This March I again went on my annual pilgrimage to Florida for spring training baseball. It was my tenth such trip and in many ways very similar to all the others, but also a bit different.
As usual, I saw a lot of games, 11 in just 10 days! I drove up and down the state from Lakeland to Fort Myers to Clearwater to Kissimmee to Vero Beach to Port St. Lucie to Jupiter to Viera to Clearwater (again, because it’s the home of my favorite team, before I moved to LA, the Phillies!) and on to Lake Buena Vista and Tampa! Quite a whirlwind journey!
Now that I’m back and I have had time to reflect, I can see that the baseball games were and have always been just an “excuse” for the trip. It’s everything else, the whole experience surrounding the games, that I love and cherish. There’s lots of adventure, like…
Betting on the Weather
There is never a guarantee with weather, particularly in stormy central Florida, and given baseball is an outdoor sport I’m always betting and hoping that the game I’ve gone so out of the way to take in won’t be rained out!
I really got lucky this year, even when it did rain. Only one game was affected by bad weather, the Astros vs. the Braves, when they finally called it off after the fifth inning. I was a bit bummed, and as I was sitting in the rain, getting soaked with a bunch of other hardcore baseball fans (who still held onto hope the game might resume), I called out to the Astros’ ball boy, “Hey, buddy, give me a ball. I’ve been sitting in this rain for 40 minutes!” To my surprise he then tossed me a ball, a rare game-used one for my collection!
Besides the weather there’s also the challenge of…
Scoring a Good Ticket
(For Face Price or Less!)
Assuming the weather has cooperated prior to the game, there’s the next little matter of actually getting into the stadium, especially when many fans show up at very small parks. I never buy my tickets in advance because that would take away too much of the fun!
Sometimes, I’m lucky enough to get a good seat right from the box office. But, more often, I’ve got to find and negotiate with “scalpers” hanging around the stadium or parking lot. I love it when I refuse the scalper’s asked for price, and then as I walk away the scalper chases after me with another offer for less than face value (which happened in Kissimmee just minutes before game time!)
And sometimes I’m fortunate to run into other fans who just happen to have a few extra tickets. At Jupiter, I went to see the St. Louis Cardinals, who have a huge and loyal fan base that turned out in big numbers. They looked like a sea of red. My Dad (more on him later) and I were waiting in a long line hoping for “standing room” tickets, when I told Dad to stay in line and I decided to wade back through the crowd. I spotted a lady holding tickets and asked her if she had 2 available. She answered “yes”. When I then asked “what do you want for them?”, much to my delight she said “just face, these are two extra ones near where my husband and I are sitting.” They wound up being great tickets, right over the 3rd base dugout. My Dad was so proud of me (and we both really enjoyed the game so up close)!
Once I’ve gotten a ticket and entered the park, my next challenge is…
Fighting for Autographs
The close proximity to the field and the players is one of the greatest aspects of spring training baseball. You hardly ever get to interact with the players and coaches like this at a huge major league stadium.
One of my spring training priorities is always to come back with autographed balls. Unfortunately, a lot of other fans have the same goal. This year, it seemed that the “happy hunting grounds” around the dugout and along the foul lines were overcrowded with fans of all ages trying to get the players’ attention and have them sign a ball.
It’s not easy. You have to get to the park early and secure a good position. You have to get a player to acknowledge you, then throw him a ball and pen from quite a distance. There’s a protocol. You have to wait for your ball to be called for. If the player doesn’t look at you, you don’t throw it. And sometimes the players are intimidated by the crowds demanding signatures, or just don’t feel like signing that day. I saw an example why. Jimmy Rollins of the Phillies had been nice enough to sign about 15 to 20 balls for kids, when he suddenly had 2 balls come at him at once from an older gentleman. One ball hit Rollins in the shoulder and he was so upset, he didn’t sign any more. But that didn’t discourage me.
Although I didn’t get his or many other current players’ autographs – – far fewer than usual – – I was lucky enough to get signatures from some retired Phillies legends. Larry Bowa, a member of the 1980 World Series Champions (I had seen the series winning game at Philly’s old “Vet” Stadium). Mickey Morandini of the 1993 National League Champions. Cole Hamels, MVP of the World Series in 2008. Quality made up for lack of quantity.
This Kavesh, Minor & Otis Newsletter Really Works!
Another one of my favorite experiences of spring training is getting to visit with my parents, who live in Vero Beach.
Last year, much to my disappointment, Dad didn’t make it to a game with me. He was involved with running some activities at his retirement community. After my trip last year, I wrote an article in this newsletter about it and Dad, who received an email copy, forwarded it to his longtime friend Terry, who also loves baseball. Well, Terry then got on Dad for not going to a game with his son! So Dad made it a point to come with me this year!
Actually, my time with my Dad and Mom wound up perfect this year. I arrived at their place on St. Patrick’s Day at about 5PM and we all went to a nearby Mulligan’s and enjoyed some good green beer! It was so much fun, we decided to stay for dinner, during which a guy came through the crowd of green-clad people playing bagpipes!
Adding to the “Secret” Family Video Vault
Every time I visit my parents, I try to add to our family video collection. My great grandfather started it all. He had a Bell and Howell camera and took home movies way back in the 40’s (before they even had any sound!). When he and my grandmother, brought their daughter (my Mom) across the US from Canada to see the Grand Canyon in the 50’s, he filmed that for generations to come. So now, I’m following along in his tradition, using my camcorder to pass on life experiences to my nieces and nephews (my parents’ grandchildren), and hopefully my own children someday.
Each time I visit my parents, my Dad has prepared some thoughts on a specific topic – – such as his growing up as a kid in Detroit and later in Canada, covering all sorts of things like relationships, school, the value of hard work, faith, and religion. I haven’t shown these videos to the grandkids or anyone yet, but I really look forward to it someday. (I also take videos of star players at spring training games, in case any of the grandkids wind up being big baseball fans like me!).
People often ask me why I take 10 days a year (most of my vacation time) to drive all over Florida just to watch some pre-season games that don’t even count (particularly since I live in California and don’t need to go to Florida to get out of the winter). I never could answer this clearly, until something that happened on the last night of my trip.
I was talking to a lady and asked, “If you could do anything, what would be your nirvana? Would you be in Tahiti on a hammock with beautiful, warm breezes and minimal people around, sipping a drink?” Then, almost to my surprise, I gushed out, “Well that’s what I’ve got here, coming to spring training. This is completely my nirvana and the beauty of it is I can actually call upon it every year for 10 days! I feel so blessed and thankful. For the weather, the people I meet (the crazy fans and even the scalpers), the players (even the ones who refuse to give autographs) and of course my parents. I love all of it.”
Right there, I summed it up better than I’ve ever done before.
I hope my story of “enlightenment” will in some way encourage you too to find, enjoy and share your own personal nirvana!
An Introduction to Long Term Care Planning
Long-term care can wreck your retirement plans. This is a sobering reality, especially if you have worked hard all your adult life and are looking forward to a comfortable, secure retirement. Home health care expenses can run well over $20,000 per year, if you require assistance just 25 hours per week at $16 per hour. Should you require additional skills and equipment, as well as additional hours of care, then the cost can be significantly more. Care in an assisted living facility is averaging about $25,000 per year, and a recent annual survey found the 2013 median annual rate for a private nursing home room to be $83,950. These long-term care costs are significant and are only increasing.
So, what can you do? Get informed and take action.
Unfortunately, many financial plans focus on playing “offense” in terms of growing your retirement dollars and forget to prove a strong “defense” to protect those dollars once you retire. Unless you have a well-designed strategy should you or your spouse become a long-term care statistic, then your retirement nest egg could expire before you do. Therefore, long-term care planning should be an equal focus with your retirement investment strategy.
Before considering long-term care planning options, we need to address two common misunderstandings: Medicare and Medicaid. First, many retirees mistakenly believe that Medicare will pay for their long-term care. This is a dangerous mistake. Medicare does not pay for chronic long-term care needs, only acute nursing home rehabilitation. In other words, it will not pay for services to help you with the “activities of daily living,” but only for services to get you better. Then, if you are eligible for Medicare payments, the payments only last for up to 100 days (with full payment for only 20 of those days). You cannot count on Medigap (i.e., Medicare Supplement) policies either. They will not pay for your long-term care expenses, but some Medigap policies may help cover “gaps” in the Medicare payments during the period you may receive Medicare coverage.
What about giving away your assets to your loved ones so you can qualify for the “means-tested” Medicaid program? Legally speaking, any transfer of assets for less than fair market value (i.e., a gift) may subject you to a lengthy period of ineligibility under the complex and confusing web of Medicaid rules and regulations. Besides, transferring your assets to your loved ones can be hazardous for a variety of reasons.
Consider this: What if your transfer of assets for Medicaid purposes rendered you ineligible for Medicaid assistance AND then your loved ones subsequently lost the assets through squandering, divorces, lawsuits or bankruptcies? Not good.
Insurance and Elder Law
The key to long-term care planning is to plan now rather than to react later. One of the best strategies may be to insure your retirement financial security through proper long-term care insurance. Do not procrastinate until you have a change in your health, or this option may not be available. In reality, your “health” actually purchases the long-term care insurance and your money just pays the premiums. Besides the insurance option, there are numerous legitimate legal strategies to preserve more of your assets, but only if you do not wait too long. The experience and counsel of a qualified and knowledgeable elder law attorney can be extremely beneficial in planning your future. It can mean the difference between enjoying your retirement and worrying about how you will get by if something unfortunate occurs.
Spotting Elder Law Abuse and Steps for Prevention
More Common than You Think
Elder abuse is commonly defined as any knowing, intentional or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. And elder abuse is much more common than you might think. In 2010, there were nearly 6 million reported incidents of elder abuse nationally. That figure represents just under 10% of the entire elderly population [age 60 or older].
Spotting elder abuse may be easy. Physical abuse can leave bruising, contusions, abrasions, burns or broken bones; these visible injuries can be indicative of physical abuse, neglect or mistreatment. So, too, is the discovery of bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene or unusual weight loss. Other signs of neglect or physical abuse may include a sudden change in attentiveness, unusual depression or tense relationships and frequent arguments between the caregiver and the senior.
On the other hand, spotting elder abuse can be rather difficult. Betraying a trust and taking advantage of a senior may be harder to prove. Look for unexplained withdrawals from financial accounts, large unusual purchases, names added to a bank account or unauthorized ATM withdrawals. Sometimes the abusers are persons legally appointed to care for the abused senior. For instance, an abuser may be serving as a guardian, conservator or agent under a power of attorney.
Prevention & Protection
Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to avoid becoming an elder abuse victim.
These steps include:
- Ask strangers to give their names and show proper identification when they come to your door.
- Never allow a stranger in your home, even if they appear to need aid or have a child. Offer to call 911, but do not let them in!
- Never agree to have work done on your home without getting at least three written estimates from reputable contractors whose identity and address have been checked.
- Do not keep large amounts of cash or valuables on hand.
- Never give out personal information like your banking details, Social Security number or credit card number to anyone over the telephone.
- Check your bank statement carefully each month for any discrepancies.
- Beware of family members persuading you to sign documents without your full understanding of the consequences.
- Beware of deals that sound “too good to be true.” Most likely, they are.
- Beware of deals that ask for a lot of money up front and assure success.
These are just some of the simple precautions you can take to avoid becoming a victim of elder abuse.
Ask For Help
If you suspect elder abuse, get help. In an emergency, call 911 or your local police. Also, contact an experienced elder law attorney who can assist and bring other resources to help you.