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Where Did The Money Go?

For me, money was never a problem until it became a problem. And it didn’t become a problem until the day I became seriously ill. And if I had been a citizen of any other major country in the world, I would not be discussing this with you. Because I would have had, not only all of my doctors and hospital bills paid, but any subsequent nursing care as well. And, even though I had a very expensive insurance policy, I morphed from a solidly middle-class bill paying, apartment-renting, automobile driving and consuming member of the population to a practically homeless, poverty level drain on society. A status I am not proud of.
 
They brought me up believing if you had a steady job, worked hard, spent your money wisely and kept your nose clean you would live comfortably well into your senior years. And, I suppose at one time that was true. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, something happened here that pitted the super wealthy against the poor and left the middle class squeezed dry like a juicy orange. We became a cash cow for the wealthy and money dispenser for the poor.
 
During the 1960s, 70s and 80s (and up to today) consumerism became rampant. Advertising and the media told us what we needed to buy, and we bought, even though we might not have had the money to pay for it. Easy credit gave us all an excuse to spend beyond our means. The automobile industry may have been the first to notice this “buy now, pay later” economy. Through leasing, you could drive a car whose sticker price would have turned you green had you paid cash. “You got a job, you got a car.” There were people I worked with whose salary was the same or less than mine, who were driving a brand new BMW’s, Lexus’, or Mercedes while I had an eight-year-old used Honda.* It’s not that I was jealous, but it made me wonder what I was doing wrong. Had these people found some magic way to make money? Well, no, But big business found a way of getting them to spend it. And, not only to spend it, but pay anything they asked. They had found the Golden Fleece, and it was us.

Soon, we found ourselves with a bunch of stuff. So much stuff we didn’t know where to put it all. The modest apartment or house would no longer do. We needed bigger and bigger places to live. Not able to find these places in the city, we looked to the suburbs for land to build on. Farmland became subdivisions which became new towns and cities. Land that used to be cheap was now prime real estate and sold at a premium. Prices soared as greedy land owners wanted more and more for their previously worthless property. And we will pay it so that our kids could go to better schools and have a safer, cleaner environment to grow up in. Leaving us house rich and cash poor.
 
The kids grew up and just had to go to college. Expensive colleges. Thirty, forty, or fifty thousand dollars a year was not unusual. You took out a second mortgage on the big house to pay for it.
 
The kids eventually graduate and move out. It left you with a big empty house and a mortgage. It was time to sell and downsize.
 
Without you doing anything you find that the house you paid $50,000 for 15 years ago is now, according to the real estate broker, worth $300,000. Whoopee! But, now you have to move. Move where? Back to the city. Back to that nice cozy 2bdrm, EIK, pre-war apartment on the upper east side. The one you rented for $500 a month back in the 1070s. Only to find, because all of your friends also wanted to return to the city, that $500 a month 2bdrm is now either a $2500 rental or a $1.2 million co-op with a monthly maintenance charge of $600. The $300,000 you received from the sale of your house has left you a little short. Another loan seems in order.
 
Your age has made you a credit risk. But do not despair. A predatory lender is right around the corner who will be glad to loan you the money at a slightly inflated interest rate that (according to the small print) might get even more inflated later on.
You do some quick calculations.
 
You’re still working and expect to be working for the next ten years. So, no problem, right?
 
It wouldn’t have been if the company you worked at for 20 years decided that your job had become redundant and fired your ass. Leaving you, at age 62, out of work, and out of health insurance. Unfortunately, you are not out from behind that mortgage. 
Eventually, you find a menial job that offers no benefits. You start to cash in all of those IRA’s, 401k’s, CD’s that you were saving for your retirement just to pay off that…oops…13% loan. But, your head is still above water. You’ve taken off the collision option on your auto insurance. That 10 year old car isn’t worth much now anyway.

You find a cheap health insurance policy that costs you $400 a month. But you’re okay. You just have to give up any vacations, eating out, going to the movies and buying new clothes. You would give up the cable TV but it’s bundled with your phone and internet and you can’t be without those.
 
And then it happens.

You wake up one morning with a pain in your gut. The pain does not go away. Three days later you are experiencing diarrhea and running a fever of 103. You go to the nearest ER. They do tests and find that you need surgery right away. The surgery saves your life but runs havoc on your health insurance which, as you soon find out, does not cover everything. You pay what you can, but let bills slide. You get dunning letters from your creditors, stalling them as long as you can. All of this has depleted your savings. You’re broke.
 
You try to find affordable housing but there is a three year waiting list.

Mercifully, you have turned 65 and qualify for Medicare. And, here is even better news. Because you are now poor, you are eligible for Medicaid benefits as well.
 
Sadly, the surgery has left you with a disability and you need help with daily chores. An assisted living facility fits the bill. You find one that accepts Medicaid and your Social Security as payment.
 
Grudgingly, you leave your apartment and move in with 200 other cranky, disenfranchised old folks.
 
Your only source of money is the $181 you get from SSI
 
Does this sound familiar? You’re not alone.
 
The U.S. census estimates that between 40 to 45 million of us live below the poverty level. Of which about 10% are seniors.
 
 The numbers will increase.
 
If you are looking for advice on how to avoid this situation, you have come to the wrong place. The only thing I can tell you, don’t lose your job and don’t get sick. And save as much money now as you can………………………………
 
*Which I paid cash for.





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Despite Tax Overhaul Social Security Benefits Are Still Taxable,
Even Retirees of Modest Means Could Pay Tax On Social Security Income

By Mary Johnson

“When this tax was originally passed into law, lawmakers sold it to the public as a tax mostly affecting wealthy Social Security recipients,” says Johnson. “But in reality, it now affects retirees with very modest incomes,” Johnson notes.

While the 2017 “Tax Cut and Jobs Act” is expected to lower taxes for many taxpayers, it doesn’t address a feature of the tax law that takes a cut of Social Security income from a growing number of older taxpayers, warns The Senior Citizens League. The income thresholds that subject Social Security benefits to taxation remain unchanged under the new law. “Even the Social Security benefits of retirees with the most modest of incomes— an Adjusted Gross Income only two times higher than the federal poverty level — could be subject to taxation,” says Mary Johnson, Social Security and Medicare policy analyst for The Senior Citizens League.


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What is Age-Friendly Health Care?

It’s no secret: As we get older, it’s likely that we spend more time with doctors. And as people are living longer and the number of aging people in America is growing, medical professionals and systems are going to experience increased pressure and demand. But are they properly set up and ready to accommodate the needs of aging Americans?

On a good day, the answer is: sometimes.

Over the next year, Next Avenue will be taking a deep look at health care in America. We want to better understand where the health care system is falling short in serving the needs of all people, but especially the unique, and often more complex, needs of older Americans. We’ll be identifying when and how health care is “age friendly” and when and how it’s not. We’ll take into account the diverse backgrounds and identities of older Americans and how that informs their needs and experiences with health care.


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What can you do about an
unwanted Medicare enrollment?


I’m a low-income veteran and receive free care at a VA hospital, including prescription drugs. I was put on Medicare Part B without my knowledge and they are deducting those premiums from my Social Security. I did not ask for it and do not want it. They (Social Security) told me they sent me a letter to tell me how to not be auto-enrolled. I was homeless at the time, so of course did not receive the letter! They say it was my fault for not responding to the letter, and so they enrolled me. Can they put me into Medicare part B without my permission and then take money from my Social Security just because I didn’t respond to a letter I never received?




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THE BASICS:
Travel Medical Coverage
Is my test, item, or service covered?


Medicare usually doesn’t cover health care while you’re traveling outside the U.S. There are some exceptions, including some cases where Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) may pay for services that you get on board a ship within the territorial waters adjoining the land areas of the U.S.

Medicare may pay for inpatient hospital, doctor, ambulance services, or dialysis you get in a foreign country in these rare cases:

    You're in the U.S. when a Medical emergency occurs, and the foreign hospital is closer than the nearest U.S. hospital that can treat your medical condition.

    You're traveling through Canada without unreasonable delay by the most direct route between Alaska and another state when a medical emergency occurs, and the Canadian hospital is closer than the nearest U.S. hospital that can treat the emergency.

    You live in the U.S. and the foreign hospital is closer to your home than the nearest U.S. hospital that can treat your medical condition, regardless of whether an emergency exists.

In some cases, Medicare may cover Medically necessary health care services you get on board a ship within the territorial waters adjoining the land areas of the U.S. Medicare won't pay for health care services you get when a ship is more than 6 hours away from a U.S. port.

Medicare drug plans don't cover prescription drugs you buy outside the U.S.

Medicare supplement insurance (Medigap) policies may cover you when you travel outside the U.S.

Your costs in Original Medicare

You pay 100% of the costs, in most cases. In the situations described above, you pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount, and the Part B Deductible applies.

In the situations above, Medicare pays only for services covered under Original Medicare:

    Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance)
    covers hospital care (care you get when you've been formally admitted with a doctor's order to the foreign hospital as an inpatient).

    Part B covers emergency and non-emergency ambulance and doctor services you get immediately before and during your covered foreign inpatient hospital stay. Medicare generally won't pay for services (like return ambulance trips home) in either of these cases:

        Medicare didn't cover your hospital stay.

        You got ambulance and doctor services outside the hospital after your covered hospital stay ended.

    You pay the part of the charge you would normally pay for covered services. This includes any medically necessary doctor and ambulance services you get in a foreign country as part of a covered inpatient hospital stay. You also pay the Coinsurance, copayments, and deductibles you'd normally pay if you got these same services or supplies inside the U.S.

Foreign hospitals aren’t required to file Medicare claims. You need to submit an itemized bill to Medicare for your doctor, inpatient, and ambulance services if both of these apply:

    You're admitted to a foreign hospital under one of the situations above
    The foreign hospital doesn't submit Medicare claims for you

To find out how much your test, item, or service will cost, talk to your doctor or health care provider. The specific amount you’ll owe may depend on several things, like:

    Other insurance you may have
    How much your doctor charges
    Whether your doctor accepts assignment
    The type of facility
    Where you get your test, item, or service

Things to know

The 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa are considered part of the U.S.

Medicare drug plans don't cover prescription drugs you buy outside the U.S.

Medicare supplement insurance (Medigap) policies may cover you when you travel outside the U.S.

Because Medicare has limited coverage of health care services outside the U.S., you may choose to buy a travel insurance policy to get more coverage. An insurance agent or travel agent can give you more information about buying travel insurance. Travel insurance doesn’t necessarily include health insurance, so it’s important to read the conditions or restrictions carefully.



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NEXT BLOG MONDAY, FEBRUARY 25TH 2019

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Seniors and Food
More Than Just Nutrition


I returned from a lousy breakfast. There were 2 hard-boiled eggs, some thin strips of nasty bacon, and a mini-muffin. That, together with a plaster-like oatmeal, hairy-strong coffee and warm orange juice and you’ve got terrible way to start the day.
 
To be fair, the food has been better the last few days because of a new menu and because the food service manager has been more responsive to residents wants and needs. But not by much. Sometimes the kitchen staff gets a little lazy and forgets how to cook. However, I’m not here to admonish the food or food service. I’d like to speak to the fact that the dining experience is more than just eating to stay alive. For seniors, it’s an activity, a news-center, and a lifeline.
 
Here at the ALF, as it is at most facilities of this kind, residents assemble for meals three times a day.
 
We sit at the same table, with the same people every day. It’s kind of like lunch time in high school. “Outsiders” are usually not welcome, even to where fights have broken out among residents who took somebody’s seat. Seniors get very possessive with where and with whom they sit.
 
All this goes to prove one thing. When we have a bad experience in the dining room, it affects how we view the rest of the day, week, and month. But why does food illicit such deep-felt emotion in our lives? For one, it’s primal.
 
Practically, the first interaction we have with another human, after being born, includes our first meal.
 
Whether it’s bottle or breast, that first taste of food entering our mouths sets the scene for the 80,000 plus meals a person will eat in their lifetime.* That’s a lot of food. And, it’s a lot of time spent around a dinner table. So mealtime is a time when people spend the most time interacting with other people. This is perhaps the most important part of the human experience and defines our species.**
 
Just think of the deals done, the engagements made, the divorces announced and the household budgets  that are discussed over the dinner table. Not to mention politics, health problems and your kid's report card. How many decisions on whether to run for president were hurriedly contrived over dinner. Did the current president decide to run after eating a good cheeseburger he had one afternoon at Mar-a-Lago? The mind boggles.

During our productive years, traditional mealtimes often take a backseat. Our busy daily lives (work, school etc.) prevents us from eating in a group. In today’s world it’s rare to see even two meals eaten with the family. Fast-food joints have replaced the traditional dining room and, much of the social interaction. The picture of a solitary figure, sitting alone in a corner booth at Micky D’s scarfing down a quarter-pounder and fries embodies the spirit of today’s dining experience.
 
As the years progress, mealtimes become even more solitary.
 
The kids have left home. The significant other is no longer in the picture and friends have moved away, leaving us to eat alone.
 
If we are lucky, we can have at least some of our meals in a restaurant. This affords a semblance of normalcy as it requires communication with others. Even if it’s only with the waiter.
 
These companionless mealtimes can continue for years if not forever.
 
That’s why being able to once again dine with a group of people in a “family-like” situation, becomes so important to us older folks who, whether we know it, crave company.
 
Because of illness, or doctor’s appointments, or outside visits by my table mates, I have had to eat alone on a number of occasions. And, I hate it. I am so much happier surrounded by the “gang.”
 
All of us bring something different to the table.
 
We share stories, experiences, and expertise with our dinner partners. After 70 or 80 years on this planet, there’s much to explore and talk about.
 
Meals with our contemporaries becomes our CNN, NY Times, and People magazine.
 
We relive the past in the form of nostalgia games while looking to our future. We discuss our innermost fears and our mental and physical conditions. Sometimes to the point of sharing too much information.
 
Invariably, the conversation will focus on the food. And here is where things get serious.
 
There are as many opinions of what someone has set before us as there are people in the dining room, making for some lively debates over whose taste buds are still functioning and whose have succumbed to the ravages of time.
 
As much as I miss cooking for myself, and as poor as the food can be here, I feel sorry for those who sit alone in their homes and have nothing but their thoughts to keep them company.
 
I hope that the people who cook for us can appreciate this time as much as we do.
 
With that being said where’s the takeout menu for the Chinese restaurant…………….
 

*Editor’s note: That breaks down to about 35 tons of food in our lifetime.
** Of course we don’t know if any of our primate cousins have mealtime discussions so, I might be wrong about this.




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Older people find a good night’s sleep
 isn’t what it used to be

By Erin Bakemore,The Washington Post


They are more likely to sleep less, wake earlier and more often, and these changes can affect health.

When Carol Gee turned 55, she made a new friend: 4 a.m.

In the past, she usually slept through it. But once she entered menopause, it became her new wake-up time.

“I would go to sleep and wake up every morning around the same time, almost like you set the clock,” says Gee, who is now 68.

She’s not the only older adult to have experienced an exasperating shift in her sleep cycles. In 2017, a national poll conducted by the University of Michigan found that 46 percent of adults 65 and older have trouble falling asleep on a regular basis.


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Serious health concerns missed in older adults:
Paper is call for action for delivering health care to seniors

By Linda Peckel,

In older people, symptoms of pain, depression and fatigue are commonplace. But how common?

Researchers examined the prevalence and impact of six common symptoms (pain, fatigue, depression, anxiety, breathing difficulty, sleep problems) and found that nearly half of adults ages 65 and older have two or more of these symptoms and one-fourth have three or more. But often clinicians miss these symptoms, and the more serious health issues they portend because patients only talk about one of these symptoms during a visit


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How to Avoid Becoming a ‘Bored Boomer’ in Retirement

A Certified Financial Planner friend of mine shared a story over breakfast recently. One of his long-standing clients — let’s call him Jack —  who had fully retired six months earlier, called out of the blue with a plea for help. Having entered his retirement in great financial shape, his call went something like this: “John, you’ve got to help me.  I’ve got to go back to work doing something.  I’m going crazy not having something important to do.”

Jack appears to be another captive of an irrelevant retirement model — a casualty of an off-the-cliff leap from labor-to-leisure, vocation-to-vacation. An emerging rebel against the archaic, politically-inspired artificial finish line called traditional retirement.

Seventy-eight million strong and hitting this artificial finish line of 65 at the rate of 10,000 per day, boomers everywhere are beginning to discover that retirement, as we’ve known it for decades, needs redefining.





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THE BASICS:

Planning Ahead for Assisted Living

Most of us believe there will always be enough time to plan for long-term care. Then, life happens, and all of our hopeful expectations are dashed, including for our loved ones. When all is well, it’s difficult to convince mom, dad, a partner or other loved one to plan for the future. The alternative is much worse, because it means facing decisions during a crisis.

Avoid a Crisis, Plan Ahead

By 2030, the national population of people age 65 and older is expected to increase dramatically, and older Americans will outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history.

We can’t know what life will throw at us. But we can make some “what if” plans.

For example, when my friend, Pete, noticed that his partner, Dick, was failing physically and mentally, he decided he and Dick should get married so that Dick would be covered by his insurance and Pete would legally be able to make whatever decisions became necessary for Dick’s care. With fairly constant home-care help, Pete has been able to keep his husband at home for now.




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NEXT BLOG THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 21ST 2019

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Facebook is trying to make it easier to get in touch with people over Messenger, so it's rolling out a number of new ways to start chatting. As with all Facebook accounts, all Messenger accounts will now have dedicated links that people can visit to start a chat — they'll all be located at m.me/[username]. Facebook is also rolling out what it calls Messenger Codes, which are Messenger's equivalent to Snapchat's snapcodes. They look pretty neat: Messenger Codes are just a series of dots and dashes circling around your profile photo. When someone scans one with their camera, it'll presumably add that person as a contact.

read more >> https://www.theverge.com/2016/4/7/11383958/facebook-messenger-codes-announced-900m-mau


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