Tag Archives: benefits

Your Trash, Her Treasure

April 9, 2017 by
Photography by Keith Binder

Even on a blustery, freezing January day, as Christmas lights still twinkle from neighbors’ homes, it’s Halloween inside Diane Hayes’ apartment.

Enter into her abode, which is located in the 105-year-old West Farnam Apartments off Dewey and 38th streets, and you’re confronted with fortunetellers and witches and skeletons, oh my! The 1,800-square-foot place is spacious, with floorboards that squeak and much of its early 20th-century charm still intact, but it’s Hayes and her often-merrily macabre refurbished artwork that makes the apartment truly spellbinding.

“For a while, I tried to keep all my work hidden in one room, but then I said ‘Oh, to hell with it,'” Hayes says. “By the time they carry my body out of here, I suppose things will really look strange.”

Hayes lives to make the old new again. From turning a vintage side table into an animatronic fortuneteller to using antique alarm clocks to create mini terrariums that depict tragedies like the Titanic sinking and Lindbergh kidnapping, she uses her creative magic to take everyday objects and turn them into art. A strong believer that “décor shouldn’t come from Bed, Bath & Beyond,” Hayes scavenges through Goodwill, antique shows, and online to buy things only for their pieces and parts.

After purchasing an item, she stows it away and lets ideas start marinating in her head. Once inspiration strikes, the tinkering begins.

“It’s not my thing to come home after a long day and sit down to watch TV,” Hayes says. “I’m always putting something together.”

While she displays most of her work in her home, she does sell some items on Etsy and has donated pieces to benefits for the Nebraska AIDS Project and the local chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

If she isn’t selling or donating a piece, chances are it will end up in her year-round Halloween-themed office. Teeming from floor to ceiling with things that go bump in the night, this room is more fun and festive than frightening, as most of her collection reflects Halloween styles that were popular in the 1950s and ’60s. And come Halloween night, Hayes is the ghostess with the mostess, inviting around 80 costumed party guests into her apartment to have their palms read by a fortuneteller and watch silent films like Nosferatu.

“I love the Halloweens I grew up with,” Hayes says. “It’s such a fun time of year, and it doesn’t have the stress or religious and political connotations of Christmas.”

Beyond Halloween, living in Omaha’s first luxury apartment building offers its own inspiration. Built in 1912, the West Farnam Apartments house the city’s oldest working elevator.

“You can hear those 100-year-old gears cranking and groaning, almost like a tiny factory that’s come to life,” Hayes says.

Perhaps, this explains her next project—refurbishing an old clock complete with its own ancient gears. Some projects she completes in a day, others she’s always working on, always tinkering. This clock’s finish date is yet to be determined, and to Hayes that’s just fine.

“It’s been an unfocused life,” Hayes says, “but I’m not sure I’d want to do it any other way.”

Visit etsy.com/people/halloweenclocks for more information.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Home.

Wading Through the Floodwaters

July 2, 2015 by

Article originally appears in July/August 2015 60-Plus.

Commie Schaben’s 82-year-old father, Ed, is a Korean War veteran who served at Virginia Beach. He survived horrors untold, but last year, he almost died after his small intestine ruptured.

Commie was determined to have him live at home with her after that, but she says making that happen without some kind of assistance would have been difficult.

“I’d be really hurting,” she says. “I’d be skimping and scraping really bad. I probably would have had to put him in a home. I’d rather have him here with me.”

So she went to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website to see if she could obtain any assistance for her dad along the lines of a wheelchair or bathroom handlebars. She sent them her phone number, asking for some guidance.

Dave Olney, a local care advocate, got in touch with her. It turned out the V.A. could do a lot more for her and her dad than she realized.

“It’s just wonderful,” she says.

It may not be the most widely known aid program, but the V.A. offers benefits to former members of the armed forces, and their spouses, to help pay for the cost of care. The veterans’ benefits program helps eligible members pay for care costs like assisted living, treatment after major medical conditions, etc.

Olney often works with clients seeking to obtain veterans benefits and says a veteran and his/her spouse are eligible to receive $25,000 a year for care. A veteran by him or herself may receive a little over $21,000 annually, and the surviving spouse of a veteran may be eligible for over $13,000 annually.

Only about 5 percent of eligible veterans are taking advantage of these benefits.

“In today’s society, as you grow older, quite often, the more care you need, and some of our elderly people [are in] need of care and protecting their assets,” Olney says.

So, why are so few veterans collecting this money?

Olney thinks there are two reasons. The first is that not many people know about the benefits.

The second is that the process can be complicated. Even though no one can charge for filling out the requisite paperwork, oftentimes that paperwork can be confusing, and incorrectly entered or missing information may lead to the V.A. denying an applicant without an explanation.

Olney says one of his recent clients was denied because of a piece of paper missing from the application.

“He would’ve quit right then and there, but that’s the way it is when you deal with government. They don’t always give you all the facts.”

Allan Jackson, director of the Douglas County Veterans Services, says the V.A. requires certain forms and documents to establish a given veteran’s service time and discharge status. The V.A. also requests verification of income and assets as well as medical information if the requested benefits are for care; however, he says there are limits to what a Veterans Service officer is allowed to ask of someone inquiring about benefits.

“We can’t get into an individual’s history,” he says. “We can’t get into an individual’s income and assets. Confidentiality comes into play.”

Even if you fill out all the paperwork, Olney says, how you answer a given question may alter your chances of receiving benefits. For example, the paperwork asks about your assets. What is considered an asset? If you own a given asset, do you own 100 percent of it? (The correct answer is no.) Questions like those aren’t explained in the rules, Olney says, and a care advocate can help applicants determine their finances and incomes, and how care costs affect their incomes. If you tell the V.A. you make a certain amount of money, the V.A. might deny you benefits because your income is too high. Jackson stresses the importance of itemizing the ways in which your income is spent on care. And if you factor in the cost of your care, Olney says, that might help your case.

Olney says he’s found the average veteran who successfully applies and submits the paperwork will start receiving benefits within 90 days. And if more eligible members take advantage of the benefits, there might be other advantages as well. Not only would the veterans and their families be better off, but there would be less strain on other federal programs like Medicaid and Social Security.

As for Ed, Commie says, the V.A. sends visiting nurses to their home. Her dad is also at the top of the list of eligible candidates to stay at the new V.A. home if it comes to that, and if her mom were still alive, the V.A. would have helped her get into assisted living.

“They are entitled to this,” Olney says. “It’s a thing they’ve sacrificed for…it’s something they have truly earned, so why shouldn’t they have this benefit if they’ve truly earned it?

VetWeb

PlayPal?

June 23, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article was printed in the May/June 2015 edition of Omaha Magazine.

PayPal’s offices are distinctly visible to passersby on nearby Interstate I-80. Volleyball and basketball courts for employees rest beside a small lake—the PayPal Pond. The La Vista campus is PayPal’s largest site outside of corporate headquarters in San Jose.

Employees enter the sleek, low-lying glass office buildings to find a casual workplace, a fitness center, free video game console stations, and arcade games. Walls of artwork produced by employees’ children cover the corridors and cubicle walls that separate cavernous, open office spaces. A vast ceiling stretches above the well-lit, bright scene.

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The PayPal campus consists of two buildings. The first (built in 2005) is one-story; the second (built in 2007) is two stories. Rooms and sections of the first building are named after countries and organized by continents. The second building is partitioned according to the names of superheroes and super-villains. A team of programmers might be troubleshooting with a client in “Batman” before catching up with colleagues in “Africa” for a conference call with San Jose.

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The cafeteria features a cornucopia of food options, all of which can be ordered and paid—before the lunch break has even begun—via a PayPal mobile application.

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Retirement Planning To-Do

I know a doctor who is thinking about retirement. He’s not overly concerned about his future. But his retirement is five years away.

The No. 1 factor, in my opinion, affecting anyone’s retirement savings is inflation. Inflation is relatively tame at the time of this writing, but it can still be harmful—even if you plan to retire in five years. So, here’s what I suggest:

1. Don’t quit on stocks. “To achieve returns to sustain a 30-year retirement, you need to still be investing for growth,” states Money magazine in its “Retirement Guide 2013” series published last October. If stocks make you nervous, then finding a way around that concern could be difficult. According to Bankrate.com, one-year CDs offer a 0.76% pre-tax yield. Money market accounts pay 0.49% per year. Yields on two-year U.S. Treasury bonds are even worse: 25%. (Figures through November 13, 2012.) You’d lose out to inflation if all you had in your portfolio were low-yielding investments. So, if you’re near retirement, based on your risk tolerance time horizon, I’d likely recommended a stock investment allocation of 30-40%.

2. Wait before taking Social Security. In general, most individuals should delay receiving their Social Security benefits. Money states that your payments can be 76% higher if you begin taking them at age 70 instead of at age 62. “Your payment will increase by about 6% a year for every year you delay filing before your full retirement age (between age 66 and 67 for most folks),” Money claims. “After that, holding off earns you another 8% a year until age 70.” Of course, your decision as to when to retire is a personal one. What’s best depends on a number of factors, such as your current cash needs, your health and family longevity, whether you plan to work in retirement, whether you have other retirement income sources, your anticipated future financial needs and obligations, and, of course, the amount of your future Social Security benefit. See Publication No. 05-10147, “When To Start Receiving Retirement Benefits,” at socialsecurity.gov to learn more.

3. Consider taking spousal benefit Social Security income early. Assuming your spouse is 62 and has been the lower income earner, and you are 62, you could file for benefits and postpone collecting them until you turn 70. Your spouse can begin collecting 50% of your benefit right now. See “Retirement Planner: Benefits For You As A Spouse” at at socialsecurity.gov.

4. Plan your retirement health care. If you retire before Medicare kicks in at 65, you could have a big expense ahead. “For a 62-year-old couple with one spouse in ill health,” states Money, “premiums run up to $2,300 a month on the individual market.” Ask your financial planner about bringing in a health insurance specialist, or look for an independent agent at nahu.org. Check with your company’s human resources department. You may be able to buy health care coverage when you retire. Remember that long-term care insurance will run about $4,000 a year for a couple in their early 60s, states Money. But if your assets total more than $1.5 million, I say pay for your long-term care as you go.

5. Line up some income. Want to consult? Now’s the time to gather clients and stay abreast of your field. You could also buy an annuity, which is a contract between you and an insurance company that pays out income and is designed for retirement purposes. Finally, practice living within your retirement income budget today. Doing so grounds your retirement planning in reality.

Jerome “Joe” P. Bonnett, Jr., CFP®, ChFC®, is an Independent Wealth Manager and President of Bonnett Wealth Management, Omaha. He is a 1987 graduate of the University of Nebraska with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, finance, and banking. He is a Registered Representative of Securities America, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Bonnett resides in Omaha with his wife, Susan (Engdahl), and their two children, Jake and Claire. Bonnett Wealth Management and Securities America companies are unaffiliated.