Don’t lose your marbles

Active Ageing logo v3Active ageing defies the phrase “counting your years”, and instead repositions everyday with activity that becomes fun and enjoyable.

Senior Citizens often find themselves with too little to do after retiring or once their children grow up and move away. While many aspects of age-related decline are inevitable, scientific evidence shows that staying involved with physical, mental and social activities can help seniors maintain a healthy mind, body and spirit.

Mental Function

Senior Citizens who remain physically active significantly reduce their risk of cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia. Physical activities include walking, yoga, gardening, housework; anything that keeps a person moving on a regular basis.

Longevity

Regular physical activity reduces incidence of premature death due to chronic diseases such as heart attack, stroke and diabetes. It also helps people maintain bone mass density, which can help prevent osteoporosis. Senior Citizens who exercise regularly are also more agile and mobile significantly improving their quality of life.

Emotional Well-being

Social activities can help keep Senior Citizens engaged and close to other people. Taking part in group activities and social events helps elderly people maintain a sense of meaning and purpose in life.

Here is a list of activities, hobbies that senior citizens can take up and enjoy themselves

  •     Form walking clubs groups, learn Yoga, crack puzzles work on word games, and play cards, chess, caroms anything that interests you.
  •     Learn to stitch or start again
  •     Build a garden
  •     Indulge your grandchildren or learn the art of long distance grand parenting
  •     Collect antiques, collect newspaper articles.
  •     Grow fishes build an aquarium
  •     Join a Senior Centre or a  club,
  •     Buy a camera, shoot everything in sight.
  •     Go to a library, read, write, blog paint
  •     Organize city history tours, temple walks.
  •     Organise a retro movie club.
  •     Join support Groups, teach slum children, counsel people.
  •     Learn new recipes, share yours with others, and write recipe books.

To share ideas send email to  involve@oldisgoldstore.com

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Staying informed

eco-timesA behavioral pattern observed when it comes to senior citizens’ personal finance and investment habits is as follows:

  1. When they make investment decisions on their own, they tend to be very conservative and safety conscious. Left to themselves, they choose risk-averse, stable products which place safety above profits.
  2. However, when they are approached by product sales people from financial services with product pitches, they tend to take decisions that are completely opposite from the above – going in for the promise of high returns without taking caution or doing due diligence. Sales people often find it easiest to sell bad and ill-suited products to senior citizens just for this reason.

Why this dichotomy? How does a person who generally has a conservative outlook to finances easily fall prey to such sales talk?

Honestly, I do not know the answer to these questions, and a study about this behavior is not the objective of this article. Rather, I think we need to be aware of this pattern and recognize if we or a friend or a family member fit into it.

More importantly, we need to identify how to avoid this pattern of behavior. And for that, I believe the answer lies in staying informed.

When we are working in an office, we get a chance to interact with different people during the course of a day. It provides us with an opportunity to get to know both about genuine new opportunities as well keep away from scams and bad products.

After retirement, such opportunities are scarce, and this is one of the main reasons, I believe, that senior citizens make incorrect financial decisions.

Hence, it is especially important for our retired elders to make reading about personal finance and economics a regular part of their news intake.

This can be done quite easily actually. There are quite a few publications that recognize this and provide useful articles regularly.

For example, the Hindu Business Line had a great article by B Venkatesh a couple of weeks ago about how to save and invest in the post retirement period of one’s life:

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/features/investment-world/personal-finance/how-to-adjust-retirement-portfolio-for-inflation/article4178597.ece

I also noted another article by Dhirendra Kumar on Value Research Online a few weeks back along similar lines:

http://www.valueresearchonline.com/story/h2_storyView.asp?str=21516

Specifically, I would recommend two weekly publications that every senior citizen should at least skim through regularly:

  1. The Hindu might be staple reading for local and national politics coverage, but when it comes to personal finance, the Hindu Business Line’s Sunday edition’s Investment world takes the cake. This 3-4 page spread does admirably well in general, but more so while addressing the needs of post-retirement finances.
  2. The Economic Times might be heavy reading on a daily basis, but their Monday edition comes with a personal finance tabloid supplement that is very good and worthy of perusal.

Just by getting these two issues – Sunday issue of the Business Line and the Monday issue of ET – will keep one well informed about the happenings in the personal finance – good and bad.

Happy reading!

This question has been answered by Srikanth Meenakshi of our financial advisory team.  Write to advice@oldisgoldstore.com if you would like us to answer your question.

Thinking of returning to India – A house should be your first priority

Home-Tax-BenefitThere comes a day in the lives of mid-40 year old NRIs when they realizes that their parents are getting old and can no longer fend for themselves.  To many this comes as a rude shock when during one of their trips to India, they see that their parents have significantly aged since their last visit. At this time, two primary options come to mind.

Option 1:  Take the parents back with them.  In many cases, when it is a single parent, this is a viable option, especially when the other parent has just passed on.  This helps the surviving parent to be with close family during a time of grief and the change in scene may also in some ways ease the pain.  The flip side is of course is that the parent may feel uprooted from familiar surroundings and friends and rebuilding a life half way around the world can be quite challenging. Additionally issues with insurance and medical coverage etc will need to be worked out.

Option 2:  The NRIs return to India to stay with the parents.  This would mean that the NRIs will have to give up the life they have build in the foreign country and restart from scratch in India. Again a lot of challenges involved.  Of these one big challenge is getting a house in India.

In earlier times, if you were to sell a house in the US or gulf and come back to India, you would have enough money to buy a same sized house here with lots of money to spare.  Those days are long gone.  Now a house in an Indian city costs much more than a house in most other parts of the world!  However, with some foresight and planning, a decent house or apartment could become a reality for you.

a.  Start looking for a house now.  Everyday, the real estate prices are going up, so the sooner you begin the better.
b.  Look for options outside the city with proximity to industrial zones and hospitals. Options outside the city limits are often much cheaper than those inside the city, especially when you book your apartment at the beginning of the project (when rates are at the best).
c.  Check out bank loan options.  Every bank in India provides NRIs with attractive home loan options.
d.  Many gated communities are coming up with schools and hospitals within the complex.  These could be ideal for your children and your ageing parents.

If your parents are not too old yet and you have not reached the mid-40s yet, now would be a good time to buy the house. That way, a good home will be available when you decide to come back to India.

Of passwords and ATM PINs

passwordWith more of our lives getting digital every day, one of the biggest challenges facing us is keeping track of all the passwords(email, bank account, Facebook, …) and TPINs (Telephone Personal Identification Number) and IPINs (Internet PIN) and ATM PINs that have become an intrinsic part of our lives. Writing down these passwords and PINs in a central place is a big “NO-NO” and jotting your PIN on the back of your ATM card is as good as throwing your money away!

If this is a tough challenge even for youngsters, it is problem of a much higher magnitude for senior citizens with fading memories.  However, there are some simple tricks that you can use to make up strong passwords that are easy to remember for you but tough for others to crack.  Here is one simple trick:

There are many things in our lives that are etched deeply into our long-term memory which will never fade away. Our first telephone number, the address of the house we were born in, our college ID, lines from our favorite songs, name of our first girl friend/boy friend, our first love, phrases that affected us, proverbs that hold special meaning for us, titles of books that changed the way we look at life, names of people who helped us along, birthdays of our first born, or the first grandchild, our star sign – the list of things we can never forget is a mile long.  Most of these words, phrases and numbers are very difficult to guess for others, especially if some of them are in your native language (other than English).  Choose a few of these wisely and use them for your various password needs.

Just remember to avoid some of the easily guess-able ones such as your own name, your mother’s maiden name (which you have probably been asked in many places), your birthday, or the last line of your National Anthem. Especially that last bit, as if you ever have to divulge your password to your wife, she may what to know who that “Jaya” is!!!

One piece of advice:  There may come a time when you may have to reveal your password to someone in the family, so do not keep anything nasty, embarrassing or too revealing as your password.

Don’t let passwords and PINs scare you away from using ATM cards and computers.

If you can think of other simple ways of producing strong passwords, do share those ideas through the comments section.  .

Never too late for anything…

s-NOLA-OCHS-PHOTO-largeMs. Nola Ochs at the age of 98 became the oldest person to receive a masters degree. Hailing from Kansas, USA, she earned a general studies degree with an emphasis in history, from Fort Hays University, graduating alongside her granddaughter, Alexandra Ochs, who was 21 years old at the time in 2010.

She also holds the record for being the oldest (at the age of 95) to get a Bachelors degree which she earned in 2007.

Most of our elderly parents live in denial

protecting elderlyMost of our parents, even though they have become older and have lost some of their balance, still believe that they are completely capable of living unaided.  Genuine inability to notice the gradual deterioration of faculties along with not wanting to “burden” their children with their difficulties plus pride leads to this deadly state of denial.  And sometimes as children, we are also lulled into a false sense of belief that all is well, especially when we are living away from them – until there is some unfortunate accident that leads us to re-look at the situation with new eyes.

A few incidents involving our customers can help illustrate this problem as well as enable you to identify such situations and take necessary measures to ensure that your parents lead a safe and secure life.

I will narrate below one such incident involving one of my favorite customers.  An elderly lady, she walked into our showroom one bright sunny day to take a look at what we had on offer.  “Saw your advertisement and was curious to know what you have for us oldies…”, she said with an impish grin.  I showed her the different products we had and she clucked at each of them as though to say, “maybe for other older people… I don’t need these now”.  Finally we came to the walking sticks section and she picked up one of them, checked the price, paused a bit, chuckled and said, “I might be needing this one of these days”.  She then put the stick down and added “just not yet” and left the shop.

She came again a couple of days later saying she was just passing by and wanted to drop in and say hello.  I noticed a slight stutter in her steps and her hand against the wall, but pretended that I hadn’t noticed anything.  Her eyes wandered around the shop and I caught her glancing at the walking sticks.  “Not for another six months at least”, she half muttered to herself. She then shook her head, made small talk with me and went away.

A week later she was back.  This time she said “I keep coming to your shop and going away empty handed.  The least I can do by way of encouragement is to buy something. This time I am determined to buy something from your shop just to show you that I appreciate what you are doing and for all the times you have patiently listened to my chatter”.  Then she looked around and said, “what can I get for Rs. 500?” and then she looked at one of the walking sticks she had spied during her previous visits.  She grabbed at one and pretended to be surprised that it was priced exactly at Rs. 500.  “Humph, might as well buy this then, even though God know I don’t need it now.  I only rarely feel dizzy when walking anyway” she said and bought the stick.  She unwrapped it then and there and declared, “Now that I have bought it, I may as well use it whether I need it or not”!  Now, every time she visits us, she has her trusted walking stick firmly in her hand.

It took this tough lady 3 visits to convince herself to buy a walking stick, something she needed quite desperately.  Most of our customers are like that when they come by themselves – reluctant to accept that they are no longer as sprightly as before.  Some times, one of their children or a younger relative accompanies them and in that case there is usually a lot of argument before the young person says “I will buy this now.  You can use it when you want”.  Invariable, whatever they buy gets used from that day forwards.

When you are living away from your parents, it is usually not possible to find out exactly how they are getting on.  You end up going by their word, which is not always as objective as we would like it to be.  So remember, you need to be a lot more proactive when it comes to ensuring that your parents have all the protection and safe guards they need to lead an accident-free and safe live.

Free wheelchair service during kutcheri season

FreeWheelchairservicebanner1December is the season of music and dance in Chennai and the music season has started in full earnest.  Every year, a large percentage of rasikas are older people and this year is no exception.  In order not to miss the performances of their favourite artists,  many of them even surmount their mobility issues to reach the Sabhas.

A quick glance at the facilities at the Sabhas quickly shows that most auditoriums are devoid of even the basis infrastructure necessary for the comfort of senior citizens. The aisles are narrow, the steps steep and the toilets – the less we say, the better.

In order to create an awareness about the special needs of senior citizens, Old is Gold Store is providing free wheelchair service at selected Sabhas during this music season. While this not only provides an immediate solution to one of the problems, it also highlights the poor support that public places in India provide for the senior citizens and the disabled.

We reached out to all the major Sabhas and two of them responded immediately and have welcomed us to provide this facility at their Sabha hall.  One of them is Chennai Cultural where this facility started yesterday and the other is Hamsadhwani where the facility will be available from the 16th of December.

Old is Gold Store is highly appreciative of these two Sabhas for being so sensitive to the needs of the patrons and for being so proactive and forth-coming.  We hope that soon more Sabhas join this elite group.

 

Elegant footwear for diabetics

buynow

Old is Gold Store is now dealing with a range of elegant footwear for people with diabetes or those suffering from arthritis, spurs, heel pain, flat feet, foot ulcers, etc.  Manufactured by a company called Dyna, these sandals are elegant, soft, comfortable and easy to slip on and slip off.

They look good and keep your feet protected from getting hurt.  Men sizes range from 6 – 13 and ladies sizes from 2 – 9.  To check out the footwear, click here.

Heel Pain Footwear
Designed with silicone padding at the heel to absorb shock and sheer forces
Specially designed foot bed redistributes plantar pressure

Flat Feet Footwear
Biomechanically designed
Total contact Insole with medial arch support which takes the shape of the foot
Improves the natural alignment and function of the foot and ankle
Moulded insole with thermoplastic reinforcement for rigidity and support
Prevents excess pronation

Arthritic Footwear
Made of total contact MCR insole with built in soft arch support
Increases the surface area of contact and redistributes plantar pressure
Reduce the excess pressure at the leggy prominences
Improves the natural alignment and function of foot and ankle

Toilet raiser – Easy way to spare your knees

Aside

TR13FR_finalThe Western Closet can be of different heights. For many senior citizens, sitting down and getting up from a low toilet seat can be difficult. Instead of replacing the toilet bowl, which can be expensive and time consuming, you can use this toilet raiser to raise the height of the toilet bowl ensuring ease of use.

This toilet raiser adds 8 cms or 13 cms to your toilet seat, is made of durable plastic, and comes with metal clamps that keep it firmly in place. Click here to buy.

Question related to Company FDs

Q: Can you throw some light on the pros and cons of investing in company FDs ?  Also please let me know what you think about the following companies in terms of ratings and other service attributes
1. Shriram Transport Finance
2. Deewan Housing
3. JP Associates

Ans:  Thanks for the question. Before we answer it, a quick primer on the subject matter of your query – company fixed deposits – for the uninitiated.

companyfdMost people are very familiar with fixed deposit products offered by banks – both private and public. These FDs are secured by RBI up to Rs 1 lakh per deposit per bank branch, which means that to a certain extent the investor money is protected in such cases.

Company fixed deposits, on the other hand, are offered by Non-banking finance companies or by public limited companies, and not by banks. These too offer a fixed rate of return depending on the tenure of the deposit. However, they are not secured by RBI or any other regulatory body. Due to this inherent risk in the product, such deposits are offered at a higher rate of return compared to bank FDs – typically 1-3% higher.

As an investor, we need to be prudent and choosy in picking the company deposits that we invest in – one cannot sacrifice security in search for higher interests nor can we ignore better returns by being completely risk averse.

And that brings us to the question – as the questioner correctly points out, we need to look at the ratings of a company and other service attributes before choosing where to invest.

When it comes to ratings, we should note one important thing – there are different kinds of companies offering deposits and not all of them are rated. There are NBFCs, government entities, and manufacturing companies (publicly listed companies) offering deposits. Of these, ratings firms such as CARE and CRISIL provide ratings only for NBFCs and government entities. Publicly listed manufacturing companies’ deposit products are not rated.

One can see the ratings of these companies and more at MoneyControl’s Company FD page:

http://www.moneycontrol.com/fixed-income/company-deposits/

As you can see, Shriram Transport Finance and Deewan Housing (DHFL) are rated. JP Associates (manufacturing conglomerate) is not. Shriram has a rating of CRISIL FAA+ and ICRA MAA+, while DHFL’s rating is CRISIL AA+ and Brickworks FAAA.

(Explanation of ratings here – http://www.moneycontrol.com/news/fixed-income/credit-ratings-ratingsdebt-instruments_653221.html)

Regarding service quality:

At FundsIndia.com, we offer all three of these deposit products although JP Associates has been a rather recent entry into the fold. So, we have a bit of experience to comment on the service quality offered by these firms.

In our experience, Shriram’s service has an excellent track record. We have rarely, if ever, received customer complaints in this regard, and even when we did, we have been able to sort out the issue with their staff easily.

We do not have as much of a track record with DHFL or JP to comment confidently.

My advice would be to go with a good service provider such as Shriram even if their interest rates are marginally lower than the other two.

This question has been answered by Srikanth Meenakshi of our financial advisory team.  Write to advice@oldisgoldstore.com if you would like us to answer your question.