I’ve been giving financial advice professionally for close to 40 years, but now that I recently turned 62, senior topics have taken on a new meaning for me.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult for seniors to find expert, trustworthy help with financial matters; there are tons of scams targeting seniors, and mistakes can be costly. To address these challenges, we’ve just added a brand new section to our Solutions Center focused specifically on issues faced by folks 50 and older.
To provide senior services, we’re partnering with Money Management International, the largest nonprofit consumer counseling agency in the country. I’ve personally known many of the top officers for many years and trust them completely.
In our new Senior Solutions Center, you’ll find help with the most pressing financial questions facing seniors, including personalized Medicare assistance, Social Security maximization, debt counseling, help with paying bills, reverse-mortgage counseling and foreclosure prevention.
I’ve already used one of these services myself, and I’ll almost certainly be using others. Here’s a bit about each.
Medicare is a godsend for seniors, but it’s a complicated one.
There’s plenty of free information out there, including articles on this website and at Medicare.gov, but for many people it’s worth the added peace of mind to talk to an objective expert to ensure they do it right. I’m not quite there yet (Medicare eligibility age is 65), but when my time comes, that’s certainly what I’ll do.
Medicare assistance can help:
- Identify your specific health care needs
- Research your coverage options
- Provide a customized, objective report
- Review plans and assist with enrollment
Costs of plans vary, but services start at $250.
Social Security maximization
Long before you become eligible for Social Security, you should become educated on the numerous techniques to maximize the amount you’ll receive.
Especially for couples, the potential claiming strategies can be mind-numbing. Should you start claiming benefits at 62? 66? 70? Should you claim spousal benefits now, then wait to file under your own account later?
There are companies that will prepare a customized analysis telling you exactly when to claim Social Security benefits to receive the maximum lifetime payout. The result could be thousands of extra dollars over your lifetime, and the cost is only $40.
I did one of these a couple of years ago and was surprised at the result: My wife and I would get thousands more over our lifetimes providing I claim at exactly 69 years, four months. Who knew?
Debt and budget counseling
The first TV news story I ever did, back in 1981, was about credit counseling, and I’ve done dozens of articles on the topic since. I’ve also served on the advisory boards of two nonprofit credit counseling agencies.
If you’re a senior hoping to retire debt-free or anyone having trouble making ends meet, a nonprofit credit counseling agency can offer you everything from free advice to a debt management plan designed to get your bills paid and creditors off your back. Sometimes they can even get some interest rates reduced and fees waived.
If you’re in trouble, don’t get help soon — get it right this second. Advice is free; stop suffering.
Help with managing finances
Even for the best of us, keeping track of the bills and budget doesn’t get any easier as we age, and those with memory loss or medical conditions may find it impossible to keep up with their financial obligations.
If you, a family member or friend need help managing their Social Security income or making sound financial decisions and avoiding fraud and abuse, something known as a “representative payee” may be the answer.
A representative payee is often a friend or family member but may also be an organization. These organizations are staffed with payee specialists who can help recipients create and manage a budget, provide record-keeping and bill-paying services and offer referrals to social services resources.
There may be fees for this type of service depending on your specific situation (e.g., source of income, amount of benefit, individual needs, etc.) but it’s comforting to know that if you need this kind of help, it’s out there.
Reverse mortgage counseling
One of the most common questions I’ve gotten over the years is about reverse mortgages. I’ve explained them many times, but essentially a reverse mortgage allows seniors to supplement their retirement income by drawing on their home equity.
If that sounds appealing, talking to an objective pro is a great idea and much smarter than talking solely to a mortgage salesperson. In fact, the law requires that you get certified counseling before taking out a reverse mortgage. Why not talk to them early in the process?
One of the saddest TV news stories I ever shot was about a wonderful woman who had slaved for years to scrape together the money to buy her first home, only to later lose it to a crook who promised he could save her from foreclosure: All she had to do was sign over her deed.
Fortunately, foreclosure isn’t the problem it was back then. But it’s still a problem, often for seniors.
Foreclosure counseling is available for free. If you’re behind, do something today. A qualified counselor can help you find the most appropriate course of action and connect you with programs and resources.
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