As boomers retire from their jobs at unprecedented rates in the U.S., you’d think they’d be spending their free time with friends, lingering over the morning newspaper and coffee or taking January vacations in a warm place. But many seniors are finding themselves in a predicament that few anticipate in retirement: parenting for a second time. Census reports indicate that 2.7 million grandparents are responsible for their grandchildren. Their added duties may be fulfilling, but they may be stressful, too.
In fact, many things can trigger stress among retired adults — paying bills on a fixed income, failing health, caring for ill parents or spouses, or even grandparenting. Excessive stress can lead to serious health problems.
“When stressed, the body releases substances such as cortisol and adrenaline that affect every organ and can cause muscle tension, insulin secretion and increased heart rate,” said Arthur Hayward, M.D., a geriatrician and the clinical lead physician for elder care with Kaiser Permanente’s Care Management Institute.
“You can’t avoid stress, but managing it can help preserve your health and well-being,” Dr. Hayward added. He recommends identifying and understanding the cause of your stress and finding ways to relieve it, such as these eight tips:
Pace yourself. Don’t take on too much. Be aware of your limitations.
Set realistic goals and expectations, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Plan time for yourself. Recharge your batteries.
Exercise and eat a balanced diet. Get plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Try relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga.
Get enough sleep. If you have problems sleeping, talk to your doctor. Drinking caffeinated beverages and alcohol can affect your ability to get a good night’s sleep.
Talk with a loved one or write in a journal.
Stay positive. Positive thoughts can make a difference, such as “I am hopeful” or “Things will be better.”
For more information, go tokp.org/healthyaging. For questions or advice about a specific condition, talk to your physician.
We all know they’re coming . . . the dog days of summer. As parents or grandparents, we love having the kiddos home and the absence of the daily grind of the bus, lunch-making and homework, but with every upside, there is a downside. And for kids in the summer, it’s boredom!
For this reason, parents spend a good amount of time searching and registering their kids for activities to keep them engaged and out of trouble. With so many options available, where do you start? Where do you find activities that are of interest to your kids, while also being kind to your wallet?
A good place to start is online. There are some great parent resources available that provide parents the opportunity to search different activities — all relevant to your child.
For instance, ACTIVEkids.com is an easy-to-use website for parents to discover and register kids for activities, classes and camps. ACTIVEkids enables parents to find a broad spectrum of activities from art seminars to dance classes to local summer camps — search by gender, age and interests to find activities that are the most relevant to parent and child. It has a database of more than 120,000 activities nationwide and serves kids ages four to 18.
Another option is the local YMCA. If you’re not familiar with the YMCA in your area, we suggest you check it out. It’s a great family organization for kids and adults of all ages. Their programs focus on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Many local locations offer health and fitness programs that help children (and adults) to increase energy, decrease stress, prevent illness, maintain a healthy lifestyle and just enjoy quality time with family and friends.
The Y offers a number of different summer programs that promote positive self-esteem, good decision making and self-help and care. There are likely to be one or two great options for your child.
The recreation department in your town is another great place to look for activities — and they are usually very affordable. Most towns offer programs from tennis and swim lessons to painting and music classes. The programs are usually run by local experts and are located right in town. Plus, if you coordinate with some friends, you might be able to catch a morning break that can be enjoyed and filled with some “you” time.
Wherever you go to find fun, engaging activities for your kids, just make sure you remember to carve out some simple, relaxing family time, too. The summers fly by much faster than the school year.
Ben Franklin once declared, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Yet, equally enlightening are his thoughts on expenses: “Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.”
And there are plenty of “leaks” that can scuttle an already-tight budget. For instance, a spouse idled by the sour economy, a fender bender with the family car, or an unexpected hospitalization. That’s why financial advisors recommend that you have a rainy-day fund—enough liquid assets to cover three to six months’ worth of emergency living expenses. In case of financial emergency, access to additional money will save you from relying on credit cards or loans that simply compound the problem.
When starting an emergency fund, here are a few tips to abide by:
- Determine what amount is best for you. Most experts agree that you should keep between three and six months worth of your living expenses set aside in your emergency fund. Your specific situation – whether you have children, carry substantial debt and types of insurance coverage you have – will determine what amount is best for you. Examine your situation — your income and your needs — to decide how much you should save.
- Start small. Starting an emergency fund can be as simple as depositing $100 into your high-interest savings account. But before you begin, be sure that you’re meeting your basic living expenses. And as you build your emergency fund, be sure you’re also reducing your spending and avoiding debt.
- Stick to a schedule. Get into the habit of making regular deposits. Whether it is weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, create a schedule and stick to it. Once you make saving automatic, you won’t even have to think about it.
- Consider an online savings account. In many cases, an “online” savings account may make more sense than an account at a traditional, bricks-and-mortar bank. That’s because many traditional banks are not currently offering a savings option with interest rates high enough to meaningfully beat inflation. In addition, an online savings account is a reliable way to manage your money.
You know you’ll be eligible for Medicare when you turn 65, but what does that mean? More than 10,000 people age into Medicare eligibility every day, but many have questions about how to enroll and which plan will best meet their health and budget needs.
Medicare provides important benefits for people who qualify, including preventive care, hospital care and even prescription drug coverage. While there are multiple plan choices available, selecting the right Medicare plan may be easier than you think.
It’s important to note that people who are recently disabled — and haven’t turned 65 — may also qualify to enroll in Medicare. The disabled segment of the population is growing. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the disabled now total some 5 million Medicare beneficiaries. To determine if you or a family member may be newly eligible for Medicare, visit http://www.medicare.gov or call toll-free 1-800-MEDICARE (TTY: 1-877-486-2048) 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Enrolling in a timely manner is also important in order to avoid potential financial penalties. Equipped with the correct information, people qualifying for Medicare can select the plan that best suits their lifestyle and health care needs.
Here’s what you need to know:
Anyone who has legally lived in the United States for the past five years qualifies for Medicare at the age of 65. People eligible for Medicare have three options: Original Medicare, Medicare Supplement and Medicare Advantage.
Original Medicare is broken into two parts — A and B. Medicare Part A helps cover hospital expenses, and Part B helps cover everyday health care costs like doctor visits, outpatient care and some Part B prescription medications. Both Parts A and B have a deductible, as well as coinsurance once the deductible is met.
Medicare Supplement insurance plans, sold by private insurers, can help pay some of the health care costs that Original Medicare doesn’t pay, like copayments, coinsurance and deductibles. If you have Original Medicare and you buy a Medicare Supplement plan, Medicare will pay its share of the Medicare-approved amount for covered health care costs. Then, your Medicare Supplement plan pays its share. Medicare Supplement plans, however, do not cover prescription drug costs.
Medicare Advantage plans are run by private insurance companies, and all plans cover everything Original Medicare plans pay, as well as extra benefits and services. Medicare Advantage plans often include coverage for prescription drugs, vision and dental benefits, along with fitness programs and comprehensive preventive care. More than 16 million Americans have signed up for Medicare Advantage plans.
Medicare Part D provides prescription drug coverage for people with Medicare. These plans are available as standalone plans or as part of an all-in-one Medicare Advantage plan. Some Medicare Advantage plans, however, are sold without Part D included.
Enrolling in the right Medicare plan is an important decision, and by understanding the facts, you can navigate the process with ease. For more information about Medicare plans and their coverage, visitwww.Medicare.gov orwww.Humana.com/medicare or call a licensed Humana sales agent toll-free at 1-844-663-8090 (TTY: 711) between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.
If you’re contemplating retirement, you’ve probably given a lot of thought to its impact on your finances. But have you considered how retiring might affect your health?
The latest in the debate over whether retirement improves or worsens health appears in the current issue of The Journal of Human Resources. Its conclusion: “Results indicate that the retirement effect on health is beneficial and significant,” writes Michael Insler, an assistant professor of economics at the U.S. Naval Academy.
The boost to your health is comparable to reducing the risk of being diagnosed with diabetes by 25%, for those of retirement age, Insler concludes.
Better Health Behaviours
In an interview with Next Avenue, Insler acknowledged that his conclusion “in some sense is counter-intuitive,” since, he says, a common notion is that “oh, people retire and they kind of lose their will to go on.”
If retirement does benefit health, why is that so? “I think the obvious hypothetical answers to that question are health behaviours,” says Insler.
Retirees have more time to invest in their health, he writes in the Journal. “It may be easier for them to quit smoking or to be more physically active when not burdened by the work-week grind.”
Insler based his findings on an analysis of data from the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study, sponsored by the National Institute on Aging, which surveys a representative sample of 26,000 Americans over age 50 every other year.
He found that of the respondents who ever reported smoking, about 69% reported doing so in the survey that took place two to four years before they retired. But only about 56% said they were still smoking two to four years after they retired.
Insler also found that people were more likely after retirement to exercise vigorously for at least 30 minutes three or more days a week. Two to four years before retirement, about 48% of survey respondents said they exercised that much; that proportion increased to nearly 52% two to four years into retirement.
Same Data, Different Conclusions
But what if you really love your work? Might not retirement make you “lose your will to go on,” as Insler put it?
“Job satisfaction isn’t really something that I looked closely at,” he says. “It could be part of the story.” But, Insler says, “It’s less about your stress and satisfaction and more about the time you devote to your health upkeep.”
Although Inas Rashad Kelly and her co-authors used the same Health and Retirement Study data as Insler did, their analysis reached a different conclusion. In a paper published in 2008, they found that retirement affected health adversely.
The fact that their conclusions based on the same data set diverged from Insler’s “points to the complex and multifaceted nature of the issue at hand,” Rashad Kelly, an associate professor of economics at Queens College, part of the City University of New York, told Next Avenue.
Social Security Age
Retirement’s negative effect on health was especially strong among people who were forced, or encouraged, to retire and those who said they weren’t particularly enjoying their spouse’s company, Rashad Kelly and her co-authors found. But the effect was weaker among retirees who said they voluntarily retired, had stressful jobs, remained physically active and continued to socialize.
Economists trying to assess the ramifications of raising the age at which retirees can begin collecting Social Security are especially interested in whether health improves or declines in retirement.
If retirement exacerbates common, expensive health problems, then raising the eligibility age for Social Security might make sense. Such a move could help encourage people to work longer, reducing the strain on Social Security and Medicare. If health tends to improve after retirement, however, then getting people to continue working by raising the eligibility age for Social Security might reduce expenditures for that program but shift them to Medicare.
“We conclude that raising the retirement age for Social Security purposes may not have been such a bad thing,” Rashad Kelly says. “Yet we certainly do not propose altering the age one begins to receive much-needed health care through Medicare, and our results do not suggest that Medicare costs will go up on average if people work longer.”
Insler emphasized that it’s difficult to predict the health effects of retirement on individuals. “I’m trying to calculate an average impact for a population,” he says. “Does it mean it will necessarily happen to them? No.”
Enjoying mental health means having a sense of well-being, being able to function during everyday life and feeling confident to rise to a challenge when the opportunity arises. Just like your physical health, there are actions you can take to increase your mental health. Boost your well-being and stay mentally healthy by following a few simple steps.
- Connect with others.Develop and maintain strong relationships with people around you who will support and enrich your life. The quality of our personal relationships has a great effect on our well-being. Putting time and effort into building strong relationships can bring great rewards.
- Take time to enjoy.Set aside time for activities, hobbies and projects you enjoy. Let yourself be spontaneous and creative when the urge takes you. Do a crossword; take a walk in your local park; read a book; sew a quilt; draw pictures with your kids; play with your pets – whatever takes your fancy.
- Participate and share interests.Join a club or group of people who share your interests. Being part of a group of people with a common interest provides a sense of belonging and is good for your mental health. Join a sports club; a band; an evening walking group; a dance class; a theatre or choir group; a book or car club.
- Contribute to your community.Volunteer your time for a cause or issue that you care about. Help out a neighbor, work in a community garden or do something nice for a friend. There are many great ways to contribute that can help you feel good about yourself and your place in the world. An effort to improve the lives of others is sure to improve your life too.
- Take care of yourself.Be active and eat well – these help maintain a healthy body. Physical and mental health are closely linked; it’s easier to feel good about life if your body feels good. You don’t have to go to the gym to exercise – gardening, vacuuming, dancing and bush-walking all count. Combine physical activity with a balanced diet to nourish your body and mind and keep you feeling good, inside and out.
- Challenge yourself.Learn a new skill or take on a challenge to meet a goal. You could take on something different at work; commit to a fitness goal or learn to cook a new recipe. Learning improves your mental fitness, while striving to meet your own goals builds skills and confidence and gives you a sense of progress and achievement.
- Deal with stress.Be aware of what triggers your stress and how you react. You may be able to avoid some of the triggers and learn to prepare for or manage others. Stress is a part of life and affects people in different ways. It only becomes a problem when it makes you feel uncomfortable or distressed. A balanced lifestyle can help you manage stress better. If you have trouble winding down, you may find that relaxation breathing, yoga or meditation can help.
- Rest and refresh.Get plenty of sleep. Go to bed at a regular time each day and practice good habits to get better sleep. Sleep restores both your mind and body. However, feelings of fatigue can still set in if you feel constantly rushed and overwhelmed when you are awake. Allow yourself some unfocused time each day to refresh; for example, let your mind wander, daydream or simply watch the clouds go by for a while. It’s OK to add do nothing’ to your to-do list!
- Notice the here and now.Take a moment to notice each of your senses each day. Simply ‘be’ in the moment – feel the sun and wind on your face and notice the air you are breathing. It’s easy to be caught up thinking about the past or planning for the future instead of experiencing the present. Practicing mindfulness, by focusing your attention on being in the moment, is a good way to do this. Making a conscious effort to be aware of your inner and outer world is important for your mental health.
- Ask for help.This can be as simple as asking a friend to babysit while you have some time out or speaking to your doctor (GP) about where to find a counselor or community mental health service. The perfect, worry-free life does not exist. Everyone’s life journey has bumpy bits and the people around you can help. If you don’t get the help you need first off, keep asking until you do.
Is it possible to have two leap years back to back? For HR and payroll professionals, the answer is yes with two anomalous payroll years in a row. With 27 pay periods in 2015 and 366 days in 2016, employers should review their payroll and employment tax practices, and communicate with employees about any potential impact to their paychecks.
Most employers have already decided how they’ll address the extra pay period occurring in 2015, but some employees could still have questions. While some employers will divide a salaried employee’s yearly payment total by one extra period (for example: a worker’s typical salary would be divided between 27 bi-weekly payments as opposed to the usual 26), others may elect to pay their employees for an extra pay period at their regular rate of pay. An unchanged yearly payment stretched over an extra pay period will help keep payroll costs stable, but it means that employees will see lower payments each period than they may have expected. On the other hand, one extra paycheck at the usual rate means a plus for employees, but it also increases payroll totals on the year.
Just as HR professionals put the irregularity of 2015 behind them, 2016 will bring a calendar leap year and yet another payroll quandary. Employers will need to make sure they’re complying with any payroll tax implications of the unusual payroll year. With leap day falling on Monday, February 29, 2016, many salaried workers may wonder how their compensation will be affected and ask, “Is the company getting an extra day of work for free?” “TODAY” addressed this question during the last leap year in 2012; it turns out the answer depends on your current pay practices. A typical year has 52 weeks plus one day, but a leap year has 52 weeks plus two days. That extra day could mean another paycheck for employees if it falls on a designated payday in your payroll system. For businesses using accrual accounting systems, the extra day could be built in to the yearly total, and for hourly workers, it will mean an additional opportunity to log hours. Discussing how your business will account for the leap year with your workers can help reduce confusion.
No matter your payroll structure, be ready to explain the implications of a leap year with any concerned employees and make sure your employment tax processing accounts for any changes your payroll team makes for 2016.