Most people treat the New Year holiday as a fresh start, setting a variety of personal goals for optimum health, wellness and productivity. Although New Year’s resolutions are made with good intentions, they are often unrealistic goals soon broken by springtime. Many seniors enjoy their daily routines and can benefit from easy and senior-focused resolutions that will allow them to take small steps towards a better self in the New Year. For example, weather permitting, take a walk every day, even if it’s short. According to American Trails (www.AmericanTrails.org), seniors can decrease diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease by just staying more active. Another health habit for the New Year could include skipping dessert a few days a week or opt for a sugar-free option. Just like a short walk each day, cutting a small amount of sugar can add up to improved health for you.
A lot of seniors use their laptops every day, but the act of a hand written letter isn’t lost just yet. Write a letter to your children and grandchildren. You will find it therapeutic for you and a thrill for your loved ones to receive a letter from you. Rekindle or find a hobby. Whether it is painting or coin collecting, many seniors forget about hobbies they once enjoyed for hours on end. Use the fresh start of the New Year as inspiration to get back to one of your favorite pastimes, which will conjure many good memories. Take it a step further and turn your hobby into community service, which may bring you great purpose. Do you love knitting? Try knitting newborn caps for babies at a local hospital, or gloves for children at a local family shelter.
Volunteer in the New Year. You can experience a sense of purpose and satisfaction by helping others in need. There are many opportunities in our community such as a local food pantry or a guest reader at a school in your neighborhood. Volunteering can be as simple as visiting a new or shy resident in your community who might appreciate a friendly face. These are resolutions that can make a difference in your life and in the lives of others.
Recently, a friend asked me what type of legacy I would want to leave for future generations. It was an unexpected question that really started my wheels turning. Usually when people pass away, there is a huge focus on the things they owned and who gets what, but the idea of handing down ideas and values was a totally new concept for me. I started thinking about the things my loved ones (those still living and those who have passed) have shared with me.
I thought back on my early years and the backyard parties my grandparents hosted during the summers. We played games, roasted hotdogs and listened to the elders tell stories from their childhood. They also reminded us how lucky we are to live in present times than when they were our age. Some things were passed on and taken to heart. These are the ones that I want to continue as part of my legacy.
My grandparents on both sides demonstrated deeply-held faith and never missed church on Sunday. To this day, at 95, my grandmother still enjoys Sunday morning church service, and she says it is the best place to start your week. I have fond memories of my grandfather repairing appliances for family members and not taking payment for the services, telling them that he would collect when they made it big one day.
I have vivid memories of all of these things. They have become a part of who I am, and I hope they will become part of future generations. Knowing the legacy I want to leave behind helps me stay focused on what I am doing in the present so that my goals are in line with that legacy. Planning the legacy you leave behind connects you to those whose lives you touch, and that they touch, and so on, potentially for generations to come.
What is your legacy?
On November 1, 1919, my grandmother, Frankie, graced the world with her presence. Over the years of being the oldest grandchild, I heard every story I thought there was to hear. Well, I was wrong. It seems my 95 year old grandmother still has many stories to tell, and for that I am grateful — grateful that my children and grandchildren are able to share in the memories my grandmother still has in that fabulous mind of hers.
At 75, I gave her a journal called “My Grandmother, In Her Words.” A few weeks passed and I asked if she had begun to write in the journal. Her response was that she would much rather talk to me about her life than try to fit it on the few lines allotted in the journal. That afternoon I stopped by for a visit and told her, “I am here…. start talking.” I was hanging on to her every word as she began sharing her life. After 90 minutes of stories, I knew that I could only hope to remember all that she had shared that afternoon.
We both agreed I should start journaling, recording and taking pictures on what we called “Mama and Me Sundays.” I purchased a voice recorder and plenty of batteries. Every time I visited I would ask her to tell me a story from her past. Over the years she has told me things that will stay with me forever and that I have enjoyed sharing with my children. I consider my knowledge of her history fulfilling and priceless.
Buying the voice recorder was the best investment I have ever made. Now, 20 years later, I am able to refresh her memory when something from her past is mentioned that she can’t quite completely remember. Also on the tapes are some of her famous recipes that she no longer makes because she no longer can remember all of the ingredients. When I mention that I can play the tape back for her, she quickly says: “Oh no, you play it back for yourself and drop off dinner later!”
With the holidays in full swing and family gatherings happening all month long, what better time to start preserving your family memories, especially with elderly family members. Sitting in front of a camera is not everyone’s favorite thing to do; a voice recorder or even a cell phone is perfect for beginning the process. Plan to make recordings available for anyone asking for a copy. Having family history documented is priceless and will mean so much to so many for years to come.
One would think that holidays are a time devoted exclusively to peace and joyful celebrations. Think again. For some reason, instead of peace and joy for the holidays, it can become a family recipe for disaster.
In truth, tensions among family members are often exacerbated by ongoing disputes, rivalry and conflicting expectations for the holiday. Disputes over lifestyles, new marriages, divorces or just plain bad manners can be the source of family disagreements. Of course, we as parents feel it is our responsibility to keep the peace, which is not always easy when you bring together several different personalities, all with different opinions.
Here are a few strategies to help keep the peace during your holiday gatherings:
· Fun is the always a great buffer. Singing Christmas carols, playing musical instruments, putting on a talent show and playing noncompetitive games are all great ways to get everyone to relax and enjoy each other’s company. Last year we did our own photo booth, which was a huge hit.
· Check the emotional baggage at the door. Remind those that you know like to stir the trouble pot in a nice way that this is a time for peace, joy and happiness with family and that no one should waste time on things that can be discussed during the other 364 days of the year.
· Learn something new. During your holiday gathering, have each family member tell something new they learned or did for the first time this year. Your family will learn that they have a lot more in common than they think. We did this a few years ago, and one family member started a book club, and two family members who wanted to learn to quilt are now doing so with other family members.
Hopefully your holiday gatherings are peaceful and the only disappointment you experience is when all of your loved ones leave. Remind everyone to reach out to each other throughout the year so that there are no disagreements or issues that can be addressed before the holidays roll around again.
The IRA Charitable Rollover Provision was first enacted in 2006 as part of the Pension Protection Act. It has resulted in billions of dollars in charitable transfers since its inception. Congress, however, has allowed it to expire and then reinstated on several occasions.
The provision is widely expected to be retroactively extended again by the end of 2014.On December 3, 2014 the House passed legislation (H.R. 5771) that would renew retroactively for 2014 the package of expired tax extenders, including the IRA Charitable Rollover Provision.
This provision allows individuals who have reached age 70½ to donate up to $100,000 to charitable organizations directly from their Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA), without treating the distributions as taxable income. It is part of a package of 55 temporary tax extenders that were allowed to expire on January 1, 2014.
Individuals may begin taking distributions from their IRAs as early as age 59½, but are required to begin taking them at age 70½. Normally, these distributions are subject to income taxes.
Since the provision was first enacted, Americans have made millions of dollars of new contributions to nonprofits — including social service programs, religious organizations, arts and cultural institutions, schools, and health care providers — that benefit people every day.
• Eligibility Age. Taxpayers age 70½ and older are required to make annual distributions from their IRAs which are then included in the taxpayers’ adjusted gross income (AGI) and subject to taxes. The IRA Charitable Rollover permits those taxpayers to make donations directly to charitable organizations from their IRAs without counting them as part of their AGI and, consequently, without paying taxes on them.
• Annual Cap. A donor’s total combined charitable IRA rollover contributions cannot exceed $100,000 in any one year.
• Eligible Charities. Charitable contributions from an IRA must go directly to a public charity that is not a supporting organization. Contributions to donor-advised funds and private foundations, except in narrow circumstances, do not qualify for tax-free IRA rollover contributions.
• Eligible Retirement Accounts. Distributions can only be made from traditional Individual Retirement Accounts or Roth IRAs. Charitable donations from 403(b) plans, 401(k) plans, pension plans, and other retirement plans are ineligible for the tax-free treatment.
• Directly to the Charity. Distributions must be made directly from the IRA trustee payable to the public charity.
• No Gifts in Return. Donors cannot receive any goods or services in return for charitable IRA rollover contributions in order to qualify for tax-free treatment.
• Written Receipt. In order to benefit from the tax-free treatment, donors must obtain written substantiation of each IRA rollover contribution from each recipient charity.
I’m the proud grandmother of 3 grandsons. Every year about mid- September I start asking what they might want for Christmas, and usually within a few days I get a list from each with a few items. By Halloween, a few more items have been added, and by Thanksgiving, the lists are complete. By then, all three have added, deleted and duplicated items on their list. Now it’s time to weed through to figure out exactly what it is they really want and decide what I feel they really need.
Over the weekend my daughter and I decided to compare our lists and make a plan, deciding what she and her husband would get, and what we would get from the list. We quickly noticed that the two younger boys were asking us both for the same items. She decided to ask them why their lists were so similar, and the youngest one, who is 11, replied, “We want to make sure we get everything we ask for, so we decided to include the things we really, really wanted on both of our lists.” They talked it through and decided that this was a sure way to get all the items they wanted.
I decided that I needed to come up with a list of my own. And though some of the items I came up with might not be the trendiest items or at the top of the hot toy list this year, they will help my grandsons in the future. The following are a few of the items on my newly created smart gift list for my boys.
Coverdell Education Savings Accounts (ESA): A Coverdell ESA can be used for college tuition, private secondary school or other education expenses. Coverdell allows families to save up to $2,000 a year for students under 18. Coverdell funds grow tax-free, and are only as profitable as their underlying investments.
If paying for college is your goal, take a look at 529 Plans: 529 Plans offer federal and sometimes state tax advantages. 529s come in two forms:
Prepaid plans which allow grandparents to purchase tuition credits at a rate that is nominally higher that today’s prices and trade them once the child is ready for school;
• 529 savings plans which allows families to select an investment portfolio with a specific account. Both offer tax-free growth.
• Stocks: Stock have the potential to increase in value, but they can also drop. Gifts of stock, bonds or other securities are subject to tax regulations.
Investing in your grandchildren’s financial future is never a bad idea. They may not see whatever smart gift you choose to give a hit on Christmas day, but they will thank you later.