How to Help a Parent with Finances

What tips can you offer on helping a parent with his or her finances? My 84-year-old father is having trouble keeping up with his bills and insurance, and I just found out that he has been making contributions to a suspicious charity.

Many adult children serve as financial helpers to their elderly or ill parents. They help with paying bills, handling deposits and investments, filing insurance claims, preparing taxes and more. Here are some tips and resources that can help you help your dad.

Start with a Conversation


Taking on the task of helping a parent with finances can be a sensitive and difficult topic. The first step in helping your dad is to have a respectful talk with him expressing your concerns and offering to help with his financial chores. If you have siblings, it can be a good idea to get them involved too. This can help you head off any possible hard feelings. Plus, with others involved, your dad will know everyone is concerned.

Get Organized


If your dad is willing to let you help manage, monitor or take over his financial affairs, your first order of business is to get organized by making a list of his financial accounts and other important information. Your list should include his:
  • Contact list: Names and numbers of key contacts like his insurance agents, financial advisor, tax preparer, family attorney, etc.
  • Monthly bills: Phone, cable, water, trash, gas, electric, credit card accounts, etc.
  • Financial accounts: Including bank accounts, brokerage and mutual fund accounts, safe-deposit boxes and any other financial assets. Make sure to get usernames and passwords for online financial accounts.
  • Company benefits: Any retirement plans, pensions or health benefits from his current or former employers.
  • Insurance policies: Life, home, auto, long-term care, Medicare, etc.
  • Taxes: Copies of your dad's income tax returns over the past few years.

Locate Important Documents


This is also the ideal time to find out if your dad has the following essential legal documents: a will; an advance directive which may include a living will and health-care proxy and will allow you or another family member or friend to make medical decisions on his behalf if he becomes incapacitated; and a durable power of attorney, which gives you or a designated person similar legal authority for financial decisions, if needed.

If he does not have these important documents prepared, now is the time to prepare them. If they are prepared, make sure they are up-to-date and you know where they are located.

Simplify Financial Tasks


The quickest way to help your dad simplify his monthly financial chores is to set up automatic payments for his utilities and other routine bills and arrange for direct deposit of his income sources.

If your dad has savings and investments scattered in many different accounts, you should consider consolidating them. You can also set up your dad's bank system and investment accounts online, so you can pay bills and monitor his accounts anytime.

Set Up Protections


To guard against scams and risky financial behaviors, consider getting your dad a prepaid credit card. With a prepaid credit card your dad would have access to money, but with restrictions on the amount he can spend. Some prepaid cards allow you to block certain types of unwanted transactions, such as wire transfers or online purchases. Additionally, some web-based services allow you to automatically monitor your dad's accounts, track suspicious activity and alert you when a problem is detected.

Seek Help


If you need help or live far away, consider hiring a daily money manager who can come in once or twice a month to pay bills, make deposits, decipher health insurance statements and balance his checkbook. Fees range between $60 and $150 per hour.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

Published April 9, 2021

How to Search for Discounts in 2021

I just turned 60 and would like to find out the best way to go about locating discounts.

Among the best perks of growing older in the United States are that many discounts are available to older adults.

There are thousands of discounts on a wide variety of products and services including restaurants, grocery stores, travel and lodging, entertainment, retail and apparel, health and beauty, automotive services and much more. These discounts – typically ranging between 5% and 25% off – can add up to save hundreds of dollars each year.

If you do not mind admitting your age, here are some tips and tools to help you find discounts.

Ask!


The first thing to know is that many businesses do not advertise their discounts, but many offer them when asked. Some discounts become available when you turn 50, but many cannot be claimed until later ages, such as 60 or 65.

Search Online


Because discounts for older adults frequently change and can vary depending on where you live and the time of the year, the internet is an easy way to find information on current discounts.

A good place to start is to use your favorite search engine and type in "senior discounts" or "senior coupons." You may find websites with large lists of discounts in categories such as restaurant dining, grocery stores, retail stores, prescription medications, travel discounts and more.

You can also search for discounts by provider. Go to an online search engine and type in the business or organization you are curious about followed by "senior discount."

If you use a smartphone, there are also apps you can use that consolidate lists of discounts. These discounts are categorized by age and type.

Join a Club


There are some membership organizations that offer its older adult members a wide variety of discounts. The organization may specifically offer discounts to older adults based on the member's age and for use at the organization's affiliated businesses.

Types of Discounts


Here is an abbreviated rundown of some of the different types of discounts you can expect to find either through a membership organization or your online search engine.

Restaurants: Discounts for older adults are common at national chain restaurants and fast-food establishments. These discounts range from free or discounted items to discounts off your total order.

Retailers: Many large thrift stores and major retailers offer various savings to older adults. These stores may offer age-related discounts or discounts for certain days of the week, sometimes both.

Grocery Stores: Many locally owned and national chain grocery stores offer senior discount programs. These discounts may be offered on certain days of the week, but may vary by location.

Travel and Lodging: Many large airlines provide special fares in the U.S. to passengers 65 and older or may offer discounts to members of certain membership organizations. Some railway travel services offer percentage discounts to travelers over a certain age, such as 62. Many car rental companies offer discounts to customers over age 50 or to those who belong to certain organizations. Some of the large cruise lines offer discounted fares to cruisers age 55 and older. Many hotels offer senior discounts, usually ranging from 10% to 20%.

Entertainment: Many movie theaters, museums, golf courses, ski slopes and other public entertainment venues provide reduced admission to seniors over age 60 or 65. Some of these venues may offer annual passes at discounted rates for adults over a certain age.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

Published April 2, 2021

Keeping Your Balance as You Age

What can you tell me about balance exercises? I have fallen a few times over the past year and have read that balance exercises can help me regain my steadiness, but I am not exactly sure what to do.

Most people do not think much about practicing their balance, but good balance can be important to staying healthy. As we age, our balance may decline if we do not stay active. Poor balance can lead to falls that may cause injuries.

Every year, more than one in four people age 65 and older fall. This risk increases with age. Here is what you should know about balance, along with some exercises that can help you improve balance.

Aging Affects Balance


Balance is something many people take for granted until it is challenged by a medical condition, medication or advanced age. These factors can affect a person's balance and make one less stable over time.

Poor balance can also lead to a vicious cycle of inactivity. If you feel a little unsteady, you may curtail certain activities. If you are less active, you may not be challenging your balance systems or using your muscles as much. As a result, both balance and strength suffer. Simple acts like strolling through a grocery store or getting up from a chair become trickier. If your confidence suffers, you may become even less active.

Balance Exercises


Some individuals have balance problems tied to illness, medication or some other specific causes. If you are experiencing problems with your balance, you should always consult your doctor first. Here are four simple exercises some people use to help preserve and improve balance:
  • One-legged stands: Stand on one foot for 30 seconds or longer, then switch to the other foot. Stand near a wall or chair for assistance if needed. For an extra challenge, try closing your eyes or standing on a throw pillow.
  • Heel-to-toe walking: Take 20 steps while looking straight ahead. Try to walk in a perfectly straight line.
  • Standing up: Without using your hands, get up from a straight-backed chair and sit back down 10 to 20 times. This improves balance and leg strength.
  • Tai chi: Research has shown that the practice of tai chi – which uses a combination of slow, graceful movements, meditation and deep breathing – can help reduce the risk of falls.
For more information on different balance exercises you can do at home, there are a variety of balance and strength exercises and beginner tai chi instructional videos you can purchase or stream online. Some senior fitness programs offer online classes that guide you through exercises you can do at home.

See a Doctor


If you have already fallen, are noticeably dizzy, unsteady or have a medical condition affecting your balance, you need to see a doctor. The doctor might refer you to a physical therapist or to an appropriate balance-training class in your community. It is important to know that many medicines and medical conditions – from Parkinson's disease to diabetes to inner-ear disorders – can affect balance.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

Published March 26, 2021

Tips to Help You Locate Things You Misplace

I misplace everything including car keys, eyeglasses, cell phone and more. Do you have tips or tricks to help with tracking down misplaced items?

There is a wide variety of tracking devices that can help you find commonly misplaced items. Here are some top options to consider.

Tips and Memory Tricks


To help you remember where you have misplaced an item, it is most important to stay calm, take a breath and have patience with yourself. There is no reason to beat yourself up over it, because losing things happens to everyone! If you live with others, ask if they may have seen the missing item.

You may want to retrace your steps from the last place you remember seeing the item. That will often help you remember and find it. To limit losing track of an item try using a designated space, such as, an ornamental bowl or a hanger and return the item to that space after each use. It will take some time to build this habit, but it should eventually become second nature. Eventually, every time you come home or are done using the item, you will put it where it belongs. You may find that you will be able to locate your previously lost items much quicker and easier.

Practical Ideas


You may want to use a decorative hanger for storing your keys on when you get home. Also, add a brightly colored keychain or lanyard to make your keys more visible. Misplaced eyeglasses are another common cause of frustration. Try to remember to return your eyeglasses to a protective case and keep that case in the same area. You may want to purchase a brightly colored protective case to make it easier to locate. Most protective eyeglass cases come in dark colors and can be easily misplaced at night when you may need them the most.

For your cellphones and tablets, try to keep them charged and leave the ringer or sound on. It may be easier to locate your device if you can hear it. Some devices are equipped with a "find my device" tool that will trigger a sound, even if it is in silent mode. A cellphone docking station will charge your phone and keep it in the same location for easy retrieval.

Higher Tech Options


If you have a smartphone or tablet, you can use a Bluetooth tracker to easily locate lost or misplaced items like keys, purses, wallets, remote controls, smartphones, tablets or even laptops. There are several types of tracker products on the market today. Many pair with mobile device apps to help you locate missing items. Some of these devices also work with voice-activated assistants.

In many cases, all you need to do is attach a small battery-powered tracker to the items. You may have the option to attach the tracker with an adhesive sticker or a key ring. For larger items, such as a purse or wallet, you can store the tracker inside the item. When a tagged item goes missing, you simply access the app on your smartphone or tablet to see how far away you are from the item or to find the last known location on the map. If you are nearby, you can usually trigger the device's alert sound so you can easily find it. If a smartphone is lost nearby, some of the tracking devices can work in reverse. The user may press the tracker's button twice to make the phone ring, even if it is on silent mode.

You may find similar options for glasses as well. You can purchase a tiny rechargeable Bluetooth device that sticks to the inside arm of the glasses so it is not noticeable. When the glasses are missing, but nearby, an app on your mobile device can be used to make them ring. If the item is out of Bluetooth range, you can check the last known location on the map.

Radio Frequency Finders


There are also radio frequency devices that can help you find misplaced items and do not require a smartphone or tablet. These devices typically come with an item locator remote and four to six tags. Attach a tag to the items you want to keep track of with a key ring or adhesive sticker. Each tag is color-coded and corresponds to a colored button on the remote.

When an item goes missing, you simply press the colored button on the locator remote and the tag will flash and beep. The signal has a tracking range of around 100 feet. Make sure you keep the finder remote in a safe spot. If you misplace the remote, you will not be able to find the tagged items.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

Published March 19, 2021

A Social Security Perk for Older Parents

I have been told that my two children, ages 14 and 16, may be eligible for Social Security when I file for my retirement benefits. Is this true? What can you tell me?

If you are age 62 or older and are still raising young children, there is a Social Security benefit strategy that you may be able to claim.

Here is how it works. When you file for Social Security retirement benefits, your minor children can get money based on your work record equaling half of what you would receive at full retirement age. Even if you were to take a smaller benefit by claiming earlier, your kids will get half of your full-retirement benefit.

To qualify, your child – whether biological, adopted or a stepchild – must be unmarried and under age 18. Kids over 18 but still in high school can collect until they graduate or for two months after they turn 19, whichever comes first. Special rules apply to children with disabilities.

Because your youngest child is 14, if you are married, your spouse can collect Social Security benefits on your work record too. The spouse's age is irrelevant to this benefit. The minimum age requirements to collect retirement benefits at age 62 or survivor benefits at age 60 do not apply when it comes to collecting benefits as the caregiver of a young child. The spouse's benefit will stop when the youngest child turns 16 and is worth up to half of your benefit, unless the spouse is eligible for their own benefits or meet the age requirements.

But note that there are limits to the amount of money that can be paid to a family. The Social Security "family maximum payment" is determined by a complex formula and can range from 150% to 180% of your full retirement benefit amount. If the total exceeds that, each person's benefit, except yours, is cut proportionately until it equals the maximum.

Let us assume that your full retirement age benefit is $2,400 per month. According to the Social Security formula, that would make your family maximum benefit roughly $4,200 per month. SSA.gov/oact/cola/familymax.html.

Subtract your $2,400 benefit from the $4,200 family maximum benefit, which leaves $1,800. That is the monthly amount that can be split between your two children – $900 each. If your spouse also wants to benefit, the monthly checks are $600 per person. However, the family amount remains the same.

Minor children can collect up to half of a disabled parent's Social Security disability benefit. If the parent passes away, the children will qualify for a survivor's benefit, which is up to 75% of the deceased parent's full retirement benefit.

To learn more, see the SSA publication (No. 05-10085) "Benefits for Children" at SSA.gov/pubs/EN-05-10085.pdf.

One Caveat


Social Security benefits for your kids may not be available before full retirement age if you are still working. In 2021, you will lose $1 in benefits for every $2 earned over $18,960, except in the year you reach full retirement age. In that case, the earnings limit is $50,520, with $1 in benefits withheld for every $3 earned over the limit.

If you lose your benefits, your dependents also lose theirs. You can recoup those payments later, but your kids cannot.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

Published March 12, 2021

Youth Foundation Now Recruiting

 

The Washington County Youth Foundation is now recruiting new members for the 2021-2022 school year.  The Youth Foundation is a group of students from Washington County committed to making our community a better place to live.  The group has members who are sophomores, juniors and seniors in any area high school or are home schooled. 

The Youth Foundation averages one meeting a month.  Times and location will vary; however, most meetings occur on Sunday afternoons.  During the school year the Washington County Youth Foundation will offer one grant cycle, several community service activities and one peer community awareness/asset development event.  Also, Washington County Youth Foundation members will be expected to be volunteers in the Happily Ever After Project.  All members make financial contributions to support the service activities of the Youth Foundation.    

Application, permission slip and more information can be downloaded from the Washington County Community Foundation’s website at www.wccf.biz.  Additionally, information can be obtained from current Washington County Youth Foundation members or by calling the Foundation office at 883-7334.   Applications are due by 4:00 pm on April 15, 2021.

Washington County Community Foundation is a nonprofit public charity established in 1993 to serve donors, award grants, and provide leadership to improve Washington County forever

End

How to Choose a Quality Nursing Home During a Pandemic

Can you give me some tips on how to pick a good nursing home in the COVID era? My mother had a stroke a while back and needs some extra care now. I have been taking care of her at home, but her health has declined to the point that I am unable to do it any longer.

COVID-19 has hit nursing homes hard over the past year, making it extremely difficult for people attempting to choose a nursing home during this time.

Many eldercare experts suggest avoiding nursing homes during the pandemic if possible. However, some families, like yours, are finding themselves in the difficult situation of needing long-term or rehabilitative care for their elder loved one.

To help you find a good nursing home in the COVID era, here are some steps to follow.

Make a list: There are several sources you can turn to for referrals to top nursing homes in your area. These include your mom's doctor, a nearby hospital discharge planner and friends or neighbors who have a loved one in a nursing home. The Medicare website also has a helpful nursing home compare tool at Medicare.gov/care-compare. In addition to helping you locate nursing homes in your area, it also provides a 5-star rating system on recent health inspections, staffing, quality of care and the facility overall.

Keep in mind that it may be desirable to choose a nursing home that is close to family members and friends who are able to check in. Friends and family who are familiar with the resident are sometimes best equipped to notice concerning changes that warrant further intervention.

Do some research: To research the nursing homes on your list, call your long-term care ombudsman. This is a government official who investigates nursing home complaints and advocates for residents and their families. The ombudsman can tell you which nursing homes have had complaints or problems in the past. To find your local ombudsman, call your area aging agency (800-677-1116) or visit LTCombudsman.org.

You should also visit the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services website (data.cms.gov), which provides updated data on U.S. nursing home reported COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Contact the nursing homes: Once you have identified a few good nursing homes, call them to see if they have any vacancies, what they charge and if they accept Medicaid.

Also, find out their staff-to-patient ratio and staff turnover rate, their COVID infection-control procedures, the percentage of residents and staff that have been vaccinated for COVID and their facility visitation policy.

If visitor restrictions are in place, see if they offer smartphone, tablet or laptop technology assistance so you can have video calls with your mom.

Tour your top choices: The best way to evaluate a nursing home is to visit it in person, but because of COVID, some facilities may offer limited or virtual tours only. To help you evaluate and rate a facility, Medicare offers a checklist of questions at Medicare.gov/NursingHomeCompare/Checklist.pdf.

Paying for care


The national average for a semi-private room is $255 per day and nearly $290 for a private room, so paying for care is another area of concern. Medicare only helps pay up to 100 days of rehabilitative nursing home care, which must occur after a qualifying hospital stay of at least three days.

Most nursing home residents pay for care from their personal savings, a long-term care insurance policy or through Medicaid once their savings are depleted.

The National Clearinghouse for Long-Term Care Information website (Acl.gov/ltc) is a good resource that can help you understand and research your financial options. You can also get help from your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), which provides free counseling on all Medicare and Medicaid issues. To find a local SHIP counselor visit ShiptaCenter.org or call 877-839-2675.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

Published March 5, 2021

How to Choose a Hospice Care Program

Where can I turn to find a good Medicare covered hospice provider? My husband's mother has a terminal condition and wants to pass away at home, if possible, so I am helping out where I can.

Hospice is a wonderful option in the last months of life because it offers a variety of services, not only to those who are dying, but also to those left behind. Here is what you should know about hospice care, along with some tips to help you choose one.

Understanding Hospice


Hospice care is a unique service that provides medical care, pain management and emotional and spiritual support to people who are in the last stages of a terminal illness – it does not speed up or slow down the process. The goal of hospice care is to simply keep the patient as comfortable and pain-free as possible, with loved ones nearby.

The various services provided by a hospice program come from a team of professionals that works together to accommodate the patient's end-of-life needs.

The team typically includes hospice doctors who work with the primary physician and family members to create a care plan; nurses who dispense medication for pain control; home care aids that attend to personal needs like eating and bathing; social workers who help the patient and the family prepare for end of life; clergy members who provide spiritual counseling, if desired; and volunteers who fill a variety of niches, from sitting with the patient to helping clean and maintain their property.

Some hospices offer massage or music therapy. Many provide bereavement services for relatives and short-term inpatient respite care to give family caregivers a break.

Most hospice patients receive care in their own homes. However, hospice will go wherever the patient is – hospital, nursing home or assisted living residence. Some hospice providers even have their own facility to use as an option.

To receive hospice care, the individual typically must get a referral from a physician stating that life expectancy is six months or less.

It is important to know that home-based hospice care does not mean that a hospice nurse or volunteer is in the home 24 hours a day. Services are based on the needs and requests of the patient and the family. Hospice care can also be stopped at any time if your mother-in-law's health improves or if she decides to re-enter cure-oriented treatments.

How to Choose


The best time to prepare for hospice and consider your options is before it is necessary. This helps minimize the number of important decisions that must be made during a stressful time. There are more than 4,300 hospice care agencies in the U.S., so depending on where you live, you may have several options from which to choose.

To locate a good hospice in your area, ask your mother-in-law's doctor or the discharge planner at your local hospital for a referral. You can also search online at Medicare.gov/care-compare, which provides lists and ratings of hospice providers in your area.

When choosing, look for an established hospice that has been operating for a few years and is certified by Medicare. To help you select one, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization offers a worksheet of questions to ask at CaringInfo.org.

Medicare Coverage


Medicare covers many aspects of hospice care and services for its beneficiaries. There is no deductible for hospice services although there may be a very small co-payment – such as $5 for each prescription drug for pain and symptom control, or a 5% share for inpatient respite care. Medicaid also covers hospice in most states, as do many private health insurance plans.

For more information, see the "Medicare Hospice Benefits" online booklet at Medicare.gov/pubs/pdf/02154-medicare-hospice-benefits.pdf.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

Published February 26, 2021

Jinny Scifres Scholarship Applications Available

The Washington County Community Foundation will be accepting applications for the Jinny Scifres Scholarship.  The scholarship is for any individual planning to attend a post-secondary accredited institution in the 2021-2022 school year and plans to pursue studies in the medical field.  The number and dollar amount of scholarships will be determined by the committee.  Preference may be given to non-traditional nursing students who may be returning to school after starting a family or career, as did Jinny. 

After starting a family, Jinny made the tough decision to return to school and study nursing.  After graduation, she began her nursing career at Washington County Memorial Hospital as an Emergency Room Nurse.  Jinny’s love of nursing eventually lead her to several promotions and back to school once again.  She eventually became the Director of Patient Care Services.

Jinny died in the fall of 2000, after bravely battling bone cancer.  Her family and many friends established this scholarship fund in her memory, to assist others who, like Jinny, return to school to study nursing after starting a family or career.  

For questions or an application, please contact Judy or Lindsey at 812-883-7334 or program.officer@wccf.biz.  Applications are due by April 1, 2021 at 3:30.

Washington County Community Foundation is a nonprofit public charity established in 1993 to serve donors, award grants, and provide leadership to improve Washington County forever

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Do I Need to Sign Up for Medicare If I Am Still Working?

I will turn 65 in a few months and plan to keep working for several more years. I have good health insurance from my employer now. Do I have to sign up for Medicare when I reach 65?

If your health insurance is covered through your employer, the decision to enroll in Medicare at 65 will depend on the size of your employer and your plans to continue working. The same rules apply if your health insurance comes from your spouse's employer.

First, let us review the basics. Original Medicare has two parts. Part A provides hospital coverage and is free for most people. Part B covers doctor's bills, lab tests and outpatient care. Part B has a monthly premium, which is $148.50 for most beneficiaries in 2021, but higher for individuals earning above $88,000.

If you are already receiving Social Security, you will automatically be enrolled in parts A and B when you turn 65. You will receive your Medicare card in the mail. It will include instructions to return it if you have work coverage that qualifies you for late enrollment. If you are not yet receiving Social Security, you can apply online at SSA.gov/medicare.

If you plan to continue working past age 65 and have health insurance through your employer, your first step is to ask your benefits manager or human resources department how your employer insurance interacts with Medicare. In most cases, you should at least enroll in Medicare Part A because it is free. If you are funding a health savings account (HSA), you may not want Part A because you cannot make contributions after you enroll. The decision to obtain Part B coverage will depend on the size of your employer.

Small Employer


If your current employer has fewer than 20 employees, Medicare can be your primary insurer and you should enroll in Medicare Part B during your initial enrollment period. This is a seven-month period that includes the three months before, the month of, and the three months after your 65th birthday.

If you miss the seven-month sign-up window, you will have to wait until the next general enrollment period, which runs from January 1 to March 31 with benefits beginning the following July 1. You will also incur a 10% penalty for each year you wait beyond your initial enrollment period. The penalty will be added to your monthly Part B premium.

Large Employer


If your employer has 20 or more employees, your employer's group health plan can be your primary insurer while you are employed. In this case, you do not need to enroll in Part B when you turn 65 if you are satisfied with the coverage you receive through your employer. If you decide to enroll in Medicare, it will supplement your employer insurance by paying secondary on all your claims.

Once your employment or group health coverage ends, you will have eight months to sign up for Part B without a penalty. This is known as a Special Enrollment Period.

Check Drug Coverage


You should verify your prescription drug coverage. Call your benefits manager or insurance company to find out if your employer's prescription drug coverage is considered "creditable." If it is, you do not need to enroll in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. If it is not, you should purchase a plan during your initial enrollment period or you will incur a premium penalty of 1% of the average national premium for every month you do not have coverage. You can review plans at Medicare.gov/plan-compare.

If you need help or have more questions, contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program, ShiptaCenter.org, which offers free Medicare counseling. You may also call the Medicare Rights Center helpline at 800-333-4114.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

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