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One issue which frequently concerns people who are considering an overseas move, whether it is for retirement or other reasons, is how they can access their money while living in another country. This week we have a guest blog from Jon Delacruz with icomparefx.com, a fund transfer company which specializes in helping people move money from one country to another.
Because of the interest many Americans have in retiring overseas, sometimes permanently and sometimes just for a few months or years, I felt this information would be extremely helpful for my readers.
A Guide to Moving Money Across Borders When Retiring Overseas
The U.S. Social Security Administration sends more than 500,000 payments every month to Americanswho live outside of the country. This is a considerable rise from the 400,000 retiree payments that were sent overseas in 2016. There are around 247,000 British nationals over 65 years of agewho live in European Union (EU) countries, and around 85,000 people in the same age bracket from the EU who live in the UK. These numbers show that a significant number of people from different countries retire overseas.
When you choose to retire in another country, planning your finances becomes crucial. After all, you do not want to end up in a foreign land with access to less money than you originally figured you would have. Fortunately, moving money across borders is no longer as time consuming, complicated, or expensive as it used to be until the turn of the last century.
Receiving State Pensions
Depending on the country where you have lived and worked throughout your life, you might be able to receive your state-sponsored pension payments in a foreign country. All you need to do to find out if you qualify is get in touch with the relevant authorities in your country.
More than half a million Americans reside out of the country and receive some kind of Social Security benefit, including disabled and retired workers, as well as spouses, children, widows, and widowers. The U.S. government considers you to be out of the country if you spend more than 30 days in a row in a foreign land, and you may receive your Social Security payments overseas, provided you are eligible.
Retirees who plan to move outside of the U.S. should inform Social Security about their travel dates to find out if their Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will be affected in any way.An online tool gives you easy means to determine if you may continue receiving your Social Security benefits outside of the country.
If you are a citizen of the UK, you stand to receive your state pension no matter which country you choose for your retirement. However, you will not receive increases if it is a country with which the UK does not have a social security agreement.
Areas where you will continue receiving increases include the European Economic Area (EEA), Switzerland, Gibraltar, Jersey, Isle of Man, Guernsey, the U.S., and most of the Caribbean. Some of the exceptions where retirees from the UK do not receive pension increases include Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, and Pakistan. Thecomplete list is made available online.
Should You Receive Your Pension Payments Overseas?
If you plan to receive your pension payments from your country’s government directly into an overseas bank account, the cost of the transfer will depend on the service provider used to process the transfer. However, if you get your pension payment into a local bank account, there is no exchange of currencies involved.
In this scenario, you may then use an online overseas money transfer company to move your money from the bank account in your home country to a bank account in your new country of residence. However, you will need to consider the cost of maintaining a bank account in your home country.
Handling the Money You Have Saved
When time comes to relocate, do you plan to take your savings with you? If so, you will need to determine what you plan to do with the money in your bank as well as your investments in the form of stocks and bonds.
The maximum amount you may transfer depends on where you live. For instance, transferring major currencies such as U.S. dollars, British pounds, Australian dollars, euros, and Japanese yen come with little to no restrictions. However, you might have to worry about government regulations when it comes to regulated currencies such as the South African rand, Chinese yuan, and Korean won.
Limits may also apply depending on the service provider you select. For example, some banks and overseas money transfer companies have daily, weekly, monthly, and even annual transfer limits in place.
Banks or Overseas Money Transfer Companies
Turning to your bank to transfer money overseas may seem convenient, but it might not be your best bet. Most banks tend to add noticeable markups to existing mid-market exchange rates, and the rates they apply on the transfers they process are often less than desirable.
Specialist money transfer companies such as TransferWise, WorldFirst, WorldRemit, OFX, and Currencies Direct are able to provide bank-beating rates consistently by leveraging technology and keeping overhead costs to a minimum. While a small difference in exchange rates might not seem like much, it can have a considerable effect if you are transferring a large sum.
Banks are also known to charge steep transfer fees, whereas you end up paying little to no fees when working with a specialist money transfer company.
Factors to Consider
Given that there are a number of overseas money transfer companies from which to choose, it is important that you pay attention to different factors. Start by making a shortlist of companies that facilitate transfers between both of the countries in question, because lists of supported countries and currencies tend to vary from one service provider to the next.
Cost effectiveness. The cost of moving money across borders depends on more than just the exchange rate that applies on the transfer. Some companies are known to charge a percentage of the transfer amount as fees, whereas some others have fixed per-transfer fees in place. Some offer fee-free transfers, and some have fee-free threshold limits. The receiving bank may charge a currency conversion fee, and you may also incur additional fees when paying using a debit or credit card.
Waiting for a better rate. If you feel that the exchange rate might swing in your favor in the near future, you might consider transferring your money using a market order. In this case, you set a target rate, and when it reaches the desired level, your transfer goes through automatically.
Lock in the rate. If you feel that the existing exchange rate is to your liking, you may use a forward contract to lock it in place for a transfer you wish to carry out in the future. Several money transfer companies let you lock in exchange rates for up to six months, and some even let you lock in rates for up to a year.
Negotiate. Almost all money transfer companies add slight markups to prevailing mid-market rates. As a result, negotiating for a better rate is not out of place, especially if you plan to carry out a large value transfer.
Conclusion: Moving money across borders when retiring overseas presents you with multiple alternatives. No matter whether you wish to receive state pension payments to take your own money with you, selecting the right method and a suitable service provider can result in noticeable savings.
Jon Delacruz works as a researcher and mystery shopper withiCompareFX, a website that lets its users compare the world’s leading overseas money transfer companies. Outside of work, he likes to explore new sounds from different genres of music.
If you are interested in learning more about where to retire in the United States and overseas, financial planning, Social Security, Medicare, common health issues in retirement and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles on this blog.
While all of us rely on occasional visits to our physician to get an official health evaluation, the truth is that the ultimate responsibility for our health is up to us. We are the ones who need to pay attention to our bodies and watch for any symptoms which could indicate a problem. We are the ones who need to practice good preventive measures to keep our bodies functioning as smoothly as possible. We are the ones who need to be able to concisely report any suspected problems to our doctors during the 15 minute annual appointment they allow us.
However, most of us have no idea what we can actually do to evaluate our health. How do we recognize suspicious changes to our body? How can we keep our body operating smoothly? Start by talking to your doctor about any special self-exams or preventive measures which would be specific to your medical conditions. In addition, you may want to take the following actions. The suggestions below came from my healthcare provider, Kaiser Permanente, or were recommended in the August/September 2017 issue of AARP Magazine or the September 2017 issue of the AARP Bulletin. I've pulled them all together in one location here.
Check for Breast Cancer - Breast cancer can occur in both men and women, although it is more common in women. Both men and women should do monthly breast self-exams while in the shower, checking for lumps, discharges, rashes or unusual changes in the breast area.
Check for Skin Cancer - Even one bad sunburn as a child could make you more vulnerable to skin cancer as an adult. Everyone should look for changes to their skin. In addition, run your fingers over your skin to see if there are areas where it feels different. Check for patches which feel rough, spots of shiny pink or brown bumps with raised borders, or moles which have changed shape or color.
Check your Eyes - Has your sight suddenly changed? Do you have blurry spots in your vision? Has your peripheral vision decreased? Does your lower eyelid droop? Is their a bump on your eyelid with missing eyelashes? All of these could indicate serious problems which should be reported to your eye doctor quickly.
Check your Hair - Are you losing more hair than normal? Everyone loses some hair every day. However, if the rate of hair loss suddenly increases, it could indicate anemia or thyroid disease. Also, check your scalp for signs of skin cancer.
Check your Heart - There are several self-tests you should do periodically to make sure everything is OK. Buy a blood pressure monitor and check your pressure regularly. Unless your doctor gives you other instructions, strive for blood pressure under 130/80. At the same time, check your resting heart rate. Your blood pressure monitor may do it for you, or you can do it manually by feeling your pulse in your neck or wrist. Ideally, you should have a heart rate between 60 and 100 beats per minute. If you are very fit, your resting heart rate may be slightly under 60. Report high blood pressure, an extremely high or low heart rate, or an irregular heartbeat to your doctor.
Check your Motor Skills or Ability to Move - Can you walk one meter (or 4.37 yards) at your normal pace in four seconds or less? If not, you may want to spend more time walking, with the goal of increasing your normal walking speed. Faster walkers tend to live longer. You may also want to test your ability to sit on the floor and get up again. Your goal is to be able to do that with reasonable ease and without outside help, relying on just your own hands and knees. Being able to do that comfortably is also linked to better health.
In addition to your health self-tests, you will want to make sure you take advantage of all the preventive measures possible. Most of them are covered by Medicare or private insurance, with little or no co-pays. Below are some which are recommended:
Get an Annual Physical - At least once a year you should see a doctor and have your blood tested for cholesterol and any abnormalities which could indicate the early stages of a variety of diseases. The earlier an abnormality is detected, the easier it is to treat. It is amazing how many health issues can now be detected through a simple blood test, so make sure you have yours checked at least once a year. If you have been keeping up with your health self-exams, bring your results with you when you see your doctor. Also, write down any questions you have for your doctor so you remember to ask them during your appointment. Between the results of your self-tests, the questions you ask, and your blood work, the results of your annual physical will be much more meaningful.
Innoculations - According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC), only 1/3 of people over the age of 65 have gotten the shingles shot; less than 2/3 have had a tetanus shot in the past 10 years; only 2/3 have had the pneumococcal vaccine; and only 2/3 of people between the ages of 65 and 74 received the flu vaccine last year. These inoculations can save lives and also prevent misery. Even if you had a shingles shot or pneumonia shot five or more years ago, you may want to ask your doctor whether or not you should get the updated, more protective versions. Most healthcare providers recommend these innoculations. Check with yours to make sure you do not have a healthcare problem which would prevent you from getting one of these vaccines.
Get recommended screening tests - If your doctor recommends you get a mammogram, colonoscopy, or other screening test, be sure to follow their recommendation. Colonoscopies can actually prevent many cases of colon cancer, since doctors remove precancerous polyps when they perform the procedure. Screening tests can catch cancer and other diseases early and make them easier to treat.
Follow your heathcare providers' instructions for maintaining your health - This could mean losing weight, following a special diet, stopping smoking, cutting back on alcohol, getting more exercise or making other recommended lifestyle changes. Simple changes can improve both the quality and length of your life.
While taking the above steps cannot guarantee you will have perfect health for your entire life, they do increase your odds of leading a healthier and longer life. They also make you an active participant in maintaining your health. Ultimately, you are the person who knows your body best and you are the one responsible for seeing that it gets the best care possible.
If you are interested in learning more about common health issues affecting baby boomers, retirement planning, where to retire, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.
Most of us have a vague understanding of how the microbes in our guts can affect our health. We may eat yogurt to keep things running smoothly and some of us even understand that probiotics in yogurt and other foods are especially important after we have had a course of antibiotics, so we can restore the good bacteria in our gut. However, researchers are discovering that healthy gut microbes are more important than they initially understood. In fact, maintaining good bacteria in your system can protect you from many health problems.
This week, we have a guest post from Jennifer Chin who has studied microorganisms in our digestive track and how wasabi and other healthy foods can provide your body with the important probiotics and prebiotics it needs in order to function at its best. As the author of this blog, I especially appreciated how much scientific research she included in her helpful guest post.
Understanding the Importance of Your Gut Microbiome
Meet Your Microbiome: Your Gut and Your Health
Why Your Gut Needs Daily Attention
Think you're browsing the web alone right now? Think again. The human body contains around 100 trillion cells, though only one in ten of these is truly human. The remainder are made up of microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Individually, these microorganisms are called ‘microbiota,’ and collectively they’re known as your ‘microbiome'.
And, as you’re about to see, your microbiome has a substantial impact on your physical and mental health.
The vast and diverse microbiota that call our bodies home can be found on the skin, in our intimate parts, in our mouths, and, most of all, in our guts, where they feast on a constant supply of nutrients. In total, our microbiome weighs around two kilograms and is highly specific to each individual. As more and more scientific findings come to light, the medical community is beginning to recognize the human digestive system as a universe unto itself.
The Basic Microbiome Functions & Components
Our microbiota carry out important functions within our bodies. The most well-known include producing vitamins K and B, and aiding the digestive process, especially with the breakdown of certain foods the small intestine finds problematic on its own. Our microbiota also help us fight nasty microorganisms and prevent them from becoming pathogenic, or capable of causing disease, thus maintaining intestinal integrity and healthy intestinal mucosa.
In other words, our immune system very much depends on the barrier that our microbiome form inside us.
Our guts contain the largest number of bacteria and widest variety of species. It’s estimated that around 4,000 to 5,000 species of bacteria live in the human gut. Some of these bacteria are neutral, meaning they take up space but don’t do anything in particular to boost health. Some are negative, and some are absolutely imperative for good health.
Fungi, particularly yeast, are also in abundance in the human gut. The Candida species (responsible for causing vaginal and oral thrush) can quickly become pathogenic in immunocompromised individuals.
The gut is also home to different viruses, especially bacterial ones that are responsible for colonizing various bodily sites. These viruses have been linked to some diseases, but more often than not, they live quite peacefully in little bacterial communities.
The Microbiome’s Impact on Physical Health
While our microbiome may seem small, it can indeed have a mighty impact on our health. According to a new studypublished by JCI Insight, gut flora could be blamed for arthritis and joint pain among obese people. Osteoarthritis is a side effect of obesity that plagues 31 million people in the United States. Previously thought to be a natural consequence of excessive stress on joints, the condition is now understood to be linked to bacteria in the gut.
Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical center have identified diet—and the direct effect it has on gut health—as a key driving force behind the debilitating disease. They found that lean mice had far less harmful bacteria in their guts than obese ones and that this bacteria was causing inflammation that lead to rapid joint deterioration. When the mice were supplied with prebiotic supplements, the negative symptoms were rapidly reversed and the joints of the obese mice quickly became indistinguishable from the lean mice—even though the mice did not shed weight!
Poor Gut Health Could Cause Heart Attacks
The curious relationship between the gut microbiome and atherosclerosis has recently been unearthed by researchers at Western University. Atherosclerosis is a condition that’s measured by the amount of plaque in the carotid arteries, and it is one of the leading causes of heart attack and stroke. A study found that patients with unexplained atherosclerosis (meaning that they did not present as high-risk) had higher levels of toxic metabolites produced by intestinal bacteria.
The study indicated that human gut flora played a pivotal role in an individual’s risk for developing atherosclerosis. This research is now paving the way for new dietary treatment options for patients at risk of developing the disease.
Gut Health and Crohn’s Disease
Poor gut health has also been linked to several autoimmune diseases, such as Crohn’s disease. Penn Medicine researchers have identified a single bacterial enzyme called ‘urease’ that’s responsible for an imbalance in gut flora leading to the painful inflammatory bowel. They discovered that wiping out a large portion of bacteria in the gut microbiome, then reintroducing a good bacteria that lacks urease, was effective in treating Crohn’s.
While the link between the enzyme and Crohn's disease is still not fully understood, the study reinforces the strong link between healthy gut flora and physiological health.
The Link Between Gut and Brain
Psychobiotics is a revolutionary new science that aims to examine the relationship between the bacteria in our gut and our mental health. Scientists now believe that our microbiome could be responsible for various psychological conditions, such as anxiety and depression.
Researchers have discovered that the gut regulates the brain’s fear processor. This is because the amygdala– the part of our brain responsible for fear responses – receives key signals from the gut. When examining mice, scientists found more acute reactions to fear in mice that lacked a healthy microbiome.
As the effect our microbiome has on our psychological health becomes more apparent, researchers hope to develop some experimental treatments for anxiety, such as dietary intervention through probiotics. Some experts have suggested "psychomicrobiotics" as a novel way to treat psychiatric disorders.
How to Nurture Gut Microbiome
The good news is that, while each of our diverse mini-universes of gut microbiota may be vastly different, there are certain steps we can take to ensure our gut is nurtured and able to thrive. Given the way in which our microbiome is linked to physiological and psychological wellness, it’s important to examine the ways in which we can influence it.
Photo credit: https://pxhere.com/en/photo/922773
Yoghurt & Oats Are a Great Source Of Probiotics And Prebiotics
Eat A Diverse Diet
A varied diet, consisting of fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, and antioxidants, can have a huge impact on your gut flora, in a very short amount of time. A poor, undiversified diet is the number one contributing factor in an unhealthy gut. Eating the same foods all the time leads to a lack of diversity within the gut bacteria because the diet is what provides the bacteria with the nutrients needed to grow and thrive.
Modern, western diets consist of high amounts of processed carbohydrates, fats, and sugars, all of which help bad bacteria to thrive while doing nothing for the good bacteria. Without a healthy population of diverse bacteria, the bad kinds can more easily become pathogenic. So instead of opting for convenience food or relying on the same foods all the time, change up what you eat, and opt for real foods.
Consume More Probiotics
While probiotics are a bit of a buzzword at the moment, with moms even buying specialized options for children, there’s a good reason for this trend. Consuming more probiotics can help increase the abundance of healthy bacteria in the gut. Fermented foods such as kimchi, yogurt, kefir, tempeh, and kombucha are all great sources of probiotics.
Add Some Prebiotics
Adding prebiotics to your diet is also a fantastic way of boosting the beneficial gut bugs. Prebiotics contain lots of fiber, which passes through the body undigested but helps promote growth for the microbiota. Good sources of prebiotics include bananas, asparagus, lentils, oats, and nuts.
How Our Gut Bacteria Got Here
As important as it is to consider what we can do to help our gut microbiome to thrive, it's equally crucial to be aware of the patterns and cultural norms which got our bodies off-track, to begin with.
Unhealthy Lifestyle & Dietary Choices
Poor lifestyle choices – such as drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, not getting enough sleep, skimping on fruits and vegetables, and a lack of exercise – have been shown to have a negative effect on gut health. As repetitive as the advice may seem, a conventionally healthy lifestyle that includes a good diet with added pro- and prebiotics, exercise, and sleep, is the best route to a diverse microbiome, which in turn means an abundance of health and happiness.
Fewer Natural Births
The womb provides a sterile environment for babies to develop. During birth, they come into contact with a whole host of beneficial bacteria, from the birthing canal, which then forms their unique microbiome. Babies born via cesarean are not exposed to their mother’s microflora and are often at a higher risk of developing autoimmune diseases and asthma later on.
Due to this, babies delivered via C-section today are often given a vaginal swab, to ensure they’re given the same protection as babies birthed vaginally. Healthy microbiome development in infancy also depends on babies receiving their mother’s colostrum through breastfeeding, a secretion rich in natural antibodies.
It also appears that our modern obsession with cleanliness is actually working against our health. Antibacterial agents and other harmful chemicals found in soaps and detergents are having an adverse effect on our gut microbiome. One study even linked overt cleanliness with an increase in autism.
To this end, perhaps letting children dig around outside is more beneficial than previously thought. Instead of keeping our kids in plastic bubbles, or automatically scrubbing them down at the first appearance of dirt, the old saying that “a little dirt never hurt” seems to prove a positive parenting motto.
One of the biggest destroyers of our microbiome is antibiotics. Antibiotics eradicate the pathogens that make us ill. Although they are completely necessary at times, general antibiotic prescriptions often aren’t even related to the offending strain, thus offering no health benefits, while bringing on a serious decline in gut flora. That is why experts are strongly urging doctors to curb extraneous prescriptions and to only suggest antibiotics for serious illnesses. The fewer and less diverse bacteria we have, the sicker we become, as individuals and as a society.
Only the Beginning
As the complex relationship between gut flora and health is slowly uncovered, we may be on the way to discovering another great hope in preventative medicine. These discoveries draw stark parallels with the complex consequences of the human genome project.
Unlike our genes, however, we can easily influence our microbiome, and we must learn to care for the microscopic colonizers which so drastically impact our physical and mental health. When considering your daily health and wellness regimen, be sure to also incorporate steps to keep your gut microbiome functioning at its best. After all, your body—and your mind—depend on it.
About the Author:
Bio: Jennifer Chin is the Community Manager at Your Wasabi in Abbotsford, BC. Our goal is to provide anyone, anywhere, with 100% genuine wasabi for their health. All of our wasabi is grown, dried, and processed on our farm in British Columbia, which is family owned and operated, and always will be. Find out more about Your Wasabi and how you can discover the hidden health benefits of wasabi here: yourwasabi.com
If you are interested in learning more about dealing with common medical problems as you age, Social Security, Medicare, where to retire, financial planning and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.
One issue which interests many Baby Boomers is whether or not they should try medical marijuana. The decision is further complicated by the fact that its general use is illegal under federal law, but legal for either medicinal or recreational use in at least 29 states. Currently, there is a great deal of confusion and uncertainty about the use of medical marijuana. What do you need to know?
Medical Uses of Marijuana
Despite the federal ban on most uses of medical marijuana, the FDA has approved two medications which contain cannabinoid chemicals from marijuana in pill form. These drugs are droabinol and nabilone. They contain THC and treat the nausea often associated with chemotherapy. They can also be used to increase the appetite of patients who have lost extreme amounts of weight due to AIDS.
Researchers are also studying the benefit of both of the two main cannabinoids, THC and CBD, to see if they can help the following conditions:
HIV/AIDS Inflammation Pain Seizures Substance abuse disorders Mental disorders Multiple Sclerosis (MS), which causes the eventual loss of muscle control
Anecdoctal Benefits of Medical Marijuana
Although researchers are still investigating whether or not medical marijuana will be beneficial for all the illnesses on the above list, many patients have personal stories about how medical marijuana has worked for them. In states which allow it, some physicians have even built a practice around helping patients choose the best product for them to try.
Among my own friends, one 75 year-old woman I know had a cap replaced on a tooth. The next day, she woke up with excruciating pain in her jaw. She went to see her general practitioner who said it appeared that the nerves in her jaw had been injured during the dental procedure. The doctor prescribed a medication for her. After a week, she realized it was not helping. She could barely eat or speak. She returned to the dentist who offered to remove the cap and redo his work. That terrified my friend who was concerned the dentist would only make things worse. She then went to a doctor who specialized in prescribing medical marijuana here in California, where it is legal. That doctor recommended lozenges containing CBD and instructed her to suck on one three times a day, while keeping the lozenge as close to the area around the tooth as possible. Two days later, the pain was gone and has not returned.
An 80 year-old man I know has multiple myeloma, a very painful type of cancer. He had reached the point where he could not sit up in a chair without having his head hang down near his knees. One evening we saw him and he was sitting up straight. I immediately asked what had changed. He said he was now taking a drop of a liquid infused with THC under his tongue twice a day, and it had dramatically lessened his pain. It has not cured his cancer, of course, but it is making his life more bearable. Because THC is the component which can make you high, he is not allowed to drive. However, because of his pain and weakness from his cancer, he had not been driving anyway.
Medical Marijuana and Cancer
There is some evidence that medical marijuana could eventually be used in the treatment of certain cancers. Some researchers have discovered that extracts from whole-plant marijuana can slow the growth of cancer cells in one type of brain cancer, but so far it has only been tested in rodents.
When THC and CBD extracts are combined with radiation, it has made the radiation more effective at killing cancer in mice. Obviously, much more research needs to be done, including future clinical trials in humans, to see if the rodent tests will extend to animals.
Why Isn't Medical Marijuana FDA Approved?
The FDA requires all medications prove their benefit by submitting to rigorous clinical trials involving hundreds or thousands of human subjects. While some trials are currently underway, it could be many years before they have met all the requirements to get FDA approval. During the process, as with most medications, researchers could also discover some risks, dangerous drug interactions, or situations in which marijuana is contraindicated or could do more harm than good.
Another concern is that people who are weak because of their age or illness could be more sensitive to the harmful effects of the medication. That will need to be determined in the human trials on a large number of people with various medical conditions.
Should You Try Medical Marijuana?
If you wish to give medical marijuana a try, it would be wise to do so under the advice of an experienced physician, as the people mentioned above did. You want to be sure you are taking the right product for your condition. Growing your own and assuming it will work for any condition which ails you is not a smart medical decision.
You should also determine whether or not it is legal in your state. You do not want to get into legal trouble.
In addition, you will need to find out whether the product you are using contains CBD or THC. If it contains CBD, it will not make you high and you can continue to drive. If it contains THC, you should not drive or use dangerous machinery, because you could get hurt or injure someone else.
Finally, you will want your doctor to continue to see you and evaluate your condition to decide if the medical marijuana is helping or whether you should try a different prescription medication.
If you are interested in learning more about common medical problems as you age, or other topics of interest to retirees such are financial planning, Social Security, Medicare and where to retire, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.
During the 1960s and 1970s, when many Baby Boomers were engaged in fighting a war in Vietnam, it is unlikely that most of them ever considered the possibility they would be returning in 50 or 60 years to retire to a tropical, beachside community in that country. However, that is exactly what has been quietly happening over the past few years. Where do they live in the country, and what is the appeal?
The Beautiful Bay at Nha Trang
While some people have moved to modern cities such as Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City, one of the more popular locations for American ex-patriots is Nha Trang. Today it is a gorgeous seaside resort town along the edge of one of the most beautiful bays in the world. The beach is 5.6 miles long and features jogging trails, paved footpaths, sculpture parks and lovely landscaping.
If you are remembering the Vietnam of the 1960s and early 1970s, then you will be stunned by how much has changed over the past five decades. For example, the beach at Nha Trang is lined with modern high-rise hotels and resorts, spas, seafood restaurants and casual bars and cafes. The photo below shows a modern Sheraton Hotel and Spa in Nha Trang.
There are major supermarkets where you can shop for a variety of food items, including some which are imported, as well as traditional neighborhood markets for local food.
Speaking of food, French-style baguettes are baked fresh daily in virtually every village in Vietnam. Street vendors sell them stuffed with omelettes or pate for less than one American dollar. In addition, you can find Italian restaurants, pizza, Texas BBQ, neighborhood bars and other American favorites in Nha Trang. There is no reason to change your lifestyle dramatically, even while living thousands of miles away.
Americans have vacationed there for so many years, that most of the locals speak English well, and they are friendly towards Americans.
Another pleasing feature in this part of Vietnam is the climate. The average year-around temperature is 79 F. It is rare for the highs to fall below 68 F or the highs to be above 90 F. It is a little cooler in the winter (November through February) and warmer in the summer, although the sea breezes keep you comfortable.
Modern Hospitals and Health Facilities are Available
The top hospitals in Vietnam are in Ho Chi Minh City, about an hour flight from Nha Trang, but new facilities have also recently opened in this beachside community. The staff at the local hospital even speaks English.
Affordable Cost of Living
According to "International Living Magazine," a couple can live in a nice, Western-style house or apartment near the beach, have a housekeeper once or twice a week, eat out every day, and go to a spa once in a while for about $850 a month. That is well within the means of millions of Americans on Social Security!
What You Should Know Before Moving Overseas
Readers will find other helpful articles in this blog about moving abroad. There are a few things you should know. You can have your Social Security deposited directly into bank accounts in most countries around the world, and as many as 600,000 American retirees are living abroad.
You cannot use your Medicare in foreign countries. Some countries allow you to buy into their national health insurance plan. Others have such affordable healthcare that retirees find they can pay out-of-pocket. Some retirees continue to subscribe to Medicare, which they can use when they return to the U.S. to visit family and friends. You may wish to speak with your insurance agent to explore a variety of choices.
We strongly suggest that whenever you are overseas, you should follow the State Department website and watch for warnings and alerts which could affect you. Things can change, even after you move abroad, so you want to stay informed.
Before moving to a foreign country, we always recommend you visit the area on vacation and speak to a local attorney, real estate agent, and CPA, so you know if you will be allowed to purchase property, work in your new country, and any other tax or legal issues which could affect you.
If you are interested in learning more about where you should retire in the US and abroad, financial planning, common medical problems as you age, Social Security and Medicare, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.
Many older Americans enjoy Facebook as an easy way to stay in touch with rarely seen friends and family members. For some shut-ins or people who are ill, it may the only way they can easily stay in touch with the outside world. However, the well-publicized scandals regarding fake news and the misuse of personal information have caused many people to wonder if they should avoid the site. According to AARP, recent upgrades made by Facebook have reduced some of the problems. By taking a few actions on your own, you can protect yourself on Facebook and continue to enjoy staying in touch with family and friends at the same time.
Upgrades Made by Facebook
If you are a regular user of Facebook, you may have noticed a decrease in the number of questionable news stories on the site. They have made a concerted effort to eliminate so-called "news sites" which were known to share fake news stories in the past. They have also supplemented their computer screening systems with more real human beings who review items shared on the site, and the company has made it easier for users to report phony stories.
In addition, Facebook recently announced they will be rolling out one centralized page which will allow users to control their privacy and security settings. Until they do, the information below will help you protect your privacy yourself.
How To Protect Yourself on Facebook
In addition to the increased security measures taken by Facebook administrators, most users will find it helpful to take a few simple steps to protect their private information, minimize conflict with others on the site, and make it easier to focus on the Facebook posts which interest them the most. Below are a some of the actions you should consider:
1. At the top of your Facebook page you will see a question mark in a dark circle. Click on it. About halfway down the pop-up menu you will see "Privacy Checkup." Click on it and a new box will open up. Make sure you choose "only me" or "friends" for everything. You should not choose "public" for any of your settings. While you are there, remove any unfamiliar apps which you do not want accessing your information.
2. Avoid Facebook games and apps. Yes, many of these games are fun. However, you are safer if you download games separately to your tablet, phone or other device and play only games which are not connected to Facebook. You especially want to avoid any games which ask for access to your name, email address and the names of your friends. In the Privacy Checkup, you can click the X next to any apps you want to remove.
3. Next, click on the down arrow to the right of the question mark. On the left hand side of the page which opens up, you will see a column of choices including privacy, apps and websites, and ads. Click on each of those items and see if you want to make changes in this area. For example, under ads you can decide whether or not to allow Facebook to show you ads based on your computer activities when you are NOT on Facebook. Go through all your choices in this section and make sure you are protecting your privacy as much as possible.
4. Avoid questionnaires on Facebook. They may seem like harmless fun, but they are often attempts to get your personal information, potential passwords, or the answers to security questions by asking you when and where you were born, your middle name, the names of your pets, the names of schools you attended, your favorite flavor of ice cream, etc. You should avoid answering these questions unnecessarily on any site.
How to Control Who Sees Your Facebook Posts
You can also control which of your friends see what you post. If you are simply wishing everyone Happy New Year, you may want all your Facebook friends to see your post. However, if you are making a comment about a politician or other controversial subject, there may be some Facebook friends who you would prefer NOT to see your posts.
In this case, when you write the post, make sure you choose who can see your post. You can choose that it can only be seen by you, by the public, by your friends, by friends of friends or you can choose "Facebook friends except for ...." When you make this last choice (my personal favorite), you can choose which friends cannot see each post. You remain Facebook friends with the people who are not seeing all your posts, but they cannot see your posts when you choose this option.
I have also sent messages to the Facebook staff requesting that they make this an option when you leave a comment on a controversial news item. I hope they will make this additional option available to us in the future, so we can control which of our friends can see our comments.
When you control who can see your posts, you are much less likely to get into conflict with friends who may disagree with some of the things you post.
What If You See Posts You Dislike?
Are you seeing news stories or other posts which you find upsetting? You can also put a stop to those. Whenever you see a post you do not like, you can click on the three dots in the top right-hand corner of the post and choose what action you would like to take. For example, you can choose to unfollow that person or site. This is a good choice if it is a news site, for example, which posts controversial stories which upset you. However, if you do not want to do anything that drastic, you can also choose to hide the post, snooze the source of the post for 30 days, or give feedback on the post and report it. The last one is an especially good choice if you believe the source of the post is spreading fake news or posts which are inappropriate in some way. Facebook administrators will then investigate the organization which created the post and determine if they are breaking any Facebook rules.
How to Find Interesting Posts
One beneficial way to use Facebook is to follow organizations which interest you. These organizations will post articles which you may find helpful. You can search for these organizations by using the search bar at the top of your Facebook page. When you find sites you want to follow, click on the Follow button in their page. For example, I follow the Facebook pages for the city where I live, neighboring cities, politicians whom I support, my county commissioner, several major local and national news organizations and several health organizations. Because of this, Facebook has become an easy place for me to stay informed about topics of interest to me. Depending on your interests, you can find sites which provide recipes, gardening tips, art, and information about any chronic illnesses you may have, as well as thousands of other topics.
If you follow the above suggestions, you will soon find that Facebook is enjoyable once again and, at the same time, you will keep your personal information safe. In addition, you will also discover that you are having fewer disagreements with your friends on Facebook. Now that is a win-win way to use Facebook!
If you are looking for more helpful articles about how to protect your health and safety, where to retire, Medicare, Social Security, financial planning and more, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.
As we age, many of us find it a bit more difficult to hear. We may turn our televisions up, set the radio in our car a little louder and smile politely when someone says something which we cannot quite hear. Unfortunately, ignoring our hearing loss can dramatically increase the likelihood that we will develop dementia.
Causes of Hearing Loss
There are a number of reasons why your hearing may decline as you age. It could be hereditary. You may have spent years in an occupation where you were exposed to loud noise. It is possible you damaged your hearing by occasionally attending loud concerts or clubs where the music was quite loud.
Whatever the reason, at first you may only lose the ability to hear high pitched sounds. Then, you may notice it is more difficult for you to participate in a conversation at a noisy restaurant. When you first notice it, you may tell yourself that what you are experiencing is normal. If you also develop tinnitus, or ringing in the ear, you may feel compelled to see a doctor. Otherwise, you may suffer in silence for years.
Dangerous Consequences of Hearing Loss
Many people are surprised to discover that hearing loss can actually cause more problems than we realize. Johns Hopkins followed 639 adults for almost 12 years and discovered that people with mild hearing loss had double the dementia risk; those with moderate hearing loss had triple the risk; and those with severe hearing impairment were "five times more likely to develop dementia."
You may want to go back and re-read that last paragraph. Even those with MILD hearing loss have double the risk of developing dementia. The worse your hearing loss, the higher your risk of dementia. This should be a wake-up call to anyone who chooses to ignore their hearing problems.
In addition, they discovered that people with hearing loss were more likely to experience problems with walking and they fell more often. This can contribute to other serious health issues
Why Does Hearing Loss Contribute to Dementia?
According to the research from Johns Hopkins, there seems to be two factors which contribute to the increased dementia and other problems. The first reason, according to their site, is that "brain scans show us that hearing loss may contribute to a faster rate of atrophy in the brain." The other reason is that it can cause social isolation. As we have reported in the past in this blog, social interaction is a very important tool in preventing or slowing down the development of dementia. If your hearing loss causes you to avoid social situations, the lack of interaction could gradually cause you to develop dementia.
Can Hearing Aids Make a Difference?
The researchers at Johns Hopkins are in the process of studying whether the use of hearing aids can reduce the risk of dementia. However, they said "there is no downside to using hearing aids." They benefit the majority of people who use them and they make it easier for you to stay engaged with your friends and family.
Researchers in France also studied a group of 94 people between the ages of 65 and 85 who had profound deafness in at least one ear. They gave them cochlear implants along with auditory rehabilitation twice a week. Impressively, over 80 percent of the people with the lowest cognitive scores showed marked improvement after one year. In fact, the improvement was almost twice that seen with any of the current medications which have been approved by the FDA for treating Alzheimers.
It appears that improving your hearing can significantly reduce your risk of dementia, even after you have already begun to develop it!
Hearing Loss is Very Common
Approximately 27 million Americans over the age of 50 have some hearing loss, yet only about one in seven uses a hearing aid. There is no reason why people should not give them a try. Today's hearing aids are small (as you can see in the above photo) and are often unnoticeable; they can improve your relationships with the people you love; and most people adjust well to them after the breaking-in period. It takes a little time for your central auditory system and brain to adjust to one, so it is important that you not give up too soon. After that, they can be life-changing.
Hearing Aids Can be Expensive
Health insurance usually does not cover the cost of hearing aids and the average price is about $1,675 per ear. The expense is a major reason why many people do not get them. However, prices for hearing aids are expected to drop over the next few years, which could mean that more people will try them. If more people begin to use them, it could be one way we might reduce the number of people who develop dementia in the future, and reduce the extremely high cost of treating dementia patients in coming decades. Hopefully, if insurance companies see that providing hearing aids to their subscribers will save them money in the long run, the insurance companies will begin to cover more of the cost.
If you are interested in learning more about common health issues in retirement, Social Security, Medicare, where to retire, financial planning and more, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.
We are all going to die. Most of us do not want to think about this. We admire people who fight bravely against the ravages of disease, even if it only means they have extended their lives a few weeks or months. At the same time, we rarely envision that we may be tethered to machines at the end of our life. When we do think about the end of our life, we have a pretty image of ourselves living until an extremely old age, then dying at home in our bed, surrounded by our loved ones, saying our gentle good-byes. Most of the time, however, we prefer not to think at all about the end our life.
However, we need to remember that we are all going to die and DEATH IS NOT A FAILURE. It is a perfectly natural part of life and something for which we need to prepare, for our own sake as well as the sake of our loved ones.
Review of "Being Mortal" by Dr. Atul Gawande
Only rarely have I recommended a book in this blog. However, I believe it would be helpful for anyone who is over the age of 60, or who has a loved one over the age of 60, to read "Being Mortal" by Dr. Atul Gawande. I believe they would find it very helpful and eye-opening. It will help you make smarter decisions for yourself and your loved ones concerning the best types of assisted living and medical treatments for the very elderly or sick.
This book is easy to read and contains a large number of case studies which illustrate the various points made by the author, Dr. Atul Gawande, an American surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. He is also a professor at Harvard Medical School.
Early in the book, he talks about the normal aging process and the types of illnesses and disabilities which are common. Dr. Gawande notes that the normal decline in our health often results in losing our independence and being placed in traditional American nursing homes.
In the opening sections of "Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End,"Dr. Gawande discusses the problems with normal nursing homes and their desire to put our medical care and safety above any other consideration. However, he then shares information about a variety of developers of assisted living facilities who also take into consideration our very human desire to have privacy, independence, pets and a variety of activities available to us as we age, even if this means we are not always bubble-wrapped in the name of "safety."
Later in the book, Dr. Gawande discusses the value of hospice and palliative care, whether or not a terminal patient decides to continue to try various treatments for their illness. He explains that it is important for the family and care providers to take the time to learn how the patient wants to spend their final days or weeks. Often, in an attempt to avoid telling the patient they are dying, doctors subject their patients to a serious of worthless treatments which may make them miserable or even shorten their lives!
This book covers a great deal of helpful information which will make it much easier for you and your loved ones to make more informed decisions about where they want to live during the final years of their lives and the types of treatments they wish to try. In many cases, it will enable families to improve the quality of the time they spend with a loved one who is dying. This is a book which every family will be able to use as a helpful guide when they have aging family members.
To learn more about common medical issues which affect us as we age, suggestions on where to retire, Social Security, Medicare, changing family relations, financial planning and more, use the tabs or pull-down menu to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.
Over the past year, my husband and I have spent time with two relatives who were deep in the depths of dementia. In both cases, their situation was tragic, although their symptoms were very different. As a result, I thought it would be helpful for my readers to know more about the different symptoms and stages of dementia so they can be more aware of the symptoms when they begin to see them in their loved ones.
Below are two personal examples of what can happen when people get dementia, followed by the Alzheimer's Association list of the symptoms of dementia at different stages.
The Alzheimer's Disease of My Mother
In the first case, my mother's late-stage dementia reached the point where she became very suspicious and uncomfortable around people she did not see on a daily basis. Although my mother and father lived with my sister and her husband during the last three years of my mother's life, she tended to be very unhappy during much of that time, especially whenever my sister had friends visit.
My mother is the woman in the photo above and seemed the happiest when she was only surrounded by family. She would tell other people she wanted them to leave and that she did not want them in "her" house. In one case, she even hit a man in the face with her fist when he came to trim the hedges. Fortunately, she was so frail that her punch was harmless, although unexpected. Before dying from her dementia, combined with congestive heart failure, she had reached the point where she needed constant care, could no longer walk or eat on her own, and seemed unaware of her surroundings.
The Dementia of My Sister-in-Law
In the second case, my husband's older sister moved into an assisted living community a year ago when she became lost several times in the gated community where she had lived for 25 years.
We recently visited her for a few days at her new assisted living community. It was sad to realize she did not remember the names of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She did not remember that she used to play golf with us or walk on the beach with her dog. She did not remember trips she took or special events such as family weddings. She no longer has any hobbies. She rarely watches television, plays the piano, or participates in any activities at her assisted living community.
She was unaware of what was happening in the world outside her community. She could not name one thing she did during the day, although her physical health was good and she was able to walk around easily. Both days we visited her, she was wearing jeans and a heavy sweater, although the temperature was nearly 90 F. However, she was friendly and gracious. She genuinely seemed to enjoy our visit, although she probably did not remember it after we left. She happily showed us around her community, although she got lost walking the 100 yards from her cottage to the swimming pool. She was very cheerful, and did not seem at all fearful or distressed to be around other people. She realized that her memory was not very good, but laughed it off.
After these two visits, I began to wonder about the different forms dementia could take. The information I learned from the Alzheimer's Association is listed below. It helped me understand that my mother and sister-in-law were in different stages of their dementia. The symptoms listed below may help other people understand what is going on with their loved ones.
One question people often have is the difference between dementia and Alzheimer's Disease. Dementia describes a spectrum of illnesses which cause memory or thinking problems. Alzheimer's is the most common and is thought to be responsible for approximately 70 percent of cases, but it is not the only cause of dementia. For example, after a stroke, a patient may develop vascular dementia. Dementia can also be a result of a variety of illnesses including Parkinson's disease, Huntington's Disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Lewy Body, hydrocephalus, and combinations of different diseases. It is possible for someone to have more than one type of dementia at the same time.
In order for someone to be diagnosed with dementia, they must be impaired in at least two of the following areas, according to alz.org, the website for the Alzheimer's Association:
* Memory * Communication and language * Ability to focus and pay attention * Reasoning and judgment * Visual perception
The Alzheimer's Association website said they "may have problems with short-term memory, keeping track of a purse or wallet, paying bills, planning and preparing meals, remembering appointments or traveling out of the neighborhood."
Those symptoms were certainly true for both my mother and sister-in-law. While both had been very capable women throughout most of their lives, dementia caused them to lose the ability to handle their finances, safely drive a car, or take care of themselves, even before their memory loss became severe.
Common Symptoms of Dementia
Difficulty remembering names of new people Trying to remember the right word Forgetting what you have just read Losing important items Disorganization Difficulty with common tasks
(Many people may identify with some or all of these symptoms, which is one reason why it is so difficult to diagnose dementia in its early stages. Someone with early stage dementia or mild cognitive impairment may never get worse, or they could be at the beginning of more severe dementia. It is difficult to predict.)
Forgetting your own past history, address, or phone number Becoming moody, withdrawn or frustrated Dressing incorrectly for the season or situation Trouble controlling bladder and/or bowels Changing sleep patterns Wandering and becoming lost Personality changes such as becoming suspicious, having delusions, or exhibiting compulsive behaviors
(During this stage, my mother became suspicious and moody; my sister-in-law dressed incorrectly for the weather. Both forgot large pieces of their personal history, and became lost easily.)
The need for constant personal care Loss of awareness of surroundings and experiences Diminished physical abilities such as walking, sitting or even swallowing Difficulty communicating Lower immunity to infections such as pneumonia
(My mother was in this stage during the few months before she died. During the last few days, she could no longer swallow or communicate. My sister-in-law has not yet reached this stage, but ultimately she probably will.)
Dementia is a frightening illness and a slow, tragic way for your life to end ... unable to remember your own past or your connection to loved ones. However, research is ongoing and there are medications which can sometimes slow down the symptoms. If you suspect that you or a loved one could be showing signs of dementia, talk to a doctor right away.
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Over the past few decades, robots have taken over many different types of jobs in areas such as manufacturing, airline reservations, banking and more. However, would you trust a robot to manage your money and make investment decisions for your portfolio? You might be surprised to know that Schwab has 120,000 Intelligent Portfolio robo-adviser customers, and more than half of them are over age 50. Vanguard and Fidelity also have these type of managed financial accounts.
Currently, only about one-half of one percent of all investment assets are handled by robot-advisers. However, it is estimated that by 2020 they will be responsible for approximately 5.6 percent of all financial assets. Since it is likely that companies will soon be promoting these robo-advisory accounts, it would be a good idea for all of us to understand them better.
Over Half of Retirees Personally Handle Their Investments
According to an article in the April / May 2017 issue of AARP Magazine, titled "Should a Robot Manage Your Money?" many people simply handle their own investments. According to them, only "52 percent of pre-retirees and 44 percent of retirees" actually consult with a human adviser. The reasons for this are complicated, but often boil down to the fact that they believe human advisers are expensive and they are unsure how to find one they trust. As a result, for better or worse, many people simply prefer to make their financial decisions without outside assistance.
How Does a Robo Advisor Work?
Robo advisers offer a variety of investment portfolio options, but they generally consist of stocks and bonds which are held in ETFs ... exchange-traded funds which are traded as stocks.
The robo adviser sends you an online questionnaire and they use your answers to choose the best combination of ETFs to put in your portfolio and meet your investment goals. Your account can be either a tax-deferred IRA or a taxable account.
The robo adviser will re-balance your portfolio periodically so it stays within the range of your target allocations. In order to help the robot, you can regularly update the questionnaire.
With a robo advisor, you do not have direct access to your investments. You cannot quickly move the money in response to the market. It is passive, long-term investing. Once you retire, robo advisors can continue to manage your portfolio, if you choose, and assist you in calculating the required minimum distributions which you need to take once you reach the age of 70 1/2. They can also help you choose which investments would be best to sell when taking the distributions.
How do Robo Advisors Perform?
According to the AARP article, there are no long-term studies which could help you compare results between humans and robots. Their article contained some hypothetical comparisons, which I will not report here, because they were based on their best guess, not on actual results.
Your actual performance would reflect the performance of the indexes behind the ETFs in which your account is invested. You would also have the advantage of low fees, approximately 0.25 percent of your portfolio value each year. Human advisers typically charge between 1 and 2 percent.
A robo advisor will re-balance your portfolio regularly. This would be accomplished by the automatic sale of investments which had gone up the most and investing the proceeds in investments which lagged. In other words, you would be selling high and buying low.
Robo advisors are considered very safe, conservative investment managers, according to the Consumer Action advocacy group, because the accounts are so widely diversified, re-balanced regularly, and invested for the long term. They are covered by SIPC insurance or the Securities Investor Protection Corporation. It does not protect investors against loss, but does protect them if the financial institution goes broke.
What do Investors Lose by Having a Robo Advisor?
The most important thing you would lose by having a robo advisor is human advice. The robots cannot answer your questions, or make recommendations regarding other aspects of your financial plan, such as the best time to take Social Security, whether or not you should get an annuity, or provide assistance with similar decisions.
More Thoughts about Robo Advisors
It is possible to have a hybrid solution. For example, Vanguard's Personal Advisor Services combine a human advisor with a robo advisor.
Robo advisors are not right for everyone. Some people may be more comfortable either handling their investments themselves or dealing with a human who can explain their investments to them and help with other financial decisions. However, for the 5 or 6 percent of investors who will be using robo advisors in the coming years, it is important they understand how they work, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of using them.
For more information about financial planning, where to retire, common medical issues, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.