Social Security Advice for Soon-To-Be Retirees

 

Can you recommend any services that help pre-retirees decide when to start drawing their Social Security benefits? My wife and I are approaching retirement age and want to carefully weigh our options to make sure we're maximizing our benefits.

Deciding when to begin collecting your Social Security benefits could be one of the most important retirement-income decisions you'll make. The difference between a good decision and a poor one could cost you tens of thousands of dollars over your retirement, so doing your homework and weighing your options now is a wise move.

What to Consider


As you may already know, you can claim Social Security any time between the ages of 62 and 70, but each year you wait increases your benefit by 5-8%. There are other factors you need to take into account to help you make a good decision, like your health and family longevity, whether you plan to work in retirement, along with spousal and survivor benefits.

To help you weigh your claiming strategies, you need to know that Social Security Administration claims specialists are not trained or authorized to give personal advice on when you should start drawing your benefits. They can only provide you information on how the system works under different circumstances. To get advice you'll need to turn to other sources.

Web-Based Help


Your first step in getting Social Security claiming strategy advice is to go to SSA.gov/myaccount to get your personalized statement that estimates what your retirement benefits will be at age 62, full retirement age or when you turn 70. These estimates are based on your yearly earnings that are also listed on your report.

Once you get your estimates for both you and your wife, there are many online tools you can use to compare your options so you can make an informed decision.

Some free sites that offer basic calculations include AARP's Social Security Benefits Calculator (AARP.org/socialsecuritybenefits) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Planning for Retirement tool (ConsumerFinance.gov/retirement).

Personal Advice


If you want human help, there are specialized firms and financial advisors that can advise you too.

You can also get help through a financial planner. Look for someone who is a fee-only certified financial planner (CFP) who charges on an hourly basis and has experience in Social Security analysis. To find someone, use the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors online directory at NAPFA.org.

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 June 23, 2017

Best Bicycles for Baby Boomers

 

My husband and I are interested in getting a couple of bicycles for leisurely exercise and fun. We're both approaching 60 and are a little overweight. It has also been a while since we rode. Do you have any recommendations?
If you're interested in leisurely recreational riding for fitness and fun, a great option is a "comfort bike," which is very popular among baby boomers. Here's what you should know about this option, along with some tips to help you make your selection.

Comfort Bikes

A comfort bike is a style of bicycle that's easy on an aging body because it lets you ride in a more comfortable upright position. These bikes have high handlebars so you don't have to hunch over, which eases lower-back strain and reduces pressure on the wrists and hands. They also come with wide tires for a smooth ride, offer fewer gears and have soft, wide seats to eliminate saddle soreness.
Most comfort bikes also come with shock-absorbing forks and seat posts for additional comfort. Some offer unique design features like an ultra low step-over bar that makes getting on and off easy for people with limited flexibility (like the Biria Easy Boarding at Biria.com). Another option is the "flat-foot" design offered by many manufacturers where the pedals are moved forward, away from the seat. This allows you to get a full-leg extension when you pedal, but keeps the seat in a lower position so that when you come to a stop you can put your feet down flat on the ground while seated. This is a great safety feature for older riders.
Most major manufacturers including Electra, Sun, Raleigh, GT, Giant and Trek all make a line of comfort bike that costs between $300 and $800 or more depending on its features.

Shopping Tips

To find a quality comfort bike, your best option is to find a good bike shop in your area. Bikes from big box stores, like Walmart and Target, are mass-market bikes that may be less expensive, but the quality sometimes isn't as good and the bikes can be seven to eight pounds heavier. They also typically only offer one size, so you're not as likely to get a great fit.
Before you buy any bike, be sure you take it for a test ride first to ensure that the seat and fit of the bike is comfortable, the brakes and shifters are easy to use, the gears can go low enough for climbing hills and the frame and suspension adequately enable the bike to ride smoothly on bumpy roads.

Recumbent Bikes

If the comfort bikes don't meet your needs, another popular style among older riders is a recumbent bike. These are the low-to-the-ground, stretched-out frame bikes with La-Z-Boy style seats that allow you to recline with your legs positioned in front of you.
Recumbent bikes are very comfortable, easy on the back, arms and shoulders and are aerodynamic, which make them ideal for long rides. However, because they are low-to-the-ground, they can be harder to balance and maneuver and are more difficult for vehicles to see.
If you worry about falling or want more stability when you ride, consider a three-wheel recumbent trike. See SunSeeker.bike and TerraTrike.com for a nice variety. Be aware that recumbent bikes are more expensive and typically range between $1,000 and $2,500.
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 June 16, 2017

Express China Restaurant Gives the Gift of Reading

Thanks to Express China Restaurant, forty Washington County preschoolers will be able to sign up for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library for an entire year. 

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library is free to all Washington County residents under the age of five.  Once signed up, the child will receive an age appropriate book mailed to their house each month.  If a child signs up at birth, by their fifth birthday they will receive 60 books, all free.

“This is a tremendous service,” stated Judy Johnson, Executive Director of the Washington County Community Foundation.  “We could not offer it without the support of generous donors such as Express China Restaurant.”

It only costs $26.00 per year to sponsor a child.   If you would like to become a sponsor, contact the Washington County Community Foundation office at 812-883-7334, or mail your check to Washington County Community Foundation, PO Box 50, Salem, IN  47167. 

The mission of the Washington County Community Foundation is to engage people, build resources and strengthen our community.  Visit the website at www.wccf.biz and like the Foundation on Facebook. 

How to Hire a Home Helper

 

I would like to hire a personal assistant/home helper for my mom to assist with some simple household chores like housekeeping, running errands, driving her to the doctor and keeping her company. But my mom doesn't require personal/physical caregiving nor does she require any home medical care. Any tips to help us find someone? Getting your mom some help at home to handle some of her household chores can make a big difference in helping her maintain her independence. Here's what you should know, along with some tips to help you find someone reliable for your mom.

Home Helpers


For seniors who could use some help at home - but don't need an aide for personal care - there are numerous personal assistance/home helpers out there who can help make life a little easier. Most home helpers can assist with a number of things, including shopping, running errands, transportation, light housekeeping, laundry, meal preparation, arranging services (home maintenance, lawn care, etc.) and other household chores, along with providing companionship and support. Additionally, if at some point in the future your mom needs personal/physical care, like bathing or dressing, a home helper can usually assist with this too. Most home helpers are part-time workers who work a few hours a day or a few days per week. You also need to know that, while Medicare does cover home healthcare services if a doctor orders it, Medicare does not cover home helper/personal assistant services. There are two ways in which you can go about hiring someone for your mom; either through a home care agency or by hiring someone directly on your own.

Home Care Agency


Hiring a home helper through a non-medical home care or non-medical companion care agency is the easiest option. However, it is typically more expensive than hiring someone on your own. Costs run anywhere from $12 up to $30 an hour depending on where you live and the qualification of the assistant/aide. After you pay the company, they will handle everything, including assigning appropriately trained and pre-screened staff to care for your mom and finding fill-in assistants on days her helper is unable to assist. Some of the drawbacks, however, include the fact that you may not have much input in selecting the aide. In addition, the helpers may change or alternate, which can cause a disruption in your mom's daily patterns. To find a home care agency in your area, conduct an internet search using the words "non-medical home care" followed by the city and state your mom lives in. Alternatively, you can use Medicare's home health agencies search tool Medicare.gov/hhcompare. Most home health agencies offer some form of non-medical home care services too. You can also check your local yellow pages under "home healthcare services."

Hiring Directly


Hiring a personal assistant/home helper on your own is the other option and it is usually less expensive. Costs typically range between $10 and $20 per hour. Hiring directly also gives you more control over who you hire so you can choose someone who you feel is right for your mom. However, you should be aware that by hiring someone on your own, you become the employer. As such, if a problem occurs or if the assistant doesn't show up you will not have an agency or company to fall back on for support or back-up assistance. You will also be responsible for paying payroll taxes and providing compensation for worker-related injuries that may occur. If you choose this option, make sure you review the person's references thoroughly and conduct a criminal background check. To find someone, ask for referrals through friends or check online job boards like CraigsList.org. You can also look at Care.com, CareLinx.com, CareFamily.com or CareSpotter.com.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 June 9, 2017

How to Fight Dry Eyes and Protect Your Vision

 

What can be done to combat dry eyes? Since I turned 50, my eyes have become increasingly dry and irritated. Dry eyes are a common problem that affects more than one-third of middle and upper-aged Americans. However, you don't have suffer through it. There are lifestyle adjustments and multiple treatment options available today to keep your eyes moist and healthy. Here's what you should know.

Dry Eye Issues


Dry, red, irritated eyes are one of the most common reasons for visits to the eye doctor, but discomfort isn't the only problem. Light sensitivity and blurred or fluctuating vision are common problems too. Worse yet, dry eyes are more likely to get scratched or infected, which could damage your vision permanently. The reason people get dry eyes is because they either don't produce enough tears to keep their eyes properly lubricated or because they produce poor quality tears. In some cases dry eyes can be triggered by medical conditions such as diabetes, thyroid diseases, allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and Sjogren's syndrome. It can also be brought on by age (tear production tends to diminish as we get older), eye conditions, eyelid problems, certain medications, environmental factors and even LASIK and cataract surgery. Dry eyes are also more common in women, especially after menopause.

Lifestyle Adjustments


The first step experts recommend in dealing with dry eyes is to check your lifestyle and surroundings for factors that might be contributing to the problem and make adjustments:
  • Avoid blowing air: Keep your eyes away from air vents, hair dryers, oscillating and ceiling fans and consider buying a home humidifier.
  • Blink more: When you're reading, watching television or using a smartphone, tablet or computer, take frequent breaks because these activities cause you to blink less often.
  • Avoid irritants: Avoid smoke-filled places and, if you swim, wear goggles to reduce your exposure to chemicals.
  • Protect against the sun: When you go outdoors, use sunglasses that wrap around the sides of your face to protect yourself from sun, glare, wind and dust.
  • Check your meds: Dozens of prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs like antihistamines, decongestants, diuretics, beta-blockers, antidepressants, tranquilizers, and Parkinson's medications can all cause dry eyes. If you're taking any of these, ask your doctor about alternatives.
  • Get more omega-3s: Studies show that eating more fish and other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (or taking a supplement) may help.

Treatment Options


If adjusting your environment and habits doesn't do the trick, there are a variety of OTC artificial tears that can help. If you experience significant burning, try another product or opt for a preservative-free formula. If your dry eyes are persistent, use gel-containing drops like Refresh, Systane and GenTeal. The gel will keep your eyes lubricated for longer periods. If you need a product that's even longer lasting, consider OTC lubricating ointments like Refresh PM. If lifestyle adjustments and OTC treatments don't help, make an appointment to see an ophthalmologist. He or she can offer additional advice and may prescribe a medication. There are several FDA approved medications for dry eyes including Xiidra and Restasis and another in development called Lacripep. If your dry eyes are severe and do not improve, you doctor might recommend a simple office procedure that plugs the small openings (tear ducts) that drain tears away from the eyes. Blocking these openings with punctual plugs keeps tears in place longer.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 June 2, 2017
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Over 1,000 Pre-K Students Receive the Gift of Reading

 

Dolly Parton said, “I remain totally convinced that if we can do one more simple thing to help kids and adults to learn more, it is to inspire them to read more.”  With the support of our sponsors and community, Washington County’s children are definitely inspired.

Over 1,000 Washington County preschool students are enrolled or have graduated from the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program operated by the Washington County Community Foundation.  Washington County preschoolers will receive over 12,000 books in their mailboxes this year thanks to the generous sponsors of the program:  Duke Energy, First Harrison Bank, First Savings Bank, Jason Wade State Farm Insurance, GKN Sinter Metals, Jean’s Extrusions, Telemedia Solutions, Kimball Office Team Members, Wal-Mart and many individual sponsors.

The free service is open to all Washington County residents age five or younger.  Once the child is enrolled, they will receive an age appropriate book every month in the mail.  Families can register their child at any of our sponsors’ location.  It only takes a couple of minutes to enroll.  Children can enroll at any time, as long as they have not reached their fifth birthday. 

For more information about becoming a sponsor and giving the gift of reading to a child in our county, contact the Washington County Community Foundation at 812-883-7334 or email them at info@wccf.biz.

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

Financial Caregiving: How to Help Relatives with their Finances

Can you offer any tips on helping an elderly parent with their finances? My dad always handled the money when he was alive but since he passed away last year, my mom has struggled to keep up. Millions of adult children today serve as financial caregivers to their ill or elderly parents or other loved ones. Being a financial caregiver involves providing services like paying bills, handling deposits and investments, filing insurance claims, preparing taxes and more. Here are some tips and resources that can help.

Have the Talk


The first step in helping your mom is to have a thoughtful talk with her, expressing your concerns and offering your help in simplifying her financial life. If you're uncomfortable starting the conversation, then feel free to use this column as a prompter. It's also a good idea to get your siblings or other family members on board to help make your case. This can help you head off possible hard feelings. In addition, if others are involved in the conversation, your mom will know everyone is concerned, not just you.

Get Organized


If your mom is willing to let you help manage her financial affairs, your first order of business is to get organized by making a list of all her financial accounts and make copies of her important documents. This will help you understand her overall financial situation and let you know if any important documents are missing. Your list should include her:
  • Monthly bills: Phone, cable, water, trash, gas, electric, credit-card accounts, etc.
  • Bank accounts: Checking, savings and safe-deposit boxes.
  • Retirement accounts: Social Security, pensions, IRAs and 401(k)s.
  • Brokerage accounts and investments.
  • Insurance policies: Life, home, auto, long-term care, Medicare, etc.
  • Important documents: Will, advanced medical directive (which includes a living will and health care proxy) and durable power of attorney (which gives one or more people the legal authority to handle her finances if she becomes incapacitated). Make sure these documents are prepared.
  • Taxes: Copies of your parents' income tax returns over the past few years.
  • Contact list: Names and phone numbers of key contacts, including insurance agents, financial advisor, tax preparer, family attorney, etc.

Simplify


The easiest ways to simplify your mom's monthly financial chores is to set up automatic payments for her utilities and other routine bills and arrange for direct deposits (see godirect.org) of her Social Security, pensions and other income sources. You can also make arrangements to have her bank and bill statements mailed directly to you so you can monitor what's coming in and going out each month. Another option to consider is online bill paying through your mom's bank, if available.

Meet With a Pro


Depending on the amount and complexity of your mom's assets, both of you should sit down with your family financial advisor to review her investments and financial situation. If you don't have one, find a reputable, fee-only financial planner who can help you put a smart plan in place. Fee-only planners don't make commissions by selling you financial products and typically charge a flat or hourly fee, which can be around $200 to $300 an hour. To locate one, see napfa.org.

Hire a Money Manager


If you need some help or live far away from your mom, you may want to consider hiring a daily money manager. This is a trained professional who can come in once or twice a month to pay bills, make deposits, decipher health insurance statements and balance her checkbook. Costs range between $25 and $100 per hour. To locate one in your area, visit aadmm.com.Savvy Tip: If your mom is having a hard time meeting her monthly expenses, go to benefitscheckup.org to find out if she can qualify for assistance programs.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 May 26, 2017

Jinny Scifres Scholarship Recipients Named

Jessica Jackson and Andrea Brough are the 2017 recipients of the Jinny Scifres Memorial Scholarship.

 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.  

Jackson is a student at Ivy Tech Community College and is in the LPN to RN Bridge Nursing Program.  Brough is currently studying in the LPN program at Ivy Tech Community College and plans to transition to the LPN to RN Bridge Nursing Program as well. 

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

Donors to the Washington County Community Foundation Award over $30K

 

Grants totaling over $30,000.00 were awarded to several Washington County organizations by donors of the Washington County Community Foundation for the Spring 2017 grant cycle.  Grants are awarded from the Foundation’s Touch Tomorrow funds.

The newly organized Salem Mounted Search and Patrol will be receiving a $2,795.42 grant to purchase a break-away splint stretcher and one set of low angle rescue ropes and equipment. 

Hoosier Hills PACT is the recipients of a $2,402.00 grant from the Women’s Fund.  PACT plans to improve their playground area, landscape the buildings, and beautify the exterior of the domestic violence shelter.

A $9,000.00 dollar for dollar challenge grant has been awarded to the Town of Campbellsburg for a community play park.  The Town of Campbellsburg would like to utilize funds to for the installation of updated, safe playground equipment in the town area.

Patrons of the Salem Senior Citizens Center might feel safer due to a grant of $1,657.00 for an AED and medical storage cabinet to be kept at the center.

Blue River Services’ Jackson Court Apartments will see improved resident amenities with the addition of a senior fitness zone that will give residents of the complex, including those with disabilities, on-site access to exercise equipment thanks to a $3,250.00 grant.

The Washington County Food Bank has the opportunity for a $10,000.00 grant to assist with the purchase of their new building and upgrades.

A $3,250.00 grant has been awarded to the Salem Municipal Airport Board of Aviation Commissioners to assist in relocating the existing fuel farm from its current location to the new facility.

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

Health Coverage Options for Pre-Medicare-Age Spouses

My wife, who is 62, is on my health insurance plan through my employer. When I retire in a few months at 65, and go on Medicare, what are my wife's options? Is there some kind of Medicare coverage for dependent spouses, or do we have to purchase on Healthcare.com?
Medicare, unfortunately, does not offer family coverage to younger spouses or dependent children when you qualify for Medicare. Nobody can obtain Medicare benefits before age 65, unless eligible at a younger age because of disability. With that said, here are some coverage options, including Obamacare, to consider for your wife.
Keep working: If possible, consider working past age 65. This would allow your wife to continue coverage under your employer health insurance until she becomes eligible for Medicare.
Employer options: If your employer provides retiree health benefits, check with your benefits administrator to find out if they offer any options that would allow your wife to continue coverage under their plan. Or, if your wife works, see if she can she switch to health insurance provided by her own employer.
COBRA: If you work for a company that has 20 or more employees, once you make the switch to Medicare, your wife could stay with your company insurance plan for at least 18 months (but could last up to 36 months) under a federal law called COBRA. You'll need to sign her up within 60 days after her last day of coverage. But be aware that COBRA isn't cheap. You'll pay the full monthly premium yourself, plus a 2% administrative fee. To learn more, see DOL.gov/ebsa/publications/cobraemployee.html or call 866-444-3272.
If, however, the company you work for has fewer than 20 employees, you may still be able to get continued coverage through your company if your state has "mini-COBRA." Contact your state insurance department to see if this is available where you live.
Individual insurance: Buy your wife an individual health insurance policy through the Health Insurance Marketplace until she turns 65. The Marketplace, as it stands now, offers comprehensive health coverage and they can't deny her coverage or charge extra for preexisting health conditions.
Additionally, if your income falls below the 400% poverty level – anything below $47,520 for an individual or $64,080 for a couple in 2017 – you may be eligible for a tax credit that will reduce the amount you'll have to pay for a policy. To see how much you can save, see the subsidy calculator on the Kaiser Family Foundation website at KFF.org/interactive/subsidy-calculator.
To shop for marketplace plans in your state, visit Healthcare.gov or call their toll-free helpline at 800-318-2596.
If your wife isn't eligible for the government subsidy, or you want additional policy options to what the Marketplace offers, you can also buy health coverage outside the government marketplaces directly through a private insurance company, an online insurance seller, or an agent or broker. This option is not available if you live in Washington D.C. or Vermont.
These policies do not offer the federal tax credits, but they are required to offer the same menu of essential benefits as Marketplace policies do and they can't deny coverage or charge extra for preexisting health conditions. You might even find slightly lower premiums on outside policies, assuming that you don't qualify for the tax credits.
To find a local broker or agent who sells insurance plans, check the National Association of Health Underwriters website (NAHU.org), which has an online directory. Keep in mind that agents won't necessarily show you all available policies, just the ones from insurers they work with.
You can also look for these plans at insurance shopping sites like eHealthInsurance.com or GoHealth.com, which lists plans and providers that may not be listed on Healthcare.gov.
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 May 19, 2017

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