Friday, April 22, 2016
This semester, I took a poll with my students in Elder Law, asking their views about right to die issues. This year, perhaps more than in past years, the poll came out strongly in favor of honoring clear, adequately informed decisions of individuals to end their lives. Of course, we discussed the many grey areas, and the impact of high profile cases, such as Brittany Maynard, on current thought. We debated both the question of affirmative actions to die, particularly in states that permit physician assistance, and the potential to assume -- and or even over-assume -- that a completed "living will" is a choice to reject so-called extraordinary life-saving measures. Just because we are now more likely to support personal choices to die, does not mean we should assume that all accept a nearer end.
Relevant to this discussion is a Washington Post essay by Boston-based internal medicine and primary care resident Ravi Parikh on When a Doctor and Patient Disagree About Care at the End of Life. He describes his own experiences as he begins his career:
Not long ago, a frail-looking elderly patient appeared at my cardiac health clinic with a file full of hospitalizations stemming from a heart attack years before. He’d had three coronary stents put in, had had heart bypass surgery and was unable to walk for more than a block due to chest pain. I saw that a previous doctor had written “DNR” — do not resuscitate — in his chart, so I asked him to confirm his wishes.
No, he said, to my surprise. He actually wanted to be a “full code” — meaning that chest compressions, shocks and intubation were to be used if necessary to keep him alive.
I was taken aback....
This experience pushed him to rethink his approach to the topic, which in turn led him to The Conversation Project website. His exploration concludes with the thought that "Once we listen enough to learn, maybe those 'goals of care' discussions will start focusing on the goals of the patient, not the doctor."
Our thanks to George Washington Law's Naomi Cahn for sending this piece; she and frequent writing colleague Amy Ziettlow have a thematically related piece for a recent University of Illinois symposium on "Law, Religion and the Family Unit After Hobby Lobby: A Tribute to Professor Harry Krause."
Thursday, April 21, 2016
All of us who use social media, raise your hands. Ok, so that is a lot of us. And social media isn't just the province of the young, even though some of us may be digital immigrants. The New York Times ran a recent article about elders on Facebook. Why Do Older People Love Facebook? Let’s Ask My Dad explains about a recent survey done by Penn State.
The press release about the study, Sorry kids, seniors want to connect and communicate on Facebook, too explains "[o]lder adults, who are Facebook's fastest growing demographic, are joining the social network to stay connected and make new connections, just like college kids who joined the site decades ago, according to Penn State researchers." The study looks at the reasons why elders would be drawn to use Facebook, including curiosity, keeping in touch with friends, and connecting with family, as well as communicating with those with shared interests, what the authors refer to as social bonding, social bridging and social surveillance.
The authors suggest that the social media designers need to look at making the media more elder-friendly, and "emphasize simple and convenient interface tools to attract older adult users and motivate them to stay on the site longer." The volume of elder users is growing, so "[d]evelopers may be interested in creating tools for seniors because that age group is the fastest growing demographic among social media users. In 2013, 27 percent of adults aged 65 and older belonged to a social network, such as Facebook or LinkedIn, according to the researchers. Now, the number is 35 percent and is continuing to show an upward trend."
Returning to the New York Times article, the author asked her dad about his Facebook use; "he wanted to be better at keeping in touch with family and with the friends he remembers from my childhood. He told me over Facebook chat (naturally) that his curiosity about what others were up to was his main motivator in finally learning to navigate Facebook." The author quotes one of the co-authors of the study: "[a]s Facebook continues to be a bigger part of American life, the ever-growing population of older Americans is figuring out how to adapt. As people grow older, peer communication through chatting, status updates and commenting will become more important ... and Facebook will need to adapt tools that are suited for an aging audience."
Someone asked me recently about "alternatives" for law students interested in helping older persons or disabled adults. I said, in essence, "figure out how to start and operate a cost-effective, soundly-managed, and reliable, nonprofit rep-payee organization in your community." (And understand that you won't make a fortune, but you can make a good living with a well-run nonprofit!)
In "Ways to Meet the Growing Need for Representative Payees," Justice in Aging recommends that the Social Security System partner with organizations, including attorney organizations, to establish a "sustainable program to help recruit representative payees who are reliable and suitable to perform all of the required duties" of a rep-payee for those receiving federal program benefits but who often are unable to manage the money soundly. In some instances they may have no easy access to reliable family or friends. The "unbefriended," who, in turn, may be vulnerable to those with bad intentions:
Aging demographics and the predicted increase in cognitive deficits and other chronic conditions are expected to create a dramatic need for representative payees. For many of these seniors, family members and friends may be unavailable to serve in this capacity. SSA should think broadly about the groups of people eligible to serve as payees and then create standards for appointment, require a more in-depth level of training, and increased accountability.
Justice in Aging closes by urging that SSA's "recruitment efforts should be geared towards eligible individuals with legal experience as well as other fields with relevant backgrounds, such as social workers and religious community leaders."
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was the focus of an article in the New York Times last week on physician-aided dying in Canada. Justin Trudeau Seeks to Legalize Assisted Suicide in Canada reports that a proposed law was introduced that would allow physician-aided dying "for Canadian residents and citizens who have "a “serious and incurable illness,” which has brought them 'enduring physical or psychological suffering.'"
Under Canada’s proposed law, people who have a serious medical condition and want to die will be able to commit suicide with medication provided by their doctors or have a doctor or nurse practitioner administer the dose for them. Family members and friends will be allowed to assist patients with their death, and social workers and pharmacists will be permitted to participate in the process.
One striking difference in the proposed legislation in Canada compared to those states in the U.S. where physician-aided dying is legal is that "a doctor or nurse practitioner [may] administer the dose for them. Family members and friends will be allowed to assist patients with their death, and social workers and pharmacists will be permitted to participate in the process."
Not all in Canada are in favor of the legislation. CBC Canada ran a story, Religious groups react to physician-assisted dying bill LIVE where a number of groups stated concerns about the legislation. The video is available here.
If any of our readers are from Canada, we would be very interested in hearing more about the discussion in Canada on this proposal.
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
After my post on an article about adding a long term care benefit to Medicare, Professor Dick Kaplan (prolific author, elder law guru and friend) sent me an email reminding me about an article he wrote in 2004 that discussed the topic. "Cracking the Conundrum: Toward a Rational Financing of Long-Term Care,” is available from his SSRN page. Here is the abstract
This article provides a comprehensive solution to the financing of long-term care for older Americans that balances government and family responsibility, while recognizing the different settings in which long-term care is provided. The article begins by examining the spectrum of long-term care in the United States from home health care to assisted living to nursing homes, as well as hybrids such as continuing care retirement communities. Successive sections of the article then analyze the federal government's health care program for older persons (Medicare), the joint state and federal program for poor people of any age (Medicaid), and private long-term care insurance in terms of how these mechanisms treat long-term care in each setting.
Finding serious deficiencies and inconsistencies in all three mechanisms, the article then offers a co-ordinated alternative: expand Medicare to cover long-term care in nursing homes but maintain responsibility for other long-term care settings with the affected individuals and their families. This approach recognizes that nursing home care substitutes for hospital care that Medicare would otherwise cover, while other long-term care settings substitute for family-provided care. Long-term care insurance would then be used as a means of financing long-term care in settings other than nursing homes, thereby making it more appealing. In addition, such insurance would be less expensive than presently, because it would no longer be priced to cover costly nursing home care. The article also recommends that such insurance be improved by standardizing policy options and features into a fixed set of packages that would be uniform among carriers. Other recommendations include ensuring price stability of issued policies and providing independent reviews of gatekeeper claim denials. The article concludes with some observations regarding financing of these proposals.
I recently caught a rebroadcast of a Terry Gross interview -- from early 2015 and linked here -- with Dr. Frances Jensen, a neuroscientist from the University of Pennsylvania, on the "teenage brain." It was fascinating, especially as Dr. Jensen explained the latest thinking on trauma on the younger brain, and the potential for alcohol and drug use -- both illegal and legal -- to be especially significant to the still developing teenage brain. Given that we need those brains to last for a very long time, the broadcast seems relevant to our Elder Law Prof Blog topics.
This insulation process [from myelin] starts in the back of the brain and heads toward the front. Brains aren't fully mature until people are in their early 20s, possibly late 20s and maybe even beyond, Jensen says.
"The last place to be connected — to be fully myelinated — is the front of your brain," Jensen says. "And what's in the front? Your prefrontal cortex and your frontal cortex. These are areas where we have insight, empathy, these executive functions such as impulse control, risk-taking behavior."
This research also explains why teenagers can be especially susceptible to addictions — including drugs, alcohol, smoking and digital devices.
And as to that last item on the list -- digital devices -- Dr. Jensen emphasized her concerns about constant stimulation, especially when it lasts into time meant for sleeping. The intense light alone may be interfering with with sleep and brain development. She explains:
First of all, the artificial light can affect your brain; it decreases some chemicals in your brain that help promote sleep, such as melatonin, so we know that artificial light is not good for the brain. That's why I think there have been studies that show that reading books with a regular warm light doesn't disrupt sleep to the extent that using a Kindle does.
I'm from a generation that didn't pay much attention to closed head injuries -- indeed, I think we more or less thought of "mild concussion" as a right of passage for young athletes. Only in the last few years are we beginning to accept the connection between such injuries and later brain degenerative processes. Now, even as we're getting better about physical risks from sports, we need to work harder to avoid the almost round-the-clock effects of our computerized lives.
Dr. Jensen closed the interview with sound advice for everyone:
GROSS: We are out of time, but I just want to ask you if there's any quick tip you can give us to preserve our brain health - something that you would suggest that adults do?
JENSEN: I think [take] time to reflect on what you've done every day, to underscore for yourself the most important things that happen to you that day and to not respond to conflict - to try to not respond to conflict in the midst of your working environment, for instance, because it will color your efficacy.
For more, look for Dr. Jensen's book: The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults.
Monday, April 18, 2016
Financial abuse against older Americans can take many forms, from illegal debits, to third-party scams and even unauthorized withdrawals by an approved caregiver. And with the share of the U.S. population 60 years and over projected to reach 30 percent by 2025, the opportunities to take advantage of these at-risk bank customers become more prevalent—by the minute.
Join us in our pledge to empower customers and communities with the facts, tools and best practices they need to bank more securely. Together, we can help eliminate the almost $2.9 billion lost annually to fraud against older Americans.
Registration is required to receive access to the resources page and banks receive resources on the following: prevention of ID theft, choosing a financial caregiver, spotting and evading scams and being a responsible financial caregiver. Consumer resources include information on joint bank accounts and protecting someone from financial exploitation. There are a number of other resources for bankers. as well as a list of participating banks.
Sunday, April 17, 2016
Periodically we will see observations about whether Medicare should offer a long term care benefit as part of Medicare coverage (would this be Part E or maybe Part LTC?). It isn't a secret that many often think Medicare has a long term nursing home benefit, confusing what Medicare covers with what Medicaid does. Health Affairs Blog ran a story recently about Medicare and long term care. Medicare Help At Home offers some sobering data
Nine million community-dwelling Medicare beneficiaries—about one-fifth of all beneficiaries—have serious physical or cognitive limitations and require long-term services and supports (LTSS) that are not covered by Medicare. Nearly all have chronic conditions that require ongoing medical attention, including three-fourths who have three or more chronic conditions and are high-need, high-risk users of Medicare covered services.
Gaps in Medicare coverage and the lack of integration of medical care and LTSS have serious consequences. Beneficiaries are exposed to potentially high out-of-pocket expenses. Medicaid covers LTSS for very low-income Medicare beneficiaries, but only one-fourth of Medicare beneficiaries with serious physical or cognitive limitations are covered by Medicaid.
The authors offer a 3-part proposal that would expand Medicare coverage to include home and community-based coverages:
A Medicare home and community-based benefit for those with two or more functional limitations, Alzheimer’s, or severe cognitive impairment, according to an individualized care plan based on beneficiary goals. This would cover up to 20 hours a week of personal service worker care or equivalent dollar amount for a range of home and community-based LTSS.
Creation of new Integrated Care Organizations (ICOs) accountable for the delivery and coordination of both medical care and LTSS that meet quality standards, honor beneficiary preferences, and support care partners.
Innovative models of health care delivery including a team approach to care in the home building on promising models of service delivery that improve patient outcomes, reduce emergency department use, prevent avoidable hospitalization, and delay or reduce long-term institutional care.
The article goes on to explain eligibility, beneficiary cost-sharing, financing, care delivery and coverage. The article concludes, offering that with the Baby Boomers " the Medicare program ... was not designed to support their [boomers] preferences for independent living and functioning.
Moving forward, adoption of a home and community based benefit in Medicare would constitute an important first step to helping beneficiaries afford the services and support they need to continue living independently. Adoption of innovative models of care emphasizing care at home or in independent living settings would reduce the difficulty and risk of obtaining services in traditional health care settings such as physician offices and hospitals. It would also reduce beneficiary reliance on Medicaid’s safety-net coverage of institutional care. It is a policy proposal worthy of serious consideration as the nation grapples with Medicare redesign to meet the needs of an aging population.
Friday, April 15, 2016
Lately, I've been hearing and seeing the phrase "living wills" in mainstream news sources such as the New York Times, but at first the context was confusing to me because the media were speaking and writing about Big Banks, not humans. So, how did it come about that following the 2008 financial crisis, regulators started requiring large financial institutions to have "living wills?"
The Wall Street Journal explains in What You Need to Know About Living Wills [in the context of Big Banks]:
A living will is a document from a financial firm that describes how it would go through bankruptcy without causing a broader economic panic or needing a bailout from taxpayers. The largest U.S. banks have filed several versions of them since the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, which required living wills from financial firms that were judged to pose a potential risk to the broader economy. The documents are also known as resolution plans. “Resolution” is regulatory parlance for dealing with a failing financial firm. Living wills are separate from other regulatory requirements, such as annual “stress tests” that measure whether could banks survive a severe recession.
I've not yet determined who first came up with "living wills" to describe what Dodd-Frank, at 12 U.S.C. Section 5361(d), refers to as "resolution plans." Without accurate, full disclosure, addressing all aspects of the financial institution's operations, such plans -- by any name -- seem unlikely to achieve the goal of greater market stability. As another WSJ writer points out, the utility of Big Banks' living wills comes if not just regulators, but the Bank executives, are paying attention:
The point of the living wills, like the stress tests, is to sit banks down and make them comb through their businesses in excruciating detail, with a focus on grim aspects like liquidity crunches and operational risks in bankruptcy. A useful result of the living wills is that, if they're done correctly, they give regulators a good overall picture of how a bank works, how money flows between its parts, what its pressure points are, and how it responds to crisis. But a much more important result is that, if they're done correctly, they give bankers themselves that same overall picture: They force a bank's executives and directors to understand the workings of the bank in a detailed and comprehensive way. And if they're done incorrectly, that's useful too: They let the regulators and bankers know what they don't know.
The full article on this point is titled, with nice irony, Living Wills Make Banks Think About Death. There, a least, is one similarity in living wills for humans and banks.
The New York Times ran a story recently about a new trend in housing for elders---multigenerational homes. Multigenerational Homes That Fit Just Right are homes that, as the name implies, are designed for multiple generations of a family that live in the same house. "[A] growing number of families ... are seeking specially designed homes that can accommodate aging parents, grown children and even boomerang children under the same roof. The number of Americans living in multigenerational households — defined, generally, as homes with more than one adult generation — rose to 56.8 million in 2012, or about 18.1 percent of the total population, from 46.6 million, or 15.5 percent of the population in 2007, according to the latest data from Pew Research. By comparison, an estimated 28 million, or 12 percent, lived in such households in 1980."
But how does one accommodate family dynamics when living together under one roof? In fact, the story notes, many of the multigenerational households do live in an "ordinary" home. But, it appears that the building industry has developed an option that is catching on, "responding quickly to this shifting demand by creating homes specifically intended for such families." For example, one builder's homes "don’t offer just a spare bedroom suite or a “granny hut” that sits separately on the property or a room above a garage. The NextGen designs provide a separate entranceway, bedroom, living space, bathroom, kitchenette, laundry facilities and, in some cases, even separate temperature controls and separate garages with a lockable entrance to the main house. Family members can live under the same roof and not see one another for days if they so choose."
The article explains the drivers for the trend, baby boomers (of course), the 2008 recession, tough job market and higher rents facing millenials, the boomerang children and again, those baby boomers, "[m]any [of whom] are planning ahead in hopes that they can devote more attention to their children and grandchildren — and spend little, if any, time in a nursing home."
Expect to see more of these multigenerational homes over the next years. From a legal perspective, it seems that ground rules, a family contract and a care would be important to the success of the venture (whose turn is it to cut the grass this week? No loud music after 11 p.m. as a couple of an examples). What an interesting concept of the market changing to accommodate demand.
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
I ran across a couple of articles recently about hoarding. We all have "stuff" and the older we get, the more "stuff" we may have as we accumulate a lifetime of memories. Does that mean we are hoarders? According to the article in the Washington Post, Hoarding is a serious disorder — and it’s only getting worse in the U.S.,
While the stockpiling of stuff is often pinned on America’s culture of mass consumption, hoarding is nothing new. But it’s only in recent years that the subject has received the attention of researchers, social workers, psychologists, fire marshals and public-health officials.
They call it an emerging issue that is certain to grow with an aging population. That’s because, while the first signs often arise in adolescence, they typically worsen with age, usually after a divorce, the death of a spouse or another crisis.
So you have a lot of stuff. And maybe you are disorganized (I once had someone tell me people do two kinds of organizing, some are "pilers" and others are "filers"). Does that mean you are a hoarder? Not necessarily, according to the article, because "[h]oarding is different from merely living amid clutter, experts note. It’s possible to have a messy house and be a pack rat without qualifying for a diagnosis of hoarding behavior. The difference is one of degree. Hoarding disorder is present when the behavior causes distress to the individual or interferes with emotional, physical, social, financial or legal well-being."
The article offers some interesting insights into hoarding and the research (such as it runs in families) but it isn't until recently that it's been thought of as a brain disorder. Not only may hoarding have lacked attention in the past, it's one of those situations where the person may not know to seek treatment and the response requires a multi-disciplinary approach. The article has a lot of good information and is insightful in covering the issues.
Then look at this article in Huffington Post's Post 50, 5 Signs That Someone You Love May Be A Hoarder where one expert is quoted as predicting about 4 million people in the U.S. are hoarders. "Hoarding ... is associated with a number of things including difficulty processing information, the inability to make decisions when confronted with a large amount of information and a failure to categorize things — meaning you can’t see the commonality of objects and they instead all look unique to you." This article offers 5 signs that someone is a hoarder, including constant attendance at garage sales and swap meets, never inviting visitors to the person's home, never giving anything away, keeping every scrap of paper and getting upset at the suggestion of discarding possessions. Sound like anyone you may know?
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Huffington Post's Huff/Post 50 ran a story with an accompanying video, Millennials Show The World What They Believe ‘Old’ Looks Like. Not unexpectedly, their initial impressions involved some stereotypical perceptions of those who are older. Then watch the video to see what they have learned and how their views changed. Show the video to your class!
As law profs, that title doesn't surprise us. Learning is something we continually do (and so too, hopefully, our students). The Pew Research Center released a new report, Lifelong Learning and Technology. The report looks at learning from a variety of points, including learners who learn for employment and learners who learn for personal reasons.
As far as age for the personal learners, the report provides a breakdown for the percentage "of adults in each group who participated in at least one of a variety of activities in the past 12 months related to personal growth and enrichment...." for those age 65 and older, the percentage engaged in personal learning was 72%. For professional learners ("[a]mong employed adults, % of those who took a course or got extra training in the past 12 months for job-related reasons...") the percentage for those 65 and older was 47%.
The study doesn't just look at age of the learner, but looks at a number of variables, including education, income, ethnicity, race, access to and ownership of tech devices and internet, etc. A pdf of the report is available here.
Monday, April 11, 2016
I think it is safe to say that in recent years, juries have not been shy about awarding substantial damages in trials involving claims of negligent care, even -- or perhaps especially -- when the resident is very old. Lately, several of our Elder Law Prof Blog posts have focused on nursing home providers' efforts to avoid jury trials through the use of pre-dispute, binding arbitration clauses in admission agreements. See e.g. here and here. However, there's another way in which litigation of nursing home care claims have triggered collateral legal disputes, and this time it is for the judicial system itself.
In March 2016, former Arkansas state court judge Mike Maggio, age 54, was hit with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years, following his plea of guilty to federal charges for taking a bribe to reduce a verdict in a nursing home negligence case. Maggio was alleged to have reduced a jury verdict in a nursing home case from $5.2 million to $1 million, after the owner of the facility reportedly made multiple campaign contributions to "PACs that were to funnel the money to Maggio for a planned race" for the state's Court of Appeals.
In issuing the sentence, United State District Judge Brian Miller emphasized that while he had earlier rejected the prosecution's argument that any sentence should be guided by the multi-million dollar size of the remittitur, the maximum sentence was still warranted because "corruption in the judicial system especially erodes public trust in the system," noting "a judge is the system." Details of the investigation -- as well as on-going litigation -- are provided in the Arkansas Times' Arkansas Blog.
By comparison, in West Virginia, news media questioned a business transaction and contributions to a judge's re-election campaign, asking whether they affected the decision of the State Supreme court justice when she wrote the lead opinion in an appellate decision that reduced a 2011 jury verdict in nursing home negligence case from $90.5 million to $36.6 million. The justice denied any improper influence or relationship with defense-side parties; following an investigation, the West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission concluded the justice had no knowledge of the transactions in question, and it dismissed the ethics complaint in June 2015.
The potential for campaign contributions to influence judicial election campaigns has long been one source of criticism of elections for judges.
We have all seen advertisements for "anti-aging" products and claims of products and research to defeat aging, reverse the effects of aging or at least slow down time. Last month Fortune ran the article, The Obsession With 'Curing' Aging Is Now Big Business. Opening with statistics about Baby Boomers, the article next notes that "[i]t comes as little surprise, then, that finding ways to extend a healthy life has become big business, attracting many tens of millions in investment dollars from the likes of Google ... and numerous biotechnology companies." The article looks at six "tech titans" who are financing research for "longevity solutions," including the co-founder of the Methuselah Foundation who explains "[t]he Methuselah Prize has been credited for encouraging scientists to work on anti-aging research and treat aging as a "medical condition...." The research is fascinating. Check out the article and consider including this topic in a class discussion.
Thursday, April 7, 2016
The Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) Network, JAMA Psychiatry ran an article about a study looking at depression and dementia. Trajectories of Depressive Symptoms in Older Adults and Risk of Dementia considers that "[d]epression has been identified as a risk factor for dementia. However, most studies have measured depressive symptoms at only one time point, and older adults may show different patterns of depressive symptoms over time." The study came to the conclusion that a time line of consideration of a patient's depression may give a better picture of the patient's future potential for dementia ("Older adults with a longitudinal pattern of high and increasing depressive symptoms are at high risk for dementia. Individuals’ trajectory of depressive symptoms may inform dementia risk more accurately than one-time assessment of depressive symptoms.")
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
American Society on Aging (ASA) recently posted about 5 TED talks on Aging. 5 TED Talks on Aging to Inspire You range from curing Alzheimer's to a grandson's invention to help his grandfather with dementia from wandering. There's a talk from Diana Nyad about her historic swim ("In the pitch-black night, stung by jellyfish, choking on salt water, singing to herself, hallucinating ... Diana Nyad just kept on swimming. And that's how she finally achieved her lifetime goal as an athlete: an extreme 100-mile swim from Cuba to Florida") and a chat between Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda where they "discuss longevity, feminism, the differences between male and female friendship, what it means to live well and women's role in future of our planet. 'I don't even know what I would do without my women friends," Fonda says. "I exist because I have my women friends.'"
Check them out!
Tuesday, April 5, 2016
a statistical resource for U.S. data related to Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia, as well as other dementias. Background and context for interpretation of the data are contained in the Overview. This information includes descriptions of the various causes of dementia and a summary of current knowledge about Alzheimer’s disease. Additional sections address prevalence, mortality and morbidity, caregiving, and use and costs of health care, long-term care and hospice. The Special Report discusses the personal financial impact of Alzheimer’s disease on families.
The costs of caring for a relative or friend with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia can have striking effects on a household. These costs can jeopardize the ability to buy food, leading to food insecurity and increasing the risks of poor nutrition and hunger. In addition, the costs can make it more difficult for individuals and families to maintain their own health and financial security. Lack of knowledge about the roles of government assistance programs for older people and those with low income is common, leaving many families vulnerable to unexpected expenses associated with chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Better solutions are needed to ensure that relatives and friends of people with dementia are not jeopardizing their own health and financial security to help pay for dementia-related costs.
The Washington Post ran an interesting piece recently, using one couple's history of retirement savings to demonstrate the benefits from coordination and, perhaps, redistribution of assets or payments in advance of actual retirement. The couple then invited commentary from two different financial advisers. From one adviser, they learned:
Having different types of savings accounts can give the couple more control over their tax bill when they retire, [Financial Adviser] Sewell says. Money withdrawn from the tax-deferred accounts, such as the TSPs and the traditional IRAs, will be taxed as ordinary income when retirement withdrawals are made – a tax rate that could be as high as 39.6 percent for workers in the top tax bracket. The Roth IRA, on the other hand, can provide tax-free income in retirement. And money withdrawn from their taxable investing account could be taxed at lower rates, such as the long-term capital gains rate of 20 percent, she says. Adding to that account over time can also provide a separate pool of savings and allow them to hold off on tapping their tax-deferred accounts until they are required to do so at age 70.5, Sewell says. That would give those retirement savings more time to grow tax-free.
They also learned:
But consolidating accounts would make it easier for the couple to track where their money is invested and what fees they are paying, Porter says. They can look into rolling over some or all of their IRA savings into their TSP accounts, which typically have more affordable index-based investment options, Porter says. For example, the average expense ratio for a TSP fund, including target-date funds, stock funds and bond funds, was 0.029 percent in 2015, or 29 cents for every $1,000 invested. In contrast, the average 401(k) investor pays an expense ratio of 0.89 percent, or $8.90 for every $1,000 invested, according to a report by BrightScope and the Investment Company Institute. “I have not seen a lower cost plan, so I think you can’t beat that,” Sewell says.
Our thanks to George Washington Law Professor Naomi Cahn for sending this link.
Monday, April 4, 2016
Maddy Dychtwald, co-founder of AgeWave wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal on happy retirements. In Where People Find the Most Happiness in Retirement, she explains about a survey AgeWave conducted with Bank of America/Merrill Lynch. She explains they found that
While many of us still think of retirement as a time to wind down and take time for ourselves, two-thirds of today’s retirees have found that retirement is, in fact, the best time in life to give back: their time, their talent and their money. (This finding also echoes in many ways what Marc Agronin describes in his article in The Wall Street Journal this week–that people are happier when they are connected to family, friends and community, than spending on the latest adventure.)
Volunteerism and giving seem to play a role in whether a person has a happy retirement.
Even retirees’ definition of success relates strongly to giving back. When we think about retirement and planning for it, too many of us focus almost exclusively on money: “Will I have enough money to do the things I want for as long as I live?” There’s no doubt this is an important question. But, as it turns out, at all income levels, the study shows that retirees are almost six times more likely to define their own personal success in retirement by their generosity rather than their wealth.
The recommendation from Ms. Dychtwald? Consider what will give retirement meaning and reason. "When it comes to happiness in retirement, it seems generosity trumps wealth." The study is available here.