Lifestyles

Estate Planning, Protect What you Save (March/April 2011)

Bill Losey
By Bill Losey

By Bill Losey | Bill Losey, CFP®, CSA, America’s Retirement Strategist®, is a highly sought-after advisor, retirement authority, thought-leader, author and national TV personality with over 20 years experience in the financial services industry. He is the author of Retire in a Weekend! The Baby Boomer’s Guide to Making Work Optional, Founder of National Retirement Planning Month, and he publishes Retirement Intelligence®.

No matter your age, here are some things you may want to accomplish this year with regard to estate planning.

1. Create a will if you don’t have one. A Lawyers.com survey of 1,022 Americans found that just 35% had wills. A solid will drafted with the guidance of an estate planning attorney may   prove to be some of the best money you ever spend and may save your heirs from expensive headaches linked to probate and ambiguity.

2. Complement your will with related documents. Some kind of trust or multiple trusts, durable financial and medical powers of attorney, a living will and other items are essential documents to have. A living will makes your wishes known when it comes to life-prolonging medical treatments and takes the form of a directive. A durable medical power of attorney authorizes another party to make medical decisions for you (including end-of-life decisions) if you are unable to make these decisions.

3. Review your beneficiary designations. Who is the beneficiary of your IRA – 401(k) – annuity or life insurance policy? When it comes to retirement accounts and life insurance, many people don’t know that beneficiary designations take priority over bequests made in wills and living trusts. If you long ago named a child who is now estranged as the beneficiary of your life insurance policy, he or she will receive the death benefit when you die – regardless of what your will states. Some estate planners recommend that you review your beneficiaries every two years. In some states, you can authorize transfer-on-death designations. This is a tactic against probate: TOD designations may permit the ownership transfer of securities (and in a few states, forms of real property, vehicles and other assets) immediately at your death to the person designated. TOD designations are sometimes referred to as “will  substitutes” but they usually pertain only to securities.

4. Create asset and debt lists. You should provide your heirs with list of assets and debts – a “map” they can follow should you pass away, so they will be aware of the little details of your finances. Lists should include all real property and personal property assets including the value of each property. Also, detail your bank and brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, credit cards and any other forms of investment plus any insurance policies.

5. Think about consolidating your “stray” IRAs and bank accounts. Consolidation means fewer account statements, less paperwork for your heirs and fewer administrative fees to bear.

6. Select a reliable executor. Who will administer your estate when the time comes? Consider these facts. Is there a possibility that your named executor might die before you do? How well does he or she comprehend financial matters or the basic principles of estate law? What if you change your mind about the way you want your assets distributed – visit your lawyer and make it legal. Your executor should have access or copies of your will, forms of power of attorney, any kind of healthcare proxy or living will, and any trusts you create. In fact, unless there are reasons you want to avoid this process, your loved ones referenced in these documents should also receive copies.

8. Talk to the professionals. Do-it-yourself estate planning is not recommended, especially if your estate is complex enough to trigger financial, legal and emotional issues among your heirs upon your passing. If you own a business, have a blended family, have kids with special needs, worry about dementia, or can’t stand the thought of probate delays plus probate fees whittling away at assets you have amassed…well, these are all good reasons to create and maintain an estate planning strategy.

Majority of Women 50+ Say Aging is Better Than Expected (March/April 2011)

The National Center on Women and Aging (NCWA) at Brandeis University.

Married women 50 and over and never-married women are in better financial shape than those who are widowed or divorced. A majority of women age 50 and over believe getting older is better than they expected, according to a poll by The National Center on Women and Aging (NCWA) at Brandeis University. The national poll also reports that nearly a third think aging is worse than expected.

“The findings challenge the stereotype that aging is an unpleasant experience. Yet, we still have to be concerned about the plight of women who aren’t married, more of whom say aging is worse than they expected. They represent a major, emerging demographic cohort, especially as fewer women marry and divorce rates remain high,” said Phyllis Mutschler, associate professor and director of The National Center on Women and Aging at Brandeis University.

Married women are significantly more likely to report aging being better than expected than previously married (widowed or divorced) and never-married women, according to the poll.
• 55 percent of married women say aging is better than expected; 30 percent say it’s worse.
• 45 percent of previously married women say it’s better than expected; 34 percent say it’s worse.
• 55 percent of never-married women say aging is better than expected, compared with
40 percent who say it’s worse.

The Money Issue Continues to Loom – and Cause Stress
While 32 percent of women age 50 and over do believe they have saved enough for future needs, nearly as many (30 percent) say they don’t have enough income to cover their expenses and have nothing left to save. One in five women age 50 and older say their financial situation will be worse in five to 10 years, and 46 percent say it will be the same. Only a third (32 percent) say it will be better. According to the survey, a significant portion of women 50 and over are already having difficulty affording essentials, namely healthcare and utilities: Nearly a third of 50+ women are having a hard time affording prescriptions. One in five women 50 and over struggle to pay for home maintenance, and nearly as many are having difficulty paying for heating, fuel, electricity and property taxes.

Compounding the financial stress is the fact that nearly half of retired women age 50 and older believe it would be almost impossible to find suitable employment if working became necessary.
Divorced and Widowed Women: More Financial Stress Than Married and Never-Married Women 
“Interestingly, we found that married women and never-married women have a much more optimistic view of their financial futures than previously married women — those who have been widowed or divorced. Never-married women are the least likely to report having difficulty paying for prescription drugs.
Women 50 and Over Call Themselves Generally Healthy, But a Third Say a Health Issue Limits Daily Activity
The vast majority of women 50 and over – 70 percent – say their physical health is excellent, very good or good. A third say their physical health is fair or poor.

Nonetheless, nearly a third of women 50 and over say that a health problem limits important daily activities. A quarter of over-50 women can’t exercise, and about one in five are limited in terms of housework and working.

Many Older Women Remain In The Work Force — And For Good Reason

A majority of the women who are age 70 and over who still work say they will never retire, and about a quarter of working women between 50 and 69 say they will never retire. “The survey also confirmed that women age 50 and older who work are healthier and have a more positive attitude than women who do not work now,” said Kathy Burnes, research associate at The National Center on Women and Aging.

Priority Public Policy Issues 
When asked to express which public policy concerns are most important, virtually all women 50 and over focused on health and age related issues:
• 94 percent said making prescription drugs
more affordable is a key concern.
• 91 percent said curing cancer is a key concern.
• 87 percent said improving the availability and affordability of child and elder care is a key concern.
• 86 percent said eliminating poverty
among older women is a key concern.

About the Survey The survey was conducted via telephone over the course of three weeks, Aug. 7 through Aug. 25, 2002, among 1,001 women age 50 and older. Respondents were selected from more than a million pre-screened households demographically representative of the U.S. population. The margin of error on a sample size of 1,000 at a 95 percent confidence level is 3.1 percent. The study was conducted in conjunction with Market Facts Consumer Panel and was funded by the U.S. Administration on Aging. Demographic characteristics included age, employment status, living situation, education, race/ethnicity and marital status.

The National Center on Women and Aging at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management is dedicated to developing solutions and strategies to the challenges confronting women as they age. The center draws attention to the evolving issues that confront women as they age through community education, research, and policy analysis.
http://www.heller.brandeis.edu/national/poll_exsum.pdf

21 Meaningful Ways to Make Meaningful Connections
by Melinda Blau (November/December 2010)

An African proverb tells us, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

The need to belong–to feel that you have people to turn to–is so basic and so critical to mental and physical health that some scientists put it right up there with thirst and hunger. And just as we drink to quench our thirst or eat to soothe a growling stomach, we also can stave off social isolation. Here are 21 ways to forge vital connections.

Think of Life as a Social Supermarket. Sample something from every aisle. Life would be dull if we ate only steak and never tried anything else. It’s the same with your social connections.

Value All Your Relationships. Those closest to us are familiar, satisfying, nourishing, and dependable. They enable us to survive. But to thrive, we also need “consequential strangers.” They are the casual relations you find in the other aisles of the social supermarket. Your coworkers, neighbors, yoga teacher, pastor, gym buddies, and the nice lady at the dry cleaners. They all can iintroduce you to new ideas and novel experiences.
Variety Is the Spice of Living. Interacting with a variety of people boosts your immune system and increases your chances of success. Studies also suggest that diverse social ties keep your mind sharp and might even help you live longer. From each person we get something different: inspiration, information, a unique bond, novelty, or momentary companionship.

Don’t Worry About Being a “Good Connector”. Certainly, some of us are warmer, more outgoing, and better conversationalists than others. But the social supermarket is open to all of us, because we already have consequential strangers in our lives–in fact, they outnumber our intimates!

People We Hardly Know Allow Us to Try on New Selves. With consequential strangers, we’re often freer and more expressive than we are at home, where loved ones tend to typecast us. We can stretch ourselves with acquaintances and move beyond familiar roles.

Become Aware of Your “Social Convoy”. By looking at the entourage of intimates and consequential strangers you’ve picked up as you’ve traveled through life, you begin to see your past and present through new eyes.You notice that in small and great ways, all your relationships matter. It helps you to know that you’re not alone.

Customize Your Connections. We all have to make complex decisions on a daily basis. And in a crisis it’s even harder. This is why we need to regularly recruit new convoy members who have the expertise, experience, or empathy we need. It also expands our circle of friends and acquaintances.

When the Going Gets Rough, Turn to an Objective Observer. A prolonged job hunt, a chronic health condition, a sudden reversal of fortune–these are times that try our souls. Also, those you know best might have too many opinions or too much emotion about your life challenges. Find an outsider who’s been there. It’s often easier to accept help and reveal our anxieties to people we know less well.

Keep Developing Your Social Muscle. With practice, connecting becomes second nature. Make the most of casual encounters as you go through your day. Say a few words to the checker at the supermarket. Call him or her by name. Make small talk with your dentist’s receptionist. All these small encounters in the world can strengthen your ability to communicate and, ultimately, help you build relationships that make your life easier.

Make the Most of Phone Conversations. Instead of becoming defensive or angry when you’re on with the cable service, phone provider, or credit card company, remember that the voice at the other end is coming from a real person. Genuinely inquiring, “How are you today?” or “What’s the weather where you are?” can start a conversation out in a positive way. Acknowledging the other person’s position or frustration can change the direction of a bad conversation.

Frequent Places That Encourage Easy Connections. Relationships begin in environments that are safe, welcoming, and conducive to schmoozing–a park, a beauty salon, a café, a community center. These are places where you can be yourself. Think of them as “being spaces.” You can choose not to engage and just watch others connect, but you can also make small, friendly gestures.

Give a Stranger a Moment’s Thought. Be nice. Smile, nod, say hello. The exchange will be probably pleasant (because you are). You might never see the person again, but if you do, you will have made a new acquaintance, and you can pick up where you left off.

Use the Internet to Increase Connections. Remember that the internet is often a “being space,” too. Millions have found their way to internet communities and social networking sites. Research suggests that it’s a good way to get to know someone. People who met first in chat rooms felt they knew more about each other than those who met first in person.

Set Intentions About People. You Want to Meet Set your intention. If you are clear about the kind of connections you want to make, you’re more likely to make them. Some people who visit wi-fi coffee shops are “placemakers” who use casual moments of interaction to start up a conversation, whereas “true mobiles” stare at their computer screens. Placemakers are far more likely to meet someone new; true mobiles almost never do.

Collaborate Across Boundaries. If you want to be more creative and productive, reach outside of your comfort zone–outside of your family, outside of your division. Connect with someone who has a different job, works in a different industry, lives in another country, or has a completely different background.

Consequential Strangers. Can Inspire Us in Many Ways Remember that “aha” moments most often happen with people you hardly know. Our intimates know what we know, whereas consequential strangers, who come from different worlds, introduce us to new ideas and bring a fresh perspective to the table.

Seek Common Ground. Even in the face of another’s differences, look for similarities. It’s not always easy to relate to someone who comes from a dissimilar background and doesn’t think the way you think, but it’s worth the effort. Finding even a small patch of common ground can help you transcend your differences and ultimately deepen the relationship.

Make a Connection with Someone Older or Younger. Connect with at least one consequential stranger who is twenty-odd years older or younger. Our peers were shaped by the same historical events as we were; our children and parents are too close to act as guides. But an acquaintance of a different generation can provide a window into another phase of life. Knowing them also helps us be less judgmental about people of a generation other than our own.

Contribute to Your Community. Make a social “investment,” by committing to a project or interest. Social involvement makes us live longer and makes us nicer people to be around! Get active in your community, or seek out an online group of people who support the causes you support. You might not like everyone in the group, but you’re bound to make a few lasting connections.

Give Yourself Permission Not to Connect. There are times when we need to be with familiar faces. Research shows that when we have a sense that time is running out–right before a move, in the face of illness or tragedy, during political or economic upheaval–we prefer to hunker down with our loved ones. When we feel like we have all the time in the world, we want the novelty and excitement of meeting new people.

All Our Connections Teach Us–Even the Unpleasant Ones. Clearly, some relationships are easier than others–and easier to leave when they’re not. When a tennis partner cheats repeatedly, you find another game. If a store owner is rude, you bring your business elsewhere. But with a partner, a longtime friend, or a trying coworker with whom you have to collaborate, there may be no easy exit. In those cases, try to figure out what role you play in the difficulty (no relationship is one-sided!) and what you are there to learn. Changing your attitude can often transform a bad relationship into one that is at least bearable, if not better.

Melinda Blau is the author of CONSEQUENTIAL STRANGERS: THE POWER OF PEOPLE WHO DON’T SEEM TO MATTER BUT REALLY DO and the voice of the Consequential Strangers blog. She has been researching and reporting about relationships and social trends since the seventies. She has written more than eighty magazine pieces and a dozen books, including the best-selling BABY WHISPERER series.

According to psychologist Melinda Blau, all relationships span a continuum, with stranger at one end and soul mate at the other. Consequential strangers are relationships outside of family and close friends. They occupy the vast territory beyond strangers but just short of friend. They’re the people from whom we get information, who expose us to new ideas and experience. They lead us to opportunity, help us stay healthy, and, in general, make for a better quality of life.

Blau said, “My own experience, particularly a move from New York City to Northampton, MA, initially motivated my interest in this subject. Because when I moved, I realized that a whole category of relationships fell out of my life–the people I’d have a conversation with in the hallway of my apartment building or on the streets, shop keepers, and other acquaintances who I’d never invite for the weekend. And yet, I missed them.”

Blau believes that even Christmas cards, according to a study completed by psychologist Karen L. Fingerman, PhD, are sent mostly to consequential strangers. She said, “They were part of my daily comings and goings. I referred to them as acquaintances, but when I came across an academic paper describing consequential strangers, I finally had a word for it! I loved the term because it captured a paradox of relationships—that we can have people in our lives who are almost strangers but who really matter. They are, in fact, another category altogether: consequential strangers. I knew from my own life how important these people really were.”

Twitter.com/melindablau
www.consequentialstrangers.com 
http://motheru.com 
blog: www.consequentialstrangers.com Reprinted with author’s permission

Be Safe Not Sorry (November/December 2010)

  1. The holiday season is prime time for criminals who have more targets carrying extra money with lowered awareness. Protect yourself and lessen your chances
    of being a victim.
  2. STAY ALERT… Pay attention to your surroundings – who is in front,
    behind and around you. Do not get distracted.
  3. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS … If you feel uncomfortable in an
    environment, leave immediately.
  4. PLAN YOUR ROUTE BEFORE YOU LEAVE … Know where you are going and how you are going to get there. Stick to the main streets if possible. Do not always drive the same route. Let another person know where you are going, especially if you are traveling alone, and/or on a long distance trip. Know where to find gas stations on your trip. Only stop at busy areas.
  5. PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION … Reserve a cab over the phone. When the driver arrives ask, “Who did you come to pickup?” Avoid riding the bus or cab alone at night. Have your money ready in pocket so that your wallet remains out of sight. Always wait for the bus in a well-lit area near other people. Try to arrange for someone to meet you at the bus stop when you reach your destination. If the bus is empty or it is after dark, stay as near to the driver as possible.
  6. WALKING ALONE… Stay away from quiet or poorly lit streets or isolated parking lots. Avoid walking past stationary cars that have the engine running and people sitting inside. Always take the route you know best and stick to well lit busy streets. If a vehicle pulls up suddenly alongside of you, turn and walk in the other direction.
  7. CARRY YOUR CELL PHONE IN YOUR POCKET… in case to avoid transmission of radioactivity to your body. If for any reason you lose your purse, you can still call for help.
  8. PARK YOUR CAR… in a well-lighted space as close to your destination as possible. Lock it. Close the windows. Take the keys with you when you leave.
  9. GETTING IN YOUR CAR … Always have your key in your hand. Look in the windows of the front and back seat before getting in. People can/will hide in your vehicle (if you leave it unlocked) and surprise you once you are driving. It happens all the time and your options are slim to none once you are in this situation. If someone is in the car with a gun, do not drive off! Instead, gun the engine and speed into anything – the building, another car – anything to attract attention. Before getting into your vehicle, check for tampering – i.e. flat or missing tires, gas cap opened, crack in a window, etc.
    STOP IT! Women are always trying to be sympathetic. STOP. It may get you raped or killed. Ted Bundy, the serial killer, was a good-looking, well-educated man, who ALWAYS played on the sympathies of unsuspecting women. Call the police if you have suspicions about anything.
  10. DO NOT HAND IT TO HIM … If a robber asked for your purse/wallet. Toss it away from you and run screaming like mad in the other direction.
    Source: thenonprofits.com/safety; snopes.com
  11. SAFE & SOUND recommends checking the link below for drug/gun offenses in the city’s seven police districts to learn who is doing illegal activity in your neighborhoods www.safesound.org. Need help setting up a block watch or other neighborhood concerns; call Liz Hammer, Havenwoods Economic Development Corp., 414-431-2276

Clues and Cues for Your Holiday Blues(September/October 2010)

Clues and CuesTis the season to be jolly! Or is it? For many people, the holidays are anything but. Depression and loneliness can turn what is supposed to be an upbeat time of year into a dreadful period that some would rather skip completely. Reasons for holiday blues are as varied as ornaments on a tree. If you experience dread thinking about the upcoming season it may help you to determine the culprit so that you take steps to alleviate the blues. Here are some of the most common clues or indications of holiday blues followed by the cues or problem solving stimulus.

Unrealistic expectations
Clues – Many people struggle to live up to the glorious images that bombard us. A mild brainwashing occurs and we hypnotically buy into the hype that without the perfect decorations, attire, recipes, and trendy gifts, we just don’t measure up. We set ourselves up for failure, because it is the rare person that can achieve that state of perfection!

Cues – Remember, most of these images are used to sell products. Set realistic holiday goals that fulfill your needs but don’t overwhelm you. Remember “less is more” and for those around you, they won’t remember how wonderful you looked, how great you decorated, or how much you spent. They will remember how you made them feel.

Financial pressure
Clues – If you have had a financial setback, it can be especially difficult to face the fact that there is less money to spend.
Cues – Keep in mind that many people are spending far less than in years past. But the gift of “time” is far more valuable to the average person than a gift of monetary value. Consider homemade gifts, photographs, meals or poetry.

Physical and emotional fatigue
Clues – Shopping, wrapping, baking, visiting can turn holiday joy into dread. Add to the mix all the calories we consume and it’s no wonder we feel exhausted.

Cues – Repeat after me, “Focus, Delegate, and Let Go”. Focus on a few of the most important aspects of the holiday season, things you just can’t do without. Delegate tasks to family members and friends; it makes them feel valued! Let go of the rest.  Don’t get caught up in the mad rush. Your good health is the greatest gift you can give anyone.

Outdated traditions
Clues – Financial situations change, families dynamics change, and trends change. But traditions are an inherited, established pattern, and the fact is that some of these can be as uncomfortable as an ill-fitting shoe!

Cues – It may be time to ditch traditions that augment your blues, and create new traditions that better suit your personality.  Take the family to a movie. Visit a nursing home. Go out dancing. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Round up some people who celebrate alone and bring them to your house to mingle. Whatever it takes to keep your spirits up and keep your blues at bay.My traditional family unit changed through my own divorce several years ago. Therefore, our traditional holiday celebrations needed an overhaul. With three children, their spouses, and five grandchildren one of my favorite new traditions is building gingerbread houses with five sets of little fingers. The dining room is covered with icing, crumbs, gummy candy, and lots of love, laughter and lifelong memories.

Holiday Mememories(November/December 2010)

Mae Bell Richmond-Harris
Milwaukee

It was spring of 1980. My baby was two weeks old when my husband drowned while on a fishing trip leaving me alone to raise our 15 children “ten boys and five girls. Ms. Lula Chamber was working in the mayor’s office at that time. She was responsible for us having the best Christmas ever. She called the media and also got a church to adopt my family. We had so many gifts that they were stacked almost to the ceiling. Ms. Chambers and I became good friends. I’ll always love her.

Lilly Saunders
Chicago

Christmas of 2008 was the most memorable Christmas of my life. My family had been so fragmented. My son Christopher was offered the opportunity to pursue his dream of traveling and entertaining so he went for it and moved to Helsinki, Finland. He married a girl there. He also had a son in Chicago. His son here is very distant, and I don’t get to see him often. My daughter Sharia’s son lives in Detroit. I don’t see him often. Needless to say, I see my grandson in Finland even less. Though it hardly seemed possible, my prayers were that my family would all be together. God worked it out beautifully. My heart sang for joy! ” We shopped, shared gifts, saw a play and had a huge Christmas dinner. It was wonderful, the way circumstances came together to make it all possible and reaffirmed my belief that, nothing’s too hard for God.”

Carolyn Reynolds Stampley
Milwaukee
One of my favorite memories of Thanksgiving was the year we celebrated the birth of our first grandchild in 1993. As family members arrived from far and near, all attention was upon each as they made their grand entrance. My parents, Vernon and Beatrice Reynolds, hosted this event in their home. My father is deceased, and my mother is not well, but I cherish every moment of that memory and I am eternally grateful.

Marcelle M. Haddix, PhD
Marcelle M. Haddix, PhD

Marcelle M. Haddix, PhD
Assistant Professor,
Reading and Language Arts
School of Education, Syracuse University Syracuse, New York

Almost 60 years after the historic Brown versus the Board of Education decision to integrate schools in the United States, Black children are still falling behind, and nobody seems to care. At least, there seems to be a lack of a sense of urgency among many, even with government reforms like No Child Left Behind and now Race to the Top. This is significant given that it is well documented that there exists an achievement gap between African American children and their White peers. National and state assessments consistently report that black males, in particular, are performing lower than other groups. We also know that African American males are disproportionately placed in special education, school suspensions, and expulsions and leading in school dropout rates, unemployment, and juvenile incarceration.

Just in the past decade, there have been several public flare-ups in the Black community that have pointed the finger at and blamed parents for the current state of the welfare of African American children. However, I believe that all parents want the best for their children; they want to insure that their children are equitably served by the education system. But, parents need support too. It does take a village to raise a child. The 50+ generation can help to transform the educative and social experiences of young parents and children today. We need the wisdom and support of those who have successfully raised children and navigated the school system. We have to see “other people’s children” as our own and reclaim our cultural traditions of “other mothering” and caring for one another.

So, how can Black Women 50+ do their part? Volunteering Your Time and Resources
There are many ways to get involved. Tutor young people after school. Organize school supplies and book drives for children in your neighborhoods and at your churches. Attend parent/teacher conferences with students when their parents’ work schedules conflict.

Promoting Literacy in Your Community
Conduct read alouds and story times at your local library. Become a reading buddy for a beginning reader at your local school. Host an African-American Read In during the month of February (for more info, go to: http://www.ncte.org/action/aari). Make sure that young people in your community understand the importance of literacy and develop a lifelong love for reading.

Mentoring “Other People’s Children”
Sometimes all it takes is regular one-on-one time with a caring adult to inspire a young person for a lifetime. Connect with your local mentoring programs and learn about ways to become a mentor.

Educating the Next Generation of Parents
Offer parenting workshops or help to facilitate support groups for working and/or single moms in your communities.

Being Aware and Speaking Out
Know what is going on in your neighborhood schools. Be aware of teacher quality, school safety issues, and the physical conditions of schools. Stay current on national and local statistics on the performance of African American students in education. Attend Parent & Teacher Association and School Board meetings and lend your voice.

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