Weekly column in the Washington Times Communities by Laurie Edwards-Tate
Every penny counts when you live on a fixed income. In the current recession, it’s getting harder and harder to do it. Thirty five percent of all Americans over the age of 65 rely entirely on Social Security payments alone for their income.
As a result, more seniors are declaring bankruptcy. Between 2011 and 2007, the number of Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 that declared bankruptcy rose 178 percent. The University of Michigan reports that Americans over age 55 account for 20 percent of all bankruptcies in the U.S.
There are several ways to get more from your money when you are older. While this list is aimed at seniors, people of all ages can benefit from several of these tips.
- Current expenses
Review all of your current monthly financial obligations such as supplemental health insurance, prescription drug insurance, life insurance, and find out if you have the most cost-effective plan for you and/or if all plans are still relevant. Consult with a trusted information source before terminating plans. When assessing your prescription drug plans, consider reaching out to your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), where you can get free information about Medicare, including apply for and selecting plans.
- Health insurance
If you’re enrolled in Medicare and have limited income and assets, the National Council on Aging reports you may be able to put over $100 back in your monthly Social Security check and minimize your premiums and co-pays by learning more about Medicare Savings Programs. There are four different Medicare Savings Programs that can help with Part B premiums and other costs. Each program has a different income and resource eligibility limit.
- Prescription drugs
If you qualify, Medicare’s Extra Help and local prescription drug assistance programs can help you cut your medicine costs.
- Property taxes
Check to see whether you are eligible to lower your annual tax bills. On average, you can save $500–$2,000 annually with this assistance. The IRS can provide resources for you to determine whether a program fits your circumstances.
- Phone Plans
In many states, individuals over a certain age qualify for a free cell phone plan. Consider switching from a land line to a free mobile phone. Lifeline also offers a discount on local phone services for qualified individuals. Each state has its own rules.
- Volunteering/community service
How about getting paid to give back? The Senior Corps and Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) provide paid stipends for service.
- Free/low cost entertainment
Save on entertainment costs by taking advantage of community programs. Public libraries often host music and theatre performances. Civic groups and schools often do the same, especially during the summer and the holidays. Local museums frequently offer one free admission day monthly, or low-cost passes for seniors. If you are computer literate, consider getting rid of your cable television or satellite service and watch programs online, or sign up for a service like Netflix.
- Senior Discounts
Many retailers offer discounts to older customers on certain days of the week. Don’t pass them up! If you don’t see signs posted, don’t be afraid to ask. These programs encourage loyalty and retailers are glad to tell you about them. This can add up to a 10-25% savings on purchases. Consider making all your purchases on senior discount days.
- Slash Insurance Costs
If you’re retired and your children are now independent, you may not need as much life insurance as before. Consider raising deductibles on home and auto insurance, the amount you have to pay before receiving benefits should you make a claim. Opting for a $1,000 or $500 deductible instead of a $250 deductible for both home and auto insurance could save you money every year. Many companies also provide a discount if you buy all your property insurance from them. The National Council on Aging suggests designating the younger spouse as the principal driver of the family car, which could reduce your car insurance costs.
- Work With A Financial Advisor Specializing in Senior Clients
Find a financial professional who is a member of the Society of Certified Senior Advisors. Established in 1997, CSA provides specialized education so advisors understand the key health, social and financial factors that are important to seniors and truly understand their age-related circumstances.
Special thanks to the National Council on Aging, a nonprofit service and advocacy organization headquartered in Washington, DC that acts as a national voice for millions of older adults and the community organizations, for providing several of these tips. Please visit http://www.ncoa.org for more terrific information.
Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!