July 2011


As I listen to our current President and other politicians talk about anything related to retired folks, I can’t believe my ears. They can’t “afford” to pay for our benefits. Pay us. Are you kidding? That’s our money buddy. We spent our lifetime paying into those accounts, we paid our taxes and are now being taxed again. You spent our money and you talk about not being able to “pay” us. O. K., I’m trying to breathe slowly.

Perhaps I have found an answer. 

On a recent travel adventure that included Panama, I was very impressed with this extraordinary country. I also noted that our cruise ship contained many Canadians and Europeans. Many of them were not only vacationing, but scouting Panama as a retirement location.

The AARP magazine Modern Maturity recently rated Boquete, Panama as the fourth best retirement destination in the world, and International Living rates the country of Panama as the number one retirement location. The Expatriate Telegraph, a British publication, suggests Europeans look beyond Spain, France, and Portugal as retirement possibilities and consider Panama as a “warm, adventurous, and inexpensive place to retire.”

Here are some of the benefits of retiring (full or part-time) to Panama:

– Lower crime rates than other retirement locations

– A stable government and growing economy (they deal in cash not credit)

– The U.S. dollar is legal tender

– Residents pay no tax on foreign earned income

–  Foreigners can buy and own property with the same rights as Panamanian citizens

– Panama has a retiree incentive program considered one of the best in the world

– Tourism investments have several tax exemptions

– Property tax exemptions on all new construction

– English is widely spoken (our guide spoke eloquent English)

– U. S. businesses abound

– Excellent U. S. standard health care facilities with English-speaking doctors

– A reliable communications system featuring fiber optics and includes internet

And that is not the whole story. Here are some other incentives for retirees:

– Import tax exemption for household goods

– Tax exemption to import a new car every two years

– 25% discount on utility bills

– 25% discount on airline tickets and 30% on other transportation

– 15% discount on loans made in your name

– 1% reduction on home mortgages for homes used for personal residence

– 20% discount on doctor’s bills, 15% on hospital services if insurance doesn’t cover it

– 15% off dental and eye exams

– 10% discount on medicines

– 20% discount on professional and technical services

– 50% discount on entrance to movie theaters, cultural and sporting events

– 50% discount at hotels during Monday to Thursday, 30% on weekends

– The cost of utilities is much lower than the U. S. at 10-12 cents per kilowatt-hour

– Trash collection service is around $7 per month

– Direct TV in English is $50 per month

– Maid service and gardeners can be hired for 88 cents per hour

– Beer is 30 cents per can

– Coffee in a local shop or restaurants is about 30 cents per cup

Beyond all these advantages, Panama is a spectacularly beautiful and diverse country. It’s a fishing and boating paradise, has tropical rainforests, is a major transportation hub, and has many scenic resorts.

It’s nice to know we seniors are welcome somewhere in this world.

Until next time, John    www.TheBestofOurLives.com

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Taking Care of Our Hearts

A recent study found the number one concern of retired persons is their health.

That being the case, it should come as no surprise taking care of one’s heart should be job one. I don’t enjoy preaching to people and truly believe every person should live their retired life as they wish. Besides, at our age, this isn’t our first rodeo. Although most folks are pretty savvy and have probably already discussed some of these issues with their doctors, being reminded of these important heart health considerations can’t hurt. Here are some of the most important ones, including some relatively new ones:

– If you smoke, stop. No discussion. Smoking is not only a major cause of lung cancer, it can create blood clots and contribute to plaque buildup in your arteries. It’s also unhealthy for the hearts of those around you.

– Lower your intake of saturated fats such as red meat. It’s recommended that less than 10% of your diet should come from animals or animal products.

– Maintain a healthy weight. Health.com reports that 72% of men and 64% women in the U. S. are obese.

– Protect your heart with better nutrition. Salty snacks, high sugar foods and drinks, and empty calorie foods full of fat and oil are all factors increasing the risk of stroke, kidney failure, and heart attacks. Replace these foods with more fruits and vegetables.

– Cut down on your alcohol intake. Many people have heard about or read studies suggesting alcohol is good for your heart. While it may turn out that small amounts of alcohol are beneficial, excess alcohol increases the risks of high blood pressure and heart failure.

– Maintain or increase your social life. Studies have shown that older people who are more social are healthier and happier than those who tend to withdraw. Last year my wife and I were asked to discuss retired-life issues on a talk show. This was one of the items I had submitted to be discussed. The producer was not overwhelmed with the discussion topic. I then suggested the topic be changed to “becoming a social butterfly.” He loved it.  

– Avoid sitting for hours. It has been shown to increase your risk of heart attack and stroke, even if you exercise regularly. For some time I have recorded my favorite television shows and watch them when I choose. This way you can get up, move around, and get out of that chair for a while.

– Don’t underestimate emotional factors such as depression or hostility on your heart health. Internalized stress is dangerous. Seek help and manage your stress.

– If you snore, seek medical advice. It could be sleep apnea which can cause high blood pressure and increase your risk of heart attack.

– Maintain good dental hygiene. Recent studies have shown that there is a link between poor dental and gum care and heart disease.

– Don’t wait if you have any symptoms of heart problems. One recent study showed that married men get to the hospital faster and have a higher survival rate than single men. The wives insisted on calling for help. Take the hint and if symptoms occur, get help fast.

Wonderful Technology

Being an old pilot, I love to park near an airport and watch the planes take off and land. I usually carry a small radio that allows me to listen to the tower communications. If I have an airport pick up, I always go early and find a great place to park and enjoy myself. Occasionally, the battery on my radio will go dead and my fun is spoiled. Recently, I found myself wanting to listen to the tower, but didn’t have my radio. At that point, I had an idea. I grabbed my iphone, connected to the internet, and logged onto the airport’s website. Sure enough, they had the tower communications on the website and I was in business. Turns out, almost all of the maj0r airports have websites providing this ability. One small step for man, one giant leap for airplane nerds like me.

Speaking of airports, today I’m off to pick up my wife whom I haven’t seen in two and a half weeks. We’ve both had responsibilities on separate coasts which we handled nicely. In her absence, I’ve been making some very interesting improvements to the old homestead and I’m sure she’ll be surprised.

Health and Happiness    www.TheBestofOurLives.com

John

Are you upset about the Casey Anthony verdict? Did you disagree with the jury’s decision? Have you followed the details of the case closely? If you are retired and this is how you’ve been spending your time, you are guilty. 

As retired folks, our time is precious. That sound you hear is sand running through the hourglass. Our hourglass. We have plenty to deal with at this stage of life. Do we need some media-created courtroom phenomenon to be the center of our time and attention? Guilty or innocent? I have no idea. But if one more person asks me what I thought of the verdict, I may be the next one on trial. The little girl’s death was a tragedy. My family has been the victim of multiple murders. It’s a horrific situation. But it’s not something others should be spending their valuable time and emotional energy over.

We live in a media driven culture. Recently, while traveling, I would try to catch a glimpse of the news headlines. I can’t tell you how many times I heard one of the media’s talking heads ask the question, “Why is the public so interested in this case?” I wanted to shout at the television, “Because you idiots have it on all day and night.” It was almost impossible to escape, but I gave it a good effort.

The verdict in the Casey Anthony trial: We the public (or at least a whole lot of us) are guilty of not spending our valuable time wisely.

This Just In

Absence really does make the heart grow fonder. For circumstances beyond our control, my wife and I have been living on separate coasts for the last two weeks. When you have someone in your life you truly love, being away from them for any length of time is difficult. This isn’t a scientific study, but I really miss my lady.

                                                                                                               Aruba

How do we spend our time in retired life and what are our priorities? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from a survey released last week, we spend the most time sleeping, followed by watching television, and in third place comes leisure activities.

So, how do you spend your time? What are your priorities?

During these tough economic time, many seniors have either chosen to work longer or must do so out of financial necessity. Since longevity rates indicate people are living longer, there is no question future senior citizens will all work well past 65. Certainly, working longer is not harmful, and can actually be beneficial in a number of ways. Hopefully, it’s a decision based on personal priorities and not the failure of proper financial planning.

O. K., so once again I ask, what are your retired-life priorities?

Please know, there is not a right or wrong answer for a retired person. We should all do the things that help us feel good and give us pleasure.

Based on all the information I’ve collected over the last several years, we need to prioritize and spend more time doing the things that best keep our minds alert and our bodies healthy.

Some folks prioritize family. Many care for other family members such as parents, or in many cases, become baby sitters for their grandchildren. We all know some people who live their lives for their pets. I know of one small dog who lives in the former Madonna mansion in South Beach Florida because of a rather unusual inheritance.  

The best advice is to evaluate your priorities, find your passions, and live your life the way you choose. Of course there are family responsibilities, financial considerations, and possible health restrictions. That’s normal and that’s life. Beyond that, however, this is not the dress rehearsal. This is your life.

 Survey

Here is survey breakdown in hours of how seniors spend their day:

Personal care activities (including sleeping) – 9.67

Waching TV – 3.77

Household activities – 2.41

Eating and drinking – 1.42

Working – 1.15

Shopping – 0.94

Reading – 0.62

Socializing – 0.59

Relaxing and thinking – 0.55

Organizational, civic, and religious activites – 0.52

Leisure computer use – 0.38

Exercise – 0.31

Caring for non-household members – 0.31

Military Benefits

As we age, our mortality is not a favorite subject. The fact is, we can really make it much easier on those we leave behind if we do some planning. I have mentioned in a previous blog the wonderful planning forms in our book The Best of Our Lives. Not trying to sell you a book because the forms can be found free on our website www.TheBestofOurLives.com. I’m sure most of you have had the experience of dealing with the death of a loved one, and our complex society makes these situations increasingly more difficult. Be responsible and make your plans now, your loved ones will be forever grateful.

For those of you who have served in the military, remember, with anything other than a dishonorable discharge you are entitled to a cemetery plot and burial service. In this day and age, that will save your family a large amount of money. For those of you retired military, your family is also eligible for other monetary benefits.

A few years back, my mother was reading a newspaper article about a woman who had lost her husband on D-Day in World War II and discovered she was elegible for monthly benefits. One of my mother’s best friends had lost her first husband on that very day. She was also struggling financially. Mom called her immediately to tell her about the article she had read. Currently her friend is not only receiving monthly benefits, but she got a sizeable retroactive sum. If you need any information related to your veteran’s benefits, you can go to this website: www.va.gov.

I am very proud of my military service (USAF) and feel very strongly about the men and woman who serve this country. If you are a veteran, check out your benefits and make it part of your planning. Be a responsible retiree.

CBS Evening New Story

Let me begin by thanking all the people who have called and written with wonderful comments about the CBS Evening News story on my late father Frank Parker. When you do any kind of a media interview, you never know how it will turn out. For the most part, CBS did a good job and the way they edited the photos and videos of my father were very touching. Of course, I would have preferred more than a fleeting shot of my wife and grandson, but that’s television. Understanding the pre-determined conclusion of their story, that Dodger fans were unhappy with ownership, I’m not pleased with the story’s last comment which paraphrased me as saying the only good thing about my dad’s passing was he did not have to watch what’s happened to his team. Let me be clear, although I was asked numerous questions that tried to get me to make such a comment, I did not. There was nothing “good” about my dad’s passing.