Day: May 7, 2017

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Social Security not keeping up with seniors' rising costs


For the fifth year in a row, the 60 million people who depend on Social Security have had to settle for historically low increases.  For the average recipient the adjustment adds up to a monthly increase of less than $4 a month.

Meanwhile, older Americans report that their household budgets jumped substantially last year, despite the lack of growth in their Social Security benefits, according to a new survey by The Senior Citizens League (TSCL). 

“The gap between benefit growth and retiree costs was particularly pronounced due to rising prices of the most essential items in retirees’ budgets, — medical and food costs,” says Mary Johnson, TSCL’s Social Security and Medicare policy analyst.  TSCL sent a letter this month to Congressional leaders calling upon them to enact legislation that would provide a modest boost to Social Security benefits.

Johnson discussed with FOX Business these additional findings from the survey, and what you need to know to adjust your household budget.

Boomer: To what did the survey attribute the substantial jump in household budgets for seniors?

Johnson: Two factors.  Spending needs typically grow in retirement, and, an extremely low annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).  Unfortunately the spending jump isn’t unusual, but a pattern that typically occurs in retirement.  This is something we can try to plan for in retirement, but it’s also a trend that needs to be addressed by our elected lawmakers in order to maintain the adequacy of Social Security benefits for all Americans. 

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Over any retirement our needs change. We require more medical services and prescription drugs, our need for different housing and supports like transportation services grow, and life events, like caregiving, or the death of a spouse, have a big impact on spending.

Annual surveys conducted by The Senior Citizens League since 2014 confirm this. About 90 percent of survey participants report that their household budgets rose by at least $39 per month over the 12-month period, in each of the past four years.  In each year, the largest percentage of survey participants — 37% in 2017 —report that monthly expenses rose by more than $119.  This year survey participants said their biggest cost jumps were for medical expenses and food — two categories that are essential.

The second factor in addition to the typical trend of rising spending over time, are recent low annual Social Security COLAs.  The COLA isn’t doing its job keeping pace with the inflation experienced by the majority of retirees.

Boomer: Why is there such a gap between retirees Cola and their spending?

Johnson: A major problem is the consumer price index (CPI) that the government uses to determine the annual boost.  One would think that the CPI used to calculate COLAs for retirees would be based on the spending patterns of older people, but it is not.  Instead, the COLA is determined by the growth in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W).  Younger working adults spend a much smaller portion of their income on medical costs, and spend more on transportation and gasoline, categories that have gone down dramatically in recent years.  This tends to understate the inflation experienced by the majority of people receiving Social Security who spend more on medical costs and less on transportation and gasoline.

There is a better choice of CPI for calculating the COLA, the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E).  It gives greater weight to healthcare and housing, two categories that form a bigger share of spending for older households.  The CPI-E would for example have paid a COLA of 0.6 percent in 2016 instead of zero, and 1.5 percent this year instead of 0.3 percent.

Boomer: What can pre retirees do to prepare for the cost of living increases in their household budgets in retirement?

Johnson: Work out a household retirement budget, using spending records from several years back. Think ahead for big costs, like transportation needs, replacing a roof or appliances.  Find professional help with the hardest part like planning for growing medical and housing costs in the later part of life.  If you don’t have a financial advisor, check your local senior centers, or for classes in your area that can help.  The National Council on Aging has a free online tool called “EconomicCheckUp” that’s a great way to get started. 

Boomer: Are there any legislative proposals in the works that would boost Social Security benefits?

Johnson: Yes!  The Social Security 2100 Act (H.R.1902) would not only keep the Social Security system solvent over the next 75 years and beyond, it would also boost benefits. The bill is estimated to provide both current and new beneficiaries with an average of about $300 more per year.  The legislation would also base the Social Security COLA on the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E).  According to my estimates, that would boost the current average monthly benefit about $75 after 20 years in retirement.  The bill was introduced with the support of 156 original co-sponsors — more than any other comprehensive Social Security reform bill to date.  TSCL believes the bill would go a long way in ensuring the retirement security that older Americans have earned and deserve.



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This boosts sexiness?


Do you ever feel like Cupid has put you in the doghouse when it comes to finding love? Well, adopting a furry companion may help improve your fate. But not just any pet will do, a new survey suggests.

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Petsies, a company that makes stuffed animals, surveyed 1,000 men and women on how attracted they were to the opposite sex when possessing differently sized cats and dogs. Researchers showed study participants 12 pictures of the same people. Half of the group saw the person with a pet, while the other half saw him or her without a pet. Researchers used two pictures for each type of pet, and they were classified as “cat, kitten, puppies, small-sized dogs, medium-sized dogs and large-sized dogs.”

Why cat owners may be unlucky in love
In the study, women rated men toting puppies as almost 24 percent sexier, 14 percent more trustworthy and 13 percent more attractive than the same man not carrying a canine. Meanwhile, dogs that weren’t too big or too small gave women the biggest sexiness boost, as men rated them about 7 percent sexier and more attractive than if they weren’t carrying a canine at all. But in terms of trustworthiness, small dogs gave women the biggest advantage — men rated them nearly 9 percent more so than women without a dog.

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Owning a kitten or cat, on the other hand, didn’t do women in the survey any favors. Women with kittens were perceived as the least attractive, and women with cats were rated lowest on sexiness and trustworthiness. Surprising to some, owning a large dog did men the fewest favors in terms of sexiness and attractiveness. And for the men, being a medium-sized dog owner led to the lowest trustworthy rating.

Other ways to boost your attractiveness
That’s generally good news for dog lovers, but fortunately, owning a particular furry friend isn’t the only way to increase your attractiveness to the opposite sex, other research suggests.

While being confident, having a symmetrical face and maintaining proper hygiene are key for both men and women, men with beards in particular may have more luck in love, an August 2016 study in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology suggests.

FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK FOR MORE FOX LIFESTYLE NEWS

Another possible way men can snag a mate? Be fiscally responsible.

A March 2013 Michigan University study found that women were more drawn to men who had self-control with spending, as it shows responsibility and stability — two desirable traits for a serious relationship.

Fox News.com Reporter and FOX411 host Diana Falzone covers celebrity news and interviews some of today’s top celebrities and newsmakers.  You can follow her on Twitter @dianafalzone.



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Incredible orca hunt


A pod of killer whales off the coast of Monterey, California, has intrigued biologists by going on a frenzied hunting spree that’s killed four gray whales in just seven days.

Nancy Black, a local marine biologist and co-owner of Monterey Bay Whale Watch, caught the latest attack on camera (which you can watch here, about 30 seconds in).

She called this week’s events “unprecedented,” and told the Guardian that she hasn’t seen this type of behavior from orcas in her 30-year career. The pod of killer whales, which she calls Emma’s group, is highly skilled and managed to separate a gray whale calf from its mother in just 20 minutes, a maneuver that Black estimates typically averages one to two hours, reports the San Jose Mercury News.

“It’s kind of exciting to see this group and how they’ve gotten really good at hunting,” she says. Black has several theories on why the hunt has been so aggressive, including a later spring migration of gray whales to the area, due to traveling further south in Mexico than usual this winter.

“It’s still a mystery,” Black says of how the orcas know when and where to hunt gray whales, “but they are very intelligent.” She also posited that the killer whales may be binge-feeding (a whale meal can feed an orca pod for two days) and that the orcas could be teaching their young to hunt, with the youngest hunter in Emma’s group, called Little B, just under six months old.

Along with gray and humpback whales, orcas also prey on large marine life like great white sharks, seals, and sea lions. (Humpbacks appear to save other sea creatures from orcas.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: ‘Unprecedented’ Orca Hunting Frenzy Caught on Film



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4 killed, 8 hurt in head-on crash involving Chicago bus


Four people were killed and eight others injured in a head-on crash Sunday involving a Chicago city bus and an automobile.

Chicago police spokeswoman Michelle Tannehill says the accident occurred on the city’s west side.

Authorities responded to the crash involving a Chicago Transit Authority No. 20 bus around 6:15 a.m., Fox 32 Chicago reported.

The injured were taken to local hospitals, according to the station. At least four were seriously hurt. The injured included the bus driver.

The car was speeding west when it hit a parked car, lost control and struck the bus head-on, the Chicago Sun Times reported.

The driver and three passengers in the car were killed, police said.

Tannehill said officers from the department’s major-incident unit were at the scene.

The CTA also is assisting with the crash investigation, including by reviewing surveillance video from the bus.

CTA spokeswoman Catherine Hosinski say the crash happened at the intersection of Madison Street and Talman Avenue. She said the bus was eastbound  Madison at the time.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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Border patrol catches woman smuggling 3 pounds of heroin strapped to buttocks


U.S. border patrol agents in Arizona nabbed a woman they said was trying to smuggle 3 pounds of heroin strapped to her backside.

The 47-year-old Arizona resident, an illegal immigrant, was hoping no one would notice what was down her pants as she walked across the border in Nogales Tuesday, Fox 2 Detroit reports.

The 3 pounds of heroin were taped to her backside under her jeans, the station reported. U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the heroin had a street value of $45,000.

The woman was one of several arrests at the Nogales border crossing Tuesday, the station reported.

She and the others who were arrested were turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to the station.



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Man shot dead at Florida charity car show after going after cop with knife, police say


An officer working off-duty for a charity car show shot and killed a man he says came at him with a knife. 

The shooting happened near a large intersection in downtown Tarpon Springs, where classic cars and festival-goers lined the streets.

Tarpon Springs police say around 1:30 p.m. the officer working the car show was told to check on a “suspicious” white male riding a bike near Tarpon Ave. and Safford Ave. The officer asked the man his name, but it was determined the name given was fake. The man gave another last name over the radio. 

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TSPD said the radio went silent for a few moments, and then the officer could be heard on the radio yelling “Shots fired! Shots fired! Shots fired!”

The officer told the dispatcher, “He came at me with a knife.”

The man was taken to Florida Hospital North Pinellas and was pronounced dead just before 2:30. The officer was not injured.

Read more from FOX 13 Tampa.



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Colorado teacher accused of letting students smash piñata with Trump's picture


Weld County School District RE-5J issued a statement on their Facebook page Saturday evening addressing accusations that a teacher allowed students to celebrate Cinco de Mayo by smashing a pinata with President Donald Trump’s picture on it.

According to the statement, photos circulated by students show the piñata, the piñata tied to a tree, and a student with a bat in hand near the piñata.

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The name of the teacher involved in the incident has not been released, however the teacher has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation by the school district that will commence on Monday, May 8.

Superintendent Dr. Martin Foster said “This was an incredibly disrespectful act that does not reflect the values of Roosevelt High Schoolor the school district.”

Read more from FOX 31 Denver.



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ISIS attack leaves 2 dead at Iraqi base – Pakistan: Army kills 50 Afghan forces in border fight


Two people were killed and six others were injured Sunday when Islamic State militants attacked a base in northern Iraq where U.S. military advisers are stationed, Reuters reported.

Two of the ISIS militants died when they detonated suicide vests at the entrance to the K1 base overnight. Three more were killed by Kurdish forces who control the Kirkuk region.

“They were wearing uniforms like the Kurdish peshmerga and had shaved their beards to look like us,” one officer told Reuters.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it had killed and wounded dozens of “crusaders and apostates.”

Click for more from Reuters.



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Family dog wakes up owners during home fire in Minnesota


A Red Wing family was evacuated from their burning home Saturday morning, after their dog woke them up.

At 1:56 a.m., the Red Wing Fire Department responded to a call about a garage fire on the 1900 block of Burton Street.

Paramedics responded within five minutes, only to find the garage fully engulfed in flames. Flames and smoke extended into the house, damaging the second floor and attic.

Everybody in the house was evacuated safely, including a cat who was administered oxygen before being returned to the family.

After about two and a half hours, five fire engines and 35 firefighters were able to extinguish the fire. All fire personnel were unharmed.

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The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Read more from FOX 9.



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BREAKING NEWS: North Korea detains another American over alleged hostile acts


North Korea has announced it detained another American citizen over unspecified hostile acts against the country.

North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said Sunday that Kim Hak Song had worked for the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology before he was held on Saturday.

North Korea on Wednesday announced the detention of an accounting instructor at the same university, Kim Sang Dok, for “acts of hostility aimed at overthrowing the country.”

The KCNA didn’t say whether the two cases are connected.

Kim Hak Song is among at least four Americans being detained in North Korea.

The others are Otto Warmbier, serving a 15-year prison term with hard labor for alleged anti-state acts, and Kim Dong Chul, serving a 10-year term with hard labor for alleged espionage.



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