KIDS  |  TEENS  |  MILLENNIALS  |  ADULTS  |  SENIORS

Sometimes asking is the answer

Let’s face it –we are not as young as we used to be. You don’t expect to run a 5-minute mile anymore, or to replace your roof, or paint the house yourself. So maybe it’s time to stop trying to handle financial challenges on your own.  It’s not a sign of helplessness. It’s actually a smart decision. Seeking guidance and help from someone you respect can help you maintain control of your finances.

 

Here are some steps to consider:

  • Keep it in the family.  Enlist a loved one to help you pay your monthly bills, do your banking, help you prepare and file your income tax. You may also want to appoint a trusted relative with financial power of attorney or guardianship.
  • Recruit a pro. Team up with a CPA or financial advisor to create a budget, determine financial strategies, and tailor a plan to help you meet your financial needs and goals. Make sure your advisor is licensed and registered with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
  • Go to the government. Senior-centric programs offer a variety of support, including basic money management, negotiating with creditors, and ways to reduce your expenses, and increase your income. Supplemental Security Income provides cash so those with little or no income can pay for basic needs including, food, shelter and clothes. See if you are eligible at www.ssa.gov/ssi
  • Get a job. Get more money the old-fashioned way: earn it. The Senior Community Service Employment Program will train you on-the-job while paying you. And the training can lead to regular employment opportunities. For more information, go to this link Or call 1-877-US2-JOBS.

Everyone knows how difficult it can be to make ends meet when essentials like healthcare, housing, food and energy are rising faster than your income. This is especially challenging for seniors and retirees, who may be living on a fixed income. Help is on the way, through hundreds of federal, state and private assistance programs that enable seniors to afford their basic needs. Here are a few suggestions for finding support.

In Financial Need? Help Is Out There.

Health-related resources

Paying for health-related expenses often demands the lion’s share of your fixed income. We know that Medicare helps us handle many of those expenses. But sometimes more help is needed. Here are some sources to explore:

  • Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that helps more than 65 million people. It’s the country’s single largest source of health coverage. Medicaid pays Medicare premiums for qualified beneficiaries, as well as Medicare deductibles and other charges. It can also pay for long-term care in nursing homes, adult day care, and assisted living. To be eligible you must meet your state’s income requirements and other criteria. Check Here.

  • PACE, the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, is a Medicare and Medicaid program that helps older people receive comprehensive healthcare in the community rather than going into a nursing home facility. To qualify you must be over 55, need nursing home level of care, and be able to live safely in the community with PACE support. Get more details about this and other programs Here.

  • Need help paying for your prescriptions? Going to ‘cut-rate’ online pharmacies is not always a good idea (see the unit on avoiding scams). Most pharmaceutical companies have programs in place that help low-income or uninsured people afford prescription drugs. Their Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) may offer a variety of benefits, such as free prescriptions to uninsured or low-income people. Many states also offer State Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs (SPAPs). This generally includes paying for drug costs that Medicate Part D does not cover. For more information on participating pharmacies, eligible drugs, and other resources go to: the Medicare website, the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, Needy Meds also offers healthcare webinars, newsletter and discount drug cards.

 

Other drug cost-cutting options include comparison shopping for your meds. Area drug prices can vary dramatically. An example in a recent study revealed a customer was quoted $249 at a national chain for an anti-depression drug. The local big box store charged $43 for the same prescription, a savings of over $200.

If you still need help handling healthcare costs, consider hiring a medical bill negotiator. He/she will reach out to your medical providers and hospitals to reduce your bills, correct errors, and fight insurance denials. These specialists usually do not charge you unless they can save you money, and will then take a percentage of what was saved as their fee.

Tax relief for seniors

Even with new simplified forms, preparing and filing your income tax returns can be daunting. The IRS offers a number of services to help older taxpayers through the process.  Their Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program is free to people age 60 and older.  It specializes in answering questions about pensions and other retirement-related issues. Through their Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, IRS-certified volunteers will do your basic income tax return preparation at no charge. The service is available to those earning $56,000 or less. Both these service sites are generally found at community centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls and other local sire.

 

Get more information at Here.  Your state may also offer help in preparing your state returns. A list of each state’s link to the Department or Taxation/Revenue.

 

The IRS tax code also offers some extra perks for seniors (and in many cases, other lower-income taxpayers).

 

These include:

  • An additional tax credit - the Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled is for lower-income people who are over 65 or disabled and file a 1040 or 1040A tax form. (For full details and eligibility, see IRS Publication 524.)
  • A larger standard deduction – after age 65, you won’t have to pay taxes on as much of your income. That can save a single filer more than $1500; even more savings for married joint filers.
  • Higher income requirement – if you or your spouse is at least 65, the amount of money you are allowed to earn without having to file a tax return is higher than for younger filers. If you’re both 65 or older, that amount ticks up. And if your only income is Social Security you may not have to include those benefits. This can be complicated, so check the IRS interactive tool to see how much, if any, of your Social Security is taxable.
  • Home improvement deductions – if these were made due to a disability or medical condition with a doctor’s recommendation. Their cost may be deductible if you itemize your deductions. Again, this is complex, so consult a tax advisor or read IRS Publication 502.

Putting food on the table

No American should go hungry. If you struggle to pay for groceries, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) can help. This program, formerly called Food Stamps, offers financial assistance for groceries, based on your monthly income. Generally, if you qualify for Medicaid you are also eligible for SNAP/Food Stamps. Enrollment in the program is handled through your county, usually through the Department of Social Services, but your county may have a SNAP office.

 

The oldest, and best-known assistance organization, Meals on Wheels, delivers over 1 million meals a day through more than 5000 local programs. These branches are staffed primarily by volunteers, who prepare nutritious frozen meals that can be easily heated in the oven or microwave.

 

joint initiative, provided by the National Council on Aging and Feeding America, links seniors with food programs in their home community. and enrollment tools.

 

The US Department of Agriculture also provides assistance for seniors age 60 and over, through a number of programs, including:

  • Commodity Supplemental Food Program – focuses on providing nutrients that are often lacking in an elderly person’s diet, such as protein, calcium and fiber.
  • Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program – gives seniors coupons or vouchers to use for fresh foods at participating local farmers’ markets, farm stands
  • Child and Adult Care Food Program – offers reimbursements for nutritious meals to eligible seniors who are enrolled at participating adult day care centers.

 

Excellent resources on programs, plus tips on shopping, cooking and food safety, are on the National Council on Aging, and US Department of Agriculture websites. Visit the NCOA.org and Nutrition.gov websites for more information.

Help paying bills

Unforeseen expenses, investment downturns, cost of living spikes…there are many scenarios that can put our finances in chaos. If you find yourself struggling with bills, aid is available through government agencies, and non-profit organizations. If eligible, you can get help finding and paying for affordable housing or keeping your home, maintenance and repair costs, plus much more. The best place to start is with specialized search engines that are designed for seniors.

 

The National Council of Aging offers a robust link, www.benefitscheckup.org, that includes over 2500 benefit programs across the country, presented state by state.  The AARP Foundation, a charitable affiliate of the American Association of Retired People, helps members and nonmembers solve economic challenges. Simply enter your zip code and a list of local programs available in your area will appear, with contact information. www.aarpfoundation.org

 

There is a federally mandated office of The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging in every county of every state in the country. They can tell you about every program in your area. And they will help you apply.  Find their link Here.

 

Assistance programs at these sites include:

  • Healthcare and medication
  • Income assistance
  • Food and nutrition
  • Housing and utilities
  • Tax relief
  • Education
  • Transportation
  • Legal services

 

The government’s Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), helps qualified people with their heating and cooling energy costs, energy-related home repairs, and more. See if you are eligible via their website, Here. Or call 1-866-674-6327.

 

Help with finding an affordable place to rent, and help paying your rent, can be found at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

 

USA.gov offers benefits, grants and loans to qualified people, with programs that help pay for medical costs, phone bills, food assistance and more.

 

Another way to reduce your bills: call your cable provider, garbage collector, insurance company, and telephone provider and ask if they offer discounts for seniors or low-income families. And always be sure to take full advantage of senior discounts whenever you shop, eat out, or travel.

 

Also, ask whether your water, garbage, telephone and cable/satellite TV companies offer discounts for seniors, low-income families or the disabled. Rules vary, but you'll likely be asked to provide proof of age, income or disability status in order to qualify.

 

And of course, don't forget to ask about senior discounts whenever you shop, travel or buy insurance – those little savings can really add up.