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*** September 2008 ***
* E-zine *

This Month's Highlights:
· Prostate Exams
· Reverse Mortgages + Annuities
· Social Security Calculator


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CONTENTS

A1. TESTING FOR PROSTATE CANCER TO DO OR NOT TO DO?
A2. COMBINING REVERSE MORTGAGES WITH ANNUITIES
B. DID YOU KNOW...?
C. THOUGHTS FOR THE MONTH
D. SPECIAL OCCASIONS THIS MONTH
E. SPECIAL SURFING SITE
F. OH MY AGING FUNNY BONE

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A1. TESTING FOR PROSTATE CANCER TO DO OR NOT TO DO?

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/USpstfix.htm reported last month that doctors should stop performing the routine prostate cancer-screening (PSA antigen) test for men over 75 because there is more evidence of treatment of the disease causing more harm than benefit. The test itself, because it often produces false-positive reactions, can cause serious psychological problems, not only for the patient, but for his family, as well. Previous reports in 2002 left the question open because there was not enough evidence to recommend testing men of all ages.

Many concerned people, as one might imagine, have been asking questions about the wisdom of this advice since it was announced. It seems counterintuitive, doesn't it? Don't screen for an extremely common disease in older men?

It turns out the advice to physicians is well founded. The current treatments for prostate cancer can harm an older man and leave him with bladder issues, impotence, or bowel problems. These are serious side effects, especially for a disease that most older men who suffer from will not die of.

There are ethical requirements for this type of annual testing that the medical community has long observed. A number of factors are taken into account when determining if annual blood testing is appropriate. Does the disease being tested for having a long gestation period? Prostate cancer certainly fits that requirement. However, another requirement is that the test must not be more harmful than the resulting information can benefit the patient. This appears to be the problematic hurdle in the question of testing for prostate cancer in men over 75.

A 75-year-old man with early stage prostate cancer might not suffer significant symptoms even in another 10 years. Most older men with prostate cancer die of other causes. While it is the second leading cancer in men, the tumors usually grow so slowly that it does not threaten the life of the individual.

Of course, every physician has a responsibility to discuss these matters with his patient in light of that patient's unique life situation, health records, and needs. Medicine is never "one size fits all."

However, when the benefits are routinely outweighed by risks, as is the case with the treatment of men over 75 for prostate cancer, a consensus can form, such as that among major medical groups that "watchful waiting" is the best approach for prostate cancer in older men, or that men under 50 years of age need not be tested for prostate cancer with the PSA antigen test.

Of course, a regular physical examination for males generally includes a manual exam of the prostate. A physician may order a PSA antigen test If an irregularity is noted.

You can take a look at the study published in "Annals of Internal Medicine" here: http://www.annals.org

Additional health information for seniors can be found at:
http://www.seniorresource.com/health.htm


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A2. COMBINING REVERSE MORTGAGES WITH ANNUITIES

Recent publicity has spotlighted the growing problem of seniors being aggressively sold the idea of taking out reverse mortgages to pay for financial products like annuities. Yet these products are often unsuitable investments for cash-poor, property-rich older citizens.

The reverse mortgage industry is currently undergoing rapid growth, and is therefore attracting more financial product sellers. AARP's educational website warns seniors to be cautious when anyone who wants to sell them something suggests a reverse mortgage as a way to pay for it. It usually does not make sense to take out a reverse mortgage just to invest the proceeds.

An annuity is a contract between you and an insurance company. Annuities can be fixed or variable and deferred or immediate. A variable annuity is invested in stocks, bonds, and money markets and can incur losses as well as gains. With a fixed annuity, the insurance company guarantees both the rate of return and the payout. An equity-indexed annuity has some characteristics of each and a complex array of interest-computing methods.
Annuities may also be "deferred." Deferred annuities typically have an "accumulation period" in which earnings grow or wane and the funds are largely inaccessible without significant penalty charges. The payout to the investor comes some time in the future.

The most inappropriate type of annuity for seniors with limited assets and flexibility is the deferred variety. If the senior experiences an urgent need for cash during the accumulation period, which may last several years, he or she most likely will be faced with a sizeable surrender charge to tap into these annuity funds. The most egregious cases in the news have this period extending past the senior's life expectancy!

An "immediate" annuity has an immediate payout. It can offer a pension-like income the senior can count on for life or for a chosen period of time in return for a one-time premium payment. A senior could use the proceeds from a reverse mortgage to purchase an immediate annuity and possibly receive a larger monthly payment than the reverse mortgage offers. And the payment could be tied to their life span, rather than limited to the years in the home. However, to receive the maximum "annuitized" income, he or she essentially trades the investment for this income and the heirs will not receive any remaining funds after death of the senior.

The reverse mortgage itself offers flexibility; the borrower can move from a line of credit to draw on as he chooses, to a monthly check, and back again. Any remaining equity after the loan is repaid belongs to the borrower or his heirs. The ultimate cost for taking a monthly payment from the reverse mortgage will be much less than taking a large lump sum in cash to purchase an annuity. (The lump sum will accumulate interest.) Money coming directly from the reverse mortgage loan will remain tax-free, unlike annuity earnings that are taxed at ordinary income rates.

Reverse mortgages are loans that allow homeowners, age 62 and over, to borrow against their home equity with no repayment due until they permanently move from the home. Borrowers can choose to receive the cash as a lump sum, a line of credit, or monthly payments. The borrower always retains title to their home. Reverse loans can be used for any purpose, but must first be used to retire any existing liens or mortgages.

Gail Wempner is a Reverse Mortgage Specialist with Reverse Mortgage Marketplace, a division of Marketplace Home Mortgage, LLC and a former financial planner. She is available for individual consultations and for group presentations. She can be reached at (952) 544-0821 or by email gail@marketplacehome.com

Additional seniors' financial information can be found at:
http://www.seniorresource.com/finance.htm


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B. DID YOU KNOW...?

Now look what you can do with Alka-Seltzer...

  1. Clean a vase. To remove a stain from the bottom of a glass vase or cruet, fill with water and drop in two Alka-Seltzer tablets.
  2. Polish jewelry. Drop two Alka-Seltzer tablets into a glass of water and immerse the jewelry for two minutes.
  3. Clean a Thermos bottle. Fill the bottle with water, drop in four Alka-Seltzer tablets, and let soak for an hour (or longer, if necessary).
  4. Unclog a drain. Clear the sink drain by dropping three Alka-Seltzer tablets down the drain, followed by a cup of white vinegar. Wait a few minutes, and then run the hot water.
  5. Clean a toilet. Drop in two Alka-Seltzer tablets, wait twenty minutes, brush and flush. The citric acid and effervescent action clean vitreous china.

 

Social Security Calculator Online

The Social Security Administration has a new retirement estimator available online. Benefit estimates are made after a few clicks and the input of some personal information. The calculator permits future retirees to create a more accurate estimate of benefits because one can factor in a higher estimate of their future earnings. You may also factor in different alternatives for retirement ages.

The "Retirement Estimator" estimates that are based on your actual Social Security earnings record estimates are just that estimates. They will vary slightly from the actual benefit you may receive in the future because:

- Your Social Security earnings record is constantly being updated;

- Our calculators use different parameters and assumptions (e.g., different stop-work ages, future earnings projections, etc.); and

- Your actual future benefit will be adjusted for inflation.

The estimator can be found here: http://www.ssa.gov/estimator/

Additional seniors' financial information can be found at:
http://www.seniorresource.com/finance.htm


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C. THOUGHTS FOR THE MONTH

We present here some words from those with a birthday this month.

Mike Piazza "Never let your dreams go away."

Bob Newhart - "Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on."

Raquel Welch - "You can't fake listening. It shows."

Cathy Guisewite - "Food, love, career, and mothers, the four major guilt groups."

Rose McGowan - "Life gets better when you embrace your geekiness"

More "Thoughts" at: http://www.seniorresource.com/thought.htm


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D. SPECIAL OCCASIONS THIS MONTH

1. National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) helps towns, counties, and states around the country observe Recovery Month every year in September. The Recovery Month effort aims to promote the societal benefits of alcohol and drug use disorder treatment, laud the contributions of treatment providers and promote the message that recovery from such disorders in all forms is possible. This year, the 19th annual Recovery Month recognizes the impact that real people and real stories have on recovery, and celebrates those who have worked to advance the treatment and recovery landscape.

In 2008 the highlight is on the people for whom treatment and long-term recovery have given a renewed outlook on life. Everyone is invited to take part in the theme, "Join the Voices for Recovery: Real People, Real Recovery," and spread the word that addiction is a medical illness and that treatment is effective and recovery is possible. By getting involved, you can help more people on a path of recovery to lead more fulfilling lives.

2. National Civics Awareness Month
Being an American citizen entitles one to certain privileges and carries responsibilities. National Civics Awareness Month focuses attention on these rights, duties, and obligations. Some are voluntary, such as voting, volunteering, and military service; others are compulsory, including jury duty, paying taxes, and obeying the law. Informed and participative citizens ensure that democracy is maintained and continues. To this end, this month observes the significance of understanding government and how it functions. Expand your knowledge of American history and government with articles and Web sites such as: http://www.house.gov/baca/resourcecenter/how.htm and http://www.realclearpolitics.com
Also remember to register to vote.


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E. SPECIAL SURFING SITES

SmartExchange Allows Savings Bond Conversion
TreasuryDirect accounts permit owners to purchase, manage, and redeem Treasury securities electronically - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - through a secure Internet connection directly with the Treasury Department. Series EE and I savings bonds, Treasury bills, notes, bonds and inflation-protected securities are available for purchase through TreasuryDirect.

The feature, called SmartExchange, enables holders of paper Series E, EE, or I savings bonds to trade them in for electronic securities of the same series and issue dates in a special Conversion Linked Account within their TreasuryDirect online account.

Visit to learn more http://www.savingsbonds.gov/tdhome.htm

 

Impact of Working Longer
Will you need to work in retirement? Older adults' employment is attracting attention as many baby boomers approach traditional retirement ages. A report from the Urban Institute, "Should People Work Longer, and Will They?" indicates that people who work one additional year beyond their planned retirement date will increase their annual retirement income about 9%. Working five additional years will boost annual income about 56%. The report examines the benefits of working longer, the characteristics of today's older workers, and recent changes in older Americans' labor supply. You may see the report online here:
http://www.urban.org/url.cfm?ID=411584

Additional financial information for seniors can be found at:
http://www.seniorresource.com/finance.htm


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F. OH MY AGING FUNNY BONE

Zen Humor

  1. Never test the depth of the water with both feet.
  2. If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments.
  3. Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in his shoes. That way, when you criticize him, you're a mile away and you have his shoes.
  4. If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you.
  5. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.

More of Van Gogh's Family Tree

- The constipated uncle -- Cant Gogh
- The ballroom dancing aunt --Tang Gogh
- The bird-lover uncle -- Flamin Gogh
- His nephew psychoanalyst -- E Gogh
- The fruit-loving cousin -- Man Gogh
- The aunt who taught positive thinking -- Way To Gogh
- The little bouncy nephew -- Poe Gogh
- The sister who loved disco -- Go Gogh…
- And his niece who travels the country in a van -- Winnie Bay Gogh

"Oh My Aging Funny Bone" is at:
http://www.seniorresource.com/jokes.htm


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