant to help prepare your taxes. Seniors who don’t itemize deductions often save money with the highest possible standardized deduction, notes the AARP. You’ll pay a little extra each April for your accountant’s services. Luckily, the potential money you’ll earn back on your tax return could be well worth the cost.

Although many seniors spend less money during retirement, two in five still spend more than they’d anticipated. That’s why it’s essential to have a plan in place. Inflation is expected to rise in the coming years, so account for higher costs in your budget. Budgeting and financial planning are crucial at any age and can better prepare you for the future as a senior. By carefully planning, you can maintain a high quality of life and still participate in many of your favorite activities.

 

Guest post by Karen Weeks: Karen created Elder Wellness as a resource for seniors who wish to keep their minds, bodies, and spirits well. 

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

The sad fact is that more than half of Americans fail to prepare for retirement. They don’t save enough, and end up almost entirely dependent upon Social Security after retirement.

Then they spend through their savings and have nothing left, living on just a fixed income.

It’s a rough situation. You see it all the time – seniors who need to go back to work while in their 70’s, just to make ends meet.

The good news is that there are resources to help Americans create and protect their retirement funds.

 

Step #1 is awareness.

In 2010, the National Association for Fixed Annuities (NAFA) designated June as National Annuity Awareness Month (NAAM) to help educate Americans on the important role of annuities as part of a secure retirement savings plan. In 2014, with a common desire to serve consumers by helping them understand annuity products, NAFA and several other industry associations came together to establish the Coalition for Annuity Awareness.

Creating National Annuity Awareness Month started the conversation. But that’s all it did. Annuities and retirement remained confusing, and the average American still didn’t have an unbiased source to turn to.

That’s where AnnuRetirement came into the picture.

 

AnnuRetirement

In 2015, the Coalition for Annuity Awareness launched AnnuRetirement, an impartial, informative website consisting of positive and accurate messages regarding the features and benefits of annuities available free to the public. As the official home of NAAM, this website serves as a foundation for the event’s mission.

Now, American consumers have an impartial, informative website that’s available for free. Educate yourself, so that when you speak with financial companies and agents, you understand what’s happening.

 

Why is this important?

It’s easy to run out of money in retirement. Especially when 51% of Americans have less than $50,000 in retirement savings at the time of retirement.

Currently, there is approximately $430 billion of in-force premium serving roughly 4.2 million Americans. More than nine in 10 consumers believe guaranteed lifetime income is an appealing characteristic of annuities[1] and 72 percent of retirees receiving income from an annuity were satisfied with their investment[2]. In 2017, life insurance companies paid $82 billion in annuity benefit payments providing crucial retirement security to contract holders[3]. In addition, more than 90 million Americans rely on annuities and other insurance products for financial and retirement security, and nearly 16 percent of Americans’ long-term savings is in life insurance and annuities.

[1] It’s All About Income: Inaugural Study on the American Retirement Experience, Insured Retirement Institute, 2016
[2] The Language of Retirement: Advisor and Consumer Attitudes Toward Income in Retirement, Insured Retirement Institute and Jackson, 2017
[3] Life Insurers and Your State, The American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI), 2018

Image Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute 2019 Retirement Confidence Survey, issued April 2019.

Does Medicare Cover Travel Abroad?

The Center for Medicare Services (CMS) has this to say about travel:

Medicare usually doesn’t cover health care while you’re traveling outside the u.s. There are some exceptions, including some cases where Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) may pay for services that you get on board a ship within the territorial waters adjoining the land areas of the U.S.

Medicare drug plans don’t cover prescription drugs you buy outside the U.S.

 

So where can I find travel insurance?

We at the Rhoads Agency don’t focus on international insurance plans, but we do offer them. They are so versatile and affordable, that we think that everyone should have one when abroad. We work with International Medical Group (IMG) plans, that cover evacuations and medical care. Their plans also help ease trip cancellations and lost luggage.

There are plans for business travelers, globe-trotting seniors, missionaries, marine crew, and exchange students, as well as foreign nationals visiting the U.S. And plans can be customized to last anywhere from 5 days to 2 years, depending on your plans.

If you’re a retiree looking to visit Europe, go on a cruise, or have other international plans, give us a call!

 

How do IUL’s stack up? It’s time for an IRA vs IUL | Reading showdown!

Most people planning for retirement believe that 401(k) and IRA plans are the best strategies for retirement. I get it, they’re popular. But in the last 20 years, we had two major market crashes. Understandably, many working professionals worry about the long-term safety of their money. But with its contribution limits, costly tax implications, and investment options’ exposure to market risk, the IRA can be unseemly for careful savers.

I’ve spoken about Indexed Universal Life (IUL) plans as an alternative to Roth IRA’s in particular however, and how they’re competitive.

But how good or bad an alternative is an IUL, versus an IRA? The answer is, of course, it depends. No one can say for sure, because no one can tell the future of how the market and investments will fare.

I can, however, base projections off of current rates, using myself as an example. Some parameters:

  1. I’m a 40 year old male in relatively good health. For the IUL, I’d expect to get a Preferred Non-Tobacco rating (the second-best rating, not the best).
  2. I’m starting with zero invested in either today, and adding $500/month from now until age 69.
  3. I’m using the current interest rate on a typical IUL product, now at 8.26% EOY. There are no fund management fees.
  4. I’m using an optimistic 7.0% rate of return on a IRA, but subtracting 0.5% for fund management fees.
  5. I’m assuming that markets are steady and not fluctuating, because chaos is hard to model.
  6. And, I’m assuming that taxes will stay at their current rate for someone with an annual income of 100k/year.

Lots of assumptions there, but let’s see where that gets me.

 

IRA vs IUL | Reading: The Results

IUL: $500,579. No taxes taken out, because it’s paid for with after-tax dollars.

IRA before taxes: $630,000. After taxes (25% bracket): $472,500

Those taxes really hurt!

 

Some thoughts to consider:

Taxes: Given current federal fiscal deficits, do you think income taxes are staying where they are or going up?

Early withdrawals: If something happens to me and I need the cash value of the IRA before retirement, I’d pay large tax penalties from the IRA. No penalty for early withdrawals from an IUL.

Probate: If I were to die young with an IRA, my investment would probably be stuck in probate.

Life Insurance: If I were to die young with an IUL, my family would get the death benefit almost immediately. My death benefit at this level would start at $411,000, and go up steadily as I approach my golden years.

 

Reading Roth IRA Alternative | High earners have options for saving for retirement, but income limits mean direct contributions to Roth IRAs generally aren’t among them. This is unfortunate because Roth IRAs offer tax-free earnings growth and withdrawals in retirement — a strong advantage in an economic climate where income tax rates are likely to increase in coming years.

That doesn’t mean you don’t have other options for making your retirement savings plan more tax efficient.

What is a good Reading Roth IRA alternative?

There are very few ways to get tax-free income at retirement. If you’re looking for a Reading Roth IRA alternative, another way is municipal bonds, but you run the risk of losing your money or you’ll get low returns. An excellent way to receive tax-free income is through a policy loan on a life insurance policy, specifically an Indexed Universal Life insurance policy offered by National Agents Alliance.

What is Indexed Universal Life Insurance?

Indexed Universal Life insurance is a permanent life insurance policy that has a “living” benefit in the form of a cash value, in addition to a death benefit that is paid at death. The cash value in your policy earns interest based on either a fixed interest rate, an interest rate that is based on the increase in an equity or bond index or a combination of both. What makes Indexed Universal Life insurance unique is the ability to earn interest based on the movement of an external index (like the S&P 500®). With indexed based interest, you are likely to earn higher interest over time than with a fixed interest rate.

Indexed Universal Life insurance is a great tool for retirement savings because you are able to take advantage of a portion of the gains in the market when an index rises without having to take any of the risk when an index decreases. In other words, your money is at NO market risk! If the index goes down in any given year, you are guaranteed that your cash value will not decrease due to that market loss.

Not only are you able to save money for retirement through the cash value in your Indexed Universal Life insurance policy, if you were to die prematurely, your loved ones will receive the death benefit of the insurance policy federal income tax free. This is where an IUL really is a great Roth IRA alternative. You don’t even have to go through probate.

Why is Tax-Free Retirement using Indexed Universal Life insurance so important?

You can access the money in your cash value through policy loans & that income is federal income tax free! As mentioned earlier, life insurance is one of the very few ways to get access to your money tax free. And, the policy loan (and loan interest, if any) does not have to be paid back as long as the policy remains in force! If the policy loan is not repaid, any unpaid loan balance will be deducted from the death benefit & the remaining death benefit will be paid to your beneficiary when you pass away.

And let’s face it, income tax rates are likely to increase in the future. You can also protect your retirement income savings from decreasing due to potential future income tax rate increases. You don’t have to worry about future income tax rates because your income will be tax-free!