*** August 2009 ***
* E-zine *

This Month's Highlights:
· When You Leave a Mess Behind
· New Credit Card Act
· Staying Healthy

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Paying off the debts of a loved one is yet another insult to injury, or it can be an opportunity.

Sometimes people just grow old in a way that lets them sound perfectly lucid on the telephone and yet be in complete disarray at home. They can hold it together long enough to be in public for a while, or for a few minutes-enough to keep from drawing your attention. Then, when you're needed to step in, you find the finances are a mess.

You will need a copy of the applicable estate documents, durable power of attorney, or death certificate to access their accounts, depending on which state they live in.

Here are a few things to consider when going through the debts of a loved one who is unable to care for themselves, or has passed on:

  1. Does the senior you care for really need to worry about their credit at this time in their life? If the answer is "yes," you'll certainly approach the situation differently than if not. Proceed accordingly.

  2. If there are unpaid hospital bills, call the finance office of the hospital or doctor and make a cash offer. The bigger the bill, the bigger the discount you should push for. Try 50% off to start. If it's a giant bill and the heir is deceased, try 90% off. Haggle like you're making a deal in a foreign bazaar or a used car lot! But be certain of your math and reasoning, be light and energetic, be polite at all times, and "friendly insistent." Keep offering, and returning to the dollar amount you are prepared to pay. If you're convinced the person on the phone can't or won't help you, tell them that they are doing a great job, you understand they can't help, but that you request to "speak with a supervisor now, please." Begin the process anew with the supervisor. Usually the first person you speak with can't help, but you've practiced on them, and then you'll get to the supervisor. Expect to be told "no" to your proposition eight times, in the worst cases, before you succeed. Ignore that you've just been told "no" each time it happens. Continue the conversation and cheerfully ask again. Have fun confounding the collection agent who needs you. You're in control because you have the checkbook. You need to settle it because they can go after the estate, if one exists. Also, most people don't think about it, but hospitals are first and foremost a money-generating business. The ones that lose money close their doors. They'd LOVE to take a cash settlement in many, many cases, and want to hear from you.

  3. If there is a product that can be returned, do it. Even for partial credit.

  4. If you find evidence of a private debt to a neighbor or relative, pay that for sure. The individual helped someone you love, probably asked for no interest payments on the loan, and deserves repayment.

  5. Stop all automatic payments your loved one may have been making from their bank account, determine which still need to continue, and cancel the services of those that should stop.

This all may take a couple of days, but keep at it and you'll find you've squared it away-and likely at a lower cost than you expected.

Here are some additional resources on the subject:

The Estate Lady® offers guidance for any executor, heir, or beneficiary, sharing some of her most fascinating stories as well as helpful checklists of the things that need to be done now and at the time of your loss. If you have parents, this book is for you. The Boomer Burden gives you practical, effective steps for liquidating and distributing your parents' assets in a way that both honors them and promotes family harmony for generations to come. Get your copy here:

The Surplus Sites, LLC, client base includes landlords/property owners who have utilized their Estate Disposition Management Services. Although these services have primarily been used by those who have inherited properties that cannot be managed due to distance, lack of time or resources, Surplus Sites, LLC can assist property owners for any reason.

For more ways to avoid leaving a mess behind, visit:

Related books may also be found at

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Did you see the YouTube video where Fred Wilharm, from Franklin TN sliced and diced his credit cards in "The Tennessee Credit Card Massacre"? Mr. Wilharm, a real-estate investor, had just paid off $3,000 in credit-card debt after the card issuers increased his interest rates. He said that making the video helped him deal with his anger. He's not alone. There are at least several dozen people who've posted online videos of burning, cutting, blending, shredding, and otherwise destroying their cards in response to credit-card companies' increasing rates, lowering card limits, and charging over-limit fees. The rest of us may now have a less dramatic way to deal with our anger. In May of this year President Obama signed the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosures Act (CARD). This legislation requires the credit-card industry to meet agreed-upon (by the Senate and instigated by the Federal Reserve) guidelines on interest-rate hikes and consumer notifications, and for ordinary consumers it looks like a huge victory. The Senate-passed part of the Act, the stronger part, becomes entirely effective in February 2010, though parts of it become active earlier. The Fed's part of the Act doesn't become effective until July.

Of course, for the credit-card companies, it's a huge defeat. But after all, the credit-card companies are in it to make money, and they're threatening to cut reward programs to make up for the lost revenues. Rick Lieber, of The New York Times, in an article dated May 20, bets that they won't---those big spenders keep them from going into the red, at the least, and comfortably in the black, at best. He writes, citing a LoyaltyOne editorial director, "If you strip away the reward component of a credit card, it's essentially a commodity. The reward is what gives it its personality. It works…as a mechanism to influence customer behavior and consolidate spending on a particular card." And that's important to the card companies and banks; the people who run up big credit-card bills keep them in business, and so we may see yet even bigger rewards and lower interest rates for those big spenders.

Here are some of the provisions that will help protect consumers come next year:

  • The Act moves up the Fed's effective date;
  • It restricts all interest rates during the first year the Act is in place and on all existing balances; CARD protects young consumers;
  • It requires enhanced disclosures, and increases notice for rate increases on future purchases; The Act calls for reasonable due dates and time to pay;
  • It requires fair application of payments;
  • It increases the notice period for rate increases on future purchases;
  • CARD preserves the ability to pay off your card at the old rates;
  • The Act prohibits credit-card companies to charge you for making a payment by phone;
  • It establishes gift-card and fee-harvester (low-credit, high-interest and fees) card protections;
  • The Act places limits on fees and penalty interest.

Here are some explanations of the new regulations, which will take effect at various times during 2010, and a caveat: Please do not rely on this article for up-to-the-minute information. Do not rush to your bank waving it in the air, demanding a lower interest rate; check out (via Google or your favorite search engine) any further changes to the Act-these things happen.

  • Card companies will have to give 45 days' notice before raising their interest rates. They must also notify you of any significant changes to a card's terms.

  • Banks must generally wait until you're 60 days late in making your minimum payment before applying a penalty interest rate to your existing debt. And if you pay your bill on time for the following six months, the company will have to reinstate the old, lower rate.

  • People under 21 years of age will not be able to have a card unless a parent, guardian, or spouse is the primary cardholder. The same goes for a student's request for an increase in the credit limit.

  • Banks must send out your bill no later than 21 days before the due date. (They can't send it, with, for instance, 14 days to do, hoping you won't get a check to them in time to avoid a late fee.)

  • If the credit-card company gets the check by 5 p.m. on the due date, it's on time, according to the new rules. Also, no more late fees if the due date is a Sunday or a holiday and your payment doesn't arrive until a day later.

  • If you go over-limit, banks will need your permission before allowing you to spend more-and paying that $39 fee for doing so.

  • You now pay different interest rates for cash advances, new purchases, and balance transfers, all at different interest rates. After the Act takes effect, your payment will be applied first to the highest-interest debt, and work its way down to the lowest-interest debt.

  • Gift cards: We all know that gift cards expire-some in six months, others in up to five years. If you don't use them in time you're charged a "dormancy fee." When the new rules take effect, the seller will have to inform you, the buyer, printed on the card itself, the rules of its dormancy, and will have to inform you separately when the card expires-which will now be no less than five years. (Don't forget, they've been using the money, not you!)

However, because the Act doesn't take full effect until early next year, the credit card companies still have time to raise interest rates on existing balances for whatever reasons (or just because they want to), to apply payments to lower-interest portions of a balance and leave the higher-interest portions of the balance to incur finance charges at a higher rate, and to cut consumers' credit limits.

You can read more about limits on credit card protections on Consumer's Union's new dedicated website, or on their general site,

Card companies have already begun raising some rates in anticipation of the new rules. If you find yourself scanning the (still-small) print-another change, by the way-they'll have to make that print larger and use more readable language, here are some actions you can take.

Call the card issuer if your rate has increased to try and negotiate a lower rate, or consider transferring your balance to a lower-interest card. ( lets you see how much more you could earn in rewards or save with a lower interest rate if you switched to various other credit cards, based on your credit score and how much you spend each year.)

If you plan to pay your bill in full each month, seek out a card that provides rewards you actually want- whether that's cash back, frequent flier miles, or points redeemable for gifts. The interest rate shouldn't matter, since you won't be carrying a balance. But look for those with no annual fee. and also provide comparisons of cards by the types of rewards offered, among other criteria. Generally speaking, if you plan to use your card a lot, cash-back programs may be the best bet. It's easy to get the refund-either through a check or a credit on your account-and you can use that money for anything. Many large banks also offer debit cards with rewards, so it can be worth shopping around for them, too. also provides a comparison of different prepaid and debit cards, based on annual fees, related services and credit requirements.

For most people, using both a debit card and credit card makes sense. The key is not to spend more than you have with either. If you can do that, you'll be able to enjoy the benefits that each provides.

Additional financial information may be found at:

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1. Staying Healthy
With the economic as tough as it is, now is the time to get the most out of your Medicare. The best way to stay healthy is to live a healthy lifestyle. Such a lifestyle includes exercising, eating well, keeping a healthy weight, and not smoking.

In addition to healthy living, you can use preventive services to find health problems early and to keep you from getting certain diseases or illnesses. Preventive services include exams, lab tests, and screenings. They also include immunizations, monitoring, and information to help you take care of your own health. Medicare pays for many of these preventive services.

Medicare has published a booklet, "Your Guide to Medicare's Preventive Services," which covers both preventive services and services that help keep certain illnesses from getting worse. The services listed in this booklet are covered if you have Medicare. However, the amount you pay for these services varies depending on how you get your Medicare benefits-either through Original Medicare, or through a Medicare Advantage Plan. This booklet explains the way preventive services are covered if you have Part B under Original Medicare (sometimes called fee-for-service). If you get your healthcare coverage through a Medicare Advantage Plan (like an HMO or PPO), you will need to call your plan for more information.

Get your copy of the booklet here

Additional health information may be found at


2. Learning about Antidepressants
In any given year, an estimated one in four adult Americans will develop at least one mental health disorder, such as depression. Nearly one in two people will develop a mental health issue at some point in their lives.


If you're suffering from depression, you need reliable, accurate information on antidepressants. Where better to turn for the most cutting-edge research on depression than Johns Hopkins, ranked #1 of America's Best Hospitals?

Get your copy of the booklet here:

Additional health information may be found at

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

Dustin Hoffman - "Blame is for God and small children."

Connie Stevens - "It's important for us to latch onto the people that we love."

Roger Federer - "I definitely need to use my chances when they come because definitely there won't be many."

Whitney Houston - "I decided long ago never to walk in anyone's shadow if I fail; if I succeed at least I did as I believe."

Gillian Anderson - "You're only given as much as you can handle at any given time"

More "Thoughts" at:

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1. Hospice Programs
Hospice programs are available to help terminally ill individuals live their remaining days with dignity. These programs can assist the family (or other designated caregiver) in making the patient as comfortable as possible. Hospice now also includes palliative care, and assistance is available around the clock, seven days a week. Care can be either at home, in a hospital, or in a hospice setting.

This government site provides information on hospice programs. You can learn how they work, ways you can pay for hospice care, and much more on this topic. See:

To find a hospice program visit our state pages where some have been identified.


2. House Exchanges
Still looking for some vacation ideas? Why not consider a home-exchange program. Many seniors around the country and around the world share the same concerns about the high cost of vacations. A home- exchange program can provide you with an alternative holiday at a cost you never thought possible.

You can save hundreds on vacation travel. Because most of your vacation cost is in getting to your destination, with an exchange you save on hotels, most meals, and depending on the arrangements you make, car rentals and insurance expenses, thus, making those faraway destinations much more affordable.

There is a wide range of high-quality exchanges available. Many exchanges include cars. Some exchanges allow you to offer your motor home or caravan in a swap. There are many sites on the internet that assist with exchanges. One such site is

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1. Zen Humor

- A closed mouth gathers no foot.

- Duct tape is like "The Force." It has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together.

- There are two theories to arguing with women. Neither one works.

- Generally speaking, you aren't learning much when your lips are moving.

2. Focused Education For Seniors

Physics 902A
Up in Winter, Down in Summer-How to Adjust a Thermostat Step-by-Step, with Slide Presentation.

Psychology 103
Comparative Energy Levels-Putting the Toilet Seat Down, vs. Complaining About it for Three Hours-Group Discussion.

Marketing 101
Is it Possible to Drive Past a WalMart Without Stopping?-Class-Debate Format.

Design 301
Elemental Differences Between a Purse and a Suitcase-Photographs and Illustrated Graphics.

Physics 202
Curling Irons-Can They Levitate and Fly Into the Bathroom Cabinet? Examples on Video.


For more fun and jokes visit "Oh My Aging Funny Bone" at:

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This issue has been edited by Betsy Day ([email protected]).

Copyright 2009, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Information in this document is subject to change without notice. Other products, service and companies named herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies or mark holders and are solely responsible for the content of their articles. Articles are included for informational purposes and are not an endorsement.

This Copyright E-zine may be forwarded to others only if sent in its entirety. Other uses are subject to written permission of the publisher.

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