Posts Tagged "aging"
February 16, 2023
The Case for Signing a Power of Attorney
The best reason to set up a power of attorney for yourself or an elderly family member is to avoid a far more contentious and expensive alternative later: guardianship.
A power of attorney becomes urgent if an elderly family member is showing early signs of dementia. “You want to run, not walk, to get that done because capacity tends not to get better,” said Jonathan Williams, an attorney with the Clarity Legal Group in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area.
“Having good legal documents in place, if the person has the ability to execute them, can be helpful later on,” he said.
In a power of attorney, the person signing the document agrees to name an agent, usually a trusted family member or caregiver, who can take care of legal and financial matters in the event she can no longer do so herself. A power of attorney does not put any constraints on what the signer is currently able to do. She can continue to write checks, enter into real estate transactions, and make investment decisions.
During a recent webinar sponsored by the Duke Dementia Family Support Program, Williams explained some of the legal “gray areas” that can crop up around powers of attorney.
Even if someone is showing cognitive decline, a power of attorney may still be possible if an attorney “can be convinced in a conversation that the person we’re working with has an adequate understanding of the consequences of their signing it, even if that understanding is later lost or forgotten,” he said.
“Just because someone has been diagnosed with a cognitive impairment doesn’t mean they lack the legal capacity to act for themselves.” In this case, the attorney might have to consult with the person’s medical provider or review medical records before deciding what to do about a power of attorney.
But convincing an attorney in these situations isn’t a sure bet, and time is of the essence. Once someone becomes fully incapacitated, the only option may be guardianship, which Williams called a “blunt force tool with a lot of collateral effects.” …Learn More
April 19, 2022
UI Benefits Can Get Caregivers Back to Work
When older workers are laid off, the timing of the career disruption could not be worse – when they should keep working and saving for retirement. Their situation is even more precarious if a parent or spouse is in need of care.
A new study shows that people who become unemployed mid-to-late career are more vulnerable to being pulled into the demands of caregiving, which can derail their efforts to find another job.
Intensive caregiving spells usually kick in about four months after a job loss and can continue for up to 12 months – and possibly longer – according to the research, which was based on U.S. Census surveys of the unemployed prior to the pandemic.
“Family caregiving needs have the potential to turn short-term employment shocks into longer-run decreases in labor force participation, impacting the economic security” of future retirees, concluded Yulya Truskinovsky at Wayne State University.
But she also uncovered another factor in workers’ calculations: the generosity of unemployment benefits, which vary dramatically from state to state. The federal and state governments share the cost of the benefits, but states set the minimum and maximum benefit levels. During the pandemic, for example, the weekly maximum in Massachusetts was 3 1/2 times more than Mississippi’s, far exceeding the difference in the two states’ cost of living.
More generous unemployment benefits could cut one of two ways. They might give the worker enough income to support being a caregiver rather than returning to the labor force right away. The downside of taking so much time off is that it could be harder to eventually find a new job.
But the researcher finds that the opposite occurs: more generous benefits sharply reduce the likelihood that someone takes on caregiving duties after losing a job. Benefits that replace more of a worker’s earnings may make it easier to hire a professional caregiver or continue paying an existing one so the worker can focus on a job search. …Learn More
March 17, 2022
Low-Income Retiree Gets Financial Coach
Every state should have what Delaware has: a program that helps low- and moderate-income seniors find a financial survival strategy.
Since it opened in 2013, the program, Stand by Me 50+, has connected more than 2,300 older residents – mostly retirees – with federal and state aid programs, advised them of Social Security’s rules, and helped them pay medical bills or eliminate debt. The services are free.
Kathleen Rupert, a financial coach and head of the organization, helped one man in his 70s pay off $13,000 in debt. Another retiree doubled his income from Social Security after she determined that he was eligible for his late wife’s $1,700 benefit. About 44 percent of the program’s clients have monthly income of $1,500 or less.
“We go wherever the need is – to senior housing, senior centers, community centers, libraries,” she said. “We set up appointments at Panera Bread or Hardee’s – wherever they’re available.”
Squared Away interviewed three clients who said the financial solutions they got from the program have given them peace of mind. Here is the first client’s account of how Stand by Me 50+ helped her.
Peggy Grasty retired in 2010 after two decades at Elwyn, a non-profit social services agency where she was a supervisor and worked with people with mental disabilities. She continues to help people – voluntarily. The 71-year-old takes other retirees under her wing who need assistance because they have trouble walking or aren’t as capable as her.
She initially contacted Stand by Me because she couldn’t make ends meet. She has a comfortable, federally subsidized apartment in Wilmington, Delaware. But her income is limited to a $1,500 Social Security check and a $53 pension from a job long ago waxing floors and driving a bus for a Pennsylvania middle school.
Stand by Me got help for Grasty through two programs: federal SNAP food stamps and a Delaware non-profit that pays low-income residents’ medical bills. By doing this type of work, the program addresses a real need. Although myriad financial assistance programs are available for low-income workers and retirees, they are frequently unaware of the programs, assume they don’t qualify, or may need help navigating the application process. …Learn More
January 20, 2022
Wandering into Retirement Worked for Him
Howard Gantman didn’t exactly have a plan for retirement. Rather, he wandered into it during the early months of COVID chaos.
Nevertheless, retirement is going better than he’d expected. Gantman, who read comic books and science fiction voraciously as a child, has rediscovered his passion. He joined a writing group on Zoom and is working on a science fiction novel of his own. (And no, he’s not disclosing the plot yet.)
“I’m happier doing this than I would’ve been if I’d continued to work. I really was ready for a change,” the Washington, D.C., resident said in a recent interview. “Aside from a gruesome virus that keeps on whacking us on the head, I feel more in control of my life.”
Retirement experts often warn baby boomers that planning for lifestyle changes before retiring is just as important as making certain one’s finances are in order. That’s the ideal. But not everyone who’s making the transition has a well-developed plan or takes a straight route to where they wind up.
Gantman, a former journalist and government and communications professional, had anticipated working until he was about 72. In March 2019, at age 67, he left his job at the Motion Picture Association during a staffing transition and started focusing on consulting and volunteer work while searching for a new job. In December, he had to go into the hospital for surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm and replace an aortic valve.
After the surgery, while he was recovering and doing some light consulting, COVID hit and his employment opportunities dried up.
He decided to get back into creative writing, something he had only dabbled in as a young, workaholic journalist and then government official. At first, he blogged about aging and thought about writing a memoir centered on his late-life transition. But that topic no longer seemed to strike the right tone with so many lives suddenly in turmoil around COVID.
That’s when his love of science fiction and fantasy pulled him back in. “I decided that’s it. That’s what I want to do,” he said about writing a novel. …Learn More
January 4, 2022
Readers’ Favorite Retirement Blogs in 2021
For the baby boomers who are looking down the road to retirement, generalities will no longer suffice. They are diving into the nitty gritty.
Their keen interest in retirement issues, based on reader traffic last year, range from why the adjustments to Social Security’s monthly benefits are outdated to how it’s still possible for boomers, even at this late hour, to rescue their retirement.
First, and most important, there is hope for the unprepared. In “No-benefit Jobs Better than Retiring Early,” readers who want to retire but can’t afford it learned that they can dramatically improve their finances by finding a new job – ideally a less stressful or physically demanding one. Even if the job doesn’t have employee benefits, working longer will increase their Social Security benefits and allow them to save a little more.
The most popular article tackled a complex issue: “Social Security: Time for an Update?” The article explained the program’s actuarial adjustments, which are based on the age someone signs up for their benefits and factors into how much they’ll get. The adjustments, set decades ago, are no longer accurate, due to both increasing life spans that affect how much retirees receive from the program over their lifetimes and persistently low interest rates.
If these factors were taken into account, the researchers estimate that the average person who starts Social Security at age 62 would get more in their monthly checks, and the average person who holds out until 70 would get less.
However, not everyone is average. High-income workers tend to live longer and retire – and claim Social Security – later, while low-income workers have shorter lifespans and disproportionately start Social Security at 62. The researchers conclude that the inequities “are not a problem that can be solved by tinkering with the actuarial adjustment.” A true fix would “would require a reassessment of the benefit structure.”
A major issue facing boomers in their late 50s and early 60s is that households with 401(k)s typically have saved only about $144,000 for retirement in their 401(k)s and IRAs. The reasons for insufficient savings – explained in “Here’s Why People Don’t Save Enough” – boil down to things that are largely beyond their control, including disruptions in their employment, a lack of access to employer retirement plans, lower earnings than they’d hoped for, bad investments, unanticipated premature retirements, and health problems.
However, workers can do something to gauge how they’re doing: make sure they know how much they’ll get from Social Security. …Learn More
December 16, 2021
Medicaid to Help Fill Gap in Seniors’ Care
Two previous studies on long-term care reported in this blog estimated how many of today’s 65-year-olds today will require care for minimal, moderate, or severe levels of need as they age and how many have the financial resources to cover each level of care that might be required.
In the third and final study in this series, the Center for Retirement Research matched the specific levels of need each retiree is projected to have in the future with their resources to determine how many of them will fall short.
Among all retirees, 22 percent are expected to have minimal needs for care and 9 percent will lack the family and financial resources to cover it – in other words, just under half of the people in this group will fall short. The shortfall among people with moderate needs will be larger: the comparable figures are 38 percent of all retirees will be at this level and 21 percent of retirees will fall short. Finally, 24 percent of retirees are expected to have severe care needs – for at least five years – and 16 percent will fall short.
But there is another critical source of support: Medicaid. The researchers find that the joint federal-state program dramatically reduces the share of retirees with insufficient resources to cover their care.
Not everyone qualifies for Medicaid, however. Older Americans can get the funding if they meet two conditions. First, they must have a serious health issue, such as dementia or a physical or medical condition that limits their activity. Second, the program covers nursing homes only for retirees with little in the way of financial resources, either because they had lower-paying jobs and didn’t save or because they exhausted most of the retirement savings they had scraped together.
When Medicaid is added to the picture, the program makes a significant dent. Among the 65-year-olds who will need moderate care, the share of all retirees who lack the resources to cover it drops from 21 percent to 14 percent when Medicaid funding is included. Medicaid also reduces the burden on boomers who will need high levels of care: the share lacking adequate resources drops from 16 percent to 11 percent.
The researchers didn’t include Medicaid in the resources available to the 9 percent of retirees who will need only minimal help with chores like cleaning or grocery shopping. The program typically doesn’t pay for these services, though there has been movement in a handful of states and at the federal level to loosen the restrictions around housekeeping. …Learn More
November 4, 2021
How to Pick (or Be) a Retiree’s Financial Ally
If you need help managing your finances in old age, it’s a lot of work to find someone – and not a very pleasant task to think about.
But it’s crucial that retirees plan for this. As to when or whether you might need help, it really depends on your individual circumstance.
Attorney and researcher Naomi Karp cites a variety of studies that provide some clues to the different ways this process can play out. People who develop dementia obviously need what she calls a financial advocate. This might be a trusted friend, family member, lawyer or professional financial adviser.
But roughly a third of aging Americans who are experiencing natural cognitive decline are prone to making poor decisions about their money, she explained during a recent webinar sponsored by the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) where she used to work.
Financial acumen actually peaks well before retirement – at 53! – but wisdom makes up for some of that, she said. During one’s 70s and 80s, financial literacy declines, but unfortunately confidence about one’s abilities remains high. “That’s a risky situation,” Karp said.
She and other financial experts have put together an interactive website – the Thinking Ahead Roadmap – with six steps to follow to find an advocate. Each step has tips, tools, and information to guide you through the process. An adult child or caregiver could also use this website if they feel the need to assume more responsibility for an elderly parent’s finances. …Learn More