Donors Help Washington County Community Foundation Award Over $25K in Grants

Thanks to our generous donors and the Foundation’s Touch Tomorrow Funds, Fund for Education, and The Women’s Fund Washington County nonprofits will be receiving over $25,000 in grants.

Junior Achievement of Kentuckiana will be receiving a $2500.00 from the Fund for Education to continue educational financial literacy programs in the county school systems.  Students learn about work readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy through in-person classroom volunteer instruction, or, when school is not in session, via virtual presentations.

Blue River Services has been awarded a $4678.85 grant to assist in furnishing the community room at the newly purchased and renovated Grandview Manor North Apartments in Salem. 

The Town of New Pekin will be seeing some new playground equipment with a $10,000.00 to assist in installing, mulching, and fencing in the equipment they purchased from the Louisville Bats.  The equipment will be specifically for 2-5-year-old children to play without the presence of older kids in order to have a safe alternative to what is currently offered.

CASA of Washington County will be receiving a $2400.00 grant from The Women’s Fund for the CASA Cares program, which will provide essential items in a backpack to abused and neglected children being removed from their homes by DCS.  The program will provide the child and the foster home with necessary items not immediately available when emergency removal occurs.

Dare to Care will be able to continue their school food programs in Washington County with a $6000.00 grant to provide food to children and families while following school COVID guidelines.

The donors of the Washington County Community Foundation are having a tremendous impact on the lives of our residents.  Their generosity is making a difference.  Thank you donors!

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

 WCCF Announces D. Jack Mahuron Education Fund Recipients

The D. Jack Mahuron Education Fund was established at the Washington County Community Foundation to encourage educators and staff to teach in innovative ways.  This year, the fund has awarded several teachers in the county school corporations over $3200.00. 

Bev Newcomb’s Eastern High School sewing class will receive new supplies to due COVID sharing protocols to assist in life skills.

Students in the 5th Grade East Washington Middle School classrooms of Leann Hardin, Cameron Smith, and Erica Hobson will be “Reaching for the Stars” as they complete a short study of Newton’s Third Law of Motion and how it relates to rocketry.

Sarah Fisher’s West Washington Elementary School classroom will be more calming with tools to help student engagement while allowing them the opportunity to move without getting out of their seats.

Students in Jenisa Collier’s first grade Bradie Shrum Elementary School classroom will be more organized with Seat Sacks to help them stay more organized through COVID protocols as well as being able to easily see social distance with carpet markers.

Kindergarten, First, and Second Grade teachers at Bradie Shrum Elementary will no longer have to share supplies to fully implement Orton-Gillingham phonics thanks to a grant application written by Lorie Campbell.

Andrew Lewellen’s Eastern High School Advanced Manufacturing Class will be gaining a new table top planer to enhance their sawmill by processing rough cut lumber into material they can use in the CNC router, laser engraver, and other manufacturing processes.

West Washington students in grades Kindergarten through 12th will be receiving their own stylus to keep screens clean and germ free.  According to Kelly Williams, “a stylus has become just as essential as a mask for learning in today’s world.”

Culinary Arts students in Valerie Lewellen’s Eastern High School classroom will be receiving new supplies such as griddles, bowls, measuring cups, and frying pans to supplement their limited resources and allow COVID protocols to be followed.

Joni Hardy’s First Grade classroom at Bradie Shrum Elementary School will be engaging in engineering and design while taking a closer look at real-life design.

Jacob Johanningsmeier’s Eastern High School math classes will be able to utilize more 3D printing models with a grant to purchase the expensive filament that the printers require.  His classroom will be using models of projectiles and ramps for velocity and acceleration testing, slopes, rates of change, three-dimensional graphing, and cylindrical shells.

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

How to Create an Online Memorial for a Departed Loved One

My mother passed away last week, and because of COVID we did not have a funeral. I would like to create some type of online memorial for her so family and friends can express their condolences and share their stories. What can you tell me about making an online memorial for my mom?

Creating an online memorial for your mom is a great idea and one that is becoming increasingly popular in the age of COVID. Thousands of families have created online memorials for their departed loved ones, especially those who did not have a proper funeral because of the pandemic. Here is what you should know.

What is an Online Memorial?

An online memorial is a website created for a deceased person that provides a central location where their family and friends can visit to share stories, fond memories, photographs, comfort one another and grieve. The memorial can remain online for perpetuity or a specific period of time, allowing people to visit and contribute any time in the privacy of their own space.

Online memorials started popping up on the internet in the late 1990s but were created primarily for people who were well known. But now, these sites are for anyone who wants to pay tribute to their departed family member or friend and ensure they will be remembered.

Content typically posted on an online memorial includes a biography, pictures and stories from family and friends, timelines of key events in their life, along with favorite music and even videos.

Another common feature is an online guestbook where visitors sign their names and write tributes to the departed. Online memorials can also direct visitors to the departed person's favorite charity or cause to make a donation, as an alternative to sending funeral flowers.

Some online memorial sites today even offer virtual funeral/event capabilities as a replacement for an in-person funeral. The virtual services may include helping you get the word out by offering invitations and RSVP tracking.

Top Online Memorials

To make an online memorial there are a variety of websites available that make it easier than ever to create a thoughtful, personalized memorial profile for your mom to celebrate and honor her life. The process of creating an online memorial can be very satisfying.

You also need to know that some online memorial sites are completely free to use, while others offer a free and a paid version that provides additional features.

Memorialize Facebook

If your mom used Facebook, you could also turn her profile into a memorialized account for free by simply submitting a request to memorialize her account with Facebook. This option will let your mom's family and friends share stories, photos or memories to celebrate her life, with the word "Remembering" shown next to her name.

Once her Facebook account is memorialized, the content she shared is still visible on Facebook to the audience it was originally shared. However, her profile will not show up in public spaces such as people she may know, ads or birthday reminders.

In addition, you can also create a Look Back video through the memorialized page, which is a short video created by Facebook highlighting your mom's pictures and most liked status messages.

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 October 16, 2020

Foundation  Awards $75,000 grant to CAST


For many children in our county, the simple act of reading is not so simple.  However, for EVERY child in our county, the ability to read proficiently is an absolute requirement in order to be successful in life.  Volunteers at CAST have been tutoring students who struggle to learn to read for many years, and now, thanks to a $75,000 grant from the Washington County Community Foundation, CAST is going to be able to step up their ability to help struggling readers in a big way.

"We are profoundly grateful to the Washington County Community Foundation for the generous grant funding.  This money will help us build our vision for a Southern Indiana Dyslexia Center which we know will literally change the lives of kids and families in our community," stated Dustin Houchin, CAST Board Member. 

CAST, with this financial assistance from the Community Foundation, seeks to be a model for addressing reading difficulty in a rural community.  So far, 35 teachers and tutors in Washington County have been trained in the Orton-Gillingham method of teaching reading.  This phonetic method is tremendously effective for teaching dyslexic students to read and it also improves reading outcomes for all students in a classroom.  Tutors are now beginning to offer free reading tutoring services to students who need extra help – focusing on those who screened as displaying dyslexia characteristics – but open to all students who have need.  This initial investment is only the beginning of a much more expansive vision.  Because the community is in the midst of a service desert, there is a great need for a regional Dyslexia Resource Center that would provide much needed training, tutoring, family support, and testing services. 

“We know that about 20% of the population in the United States are dealing with dyslexia and reading difficulty.  We also know that a child who does not learn to read functionally by third grade is four times more likely to drop out of school than his or her peers.  Our work at the Dyslexia Resource Center is the realization of a dream that will not just give hope - it will give real support, real strategies, a real system that is proven to help children read at grade level.  With this investment we will be able to expand teacher trainings, offer family support services, develop dyslexia testing services, and tutor any child who needs our help in Washington County and throughout Southern Indiana,” stated CAST Director, Cassie Summers-Corp.

Currently, 7 students are receiving in-person tutoring services through CAST but many more spaces will soon be available and there are 19 classrooms in Washington County equipped with a Reading Specialist teacher who received training through CAST.  Since inception, CAST has tutored over 200 students in Washington County.

“Game changer is a term that is probably over used in our society,” stated Judy Johnson, Executive Director of the Washington County Community Foundation.  “But what do you call it when a child who has struggled all his life to read, is three years behind his classmates and is only in the third grade, suddenly has the light switch turned on in his brain and can now read?   A child who, within a few months of being diagnosed, was reading at grade level.  Without a doubt, his future was transformed.  There are many more children like this one in our region.  The Dyslexia Resource Center will be a beacon of hope for them to have the same opportunities as their peers.  We just have to identify them and then teach them in a different way.”    

Ultimately, CAST envisions a regional Dyslexia Resource Center that will serve a multitude of needs for children across Southern Indiana.  Currently, the closest resource centers are in Louisville and Indianapolis.  To accomplish this, CAST is partnering with Dyslexia Institute of Indiana.  “The Dyslexia Institute of Indiana has been an invaluable resource for our organization by providing training, support, and advice to us in our mission to serve families in Southern Indiana.  We are so grateful for our partnership with an organization as highly-regarded and excellent as the Dyslexia Institute of Indiana,” said CAST Board President, Kim Scifres.  

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

Through tutoring and mentoring opportunities, CAST seeks to encourage students in Washington County to become contributing citizens who develop a lifelong passion for learning.  Visit their website at

How to Recognize and Stop Elder Abuse in the COVID Era

Can you write a column on how to recognize elder abuse and what to do if you suspect it?

According to the National Council on Aging, as many as five million seniors are victims of abuse each year, but studies suggest this crime is significantly under-reported. Only 1-in-14 cases of elder abuse get reported to the authorities because victims are usually too afraid, too embarrassed, too helpless or too trusting to call for help.

The term "elder abuse" is defined as intentional or negligent acts by a caregiver or trusted individual that causes or can cause harm to a vulnerable senior. Elder abuse also comes in many different forms: emotional, psychological, physical or sexual abuse, abandonment, neglect (or self-neglect) and financial exploitation.

Those most vulnerable are seniors who are ill, frail, disabled, socially isolated or mentally impaired due to dementia or Alzheimer's disease.

It is also important to know that while elder abuse does happen in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, the vast majority of incidents take place at home where the individual lives. And tragically, the abusers are most often their own family members (usually the victim's adult child or spouse) or caregiver.

How to Recognize Abuse

So, how can you tell if an elderly relative or friend is being abused and what can you do to help?

A change in general behavior is a universal warning sign that a problem exists. If you notice that your relative or friend has become very depressed, withdrawn or gets upset or agitated easily, you need to start asking questions. Here are some additional warning signs for different types of elder abuse:
  • Physical or sexual abuse: Suspicious bruises or other injuries that cannot be explained, sudden changes in behavior (upset, withdrawn, fearful), broken eyeglasses, or a caregiver's refusal to allow visitors to see an elder alone.
  • Neglect or self-neglect: Weight loss, poor hygiene, unattended medical needs and unsanitary or unsafe living conditions.
  • Emotional or psychological abuse: The individual is extremely upset, agitated, withdrawn, unresponsive, fearful, depressed or demonstrates some other unusual behavior.
  • Financial exploitation: There is missing money or valuables, unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts or transfers between accounts, unauthorized use of credit, debit or ATM cards, unpaid bills despite available funds, checks written as a loan or gift or abrupt changes in a will or other documents.

For more tips on how to recognize the warning signs of abuse during the pandemic, see the National Center on Elder Abuse website at

What to Do

The best ways to help stop elder abuse is to be in touch and keep the lines of communication open. If you suspect any type of abuse or neglect in your relative's or friend's home, report it to your local protective services agency.

Adult Protective Services is the government agency responsible for investigating elder abuse cases and providing help and guidance. Call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116 to get the agency contact number in your area or visit

The agency will ask what you observed, who was involved and who they can contact to learn more. You do not need to prove that abuse is occurring; that is up to the agency.

To report suspected abuse in a nursing home or assisted living facility, call the local Long-Term Care Ombudsman – see for contact information.

If you feel the person is in immediate danger, call 911 or the local police for immediate help.

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 October 2, 2020

How to Find an Online Therapist

What is the best way to find online therapy services for my anxiety and depression? I just turned 63 and have become increasingly hopeless since the COVID pandemic hit and cost me my job. I need to get some professional help, but I'm also high risk for illness and very concerned about leaving the house.

I am sorry to hear about your job loss and the difficulties you are going through right now, but you are not alone. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll, 45% of Americans report experiencing fear, anxiety and depression related to the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic downturn.

To help you through this difficult time, there are a variety of therapists, psychologists and other mental health providers you can turn to. Due to the pandemic, most of them are now offering online counsel to their clients through teletherapy services. This will allow you to interact virtually with a therapist from the comfort of your home using only a smartphone, tablet or computer.

How to Find a Therapist

A good first step to locate a therapist is to ask your primary care provider or family and friends for a referral. You can also look on your insurer's website for a list of therapists covered under your plan. Be aware that some insurers have limited or even no coverage for mental health, and many mental healthcare providers do not participate in insurance plans. (Medicare does cover mental health services.)

Other resources to help you find a good therapist include online finder tools at the American Psychological Association ( and the American Psychiatric Association (

If you want some help, there are also online platforms that can help match you with a licensed mental health provider. Many of these online platforms allow access through your phone or computer and contract with thousands of licensed and credentialed therapists. Typically, the process starts with a few questions to assess your goals, your condition and your preferences and then matches you with some top therapists in your state.

If you do not have insurance coverage or cannot afford therapy, you can call or text 211 (or go to anytime for a referral to a provider. These providers offer support at no cost or on a sliding scale, based on your budget.

You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 and ask for a referral to a local resource or provider. They also have the "warm line" for nonemergency calls, where you can talk anonymously to a trained professional at no cost.

Another possible option is Federally Qualified Health Centers, which are community-based health centers, some of which may offer teletherapy services at no cost. To search for centers in your area visit

Interview Your Therapist

Before you start sessions with a therapist, it is important to make sure he or she meets your needs. If you are not comfortable with the person, you are unlikely to benefit from the therapy. Schedule a call or a video chat to get to know each other and ask about the therapist's training, years in practice, specialties, therapy techniques and fee. Ideally the therapist you choose will be a good personality fit for you and will be within your budget or covered by your insurance.


Published October 9, 2020

Should I Buy Long-Term Care Insurance?

My wife and I have thought about purchasing a long-term care insurance policy, but we hate the idea of paying expensive monthly premiums for a policy we may never use. Is there a good rule of thumb on who should or should not buy long-term care insurance?

There are two key factors you should consider when determining whether purchasing a long-term care (LTC) insurance policy is a smart decision for you and your wife. One factor is your financial situation and the second is your health history. Currently, around 8 million Americans own a policy.

Who Needs LTC Insurance?

As the cost of LTC – which includes nursing home, assisted living and in-home care – continues to rise, it is important to know that most people pay for LTC with personal savings, with Medicaid (when their savings is depleted) or through an LTC insurance policy. National median average costs for nursing home care today is around $92,000 per year, while assisted living averages around $50,000 per year.

While national statistics show that about 70% of Americans age 65 and older will need some kind of LTC, the fact is, many people do not need to purchase an LTC insurance policy.

The reasons stem from a range of factors, including the fact that relatively few people have enough wealth to make purchasing a policy worthwhile. Seniors with limited financial resources who need LTC turn to Medicaid to pick up the tab after they have depleted their resources.

Another important factor is that most seniors who need LTC only need it for a short period of time, for example, while recovering from surgery. For those people, Medicare covers in-home health care and nursing home stays of 100 days or less following a hospital stay of more than 3 consecutive days.

So, who should consider buying a policy?

LTC insurance policies make the most sense for people who can afford the monthly premiums, and who have assets of at least $150,000 to $200,000 or more that they want to protect. The calculation of assets to protect does not count a home and vehicle.

Another factor to weigh is your personal and family health history. The two most common reasons seniors need extended long-term care is because of dementia or disability. Almost half of all people who live in nursing homes are 85 years or older. You and your wife should consider your family histories for Alzheimer's, stroke or other disabling health conditions, and whether your families have a history of longevity.

You also need to factor in gender. Because women tend to live longer than men, they are at greater risk of needing extended LTC.

Choosing LTC Insurance

After evaluating your situation, if you are leaning towards buying an LTC policy, be sure to do your homework. The cost of premiums can vary greatly and ranges anywhere between $2,500 to $8,000 per year for a couple. The cost will depend on your age, the insurer and the policy's provisions.

Also, note that because of COVID-19, it may be more difficult to qualify for coverage now if you are age 70 or older, in a high-risk group or have had a positive COVID-19 test.

To find a policy, get an LTC insurance specialist who works with a variety of companies. You can visit the American Association of Long-Term Care Insurance website ( to locate a provider.

Another option you may want to consider is a hybrid policy that combines long-term care coverage with life-insurance benefits. These policies promise that if you do not end up needing long-term care, your beneficiaries will receive a death benefit.

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 September 25, 2020

Social Security

Linda asked, "When should I take my Social Security? I will turn 57 this year and have a strong earnings history, having paid into Social Security for nearly 35 years. Given the year I was born, my 'regular' retirement age for purposes of Social Security will be age 67 but I can take 'early' benefits starting at age 62 or even wait until age 70. Which is better for me?"

Social Security Benefits

The average American retires and receives Social Security to cover part of his or her retirement expenses. A typical Social Security payment replaces approximately 40% of your pre-retirement income. To qualify for Social Security, you need to have contributed to the fund for 40 quarters or 10 years. Your Social Security payout will be dependent on your highest earning years.

Full Payments at Age 67

In the 1980s, Congress decided to slowly increase the age for full Social Security benefits from 65 to 67. For anyone born after 1960, the full Social Security retirement benefit is available at age 67.

Based on the tables, at age 67 Linda would qualify for $2,451 per month (in current dollars). If she waits until that age to start payouts, she receives a larger amount than if she selects an early payout at age 62 and it will be adjusted for inflation.

The favorable news for Linda is that she would receive this larger amount plus cost-of-living increases for her lifetime. In addition, if she works after age 67, there's no reduction in her Social Security payment. She can continue to receive the full income of her work and the Social Security benefit. Of course, because both she and her employer are contributing to the Social Security system while she is working, her actual Social Security benefit is significantly reduced. Her Social Security payout will be taxed and her net after-tax benefit will be reduced.

Because Linda is still working, she is contributing about $600 per month of after-tax income to Social Security. Her employer is also contributing a similar sum. The net Social Security benefit to her, after payment of income taxes on her contribution and the contribution by her employer from her salary, is now approximately $300 to $600 of added after-tax monthly income.

Early Payout at Age 62

Linda could join many Americans and start taking payments when she is age 62. Based on the current Social Security tables, her maximum payment would be 30% lower than the full benefits she would receive at age 67.

This amount will be adjusted every year based on the Social Security cost-of-living increase. While her benefit is adjusted for inflation, the actual value or purchasing power of this amount will not change. Linda's mother is still living and her grandmother lived to be 96, so she may be wise to plan for a fairly long retirement.

There is one other challenge for Linda. If she continues to work, and many individuals do work until their late 60s, she will lose part of her Social Security payment. For every $3 in income (over an indexed limit) she earns between age 62 and her full retirement age, she loses $1 in Social Security benefits. By taking her payment at age 62, she receives both a lower payout for her lifetime and reduced payments for the years until her full retirement age.

Delaying Payments to Age 70

If Linda continues with her present employment and does not need her Social Security income, she can receive an increased benefit by delaying the start of payments to age 70. The benefit starting at age 70 for Linda is currently 24% higher than what she would receive at age 67. With inflation adjustments, Linda's benefit could be even higher by the time she reaches age 70.

This represents a significant increase over her normal retirement amount. The amount increases by about 8% per year because the government has held her funds longer and she has a shorter period of time before beginning to receive her payments.

If Linda lives to her mid-80s, then she will have received a greater total Social Security benefit. If she joins her long-lived relatives who have survived to their mid-90s, her net economic benefit from Social Security by delaying the first payouts to age 70 is dramatically greater than her total payouts starting at age 62 or 67.

Tax-free Social Security Payouts

Individuals with lower incomes do not pay any federal tax on Social Security. Generally, single people with incomes under $25,000 per year do not pay tax.

50% of Social Security Taxable

For many Social Security recipients, their income is in the middle range and 50% is taxable. For example, a single person with taxable income of approximately $25,000 to $34,000 would pay tax on half of his or her Social Security. The taxable income is called the modified adjusted gross income and includes adjustments for some types of tax-free income.

Because Linda has a substantial IRA, she expects to have a higher level of income.

85% of Social Security Taxable

With other pension income and IRA income, Linda anticipates a modified adjusted gross income of over $36,000 per year. As a result, 85% of her Social Security is taxable.

Linda is not very pleased with this plan. Because she already paid tax on her half of the Social Security, she feels that this is a very substantial tax. However, with the increasing need to fund Social Security in the future, the high probability is that Linda will pay tax on 85% of her Social Security during her lifetime.

Social Security for Spouses

A spouse may have different options for receiving Social Security. First, if he or she qualifies based on employment, then the best choice may be to take his or her normal benefit at the selected retirement age.

However, a surviving spouse can receive a reduced spousal benefit starting at age 60. At a later date they may transition to a full benefit under their own qualification.

Is There an Age Limit for Organ Donation?

I never thought about becoming an organ donor until my brother died of kidney failure last year. But at age 78, I would like to know if I am too old to be a donor. I am also curious if they would even use my organs if I were to die from COVID-19. What can you tell me?

There is no cutoff age for being an organ donor. Anyone, regardless of age or medical history, can sign up. In fact, there are many people well into their 80's that donate. The decision to use your organs is based on health of the organ, not age. So, do not disqualify yourself prematurely. Let the doctors decide at the time of your passing whether your organs and tissues are suitable for transplantation.

Regarding the COVID-19 part of your question, as of right now, the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) does not recommend transplantation of organs from donors known to have the virus. If you were to contract coronavirus and pass away, your organs would probably not be used. However, this may change as treatments are developed.

Here is what else you should know about becoming a donor.

Donating Facts

In the United States, more than 112,000 people are on the waiting list for organ transplants. Because the demand is so much greater than the supply, those on the list routinely wait three to seven years for an organ, and more than 7,000 pass away waiting for a transplant each year.

Organs that can be donated include the kidneys, liver, lungs, heart, pancreas and intestines. Tissue is also needed to replace bone, tendons and ligaments. Corneas are needed to restore sight. Skin grafts help burn patients heal and often mean the difference between life and death. Heart valves repair cardiac defects and damage.

By donating your organs after you pass away, you can save or improve as many as 50 lives. The United Network for Organ Sharing maintains the OPTN, a national computer registry that matches donors with waiting recipients.

Some other things you should know about being an organ donor are that it does not in any way compromise the medical care you would receive in a hospital if you are sick or injured, nor does it interfere with having an open-casket funeral if you want that option. Also, most major religions in the United States support organ donation and consider it a final act of love and generosity toward others.

How to Donate

If you would like to become a donor, there are several steps you should take to ensure your wishes are carried out, including:

Registering: Add your name to your state or regional organ and tissue donor registry. You can do this online at either or If you do not have internet access, call Donate Life America at 804-377-3580 to sign up over the phone.

Identify yourself: Designate your decision to become an organ donor on your driver's license, which you can do when you go in to renew it. If you do not drive anymore or if your renewal is not due for a while, consider getting a state ID card, which also lets you indicate you want to be a donor. You can get an ID card for a few dollars at your nearby driver's license office.

Tell your family: Even if you are a registered donor, in many states, family members have the ultimate say whether your organs may be donated after you die. So, clarify your wishes to family. Also, tell your doctors and indicate your wishes in your advance directives. These are legal documents that spell out your wishes regarding your end-of-life medical treatment when you can no longer make decisions for yourself. If you do not have an advance directive, go to to create one for free.

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 September 18, 2020

What is a Reverse Mortgage?

What can you tell me about reverse mortgages? The damage to my retirement account from the coronavirus has me considering it but want to make sure I know what I am getting into.

Massive job losses, a volatile stock market and low interest rates caused by the coronavirus pandemic have caused many cash-strapped retirees to consider a reverse mortgage. But there are many things to consider to be sure it is a good option for you now.

A reverse mortgage is a unique type of loan that allows older homeowners to borrow money against the equity in their house (or condo). To be eligible for a reverse mortgage, you must be 62 years of age or older, own your own home (or owe only a small balance) and currently be living there.

The loan does not have to be repaid until the homeowner dies, sells the house or moves out for at least 12 months. At that point, you or your heirs will have to pay back the loan plus accrued interest and fees.

It is also important to understand that you, not the bank, owns the house. You are still required to pay the property taxes and homeowners insurance. If you do not pay, you may face a foreclosure.

You will need to undergo a financial assessment to determine whether you can afford to continue paying your property taxes and insurance. Depending on your financial situation, you may be required to put part of your loan into an escrow account to pay future bills. You will likely be denied a reverse mortgage if the financial assessment finds that you cannot pay your insurance and taxes and have enough cash left to live on.

Loan Details

Around 95% of all reverse mortgages offered are Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECM), which are FHA insured and offered through private mortgage lenders and banks. HECMs have home value limits that vary by county, but cannot exceed $765,600 in 2020.

The loan amount you can receive through a reverse mortgage depends on your age (the older you are the more you can get), your home's value and the prevailing interest rates. Generally, most people can borrow somewhere between 50% and 60% of the home's value. To estimate how much you may be able to borrow, you can use an online reverse mortgage calculator. The loan amount can be paid as a lump sum, a line of credit, regular monthly checks or a combination of these.

Beware! Reverse mortgages are not cheap. HECM loans require a 2% upfront mortgage insurance payment, plus an additional 0.5% annual charge, in addition to origination costs and lenders' fees. Any amount you borrow, including these fees and insurance, accrues interest, meaning your debt grows over time.

To learn more, read the National Council on Aging's online booklet "Use Your Home to Stay at Home" at

Also note that because reverse mortgages are complex loans, all borrowers are required to get counseling through a HUD approved independent counseling agency before taking one out. Most agencies charge between $125 and $250 for the counseling. To locate one near you, visit, or call 800-569-4287.

Other Options

If you have a short-term need for cash, there are other options you may want to pursue. For example, many low-income seniors do not realize they qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, a refundable tax break that can put cash in your pocket. You also could use to search for financial assistant programs you may be eligible for.

A charitable alternative to a reverse mortgage is combining a life estate reserved with a charitable gift annuity. You would receive an immediate charitable income tax deduction and charitable gift annuity payments for the rest of your life at an attractive fixed rate.

To create a charitable gift annuity using your home, you would deed your home to a charitable organization as a remainder interest and retain a life estate. The life estate deed would provide you the right to use your home for the rest of your life. You will be required to maintain the property in good condition and pay the property taxes and homeowners insurance with this option as well. When you pass away, the home would belong to the charitable organization and will benefit the charitable mission of that organization.

Another possibility is a regular home equity loan or line of credit. This type of borrowing requires you to make regular payments. Lenders can freeze or lower limits on lines of credit, but the borrowing costs are much lower.

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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