Social Isolation a Real Danger for Elderly

Social isolation kills – literally.

In this video, Professor James Lubben, founding director of Boston College’s Institute on Aging, discusses numerous research studies showing that people who lack a social network of friends or family are more likely to neglect good health practices and to experience psychological distress, cognitive impairment, the common cold, and even death – “it’s on a par with smoking,” he said.

Seniors become particularly vulnerable to becoming isolated as they decline physically, but isolation then makes them more vulnerable to worsening health.

Social health should “be as important as mental health and as physical health,” said Lubben, who also is a professor of social work here at Boston College.

Summers are a fun and busy time – this video is a reminder that elderly family members and neighbors who aren’t very mobile might need some company or someone to check in on them. Learn More

Personal Finance Videos Hit the Basics

These personal finance videos are like sensible shoes: they won’t win any awards, but they can be useful.

Produced by the College of Financial Planning, the short videos demystify the fundamentals of personal finance that the planners who teach and take courses at the college rely on in their practices.

  • “Free Money” (above) features Dirk Pantone, a vice president and certified financial planner, interviewing Kristen MacKenzie, who teaches there, about 401(k)s, 403(b)s, 457(b)s and the employer match.
  • “Living on Borrowed Time,” has Pantone and MacKenzie discussing the difference between good debt and bad debt, both of which impact credit scores.
  • “The Road to Investing Your Assets” explains why low fees and portfolio diversification are so important.

There are 13 videos.  Other topics covered include retirement, taxes, and financial literacy. To watch other videos, click here. …Learn More

Going Abroad? Is Currency a Work of Art?

As Squared Away readers scatter to the winds this summer, those going overseas should take a close look at the currencies in their travel destinations.

There are some gorgeous currencies out in the world, in places like Sao Tome & Principe off of the coast of Gabon in West Africa. June begins peak season for the island country, which The Lonely Planet says has a relaxed “leve leve” vibe to go with its miles of beaches, “swaths of emerald rainforest, soaring volcanic peaks and mellow fishing villages.”

Sao Tomean Dobra

Currency as art is a refreshing contrast to U.S. currencies, with their button-down images of presidents and buildings.  Try the red-billed kingfisher bird on Sao Tome & Principe’s 50,000 dobra – or the curved bow of the boat on Norway’s 100 kroner note.

These were among the currencies selected by the coupon website, Couponbox.com, for its recent spotlight on the world’s “10 most beautiful banknotes.”  To see the others, click here. …Learn More

Birds

Find Best Job Market with Online Tool

This online tool for exploring urban job markets is very cool.

It could be a big help for high school and college graduates looking for work, especially those willing to migrate to a new city and trying to figure where to go. What’s unique about it is that it ranks the nation’s large, mid-sized, and small cities based on the user’s personal preferences.

To use the tool, created by the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), the job hunter decides how high to rank the importance – from 5 (most important) to 1 (not important) – of nine different aspects of the job market and lifestyle in their ideal city: low unemployment, high average earnings, high labor force participation, public transportation, highly educated peers, low rent, high diversity, plentiful bars and restaurants, and many arts and entertainment options.

To test it, I selected a 5 for low unemployment and high labor force participation and a 1 for everything else (the bar scene, public transit, diversity etc.).  Cities like Minneapolis, Denver, Salt Lake City, and Austin came up as the best cities, when these two job-market criteria were most important.

AIER also compares different cities in a report, which is available here.

Of course, other things are important when relocating. But the tool forces job hunters to balance their priorities – a strong job market or a good bar scene?  To play around with AIER’s gadget, click here.Learn More

Woman stretching

Quiz: Financial Well-being or Unease?

What does it mean to have a sense of financial well-being? Or what does it mean to have its opposite, financial uneasiness?

Based on in-depth interviews with dozens of people in focus groups, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has developed a financial well-being quiz. The quiz is the agency’s attempt to quantify a very subjective concept so that researchers can measure it and integrate this measure into their research, said Genevieve Melford, a senior research analyst for the CFPB.

“It’s about creating a tool that allows meaningful research and effective interventions that might help people,” she said.

We think regular people can also gain personal insight by taking a short version of the CFPB’s quiz on this blog. After taking the quiz, write down your score, and return to the blog to learn what it means.

Button linking to quiz
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Person screaming

To Escape Stress, Some Workers Retire

Call it the “fed-up factor” – the uncomfortable circumstances at work that spur some older people to retire, sometimes prematurely.

Squared Away’s readers recently shared their personal experiences in comments posted to a blog post about three job characteristics, identified by researchers, that are linked to earlier retirements: stress, inflexibility, and increasing demands.

Working in the healthcare field has had unique stresses – at high levels – for one reader, Elin Zander, a dietician. Stress “is experienced by clinicians trying to provide quality care in an ever more difficult environment,” she said. “That is why I will retire as soon as I can afford to.”

Paul Brustowicz and his wife both retired to remove themselves from uncomfortable situations – her retirement was to relieve her stress from working as a manager in the demanding healthcare field. As for Brustowicz, “an abrupt change in management with a supervisor who treated me like a newcomer changed by mind,” he said.  He had planned to work until 68 but didn’t make it to 67 in his non-managerial job as a training professional for a life insurance company.

John Schmidt’s stress came in working as a high-tech consultant after 30 years in the field – though not for obvious reasons. …Learn More

Ladies in swimming pool

Seeking Roommate to Share Bills

Maria Machado estimates that women over 50 make up about three out of four of the Dallasites seeking to cut their living expenses either by renting out a room in their home or by renting from a homeowner.

Shared housing often isn’t their first choice. “We like our independence,” said Machado, head of the Shared Housing Center, a non-profit roommate matching service in Dallas. But “house rich and money poor” older women will turn to house-sharing when they become widowed or if Social Security is their sole source of retirement income, she said. Companionship is another benefit of match-ups, whether with another senior or a younger adult.

The Shared Housing Center is part of a national network of programs matching up homeowners with responsible, low-income adult renters. In another form of house-sharing, two or a group of people will pool their resources to buy a house and share the mortgage, upkeep costs, and taxes.

The network created a website, the National Shared Housing Resource Center, that lists agencies in 23 states providing these services. Many major cities (though not Atlanta or Detroit) have agencies, and several states have more than one (California has a dozen). Many programs in the network conduct background checks, the website says.

To find a house-sharing program in your city, click here.  To read about “success stories,” click here and here.

Jamie Hopkins predicted “the Golden Girls scenario” will become more common as baby boomers age, and he recommended it as an option in his new book, “Retirement Risks: How to Plan Around Uncertainty for a Successful Retirement.”

Homeowners “say, ‘I’m going to live here as long as I can, and that’s my plan.’ But if people want to age in place, you’ve got to come up with a way to generate income from this asset.” …Learn More

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