November 29, 2019

Restating the Obvious, or Eat Your Vegetables Advice

Some blogs, web sites, newspapers and magazines love to hand out rather simplistic advice, delivered in bite-site portions: The top 7 ways to prepare for retirement, 10 ways to live a healthier life, 8 steps to declutter your home.

I call this "eat your vegetables" advice. It is common knowledge, it is obvious, and it is virtually useless. Not because top 10 lists are inherently bad or flawed. But, because most of these approaches assume that a "one-size-fits-all  actually works. I suggest it doesn't.

There is nothing more unique than your life. A list of possible solutions to your problems or opportunities can't hurt.  Over the 9 plus years of this blog I have offered my fair share. They might remind you of something you have neglected for too long. One of them could prompt you to action. But, there is no way anyone telling you the best 10 ways to do anything can really solve your problems. Life issues aren't that easy to fix. They certainly won't be resolved by scanning a list.

So, what do you do? Clearly I am not about to list 10 steps you should take to solve your problems. Rather, as we approach a new year, I am suggesting you do some heavy lifting and develop your own approach to what needs attending to. It may be finding a new passion or something that interests you, fixing or strengthening a relationship, deciding how you are going to simplify your life, or figuring out how you are going to solve the financial bind you find yourself in.

Some of us do better with learning more about a subject before we move forward. Taking a community college course or two may be all you need to feel comfortable enough to better manage your money. The library has books, audio, and video resources on virtually every subject. The Internet has almost too much information to choose from.

Maybe your personality thrives in a mentoring type arrangement. You find a friend or the friend of a friend who knows what you need to know. Develop a relationship where you get what you need (information), and the other person gets what he or she needs (feeling needed).

I know people who find answers through solitude. Turning off the cell phone and computer, staying at home or finding a place to go for a day or more allows the brain to mull over the issue at hand. The freedom from distractions and everyday responsibilities can be tremendously energizing. Try it. You may find yourself with new ideas. Or, you may simply find yourself relaxed and refreshed with no specific solutions to a problem at that time. Both outcomes are positives.

You may be the type that needs hard physical work to allow your creative side to be released. By doing a manual task that requires little active thinking, your mind is free to explore solutions. As a side benefit you finish something on your to-do list.

What works best for me is is usually learning more about a subject or quiet time to think about what I have discovered. I do tend to over-study a problem before moving forward...I'm working on that. Sometimes I will see an article in the paper or a phrase from a book that will grab my attention and give me an idea that I kick around for awhile. Then, I decide if it is worth pursing.

The point of all this is simple: a list that suggests it can help you have a happier, more fulfilling life by checking the items off like a grocery list is not going to work. Life's problems and needs can't be reduced to such an easy format. Put in the effort to discover the approach that works best for you and develop your own action list.

Oh, and eat your vegetables. They are good for you. That advice is true.

November 27, 2019

Thanksgiving 2019

Across America now is the time we gather with friends and family and give thanks for our blessings. This is my ninth Thanksgiving as a blogger, so it seems appropriate to take this time to give public thanks for your readership over the years and blessing of such a supportive community.

In today's polarized and divisive world, I know I am lucky to have such a positive group of folks who read and comment, with politeness and grace, even if disagreeing with me or someone else. Trust me, my need to delete very few comments over the course of a year is not all that usual anymore; bloggers I have known have been forced to eliminate all comments because of all the spam or hate. Others have given up and moved on to something less public.

Of course, a heartfelt thanks for my wife of 43  years, my two beautiful daughters, and my three grandkids. They make my life worth living. They make me want to be a better man and a better human. Every day is brighter because of them.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

November 24, 2019

Reading A Book A Week: Why?

For the last few years I have followed the practice of trying to read one book a week.  Sometimes life gets in the way and throws my reading schedule off, but then I climb right back on the saddle and pick up where I paused. I may have four or five books on the nightstand, but I make it a goal to start and finish one every 7 days. That’s a lot of books, especially when studies show the average person reads fewer than two books a year.

What do I read? Books on health,  biographies, spirituality, self-discipline,  time management,  goal setting, oil painting for beginners, writing, motivation, excellence, and creativity make up the bulk of my non-fiction choices. I read lots of fiction, especially espionage and murder mysteries, or those about technology crimes.

Where does all this  lead? The real benefit comes not from what you read but rather from the habit of reading. When you read a new book every week, you condition your mind to keep taking in new knowledge. Your thinking remains fresh and sharp. Your brain is always churning over ideas looking for new distinctions it can make.

Every day you pour in more ideas which your brain must find a way to integrate into your existing knowledge base. With the world's known knowledge now estimated to double every 13 months, there is a lot to learn.

Reading is much like physical exercise. Reading is a workout for the brain. Author Pat Williams says, "the right books are a crowbar for the imagination." Just as toning your body requires the  habit of regular exercise, toning your mind requires the ongoing habit of reading. And just as a lack of exercise will cause your muscles to atrophy, a lack of fresh mental exercise will cause your mind to atrophy. The good news is within a few months of  working at developing the habit of reading, it will simply become part of your life. 

Reading a book a week is an enormously worthwhile habit. And it’s enjoyable, too. All that’s required is to set aside 30-60 minutes each day to sit down and read. You can also read (or listen) with physical exercise. I can read 20-30 minutes while on the treadmill at the gym. When I go for a 2 mile walk around a local park I can listen to part of an audio book I borrowed from the library. That is an additional 60 minutes of absorbing new ideas.

With such a routine, I usually have an abundance of possibilities for new blog posts and conversation with family and friends. There is a strong flow of interesting ideas going out because there’s a strong flow going in. Every week I’m making new distinctions as my brain integrates new knowledge with existing knowledge.

All of the above applies not just to reading of course, but to the general practice of absorbing new information, including seminars, audio programs, meaningful conversations, classes, etc. Reading articles or blog entries on line is also helpful, assuming you’re learning new ideas that challenge you and which make you think. If you forget it as soon as you read it, it won’t be of much value.

If you are looking for a book to read that helps "sell" you on the reason to read more, try Pat Williams' Read For Your Life. He presents eleven different ways for transforming your life with books. He has 19 children, was an executive in the NBA, and reads a book a day. I am guessing he has taken a speed-reading class or two in his life!

While I do listen to audio books, I am strongly in the "hold something physical in my hand" camp. I just like the feel of a book, turning the pages, and marking my place with a colorful or inspirational bookmark.

One of my daughters is mildly dyslexic, so audio books are her savior. She listens as much as 3 growing children will allow. Her kids, my grandchildren, are voracious readers, taking 50 books out of the library every three weeks, and finishing most. Few things make me happier than seeing them curled up with a book instead of an Xbox.  

Author and satirist P. J. O'Rourke said, "Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it."

Mark Twain said, " a person who won't read has no advantage over a person who can't read."

Set a goal for the new year to read (or listen to) a book a week. If you lifestyle makes that too big a stretch, how about a book every 2 or 3 weeks? You’ll love the results. If you'd like to recommend something you have recently read and enjoyed, please do so. I have become master of the Hold/waiting list at my library.

November 20, 2019

Declutter - Delete - Repeat

I would like to start 2020 with as clean a slate as possible: a house that is a joy to live in, not a maintenance and cleaning hassle, a day with obligations and appointments as required, but just as much time to simply live, enjoy each other and family, and my hobbies. Also, a decluttered mind that tries to avoid all the noise and distraction coming out of Washington, social media, and my own thoughts that aren't productive.

Besides getting rid of clutter in my home, garage, attic, and storage shed, I also want to launch myself into the new year with a renewed focus on cleaning up the clutter in my life and my mind. 2019 has been a tough year for many reasons: a few personal health issues, some financial concerns, and an almost uncontrollable anger over political stuff. Businesses that seem solely driven to profit off our fears and weaknesses (can you say Facebook?), or sell products that are knowingly deadly (Boeing?) aren't helping my mental state.

I can do little about that type of stuff, except to keep all of it an arm's distance away. Ignoring all our challenges isn't the answer, but neither is obsessiveness about it. 

So, how do I plan on making 2020 a better year?

1) I start each day reading the newspaper. The front section is filled with stories that can leave one upset, depressed, angry, or simply in a foul mood. So, generally, I read  the business, sports, arts, and entertainment sections first. I save the front pages for last. Even so, I get riled up.

Starting with this post, I am skipping the front section entirely. There is nothing on those pages that will make my day better, more productive, or more satisfying. Whatever is being reported is part of the past. I can't effect it or change it. Knowing about all the death and destruction, political stupidity, or man's inhumanity to man cannot add anything good to my day. If something really major happens, my various email alerts will tell me.

2) Even though we use cloth shopping bags for our weekly grocery shopping trip, we still accumulate plastic bags from all sorts of sources. I just learned that the store we frequent accepts the old plastic bags that our city does not want in the recycling can.  A local organization takes the returned bags and uses a process to turn them into blankets for homeless shelters. 

Along with the cloth bags, a week's worth of plastic bags will go with us to that store for recycling. It helps others and cuts down on the bin full of single-use plastic.  We have discovered a company that makes doggie poop bags that are 100% bio-degradable. According to their web site, over time the small bags break down and decompose into carbon dioxide and water.Obviously a bit more expensive than using normal plastic bags, but we still need something to clean up after Bailey, so this is our choice.

3) My goal is to delete at least 50% of the apps on my smartphone. Generally, they are sports or political in content. Others are for "productivity," yet they seem to have the opposite effect, eating away at my day. Still others that can go into the trash can are duplicates. I pay for a subscription to Spotify, which satisfies all my music needs. I don't need Pandora or Amazon music on my phone since I don't listen. Delete.

4) I have found great relaxation in my new-found interest in oil painting. I can see progress, marginal though it may be. More importantly, it quiets my mind as I only focus on the paints, the colors I am blending, the feel of the brush on the canvas, and even the process of cleaning up. Now that the weather is nice here in the desert, i have set up a table and supplies outside, which makes the time spent on painting even more enjoyable.

5) The attic holds past tax returns, receipts, and other unnecessary paperwork from years ago. Anything older than 7 years (except paperwork relating to the sale and purchase of properties) will meet their fate with a shredder. It is too easy to stash unneeded stuff up there.

6) It is time to sell several of my ham radios. Because of all the electronic noise and static our modern society generates, it is becoming increasingly difficult to reach other hams with a transmitter and antenna. Most of the time I use the Internet or my smartphone to talk with others "on the radio." So, decluttering my office and raising some extra cash makes sense. The hobby has changed; I must admit that and move on.

7) Betty will start receiving Social Security checks next year. We have discussed what to do with the extra income. The decision? Use some of it to undertake some needed home renovations. As we spend more time at home, making the space reflect our interests and tastes becomes more important. Some furniture that has been part of our life for 30 years has seen better days.

We will delete some of it and replace with pieces that bring us joy. Along the way there are a few things that simply take up space. Decluttering will remove them from our home. The kitchen is kind of drab. Betty says repainting the cabinets and  changed the counter tops will make the space more inviting. Oh, and she has hated the white porcelain sink since we moved in. Stainless steel would make her happy. 

8) Whenever I worry about my investments I will repeat to myself the mantra from a previous post: Retirement is a self-correcting process. My anxieties are most likely badly overblown. Whatever has, or will happen, I will deal with it. Frankly, my nature is to overthink things, so this will be a tough one for me. But, if I can keep focused on this core belief, 2020 will be a good year.

Declutter - Delete - Repeat: 2020 here we come!

November 16, 2019

A Retirement Reality That Is Important To Remember

On a regular basis, readers will leave comments that remind me of one important reality of retirement that doesn't seem to generate enough attention:

Simply put, retirement is a self-correcting process.

OK, that needs explanation. Regardless of what part of your non-work life we discuss, this principle remains the same. We constantly adjust to what is our reality at that point in time.

This should be quite comforting. All the worry we put ourselves through is because we get hung up on what we want to happen, or what we think should happen. That causes us to become fearful that the money we set aside will never be enough. Our health will fail us so completely we will be unable to do anything we enjoy. We will become bored silly. Our relationships will weaken, leading to divorce, no friends, and a solitary future. Looking back to a previous post, we will find ourselves helping to support or care for a grown child. Retirement will not be what we dreamed it would be.

I will say right now: retirement will not be what you thought it would be. OK, maybe you are one of the few who are living precisely how you want. Everything you planned for came true. You wish you had started years earlier. You are living your retirement dream.

This outcome is not unheard of, but not the norm. Just one caution. At some point it is likely one of the three stool legs that are supporting you: finances, health, and relationships,  will break, or at least wobble. Are you confident in your ability to adjust? My message is, you should be. 

Maybe the whole experience is completely different than what was in your mind's eye. Maybe it is so much richer, full of experiences that make your days fly by. You have discovered new facets to your personality and talents that you never knew you had. You couldn't plan for what has unfolded because your dreams didn't expand that far.

Or, it is certainly possible that this phase of life will throw enough struggles your way that you are thinking of renaming yourself Job. Nothing is how you planned it, and that isn't good. You wish some parts of your life were different, or at least easier, but that is not how things are going.

No matter in which of these three scenarios you find yourself, the truth that retirement is a self-correcting process remains. We have the remarkable ability to take what we are given and make it work for us, the best it can, at that moment.

Retirement is self-correcting. I wish I had understood that much earlier in my journey. Now that I do, my worry meter is dialed way back. I am confident I can, and will adjust as circumstances present themselves.

So will you.

November 12, 2019

Hidden Treasures In A Closet

While going through a closet for our fall declutter project, I stumbled across two interesting items we removed from my  parent's apartment years ago when dad moved to assisted living. One was an envelope stuffed with index cards. On both sides of each mom had listed every book she had read from the mid 1990's until her eyesight started to fail in 2004.

Included was either a star for a good book, or a emphatic "No" for the ones that didn't please her. Fiction was her favorite, especially crime mysteries and historical romance novels.

I found it fascinating to look at her choices. I made a list of all the non-romance books she liked and have started my own list to read through them. It will be nice to know she and I are sharing some of the same experiences.

I also found a complete set of travel journals. Mom and dad loved to take road trips - everything from a few days away to 45 day marathons. Mom recorded her reaction to every day of every trip, even to the point of listing the cost of the meals and gas fill ups.

 As I reviewed each journal I was reminded how often they were on the road. Beginning in 1994 and continuing until early 2002, I was hard-pressed to find more than two months between entries. Even if it was just a quick overnight trip to Tucson, mom and dad were most happy driving somewhere. 

During that period they went to Europe twice. Just like the road trips, mom recorded her reactions to everything, both good and bad. While I think they enjoyed their time overseas, I sensed both were happiest inside the Toyota putting miles between them and home and then back again. 

As I read each journal mom's health decline was quite obvious. Toward the end of the 1990s she began referring to the use of a wheelchair or walker. Trips to an emergency room happened with regularity as she battled chronic knee and back pain, or her congestive heart failure symptoms became more apparent. I was unaware of dad's various fainting episodes on these trips until I read about them. My parents never wanted to worry Betty or me, so most of their medical issues during these years were their private secret.

As I progressed through the  nine years of trips I became aware of a few important messages I was receiving from mom a decade later. Obviously, that wasn't her intent, but that is what has happened. 

1) Certainly, of primary importance, is one's health. It was very clear that her enjoyment of traveling declined along with her strength, mobility and eyesight. The journal entries from 1994-1998 contain very few references to health problems. That began to change during a trip to Europe. Her limitations and their impact on my dad were obvious. As I read through the next few journals, there were:

...more references to her wheelchair or walker and how tough it made enjoying a trip

...memory lapses meant forgetting to bring essential items on a trip. 

...becoming tired and irritated at things that earlier she would have joked about

...trips being canceled at the last moment due to her health

...several trips to the emergency room and hospital stays while away from home along with a desire to get home to her regular doctor.

...Dad's fainting episodes.

2) Their long driving trips were recorded honestly as a mixture of boredom and joy, mundane activities and beautiful sights, bad meals and hard beds, or a good steak dinner and pleasant room at the end of a long day of driving.

In fact, as I started to make notes of what she had written it became clear that a good bed, a nice meal, a pretty sunset, a simple card game at the end of the day or sunshine after rain were enough to interrupt a gloomy narrative. Travel is no different than home life. It is a blend of good and bad, exciting and boring, uplifting and depressing. The trick is to notice life's small joys and blessings and dwell on them. 

3) Mom always over-packed. It was a rare trip that she didn't mention she had brought too many clothes for both of them. They did occasionally use the laundry facility in a hotel, but apparently were afraid of running out of clean clothes. So, they dragged around (or, rather dad dragged around) much more than they needed.

4) As she became more physically challenged, mom became more easily irritated and angry. To her credit, she didn't shy away from venting on these journal pages, though I doubt she considered that anyone else would ever see them. I would guess that her various limitations were increasingly frustrating to her. Never one to ask for help until she simply couldn't manage on her own, the closing in of her world made her more prone to lash out at things.

Besides seeing some sides of mom I wasn't aware existed, I did take away a reinforcement of a few important life lessons:

*Travel whenever and wherever you can while you are healthy enough to enjoy the experience. Soon enough, physical ailments will make trips more difficult and, eventually, unpleasant.

*Especially on longer trips don't expect every day to be great. Travel is just home life but in a different place. Accept the bad as part of the journey and relish the small stuff that can brighten an otherwise rotten day.

*Under-pack. No one cares (or will even notice) that you wore the same sweater and jeans three days this week. Don't spend time and energy lugging excessive belongings around. And, there are virtually no places you can't find a laundromat if needed.

*Fight the natural tendency to become an angry, crabby, old person. Not only doesn't anyone else want to be around you, but it brings you down, too. Getting angry at your declining health is pointless. Instead, get even: do all you want before that happens!

Thanks, mom. I found it fascinating get this glimpse into your life all those years ago. Even now, almost nine years after your passing, you are still teaching me lessons.

November 8, 2019

Medicare: What You Need To Know

We are in the midst of the annual Medicare enrollment period, a time when Medicare recipients can make changes to their coverage for a start date of January 1, 2020. Ending December 7th, this is the time each year when you are allowed to change from Medicare to a Medicare Advantage program, or back to traditional Medicare from an advantage plan. You can change from one supplemental policy or company to another, and change your Part D drug coverage. In case you had forgotten, the flood of junk mail over the past few weeks would have served as a strong reminder.

Does it pay to switch? Not always, but looking at options every year is a wise decision. Betty and I are switching to a different Part D coverage plan, for example. The one we have this year imposed a 100% rate increase...yep, double. Instead, we picked one that covers the drugs we take at the pharmacy we use at 50% less than this year's monthly premium. Just by spending 20 minutes on line, we saved nearly $1,000 in costs for next year.

So, this post has a dual purpose: urge you to do some comparison shopping, and for those approaching Medicare age, a brief review of what can be a complicated system.
 I am covering Medicare, not Medicaid which is an entirely different program. As with most federal programs and health insurance coverage, there are enough exemptions and differences to fill 20 posts. I will only attempt to explain the usual, most common situations.

Medicare is a federal program that pays for certain health-related expenses for people 65 and older (and younger in certain situations). While many costs are covered, an individual enrolled in Medicare is responsible for certain deducibles and copays. Some services are not covered at all and others for only a limited period of time.

There are four parts of Medicare:

Part A is hospital insurance. Copays, and deductibles will determine what you pay. Usually there is no premium for Part A.

Part B is medical insurance that helps pay for doctor visits, outpatient care, preventive health care, and equipment. There is a monthly premium for Part B.

Part C is better known as Medicare Advantage. This is coverage provided by Medicare approved private insurance companies.

Part D is prescription drug coverage. This is also run by Medicare-approved private insurance companies.

Most folks get Part A and Part B automatically. If you receive benefits from Social Security you will automatically get Part A & B coverage starting the first day of the month you turn 65.  If you aren't yet receiving Social Security (because you are still working for waiting until your full retirement age of 66) you must sign up 3 months before your 65th birthday to get Medicare coverage. In this case you will get a bill every three months to cover your Part B premium.

If you must sign up (as noted above) there is something called the Initial Enrollment Period which is the period from 3 moths before until 3 months after your 65th birthday. If you miss this window your benefits will be delayed.

If you decide to wait until after the Initial Enrollment Period, there is a general Enrollment Period during the first three months of each year. However, if you use this option, realize your part B premiums will be higher for the rest of your life.

If you are covered by a group health plan at your place of employment  and then want to start Medicare, there is another time period, called the Special Enrollment Period that generally allows you to avoid the higher premiums for late sign up.

With me so far?

Other Factors to Consider

Medicare does not pay 100% of most services. So-called Obamacare has put in place several free screening tests for those on Medicare, like colonoscopies and mammograms. The current political system keeps changing the parameters of what Medicare will or will not cover, so don't take what I am writing today as gospel truth for the future. Double-check your specific situations.

Most doctor visits, tests, drugs, and equipment are going to cost you money...usually something approaching 20% of the total, discounted rate. That's where Medigap coverage enters the picture. This is a policy, sold by a private insurance company, that acts as secondary coverage to Medicare. It pays what is left over after Medicare pays what it will. As a point of reference, our Medigap, or supplemental policy, has worked perfectly for the last several years. We have had to pay nothing for any service or procedure after Medicare and the supplemental policy have taken care of all charges.

Just like the rest of Medicare there is a specific enrollment period for Medigap coverage. You can buy any policy that is offered for sale in your state, regardless of your health status. The amount of supplemental coverage, the monthly cost, and any deductibles are different for each policy offered. You decide how much supplemental help you want and can afford. A word to the wise, though: if you decide to buy a less expensive policy at some point in the future from the same company it may be allowed to prevent you from doing so due to pre-existing conditions, at least for a period of time. 

Speaking of costs, Part A Medicare coverage costs you nothing since you already paid into the Medicare fund while you were working. Part B coverage does carry a monthly cost. For 2019 most have paid $135.50 per month. Higher income folks will pay more and the rate is likely to increase slightly next year.  There is also a $185 deductible. 

Part D prescription coverage costs vary depending on the plan you select and the level of drug coverage. Again, Obamacare has lowered the payments you must make when you enter the drug "donut hole." 

What is Covered?

There is no simple answer to that question. Medicare publishes a booklet that is an excellent resource. In general, here is what you can expect:

Part A pays part or all of inpatient hospital care, inpatient care at a skilled nursing facility, hospice care services, and home health care services for a defined period of time. As you might guess there are all sorts of qualifications and exclusions for this list but this is the primary purpose of Part A coverage.

Part B helps cover medically necessary services like doctor visits, outpatient care, durable medical equipment, and several preventive services and screenings.

Part C is the designation of Medicare-approved private insurance companies that has various coverage options and costs. You still have Part A and Part B coverage, but the specifics are likely to be different from original Medicare. Generally, coverage is more complete and the costs may be lower. But, that comes with network restrictions and gives the company the ability to deny coverage for certain procedures or tests.

Part D covers some of your prescription drug costs. If you don't need a lot of drugs now, it still may be wise to take this coverage because of late enrollment penalties. Part D is provided by private insurance companies and varies widely in costs and coverage. There are usually copays and deductibles involved. As my example above notes, rates can vary widely and change dramatically from year to year. 

Importantly, these items are not covered by Medicare (not a complete list...some of these services are covered by some Medicare Advantage Plans):
  • Routine Dental care
  • Dentures
  • Cosmetic surgery
  • Hearing Aids
  • Exams for fitting hearing aids
  • Long term care

If you'd like more detailed information or see if specific services are covered, this government website should be your first stop.

On a personal note, Medicare, along with a supplemental policy and Part D drug coverage, has been a blessing for us. While we are still spending close to $700 a month for premiums and prescriptions, the process is so simple: no paperwork, no claim forms, no hassle. Before both of us reached coverage age we were spending over $900 a month. Today I am sure we would be forced to pay almost double that for much poorer coverage through the private insurance market, if we weren't Medicare-qualified.

There are many advantages of turning 65, but one of the most cherished in Medicare coverage. It is a life-changer!

Questions? Feel free to ask. Comments? Feel free to type away!

November 4, 2019

Helping an Adult Child: Pitfalls and Positives

I have noticed a lot of web articles recently that deal with the issue of grown children and retirement. A descriptive phrase like "boomerang kids" is common. "Helicopter Parents" is usually used to explain overly involved parents during a child's educational career, but I guess it could fit here, too.

The adult child has to move back home due to a lost job, or medical condition. The grown child needs help to pay for additional education to reenter the job market. A divorce may mean that child brings along his or her own children when moving back home. This is not a rare occurrence. One survey I found showed that 44% of jobless 18 to 34 year-olds live with their parents. Almost 25% with jobs are still at home.

Some of the articles take a firm position As parents, you have already done your job. The grown child is on his own. The money saved for retirement is not going to be used to solve someone else's problems. Maybe a small loan here and there, but no full scale bailout. You are not going to become a full time babysitter for your grandkids. The house is no longer set up to handle an extra person, or two or three.

The flip side to that is your child needs your help and you are going to provide it. When you became a parent you believe your responsibility doesn't end after a certain age, regardless of the circumstances.  You do what you have to do to provide shelter and food, or money for an education or a car to get to work, or whatever. If your retirement savings take a hit, so be it. Family comes before your portfolio.

So, what do you do? Cut the cord and tell the robin to fly, or provide support, both emotional and financial, as long as needed? How much should your own future be adjusted for an adult child?

Here is another toughie. I received an e-mail from a fellow a month or so ago asking for feedback and ideas from readers on another adult child-parent issue. His youngest daughter was into her final year of  college. She had done her part by getting scholarships and taking on a rather sizable student loan. Even so, helping her with college tuition put mom and dad further behind each month. Saving for their own retirement had to be delayed and their own debts were increasing.

This couple is within a few years of retirement. They are worried that the financial hole they have dug for themselves means retirement may be just a dream. The fellow's question was a simple one: if you have committed yourself to doing what you must for a child, do you have to accept that retirement is not a likely scenario? Is working well into the future the only option? They willingly helped their daughter and are not interested in abandoning that promise. Yet, they wonder where they are headed.

These are not easy questions. Society continues to change, making the answers and solutions less obvious. When we were a rural society this type of problem rarely arose. Everyone stayed close to home or accepted that each family member was responsible for the well-being of the rest of the family regardless of age or circumstances. That model no longer exists for most of us. Multi-generational living is still the exception rather than the norm.

Do you have any experiences in this area to share? Can you give some solace to the parents who have put their own retirement in the deep freeze for their daughter? Do you have feelings about where and when the obligations of parents ends...if it does?  Would the door to your home and bank account be closed or open in a similar situation?

Are you helping or hurting a grown child if you provide support and lodging? How much enabling is too much? 

Toughies, I know.