5 ways to pay for assisted living costs

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By Sonya Stinson | Bankrate

If the time comes when you can no longer manage daily living in your own home or with family members, an apartment in an assisted living facility could be the next best thing.

But if you, like many, were thinking that Medicare will cover the cost of assisted living, think again. Medicare isn’t designed to pay for long-term care.

“At the end of the day, your options for paying for long-term care in this country are two: You pay (completely) out of pocket or you pay out of pocket until you get to the point where you impoverish yourself and then go on Medicaid,” says David Kyllo, executive director of the National Center for Assisted Living, or NCAL, in Washington, D.C.

Both options may sound equally bleak, but for the vast majority who pay for assisted living through their own means, coming up with a plan to finance the move will at least make it more feasible.

The national median monthly rate for a one-bedroom unit in an assisted living facility is $3,500, according to the 2014 Cost of Care Survey released in April by Genworth Financial Inc. of Richmond, Virginia. That’s $42,000 per year, an increase of 1.45 percent over 2013. The cost has been rising by an average of 4.29 percent annually over the past five years.

Now consider this factoid from Kyllo: The typical assisted living resident has an income of about $19,000 per year. Obviously, most residents must tap additional resources to cover the cost, and the funds often come from the sale of their biggest asset: their homes.

A bridge loan can help until home is sold

“Assisted living is need-driven,” says Kyllo. “It’s not like (other) housing options that people weigh. They are going into assisted living because they need help with their daily lives. They need help with bathing, medication management, cooking and managing finances. While economies may have downturns and housing markets may slow down, one thing that doesn’t slow down is the aging process.”

Barbara Steinberg, founder and managing member of BLS Eldercare Financial Solutions in Livingston, New Jersey., often recommends a loan if a client’s need for assisted living care is too urgent to wait until the house sells.

“We work with a company that does bridge loans for exactly that situation, where somebody is waiting to sell a house so they can move into assisted living,” says Steinberg, who is a Registered Financial Gerontologist. “It’s an interest-only loan that pays the assisted living facility until the house sells.”

Bridge loans are just one of the resources to which assisted living facilities refer applicants to help make the move more affordable, says Paul Williams, senior director of government relations for the Assisted Living Federation of America in Alexandria, Virginia.

“We’ve seen companies that have had real estate professionals work with people to get a home ready for sale and to help them market the home,” says Williams.

Reverse mortgages and long-term care insurance

For couples who are trying to finance assisted living care for one spouse while the other remains at home, Steinberg says a reverse mortgage can be a viable option. Available to homeowners who are 62 or older, a reverse mortgage lets you convert some of the equity in your home into cash.

The average assisted living resident is an 86- or 87-year-old who moved in at 84 and will remain in that setting for 28 months, Kyllo says. If your anticipated need for assisted living is still 30 years to 40 years down the road, you might look into buying long-term care insurance. This insurance is more affordable the younger and healthier you are at the time of purchase, but if you wait too long, you may not be eligible for it. If you are older than 85, already living in a long-term care facility or have been diagnosed with a condition that will require long-term care, you probably won’t be able to get a long-term care policy.

Long-term insurance benefits for assisted living vary widely, from $50 to $300 per day, says John Ryan, a Certified Financial Planner and owner of Ryan Insurance Strategy Consultants in Greenwood Village, Colorado.

If you purchase a so-called partnership policy and your cost of care later becomes more than your insurance and income will cover, you’ll have an easier time qualifying for Medicaid to fill the gap. The policies are administered through the Long-Term Care Partnership Program, a collaboration involving the federal and state governments and private insurers.

Under these policies, you can shield some of your assets from the state if and when you need to apply, and qualify, for Medicaid in order to receive additional long-term care services. The amount of assets that Medicaid will disregard is equal to the amount of the benefits you actually receive under your long-term care partnership policy. To find out more, go LongTermCare.gov.

“The downside to that is that income is not an excludable asset, so if (someone) has, say $3,000 a month in income from a retirement plan, they would be required to spend that money toward care before Medicaid would pay,” says Ryan. “Most people, all things being equal, will choose a partnership policy because the rates are not any different.”

Some states offer Medicaid waiver

While most states have waiver programs that allow at least some Medicaid funding for assisted living, Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and West Virginia do not have such coverage, although Pennsylvania has state-funded Supplemental Security Income for assisted living, according to the NCAL’s March 2013 Assisted Living State Regulatory Review.

Unlike nursing home care, the cost of assisted living is only partially covered under Medicaid, and not all facilities accept Medicaid patients. Some state programs cover only certain types of costs and medical conditions.

Veterans are eligible for assisted living

The Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA, covers assisted living care for veterans and spouses of veterans who have served at least 90 days on active duty and at least one day during wartime. Applicants must meet a medical qualification test, but their conditions don’t need to be related to military service. Called the Non-Service Connected Improved Pension Benefit with Aid and Attendance, or “aid and attendance” for short, this program pays a maximum benefit of $2,085 a month for married veterans, $1,759 for single veterans and $1,130 for a surviving spouse.

The VA’s income limit for pension benefits — $21,107 a year for a veteran with no dependents who needs aid and attendance — is offset by the cost of out-of-pocket medical expenses, which may include assisted living care. So if your income is $25,000 and your medical expenses — including assisted living care — are $10,000, the VA counts only $15,000 worth of income toward eligibility.

But less than a third of those eligible for this benefit actually receive it, according to Cheryl Chapman Henderson, an attorney and veterans benefits consultant in College Park, Maryland. Veterans often are told they have too many assets to qualify for the program, she says.

“They’re not told that they could make some adjustments and reallocation of their assets without being penalized and qualify,” she says. “Let’s say the veteran has been cared for by an adult child. He could gift assets to that child, who could hold those assets … for the benefit of the parent. If veterans can get the assets out of their name, they may not be over the asset (threshold).”

Planning for assisted living care can be challenging emotionally as well as financially. “One of the things that we don’t do well as a society is educating and training people to plan, not for their retirement years, but for the last years of their life,” Kyllo says. “We don’t like talking about that, so we avoid those kinds of issues.”

But if most would prefer to skip the discussion, there is one reality they cannot escape.

“About 70 percent of the people who turn 65 in a given year will need long-term care services during the remaining years of their lives,” Kyllo says.

Original Source: http://bit.ly/2zhsKda

 

The 10 Best Places to Retire in Mexico

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By Lorimer Wilson | Munkee

Below is an unbiased look at the best places in Mexico to retire – with real pros and cons – to help you make an informed decision as to which best meets your needs, interests and ambitions.

In the process of putting together this comprehensive report I have consulted with highly experienced ex-pats who have lived and/or live in the places that I rate here so, without further wait, here’s the top 10 places to live and retire in Mexico and the reasons why:

  1. Lake Chapala, Jalisco
  2. Ensenada, Baja California
  3. San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato
  4. Guadalajara, Jalisco
  5. Merida, Yucatan
  6. Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo
  7. Mazatlan, Sinaloa
  8. Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco
  9. La Paz, Baja California
  10. San Cristobal de las Casas Chiapas

1.   Lake Chapala, Jalisco (Winner)

According to Kristina Morgan of Focus on Mexico, “Of all the places in Mexico I have been, none can quite compare with Lake Chapala. There’s something about this place that just seems…magical and, as corny as it sounds, that’s the word I hear people use to describe Lake Chapala time and again. Lake Chapala gets into your heart and becomes home. It’s like stepping back 50-70 years here regarding the simpler lifestyle, culture and values. When I’m here I feel like I can be me, like I can breathe a little more freely and be the person I want to be and this is a sentiment expressed by most everyone who has ever been here or lives here”.

Lake Chapala used to be just a retirement community but in the last 10 years that’s changed and a lot of younger families and entrepreneurs are moving there for the obvious business opportunities and lower cost of living.

The Lake Chapala community is composed of a string of villages, mostly on the north shore, with Ajijic being the crown jewel of the area in terms of artisans, charm and amenities. Horses clopping down the road, vendors selling fresh fruit, women weaving, live music everywhere from classical to salsa and teenagers helping their grandmothers are common sights. There’s a happy hum of activity there.

The most compelling reasons are listed below.

Pros

The Climate: The weather, of course, is a huge draw. National Geographic touts Lake Chapala as the 2nd best climate in the world. The Lake is surrounded by the Sierra Madre Mountains and is a mile high so there is very little humidity. The distance inland is still close to the ocean but far enough away to not have to worry about storms and hurricanes off the coast. We have all the same flora as Hawaii as well as the same vegetation in arid states like Colorado—pines and palms—growing equally well, side by side!

The most-developed expat/English infrastructure in Mexico: You may feel like you’ve stepped back in time, but there’s still a lot to do here, from golfing, to boating, to organized group activities including a community theater in English, two American Legion posts, the Lake Chapala Society, churches in English in every denomination, concerts and events (the Bolshoi Ballet even came to Ajijic!), live entertainment, world-class restaurants that will impress even the most seasoned palate and much more!

Ajijic and the Lake Chapala area is the largest expat community anywhere outside the U.S. and Canada. I figure 20,000 expats can’t be wrong but as Latin World says, “Despite being home to one of the heaviest concentrations of North Americans in Mexico, Lake Chapala doesn’t feel quite as Americanized as other retirement enclaves in Mexico.” I believe that is due to the fact that this isn’t a resort area catering to tourists, but rather a place to adopt a new way of life and be a part of a community.

There are also many real opportunities to get involved and make a difference through any of the numerous charities here if you want to volunteer your time. The rewards are greater than any paycheck.

Affordable, top-notch medical care is available: The University of Guadalajara, less than 1 hour away, boasts an excellent medical school. In fact, many U.S. doctors are educated there! There are excellent facilities, doctors, specialists and medical staff in Mexico and a major benefit is that they are readily available (no long waiting periods). Many of the doctors even speak English and often have taken some training in the United States or abroad. The doctors here have such a gift for listening carefully to you and not making you feel as if they don’t have time to spend with you. They even make house calls! There are two clinics here as well.

Proximity/Accessibility: Guadalajara, airport, coast: One of the reasons we chose Lake Chapala is its easy access to other places of interest in Mexico. Ideally located about 40 minutes from Guadalajara (Mexico’s 2nd largest city), 25 minutes from Guadalajara’s international airport, and as close as 3 hours to the pacific coast and a 12 hour drive to back to the U.S. so it is easy to trade the frigid winters and the wilting heat of summers north of the border for paradise. We wanted to know that they can get back home quickly if we need to so being so close to the airport makes being home in a few hours possible. It is interesting to note that travel is part of the culture in this area, for Mexicans and retirees alike and the low surcharge at the airport in Guadalajara makes flying more affordable.

Low cost of living: I didn’t move to Mexico to spend a lot of money! It has been said that Lake Chapala is the place to be if you want a bargain and all the amenities you’re used to from back home.

Home prices are still low here. I know people who have looked into different retirement destinations all over Mexico and say they have found the best deals here. We also have an MLS, which almost nowhere else in Mexico has so it is easier find the right home for you. On the coast, you must purchase property through a bank trust but because we are inland you are allowed to own property outright through a direct deed….

This is a real community: To me, this is the most compelling reason to come here. People come to Lake Chapala for the weather and lower cost of living and end up staying because of the people. Lake Chapala still has a small-town feel to it. It seems like everyone knows everyone and the people, both Mexican and expats, are very friendly and look out for each other. This area also has the largest singles population owing to the sense of safety and community here. It is said that people are nicer here than they were back home. The Mexicans are still very warm and welcoming, largely due to the fact that most of the transplants are very cognizant that we are guests in their country and we try to be as gracious and considerate as our Mexican friends are. There is still an old-world, genteel flavor here. Mexicans embrace family, customs and tradition and tend to dote on their children and cherish their elderly. The people who come here are frequently in awe of the close ties in our community and how quickly they are welcomed and accepted. I haven’t seen anything like this anywhere else in the world, not even in other places in Mexico.

A safe and secure environment: Despite a rather negative media representation which focuses on drug related violence, Mexico is actually a top choice when it comes to safety. The conflicts which make the headlines are mostly limited to the U.S. border area; the majority of the country is virtually unaffected, and news of these unfortunate events is as distant to these areas as it is to the U.S., and in some cases, even more so. “In Lake Chapala violent crime is almost unheard of,” points out Shawn Gaffney. “In Lake Chapala, the citizens walk the streets at any time of day or night safely and confidently.” Statistics back this feeling of comfort; in most parts of Mexico, violent crime is significantly lower than in large U.S. cities.

Stunning beauty: Lake Chapala has breathtaking sunsets over the lake, and majestic mountain views. Flowers are prolific and seem saturated in bold color. There are charming cobbled streets with stone walls and fuchsia bougainvillea draped like petticoats over the tops. The best way to give you a picture is that people say it looks like Hawaii. The vivid color here is whimsical and artistic, with many murals all over the area, including some that are painted on houses and businesses. There are at least 3 waterfalls in the area and thermal springs that will transport you with their relaxing and curative properties. Sun-drenched terra-cotta tiles, mesmerizing vistas and tropical foliage make it feel like you’re on permanent vacation—but without the heat, humidity, tourists, hurricanes or expense.

Solid investment: When you’re considering a place to retire, no one wants to flush their money into an area where they would have a hard time getting it back out if they ever needed to. This area is at a steady growth rate with promise of more future growth. You’ll get a lot of bang for your buck now while knowing your money will grow here.

Slower pace of life: We can learn so much from the people here about what is truly important in life. For those who are seeking to simplify their lives, Lake Chapala should be on your short-list. This isn’t a “time is money” culture. Mexicans work to live while many of us have lived to work. In general, the people here have their priorities straight. It’s all about how you treat people and recognizing that each day is a gift to be lived fully and graciously.

Cons

Altitude: At a mile high, some people who have respiratory illnesses may find this is a little too high in altitude for them. However, some people report feeling far better here and being able to sleep better than they ever could. The elevation is also a major reason we have such a temperate climate and why the area isn’t prone to natural disasters.

Language: If you move to Mexico you’re going to have to learn at least a little of the Spanish language to get by. Some people find this daunting and intimidating. The good news is that compared to anywhere else in Mexico, English is spoken to one degree or another by most people.

Small villages: If you’re looking for a big city feel then Lake Chapala isn’t for you. Think quaint fishing villages with an old world feel and modern amenities and you’ll have the idea. However, village life has its benefits in safety and community and if you need a break from the tranquility and want to head to the big city then Guadalajara is just up the road.

Noise levels: This can be said about any area in Mexico but I still think it needs to be said. Village life is noisy with live music, church bells tolling at all hours, roosters who crow all day and night, fireworks, parades and processions, parties and cars driving by announcing everything from their wares to who has a fresh catch of fish down at the pier. On Mother’s Day, some lucky moms are woken before dawn with mariachi bands serenading them outside their window. If this would drive you crazy, then be sure to look for homes on the outskirts of the villages or in a planned development, or gated community. Thankfully, there are a lot of places to choose from to escape the noise.

Not a Business Mecca: For those young and aggressive, they will be disappointed because the Lake Chapala area is NOT a mecca for business. Business gets done but for the most part, retiree’s are slower more set in their ways and thus are not seeking big opportunities so trying to sell them something using a carrot for the future can be frustrating and will land you in the “con man” category real quick.

It is not the ocean: Lake Chapala is Mexico’s largest lake at 77 miles long and 13 miles across but if your heart is set on a daily routine of drinking a margarita on the beach with endless waves stretching out to the horizon then this isn’t for you. While this is the largest lake in Mexico and the conquistadores thought this was the ocean when they first arrived here, it is still a lake – a beautiful lake.

In short, Lake Chapala is a one in a million place with everything it offers. Of course, one size doesn’t fit all but if you’re looking for a paradise with a low-cost of living, an established English infrastructure and activities, modern amenities, near-perfect climate and a friendly and safe community, come visit Lake Chapala and see if this might be for you. Retiring in Mexico couldn’t be better.

  1. Ensenada, Baja California

According to John Vogel of BajaWine.info, “In Ensenada, you have everything that a major city could have but it’s still a small family town” The weather is very temperate between 60 to 80 F mostly all year round. It’s never too hot or too cold in Enenada as it’s on the Pacific coast in a bay so it’s somewhat shielded by direct ocean winds. For expats, it’s an easy transition because Ensenada is really half Southern California half Mexico. Most speak English as the border is just 1 hour away. So travel back and forth is relatively easy. It’s a major benefit for those that want to live an Mexico lifestyle but still get the San Diego Chargers game every NFL Sunday for a little tailgating.

Pros

  • Close to US Border
  • Easy going beach weather
  • Inexpensive
  • Very little rain fall
  • Family friendly city
  • All kinds of events held almost every weekend

Cons

  • Airport is in Tijuana about 1 hour away and San Diego International Airport is about 1 hour and 30 minutes away by car albeit, there is a border crossing that could take from 1 to 3 hours depending on time of day.
  • Anti-septic Mexican culture meaning that the culture in Baja is more close to the USA culture as it’s a mixed culture. If you’re looking for authentic rustic old Mexico, Ensenada is NOT the place to be. This is San Diego South and the people of Baja are a hybrid of Mexico and USA.
  • You must have a car to get around.
  1. San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato

According to Rebecca Fass San Miguel de Allende is “the most wonderful place on the planet”. This place is probably the most well-to-do city in all of Mexico. With world-class arts, music, and amazing restaurants with the highest end people from all over the world, SMDA is the most exquisite classy place to live in Mexico. So if you’re looking to hob-nob with the rich, famous, artsy types, and people who really hold their own at the highest levels, SMDA is the place to be.

Klaudia Oliver says “I can´t speak for that many places in Mexico but I can certainly suggest that San Miguel is THE top destination. Why? Because there is an overriding sense of well-being which permeates the inhabitants of this beautiful colonial town. There is a swirl of social events and it’s like a college campus for baby boomers with cultural and social activities constantly”.

Pros

  • Amazing cultural beauty
  • Old Mexico meets the well-heeled traveler
  • Small town full of super interesting internationally renown people who you will get to know quickly
  • English spoken everywhere
  • 3 hours away from Mexico City and all it’s available big city offerings
  • Friendly small town atmosphere
  • Beautiful architecture and history.
  • Excellent nightlife

Cons

  • Not close to major city or airport
  • High desert elevation means it’s cold in winter and hot in summer
  • Extreme temperatures mean that in one day can go from high 80′s at high noon and then into the 40′s at night.
  • Very expensive to live.
  • Feels like living on a desert island since there is nothing within an hour away.
  • Nearest airport is in the City of Leon; about an hour and a half away.
  1. Guadalajara, Jalisco

The weather is amazing; Perfect really! Guadalajara is the 2nd largest city in Mexico so if you are used to living in the city, then you will enjoy Guadalajara as it is the very best big city in Mexico. Guadalajara is not as inexpensive as it used to be but you can still find bargains if you look hard.

  1. Merida, Yucatan

An old colonial city in the heart of the Yucatan jungle. It is very hot and humid mostly all year round and so you must love warm to hot weather to enjoy Merida. Amenities are excellent. According to resident expatriate, Randy Miller, “Progresso, our closest beach, is a fabulous place to swim. It’s only a short 20 minute drive from the house. There are so many things to do here; art, markets, museums, theater and so much more”.

Merida is about a 4 hour bus ride from the major resorts of Cancun and Playa del Carmen. It’s a Mexican business working city where prices are low and life is excellent.

  1. Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo

Welcome to the Jungle! The Riviera Maya includes Cancun in the North, Playa del Carmen in the center and Tulum in the South and all points in between.

According to Bil Mabra , ” Even though the cost of living in the Riviera Maya is a bit higher than other areas of Mexico it is still way more affordable than in the United States or Canada.”

Even with the real estate market in the U.S. taking a huge dive, the properties in Riviera Maya are still cheaper. Consider buying something that is not right on the beach but possibly walking distance or a 5-10 car ride to the Caribbean ocean….Lastly, upkeep on your Mexican home will not cost you as much because the cost of labor is a fraction of what it is in other countries.

If you are retiring then a question everyone has is about health care. In the Riviera Maya there are 3 top hospitals—2 of them are run by a group from Spain called Hospiten. The other is the American Hospital in Cancun. Hospiten is recognized for being a top-notch medical facility the world over and is on par or above most health care facilities you find in the U.S. and Canada. Most of the doctors and nurses that work at Hospiten are bi-lingual so even if your Spanish is not that great you can still communicate very effectively.

It is an every day occurence for people to migrate from the U.S. to have all types of medical procedures—everything from cosmetic surgery to heart bypasses and everything in between – done in Mexico. Compare the cost of healthcare and medications in Mexico to the cost in other countries and you will find the cost is usually more than 50% less.

The Riviera Maya climate is tropical but the actual daily temperature does not vary that much from the winter time to the summer time. Yes, summertime there is more humidity and it gets hot but typically there are only 3 months of the year where it is very hot from July to September. A lot of people take their vacations during this time if they want a little break from the heat. The other 9 months of the year it is very comfortable.

Highs in the winter time are usually around 84 degrees fahrenheit with lows in the high 60s to low 70s. Highs in the summertime are typically around 93 to 95 degrees with more humidity in the hottest months. If you come from a colder climate it takes a few months to get acclimated but once you do it sure is nice wearing your shorts and flip-flops in January and February.

Living in the Riviera Maya also allows many people to get in and out of the country very easy. There is an international airport in Cancun servicing many major cities daily in the U.S. and Canada and another airport is now being built near Tulum. Getting to and from the Riviera Maya of Mexico has never been easier.

As far as amenities go, how about going shopping at Wal-mart, Costco or Sam’s Club and then going to have lunch at Applebee’s? Yes, now in this area of Mexico there are mostly all the creature comforts which all of us have grown accustomed to such as high speed and wireless Internet, satellite TV and GSM mobile phones.

20 years ago, this was a small fishing community – from Playa del Carmen to Tulum. Now, because of the influx of European and Mexico City money, this area has exploded. This is good for many reason, people choosing to now move and live here, have all the necessary amenities that one could need. The beaches are some of the best in the world. Miles and miles of white sand and beautiful Caribbean warm waters.

  1. Mazatlan, Sinaloa

Mazatlan is a local Mexican resort city. It is older, inexpensive, and has a wonderful older downtown with excellent cultural rustic Mexican life. Excellent seafood in this very unique resort town.

  1. Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco

Life in the pacific tropics is excellent in Puerto Vallarta. Lovely fun downtown, great restaurants. Prices are relatively high for Mexico and so it’s not for the budget retiree.

  1. La Paz, Baja California Sur

Inexpensive city life on the Sea of Cortes near Cabo San Lucas, La Paz is a family friendly small city. It’s very hot so it’s not for those that love colder climates.

  1. San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas

Randy Bowser, who’s lived in Mexico for over 10 years says, ”I lived in San Cristobal de las Casa for 1 year and have to say really liked it a lot. The truest of Mexican culture exists in San Cristobal. It’s 5000ft above see level. It does have a chilly feel to the climate year round but the beauty of the area is well worth the trade-off. It’s not really a viable place to live for the younger generation but for those retiring from life and wanting a slow, relaxed, peaceful existence, then this would be the place for you. It’s a magical place.

Original Source: http://bit.ly/1FNz3Co

Why Mexico Still Excites Me After 10 Years Living Here

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By Glynna Prentice | International Living

This past spring, I traveled around Mexico to buy furnishings for the new upstairs of my house in Guanajuato, in Mexico’s Colonial Highlands. I’d decided that I was going to completely furnish the space with handcrafted items, and I have.

Several trips were to the nearby state of Michoacán. Folks outside Mexico don’t necessarily think of Michoacán for handicrafts. They probably think of Oaxaca (where I bought table linens and handmade rugs, and sincerely wished I’d brought a U-Haul for more) or San Cristóbal de las Casas. Nor is it a great center for commercially made household goods (go to Tonalá and Tlaquepaque, outside Guadalajara, for those).

But the fact is, when you live in Mexico, you find wonders—handicraft villages, ancient ruins, fabulous markets, superb local festivals—everywhere. And exploring this staggering richness is one of the joys of living here.

On my buying trips, the journey itself was half the fun. Friends and I would set out for a two- or three-day trip…and certain things on our agenda were sacred. First, we always stopped right away for a snack. Guanajuato State is Mexico’s strawberry capital, and stalls line the highway outside town, advertising fresh strawberries and cream. We have a favorite stall, where a big plastic cup of strawberries and fresh cream, lightly dusted with sugar, costs just over $1. As a midmorning snack, it can’t be beat.

In Pátzcuaro, a lovely Spanish-colonial city, we stay at an aging, colonial-style hotel that is slightly rundown but centrally located…and where double rooms (with a king-size bed) run about $25 a night and singles about $15. (Someday someone will buy this hotel and tart it up…and it will probably lose its authentic, down-at-heels charm.)

From Pátzcuaro we hit all the nearby villages…the one that specializes in furniture, the one that does wicker, the “copper village,” the market with the best wooden spoons around… And we stop to eat at favorite places, like the out-of-the-way village with the out-of-this-world turkey mole. (Lunch for four—two enormous handmade, corn-tortilla tacos apiece—cost $12. The homemade pickled peppers—we ate the whole jar—were free.) We end the day with dinner at a restaurant where the waiters know us, our favorite red wine is always available, and where the steaks are cooked exactly the way we like them.

I discovered similarly “favorite places” when I lived in the Yucatán Peninsula. I visited Maya ruins and nature areas that are featured only in the most detailed, specialized guidebooks—if at all. I know a place in the little village of Muna where an artist makes museum-quality replicas of Maya pottery…and if you’re lucky, cochinita pibil—pork in pibil sauce, one of the glories of Yucatecan cooking—is on the lunch menu.

My experience is far from unique; expats in any of Mexico’s many expat havens can speak eloquently of colorful, special, favorite places near them. And no matter how many of these special places you find, there always seem to be more—Mexico is that big. After living here more than 10 years, I’ve reconciled myself to having a bucket list that grows eternally longer, not shorter. (Just ask me about that kayak trip down the coast of Baja California Sur, on the Sea of Cortez, that I’ve long dreamed of doing.)

So, brace yourself: When you move to Mexico, you, too, will find yourself making ever-longer bucket lists.

So much to see, so little time. It’s a good problem to have.

Original Source: http://bit.ly/2pecmKF

Should you invest in bitcoins for retirement? Only if you think riding a roller coaster without a safety harness is a good idea.

Bitcoin

By Michelle Singletary | The Washington Post

Even in the currently roaring stock market, people are looking for higher returns. And an investment that has jumped more than 40 percent in one week can seem like just the way to make a lot of money.

“What do you think of bitcoins,” a number or people have asked me.

Bitcoin is an electronic currency that exists only on the Internet. There are not any actual coins. It’s not backed by anything except the hope by investors that that other folks will continue to want to buy it. Yet, it has become one of the most talked about investments of late. Why?

“Supply and demand. People are buying up bitcoin, driving up the price of the 16.7 million coins in circulation,” reported The Washington Post’s Thomas Heath.

Bitcoin is going mainstream. Here is what you should know about it.

In January, the cryptocurrency was trading at just under $1,000 per coin. Last week, it reached a high of $17,000 on one exchange and just over $19,000 on another. By Friday it was sliding down.

It dropped to as low as $14,566.81 Friday just after 1:30 p.m.,” reported CNB’s Everett Rosenfeld.

Bitcoin plummeted just hours after setting yet another record CNN tech writer Seth Fiegerman wrote about buying $250 worth of bitcoin. In writing about the volatility of the currency Fiegerman said, “a key reason the price of bitcoin keeps going up is, well, because it keeps going up. Small investors like yours truly have a fear of missing out on a chance to get rich quick. And when the value of your bitcoin doubles in a week, as it did for me, it’s easy to think you’re a genius. But you can get burned assuming it will keep skyrocketing.”

For the average investor, folks with mortgages, student loans, credit card debt or regular jobs they can’t afford to lose, bitcoins are highly risky — more akin to gambling than investing. Stay away unless you have the stomach for speculative investing and cash to lose your money without tears. But don’t take my word for it.

Jack Bogle: “Did I make myself clear? Bitcoin has no underlying rate of return. You know bonds have an interest coupon, stocks have earnings and dividends. There is nothing to support bitcoin except the hope that you will sell it to someone for more than you paid for it. Bitcoin may well go to $20,000, but that won’t prove I’m wrong. When it gets back to $100, we’ll talk.”

A roundtable of experts at NerdWallet answer questions about bitcoin: Is Bitcoin Safe? Bitcoin may be soaring lately, but there are plenty of reasons to steer clear of the digital currency

Here’s how the NerdWallet writers answered this question: In 20 years people will hear ‘bitcoin’ and say. . .

Anna-Louise Jackson, investing: “That’s so 2017.”

James Royal, investing: “Vanilla Ice? Pet Rock? Beanie Babies?”

Tina Orem, taxes: “Didn’t bitcoin date one of the Kardashians?”

Dayana Yochim, investing: “Why oh why didn’t I sell at $16,000?”

Andrea Coombes, investing: “Bit-what? I actually tend to think cryptocurrency is here to stay. But it’s probably going to be regulated, and it’s probably not going to be bitcoin.”

The meteoric rise of bitcoin and its buying frenzy have regulators and big banks concerned.

Then there was this: Hackers made off with $70 million in the digital currency after targeting NiceHash, a cryptocurrency platform.

Original source: http://wapo.st/2AzcVQK

Preparing for Christmas and New Year in Mexico

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By Mexperience

December is one of the busiest travel months of the year in Mexico with no less than three major events taking place nationally, and dozens of regional events happening throughout the country.

December 12 is Dia de Guadalupe: coupled with Easter, this date marks the most important religious event on Mexico’s annual calendar.

Posadas Navideñas lead up to Christmas, and the New Year festivities. If you’re traveling in Mexico, the period between December 20th and January 6th is the busiest time of year on roads in and out of major cities, and at bus stations and airports as people away for the holidays.

If you plan to take a leisure break in Mexico over Christmas and/or New Year, you’ll need to book early to get the best choice of places to stay.  As of December 15th, flight prices increase and availability of seats on internal domestic flights as well as international flights out of Mexico diminishes as Mexicans and foreign residents living here leave to holiday or visit their families abroad.  It’s wise to build-in some extra time for your journey to and through the airport, as the seasonal swell in passenger numbers slows everything down.

Buses and bus stations across Mexico also fill-up as local families travel to be with their loved ones and share time together during the festive period.  Throughout most of the year, you can usually show up and buy a bus ticket on the day you are traveling and be assured of a seat on the next bus out; but if you plan to travel by bus during the days around Christmas and New Year, we strongly recommend you buy your tickets in advance as demand for seats is extremely high.

Mexico City tends to empty-out during the week between Christmas and New Year as it does during Easter week, as capitalinos leave the metropolis to holiday abroad, visit family in the provinces, or take a well-earned break at one of Mexico’s many beach resorts or picturesque colonial cities.

If you’re planning to drive in Mexico over the Christmas period, be aware that the principal arterial roads out of Mexico City (towards Cuernavaca, Puebla, Toluca, and Querétaro) become jam-packed in the week leading up the Christmas, and those same roads leading back in to Mexico City can become jammed on any days between December 30th and January 6th as holiday-makers in the provinces return to the capital.

Original source: http://bit.ly/2CBOfbM

Health Care Options In Mexico

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By Michaela | Retire in Lake Chapala

Health care in Mexico is a major concern to expats who decide to move to the Lake Chapala area. After all, we all want to stay as healthy as possible to enjoy all the activities available Lakeside. So in this blog I will provide a brief overview of the options available for future expats thinking of making the move to Lakeside.

I will begin by stating the obvious: health care and health care insurance is a complicated subject and is totally dependent on your own state of health (both past and present), your needs, and your financial wealth. Therefore, make sure to do your due diligence in locating the right option(s) for you.

There are two government sponsored options for health care.

The first is called IMSS (Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social). It is similar to the Canadian socialized health care system and is generally for the working Mexican. Employers in Mexico are required to pay into the program to cover health care for their workers.

As expats, we are also able to get on board this system for around $350 USD per year depending on age. This figure is derived by assuming you are working a full time job at minimum wage. Which as a retiree that’s exactly what we are doing. 🙂

IMSS has been slowly tightening their filters for pre-existing conditions and therefore more people are being turned down. Note: If you don’t get accepted your initial application fee is not returned to you.

IMSS works on a step system. The first year you pay into the program only basic services are covered. As you pay into the second year, more is available to you and by the third year you have full coverage. 

(Personal note: I have a friend living here who tried the system and found it to be about as useful as the Canadian system. Long wait times and many canceled or re-scheduled appointments due to an overburdened system. He eventually had a scope done on his knee but has since canceled his plan with IMSS and has joined the Seguro Popular program.)

The other Mexican medical system is called Seguro Popular. It has the benefit of being free of charge and was designed to offer basic health care to the people not covered by IMSS. Take note that you can only be on one of the systems, not both. 

Seguro Popular covers all pre-existing conditions and it doesn’t matter how old you are. It offers general coverage for most things but due to under funding, wait times can be long. It is important to note that you need to be a resident in order to join the plan, so tourist visas won’t cut it.

The other option, whether by itself or in conjunction with one of the above programs, is to purchase private insurance. This can be in the form of catastrophic insurance (if supplemental to the above) or comprehensive. Plans vary widely from company to company depending on your risk tolerance and how much you are willing to pay. Things like level of care (type of hospital), deductibles and maximum policy levels all need to be considered. Finding the right coverage for your particular situation can be time consuming but worth it. 

The final option is ‘pay as you go’ as quality health care in Mexico is inexpensive by most standards.

For example, I have a friend who underwent emergency hernia surgery. Total cost for a team of 3 surgeons and a 2-night stay in a boutique hotel in Guadalajara came to $2,600 USD.

My partner’s father came down from Canada for elective hip replacement surgery when he was told he would be on the wait list for a year. The total cost for his surgery at the best hospital in Guadalajara was under $13,000 USD and it was completed within 2 weeks.

So for many, self insuring and the ‘pay as you go’ plan may be a viable option. This could also be combined with an appropriate catastrophic or evacuation policy such as Skymed (see my other blog) if a person has health care available to them in their home country. 

So don’t let health care worries prevent you from making the move to Lake Chapala! Whereas in Canada, for instance, the arrangements are all taken care of for you, in Mexico it takes a little more work and effort on your behalf to piece together the right coverage at the right price.

 

Original source: http://bit.ly/2yFiBqn

7 Smart Reasons to Retire Abroad

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By Nick Wharton | Wise bread

For some people retirement is a time to slow down, take stock, and simply enjoy not having to suffer the nine-to-five grind every day. For others it’s an opportunity to fulfill long held ambitions and head overseas on a great adventure. If you’re caught in two minds about what sort of life you want when you wave goodbye to your work commitments, here are seven reasons to retire abroad.

1. Reduced cost of living

The U.S. is ranked by Numbeo.com as one of the top 25 most expensive countries in the world in terms of cost of living. That means there is a huge number of alternative countries where you could potentially reduce your living costs, and in many instances quite drastically. A 2015 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office says that “most households approaching retirement have low savings,” meaning that many Americans could struggle in retirement.

Perhaps you’re among those concerned about the level of your savings as you head into retirement. But even if you’re not, moving abroad to a country with a lower cost of living could be a good way to make your savings stretch. For as little as $1,000 a month you could afford a comfortable retirement in a number of exciting countries.

2. Higher standard of living

Along with a decrease in expenses, moving abroad could also bring you a higher standard of living than you’d achieve by staying in the U.S. Perhaps you dream of living by the beach, having help around the house, pursuing a pricey hobby, or being able to afford private nursing as you grow older. These may not necessarily be things you’d be able to afford at home, but could well be within your reach by moving abroad.

Getting more for less is one of the main reasons many retirees decide to take the plunge and emigrate. Depending on the country you choose, things you might otherwise consider to be luxuries could become part of your everyday life.

As an example, I’m currently living in Koh Samui, Thailand. Just the other day I spent $10 on a wonderful one-hour massage on the beach and I had a delicious organic meal at a beautiful yoga retreat for just $11. These types of experiences would have cost me a lot more in the U.S.

3. Better weather

A driving factor for a lot of retirees who decide to settle abroad is the promise of better weather in other countries. For many, people a cold climate and dreary weather are harder to cope with as they get older. There are plenty of places with tropical climates where you can expect blue skies and consistent heat, regardless of the month.

Being able to say goodbye to long, hard winters and swap heavy overcoats for shorts and T-shirts is a fantasy that appeals to many of us. More sunshine doesn’t just mean a permanent tan; it can also have a positive effect on your quality of life by allowing you to do more outdoor activities throughout the year.

4. Cheaper health care

As we get older, the price and quality of medical services available to us naturally becomes a bigger concern. The cost of health care in the U.S. can be so expensive, it can drive you into medical debt. Many overseas retirement hot spots have excellent, affordable health care systems that are easily accessible. There are various options for how to pay for health care when you’re abroad, and, depending on your circumstances, each has benefits and drawbacks.

An international medical insurance policy is often the safest bet, as it provides comprehensive international coverage. This is ideal if you plan to travel. However, be aware that these policies often don’t include treatments back in the U.S. so it’s unlikely you’ll be covered during visits home. Single country medical policies are available for if you’re planning on staying solely in your chosen country and not traveling abroad.

5. To avoid regrets

Nobody wants to look back on their life and have regrets over the things they wish they had done, but never managed to. As a retiree you’ve most likely worked hard over the course of your career and potentially even sacrificed some of the aspirations that you had when you were younger.

It’s never too late to build the life of your dreams, and rest assured you won’t be alone in heading overseas to do just that. Don’t let fear of the unknown stop you from fulfilling those objectives in your golden years.

6. To slow down the aging process

Retirement abroad is the perfect time to welcome new challenges and take advantage of the exciting opportunities that come your way. The Alzheimer’s Association suggests that mental stimulation can help stave off mental decline associated with aging and help build new brain cells in the process. Learning about a new culture, exposing yourself to different experiences, and taking up a new language are all great ways to exercise the brain.

7. For the adventure

No one knows exactly how retiring abroad will turn out, but one thing is for sure: It will be a great adventure. It will give you the opportunity to start afresh and live the life that you’ve always dreamed of. With all of the free time you’ll have, the opportunities to travel, explore, and meet new people from a new culture are endless.

Experience the different cuisine, take in unfamiliar scenery, and welcome the chances that arise with open arms. You might find your entire outlook on life changed, your opinions challenged, and preconceptions dashed. Retiring abroad could be the best thing you ever do.

Original Source: http://bit.ly/2A6cGMG