How the Amazon Echo could help you to continue to live independently throughout retirement

Written by Emily Ryan

Until recently, Personal Virtual Assistants (PVAs) were the preserve of those with a high level of disposable income who love to own the latest gadgets and gizmos. What couldn’t have been predicted though, was the positive impact these PVA’s could have on people with mobility or accessibility issues around the home.

One recent development in this line of gadgets has been the Amazon’s own version of the personal assistant, the ‘Echo’ and it’s personable PVA ‘Alexa’. Both affordable, accessible the possibilities are endless when it comes to independent living.

The device has gained support among elderly adults as well as their families and caregivers with more than 30,000 customer reviews on Amazon praising the Alexa for its ability to assist. The reviews discuss how Alexa has given them a sense of independence and freedom that was once thought to be impossible.

We’ve spoken to the independent living experts over at Ability Superstore about just how some of their customers have made use of the Amazon Echo device, and how it has allowed some of their customers to live more independently as a result.

How the Alexa can help combat loneliness

As well as being practical, Alexa can help to alleviate the pain of loneliness in older adults. In the elderly community, loneliness can be the difference between good health and poor health. Alexa attempts to provide as much assistance and companionship as possible through its voice activation controls, as well as being able to connect with other internet users through communication software such as Skype.

The Amazon echo is a fantastic piece of technology that sits neatly on your table without causing too much clutter or without clashing with any decor. One specific feature of the echo is that it can connect to your devices such as your radio and your tv. From here, you can talk to your echo and command it to control these devices. Imagine being able to just ‘call out’ to Alexa to instantly find out information about your local neighbourhood, rather than having to use a fiddly timetable?

The additional features of Alexa

Additional features include being able to gather information, read the news, listen to music, check for sport scores, add an alarm or even check the weather. It’s a fantastic assistant that is available to you whenever you need it. Not only that, but with its voice command, there’s no need for handheld controls. To ‘wake up’ your device, simply call out the name “Alexa”. Once activated, the virtual assistant will ‘wake up’ and listen to your commands.

This is particularly handy for those who have trouble navigating around the house or if you tend to lose remotes fairly often! Your Alexa is in the room with you as far as your voice can travel. Once set up the Alexa couldn’t be easier to use making it ideal for even the biggest technophobes.

Help aids such as Alexa are a brilliant way to ease you into retirement. The possibilities are endless with Alexa – you can with send emails and text messages, update your Facebook and communicate with the grandchildren through Skype – you can even do your weekly shop through its voice activation!

Alexa isn’t just an aid for the disabled or the elderly it’s a tool that many people both old and young can use in their day to day lives. So don’t see it as an object of defeat – see it as an object which can help liberate your life and improve your everyday independence.

Retiring and Your Finances: Ways to Keep Your Cash Flow and Credit Going

Written by Georgina Taylor

Retirement is a great thing to look forward to: you’ll be able to spend more time doing what you love and you won’t have to worry about the daily responsibilities a life-long career requires. Once retired you will be in control of your time and free to be as active or relaxed as you choose. Yes, the best days are yet to come.

Unfortunately, many people are not financially prepared to live a life without having to work for a living. Without enough money coming in to pay the bills and still have some left over for you, you may find yourself in a downward spiral that affects your credit score, making it harder to find relief. Managing your finances on a fixed income is the most important thing you can do in retirement so you can enjoy the fruits of your labors. Here are some helpful hints.

Know Your Budget

Knowing exactly how much money you need every month to live is very important. This will help keep you from failing to pay loans, credit card debts or mortgages that you are responsible for.

First, figure out how much you will need for living expenses: house payments, food, insurance, gas and electric, phone, internet, any medicines you pay for – anything you cannot miss a payment on. Secondly, choose an amount to set aside each month for emergencies: you never know when you’ll need access to cash because of an accident or other unforeseeable event. One rule of thumb says you should set aside enough to cover all your expenses for six months. Finally, think about any short-term investments you want to make and set aside a little for those.

Everything left over is yours to do as you please.

Keep Your Credit Score Up

By paying your bills on time, you lessen the risk of your credit dropping in retirement. This can help you for future purchases, like finally buying that dream vacation home or helping your grandchildren through college.

Although you’ll be on a fixed income, make sure to pay off debts as soon as you can to avoid problems. Even though you are retired it is important to keep your score high. Should you need to improve your score, there is software to improve your credit score. The service provides you with credit reports from agencies, identity theft tools, as well as various reports, charts and graphs to assist you in your efforts.

Don’t let your credit score slip just because you retire: stay on top of everything and you’ll have plenty of great days ahead.

Look for Ways to Reduce Fees

Surcharges and fees for basic things like bank accounts and credit cards should be a big no-no during retirement. A few fees here and there can really add up if you are on a fixed income.

Look for ways to eliminate fees by using newer technology. Find a bank that offers free direct deposit so you can have all of your checks go into the account without a yearly fee. You can also choose online banking to move money around without penalties. If you use a credit card why not one gives you points toward future purchases? The more ways you can find to eliminate fees, the better your financial situation will be.

Consider a Reverse Mortgage

If you are over 62, you may qualify for a reverse mortgage, which will allow you to forgo your mortgage payments. This is a great way for older retirees to save some cash to use for other bills and purchases.

With a reverse mortgage you use the equity built up in your home to pay for your loan, so the more equity you have, the better. This can really take the burden of a large monthly payment off of your shoulders so you can enjoy your retirement. If you take a reverse mortgage, although you won’t have any payments you will still be responsible for property taxes and your homeowner’s insurance.

Open Direct Deposit

Chances are, once you retire you will be receiving money from several different sources. You may have a pension or 401K that you draw from each month or dividends from stock or social security. If you don’t learn to manage these sources quickly, you may find yourself with less money than you planned.

Having each of these sources deposited directly into your savings or checking account eliminates the need to keep track of everything. Funds instantly arrive in your account the moment they are disbursed, so you don’t have to worry about forgetting to deposit a check. This way, all of your money will be easily countable and retrievable, giving you one less thing to worry about so you can enjoy your retirement.

If you manage your money right, there’s no reason retirement can’t be a great time without financial worries!

Georgina Taylor works closely with those approaching retirement age to get their finances in order. She is a personal finance consultant for the over 50s and shares her knowledge around the web.