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Happy Seniors

              Legal & Financial Issues

  Three Things To Remember When Times Are

    Hard On Caregivers . . .

  For those who have someone with chronic illness and/or disability in their

  family, the current economic climate can seem overwhelming. As November

  is National Caregiver’s Month, The Well Spouse Association would like

  caregivers to remember three things they can do to cope during these

  difficult  times. These three things are keeping track of their finances,

  accepting help when it’s offered, and taking care of themselves.

  So says Richard Anderson, a former spousal caregiver himself, and

  President of The Well Spouse Association, a national, nonprofit, volunteer

  based organization focused on providing emotional support to husbands,

  wives and partners caring for spouses with chronic illnesses and/or long 

  term disabilities.

  “Keeping track of finances is a must.  Caregivers should know where their

  money is going. This can be done by using PC software programs, free

  Internet sites like or by just keeping a notebook to write down

  where the money is spent.  Such information can help caregivers budget

  their funds, record such items as medical expenses (important at tax time!),

  and   plan for future purchases.”

  Accepting help when it’s offered is another point Mr. Anderson would like to

  make.  “Take friends and neighbors up when they offer assistance.  Think of

  a few things that could be done by someone else, like raking the leaves, or

  cooking dinner.  If you aren’t comfortable with receiving help, designate a

  family member or close friend to be your contact.  The contact can be the

  go- between, which will allow you to focus on the caregiving.  And here

  again, a free internet program like can help.” 

  “Lastly, many studies have shown that depression has a negative impact on

  one’s health.  This is something we see affecting caregivers every day. 

  Making themselves a priority is something caregivers have a tough time

  doing.  However, if a caregiver doesn’t take care of him/herself, they can

  burn out very quickly, making a difficult situation even worse.  Be sure you

  visit your doctors, and take care of your own physical and mental health.  

  Relieve stress by talking to a friend, taking a short nap or going for a brisk

  walk. Take  time for yourself and join a support group, to meet others who

  are in your  shoes.  Sharing a situation with others who truly understand can

  be the biggest relief of all.” 

  “Doing these three things will help caregivers handle their challenging

  situations.  You are not alone is the WSA motto.” says Mr. Anderson.  “We

  want all caregivers to know that.”

   For additional information on spousal caregiving, call the Well Spouse

  Association at 1-800-838-0879, or visit the website at




By Sandra Bekele


  When my ill spouse was gravely ill a few years ago, I heard dire and conflicting advice

  from a flock of physicians, nurses and social workers. The one nugget that stands out,

  however, came late one night from an ICU nurse: "Hope for the best, and expect the  



  This seemed to ring true, even then in all that confusion. It has served me well. With

  this little mantra, I have navigated bravely through unthinkable horrors and, perhaps more

  daunting, through long spells of intensely tedious effort and challenge.


  Aside from the talisman-like ease of the phrase itself, there is also a certain balance of

  meaning to it. Always hoping for the best, never disappointed by less; where is the

  disappointment if, after all, I've only expected the worst. This is not as negative as it

  sounds. Expecting is one thing, and hoping is another; consider them as the Yin and Yang

  elements of any particular life drama.


  The oscillating reverberations, perfectly balanced in such a well-turned phrase, form a

  positive inertia. It can be a sort of gyroscope, getting you past peaks of agitation and

  valleys of despair, never getting spun out or bogged down.


  Like terminal illness itself, expecting the worst is in some sense very liberating. Gone

  is the yoke of striving in vain, yet hope is always there to illuminate the days. Realistic

  expectations, given a limiting set of circumstances, are not the same as hopelessness.     

  Hope envelopes all experience. One can hope for a great sunset, or a good test result.  

  Even when given a bad test result, one can hope for a good lunch, or even just to hold

  that lunch down.


  Hope is letting oneself be reminded of the bits of good in all things. When a grafted

  rose dies, its roots still hold great wonder. Tucked into a forgiving corner of the garden, it

  can be let sprawl, throwing vast swathes of lovely wild blooms each spring. One has few

  opportunities to see such blooms, as we groom our gardens - and our lives - carefully so

  as to avoid the inevitable thorns. Yet when life leads with thorns of adversity, there are

  the delicate, fleeting, inconspicuous yet beautiful blooms which will always accompany

  those thorns. If one is caught in the middle of it, then why ignore the beauty? Denying

   life's positives does nothing to ease its pains.


  So that phrase, "Hope for the best, and expect the worst" is ultimately life-affirming.

  It slows us to respond more positively to extraordinary, difficult situations. In this sense,

  expecting the worst is our liberator, and hoping for the best is our salvation.


  First published in MAINSTAY, #82, Summer 2006. © Well Spouse Association



 Grandma's got a boyfriend, now what?

  How families can work out tough financial planning issues

  Your spouse has died following a long, loving relationship, and after several 

  years of living alone you've decided to move in with that engaging person 

  who makes you feel alive again.

  The companionship is warm and all is well, except for the children.

  "The kids may have a conniption over the surviving parent's decision to 

  date,"    says Sheryl Garrett, a certified financial planner and co-author of

  Money Without Matrimony: The Unmarried Couple's Guide To Financial Security.   "The adult children don't like it — especially when mom is the surviving

  parent, because they're worried about the inheritance."

  First, a word to the kids: Grow up!

  Parents have a lifetime of experience and they haven't forgotten you — or  

  the grandchildren. So relax.

  In many cases, retired adults have acquired large houses filled with a lifetime 

  of things, and the logistics of moving in together are overwhelming so the  

  lovebirds often maintain separate households. If nothing else, this makes it  

  easier to sort things out after one partner dies.

  At this stage in life, estate planning is critical, and a living trust warrants   


  A will states what you want done with your assets after death. Your influence

  ends after the will has been approved by the probate court. Garrett says

  that a  trust holds assets or property for the benefit of others and makes

  your influence extend beyond the grave.

  A trust set up while the person is alive is called a "living trust." A trust created

  by a will and going into effect after death is called a "testamentary trust." A

  trust can be irrevocable so the terms can't be changed — or living and

  revocable so adjustments can be made if circumstances change.

  A trust can provide for your children and the future of your grandchildren. It 

  also can include a provision to take care of your unmarried partner if you die

  or are incapacitated.

  Garrett says trusts also keep personal matters confidential. All proceedings in 

  probate court are a matter of public record, and anyone, including a nosy

  neighbor, can trot down to the courthouse and read every detail of your

  financial life.

  But the most important aspect of a trust may be the peace of mind it gives  

  your children: They know exactly where things stand and that the

  inheritance won't be squandered.

  "Sometimes, adult children get pretty selfish," says Garrett, who wrote Money

   Without Matrimony with Debra A. Neiman. "A living trust will let the kids

   know they'll be taken care of and put their fears to rest."

  A trust isn't something you can write on the back of an envelope at home. 

  Make a detailed outline of your wishes and consult an attorney.

  Garrett says establishing a trust isn't cheap — about $1,500 and up. Like a 

  will,   a trust may be updated as circumstances change, and that's an

  additional expense.

  She says that some younger couples fall into the "invincibility syndrome" and

  see no need to plan for the future because they're healthy and can't imagine

  becoming sick, let alone dying.

  Older couples have heard time whistling in their ears and know better. A   

  health   care directive is also part of estate planning and is vital late in life.

  Garrett calls a durable power of attorney for health care a key document for 

  anyone, especially an unmarried couple in their later years.

 "It's not about death or dying," Garrett says. "It's about taking care of    

  you while  you're living but unable to care for or make decisions for yourself."

  It's a legally binding document that states that an individual or specific   

  individuals will make health care decisions for you if you can't make them for


  Without such a written statement, your partner can't make decisions for you

  if you become incapacitated or are seriously injured in an accident — and it 

  makes no difference if you have been together for years. That responsibility

  falls to your family, even if you're estranged and haven't spoken to them quite

  some time.

  Getting this right requires thought and frank discussion with family members

  and others involved.

  Seniors, especially those who remain single, need to think about long-term care

  insurance because they won't have a spouse to care for them and may not

  have a trusted partner.

  "Many older people don't want to depend on their children," Garrett says. "And

   they shouldn't count on Medicaid."


   By Scott Reeves

   FORBES NEW YORK -© 2008


               Are You Building Enough Wealth to

               Support Yourself in Retirement?

                   By   Elaine L. Chao,   Secretary of Labor

  The 21st century offers new opportunities and compelling reasons for

  workers to achieve the American dream of financial independence in  

  retirement.  Fortunately, making that dream a reality got easier when

  President George W. Bush signed the Pension Protection Act of 2006 into

  law.  This has enhanced the ability of millions of Americans to build wealth

  through retirement savings programs.

  Americans today generally are saving less, spending more and living longer

  than previous generations. A longer life span means the need for increased

  savings.  And the sooner workers start saving, the better. In financial

  planning, time is your best friend.

  A $125-a-month investment at a modest 5 percent annual return adds

  up to $50,000 in 20 years, more than $100,000 in 30 years and nearly

  $200,000 in 40 years. The sooner you start putting money aside for your

  future, the longer that money can work for you.

  If you see a dime on the sidewalk, you most likely will reach down and pick

  it up. Yet, many workers are leaving thousands of dollars on the table by

  not signing up for tax-deferred savings programs offered by their

  employers, especially when those employers provide matching funds. The

  problem is that some workers are unsure how to invest.

  The Pension Protection Act helps solve this problem by making it easier for

  401(k)-type plans to enroll workers automatically.  Workers can always “opt out,”

  but they won't “lose out” by not making a decision. Rules proposed by the

  Department of Labor boost retirement savings for these workers by creating

  appropriate default investments for long-term retirement savings.

  Here are a few strategies to help you start taking charge of your retirement future:

  • Participate in your employer’s retirement plan at work, and be sure to take 

    advantage of matching contributions.

  • Increase the amount you contribute to your 401(k) or other retirement plan each


  • If you’re 50 or older, make additional contributions of up to $5,000 to catch up

    for years in which you did not put money into the plan.

  • Be realistic about expenses in retirement to ensure that you do not outlive your

     savings. Be sure to account for healthcare costs such as prescription drugs.


Secretary of Labor Elaine L.Chao also serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. For more information, go to


Senior Finacial Issues:

Taking The Mystery Out Of Retirement Planning

Retirement Planning Resolurces

Financial Planning
Planning Resources
Estate Planning 101
Living Wills and Healthcare Power of Attorney

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