October 21, 2018

Go-Go, Slow-Go, No-Go: Is This A Smart Retirement Life Plan?

I have written before about the three stages of retirement: excitement and euphoria, then panic and fear, followed by settling in and enjoying the freedom.

But, Go-Go, Slow-Go, No-Go is a bit different. Instead of thinking about time management or finding a passion, these three phrases do an excellent job of describing an approach to a satisfying retirement journey from an activity standpoint. 

We are aware of the changes in our energy level, physical stamina, and overall health as we age.  Obsessing about this reality is a waste of time. What we can do is manage our approach to living to match what is likely to occur.

During the Go-Go stage we have the energy, physical and mental stability, and desire to do things. We have determined that our financial situation will allow us to splurge for the time being. For many this means travel. This is the time for that extended road trip, tour the country in an RV, take a walking tour across Ireland, board a cruise for a trip across the Pacific, visit the Holy Land...whatever is part of your dream list. We are at the peak of our retirement health and monetary stability. 

For others, Go-Go might mean going back to school to get the degree you have always wanted. Hours of studying, rushing from classroom to classroom, balancing a home life and a school life is not for the faint of heart.

For the athletically inclined The Go-Go phase means ski trips, long distance bike rides, taking part in swim meets, joining the tennis club and perfecting your backswing. It means a real dedication to workouts at the gym or extended walking commitments.

At some point, and it differs for all of us, we move into the Slow-Go period of retirement. With a diminished energy level, maybe less physical  stamina, or a need to pull back on spending, the focus becomes a bit closer to home. This is when we think about remodeling or improving our home, or even downsizing so there is less maintenance to worry about. 

Slow-Go doesn't have to mean no travel, just trips that tax us a little less. Maybe a packaged tour takes the place of independent trips. A long weekend in a favorite place instead of a 2 week driving tour sounds more appealing.

Instead of going back to college full time, Slow-Go is the time for enrichment classes at the local community college. It is the phase when hobbies become more important. With more time at home, we develop our woodworking, quilting, writing, or auto repair skills. Starting a home-based business built around one of these hobbies often occurs. 

The third stage, No-Go, is when our interests, desire, stamina, and health are more likely to limit what we can safely and comfortably do. Importantly, I want to emphasize that No-Go does not mean being parked in from of a TV 6 hours a day, or glued to your easy chair. It doesn't mean cocooning inside your four walls. 

Rather, this is the perfect time to work on projects and interests close to home. Online courses in subjects you've always wanted to explore, a reading plan centered on a deeper study of a favorite author, period of history or subject, and games designed to keep your mind stimulated are excellent options. A day trip organized by your local senior center might be fun and get you out of the house. Spending more time with your extended family members or friends can be a good fit. 

No-Go may involve a tightened budget as health costs increase. But, with less travel, expensive vacations, and major house remodels, your financial direction can more easily be adjusted.

These three activity and energy stages are a natural part of the aging process. Each of us moves from stage to stage on our own unique timetable. That difference is important to respect in ourselves and others. This awareness is extra-important if a spouse or partner is not in the same phase as you.

Again, I want to emphasize that these stages do not affect your ability to have a fully satisfying retirement. Like all of life, we are happiest when our abilities, interests, and goals are in alignment.

October 18, 2018

We Published a Book Together: The Grandkids and Me!

Betty and I have three very excited grandchildren. Begun as an idea a few months ago, today we celebrate the publication of Bobo's Great Adventure.

In the summer of 2018, the grandkids were visiting Gran and Grandad’s home for an afternoon of play and games. At one point our grandson was looking at one of my books online. That was the trigger.

He asked if he and I could write a book together. As a youngster who loves to read and has an amazingly inventive mind, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Even so, his request caught me off-guard. After quickly recovering, of course I agreed. That would be a fun project we could do together.

Realizing his two sisters were close by and each had talents we could use, I asked if we could all work on the book together. Everyone agreed: writing a book, illustrating it and producing a finished product would be a great goal for the rest of the summer.

Photos were taken by Gran, then converted into sketches by our granddaughters. Gran helped to tweak the final pictures that fit the story written by Grandad. The boy who started it all took over the role of proofreader and marketing director.

Bobo’s Great Adventure is the result.

The Fuddle Family, with Bobo
The Fuddle Family along with Bobo, a stuffed toy dog, embark on a memorable adventure. Along the way they explore the countryside, meet friendly people, and animals.
Then, a scary encounter with a flash flood puts Bobo in jeopardy, but just for awhile. The Fuddles rescue Bobo and return home, safe and sound with memories of a great family adventure that will be with them forever.

As you might imagine, Gran (Betty) and Grandad (me !) as proud as can be over this joint effort. Josh, Kaylee, Kassi, and their mom and dad are celebrating the completion of something that is meaningful and memorable.

Bobo on a swing all by himself
There is just one step left, and for that I turn to you: when people order a copy, much more than the money will be shared among the three kids. There is a very real validation of what they have accomplished. To produce an actual book that others are interested in buying is a big deal to them. 

The Kindle version is just $1.99 while the paperback is $4.99 (due to printing costs).
Click here to go directly to the book on Amazon.

I would very much appreciate your support in this regard. And, yes, 100% of the money goes to the three kids.

Bobo meets a horse

Thanks so much, and I hope you enjoy the story.

October 15, 2018

Retirement Budgeting: It is Not Safe To Ignore This Step

I received the following e-mail from a regular satisfying retirement reader and commenter.  Except for a little editing and name changes, I've left her message intact. After reading through her concerns, see if you can add anything to my thoughts.

"Bill and I are definitely taking the next step towards retirement and we're getting our business ready to put up for sale.. a big step. Bill is pretty nervous, I am calmer about it. A big leap but we are sooo. ready. The stresses of business and the challenges of staying up to date in an ever changing industry are wearing us out! We're ready to move on to the next phase of our lives.
Reading your blog helps us both to have the large view and not be too scared. We'd feel better if our savings were still making the 7% and the 5% even that they used to, in municipal bonds. (Wouldn't everyone!?) We're having to learn more about investing. "IF" the economy had not taken a slide we probably would have retired several years ago as we had originally planned.. but we're in the same boat as everyone, with interest rates what they are. LUCKILY we did not lose in the stock market dip ten years ago.
One thing we're going to do is sit down and remember what it is like to live on a stricter BUDGET. I wonder if you would address this issue in a blog post? How does one go from having a good bit of discretionary income to living on fixed income again? We certainly did this in our early years, but we have to relearn! Do you and Betty each get an "Allowance" monthly for personal spending? I don't spend much, monthly, but my husband does have a Home Depot habit.
We live frugally but well, but it is still a challenge to return to a stricter kind of budgeting so our retirement funds last..we are weighing that sense of FREEDOM and TIME we will gain (and better health, too, no doubt..) with the minor discomfort of having to watch pennies again. I read that the Frugal Girl and her spouse have a once a month budget meeting-- do you and Betty? Or do your retired readers?
One PLUS of doing this again in our lives (stricter budgeting) is that we are reviewing the importance and meaning of every expenditure, reviewing what kind of travel we REALLY enjoy and get our money's worth from, and just reviewing "meaning" in general-- a good thing!"

Besides writing most of this post for me (!), I seriously appreciate the thought Sue put into her questions and concerns. I'll take a stab at answering them. Like many, she is looking forward to retirement with a healthy mixture of edginess and excitement. With interest income still quite low, and the "normal" investments no longer the safe places we once thought them to be, she and Bill are refocusing on the need to choose how the monetary resources they have are best utilized.

Betty and I do not have a monthly budget meeting. We set our budget on January 1st for the coming year. It is based on last year's expenses, what we think we will need to spend, and what our income will be for the next 365 days. Also, we have a certain amount of money set aside for emergency expenses.

From then on it is my responsibility to keep things in balance. If we get some income we didn't plan on we discuss what we should do with it. If expenses are tracking higher than they should I make suggestions for cuts and adjustments and Betty gives her approval or suggests a modification here or there. I do record everything we spend in Quicken so I am never surprised by an out-of-whack expenses category. I can catch a problem very quickly.

Our total expenses have remained relatively steady over the past 17 years. How is that possible considering the effects of inflation and in areas like health care where costs have gone up a average of 10%-15% a year? The answer is simple: they had to because my income is relatively fixed.

When I retired in 2001 at the age of 52 I had a investment/savings account designed to carry us until I planned to start taking Social Security and withdrawing from my IRA at the age of 64.  We have lived off that savings and investment account through boom and bust cycles. When those investments were making 10% we had extra cash flow. When our average return sunk to 3% or less, we were short. But, because we didn't spend more when times were good we had enough to carry through the tough times. A dozen years ago I had planned that the savings account would run out of money on my 64th birthday. I was one month off.

Over the years we have adjusted budget categories many times. In some years we decide it is time to replace some home furnishings, so another category must be cut. In another year, maybe we decide we would rather cut back our dining out budget so we can spend a bit more somewhere else. Cable TV and the land line phone went away several years ago ago when we realized they weren't worth the money to us.

My clothing budget is 85% less than it was when I was working and I still have money left unspent at the end of the year. I need jeans, a T-shirt, and gym shoes. Heavens, our dry cleaning expenses for last year for both Betty and me was $36....not a month, but for all of 2017. We simply don't buy or maintain clothes than cannot be laundered.

We each get a small sum of money each month (less than $100) that doesn't have to be accounted for. Betty tends to spend hers on the grandkids or the house. I spend mine on stuff for my blog, books and house.

This post is getting a little long, so let me summarize what I believe the key to our financial stability has been:
  1. We have no consumer debt, no mortgage, no credit card debt
  2. We adjust our expenses to fit within our income, not the other way around
  3. We constantly adjust to stay on track
  4. We have learned that it doesn't take much for us to be happy

OK, your turn. What hints or tips can you give to Sue and Bill and everyone else? After all, we are all in this together.

October 11, 2018

The Worst Things About Retirement

For some of us the worst thing about retirement is that it didn't start sooner. After experiencing the freedom and opportunities that become available after work ends, we are happy that the employment stage of life is behind us.

For variety of reasons, others find the transition is less than ideal. Concerns like financial fears, health problems, or relational issues are not my focus this time. Instead, I'd like to look at some things that may be a little less obvious but still make us less than satisfied. Some of these may feel familiar to you. For some reason the pieces of retirement you thought would fit together nicely, don't.

In each segment I have included a link to a post that might help you find some answers.

* After awhile the freshness wears off. Then, every day seems like the one before. This happens when the honeymoon period ends and we realize what is in front of us: a schedule that is up to us to design. Forty hours (or more) every week is now ours to fill. Say what you will about an unpleasant job, at least it came with a structure that required little effort on our part to design. 

Is retirement like a permanent vacation?

* I don't like telling people I am retired. It makes me feel old and not useful. The lack of a clearly defined "role" bothers us. The "What do you do" question was easy to answer. Now, not so much.

Retirement does not mean not working

* I don't have many friends who have retired so I miss seeing people at work or during the day. This is actually two connected issues. If you retire earlier than others the natural tie you would share with retirees is not in place. You lose both your friends at work and can find yourself isolated in social situations. Those who are around during the day tend to be young mothers with their kids or business people rushing from one appointment to the next. Your contemporaries are not around. 

I often wonder about the growing trend of folks in their 30's who want to retire very young. After the initial period of exploration and freedom who will they have as friends? Virtually every one of their peers will have work for validation and friendship.

Finding Friends After Retirement

* I feel stagnant and drifting in place. Being retired can feel like an anchor has been pulled up: the anchor of knowing where to go and what to do each day. Without that structure, you can feel like your mind lacks stimulation and you have left a port with no destination in mind. You are just drifting through your days.

5 Things You Learn About Retirement - After Retirement

* I am the go-to person for babysitting or running errands. Sometimes it can seem as though you are the only person in your relatives' address books. Helping out is something you are happy to do, within limits. Why don't others understand I'm not being unkind or rude? It is just that I didn't retire to become an answer to other people's scheduling problems.

The 10 Commandments of Retirement

* I put on weight since I'm not as active as I was at work. I'm worried about my health. Yes, I know, I had a desk job. But, just the walking around the office, to and from the parking lot, and a quick bite for lunch kept me looking and feeling OK. 

Now, it is too easy to snack when I am bored or have no particular things to do on any type of schedule. I probably watch too much TV, too, which isn't helping. Since I am not interacting with other people as much, maybe I just don't care as much about my appearance or health.

The health concerns that keep us awake

* I just don't have enough to do to fill my days. Obviously, that is part of  several of my other complaints. But, I have never had a hobby and I get tired of reading. At least at work I had something to fill my time without me having to figure out what to do.

What Do Retired People Do All Day?

If you find some of the things on this list fit you, then you are not having the type of experience you expected. You know these are not just minor complaints but things you struggle with every day. 

If these dissatisfactions bother you let me assure you that you are not alone, and these are not frivolous problems. They are very real and important. 

After each item on the list I have put a link to an earlier post that might give you some answers or encouragement that you can turn things around. Please take the time to read the ones that might help.

If you would like a more personal response, I invite you to email me with specific questions and concerns. I would be happy to begin a dialogue with you. No promises that every issue of yours will be solved, but I would love to be able to help you cross at least one thing off your "worst things" list.

October 8, 2018

Retirement Living Options That Are Not For Everyone

After the post of a few days ago, How To Move to a Retirement Community  I thought it would be fun to look at some options that are very different retirement options that aren't designed for everyone.

One of the really nice things about a satisfying retirement is the freedom that comes from deciding how you live or even where you spend your time. Some of us are happiest staying where we are now, with an occasional trip to add new experiences to our lives. 

But, what about those retirees who have decided to really break the mold? A while back the Wall Street Journal had a story about folks who have picked, shall we say, more unusual retirement options. A few other news stories that filtered across my desk make it obvious that a "traditional" choice may not be so obvious. Consider these:

Live on a Ship

For roughly the same monthly cost as a typical full service retirement community, a small but growing number of people are living for several months or more each year on cruise ships.

A recent research study concluded that the services on a typical cruise are comparable to those in a retirement community: dining choices, escorts for dances and dining, help with doling out medicines, and daily housekeeping. Cruise ships have a doctor and nurse on board and on call 24/7, as well as a decently outfitted medical facility without worrying about health insurance or copays. Entertainment, fitness centers, libraries, and satellite TV complete the package.

Between cruises, those who have adopted this lifestyle stay with friends or in a short term apartment rental or hotel. Of course living space is at a premium, but as a trade off you spend your time visiting fascinating location anywhere in the world and have your needs and wants taken care of.

Just a month or two ago I saw an article about folks who live on cruise ships full time. For all the reasons noted above, these people have left any land-based living arrangement behind. Click here for an excellent article on the good, the bad, and the ugly of cruise-ship living

Spend part of the year as a Park Ranger

This retirement lifestyle could be considered a type of snowbird living. Folks spent the summer months living in an RV while serving in volunteer capacities at national or state parks. Usually the rental fee for the camping space is free, or deeply discounted in exchange for the help. 

The volunteers may serve as managers of a camping/RV site, teaching interpretative classes, or working in a gift shop. The story I saw told of a couple that spent last summer at Yellowstone, the previous summer at Yosemite, and plan to be at Mt. Ranier this year. During the winter months they pull the RV to a warmer climate or spend time visiting friends. For more information on this option, For more information on this option, click here

Share Housing with others

If you have an interest in living communally, this may work for you. Residents of these communities have private living spaces, but share kitchen and other facilities.

There are a growing number of such senior developments in the U.S. with more in other countries. I have read predictions that most metropolitan areas will have at least one cohouse development within the next decade. Especially for those who have lost a partner or have no nearby relatives, the sense of family and of sharing one's life with others are major draws.

If this sounds like something you'd like to explore, take a look at CCohousing,org's website.

Live in another country

Moving to a place like Costa Rico, Mexico, Belize, or anywhere else in the world is becoming a reasonable choice for many. Estimates are that over half a million Americans are spending their retirement years outside their home country.

The primary reason is cost. Health care is usually 50-80% less expensive with comparable care. Many doctors in Central or South America, for example, are trained in American schools. Larger cities have modern hospitals and clinics. Housing is usually much less expensive, too. Social Security checks can usually be sent to you, though the rules vary by country.

Another reason folks choose to pull up stakes and start over again is the desire for adventure and a fresh start. Retiring to another country is a major decision that requires serious thought and preparation. It is not something to be done on a whim. Learning a new language and customs while fitting into a new culture can be daunting to some, but amazingly stimulating for others. Interesting? Click here

I've just scratched the surface on this topic. Additional options include some form of extended volunteer work, like the Peace Corp, or building a small apartment on the property of grown children to create a multi-generational situation without sacrificing privacy.

I'd like to know is what do you think? Are any of these ideas (or others I haven't mentioned) logical alternatives to aging in place or a typical retirement community? 

It is kind of exciting that we do have options.

October 4, 2018

Making It Feel Like Home After a Move To a Retirement Community

Where to retire? From a few years ago, this is a guest post from Sarah Jennings on the steps one can take to make the move to a retirement community as stress-free as possible. Whether a retirement community is in your future or maybe for a parent or relative, I find her suggestions and ideas worthwhile.

After retiring, many people choose to live in active retirement communities. Unlike assisted living homes, retirement communities are designed to keep newly retired individuals living independently but with an array of activities, hobbies, and social events to choose from.
However, as appealing as those services are, it can be hard to adjust to living in a different place than the one where you made memories in raising children, developing your career, and forming the person you are today. It’s often difficult at first to really feel at peace with the decision, but just like any major life change, it’s normal to experience cold feet and second thoughts. Chances are you made the right choice, but just like any species on the planet, being in a new environment is all about learning how to adapt, how to make it a happy retirement choice.

Make it Feel Like Home

As obvious as this tip is, it’s normal for new residents to not decorate and adorn their new home right away, if at all. Remember, your new apartment is your home; it’s not a dorm room where you’ll be moving out it nine months. Don’t be afraid to go all out and really get creative with it as bare walls and naked rooms can make it hard to truly feel at ease.

Making it feel like a safe, relaxing, and comfortable place you can retreat will really speed up the adjusting process. Hang up pictures of friends and family, set and decorate the table, and get all your old, familiar mementos out and ready to display. However, try to avoid making it look exactly like your old home; let this be a new chapter in your life, and it’s important to let your new home be just that: your new home, not a replica of your old one.

Be a Neighbor

This doesn’t mean a quick wave to the person who lives across from you or an occasional, “How are you?” This is one circumstance where it’s good to be old fashioned; introduce yourself, offer your neighbors some baked goods or a glass of wine, and really get to know them. This is what the term “community” is all about. Getting to know the people who live around you allows for friendships to flourish, and the feeling of familiarity will make easing into your new home go much smoother.

Get Involved

Your retirement community most likely offers a large variety of events and activities to choose from. Avoid being a homebody, and get active. The sooner you start taking advantage of the available activities, the sooner you will warm up to the facility. Getting involved is the best way to meet other residents with similar interests, and making new friends is the key to feeling at home in a new place.

Even just taking a good book down to the lobby to read is a simple way to surround yourself with others. Keeping yourself isolated does nothing but prevent you from experiencing your new life to the fullest, and a large percent of your rent goes to the amenities offered. You might as well take advantage of them and have a good time.

Keep in Contact with Friends and Family

One of the biggest arguments against living in an active retirement community stems from the fear of losing contact with close friends and family. However, it’s all about how you personally make an effort to keep in touch, and most facilities are more than happy to allow your guests to visit and even stay overnight.

Minimizing your contact with friends and family can contribute to resenting your decision later on, but remember you’re not on a desert island; you just changed locations. Have your family over frequently to share meals or attend events, or schedule a coffee date with an old friend or neighbor. Sometimes, nothing is quite as comforting and enjoyable than spending time with a familiar face.

Talk with the Staff

It’s just as important to get to know the staff as it is other residents. It’s a good idea to build a friendly relationship with any them as they’re the ones responsible for taking care of any issues you have with the facility. Also, the employees see new residents move in all the time, so they most likely have some tips and ideas that would be helpful in getting you better acquainted with the place.

Moving into a retirement community is a major life decision, and it can take some time to fully adjust. 

However, by making your new place comfortable, actively reaching out to connect with others, and keeping old ties close, the initial hesitation will ease into a feeling of satisfaction and excitement about your future.

It’s a brand new phase of your life; you might as well do all you can do make it one of the best ones yet.

Sarah Jennings has been taking care of others her whole life. In 2005, she moved her mother into her family home. She uses her personal experience to share with others about caring for the elderly. She wrote this piece on behalf of Brookdale Senior Living.
Note: Satisfying Retirement  received no compensation for this post or the links included.

October 1, 2018

Stolen Social Security Benefits: You Must Read This

A good friend of ours had the unimaginable happen. Someone stole his data files and filed a fraudulent Social Security claim for benefits under his name. Because he had not asked to start receiving his benefits, this theft of money and his identity continued for a while.

As you can imagine undoing the damage is a long and laborious process. In a stroke of good luck there were apparently enough red flags raised at the bank selected to receive the fraudulently-filed benefits that they rejected all of the transfer attempts. They alerted the Social Security Administration that there appeared to be a problem. Even so, Social Security has to update his records to show he hasn't filed for benefits and the money paid did not go to him. The process could take 90 days.

The takeaway is simple: if you are over 62 and have not started receiving Social Security benefits you are a prime target of these lowlifes. It is essential that you make sure no one has filed for your benefits. 

The following release from AICPA provides an excellent summary of the problem and what steps you should take to keep your files safe (or as safe as they can be in today's world). The author had his benefits misdirected, too. Even as a CPA he fell victim. In the following he is advising fellow CPA's what to do. His suggestions apply to everyone.

If you or your clients are at or nearing retirement age, you need to know that hackers are targeting social security accounts. I found out the hard way. My career as a CPA Personal Financial Specialist was devoted to advising individuals and families on their most important financial goals, including tax, retirement, estate, risk management, investment and retirement planning.

After decades of helping my clients navigate and manage these important decisions, imagine my surprise when I received a letter in the mail shortly after my 67th birthday congratulating me on initiating my Social Security benefits. The trouble was, although I had entered the glory years of retirement, I had not yet applied for Social Security benefits, opting to wait until age 70 to receive my benefits. Further digging uncovered the unfortunate fact that a thief had received $19,236 of my benefits. I was dumbfounded.
How did this breach occur? And if I was victimized, who else might be at risk? What can you do to prevent this or respond should this happen to you or your clients?
Who is at risk?
All individuals age 62 to 70 who have not yet applied for benefits are at risk, particularly if their personal information was exposed in the Equifax breach. For beneficiaries over age 66.5, the risk is even greater. In my case, a fraudulent application was made one month after I turned 67.

The timing is not coincidental – in fact it reveals that the thief was sophisticated enough to understand the Social Security system. Individuals who have reached full retirement age and have not applied for benefits can receive a retroactive payment from Social Security of up to six months of benefits. So, beginning at age 66.5 (for people born between 1943 and 1954), thieves can access the maximum amount of back benefits.
How did this happen?
While I’m not entirely sure how the thief obtained my personal information, it’s likely that the Equifax data breach, which exposed the vital personal identification data of as many as 143 million consumers, contributed to the identity theft. According to the Equifax website, my personal information was potentially exposed as a result of the breach.
Prior to the Equifax breach, I had frozen my credit with all three credit bureaus, effectively denying any attempts to obtain credit in my or my wife’s names. Despite the freeze, the thief was able to have my benefits direct deposited into an account opened with a bank that proudly advertises at major retailers that they do not perform credit checks prior to issuing prepaid Visa debit cards.

If these stores had done a credit check, in my case, they would have found that I had freezes on all three bureaus and would have then rejected the false application they had blindly accepted with my stolen information.
But Equifax, the bank, and the retailers who market and sell these cards are not the only players involved. There is a flaw in the controls on the Social Security website that, unfortunately, does little to protect the beneficiary.
Beneficiaries who set up a my Social Security account can view their Social Security Statement, update their address and phone number, start or change direct deposit of their benefit payment, and view benefits online. This secure website sends an email or text message with a secure access code to the contact information on file on the website before login can be completed.
However, there is a separate, unsecure website that is not located within the secure my Social Security account, which was the door the thief used to perpetrate the fraud. This website, the Social Security Retirement/Medicare Benefit application, can be used to apply for benefits online.
On the unsecure website, the thief changed one digit of my phone number, entered a fake email address, set up direct deposit information for the bank prepaid card that had been fraudulently opened, and applied for benefits. Although the personal information entered by the thief did not match the information I had previously entered on the secure website, I received no notification of these changes or the fact that a benefit application had been made.
If there is a silver lining, it is that addresses cannot be changed on the unsecure benefit application website, so I received a letter in the mail congratulating me for initiating my benefits. Unfortunately, six months of back benefits and a current month of benefits, totaling over $19,000, had been dispersed to the fraudulent bank card account prior to when the Social Security Administration (SSA) mailed the letter and 11 days before I received it.
What Next?
Whether or not you are a victim of this crime, taking precautionary security measures to protect yourself from a diversion of benefits is critical. The SSA provides recommendations on how to secure your information online. Unfortunately, because of the notification breakdown and unsecure nature of the benefit application website, taking these steps does not ensure that you will not be victimized. At a minimum, I would recommend that you a create a my Social Security account and log in at least annually (more frequently if over age 62) to verify your personal information and benefit status.
If you discover that you or one of your clients has been the victim of a Social Security breach or theft, make an appointment (if you can) or wait in line at your local SSA office immediately. You will be interviewed and required to provide a written statement certifying the circumstances of the fraud. The agent will freeze further payments on your account.

Maintain digital and hard copies of everything that you receive. Furthermore, I was advised to file a police report with a case number, which I have maintained in my files. Finally, I had electronic access to my account blocked.
I just received Form SSA-1099 for the $19,236 that was disbursed out of my account.  I will now have to battle with both the IRS and the Social Security Administration, and eventually Medicare as this additional income would tip me over the threshold for means testing on my Parts B and D premiums.
I urge you to alert your clients of this and other cybersecurity risks. The AICPA Tax Section has a toolkit relating to tax identity theft, including a client identity theft checklist with action steps for recovery that is open to all AICPA members. Consumers can also benefit from materials on the AICPA’s 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy website relating to identity theft. In addition there is a page of SSA recommendations

The author of this release is James A. Shambo, CPA (retired), president of Lifetime Planning Concepts, Inc., which is located in Colorado Springs, CO.

This can be a serious matter and create a real mess in your life. I found this article eye-opening and worth my attentive followup.

Satisfying Retirement provides this post for informational purposes only. No compensation was received nor endorsements implied.

September 27, 2018

Attention: A Prescription for Happiness From a Dog

Several years ago I asked my wife, Betty, to give her thoughts on some aspects of the satisfying retirement we have been living. Her post was well received and generated lots of good comments. Even though it is 5 years old, her thoughts remain very much on target.

Hold it...It is my turn!
I think Bailey, our dog, became a little jealous. Several times since that post appeared she has forced her way onto my lap while I attempted to use the computer. In her own subtle way she was letting me know she had some things to say. Since she has no thumbs to hold down the shift key, I had to type for her, but I think this captures the heart of her message to us all:

*When loved ones come home, always run to greet them with a kiss;

*Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride and smile;

*Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure Ecstasy;

*Take naps;

*Stretch before rising;

*Run, romp, and play daily and play ball;

*Thrive on attention and let people touch you;

*Avoid biting when a simple growl will do;

*On warm days, stop to lie on your back and roll around on the grass;

*On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree;

*When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body;

*Delight in the simple joy of a long walk;

*Be loyal;

*Never pretend to be something you're not;

*If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it;

*When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.

Thanks, Bailey.

Actually a friend of a friend sent this list of what a dog could tell us. It has been floating around the Internet for quite some time from some unknown source. It is hard to argue with this simple plan for happiness and contentment.

Here is another dog story that may or may not be true. But, no matter, again it teaches us a good lesson:
"Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog's owners, Ron, his wife Lisa, and their little boy Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.

I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn't do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home. As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure as they felt that Shane might learn something from the experience.The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker's family surrounded him.

Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away. The little boy seemed to accept Belker's transition without any difficulty or confusion.

We sat together for a while after Belker's Death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives. Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, "I know why." Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I'd never heard a more comforting explanation. It has changed the way I try and live.

He said, "People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life -- like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?" The six-year-old continued, "Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don't have to stay around as long."

          * Falling down is part of LIFE...
          * Getting back up is LIVING...
          * Don't complain about growing old…
          * Not everyone gets the privilege

Thanks, Bailey and Betty

September 24, 2018

Mistakes Men Make Before and After Retiring

Men Making Mistakes. How's that for a provocative premise for a post? Well, there are two obvious reasons I want to address this subject:

1) Most blogs are written by and for women. I am one of the few males writing a non-financial retirement blog. I can speak honestly about my gender's retirement issues.

2) I am pretty sure this will generate some interesting comments that should provoke some fascinating discussions.

Obviously, it would be dangerous for me to write about mistakes women make before and after retiring. That wouldn't go well so I will stick with my own sex. Several of the points I make can apply to both men and women but, I will focus on guys for now. I am pretty sure female readers will be glad to add comments that cover any issues I have missed and if a problem listed is not exclusive to one sex.

I certainly hope some of my male readers (of which there are many... over 40% of the total readers) will join to defend, explain, or agree. So, let's have a little fun as we learn together. Just, please, no nastiness or name-calling. I am a sensitive guy.

A) Mistaking work identity for own identity. This leads the list as a serious male problem. We spend years building a certain image and identity at work. It could be as a top sales producer. It may be that we are seen as dependable and hard-working. For some it could be considered being the best negotiator in the bunch. For others it could be someone willing to take on the tough jobs or risky ventures. Being well known in one's industry can be a goal. 

Unfortunately, that often means our other identities are relegated to the back seat. Husband, father, son, dependable friend...are not the first ways we think to talk about ourselves. Yet, aren't they the roles that will outlast the job? Aren't they the ones that should truly define us?  When you leave work won't you be forgotten pretty quickly? 

Your last quarterly report, your excellent organizational chart, your hard work ethic and loyalty might have made you feel worthy. I suggest that being worthy of others' love and respect is much more important. I sincerely wish I could have learned this lesson quite a long time before retirement. Being a "success" in my career could never equal being an active part of a family. I missed the importance of balance between the two parts of my life.

B) Beginning retirement without a plan. Let me ask a few questions: would you tackle a problem at work without thinking through the options and outcomes? Would you set up an investment and savings plan without any research or investigation? 

Of course not. Retirement requires the same vigor. Beginning a stage of life that could last 20 or 30 years without some idea of where you are going or want to accomplish is unwise. An effective plan would include the proper managing of your finances. But, it should cover so much more. Thinking through relational issues, the amount of travel you envision, where to live, and how to use the roughly 2,600 hours of extra time you gain each year from not working five days a week must be addressed.

Importantly, a satisfying retirement will require a constant adjustment of the choices you have made. An passion or hobby loses its hold on you. A health issue causes changes in living styles or travel plans. A major financial shift in the country's fortunes means a budget reshaping is in order. You discover a creative outlet that suddenly calls out for fulfillment. Volunteerism suddenly enters your mind.

Beginning any major project without an initial idea of what you want to accomplish would never fly at work. Neither will it upon retirement. Too many men think retirement means the days of plans and goals are over. I will admit it took me almost two years to put together a semblance of an approach.

C) Upsetting the apple cart at home. The number one complaint or fear of a spouse who is at home is the tendency of their male partner to retire with a goal of improving the "efficiency" of household operations. Many men assume that the organizational approach used at work is easily transferable to the retired environment. The "plan" is developed and implemented....problem solved. 

Nope. Retirement doesn't work that way. There are too many moving parts. There is likely another person involved who has her own system for managing the household. As the new kid on the block, we must learn the system and make suggestion gradually and with consent of the other person.

A similar fear is that the person retiring assumes he has earned the right to relax and not participate in household chores and duties. Big mistake. The other person has probably been working at a job before coming home. If not, raising children and/or maintaining a home is a more-then-full time job. If someone needs a break, it is probably your partner.

D) Not sharing financial information with spouse, partner, or family. I have written a lot about this mistake. Not giving your partner the information needed to keep the financial ship afloat in the event of a major illness or death, puts her (or him, or them) in a perilous position. If you haven't shared where passwords are kept, how to pay bills on line, when taxes are due, and who handles investment information, the person suddenly in charge is in a pickle.

If you don't have a will and power of attorney along with a health directive in place, your partner may be unable to execute your wishes. She (or your family) may be unable to pay the bills if checking and credit card accounts are not properly designated. 

If you have always handled the money stuff, make sure your partner, or a trusted relative can step in when needed. Guys...give up total control to help protect those you love. Admission: my wife is uncomfortable with financial stuff so she hasn't pushed me to tell her everything she needs to know. This remains a work in progress. 

OK, I will stop here. There's no reason to pile on! I have several more "mistakes" that guys make regarding life before and after retirement, but it is time to let you have your turn.

Women: add your thoughts, comments, and anything I missed.
Guys: defend, refine, agree as you see fit.

I am guilty of all four of these flaws. I stand at the head of the line. Hopefully, my wife of 42 years will agree there has been some progress as we take our retirement journey together.

September 21, 2018

The Empty Nest Isn't So Empty

They have been called boomerang kids, often between 21 and 35...adult children who end up moving back in with mom and dad. Sometimes the return is brief, for others it becomes an extended stay. I was surprised by the statistics: 15% of parents with grown children say one of their adult sons or daughters has moved back home in the past year. During a bad economic period, up to 40% of college grads are back with their folks a full year after graduation. 

Obviously, having an adult child move back home presents both challenges and opportunities to your satisfying retirement lifestyle.  Beyond the basic change an extra person makes to your day-to-day routines, space use, and costs, there are other important issues that need to be addressed.  Consider the following if you have an adult child ready to move "home:"

Protect your retirement assets. The worst thing you could do it tap deeply into what you will need to help your child out. If you are retired, or soon will be, you do not have the time to build those funds back to the level you have determined you will need. While you may feel pressured to bail your son or daughter out with the money you have in your 401 (k)) or IRA, don't do it. That advice comes from every financial source I could find on the Internet and makes complete sense to me.

If you do provide some money, make it a loan, not a gift. If you are able to help your child out while he or she attempts to get back on their feet without tapping your retirement money, then by all means do so. But, the suggestion is to loan the money rather than making it an outright gift. You will feel more like a partner in helping your child. And he or she will feel more like an adult than a child, still getting gifts from mommy and daddy. Establish a regular repayment schedule and charge at least some interest.

Charge room and board. Yes, I know she is your own family member. But, for the same reason you should loan money instead of giving it to her, the fact is she will increase your living costs. Charge a monthly rent that is well below normal market rates. But, the extra money will help you with the increased food and electric bills. Paying something toward those costs will help the child's self-respect, too.

Agree on basic ground rules. The new "tenant" should help with some household chores, handle his own laundry, offer to go food shopping on occasion, and help with the cooking or cleanup. If you prefer a neat home, insist that her living space (and yours) remains that way. What about bringing over dates or friends? 

What about "sleepovers" with members of the opposite sex? Decide well ahead of time the answers to these questions.

Insist that he or she actively look for a job or whatever it takes to become independent again. Lying on the coach while watching 6 hours of TV a day,  playing video games, or sleeping until noon is going to cause problems....quickly. Agree before the child moves in what is a reasonable plan for moving back out again.

Set a timetable. There should be some sort of "finish line" to this arrangement. Set a time-based limit, or when a certain income level has been met. Of course, you may need to be a bit flexible with this requirement. But, a timetable does help motivate the returning child to become creative in solving his problems. That may mean 2 or 3 part time jobs and living with a roommate. It may mean sharing a car or relying on public transportation. If there is a projected end to the boomerang phase, both parents and child have a goal to aim for.

Treat your "child" like you would an adult renter, not as his parent. It is quite likely he or she already feels bad about having to move back with mom and dad. Don't compound that by reminding him whenever possible of that fact. Respect his privacy, opinions, and needs. Realize that while she still wants your respect, she doesn't really need your permission. If he is following the ground rules you have both agreed upon, then take off your parent hat.

On the positive side, if your relationship with the returning child is good, this may be a tremendous time period together. Your "child" is an adult in opinions and actions. You can enjoy him or her for who they have become. The need to "parent" has diminished. The time is there to enjoy his or her uniqueness. It also feels good as a parent to help a child in time of need.

Having an adult child move home when he or she has lost a job, suffered the end of a bad marriage, or is recuperating from a serious illness will change you life, and theirs. By establishing fair and clearly defined rules and obligations it can be a time of discovery and a time of deepening relationships. It could be a tremendous plus for your retirement lifestyle.

If the adult child moving back has a spouse and/or a child, the change is more dramatic and the topic for another post.

Have you experienced the "boomerang" effect? Do you have any ideas or suggestions we can benefit from? Even if an adult child of yours has never returned home, I'll bet you have some opinions about the subject. Here's the place to let it fly!