Tags Posts tagged with "Retirement"


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By Elissa Gargone

Elissa Gargone

Experts on aging agree. What’s most important for a long and healthy retirement is having a continuing sense of purpose and social engagement. 

Retirement gives people freedom from the constraints of the workplace, but it also changes what for many is a significant part of their social lives—being around others in a shared mission. No matter how young or old we are, it’s important to maintain and pursue friendships and activities. It’s this engagement that gives us a sense of purpose and growth.

As a retiree, you may want to move away from or closer to a city, seek warmer or colder weather, or relocate to be near your children or grandchildren. Many retirees downsize to an apartment or condo, freeing themselves from upkeep for a home and yard.  

Finding the right retirement lifestyle that will stimulate and reward you with a sense of purpose is about asking the right questions. That process starts with a thoughtful assessment of your individual needs and desires. While this exercise can present its challenges, it can be mighty stimulating to imagine a new phase of life that isn’t dictated by a workday. 

Planning is critical

The ideal time to begin this process is while you’re still working. It can take some time to figure out just where you’ll want to be, and what you’ll do there. Too many people approaching retirement fall into some version of a failure to plan, whether it’s having no plan, waiting too long to plan, or thinking that they don’t need a plan.

There are plenty of lifestyle choices out there. The more you learn about those options, the easier that decision will be.  You don’t want to be pressed to make a choice when you unexpectedly have a need.  

Understandably, while this hesitation may stem from denial or uncertainty about the future, one thing that is certain is that our needs will change over time, so it’s important to set to the task and make a plan. It’s not unlike starting a business—you’re setting yourself up for success.  

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Questions to consider  

1. What do I want my future to look like?

2. What do I want to keep doing?

3. What don’t I want to do?

4. What can and can’t I do physically now?

5. What will I not be physically able to do down the road? 

6. What kinds of activities interest me?

7. Where do I want to be — near family, in my familiar community? City, country, suburbs?

8. What kind of people do I want to be with? 

9. What amenities would I like?

10. How much space do I really need?  

11.Will my finances comfortably cover my healthcare costs, should my health change?   

It’s critical to be realistic with your answers. For example, if you have physical issues now, it’s likely you’ll  be more challenged physically in ten years. You have to be honest about the existing barriers to things you want to do now, and strategize as to how you will manage these challenges later in life.  Then look around the house and ask; what is really important for me to keep, and what can I do without?  

Look for more than real estate

If you’re considering buying a retirement home, make sure to consider the services that come with it or are close by. These services will gain importance as time passes.  A 55-plus community that suits your lifestyle at age 60 or 65 may not be able to comfortably support you after age 75 or 80. You’ll want access to a range of people and activities, various transportation options, shopping, quality health services, and other support systems in place.

Options include: Life plan retirement communities like Jefferson’s Ferry, which enable residents to age in place with independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing services available on one site; assisted living facilities that help you manage the tasks of daily living in a community setting with apartments and shared or private rooms; independent living 55+ communities; condominiums, and shared space with family members.

Most of us need people around us to thrive. That’s not limited to those who’ll provide care, but others who will engage our interests as our friends and companions. Having more time to do the things you like, trying new things and enjoying the company of friends and family is the key to a long and happy life.   

Elissa Gargone is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Jefferson’s Ferry Lifecare Retirement Community in South Setauket.

This article originally appeared in Prime Times, TBR News Media’s senior supplement, on July 20.

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By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

“When are you going to retire?” is a question that makes me smile. Of course, it is closely related to another word: age. Put the two words together, and I start to become defiant, which is probably why Martha Stewart decided to pose in a swimsuit for the cover of Sports Illustrated’s annual issue.

Now I know about Martha Stewart, who was not called by that name when she was a year behind me at Barnard College. That means she is only one year younger than I, and she, too, was feeling defiant. She wanted to show the world that she was not invisible just because she is older. And indeed, she is showing the whole world because she is an international personality, a businesswoman, writer and television personality, who has written books, publishes a magazine, hosted two syndicated television programs and personifies contemporary graceful living with her Martha Stewart Living ventures.

My guess is that many women in the latter years of their lives are cheering Martha Stewart’s swimsuit photos and her defiance.

Ageism is definitely an unwelcome bigoted “ism” in this century, when people are often living into their 80s, 90s and beyond. One of my personal heroes is Warren Buffett, American business investor and philanthropist. Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, known as the “Oracle of Omaha” and worth over 100 billion dollars, making him the fifth richest person in the world, he will be celebrating his 93rd birthday in August. Even more impressive is his business partner, Charlie Munger, who is 99. Together they still run the fabulously successful company.

Another such story is about Milton Esterow, 94, profiled in The New York Times last Sunday. A publisher at the age of 10 in Brooklyn where he grew up, he made 18 copies of his first publication, each consisting of one handwritten page, and sold them to friends for 2 cents apiece. You can see why he has already stolen my heart. Today he still writes articles for The New York Times about culture and art. In between, he has traveled around the world, met famous artists, owned the country’s oldest art magazine, ARTimes, and won many distinguished prizes. His culture stories had an edge. In 1964 he wrote a front page story for The NYT on treasures stolen by the Nazis during WWII, one of rare culture stories to run on page one. 

His investigative approach made his stories and magazine successes. In the early 1980s, as a result of a rumor he had heard, he and his wife flew to Vienna and visited a monastery that might house thousands of works looted by Nazi soldiers. He met with head of the Federal Monuments Office in Austria and sensed that the man was defensive. He assigned a reporter to dig around and by 1984, the article appeared attesting to the hidden collection. At that point, “All hell broke loose,“ according to Esterow.

“In 1985, the Austrian government announced a plan to return stolen works to their owners or heirs,” according to The NYT. “In 2016, the general consul of Austria presented Mr. Esterow with a Cross of Honor for Science and Art, saying that his work helped to make Austria ‘a better country.’”

Esterow continues to follow the trail of Nazi looting. He does not plan to retire. I particularly like what he had to say about that.

“Work is more fun than fun.”

For all these people and so many more octogenarians and older — Martha Stewart, Warren Buffett, Milton Esterow — retirement is a strange idea. Old age is another.

My sentiments, too.

Joan Dickinson, left, and Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn. Photo by Leah Dunaief

For Joan Dickinson, the new year will be a little less hectic after her retirement — which officially began on Jan. 6 — from Stony Brook University.

The Three Village Chamber of Commerce awarded Joan Dickinson, second from left in front row, with its Harold Pryor Award for her community service. Photo from Three Village Chamber of Commerce

Dickinson retired after 25 years with SBU. For the past year and a half, she was assistant vice president of university and hospital community relations. Before her most recent position, she was community relations director in government and community relations for a decade after first working in the university’s communications department for 15 years.

Dickinson entered the world of academia in 1997 with a background in the corporate sector. While she found it to be different initially from her prior work experience, she tackled various roles, grew professionally and faced and met several challenges successfully.

Among the lessons she has learned during her tenure was the importance of listening.

“Every person has a story, and I became fascinated with hearing them,” she said. “That helped me become better at mediation and negotiation.”

She also discovered her leadership skills when “putting ideas and people together to solve a problem or create a program.”

Through the years, she interacted with people at SBU, local businesses and the university’s neighbors and worked to connect them with the right department at the college.

“I had the benefit of working with every corner of the campus community, and relationships with so many departments,” Dickinson said. “They are the ones who helped me get the job done.”

Relations with the community

One of the biggest challenges SBU encountered during her tenure was issues with off-campus housing in the Three Village area. University officials became involved with improving rental conditions for students and helping to make them better neighbors by working with former Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), the town’s Law Department, Suffolk County Police Department and the grassroots organization Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners. Dickinson said it was a good opportunity for the campus to work with the community.

“We all got together and came up with a plan, and I think that’s why that worked,” she said. “It was a very good town-gown solution.”

‘Every person has a story, and I became fascinated with hearing them. That helped me become better at mediation and negotiation.’

Tackling the issue led to better guidelines for rentals in Brookhaven, SBU programs to educate students on how to be good neighbors and what a legal rental as well as a rental agreement looks like. She said it was vital to teach students that tenants have rights, too. The program is still offered each semester. 

“Some of the landlords were just in it for the money, and some of the students were put in unsafe conditions,” she said.

Dickinson is proud of the K-12 program she ran while at SBU, which brings thousands of students from primarily underserved communities to the university for campus tours, hands-on learning activities, also empowerment and inspirational talks. The activities include a wide range of programs, including about health and STEM careers as well as art crawls. Dickinson worked with the Long Island Latino Teachers Association and several local school districts.

“The opportunity to bring students who never thought college was within their reach, bring them to campus and show them what’s possible, that was a lot of fun,” Dickinson said.

Besides interacting with the SBU community, Dickinson has been connected with local chambers of commerce and other organizations in surrounding communities such as Three Village, Smithtown, Middle Country, Port Jeff and Ronkonkoma.

“It was important to see how the communities live, because every community is different,” she said. “So, you find the best solutions to problems when you understand where the people are coming from.”

She said residents from various areas would call her when they had a problem with students or the university at large.

“I think that’s why having the community relations office is such an important part of the conversation between the campus and the community, because they did know they could call me at any time,” Dickinson said.

She added she always tried to relay to residents the value the university brings to the region as everyone is welcome to the campus to walk through the paths, look at art in some of the art galleries and more.

Overcoming the pandemic

She also created CommUniversity Day at SBU, which she called one of the highlights of her career, despite the event being stalled due to COVID-19. Before the pandemic, she said the university was able to organize three of the annual events, the last one being held in 2019, that invited local residents to campus.

‘It was important to see how the communities live, because every community is different.’

Dickinson said she was disappointed when COVID brought it to a halt as each year she was building on the event to make it bigger and better, with more departments participating. By the third year, she described it as “a well-oiled machine” with a wide variety of activities.

As for the pandemic, during the earlier months, Dickinson pulled together a team and headed up a PPE drive for hospital workers that not only included personal protection equipment for employees but also donations of iPads, comfort care items, chewing gum and tissues from the community.

The first few months of the pandemic were an unpredictable and intense time at Stony Brook University Hospital, she said. “We didn’t know from minute to minute what was happening, and I credit the leadership of the institution for getting us through that.”

The retiree said she will never forget the 2020 Easter season when store owners called to say they wanted to donate items because no one was buying anything. They donated flowers, chocolates, eggs that wouldn’t be used for holiday egg hunts and other seasonal items. Dickinson and a team organized the donations for hospital workers to take whatever they needed if they celebrated Easter.

“I will never forget this woman who stood there and looked at me and was crying, and she said, ‘I haven’t had a chance to go shopping for my son for Easter. Now he’s going to get something.’”

She added the hospital workers were working around the clock.

“I credit the hospital with saving our community,” Dickinson said.

Looking ahead

The SBU alum, who lives in Lake Grove with her husband, isn’t saying goodbye to the university altogether. She will teach two classes this semester in the honors college, after teaching at the university for 10 years. But with more free time, Dickinson, who said she is a writer at heart, plans to spend time on various personal projects.

Her former position, which she described as a “dynamic job” is still open as a replacement has not been found.

“Part of the reason why I liked it is I always said I never walked into the same office twice,” Dickinson said. “I never knew from one day to the next what was going to be on fire or put on my plate. It was always changing, and I found that that was just fun to me. That was just captivating. You never knew, and it kept you on your toes. I was never ever bored.”

Dickinson had some advice for whoever takes her place.

“I would recommend that the person, whoever takes over this position, that they have a clear understanding of where we’ve come from,” she said. “How has the university changed? How has the campus culture changed? And, understanding where we are now at this point in history.”

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Liz and Ron Denenberg, co-owners of Renaissance Studio, in a 2014 photo taken inside their Smithtown studio. Photo by Ron Denenberg

Smithtown residents have grown accustomed to an ever-changing Main Street, with businesses moving in and out on a regular basis. Recently, James Cress Florist moved a few doors down from its original location. For the last few months, people have noticed that the photos of smiling families, brides and grooms no longer fill the window of Renaissance Studio at 39 W. Main as the images have done for more than four decades.

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While the business sign still remains, owner Ron Denenberg has cleaned out the building he first rented in 1979 and bought in 1994. Soon the storefront will be occupied by a new business. The photographer had already been working from home as much as possible during the pandemic. After the passing of his wife, Liz, in December, Denenberg decided it was time to retire.

He and his wife founded the business in 1971, initially working in Queens. The couple moved from Brooklyn to Smithtown in 1973 and opened their Long Island location in 1979. For a few years, the Denenbergs ran a little photo studio in their home in the town. They then discovered Smithtown residents couldn’t have such a business in their house.

“We didn’t know you couldn’t have a business in the house, because we knew people with businesses in their houses,” he said. “But, photographers are considered retail because they’re considered camera stores.”

He said he was surprised that camera stores and photo studios were lumped together because he never sold cameras, and throughout his career, he hasn’t met any professional photographers who sell merchandise in their studios.

The couple found Smithtown to be different from city life.

“It was a whole new world,” Denenberg said. “This was farm country.”

He remembers a time when a pizza place, cleaners and bakery were located across the street from his studio, where CVS is now. Behind it, when they first moved to the town, was Blue Jay Market, then King Kullen and eventually a hardware store and Strawberry Field Supermarket. Where the Thai House is now, there was once a store with a soda fountain counter.

Denenberg also recalls when Main Street was lined with locust trees from Route 111 to Maple Avenue until 1985, when Hurricane Gloria knocked down the majority of the trees. Traffic was different during the earlier years, too.

“I used to be able to walk across Main Street without looking in the ’70s,” he said. “Now it’s a race for your life.”

Ron and Liz Denenberg pose for a photo before the pandemic at Short Beach in Smithtown, one of Ron’s favorite places to shoot. Photo from Ron Denenberg

Throughout his career, he has photographed people in many local and surrounding locations. Among his favorite shooting spots are the Byzantine Catholic Church of the Resurrection on Edgewater Avenue and Flowerfield Celebrations with its ponds and fountains.

“It’s just one of the most gorgeous places to take photos,” he said.

Denenberg also counts Smithtown’s Short Beach and near the Smithtown Bull among his favorite backgrounds. Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket is another favorite as he said no matter where the sun is one can find a beautiful spot at the park.

Through the decades, he’s seen a lot of changes in the photo industry, too. He credited his wife with always thinking outside of the box.

When the first digital camera came out, she knew it could potentially hurt the profession. Liz Denenberg encouraged her husband to start offering more portrait photography and then commercial services where he would take photos of buildings, employees and even products.

“I pushed myself into learning different techniques,” he said.

The business owner said without depending on wedding photography, he and his wife saved time with less energy being spent after events creating albums and touching up photos.

“Our gross went down because weddings cost a lot of money, but our [bottom line] income went up because we weren’t spending on other photographers and employees,” he said.

Recently, the pandemic also affected the industry, he said, with many brides and grooms not only postponing but canceling their receptions. COVID-19 restrictions affected other celebrations such as Communions, also bar and bat mitzvahs.

It was a big change for Denenberg who, along with the photographers he hired, once photographed 200 to 300 children a year celebrating their First Communion in addition to an average of nearly 100 weddings each year and other jobs.

Now, as he retires, Denenberg puts all that behind him. The photographer said he is looking forward to spending more time with his children and grandchildren, as well as traveling. And while it will be smaller in size than the ones he used in the past, Denenberg has a new camera that will accompany him on his future adventures.

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Three Village superintendent Cheryl Pedisich, above center holding plaque and below, was honored at a recent board of education meeting. Photo from Three Village Central School District

After a career that has spanned nearly four decades, Three Village Central School District’s superintendent is ready to retire.

Cheryl Pedisich has led the district for 10 years, and the position was the culmination of several she has held in Three Village since 1984. Current assistant superintendent for educational services Kevin Scanlon will officially assume the role of superintendent on July 6. 

Pedisich said she was fortunate to have wise people before her, and the advice she would give Scanlon is from what she learned from them.

“If I’ve learned anything in 38 years, it’s to listen well and to care — to genuinely care — about people and about their issues and about what you do,” she said. “I think that’s the best advice I can give.” 

After completing graduate work at C.W. Post — now LIU Post — she applied for positions with different districts and was offered a leave replacement position with Three Village.

“I decided, even though I had other opportunities, that this seemed like a great place to come to, and I did feel that after being here, even if it was just for a year, that it would set my career in motion moving forward and that I would learn a great deal from being part of the community.”

It was the summer of 1984 when she started as a guidance counselor at Ward Melville High School. She said two other counselors with more experience were hired at the same time, and she felt fortunate to be hired.

Her tenure in the district lasted more than the year she would have been grateful for as she continued as a permanent counselor. She went on to chair the guidance department before becoming the assistant director of pupil personnel services and then executive director of pupil personnel. In 2008, she was named assistant superintendent for educational services. 

When the search began for a new superintendent in 2011, she was chosen for the position and became deputy superintendent before she took over in July 2012.

Pedisich said that while obtaining her psychology degree in college, she wasn’t considering going into education. Initially, she thought she would seek a career in the field of industrial psychology. Her mother, who worked in the human resources department of Sachem school district, told her she thought she would be a wonderful counselor.

To become a counselor, Pedisich said she would have to enter a two-year program. She figured if she didn’t like the field, she could go back to pursue her other interests.

“It was because of [my mother] that I am probably here today,” she said.

Among the positions she has held in the district, Pedisich said she enjoyed being chair of the guidance department because it enabled her to take on an administrative role while still working with students.

She said she was also fortunate to work as the assistant director of pupil personnel services under executive director Tamara Russo, whom she called “an icon as far as special education.” Pedisich said she learned a lot from Russo. When the executive director retired, Pedisich stepped into the position. She worked with various staff members and said she felt well prepared for the job after working with Russo.

“It was a very inspiring role for me,” she said.

Pedisich, who moved to Long Island from New Jersey in first grade and graduated from Sachem High School, said major adult milestones all happened while she’s worked in the district. In 1989 she married her husband Luke, and she had their two children, Hope and Christopher. While the couple brought up their son and daughter in Miller Place, where they still live today, she said from 8th grade until Hope’s graduation in 2009, she and her husband paid tuition for her daughter to attend school in the Three Village district because Hope wanted to attend classes there. 

“I couldn’t say enough positive things about Three Village,” Pedisich said. “I’m so glad she had that experience.”

Pedisich has loved being part of the local school community.

“It feels like family to me, so leaving is so incredibly bittersweet,” she said. “I’m not walking away saying, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to put it all behind me.’ It’s really a struggle.”

The superintendent said it’s difficult to pinpoint favorite memories from the decades.

“All my interactions with the students have been so inspiring and so amazing,” she said.

The interactions with students and parents and providing some degree of support or making a difference was rewarding, she added.

She also has encountered difficult times during her career.

Among the hardest through the years, she said, were when students and staff members passed away, leaving many who mourned. The superintendent said it was important to help everyone in the school community “grieve in a way that was meaningful for them, and to help the recovery process.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic was also tricky waters to navigate.

“We have been through hurricanes, and we have been through tornadoes and even an earthquake during my tenure,” she said. “I’m thinking, ‘OK, what’s next?’ And then, it’s a pandemic. I think that was extraordinarily difficult because we were all feeling very blinded by it and trying to navigate all of those nuances and the ever-changing requirements and the new variants coming up. We had to keep shifting and pivoting.”

She added the administration realized there were different viewpoints in the community, and they needed to balance the varying opinions.

“The pandemic brought hopelessness to the surface for many,” she said.

As she looks toward the future, Pedisich said she’s not sure what it will hold, but she will take some time to decompress before figuring out her next move.

She leaves the Three Village district community with a message.

“Stay the course,” Pedisich said. “Be strong. Be resolute and believe in yourself. Never give up on whatever dreams you have.”

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By Nancy Burner, Esq.

Nancy Burner, Esq.

On January 1, 2020, as we entered another year without any idea of what was on the horizon, a new federal law took effect regarding retirement accounts. 

The SECURE Act, “Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement,” affects millions of Americans who have been saving through tax-deferred retirement plans with the biggest impact falling those set to inherit these plans. Now, two years later, SECURE is still a new concept for many clients who are unaware of the law or how it applies to their own situation.

One change is that the age at which a plan holder must take required minimum distributions (“RMDs”) was increased from 70 1⁄2 to 72. RMDs are taken annually, based on the full value of the account on December 31 of the prior year and the life expectancy of the plan holder. The delay to age 72 will result in a year and a half more of tax-deferred growth on the funds.

SECURE also created a $10,000 penalty-free withdrawal for someone giving birth to or adopting a child. The Act also expanded the ability for small business owners to offer retirement plan funding. However, the most drastic item in SECURE takes aim at the beneficiary of the plan after the death of the original plan holder.

Prior to SECURE, a non-spouse designated beneficiary had the option of converting the plan to an inherited IRA and taking a RMD based upon their own life expectancy. The beneficiary could take more than the RMD if needed, realizing that each distribution is taxable income. 

Consider a 90-year-old with an IRS life expectancy of 12.2 years who names a 65-year-old child as designated beneficiary. A 65-year-old has an IRS life expectancy of 22.9 years. That beneficiary could previously “stretch” the distributions over their life expectancy and allow those funds to grow tax-deferred for many more years. With SECURE, this stretch is lost for the majority of beneficiaries. SECURE prescribes a mandatory 10-year payout for a designated beneficiary. Being forced to liquidate in the 10 years will result in the payment of more income taxes than if the beneficiary had the 22.9-year payout.

The SECURE Act carved out limited exceptions to this 10-year payout rule. These five categories of designated beneficiaries include a spouse, minor child of the plan holder, chronically ill person, disabled person, or a person not more than 10 years younger than the plan holder.

If you have retirement assets, this change serves as a trigger to have your plan reviewed by your estate planning attorney and financial advisor. This review is especially important where an estate plan includes a trust as the beneficiary of a retirement account. The terms of the trust may need to be adjusted from being a conduit trust to an accumulation trust. 

A conduit trust forces all distributions out to the beneficiary, whereas an accumulation trust allows the distributions to remain protected in the trust. Other clients may decide to leave tax-deferred retirement assets to charities rather than individuals. Still others may rearrange allocations to make IRAs payable to a person not less than 10 years younger than them, such as a sibling, thereby focusing on saving other types of assets for beneficiaries otherwise forced to take a 10-year taxable payout.

Many Americans have spent their working lives contributing to tax-deferred plans with the idea that it will give them a stream of income in retirement, and pass on to their beneficiaries as a stream of income. While SECURE may not alter the plan for some, the impact of SECURE should be considered by all. Stay tuned for future updates because there are already whisperings about SECURE 2.0 which, among other things, may raise the age at which RMDs are required.

Nancy Burner, Esq. practices elder law and estate planning from her East Setauket office. Visit www.burnerlaw.com.

Daniel Eichhorn

Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) announced on Dec. 13 that PSEG Long Island President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) Daniel Eichhorn will retire in 2022. Eichhorn will continue in his current role until a successor is named to ensure a smooth transition and a continued utmost commitment to customer service on Long Island.

Concurrent with Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) board consideration for approval of the proposed revised operations services agreement, Eichhorn has chosen this time to retire, giving a new leader the opportunity to make their mark on the future of the PSEG Long Island organization and its commitment to customers across Long Island and the Rockaways. A search for PSEG Long Island’s next president and COO is now underway.

“During his 32 years of dedicated service, Dan has focused on significant operational improvements and an unwavering commitment to our customers and employees on Long Island and in New Jersey,” PSEG COO Ralph LaRossa said. “Dan’s leadership has helped place the PSEG Long Island workforce in a position to move into its next chapter with the right tools, team and dedication to serving every customer. We thank Dan for his considerable contributions across both Long Island and New Jersey over more than three decades of service.”

Eichhorn was named president and COO of PSEG Long Island in October 2017. Previously, Eichhorn served as PSEG Long Island’s vice president for Customer Service. As vice president, Eichhorn was responsible for customer satisfaction, marketing and marketing strategy, customer contact, meter-tocash functions, and solar and energy efficiency programs. Prior to that role, Eichhorn served as director of Customer Contact and Technology for Public Service Electric and Gas Co. (PSE&G). Eichhorn retires with a broad background in electric and gas operations, customer operations and appliance service.

“As I announce my intent to retire in the coming months, I must reflect on the devotion of PSEG Long Island’s 2,500 employees, their achievements and the strategic improvements we have made since 2014,” Eichhorn said. “Over the past eight years, we have created a legacy of performance for customers across Long Island and the Rockaways, and I am proud of what we have accomplished together. I am confident that, as the company transitions to its next chapter, we are well-positioned for new leadership to build on these accomplishments – putting customers at the heart of everything we do, while further improving system reliability, enhancing customer service and supporting the state’s clean energy goals, and being an engaged and responsive community partner.”

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By Michael Christodoulou

Michael Christodoulou
Michael Christodoulou

It’s human nature to want to make things easier for our loved ones — and to have great concern about adding any stress to their lives. In fact, 72% of retirees say that one of their biggest fears is becoming a burden on their families, according to the Edward Jones/Age Wave Four Pillars of the New Retirement study. 

How can you address this fear? First, don’t panic. In all the years leading up to your retirement, there’s a lot you can do to help maintain your financial independence and avoid burdening your grown children or other family members. Consider these suggestions:

Increase contributions to your retirement plans and health savings account. The greater your financial resources, the greater your financial independence — and the less likely you would ever burden your family. So, contribute as much as you can afford to your IRA, your 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored retirement plan. At a minimum, put in enough to earn your employer’s matching contributions, if offered, and increase your contributions whenever your salary goes up. You may also want to contribute to a health savings account (HSA), if it’s available.

Invest for growth potential. If you start investing early enough, you’ll have a long time horizon, which means you’ll have the opportunity to take advantage of investments that offer growth potential. So, in all your investment vehicles — IRA, 401(k), HSA and whatever other accounts you may have — try to devote a reasonable percentage of your portfolio to growth-oriented investments, such as stocks and stock-based funds. 

Of course, there are no guarantees and you will undoubtedly see market fluctuations and downturns, but you can help reduce the impact of volatility by holding a diversified portfolio for the long term and periodically rebalancing it to help ensure it is aligned with your risk tolerance and time horizon. Keep in mind, though, that diversification does not ensure a profit or protect against loss in a declining market.

Protect yourself from long-term care costs. Even if you invest diligently for decades, your accumulated wealth could be jeopardized, and you could even become somewhat dependent on your family, if you ever need some type of long-term care, such as an extended stay in a nursing home or the services of a home health care aide. The likelihood of your needing such assistance is not insignificant, and the care can be quite expensive. In fact, the median cost for home health services is nearly $55,000 per year, while a private room in a nursing home can exceed $100,000, according to Genworth, an insurance company. To help protect yourself against these steep and rising costs, you may want to contact a financial professional, who can suggest an appropriate strategy, possibly involving various insurance options.

Create your estate plans. If you were ever to become incapacitated, you could end up imposing various burdens on your family. To guard against this possibility, you’ll want to ensure your estate plans contain key documents, such as a financial power of attorney and a health care directive.

It’s safe to say that no one ever wants to become a financial burden to their family. But putting appropriate strategies in place can go a long way toward helping avoid this outcome.

Michael Christodoulou, ChFC®, AAMS®, CRPC®, CRPS® is a Financial Advisor for Edward Jones in Stony Brook. Member SIPC.

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By Michael Christodoulou

Michael ChristodoulouIt’s unfortunate but true: As we age, we encounter more health-related issues – and they carry a price tag that can get pretty high in retirement. Will you be ready for these costs?

Perhaps your first step in preparing yourself is knowing what you may be facing. Consider this: 80% of Americans 65 and older have a chronic condition and 42% live with a disability, according to the National Coalition on Aging and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as reported in a recent Edward Jones/Age Wave survey titled Four Pillars of the New Retirement: What a Difference a Year Makes. 

The study also found that retirees’ greatest financial worry is the cost of health care and long-term care – concerns that have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

And health care is likely going to be one of the largest expenses in retirement – the average couple might spend $10,000 to $12,000 per year on health care costs. Nonetheless, you can boost your confidence about meeting these costs by making the right moves.

Here are a few suggestions:

Take advantage of your health savings account. If you’re still working, consider contributing to a health savings account (HSA) if it’s offered by your employer. This account allows you to save pretax dollars (and possibly earn employee matching contributions), which can potentially grow, and be withdrawn, tax-free to help you pay for qualified medical expenses in retirement.

Incorporate health care expenses into your overall financial strategy. As you estimate your expenses in retirement, designate a certain percentage for health care, with the exact amount depending on your age, health status, income and other factors. You’ll certainly want to include these costs as a significant part of your planned retirement budget.

Learn what to expect from Medicare. You can enroll in Medicare three months before you turn 65. Before you sign up, you’ll find it helpful to do some research on what Medicare covers, or perhaps even attend a seminar or webinar. On the most basic level, you’ll need to choose either the original Medicare program, possibly supplemented with a Medigap policy, or Medicare Advantage, also known as Medicare Part C. Given all the variables involved – deductibles, copayments, coinsurance, areas of coverage and availability of your personal doctors – you’ll want to choose your plan carefully.

Protect yourself from long-term care costs. No matter which Medicare plan you choose, it won’t cover much, if any, of the costs of long-term care, such as an extended stay in a nursing home. You may want to consult with a financial advisor, who can suggest options to protect you and your family from long-term care costs, which can be considerable.

And of course, do whatever you can to stay healthy, before and during your retirement. It’s been shown that exercise and a balanced diet can help you feel better, maintain your weight and even reduce the likelihood of developing some serious illnesses.

By making the right financial moves and taking care of yourself, you can go a long way toward managing your health care costs in retirement – and enjoying many happy and rewarding years.

Michael Christodoulou, ChFC®, AAMS®, CRPC®, CRPS® is a Financial Advisor for Edward Jones in Stony Brook. Member SIPC.

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By Michael Christodoulou

Michael Christodoulou
Michael Christodoulou

If you’re getting close to retirement, you’re probably thinking about the ways your life will soon be changing. And one key transition involves your income — instead of being able to count on a regular paycheck, as you’ve done for decades, you’ll now need to put together an income stream on your own. How can you get started?

It’s helpful that you begin thinking about retirement income well before you actually retire. Many people don’t — in fact, 61% of retirees wish they had done better at planning for the financial aspects of their retirement, according to an Edward Jones/Age Wave study titled Retirement in the Time of Coronavirus: What a Difference a Year Makes.

Fortunately, there’s much you can do to create and manage your retirement income. Here are a few suggestions:

Consider ways to boost income. As you approach retirement, you’ll want to explore ways of potentially boosting your income. Can you afford to delay taking Social Security so your monthly checks will be bigger? Can you increase your contributions to your 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored retirement plan, including taking advantage of catch-up contributions if you’re age 50 or older? Should you consider adding products that can provide you with an income stream that can potentially last your lifetime? 

Calculate your expenses. How much money will you need each year during your retirement? The answer depends somewhat on your goals. For example, if you plan to travel extensively, you may need more income than someone who stays close to home. And no matter how you plan to spend your days in retirement, you’ll need to budget for health care expenses. Many people underestimate what they’ll need, but these costs can easily add up to several thousand dollars a year, even with Medicare.

Review your investment mix. It’s always a good idea to review your investment mix at least once a year to ensure it’s still appropriate for your needs. But it’s especially important to analyze your investments in the years immediately preceding your retirement. At this point, you may need to adjust the mix to lower the risk level. However, you probably won’t want to sell all your growth-oriented investments and replace them with more conservative ones — even during retirement, you’ll likely need some growth potential in your portfolio to help you stay ahead of inflation.

Create a sustainable withdrawal rate. Once you’re retired, you will likely need to start taking money from your IRA and 401(k) or similar plan. But it’s important not to take too much out in your early years as a retiree, since you don’t want to risk outliving your income. A financial professional can help you create a sustainable withdrawal rate based on your age, level of assets, family situation and other factors. 

By planning ahead, and making the right moves, you can boost your confidence in your ability to maintain enough income to last throughout your retirement. And with a sense of financial security, you’ll be freer to enjoy an active lifestyle during your years as a retiree.

Michael Christodoulou, ChFC®, AAMS®, CRPC®, CRPS® is a Financial Advisor for Edward Jones in Stony Brook. Member SIPC