THE SAVVY SENIOR
SPECIAL SENIOR LIVING ISSUE DECEMBER 2012
A Special Publication of the I75 Newspaper Group • Sidney Daily News • Troy Daily News • Piqua Daily Call
Savvy SENIOR THE
Authored by Jim Miller Editor of Savvy Senior and Contributor to “Today”
THE SAVVY SENIOR • DECEMBER 2012 • PAGE 2
How much do you need to retire?
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tirement income. If you contribute to Social Security, estimate how much your monthly benefit will be at the age you want to retire. You can get a personalized estimate at www.ssa.gov/estimator. If you’re married, remember to count your spouse’s benefits too. In addition to Social Security, if you have a traditional pension plan from an employer, find out from the plan administrator how much you are likely to get when you retire. And, figure in any other income from other sources you expect to have, such as rental properties, parttime work, etc. CALCULATE THE DIFFERENCE The final step is to do the math. Subtract your annual expenses from your annual income. If your income alone can cover your bills, you’re all set. If not, you’ll need to tap your savings, including your 401(k) plans, IRAs, or other investments to make up the difference.
So, let’s say for example you need around $45,000 a year for retirement and you expect to receive $25,000 a year from Social Security and other income. That leaves a $20,000 shortfall that you’ll need to pull from your nest egg each year ($45,000 – $25,000 = $20,000). Multiply your shortfall by 25, and that’s how much you’ll need to have saved. In the case above, you would multiply $20,000 by 25 and come up with $500,000. Why 25? Because that would allow you to pull 4 percent a year from your savings, which is a safe withdrawal strategy that in most cases will let your money last as long as you do – at least 30 years. If you find that your savings are lacking, you might want to go back to your worksheet and cut some costs. Or, you may need to consider parttime work during retirement or postponing retirement so you can boost your savings.
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Will you have enough money to re- cent of your current gross income. tire? If you can’t answer that quesThat’s what most people find they tion, you’re in good company. need to maintain their current According to the Employee Benefits lifestyle in retirement. Research Institute, just 46 percent of If you want a more precise estiU.S. workers say they have tried to mate, track your current expenses on calculate how much they need to a worksheet and deduct any costs save for a comfortable retirement. you expect to go away or decline Why is that? For when you retire, and some, retirement add whatever new ones seems simply too you anticipate. far away, so why Costs you can scratch even bother thinkoff your list include ing about it. For work related expenses others, they simply like commuting or don’t know how to lunches out, as well as go about calculatthe amount you’re socking their future fiing away for retirement. nancial needs, or You may also be able to they’re intimidated deduct your mortgage if by the math. you expect to have it But calculating paid off by retirement, an approximate reand your kids college extirement number penses. Your income of how much you’ll taxes should also be need to have saved less. SAVVY TIP
Ƥ ǯ for retirement is On the other hand, ǡ ǯ actually pretty some costs will probably Ǥ ơ ȋanalyzenow.com), easy and doesn’t go up when you retire, Ǥ ȋwww3.troweprice.com/ric/ricweb/ take long to do. like health care, and depublic/ric.doȌ ȋaarp.org/work/retirement-planning/retirement_calculatorȌǤ Here’s a quick, pending on your intersimple three-step ests you may spend a lot approach that can help you find your more on travel, golf or other hobbies. magic retirement number. And, if you’re going to be retired for ESTIMATE EXPENSES 20 or 30 years you also need to factor The first step is the trickiest– esti- in the occasional big budget items like a new roof, furnace or car. mating your future retirement exTALLY INCOME penses. If you want a quick ballpark estimate, figure around 75 to 85 perStep two is to calculate your re-
THE SAVVY SENIOR • DECEMBER 2012 • PAGE 3
Computer brain games that help you stay sharp
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Cognifit offers around 20 games for free, or you can pay $4.95 for each of their two advanced games for memory and concentration training. SOFTWARE PRODUCTS In addition to the websites, there are also a number of computer software brain-training products that you can purchase and use on your home computer. Some of the best are made by Posit Science (positscience.com, 866-599-6463), which sells three types of brain-training software including “Brain Fitness,” which speeds up and sharpens the auditory system of the brain for faster thinking, sharper focus, and better memory; “InSight” which targets visual processing to improve how your brain takes in, reacts to, and remembers what you see; and “DriveSharp” which strengthens the cognitive skills essential for safe driving. All software is available in PC and Mac versions. Posit Science is also currently offering a 50 percent discount on their Brain Fitness and InSight software. You can buy them individually for $197.50, or together for $345. The DriveSharp software costs $89. Another option is the Dakim BrainFitness Software (dakim.com, 800-856-5502) that cost $249
and is designed specifically for adults over 60, as well as for seniors with memory loss. And for noncomputer users, Diakim offers a touch-screen console for $2,349 that’s pre-loaded with BrainFitness software. Just plug it in and your ready to go. NO COMPUTER NEEDED If you don’t want to rely on a computer for playing brain-boosting games, consider electronic games like Brain Age, Brain Age 2 (see brainage.com) and Big Brain Academy (bigbrainacademy.com). Made by Nintendo, these games cost around $20 each, but to play them you’ll need to purchase a hand-held Nintendo DS Lite game unit which runs around $100. You can buy these products online at amazon.com or at retail chains like Walmart, Target and BestBuy. There are also dozens of mind-challenging books and puzzles on the market that can help too, such as: “Keep Your Brain Alive: 83 Neurobic Exercises” by Lawrence Katz and Manning Rubin; “The Big Book of Mind Bending Puzzels” by Terry Stickels; and “The Sharp Brains Guide to Brain Fit ness” by Alvaro Fernandez and Elkhonon Goldberg (see sharpbrains.com). Check your local book store, or visit amazon.com to find them.
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According to a 2011 Associated Press poll, the No. 1 concern among baby boomers as they move into their senior years is cognitive decline. If you’re concerned about staying mentally sharp as you age, there are a handful of great brain-training websites and computer software products available today that are backed by research and proven to help boomers and seniors improve their memory, slow age-related mental decline and even build a stronger brain. But there’s no evidence that these games will prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Here are the best options to consider. WEB WORKOUTS If you’re interested in exercising your brain for little or no cost, brain-training websites are the best way to go. While there are many sites that offer games that claim to sharpen the mind, the most valid and highly rated one is Lumosity.com who currently boasts around 20 million users. Developed by neuroscience researchers from Stanford, McGill University and UC San Francisco, Lumosity offers over 35 games and exercises aimed at increasing alertness, sharpening memory skills, improving concentration and thinking faster. The games are fun and engaging, and in each game, as your skill improves, the tasks become progressively more difficult to keep you challenged. The costs: $14.95 a month or about $80 for a one-year subscription. Lumosity even offers mobile apps for smart phone users so you can train wherever you are. Another good site to check out (but not the quality of Lumosity) is Cognifit.com. This site starts with a brain fitness assessment that lets you know exactly where your stronger areas are and where you could use some extra training. It measures skills like contextual memory, response time and hand-eye coordination and provides a personalized set of games to sharpen your skills.
THE SAVVY SENIOR • DECEMBER 2012 • PAGE 4
How to find affordable dental care Taking care of your teeth these days can take a big bite out of your budget. This is especially true for the 150 million or so Americans who don’t have dental insurance and are stuck paying full out-ofpocket prices every time they visit a dentist. If you’ve been neglecting your teeth and gums because you’re uninsured and you can’t afford proper dental care, there are a number of strategies, resources and services available today that can help you reduce your dental bills or maybe even get care for free. ASK FOR A DISCOUNT If you’re paying your dental bill up front with cash, check, credit or debit card, one of the easiest ways to trim your cost is simply to ask your dentist’s office for a discount. Out-of-pocket payers save the dentist office the cost and hassle of filing an insurance claim, so asking for a 10 percent discount is not unreasonable. Or, if you’re over age 55 or 60 ask
about their senior discount program. Most dentists don’t advertise them, but will give them to those that ask. JOIN A DENTAL DISCOUNT PLAN These are popular plans that provide their members access to a large network of dentists that have agreed to offer their services at discounted fees. How this works is you pay an annual membership fee – roughly $80 to $200 a year – in exchange for 10 to 60 percent discounts on cleanings, crowns, implants, root canals and other procedures from participating dentists. To locate a plan, go to dentalplans.com (or call 888-6325353) where you can search for plans and participating dentists by zip code, and get a breakdown of the discounts offered. Brighter (brighter.com, 866-893-1694) is another good discounted dental service to check out. Available in all states continued on page 5
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THE SAVVY SENIOR • DECEMBER 2012 • PAGE 5
Dental care continued from page 4 except Florida, Montana and Vermont, this network gives subscribers access to 25,000 dentists offering 20 to 60 percent discounts on service and treatments. You can sign up for a free one-month plan or opt for the premium plan, which costs $79 per year for individuals and families. CONSIDER MEDICARE ADVANTAGE If you’re a Medicare beneficiary, you may already know that traditional Medicare (Part A and B) and Medigap supplemental policies do not cover routine dental care. But, there are some Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans that do provide dental coverage. See www.medicare.gov/finda-plan or call 800-633-4227 to check into Advantage plans in your area that offer them. You can switch from traditional Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan each year during the open enrollment period, which is between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7.
Or, if you’re approaching age 65, you may want to consider enrolling in an Advantage plan that covers dental. FIND CHEAPER CARE To get dental care at a reduced price, find a college or university near you that has a dental school. Most of the 52 dental schools throughout the U.S. offer comprehensive care provided by the dental students who are overseen by experienced, qualified teachers. You can expect to pay 30 to 60 percent less than what a traditional dentist would charge and still receive excellent, well-supervised care. Or, if you just want to get your teeth cleaned, check with local colleges that offer dental hygiene programs. For training purposes, most programs provide teeth cleanings by their students for a fraction of what you would pay at a dentist’s office. To locate dental schools or dental hygiene programs in your area visit www.ada.org/267.aspx.
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THE SAVVY SENIOR • DECEMBER 2012 • PAGE 6
Social Security help for those nearing retirement Figuring out the best age to start claiming your Social Security retirement benefits is an important financial decision. The difference between a good decision and a poor one could cost you tens of thousands of dollars over your retirement, so it is very important that you do your homework and compare your options now. WHAT TO CONSIDER As you may already know, you can claim Social Security any time from age 62 to 70, but the longer you wait, the larger your monthly check. But there are actually many factors you need to take into account to help you make a good decision, including your current financial needs, your health and family longevity, whether you plan to work in retirement, whether you have other retirement income sources, and if you’re married, your spouse’s situation. To help you compare your options and make an informed decision, there are a number of resources and services
available depending on how much assistance you need. SSA TOOLS A good place to start is at the Social Security website. Just go to socialsecurity.gov and click on the “Retirement” tab at the top of the page and access their retirement planner tools where you can estimate your benefits at different ages and get guidance based on your personal situation. Or, if you would rather have face-toface assistance, call 800-772-1213 and schedule an appointment to visit with a claims representative at your nearby Social Security office. The Social Security Administration also offers a bevy of free publications (see ssa.gov/pubs) that you can have mailed directly to you. “Retirement Benefits,” “When To Start Receiving Retirement Benefits” and “How Work Affects Your Benefits” are three popular publications for those nearing retirement. continued on page 7
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THE SAVVY SENIOR • DECEMBER 2012 • PAGE 7
How to guard again identity theft Identity theft continues to be a big problem in the U.S., affecting around nine million people every year – many of whom are seniors. Identity theft occurs when someone gets access to your Social Security
number (SSN), bank or credit card account number, or other identifying information and uses it to steal from you. While there’s no ironclad protection against ID theft, here are some things you can do to minimize your
Social Security continued from page 6 OTHER RESOURCES If you need help in addition to what the government offers, some good resources include the “Social Security Claiming Guide” which is published by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. This easy-to-read 24page guide sorts through all the options, spells out how much you can get, and answers frequently asked questions. Go to socialsecurityclaimingguide.info to read it online or to print a copy for free. Another good publication is “When to Take Social Security Benefits: Questions to Consider” (see whentotakesocialsecurity. info). Offered by the National Academy of Social Insurance, a non-
profit research and educational group, this 16page booklet uses a question-and-answer format to guide you through the key issues. To get a free hardcopy mailed to you, call 202452-8097. You can also get help online at websites like analyzenow.com, which offers a free tool called “Social Security Planner” that helps singles and couples calculate the best time to take their retirement benefits. And AARP’s new Social Security Benefits Calculator (www.aarp.org/ socialsecuritybenefits), which lets you estimate how much you’ll receive in monthly and lifetime benefits, based on your salary and your age when you file. Or, for a $40 annual fee, maxi-
mizemysocialsecurity.co m provides a comprehensive new tool to help retirees, spousesand survivors make decisions to maximize their benefits. If, however, you’d like more personalized help, there are financial advisors and investment advisor firms that for a fee can assist you by taking you through the specific claiming strategies.
risks. Guard your SSN: Treat you SSN like your most prized possession. Never carry your Social Security card around in your wallet or purse, don’t write your SSN on checks (except those you send to the IRS), and never give your SSN, credit card number, checking or savings account numbers to strangers who call, visit, text, or send email messages to you even if they seem legitimate. And, don’t carry around your Medicare card either unless you’re going to the doctor. Your Medicare card contains your SSN. Be wary of emails: If you use the Internet, don’t trust emails that claim to be from the Social Security Administration, the IRS or other government agencies. Also be leery of emails that look like they’re from your bank, telephone company or credit card company. Remember that only phony e-mails
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will ask for your credit card number or SSN. For more Internet fraud tips including a list of common online scams see onguardonline.gov. Secure your mail: Empty your mailbox quickly, or consider getting a P.O. Box or buy a locked mailbox to deter thieves. Also, don’t leave outgoing mail in your mailbox. To put a stop to prescreened credit-card offers that thieves look to intercept, use the consumer credit reporting industry optout service at optoutprescreen.com or call 888-567-8688 – they will ask for your SSN and date of birth. Destroy your trash: Buy a cross-cut paper shredder and shred all records, receipts, statements, preapproved credit offers, mail solicitations or other papers you throw out that has your financial or personal information. Monitor your accounts: Review your monthly bank and credit card statements carefully, and see if your bank continued on page 8
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THE SAVVY SENIOR • DECEMBER 2012 • PAGE 8
Adult trikes for boomers and beyond Fun, fitness and easy on the joints are the reasons more and more baby boomers are turning to cycling than ever before. But what makes a good bike for boomers who have concerns about their balance or stamina? If you’d like to take up bike riding but worry about falling, adult tricycles are a great alternative because of the stability they provide. With a tricycle, you can ride as slow as you want without ever losing your balance or tipping over, and you can put both feet on the ground while seated, which is very reassuring for many older riders.
In addition, adult tricycles are also made with a low “step through” design making mounting and dismounting very easy; they typically come with big tires that ensure a smooth ride; have ergonomic handlebars that are easy to reach and grip; and offer oversize seats (some even have backrests) for comfort and support. And, other than the frame, tricycles use the same standard components as traditional bikes do, so replacement parts are readily available, and repairs are not an issue. There are dozens of different styles and models of adult tricycles to choose from with prices ranging
anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Here are some good options. SUN TRADITIONAL 24 If you’re primarily interested in a leisurely ride around the neighborhood for pleasure, fitness or running errands, the Traditional 24 upright-style trike is comfy, practical and affordable. It has 24-inch wheels, an ultra low step through, and a western style saddle seat that’s much wider than a traditional bike seat. It also comes with soft foam hand grips, hand brakes, and a vinylcoated continued on page 9
Identity theft continued from page 7 $5 to $10 per person per credit bureau each time you freeze or thaw your credit report. Some states offer free freezes for IDtheft victims. Take action: If you ever think your identity’s been stolen, immediately contact your creditors and financial institutions to report unauthorized charges or debts, and close any compromised accounts.
Then place fraud alerts and security freezes with the three credit reporting agencies, and file a report with your local police and with the Federal Trade Commission at ftccomplaintassistant. gov or 877-438-4338. For more tips on preventing identity theft visit idtheftinfo.org and idtheftcenter.org. You can also hire an identity theft protection
service like ProtectMyID, LifeLock or TrustedID to keep tabs on your identity for you. These companies typically charge around $10 to $20 per month, but the services they provide are typically no better
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or creditcard issuer offers free alerts that will warn you of suspicious activity as soon as it’s detected. If they do, sign up for them. WATCH YOUR CREDIT: Check your credit report at annualcreditreport.com or call 877-322-8228. You can receive one free report a year from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion), so consider staggering your request so you can get one free copy every four months. Set up security freezes: You can help protect yourself by setting up a security freeze on your credit reports at all three credit bureaus – Equifax (equifax.com, 800-685-1111), Experian (experian.com, 888-3973742) and TransUnion (transunion.com, 877322-8228). With a freeze in place, no one, including you, can open new lines of credit in your name. This typically costs
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Trikes continued from page 8
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rear basket for trips to the market. Sold as a single speed for around $375, this trike can easily be upgraded to a three or five speed with a coaster brake added for an additional $150 to $175. 305-238-1866, sunbicycles.com. TERRATRIKE ROVER This ergonomic tadpole-style (the two wheels are in front) recumbent trike is a great option for riders who are interested in longer fitness rides. Available in one, three and eight speeds, the Rover comes with disc brakes, a nylon chair seat that sits 17 inches off the ground making it easy to get into and out of, and can hold riders up to 400 pounds. It also has seatlevel steering handles that are easy on the arms, and if you want to ride with your spouse or partner from time to time, the Rover can be easily converted into a tandem trike. The tandem attachment (sold separately) changes a standard Rover into a tricyclebuilt-fortwo. Price: $699 to $999. 800-945-9910, terratrike.com. ADVENTURER THREE-SPEED FOLDING TRIKE If you like to travel or if you have limited storage space, the Adventurer Folding Trike is a nice option. This trike features a low step-through frame, an oversized seat, 20-inch wheels, a three-speed shifter, hand and coaster brakes, two cargo baskets, and it folds up into a tight little package in about 15 seconds. Price: $390. 877-484-2897, adventurebikes.com. SUN EZ-TRICLASSIC SX Fast, fun and comfortable, the EZ-TriClassic SX is a great boomer-friendly trike that’s designed for performance riding. Measuring 73 inches in length, this trike has 21 speeds, tall ergonomic handlebars with gel hand grips, and an adjustable cushion seat with a wide mesh seatback that sits 22 inches off the ground making it simple to slip into. Price: around $975. 305-238-1866, sunbicycles.com. Price: $390. 877-484-2897, adventurebikes.com.
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THE SAVVY SENIOR • DECEMBER 2012 • PAGE 10
How to get your affairs in order Everyone has important paperwork and personal information, but it’s not always easy to find. Whether you need to organize your records for yourself, your family or your executor, here’s a simple guide to help you get it together. GET ORGANIZED The first step in getting your affairs in order is to gather up all your important personal, financial and legal information so you can arrange it in a format that will benefit you now, and your loved ones later. Then you’ll need to sit down and create various lists of important information and instructions of how you want certain things handled when you die or if you become
incapacitated. Here’s a checklist of areas you need to focus on. PERSONAL INFORMATION Contacts: Make a master list of names and phone numbers of close friends, family, clergy, doctors, and professional advisers such as your lawyer, accountant, broker and insurance agent. Personal documents: Include such items as your birth certificate, Social Security card, marriage license, military discharge papers, etc. Secured places: List all the places you keep under lock and key or protected by password, such as safe deposit boxes, safe combination, security alarms, etc. Service providers:
Provide contact information of the companies or people who provide you regular services such as utility companies, lawn service, etc. Pets: If you have a pet, give instructions for the care of the animal. End of life: Indicate your wishes for organ, tissue or body donation including documentation (see donatelife.net), and write out your funeral instructions. If you’ve made pre-arrangements with a funeral home include a copy of agreement, their contact information and whether you’ve prepaid or not. LEGAL DOCUMENTS Will: Include the original copy of your will and other estate planning documents you’ve
made. Power of attorney: This names someone you trust to handle money matters if you’re incapacitated. If you don’t have a will or power of attorney, do-it-yourself resources like legalzoom.com and Nolo’s Quicken WillMaker (nolo.com) can help you create them for a few dollars. Advance directives: These documents – a living will and medical power of attorney – spell out your wishes regarding your end-of-life medical treatment when you can no longer make decisions for yourself. For free advanced directive forms visit caringinfo.org or call 800-658-8898.
FINANCIAL RECORDS Income and debt: Make a list of all income sources such as pensions, Social Security, IRAs, 401Ks, interest, investments, etc. And do the same for any debt you may have – mortgage, credit cards, medical bills, car payment. Financial accounts: List all bank and brokerage accounts (checking, savings, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, IRAs, etc.) and their contact information. And keep current statements from each institution in your files. Company benefits: List any retirement plans, pensions or benefits from your current or former employer including the contact informa-
tion of the benefits administrator. Insurance: List the insurance policies you have (life, long-term care, home, auto, Medicare, Medigap, prescription drug, etc.) including the policy numbers, insurance agents and phone numbers. Credit cards: List all credit and charge cards, including the card numbers and contact information. Property: List real estate, vehicles and other properties you own, rent or lease and include documents such as deeds, titles, and loan or lease agreements. Taxes: Keep copies of tax returns for seven years and the contact continued on page 11
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THE SAVVY SENIOR • DECEMBER 2012 • PAGE 11
Be on the alert for fraud attempts Unlike some forms of elder abuse, financial exploitation leaves no visible scars. It is under-reported and hard to prosecute. Adding to the tangled dynamics, the abuser is frequently a family member, increasing the victim’s humiliation and denial. Better by far to try to prevent financial abuse before it wipes out an older person’s assets and hopes for a secure retirement. Though this has proved easier in theory than in practice — most authorities believe financial exploitation and abuse is actually increasing — vigilance repre-
sents a crucial first step. The National Center on Elder Abuse and the Eldercare Locator (the federal service that helps older adults and caregivers find local programs and agencies) have just published “Protect Your Pocketbook,” a brief consumer guide for families and their older relatives. It maps out risk factors, warning signals and prevention strategies and tells where to turn for help. You can download it from the Web or order it online through the Eldercare Locator Web site. Or you can call the Locator at 1-800-677-1116 and
ask to have a copy mailed to you. Holidays, when so many adult children head “home,” tend to spur campaigns of this sort: attempts to integrate potentially painful conversations and questions with feasts and gifts. I have always wondered about the timing of these discussions — first the pies, then the questions about unexplained bank withdrawals and credit card bills? But it is true that our elders can sound dandy during weekly phone calls, then surprise us with their frailty and their strug-
gles when we are there in person to witness them. Financial abuse, which I have written about before (see scam prevention
advice here, along with a sad story), is only part of the picture, but it is a vital issue. Apart from the advice in the brochure, we
would appreciate hearing from readers who have tackled this problem and can tell us what has worked and what hasn’t.
Affairs continued from page 10 information of your tax preparer. Keep all your organized information and files together in one convenient location – ideally in a fireproof filing cabinet or safe in your home. Also be sure to review and update it every year, and don’t forget to tell your loved ones where they can find it. RESOURCE GUIDES For step-by-step instructions on what and how to record, organize and store all your important information in one convenient location, there are a number of excellent resource guides available including: “Get It Together” offered through Nolo (nolo.com, 800-7283555) for $18.50; Kiplinger’s “Your Family Records Organizer” CD and booklet for $30
(store.kiplinger.com); and “The It’s All Right Here Life & Affairs Organizer” ($50), and “12
Critical Things Your Family Needs to Know” ($15) available at organizemyaffairs.com.
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Is a custom gym membership for you? 10,000 facilities alone (both in the U.S. and worldwide), and other chains are growing too. FINDING A GROWTH MARKET Niche gyms owe much of their success to Curves, which was formally launched in the U.S. by husband and wife team Gary and Diane Heavin in 1995. The club guides busy women, no matter their fitness levels, through 30-minute workouts that combine strength training and cardio. Recognizing that Curves was attracting a portion of the health and fitness population that hadn't yet been tapped, a number of gyms have been looking for other ways to reach out to people that don't fit the mold of the traditional gym member. Among some of the surest bets in niche gyms today are those that cater to children, in light of the childhood obesity epidemic. Children’s gyms comprise one of the two fastest growing groups of U.S. health club members, according to IHRSA. The other is baby boomers. In fact, people 55 and older comprise nearly 25% of all health club members. Nifty After Fifty, a small Southern Californiabased senior fitness chain founded in 2006 by Dr.
Sheldon Zinberg, is looking to take advantage of that statistic, as well as the estimate that the boomer population will hit 80 million within 10 years. Like other niche gyms aimed at the older crowd, Nifty After Fifty facilities, which are by appointment only, greet new members with a comprehensive health evaluation and customized workout, offer access to specialized low-impact equipment and steer clear of playing rock music. A HIGH STANDARD TO MAINTAI Of course, by targeting such specific users, these clubs put a lot of pressure on themselves to satisfy those they do attract. Core Performance Centers, for one, does not have an initiation fee, instead charging $50 per session and hoping consumers will decide this is the right fitness method for them and keep coming back for more. But, Lavery says, the gamble is often a smart one. "No matter what you're doing, people need support, whether it's financial or emotional," Lavery says. "In health clubs, it's no different, and that's why niche markets succeed."
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You're at the gym, huffing and puffing away on the treadmill, trying to lose those last five, 10 or 15 pounds, when you glance at the person running next to you. Without fail, it's a supermodel or a bodybuilder. Suddenly, you're feeling a bit intimidated. More and more gym-goers, however, are avoiding this scenario by joining niche health clubs that cater to specific needs--including making members feel comfortable enough to want to keep coming back. "In general, clubs that are very in tune with their brand and what they're marketing have the most success," says Rosemary Lavery, a spokeswoman for the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. "They know what they're selling, and it's very clear to the consumer. There are no misconceptions." Consumers seem to agree. In 2005, the IHRSA estimated that there were 10,000 express workout centers--facilities with less than 3,000 square feet of space and a membership of about 350--in the country, accounting for the majority of clubs that opened the previous year. Today, of the nearly 30,000 health clubs in the U.S., the niche women's club Curves has