Money in the Middle

Sandwich Generation Talking About Money Up, Down and Across Generations

Posts Tagged ‘seniors

New Club Yields Savings for Seniors and Caregivers

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Whether you are a caregiver, a senior or just a  consumer looking for a product for an older person, every little bit you can shave off the cost can be money in your pocket.

So I was thrilled to see the new 50+ Club from caring.com.  Caring.com is a really good online  resource –and support system — for caregivers.  They have a great group of experts who provide helpful and correct information on a lot of issues relating to caregiving financial and legal issues.

The new 50+ Club will offer a weekly special at a 50% saving.  Once the product is sold out, that’s it.  So check it out and sign up for the weekly club email.

With Mother’s Day and Father’s Day right around the corner, you might just find that article that makes life just a bit easier.

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Written by Laura Rossman

April 23, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Watch Out For Medicare Scams

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There’s a lot of confusion among seniors about what the health care reform does and does not do regarding Medicare.

 And where there is confusion, there are scams.

 Door-to-door and on the phone the scam artists are trying to get Medicare numbers and bank account numbers from seniors,  telling them they need the information to sign them up for new benefits or to make sure their benefits will continue.

 “There is nothing called “Obama Care” and the government doesn’t sell insurance,” Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary for Aging, emphasized in a webchat today on seniors and health care reform. “If they say they are from the government they are scam artists.” 

These scammers are aggressive.  Reports are that on the phone, the caller asks for personal data like social security number, so a new Medicare card can be issued. Refuse and a second person posing as a supervisor gets on the line and says the information must be provided to remain in the Medicare program. Once they have the info, they use it to steal identities and tap into bank accounts.  Hang up! 

At the door, they say they are from the government selling the new Obamacare insurance that is required.  No one from the government comes knocking on your door selling insurance.  Close the door! (and don’t worry about being polite)

 Pass the word on to Medicare beneficiaries you know so they don’t get scammed.  The threat of losing Medicare can make people hand over information they normally wouldn’t.  Seven states –and increasing – are reporting scams.

 Scams should be reported to your state insurance department or office of attorneys general.

 Here are a couple other questions and answers from the session. (A recorded version will be posted at Healthcare Reform.gov

A. What decisions do Medicare recipients need to make now because of health care reform? 

There are no decisions that have to be made right now.  In the fall Medicare beneficiaries will have the opportunity to change plans (Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D just as they do each year.  The only immediate impact is the $250 rebate that will be provided to Part D policy holders who enter the “donut hole.”  The $250 rebate is automatically issued.  No forms.  No phone calls necessary.

 Q. Will Medicare Advantage be gone by 2014? 

Absolutely not true, Greenlee said.  There will continue to be choices in the future including private plan options. 

Q.  When do the annual wellness exams begin? 

January 1, 2011.

 There are more questions and answers at Healthcare.gov site regarding seniors, retirees under age 65 and Medicare recipients.

Best advice I heard today was to remind seniors that health care reform doesn’t require them to do anything new today, much less on their doorstep.  There is a lot of misinformation swirling around and especially targeted at the older generation.  If you know someone at risk, alert them to the potential scams.

Written by Laura Rossman

April 22, 2010 at 8:11 pm

Watch Out for Roth IRA Predators

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The new rules on Roth IRA conversions can be a real benefit to some baby boomers and seniors.  But it also an opportunity for less scrupulous sellers of financial products to engage in a bit of bait and switch.  Not good for your retirement planning….probably pretty good for the seller’s wallet 

This article Crooks Are After Your Retirement Account from CBS MoneyWatch gives  a great  inside view of how at least one sales agent is planning on using Roth IRA conversions as a hook to get information to sell you something else that you probably don’t need.

Watch out!

I have no doubt you’ll start seeing seminars on Roth IRA conversions, flyers in your local newspaper and senior center.  Be wary.  Some will be legitimate experts with good information and reputable businesses.  Others will be using it as a hook to get information to sell you something you don’t need or isn’t right for you.

Tips

1. Get your information from reliable, trusted sources.  Get the information promised and don’t give up your personal financial information to get it. Here’s a NY Times article that can help you figure out if a Roth IRA even makes sense for you. Check with your tax adviser.

2. How is the person offering you advice on Roth IRA conversions getting paid?  Do they have expertise in retirement planning and investing for retirement.  Check out our blog on recommendations from the AARP Retirement Survival Guide.

3. Keep your antenna up.  Watch for bait and switch. Watch out for crooks. Maybe the information is good, but if you suddenly find yourself talking about a different product, it’s probably time to move on.

Don’t Be Fooled by IRS E-mail Scam

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The e-mail looked so official.  A message from the IRS about underreported income and fraud. An IRS return e-mail address, the email with the IRS’s logo. My heart skips a beat – What did I forget to do?

 Then, common sense takes over. No way the IRS would have this e-mail address.  And wouldn’t they mail me such information – not use email?

 So, I went one of my favorite sites about phishing and scams www.snopes.com, typed in the subject of the email and sure enough – a scam it was.  

Snopes.com said it was a mass e-mailing.  Click on the link to “tax statements” it leads to an .EXE file that was likely a carrier of some form of malware.  Disaster averted.  But, a good reminder to always check before clicking.  Just type the subject line into Google and it will help you identify whether it is a scam or try a site like snopes.com

Pass this on to others, especially older adults, who are more trusting about emails they receive—especially if they appear to be from the government or a financial institution.

Here’s what the IRS says about how it communicates with taxpayers:

The IRS does not initiate taxpayer communications through e-mail.

  • The IRS does not request detailed personal information through e-mail.
  • The IRS does not send e-mail requesting your PIN numbers, passwords or similar access information for credit cards, banks or other financial accounts.
  • Report suspicious e-mails and bogus IRS Web sites to phishing@irs.gov.

If you receive an e-mail from someone claiming to be the IRS or directing you to an IRS site,

  • Do not reply.
  • Do not open any attachments. Attachments may contain malicious code that will infect your computer.
  • Do not click on any links. If you clicked on links in a suspicious e-mail or phishing Web site and entered confidential information, visit the IRS Identity Theft page.
  • Use the following steps to report the e-mail or bogus Web site to the IRS.

How to report phishing, e-mail scams and bogus IRS Web sites
If you receive an e-mail or find a Web site you think is pretending to be the IRS,

  • Forward the e-mail or Web site URL to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov.
  • You can forward the message as received or provide the Internet header of the e-mail. The Internet header has additional information to help the IRS  locate the sender.
  • After you forward the e-mail or header information to the IRS, delete the message

Written by Laura Rossman

October 7, 2009 at 2:37 pm

Get info on Medicare Plan Changes: Don’t Delay

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If you are a Medicare beneficiary, or helping a Medicare-aged person with their finances, this is the time to shop and compare Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plans.  

So make sure you read the Notice of Annual Change – that comes from the insurance company.  Look for changes in premium as well as changes in co-pays and benefits – since it is the total of these changes that will impact your costs of health care.

Or, if your health has changed or your medications have changed, this is the time to look at options and see if the plan you have is right for you now.

Here’s how this works:  marketing begins October 1.  that gives you six weeks before you can apply – time to be spent shopping and comparing whether the plan you have is the right plan.  Beginning Nov. 15 – Dec. 31, changes can be made to Part D plans.  If you are in a Medicare Advantage plan you have until March 31, 2010 to switch to another Medicare Advantage plan. 

If you’ve got a Medicare Supplement plan,  you aren’t impacted by the open enrollment period unless you want to switch into a Medicare Advantage plan. 

Medicare said that rates on Part D plans are up only slightly over last year.  But, rates on some Medicare Advantage plans are changing a lot and some plans, especially Private-fee-for-service (PFFS) plans, are being eliminated.   

The Medicare.gov website has information as well as comparison tools to help you figure out potential options.  You should also consider speaking with your insurer to see what options they may have and to a broker who represents a number of companies so you can compare rates and benefits among companies.  Try a site like ehealth.com where you can get comparisons and the assistance of an agent.

 Like open enrollment for healthcare at an employer, these dates are firm.  So make sure you take steps now to compare plans and prices to make sure you’ve got the right plan for 2010. 

Here are the upcoming deadlines for Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plans:

  2010 Medicare Advantage & Part D Prescription Drug Enrollment

October 1 – Marketing begins for 2010 Medicare Advantage & Part D Rx Drug plans

 November – Medicare and You” 2010 arrives in the mail

November 15th – Annual enrollment begins for Medicare Advantage & Part D Rx Drug plans

December 31 – Enrollment deadline for 2010 Part D Rx Drug plans.

March 31 – Enrollment deadline for switching Medicare Advantage plans for remainder of 2010

 Resources:

Medicare.gov open enrollment information and phone numbers

Written by Laura Rossman

October 5, 2009 at 7:22 pm

Retirees returning to work? No thanks

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Why Retirees Would Return to Work

Why Retirees Would Return to Work

After the economic meltdown there was a lot of talk about retirees returning to work.  Not so fast.  Looks like most retirees aren’t so worried that we’re ready to jump back into the workplace. When they first retired, 43% of retirees seriously considered the possibility of someday going back to work, according to research from Longevity Alliance.  But only 16% of those surveyed said they are currently considering abandoning retirement for the workplace.

 What would send them back? No surprise.  It is money, with 42% saying a change in economic circumstances could send them back to work, while another 29% cited healthcare coverage.

 Many people also find that returning to work isn’t an option because of health conditions.  Research from EBRI sites the inconsistency between the numbers of people who think they will work in retirement, compared to those that actually do.

 This  is important because it has a big impact on our financial security as we age.  “Retirees are very cautious right now, but not panicked.  Their reluctance to rejoin the workforce only underscores the need for them to plan very carefully for the rest of their retirement,” said Longevity Alliance CEO Steve Zaleznick. .  

 Or maybe it’s just recognition of how tough the job market is, especially for older workers.

 Either way, if you’re beginning to think about retirement, be careful about how you calculate increasing your income by returning to work.  You might think you want to, but the reality may be that retirement just suits you fine.  Then the challenge is how to adjust your spending to meet your retirement income.  Another reason to give retirment a test drive — try to live on your retirmeent income — before you decide to hang up working.

Written by Laura Rossman

August 7, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Baby boomers and aging parents shun “it’s time to hang up the keys” conversation

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Driving and seniors is a touchy topic – for everyone. ..baby boomers, their parents, other drivers, state legislators setting the rules for driving tests.  A new survey says most baby boomers say neither they nor anyone else has spoken to their parents about driving safety issues.

 Baby boomers say a conversation with their parents about driving would be uncomfortable (58%) or that it would make their parents angry (38%).  However, only 24% of seniors say they would feel uncomfortable and only 9% say they would be angered.  On the other hand, 92% of seniors say their adult children “have a right” to raise this issue with them.

 My guess is it all boils down to how that conversation is conducted because no matter what you say in response to a “what if” question feels very different when confronted with the issue on a personal basis.  No matter how old…or young…we are.

 So, a new site sponsored by Liberty Mutual provides tips on how to have that conversation.  And for seniors, some tips on how to identify your driving habits.  The site also provide a simulation game “Driver Seat Game” that allows players of alleges to experience first-hand the physical and cognitive limitation that an older driver might experience.  I didn’t find it very compelling, so try it before you suggest it to a senior driver.

 AAA launched a senior driving website too.  Check it out for tips as well.

 One of the big issues facing older drivers is very simply if they stop driving, how do they get where they need to go without having to rely (and burden) family and friends.  Liberty Mutual has teamed up with ITNAmerica, the first and only national, non-profit transportation network.  The good news is that the service is low cost and is now available in nine cities and regions.  For more information, see their website at http://www.itnamerica.org/

 The costs of driving escalate with age, too.  Insurance rates increase even though miles driven decreases.  Hopefully services like ITNAmerica will expand so that there are cost effective alternatives when you decide to hang up the keys.

Written by Laura Rossman

July 22, 2009 at 12:49 pm