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Creating a Restful Bedroom

by Scott Darling

Ah, rest--it is probably one thing that many people will say that they don’t get enough of.  Something we may not realize that’s vital to a good night’s sleep is a calm atmosphere in the bedroom.  Let’s look at what we can do to create a restful bedroom. 
 

  • - Keep the room free of clutter: use storage containers under the bed for clothes you may not have room for, keep jewelry neatly hanging or in a jewelry box, have a hamper tucked away for clothing that needs to be washed, and shoes should be tucked away. 

  • - Some smaller homes don’t have a designated room for an office, and it’s important to keep the two separate, even in the same room.  Face the work area away from the bed and use a screen if you like.  Keep the desk tidy, so you’re not looking at work that needs to be done while you’re preparing to go to bed.  Turn off any electronics that can disturb the quiet of the room when you’re not using them. 

  • - Low lighting is important, so use a low-wattage bulb in the bedside lamp and add a timer for it to come one just before bedtime so you won’t have to turn on the bright ceiling light when it’s time to get ready for sleep. 

  • - Sleep experts will tell you that the bedroom is no place for a television!  If sleep is an issue for you, keep the tv in the family room, as the light and noise will keep you from truly resting.  

  • - On that note, if you need some sort of noise to help you sleep, there are many white noise machines and smartphone apps, as well as playlists on many music streaming services that have a variety of relaxing background noise.  Ditch the tv and use white or “pink” noise to help you drift off. 

  • - Room-darkening shades can be very helpful in blocking city lights and help those who must work at night sleep during the day.   

  • - Pets are like family for most of us but allowing them to sleep in bed with you may not be such a good idea.   Have a special bed or crate for Spot to sleep in, so their nighttime movements won’t disturb your deep sleep cycles.  

  • - Room temperature is very important to rest.  If it’s in the budget, have a separate heating and cooling system for the bedroom, and keep it between 60° and 67°, and if that’s not possible, use a fan to keep you cool. 

  • - Choosing the color for decorating is important, as colors influence us when it comes to different activities.  Most of us know that blues, greens and grays are relaxing colors, but if you like to make a bold statement, light colors won’t work.  Royal blue, shades of teal, and browns can still make a room feel calm and add bright style to the room. 

  • - Obviously, your bedding is one of the most vital parts of getting a good night’s rest.  Have a comfortable mattress with good pillows and bedding appropriate for keeping you comfortable.   

 

Sleeping well is so important to many aspects of life, not to mention your health, and if your bedroom isn’t helping you get a good night’s sleep, it’s time to make some changes.  The Better Sleep Foundation has some other tips and information on how your bedroom can help you get the rest you need. 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: ballarddesigns.com

Chester County PA Real Estate Market Trends for October 2018

by Scott Darling

Chester County PA Real Estate Market Trends for October 2018

Chester County PA single-family homes saw pending sales decrease by 15.0% in October 2018 when compared to October 2017. 528 homes sold in October with a median sales price of $346,000.  The average sales price decreased by 1.8%, and homes were on the market 10 days more.

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How To Select An Elder Law Attorney

by Scott Darling

When you are confronting a difficult life issue, you routinely seek guidance from someone who can help you to solve the problem.  So, it stands to reason that when you or a family member are confronting the potential or immediate need for long term nursing care, you will want someone experienced with the related planning opportunities on your side.  Elder Law attorneys counsel the elderly and their families through all of the important legal considerations they encounter through the phases of the aging process.  Elder Law attorneys typically handle legal matters related to preparation of estate planning documents, health care, nursing care planning, and asset protection, guardianship and Medicare/Medicaid.

It is important to select an attorney with a practice that focuses on issues confronting older adults.  This should not be a general practice attorney who dabbles in “preparing simple wills” or even an estate planning attorney who does not regularly deal with your specific concerns on a regular basis.  Don’t be afraid to interview a potential Elder Law advocate to make sure they have the proper experience and can help you to obtain the best result.

Not only should an Elder Law attorney be able to handle all of the technical and legal needs of the family, but they should also be experienced in dealing with “real people” and their emotional needs.  Protecting and providing for the family are central goals for all of us.  That being said, much of the planning for protection of assets in the face of the rising cost of long term nursing care involves emotional decision making for all people involved.  You need to have an advocate who is calm and comforting, but who is also willing to lay out the hard facts of the situation so you can have a full array of options and consequences.

What Are Some Of The Jobs Of The Elder Law Attorney?

An Elder Law attorney’s role can involve some or all of the following:

  • Working with clients to prepare properly drafted estate planning documents such as wills, revocable trusts, general durable powers of attorney, medical powers of attorney and living wills.
  • Working with clients to prepare and implement a plan to protect and preserve their home and financial assets so that they are not lost to long term care spending.
  • Working with clients to integrate estate and inheritance tax planning and savings into the overall approach.
  • Working with clients to select an appropriate assisted living, continuing care or nursing care facility.
  • Working with clients to review admissions agreements for care facilities.
  • Working with Agents under power of attorney documents to make sure they do not incur personal liability.
  • Working with clients to apply for Medicaid.
  • Working with clients to apply for Veterans’ Benefits such as Aid & Attendance.
  • Working with the family to make sure that all of the parties understand the plan and agree with the way it will be implemented.

Elder Law Attorneys Will Charge For Their Services.  What Are Their Fees?

The legal fees associated with assisting the elderly client will vary significantly depending on the tasks that need to be completed.

For aspects of the representation that involve work with an uncertain time commitment, an attorney is likely to charge on an hourly basis.  In these cases, you should ask for a good faith estimate on the time expenditure and hourly rate.  You can also provide the attorney with a cap at which point he or she must report to you before spending more time/charging more.

For more comprehensive plans, like the protection of family wealth through the use of a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust, flat fee planning is best for the client.  This allows you to know the fee upfront without the uncertainty of hourly billing.  Additionally, a flat fee structure creates an open sense of collaboration and communication without concern for hourly billing.

In the end, the planning done by the Elder Law attorney can result in tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of savings for the family.  The return on investment in an experienced Elder Law counsel should be significant and well worth the effort once you have located the right advocate.

What Do You Need To Know About Your Elder Law Attorney?  Here Are Some Questions To Ask:

It is important to find an attorney who is experienced in dealing with your exact legal issue.  “Elder Law” does encompass a broad range of legal issues.  It is possible that a single attorney has not covered every issue in the Elder Law universe.  Just check with them to make sure your case fits within their wheelhouse.

Additionally, you will want to “like” the person you hire.  You should be able to get a sense from the attorney and all of the people you talk to at the law firm that their team will be a good fit for you and your family.  You will want someone you feel comfortable calling and a staff of individuals who are willing to go the extra mile for you.

Here are some questions you should ask:

  • Is your practice focused on the Elder Law related issues?
  • How long has your practice been focused on Elder Law?
  • What percentage of your practice is presently devoted to Elder Law?
  • Is there an aspect of Elder Law that you would consider your forte?
  • Do you have a client intake form that I will need to fill out in advance of meeting?
  • What is your fee structure?

Generally, you have to view hiring your Elder Law counsel to be the same as entering into a relationship.  You have to trust your attorney to help you and your family through delicate issues and to provide advice that could ultimately protect hundreds of thousands of dollars.  This selection will be a key to achieving a successful completion of your goals.

Once you have selected the proper Elder Law attorney, some of the other most common planning considerations are:  Creation of Last Will & Testament, Creation of a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust, use of a Medicaid Compliant Immediate Annuity, qualification of the Family Caregiver Exception, creation of the Caregiver Agreement, Irrevocable Burial Reserve, Monthly Gifting Exception, Elder Law Friendly Financial Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney, Living Will.

Check out our other great articles throughout this site that more specifically address the different ways to protect and preserve your assets.  Click here:  Access to More Blog Articles

For PA Residents:  To request our informative Elder Law Guides click here:  Request Elder Law Guides Today!

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By and photo credit: https://www.paelderlawsolutions.com/2017/04/how-to-select-an-elder-law-attorney/

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Common Factors Affecting Retirement Income

by Scott Darling

When it comes to planning for your retirement income, it’s easy to overlook some of the common factors that can affect how much you’ll have available to spend. If you don’t consider how your retirement income can be impacted by investment risk, inflation risk, catastrophic illness or long-term care, and taxes, you may not be able to enjoy the retirement you envision.

Investment Risk

Different types of investments carry with them different risks. Sound retirement income planning involves understanding these risks and how they can influence your available income in retirement.

Investment or market risk is the risk that fluctuations in the securities market may result in the reduction and/or depletion of the value of your retirement savings. If you need to withdraw from your investments to supplement your retirement income, two important factors in determining how long your investments will last are the amount of the withdrawals you take and the growth and/or earnings your investments experience. You might base the anticipated rate of return of your investments on the presumption that market fluctuations will average out over time, and estimate how long your savings will last based on an anticipated, average rate of return.

Unfortunately, the market doesn’t always generate positive returns. Sometimes there are periods lasting for a few years or longer when the market provides negative returns. During these periods, constant withdrawals from your savings combined with prolonged negative market returns can result in the depletion of your savings far sooner than planned.

Reinvestment risk is the risk that proceeds available for reinvestment might have to be reinvested at an interest rate that’s lower than the rate of the instrument that generated the proceeds. This could mean that you have to reinvest at a lower rate of return, or take on additional risk to achieve the same level of return. This type of risk is often associated with fixed-interest savings instruments such as bonds or bank certificates of deposit. When the instrument matures, comparable instruments may not be paying the same return or a better return as the matured investment.

Interest rate risk occurs when interest rates rise and the prices of some existing investments drop. For example, during periods of rising interest rates, newer bond issues will likely yield higher coupon rates than older bonds issued during periods of lower interest rates, thus decreasing the market value of the older bonds. You also might see the market value of some stocks and mutual funds drop due to interest rate hikes, because some investors will shift their money from these stocks and mutual funds to lower-risk fixed investments paying higher interest rates compared to prior years.

Inflation Risk

Inflation is the risk that the purchasing power of a dollar will decline over time, due to the rising cost of goods and services. If inflation runs at its historical long-term average of about 3%, the purchasing power of a given sum of money will be cut in half in 23 years. If it jumps to 4%, the purchasing power is cut in half in 18 years.

A simple example illustrates the impact of inflation on retirement income. Assuming a consistent annual inflation rate of 3%, and excluding taxes and investment returns in general, if $250,000 satisfies your retirement income needs this year, you’ll need $257,500 of income next year to meet the same income needs. In 10 years, you’ll need about $335,979 to equal the purchasing power of $250,000 this year. Therefore, to outpace inflation, you should try to have some strategy in place that allows your income stream to grow throughout retirement.

Long-Term Care Expenses

Long-term care may be needed when physical or mental disabilities impair your capacity to perform everyday basic tasks. As life expectancies increase, so does the potential need for long-term care.

Paying for long-term care can have a significant impact on retirement income and savings, especially for the healthy spouse. While not everyone needs long-term care during their lives, ignoring the possibility of such care and failing to plan for it can leave you or your spouse with little or no income or savings if such care is needed. Even if you decide to buy long-term care insurance, don’t forget to factor the premium cost into your retirement income needs.

A complete statement of coverage, including exclusions, exceptions, and limitations, is found only in the long-term care policy. It should be noted that carriers have the discretion to raise their rates and remove their products from the marketplace.

The Costs of Catastrophic Care

As the number of employers providing retirement health-care benefits dwindles and the cost of medical care continues to spiral upward, planning for catastrophic health-care costs in retirement is becoming more important. If you recently retired from a job that provided health insurance, you may not fully appreciate how much health care really costs.

Despite the availability of Medicare coverage, you’ll likely have to pay for additional health-related expenses out of pocket. You may have to pay the rising premium costs of Medicare optional Part B coverage (which helps pay for outpatient services) and/or Part D prescription drug coverage. You may also want to buy supplemental Medigap insurance, which is used to pay Medicare deductibles and co-payments and to provide protection against catastrophic expenses that either exceed Medicare benefits or are not covered by Medicare at all. Otherwise, you may need to cover Medicare deductibles, co-payments, and other costs out of pocket.

Taxes

The effect of taxes on your retirement savings and income is an often overlooked but significant aspect of retirement income planning. Taxes can eat into your income, significantly reducing the amount you have available to spend in retirement.

It’s important to understand how your investments are taxed. Some income, like interest, is taxed at ordinary income tax rates. Other income, like long-term capital gains and qualifying dividends, currently benefit from special—generally lower—maximum tax rates. Some specific investments, like certain municipal bonds,* generate income that is exempt from federal income tax altogether. You should understand how the income generated by your investments is taxed, so that you can factor the tax into your overall projection.

Taxes can impact your available retirement income, especially if a significant portion of your savings and/or income comes from tax-qualified accounts such as pensions, 401(k)s, and traditional IRAs, since most, if not all, of the income from these accounts is subject to income taxes. Understanding the tax consequences of these investments is important when making retirement income projections.

Have You Planned for These Factors?

When planning for your retirement, consider these common factors that can affect your income and savings. While many of these same issues can affect your income during your working years, you may not notice their influence because you’re not depending on your savings as a major source of income. However, investment risk, inflation, taxes, and health-related expenses can greatly affect your retirement income.

By and photo credit: www.key.com/kpb/our-insights/your-lifestyle/factors-affecting-retirement-income.jsp?CMP_ID=RTXKPB1018

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

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Scott Darling
RE/MAX Action Associates
403 W. Lincoln Highway #101
Exton PA 19341
(610) 594-SCOT
610-363-2001
Fax: (610) 363-5275