If Amenity-Lite Isn’t the Answer, What Are Boomers Looking for in a 55+ Community

Category: Active adult communities

May 23, 2018 — Our article of two weeks ago, “When Amenity Rich Isn’t the Answer”, stirred quite a reaction from Topretirements Members. It generated 53 (and counting) interesting comments in support of Pamela’s quest for a community with minimal to no active adult amenities. Which prompts us to ask, what is it that most people are looking for in an active adult, 55+ community? If not amenities, then what? If amenities, which ones are the objects of their desire? In this article we we review data from past surveys as well as some of the more interesting comments we have received on what Topretirements Members want to find in an active adult or 55+ community. We hope you will all chime in with your thoughts in the Comments section of this article – they are always the best part.

Amenity-Light – a quick summary
Pamela’s article brought forth many like minded folks who seek a community with only the most basic amenities. The primary motivation seemed to be economic: “Why should I pay high HOA fees for amenities like a golf course and fancy clubhouse with activities director when I will probably never use them”? Ella then asked (more…)

Posted by Admin on May 22nd, 2018

As America Ages Out, Counties Are Winners And Losers

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

May 20, 2018 — Maps can tell you a lot in a hurry. Comparing two demographic representations, one from the New York Times and one from the Wall St. Journal, can tell you a lot about America’s birth rates, aging patterns, and where retirement age people are moving. The maps represent different themes on the aging of America, much of which is proving to be a surprise to demographers, who are puzzled by an an unexpected decline in birth rates.

Counties where deaths exceed births
The New York Times map offers a fascinating moving image of areas of the country that are aging out – where more people die than are born. As you watch it the map changes: it starts out with the picture as it was in 1991, and eventually ends showing 2016. During this 25 year period you can see that massive parts of the country that now have negative natural population decreases. Although much of the Midwest and Appalachia have been in this (more…)

Posted by Admin on May 19th, 2018

Applying for Social Security Online: Our Experience

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

May 16, 2018 — Back in March I received a letter from the Social Security Administration – “It is time for you to register for your retirement benefit!” I was impressed with their timing and efficiency, since my 70th birthday will be this August. Nicely done. This article will chronicle my experiences in registering for my Social Security retirement benefit online – lessons learned that hopefully will help others when it comes time to claim their benefits.

My decision was to wait until age 70 to claim. Fortunately we have been able to afford to live without that benefit so far. That blessing, coupled with very good genes (my parents’ average age before departing this earth was 97), made it seem like a good bet to wait until 70. That way I could capture the 8% increase a year for delaying from age 66, and then enjoy that extra money for a long time past the breakeven point in my late 70s (and my wife after I pass). Time will tell if that was a good move or not.

Registering for Social Security retirement benefits
My plan and hope was to register online, and not have to spend time on the phone or waiting in a SS office for help. In most cases, once your application is submitted electronically, you’re done. There are no forms to sign and usually no documentation is required. Social Security will process your application and contact you if any further information is needed. Our experience was that registering can be done and relatively easily. However, there are some pitfalls and things to look out for along the way.

Step 1. Go to SSA.gov
If you go to “Apply for Retirement Benefits” the process is rather simple. You have to be at least 61 years and 9 months old to apply, and you can’t apply for your benefits more than 4 months before you want them to start. If you don’t have Medicare but are within 3 months of age 65, you can use this application to apply for both Medicare and Social Security. To start the process you will need to create a username and password. You will be given a reentry number, which will allow you to come back and complete your application at a later time. You are going to want to keep that and your username and password in a safe place (not your computer).

Step 2. Gather required information
The SSA site is going to ask you for some information, so it is best to assemble it now. For example you’ll need to be able to answer questions about any marriages and divorces, if you have applied for Medicare or Social Security before, facts about your children (in some cases), U.S. military service, employment and self-employment in recent years, your bank account routing and account numbers, as well as some other details. Here is a Checklist of what you will need.

Step 3: Fill out the application
All of the questions on the online application are straightforward, but there are a few that might take you by surprise. Mostly it is a question of having the information on hand, such as where and when you were married, and your spouse’s Social Security number.

Step 4: Fill in the blanks – about the ex
When it comes to surprise questions, I wasn’t prepared to provide information about my previous marriage and ex-wife. That series starts with a question if you had been married to someone else for 10 years or more. In my case that was Yes. Did that marriage end in divorce? So then the questions continued – is that ex-spouse still alive (yes), where and when you were married, and was it done by clergy or public official. The Social Security number of the spouse is needed, as well her birthdate. Not to mention having to know the date and place the marriage was dissolved. In my case it took a little research and time to get all that info.

Step 5: Important: When do you want to start your benefits
This is an important question worth careful consideration. The longer you delay (up to the month you turn 70), the higher your benefit. There is no benefit for waiting beyond that month.

Step 6: Do you want to delay receipt of your retirement benefit?
You may have the option to delay receipt of your retirement benefits, if you are eligible for both your own retirement benefits and a spouse’s benefit (your spouse is collecting now).  In that case you may choose to receive only the spouse’s benefit now and delay receiving your own retirement benefit (the Restricted Benefit is not available to people born on or after Jan. 2, 1954).

If you are eligible for delaying your own benefit it is in most cases a no-brainer to do that. That’s because either way you are going to get a benefit now. But, if your earning record is at least as high as your spouse’s, and can live with a potentially smaller spousal benefit for a few years, there is a good chance your own benefit will be much higher at age 70 (it grows at 8% a year each year from age 66).

Step 7, the last section – Additional Comments
Here is your chance to add comments. Many people recommend using this section to reiterate your preferences – for example when you want to start your benefits and that you want to take advantage of the Restricted Benefit.

You can put your application on ice
Before you start out the application process you were given a re-entry number. That way if you complete only part of the application you can come back in any time and resume where you left off (or you can start over again).

Problems: Website access, and, beware the incomplete section
My experience with the online process turned up two problems that others might run into.

First, the SS website is overloaded. Many times when I tried to go back to my application to fill in missing data, all I got were repeated error messages – “We cannot help you at this time”. I finally was able to get through at 7:30AM – so if you have problems getting through try off-peak hours.

I was frustrated in my attempt to “sign” and submit the completed application. There just didn’t seem to be any place to do that. I went forward in the process, only to be told I was only saving the application to be completed in the future. I went backward, but that didn’t help either. Finally, just before I resigned myself to calling the SS office, I realized that perhaps there was an incomplete section. Sure enough, I had not filled out the section asking if I had ever had another name or SSAN. Once that was completed, the button to “Sign and Submit” magically appeared.

Review and Submit
Check over your application and make sure the information you have submitted is correct. An error could cause a delay in you getting your benefit, not to mention having to answer questions from the SS office. Once you do submit you will come to a page that tells you have done just that, and that will be followed up with an email. In our case a few days later we got a call and email from a Social Security case worker, who wanted to get some followup information. After a bout of telephone tag my case worker left a message. He wanted to let me know that I had the option to claim retroactively going back 3 months, which would mean I would get a nice lump sum payment as well as start collecting right away. Though tempting, my decision was that having waited this long, I might as well wait 3 more months and get the maximum. I based that decision mostly on what I hope is the much longer than average life expectancy I have, as well as does my (5 years) younger spouse. Next step – let’s see if the correct amount arrives in my bank account in August!

Bottom line
Based on my experience I would definitely recommend going the online application route. It was relatively quick, and the ability to amend the application over time before submitting it was a plus (we can only imagine how frustrating it would be to go to the SS office and realize we did not have all of the info needed to complete the application). If, however, you are not sure about when you want to start taking your benefits, if the Restricted Benefit is a good idea for you, or other questions, you might want to call or visit your Social Security office. Just be careful, we have heard stories that suggested that not every SS case worker has a great understanding of how the system works and what is best for you.

Comments? Have you gone through the process of applying for Social Security? If so was it online, over the phone, or in person? Any difficulties or surprises along the way? Were you happy, or not, with the experience? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

For further reading:

Posted by Admin on May 15th, 2018

A “Next Chapter” – Afloat

Category: Adventurous retirement

By John Andola
May 15, 2018 — Just days from my 80th birthday, I am engaging in a major life style change. One that brings both serious stress for the present and potential promise for the future. Leaving our rental house of seven years and ridding our lives of tangible connections with past life, George and I are embarking on an adventure that will literally bring us to the next chapter in our lives. Literally, because we have commissioned the building of a new boat which we will live aboard full time, and that we have named Next Chapter.

At 35 feet, Next Chapter is ten feet longer than our treasured Grumpy Old Men, which we hope to sell within the next couple of months. But more about the new boat at a later posting. Here the focus is on the physical and mental transition through (more…)

Posted by Admin on May 14th, 2018

When Amenity Rich Is Not the Answer

Category: Active adult communities

This excellent suggestion came in from Pamela: “Please consider writing an article for people who don’t want to live in an amenity-rich community, and how frustrating it is trying to buy a home because that’s all that is being built? I’d love your perspective on this dilemma and any suggestions you may have. It would also be interesting to see the type of comments you get from your subscribers”. We hope her request will generate the usual amount of great comments from our Members. Here is her request, along with some of our thoughts.

May 9, 2018 — I’m an active adult baby boomer, but I can find my own fun. I don’t want to live in a 24-hour resort with a full-time lifestyle director, lavish clubhouses, fitness centers, numerous pools, tennis courts, bocce ball, playgrounds, basketball courts, soccer fields, etc. I’ve been paying for a manned gate and other amenities that mainly cater to families for a long time, and I’m sick of it. I’d love to find a simple, small and quaint community in Southwest Florida without all that stuff. It would be nice to find something maintenance free so I don’t have to deal with yard work, but I’d be happy to just find something without all the amenities.

I truly feel this is an expensive fad that baby boomers are going to regret because of the extremely high fees and those fees will be even higher when the builder is done (more…)

Posted by Admin on May 9th, 2018

The Invisible Retirement Wrecker

Category: Health Issues

May 9, 2018 — Maybe it is just timing, but we seem to be having more and more interactions with people who are very lonely. A widower and good friend admitted that, after feeling sorry for himself, he broke one of his own rules and went out to a bar by himself for a beer and pizza. Just this weekend we ran into an old friend, also a widower, who was visibly very upset. He was near tears as he described how he can’t seem to meet anyone that he would like to spend time with. Even on this site last week we had a post from a Member expressing her helplessness after the sudden loss of her husband. Almost three quarters of Americans have feelings of loneliness, according to a survey by the Harris Poll on behalf of the American Osteopathic Association. As many as one-third say (more…)

Posted by Admin on May 8th, 2018

Tough Questions: Mixed Results from Our ‘Social Security IQ Quiz’

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

May 2, 2018 — Even though the average scores were quite low on last week’s Social Security IQ Quiz, there is still plenty of good news. Best of all, we are happy that so many people, over 2,000 and climbing, took the time to take it last week. It wasn’t easy, particularly with its occasionally tricky multiple choice options. But after having taken it, gotten a score, read the answers, and understanding why they were correct – a lot of people now have a better understanding of this critical retirement benefit. Hurrah!

In this article we are going to cover the highlights of the quiz and how our test takers did on it. We won’t go into the nuts and bolts of every answer, because we already provided all the correct answers and explanations at Your Social Security Quiz Results.

Overall scores
The average score on the quiz was 50%. Of the 2046 taking it as of (more…)

Posted by Admin on May 1st, 2018