Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Part II: Finding and keeping a job after age 50. First-person tips

Editor's note: Below is a first-person account from a friend of mine about her experience in finding work after losing her long-time professional job at age 56. This is a follow-up to my previous post and provides excellent tips on finding and keeping a new job. Thank you, Cami for your contribution. Julia

Dear sixtyandsingle readers,
You might have to take a circuitous route to get back into the work force after age 50 and since retail jobs are fairly plentiful, start there.

Six months of retail work can help you get considered for all sorts of other positions (and my advice is to keep applying for other jobs by highlighting whatever skills you acquire in the retail environment). To get into retail, focus your one-page resume on the retailer's needs. Bottom line, they want to generate sales and profit, so start your resume with a short, focused statement under your contact info.

Here is an example. It's always a work in progress: "Offering excellent customer service and cashiering skills to generate business for Costco." 

As for qualifications, I list six or seven short bullet points of skills that meet the needs of the job and also describe my personality. Use terms such as "accurate," "well groomed" and "prompt." At the same time, tell the employer you're good at math, a team player, etc.
       Bonded cashier with excellent customer service skills.
       Prompt, organized, and detail-oriented professional; knack for understanding procedures.
       Excellent math, money-handling and computer skills.
       Strong time-management skills; able to prioritize tasks and meet deadlines.
       Efficient problem-solver who can turn complex situations into manageable tasks.

 Next, use the heading: People Skills and list bullet points like these:
     Friendly and empathetic personality with patient listening skills to put patrons at ease.
     Knack for recognizing opportunities to generate positive outcomes.
     Articulate and effective working with people of different backgrounds and temperaments.
     Genuinely enjoy helping people while maintaining a positive, friendly attitude.
     Polite and well versed in traditional customer service, including saying, “Thank you.”
     Exceptional command of English with great writing skills.
     Cooperative team player who will encourage others and go above and beyond job duties.

Use the heading "Education," to list your degrees and where you got them - no need to add dates, if you don't want to, but you'll likely have to list the dates on the online application. If you don't have a BA or associate's degree, list college classes and any courses you took during your career, such as, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Crucial Conversations.

Last, under "Work History," list your previous jobs using your specific employers.
     Cashier, self-checkout, customer service.
     Staff reporter - daily newspaper.
     Communications - non-profit agency.
     Sales Associate - department store.

No need to list the dates here, either - but you can, if you were employed for several years by some of those employers. That shows you'll stay at the job. Again, the online application will ask for the dates. (Fill out all boxes included in online application.)

Keep the cover letter short for retailers. They don't want your life history or how "excited" you are, etc. They'll get all they need from your online application. Plus, most retailers also administer a multiple-choice skills and personality test aimed at finding out how honest you are and whether you're a team player, good with people and have common sense. Piece of cake for us baby boomers.

Also, on the online application, list that you are available for ALL shifts and rearrange your schedule when you get the job.

Sample cover letter:
Dear Hiring Manager,
I am writing to apply for the teller/customer service position at your branch office listed on the Washington WorkSource Web site. I have enclosed my resume for your review and am certain that I can be an asset to the team while striving to meet the goals and objectives for the position.
I respect your time and feel confident that my value, past achievements and ability to contribute are well outlined in my resume. If you feel, as I do, that I would be a significant permanent member of your staff, I would welcome an interview at your earliest convenience. I have listed references to assure you that the information contained on my resume is truthful and accurate.
Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing back from you.
Sincerely, etc.

The interview: When you get an interview, show up well groomed - neat nails, hair, wearing clean and pressed slacks and a blouse. Be there 10 minutes early and smile at front-counter employees (because some of us older gals tend to look like we're frowning when we aren't smiling). You want your potential coworkers to whisper to the interviewer, "Hey, she looks like a good candidate."

Exude energy, walk with confidence and good posture. Retail jobs involve long periods of standing. Let them know you can do it. Showing up early tells them you'll be prompt for work. Remember, you're likely competing with younger people for the job. And ageism is rampant, but the youngsters often don't take as much care in their appearance and they often have tons of tattoos. If you have tats, cover them up.

Prepare for the interview, which will likely consist of a list of "scenario" questions.
Believe me, the interviewers really want actual scenario answers to questions like, "Tell me about a time that you dealt with a difficult customer. How did you resolve the issue." Go into the interview with rehearsed, specific answers to these questions.

"When I worked in (customer service, volunteer work - whatever), I had a customer who was upset because the name-brand product we carried fell apart at the seams. She became very agitated and angry. I let her finish telling me her story with a sympathetic look on my face. Then I explained that our options were to exchange the item or send it out for repair. She ended up being so happy with our store that she came back often and asked for me to help with her selections."

Make sure that your answers do not involve calling in a supervisor. Retailers want to know that you can handle most situations without additional help from overworked staff.

In the new job.
Once you get hired, the real work begins. Invest in the best pair of shoes for standing on concrete. It's imperative. Bring a notepad because you will have to catch on quickly, take every single shift they give you, not call in sick.

Show up early for work, come back on time from your breaks and lunches, and maintain a positive attitude at ALL TIMES. Don't complain - ever. Most retail jobs start out as "seasonal positions." If you want to stay on, you can't call in sick or have a "bad attitude." Show that you can be dependable and you might get hired as a permanent, which gives you something to talk about at your next interview.

Use your ongoing retail experience to apply for better jobs - and keep applying. That retail experience can open the doors to a lot of better-paying positions within companies that might not have considered you before such as bank telling, front-counter jobs with government agencies and call centers. So, keep applying.

Retail allows you to add new skills to your resume, such as up-selling, return processing, internet sales processing, POS transactions, educating self-check-stand customers, processing credit card payments, issuing store credits - all sorts of things.

And you can be picky about other potential positions. Now that I am working at a big home improvement store, I am earning well above minimum wage, plus I have health insurance, a 401k plan and company stock. When I am called for a job interview with another employer, I ask up front about pay potential. If the new job means starting at the bottom again, I turn it down. I am confident that I'll be working in a better position by this time next year.  
Cheers, Cami.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Looking for work over 50? Here's how

"I do not believe we can repair the basic fabric of society until people who are willing to work have work.  Work organizes life.  It gives structure and discipline to life." -- Bill Clinton,  42nd U.S. President, (1946 -   )

Tips for finding work after 50 (or 60)
Start your new job hunt before you leave your current job.
Demonstrate that you are tech-savvy. Set up email and LinkedIn accounts.
Be prepared to fill out applications online using key search words.
Shorten your resume. No need to cover your entire work history.
Build your network. Tell friends you’re looking for a job.
Explain why you’re not overqualified.
Expect a more casual work environment.
Go to job fairs. Look for retraining opportunities.
Build your confidence, remind yourself that you can do it

According to national research, it typically takes five months longer for an older worker to find employment than the average seven months of searching needed by a younger worker, under 50.
Even with an improving job market, older workers may face challenges in finding new employment because their skills could be out-of-date, they may seem overqualified or they are clueless about the new online job-search universe.
If you've been in the same job for a long time or have been out of the work force for a while, you will find that a lot has changed about how you search, apply and interview for jobs.

Meanwhile, it may not be a surprise that a growing number of older workers are returning to the job market. For multiple reasons:
- Some may have held long-time jobs but who have been laid off by employers who are still cutting costs because of the uneven economic recovery. Others may have accepted an early retirement package but are running short of income.
- Others may have found that they simply cannot live on just Social Security, alone.
- Some might be facing a family health emergency and unplanned medical bills. Rising housing costs, especially for those in rental apartments, may be a factor.
- In addition, the staff that I spoke with at the local job-coaching nonprofit, say, they are seeing more women 50 and older who are newly divorced and who have been out of the work force. Now, they are financially on their own maybe for the first time and desperately seeking job-hunting assistance.

“More people than ever in the 50 and older group are looking for work,” said Christine Humphrey, job developer at People in Careers a Vancouver, Wash. nonprofit that helps people find work. “We are seeing more this year than in past years. Many are running short of income.”

Improving job market

The good news is that the national and regional job markets are robust with employers adding workers. Here in the Portland-Vancouver market, 40,000 new jobs have been created in the 12 months through September (2015), according to the Oregon Employment Department. The annual job growth rate of 3.6 percent is among the strongest in the nation. In demand are jobs in the health care industry, production manufacturing and transportation. These same sectors are growing, nationally.
Partners in Careers works with several hundred employers and nonprofits throughout the area to place workers. Similar organizations nationwide do the same work.

What you need to know if you're over 50

The advisers I spoke with say that if you’ve been in the same job for a long time or out of the work force for years, you will find that the process of finding and applying for jobs has changed. Everything is online from job openings to job application forms.

Your initial application may not even be read by a human but first scanned by a computer program looking for key words that fit the job description. If those words aren’t there, you are out of luck.
Most employers no longer even offer a way for an applicant to drop off an application, resume and cover letter. Everything goes through an employer Web portal.

Many employers also ask that you create a personal profile on their Web site. In doing so, be sure to fill in all requested fields. Some employers also are doing personality testing to find the best team players and collaborative problem-solvers.
“An applicant must make sure that their resume targets a job they want to do with the skills that match,” said Cadie Dye, a PIC employment specialist. “Everything must be job specific… no mass applications using the same resume. That goes for cover letters and what you say in an interview.”

Shorten your work history
As an older applicant it is not necessary to list or explain your entire work history. Give employers enough to see your value as an employee. When you get the interview, you can further explain that value.
And don’t expect to find that great job without networking.

Set up a network
“Set up a network on LinkedIn of neighbors, church friends and even people you know in volunteer organizations,” said PIC Executive Direct Sharon Pesut. “A friend circle can be very important. Don’t be afraid to say that you are looking for a job. For many people over 50, that’s hard to do.”
Who has more trouble finding new work, men or women? the experts say that men may have it slightly easier because they often have previous work experience in a skilled trade. With a bit of retraining they can take on a new job. Women may face bigger challenges because their technical skills may be out of date or they have limited work experience. But women are often more open to retraining, networking and upgrading their skills.
“Employers want to know if you can work with a team, communicate, manage your time and follow directions,” Pesut said. "That’s where a mature worker may be more attractive to an employer.”
Money magazine (2015) reported that “more companies are recognizing the value of mature workers and are starting to hire them” this year. That’s good news for an aging population and baby boomers who may not have saved enough for retirement.

Getting across your value

There are ways to get across your value as an older worker, say the experts.
In a resume and an interview, a job applicant should emphasize his or her experience, maturity and reliability rather than explain why they haven’t been working.
“It’s important to meet the needs of the job description,” said Humphrey. “That’s where we can help…we see ourselves as matchmakers with employers.”

In some ways, applying for jobs is easier now than even five years ago, they said. Instead of driving all over dropping off resumes, you can sit at a computer and deliver an application in a much more efficient way. And thanks to the Great Recession, more training resources are available to those who want to upgrade their skills.
More casual work place
If you land that face-to-face interview, what do you wear?
The work place has become much more casual even in the past five years. Experts recommend that you research the company culture online for what looks right. Casual slacks and an open shirt should work for both men and women with maybe a jacket. (No suits). And don’t expect to get any feedback, if you don’t get an interview or get the job. You likely won’t get a thank you note for applying.

Coaching can make a difference

“Coaching on all this is critical,” Pesut said. “It shortens the learning curve, which in turns gets you into a job quicker.”
A key piece of the job search process is developing self-confidence. Older workers need to remind themselves that they can to it. They can win the position. There’s hope but you have to be very intentional about your job search.

For more:
As age rises, American women face increasing bars to employment, MarketWatch, click here.
7 Tips for Getting Hired After Age 50, click here.
Over 50? 5 Smart Tips for Landing a New job, click here.
Job Hunting and Career tips for Older Workers, click here.
Monster.com -- Careers at 50 plus, click here.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Medicare - What's changing in 2016 and how to keep costs down

"To me, good health is more than just exercise and diet. It's really a point of view and a mental attitude you have about yourself."  --- Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) German theologian, philosopher and medical missionary. 

Editor's note: Since writing this a few weeks ago, Congress has passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which blunted the rate increase on seniors enrolled in Medicare but who have not yet begun taking Social Security benefits. The reduced premium "is really a loan from the U.S. Treasury," said writers at ElderLawAnswers.com. click here for more. 

Since turning 65, I’ve been buying a Medicare Advantage health insurance plan that started out costing me $55 a month. That coverage jumps to $104 a month in 2016, if I continue with that plan. That’s an 89 percent increase in three years during the same time frame that the Federal Reserve Bank says inflation is so low that there won’t be a Social Security increase in 2016.

Not only will my Medicare Advantage monthly rate increase but co-pays for doctors’ visits will jump by $10 a visit, along with other fees. I also learned that instead of a flat dollar amount  I now would be paying 20 percent of open ended costs related to any outpatient surgery. The big shocker was that my total maximum out of pocket expense with my plan went from $6,700 a year to $10,000. That’s real money.

To find out more about what’s going on, I attended a morning workshop last week hosted by the clinic where I receive medical care. The guy who led the presentation works for the clinic, so his one-hour talk only covered the six Medicare Advantage programs accepted by the clinic. He also gets a commission for signing people up to use the clinic.
The programs he talked about all also included drug coverage, which adds to the basic cost. After hearing all the comparables, I decided to jump to a new plan and drop the drug coverage since my annual drug costs come in below the coverage threshold.

So next year instead of a big increase, my monthly Medicare Advantage bill will drop to $45 a month. That’s a $59 a month ($708 a year) savings from what I would have been paying without the change. A better run plan? I don't know. On paper it looks as good as what I have been buying from the other insurance company.

Twenty other seniors were in this meeting, all trying to make sense of what’s going on with Medicare and the big insurance rate increases going on with coverage.

There are at least three groups that I care about being slammed this year.
- Seniors 65 and older who are on Medicare but are NOT yet collecting Social Security benefits.

- Seniors who are buying Medicare Advantage health insurance, which combines Medicare coverage with additional coverage from an insurance company.

- And people younger than 65 who are self-employed (or otherwise don’t have coverage) and must buy their own health insurance coverage. A self-employed friend of mine, who is over 60, but not yet 65 says her health insurance coverage is jumping from $620 to $740 a month, unless she makes some changes. There may be other categories but these three groups are seeing big increases in their 2016 health insurance costs

What is driving-up the price of health insurance for seniors?

There are a couple of reasons. We learned earlier this month that Social Security benefits won’t go up next year because overall inflation throughout the nation is so low. That means seniors now collecting Social Security benefits won’t see an increase in their Medicare withholding. That leaves seniors (over 65) who are NOT YET collecting Social Security as well as NEW 2016 Medicare enrollees picking up all that increase. Some of these rates are jumping by 52 percent. Ouch.

The other reason rates are jumping is because insurance companies now have had a year to see how Obamacare is affecting their operations. Guess what….the uninsured people who signed up for Obamacare are sicker and costing more than planned. So rates are going up to cover those increasing costs. Oregon for instance has approved individual rate increases of between 8 percent and 37.8 percent in 2016. "Our ultimate responsibility to Oregon consumers is to ensure that rates cover the cost of health care, " said Insurance Commissioner Laura Cali this fall . A Silver Standard Plan premium will range from $271 to $389 a month.

What should seniors do? Basically, do what I did….find out as much as possible about your options for holding down costs.

Look for work shops offered by your doctor or clinic. Shop around on the Internet, but keep your research to insurance companies operating your area. But when you find a plan that’s less expensive…make sure your doctor or clinic will accept that coverage. Don’t jump ship on your current coverage until you’ve received the OK from your doctor’s office that it will be accepted.

Here’s why. With Obamacare there are more people looking for doctors than there are doctors. Some providers are saying no to new Medicare patients and saying no to some health insurance plans. Keep in mind that Medicare alone only pays about 80 percent of the cost (as determined by the fed) of providing that care. Hospitals and doctors have long made up for those losses by charging the rest of us more.

Health care reform has changed the rules and the profit-loss formulas. My view is that Obamacare tried to do too many things at once. Now everyone is confused. Yes, we need health care reform…a single payer system would work for me. But that likely would put insurance companies out of business….so good luck with that.

Middle class seniors on fixed budgets are particularly vulnerable to health care cost increases. Both political parties talk about protecting the Middle Class….they could start by fixing Obamacare. I personally don’t like seeing a 90 percent increase in my health insurance rates when overall inflation is running at 2 percent a year.

Meanwhile, keep your doctor!!! The clinic I go to only accepts six Medicare Advantage plans….if you don’t have one of those plans, you can’t see their doctors.
For more:
Medicare Advantage vs. Medicare Supplement programs,
click here.
Medicare enrollment 2016, click here.
10 Things You Must Know about Medicare, click here.
U.S. News & World Report, What to know about Medicare, click here.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Investing -- what women are doing well, where we need help

"Five years into the financial recovery, researchers find that while women are taking control of household finances, they are no more prepared to meet long-term financial goals than they were a decade ago." -- Prudential Financial Inc.
Do women invest differently than men?

Several studies say yes, women do take a different approach to investing than their male counterparts. These reports also say that men and women would do well to learn from each other when it comes financial planning for the long-term.
How women approach money is a big topic of discussion in the investment brokerage industry these days as more working women near retirement and/or inherit assets from their mothers.

The largest wealth transfer in history (worth an estimated $8.4 trillion) is under way as Baby Boomers inherit assets from their elderly parents. A good portion of this wealth transfer is from 90-something mothers to their 60-something daughters.

So how are women -- single or married -- handling retirement and estate planning, inheritance and investing? And how is their approach different from men?

According to the National Center for Women and Retirement Research at wiser.com, women are doing a lot of things right. That’s because women are more often in charge of household budgets. They are experienced at multi-tasking – juggling kids, work, bill-paying and planning. They make most of their family’s consumer purchases (85 percent). These responsibilities give women experience with money management.

As a result, women are more likely than men to research and ask questions before making financial decisions, they are more likely to work with a financial adviser and more willing to stay the course during turbulent market times, said a recent Fidelity Investments report.

“Overall, research indicates that women are more focused on comprehensive financial planning, while men tend to focus on investment returns,” said the report.

There’s more good news. Even though women are in and out of the work force and tend to earn less than men, they actually save a higher percentage of their income in tax-deferred retirement plans and are more likely to take advantage of catch-up savings opportunities once they hit 50.

But here’s the big difference: Despite a lot of money-management experience, despite a positive savings record, women are less confident when it comes to investing.

A Wall Street Journal report, “Male Investors vs. Female Investors” said that “while women believe in the value of saving, they don’t seem to trust themselves in the same way (as men) when it comes to investing.”

A Merrill Lynch study of 11,500 clients, said that 55 percent of women agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “I know less than the average investor about financial markets and investing in general.” That’s compared with only 27 percent of men.

The Journal report said that women tend to have a greater portion of their portfolios in cash and are less willing to increase risk to seek higher returns.
This reluctance to get into the investment arena and to invest more aggressively may mean that women miss opportunities to grow their wealth and their retirement nest eggs over the long-term.

Meanwhile, men might gain by maintaining are more balanced portfolio instead of trying to win big on a single tech stock or other high-risk opportunity, advisers said.

Part of the reason for these differences may be because women have a longer time horizon than men.
According to the Centers of Disease Control, the average life expectancy for American women is 81.2 years while men can expect to live to an average age of 76.4.  Women now age 65 can expect to live another 20 years to age 85 while men age 65 will likely make it to 83.
A warning to all --- one out of every four Americans now age 65 will live past age 90.

Women, meanwhile, have a lot to be proud of --- higher business ownership, a narrowing wage gap and greater participation in retirement savings. But women still tend to invest too conservatively and worry too much. Women are twice as likely to describe themselves as financial “beginners,” said a recent Prudential Research Study.

“Women’s lack of confidence sometimes translates into disinterest,” said Kelley Holland in a report for CNBC. “Only 43 percent of couples plan for retirement together, and 80 percent of the spouses who were not involved are women. Given the high likelihood that women will outlive their husbands, that’s hardly a recipe for a comfortable retirement,” she said.

The experts agree that men and women could learn a lot from each other’s best investment habits. Men set financial goals and work to gain those goals. Women do the research and are less bothered by market ups and downs.

Investing for the long-haul takes determination, courage and confidence no matter who you are. So let the dialogue begin with our families, our financial advisers and the men in our lives.

For more:

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Selling everything. Say thank you as you say goodbye

"Every day is a new day, and you'll never be able to find happiness if you don't move on." --- Carrie Underwood, American song writer (1983 -   )

Thinking about downsizing? Dreaming of getting out from under 20 or 30 years of accumulated stuff?
Maybe you’re moving to a smaller place. Or you want to hit the road free of clutter. According to national research, millions of Americans 50 and older are in the downsizing mode and plan to relocate to smaller spaces sometime in the next five to 10 years.

The process, however, can be challenging – emotionally and even financially. Women are often left to take on this daunting task. Some of us may be shocked to find out that our kids don’t want grandma’s dining table. Or a favorite niece doesn’t care about our treasured art collection.

What to give away and what to keep may feel overwhelming. The idea of sorting through everything brings on emotional fear and stress.

For those who take on the downsizing challenge, there are two ways to handle what can seem like an overwhelming project: Do it yourself or hire someone to hold an estate sale for you. (Click here for an earlier post on using an estate sale service.)

Longtime Battle Ground resident, Pam Wolle, took on the task herself this summer with help from family and friends.
“My life started to change with my husband’s death more than five years ago,” Wolle said. “I knew I couldn’t continue to manage our big rural property and that lifestyle. The process really has been under way for several years. But this year I was finally ready to drastically downsize,” she said.

That meant going through her ranch house room-by-room as well as sorting through a garage and farm out buildings.

Take time to sort, discard

She gave herself months to prepare for her sale by methodically sorting, discarding and labeling items in each space.
“By concentrating on one room at a time, I didn’t feel overwhelmed,” she said. “I could see I was making progress. It gave me encouragement to go on.”
The work took three months. Big items of equipment and furniture went out the door early, Wolle said, so that she had more working area to sort and package smaller stuff. In additional to the usual household items and barn equipment, Wolle owned and operated a marketing and product-promotion business from her home.
“There was a lot of stuff around here,” Wolle remarked.

As the sale approached, friends and family helped display items on tables, kitchen counters and garage shelves. Almost everything got a price tag based on research from reliable sources including eBay and Craigslist.com and from experienced yard-sale friends.

There were pricing surprises such as a “collectible” muffin tin that went for $20 or the vinyl records that sold for less than expected.

“In making our sale preparations, we tried to not do something more than once,” Wolle said. “I asked my daughter to be my manager, to help me stay on track. I tried not to have multiple people telling me what to keep and what to sell.”
In advance, Wolle invited family to select anything they wanted from the house. She also put together tote bins for each of her grandchildren. The goal was to help everyone feel included.

The Wolle sold just about everything else she owned --- old skis, carpets, lawn equipment, household kitchen items, clothing, horse-related gear and notepads and paper left from her marketing business.
Her sale began on a Thursday and ended Saturday with different types of buyers showing up on each day. Savvy estate sale buyers were the early birds with more casual buyers including people who work Monday-Friday arriving on Saturday.

Stay firm on prices at least for a day

Wolle stayed firm on her pricing until the last day. “I was very cautious about coming down on prices,” she said. “That worked well.” She always had the plan that what didn’t sell would go to her favorite charity, the local Humane Society.  A few items went in storage.

Wolle said the biggest challenge is to stay focused, not be distracted by interruptions. To that end she recommends being prepared with supplies when you start the sorting and labeling process. Have such things as big heavy garbage bags, trash cans,  markers, gallon-size Ziploc bags at the ready.

“The idea is to be as efficient as possible and not get sidetracked because you have to go looking for something,” she said.
Three weeks after the sale, Wolle said she was feeling good about the project for its financial rewards and the emotional freedom that came from moving on.

She admitted that it was hard to say goodbye to certain possessions.

While researching estate sale tips, she ran across some advice that worked for her. “I actually ‘thanked’ some of the things sold in the sale that I’d owned for a long time,” she said. “I mentally thanked these items for the service they had brought me over the years. It was a way of letting go.”

Now, she’s looking to the future knowing that down the road she can buy something new, if she needs to.
DIY downsizing tips:
Give yourself lots of time (months) to prepare for your sale.
Devise a step-by-step sale plan.
Research pricing. Check online sale sites such as eBay and Craigslist.
Sort and clear out one space at a time.
Run your sale Thursday through Saturday.
Don’t drop prices until the last day.
Be prepared with supplies -- bags, trash cans, markers -- when you sort items for sale and during the sale.

What to ask when hiring  professional estate sale services:
Are you bonded and insured?
Will you provide a written statement of services?
How are you paid? Commission or percentage of sales?
Will you write receipts for sold items?
Do you prepare a written final accounting of receipts and inventory of items sold?
How soon after the sale will I be paid?
Source: graceful-exits.com

Friday, August 14, 2015

Three basic steps to max out your Social Security benefits

“People who refuse to rest honorably on their laurels when they reach retirement age seem very admirable to me.” – Helen Hayes, American actor (1900-1993)

Thinking about doing some retirement planning? Start FIRST by taking a serious look at your Social Security account.  Or maybe you don't mind leaving big money on the table as you age into your golden years.

Don’t wait until you’re 62 or full-retirement age at 66 or 67 to take a look at your Social Security options. This segment of your retirement profile deserves research and some thoughtful discussions with those who have gone before you, your family and financial advisers. Do this planning years in advance of leaving your full-time job. There's more to it than just signing up to start benefits on your own account.
How best to start taking benefits can depend on many variables -- your age, your marital status, if you’ve been widowed -- to name a few. (click here for my earlier post at sixtyandsingle.com - "Collecting Social Security on an ex-spouse. It's better if they're dead.")  There are ways to maximize benefits over several years!

Here’s an example: If you are a single woman 62 or older you may be able to claim benefits on a spouse or ex-spouse if you were married to that person 10 years or longer. You may be able to tap into that account while leaving your own account untouched. (Here's a recent Viewpoint report from Fidelity on Social Security and women, click here.)

This strategy has two pluses: You get some retirement money coming in and at the same time for each year that you delay taking benefits in your own account after age 62, you give yourself an 8 percent annual increase in benefits up to age 70.

But exploring the ins and outs of these options gets complicated and deserves careful investigation.

There are nearly 3,000 claiming rules related to Social Security benefits depending on your age, marital status, how long you’ve been married to someone and if they are living or dead. By looking into these options (and others), you may be able to get create a revenue stream without affecting your own account.

So how to figure this out? Do these three things:

 - Go online to www.socialsecurity.gov, set up your own personal account and look at various scenarios for how you personally can maximize benefits. In other words do your own research on benefit options. Dig down into the rules.

Then, set up a face-to-face conference at your local Social Security office to get their advice on what makes for you. Don’t do this by phone…do it in person. The phone people may not have the specific expertise you’re looking for. (How to schedule an appointment at your local office, click here.  (1-800-772-1213   M-F  7 a.m. to 7 p.m.) 
When setting up the face-to-face ask that this person be an expert in retirement planning scenarios. Bring along relevant Social Security numbers of spouses or ex-spouses.

Don’t expect the Social Security person to hand out free financial planning advice per se. What you will get is how various scenarios will work related to your age, marital history and work history. You have to know the questions to ask. They are there to answer them. Bring a note pad and take notes.

Step three: Even though you’ve already done your own research and talked directly with Social Security folks also then set up an hour-long appointment with a professional financial adviser familiar with Social Security regulations. (Make this a fee-only interview. You are paying just for their time and expertise). Make sure you’re talking to someone who really understands this stuff.

This planning should not be last minute or rushed. Make sure you understand your options. It may mean collecting tens of thousands of dollars more in Social Security benefits over the long haul.
There are ways to ease into retirement with part-time employment. There are rules around this too. So check it out.

Personally, if I have one regret about my own retirement planning, I should have waited longer to start taking Social Security benefits. After leaving my full-time job at age 63, I could have lived on my personal savings for another year or two rather than tapping immediately into Social Security. That would have boosted my monthly benefit by several hundred dollars. Translated over what could be another 20 or 30 years, we’re talking significant money.

Because so many women are on their own in their final years after the loss of a spouse, it makes sense for women to take Social Security even more seriously than men. If you are married, talk with your spouse about what your financial life will be like after your spouse is gone. Professional advisers tell me that’s a tough conversation for husbands to have.
They don’t want to think about life coming to an end.
It does.
For more:
"Why Women Need to think differently about Retirement," - click here.
"Women and Retirement Savings, click here.
Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement, click here.
"Key Retirement Concerns and 7 Planning Tips for Women," Forbes, click here.
6 Money Rules All Single Women Should Live By, Retirement Cheat Sheet, click here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

My friend Pam's estate sale. It's about freedom

Editor's note:
Pam is among my best friends. When she lost her husband a few years ago, she wasn't sure where life would take her next. She's been working toward a new life for awhile. As part of that new life, she held an "estate" sale this past week where she sold practically everything she owns...furniture, kitchenware, outdoor equipment. You name it, she sold it. It's all part of downsizing to a much much smaller place. It's all about freedom. I'm am proud of her. Below is Pam's note to her friends about the sale and about her future. - Julia

Ladies of my life.  
It is morning, and I’m starting to feel human again…. After weeks of preparation, or maybe it was months…oh get real Pam, it was years.  It is done.   Half way through, I realized why people hire estate sale companies to do this. But you know me, frugal to the end,…I said, “I bought it, I stored it, I cleaned it, now I’m going to sell it.” But it took a crew of dedicated friends and family to help me pull it off. Jeni and I worked alternate Saturdays and some Sundays for over 3 months.  She was my Angel and Sale nazi,  knowing how to keep me focused.  I most often got a severe case of “Squirrel” and my attention span was in a hurricane of overwhelm and HOW we could ever get it ALL done.

 Without her I’d probably still be hacking away at it.  I am so blessed to have this girl/woman child that knows me so well and puts up with me and we still we laugh. The son, he just said burn it all or send to dump.  And they both came out of the same shoot…..
Throughout the last 2 weeks, I ran shifts, scheduling like a factory boss, then panicking, that I would not be able to find enough willing souls to help.  LynAnn put in some long hours with me, and the nice thing that comes of that is being able to visit while sorting.  I’ve heard from several friends, that my experience was a huge wakeup call as to what they also needed to do.  So my time will be coming when I can pay them back and help with their efforts. 

Last night when I was really and truly at the end of my thin rope, hunting for any kind of a box and  also realizing I left the tape roll I purchased earlier in the day which was now at the “SHOE” (our name for the 5th Wheel)  the tape that would allow me to reassemble several flattened boxes….needing to put that which remained, ready  for the truck from the Humane Society Thrift store which comes tomorrow and actually finishing the task, here comes Kay, with a home cooked dinner of roasted teriyaki pork loin, salad, sautéed green beans, garlic bread and OMG, Champagne!!!  It would have been  childish of me to throw myself on the floor and just start crying in gratitude, but I sure felt like it.   Lucky for us, I didn’t sell the kitchen table and chairs, so we dined outside on the porch amongst a cool breeze and a visit from friends Julie and Ken, to toast the end of this chapter.

6 more bags of Garbage collected, I would have had more garbage, but Joann sold my garbage bags right out from under me! Our cars full, we headed home in the dark, with plans for this afternoon to FINISH the project. 
I am happy with the sale profits, and the experience had many aspects that were enjoyable. I met neighbors I never knew, people who knew Dale and shared some good stories.  So many people asked me throughout the 3 days, “ Are you sad to give all this up?”  “Is it hard to give all this away?”…  and each and every time from my heart, I responded, “No, not all,  I am relieved to rehome all this, and move into a streamlined life of possessions”.

As we emptied the cupboards, closets, and staged the house with tables and racks (I’ll have to count how many we used) It began to look like my home had regurgitated itself….oh boy if that wasn’t a wake-up call.   As we sorted,  I was flooded with memories. The good, the sad, and the bad.  I said silent goodbye’s often to things that I no longer needed or wanted or had used and loved but no longer needed.  Gifting things made for a good feeling.  Making big tote bins for the Grandkids was also a help, as I had a place to share special memories and then they can keep or purge, but at least they knew the story of that particular item.  I will keep Samye’s in the shop, and she will find many treasures of her days with both Grampa and Gramma, she may be 60 before she grows up, but I will have done my part to let her know she was/is loved by both of us.

After all was prepped, I took a few minutes to walk through the house, barn, outbuildings, and thank it and all the possessions for their service to my heart and my life. I had found a prayer to Thank the house, and I read it with a happy heart,

Then Thursday Morning, and I was up at 5:00 am to place the signs and begin……
By 8:15 am on Thursday we had 40-50 vehicles parked on both sides of the street, all over the front yard, up the driveways as far as we’d allow, even at the empty house next door.   Jenica, was brilliant in devising a pattern, where no cars were parked in back but ours.  People were directed to walk down the driveway on the east side, and begin the process shopping the barn, outdoor items, items under the carports (of which I sold two) then leading to the backyard, and then into the house.  Final stop was the garage with more goodies and the checkout register (Again, Thank you Brian for your table’s, clothing racks and register)

 Auntie Jo, was a trooper and handled the checkout for all 3 days, as Jeni and I ran back and forth as the answer Guru’s.  We kept the Master bedroom locked and so we had a place for potty, food, and if you couldn’t figure out where to put something it got thrown in there. That first morning was a MOB, and we could have used more help than the 6 people we had, but it settled down and overall it all turned out just fine and we had a steady stream until close on Saturday at 5pm.
Another trip back out today to finish up the last of the boxing for the thrift shop.   Trying to contact the VA Hospital as I’m looking for an appropriate place to donate my big massage chair. No takers at the price I wanted, so a write off and comfort for someone hurting would be the better route.

I’ll never forget how dirty the house actually was as we cleared it out.  No wonder my allergies were awful, and it wasn’t just dog hair! 

We are going to re-home the cats to here at Birkenstock, next week when Brian comes home. They will have lots of room to explore and we are hoping that will go well.

Zoe has been a trooper, missing her daily walks, (as I) and her exercise has been in the form, of getting up and finding a new sleeping place after we tripped over her a million times a day.  During the sale, she generally laid on the back porch, waiting for someone to pet her, or step over her, but everyone loved the Zoe.

So that’s it’s. Now I have bins in the Shoe waiting to find a new home or possibly discarded, or sent to the special closet on the top floor of the Birk store. We’ll see.

Brian is in Chicago at a conference and while we wasn’t here to help with the majority of the sale, he did tons of prep work, and used his employees to transfer tables and racks, and move that which I was moving into the storage trailer, and that saved my back and his a lot of stress.   I was actually glad he was not here at the sale.  It felt like something that I/we as a family needed to do and process.  Now I’m ready for the next chapter.  After the house clean up, then next I’m working on selling Wild n’ Wooly (Pam's marketing company). .  

So that is it, just wanted you to know we made it through, and  now I’d better get on to the work that I’ve ignored most of last week.

With love and gratitude for you all,