Category - Retirement

Visiting Your Parents for the Holidays

The holidays are a perfect time to assess how your parent’s well being has been. During your visit there are a few things you should do.

1. Conversations. Having meaningful conversations about the future is a wonderful way to start your visit. Talk about aging and how they see the process going. It is important that you know your parents wishes and it could be helpful for you to suggest what you expect the future to bring.

2. Safety. Spend an afternoon checking the surroundings for safety. Fix any tripping hazards, broken items around the home, items that need straightening, and be sure to ask if there is anything they need help with.

3. Health. Since it may have been a while since you have seen your aging parent you may notice they have changed. Be sure to look for key elements that should be red flags:

  • Weight Loss. This is the most obvious sign to spot. If you notice a lot of weight loss in your parent there could be something seriously wrong such as dementia, cancer, heart failure or depression. It could also be something as simple as a lack of energy to cook. If you are concerned you should schedule a doctor wellness visit.
  • Balance. Pay attention to how your parents walk and move around. Are they reluctant to walk? Find out if it is due to pain. If they are unsteady there may be a risk of falling and hurting themselves. You will want to have that checked out as well.
  • Environment. When looking around the house do you notice clutter? Unpaid bills? Piled up mail? This could be a sign that a problem exists. Take note of their prescriptions and check expiration dates. If there is anything to be concerned about you should talk to their physician.
  • Emotional. Look for signs of depression including sleep patterns, personal hygiene, home care, and any changes in behavior. If you notice your parent just isn’t acting like themselves it may time to have them checked out for ailments.

Visiting during the holidays is more than just a reunion; it is a time to keep an eye on the aging process of your parent. If you have any concerns having a heart to heart with them can help alleviate any worry. And don’t forget to enjoy yourselves.

Why More Americans Are Saving Their Retirement With Annuities – Part III

What Are The Different Types Of Annuities?

Annuities can be immediate or deferred. This is simply whether the income payments begin right away or later. Annuities can also be fixed or variable.

Fixed annuities guarantee your money will earn at least a minimum interest rate. Fixed annuities may earn interest at a rate higher than the minimum but the rate isn’t guaranteed until it is credited to your account. With a fixed annuity you are not investing directly in the market and insurance companies must promise that your money is protected from market losses for it to qualify as a fixed annuity.

Money in a variable annuity earns a return based on how the investments you choose perform. Your investments are called “subaccounts” which are investments in mutual funds or other investment products. Your investment choices likely will have different types of risk and will affect the return you earn on your annuity. You may also have a choice to put some money into a fixed account with a guaranteed minimum interest rate. If the value of the subaccounts goes down, you may have less money in your annuity than you paid into it.

Essential Retirement Planning Tips

Retirement doesn’t just happen. It takes years of planning. We have come up with some helpful tips to guide you in your plan for retirement.

1. Save. Many who retire have not saved up enough to last. Retirement is usually 20-30 years, which is the longest span of life. Also, retirement funds or pension is not paid out immediately. It usually takes several months or more to receive your first check. It is wise to have enough money in your savings for at least six months of your budget before you retire.

You should also know the maximum amount you can contribute to your 401(k) or 403(b) accounts and IRA’s. Consider limiting your expenses, having a reasonable budget and tax planning to help get the savings you need to live on throughout your retirement.

2. Budget. Creating a budget is one of the key factors in a successful retirement. However, there are many things that get overlooked when planning a budget. Don’t forget about inflation, emergencies, medical expenses, and more. Only a small percentage of people integrate a plan for helping their parents and/or children. Many times those that retire have parents that are still living and may rely on them for income.

When it comes to helping out your children you should have a certain amount set aside to help in case of an emergency. If it isn’t an emergency then you should not be afraid to say no and tell them that you are living on a fixed income.

3. Maximize Social Security. You may choose to start collecting Social Security right away; however, you should look at the benefits to waiting a little bit longer. Some may end up earning up to $100,000 or more in their lifetime by waiting. It is best to talk to your financial advisor to find out what age is best for you to start receiving this benefit.

4. Ask for help. Many baby boomers have a “do it myself” type of attitude. They are use to going online and researching. There is a lot of misinformation out there. It is okay to and you should ask for assistance from a financial advisor.

5. Have an open mind. Planning a budget can seem scary and feel like you are losing your freedom when in fact it is doing the opposite. Having a budget will give you the financial freedom throughout your retirement. There are a lot of opportunities to plan and save for your retirement. Give us a call to find out more.

Reducing Taxes on Your Social Security

Your Social Security Income will be taxed as you exceed a specific amount called the “Threshold Income”. What is Threshold Income? All types of earnings, dividends or interest are included as threshold income except for one. A deferred annuity is the only producing asset that allows interest to grow without being included as Threshold Income.

If your threshold income exceeds the following limits, up to 85% of the amount received from Social Security could be subject to tax:

The 2017 federal estate tax rates haven’t changed, but the lifetime maximum exemption amount has. The federal estate tax, also known as the death tax, is assessed on money and property you pass on to your loved ones after you die. The tax rates on estates are among the highest in the U.S. Tax code, with a maximum rate of 40%, but it may not be as “taxing” on you as it seems thanks to a big exemption amount.

Do you know how much Uncle Sam will inherit at your death?

The management strategies for your financial assets will change as you move through your life cycle. You may have reached a point in your life where preservation of assets has become the number one priority. Will Rogers once said, “…as a senior, I’m more concerned about the return of my principle, rather than the return on my principle.”

To learn more about deferred annuities please call to schedule an free consultation.

Is An Annuity Right For Me?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of an annuity?

The very significant advantage of owning an annuity is peace of mind. The assurance that no matter how long you live, that check from the insurance company will arrive in the mailbox every month. This can alleviate a major source of stress for many seniors.

The main disadvantage is loss of liquidity. That’s why retirement planning experts recommend a diverse portfolio in which a portion is dedicated to an annuity, leaving the remaining funds available for emergencies and other types of investments.

Annuity critics say the products are too complex, and some annuities have fees and features that can drag down your interest earnings. That’s why it takes a commitment to shop around and ask the right questions. Talking with a professional can help answer your questions and assist in finding an annuity that is tailored to your needs.

How do I know an annuity is right for me?

Some questions to ask in determining if an annuity is right for you include: Am I in good health? Can I afford to remove some of my nest egg and put it into an annuity? What are my retirement goals? What is my risk tolerance?

Where does an annuity fit in my retirement plan?

Top financial planners recommend an annuity to address longevity risk and provide guaranteed income. The important part is to have a balanced retirement plan. Providing an income from an annuity enables you to take a little more risk with remaining money.

Many financial planners recommend rolling an IRA, or a percentage of it, into an annuity. In addition to providing income and longevity insurance, rolling into an annuity is a tax-free process.

Myths About Assisted Living

In the past 20 years Assisted Living has become more and more popular. Since it is essentially a newer concept there are some false ideas many have around Assisted Living Facilities.

Myth #1 Assisted Living = Loss of Independence
Assisted Living Facilities actually promote independence. They strive to make things easier on their residents so they are able to live their lives more freely than they would if they were living on their own. They encourage stimulation and social interaction to help maintain independence as long as they can. In fact, many facilities even allow you to keep and use your car as long as you are able.

Myth #2 Seniors will be isolated in a facility
The opposite of this is true. Retirement communities are where seniors end up developing close friendships and social connections. When they live in a facility they end up being busier than ever with fun events and activities planned out for them.

Myth #3 An Assisted Living Community is another way to say Nursing Home
They are actually completely different. Nursing Homes focus on the medical needs of their residents and the therapies they need in order to stay alive. Whereas Assisted Living Facilities provide the support their residents need with housekeeping, meal preparation, activities, and social interaction in order to assist them with their independence as long as possible.

Myth #4 Assisted Living is only for the wealthy
These facilities are for everyone. If you take in the cost of living at home, even if your mortgage is paid off, you will find it is very similar. With the cost of home maintenance, property taxes, groceries, utilities, transportation and other living expenses it can add up. You won’t have any of those costs with Assisted Living; it is included in the monthly cost. This is especially true if you need the assistance of a private duty caregiver.

Myth #5 You can’t take your pet with you
There are many Assisted Living Facilities that welcome your well-behaved four legged furry friends. Studies have shown that those who have a pet live a longer and healthier life. Don’t let the fear of having to leave your pet behind be a factor in your decision. Those facilities that allow your pet to live with you are out there.

Myth #6 The meals are not appetizing
Actually the meals that are prepared are carefully planned and prepared with the nutritional needs of the senior population in mind. The meals are homemade and well thought out so that they are enjoyable, maintaining the quality of life their residents are use to. It is even advised that you sample the cooking before making the decision to move into the facility.

Myth #7 Assisted Living Facilities are filled with residents that are sick or dying
Assisted Living Facilities are full of seniors who no longer wish to live alone and require additional support in order to maintain the life they are accustomed to. Without assisted living the resident’s health would have declined more rapidly and would instead be admitted directly into a nursing home or hospice. Assisted Living Facilities strive to keep their residents healthy and alive as long as possible. In fact, most homes require that the new resident be partly independent when entering the facility.

What Are Residential Care Homes?

Residential Care Homes are located in a local neighborhood and are run by caregivers (not necessarily nurses) to assist your loved one. These homes can have a specialty care, such as Alzheimer’s, or a more broad care for your elderly family member. The owner sometimes lives in the home and is one of the caregivers for the residents, other homes hire caregivers to take shifts and run it more like a business.

Some homes are fancy with chandeliers and granite counter tops while others have more of a country home feel. It is always best to place your parent in a home that they are accustomed to and would feel most comfortable living in.  No matter the style of the home they all will provide:

  • A room, either private or shared
  • Meals
  • Custodial care such as housekeeping, laundry, doctors appointments, and possibly transportation services
  • Different levels of assistance for daily living activities such as bathing, dressing, moving around, and incontinence care
  • Reminders for medication

However, if you are looking for medical care, you will need to look into nursing homes. Residential Care Homes are for those that can’t live independently, but do not like the idea of living in a large institution. These homes usually are in residential areas, have a porch and a patio for residents to enjoy, and home cooked meals. Your loved one will still have the freedom to continue living the way they are use to, but in a community that can care for them easily.

Leaving A Legacy

As we age we start to think about what we are leaving behind. We would like to leave a legacy for our children, grandchildren and so on. There are many things you can do that will create a wonderful legacy.

  1. Keep a journal. Even if you aren’t a writer you can put together some thoughts about what you wanted out of life, what you received, and what your hopes for your posterity are. Even if your journal is just your favorite Bible quotes – it will be held dear by your loved ones.
  2. Share your stories with the family. Whether it is stories you grew up with in your childhood, stories of your life, or stories of your ancestors – share them. They will be remembered, cherished and most likely passed along to their children.
  3. Collect favorite family recipes. Many memories can be remembered just by a simple smell. Leaving behind a cook book of recipes you made while your children grew up can be a great way to leave a legacy. You can even go so far as to take the time to cook these recipes together with your posterity to create even more memories while you are still living.
  4. Create personalized photo albums. Keeping photo albums can trigger happy memories or stories you told. These can be cherished for generations to come.
  5. Put together a video. Leaving behind a video of advice and what you wish for your posterity can be a loving memory. If you are unsure of what you can say in the video we have a few suggestions:
    • If you could live your life over again what would you do differently? What would you do the same?
    • What do you know that you wish you would have known when you were younger?
    • What advice would you give to a young person just starting out in life?
  6. Travel while you can. Traveling together with family can be a great to way to leave them with fond memories and perhaps keep the tradition going with their children. Keeping a journal with photos of each of the trips is a way to bring together a few of these suggestions.
  7. Make donations and contributions to society. Contribute to museums, parks, and more. Some have plaques that can be placed for your loved ones to visit.
  8. Be a mentor to others. Everyone has a bit of knowledge that they can share with others. Being a mentor can help with personal development with both the mentor and mentee. These relationships can last a lifetime and pass along a legacy to even those whom you will never meet.
  9. Follow your passion. Finding your passion and pursuing it fully will not only give your life more meaning, it will also help you to see your destiny clearly. Your example of following your passion will inspire others to do the same.
  10. Take risks. When you take the risks you will gain, when you gain you have more to leave for others. Don’t give up. Keep on trying until the very end and you will be sure to leave an inspiring legacy.

Don’t ever stop perusing your legacy. There are many that have had tremendous accomplishments later in life. Creating your legacy doesn’t stop until you take your last breath. Be prepared to live life to the fullest and keep growing your legacy.

Using VA Aid and Attendance for Assisted Living

Many Veterans are unaware that they may qualify for an increased monthly pension to help pay for assisted living if you meet one of the following conditions:

  • 1-30-17-va-aid-and-alYou need help with activities of daily living;
  • You are bedridden;
  • Your vision is limited (5/200 visual acuity or less) in both eyes;
  • You are a patient in a nursing home due to physical or mental incapacity

Anyone that was not previously approved to receive a pension due to their financial stability and now requires assisted living may possibly be able to receive their pension. VA Aid & Attendance can assist in paying for home care, nursing care, assisted living community and more.

When an Alzheimer’s patient needs care the physician’s statement must include that the patients care must be in a protected environment; this allows room and board to be included in the amount to be received.

In each case of assistance the director of the facility where the Veteran is placed must sign a statement verifying the type of care that is being received. You will want to use the form entitled “Care Provider Report” that you can find at www.veteransaidbenefit.org/va_forms.htm or a form similar to this when applying for benefits. You will also want to include a copy of the contract of services, invoices and statements from the facility with the form.

To learn more or receive assistance in the application process please reach out to us at Legal Awareness for Seniors.

Have you been told you make too much to qualify for ALTCS?

2-6-17-too-much-for-altcsArizona is one of the states that has an “income-cap”, which means there is a limited amount of money that a beneficiary may receive in order to qualify for ALTCS. This cap is adjusted yearly. If you have been previously told that your income is too high in order to receive benefits there are steps you can take in order to qualify. The most common step is to re-direct some or all of your income to an Income Only Trust (otherwise known as a Miller Trust).

It has been known that even though the Miller Trust holds all the income only the monthly allotted amount given to the beneficiary will be counted as their income. This may let the individual that once had too much income to now qualify to receive ALTCS benefits.

Re-directing the income is simply having the source of income (for example your Social Security check) to be deposited into a checking account that is in the name of the trust. The Miller Trust can only be used when the applicant resides in a long term care living arrangement.

In order for the Miller Trust to work it must meet specific rules. Some of those rules are:

  • The full amount of any source of income (such as Social Security) must be deposited into the trust account.
  • The income and interest earned once the trust is created can accumulate but will not be counted as a resource.
  • The trust must be established by the ALTCS applicant or by someone he names to act on his behalf.
  • The account must be opened with a portion of the applicant’s monthly income or with a $0 balance.
  • Anything received prior to setting up the Miller Trust cannot be put into the account and will be claimed as the applicant’s income.
  • The income disbursed to the beneficiary is only allowed to go towards personal needs, food, shelter, medical expenses, clothing, and other allowable disbursements in order for the beneficiary to live on.

In addition to these rules when you pass away the state will receive the amount remaining in the trust. They will receive only the amount up to the total costs they covered through ALTCS, if there is anything remaining it will be disbursed to your named beneficiary.