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Dec 19, 2012

Why a new inflation gauge will hurt seniors

CHICAGO, Dec 19 (Reuters) – Let’s talk “chained CPI” – a
topic that sounds so wonky only a Washington policy nerd could
love it. And that’s probably what Washington politicians hope it
sounds like to you.

The chained CPI is the new way to measure inflation that
President Obama is proposing to set cost-of-living adjustments
(COLAs) for Social Security and other government benefits. So
far, it is his main concession to Republicans hungry for
entitlement cuts as part of a fiscal cliff deal. And chained CPI
proponents often describe it as a small, relatively painless
change — a technical fix aimed at making COLAs more accurate.

Dec 18, 2012

How retirees can cope with Fed’s “new normal”

CHICAGO (Reuters) – If you are still wondering whether we are in a “new normal” investment climate of ultra-low interest rates, wonder no more: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke settled any lingering doubts last week when he guaranteed rates will stay near zero at least through the middle of 2015 — or until the jobless rate falls to at least 6.5 percent, or the inflation rate jumps above 2.5 percent.

Bernanke’s unprecedented announcement(see link.reuters.com/kuj64t) might be good for the economy, but it is bad news for retirees, who already have suffered through four years of historically-low interest rates.

Dec 14, 2012

Career shift to giving working poor financial know-how

CHICAGO (Reuters) – On September 11, 2001, Lorraine Decker had it made. She and her husband Ken had a lucrative Houston financial planning practice specializing in retirement seminars all over the world for corporate employees. That day, they were waiting for a flight to New Orleans at the Newark airport when the first plane hit the twin towers in New York City.

With all air traffic grounded, the Deckers managed to rent a car to drive home to Houston. “We had the time to slow down and reflect on our priorities and the future of the nation, and we were feeling a profound need to help recreate the future,” she recalls.

Dec 12, 2012

IBM’s latest retirement move is bad for workers

By Mark Miller

CHICAGO, Dec 12(Reuters) – IBM ads urge us all to follow its
lead and help “build a smarter planet.” Let’s hope other
companies don’t follow Big Blue’s latest move: an overhaul of
its 401(k) plan that shifts its matching contribution to a
once-a-year affair.

Starting next year, IBM will shift its matching contribution
from semi-monthly to a lump sum paid each December 31. Leave the
company before December 15, and you’ll get no match at all for
the year.

Dec 6, 2012

Saving a little on Medicare may cost everyone else a lot

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Congressional Republicans want to raise Medicare’s eligibility age as part of a deal with Democrats to avoid falling off the fiscal cliff. Raising the eligibility age from 65 to 67 would save some money for Medicare and low-income seniors. But at the same time, it would boost out-of-pocket insurance costs for two-thirds of seniors in that age bracket and those who are younger, plus raise overall healthcare spending for the federal government, states and employers.

Start shifting insurance risk in one age bracket, and the effects ripple.

First, the youngest, relatively healthy seniors would move out of the Medicare risk pool, raising the cost — and premiums — of covering older beneficiaries.

Dec 5, 2012

Federal clampdown looming on reverse mortgages

CHICAGO, Dec 5 (Reuters) – The federal government is
proposing to make big changes to its reverse mortgage program
early next year that should make the loans safer for seniors who
use them to tap home equity.

Shaun Donovan, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing
and Urban Development (HUD), which regulates these loans, will
detail policy options t h at would create more conservative
lending standards in testimony later this week before the Senate
Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

Nov 29, 2012

Protecting your retirement from “fiscal cliff” risk

CHICAGO (Reuters) – The U.S. “fiscal cliff” is bad news for retirement security – whether we fall off it or not.

If the White House and Congress don’t steer clear of the cliff, taxes on income and investments will jump, beginning January 1. And if a deal is reached in Congress, it could herald entitlement benefit cuts, higher Medicare premiums for the rich and even caps on pre-tax 401(k) contributions.

Nov 16, 2012

Medicare premiums rising in 2013, but less than expected

CHICAGO, November 16 (Reuters) – The rising cost of Medicare
premiums will take a bigger bite out of seniors’ wallets next
year – but the amount will be smaller than was predicted by a
federal government forecast earlier this year.

The monthly premium for Medicare Part B (outpatient
services) will jump 5 percent in 2013 to $104.90, the Centers
for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced on Friday. The
increase — which amounts to $5 instead of the $9 that had been
predicted by the trustees of the Medicare program — will
consume part of the already-small Social Security cost-of-living
adjustment next year for middle class recipients.

Nov 13, 2012

How to appeal when Medicare won’t pay

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Medicare processed 906 billion outpatient insurance claims in 2010 – and refused to pay 10 percent of them. But if you’re a senior on Medicare with a denied claim, your odds of turning that around are surprisingly good if you appeal.

The importance of pushing back when Medicare says no was highlighted recently by settlement of a class action lawsuit that will force Medicare to start covering skilled nursing and therapy services in institutional or home care settings – not only when patients have a demonstrated medical potential to improve, but also when they need care to maintain their current health status.

Nov 8, 2012

Breaking ground on housing for LGBT seniors

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Gay rights took a big stride forward in this week’s elections, with voters in four states affirming the right of same-sex couples to marry. But here’s an issue in the LGBT community that continues to fly under the radar: what happens to LGBT Americans when they get old?

“Our community has been focused for years on other issues, like AIDS/HIV, marriage equality and bullying,” says Mark Segal, a well-known advocate in the LGBT community and founder of the Philadelphia Gay News. “But we’ve never developed a system for LGBT seniors, especially those who are low income and are very endangered.”

    • About Mark

      "Mark Miller is a journalist and author who writes about trends in retirement and aging. He has a special focus on how the baby boomer generation is revising its approach to careers, money and lifestyle after age 50. Mark is the author of The Hard Times Guide to Retirement Security: Practical Strategies for Money, Work and Living (John Wiley & Sons/Bloomberg Press, 2010) and edits RetirementRevised.com. Mark is the former editor of Crain’s Chicago Business, and former Sunday editor of the Chicago Sun-Times. The opinions expressed here are his own."
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