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A. THE SUB-PRIME DEBACLE AND YOU
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A. THE SUB-PRIME DEBACLE AND YOU
"My home is long paid for! What does this sub-prime mess they made have to do with me?" Well, you could actually be right in the crosshairs of it via your securities portfolio. Now is the time to call your financial advisor and ask the question: "What is my exposure to this ongoing sub-prime loan portfolio financial industry crisis?"
If you own a mutual fund of bank stocks or financial concerns, bonds of financial industry companies that invested money in sub-prime home loans, if you own shares of home development companies... you've got exposure. Lots of people own "Countrywide," but there are other avenues through which you may be exposed to this method of loaning money to home buyers with less-than-perfect credit.
U.S. residential mortgage-backed securities account for 20% of the global fixed income marketplace. This represents the largest component of the market. The turmoil is nowhere near complete as those with less-than-stellar credit who purchased homes a few years ago are about to see their interest rates reset--and the banks are not playing ball by resisting the urge to increase the payments even though they know many will fail to make them and the result will be foreclosure.
Ask your financial advisor to check on the percentage of mortgage holdings you have across your portfolio. How much in mutual funds? How about those GNMA and FNMA bonds you hold? What about bank and finance company stocks? Make sure your exposure is limited, but don't panic-follow your advisor's advice.
How did this all happen? Mortgage lenders used the "stated loan" and abused it. A stated loan is where the borrower states their income. The abuse occurred when a lender decided not to verify the information provided by the borrower. Often borrowers were told to make up the information. There were even Web sites that would send dubious documents to such a borrower to use with lenders. Some of these people are just average hard-working Joes and Janes who got an adjustable loan so they could afford a home for their family and achieve the American Dream. Others were speculators trying to buy and "flip" homes for profit.
The government is working on the problem from several angles at once. Congress is looking into legislation to assist homeowners on the verge of foreclosure. The Federal Reserve Bank is lowering rates charged to banks for borrowing money in an effort to push lower the rates borrowers will pay when their adjustable loan rates reset. Senator Chris Dodd is working with lenders towards preventing foreclosure, and making it a last resort for lenders who have given loans to sub-prime borrowers who are finding it difficult to pay, given the rise in interest rates and other factors. It helps nobody when a family loses their home, and benefits everyone when they keep it. The House and Senate together asked the White House to offer more help to borrowers via the government's two sponsored lenders, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.
To be sure, some real estate investors are taking advantage of the situation via good old American capitalism and are purchasing foreclosed homes from the banks. If you are thinking of direct real-estate investments this may be a good time to look.
First step? Speak to your financial advisor and always be aware of the holdings you have in your portfolio!
Additional financial information for seniors can be found at:
B. STAY AT HOME LONGER BY FINDING A CAREGIVER
So you're at the age when you just can't do it all anymore. You've gotten over the realization that you aren't the best person to handle your own bookkeeping. Maybe your son or daughter does it for you now. You're over the realization that you can't stand on your feet for long periods anymore-or perhaps you don't dare stand in the shower for fear of falling. You wake up in the morning and could swear in court that it is evening...for a few minutes anyway. When things are out of place you wonder if someone got into your home and moved them before shaking your head and telling yourself: "Nah, it's not possible." Do you worry about the upcoming DMV exam ending your mobility?
But, what is one to do? Even adult children can only do so much, and what if the only family is many miles away? What if you don't want to move in with family? Sooner rather than later, those memory episodes are going to increase. The feeling that somebody was sneaking around in the house will become overpowering for some people. And the simple act of showering? In fact it just isn't safe for some seniors to be left completely alone.
There is an answer that can extend such a senior citizen's stay in his or her own home, and that is home care. "Home care" may be described as a friendly visit, or it can include medical services, depending on the need of the senior and his or her level of insurance coverage. Firms that provide home caregivers are paid directly by the insurance company, or if insurance coverage is not available, will take direct payment as well. How does one select an appropriate firm for home care services? Start with the benefits section of your insurance policy.
In any insurance policy the benefits due are spelled out in specifics. There will be a chart of some sort, or a listing of services available. Often the co-pay required (if any) will also be referenced right there in the chart. Review this chart carefully-it will likely cover benefits for a number of related insurance policies, and only some of the information will be applicable to your particular policy benefits. You will likely still have questions, and the policy service folks at your insurer are the people to talk to. Check your health insurance ID card for the number on the back.
Should home care be covered, you will need a referral from your primary care physician to the insurance company. This sets the process in motion. Next comes the selection of the particular care giving firm, and the specific individual who will be giving the care. For instance, there will be pricing differences. Your policy may limit the amount you can spend on home care in a single year; thus a lower-cost provider may be helpful. On the other hand you may feel that "you get what you pay for" and may want a premium service. If you're in a remote area there may only be one choice! Check it out. The insurance company will have a list-often viewable online-of the qualified firms they work with.
What about the specific individual providing care? There are a number of things to consider. If you're a person concerned about falling in the shower you probably want a strong individual who could lift you in an emergency. If you get along better with soft-spoken people better than with exuberant folks, that personality trait will most likely be a consideration. A woman may only want another woman in her home, or a person with cooking skills may be required. Regardless, the questions that you ask and the information you provide are key to finding the right fit.
The firm contracted to provide the home care provider will help you sort through these issues. Often the people they hire are registered nurses. And all receive training, but do be sure to inquire as to the training they've received. Home care can take some initial planning but it is well worth the superior results. For more information on home care standards visit the National Association for Home Care and Hospice at:
Then settle into your home in security, safety and comfort in your golden years!
Additional caregiver information can be found at:
C. DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS AND AGEING
You've seen the ads on TV, have heard from friends who are taking them, and you've even picked up a bottle to try to read the label's microscopic print. Dietary supplements are very popular today, and this is so for a wide variety of reasons, but one central issue forms the backbone of the consumer's desire for these products.
We don't trust the doctor in America anymore. Many Americans are convinced that physicians prescribe pills they are paid to distribute. In fact, recent studies of pharmaceutical sales and the effect on patient-doctor relationships bear out this effect of sales-pushing prescriptions. Some medical centers are barring pharmaceutical sales people from their doors because the influence is too great.
But the self-prescribed dietary supplement isn't any better, and can, in fact, be outright dangerous, especially for seniors. Why? Because they are drugs sold in another way. It is that simple. The daily vitamin? Probably fine. Select one appropriate for your age and sex. What about the fiber supplement? Probably fine-depending on the manufacturer and the country of origin. What about the protein supplement? Well, be sure you know whether you are taking soy-based or whey-based protein, and which your doctor prefers for your particular body. Estrogen comes as a natural element of soy protein concentrate, and it passes through the body faster. And the vitamin-D supplement? As long as it does not interfere with your doctor's program for your healthful living it is probably fine. If it interferes with other medications you've got a potential medical emergency. Energy supplements? Stay away. These are pills containing compounds that are strong drugs- even if in natural form. If you have a high-blood pressure problem some of those energy supplements can be very harmful.
Ephedra is a drug that can be harmful-but you won't find it labeled as
such. In the store it will be sold as an ancient Chinese herb "ma huang"
with all the trappings of health and vitality a graphic artist can lend
to a label. In fact, it is an ephedrine alkaloyd. The U.S. government
has documented cases of ephedrine-related deaths of healthy individuals
in our armed services:
Of course, the supplement industry wants you to think the FDA is blocking your access to supplements in a nefarious exercise or conspiracy to protect traditional medicine. Don't believe their Website claims. Instead, speak with your primary care physician.
What about other dieting aids? For a senior citizen, dieting requires special attention to overall health. Do not diet for weight loss without your doctor's knowledge and input. Regardless of the claims made on television or on the side of a pill bottle, these are powerful drugs that you are ingesting. Their effects need to be matched against the other drugs you take, and under the supervision of a medical professional.
In general, supplements are intended to SUPPLEMENT your diet-as in you aren't eating the right foods. A person with a balanced diet and healthy eating habits shouldn't need them.
In fact the nonpartisan Government Accounting Office (GAO) issued a report in 2001 regarding these very issues. The report, "Health Products for Seniors: 'Anti-Aging' Products Pose Potential for Physical and Economic Harm," was released September 10 of that year at a hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Aging. In this report the GAO states: " Some companies promote their products to senior citizens by using 'anti-aging' or 'cure-all' claims for which there is little or no supporting evidence of either safety or efficacy. Regulators and medical experts are concerned that some products have health risks or are marketed with misleading or unsubstantiated claims."
The GAO also said, "Seniors are thought to be at particular risk of physical harm because they often take multiple prescription pharmaceuticals, increasing their risk of possibly dangerous supplement-drug interactions."
Yes, time has passed since the report, and many supplement manufacturers have improved practices since then, but the fact remains: You wouldn't lie down on the kitchen table with a steak knife and remove your own gallbladder. So why would you prescribe your own medicine?
Additional health-related information for seniors
can also be found at:
D. DID YOU KNOW...?
Energy Savings Techniques This Winter
For more energy tips see "Energy Saving Home Improvements From A to Z"
Helpful Hints for the Holidays - thanks to BK, San Diego
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E. THOUGHTS FOR THE MONTH
We present here some words from those with a birthday this month.
More "Thoughts" at: http://www.seniorresource.com/thought.htm
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F. FREE THINGS
Canadian Travel Seniors Can Bring a Friend!
G.SPECIAL SURFING SITES
National Do Not Call Registry
Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa Gift Ideas
H. OH MY AGING FUNNY BONE
Wife vs. Husband
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a broken fan belt and a leaky tire.
It's always darkest before dawn. So if you're going to steal your neighbor's newspaper, that's the time to do it.
Don't be irreplaceable. If you can't be replaced, you can't be promoted.
Always remember that you're unique. Just like everyone else
Visit 1000's of jokes of interest to people who have lived a long and
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SPONSOR OF THIS ISSUE
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SPONSOR AN ISSUE
This issue has been edited by Betsy Day (Betsyjday@aol.com).
Aging in Place