"Ageing cannot be avoided but it most certainly can be enjoyed."
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When Spiderman and Captain Marvel couldn’t help

Stan Lee, a legend as one of the creators of Marvel Comics and some of its greatest superheroes, died almost a year ago, but where were these titans of the galaxy when he needed them?

In news headlines a few weeks back, we now find out that Lee was a victim of elder abuse by a business manager who has just been indicted. How is this possible? Stan Lee, although 95 when he died, was not some “nobody” who folded into anonymous retirement without children or friends, where he was never missed.

He was still going to events and galas up until a year before his death. Do we live in a time where old age simply means anonymity, where we just disappear? How come no one checks to see if a friend or associate is OK, comes to the door, and says hello or just checks in?

We live in a fast-paced world where we do not do the things we used to do…simply see if someone is OK. Believe it or not, “mailmen”…that’s what we used to call them, would check on a home if there seemed to be an issue with mail delivery.

Elder abuse is a major problem with the change in demographics. Families live apart and there is no one to check to see if an aging parent is OK. Caregivers are not “vetted” carefully, and then when you find one, we never check up and follow through to see what’s going on. Finances, credit cards, checking accounts…. these are the tools of the perps, and then there is an embarrassment.

Seniors, or old people as the millennials see us, are embarrassed to find some help, or appear to need help…. that embarrassment leads to trouble with a capital T. When we feel embarrassed about our age, or what we can’t do anymore, the door is open to the perp who wants to” help.”

Is there a magic antidote to rid ourselves of embarrassment for getting older? The answer is no. The antidote is to believe that people, including our children, understand us, our reluctance to rely on others and the desire to remain independent.

Here is my answer…. what the world needs now isn’t love sweet love…. it is patience and listening for the signs of someone needing just a little help, who may be too embarrassed to ask.

Spiderman wasn’t there to help Stan Lee, but you don’t have to be a superhero to just listen for a sign that someone is asking for help, and then swoop in from your web and help.

Take it for what it is… It’s just as I see it.

Where have all the tough guys gone?

I love old movies, especially old Westerns.  I love the tough guys – not the actor who plays the tough guy on screen, but the actual tough guys.

Lee Marvin, with the gravelly voice, sustained an injury during World War II, or Charles Bronson’s icy stare, also a veteran of World War II; James Arness or as I liked to remember him, Marshall Dillon, awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart during the invasion of Anzio… now those were tough guys!

I’ve had a long running quest in my head to find the toughest guy in the house. I’ve seen tough guys in fights, and even had a few scrapes of my own, but I’ve never been able to find this tough guy I’ve created in my mind.  Was he just in my mind?

Why the quest, you ask?  Honestly, I don’t know. I’ve simply always been fascinated by tough guys – whether men or women.  I was attending a Memorial Day celebration – a beautiful day where the stars and stripes were boldly flying everywhere.  Then, I saw someone that made me think that this was going to be the day I found him.

He was smaller than I imagined, and his shoulders were slightly stooped as he sat in the corner with a walker in front of him.  His baseball cap was tattered and worn, but I could clearly see that it said World War II veteran, so I approached him.

He slowly, and even reluctantly told me about his experience as a medic during the invasion of Normandy. He had only been nineteen years old, but he took his job seriously.  When the bullets were flying overhead, he helped his fellow men. He didn’t cry, although he was admittedly scared. He didn’t pout, whine, or make excuses. He simply did the job that he was there to do.

It was when he finished his story that I knew I’d found him; the toughest of the tough.  This man was a real-life superman before Hollywood produced a 200-million-dollar movie, yet there he was in an old worn out ball cap.

Tough guys like these veterans are scarce these days, they’re almost gone– so when you see one, shake his hand.  Thank them. These guys, of the greatest generation, are the real heroes, and authentic tough guys. Meeting this man made me hope that our current generation, mine included, can meet the challenge.

Take my advice for what it is… It’s Just, AS I SEE IT!

All we have to do is ask

I had an interesting client this week… We spoke about issues concerning her estate planning, and after our appointment, she proudly displayed her brand-new cell phone to show she was ‘hip’ to technology. (“Hip” is a word used during days of Elvis — meaning we’re cool – apparently, it’s making a comeback, but I digress). In any event, she was now ready to enter the new appointment date in her phone.

There was much fumbling, rumbling and ranting about the good old days – you know, when a phone was attached to a cord that plugged into a wall.

I asked her if she knew how to call 911, if there was an emergency. She seemed startled, as if I was trying to be a wise guy. What kind of a question is that? Of course, she could call!

I said, “show me.”

After entering numbers and commands for what seemed to be an eternity, she said, sheepishly, “Maybe I should ask my grandson to show me how”.

Now this client is not a stupid person. She is an intelligent woman who is smart enough to know how to plan for the future. But right now, the future was a cell phone, which she could not properly use. What good is a smart phone if it can’t be smart when you need it?

I felt the need to test a theory. I asked my grandson to download an app on my phone that would directly reach 911, without my fumbling, if I were alone on the floor.

Sure enough, he said, “Pop Pop, no problem” and it was done.

911 is a universal number. It’s in our head all the time. But, like the telephone plugged into a wall with a cord, it needs a tune up. Actually, we need the tune up.

Our phones are only ‘smart’ if we know how to use them. We need to know how to dial 911 without looking for the phone manual, which is probably in many languages, except the one we need.

So, folks, let’s seek help from the ones who are experts… the ones who don’t pass judgment on our failings, and the ones who would do anything for us.  Let’s ask the grandkids the best ways to contact 911 on any type of smart phone we use.

Take my advice for what it is… It’s Just, AS I SEE IT!

Safe goals

Like most people, you may fail to use your Will or Living Trust to its full potential. You should “program your wishes” to live on after you die. It should be your “periscope from the grave” to accomplish the major goals of inheritance planning.

Goal #1: Prevent inheritance conflicts among your children.  Use your inheritance plan to equalize between the children, not assuming that each child and in-law will act perfectly when they divide the estate.

Goal #2:  Protect the money from your children’s potential problems.  Take steps to shield your assets from the human and economic problems that may arise. These may include divorces; financial problems involving creditors; business failures; serious illness; or just financial immaturity.  By having a proper inheritance plan, when your child dies, whatever is left will be available for your grandchildren or other heirs.

Goal #3:  Every inheritance plan requires you to name an agent who will carry out your instructions after your death.  This “agent” is your Executor (if a Will) or a Successor Trustee (if a Living Trust). The effectiveness of any plan is entirely dependent on the person you name as your “agent”.

Goal #4: Plan to protect your assets for your surviving spouse.  Unless otherwise directed, your assets will automatically go to your surviving spouse, and when your spouse dies, like most people, you expect your assets will then go to your children or other heirs. There are issues to address with respect to this reality.  Your surviving spouse may remarry; unscrupulous third parties may influence your spouse to part with the family wealth; your children may pressure your spouse for an “early inheritance”. Appropriate countermeasures can be incorporated in your inheritance plan.

As tax season ends, it becomes an opportune time to take a look at your estate planning to recognize if there are any changes or additions that should be made.  Most importantly, program your inheritance plans to keep your children and property out of Probate Court.  There are many ways to spare your heirs the expenses and hassles of the probate process.

Be Educated! Be Proactive!

The vacation home: Uniting or dividing?

One day the dream comes true, siblings inherit the most coveted possession, the family vacation home.

Everyone happily uses the home for family vacations and fun times for several years.  The property appreciates considerably and now one sibling wants to either sell the property, or have the other, buy out their half.

Co-owners of real estate have a right to their interest and can force the sale of the family vacation home, in court, if necessary. This situation is not at all unusual and, unfortunately, can create a lot of hurt feelings. One owner has no interest in the property, while another has strong ties to it, but can’t afford to buy out the other owner or owners.

The question for owners of vacation homes in planning their estates is the vision they have for the property. Do they see the property as binding their family together for generations to come as they continue to vacation together? Or are they more concerned about the issue of equity, in that some children are unlikely to ever use the property, while others may use it often?

Two estate-planning solutions are commonly used with regard to vacation homes. The first is to direct that the property be sold within a certain amount of time — often a year — after the surviving parent’s death. The children are given a right to purchase the property at a bit less than fair market value, called a “right of first refusal.” If none of the children exercises this right by the deadline, the property is put on the market. This solution has the advantage of finality and equity. Each child gets his or her share and is not tied to the other children for years to come.

The second approach is to put the house in trust for the family, or into a limited liability company. Usually one or two family members are named trustees, or managers, to manage the property for the benefit of all children and grandchildren. They can assess appropriate charges for use to cover the cost of upkeep and repairs. This preserves the house for future generations and may also avoid probate.

There is no right or wrong answer, just a question of the parents’ values and goals. A plan is almost always better than no plan. There is no guarantee that all heirs will be happy with whatever decision is made. In most cases they will accept what their parents or grandparents decided to do with their property. In terms of family harmony, it’s often better that any anger be directed towards the parents who are no longer there, than towards siblings who are still around.

Be Educated! Be Proactive!

A heart throb dies

Luke Perry, TV star, recently died of a stroke. His death raised the issue of health care directives and the use of a Do Not Resuscitate order.

Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders originated as directives, almost routinely entered into patients’ medical records preventing the use of resuscitative measures in the event of cardiopulmonary arrest.  Fifty years ago, physicians, on their own, frequently entered their own decisions into patients’ charts, presuming the physician best understood the patient’s values and medical outcomes. Families naturally need medical information in making such difficult choices.  Of course, if a patient were capable of making a meaningful decision, physicians could establish such rules to conform to each patient’s particular desire.  As long as a patient reasonably understands the possible risks and benefits of future medical interventions, they could approve a DNR on their own.

In considering treatment options with regard to establishing a DNR, it is important to acknowledge the basic order only considers cardio pulmonary resuscitation and does not relate to any other kind of treatment, such as surgery, medication, or chemotherapy.   However, it would be wise to both determine and document any specific preferences with regard to treatment, to eliminate possible “boiler-plate” interpretations of a DNR policy.

Some considerations:

  1. In the event of cardiopulmonary arrest at home or in an extended care facility, would resuscitation be allowable for the purpose of transporting the patient to the hospital?
  2. What is the distinction between futile treatments and those with sufficient therapeutic benefits?

The line between what can be considered a medical treatment or an ethical requirement can be blurred.  Be explicit in your preference.  Before writing a DNR, the family may want to reach a consensus, in consultation with the patient’s physician, regarding the following choices:

  1. Should CPR be instituted within a hospital setting?
  2. Should emergency medical technicians or nurses refrain from employing CPR in the event of a crisis?
  3. What other steps, such as pain management, should be employed and when?
  4. Should hospitalization itself be rejected (because it can be disorientating and for most diseases of the elderly is not likely to change outcomes), except to treat a clearly reversible condition?

Act now… and apply your own specifics, with clear and knowledgeable judgment!

Be Educated! Be Proactive!

Top online dangers you need to be aware of

Cybercrime is on the rise. With our lives becoming increasingly connected online, we have become more vulnerable to cyber attacks.

While there are default anti-virus and anti-malware software embedded natively in almost all devices we use today, online criminals are always finding new ways to access private data. This article will show you the top dangers you will encounter online that you might not be paying attention to.

Phishing and internet scams

Phishing has been the fastest growing mode of internet scams in the U.S and it is estimated that 1 in 3 phishing email attempts have been opened. Phishing uses emails from supposedly trustworthy sites to obtain your usernames, passwords, credit card details, social security number and so on.

The staggering amount of email phishing grows exponentially every year, with Media Post reporting that around 6.4 billion emails were sent everyday last year. While phishing emails are the most common forms of attack, phishing URLs are also on the increase.

It really pays to double check the URL of the websites you visit because you might be entering your details to a completely different domain. An ENISA report last year found that 73% of phishing domains swapped a letter, or had an additional character, in a domain or URL that was almost the same spelling as a popular site. A simple typo could open you up to a data breach.

Fraud and spoofing

In an investigative article, De Correspondent chronicled how a DNS hacker in a coffee shop can extract not only your passwords but can also gain access to personal data such as gender, sexual preferences, location history, and hobbies among others. This is done by “spoofing” or piggybacking on the public Wi-Fi to gain access to unknowing customers.

Mobile apps are also a hotbed for fraud. Dell’s RSA Security Report uncovered that 80% of fraud cases were committed by accessing mobile devices. Most of the attacks were done through mobile apps. So before you install that app, make sure you read the reviews or better yet, install a VPN.

Malware and ransomware

Malwares are also becoming more sophisticated nowadays. Malware attacks are characterized by installing malevolent software that performs activities on your computer without your permission or knowledge.

Spam remains the most commonly used path that malware attacks go down with three quarters of them deployed within an email. Seniors are particularly vulnerable as 28% of these are health-related spam emails which unknowing senior citizens tend to open. Another way that spam emails spread malware is through the offer of prizes. Common scams in these emails, like the Nigerian Scam, told the reader that they had won a hefty amount of money. The best way to avoid these is steering clear of the spam folder and only opening emails from trusted sources.

Data breach and enforcement

According to CNBC, cyber theft is the fastest growing crime in the U.S. with 2 billion personal records stolen in 2016. This has led to rapid changes in the law and how criminal evidence is gathered. Legal experts Special Counsel claim that a key part of the industry nowadays are eDiscovery solutions, which allows lawyers to take data from digital sources. This shift in how legal firms operate is a good indication of how serious the problem of cyber crime has become.

What can you do?

Being mindful of your cybersecurity is the first step in securing your online presence and personal data. Cybersecurity solutions like VPNs and strong anti-malware software will provide an added layer of security. With the advent of digital payments, Bitcoin, and smart homes, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

“ET phone home” – I phone computer expert!

If this is you, you are like many of us Silver Surfers who believe your computer is an alien being with a mind of its own. And you are probably partly right.

It is not alien but it definitely has a mind – AND a language – of its own. It is especially confusing when it starts to unexpectedly produce messages that are obviously designed by software developers to baffle and alarm us.

The old “fatal error” message still sends shivers down my spine and has me leaning towards my mobile where I have my computer expert on speed dial.

These error messages were never meant to be understood by us mere mortals, they are meant to give those in the know (whoever they may be) an indication of what went wrong.

However, very often the messages are so generic that even those in the know don’t know. 

But before you curl up in a corner of the room rocking backwards and forwards, not all is lost when fatal errors show their ugly frame but it does generally mean that a process was not able to continue.

PC Magazine’s definition of a fatal error is as follows:

“A condition that halts processing due to faulty hardware, program bugs, read errors or other anomalies. If you get a fatal error, you generally cannot recover from it, because the operating system has encountered a condition it cannot resolve. Typically, buggy applications cause fatal errors (fatal exception errors), and the computer locks up. In most cases, all data that you have changed that has not yet been saved to disk is lost.

There is no rule of thumb with fatal errors. You may never get one again, or it may manifest until you fix the problem. If you get a fatal error after just adding a new peripheral or installing a new software package, remove or uninstall it and try again.”

So, what do I do when this error – or any error – comes up? In general, whether this happens on your phone, tablet, laptop or desktop, take a copy of the exact phrasing of the error. Either through cut and paste or by taking a photo of your screen.

If you are lucky enough to have another device with internet access, go to your favourite search engine and type in the exact phrasing of the error in quotation marks. If the error message seems too generic, add the name of your operating system (Windows, OS) or device (Samsung, iPhone, Android) or the computer program you were using at the time of the error. This ensures that you narrow down your search results.

In most cases you will be able to find important clues to the meaning of the error message and even if this baffles you even further, and you have no idea how to proceed, this is vital information to pass on to your computer expert (the one on speed dial). 

The next thing you’re computer expert is going to ask you is: “What were you doing at the time?”. So just as important as searching your exact error message, is remembering (I know this is hard!) the exact actions you were doing when it happened. They will need to know which program you were using, what version your operating system is and what type of computer/device you were working on.

So be prepared – have this information ready when you call.

Should I or shouldn’t I eat eggs?

In the last few decades, the abundance and range of food available has increased exponentially, and with it, discussion about what we should or shouldn’t eat.  As more study into human nutrition is undertaken, many long held beliefs have been challenged and others reinforced, and a far more nuanced version of what constitutes a healthy diet, has emerged. 

There is one food that has had more than its fair share of debate:  The Egg    

 One of the most contentious foods, in terms of nutritional value, is the humble egg.  Eggs are packed full of protein for lean muscle maintenance, enzyme and hormone synthesis; vitamin A, zeaxanthin and lutein for eye health; vitamin D for immune function and bone health; choline for normal cell function and selenium for healthy thyroid and healthy cognitive function. Weighing in at only 70 calories, the egg is a nutritional goliath, yet in the 80’s and 90’s it was derided and belittled for its cholesterol content.  

We were advised to steer clear of egg yolks, as to consume them was to invite instant cardiovascular disease. We ate egg white omelettes in a bid to ward off heart attacks and stroke. Happily, the drivers of cardio-vascular disease and its relationship to elevated blood cholesterol are now better understood, and we can again include eggs as part of a healthy, balanced diet. 

Studies reveal that the human liver will upregulate or downregulate cholesterol production to supplement that consumed in the diet.  So if fewer cholesterol containing foods are eaten, the liver will take up the slack and produce more cholesterol.  The reason the liver produces cholesterol is that it is essential for life. 

Every single cell in our bodies has a membrane that separates it from the outer environment and controls the movement of substances in and out of the cell.  This membrane contains cholesterol. Our sex hormones, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone as well as our stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, are derived from cholesterol.  Vitamin D synthesis in the body relies on cholesterol in the skin which reacts to sun exposure.   

The link between elevated blood cholesterol and cardiovascular disease has been so well enforced, that cholesterol has become the enemy. In reality, the role cholesterol plays is secondary to the damage inflicted on blood vessel walls by other stressors such as smoking, drinking, excess sugar, excess trans-fats, obesity and chronic stress.  When blood vessel walls become damaged by these “irritants” the body tries to patch up the compromised areas with cholesterol deposits. When these deposits become larger or more numerous, the aperture of the blood vessel narrows, leading to increased blood pressure (hypertension) as the heart tries harder to pump blood through the smaller space.  Think of an old freezer which accumulates ice on its walls until you can’t fit your ice cream in there anymore.     

So the keys to a healthy heart and healthy arteries are well within our grasp.  Give up the cigarettes, give up the fast food, take up regular exercise, allow time each day to de-stress, treat sugar as just that: a treat, not a dietary staple, and nourish your body by eating a few eggs each week!  

The Silly Season opens

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Hang on to your hats, the Silly Season is about to take off!

I have no idea how many people there are who have announced their desire to become President of the United States in 2021, but it is a number too large to work with and one that seems to be expanding almost daily.

Most of these folks are people who are probably mainly known only to their own family members and those citizens who happen to reside in the area served by the prospective nominees. What they all have in common with anyone running for office from the opposition party is a loud voice proclaiming the desperate need for change (a need that is all too evident when one looks at how things take place in Washington), an ambitious spending agenda, and a need to balance our budget. And they each stridently call for a actions of cooperation with the opposition.

What utter hypocrisy and silliness! I would strongly suggest that we here in these United States find that our leaders and the vast majority of the public share the attitude that we are not interested in “cooperation” with those that oppose our views, but are primarily interested in their total destruction.

Cooperation and compromise have become defined as “agree with me, or you are Satan personified”. Our leaders and we have reached such depths for example, that recently Joe Biden called Vice President Pence “a decent guy” even though Biden has made it clear that he disagrees with many of Pence’s policies. The immediate reaction from Pence’s critics caused Biden to backtrack the next day. From the opposite side of the political divide we have our President resurrecting his differences with the late Senator McCain some seven months after the Senator’s passing.

These examples are just two of the myriad we see daily. Consider the debates over the “wall”, over immigration, over late term abortion, over budget priorities, over the environment, over gun control; in fact over everything I can think of. Regardless of substantive arguments pro and con for each issue, it seems that we now only have caustic, personal shots from each side and the refusal to “compromise”. Is it no wonder that, with such examples from our country’s leaders, we find in the public that differing sides of any debate turn first to verbal attacks, then even to violence?

One other facet of the Silly Season that I have observed is that many of these latest candidates seem to think that the solution to first solving our debt problems and second funding their ambitious spending programs is to tax the wealthy and the profitable corporations. Without getting into whether this is fair or not, I wonder how the targeted individuals and companies will react if such taxes are introduced. I would think that they might consider moving their selves, their assets, and their companies to lower tax settings. Indeed there is some speculation that this is happening to those states and municipalities that have instituted higher taxes than other states.

Wealthy Taxpayers Are Fleeing These States in Droves
So Long, California. Sayonara, New York 

If the wealthy chose to vote with their feet against increased taxes I wonder what source of money Congress and states will be eying. Social Security Trust is drying up, so that won’t be a good source.

The Blunt, Off-the-Cuff Truth About Social Security

I am left to speculate how long it will take those that govern us to turn their eyes toward such things as our 401k, IRAs and other self-funded retirement havens.

Well, as I said, the Silly Season has opened and I think we should brace ourselves for an increasing level of vitriol, and ludicrous ideas. Isn’t it a comfort that we only have only 20 more months of this?