Don’t Let Pride Get In Your Way, Get Your Hearing Tested!

Let’s get down to it:  untreated hearing loss and untreated vision loss will cause a person to be less engaged, less connected, less alive, less content.  One of our frequent themes here at the Big 65:

If you are not growing, you are dying!

A few years ago, after much nagging from my family, I finally agreed to have my hearing tested.  The result?  Shock of shocks, I had hearing loss, I couldn’t hear the high-pitched tones, including my wife.

My response:  I got hearing aids, the second-best decision I have ever made (marrying my wife being the best).

The benefits were instantaneous:  I could hear birds sing, my family stopped having to repeat themselves constantly, I was immediately sharper and more productive, I could hear at parties.  Everyone was happier, especially me!

According to my Audiologist, Dr. Brock Sturlaugson at Hearing Rehab Solutions, most people wait years and years to have their hearing tested, long after they’ve been experiencing
problems.  Why do people wait?

Well for me it was pride.  No one wants to admit they are getting older.  The good news is the devices are smaller, less noticeable and more powerful than ever.  Some days, when I wear practically invisible hearing aids and put in my contact lenses, I feel like the six-million-dollar man!

This article in the New York Times discusses the link between cognitive decline, hearing and vision loss.  While the link is not perfectly linear, one thing is certain:  the more connected we remain to family, community and life, the more content we are.

Even better news, some of the Medicare related health plans I work with are beginning to offer hearing benefits.  If you think you or a loved one is asking those around to repeat themselves too often, or if feel you are disengaging, it may be time to check your eyes and your ears.

So, go it do now! Think of it as a gift for the people you love.

It’ll cost you money and you may have to swallow your pride.

But, when you hear the birds singing in the back yard while you sip your coffee and marvel at the brilliant light in a morning sunrise, you’ll be damn glad you did, and so will those who love you!

And to all the audiologists in the world…thanks!

 

Karl Bruns-Kyler is a Certified Senior Advisor, a licensed insurance agent  focused on Medicare Coverage who helps consumers shop for coverage.

Opt Out of Credit Card Offers … for 5 Years or Forever!

Who isn’t annoyed by overabundance of junk mail? If you’ve checked your mail this week, chances are pretty good you’ve received a credit card offer, or two or three or more!

If a consumer is carrying credit card debt, sometimes enrolling in a new credit card and transferring the balance to a 0% interest offer or a 12-month low interest card can be a life line, providing time to get caught up on finances.

But receiving offers in the mail may not be best for the best way to review offers and it this abundance of mail may pose risk to your credit. Our recommendation: opt out of all pre-solicited credit card offers by visiting this site. You can choose to opt out for 5 years or forever. If you are looking to find out which credit cards offer 0% or low interest credit card offers, or competitive travel points awards, visit NerdWallet.

Unless all financial paperwork is shredded, financial junk mail can end up in the hands of dumpster divers, data thieves looking to steal credit. Dumpster diving may not be as common as it was but it is still a threat. So opt out of all those unwanted offers, your mailbox will thank you!

Stop The Robo Calls!

stop robo callsCan you imagine a life without annoying robo calls? Wouldn’t that be amazing, if we only received calls from people with whom we wanted speak? Of course if you are a Millennial, your answer is, “I don’t use the phone for talking 😊. But for the rest us, robo calls are a pain in the back side.

I just got off the phone with a client complaining about the dozens of robocalls he gets every day! The good news, there are some strategies to reduce them.

Most people know to register their phones on the donotcall.gov website, but that doesn’t seem to deter the calls.

The link to the article below has some great ideas for how to minimize the nuisance. Here are the ones I like:

  1. Don’t answer if you don’t recognize the number! This is the best one. If I get a call I don’t recognize on my cell phone, I text the automatic reply, “sorry I can’t talk.” If they don’t leave a message, it’s probably a robocall.
  2. Get a landline blocker at one of the big box stores or Amazon. Remember to check if the technology will work with your brand of phone. Better yet, get rid of your landline.
  3. Never opt out on the call. I used to do this. Apparently, if you engage with the call in any way, and that includes opting out, it puts your number on a “hot list.”
  4. There’s an app for that. There is iPhone App called Nomorobo. It’s $1.99 a month. After one ring, the software can decide if the call is a robo call. If it is, it hangs up for you. It should be coming out for Android soon.

This problem will be with us for a while but with a little effort, we can make it a little less annoying. Now if anyone has a solution for robo faxes, PLEASE let me know!!

How much am I going to get and when should I begin?

One of the most common questions I am asked as people approach Social Security age is, “How much am I going to get and when should I begin?”

Naturally, my answer is always the same… it depends. I am not a Financial Planner, and I don’t play one on TV 😊. For specific information, talk to your Financial Advisor or visit the Social Security Website to find out how much you will receive.

Here is the general information.

Social Security Benefits are accrued over a person’s working lifetime. To be eligible for Social Security a person or their spouse needs have worked and paid into the system for at least 10 years (40 quarters of work). Once a person has done this, they will be vested and eligible Social Security and Medicare. Generally the more you have earned, the higher your monthly Social Security Benefit will be. Conversely, the higher your income in retirement is, the higher your Medicare Part Premium may be.

As to when to begin Social Security, the younger you begin, the lower benefit may be (read this).

If you start your Social Security while you are still working, you may have to pay additional taxes (depending on your income). If someone has a family history where most family members die young, starting early may be prudent.

If someone has longevity in their family and doesn’t need income to live, deferring Social Security until age 70 may mean significantly more income over their lifetime.

As you can see the answers to these questions aren’t easy.

Make certain your Advisor uses a Social Security calculator to help you with this this decision. Starting too early or to late could be a mistake. No one has a crystal but a good advisor, looking at your comprehensive financial means, should be able to help you make the right choice.

Please let me know if you need a referral and I will be happy to help.

Does Your Mind Wander?

Achieving HappinessOk, ok, for somebody who claims we shouldn’t spend our time chasing happiness, I spend quite a bit of time learning about happiness.  As a Certified Senior Advisor, I have a mission:  help people with their Medicare Coverage and give them information that can improve the quality of their lives.

This article, A Wandering Mind is an Unhappy One, struck home! This gist of it … when we allow our mind to wander aimlessly, we are less happy.  When we are engaged with what we are doing and absorbed, we tend to be more content.

We all have wandering minds.  We are all constantly distracted.  More information hits us on a daily basis than our grandparents had to absorb in a month. This data deluge that surrounds us in our phone, our tablets our TVs, well it burns off our focus, and our ability to engage in a single meaningful activity.

I like this article because the researchers used tools to ping their subjects as they were involved in their daily activities.  One discovery?  It didn’t matter if you were a hard charging partier out on the town or an introvert at home in quiet reverie.

The important thing:  it doesn’t matter what you are doing as much as it matters that you are mentally engaged with whatever you are doing.

Concepts like this seem so simple.  Simple but not easy!

Here’s your mission for today:  whatever activity you do next, focus your attention on that activity. Mow with zest, make eye contact with your breakfast partner and listen, pay attention to the road as you drive.  Be present.

Turns out contemplative Christianity and Buddhists (and probably a bunch of other great religions) say the same thing: a focused mind is a content mind.

Now go and sin no more 😊.

Should you take your blood pressure pills at night?

Should you take your blood pressure pills at night?

I’m not a doctor, I don’t even play one on TV, but as an insurance broker focused on Medicare and Long-Term Care Coverage for my clients, blood pressure meds are among the most common medications I see prescribed.  They’ve been around forever; they seem to be relatively safe and they must be keeping people alive.

I take a baby aspirin in the morning because my doctor said it is a simple strategy for reducing heart attack, stroke, prostate issues and it may even possibly reduce dementia risks. We are lucky to have access all of these miracle medications.

When I read an article like this, it surprises me that I hadn’t heard about how this sooner and how this small change might really be helpful.

According to Harvard Medical School, in one study, patients who took their blood pressure medication at night instead of in the morning had better blood pressure control and were less likely than their peers to die of a heart attack.

The article goes on to say each person needs to check with their doctor BEFORE making any changes to their regimen.  Their doctor may have a specific reason why they encouraged.

That being said, talk to doctor and your pharmacist.  Small changes can have huge consequences.

Be Well!

Don’t Be a Zombie!

Most of us try to live well.  We know that small changes to habits, social connections,  eating patterns and exercise regimens can, over the long term, yield a happier, more meaningful life.

In my practice as a Certified Senior Advisor, I’ve had the privilege of speaking with thousands and thousands of people on “the other side of 50.”  This collective experience has lead me to the realization that there are only two types of people:

The Living Engaged and the Walking Dead. Not quite Zombies, but pretty darn close.      Let me explain.  When I speak with my tribe of Medicare clients and those who check in daily for help and answers, I’m always struck by the vitality (or the lack thereof) in each person with whom I speak. People in their 80’s and early 90’s are engaged, vital and still savoring life on this side of the great divide.  They inspire and help me to do by my best, to be my best and to help others.

Others, in their 60’s, are disengaged, discontent and have little of positive value to share.  We all know people who are trapped.  They sap the life from our bones.  We do our best with these people and we choose to spend as little time with them as possible.

The Japanese have a wonderful expression for these Zombies, the burned out or disengaged who have no zest for life, “Sodai Gomi,” translated as “large garbage.”

When I start getting grumpy and unappreciative, my wife reminds me to drink some coffee, to get to work, to go do something.

Life isn’t fair.  Some folks are prettier, smarter, luckier.  But Victor Frankel, the concentration camp survivor wrote in “Man’s Search For Meaning” that life is about having goals and missions greater than ourselves.  It isn’t about happiness.

Happiness is the byproduct of a well lived life, a life of service to others and to things greater than ourselves.

It’s ok to get a stuck, it’s ok to be depressed, it’s ok to be grouchy… but it ain’t ok to live there.

So, when you feel life’s darkness and the Zombie Malaise setting in, acknowledge it and immediately fill someone else’s cup with love:

  1. Write a note to someone you love.
  2. Encourage a friend.
  3. Hold the door for a stranger.
  4. Volunteer.
  5. Apologize for being an idiot.
  6. Love on an animal.
  7. Smile at a good memory.
  8. Laugh with reckless abandon.

Today, don’t be a Zombie.

 

Never carry your Social Security card or your Medicare card! Here’s the solution!

Social Security Card As a Certified Senior Advisor, one of my missions is to help people avoid making irreversible mistakes.  This is one of the biggest ones I see people make every day:  carrying their social security card or their Medicare card in their wall or their purse.  Never do this!

Identity Theft becomes way too easy once a thief has this piece of information. If you lose your wallet or forget your purse, or someone snatches them from your car, the damage to your credit and your finances can be done in hurry. Undoing the damage can be very expensive, take a long time to repair and be very stressful.

“But what if I need to show this to my doctor or to the bank or to the DMV?”  Here’s the answer:  Make a color copy of the cards at UPS store, Office Max, Staples or any copy store.  Get a black magic marker, black out the final set of digits (ex 123-03-XXXX). Then, laminate the copy, put the copies in your wallet/
purse and LOCK UP the originals.

When you go to an office where they need this info, hand them the copy and TELL THEM ORALLY THE LAST FOUR DIGITS. This protects you and your information.  Some offices may grumble but they will take it.

By the way, when you can’t remember the last four digits of your social anymore… that’s a sign you need some help 😉!  Have a great day and let me know how I can help you take the mystery out of Medicare.