Broke Family Member’s Long Term Care Can Be Your Retirement Shock

Saving for a decent retirement is tough enough. Financially planning for our old age adds a lot of overhead to the numbers. But did you know that in some cases a family member’s long term care can become your retirement shock?

There are many people who couldn’t or wouldn’t save for retirement. Some of them may even be a family member or two. Many people have no plan for their old age nor any needed long term care. The issue of extended family’s long term care becoming our legal financial obligation just came to light for us.

We are now navigating the tricky issues around the sudden need for long term care for a parent. I thought it important to share what we have discovered.

First some numbers: According to what was found in the 2016 Genworth study, the national median nursing home cost for a semi-private room is $6,844 a month. 

Our situation: Where our parent lives the nursing home care happens to be $5,000 a month. She has $3,500 a month in Social Security and Pension income. That leaves a $1,500 a month shortfall that has to be paid from her other assets. Once all her assets are exhausted then State Medicaid can be applied for.

That is when things can become your own retirement shock to deal with. Fortunately our parent isn’t broke. Not yet anyway. Medicaid or our financial assistance won’t be needed or involved for a little while.

Filial Responsibility Laws Might Cause Your Retirement Shock

At issue is what’s called Filial Responsibility. The State can try to recover amounts paid out for long term care from family members. There was even a recent case in Pennsylvania where the courts backed a private nursing home. They singled out and sued one child for $93K under the state’s Filial Responsibility laws for his mother’s care. Medicaid had been applied for but not yet granted before his mother left. 

There are 29 US States and the territory of Puerto Rico that have these Filial Responsibility Laws. Our parent happens to live in one.

The following States have their specific flavor of Filial Responsibility laws on their books:

Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia, and in the territory of Puerto Rico

Filial Responsibility isn’t limited to one’s parents either. The State laws where our extended family members reside applies to siblings too.

That was a surprise to me and nothing I planned for. It’s one thing to try to help out a parent. But extending that financial responsibility to siblings goes far beyond anything I considered in my retirement planning.

I happen to have one financially reckless sibling who also lives an unhealthy lifestyle. I am not thrilled to know that my sibling’s life choices could turn into my retirement shock down the road.

The State Filial Responsibility Law Where our Extended Family Resides Says the Following:

“Children shall first be called upon to support their parents, if they are of sufficient ability; if there are none of sufficient ability, the parents of such poor person shall be next called upon; if there are neither parents nor children, the brothers and sisters shall next be called upon; and if there are neither brothers nor sisters, the grandchildren of such poor person shall next be called upon, and then the grandparents.”

Some State’s filial responsibility laws can also impose both criminal and civil penalties for failing to support their parents.

Broke Family Member now your Retirement ShockThe takeaway from all of this is that these laws allow nursing homes, hospitals, governments and certain third parties the ability to file a lawsuit against family members. They have legal backing to go after a judgment. One that obligates a family member(s) to pay their parent’s, sibling’s, or grandparent’s bill.

In the above mentioned Pennsylvania case. The nursing home didn’t even have to bother including all children in their lawsuit.

The Good News and Bad News Regarding Filial Responsibility Enforcement

The Good News- The filial responsibility laws have thus far been rarely enforced by the States. From what I read it’s because it is very expensive to track down and begin a suit against relatives of a broke Medicaid recipient. Not only that but judicial systems are already overburdened and filial enforcement would add to that burden.

States with these laws don’t even agree with each other over aspects of the laws. For example in the area of “sufficient ability” to pay. Nor have they figured out how to go after family members who live in a different State that does not have filial responsibility laws on their books.

The Bad News- The times they are a changin. There seems to be an appetite in Washington to reduce federal Medicaid support to the States. State budgets are already strained. If federal cuts do occur or States develop huge budget shortfalls they may feel that they have no choice but to hunt down extended family members who haven’t stepped up to the plate for their filial responsibility qualified family members.   

Mitigating Filial Responsibility Risk: What To Do

I wish we had been more involved in our parent’s financial condition and future elder care issues. It is usually uncomfortable to bring this up with a parent. I know I have heard “none of your business” many times from my parents. Along with our love and concern for their care, with filial responsibility it is our business.

If luck prevails, the hope is always that an elderly parent or family member can stay functional and healthy enough to remain in their home with our help.  Arrangements can also be made to have them live with us or with a sibling.

My mother lives with my sister in an apartment built specifically for her in my sister’s home. My sister and mother find it is a mutually beneficial arrangement.  

However, luck doesn’t always prevail. There is always the risk of incapacitation.

My mother-in-law was functional at home with her children’s assistance. But a fall and subsequent stroke has ended that option and left as us all scrambling. Something like this happens out of the blue and then there is no going back.

Here is what we are working through. I hope my sharing this will help others realize that it has to be part of our own financial planning to avoid serious future retirement shock.

Look into your parent’s State Filial Responsibility Law

Look online and find out what is on the books. We all want to do what is best for our loved ones. Knowing this will both motivate us to get moving and use it as leverage to get cooperation from an elderly parent who prefers financial privacy.

We only found out about filial responsibility after the fact. It was a financial surprise during an already emotionally stressful time. We are lucky that our parent has the funds to cover the financial side for a while. It gives us some time to adjust our finances to prepare for when our assistance may be needed.

Go over all of their financial information

Siblings should decide who should act as the lead. That way it is done once and not by everyone concerned. Have your parent write down all account information and assets held. Home equity/mortgage information, beneficiary designations, signers on accounts, etc. This is something that should be done for spouses and may have already been completed. If so then make sure it is up to date.

We had done this last summer when she was considering moving into an assisted living center. She had concerns that the house was too much. But she wasn’t ready to make a huge move like that yet. At that time we were just figuring out if she could financially handle it. Although we looked at account signers, beneficiary designations, etc. in the event of need, we should have been more seriously considering long term care too. I wish we had insisted she make the move then. But we all live without knowledge of what is ahead. The whole hindsight thingy… Our thought was she will decide soon enough on her own.

Power Of Attorney (POA)

It is important to get a POA. This is necessary to cover any assets that may need to be sold if our parent becomes totally incapacitated.

We were told one was in place but it was confused with beneficiary designations or something else. We should have all communicated more clearly among the siblings instead of taking our elderly mother-in-law’s recollection. My mother-in-law’s home equity is a big percentage of her assets. However there is still a $100k mortgage. That means we have to somehow come up with a nursing home funding shortfall and her home mortgage/HOA/etc. All those payments will quickly deplete other accounts until we can sell the home. Getting a POA now will be a huge challenge. Working under a “Guardianship” condition is time-consuming and costly.

Consult with an experienced Estate Planning or Elder Law Attorney

Be sure to seek a lawyer in the State where your parent lives. Filial responsibility laws and processes can vary State by State. A little money spent ahead-of-need will save a lot of trouble later on. Get educated. Know what is needed to facilitate and handle all the difficult decisions and options once a health event incapacitates a loved one. Develop a strategy covering which assets to use first for long term care, how/when to sell any property, and Medicaid issues.

We missed doing this before it was needed and have now met with an elder law attorney after the fact. The first thing they needed was a list of all the assets. Fortunately we had that done. We now wait to get their advice on next steps. Fortunately one of my mother-in-law’s accounts has one of our siblings as a signer. Otherwise we would be handling all the current financial issues for house payments, utilities, HOA payments, nursing home, etc. ourselves until things can be worked out.

Last Words

We did a lot in our own retirement and old age planning to make sure we won’t be a burden to our children. We now have the retirement shock of knowing we may have to also include a plan to handle a parent’s or even a sibling’s long term care debt as our financial problem if things go wrong.

It is important to be ahead of need in these issues. The goal is to have a clear long term care support strategy in place. One that is ready to be used in the worst case scenario. That includes having all the necessary legal work done to gain access to assets in the case of incapacitation.

Even though filial responsibility law enforcement is not a high priority in most cases for States to pursue, it doesn’t mean they never will.

We should all care about our elderly loved ones to help provide for them. Caring for a parent’s long term care wasn’t a big highlight of our retirement planning. Now it will be.

Doing things right can avoid ever having to worry about filial responsibility laws telling us through the courts what we will be paying and causing us severe retirement shock. By having a plan it also makes sure we are optimizing all options in a strategic way to reduce overall cost and provide the best care.


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Early Retirement is a Mistake for Some People

But it doesn’t have to be terminal: What to lookout for.

Most people who retire early have their numbers figured out. But for some people their early retirement is a mistake. A mistake they will regret and claim they were seduced or duped by an early retirement illusion. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should retire early. At least not until you understand your own head and your early retirement “why”. People understand the importance of getting the early retirement math right. But many underestimate the mental side. Happiness happens between the ears.

A couple of recent conversations with early retirees claiming early retirement regret has reminded me of that. We have shared early retirement experiences but with different conclusions.

Even with all of my planning my early retirement messed with me a bit until I made the complete transition. But for others the transition doesn’t happen or happen fast enough because of what wasn’t seen as necessary to plan for.

Then there are those whose plan was spot-on but they didn’t see the signs of their pending problems. We have to recognize a problem before we can take positive corrective action.

Early Retirement is a Mistake If You Can’t Adjust Your Performance Driven Conditioning

Early Retirement is a Mistake for Some PeopleWe all begin our conditioning for performance and approval at a very young age. In school we push to get good grades. Then there is our decades in the rat race. Performance measurements, objectives, goals, etc. where we try to measure up and advance in some way. We compete with others whether we do so intentionally or not. Then we retire and it’s just us. All of our lifelong conditioning if left unrecognized, unchecked, or not planned for can turn anyone’s early retirement into a mistake.

For most of us this performance and approval based dynamic is the only life we have lived. Early retirees are usually very driven. It’s no wonder that retiring early before we are physically or mentally broken can lead to thinking our early retirement is a mistake. Our drive to succeed and perform doesn’t magically disappear when we walk off into the early retirement sunset. But it should change and we can change it.

How to Make Sure Early Retirement Won’t be a Regrettable Mistake

Some early retirees like the two I spoke with have feelings of dread that they made a big mistake. I admit that I felt a little of that too after the celebration of my early retirement faded. It only gets worse if not addressed. Going from being a hero to being a zero was how I felt it. For years I was the go-to guy for everything important. Then in a flash I was seen by the world as unemployed. I thought I had everything figured out and planned what I was retiring to.

My two pals claiming that their early retirement is a mistake also thought they covered everything. I feel that I was able to quickly make the transition. They are still trying to work things out.

Nobody wants to waste their priceless time on early retirement regret. There are things we can do so that retirement regret can be avoided, reversed, and/or managed.

Know Why You Want To Retire Early- What Are You Retiring To?

It’s something people forget to plan for. Retiring to something is overshadowed by what is being retired from. The celebration of ditching the rat race and everything that goes with decades of work obligation is wonderful. But the exuberance of a retirement based on what is being left behind is short-lived. Knowing what we are retiring to and identifying it as why we are retiring early is what helps us avoid early retirement regrets and feeling it was a mistake.

I have said it many times, nobody wants to or will enjoy retiring into a void. Leisure is great but our brains have been conditioned towards productivity. We have to replace the drudgery of unfulfilling work with things that we value to ensure long-term happiness.

First off make a plan to retire living a healthier and happier life and really think about what that means to you. Satisfy your brain’s conditioned need for goals and measurement with what it is that you want to do or accomplish. Is it a business venture? Maybe an encore career, stepped down job or volunteer work. Do you want to spend more time doing hobbies and activities that you enjoy?

I planned for what I was retiring to but there were some holes. My biggest miss was that I underestimated my social circle. I planned on having an active social life in my retirement. But after decades in a career I found that my circle of friends was exclusively work related. I felt it and then set upon a plan to meet new people. Recognize whatever it is that’s missing and plan to fix it. Don’t abandon early retirement and call it a mistake.

Recognize the Importance of Structure Your Brain Needs It

Our brain is conditioned to function under structure. It makes more sense to us when things start and finish at certain routine times. We should have planned scheduled timelines. They can be loose or rigid. It’s our call. But believe me, it is necessary. We feel better when in healthy and productive routines. Our routines then turn into healthy and productive habits.

Without this structure we can drift without accomplishment and our brain’s conditioning feels like we have wasted time. It can lead to things like anxiety, depression, and self destructive habits. All of which leads to classifying early retirement as a mistake.

I learned early on to introduce structure into my early retirement. I routinely exercise during certain daily timeframes, work on projects, socialize, etc. If I didn’t place some kind of timelines I would never routinely get to it. Not fulfilling what I wanted to retire to would be in the back of my mind always messing with my mellow.

Value Self-Approval : No Second Party Appraisal Rendered or Required

Some people’s brains value appraisal and feedback more than others but everyone understands when it’s missing. That pat on back for a job well done all ends with early retirement. It was a huge part of our conditioning from school grades to job performance reviews.

Understand the need to value self-approval for your early retirement. It starts with celebrating early retirement and continues with retiring well. Early retirement is a huge accomplishment in and of itself. Every month, fiscal quarter, and year of successfully living life on your terms in early retirement should be awarded with your own approval.  

After the first few months of early retirement I was aware that nobody but me really cared about my accomplishments. Everyone appreciates positive feedback. I soon learned that my happiness in early retirement is all the positive feedback that I need. When feeling other than happy then that is when self assessment is needed and corrective action taken.  

Last Words

There are many things from financial to the brain that can cause someone to claim their early retirement is a mistake. But it doesn’t have to stay or end that way.

One of the early retirees who claimed his early retirement was a mistake returned to the rat race at his old company. He is working 50 hours a week and is stressed out. But said the lack of forced structure in his retirement had him only looking forward to happy hour. He was drinking too much and over-eating. His Dr. told him he was headed for a heart attack. I am not sure jumping back into the performance driven stress-pool is the right answer. But I am certain he will retire again soon and make the necessary mental adjustments to feel good about his early retirement.

We can counter our lifetime of conditioning when it raises its ugly head. Another thing we can do to tame our brain’s performance driven conditioning in early retirement is recognize the important job we now have.

  • Portfolio Manager for the $XX-figure portfolio of a very important client.
  • Accounts Payable/Accounts Receivable Manager.
  • Leisure and Activity Program Director.
  • Project Manager.

The job is extremely flexible, fun, and rewarding. Best of all the boss is very appreciative.


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Save Money in Retirement with the Latest Solar Technology

Save Money in Retirement with the Latest Solar Technology

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solar energy is on the up. Technology is advancing further every year, making today’s solar panels more affordable while at the same time more efficient than ever before. Little wonder, then, that the solar energy industry now employs more than a quarter of a million people in the USA, and is growing faster than the overall US economy.

More than a million American homes have embraced the benefits of solar power and retirees are able to make massive savings on their energy bills. Here is why you should join them.

Invest in the future

Fossil fuels will not last forever, and it is up to us to leave the planet in the best possible condition for future generations. Solar energy is completely renewable and non-polluting. As far back as the 1930s, Thomas Edison commented to Henry Ford, “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”

It might have taken longer for us to truly tackle the question of renewable energy than Edison hoped, but there is no doubt that we have finally “got with the program”. Solar industry jobs are increasing 17 times faster than the overall US economy and the latest data from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) shows year-on-year growth of around 100% in the solar market.

Save money

Just how much can you save by using solar energy? The exact answer does, of course, vary depending on where you live, as it is determined by the average amount of sunshine you enjoy and the policies in your home state relating to grants, rebates and so on. In general, however, the states that see less sunshine have tended to counter this deficiency by offering better cost incentives, so as a guideline, most people can see significant cost savings of at least $50 and often $100 per month.

Low maintenance

Solar panels require very little in the way of maintenance. Periodic cleaning keeps them at optimum efficiency, but otherwise it is a simple case of having them inspected and, where necessary, routine tasks such as antifreeze replacement every five years.

An investment for future generations

We have already raised the point of creating a better world for your children and grandchildren to inherit, but investing in solar provides a great inheritance in more financially pragmatic ways too. The truth is that if your home is fitted with solar panels, it has lower costs, and that makes it more valuable, particularly for those of us who are leisure freaks!

Research by Berkeley National Laboratory for the US Department of Energy concluded solar panels increased the value of a home by an average of $17,000, proving that solar is a sound investment for future generations in more ways than one.

Resources:

Uncommon Friends: Life with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Alexis Carrel, and Charles Lindbergh by James Newton

Article on https://understandsolar.com ‘How Much Do Solar Panels Save Me Over Time’

Article Contribution from freelance writer Jackie Edwards.

Now working as a full-time freelance writer, Jackie Edwards is also a busy mum of two small children. In any free time she has (which isn’t much) she likes to volunteer and do charity work and take the family greyhound Bertie for long walks.


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Rethinking Retirement Car Ownership

I have seen the same planned retirement right of passage many times. People securing their magic carpet by following the Retirement Car Ownership tradition. Buying a new or late-model car before ditching the rat race.

Having all the time in the world for road trips means needing a reliable and new car to jump in. It should last forever without the commuting to work and is the smart retirement move to make.

Or is it?

Here’s Why I’m Rethinking Retirement Car Ownership

I fell for this same thinking. Not by buying a new car but we did get a year-old manufacture/dealer certified used car a year before I retired early. Paid cash and thought this is it, we are all set.

I really believed that with proper maintenance and mostly light duty highway driving that it would last a very long time.

Rethinking Retirement Car OwnershipThere was some method to my madness, I didn’t just blindly follow the herd with our thinking. I have a 1981 Toyota truck that I have been able to drive for well over 2 decades so this retirement logic seemed sound. I am a car-nut and consider my automotive hobby as important to my retirement. It’s part of what I retired to. I find a car I like and it’s till death do us part which has worked for me over my life’s decades.

But I am beginning to understand the NEW reality about retirement car ownership

I was right in one aspect of my retirement car ownership thinking. In these 7 years of my early retirement we have taken many road trip adventures in that retirement ride. We have plans for many more too. But there is a huge flaw in my and what I believe is the common retirement car ownership thinking.

These newer cars aren’t made to last long.

It has nothing to do with the engines. They are marvels of engineering compared to the old stuff and there is no questioning their higher fuel efficiency and their safety. In a collision my old truck is barely safer than a motorcycle.

Our retirement ride is now 10 years old and has 145,000 miles on it. It runs beautifully. All of the dutiful fluid changes have paid off. But that isn’t the problem with modern-day autos and yes, I do consider a 10-year-old car a modern-day car.

The retirement car ownership logic’s flaw is the tech.

All of the sensors, computers, electronic controls, and everything else that makes modern cars function becomes quickly obsolete and failure prone. That is what we are starting to experience. Some tech failures do more than annoy us with a Check Engine light to warn us to get something serviced. They can shut the car down.

The problem is when there is a tech failure it almost always comes without warning. No amount of regular car maintenance is going to keep someone from experiencing most automotive tech failures either. It will happen when it happens and it would certainly bite if it happened in the middle of nowhere hundreds of miles from anywhere. We see a lot of no cell service on our open road travels too.

Before all the tech lovers decide I am crazy just ask yourself how many people you know are rocking a 10-year-old laptop? How about even one that’s 6 or 7 years old? Modern cars are controlled by a computer of some sort.

Just do a web search on the Year, Make, and Model of car you are interested in followed by the word “problems” and see where most of the failures are.

My New Retirement Car Ownership Plan

I had set aside $20,000 to replace our magic carpet retirement ride at some point in our retirement.

But I now plan on using that money for another purpose. Instead of buying another vacationing ride I will just rent them. Problem solved. A new car for road trip vacations and keep my older cars for the other 90% of my life within 50 miles of home and within cell service.

I just had to start questioning my retirement car ownership thinking and ask, why pay for a newer car for the purpose of vacationing? A new car with more tech than ever. One that I know will have tech issues within 10 years regardless of my dutiful servicing and easy driving miles.

My justifying financial thinking went like this: We average 27 days of road trip related travel a year. The car rental rates for a full-size car on the Costco Travel site is just under $30 a day. That’s with an in-town pick-up/drop-off and with unlimited miles. If we travel as we have been then for $810 plus taxes we will be road-tripping in a new car.

My brain always insists on my doing a little Pros vs Cons analysis
Pros
  • We will always travel in a late-model car with the latest safety features.
  • The comfort of having that “Reliability” factor settled.
  • Lower Cost. I will have lower car insurance cost by keeping our older rides. They also have lower licensing fees and taxes.
  • That depreciation thing. New cars lose value fast. My cars are already at rock bottom.
  • The money I have set aside for travel car replacement could easily pay the rental car costs for many years.
Cons
  • I can’t be as spontaneous. We will have to always plan ahead to reserve a rental car.
  • There is the whole pick-up and drop-off hassles. But it just needs coordination with the bride or someone friendly.
  • There is the possible insurance hassles due to any damage to the rental car. Between my credit card car rental benefits and my personal $500 deductible auto insurance I should be covered. But it will be more work to get done than my personal car would take.
  • Not all full size cars are created equal. I could get an uncomfortable car for our long road trip.

Wrapping Up

I believe the Pros far out way the Cons. I think the swing away from the traditional retirement car ownership logic is all about the new tech and where things are headed. Aside from the above, it’s amazing how quickly technical advances are moving. From e-cars  to autonomous cars

I am convinced at some point combustible engines will be obsolete.

There is also the current jokes (I hope they are jokes) that soon steering wheels will be outlawed.

I am also fully aware that as I age the road trips will likely decrease. That is what I saw happen with our relatives over the years.

As our current old rides need more money than they are worth to repair we will just donate them. At some point I may be down to just my trusty old truck of 24 years and our bicycles.

Uber and Lyft drivers are now in our town and that too may be a new retirement car ownership shift to consider.

Obviously if I had a giant budget I could just buy a new car every 3 to 5 years and not have to worry about failing tech laden cars. But this early retiree doesn’t have a giant retirement budget to spend like that. Even if I did have that kind of budget I doubt I would do that. It would go against my frugal living values.

Do you see any flaws in my new retirement car ownership thinking? Have you already come to the same conclusion?


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Leisure Freak’s Three Year Anniversary

This month marks Leisure Freak’s Three Year Anniversary. It has been a wonderful ride, full of fun and discovery. I look back and have to laugh at how naive I was about creating and running an Early Retirement website/blog. I didn’t even know what blogs were when I started. Today Leisure Freak has 89 static pages and 161 posts (counting this one). Not bad for a leisure freak who set out to learn about how all of this interweb stuff works through doing it

Leisure Freak Goals-

Primarily I want to help others in their financial independence early retirement journey be successful. There are some real mind-effs that come with retirement and I try to cover them on Leisure Freak. From retirement fear and making the work to retirement transition. To looking beyond finances when it comes to paying yourself first and retiring well. I think that if anything else that is where this website shines.

Leisure Freak isn’t just information based on financial theory or long-held traditional retirement beliefs. It has basis in real life early retirement experiences.

My goal is to continue along those lines by including the often missed non-financial aspects of retirement.

Leisure Freak’s Three Year Anniversary Marks Some Recognition & Mentions

I have been honored lately with a couple of recognitions and noteworthy mentions. I don’t go out to promote my Leisure Freak Tommy persona or the Leisure Freak site because I am just too busy in my early retirement for that. I’m sure if I did, LeisureFreak.com would have a larger following. But this was never meant to be an all-encompassing endeavor. It is something I started so I could learn from it and have some fun at the same time. This year (2017) has brought the following:

Leisure Freak’s Three Year AnniversaryFeedspot selected/awarded Leisure Freak to be in their top 20 early retirement blogs.

Self Directed Retirement Plans – I was invited to answer some retirement based financial questions and be part of their 78 Retirement and Financial Planning Tips from 26 Financial Experts.

Rockstar Finance- Leisure Freak is part of their “Best Blogs” list. Rockstar blog directory: Category- Early Retirement

Freedom is Groovy, Make Wealth Not Debt- I was included in their Early Retirement Highs and Lows: Eight Top Bloggers Weigh In post. It was an interesting reflection and I enjoyed sending in my thoughts.

Thank you all. I appreciate it.

Plans for Leisure Freak’s 4th Year

My plans for this next year are fairly simple and more of a continuation of what I have been doing:

  • Try to at least write a couple of new posts each month.
  • Grow my followers.
  • Expand the Leisure Freak brand within the limits of my interests and fun equation.  

For me personally,

I WILL stay curious and continue researching everything finance so I can share anything new with my readers.

I WILL also continue visiting my favorite financial independence and early retirement (FIRE) sites/blogs. There is so much to learn and things are always changing.

Most importantly I WILL stay true to what I value most.
  • Financial Independence and freedom to live life on my terms.
  • Living a Passion-Drive Life. Always being open to paid opportunities of interests and passions.
  • Simple Living / Frugal Living by valuing what is truly important in life. I assure you it isn’t about stuff.

I guess that just about does it.

Thank You

Thanks to all of Leisure Freak’s readers and followers. I appreciate all of your page views and comments.

My early retirement and the Leisure Freak site has been an awesome adventure. I am happily looking forward to see what year 4 brings.


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8 of the Cheapest Places to Retire Abroad to Stretch Your Savings

We have all done it at one time or another. We look to find some of the Cheapest Places to Retire. For some it is a curiosity and a fantasy but for others a necessity. Necessary because sometimes things don’t work out how we planned. Especially when it comes to our retirement savings. After years of saving, coming up far short of our wishes means thinking about taking the adventurous retirement option.

 of the Cheapest Places to Retire AbroadThat being, looking for where in this beautiful world we can stretch the retirement savings we do have to go farther. Not only that but without sacrificing our living standards.

The countries that make this Cheapest Places to Retire List are the countries where $200K can fund up to 30 years of retirement.

An Affordable Retirement Is Good But Be Sure To Look At The Non-Financial Aspects Too

Obviously there are many more considerations other than money when it comes to moving in our retirement that should be explored.

Are you interested in a rural or urban lifestyle?

Do you want mass transportation options or being close to an airport, hospital, etc.?

If looking for a country with a lower cost retirement then understanding the lifestyle we want helps us narrow our search for the country and the targeted city, town, or village within it.

Then visit it first if you haven’t spent any or much time there. It takes more than a couple of weeks of vacationing to really understand whether it is right for you as a full-time home. Go and LIVE it before committing. Don’t look at it as a vacationing tourist. Get deep into the living part. Check out the Leisure Freak Retirement Moving Considerations page for more non-financial aspects of moving.

There Is The “Language” Thing

Do you already speak the local language? If yes, then you are way ahead.

Are you willing and able to learn it? Then start before making your move.

Are you hoping to find a place that has enough English speakers to get by? Then Target communities with a large ex-pat population where English is commonly known. Do make a plan to learn the language ASAP.

The Elephant in the Room

Choose A Place Where You Will Be Welcome

I don’t see much about this on affordable retirement abroad articles but I believe it is important to note. Immigration is a huge worldwide topic these days. Even when a country’s policy is welcoming to ex-pat retirees, that doesn’t mean every community within it will be. That is no different from here in the US. Test the waters when visiting your target country and community by mentioning your intentions. See the place through non-tourist eyes.

The reason I mention this: When we were in Oahu Hawaii last year there was a lot of talk about how immigrants with big money were causing already expensive housing and other living cost to soar sky-high. There were feelings and claims that it was pushing the locals out. We sensed some animosity.

Be aware that in some countries our meager US retirement savings may make us look like the wealthy invasion driving their costs higher.

It is something to be aware of even though for the most part your retirement income and adding to their economy will be welcome in most country’s communities.

For some countries, even ones with an accepting culture and people, new tensions may arise when any new US policies play out they see as negatively impacting their country. If you notice any animosity then decide if it will get better or worse as time goes on.

Be sure to find the right welcoming place and get to know your new neighbors.

Here They Are: 8 of the Cheapest Places to Retire Abroad

This list of 8 affordable countries for retirement comes courtesy of a storymap from Easy Life Cover.

These countries offer a low-cost and a full retirement lifestyle. They all have low health care, rent and utility costs.

There is income, age and possibly other requirements necessary to retire to another country. Take Belize as an example. They have a great retirement plan for people aged 45 and over with a minimum income of $2,000 per month. Social Security can cover most if not all retirement lifestyle costs for many couples.

The 8 countries on the cheapest places to retire list are in order from highest to lowest retirement living cost (cost includes rent).

Panama $30,648 ($2,554 per month)

Spain $27,396 ($2,283 per month)

Costa Rica $23,100 ($1,925 per month)

Thailand $20,880 ($1,740 per month)

Malaysia $18,684 ($1,557 per month)

Belize $18,000 ($1,500 per month)

Ecuador $17,808 ($1,484 per month)

Nicaragua $14,172 ($1,181 per month)

For more details and geographical reference please check-out the below storymap.


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Retiring Well: Looking Beyond Finances

Retirement brings freedom and options. With that comes many choices that retirees must make. Obviously having our finances in order is a key to retiring well but that alone is no guarantee. There are two questions I always ask myself as a guide for keeping me on my retirement well-being track. Two questions that I believe can help anyone avoid doing something that will mess with successfully retiring well.

Having enough money available to live the retirement lifestyle you want and can enjoy is primary to retiring well. There are many online retiring well financially geared articles and plenty here on this Leisure Freak site.

Of course there should always first be financial analysis. Deciding whether we can afford to do something or how our spending, portfolio strategy, budget, saving, etc. will impact our long-term retirement funding. After that is settled comes the two questions to make sure we truly retire well.

Retiring well means retiring without regret or unnecessary backtracking to repair a bad decision.

Believe me, retirement and its freedom brings a lot of options and decisions to make. Retiring well means living life on your terms and doing so purposely. Retiring well means retiring to something, not just from something. Nobody plans on retiring into a void. That isn’t retiring well. Neither is retiring and taking on bad projects, strangling obligations, putting up with difficult people, being unnecessarily idle, or accepting a unfulfilling retirement job.

Retiring WellRetirement is much more than our finances that support it. There is the living part of retirement that must be addressed so that we can retire well.

Retiring well must include our avoiding making any bad move that strays from what it is we really want in our retired life. We get to call our own shots and everyone makes mistakes. But I use these two questions to make sure I am truly on track to a no retirement regret decision.

Two Questions To Ask Yourself To Help Ensure Retiring Well

Question #1- If money was removed from my decision, would I still do this?

By answering this question we force ourselves to focus on the importance of the decision. Its importance as it relates to what we truly value in our retirement.

I definitely used this question in my decision to retire early the first time.

It was the end of 2009 during the recession. My portfolio was significantly down but the retirement calculator numbers still came up with favorable but tight results. When asking myself this question the answer was YES. A financial only mindset would have probably caused more retirement delay even though I was truly ready to move on to my freedom. Answering this question gave me the push to clear all the economic uncertainty. There will always be less than perfect financial conditions.

I have also used this question when presented with a paid opportunity.

I focus on skills and experiences of interest and passion when it comes to working in retirement. Sometimes the salary can have me momentarily stray from my planned path. In those cases the answer to this question is NO. But for one stepped down lower paying gig the answer came up as YES. It checked off all of my interest and passion boxes and I enjoyed every minute of it.

This question was also prominent in our retirement decision to not move to a less expensive and snow-less location. Although our financial analysis showed we could improve our finances by making the move. It also showed we could stay put without negative financial issues. But by answering this question we were able to focus on what we really valued. That is, being close to our children and grandchildren. So the answer was NO.

There have been times when our financial analysis showed that we best decide against something.

But by asking this question we gauge the importance to what we value in our retirement. In some cases we really did want to move forward and answered YES. We then made necessary budgetary and income adjustments to counter the financial negatives.

Question #2- If I knew I only had 10 years left to live, would I still do this?

This question is the ultimate ego tamer when it comes to work, activities, and relationships. It forces us to remember an undeniable truth that we are finite and puts our mortality into the equation. It has us prioritize what is most important to us.

When it comes to work opportunities it counters heavy financial justifications and our ego.

In the case of relationships it has the power to force us to focus on where we are and where we really want to be.

How we want to really handle a bad relationship, what to do about grudges we may have, or close the distance between friends and loved ones that we want in our lives.

It has us look differently at social activities that we may not feel like participating in.

It does so by adding, do I really want to miss this opportunity to be with those I care about? Answering this question can change our focus because there is no guaranty of tomorrow.

This question comes up for me with work opportunities.

They checked off all of my interests and passion boxes after passing the first question that removes money from the decision. But I have answered NO for this question because the commitment was too long. Other times the project looked and sounded perfect but I had no respect for the company or its leadership and policies. One in particular opportunity had very tight deadlines covering many months. It would have made taking time-off for family trips or vacations too difficult to fit in.

Sometimes I need this question to silence my ego when it pushes me to investigate or do things that are not aligned with my retirement values.

It allows me to stop wasting my time on things I do not value. There can be many reasons why I wouldn’t want to waste any of my finite time. I then answer NO to this question.

This question has me prioritize relationships that I truly value so I can strengthen them.

I also use the question in how I view and limit relationships with people I really don’t care for but still have because of business or other connections.

In Closing

Retiring well does need having our finances in order. But there is the living part of retirement that counts just as much. The freedom that retirement provides also brings many options and decisions to make. But decisions dictated by a singular financial mindset may cause a retirement of regrets.

I use the above two questions to enhance my retiring well decision process. I am sure there are many others that can be used to keep us on the path to enrich our retirement with what we truly value. For instance questions about our health which is also important to retiring well.

Hopefully these two questions has you thinking about questions that go beyond finances that you can use as guidance toward your retiring well.


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Turn Retirement Wishes Into Reality

Retirement is a celebrated event that usually comes with cards and signed banners full of coworker’s, friend’s, and loved one’s Retirement Wishes. Most are just different flavors of the same common wishes. Understandably many are written simply as participation comments. Taken from online lists of retirement wishes without much thought. However for some well-wishers their wish is truly heartfelt and personalized. Those are the best wishes. Even when they are only personalized versions of the common retirement wishes.

Turn Retirement Wishes Into RealityMy wife and I retired early but we stay in contact with our good friends from our past working lives. We recently attended a retirement party for my wife’s ex-manager. Reading through the many retirement wishes brought back memories of my retirement. I mentally checked off all the wishes that actually came to be and what it took to make them come true.

I also thought about what we as heartfelt well-wishers could do to help our newly retired friend’s retirement wishes become a reality.

Going From Retirement Wishes to Retirement Reality

May your retirement bring you prosperity, health, and happiness.

There were many retirement wishes along this same line of thought. It certainly would make a short but sweet toast to the retiree while holding drink glasses up high. It is a common but great wish and one I and any retiree would totally want to come true.

What it takes:

Prosperity- Enjoy the celebrating and jubilation of ditching the rat race. But remember there is more to retirement than Aloha shirts, tropical drinks, and travel. Make sure your finances and retirement budget match. Stay engaged with your retirement funding and spending. Prosperity isn’t limited to  finances. It is the whole well-being package that includes your health and happiness.

Health- More free time means more available time to be active. Take advantage of it. There is nothing better than improving your health. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money either. Bicycling and hiking/walking are great retiree activities. Find ways to stay active and exercise. Don’t forget your brain. Stay curious and always try to learn new things.

Stay on top of your health by striving to eat better and restrict or cut any unhealthy vices. Health also includes having a social life. Stay involved in your community, church and other organizations. Always keep an open eye towards opportunities to expand your social life.

Happiness- Happiness is the one thing we can choose to have. People who have miserable conditions can still be happy about what they do have in life. Taking control of our finances is important. But taking care of our health and having a vibrant social life full of friends and family is a happiness boosting insurance plan.

Congrats! Go enjoy yourself in retirement. Retirement isn’t the end of the journey but a new beginning. Now is the time to live the life you have always wanted.

This is one of the best retirement wishes and it comes with a side order of pep-talk. Beginning a new life living our dream is a worthy goal to achieve in retirement. A happy and successful retirement isn’t about retiring from something but retiring to something

It takes having a vision of what you see as your retirement adventure. What is the life you always wanted? Make sure you have the answer. Don’t make the mistake of retiring into a void containing only spare time with nothing planned.

What to do:

Create your personal retirement lifestyle project plan. Set a loose schedule of fun things you want to accomplish and the routines you want or need to complete. Those daily routine activities like chores, exercise, Kazoo lessons/practice, etc.

List your hobbies. The ones you have and the ones you want to explore. Make time for them. Include all of your passions like fishing, golf, woodworking, brewing craft beer, etc. Make a point of having many interests and hobbies. Never allow the word boredom to be part of your retirement.

Set your travel goals, family related activities, and your plans to grow your social life.

Free yourself from your work identity and re-event yourself. Retirement is the time for YOUR new beginning.

Most of all allow yourself time to transition into retirement. It may seem strange to think that retirement can mess with your mind but it will. Just going from retirement saver to retirement spender did a number on me for a while. There will be an adjustment period after the celebration cools down.

May you find that perfect retirement job doing what you love.

Obviously this retirement wish is only proper for a retiree who has said they are looking forward to a stepped-down retirement job, starting an encore career, or starting a business. It is a simple but specific retirement wish that certainly strays from the casual common and participation-only retirement wish comment.

In my case I made it known to everyone that I planned to retire early and often  where I wanted to pursue opportunities aligned with my passions and interests. Many new retirees plan to do some form of paid retirement work.

To make it happen:

First figure out what your perfect retirement opportunity is. It starts with understanding what it is you want. List the dream-job attributes that you want to find. Identify your interests and passions. Then match them to your payable skills.

Target your resume towards opportunities aligned with your retirement work goals.

This was one of my retirement wishes and I have had successful paid work adventures in retirement. It certainly has been a rewarding retirement reality for me.

For the Retirement Well-Wisher

Doing more than offering casual retirement wishes

Many retirement wishes noted that they stay in touch. If your written retirement wishes are truly heartfelt then do actively strive to stay in touch. Be a part of the retiree’s social circle. You never know if they are struggling to stay close with their ex-coworker pals or having trouble keeping or growing their social circle in retirement.

I know it took a great effort to keep my work-pals and grow my social circle beyond work friends after three decades in a career and the only life I knew. I was very happy to have great ex-coworker friends.

Retirees, myself included, feel that those still working are very busy and the last thing they needed was a recent retiree taking more of their precious time. Reach out occasionally even if it’s just a short and simple email.

If you can, write retirement wishes specific to the retiree. Think about what they have talked about looking forward to. If you don’t know then go ahead and use some of the common send-off retirement wishes but personalize it. Even just adding your contact info and an invitation to use it would be welcome to any new retiree. Especially if you are close and know that they struggle socially or have a limited social life outside of work.

It’s not just for the retiree’s benefit-

You will retire someday too. By staying connected you will have an experienced retirement pal to help you with your transition into your retirement freedom. If retirement looks like a huge challenge for you to achieve, then they will be a good source of information and encouragement to help you figure out how get there. I know that my retired friends were a huge inspiration for me on my journey to early retirement.

In Closing

For our newly retired friend whose party inspired my retirement wishes reflection and this post there is an active social connection in place since my wife’s retirement. Our retirement wish was centered around “welcome to the club” and included our looking forward to expanding our social interactions.

Everyone loves good heartfelt retirement wishes and wants them to come true. I have only covered a few of the common ones I received and like I saw at the retirement party. But they do cover some of the best retirement wishes anyone would love to come true.

Retiree- With a little planning and effort, retirement wishes can all become a retirement reality. Go ahead and wing-it though your celebration phase. But afterward choose to actively pursue the best of your retirement wishes and enjoy your hard-won freedom.

Retirement well-wisher- If you are close to the retiree then go beyond the one-size-fits-all common list of retirement wishes and make it personal. Mention anything that you know that they are looking forward to doing in their retirement. If you are close to the retiree then make sure to stay connected. Good friends can be hard to come by.

The reality is that good friendships benefits all that are involved.


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I Fought My Way Out of Debt Misery

How I Repaid Credit Card Debt Equal to 44% of My Yearly Salary.

When I talk to people about early retirement I hear from many about the same obstacle. They are unable to save more for retirement because of their debt. I totally get it. I spent many years in debt misery myself where most if not all my paycheck went out to settle monthly bills. Of which the biggest part was to pay monthly debt payments. Mortgage, 2nd mortgage, and the worst of all were credit cards.

People think that early retirement is only for the rich and lucky. That certainly helps but it’s also for the money-wise. That wisdom includes saving and investing. But more importantly it includes figuring out how to pay off debt and living a debt free life going forward.

Paying off debt and living debt free is the first step towards financial independence. It is certainly the first taste we get of it. Debt liberation brought me a feeling of freedom second only to the day I ditched the corporate rat race with my first early retirement.

If anything, my story shows that being in debt misery doesn’t have to mean a lifetime of employment servitude. Setting into motion a plan to become debt free results in a win-win outcome and the sooner we start the better.

How I Ended Up in Debt Misery

Credit Card Debt = 44% of My Yearly Salary

My story isn’t too different from many people who start out to make it on their own. My debt misery was caused by Bandits.

Yep, little bandits. Those tiny blessings that come and take all of our love, time, and money to give them the life we want them to have. We gladly gave to 3 of them. But the cost of childcare turned us into a single income family beginning with child number 2. Besides the loss of my wife’s wages, my full-time income did not keep up with inflation. Even after adding a part-time job, especially once our 3rd little surprise came.

Easy Credit to Solve Everyone’s Problems

I admit I rationalized our poor debt decision. During this time all interest paid including credit card interest was tax-deductible. The credit industry makes using them for any financial solution easy. We were getting credit card offers with large balance limits in the mail daily.

We didn’t go on a spending spree and remained as frugal as we could. But life happens and things change.

We fell for the mental trap of “tax deductible” as a rationalization that debt is always OK. The tax code was changed in 1986 to what it is today removing that credit card debt perk. It happened a year after our third child’s birth which was 3 years into our poorly rationalized debt plan.

Our debt was the result of charging and using the handy checks the credit card company supplied to cover expenses above my income.

Our Plan to Repay Our Crushing Credit Card Debt

Increase Income – Our plan was simple. Use debt to help support us during our “Mom at home with the kids time” as necessary. But once our first and second child began school my wife would return to part-time work. Then when our 3rd child entered school my wife would return to full-time work. All of her income would then be devoted to paying off debt.

Our increasing income plan was a mistaken delayed strategy. There was a constantly growing debt misery to live with during the 6 years before that strategy could start.

Our costs increased beyond what my 2 jobs could cover. I was leaving the house at 7 AM and returning home at 10 PM. I was bringing in less than our bills. That’s even when only paying minimum credit card payments.

I was at times just moving credit card amounts from one card to another. I did this using their free credit transfer checks. Although we were considered current on payments our credit card debt grew. When financially desperate we can do financially dumb things.

Getting Serious About Debt Repayment

I Fought My Way Out of Debt MiseryI was miserable seeing every penny I earned go out and watching credit card balances growing beyond amounts I never thought possible.

I decided that I needed to get fighting mad and seriously go after a repayment strategy to climb out of our debt misery hole.

I was juggling 5 credit cards. My income had slowly increased over the past 5 years to where I could just make minimum credit card payments without adding to the debt.

We swore off using any additional credit to carry us through this phase of our young family’s life except for an extreme emergency.

Prioritizing Credit Cards-

First I identified the lowest to highest interest charging credit cards. I balanced transferred as much as I could from the highest interest card balances to the lowest interest cards.

We created a strict budget that would make sure we could cover at least the minimum payments. When my paychecks came up short because of something unexpected we either sold something or I did side-jobs for cash. I hauled trash, delivered firewood; I did whatever I could do to avoid using credit cards.

When our middle blessing started school my bride got a part-time job. We stayed on the strict budget. By this time the credit card balances were equal to 44% of my yearly salary. Ouch!

Much more psychologically daunting was our credit card balance was as much as 50% of our first mortgage. It was an embarrassing secret. Repaying this debt was my only thought so that nobody else had to know about my financial mistakes.

The Delayed Repayment Phase Begins

As we had always planned, we devoted all of my wife’s income minus part-time childcare costs to credit card repayment. We targeted our highest interest rate card first for the extra payments. Because we shifted balances to the lower interest rate cards the high interest rate cards also had the lowest balances.

All of my increased income from raises also went toward the highest interest card. We worked our way through the credit cards one by one.

Two years later our youngest entered school and my bride was able to work full-time where she worked. We were then able to really ramp-up our debt repayment.

Once I finally got a promotion and a decent raise our income to credit ratio was acceptable to refinance our 2nd mortgage at our Credit Union. That refinance included enough to cover the last of the credit card payoff.  This greatly reduced the interest rate we had to pay. We then focused our debt repayment plan to the one 2nd mortgage loan.

It took 6 years to dig our debt misery hole and 3 years of concentrated effort to win the fight out of it.

We have never carried a credit card balance since then. We now win financially with our credit card use.

Debt Repayment Strategy

I didn’t know it then but my repayment plan is a hybrid Avalanche + Snowball Method. There are other strategies. Until my wife started working to add some income I was truly in debt hell.

My debt misery occurred 1983 to 1990, back in ancient times. No internet or cell phones, high inflation, and limited employment opportunities. Yes, we did have an easily accessible library but I didn’t think to search there for help on this subject. I should have. Any debt repayment strategy should begin by researching solutions and ideas.

I winged-it and made many mistakes. Fortunately we have much more easily found information available to help us escape debt misery.

For a great “How To” for getting out of debt I recommend checking out the Power Over Life website’s Create a Debt Destruction Plan. It lays out the different debt repayment strategies and gives the information necessary to get anyone started on their debt liberation journey.

Final Words

There are many reasons that can cause us to enter into a life of debt misery. At some point debt will eat your finances and get in the way of living a free life. It certainly makes retirement harder to achieve.

The best thing that came out of my debt misery experience is I learned that we can take control of our own finances. We can learn from and reverse mistakes. The lessons learned will help us to reach our Financial Independence – Retire Early goals.

As I mentioned above, my debt repayment brought a feeling of liberation and independence second only to my first early retirement.

When you experience the freedom from debt misery then use that liberating feeling to carry you through financial independence and an earlier retirement. FIRE! There is nothing better.


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Do You Have a Forgotten or Lost Pension From Your Past?

How to Find an Old Pension

A forgotten or lost pension is a reality for many people. Unclaimed pensions total in the hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s no secret. Company provided retirement pensions have been in a steep decline over many years. But if you started working decades ago there is a chance a company you worked for had a pension benefit. Pensions used to be offered by many companies from retail stores to building/construction companies. My uncle earned a small pension from a little shipping pallet manufacturing company. A job that he worked as a retirement job.

Forgotten or Lost Pension When we are young the thought of retirement is far off. We certainly had other concerns and priorities. When we are Retirement-Unaware it’s easy to not pay attention to long-term company retirement benefits. It’s worth your while doing a little research. Especially if you have no memory of whether your long ago employer offered a pension benefit. Even a small amount of recovered long forgotten or lost pension is a beneficial retirement find.

Finding a Forgotten or Lost Pension

I hadn’t given this subject much thought. That is until a Leisure Freak site reader left a comment on the Pension De-Risking post. He had stumbled upon a forgotten pension when he looked into buying and annuity. That made me think about looking into one of my own long ago employers. I was curious to see if I had forgotten retirement money waiting to be found.

In my early working years I had two different past addresses and in a different state than where I live now. It would make sense that it might be difficult to find me if my previous employer tried to reach me.

Believe it or not, the company, PBGC, or the insurance company holding your long-lost annuity or pension wants to hear from you. They have a legal obligation to hold your money as an unclaimed pension and attempt to find you within the legal guidelines.

What to Do:

Prior Employer is Still in Business-

If you are fortunate your ex-employer is still in business which will make your search easier. You can do an online search to see if they offer retirement/pension benefits. However what they offer employees today doesn’t mean it will match what was offered when you worked there many years ago. You must be specific in your search for ancient benefits which may be difficult to find.

Your retirement treasure hunt is as simple as contacting it’s human resources (HR) department. Then ask about their retirement pension benefits and vesting periods (qualifying length of employment) during the timeframe you worked there. If you determine that you may have qualified for the benefit then ask for the plan administrator. Hopefully then you will be given a phone number or an email address to contact them and finish your long forgotten or lost pension search.

Prior Employer is No Longer in Business-

The forgotten or lost pension treasure hunt gets a little more complicated if your earlier life’s employer is no longer in business. It could have closed, went bankrupt, or was acquired by another company. Find out what you can from online searches. News of your employer’s demise or its acquisition/merger may give clues to your next steps.

If an online search for your old employment company fails, then reach out to any former co-workers that stayed after you left. If they are outside your circle of friends after all these years, then use LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. to find them. Simply ask what they remember and whether your old company offered retirement benefits and/or a pension. If they are getting a pension earned from your shared old company then ask them where their payments are coming from.

Other possible contacts for chasing down an old employer:
  • Contacting the chamber of commerce of the city/town your old company was located.
  • If any of the employees were union represented, then contact the union. They may know what happened.

If you find that your old employer was acquired by another company, then call that new company’s HR group. The new company is responsible for the other company’s pension benefits.

However, if you find that your old company is gone for good then all is not lost.

Search the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) Website

The PBGC is a government agency which insures and guarantees private sector pensions. It administers payments for underfunded and terminated pension plans. On its main page there is an option under Popular Tasks”Looking for an Unclaimed Pension.

The Unclaimed Pension page has a search box where you can enter your last name, company name, or state. If your old company pension plan was underfunded or terminated then the PBGC takes over. If you find your name in their Unclaimed Pension search then follow their instructions to get your information to them.

You will have to prove you are who they have listed. Once confirmed you may receive pension payments from the PBGC, a private insurance company annuity, or money set aside by your old employer.

The PBGC also offers a very detailed PDF document called Finding a Lost Pension. Note: If the link I provided doesn’t open the page for display then Search “finding a lost pension” with your favorite search engine and select the pdf pbgc.gov link provided in the search results.

The PBGC knows many things but it only has knowledge of terminated pension plans. It also doesn’t cover Government pensions.

The Social Security Administration May Know About Our Forgotten or Lost Pension

When we leave a business where we have earned a pension benefit, the company is required to report any pension benefit to the SSA. Once we apply for our Social Security or Medicare the SSA is required to tell us about any pensions that were reported to them.

The SSA notification of a reported pension benefit doesn’t necessarily mean there is treasure due. For instance, it may have been paid out in the past and the SSA wouldn’t necessarily know about that. However the SSA notification will give enough information to help us find our forgotten or lost pension if we know we didn’t receive an earlier payoff.

The Social Security Administration has what we were paid and by whom for each of our working years. We may be able to get the employer identification number from the SSA earnings records to help us track down our pension.

File Form SSA-7050 for a copy of your earnings record. “Request for Social Security Earnings Information.” The form is available at www.socialsecurity.gov/online/ssa-7050.pdf, or call 1-800-772-1213. There may be fees associated for the request.

Other Resources to Find a Forgotten or Lost Pension

According to the PBGC Finding a Lost Pension PDF document the following agencies along with the PBGC mentioned above may be of help.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Within the Department, the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) and EBSA’s regional and district offices provide assistance to individuals who are having difficulty with their pensions.

The Pension Rights Center (PRC) – The Pension Rights Center maintains an online clearinghouse called Pension Help America (pensionhelp.org). The Pension Help site walks you through a step-by-step process for getting information about your retirement benefits, including referrals to legal professionals. Or, you can e-mail PRC through their website at www.pensionrights.org/contact.

In Closing

Finding a forgotten or lost pension is like a retirement treasure hunt for anyone who lost track of their benefits.

I my case I found that the company I worked for decades ago had a retirement plan when I worked there but only for management. That must be why I really couldn’t remember anything about a pension benefit. I was not management.

I did find in the PBGC Unclaimed Pension search using my last name that a distant cousin was listed there. It showed his name along with the company he worked for. A company that is bankrupt and is no longer in business. I am in the process of contacting him to let him know.

I may not have found a forgotten pension for myself but at least some good will come from my treasure hunt.


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