The grandparent scam has been around a few years, according to the FBI, but numbers have increased dramatically as seniors become more active online and with social media. A typical grandparent scheme involves a phone or email; someone identifying themselves as one of your grandkids will claim to be in trouble and need immediate financial help. Continue reading
1. No tax bills.
When homebuyers lock in their mortgage rates and budget for the future, they oftentimes forget the financial burden of property taxes. Depending on what state and county you live in, tax payments on your home can easily break the bank. Continue reading
For as long as high-end designers have produced exclusive handbags, buyers have had to avoid near identical fakes. Thrifty fashionistas enjoy a convincing knockoff, but the majority of people want the real thing. So, how can you tell that the item you’re buying is authentic?
The reality is, people are duped by designer knockoffs every day, and the counterfeit bag market remains a billion dollar industry. Scam artists no longer prowl the streets of major cities looking for their next shopping victims. Instead, they target online buyers by providing false descriptions, pictures, and the promise of an unbelievable deal for their inferior products. So-called “purse parties” also remain popular, where hosts bring in vendors to supply designer or imitation bags at down-to-earth prices. Continue reading
Our society relies heavily on the Internet for information, commerce, communication and entertainment. Increasingly, though, logging on comes with a distinct Big Brother-style unease. Many people are worried how much the Internet knows about them and would like to limit this information, but can’t find the right answers. Well, here they are. Below we’ve outlined some of the most salient questions Internet users have, as well as the best ways to protect yourself. Continue reading
By Bryan Cambra
While congress continues to debate the issues surrounding the funding of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, millions of Americans face the daunting challenges of making it through the month on a fixed income. Over the past years taking care of family members receiving Social Security or Social Security Disability payments, I have learned how to make the most out of little money. Each year, the amount of the benefit payment grows slightly, but it’s not nearly enough to live the same lifestyle as many people who are still employed. To help you adjust to the lower-income of Social Security, try making some of the following lifestyle changes. Continue reading
Tourism is booming beyond the major capitals of Western Europe, and you can fuel your Champagne tastes and live like the 1 percent for a song in these three deeply discounted destinations. See a sight or two in the capital cities and then make your way to the hidden treasures in outlying areas. Follow along as we circle the globe to three budget countries on three continents.
If you’ve always wanted to hang with the jet set on the sun-drenched beaches of the Greek islands and Spain’s Costa del Sol or explore the canals of Venice and the Seven Hills of Rome, you can experience it all in Western Europe’s budget destination on the Iberian Peninsula.
You’ll land in Lisbon, Portugal’s capital city built on the banks of the Tagus River and its seven hills. Lisbon has transformed itself into a modern city while embracing its rich history. The walking city offers breathtaking views around every corner from the tree-lined avenues to the crooked, cobblestoned alleys. You can’t help but get caught up in the food, drink, laughter and life on the streets.
If you have time to see only one sight in the Lisbon area, make it the 19th-century Palácio Nacional da Pena, one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. After your palace visit, it’s time to splurge on a sunset cocktail at the Park Restaurant and Bar, a hidden jewel of a rooftop garden with a splendid view of the Targus River, popular with the locals for its view and its music.
Feast your taste buds on a local specialty at an outdoor café. My favorite is chicken piri piri, a grilled chicken with a spicy sauce, served with a heaping side of french fries—best enjoyed at an outdoor café. Beware the innocuous-looking sauce—sample before applying liberally or you might end up drinking a carafe of wine (straight from the carafe as I did) to put out the fire. To come away from a memorable meal is to have a pitéu. End the evening by catching a Fado, the
authentic folk song of Portugal, raising a glass of Port, and joining the locals in the traditional folk dance.
The Beaches of Portugal
For two hours and $25, take the train north from Lisbon to the coastal town of Aviero. Known as the “Venice of Portugal,” crisscross this picture-perfect city through its canals in a gondola as you pass brightly colored buildings and azulejo panels that depict the history and culture of the area on ceramic tilework. See more of the city on a free bicycle “rental” at one of the BUGA shops. Then, hit one of the pristine beaches along the Silver Coast.
Expert surfers can stop in Nazaré on the way to Aviero to navigate the world’s largest waves while mere mortals soak up the sun and watch the surfers perform the dance of their lives.
Head south along the coast from Lisbon to the Algarve region by train for a three-and-a-half hour ride (under $30). Here you‘ll find dramatic cliffs and whitewashed beaches, cobbled streets, olive and orange groves, and a full complement of water activities on the beaches. If you’d rather pass on surfing and jet skiing, you can explore bridges, castles and monuments or play a round of golf. Top off a fresh seafood dinner along the beach with some local “Firewater,” Aguardente de Medronhos, something akin to a strong fruit brandy. Be sure to ask for a side of water.
Ecuador is a country of surprises. From the cosmopolitan capital of Quito to Cuenca and Vilcabamba, this is a country of endless variety and surprises. I plan to make it my home when I hit my third act—retirement.
Easily accessible from Miami and Fort Lauderdale, start your visit to Ecuador in Quito, the capital city with a European flair. Stay in one of the elegant, historic hotels for under $50 a night. Start your tour of the city with a morning ride on the teleferico (sky tram) to the top of Cruz Loma where panoramic views of the city, the snowcapped mountains and Pinchincha volcano await you. Back in Quito, explore the colonial architecture, Plaza Grande and Monastery of San Francisco in Old Town.
Known as the cultural capital of Ecuador, Cuenca sits high in the Andes. If you blink your eyes and click your heels, you’ll swear you’ve landed in Rome. The city is built around four rivers, and everyone in the know walks in Cuenca; to drive is to take your life in your hands.
Parque Calderón, in the heart of the city, is the best place to rest and spend time people watching. Wander through the flower market before stopping at Tutto Freddo, the preferred ice cream purveyor of locals, visitors and expats. Take a carriage ride through Paradise Park in the afternoon. Coy, Ecuador’s national meat and frequent restaurant specialty, is guinea pig—it comes highly recommended. After dinner, join a street festival, catch some live music or attend a free cultural event.
Vilcabamba, known as the Valley of Longevity, lies four hours to the south of Cuenca in the foothills of the Andes. The idyllic Izhcyluma Hostería and Spa offers doubles with private baths for under $40 a day as well as daily shuttle service to and from Cuenca for $15. Wander the lush flower gardens, take a free yoga class, hitch a ride on a horse, indulge in a spa treatment or relax around the pool—all while marveling at more panoramic views and soaking up the magical atmosphere. Even Type As can’t help but relax until they discover the free Wi-Fi access. There’s plenty to do at Izhcyluma and in the area, but don’t plan to do anything. Let your time there take on a life of its own.
For a colorful vacation, turn your eyes toward the East and head to India. With the Rupee at nearly 64 to the dollar, India is on sale at half its usual budget price.
Most international visitors fly into Delhi, the capital city and sprawling metropolis that encompasses New Delhi.
The Golden Triangle
India is a huge country, so if it’s your first trip, explore the Golden Triangle on a guided tour, which runs around $100 per day inclusive. I never (say never) recommend tours, but India is not a country you want to see on your own as a first-timer. If you have your own ideas about where you want to go, it’s easy to design a custom tour.
The Golden Triangle journey begins in the chaos of Delhi as you weave through the streets touring the colonial buildings, bustling bazaars, and majestic temples and mosques.
Then it’s off to Agra to the south, home of the Taj Mahal, the magnificent, white marble mausoleum that houses the favorite wife of 17th-century Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and the 11th-century Agra Fort.
In Jaipur, you’ll visit the finest specimen of Rajput architecture, Hawa Mahald, of red and pink sandstone with its unique honeycomb structure.
If you plan a few extra days in Delhi before or after your Golden Triangle adventure, book a food tour. To experience the food of India is to experience her people and culture, but don’t make the painful assumption that even experienced travelers make—that the spices in Indian food will keep you safe. A food tour is the safest way to sample the flavors of India.
The food tours have been described as an “Anthony Bourdain adventure,” with tour guides leading you by rickshaw and car while you eat your way through the city under the experienced eye of your guide. In addition to getting an intimate view of life in Delhi, your tour guide will explain where and how to eat safely for the remainder of your trip. Take the advice.
The Internet is filled with ways to save money on a wide range of items for house, home, and closet. Few sites, though, address the needs of the thoroughly modern family in quite the way that the money saving sites, dedicated to helping you save serious money on groceries and other necessity items, will.
This amazing coupon website offers daily news about new products that website visitors to get at a fraction of their regular costs, including things like:
- Personal Care items
- Cleaning Products
- Clothes for the Kids
- Automotive Goods
The list goes on and is updated throughout the day. The site also offers a coupon database, a dedicated area with information for couponing beginners, and page after page of money-saving tips for shoppers of all levels and budgets. They’ll turn you into discount divas in a snap.
The best thing about Krazy Coupon Lady, though, and what sets them apart from so many other sites, is the Brag Lounge. This is the area where real people, just like you, who are either seasoned pros at coupon bargain shopping or rank beginners celebrating their first “Hauls” go to show off their grocery store scores! Be warned you could spend hours sifting through these pages in awe!
For moms who understand just how fast diaper dollars, or lack thereof, add up and never seem to have enough arms to lug those big boxes inside, there’s Amazon Mom. This club allows monthly autoships of diapers (they ship them to the door for you!) for 20 percent lower than the average discount diaper in the grocery store. The service is designed to help moms save money from prenatal months through the toddler years with discounted items and money saving offers throughout.
You must be a prime member to join Amazon Mom, which is free to join. Since it is a prime service, you also get the free two-day shipping on prime items (like the above mentioned diapers).
Featured on The Today Show, TLC’s Extreme Couponing, MSN Money, and Rachael Ray, My Litter is a site dedicated to helping all moms save serious money while feeding their families. Site owners have seven children and are able to maintain their sanity and their family budget by following the same money saving tips and tidbits they share with their readers.
The site features money saving offers, coupon matchups, and even deals on travel and (drum roll please!) kid-approved recipes made with ingredients purchased with coupons.
Perhaps one of the most famous of coupon sites, Coupon Mom does require users to join the site. There’s no fee for doing so. The site offers a database of online coupons, printable coupons, national deals with drug stores, grocery stores, and traditional retail stores. The deals are updated weekly to include the latest coupons and store advertisements.
In addition to traditional money saving offerings, Coupon Mom offers a spreadsheet style display that organizes deals according to the percentage saved over normal sale prices for the retailers as well as weekly freebie or almost free items at major stores like CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, and Target.
Another great site offering matchups and special offers from major retailers, pharmacies, and grocery stores, Hip2Save takes things even further offering information about sweepstakes, restaurant deals, online bargains, and more. It’s a great place for savvy and stylish shoppers to stretch their limited funds even furthers.
While these amazing sites alone won’t help you make more money, they can certainly help you save enough on the essentials that it will feel like they have.
For many people living month to month on Social Security Income or who had once robust retirement accounts ravaged by the not-so-great recession, the reverse mortgage seems like an attractive choice. But, before you dive in there are a few things you need to know in order to make an informed decision about whether or not this is the right choice for your circumstances.
What is a Reverse Mortgage?
You may hear about other types of reverse mortgages in the marketplace today, but there is only one that is federally insured. It is called the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage, or HECM. This loan is only available through FHA approved lenders.
A reverse mortgage differs from a traditional home equity loan in that you are not required to make monthly principle or interest payments on the loan. Maturity is reached, and the loan must be repaid, when the home owner no longer lives in the home as his or her primary residence or certain other conditions, in accordance with the loan agreement, are met.
Reverse Mortgage Requirements
In order to qualify for a reverse mortgage, the home itself, along with the homeowner, must meet certain conditions.
- Homeowner must be 62 years of age or older.
- The home must be owned outright or carry a low enough balance that it can be paid off at closing with the proceeds from the reverse mortgage.
- Homeowner must have the financial means with which to pay property taxes and insurance on the home.
Requirements for the Home
There is a little bit of flexibility when it comes to the homes themselves. Properties eligible for reverse mortgages include:
- Single family homes
- Two to four unit properties in which the owner occupies one unit
- HUD-approved condominiums
- Manufactured homes built after 1976
- Town homes
Pros of Reverse Mortgages
There are quite a few benefits to consider when it comes to reverse mortgages, not the least of which is the easy approval for these loans. In some instances, when credit or income seems insufficient to meet the terms of the loan long-term, borrowers may be required to set aside funds in an escrow account to cover the costs of yearly taxes and insurance premiums for the home. Otherwise, approval is fairly straightforward.
Another big benefit for most seniors is the option to receive a lump sum payment or to spread the payments out over time in order to generate a steady stream of income. For those on fixed incomes, this can be extremely beneficial, just as it can benefit people who need one large payment for something like medical treatments or to make their home wheelchair or walker accessible.
No repayments necessary while the homeowners maintain the home as a primary residence.
Cons of Reverse Mortgages
While the attractiveness of a reverse mortgage is certainly attractive, there are a few considerations to keep in mind. The first consideration is a big one, or it can be. That is the cost of the reverse mortgage itself. There are many fees associated with mortgages in general include:
- Mortgage insurance fee
- Appraisal fee
- Title insurance fee
- Closing costs (which are substantially higher than with traditional mortgages)
The other consideration that weighs heavily upon the minds of many seniors considering reverse mortgages, as it should, is the requirement to pay back the loan, in full, if you are no longer a permanent occupant of the home. In other words, if you are required to move into an assisted care facility, then the full force of your loan will become due.
Finally, the reverse mortgage impacts how much money you leave to your heirs. While that isn’t the primary consideration for everyone considering reverse mortgages, it is important to many, and worth taking into account.
Alternatives to Reverse Mortgages
Seniors are motivated for many different reasons to consider reverse mortgages in the first place. Whether it involves tight funds for retirement, a one-time expense that is too large to easily accommodate on a fixed income, or retirement dreams gone up in smoke during the market meltdown of previous years, there are alternatives to the reverse mortgage to consider.
- Cashing out life insurance policies.
- Part-time employment.
- Consulting with a financial advisor for ways to stretch your retirement.
- Selling your home and moving into a smaller home.
- Downsizing to one automobile rather than two.
- Reducing expenses and creating a budget.
This isn’t to say that reverse mortgages are never a good idea. You can’t take it with you, after all. It’s simply not a decision to be taken lightly either. Keeping these things in mind will help you make the best choice for you and your family.
The chief benefit for all three of these states is that they have no state income tax. Each state offers something different in terms of its environment. Florida is tropical, Nevada is a beautiful dessert, and Washing is a state full of forests and cooler weather. As you consider where to retire to, think about all that these states offer.
Florida: The Sunshine State
Florida has no state income tax. In addition, Florida also does not have an inheritance tax. Less taxation is a boon to seniors because you have more to live on, especially when you have a fixed income. While less taxation is a good thing, there is more good things that Florida offers.
Florida is the sunshine state. The weather here is good. Seniors who move to Florida leave behind the frozen north. No more shoveling snow. The average temperature in Florida is just 81 degrees. In winter, Florida rarely gets anywhere near freezing. The average winter temperature is just around 60 degrees. The beautiful weather means sunsets, long walks on the beach, and the opportunity to enjoy retirement. Florida also has a low cost of living and as such, you can do more living. The small communities scattered throughout Florida offer seniors an opportunity to live on less. As for healthcare, Florida offers many senior focused healthcare services. There is a huge population of seniors who live in Florida. Expect to find top quality healthcare services, and comprehensive senior care in Florida.
Nevada: The Silver State
Nevada, like Florida, does not have state income tax. The desert offers beautiful vistas and amazing mountains. One good thing about moving to Nevada is that the price of real estate is lower in Nevada than in many other states. This is a quiet state, despite the reputation of Las Vegas. Nevada is also undergoing a huge growth in population. Selling your home and moving to Nevada could earn you a windfall due to the lower property values in Nevada.
Cities like Incline Village and Gardnerville have topped many lists of the best places in Nevada to live. The area around Lake Tahoe is beautiful, and the summer temperatures are mild. Even Las Vegas, Henderson, and North Las Vegas are senior friendly. These flat land cities tucked in near the Arizona border offer mild winter weather and plenty of outdoor activities. If you want a night on the town, you cannot beat Las Vegas. Take in a show, enjoy dinner, or listen to music in the park.
With no state income tax, lower real estate prices, and a lower cost of living, seniors from all over the nation are flocking to Nevada.
Washington: The Evergreen State
Like Florida and Nevada, Washington also has no state income tax. To make this even better, the states sales tax is only 6.5 percent, and prescriptions are exempt from sales tax. Pluses include no tax on social security, and Washington does not tax retirement income. The benefit is more money on which to enjoy life. The downside to Washington State is its property tax which is high. The cost of living in Washington is higher than the national average. Still Washington has a lot to offer seniors.
The Washington weather is diverse. Washington has a reputation to be raining, but that is not true of all of this state. The eastern portion is dryer. For seniors who love the outdoors, Washington offers beautiful mountains, hiking, fishing, and golf. Cities in Washington, such as Seattle are also major ports of call for cruise ships. So seniors can disembark to places like Alaska’s inside passage and not have to pay for airfare to their port of call. There are plenty of golf courses, wineries, art and galleries here too. If you are a senior who wants a quieter state with plenty of green forests and snow-capped mountains, then Washing has a lot to offer you.
Other features include senior-oriented health care, plenty of outdoor living that is FREE, and a climate that is livable.
Just because you’re over 55 doesn’t mean that you’re “over the hill” or that you’re limited to golf resorts and bus tours for a vacation. There are plenty of opportunities to exercise your mind or indulge your passions while you enjoy good company and great scenery. Here are some of the best ideas:
Colleges and universities across the country offer classes and a comprehensive curriculum just for seniors. Sometimes termed “lifelong learning” programs, with year-round classes, summer offerings are scheduled in vacation areas and cut a broad swath through subject matter. Check out possibilities offered through Senior Summer School. If you have always wanted to write, check out The Writing University through the University of Iowa.
College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, combines academic programs with the spectacular beauty of coastal Maine for five-day to two-week workshops in writing, photography and “getting out in nature.” Programs are enlightening; participants have plenty of free time to explore; and accommodations are generally simple and affordable. in a congenial, group setting — much like spending a week in a college dorm. The Best of Acadia Retreat, offered in July, is just that — good learning and great surroundings. Total cost is less than $1,000 per person, with lectures, boating excursions, field trips, lodging and meals included. Transportation to Maine is not included.
Just for the Fun of It
Road Scholar programs, now in their 40th year, are an outgrowth of the Elderhostel concept, allowing older travelers an opportunity to learn new things as they travel at home and abroad, at affordable rates. One of this summer and fall’s most popular trips features “Island Hopping” in Washington State, a six day trip that begins in Seattle. Group tours range in duration from a few nights to two weeks or more. They generally include travel, lodging and most meals; lectures, tours and field trips, at least one performance or museum visit; and friendly groups. Activity level can range from “very easy” to “strenuous.” If you’re a history buff, you can relive the bloodiest battle of the Civil War at Gettysburg, review strategy, walk the site and pay a visit to the Soldiers Cemetery. History will come alive as you hear music of the time played on dulcimer, harmonica and banjo, stay at a hotel in the historic town and have ample time to explore interesting shops, all in the company of fellow travelers.
Smithsonian Journeys plans a diverse schedule of trips and special programs not only in the summer, but throughout the year. If you have a special interest in opera, a trip to Santa Fe may be just your ticket to summer fun. Not only will you go backstage at the world renowned outdoor opera house and hear lectures by noted authorities, but you’ll attend four performances, stay near historic Santa Fe Plaza, and drink in the beauty and culture of this high mountain, multi-cultural New Mexico capital. Combine this four-day trip in August with independent travel to nearby Indian Pueblos, tempt Lady Luck at the Cities of Gold Casino, visit the high-tech and high-mountain city of Los Alamos and experience the contrasts of the American Southwest in a totally unique way.
Cruising is a perennial favorite for senior travelers, and there are numerous sailings that cater specifically to the needs of the over-55 crowd, from river barges to coastal cruising to transatlantic crossings. Although not necessarily inexpensive in terms of total cost, cruising is a bargain in terms of dollars per night, and you can book a cruise for as little as three days or for a month or longer. Remember that once on board, almost everything is included, and it all comes with superb service. Best of all, you unpack one time, and you can be as active or as sedentary as you wish.
YMT Vacations specializes in adult cruises combined with rail or bus escorted add-ons. Visit Alaska “your way,” with time to spend in Seattle and Vancouver, B. C.; opt for additional days in the Alaskan “back country;” or combine your cruise with a rail trip south to California’s wine region. Combine a trip to Hawaii with a relaxing 7-night island cruise, and you will indeed have found paradise. This may be a trip to save for fall, when the the crowds are thinner and you have a chance to really drink in the beauty of this island state. Three days on Oahu with a knowledgeable tour director is a bonus.