Beware of the unknown about COBRA and Medicare

Beware of the unknown about COBRA and Medicare

As a recently unemployed older worker, you have options for health insurance, but read the fine print. It will be crucial.

If you were part of a group health insurance plan sponsored by your employer and you lose your job, you may be entitled to the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act or (COBRA).

This health insurance program gives workers and their families who lose their health benefits the right to choose to continue benefits provided by their group health plan.

COBRA coverage lets you pay to stay on your job-based health insurance for a limited time after your job ends (usually 18 months). You usually pay the full premium yourself, plus a small administrative fee.

Sometimes as part of an exit package, the employer may foot the cost of COBRA for an employee and their family for a short period of time to coincide with a severance package.

Financial planning for solo agers

Financial planning for solo agers

Last week my husband and I joined a Zoom call with my mother and her financial advisor. It was an annual call to go over my mom’s needs and goals in the coming year. My husband and I are my mother’s partners in her financial decisions.

Up until five years before his death, my father handled their household financial affairs. It was at that time that my mother asked for some help. We chose the financial advisor my sister uses. Since then, the advisor has invested my mother’s money and managed her Required Minimum Distributions.

This is but one part of a much larger set of financial choices and actions my mother must take, but according to her, it was the one she was least equipped to handle.

As an almost 90-year-old single woman, she still has a lot of responsibilities.

Social Security COLA increase a good chance to talk to finances with parents

Social Security COLA increase a good chance to talk to finances with parents

Due to this year’s meteoric rise in the consumer price index, a measure of inflation in the cost of goods and services, Social Security beneficiaries will receive an 8.7% cost-of-living adjustment for 2023.

Only three times in the past 46 years has the COLA been higher - in 1979 to 1981 with an increase of 9.9%, 14.3%, and 11.2% respectively.

And while an 8.7% adjustment is significant, it’s important to put the figure in context with the top expense categories retirees will be spending their money on next year when the extra cash comes in. 

Many seniors live on a fixed income in retirement. Social Security is often a large part of their income.

The numbers noted below are a 12-month national percentage change in the Consumer Price Index as of September 2022.

The largest expense for retirees is housing,

Charitable donations can aid in IRA distributions

Charitable donations can aid in IRA distributions

This is a column about individual retirement accounts, my dad and doing good.

For those of you with an individual retirement account who are over the age of 72, you know you are required to take an annual required minimum distribution, otherwise known as an RMD.

Since IRAs are funded with pre-tax dollars, the RMD rule ensures that people do not defer taxation in their lifetimes and leave untaxed income as an inheritance. The required minimum distribution from my parents’ IRAs was the subject of a running joke in my family.

The RMD deadline is Dec. 31 each year. Each fall as the leaves began to change, my father would begin his quest to determine his and my mother’s amount for that year.

One would think we were a family of CPAs or investment advisors, but we were not. My father was just an engineer who wanted

Free tax help is available for seniors

Free tax help is available for seniors

Even in a pandemic, the tax season goes on.

Free tax preparation help for seniors goes on, too, albeit with some changes.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program offers free tax help to people who make $57,000 or less, people with disabilities and taxpayers who speak limited English and need assistance in preparing their tax returns. The program is not specific to seniors; if you qualify in any of the categories above, you may use the program.

In addition to VITA, the Tax Counseling for the Elderly program offers free tax help, particularly for those who are 60 and older. The program specializes in questions about pensions and retirement-related issues unique to seniors.

Want your legacy to live on? Consider a charitable gift

Want your legacy to live on? Consider a charitable gift

When most people hear the words “planned giving,” their eyes glaze over.

In the over-50 population, there’s a general lack of awareness and understanding about the concept. This is too bad, because with the collective wealth of baby boomers, their planned gifts can have significant social impact.

Planned giving is the process of making a sizable charitable gift either during a donor’s life or at their death as part of their financial or estate plan.

So, what does designating a charitable gift in a will or an estate plan entail?

Well, first and foremost, it requires thinking about one’s death—an uncomfortable topic for many people and downright taboo in some cultures.

The process of making a planned gift may also conjure up complex financial and technical legal protocols. That’s why many people turn to an estate planning attorney when contemplating distribution of their assets.

Deciding how to distribute heirlooms requires thought

Deciding how to distribute heirlooms requires thought

My nephew Tanner is a pretty accomplished young man. He has a knack for mechanics. During his high school years, he worked for a company that made sensitive equipment parts for the military.

On the side, he bought lawnmowers, dirt bikes, jet skis and other small vehicles that needed repair. He fixed them and resold them for a tidy profit.

Attending night school for college, he also worked full time at Raytheon, a major defense contractor. Saving all his money, he bought his first home at age 23. He is the chief snow remover at my mom’s house in New Hampshire as well as the man on call for heavy lifting and odd jobs.

So when my mother asked me “the question,” the answer was easy for me.

Holidays, a good time to look for signs of elder abuse

Holidays, a good time to look for signs of elder abuse

My dog’s specialty vet closed her practice last week, a result of an elder experience that’s becoming far too commonplace in today’s world.

When I asked why she was shutting down, my vet told me she’d been struggling over the past year to deal with issues related to her aging mother. The problems had become too exhausting and frustrating, she said.

Her mother was declining mentally, and because she lives three hours away by plane, my vet had no idea of the extent of her ailment. It turns out the vet’s brother was writing checks to himself and having their mother, while in a state of cognitive impairment, sign them.

Social Security offers online account

Social Security offers online account

Recently my friend Ken sent me a link to a Washington Post article about protecting your Social Security number.

The article was in response to the breach at Equifax—one of the top three credit reporting agencies—that had exposed the personal information of 145.5 million people earlier this year.

On Oct. 12 the company said it had disabled one of its customer help online pages and is investigating another possible cyber breach.

Here are the facts, according to Equifax. The breach lasted from mid-May through July. The hackers accessed people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers of about 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal identifying information of about 182,000 people.

The Federal Trade Commission offered steps to help protect your information from being misused. In broad strokes, it 

Take full advantage of medical deduction while you still can

Take full advantage of medical deduction while you still can

The cost of medical and dental care is typically the largest expense for older Americans. Fortunately, some of these bills may be tax-deductible.

The 2016 tax year could be the last time adults age 65 and older can take advantage of a lower threshold for deducting a portion of your medical and dental expenses.

If you itemize your deductions on Schedule A of your tax return, among the categories to list are medical and dental expenses. However, they are subject to a limit.

For many years, the limit was 7.5 percent of a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income, meaning that only those medical expenses in excess of 7.5 percent of a taxpayer’s AGI were deductible. For example, if someone’s AGI was $40,000, only those medical and dental expenses that exceeded $3,000 (7.5 percent times $40,000 equal $3,000) would be deductible.

But the rules for deducting medical and dental expenses changed in 2013, increasing that threshold to 10 percent of AGI.

Seniors got a brief reprieve as Congress exempted people age 65 and older from the 10 percent threshold until 2017.