Monthly Archives

January 2016

Social Media 101: What is Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest?

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Twitter. Instagram. Pinterest. Sound like foreign languages? They are not. They ARE the recent and most popular social media ways to communicate. And these are most likely how you can be more effective in communicating with your children and grandchildren.

Social media has opened up a whole new world for discovering news and information and sharing that information with people in your life or even groups you may belong to. Do you know what a “tweet” is or how to “pin” a recipe or craft? We are going to help you learn and give you some simple ways to dive right in and set up your own accounts.

Let’s get started:

Twitter: this is a social network used by millions of people to send out short messages (140 characters) to groups of friends called “tweets.” The icon for Twitter is a little bird symbol here. It is a simple way to send out a quick message about an experience or something you deem important to share. A beginner’s guide defining all the basics to Twitter can be found here (https://support.twitter.com). Start those tweets!

Instagram: this is a free on-line photo/video sharing platform that can be used in tandem with other social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Flickr. Instagram is one of the most popular social media options used by children in middle school and high school. Some parental controls are in place to monitor use. My mother connects with her grandchildren via Instagram and enjoys the interaction. Explore www.instagram.com for sign-up options, tips and a how-to guide.

Pinterest: remember the good ol’ days of clipping recipes or crafts from Better Homes & Gardens? No more. On this site, you will discover fun and creative ways for your DIY projects and interests. From cooking to crafting to planning a wedding or baby shower, this site has everything you need. The best part is that you can share with friends and family on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Be warned, this site is addictive. Currently, there are 50+ billion pins to uncover. Click here (www.pinterest.com) to dive in and get started.

In addition to the above sign-ups and sites, if you own an iPhone or Android phone, you can download the above as an “app” or application for each one from Apple. These apps compliment the sites and allow you to enjoy them on the go. Good luck!

Social Media 101: What is a blog?

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By now, many of you have more than likely dabbled with social media or used Google, Yahoo or another search engine to research, communicate or utilize information for your personal or professional use. Many of you also use social media to interact with friends, family, grandkids and organizations. By doing that, you may also have encountered words and names that you may have questions about. Let’s start with the term “blog.”

So, what is a blog? Simply put, a blog is a frequently updated online personal journal and a place for someone to express or share thoughts, information or passions. If you have ever written a personal diary or journal, this is the same thing, except you invite everyone to read your thoughts and respond. Did you know that Huffington Post is a journalism blog that is populated by professional journalists? Initially, individuals used blogs to track progress during a weight loss program, by being a new parent or by sharing their experience through a long-term illness. Today, blogs cover such topics as politics, best travel places or inspiring others to pay it forward.

The Wesley Communities are no different. In an effort to communicate with its senior residents and families, and caregivers of those residents, Wesley Glen and Wesley Ridge Retirement communities have launched several blogs to engage, gather feedback and share information that ranges from health topics to tax planning to hospice preparation for families. The blogs are in chronological order, so as a reader, you can go back and look up numerous topics.

Wesley Glen and Wesley Ridge would love to have your feedback and encourage you to share YOUR experiences and thoughts with us based on what you have read and want to share with other residents. To search our vast blog library and provide us with topics that you deem interesting and important, we invite you to visit www.methodisteldercare.org , www.wesleyglen.com or www.wesleyridge.com and click on the news and events tab, or on the home page, click on the word blog. We are always updating with news you can use!

Tax Rules for Seniors and Retirees

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The holidays are over and 2016 is here, and it’s time to gather your information and schedule an appointment to get those taxes filed. Yes, you have until April to get them filed, but I thought I’d help you kick-start the process by offering news you can use before you prepare your taxes or make an appointment to have them prepared.

I’ve heard many older adults in my family ask at what age they can stop filing taxes. For the last four years of my father’s life, he lived in Columbus. Each year, when January rolled around, he had an urgency to file his taxes, and because he had lived in Virginia for 27 years before moving back to Ohio, he used my accountant. She advised it was not necessary that he file because he was 71 and his gross income did not exceed the sum of standard deductions.

Because there are so many different rules when it comes to filing taxes, and they change as we age, I decided to hand-pick some that seem to me to be important and cover the broader spectrum of people. Remember this is the short list of tips that apply to seniors and retirees.

  • When Seniors Must File – if you are unmarried and at least 65 years of age, then you must file an income tax return if your gross income is $11,850 or more. However, if you live on Social Security benefits, you don’t include this in gross income. If this is the only income you receive, then your gross income equals zero, and you don’t have to file a federal tax return.
  • How to Claim Caregiver Tax Deductions – To qualify for caregiver tax deductions or credits, the person you are caring for must be a spouse, dependent, or qualifying relative, as well as a United States citizen or resident of the U.S., Canada, or Mexico. A qualifying relative includes a parent, step-parent, father-in-law or mother-in-law, or any other person who lived with you all year as a member of your household. The caregiver and medical expense tax rules have several important qualifications. Before claiming this deducti,on consult with your accountant or the IRS website at irs.gov.
  • You May Qualify for Additional Tax Credits – You may qualify for the Credit for the Elderly or Disabled if you and/or your spouse are at least 65 years or considered permanently disabled. You must meet certain income qualifications found by completing a “long form” (for 1040 or 1040A). You won’t find the credit on the “short form” (form 1040 EZ), so if you think you may qualify, make sure you use the correct form. If you’re unsure which form you should use, ask any tax specialist.
  • Medical Expenses – For seniors, medical expenses have to exceed 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income to be deductible. That threshold applies even if only one spouse has reached 65 and you file jointly. For those 65, medical expenses are deductible only if they exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income. Medical bills can be hefty for seniors. Covered medical expenses include the portion of doctor, dentist and hospital bills and the cost of prescription drugs not covered by insurance, as well as premiums for Medicare or other insurance coverage. Prescription eyeglasses are deductible, as are the cost of false teeth, hearing aids and wheelchairs. So is the cost of transportation to medical appointments.
  • Charitable Donations – These are also deductible. However, seniors who are at least 70 have another option for charitable donations. At that age, you’re required to take a minimum distribution for individual retirement accounts. If you rolled that distribution over directly to a charity instead of taking the money and then donating it, the distribution is not counted as income and therefore is not taxable.

If you prepare your own taxes, and have questions about the information shared, please visit the IRS website at www.irs.gov. If you have an accountant that files for you, and you would like to know more about any of the rules I’ve listed, they should be able to clarify them for you. If you need assistance finding tax help and aren’t sure where to start, check with the Concierge Service office at your community. For Wesley Glen call 614-888-7492 and for Wesley Ridge call 614-759-0023

Social Security Payout: It Pays To Wait

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It’s the end of the year, and typically people think about a number of things: New Year’s resolutions, focusing on their health, planning a trip and whether they are going to retire or not. My cousin Don recently bought a new home for himself and his wife closer to his kids in Georgia. His wife moved, but he is still working near Pittsburgh and deciding if he should commute on weekends or just retire. He will be 62 this coming March.

Most of us have been paying into our Social Security since we started our very first job. It is the most common fallback for retirement for many people, but tapping into it too soon can be problematic. For instance, most people know that waiting past age 62 until full retirement age will increase their benefit amount, but do you know by how much? When it comes to Social Security, not understanding the details can lower your benefits for the rest of your life.

Here are some of the basics:

1) It pays to wait. For someone born January 1, 1960 or later, the highest monthly payout would optimize at age 70 with 24% more of the benefit. It drops back the earlier you tap in, example 100% of benefit beginning at age 67 and only 70% benefit if you take it at age 62. Big difference, isn’t it?

2) Survivor Benefits. A person can collect survivor benefits when a spouse dies, but the same rule above applies. You will maximize the benefit by claiming it at retirement age or later.

3) Divorced? Yes, you can still collect within certain guidelines. Spousal benefits are available to unmarried ex-spouses if the couple had been married at least 10 years. It pays to know your former spouse’s work record. Sorry to those of you who thought this was true at five years. It is not.

4) Quarterly statements. Pay attention to your quarterly SS statements, which are meant to keep you on track and help you estimate your payout.

5) Educate yourself. There are resources for you to help answer additional questions as you plan your retirement, such as Social Security for Dummies, available at most local bookstores or online. AARP has done a great job of putting together some helpful sites: aarp.org/ssqa to answer your questions or aarp.org/socialsecuritybenefits to help you estimate how much you will receive.

The bottom line: knowing what you are eligible for, coupled with accurate information about your Social Security benefits, is sure to put you on the road to a long and happy retirement.