Bankruptcy Booming Among Older Americans

Lawrence Sedita, 74Roger Kisby/The New York Times

For a rapidly growing share of older Americans, traditional ideas about life in retirement are being upended by a dismal reality: bankruptcy.

The signs of potential trouble — vanishing pensions, soaring medical expenses, inadequate savings — have been building for years. Now, new research sheds light on the scope of the problem: The rate of people 65 and older filing for bankruptcy is three times what it was in 1991, the study found, and the same group accounts for a far greater share of all filers.

Driving the surge, the study suggests, is a three-decade shift of financial risk from government and employers to individuals, who are bearing an ever-greater responsibility for their own financial well-being as the social safety net shrinks.

The transfer has come in the form of, among other things, longer waits for full Social Security benefits, the replacement of employer-provided pensions with 401(k) savings plans and more out-of-pocket spending on health care. Declining incomes, whether in retirement or leading up to it, compound the challenge.

But, hey, if you’re a Trumplican, Don’t Worry, Be Happy. You have no shortage of folks to hate, to blame, and your own political party that keeps the rich afloat and you at the ready to help – them – out.

Da Nang, VietNam – the Golden Bridge

Click to enlargeBored Panda

❝ A new bridge that’s opened outside of Da Nang, Vietnam — aptly named the “Golden Bridge” — has quickly staked its claim to being one of the most stunning bridges on Earth.

❝ The Golden Bridge, which sits about 4,600 feet above sea level in the Bà Nà hills, is designed to look like it’s being held up by two massive stone hands.

The golden walkway supported by the hands extends on a curve that stretches nearly 500 feet long and is lined with purple lobelia chrysanthemums while offering stunning views of the Vietnamese countryside below…

❝ A 2017 report published by the United Nations World Tourism Organization ranked Vietnam’s tourism growth seventh globally, and Vietnam was the only country in Southeast Asia to reach the top ten on that list.

When I started blogging several years ago, my boss was/is a tech journalist with a global reputation. Since I was already retired, I asked him where in the world did he think was the best place to live as a retiree, fixed income, the usual American constraints. One answer. VietNam.

I haven’t moved; but, if I did, it is likely I’d check out his suggestion. Especially somewhere in the vicinity of Da Nang. In addition to the tourism plans noted in this article, business growth should be phenomenal over the next decade. You see, Da Nang will be a dual interchange in China’s ONE BELT, ONE ROAD blueprint for global trade. Both a seaport link and a rail link.

Attention Grayheads — Congressional Voting Records

Workingclass men and women built this land. We deserve the fruits of our labor.

This week, the Alliance for Retired Americans released its annual report detailing the voting record of every U.S. Representative and Senator on issues important to current and future retirees. The voting record looks at ten key votes in both the Senate and the House and assigns a “Pro-Retiree” score for each member of Congress. Scores reflect a member’s level of support for retirees and older Americans.

This year, votes examined include whether to:

Privatize Medicare and create a voucher-like system in its place;

Turn Medicaid into a block grant system, which would undercut its ability to provide care for millions of older Americans;

Raise the minimum wage; and

Increase the debt ceiling and keep the government open…

In total, 49 members of the Senate and 135 members of the House received perfect scores of 100 percent. 34 Senators and 122 House members received zeros. Of those members of the Senate who have declared their candidacy for President, Ted Cruz (R-TX), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Rand Paul (R-KY) scored zero while Bernie Sanders (I-VT) scored 100%.

I hope my peers break the mold of American ignorance and vote in their own general interest instead of believing what politicians say – versus what they actually do.

There’s an interactive map at the ARA site so you can check up on your own state.

Companies ending retiree health plans in shift to Obamacare

America’s biggest employers, from GE to IBM, are increasingly moving retirees to insurance exchanges where they select their own health plans, an historic shift that could push more costs onto U.S. taxpayers…Or not.

Time Warner yesterday said it would steer retired workers toward a privately run exchange, days after a similar announcement by International Business Machines, General Electric, last year said it, too, would curb benefits in a move that may send some former employees to the public insurance exchanges created under the 2010 Affordable Care Act…

While retiree health benefits have been shrinking for years, the newest cutbacks may quickly become the norm. About 44 percent of companies plan to stop administering health plans for their former workers over the next two years, a survey last month by consultant Towers Watson & Co. (TW) found. Retirees are concerned their costs may rise, while analysts predict benefits will decline in some cases…

The adjustments come as insurers have increased access the past few years to Medicare Advantage plans that provide benefits beyond the U.S. government health program for the elderly. Additionally, the health-care law promises to make it easier for those younger than 65 to buy insurance that’s guaranteed and subsidized by taxpayers…

I gotta love firms like IBM saying they’re not cheaping out because the alternative plans offer better ROI than their own original healthcare plan for retirees. Conveniently forgetting they lose the cost of IT and administration of in-house plans.

The private exchanges are designed to join with companies to find the best deals for the former workers. The public exchanges established under Obamacare, set to open Oct. 1, were created to provide insurance for millions of uninsured Americans. In both cases, enrollees will be able to select from a menu of private health plans.

Companies argue that many retirees can find more choice and a better deal on the exchanges, said John Grosso, head of the retiree health task force at Aon Hewitt LLC, a Chicago-based consultant. Instead of taking a one-size-fits-all company plan, a healthier retiree might find a less expensive policy with a higher deductible, or one that saved money by favoring generic drugs…Less healthy workers or those who need more comprehensive coverage may not fare as well, Grosso said.

RTFA for details from IBM, GE, etc.. In general I support the Advantage plans when you have competing choices. I’ve switched providers twice in the last three years. All over dissatisfaction with mediocre administration. Yes, I realize all the health insurers are starting up with new products – especially the preventive care portion. The screwups had nothing to do with the Medicare side of things. Just the incompetence we have come to expect as insurance industry standard.

Living in a particularly poor state with a Republican governor who’s doing her best to impair and hinder services without entirely screwing her chances at re-election doesn’t help. She’s opposed by a herd of Democrat hacks who are better than the Tea Party/Hooverian economics Republicans – only by comparison. We have a couple of courageous House members and one Senator with cojones. That’s not bad for the Rocky Mountain Southwest.

Still – Medicare Advantage is saving me a couple hundred dollar$ a month vs the typical supplemental plans offered by insurance extortion companies. The exchange program – even as skint by Governor Susana – looks decent for those of my peers who need it.

Taking a slow boat from China

Five years ago when Costa Crociere S.p.A first entered China, the cruise travel industry was an untapped market.

Today, the Genoa-based cruise operator, which has a 70-percent market share in China’s cruise travel sector, has to compete with other operators – all aiming for a slice of the strong momentum from Chinese tourism.

In 2010, there were 95 cruises departing from the coastal cities of China and 128 international cruises visited those cities, demonstrating a 19-percent year-on-year increase, according to industry figures…

In 2010, Costa Cruise saw almost all of its cabins for short destinations in Asia fully booked…

For 2011, Costa has plans for 41 cruises in China including six port calls from Hong Kong and 35 from Shanghai…

There are also great hopes for a new trend in the cruise market, catering for the needs of retirees who plan to take a cruise. According to industry statistics, 70 percent of senior citizens in China plan to travel abroad…

In addition, a cruise is also a popular way for companies to hold annual conferences or reward their employees, said Costa’s Liu.

Interesting – to see recreation, entertainment, vacation models from completely different cultures making the jump. It’s not a surprise to see it happen; but, I’ll bet there are some hilarious tales of cultural adaptation that were unpredicted.

Tucson Six: young and old, public servants and citizens

The dead victims of the Tuscon shooting attack represented a range of people that might be found at any congressional constituents’ event.

They included a 9-year-old girl just elected to her school council who wanted to see a real politician close up; a federal judge who happened to be nearby and stopped to see his friend the congresswoman; a congressional aide responsible for community outreach, and several senior citizens, representative of the demographic of the nation’s most active voters.

Of all the tragedies, the death of 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green seemed to cut the deepest, as children’s deaths invariably do.

The grade-schooler was recently elected president of the student council at the Mesa Verde Elementary School…

Her grief-stricken father, John Green, a scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers, told an interviewer through a voice that broke at times:

She was born on 9/11. So she came in on a tragedy and she went out on a tragedy. Those nine years in between were very special. We’re all going to miss Christina. We were four people. Now we’re three. All I can say is we’re going to be strong for each other. And we’re going to honor Christina because she was a beautiful strong little girl. And we’re going to remember all the good things about her…”

Also killed was U.S. District Judge John McCarthy Roll, 63…

Gabe Zimmerman, 30, was Giffords’ director of community outreach. He was a former social worker who was engaged to be married…

The three additional victims were retirees: Phyllis Schneck, 79; Dorwan Stoddard, 76, and Dorothy Morris, 76.

Dory Stoddard was a retired construction worker who threw himself across his wife to protect her. She was shot in the legs three times.

I haven’t more details to add at this time. RTFA for most of what’s available, now.

Half these people were my peers, elderly, retired after a working life. There were no corporate lobbyists. There were no TV-star populist pimps. There were no talk radio millionaires or preachers with palatial pulpits.

Just folks who live on social security checks and medicare. Those “socialist” plots that undermine the freedom to be a murdering gun-thug.

Retirees barter work for a camping spot

A cold wind whipped down the Texas plains on the night last month that Sharon Smith, 68, and her husband, Bill, 73, arrived here to be work-campers.

In the dark, they had trouble setting up their camper. But Ms. Smith, a former teacher’s aide from Sioux Falls, S.D., said she looked up at the starry sky, shook off a few of the burrs she had picked up lying on the ground working on their truck, and told herself it would get better.

It did.

The life of a work-camper, volunteering in places like Falcon State Park in deep South Texas in return for free rent, is not without its bumps. But as Ms. Smith also quickly discovered, the rewards can be deep as well — like making cinnamon rolls as part of her job at the camp recreation center, where she and Mr. Smith are working as hosts through the end of March.

We’re here for three reasons,” she said, as she spread sugar on the dough. “No. 1, we like to travel. No. 2, we like people. And No. 3, we’re on a budget.”

An itinerant, footloose army of available and willing retirees in their 60s and 70s is marching through the American outback, looking to stretch retirement dollars by volunteering to work in parks, campgrounds and wildlife sanctuaries, usually in exchange for camping space.

Park and wildlife agencies say that retired volunteers have in turn become all the more crucial as budget cuts and new demands have made it harder to keep parks open.

RTFA. Reflect on the nation which to all intents and purposes invented national parks for the recreation and education of the people – now ruled by beancounters who care only for columns of profit and loss marching in obedient fashion through their budgets.

We have parks with no funds, retirees without adequate healthcare and a new generation left to fill out their American dreams with nonsense television and online myths.

What ales Molson retirees?


Beer maker Molson is turning of the tap and cutting off the supply of free suds to its retirees, reports the Toronto Star.

Molson, a division of Molson Coors, said it was looking to “standardize” its complimentary beer policy. There are 2,400 Molson retirees in Canada and their free beer costs the company about $900,000 a year, the Star said.

Molson retirees in the province of Newfoundland will see their monthly allotment of beer fall from six dozen a month to zero over the next five years.

Current workers will see their allotment drop from 72 dozen bottles a year to 52 dozen.

“There was no consultation, we just received a letter that this is a done deal, which is totally unfair,” Bill Bavis, who retired six years ago after 32 years at Molson’s in St. John’s, Newfoundland, told the Star. “I think with the economic downturn they’re trying to take advantage of us, as a way to cut retirees’ benefits and justify it.”

If Molson’s wasn’t such crap beer I could understand the complaining.