Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Rising Health Care Costs to Outpace COLAs?

The Washington Post ran an article looking at the longer-term impact of the increasing costs of health care on any COLAs from SSA. Out-of-pocket health-care costs likely to take half of Social Security income by 2030, analysis shows discusses a recent Kaiser Family Foundation which "found out-of-pocket health-care costs for Medicare beneficiaries are likely to take up half of their average Social Security income by 2030."  The KFF report, Medicare Beneficiaries’ Out-of-Pocket Health Care Spending as a Share of Income Now and Projections for the Future was published January 26, 2018. Here is the executive summary

Medicare helps pay for the health care needs of 59 million people, including adults ages 65 and over and younger adults with permanent disabilities. Even so, many people on Medicare incur relatively high out-of-pocket costs for their health care, including premiums, deductibles, cost sharing for Medicare-covered services, as well as spending on services not covered by Medicare, such as long-term services and supports and dental care. The financial burden of health care can be especially large for some beneficiaries, particularly those with modest incomes and significant medical needs. Understanding the magnitude of beneficiaries’ current spending burden, and the extent to which it can be expected to grow over time, relative to income, provides useful context for assessing the implications of potential changes to Medicare or Medicaid that could shift additional costs onto older adults and younger people with Medicare.

In this report, we assess the current and projected out-of-pocket health care spending burden among Medicare beneficiaries using two approaches. First, we analyze average total per capita out-of-pocket health care spending as a share of average per capita Social Security income, building upon the analysis conducted annually by the Medicare Trustees. Second, we estimate the median ratio of total per capita out-of-pocket spending to per capita total income, an approach that addresses the distortion of average estimates by outlier values for spending and income. Under both approaches, we use a broad measure of Medicare beneficiaries’ total out-of-pocket spending that includes spending on health insurance premiums, cost sharing for Medicare-covered services, and costs for services not covered by Medicare, such as dental and long-term care. We present estimates of the out-of-pocket spending burden for Medicare beneficiaries overall, and by demographic, socioeconomic, and health status measures, for 2013 and projections for 2030, in constant 2016 dollars.

A pdf of the report is available here.

January 31, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Retirement, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Want to Live Longer? If You Can Afford It, Retire Early But Do Stuff!

The New York Times ran an article about recent research regarding the correlation between early retirement and longevity.  The Connection Between Retiring Early and Living Longer  looks at a number of studies here and abroad.

That retirement promotes health and prolongs life isn’t obvious. After all, work provides income and, for some, health insurance — both helpful for maintenance of well-being. It also can provide purpose and camaraderie. Evidence is mounting that loneliness and social isolation are linked to illness, cognitive decline and death. One study of American retirees found them less likely to be lonely or depressed.      

For some, retirement doesn't have a healthy impact.  Developing, or continuing, good eating habits and exercise are critical.  "Retirees are more likely to exercise, and those who do are better off for it. One study found retirees get more sleep and spend more time doing household work and gardening — both of which are more active than a desk job. Another study found that better health in retirement may be because of the reduced likelihood of smoking."  Those are all good things, but for many, retirement is outside of their financial ability. "[A]ccording to a recent national survey by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, many Americans don’t have the resources to retire. About 20 percent of Americans over 44 years old have no retirement savings. Half of Americans are at risk of being unable to maintain their standard of living in retirement. If you want to retire, whether for health benefits or otherwise, you’ll have to start preparing when you’re still young."

January 30, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Other, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

A History of Public Pensions and Corruption in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Attorney Charles Shields and former  Dickinson Law Librarian [now West Virginia Law Librarian] Mark Podvia have teamed to present a provocative history of public pensions and public corruption, using Pennsylvania as the focus.  The first of their two-part series is available in the January 2018 issue of the Pennsylvania Bar Association Quarterly.  For an overview, the authors write:

On June 12, 2017, Pennsylvania Governor  Tom Wolf signed a bill authorizing significant reform of the Commonwealth's public pension system.  The law will replace the current traditional pension system with three 401(k) style options for future state employees and public school teachers.   This is the first article in what will be a two-art series on the laws regulating public pensions and pension forfeitures in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  This part will examine the historical development of public pensions and provide an overview of the public corruption in the Commonwealth [tied to these pension systems]. The second part will examine the adoption and application of the Pennsylvania pension forfeiture law.   

To provide more incentive for our readers to track down this disturbing history, here's a concluding line from part one of the series:

The combination of a corrupt political system with public pension funds -- ranging from local retirement systems, small but with little oversight, to large statewide funds -- created a situation open to graft and corruption..... 

January 23, 2018 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Property Management, Retirement, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Filial Friday: Can Americans be Compelled by Germany to Contribute to Costs for a Parent's Care in Germany?

It has been awhile since I've written a "Filial Friday" post. Perhaps any question about legal obligations for family members to pay for care of another is an unfair topic during the holiday season.  A bit too downbeat, yes?  But, in fairness it is a topic that has reemerged in my "inbox," as I've recently received two communications from American adult children of biological parents in Germany.  In each instance, the reason is that Germany authorities are writing to American citizens to notify them that an aging German parent is or may be in need of "social welfare benefits" in Germany.  As one demand letter puts it:

"The above person is your mother.  According to [the Germany Civil Code] you have a basic obligation to pay maintenance for your mother.  According to Section 94 of the [Social Security Code] the maintenance obligations of a person eligible for benefits are passed on to [the Germany regional authorities] up to the amount of the expenses we incur in so far as this is not excluded for legal reasons."

In other words, it appears the German social service agency is saying that if it is called upon to incur expenses for welfare of a Germany citizen, it has the legal authority to seek contribution or reimbursement from the family members identified in German statutory law as having a maintenance obligation, including any children living in other countries.

As readers of this Blog know, I have a long-standing interest in such filial support claims, in large part because I live and work in Pennsylvania, the U.S. state that most frequently enforces a colonial-era law, permitting third-party providers of care in certain instances to compel adult children to pay reimbursement for costs of care, usually nursing home care.  The 2012 Pennsylvania Superior Court decision in Health Care & Retirement Corporation of America v. Pittas, where an adult son was found to be liable for more than $90,000 for his mother's nursing home care, is one of the most dramatic modern example of domestic enforcement in the U.S.   

The letters from Germany undoubtedly surprise, and perhaps frighten, the American children who have probably never heard of such a claim coming from public authorities.  (In the U.S., in the modern era the occasional claim usually comes from a nursing home that isn't being paid for long-term care by private or public means, and the claims are not coming from public agencies.)

Continue reading

December 21, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, International, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

California Law, Amended in 2017, Sets Process for Contesting Transfer Decisions in Continuing Care Communities

Following my recent post about "evictions" in Continuing Care and Life Plan Communities, Margaret Griffin, the president of the California Continuing Care Residents Association (CALCRA) provided me with a copy of legislation that was signed into law by the Governor in October this year, amending California law on Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) contracts.  This history is another window on how to handle involuntary transfers of residents.  California's law already provided detailed topics that must be addressed in admission contracts.  The newest provision requires greater sharing of any reasons for an involuntary transfer.  For "disputed" transfers the law now mandates that the provider:

"... shall provide documentation of the resident's medical records, other documents showing the resident's current mental and physical function, the prognosis, and the expected duration of relevant conditions, if applicable. The documentation shall include an explanation of how the criteria [supporting the involuntary transfer decision] are met.  The provider shall make copies of the completed report to share with the resident and the resident's responsible person. "

Further, the amended law provides that even though the CCRC has the right -- under certain conditions -- to transfer the resident, the resident may "dispute" the decision and have the reasons reviewed in a timely manner by the "Continuing Care Contracts Branch of the State Department of Social Services" in California.  That office has statutory authority to determine whether the facility has followed its own contractual basis and process for transfers, and "whether the transfer is appropriate and necessary."  

Ms. Griffin explains that the law "basically . . . requires an assessment be done to establish a functional reason for the transfer (as opposed to merely having the administrator’s whim be sufficient), and it allows the resident to appeal the actual decision (previously we were limited to requesting a review of the process)."

Thank you, Margaret, both for sharing the latest information on CALCRA's successful advocacy with California Assembly Bill 713, and for your additional commentary.  

December 6, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Property Management, Retirement, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 4, 2017

Professor Tamar Frankel and The Fiduciary Rule -- Still Shaking Up Wall Street

In the Wall Street Journal, there is a recent, wonderful profile of Boston University Law Professor Tamar Frankel, who has been fighting the good fight to gain adoption of "The Fiduciary Rule" for financial advisors, investment brokers and others in positions of trust for her entire academic career.  

And, at age 92, she's still fighting the good fight, as the Trump administration recently delayed full implementation.   

When Ms. Frankel began researching fiduciary law in earnest in the 1970s, she dwelled on that idea: A fiduciary is someone trusted by others because he or she has superior knowledge and expertise. People hire brokers because the brokers know what they’re doing and the clients don’t. That gives fiduciaries power and responsibility over those who trust them.

 

The unconditional trust that clients place in a fiduciary creates a paradox, argues Ms. Frankel. “When you get power, you lose the power you might otherwise have,” she says.

 

A fiduciary adviser can’t abuse the relationship of trust by collecting unreasonable compensation or harboring avoidable conflicts of interest. The relationship is meant to satisfy only the needs of the client.

Professor Frankel appears to be remarkably sanguine about the latest delays:

With the Trump administration putting parts of the fiduciary rule on hold, Ms. Frankel counsels patience.

 

“What the rule has done is sown the seed, and the longer it takes the better off we are, because what we must change is the culture and the habits in the financial industry,” she says. “Habits don’t change in one day. It takes time.”

 

After she turns 93 next July 4, Ms. Frankel says, she will stop teaching—although she will continue to research and write. What accounts for her longevity? “Caring less and less about what other people think,” she says, “and more and more about questions you don’t have answers to.”

I have a copy of Professor Frankel's thoughtful treatise on Fiduciary Law (Oxford Univ. Press, 2011) on the shelf behind my desk, complete with sticky notes and much yellow and red highlighting.  I've been meaning to write Professor Frankel to thank her for her work over the years -- and now this article reminds me to get to that task!

My thanks to my always eagle-eyed friend and correspondent, Karen Miller, in Florida for this latest find and reminder.  

December 4, 2017 in Books, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Property Management, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 16, 2017

What Do We Mean by "Ageism," And Are The Worst Offenders Our (Aging) Selves?

Recently I had a good chat with a former student, who has already retired from practicing law.  I was surprised as I had assumed he was younger than I am. Why?  Because I was the teacher, right?  But, as it turned out, he was about 10 years older than I was when he was my student, and, of course, that margin remains.  I was guilty of a form of reverse-ageism.  

I have another friend who teaches non-law courses on aging-related topics for Oregon State University.  She uses cartoons effectively in the course -- handing out provocative cartoons without any captions that include some imagery associated with aging and inviting the students to provide their own captions.  Pretty quickly the students get to see the difference between humor that both old and young could chuckle about -- and ageist humor.  She also admits to her students that her courses get more relevant with every year -- to her, of course -- as she and her friends are rapidly reaching silver or gold status as "older" adults.

Along that line, The New Yorker magazine has a current piece addressing ageism that is both thoughtful and eclectic.  Amusingly, it begins with scenes from a classic movie, where a young Paul Newman is toiling away in a Philadelphia law firm, resenting his elders.  Of course, for readers of a certain age, they might find it impossible to imagine a "young" Newman as all they know is his gray haired image (or, perhaps, his salad dressing bottles).

The author suggests that perhaps our biggest problem with ageism starts with ourselves -- our own unwillingness to confront the realities of our own aging. He uses an example from retirement communities, where residents sometimes attempt to ban walkers and wheelchairs from the dining areas. Ironic, yes? 

Lots of good food for discussion in Why Ageism Never Gets Old, written by Tad Friend, for the November 20 issue of The New Yorker.  

Our thanks to Dick Kaplan at University of Illinois Law for sending the link our way.  

November 16, 2017 in Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Retirement Dress Rehearsal

Kiplinger ran a story promoting the idea of practicing for retirement. 4 Reasons to Hold a Retirement Dress Rehearsal suggests you take a trial run at retirement before making it permanent. For example, thinking about moving to a warmer climate, buying a condo on a golf course, moving into a senior housing complex, or something else, the article suggests trying out the plan temporarily. The advantages of doing so allow you to get a better idea of the expenses of living this new life, whether you physically can manage this new life, discover if more hours for hobbies translate into more (or less) fun,  and learn whether you want to be closer or farther away from your family. The article offers this list of things to check out when thinking about moving:

  • Expenses
  • Availability of health care
  • Climate
  • Recreational opportunities
  • Access to transportation (area airports, major highways, etc.)
  • Community and potential friendships
  • Ease of visiting family (or visa versa)

 

November 14, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 9, 2017

Books on Caring for Elders

A recent column in the New York Times mentioned several books that focus on caring for elders. Hard-Won Advice in Books on Aging and Elder Care  is written by the columnist who has been authoring a series of columns about Medicaid as Congress focused on health care repeal.  As a result of those columns, some of the comments the author received were recommendations of books for the author to read.  Using the criteria of those books mentioned at least twice, the author read and wrote about 4 books, which the author describes as "in their own way utterly essential reading. Few of us are prepared for the financial and emotional complexities of managing the last several years of our lives. But as we live longer, drain what may prove to be inadequate retirement savings and lean harder on already strained government programs, we’ll probably find ourselves facing ever more challenging questions and unfortunate compromises."  The books he includes in his column are Being Mortal, the 36 Hour Day, A Bittersweet Season and Being My Mom's Mom.

What books might you recommend to your students?

October 9, 2017 in Books, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Is There a "Diversity Problem" in Senior Living?

Steve Moran, who writes for Senior Housing Forum, a website that offers itself as a "place for conversation and collaboration," always seems willing to take on sensitive topics.  Recently, in a commentary piece entitled Black Consumers and Senior Living, he nonetheless began:

I am terrified to be writing and publishing this article.  It seems that writing anything about race is fraught with all kinds of downsides and very little in the way of upside. Except that we have an ethnic problem in senior living.  Today, based on resident populations, only white people (and Asians) seem to like senior living.

He addresses provider attempts to "explain away" the problem and arguments about whether "Blacks and Whites have different world views."  Ultimately, recognizing the need for both sensitivity and fearlessness, he concludes, "[I]f senior living is really a great thing, and I believe it is, then we have an obligation" to make it available to everyone.  

Certainly there are "marketing" reasons to reach out to a broader circle of perspective clients to offer supportive, attractive community living.  But, I think Steve's short post is a good start on other fundamental questions about what consumers want, need, expect, and cherish as they approach some invisible line that makes them eligible for senior living.  

October 9, 2017 in Consumer Information, Discrimination, Ethical Issues, Housing, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Embrace Aging

Do you consider yourself to be old? Well, if you are over 37, statistically you are old, according to an article in the New York Times, Feeling Older? Here’s How to Embrace It.  However, "S[s]udies show that people start feeling old in their 60s, and a Pew Research Center survey found that nearly 3,000 respondents said 68 was the average age at which old age begins." The article offers tips to embrace your aging, including having perspective about aging, be friends with various generations (helps with loneliness), and make decisions about "good" aging (for example, "[c]hoices about lifestyles and behaviors can influence the effects of so-called secondary aging.")  Aging is organic, but don't just let it happen-plan for it and make appropriate decisions! The article also offers these tip:s welcome the positives (identify activities that are enriching for you) and reject ageist notions. Age is a great equalizer-everyone ages, even without realization. For example, say it took you two minutes to read this post. You are now two minutes older. 

Various milestones — birthdays, changes in careers and the deaths of siblings and peers — are reminders of the passage of time, but you should not lose focus on finding meaning and quality in life, Mr. Kaplan ["assistant professor of social work at Adelphi University in Garden City, N.Y."] wrote.

“For many people, old age creeps up slowly and sometimes without fanfare or acknowledgment,” he wrote. “While most people enjoy relative continuity over the decades, being able to adapt to the changing context of our lives is the key to success throughout life.”

September 21, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Other, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Women Who Are Older--Financial Fears?

How well-prepared are you for financing your retirement? Do you know your family's finances?  The New York Times examined the situations that may be faced by women who are older who are not involved in the handling of their family's finances. Helping Women Over 50 Face Their Financial Fears covers a lecture series, Women and Wills, designed specifically for women over 50 that cover a variety of topics, including estate planning. health care, insurance, long term care, business succession planning and more. The founders are well aware that some women may not be up to speed on their family's finances, or other circumstances such as a spouse's illness, may present challenges for them. The founders plan to take their lecture series on the road, nationwide, and publish a book on the importance of planning.

Thanks to Professor Naomi Cahn for sending a link to the article.

 

September 14, 2017 in Books, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Health Care/Long Term Care, Property Management, Retirement, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 28, 2017

Reverse Mortgage Resources

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has released three resources on reverse mortgages:

1.  https://s3.amazonaws.com/files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201708_cfpb_costs-and-risks-of-using-reverse-mortgage-to-delay-collecting-ss.pdf on using a reverse mortgage to delay taking SSA retirement. The issue brief, The costs and risks of using a reverse mortgage to delay collecting Social Security runs 27 pages and is downloadable as a pdf. As the conclusion explains

 

We find that borrowing a reverse mortgage loan to get an increased Social Security benefit carries significant costs that generally exceed the additional lifetime amount gained from delaying Social Security. In addition, the amount that a consumer will need to borrow from a reverse mortgage loan to delay claiming Social Security benefits could negatively affect the consumer’s ability to move or use their home equity to meet a large expense later in life.

For consumers who have the option, working past age 62 is usually a less costly way to increase their monthly Social Security benefit than borrowing from a reverse mortgage.40 The extra years of work often provide people more time to save for retirement and pay off debts. The extra years of work may also result in an increase in Social Security benefits—separate from the increase that arises from deferring the start of benefits—by replacing years with low or no earnings from the person’s earnings record.41 Consumers may also consider other options to increase their Social Security benefit, such as coordinating their claiming decision with their spouses.

As consumers consider borrowing a reverse mortgage loan in order to delay claiming Social Security benefits or defer withdrawing funds from retirement savings, it is important for them to be aware of the risks and costs associated with this strategy. This is especially true for consumers whose primary source of income is Social Security and whose main asset is their home. For those consumers, the costs of a reverse mortgage loan will likely exceed the lifetime amount of money gained from an increased Social Security benefit, which in turn may threaten their financial security later in life.

The second resource is a discussion guide on reverse mortgages a twenty-four page pdf that provides "an overview of many key concepts of reverse mortgages." The guide is organized by the requirements for a reverse mortgage and includes illustrations and graphics for each. This is a very helpful tool!

The final resource is a 2:06 video on YouTube that gives a cursory overview of the ins and outs of reverse mortgages.

The agency's blog also discusses this new resources. Add these to your collection of resources!

 

August 28, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Housing, Retirement, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 17, 2017

It's Here! The 2017 SSA Trustees Report

The SSA Trustees released the 2017 annual report on July 13, 2017.  You can download the 269 page report as a pdf here or you can contact the Office of the Chief Actuary for a hard cc of the report.  There is a lot of information in this report, but of course, what everyone wants to know is whether Social Security is running out of money. Section II, the Highlights, offers this conclusion

Under the intermediate assumptions, DI Trust Fund asset reserves are projected to become depleted in 2028, at which time continuing income to the DI Trust Fund would be sufficient to pay 93 percent of DI scheduled benefits. Therefore, legislative action is needed to address the DI program’s financial imbalance. The OASI Trust Fund reserves are projected to become depleted in 2035, at which time OASI income would be sufficient to pay 75 percent of OASI scheduled benefits.

The Trustees also project that annual cost for the OASDI program will exceed non-interest income throughout the projection period, and will exceed total income beginning in 2022 under the intermediate assumptions. The projected hypothetical combined OASI and DI Trust Fund asset reserves increase through 2021, begin to decline in 2022, and become depleted and unable to pay scheduled benefits in full on a timely basis in 2034. At the time of depletion of these combined reserves, continuing income to the combined trust funds would be sufficient to pay 77 percent of scheduled benefits. Lawmakers have a broad continuum of policy options that would close or reduce Social Security's long-term financing shortfall. Cost estimates for many such policy options are available at www.ssa.gov/OACT/solvency/provisions/.

The Trustees recommend that lawmakers address the projected trust fund shortfalls in a timely way in order to phase in necessary changes gradually and give workers and beneficiaries time to adjust to them. Implementing changes sooner rather than later would allow more generations to share in the needed revenue increases or reductions in scheduled benefits and could preserve more trust fund reserves to help finance future benefits. Social Security will play a critical role in the lives of 62 million beneficiaries and 173 million covered workers and their families in 2017. With informed discussion, creative thinking, and timely legislative action, Social Security can continue to protect  future generations.

 

July 17, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Retirement, Social Security | Permalink

Thursday, July 6, 2017

How Much Care do Family Caregivers Provide?

We have blogged on several occasions about the important role adult children play in family caregiving. Ever wonder just how much care the kids are providing? The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College looked at that specific question.

How Much Long-Term Care Do Adult Children Provide?, an issue brief, offered these key findings:

  • As people age and their health deteriorates, they begin to need more help with daily activities.
  • While many formal long-term care services are available, cost concerns and personal preferences lead many to rely on informal care from adult children.
  • At any given point, 6 percent of adult children serve as caregivers, and 17 percent will take on this role at some point in their lives.
  • Those who do provide care devote an average of 77 hours per month, which can take a toll on both the finances and health of the caregiver.
  • The caregiving burden on adult children is likely to become a bigger concern as baby boomers move into their 80s.

Look again at the numbers. Seventeen percent of adult kids will be caregivers at some point and at almost 80 hours a month, it's almost like working half-time. Here is the conclusion to the brief:

At any point in time, few adult children are taking care of their parents. But, over the course of their lives, about 17 percent of adults end up providing care for their parents. And when children do care for par- ents, the commitment is large – 77 hours per month. As baby boomers enter their 80s, a large increase in the demand for long-term care is likely, with a commensurate rise in the reliance on care from their children. Since boomers had fewer children per household than the previous generation, this develop- ment will place an unprecedented burden on their children, with implications for their physical, mental, and nancial well-being. However, research also suggests that the issue may be more challenging than just the relative sizes of the generations. After all, divorced parents need more support from children, and those children are more likely to provide support if they live nearby. For a generation characterized by low fertility, unstable marriages, and far- ung children, this situation sug- gests that the informal care the boomers will need may not be there – and demand for formal care will soon increase beyond its historical levels. Policymakers and the private sector must confront this prospect, with its attendant burdens on the long-term care sector and insurers of long-term care – the largest of which by far is an already overburdened Medicaid system.

Consider the last sentence of the conclusion in light of  the debated Congressional action on the Affordable Care Act.

The full brief is available here.

July 6, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Retirement, Statistics | Permalink

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Quick Social Security Quiz

When thinking about Social Security for retirement purposes, we know that recipients can be confused about when to draw benefits. But it may also be unclear what type of benefits are available for certain beneficiaries. So Kiplinger's Social Security quiz is a quick and easy way to test your Social Security knowledge. The 10 multiple choice questions covers topics such as early retirement, spousal benefits, the effect of divorce, dependent benefits, the trust fund and the future of Social Security. Check it out!

June 15, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Retirement, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

FINRA Guidance and Rogue Brokers

According to a recent story in Investment News, FINRA is going to provide brokerages with more guidance on dealing with "rogue brokers." Finra CEO Robert Cook promises to give brokerages more guidance on overseeing rogue brokers  explains that "[FINRA] intends to help brokerages better identify and supervise brokers with checkered disciplinary histories who may pose risks to investors. In coming months, the broker-dealer self-regulator will delineate [FINRA's expectations]...." The article relates pressures on FINRA to do something about brokers that move from firm to firm.

At its May meeting, Finra's board advanced proposals that would allow tougher penalties for brokers with certain past infractions, enable disciplinary hearing panels to restrict the activities of brokers and firms while a case is on appeal, and require firms to strengthen supervision while a "disqualification request" is under review or a broker is appealing a hearing decision.

There's a working group on this issue and FINRA is considered other measures, with any final regs needing SEC approval.

June 14, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Calculating Your Retirement Savings Needs

We've mentioned various retirement calculators before. Kiplinger's recent letter mentioned this calculator-it's very easy and takes little time to get your results!  Here's the description

Our exclusive Retirement Savings Calculator will help you estimate the future value of your retirement savings and determine how much more you need to save each month to reach your retirement goal. Actual results will depend on how much you contribute to your retirement accounts, the rate-of-return on your investments, and how long you live. (The calculator does not take taxes on your retirement income into account so your actual spendable income will be less.)

Try it out. It really is quick and easy. It would be a great tool to use with our students to get them thinking about financial security and the importance of planning for retirement.!

June 6, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Retirement, Social Security, Web/Tech | Permalink

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Growing Opposition to Consolidation of Departments of Aging into Other State Departments

As I reported here for the first time recently, Pennsylvania's Governor Wolf has proposed consolidation -- or as he prefers to call it -- unification -- of four separate administrative agencies, the Departments of Aging, Health, Human Services (formerly Public Welfare) and Drug & Alcohol Treatment Programs.  Are similar budget-driven changes occurring in your state?

As I catch up with events in Pennsylvania, I'm learning from readers about growing concerns about the possible merger.  

  • As one recently retired PA legislator pointed out, there seems to be little in the way of a written plan for how services will be handled under this merger.  Rather, the merger appears mostly as a description of budget items, with a lot of "minus" signs to indicate cuts.  Perhaps by design, Pennsylvania government is often a bad example of transparency for governments.  What is the real plan, if any?  
  • With the consolidation, at a minimum, older Pennsylvanians would be losing a cabinet level post, their singular, dedicated spokesperson. This would be likely to affect all future budget and programming battles.
  • The timing is, to use a favorite Trump adjective, "sad."  While the leading edge of the big wave of aging baby boomers began to be felt a few years ago when those born in in 1945 started turning age 65 in 2010, the "real" need for an effective advocate is when boomers start turning age 75, age 80 and so on, the higher ages when they are more likely to need or question access to services.

Perhaps of greatest significance is the potential impact of consolidation on the process for assessment of need for services and assistance, especially Medical Assistance.  

Under the current allocation of resources, "assessment" of need is handled by individuals employed under the authority of Pennsylvania's Department of Aging.  

However, the financial allocations are currently determined under the authority of the Department of Human Services.  Consolidation might make sense on paper, but wait

As one of my mentors in aging, Northern Ireland's former Commissioner of Older People Claire Keatinge, says, to be helpful, fair and effective, any individual assessment of need for health care, social care and security, should be exactly that -- individualized and focused on the client,  and should not be simply a match to "what services (if any) are available."  That process-based distinction is critical to determining current and future funding priorities.

In Pennsylvania, the lion's share of budget and personnel for aging services has long been housed in the Department of Human Services (formerly Public Welfare), but those workers -- perhaps by necessity and perhaps by design, have often functioned as dedicated bean counters, as in "here's what services we fund, so do you or don't you meet the eligibility criteria?"  

By losing the aging assessment focus of the current Department of Aging, it seems likely the state would compromise, and perhaps lose entirely, the independent thinking and opportunity for critical needs-based assessment.

Several elder-focused organizations have raised these and other key points in opposition to the existing budget-based consolidation proposal.  Those active in the debate include:

  • The Pennsylvania chapter of the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys (PAELA)  has asked thoughtful legislators to "oppose such consolidation" as presented in the current budget proposal.   As Pittsburgh Elder Law attorney Julian Gray testified on May 1 in state Senate hearings, a "bigger" agency is not necessarily a "better" agency. 
  • Representatives for the service organization for Pennsylvania senior service workers, P4A, testified strongly in favor of the role of the Department of Aging as the advocate for the "unique needs of seniors."  Speakers focused too on the Department's historical role in protecting and managing a unique funding stream dedicated to seniors, "lottery" funds.
  • Long-time practitioner and elder law guru, Jeff Marshall, has a comprehensive commentary, with links, detailing the history and importance of Pennsylvania's Department of Aging.  There's a simple bottom line expressed here -- "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."  
  • Related articles

May 23, 2017 in Consumer Information, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Retirement, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Save the Date: Free Social Security Webinar

Justice in Aging has announced an upcoming webinar on Social Security. Legal Basics: Social Security is a free webinar scheduled for June 13, 2017 at 2 p.m. edt. 

Social Security is a popular social insurance program administered by the Social Security Administration. It provides critical resources and economic security to many workers who are retired or have a disability, as well as to their survivors and dependents. This webinar is designed for legal services and other advocates who are just getting started in the field and others who want to learn more about the essentials of the program. This Legal Basics: Social Security webinar will cover the basics of the Social Security program and the rules surrounding it, including general information on how the program works and who is eligible to claim benefits (including spouses and children). We will also discuss other basic information such as timing considerations when applying for benefits, how benefits are calculated, and suggestions on where to find further information.

To register for this free webinar, click here.

 

May 18, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Retirement, Social Security, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0)