Thursday, December 30, 2010

Real Estate and Health Care — a Winning Combination!

In my November 30 posting, I talked about how much I like real estate. Now I’d like you to think about how the demand for medical care continues to rise. Especially for nursing homes and assisted care living facilities as 76 million baby boomers require more and better care. One way to profit from this trend is with a real estate investment trust (REIT) that specializes in healthcare real estate. And one REIT that I’ve been looking at recently is Ventas, Inc. (NYSE: VTR). Ventas is one of the nation's leading healthcare REITs with holdings of approximately $11 billion. It owns 241 senior housing facilities, 40 hospitals, 187 skilled nursing facilities and 130 medical office buildings and other healthcare facilities containing approximately 50,000 licensed beds and senior living units located in 44 states and two Canadian provinces. Ventas has been a consistent performer among the Healthcare REITs in the MSCI U.S. REIT Index (RMS) over the past 5 years. For the five-year period ending September 30, 2010, Ventas had an annual total shareholder return of 15.5 percent. The current dividend yield is 4.1%. VTR isn’t the only REIT in the health care sector. HCP, Inc. (HCP), Health Care REIT (HCN), and Senior Housing Properties Trust (SHN) are other big names in the business. So if you believe, like I do, that the health care industry will thrive in the years to come, REITs could prove to be a terrific way to get a reliable income and attractive long-term returns. Best wishes and Happy New Year! George

Sunday, December 26, 2010

It’s that time of the year again ...

I’m not talking about what you should do with your IRA and retirement plans. I covered those earlier this month. And if you haven’t taken those steps yet, you only have five days left. I’m talking about our annual ski trip. We’re making plans right now for a return trip to Banff National Park in Canada. This is some of the best skiing you’ll ever find in the Rockies, without the crowds and at a very affordable price. I’ll give you more details as we get closer to the date. So dust off your skis ... dig out your parka … and starting getting those legs in shape! In meantime if you think you might be interested in joining us, contact me for more info. George

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you and yours a safe, a healthy … and a very Merry Christmas! George and Linda

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bart thinks the VA will pay for his long-term care

In A Boomer’s Guide to Long-term Care, I’ve included a chapter with e-mails I received after an article on long-term care insurance ran in an online publication.

Here’s one of them …

Bart C., 78, from Philadelphia, PA writes:

I’m a veteran. The VA will pay for my care.

My reply: I’m all for helping vets, Bart. And as far as I’m concerned we don’t do enough. But let’s be practical … the facilities are government-run, and there’s a waiting list to get in.

Plus, the VA doesn’t give out long-term care benefits unless you:

• Have a 70 percent service-connected (SC) disability, or

• Are rated with a 60 percent SC disability and are unemployable, or

• Are rated with a 60 percent SC disability and are permanently and totally disabled.

So this tells me that if you’re a vet without a severe service-connected disability, you won’t get VA LTC benefits.

However, you might be able to get Aid and Attendance (A&A) benefits or Housebound benefits.

A&A is a benefit paid in addition to monthly pension. So you first must be eligible for the pension.

A veteran may be eligible for A&A when:

• The veteran requires the aid of another person in order to perform personal functions required in everyday living, such as bathing, feeding, dressing, attending to the wants of nature, adjusting prosthetic devices, or protecting himself/herself from the hazards of his/her daily environment, or …

• The veteran is bedridden, in that his/her disability or disabilities requires that he/she remain in bed apart from any prescribed course of convalescence or treatment, or …

• The veteran is a patient in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity, or …

• The veteran is blind, or so nearly blind as to have corrected visual acuity of 5/200 or less, in both eyes, or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less.

ike A&A, Housebound benefits may not be paid without eligibility to pension.

A veteran may be eligible for Housebound benefits when:

• The veteran has a single permanent disability evaluated as 100-percent disabling and, due to such disability, he/she is permanently and substantially confined to his/her immediate premises, or …

• The veteran has a single permanent disability evaluated as 100-percent disabling and, another disability, or disabilities, evaluated as 60 percent or more disabling

You can find more information, including how to apply, on the Veterans Affairs Web site at:

And for more tips on how to protect your wealth from the skyrocketing costs of long-term care, pick up a copy of A Boomer’s Guide to Long-term Care.

Best wishes,


Thursday, December 9, 2010

10 End-of-Year IRA and Retirement Plan Tips

As you hurry around doing your holiday shopping and getting ready to celebrate with family and friends, don’t forget to take some time to tidy up your IRA for the year. These 10 end-of-the-year moves could save you a lot of money and eliminate headaches next year. End of Year Move #1— Take required minimum distributions (RMDs) Anyone who is required to take minimum distributions — including Roth beneficiaries — must do so before the end of the year. Otherwise you could get hit with a 50% penalty on amounts missed. The amount you must withdraw is based on the 2009 end-of-year account balance. End of Year Move #2— Split inherited IRAs If you inherited an IRA last year, you have until the end of this year to split the account into separate shares so each beneficiary can use their life expectancy to determine RMDs. Each share should be transferred into a separate inherited IRA for each beneficiary. Missing this deadline means beneficiaries will have to use the oldest beneficiary’s life expectancy to calculate distributions. In other words, they’d end up depleting the account faster and paying taxes sooner. End of Year Move #3— Move inherited plan Did you inherit a 401(k) or other retirement plan assets last year? You might have to abide by the plan’s rules, including taking the money out and paying taxes much sooner than you had hoped. However, you can get around that and stretch the required distributions over your life expectancy by: • Transferring the inherited funds directly to an inherited IRA, or • Converting directly to an inherited Roth IRA. In either case, you must take your first RMD by December 31. Otherwise, you’ll have to stick by the retirement plan’s rules. End of Year Move #4— Convert to Roth When you convert an IRA or a qualified retirement plan to a Roth, you’ll owe income tax on the amount converted. But if you make the move by December 31, you can spread the tax over two years — 2011 and 2012. End of Year Move #5— Take your lump sums You might be entitled to special tax breaks from your qualified retirement plan. Examples: Net unrealized appreciation and 10-year averaging. To take advantage of them, though, you must remove all the assets within one tax year. Therefore, if you have taken a partial distribution, you better clean out the plan by the end of the year or the tax break is lost. End of Year Move #6— Make your charitable gifts Accelerating charitable donations to 2010 could help offset Roth conversion income. Thereby, possibly reducing your tax burden. End of Year Move #7— Use the gift exclusion Are you looking for an easy way to reduce your taxable estate? You have until end-of-year to make use of the annual gift exclusion for 2010. This lets you give $13,000 ($26,000 for married couple) to as many people as you wish, without using any of your unified credit. End of Year Move #8— Use your IRA for estimated taxes You could end up with a steep penalty if you underestimate your estimated withholding tax payments. But you can use an IRA distribution to eliminate the problem since withholding from an IRA is treated as if you had paid in the money throughout the year. Figure out how much you’ll owe before the penalty kicks in; don’t forget any state tax. Then take an IRA distribution for that amount. Instruct the custodian to withhold the full amount for income tax. End of Year Move #9— Review beneficiary forms Of course, there is no requirement that you must make changes to your IRA or retirement plan beneficiaries by the end of the year. But this is a good time to consider any changes there may have been in your life and whether those changes warrant revising your beneficiaries. Those could include: A marriage, a birth, a divorce or a death. End of Year Move #10— Max out 401(k) plan contributions See how much you’ve put into your 401(k) this year. The maximum is $16,500. And if you are 50 or older, your plan might let you contribute another $5,500. But you only have until December 31. You only have 16 business days left to make any of the above moves. So be sure to give them a close look before time is up! Best wishes, George

Thursday, December 2, 2010

LTC Insurance Might Cost Less Than You Thought

Have you put off looking into long-term care insurance because you figured it would be too expensive? Well, the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance recently released a report that might surprise you … Over 200,000 consumers who had purchased state-approved partnership long-term care policies during the first half of 2010 participated in the study. And here’s what the Association found for buyers under age 61: •27.8% pay less than $1,000 a year •19.4% pay between $1,000 and $1,500 a year •28.9% between $1,500 and $2,500 a year •17.1% pay between $2,500 and $4,000 •6.8% pay $4,000 or more Since premiums rise as we get older, the numbers for buyers age 61 through 75 were different: •9% pay less than $1,000 a year •12.5% pay between $1,000 and $1,500 •34.5% pay $1,500 to $2,500 •28.4% pay $2,500 to $4,000 •15.6% pay $4,000 or more Also interesting is that 57 is the average age for purchasing long-term care insurance. What’s more, in 2009, 81% of new buyers were under 65. This tells me boomers are waking up to the fact that they must assume responsibility for their care in case their health changes as they age. Best wishes, George P.S. Not sure if you need long-term care insurance or would you like to explore your other options? Then click here to read a free excerpt from A Boomer’s Guide to Long-Term Care.