Planning for Senior Care

 
Planning for retirement and senior care is very important. The activities of daily living for a senior person include eating, dressing, bathing and walking or moving. At some point, every senior will likely need assistance in one or more of these areas.

An important consideration will be the cost of providing that care. By retirement, it is helpful for you to own your home, be debt free, and have retirement income and savings. Retirement income will frequently include Social Security, your IRA or 401(k), a pension plan and investment earnings.

Typically, there are four different levels of care utilized by seniors. The first level includes "in-home care" which includes moderate assistance with certain living functions, such as meal delivery. In-home care often eventually progresses to "home healthcare," defined as assistance with the activities of daily living by a home healthcare aide or nurse. The next level is a more formal assisted living or independent living facility. In an assisted living facility, there are more staff and a higher level of assistance. Finally, the fourth level is skilled nursing care. This is 24-hour nursing care in a facility that is designed to provide a higher level of medical assistance.

Independent Home Care


Independent home care is popular for several reasons. First, it is the least expensive of the four levels of care. Independent home care, or "home care" typically provides a senior with assistance for one or more life functions that does not include healthcare.

With home care, seniors are able to live independently in their home. Seniors with home care might, for example, benefit from a program that delivers a daily meal to their home. If they are not able to maintain their driver's license, they might also participate in a ride-sharing program once or twice per week so they can go to the store to buy certain essentials.

There are a number of local charities that provide services to assist with home care and outreach services. In addition, friends and family can create a schedule to provide assistance to their senior loved one.

Finally, home care very often includes a home monitoring system that allows seniors to contact the monitoring service if they are injured. This service might also require seniors to check in at the same time every morning when an alert sounds so that the monitoring service can contact a relative who lives nearby if the senior does not respond.

Home Healthcare


The next level of care, home healthcare, involves a greater degree of assistance to seniors and includes healthcare services that are provided in the senior's home. Home healthcare will vary significantly depending on the level of services provided. However, it frequently will cost from $10,000 to $30,000 per year.

Home healthcare is preferred to assisted living or nursing home care because the person receiving care will be able to maintain his or her independence. While the cost is generally reasonable, there are many organizations and providers who can give you good quality care. A key decision for home healthcare is the person who will be the caregiver. Family is often the first option. If you have a child or other relative who is willing to provide assistance, you may be able to live quite comfortably in a family home or perhaps in an attached apartment.

The next level will frequently be a service provider such as a home healthcare aide. The aides visit on a regular basis and provide assistance. Many individuals are able to manage well by themselves as long as they have a home healthcare aide who makes regular visits.

A third level of home healthcare may involve visits by a practical nurse or registered nurse. The nurse may assist you with various types of care and check to see that you are using your medications or other types of therapy in a beneficial manner.

There are safeguards that should be carefully considered for home healthcare. The organizations that provide home healthcare are generally licensed by each state. You can check into their certification and also their reputation. It's also helpful to have a family member who is in regular contact with the senior person who is receiving home healthcare.

As you age and become more senior, it may be appropriate for you to stop driving and to depend on others for transportation. In addition, the family protector can watch to see that you do not make inappropriate expenditures or become vulnerable to any type of abuse.

Independent or Assisted Living


The next level of care is independent or assisted living which typically has a cost of $40,000 to $65,000 per year.

Many facilities provide both independent and assisted living. Independent living permits the individual to live in a residential facility, but to have a reasonably high level of control of his or her life. With independent living, the person will live in his or her own apartment or small residence and frequently retains a vehicle and the ability to drive. Independent living often offers a meals plan so that the resident can choose to eat in a common dining area.

Assisted living occurs in a more structured residence with a higher level of staff services. The assisted living facility will involve staff who regularly assist residents with the activities of daily living.

Long-term Care


Long-term care includes several levels of care. The two most common levels are skilled nursing and intermediate care. Skilled nursing will provide around-the-clock care from a licensed practical nurse or registered nurse. The cost of skilled nursing care may be $90,000 to $110,000 per year.

Intermediate care facilities also are intended to care for residents that have chronic illnesses or impairments of health. These facilities offer 24-hour staff care. However, they will not always have a registered nurse and may use vocational or practical nurse staff.

It is extremely important with long-term care to examine the facility. Is the facility owned and managed by a for-profit or a nonprofit? What is the affiliation of the organization?

A person may be in a skilled nursing home for several years. Because the costs are very significant, the financial strength of the organization is quite important. If the organization at some point in the future has a financial shortfall, it may find it necessary to reduce services. This could have great impact on the care of a senior person.

Other areas to consider are the facility and the services. What is the location of the facility? You should review the cleanliness of the rooms and the public areas and try to determine the general feelings of current residents toward the facility. Many care facilities offer a number of different types of services. Some of these are social or recreational while others are therapeutic and health related.

Finally, how are the levels of staffing and the food service for the facility? A good facility will have a caring and adequate staff and food service team for the number of residents.

Alzheimer's Care


Alzheimer's is a challenging disease because it leads progressively to very high care requirements. Because of the staff and facility requirements, Alzheimer's care can cost $100,000 or more per year.

There are three general levels of Alzheimer's. Early-stage Alzheimer's involves some short-term memory loss, difficulties with routine tasks and mood swings. Middle-stage Alzheimer's patients may start to show confusion about time and place, loss of memory and wandering. With late-stage Alzheimer's, there is a loss of cognitive function and eventual physical deterioration.

Home care is possible for early-stage Alzheimer's. A family member can provide the level of care needed. It is important that the caregiver understands the risks and takes protective actions to minimize the potential for the senior person to wander off and become lost.

The next level of care is an organized senior residence with a measure of independence. This will provide available 24-hour care, but still enables an early or middle-stage Alzheimer's patient to have some level of control of his or her activities.

Finally, for advanced stages of Alzheimer's, the senior person will need 24-hour residential care. Family members should examine the rooms, consider the staffing levels and review the policies regarding medication for those Alzheimer's patients.

 

Published August 9, 2019

Financial Help for Retirees Affected by COVID-19

Are there any financial assistance programs you can refer me to? The coronavirus pandemic has cost me my part-time retirement job and has shrunk my IRA.

In addition to the $1,200 federal coronavirus stimulus checks that were distributed in April and May, there are many other financial-assistance programs (both public and private) that can help struggling retirees. These programs can also give relief to family members who help provide financial support for their loved ones.

To find out what types of financial benefits you may be eligible for, visit BenefitsCheckUp.org, a free and confidential website designed for adults 55 and older and their families. The website can help you locate federal, state and private benefits programs that can assist with paying for food, medications, utilities, health care, housing and other needs. This website service, created by the National Council on Aging, contains more than 2,500 programs.

To find out which benefits you qualify for, you will need to fill out an online questionnaire that asks a series of questions such as date of birth, ZIP code, expenses, income, assets, veteran status, medications you take and a few other factors. It takes about 15 minutes to complete.

Once completed, you will get a report detailing all the programs and services you may qualify for and detailed information on how to apply.

Most programs have online applications. However, some programs have downloadable application forms that must be mailed in or may require you to contact the program's administrative office directly. These programs will all give you the necessary information on how or where to send the application.

If you do not have internet access, you can get help in-person at any of the 84 Benefit Enrollment Centers located throughout the U.S. Call 888-268-6706 to locate a center in your area. Some benefit centers may offer assistance over the phone.

Types of Benefits


Depending on your income level and where you live, here are some benefits you may be eligible to enroll in:

Food assistance: Programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) can help pay for groceries. The average SNAP benefits for 60-and-older households is around $125 per month. Other programs that may be available include the Emergency Food Assistance Program, Commodity Supplemental Food Program and the Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program.

Healthcare: Medicaid and Medicare Savings Programs can help or completely pay for out-of-pocket health care costs. And, there are special Medicaid waiver programs that provide in-home care and assistance too.

Medications: There are hundreds of programs offered through pharmaceutical companies, government agencies and charitable organizations that help lower or eliminate medication costs. This includes the federal Low-Income Subsidy known as "Extra Help" that pays premiums, deductibles and prescription copayments for Medicare Part D beneficiaries.

Utility assistance: There is the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), as well as local utility companies and charitable organizations that aid in lowering home heating and cooling costs.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI): Administered by the Social Security Administration, SSI provides supplemental monthly payments to very low-income seniors, age 65 and older. The SSI also provides for those who are blind or disabled. In 2020, the SSI pays up to $783 per month for a single person and up to $1,175 for couples.

In addition to these programs, there are numerous other benefits they can help you locate such as HUD housing, home weatherization assistance, tax relief, veteran's benefits, senior transportation, respite care, free legal assistance, job training and employment and debt counseling.

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 August 7, 2020
 

Stretching Tips to Help Gain Flexibility and Reduce Pain

Can you offer some good stretching tips for those who are staying home during the pandemic? I have gotten so stiff and achy in recent years that I have a hard time doing basic activities like bending over to tie my shoes.

Of all possible exercises, stretching tends to be the most neglected, yet nothing is more vital to keeping an aging body limber and injury free.

As we age, decreased physical activity can cause our muscles to lose elasticity. This can make common day-to-day activities difficult—like reaching down to tie your shoes or looking over your shoulder to back your car out of the driveway.

The good news is, by incorporating some simple stretching exercises into your routine (at least three times a week) you can greatly improve flexibility, balance, posture and circulation. You can also relieve pain and stress and prevent injuries. Stretching is important as a warm-up and cool-down for more vigorous activities. Additionally, leg stretching is an excellent way to prevent nighttime leg cramps.

Simple Stretches


Stretching exercises should focus on muscles in the neck, shoulders, arms, chest, back, hips, thighs, hamstrings and calves. If you have had hip or back surgery, you should talk to your doctor before doing any lower-back flexibility exercises.

While stretching, it is very important to listen to your body. You only want to stretch each muscle group to the point where the muscle feels tight. If it starts to hurt, you have gone too far. Back off to the point where you do not feel any pain, then hold that stretch for about 10 to 20 seconds. Relax, then repeat three to five times, each time trying to stretch a little farther, but not bouncing. Bouncing greatly increases your risk of injury.

It is also a good idea to warm up a little before you start stretching by walking in place and pumping your arms. Always remember to breathe while you stretch. Also, keep in mind that muscles that have not been stretched in a while take time to regain their flexibility. So be patient and go slow.

If you do not have much experience with stretching, the National Institute on Aging offers a free online guide that provides illustrated examples of flexibility exercises to help you get started. Go to order.nia.nih.gov and type in “Exercise & Physical Activity: Your Everyday Guide from The National Institute on Aging.”

There are also senior fitness programs, like SilverSneakers and Silver&Fit, that currently offer online flexibility and balance videos that guide you through a series of stretching exercises you can do at home during the pandemic. There are also a wide variety of stretching exercise DVDs or videos you could purchase.

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.

FREE WILLS PLANNING GUIDE

 

Are you ready to plan your will or trust? We would like to give you a FREE Estate Planning Guide. This helpful information may enable you to successfully plan your estate and avoid an accidental disinheritance. You may also ask a question in the comments section. Then plan to use our Estate Planning Guide to record your family information and your estate distribution plans.

Please email us at info@wccf.biz to get your FREE copy today!

What Happens if You do not Have a Will?

What happens to my possessions if I die without a will? I am almost 60 years old and have never gotten around to making one, but it is starting to become more of a priority.

The coronavirus crisis has shifted the importance of many of life's activities and has emphasized the need to have your affairs in order. It has been estimated that, fewer than half of American adults have prepared a will or living trust.

If you die without a will, the state you reside in will determine what happens to your assets. Every state has intestacy laws in place that parcel out property and assets to a deceased individual's closest living relatives when there is no will or trust in place. But these laws vary from state-to-state.

Here is a simple breakdown of what may happen to your assets. Circumstances may vary based on state laws.

Married with children: When a married individual with children dies without a will, all property, investments and financial accounts that are jointly owned automatically go to the surviving co-owner without going through probate, which is the legal process that distributes a deceased individual's assets. For all other separately owned property or individual financial accounts, the laws of most states award one-third to one-half to the surviving spouse, while the rest goes to the children.

Married with no children or grandchildren: Some states award the entire estate to the surviving spouse, or everything up to a certain amount (for example the first $100,000). Many other states award only one-third to one-half of the decedent's separately owned assets to the surviving spouse, with the remainder generally going to the deceased individual's parents or siblings.

Jointly owned property, investments, financial accounts, or community property automatically goes to the surviving co-owner.

Single with children: All state laws provide that the entire estate goes to the children, in equal shares. If an adult child of the decedent has died, then that child's children (the decedent's grandchildren) split their parent's share.

Single with no children or grandchildren: In this situation, most state laws favor the deceased individual's parents. If both parents are deceased, many states divide the property among the siblings of the deceased individual, or if they are not living, their children (the decedent's nieces and nephews). If there are not any living immediate family members, it goes to the next of kin, and if there is no living family, the estate passes to the state.

Make a Will


To ensure your assets go to those you want to receive them, you need to create a will or trust. If you have a simple estate and an uncomplicated family situation, there are do-it-yourself resources that can help you create all these documents for very little money. It is always advisable to consult with an attorney to ensure the documents meet state law requirements and will meet your goals.

If you want assistance or if you have a complicated financial situation, blended family or considerable assets, you should hire an attorney. An experienced attorney can make sure you cover all your bases, which can help avoid family confusion and provide peace after you are gone. Costs will vary depending on where you live, but you can expect to pay anywhere between $200 and $1,000 for a will.

Most states have directories of attorneys licensed to practice law, which may help you find someone in your area.

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.

WCCF is Offering Scholarships to Non-Traditional Students

The Washington County Community Foundation is now offering scholarships to non-traditional students through its Education Matters initiative.  The deadline for applications is October 5, 2020 by 3:30 PM.

You might be surprised to learn that in Southeast Indiana, only 25% of our workforce has an associate’s, bachelors or professional degree, compared to 38% nationally. Yet one in four of our community’s adult workers has earned some college credits! That’s over 3,100 people in Washington County!  For whatever reason, they started but never completed their post-secondary education. This represents a tremendous amount of untapped potential in our community.

The following criteria have been established for scholarships:  

  • Annual awards will not exceed $3,000 the first twelve months and $5,000 per person in any subsequent twelve month period.
  • Scholarship applicants must be a minimum of 28 years old as of the date of application.
  • Only individuals who can demonstrate continuing legal residence in Washington County for at least the past five years are eligible. Documentation such as tax forms, housing receipts, or utility bills will be used to verify residency and/or household income.
  • Scholarship awards may be used for tuition, course-related fees, or books only. Checks will only be written to an educational institution or certified training provider.
  • The application deadline is October 5, 2020. No exceptions.
  • Adult scholarship awards may not be used to pay for college debt.
  • Subsequent awards will only be considered for students maintaining at least a 2.5 GPA.

Call the Washington County Community Foundation office at 883-7334 or email program.officer@wccf.biz to request an application or for more information.

The mission of the Washington County Community Foundation is to engage people, build resources and strengthen our community. 

WCCF offering $40,000.00 in Fall Grant Cycle

Grants for the WCCF Fall Grant Cycle are issued from the Washington County Community Foundation’s Touch Tomorrow funds and are made possible by the generous donors of the Foundation.    The total amount available for this grant cycle is $40,000.00.

Grant applications for the fall grant cycle are available on the Foundation’s website or by emailing program.officer@wccf.biz.  The Washington County Community Foundation is currently accepting applications. The application deadline will be 3:30pm, September 14, 2020.  For more information, you may call Judy Johnson or Lindsey Wade-Swift at the Foundation office.  The number is 883-7334.

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

 

Your Family Letter - Your Final Letter

 
A family letter is a key part of a good estate plan. It is much more personal than many of your estate documents. A family letter allows you to share your heart and show appreciation and gratitude to family members. During a time when family members are grieving, it also helps them to complete many practical steps to protect your property.

The family letter may have up to ten different sections. Each section will cover an important but separate topic.

Estate Data


Your estate organizer usually has four parts. It will explain the family names and key information, identify your attorney, CPA and other financial and health advisors, cover all of your assets and financial information and outline your estate planning choices.

The estate organizer may be printed or you may use an online version. Your family letter should explain where the information is located. If you are using an online estate planner, it's important for your personal representative to know your account name and password so the information will be available.

Important Documents


Your important documents will generally be safeguarded in three different ways. First, many individuals have a safe deposit box. The safe deposit box typically holds birth certificates, death certificates, degrees and other legal agreements, marriage or divorce documents, military discharge records, property deeds, a personal property inventory, stock and bond certificates and vehicle titles.

Second, you may have a fireproof box at home. This box will frequently include your insurance policies, your living will, medical power of attorney or advance directive, trust documents and your will.

Third, there are some items that should be left with your attorney, friend, agent or another trusted person. These are items that may be needed while you are still living or will be necessary very soon after you pass away. These documents (or copies of documents) could include your financial power of attorney, a durable power of attorney for healthcare or advance directive, your living will, trusts and your will.

Accounts and Passwords


Because an increasing number of records and information are retained online in personal accounts, you will want to be certain that your personal letter lists all accounts. You may decide to include passwords with the personal letter. Alternatively, if you are entrusting all of this information to a specific person or other location, that should be identified.

With the rapid movement to online banking, online mutual funds and securities accounts, donor advised fund accounts, health savings accounts and your email accounts, you may have six to 10 accounts with various passwords. It will be important to have all of this information recorded.

Your Family History


While your estate organizer will include basic information about you and your family members, there is an excellent opportunity in your family letter to discuss your family history. This can include a few short paragraphs that give the names and background of your parents. List all of their children or other key relatives in your family. Your history may discuss marriages, divorces and any blended family relationships. Finally, the family history will show the date of death for persons who have passed away.

Family history can include discussions of your activities, interests and career. It enables all of your extended family to have a good picture of your entire life.

Care for Children, Grandchildren or Pets


If you are responsible for any children, grandchildren or pets, this is an opportunity for you to explain your plan for their care. While your estate planning documents will normally appoint guardians for your children or grandchildren who are under your care, it still may be beneficial for the guardian to receive recommendations from you on their education and other areas of development that you understand very well. If someone is to care for pets, you may have recommendations on the way in which that is done.

Memberships


You may have memberships in a number of organizations. Some memberships, such as for a country club or club that purchases sporting event tickets, are transferable to heirs. It would be helpful to your family for you to list any memberships that you have so they can handle them properly.

Care of Your Body


When you pass away, your body may be in the custody of a medical center or nursing home. If you have previously decided to make any organ donations, it is helpful to explain that decision in your family letter. The requirements for making organ donations are typically covered under state law. In many cases, decisions on organ donations are made when you sign your living will or advance medical directive.

Funeral or Memorial Services


The cost of many funerals now exceeds $10,000. If you would like to assist family members in the decisions surrounding your funeral or memorial service, the family letter is an excellent way to do so.

First, your family will need to decide whether to have a burial in a cemetery with a casket or to use cremation services and an urn. You may have personal or religious reasons for preferring one or the other.

With a casket and burial in a cemetery, your family will generally make use of a funeral home. Because there now is significant competition in the industry, funeral homes are starting to offer advance prices and package services. If you desire a specific range of services, type of casket or prefer not to be embalmed, those directions are helpful to your family.

There are funeral consumers' alliances in many locations. Your family may find assistance and guidance on www.funerals.org. This guidance may help them make good decisions during a very difficult time in the midst of grief over your loss.

If you are a veteran, your family may want to contact the Department of Veterans Affairs. You may qualify for a gravesite at no cost in one of the 130 national cemeteries for veterans and their spouses.

Obituary


In your funeral or memorial service, there will be eulogies. It is also customary to have a printed description of your lifetime. This will frequently include your basic history, awards, achievements, military service and lifetime employment. If you have specific requests for information to be included in the obituary, it is helpful to your family to give them guidance. You may have certain principles or values that are important to you that you would like to share through the obituary. This is an opportunity for you to communicate your values to the public.

Final Words and Blessings for Family


Your family letter may conclude with a word of blessing. It is a tradition in many cultures for the elders to provide a blessing for the next generation. This is frequently done when the elder is still living, but certainly your family letter provides a similar way to bless your children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces and other family members.

Your final words of wisdom and blessing for family members will be of great comfort as they grieve your loss. It is an appropriate and fitting way to conclude your family letter.

Video Calling Solutions for the Tech-Challenged

Can you recommend some simple tips for video calls with individuals with limited technology skills? My 80-year-old mother has been isolating herself for months now in fear of the coronavirus and I have not been able to see her face-to-face in quite a while.

Video chatting is a great way to stay connected and keep tabs on an elder parent when you cannot be there, but it is even more important now during this pandemic as many isolated seniors are also suffering from chronic loneliness.

There are various products on the market that can help you virtually connect with your mom. These products offer simple video calling for seniors who have limited ability or experience with technology. Here are some tips to consider.

Be patient with your loved one who is trying out new technology for the first time. They will likely be frustrated at first, but encourage them to keep trying. A simple solution for video chatting is to use smartphone features that allow video calling. If you place a video call to your loved one, they simply need to answer the call to be connected to you via video.

There are other options that offer free platforms, including smartphone and computer applications. There are many tutorials that may be helpful to set up these features. You will likely need to act as the “tech support” for your mom and walk her through the process of downloading an application to her computer, smartphone or tablet.

If your mom does not have a smart phone or tablet, there are devices that can be purchased ready to use out of the box. You should be aware that some of these devices require a subscription or Wi-Fi access.

If you decide to send your mom a tablet, you can simplify the use of the tablet through free applications that can be downloaded, which provide tutorials on how to use the device. If your mom does not have WiFi it might be best to purchase a tablet or smartphone with an accompanying cellular data plan to ensure access to video chats.

If you decide to purchase a smartphone or tablet, there are products you can purchase that provide a simplified menu of big icons and large text for only essential features. These simplified products provide clutter-free, one-touch access to make and receive video calls, send voice emails, view photos and videos, listen to personalized music, check the weather, play games, browse the internet and more.

You may find that a voice-activated gadget may be less intimidating for your mom, but most will require Wi-Fi access. Many of the voice-activated devices are simple to set up and may even be capable of being set up remotely.

Another option may include a smart picture frame, designed with seniors in mind. Smart photo frames offer remote access to update photos and initiate calls. There may be very limited features with a smart photo frame, but there will be less for your mom to worry about when using the photo frame. Most photo frames require Wi-Fi access to be used.

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 July 17, 2020

Can I Stop Receiving Social Security if I Go Back to Work?

I lost my job last month because of the coronavirus crisis. With little savings, I have been thinking about starting my Social Security benefits early to help me get by. But my question is, if I find a new job can I stop my Social Security benefits and restart them at a later date so they can continue to grow?

Yes, there are two ways to potentially stop your Social Security retirement benefits, once you have started collecting them, and restart them at a later date, which would boost your benefits. In order to do this, certain rules and conditions must be met. Here are your options:

Withdraw your benefits: One way to pause your Social Security benefits is to withdraw your Social Security application. This must be done within 12 months of starting your benefits and you will have to repay what you have received so far. If you choose this option, Social Security will treat your application for early benefits as if it never happened.

To withdraw your benefits, you will need to complete Form SSA-521 (SSA.gov/forms/ssa-521.pdf) and send it to your local Social Security office. Also, be aware that you can only withdraw from benefits once in a lifetime.

Suspend your benefits: If you are not eligible for withdrawal, but have reached your full retirement age and have not yet reached age 70, another option is to voluntarily suspend your retirement benefits. With a suspension, you do not have to repay the benefits you have received. You can restart them anytime you wish, or they will automatically be reinstated at age 70. See SSA.gov/planners/retire/ageincrease.html to find your full retirement age.

By suspending your benefits, you will earn delayed retirement credits, which means your benefit amount increases for every month of the suspension. Your payment will go up by two-thirds of 1% monthly or 8% annually. A benefit of $1,500 monthly, for example, increases by $10 for each month you have benefits suspended.

You can request a suspension by calling the National Social Security Office at 800-772-1213 or in person at your local Social Security office.

Working and Collecting Benefits


If you start collecting Social Security and you go back to work, but your income is modest, you may want to continue drawing your benefits while working. If your earnings are higher, it may make sense to stop your benefits.

Social Security has a "retirement earnings test." If you are under your full retirement age and earn more than $18,240 in 2020, Social Security will deduct $1 from your benefits for every $2 you earn over that amount. For those who reach full retirement age in 2020, a less stringent rule applies. In this case, $1 will be deducted for every $3 you make above $48,600 until you reach the month of your birthday in the year you reach full retirement age.

It is also important to know that if you were to have reduced Social Security benefits because of the earning limits, they are not lost forever. When you reach full retirement age, your benefits will be recalculated to make up for what was withheld.

Also, if you do decide to work and collect Social Security benefits at the same time, you need to factor in tax implications. Because wages increase your income, it might make your Social Security benefits taxable.

If your combined income is between $25,000 and $34,000 as an individual filer or between $32,000 and $44,000 as joint filers, you will pay tax on up to 50% of your Social Security benefits. If you earn above the upper limit of these ranges, you will pay tax on up to 85% of your benefits. To help you calculate this see IRS Publication 915 at IRS.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p915.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 July 10, 2020

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