Archives For Maturity Matters

Things we should know as senior citizens

Stuck 1Several things have come together lately that take my focus to the decisions we make in our lives. With that in mind I am going to attempt a series of posts here at RJ’s Corner with the title above.

Every day we make hundreds of choices in our lives.  Many of them are things like what to eat, or when to go to bed.  I think most of us are pretty good at making those daily decisions. But I am convinced that many, including myself, are not so good at some of the higher level ones. We just don’t spend enough time thinking them through before we make our choice.  Being in my seventh decade of life, I have been through a gamut of choices. I will use this wisdom to reflect on how I did in that regard. In this series I hope you get some insight into your own travels and hope that you learn a little from my words.

The title “Don’t Get Stuck” should give you a pretty clear idea of where I imagine I am going with these posts.  The idea is to never think you are stuck with just one thing. There are always choices. Some might require stepping back a few steps to admit that you made a previously unwise choice and then going from there. Some might be having the guts to go forward into an unknown area.  Some might be better for you; some better for others. But, the choice is always yours.

I haven’t completely thought out this series yet so I don’t really know how it will conclude but I do have quite a few titles in mind.  In order to not bore you to death I will likely intersperse this series with my usual stuff.  I hope to learn a few things about myself along the way.  I would love to hear from any of you about possible  topics and also I would love to hear some of your stories in this area.  I very highly encourage you to ring in here.  If you don’t feel comfortable with letting others know who you are email me at rjscorner@live.com or comment as “anonymous”. I will break my rule about accepting those types of comments for this series .

Some of us in our senior years think that our choices in life have pretty much played out. I don’t believe that for a minute.  Some of us think that due to the roads previously chosen some choices are not now possible. I don’t believe that for a minute either. Come back on the days ahead to see where this series goes and help me move it along certain paths.

Be forewarned that I am not a professional in this area.  I am not a self-described lifestyle coach or anything like that.  I am just a simple guy who has made many choices in life; some of them pretty good, some not so good and am willing to share them with you in hopes that you and I  might learn something from them.

Never get stuck in your life thinking that you are out of options.

Living Longer…

August 13, 2013

RIPI have come to a realization lately that these stories of all us old people living longer is a bunch of phooey. Here I am finishing up my second year of being on Medicare and when I read the obituaries in our local small town paper I see lots of people who are much younger than I am. That fact has kind of startled me and warned me that my years on this earth might be shorter than I have planned. You never know.

At our ages if we show up in tomorrow’s obit it probably wouldn’t bring a big surprise to anyone especially to those younger folks who are currently taking over the country.  Some might even be relieved that one less person is on the Social Security entitlement program. But I have been told by all those statisticians that I will live considerably longer than my parents and grandparents due to all the advanced technology and stuff.  I am a planner, I have always been a planner and I am planning on living another dozen years or so but maybe the big guy upstairs has different plans. :)

In reality I think the biggest voice in the “living longer” stuff are the financial planners.  The more they can convince you to put aside and let them manage, the bigger their income. I was told I would require 90% of my pre-retirement income in retirement.  In reality the number is more like 60%, maybe even lower.  I admit that we are living more frugally than before but we are also living more satisfyingly.

In the end (pun intended) we will go when we go. None of us have a big part of that date. Yeah, we can maybe stretch it out a few more months if we spend hours a day at the gym and eat nothing but alfalfa sprouts but who really wants to do that?  I kind of think my DNA and genes have a more prominent role in how long I live.

Like it or not, admit it or not, as we get over a certain age our bodies start to deteriorate. That is just the normal scheme of things. Some like to delay the process with various creams and other snake oil type things. But in reality we all die sooner or later. I think those of us who are reconciled with that fact live a more comfortable and soothing life. Those who battle it to the end are doing just that; battling it to the end. I don’t want to be in that camp. Some day I will wake up to read my obituary in the paper. That is just the way it is……

You Either Write or Live

December 30, 2012

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Cristian MihaiSome time ago I came across a blog from a Romanian blogger named Cristian Mihai that got my attention. On many of his posts he seems much too mature for his twenty-two years.  But then other times he seems to fit right in to that bracket.  He is an ambitious young man who has totally conquered English as his second language. He is also a self-published author.

Below is one of the posts that seems almost profound to me. He is talking about what it means to be a writer:

Source: You either write or live « Cristian Mihai.

You have to take a step back, see things for what they are, and then write about them. You have to become an observer, you have to put your life on hold. You have to spend a lot of time inside your head, a lot of time all by yourself, in your living room, scribbling down one word after another.

Continue Reading…

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I can only say with 100% certainty how I personally feel about things. I won’t speak for others in that regard. I will admit that as I am getting older I am strangely happier and more settled in my life than I ever have been. This is despite the fact that my body continues to tell me I am over the hill.  When I ran across this article this morning it told me that I am not alone in this regard. Here are some of the words from the source:

Source:  Good news about aging: Get older, feel better, study finds – Vitals.

“We were astounded by how physical disability and self-rated successful aging went in diametrically opposite directions with aging,” Jeste told NBC News.  The results also suggested that the more resilient people are — or able to cope with acute stressors — the better they aged. Conversely, people who reported higher levels of depression were less likely to say they were aging well.

The new results are consistent with previous research that shows that people are depressed in middle age, but then become happier as they get older, Jeste said.  That may be because older folks likely have grappled with the most contentious questions of life — work, family, finances — and come to some resolution.   “As people get older, they are less bothered by negative stimuli,” Jeste said. “You take things in stride. Regret becomes less common.”

Continue Reading…

Act Your Age!!!!

July 29, 2012

I don’t know how many times I have heard the title of this post. I defiantly don’t want people putting me in a pre-defined box! I guess that makes me ornery but I really don’t care. When someone says act your age they are really saying lie back and do what you are supposed to do. What a bummer man….   Besides that just which age do you want me to act.

  • In my mind I feel like I am thirty-something but with the wisdom of a sixty-something. Yeah, my body seems to constantly remind me that it is older than that but I defiantly poke back against it on a regular basis.
  • My spiritual self thinks I am in my prime. I have struggled for many years with my place in the universe of God.  I have only recently discovered, at least to my satisfaction, where I belong. But, I feel I still have many more years of discovery ahead of me. So spiritually I feel almost like a babe-in-the-woods.
  • Intellectually, I know much more than I did decades ago. When we are teenagers we all seem to think that we know more than our parents. But, as the years pass we realize that mom and dad really did have some life lessons that we could have benefited from if we had taken the time to listen and take them to heart. Now that I am on the back side of the hill I seem to have the wisdom that I so adamantly desired in my earlier years. So, where am I intellectually? Hard to say… I still have many more things to learn and I hope I never grow out of that. I have asked “why” my whole life and I intend to ask that even on my deathbed.
  • Emotionally I imagine myself still in my peak years. I don’t let things bother me as much as I used to. In my younger years women totally intimidated me because I just didn’t understand them. I still don’t understand them but it doesn’t bother me anymore :)
  • Chronologically I guess I am in the last 15% of my life. But that doesn’t really mean anything. I have always, or at least mostly believed in quality not quantity so I hope the years I have left will be the best ones. At least that is what I am striving towards.  With all this wisdom and peace I now have I think I can still accomplish much in my life. I see those who are younger around me who seem to be following very troubled paths. Maybe I can just help them to find out what it took me years to discover. That is if they will listen, and they probably won’t. I didn’t when I was their age….

Betting against death

April 10, 2012

Source: https://news.fidelity.com/news/article.jhtml?guid=/FidelityNewsPage/pages/secrets-of-social-security-2&topic=living-in-retirement

On the other hand, some people advocate drawing Social Security benefits at the first opportunity.

Doug Carey, who founded the financial planning software firm WealthTrace, says Social Security doesn’t see itself as an odds maker, but it does require you to bet on your longevity. He offers this chart as proof. It graphs the break-even point for a person who earned the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $70,000 per year for 35 years. If this person waits until 70 to claim Social Security and lives until at least age 90, he’ll accumulate almost $162,000 more in benefits than he would if he had claimed at 62. But there’s a possibility of losing the bet and getting nothing.

Retired law professor and Social Security expert Merton Bernstein says the longevity bet odds are bad, so claim early. “You never know when the bell will ring. I subscribe to the Woody Allen principal: ‘Take the money and run.’”

The above info doesn’t seem to be offered by many financial planners but it is a fact that sometimes taking social security at 70 is a losing proposition.  It seems like social security, like so much else in the world, is a betting game. The break-even point between taking it at 62 verses waiting till 70 is around 80 years old.  If you die before 80 you are actually losing money if you didn’t take it early.  I took it early and here is why.

My dad died at 77 and his dad died at 76 so I expect to croak about the same time.  One thing the graph above doesn’t take into account is if you save the money that you collect early you are actually extending the age out a little further. That is the case for “normal times” but of course these are not normal times. Interest rates are at practically 0% so if you want to make money on saved social security today you must gamble yet again, this time on the stock market!

Long story short, sometimes there is good reason to as the article says “take the money and run”. I am 65 years old now and my health has been significantly deteriorating for the last few years. I expect that by the time I am 70 I will have some pretty significant health issues to battle. I would rather have the money now and spend it while I can appreciate it than gambling that I can joyfully use it later. :)

Source: Many have little savings as retirement looms – USATODAY.com.

Ravages of the stock market. The people Redmond encounters most who are lacking sufficient retirement savings weren’t necessarily delinquent or negligent. Many had money saved but were wiped out by the sour stock market in the past decade and poor investment strategies, Redmond says.

That’s what happened, in part, to Robert and Connie Cabana of Tampa, who are both in their 60s. Robert built up a sizable 401(k) working as a financial executive at Verizon. Connie was a business assistant for a local irrigation supply company. Connie was laid off four years ago; Robert was let go three years ago.

But the serious hit to their retirement, which wiped out half their 401(k) savings, resulted from the stock market and an overexposure to risky stocks, they say. Now, 75% of their 401(k) is gone, and they have “very little” left, Robert says

I can remember in the early 1990s wondering if I would have enough to retire on. Fortunately for me the 1990s Clinton era was a prosperous one. My savings more than doubled during those years. I was never one to take a lot of risk so I was pretty much unaffected by the dot.com melt down that occurred in 2000 as I got most of my savings out of the markets before that happened. But I did have a friend that insisted that the “good times” would go on forever. He, like the people in this article, lost a good portion his 401(k).  I haven’t heard from him in years. I wonder how he and his wife are making out in their retirement?

I can remember the stories from the pundits about how people are not prepared for retirement throughout all my adult life.  First there were the oil embargos of the 1970s then there was the savings & loan fiasco of the 1980s followed by the melt down of the dot.com era and now due to deregulation the near meltdown of our entire financial structure. But this is the first time I have seen times remain as dreary as they have for more than ten years now. I can see the “malaise” has grown exponentially since President Carter’s famous speech.  Maybe if we had actually listened to President Carter and freed ourselves of dependence on foreign oil back in the 1970s we would be in much better shape today. Who knows what that alternative history might have been if one of our past presidents had been brave enough to make that happen! Who know how many young lives would have been spared if we didn’t need so much middle eastern oil?

Will any future generations ever be prepared for a secure retirement? It’s hard to say.  About the only thing you can do is keep putting a little of each paycheck back and hope for things to get better. There is not much else an average guy can do.

Hello Plavix Generic…..

October 29, 2011

 

Source: The 10 Biggest-Selling Drugs That Are About to Lose Their Patent – DailyFinance.

I am one of millions of us seniors who is on some very expensive prescription drugs. I currently spend over $1,000/year on Plavix alone. But that is about to change. In May 2012 Plavix will lose is patent exclusivity. That will open the door for an inexpensive generic. The above article show ten high cost drugs that are in the same situation.

To the right is also a mention of this from Money magazine in April 2011. I have had it pinned on my bulletin board since then.  Check them out. Maybe your costs in this area will be reduced as well. But of course something else will increase in costs to make up for this savings. It always does  :)

Living Debt Free….

September 27, 2011

The average consumer carries over $16,000 in credit card debt. And there is usually a mortgage and probably a car loan in the pile too. They say the total personal debt of U.S. consumers is over $11 trillion.  Unfortunately many of those are middle aged and moving into their retirement years. With all this debt they are obviously not putting away much for their later life.

It is quite startling how much debt many seniors today carry into their retirement! Four out of ten carry a mortgage with them into their golden years. Almost five out of ten carry a $6,000 credit card debt!  My father taught me to “put money away for a rainy day”.  While that message stuck with me it obviously didn’t with many of my cohorts.

What makes one person maintain a lifestyle that is debt free while another piles it on? My father and his generation were called Depression babies as he was  six years old at the onset of the Depression of the 1920s. My grandfather had a pig farm and was not seriously affected by the depression but I still remember Dad’s stories about some of his neighbors who were very much affected. Depression babies like my dad did not like debt but for the most part they are all gone now and quickly being replaced by us baby boomers. From the evidence it looks like many of us have not followed in our fathers’ footsteps about being debt free. Why are so many so ill-prepared for their senior years? I’m sure part of it has to do with “wanting it now”.

For some who are on retirement’s door it is already too late and that means they have to keep working whether they like it our not. Unfortunately, even among this group, there will be those who because of health or other issues will not be able to work in their senior years. What will happen to them. Most likely they will be trying to live on basically Social Security benefits which average usually a little over $1,000 per month. What would happen to those if even the Social Security safety net were removed?  According to some in the audience at the latest Republican presidential debate we should let them die! I hope and pray we never become a nation who lets that happen! But sadly I didn’t hear of anyone on the stage renouncing that idea!

I see the results of trying to live on Social Security alone weekly at the soup kitchen I volunteer.  Our lunch and dinner guests increase by about 25% the last week of the month when the checks are running out. We all would like to say “that happens to others” but I’m sure the “others” did not believe it would happen to them either.  No matter how close to retirement you are it is never to late to be reigning back some expenses in order to save a few dollars.

This is the second of two posts about my experiences with recently joining the Medicare System. The first post gave you the types of plans that are offered to those who turn 65. There are a number of decisions that have to be made during this enrollment process. I have to warn you up front that this is really pretty boring stuff. I put it off as long as I could and if you are not that close to Medicare I would probably advise you to just skip this post ;)

The first decision I had to make was to decide whether to enroll in my pension  Advantage Plan. This really ended up being no decision at all. Since I was a management employee my previous employer was under no contractual obligations as far as my health care plan was concerned.  Over these eleven years the cost of my healthcare insurance through them has increased over ten times what is started out. When I looked into their  Advantage plan it turned out to be nothing but a stripped down Part D coverage  and nothing else. If I join this Advantage plan it would preclude me from getting a Medigap policy. The decision was therefore easy to decline their coverage and go out on my own.

So, the next thing on the list was the Medigap policy. I spent over a three weeks on this task. I studied hundreds of pages of various insurer’s plans and then chose one. I will not say which one I chose but in reality there is generally not much difference  between one Medigap insurer and another. The real choice turned out to be which of the various Medigap plans I would choose. They are defined by Medicare and are identified by letters between “A” through “N”.   Some covered only when I would spend so many thousand dollars. Some have differing levels of co-pays.  Some cover almost everything Medicare does not cover.   When comparing what I paid last year for private coverage and what I would pay starting next month for Medicare coverage I choose Plan F.

The final decision was what Part D (prescription) plan I would choose.  Most of this decision process involved studying how much I would pay for my current prescriptions. Fortunately there are software programs that allowed me to enter my prescriptions and see what each plan would pay. Again most of the plans were pretty equal but I did save about 15% by going to one insurer.   One of the gotchas on Plan D is that the insurer can change anything he want anytime during the year so there is no guarantee as to what he will pay in the future.

So now I have my Medicare card with Part B, my Medigap policy, and my Part D cards in hand.  What is the final result?  Now that I am on Medicare and all these other plans my medical insurance costs will be about 50% less in 2012 than they were in 2011.   That is a far cry from the annual 25% increase year over year for the last eleven! Was it worth all the work to get here? Absolutely, but it certainly could have been easier.

So here I am  ready for October 1 and ushering in the final thing that makes me an “official” senior citizen.  Bring it on!!