The Death of Convenience – Moving Out of a Metro Area

For those living in a large city or surrounding area, we tend to take for granted the ease of getting things done in our everyday lives. Convenience is hard when moving out of the city.  In the city and metro areas, grocery stores, dry cleaners, video stores, restaurants, and just about anything else we need to survive on a daily basis is either within walking distance or a short drive away. Having a pizza delivered or grabbing a carry-out is second nature. Jumping on an expressway and driving 20 miles to meet up with friends – no big deal – 20 miles for someone living in a city or suburb is a hop, skip and a jump. Then, as the years pass by, you decide to retire or semi-retire and move to that small town that offers a slower and less hectic life – something that you have dreamed about most of your working years. But with the move, you soon discover that you need to adjust to a lifestyle in ways you never thought before.

Convenience is Hard When Moving Out of a Metro Area

When you move to a more rural area, as we have discovered, the conveniences that you took for granted living in a large city or surrounding suburb are a rude awakening that, indeed, you took them for granted. We moved from a large metro area of about 4.2 million people to a town about 10 miles outside of a resort city, with a population for the entire area totaling 140,000. Big difference. We discovered shortly after making the move that our slower and less hectic lifestyle was wonderful, but our ability to get things done at the snap of the fingers was virtually impossible. For instance, trying to find a dry cleaner that has one hour or same day service – not to be found. Pizza delivery – we live too far outside the big city. Video store – they just closed the one by us and we now have to drive to the big city to rent a DVD. Grocery shopping – only in the big city. Restaurants – only a few in our small town and you get tired of the food. Chain stores – only in the big city. Soon after our move, we discovered that we were at least 10 miles away from just about every amenity we grew accustomed to when we lived in a metro area. Now, 10 miles may not seem like much to someone who lives in a big city or suburb, but in a rural area, 10 miles is about a one-half hour drive. Picking up carry-out Chinese food can take an hour. Finding a plumber entails an extra service charge for driving to our house. Renting an on-demand movie is much more expensive than being able to run to the video store to pick up a DVD. Making sure your car has enough gas is always on your mind.

Advantages of Moving to a Small Town

We are by no means complaining of the simpler life we have chosen. Moving to a small town has added years to our lives. We enjoy the comfort of fresh air, the home-town charm of our friends and neighbors, the slow pace, the stress-free attitude, and of course, the beautiful waterside. But, as with everything in life, there is a yin and yang. We love our lifestyle, but we have had to learn to plan better. If we are down in the big city, we do everything at once, because if we forget something, it means another 10 mile trip down the road and 10 miles back. If we are having friends or family visit us, we meet them in the big city for lunch or dinner. If we need gas, it is a staple that we fill up when we are in the big city. Just about everything we do is centered around planning for when we go to the big city. Initially, this was very disruptive, but now it has become reflexive for one of us to ask the other if we need anything in the big city. So, our lifestyle in terms of the physical convenience of getting things done and having things at our fingertips is gone. But our lifestyle in terms of our new way of life far outweighs any of these hassles as we move to the retirement phase of our life. We have adjusted quite well.

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A Private Mortgage – This Can Be A Win-Win With Family And Friends

There are banks on just about every corner in the event you want to borrow money to buy a house, but not every person can qualify for a mortgage. A person may have just come out of a financial hardship and unable to obtain bank financing or refinancing for a house.  A self-employed individual does not have W2 forms nor a steady income that lenders like.  Young adults are still building their credit scores.  There are a myriad of reasons a person’s finances do not look the way a bank wants them to look.  Banks look at credit score, payment history, ability to make future payments and collateral when reviewing a loan application.  Some borrowers, for whatever reasons, just can’t meet the stringent requirements of a bank.  Even though a potential borrower may be more than able to repay the loan, banks have specific criteria and rarely waiver in their requirements to qualify a borrower.  But, there are alternatives to obtaining a loan for a house.  One way is with a private mortgage.

What is a Private Mortgage?

The concept of a private mortgage is not very well known in this country. It is money that is lent to you by friends, family, or other private sources. The term “private” means the mortgage is not coming from a bank, mortgage broker or a financial institution, but is coming from a private arrangement. There are private mortgages that come from persons the borrower does not know, which are called hard money loans and not discussed in this post. The focus of this blog post is loans from and to friends, family and acquaintances. For instance, if a parent wants to sell their house to an adult child who does not qualify for a bank mortgage due to student loans or recent employment, the parties can finance the purchase and sale with a private mortgage. The parent would finance the sale by loaning the adult child the money, and the adult child would agree to the loan with a mortgage securing the home in the event the child ever defaults on the loan. The parent enjoys a steady stream of income until the loan is paid off and the adult child enjoys a custom-tailored loan with a low interest rate using the house as collateral. Or, if the parent has a self-directed IRA, the parent may be able to loan money from the IRA as an investment.

Get it in Writing

Now, I know the old axiom of never loan money to friends and family, and believe me, I have been burned a few times from it. But if you get a well-documented written agreement between the borrower and lender there should be no disagreement of what is owed and when it is owed.  With a private mortgage, if you are either a borrower or a lender, you negotiate the terms of the loan agreement.  The agreement sets the interest rate (make sure the interest rate is within the IRS guidelines), the terms, prepayment, collateral (usually, the house), other terms agreed to, and what to do if there is a default, e.g., foreclosure.  The terms are customized to fit both the borrower’s and lender’s wants and needs.  Even though this is a loan between friends, family or acquaintances, every aspect should be covered in the loan agreement.  Imagine what could go wrong if the loan was over a period of 30 years, and then imagine what you would do if it was not in writing.  So, when the loan agreement and collateral come into play, both the borrower and the lender should rely on experts to help them through this part of the process.  An attorney would be able to prepare the documents and advise on state law, a financial planner would be able to advise in the event the lender wants to use a self-directed IRA, and an accountant would be able to discuss tax deductions and appropriate interest rates.  The process is really not that difficult once the lender and borrower agree on the terms.

Win-Win

A private mortgage with family and friends can be a beneficial situation for all involved. Borrowers typically save money by paying relatively low interest rates and can customize the terms of loan, and lenders who have extra cash on hand can earn more interest on the loan than what is paid on a CD or savings account. There are, however, risks to the relationship between the lender and borrower. So, before signing up for such a substantial commitment of being either a lender or a borrower, make sure it’s in your best interests – financially and emotionally.

A Gig Economy is Perfect for Retired Baby Boomers

Retired Baby Boomers now have the best of both worlds with a gig economy. They have freed themselves from the confines of an organizational life after putting in 25-30 years with a company or companies. Pension, IRA and savings in hand, they can now move to a different chapter in their life of travel, grandchildren, gardening or just plain doing nothing. However, if boredom sets in, if financial constraints require them to seek another job, or if they just want some play dough – cheer up, we live in a gig economy.

Boomers Can Get Paid for Each Gig

A gig economy is where organizations contract with independent contractors for short term “gigs” or temporary positions. A study by Intuit shows that 40 percent of American workers will be independent workers by 2020. For some, independent contracting can be more of a choice, going from project to project. They have the freedom to take on several different ventures and they are their own boss. They give up health care and other benefits a larger company would provide them, but they work on their own terms. This is a different environment than Baby Boomers experienced, where staying at the same company for an entire career was more of a feather in one’s cap because of the generous retirement benefits that came at the end of that career.

In 2016, the McKinsey Global Institute published a report showing that independent workers fell into four categories: free agents, who actively choose independent work and it is their primary income; casual earners, who use independent work for supplemental income and do so by choice; reluctants, who make their primary living from independent work but would prefer traditional jobs; and the financially strapped, who do supplemental independent work out of necessity.

Upsides of Going from Gig to Gig

For retired Baby Boomers, being a casual earner and cashing in on the gig economy only has upsides. Typically, benefits and all the trappings of the corporate life are behind them. They are living on their own terms now as age and retirement have set in. If they feel like taking on part-time work for a few months, the gig economy provides them numerous opportunities for short-term or project style work. If they want a steady part-time job at one business, the owners are usually happy to have them on contract, since the employer does not have to pay health care or taxes. If Baby Boomers want to work for one day – yes, one day – the Washington Post just published an article where retailers are now beginning to hire for one day jobs. Imagine. If you are a Baby Boomer that splits time between the north and south depending on the season, you can literally make some extra cash going from retailer to retailer picking up open shifts. Or, if you are retired and bored and want something to do, you can pick up some project work in one of your skilled areas, which in today’s high-tech world, can probably be completed on your computer from either your winter or summer house. There really is no losing in a gig economy for Baby Boomers who want to make money after retirement.

Gig Economy for Baby Boomers

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Elder Scam #9 – Craigslist Sale – Overpayment

Scamming the elderly out of their money is becoming more and more prevalent in our society. In an effort to make people – parents, children, grandchildren, siblings – more aware of the devious attempts by strangers, friends and relatives to prey on the elderly, I plan to post all of the scams I become aware of.

Craigslist Ad Started Out Innocently

A woman places an ad on Craigslist trying to sell her mother’s vintage bedroom set. A person replies by email and tells the woman she really wants the set because she is going to ship it down south to another home. Overnight, the seller gets a check in the mail for the price of the bedroom set plus shipping costs. The buyer emails the seller and tells her to cash the check, pay the shipper, ship the bedroom set, and keep the extra money. No phone numbers or phone calls were ever exchanged. The seller, feeling a bit leery, takes the check to the police station. The police tell her that the check is phony. Well, if the seller had deposited the check and shipped the bedroom set, by the time the check bounced, the seller would have been out the cost of the bedroom set and the shipping costs. Fortunately, the seller had the wherewithal to suspect something was fishy. However, if it had been her elderly mother that was selling the bedroom set, the outcome may have been quite different.

Family members need to be cautious and stay informed of what their elderly relatives are doing. We live in an age where trusting a stranger or trying to help out a stranger on blind faith no longer provides the “feel good” rewards that it once did. Unfortunately, the “do good” outlook that many of the elderly grew up with has been corrupted by charlatans and swindlers.

How to Grow Pussy Willows from Branch Cuttings

One of the first signs of Spring is when the fuzzy white buds, or catkins, of a pussy willow shrub make their appearance. Growing up, my mom used to cut a few branches every Spring and bring them inside for decorations around the house. This year, around Palm Sunday, she gave me some pussy willow branch cuttings and told me to try to root them and plant them for my own pussy willow shrub. I never thought about trying to root the branches, but Why not give it a try? This is what I did:

Growing the Roots

1. Take the branches from new growth on the pussy willow shrub. Cut the branches between 8” and 12”. Place the branches in a vase filled with water. Make sure the vase is tall enough so that some of the catkins are in the water. Keep the water clean, changing it every week. After about four weeks, you should see roots forming at the bottom and sides of the branches and new greenery forming on the branches above the water.

2. Select a place where you want the pussy willow shrub to grow. In my research, I found pussy willow shrubs are very hardy and can be planted in just about any soil. Like a weeping willow, pussy willows like moist marshy areas, but they also do just as well in drier areas. They like full sun, but my mother’s are planted in morning sun and they thrive. Keep in mind that once the shrubs start growing, they need to be trimmed annually because they can become intrusive and unruly.

Planting the Branches

Dig a hole about 3-4” in width and depth. Place a branch or branches in the hole and fill with soil or peat moss. Water each day until the shrub becomes firmly rooted in the soil.

This was such an easy way to grow a new shrub. I can’t wait until I have my own catkins to bring in the house each year for decorations. Just like my mom!

Elder Scam #8: Your Computer May Be Infected

Scamming the elderly out of their money is becoming more and more prevalent in our society. In an effort to make people – parents, children, grandchildren, siblings – more aware of the devious attempts by strangers, friends and relatives to prey on the elderly, I plan to post all of the scams I become aware of.

Caller Says There is a Computer Security Risk

People posing as computer engineers are making cold walls warning people that their computers are at risk for a security threat. The person on the other end offers a free security check over the telephone, but the “engineer” needs remote access to your computer for a diagnosis and a fix.  Once you give these “engineers” remote access, software is downloaded on your computer that allows them to steal your identity, take money from your bank account and look at any other information you may have on your computer.  To boot, once the software is downloaded and your information has been taken, your computer gets hit with a virus.  A similar scam comes in the form of a fake virus protection pop-up while you are on the internet or a virus protection offer in the form of an email.

Don’t Give Out Computer Information

The best practice is to warn your loved one about giving out computer access information over the telephone and on-line and about the dangers of clicking on unknown links and pop-ups. Have your loved one contact you if there is ever a question about giving out personal information.

A New Career After 50? Not So Bad!

Do what you like and follow your dreams. This is exactly what is happening to my husband. An early retiree from a Fortune 500 company, his passion is music. Not pop music, rap, country, or any of those “putrid” (as he describes it) sounds, but Rock and Roll. And when I say rock and roll, I’m talking from the 1960’s and 1970’s, particularly the British Invasion. He knows concert dates, band members, love interests and just about everything else you need to know about music from the 1960’s and 1970’s. He is a virtual encyclopedia of Rock and Roll.  He is the “go to” person when someone has a question about Rock and Roll.

Opportunities for the Retirees are What you Make of Them

So, an opportunity came to him last year. If he would sell advertising for a local radio station, and in return, he would get his own radio show. He would become a disc jockey. Something he always wanted to do but never had the chance. He could have very easily said “No thank you, I’m retired” or “I do not have the experience to be a disc jockey,” but he didn’t. He followed his passion and in a couple of weeks he will be starting a new career promoting what he loves – music.  A new career after 50?  Not so bad!

New Careers are an Adventure for Baby Boomers

It’s never too late to try something different, to start a new life or to take on a new endeavor, as long as it is something you get excited about and look forward to every day. Although when you are younger it is scarier and riskier to take a hard right turn in your career, being over 50 gives you the life experience, patience, financial means and guts to begin a new chapter. So, I say – Sally forth Baby Boomers!

Elder Scam #7 – Stranger at a Funeral

Scamming the elderly out of their money is becoming more and more prevalent in our society. In an effort to make people – parents, children, grandchildren, siblings – more aware of the devious attempts by strangers, friends and relatives to prey on the elderly, I plan to post all of the scams I become aware of.

A “Friend” of the Deceased

A stranger scours through the local obituaries for upcoming funeral services. The stranger shows up at the viewing or the funeral service telling the family that he/she was a friend of the deceased. During the conversation, the stranger tells the family that the deceased owes them money and shows them a falsified I.O.U. or Promissory Note. The grieving family, not knowing any better and not in a right frame of mind, pays the stranger.

Elders and their family members should be leery of those that try to capitalize right after a loved one dies. Politely ask them to contact you the following month to settle any debts of the deceased. Typically, if it is a legitimate debt, you will be contacted. But most often, the stranger will not try to contact you again.

 

 

Know the Warning Signs of Elder Financial Abuse

Financial Abuse with the Elderly

Older Americans are less likely to report that they have been scammed out of their money because they are ashamed or don’t know that they have been scammed. Elderly victims also may not report that they have been scammed because they are worried their relatives might think they no longer have the mental capacity to take care of their own financial affairs. This is hard on everyone: from the senior that finds out they have been swindled to the relative that finds out about the swindle and wishes he/she knew about it sooner to try to stop it. For the elderly, many do not want to report the fraud because they don’t know who to report it to, are too ashamed at having been scammed, or don’t know they have been scammed. In addition, elderly victims may not report crimes because they are concerned that relatives may think the victims no longer have the mental capacity to take care of their own financial affairs.  It is so important that people understand the warning signs of elder financial abuse.

Caregivers – Pay Attention!

Those of us who are taking care of elderly parents need to pay attention to signs that may indicate some sort of elder financial abuse is happening or has happened. Here are some tips that should send up flags that your elderly relative may be the victim of financial abuse:

  • A new “friend” that is increasing gaining the trust of your loved one
  • Unexplained bank account withdrawals and increasing credit card charges
  • Withdrawal by a loved one because he/she is either being isolated by a “friend” or he/she knows that he/she has just fallen victim to a financial fraud and are embarrassed
  • Self-serving family members who get the relative to change his/her Will and other estate plan documents

The United States Special Committee on Aging Resources Page is published by the Senate and is a very informative website that provides a wealth of information on reporting financial abuse for the elderly. There are telephone numbers and website information to assist someone who believes he/she or a relative is the subject of a financial scam.

Elder Scam #6 – Health Insurance Information Theft

Scamming the elderly out of their money is becoming more and more prevalent in our society. In an effort to make people – parents, children, grandchildren, siblings – more aware of the devious attempts by strangers, friends and relatives to prey on the elderly, I plan to post all of the scams I become aware of.

An elderly widow went to the local mall for a free health screening test. At the mall, she was asked for her insurance cards and asked to sign a blank insurance claim form. Without even thinking about the fact that a free health care check would not require any type of insurance information, she gave them her insurance card and signed a blank claim form.

A couple months later, she opened a bill from her health insurance company with several charges for services she never received. The total amount she owed the insurance company was over $8,000.00. Unlike a credit card company who can reverse the charges for purchases not made, the health care company held her liable even though she never received the services. She never opened the first couple of bills and by the time she opened it, the appeals period was over to contest the charges. She spent over a third of the $8,000.00 on attorneys trying to help her reverse the charges.

Elders should be extremely careful with their health insurance information. Do not give the information to strangers and never to people working at the free health screening sites, even if it is conducted at a retirement community. Free is free. Also, seniors need to review their health insurance charges as soon as they get a bill before the appeals period end.

 

Elder Scam #5 – Grandson in Trouble

Scamming the elderly out of their money is becoming more and more prevalent in our society. In an effort to make people – parents, children, grandchildren, siblings – more aware of the devious attempts by strangers, friends and relatives to prey on the elderly, I plan to post all of the scams I become aware of.

An elderly man receives a phone call from a young person crying “Grandpa, this is Jessie. I’m in trouble.” Grandpa, thinking to himself that it sounds like his grandson, listens to what happened. Turns out that “Jessie” is on Spring Break in Florida and was arrested. He needs money right away and needs it wired down or telegrammed to Florida. Also, “Please, please don’t tell my mom” the younger child cries. Grandpa, ever the good- hearted person, goes to the bank and withdraws money, then sends a Western Union to Florida.

Later the same month, Grandpa sees he grandson Jessie and asks about the Spring Break incident. Jessie, with a bewildered look on his face, says he wasn’t in Florida during Spring Break and wasn’t arrested. By the time they figure out what happened, it was too late to even call Western Union to try to track the money.

The elderly need to be aware of scams and protect their money. Vigilant friends and relatives help, but the elderly also need to question people who are trying to get money from them.

5 Secrets to Hosting Overnight Guests

Overnight Guests are Always Welcome

Being over 50 and living in a resort town, we get a lot of requests from friends and family for weekend visits, especially during the summer. Children, grandchildren, cousins, old co-workers, high school and college friends, along with their friends and family trek to our house, usually for a nice weekend getaway. When we do have company, the number one rule is that they should make themselves at home. Here are the 5 best secrets to making overnight guests feel at home:

  1. Prior to their arrival, let them know that they are not obligated to you during the visit.
  2. Show them the kitchen cupboards, the refrigerator, the bathroom, their bedroom, get them their first beverage, then tell them they are one their own.
  3. Give them space to go out on their own and explore the towns. You don’t have to be with them every moment of their visit. You can do things together. But, you don’t have to do everything together.
  4. No question is embarrassing, such as Where is there more toilet paper? They should know where everything is and free to get it on their own (stock the bathroom with toilet paper, extra toothbrushes and other sundries before they arrive). Even the washer and dryer are not off limits if someone needs to use it.
  5. Let them do the dishes and straighten up the house if they want. Usually, guests like to do something to show appreciation, and one way is by letting them do things around the house to make them feel like they are contributing.

These simple secrets have ensured many happy first and return visits for our guests.  We enjoy it too because we don’t feel obligated or pressured to be hosts during the entire visit.  Just follow the simple rules and everyone will have an enjoyable time and a carefree visit.

Elder Scam #4 – The Cleaning Lady

Scamming the elderly out of their money is becoming more and more prevalent in our society. In an effort to make people – parents, children, grandchildren, siblings – more aware of the devious attempts by strangers, friends and relatives to prey on the elderly, I plan to post all of the scams I become aware of.

An elderly woman lives alone and all of her children live outside of the city. The woman needs help and hires someone to come in and clean her house. The cleaning person soon realizes that the woman’s family does not come around very much and realizes the elderly woman is lonely. The cleaning person then gains the confidence of the woman. After about six months, the cleaning woman and the elderly woman become friends. They go out to eat together, go to the casino together and have what the elderly woman believes is a true friendship. The elderly woman begins trusting the cleaning lady with her personal information such as Social Security Number, credit card numbers and bank accounts because she truly believes they are friends. All the while, the cleaning woman is using the elderly woman’s personal information to obtain new credit cards and charge the cards to the max. By the time the elderly woman finds out about it, the cleaning woman stops coming around and the elderly woman can no longer get a hold of her. Phone is disconnected. The elderly woman is left with a pile of bills from credit card companies and her savings account has been depleted to nothing.

Be careful of allowing the elderly to be the subject of undue influence by a stranger, friend or relative. Once the undue influence begins, it is hard to convince an elderly person that they are being used by someone with ulterior motives.

Elderly Scam #3 – A Child’s Promise to Share an Inheritance

Scamming the elderly out of their money is becoming more and more prevalent in our society. In an effort to make people – parents, children, grandchildren, siblings – more aware of the devious attempts by strangers, friends and relatives to prey on the elderly, I plan to post all of the scams I become aware of.

An elderly widow is trying to plan what to do with her money and her property after she dies. She wants to split everything equally among her children. One of her sons, who lives close by and takes care of all her needs, endears himself to his mom and tells her to put everything in his name and he promises to split everything equally with his siblings when something happens. After some convincing, the mother adds the son to her bank accounts, investments and the title to her home. The mother dies. The son owns everything and will not give his siblings anything, declaring that “Mom wanted me to have it because I took care of her. If she didn’t want me to have everything, she would have split it up before she died.” The siblings are left with nothing for an inheritance, not even mom’s jewelry.

Be careful of allowing the elderly to be the subject of undue influence by a stranger, friend or relative. Once the undue influence begins, it is hard to convince an elderly person that they are being used by someone with ulterior motives.

Elderly Scam #2 – Pay the IRS with Gift Cards

Scamming the elderly out of their money is becoming more and more prevalent in our society. In an effort to make people – parents, children, grandchildren, siblings – more aware of the devious attempts by strangers, friends and relatives to prey on the elderly, I plan to post all of the scams I become aware of.

An elderly person received a voice mail message from the “IRS.” When she called the telephone number back, the “IRS Agent” gave his name and badge number. He told the elderly person that she owed $8,000 in tax money for the prior two years and if she didn’t pay immediately, then the “IRS Agent” would send the local police to her house to arrest her and to seize her property. She was instructed to go to the bank and withdraw $8,000 and then go to a local retail store to buy $8,000 in gift cards. The woman complied. The “IRS Agent” had her read off the gift card numbers and put her on hold while he obtained a confirmation number. After 30 minutes, he came back on the line and said she owed $12,000 more. She went back to the bank, and thank goodness for an astute bank teller, who told her it was a scam and to call the police. Unfortunately, when the police called the gift card company to see if funds remained on the gift cards, there was no money left on the cards.

The suspects used a phone app that made it look like the IRS was calling. Please know that the IRS does not contact you by telephone. The IRS deals with a taxpayer by mail. You can call the IRS, but they do not call you.