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Aspects of Aging

Financial and Legal Issues

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Your money: Financial Guidance for Widows Struggling through Grief
New York Times
February 20, 2016

One-third of the women who become widows are under age 65, according to data from the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement, known as Wiser, a nonprofit organization dedicated to women’s financial education and advocacy. The Census Bureau reported in 2011 that the median age of widowhood was 59.4 for a first marriage and 60.3 for a second marriage. No one is ever prepared for such an event. But for many women, the road to financial hardship begins after their husbands die. 

New York Times
June 3, 2016

Her mother, who taught in a one-room schoolhouse in the hills of Kentucky a century ago, had some words of wisdom for Adna Bert Baldwin: A woman should be independent and have money to pay her own way.

Ms. Baldwin, 81, took that advice seriously. She married young, to her high school sweetheart, but followed in her mother’s footsteps, teaching elementary school students not far from Cincinnati for 27 years. The pension she earned when she retired two decades ago left her more secure than her mother, Adna Burns, who taught in an era when the idea of paid retirement was just emerging for teachers.

August 5, 2016

Social Security added a new security measure this week: One must be able to text in order to access their Social Security account. This in effect will prevent those of us who do not text from getting their own information. In addition, the text/code changes every ten minutes. The new verification process was put in place so that the Administration complies with an executive order requiring federal agencies to provide more secure authentication for their online services, the agency said.

New York Times
September 3, 2016

Ageism in the workplace is toxic, and it hurts everyone.
 Age discrimination in employment is illegal, but two-thirds of older job seekers report encountering it.

New York Times
August 3, 2016

Social security is a significant source of retirement income for most retirees. With so much at stake, it's little wonder so many Americans struggle with the decision of when to claim their Social Security.
New York Times
August 1, 2016

Older people are staying in the work force longer.
 After a longtime trend toward early retirement reversed during the 1980s, seniors’ employment has been rising steadily.

More Women in Their 60s and 70s Are Having 'Way Too Much Fun" to Retire
New York Times
February 11, 2017

The arc of women's working lives is changing according to two new analyses of census, earnings and retirement data that provide a comprehensive look at women's career paths.

Why You Should Get Around to Drawing Up a Will
New York Times
February 8, 2017

Fewer than half of adults have wills. While you can do it yourself online, it's probably best to consult a lawyer.

Rethinking Retirement for Longer Lives With Fewer Safety Nets
New York Times
February 27, 2017

With fewer traditional pensions available, retirement planning becomes more complicated and must start earlier.

Who Guards the Guardians? [Part 1]
Albuquerque Journal
November 26 - [ongoing]

Multipart series investigating possible abuses in the state's elder guardian system. Part 2Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6 are available here. The series has been updated by articles March 12 and March 14, 2017. An article about the situation in neighboring states appeared on March 18 and one on a NM Supreme Court call for a formal review on March 25, 2017.. As the story continues, the Conservator is disputing the claims. And a state commission is taking the first steps to undo the secrecy involving senior guardianships. NOTE: these links are to pdf versions of the stories. No internal links will work. In more recent news, The New York Times reports on national efforts to reform the guardian system. And updates in New Mexico were reported on August 5 and an August 6, 2017 editorial.l. 

Declaring War on Financial Abuse of Older People
New York Times
April 14, 2017

A growing number of states have or are considering measures against the illegal or improper use of seniors' money, property or assets as well as fraud or identity theft targeting older people.

Senior Discounts Aren't Just for Seniors Anymore
New York Times 
May 12, 2017

Discounts may be available for those as young as 50. And there are apps to help you find them.

New Gene Tests Pose a Threat to Insurers
New York Times
May 12, 2017

Genetic tests for an increased risk of Alzheimer's, breast cancer, and other diseases are now available to consumers. Some people, after receiving their results, are signing up for long term care insurance. The industry, which is already financially threatened, is concerned that only those at risk will sign up, increasing their costs.

As Seniors Get Sicker, They're More Likely to Drop Medicare Advantage Plans
July 7, 2017

Medicare Advantage plans are supposed to provide better care because they coordinate care between providers. But they may prevent older and sicker patients from seeing the specialists they need. These patients are more likely to drop out of the plans. A recent GAO report suggests that high drop out rates may be an indication of substandard care, and urges further investigation.  

How the Medicaid Debate Affects Long-Term Care Insurance Decisions
New York Times
July 14, 2017

Even seniors with hundreds of thousands in savings may end up on Medicaid to pay for nursing home care. Budget proposals may reduce funding for Medicaid significantly and make care inaccessible.  Long-term care insurance, however, can be very expensive and may not be worth it.  Do your research about all of the alternatives.

The Ethics of Adjusting Your Assets to Qualify for Medicaid
New York Times
July 21, 2017

There are a number of legal ways you can reduce your assets in order to qualify sooner for Medicaid payments for nursing home care. Are they ethical? Your call. It may depend on your goals.

Three Things I Should Have Said About Retirement Planning
New York Times
July 21, 2017

The author of several books on planning for retirement modifies his advice slightly.

Are You Really Ready to Retire?
August 16, 2017

A financial "checklist" to help you decide if you can afford to retire now, or should consider working longer.

Estate Planning: Leaving a Home to Heirs While You're Still Alive
New York Times
August 25, 2017

Gifting a home to your heirs, or including it in a trust, may simplify settling your estate. But it's complicated, so get good legal and financial advice first.

Helping Women Over 50 Face Their Financial Fears
New York Times
September 1, 2017

Many women don't have the financial knowledge and skills they need as they get older. There are lots of ways to learn.

Legal Resources and Considerations for Seniors and Persons With Special Needs

Web site with advice and links to information on the variety of documents all seniors should have, as well as times when legal advice may be needed.

How the Elderly Lose Their Rights
New Yorker
October 9, 2017

"Guarding the Guardians" (above) is a well documented problem in New Mexico. This long essay demonstrates that it is a national problem, resulting in seniors losing their homes and their life savings to those who have been paid to "protect" them. 

Note that this is a long essay. The New Yorker is available in print at the library.

Secure Stages
Albuquerque Journal/Associated Press
October 15, 2017

Guidance on financial planning for various stages in life, covering ages 50 to 103. For those who are younger, an earlier article, One Step at a Time, starts financial planning at age 3.

Wringing Cash from Life Insurance
New York Times
October 13, 2017

Your life insurance policy probably has cash value. Sometimes, it's worth giving up the policy, stopping paying premiums, and taking the money.

New Reforms in Guardian Law Presented
Albuquerque Journal
November 18, 2017

In response to multiple scandals involving court appointed guardians (see above for New Mexico's problems), a series of model regulations has been developed by the Uniform Law Commission, a national organization. New Mexico could be one of the first states to adopt them. Proposed changes would include opening legal proceedings and changing visitation decision-making. A follow up article on December 10, outlines "The price to pay to fix NM's beleaguered guardianship system," estimating approximately $1million will be required to infuse more accountability and oversight into the system. Further articles on December 24 take two sides on the issue: The Road Ahead: Corrupt Guardianship System Needs Reform vs The Road Ahead: Critical Flaws Abound in Proposed Guardianship Laws. Another article discusses how families would have access to financial and medical records now sealed under guardianship rulings. 

Retirement Planning Should Include Long-term Care Costs
Albuquerque Journal/AP
November 15, 2017

In determining how much you will need for a comfortable retirement, don't forget to factor in the costs of long-term care. Medicare and Medicaid pay little or nothing toward the cost of either in home or resident care, which can amount to well over $100,000.

If You're 70 1/2, It's Time to Take Money From Your Retirement Account
New York Times
December 1, 2017

The Required Minimum Distribution has to be taken before the end of the year you turn 70 1/2, and every year thereafter. 

How Care for Elders, Not Children, Denies Women a Paycheck
New York Times
December 19, 2017

A growing number of women are being forced to leave the workforce to care for aging family members. Home care can be prohibitively expensive, so the only option is for a family member, almost always a woman, is to quit working, often during what should be her peak earning years. The result is a permanent financial loss, since she is giving up not only her salary but her payments into Social Security. Society has begun to talk about the need for affordable child care so that women can work; the need for affordable senior care is invisible but growing as the population ages.

Guardianship Reforms Near Finish Line
Albuquerque Journal
February 14, 2018

The New Mexico House approved changes to the guardianship laws, allowing for more family involvement than under the current system. If the changes pass the Senate and are signed by the Governor, they would go into effect July 1. In the mean time, problems with reporting requirements not being met continue. For more information on this issue, see above, particularly the Guarding the Guardians series. 

7 Ways to Judge a Retirement Community's Financial Health
New York Times
March 9, 2018

Before you invest a significant amount of money and move into a continuing care or life care community, investigate the financial health of the community and the company/organization behind it.

No Pension? You Can "Pensionize" Your Savings
New York Times
March 1, 2018

A growing number of retirees don't have traditional pensions. But there are ways you can create an "annuity" and regular monthly payments from other savings vehicles. 

Medicare Doesn't Equal Dental Care. That Can Be a Big Problem
New York Times
March 19, 2018

Medicare does not cover dental procedures, which are expensive, and few states include dental in Medicaid for poorer residents. Many Medicare recipients forego dental care, leading to tooth loss and severe health problems. A study suggests that an increase of about $7 per month would provide coverage for about 3/4 of the cost of dental care. And providing dental coverage might lower overall costs, since poor oral health can result in other health problems that Medicare ends up covering.

Life After Death? Here's Why You Should Have a Trust
New York Times
March 22, 2018

A revocable trust makes your estate available to heirs without the costs and delays of probate. It can also ensure that bills are paid if you are incapacitated. 

What It Was Like to Finally Write My Will
New York Times
April 3, 2018

Fewer than half of Americans have wills. A will smooths the way for your heirs, ensuring that your estate goes where you want. You can do it yourself - there are books and websites to help - if you have a simple and fairly small estate. Hiring a lawyer helps ensure that everything is covered. A lawyer will usually include medical directives, the creation of a medical power of attorney and other documents.

How Medicare's Conflicting Hospitalization Rules Cost Me Thousands of Dollars
National Public Radio
April 20, 2018

Under Medicare rules to prevent over billing, many patients can spend 48 hours in the hospital without being admitted (under "observation'). This can cause significant financial hardship if they are then discharged to a rehabilitation facility, because Medicare won't pay for read except for admitted patients. Legislation has been introduced to mandate that any time spent in the hospital count toward the minimum for rehab, but it hasn't gone far.

Nine Rights Every Patient Should Demand
New York Times
April 27, 2018

Medical bills are incredibly complicated. The author suggests we need a "medical bill of rights" to ensure that we aren't being overcharged. The rights include a plain English itemized bill, insurance against unexpected out of network bills (when the ER, for example, is contracted out by the hospital that your insurance company works with), accurate information about a stable network of providers, assurances that a disputed bill won't be sent to a collection agency, and others. 

Thinking About Retirement? Consider Working a Little Longer
New York Times
June 1, 2018

A new report from the National Bureau of Economic Research (available to download for $5) indicates just how valuable Social Security is, and how much difference it can make in your retirement. If you're 50, for example, you can save an additional 1% per year until you're 66, or work just 6 weeks past 66 for the same impact. The report has numerous additional examples of how working just a little longer can affect your retirement.

Guardianship Reforms "a Foot in the Door"
Albuquerque Journal
June 17, 2018

The reforms, which go into place on July 1, are not perfect, but they require more transparency on the part of out-appointed guardians, and give families more information and more say. For earlier articles on this topic, see "Who Guards the Guardians" and other articles above.

Countdown to Retirement: A Five-Year Plan
New York Times
July 6, 2018

If you haven't yet retired, here are suggestions of how to plan ahead. It includes suggestions for each of the five years before you retire.

Women Outlive Men. Why Do They Retire Earlier?
New York Times
July 6, 2018

Because women, on average, live longer than men, it makes sense for them to work longer and increase their post-retirement income. But they tend to retire even earlier than men, for a variety of reasons.

He Called Older Employees "Dead Wood." Two Sued for Age Discrimination
New York Times
July 6, 2018

A recent case at The Ohio State University illustrates the common problem of age discrimination in employment. It's illegal, but hard to prove. And laws can prevent collecting damages, making it difficult to find a lawyer willing to bring suit.

Sniffles? Cancer? Under Medicare Plan, Payments for Office Visits Would Be the Same for Both
New York Times
July 22, 2018

Proposed changes to Medicare's physician payment system may mean fewer doctors, especially specialists, accepting Medicare. The same payment for an oncologist visit as for a routine blood pressure screening?

Medicare Advantage is About to Change. Here's What You Should Know
New York Times
July 20, 2018

Coming changes would allow those enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans to use them to pay for home care, modifications to their homes, and other items not currently covered. But there are a lot of restrictions - you may not qualify at all, or not during a specific year. And restrictions on provider networks, prescriptions, etc. continue.

The Large Hidden Costs of Medicare's Prescription Drug Program
New York Times
August 13, 2018

Although the premiums for Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage) haven't gone up, higher drug prices and increases in the number of drugs prescribed and the number of enrollees have significantly increased the costs. Much of that cost is absorbed by the government, because when patients' out of pocket costs exceed $5000 per year, they are moved into a "reinsurance" category where the government pays more and insurers less. This encourages private insurers to find ways to move patients into that category. 

Helping Banks Flag Fraud Against Seniors
New York Times
August 18, 2018

After a successful pilot program in Maine, new federal legislation encourages banks to train their staff to recognize signs of fraud perpetrated against senior customers. In exchange, the banks are exempt from some privacy rules.

New Medicare Cards Are Being Issued. Here's What You Need to Know
New York Times
August 31, 2018

Medicare is sending out new cards, without Social Security numbers. They're being sent in waves over the next several months, so don't worry that you haven't gotten one yet. It's coming. BUT there are also scammers calling and asking for SSN and money to get the new card. DO NOT pay or give any information. The article includes contacts at the Medicare office for additional information.

It's Tempting to Take Social Security at 62. You Should Wait
New York Times
August 31, 2018

Unless there's a pressing need for the money, you should wait as long as you can (preferably until 70) to start collecting your Social Security benefits. The difference in monthly income is significant. 

Making Wills Easier and Cheaper With Do-It-Yourself Options
New York Times
September 7, 2018

The vast majority of adults do not have wills. A growing number of free or inexpensive online options allow you do write your own simple will and the related documents everyone should have. More complicated estates should still probably be handled by a lawyer.

New Medicare Advantage Tool to Control Drug Prices Could Narrow Choices
September 13, 2018

A newly approved program for Medicare Advantage programs allows them to require use of less expensive drugs before a doctor recommended one can be used. The program, affecting drugs injected or infused at a doctor's office (for cancer, macular degeneration and a few other conditions) should save money, but could also result in sicker patients or increased deaths due to ineffective medications. Doctors may appeal on a case-by-case basis, but the process is time consuming.

Can Paying for a Health Problem as a Whole, Not Piece by Piece, Save Medicare Money?
New York Times
September 17, 2018

A pilot Medicare program pays hospitals and health care providers a lump sum for a problem - for example, hip or knee replacement - rather than paying for each part of the treatment. The result is cost savings. So far, hospitals in the program are not increasing the number of procedures they do to counteract the lower payments, and the outcomes are promising. But the pilot is voluntary, and fewer hospitals are agreeing to participate.

Why You Shouldn't Wait to Sign Up for Medicare Part B
New York Times
October 26, 2018

As people delay retirement, they may think they don't need to sign up for Medicare when they turn 65 - they have employer provided insurance, after all. But delaying signing up can result in significant financial penalties as well as bureaucratic headaches. If you (or your spouse) have employer provided insurance, you can delay past 65, but there are strict rules about signing up later. Read the article - and follow the links to official Medicare websites for more information.

Widows Are Faring Better Financially. Here's Why
New York Times
November 17, 2018

Widows have traditionally done worse than when they were married. A combination of factors, particularly better education, are improving that picture.

Have a Social Security Question? Please Hold
New York Times
November 21, 2018

Due to budget cuts and the growing population of eligible citizens, waits for assistance with Social Security questions have grown significantly, both on the phone and in person. Regional offices are also being closed. Recent budget increases have been insufficient to deal with increased demands. And the situation will inevitably get worse unless there are significant changes.

Social Security Runs Short of Money, and Ideas Fly on How to Repair It
New York Times
November 26, 2018

It's a problem, but not a crisis. For the first time in 34 years, Social Security payments exceeded tax income this year, and they had to dip into the trust fund. There are a number of suggestions for fixing the situation, including increasing full retirement age, increasing the amount of income that is taxed, reducing payments to those with high incomes from other sources, etc. Other proposals would increase payments, particularly to those who are disabled.

Medicare to Cut Payments to Nursing Homes Whose Patients End Up Back in the Hospital
December 1, 2018

The federal government will penalize nursing homes when too many residents are readmitted to the hospital. It's intended to improve quality of care for residents.

The Myth of Steady Retirement Spending, and Why Reality May Cost Less
New York Times
November 29, 2018

Most retirement planning advice projects that you'll withdraw 4% of your savings each year in retirement. The reality is that some years - particularly those earlier ones where you may be more health and active, may cost more. But later may be cheaper.

I'm Petitioning ... for the Return of My Life
New York Times
December 7, 2018

The Guardianship system in New Mexico has gotten a lot of local attention (see several articles above from 2017 and 2018) but the problem is national. Guardians are not well trained in many cases, and legal oversight is limited. Sadly, many older people needlessly end up in guardianship arrangements due to arguments in their families.

The Simplest Annuity Explainer We Could Write
New York Times
December 14, 2018

Annuities are complicated. Here's a short, basic explanation of the types that are available.

Misconceptions About Health Costs When You're Older
New York Times
December 24, 2018

We need reminders of how things work as we get older. Medicare does not cover everything - and your supplemental insurance may not either. Medicaid pays a big percentage of the health care costs of the elderly, particularly nursing home care. And, while it's hard to predict when a person will die and when continuing interventions are no longer of use, there are indications that much of the most expensive end-of-life care is wasteful because it's not based on evidence of it's efficacy.

"Medicare for All" Gains Favor with Democrats Looking Ahead to 2020
New York Times
December 29, 2018

Many Democratic politicians, and a growing proportion of the US population, are talking about "Medicare for All" as a fix for the current health care system. But there isn't agreement about what that could mean. About 1/3 of seniors are enrolled in "Medicare Advantage" programs, run by private insurers rather than the government. Would those continue? Would the government-run Medicare expand to include some of the Advantage benefits, which are very popular? And what about younger people? Would employers still provide health insurance for their workers, or would those policies disappear? 

If You Do Medicare Sign-Up Wrong, It Will Cost You
New York Times
January 31, 2019

There are very strict rules for enrolling in Medicare. Not following even one seemingly minor one can result in significant financial penalties. Read up and know what you need to do before you're 65. has lots of useful information about signing up, what it's likely to cost, and help finding providers, etc.

Legislation Bolsters Guardianship Reforms
Albuquerque Journal
March 2, 2019

The problems of New Mexico's guardianship program have been well documented (see Guarding the Guardians and related articles, above). Legislation passed last year fixed some of the most egregious. Proposed legislation this year would fill more of the loopholes, giving the people potentially being placed within the system more say before and after the legal process.

When Gambling Seems Like a Good Investment Strategy
New York Times
April 5, 2019

Advisers tell retirees that a 5 to 6 percent return on their investments is more than adequate to fund their retirement. Yet higher returns can be tempting, even when they come with higher risks. Before jumping at that latest hot stock, evaluate your comfort with risk. Then set aside a percentage of your savings that you can risk, and use that as a "sandbox account" for "taking fliers."

You're a Widow. Now What?
New York Times
April 11, 2019

There are a lot of financial decisions that need to be made when you lose a spouse. Many women (and it's usually the woman who survives) don't know what to do. There are some things, like notifying the Social Security Administration and life insurance companies, that need to be done immediately. Once you have a handle on cash flow, other decisions can be made more slowly. This article lays out some strategies. Some of this planning can and should be done before you're left alone.

Checking on Social Security Estimates Is a Good Idea, But Many People Don't
New York Times
April 12, 2019

The Social Security Administration is encouraging people to sign up for online accounts, and reducing the number of statements they send out. This means it's up to you to check regularly and make sure your account information is correct. If you have signed up for an online account, you won't get that annual statement in the mail. Remember to go online at least once a year (around your birthday is a good time - it's easier to remember). Don't wait until you retire, or you're ready to retire. Do it while you're working, starting in your 20s. Do it not only for retirement planning but as a way of checking for identity theft.

Many Americans Will Need Long-Term Care. Most Won't Be Able to Afford It
New York Times
May 10, 2019

 The cost of assisted living and other elder care is rapidly outpacing the savings of many middle-income Americans, even when home equity is factored in. And the US is the only developed nation without a program to provide long term care to the aged. Medicare and Social Security are already in financial trouble. Congress will be forced to act, and there are several options, including tax incentives for developers. Some Medicare Advantage plans cover part of long-term care, and that could be expanded.

New Evidence of Age Bias, and a Push to Fight it
New York Times
June 7, 2019

Tens of thousands of Americans say they've been denied jobs because they were over 50, or even 40, and "too old." There's evidence that firms are using Facebook targeting to keep older workers from seeing ads. Age discrimination is very difficult to prove, but legal challenges are increasing. For more, see a related article, Discrimination is Hart to Prove, Even Harder to Fix

Social Security is Staring at its First Real Shortfall in Decades
New York Times
June 12, 2019

Unless Congress comes up with a fix, Social Security's trust fund will run short of funds for its obligations next year. The result could be sharp cuts in payments. A number of solutions have been proposed.

Study: Home-delivered Meals Could Save Money for Medicare
July 24, 2019

A new study shows that delivering meals to seniors, particularly when they've just been discharged from the hospital, could save Medicare about $57million per year by avoiding hospital re-admissions.

7 Of Your Most Burning Questions About Social Security (With Answers)
New York Times
August 2, 2019

Readers submitted questions about Social Security, and the Times found experts to answer them. Useful information for people already collecting as well as for those who are planning ahead.

7 Ways to Make your Money Last Longer in Retirement
June 21, 2019

We all worry about outliving our savings. Taking simple steps to reduce expenses and maximize income can relieve some of the stress.

Your Long-Term Care Insurance Rate Spiked. Now What?
New York Times
August 23, 2019

When long-term care insurance was a new concept, insurers estimated how long policy holders would live and how many would cancel before collecting. They estimated wrong, and now are going out of business or increasing rates - a lot. Canceling the policy and buying another is generally not a good idea. New policies cost more and don't pay as much. And doing without isn't always a good idea except for the wealthy. There are ways to reduce the premium by reducing benefits - the inflation rate, the daily payment, etc.

Why Aren't More Women Working? They're Caring for Parents
New York Times
August 29, 2019

"About 15 percent of women and 13 percent of men 25 to 54 years old spend time caring for an older relative, according to the Labor Department. Among those 55 to 64, the share rises to one in five Americans. And 20 percent of these caregivers also have children at home."  And the need for that care is increasing as the Baby Boomers age. These caregivers are either giving up the highest earning years of their lives, or juggling work and care giving. Policy changes are being discussed to try to help with this growing problem.

Should You Spend, or Save, As If You'll Live Forever?
New York Times
September 12, 2019

How old you feel affects how you think about your finances, both current and future. If you feel health and vibrant, you will plan for your future differently, whether you're 50 or 70, than if you feel older or are unwell.

Over 50 and Freelancing to Fill the Gaps in Retirement Funds
New York Times
September 12, 2019

Whether they took early retirement or were forced out of their jobs, many people over 50 are finding they don't have enough saved to live on. And finding a job over 50 is extremely difficult. So they're working freelance or entering the "gig economy" to make ends meet.

Get Your Digital Accounts Ready in Case of Death
New York Times
October 3, 2019

As important as having a will, medical directives and other legal documents in place is making sure that your digital life can be managed by your heirs. This article outlines steps you should take to make sure that your phone, email, and social media accounts can be managed when you aren't around to do it.

It's a Good Deal for Most Older Americans, But Medicare is Neither Free Nor Easy
Washington Post
October 11, 2019

Medicare is complicated. There are a lot of things to consider (premiums being only one of them) when deciding whether to sign up for the government plan or a "Medicare Advantage" plan. And Medicare doesn't cover things like long term care. Prescription coverage may be separate and may not cover what you need. Nevertheless, Medicare is generally affordable and well regarded by those who use it.

Editorial: NM's Golden Years Need Some Green
Albuquerque Journal
October 13, 2019

There are a number of concerns as New Mexico's population ages. Many workers in the private sector don't have access to retirement savings plans. The state pension fund is seriously underfunded. Taxing Social Security discourages better-off seniors from moving here. The state government is looking at plans to help address these issues.

A Will Without Ink and Paper
New York Times
October 18, 2019

Currently, a will is only valid if it is signed in ink and witnessed. Although there have been services to create a will online for years, it still had to be printed and signed. However, there is a movement to try to change that and allow e-signatures, taking lawyers and notaries out of the picture. Changes will be on a state level, so watch what's happening locally.

When a Mortgage is Part of Your Retirement Plan
New York Times
October 17, 2019

Traditionally, financial advice has been to eliminate debt as you prepare for retirement. There are factors to consider, however, that might contradict that advice. With interest rates at historically low rates, carrying debt isn't all bad. Consider the bigger picture before deciding to pay off your mortgage.

My Family Faces an Impossible Choice: Caring for Our Mom or Building Our Future
Washington Post
October 31, 2019

The financial burden of caring for sick and aging family members can be devastating. Women in particular may find themselves giving up employment in order to care for an aging relative, not only losing their current paycheck but significantly reducing their own financial future.

Longer Lives: Longer Retirements, More Chance to Get Scammed
November 24, 2019

Seniors are common targets of scams that can result in loss of all or a significant part of their retirement savings. Investment firms and financial advisors are developing systems to try to reduce the chances of this happening by putting extra checks in place.

Don't Save Too Little, or Too Much
New York Times
November 6, 2019

Saving for retirement, and being careful how you spend those savings, are critical. But fear of running out of money shouldn't keep you from spending (carefully) to enjoy your retirement.

A Change in Medicare Has Therapists Alarmed
New York Times
November 29, 2019

Medicare has changed its rules and reimbursements for therapy received in a nursing home, significantly reducing the amount of time an occupational, speech, or physical therapist can spend with a patient, or requiring group therapy even when the patient doesn't benefit from it. Professional organizations are strongly objecting to the reductions and pointing out the significant harm being done to their patients.

The Decade in Retirement
New York Times
December 14, 2019

The overall picture for retirement security has not improved, as wages have stagnated, Social Security and Medicare benefits haven't kept up with increases in cost of living and health care, traditional pensions have disappeared. Growth in the stock market, however, has benefited the wealthiest, who are likely to have a secure and comfortable retirement.

Seniors Are Working Longer - Out of Choice and Necessity
January 7, 2020

More older workers are continuing in their jobs because they are health and enjoy their work; and the economy needs them to keep growing. But increasingly, senior are working because they have to. As many as 30% of seniors have no retirement savings, traditional pensions have disappeared, and Social Security isn't enough to pay the bills. While government could do more to help older citizens, the only solution for those still in the workforce is to start saving early.

No, Your IRA Was Never Intended to Be a Vehicle to Pass Along Your Wealth
Washington Post
January 6, 2020

If you were planning on your children inheriting your IRA, you need to think again. The new Secure Act requires that they withdraw the entire amount (and pay taxes) within 10 years, not over a lifetime. You and your heirs need to adjust your plans.

Caring for Two Generations Almost Cost Me My Career
New York Times
February 11, 2020

The "sandwich generation" of adults caring for both their children and their aging parents is under increasing financial as well as psychological and physical stress. Inadequate safety net and support exists at both ends, with Medicare and Medicaid not paying for home health aids for the elderly, and child care not available or too expensive. The result is a loss of income (with long term consequences as the earner ages) and sometimes the loss of employment when the caregiver misses too much work. For more on the topic, read "It's Pretty Brutal": The Sandwich Generation Pays a Price 

Medicare's Part D Doughnut Hole Has Closed! Mostly. Sorta
New York Times
January 17, 2020

The much-loathed "doughnut hole" in Medicare prescription coverage is no more. However, the changes in coverage, including requirements to pay a percentage of costs over a certain threshold, may end up costing seniors more in some cases.

Medicare's Private Option is Gaining Popularity, and Critics
New York Times
February 21, 2020

Medicare Advantage, private insurance plans offered as alternatives to traditional Medicare, is very popular. Over a third of Medicare enrollees are in an Advantage plan. But the plans aren't without disadvantages. Not all doctors are available within a plan, and doctors can be dropped from the plan at any time without notice. Once you're enrolled in an Advantage plan, you can't switch back to traditional. Prescription drug coverage may be restricted and can change without warning. Care can be denied by the insurance company.

Confronting the Truth About 401(K)
Washington Post
February 29, 2020

Proposed legislation would require 401(K) plan sponsors to provide an annual estimate of monthly and lifetime income for every account. These statements may startle workers who think they have enough saved, and - hopefully - lead to increased savings and more realistic expectations for retirement income.

The "Sandwich Generation" Quandary Was Hard on Baby Boomers. It's Going to Be Harder on Their Kids
Washington Post
March 11, 2020

The "sandwich generation" are working adults caring for their children and their parents. Because GenX and younger workers have delayed having children, and because their parents had fewer children than their grandparents did, the children of baby boomers are going to be hit even harder with the dueling responsibilities.

Insurers Cover Fewer Drugs, Leaving Some Patients Struggling to Get Needed Treatments
March 16, 2020

Insurance companies, including Medicare Part D and Advantage plans, are restricting the "formulary" of drugs they will pay for. Some of the drugs being dropped are the difference between life and death for patients who have tried others without success. Even appeals from doctors are being rejected. And the changes can come without warning, leaving patients with huge bills or no pills.

You're Retired. Should You Rent or Buy Your Home?
New York Times
March 12, 2020

While many retirees choose to remain in their homes, others want to downsize or move closer to family. The decision to rent or buy that new place is complicated, with numerous factors to consider carefully.

For Workers Over 50, a Job Without Benefits Spells Long-Term Trouble
New York Times
April 9, 2020

A recent study revealed that 3/4 of workers between 50 and 62 had no employer provided retirement plan or health insurance. The danger of living without health insurance is obvious; workers can sign up for ACA plans or for Medicaid if their earnings are low. While they can contribute to an IRA, many don't earn enough to set money aside for retirement at the rate they will need.

What to Know About Taking Social Security During the Pandemic
New York Times

April 17, 2020

Suddenly unemployed older workers may be looking at taking Social Security earlier than planned. Workers can start drawing as young as 62, but the amount received is significantly less than if they waited until full retirement. Withdrawals from an IRA or other retirement account come with penalties, but reduced income may mean the tax penalty will be less. Deciding when to apply for Social Security is complicated, since immediate needs should be balanced against expected life span, etc.

Millions of Baby Boomers Are Getting Caught in the Country's Broken Retirement System
Washington Post
May 4, 2020

"Every day, 10,000 Americans reach the age of 65. (In 2024, that number will crest at about 12,000 a day.) And every year, fewer and fewer of them have traditional employer-sponsored pensions to support them. The system that was supposed to provide for them is shot through with holes." Job losses related to the pandemic and the resulting loss of income and savings, make the picture even more grim. And the children of the "boomers" have to worry about finding themselves supporting their parents. Some possible solutions are outlined in a related article, "How to Fix the Retirement System." And advice for retirees and those planning their retirement is here: "Forget What You've Heard. Here Are the New Rules for Post-pandemic Retirement." 

Thanks to Social Security, You Are Probably in Better Shape for Retirement Than You Think
Washington Post
May 14, 2020

A Social Security check isn't enough to retire comfortably on in most cases, but it's not insignificant. If you turn 65 next year and start drawing benefits immediately, your checks will amount to more than $200,000 over the rest of your life. And payments are adjusted annually for inflation. If you wait to start collecting, the monthly check increases.  For more on the topic, see this New York Times article, "Social Security is Worth More Than You Think, But Needs Your Help, which emphasizes the need for long term planning to shore up the system.

At a Time of Financial Stress, 401(k) Fees Matter More Than Ever
New York Times 
July 11, 2020

The fees you pay for the management of your 401(k) account have always eaten into the amount you are actually saving. With financial uncertainty, those fees become even more important to monitor. Here's advice on how to keep them under control.

Weston: Probate Workarounds Can Save Heirs Time, Money
The Columbian
July 18, 2020 (republished August 5)

Probate costs can consume a big chunk of an estate, and delays can last months during which your heirs don't have access to the assets. This article provides advice on how to eliminate probate.

Need Help with Your Estate Plan? Go with the Flow, Advisers Say
New York Times
July 24, 2020

Traditional estate planning documents are dense and complex, discouraging laypeople from doing this critical task. Advisers are creating color coded documents and flow charts to make the job easier to understand and complete.

Laid Off During the Pandemic? Should You Tap into Social Security Early?
July 30, 2020

When faced with the sudden loss of income, people over 62 may be tempted to start collecting Social Security. The long term cost of doing so, however, is significant. Consider alternate income sources first.


The Baby Boomer Bond Dilemma
New York Times
October 8, 2020

Government bonds (T-Bills) have always been recognized as the safest way to save for the long term. Unfortunately, the yield on bonds is dropping, possibly to below the rate of inflation. The result may be actually losing money when "safely" investing. This article reviews alternatives for your retirement planning.

The Unequal Inheritance: It Can Work, or It Can "Destroy Relationships"
New York Times
February 19, 2021

When planning how their estate will be divided, many parents choose to have their children receive equal portions. For a variety of reasons, some do not. An unequal division can work, particularly if the reasoning is explained before death; but sometimes that division can result in hard feelings and even a rift in the family.

Dad, a Death Sentence and the Planner Who Set Us Straight
New York Times
February 26, 2021

Even the best prepared family can find themselves facing difficult decisions when confronting a terminal diagnosis. The right professional financial planner can help with some of those decisions.

If You Live to 100, You'll Need More Than Money
New York Times
March 6, 2021

The number of centenarians is increasing. Younger people who anticipate living that long need to do more than make sure they'll have enough money to support themselves. They also need to think about what they'll do with those years - not just a financial plan, but a life plan.

On Medicare and Need Dental Work? Beware a Big Bill
New York Times
June 9, 2021

Traditional Medicare (as well as some Medicare Advantage plans) does not cover dental work, even if it is medically necessary. The government is working on ways to change that, but it's going to be hard - and expensive.
Medicare also doesn't cover hearing aids (or eye glasses). The FTC is supposed to be developing standards for non-prescription hearing assistance devices, but as this article from the Washington Post points out, they're moving very slowly. The alternatives won't be as good as "real" hearing aids, but they will be significantly more affordable. Uncorrected hearing loss leads to social isolation.

A Woman's Guide to Making the Most of Social Security
New York Times
June 28, 2021

Women typically earn less Social Security than men, due to lower paying jobs and breaks in employment for caregiving. There are ways to increase what you get, though, including delaying collecting (every year delayed between full retirement and age 70 increases your payout by 8%). This article provides specific advice for single, divorced and widowed women.

Many Pandemic Retirees Weren't Ready. How to Cope If You're One of Them
New York Times
August 12, 2021

The COVID pandemic forced many older workers (in their 60s or even 50s) to retire because of health concerns, family responsibilities, etc. They didn't have time to plan. Some didn't have sufficient savings to retire. Many didn't want to retire but had no choice. 

Don't Want to Retire? . . .
Washington Post
March 2, 2021

Some seniors continue to work because they have to. Others do so because they want to. How do you find joy in your work, and how to you stay mentally and physically health enough to keep working into your 80s or beyond?

That $56,000 Drug? Blame Medicare
New York Times
August 20, 2021

One of the biggest drivers of huge drug price increases is the class of drugs that must be administered in a doctor's office or other medical setting. Medicare pays whatever these drugs cost; thus, the manufacturers charge whatever they think they can get away with. 

How to Enjoy Retirement Without Going Broke
New York Times
August 27, 2021

First, you have to plan how to save for retirement. Once you're there, you have to plan how to spend enough to enjoy your retirement while making sure that your money doesn't run out.

When to Collect Social Security: Why You Should Wait
New York Times

September 1, 2021

With life expectancy rising, and with the built in increase in income if you wait, it makes a lot of sense to wait as long as you can to collect Social Security. Collecting early reduces how much you get - permanently. Waiting until 70 increases your monthly income dramatically. 
The article also discusses special benefits for divorced spouses.

Tallying the Cost of Growing Older
New York Times
October 2, 2021

While some of us might be lucky enough to age independently, most will need some kind of assistance. How much will it cost? Do you have enough

Check Your Redesigned Social Security Statement
Washington Post
November 5, 2021

Social Security has redesigned the annual statement (which may be available only online) to make it easier to see what the effect would be of starting to collect when you're first eligible (age 62) vs. full retirement (66.5 for most Boomers) vs. waiting until you're 70. Collecting early carries a serious life-long penalty.

Want to Retire Early?
Washington Post
November 16, 2021

The COVID pandemic has led to a rapid rise in early retirements. This article provides extensive advice on how to determine if you can afford to join the crowd.

How to Beat Retirement's Nemesis: Inflation
New York Times
November 19, 2021

Making sure you have enough retirement income to stay comfortable, even when prices are rising, can be challenging. Advance planning is essential.

To Get the Most from Social Security, Log On
New York Times
January 28, 2022

The most common mistake people make when they retire is claiming Social Security too early. There is a growing collection of online tools to help individuals decide when they should start collecting Social Security. For the vast majority, waiting until 70 is the best option, although being forced to retire early due to job loss or ill health changes the equation. Free and fee online tools are available. This article describes several.

The First Step to Passing on Wealth is Deciding What's Important to You
February 16, 2022

It's important to think about how to pass your "wealth" (however much that is) to the future. Think strategically. Decide what's important to you. Don't just automatically leave it to your kids if you'd rather some (or all) of it go elsewhere. And think about more than just money and things. Talk to your parents and grandparents about their memories before they're gone. And share memories with your children and grandchildren.

The Great Resignation is Also the Great Retirement of the Baby Boomers. That's a Problem
Washington Post
February 18, 2022

COVID resulted in a large number of workers, particularly Baby Boomers, not returning to work. Employers dependent on those workers - nurses, retail and service workers, school bus drivers, and every other type - face staffing shortages. They've lost the experience of those older workers, too. Those retirements may financial stress the individuals who may not have enough saved to support themselves long term. They also may stress the Social Security trust fund that wasn't planning on paying out so quickly.

When You're Tiptoeing into Retirement, Take These Key Steps
New York Times
February 18, 2022

Many older workers prefer to ease into retirement, rather than jumping. There are things to do before you make that change: research Social Security and Medicare options, talk to your employer about part time working phased retirement options, do some serious examination of your expenses and how they might change, and think about talking to a professional to help with your plans.

What Retirement Means for Your Taxes
New York Times
March 25, 2022

For most Americans, retirement means a lower tax bill. But savings and Social Security may be taxed. As you plan how much you'll need to live comfortably, consider what the tax implications will be.

Reverse Mortgages Are No Longer Just for Homeowners Short on Cash
New York Times
April 1, 2022

A reverse mortgage can help pay bills and protect retirement savings. But they have potential downsides. Investigate thoroughly and carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages.

4 Ways to Fortify Your Retirement Against Market Volatility
New York Times
April 22, 2022

Wild daily swings of the stock market can make your retirement savings harder to predict. There are ways to protect your funds so they last as long as you do.

Millions Retired Early During the Pandemic. Many Are Now Returning to Work, New Data Shows
Washington Post
May 5, 2022

A tight employment market, more flexible work schedules, and rising inflation are motivating older workers to return to jobs they left.

Medicare Advantage Plans Often Deny Needed Care, Federal Report Finds
New York Times
April 28, 2022

Investigators report that Medicare Advantage plans, sold as lower cost and providing more coverage than "traditional" Medicare, often refuse to cover the costs of medically necessary care. Fighting the huge companies is complicated, time consuming and frustrating.

The Quiet Cost of Family Caregiving
New York Times
September 4, 2022

Caring for a family member - parent, spouse, partner, child, grandchild - can be very rewarding. It may also be necessary. But there is an unrecognized cost. Caregivers who leave work lose income immediately, but may also lose in retirement through smaller savings or pensions, and lower Social Security payments.

In Retirement, You May Not Need to Spend So Much
New York Times
September 28, 2022

When you retire, there are obvious expenses that disappear from your budget - commuting, eating lunch out (if you do), work clothes. Nevertheless, planning for retirement spending is not only essential, it can be difficult. If you budget for 25 years of retirement but you live 30 or more, your savings may not be enough. If you need nursing or other care, your costs may be far more than you anticipated. Slowly reducing your expenses each year in retirement can help stretch your savings.

Downsizing in Retirement: Expenses They Didn't Expect
New York Times
September 9, 2022

If you plan on relocating and downsizing in retirement, there may be some surprise costs. You may need to do repairs, repaint, etc. to sell your existing home (and there are costs associated with selling). Moving your furniture will be expensive; replacing it will be too. What do you do if your home sells and you don't have a new one ready?

Why Social Security's Inflation Protection is Priceless
New York Times
October 14, 2022

In January, Social Security recipients will get the largest cost of living increase in decades. There is no savings or investment strategy that would equal the increase, and none that is guaranteed to keep up with inflation. Social Security, with built in COLAs, protects seniors from poverty. It's not enough, but it's essential.

US Health Officials Seek New Curbs on Medicare Advantage Plans
New York Times
December 17, 2022

Responding to numerous complaints of claim denials and misleading advertising, federal officials are proposing significant new regulations. Consumer advocacy groups are cautiously optimistic that the new rules will help, but are waiting to see how aggressively they are enforced.

Financial Planning for Retirement
New York Times
January 6, 2023

Financial planning advice is more widely available than ever. But be careful who the advice is coming from and what their motives may be. Fiduciaries must work to your benefit; other planners may work for commissions on the products they sell, whether those are actually the best for you.

Investing When Your Time Horizon is Short
New York Times
January 13, 2023

Investment advice weighted toward stocks and bonds is designed for long term returns. If you're nearing retirement, or you've already retired, you may want to consider investing more in cash (CDs and money market funds, for example) for more predictability in your shorter term returns.

Senior Care is Crushingly Expensive. Boomers Aren't Ready
Washington Post
March 20, 2023

The cost of caring for seniors continues to rise precipitously, and its availability isn't keeping up with demand. Faced with the need for expensive care for themselves or their older relatives, boomers are finding they can't afford it. Second mortgages, spending down retirement savings, "doing without" are all options, but they may not be enough. "Aging in place" is what seniors prefer, and it's less expensive than residential care, but the estimated cost of 40 hours per week of help with daily tasks like bathing, cooking, etc. is about $56,000 per year - if you can find home care aides. Advocates say part of the solution is government sponsored insurance plans to cover long-term care. Existing insurance plans may not pay enough for those who need more extensive care.

Michelle Singletary's Money Milestones
Washington Post
March 1, 2023

Interactive tool provides financial guidance for every decade in your life - even if you're in your 90s.

The Agony of Putting Your Life on Hold to Care for Your Parents
New York Times
March 28, 2023 (updated April 28)

People in their 20s and 30s are finding themselves having to care for their parents full time - even while caring for their own children and trying to hold a job. A recent CDC report shows that, in 2021, 34.1% of those 18 or older are caring for an adult or for both children and adults. This younger "sandwich generation" is going to suffer long term financial consequences for this necessity.  For more on the topic, see a report from the Washington Post. And a related story from CNN on the rapid rise of senior care which has resulted on families being forced to provide care they cannot otherwise afford.

US to Rein in Technology That Limits Medicare Advantage Care
Washington Post

October 1, 2023

Medicare Advantage plans (and other insurance companies) are using predictive technology to make decisions about what health care will be covered. Using "average" or "normal" or "typical" patients, the technology will refuse to authorize care recommended by health care providers. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has imposed restrictions on how the technology can be used, requiring that the needs of the individual patient must be reviewed by an appropriate health care professional before a denial is issued.

How to Talk to Your Aging Parents About End-of-Life Planning
NRP "Life Kit"
October 4, 2023

Families need to have open conversations about financial planning for aging. Questions about retirement savings, paying for health care, disposal of property after death, and other issues. Having those conversations earlier is better - you don't want to try to get information from someone whose cognitive ability is reduced.

Facing Financial Ruin as Costs Soar for Elder Care
New York Times
November 14, 2023

Family care givers are giving up jobs, taking on debt, and spending their retirement savings as they take on the role imposed on them because of the lack of affordable elder care - whether home or institutional. Part of a series called "Dying Broke."

Playing the Long Game
November 16, 2023

"A whopping 92% of family caregivers report that they are either managing care recipients’ finances or providing them with out-of-pocket, financial assistance. Sixty-four percent report doing both. The TIAA Institute and New Courtland study also found that more than 53 million Americans, or one in five adults, now provide uncompensated care to parents, spouses, partners or children with health problems or disabilities."

Extra Fees Drive Assisted Living Profits
New York Times
November 19, 2023

Assisted living is an attractive option for older people who can't live at home but don't need intensive nursing care. The industry has exploded. So have profits. The cost (averaging $5,000 per month) is increasingly prohibitive. And most facilities add fees for almost all services on top of the monthly cost. And all expenses must be born by individuals - neither Medicare nor Medicaid covers any assisted living costs. Part of a series called "Dying Broke."  Related: What to Know About Assisted Living

Why Long-Term Care Insurance Falls Short for So Many
New York Times
November 22, 2023

For decades, the long-term care insurance industry underestimated how many people would file claims, how long they would need care, and what that care would cost. Many older policies only cover nursing home care, not the home care or assisted living residences that are more common and more popular. As a result, many insurance companies have stopped selling policies and have dramatically increased premiums while reducing what is covered. Part of a series called "Dying Broke." Related: A Guide to Long Term Care Insurance

Desperate Families Search for Affordable Home Care
New York Times
December 2, 2023

Finding home care for the elderly is difficult, because there aren't enough people providing the service (and they are poorly paid for the work). And the costs have skyrocketed. Families who want to allow seniors to stay at home care caught in an impossible situation, patching together a variety of ways to care for the elderly, including part time paid help, family and friends. Part of a series called "Dying Broke." Related: What to Know About Home Care Services.


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