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Communal Living Attracting More Baby Boomer Women PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Friday, 20 April 2012 13:02
Baby Boomer Women
Women are Choosing to Age with the Support of Friends

Some say the ‘60s hippies are going back to the commune. Others call the growing number of female Baby Boomers rooming together “‘The Golden Girls’ phenomenon.”

Author Martha Nelson, who at 65 is on the leading edge of a tsunami of retiring Boomers, says it’s really all about choosing the company of friends.

“As a group, we’ve been empowered more than past generations of women,” says Nelson, whose debut novel, Black Chokeberry (www.BlackChokeberryTheBook.com), is the story of three disparate older women who unexpectedly end up sharing a home. “We’re more worldly, stronger, financially savvy and healthier than our ancestors – through no fault of their own – and we know what we want.”

Increasingly, what they want is to actively age with the camaraderie, laughter, understanding and support of other women who share their ideas of healthy lifestyles, good food from their own gardens, green living, and myriad activities on a moment's notice.

In 2010, 480,000 Baby Boom women lived with a least one unrelated female, according to an AARP analysis. The growing number of U.S. HomeShare programs, which help connect people interested in sharing a house, say their numbers have been steadily rising since the economy belly-flopped.

“This concept is really trending on the East and West Coasts and is very big in Europe,” says Ryan Cowmeadow, vice president of the National Shared Housing Resource Center, an all-volunteer clearinghouse of HomeShare programs.

“Our numbers are up about 15 percent since 2007, and about 75 percent of applicants are female,” he says.

“We’re hoping to see a real surge with the Boomers entering retirement age now. They’re the ones who didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Home-sharing just makes sense.”

Nelson notes that there are several reasons why women more than men are gravitating to communal living as an alternative lifestyle.

“Women typically live longer than men, and men are more likely to remarry quickly after a divorce or the death of a spouse,” she says.

“And fundamentally I think it’s as much about the special bonds women share. We form these wonderful, supportive, 'tell the truth' friendships, which survive the demands of husbands, children and careers. Whether living alone or with a spouse or partner, women cling to their friendships. When a woman considers living alone as she ages, it's a natural progression to seek the company of her best friends."

That’s what happened to Nelson, a former journalist and educator, whose long marriage ended in divorce when she was in her 50s. In regaining her balance as a single woman, she sought time alone to heal, then turned to her trusted friends as she stepped back into life. Her happiest moments came from long conversations over coffee, laughter over meals and movies, and, occasionally, indulgent tears she felt safe to shed.

"I came to fully understand the importance of women friends in my life," she says. "They are the gold standard and as we age, they are critical to happiness, regardless if one is married or in a committed relationship."

The movement for cohousing – where residents have private living spaces but share common areas, such as dining rooms, and tasks, such as cooking -- started in Denmark and is catching on in the United States. There are model programs in Boulder, Colo., and other communities, including three cohousing projects being planned in the greater Nashville area, where Nelson lives.

Practical considerations of creating close living communities include health and safety, care in times of an accident or medical emergency, and saving money, a concern for many women who find themselves single or widowed after long marriages, Nelson says.

But Boomers are renowned for demanding more than creature comforts from life, she adds.

“We want to be happy; we’re healthy, active and we want to enjoy ourselves as we age. We want to travel, go to a movie with a neighbor or housemate, cook a meal, share a garden, and feel that we are contributing to our communities.

“What started with Rosie the Riveter has brought us to this,” says Nelson who is happily married again, but fascinated by the new movement of cohousing.

“We’re strong women and we can choose to live the way we want as we get older. Very often, that will mean with other women in close knit communities."

About Martha Nelson

Martha Nelson is an award-winning former investigative reporter, columnist and editor at two New York newspapers. She also is a former educational and nonprofit executive, consultant, and chef. She retired in 2010 and settled in to write Black Chokeberry, a coming-of-age novel about three women confronting crisis and change on the other side of 50.

 
6 Ways to Cut Your Insurance Costs PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Thursday, 19 April 2012 15:50
Financial Planner Offers Premium Solutions to Gas Price Pain

There is nothing that makes your wallet squeal louder today than pulling into the gas station and dropping $50. Gasoline prices have risen more than 12 percent over the past 12 months, and some experts are predicting they’ll reach $5 per gallon in the next six months.

The average household now spends $50 per month more on gasoline than last year, notes financial planner Rick Rodgers, author of The New Three-Legged Stool: A Tax Efficient Approach To Retirement Planning (www.TheNewThreeLeggedStool.com).

“But that’s not the whole picture,” Rodgers says. “Higher fuel prices affect a lot of other expenses in the family budget, from heating to food. The government estimates the average household is spending $150 per month more this year because of higher oil prices.”

You can try to ease the pain at the pump by using your car less, but you should also look for other places to offset that extra $150. Car insurance is a good place to start.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, the national average auto insurance premium is $850 per year. Can you reduce that? Rodgers says you probably can. He offers six ways:

• Shop around regularly. Your insurance agent doesn’t have a lot of incentive to reduce your premiums.  I recently met a consumer who told me he had been with the same agent for 15 years. After he shopped his insurance with another agent, he saved $1,600 on his premiums for all his coverage. The internet makes it easy compare costs for the same coverage, or you can get an independent insurance agent to shop for you. Contact the Independent Agents Association at (800) 221-7917. (Be sure the company you go with has a good credit rating and claims-paying history.)

• Bundle your coverage. Bundling is combining different types of policies (auto, homeowners, liability, etc.) with the same company. The theory is that the company will discount the premiums if they have all of your business. The most common combination is packaging your auto insurance and homeowner’s policies together.  Or, find companies that will bundle auto insurance with renter’s or tenant’s insurance.  Bundled packages usually result in a 10 to 15 percent savings.

• Ask for discounts. You may qualify for discounts, but you won’t know until you ask. They’re commonly offered for good driving records, anti-theft devices, vehicle safety features (anti-lock brakes, air bags, automatic seatbelts), low annual mileage and insuring more than one car. The spunky Flo from Progressive claims discounts are also available for buying your policy online, paying in full up front, and being a loyal customer.

• Take a defensive driving class. Even if you’ve been driving for years, you can learn a lot from driver education and most insurance companies recognize the value of a refresher course, which can help you avoid accidents. The amount of discount varies by insurance company and from state to state, although most insurers offer a 10 percent discount on your premium for three years.  AARP offers a driver safety program for those over age 50, and it’s available online.

• Increase your deductible. Do your auto and homeowners policies have low deductibles?  If so, you may be able to reduce your premiums 15 to 30 percent by raising the deductible on your collision and comprehensive coverage.  Make sure you have an emergency fund set aside to cover the cost of repairs before you make the change. But your homeowners policy may be the first place to consider raising the deductible, since statistics show the average homeowner files a claim only once every nine years. Be sure to check with your mortgage holder first; some specify maximums.

• Change Cars. This is probably the most difficult savings tip to implement but may have the largest impact on your premium.  Used cars are cheaper to insure than new ones (excluding antiques); sports cars are more expensive to insure than minivans. Insurance companies like cars with safety features and low repair costs.  Insure.com surveyed 900 vehicles in the 2012 model year and lists the rankings from the most expensive to least expensive on their website.  Six of the 10 cheapest were minivans.

About Rick Rodgers

Certified Financial Planner Rick Rodgers is president of Rodgers & Associates, “The Retirement Specialists,” in Lancaster, Pa. He’s a Certified Retirement Counselor and member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisers. Rodgers has been featured on national radio and TV shows, including “FOX Business News” and “The 700 Club,” and is available to speak at conferences and corporate events (www.rodgersspeaks.com).

 
Braley Votes for 90 Day Transportation Bill Extension that Expedites Keystone XL Pipeline PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Jeff Giertz   
Thursday, 19 April 2012 15:36

Criticizes delay of long-term transportation bill, supports Keystone construction

Washington, DC – Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) released the following statement today after voting to pass a temporary 90 day extension to continue funding federal transportation projects like roads, highways, bridges, and other infrastructure.  It’s the 10th temporary extension Congress has passed without completing work on a long-term transportation authorization bill.

“It’s appalling that partisan gridlock in Washington continues to interfere with fixing Iowa’s crumbling roads and bridges.  Businesses and individuals continue to suffer because Congress keeps kicking the can down the road.  I’ll hold the Speaker to his word that this short term extension will result in a long-term solution to address our transportation needs.

 

“I’m encouraged that this bill will help expedite the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.  The pipeline project is an opportunity to create thousands of jobs in Iowa and the Midwest and reduce our dependence on Middle Eastern oil.  Environmental concerns must be addressed, and this bill provides an avenue to air those concerns to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

 

“Keystone XL has attracted rare bipartisan support because of the enormous economic benefits it will provide.  It should move forward quickly once it’s approved.”

 

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At Hearing, Loebsack and Bipartisan Witnesses Stress Importance of SECTORS Act PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Joe Hand   
Wednesday, 18 April 2012 11:55

Washington, D.C. – At a House Education and Workforce Committee hearing today, Congressman Dave Loebsack, and both Republican and Democratic witnesses, stressed the importance of incorporating his SECTORS Act or sector strategies into the majority’s Workforce Investment Act (WIA) reauthorization that the Committee Majority is currently moving forward. Last month, legislation introduced by the minority included Loebsack’s language to retool and streamline our workforce development programs to train workers for specialized fields by bringing together key players in our communities.  The Majority bill includes some support for sector strategies but needs significant improvements, which is why Loebsack urged them to work in a bipartisan fashion on improvements moving forward.

 

“Every weekend when I am back in Iowa, I speak with employers about the importance of this approach to grow our economy now and in the future,” said Loebsack.  “We need to better organize training and education by bringing together all the critical people in the community, higher education, and management to determine how to save and create new industries and streamline the workforce system to get people the training they need to secure good jobs and the skills employers want."

 

To watch video of the hearing, click here.

 
Braley Op-Ed: Let’s Help More Families Adopt PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Jeff Giertz   
Wednesday, 18 April 2012 09:18

When people ask me who’s had the biggest influence on my life, I tell them: my mom and my dad.  When I was a kid they taught me all sorts of things – about hard work, being a good citizen, saving money for a rainy day, and helping others less fortunate.  I can definitely say that I am who I am because of the way my parents raised me.

 

It’s a sad fact that not every child has the blessing of a loving family.  Through no choice of their own, many children in this country are forced to grow up in the foster care system, bouncing from one foster family to another.

 

The gift of adoption is an incredible one, providing an opportunity to unite loving parents who are willing to open their homes with a child in need.

 

Unfortunately, the process of adoption is often a long and costly one – the legal fees alone can be multiple thousands of dollars.  The financial hurdles can prevent a family that would otherwise be able bring a child into their home from pursuing an adoption.

 

Thankfully, there’s a proven solution that helps reduce the costs of adoption for families.  For the last decade, the Adoption Tax Credit has provided a one-time tax cut of up to $12,360 for each child a family adopts.  This tax break can offset a significant amount of adoption costs.

 

After the tax credit was last expanded, the number of families taking advantage of it jumped by nearly 50 percent.

 

This adoption tax credit is scheduled to expire at the end of 2012 if Congress doesn’t act to extend it.  So I’ve introduced the Making Adoption Affordable Act to both permanently expand the credit to $13,360, peg it to inflation, and make it refundable -- allowing more families to take full advantage of it.

 

One side benefit of promoting adoptions is that it ultimately saves taxpayers big bucks.  Why?  The federal government helps states pay the costs of caring for orphaned children.  As of 2010, foster care costs to taxpayers averaged $47,000 per child, per year.  The tax credit only costs taxpayers $13,000 – a huge savings.

 

Even in the broken politics of Washington, DC, I know that helping more kids find good homes will bring people from both parties together.  This is an idea that has bipartisan appeal – and I’ll be working hard to get this extension passed into law.

 

If you have questions, I encourage you to contact my office: http://braley.house.gov.

 

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