Category Archives: Medicare – Medicaid

The Fate of Social Security for Younger Workers – And Three Things You Should Do Right Now

We constantly hear people wonder whether Social Security will still be there when they retire.  The question comes not just from people in their 20’s, but also from people in their 40’s and 50’s as they begin to think more about retirement.  It’s a fair question.

Some estimates show that the Social Security Trust Fund will run out of money by 2034.  Medicare is in even worse shape, projected to run out of money by 2029.  That’s not all that far down the road.

So how do we plan for this?

The reality is that Social Security and Medicare benefits have been paid out of the U.S. Treasury’s “general fund” for decades.  The taxes collected for Social Security and Medicare all go into the general fund.  The idea that there is a special, separate fund for those programs is accounting fiction.  What is true is that the taxes collected for Social Security and Medicare are less than the amount being paid out.

What this inevitably means is that at some point the government may be forced to choose between increasing taxes for Social Security and Medicaid, reducing or altering benefits payments, or going broke.

Another question is whether the benefits provided to retirees under these programs will cover the cost living.  Older people spend much more on medical expenses than the young, and medical costs are increasing much faster than the cost of living adjustments in Social Security payments.  If a larger percentage of a retiree’s income from Social Security is spent on medical expenses, they will obviously have to make cuts in other expenses – be they food, clothing, or shelter – negatively impacting the lifestyle they envisioned for retirement.

The wise response to these issues is to save as much of your own money for retirement as possible while you are working.  There is little you can do about Social Security or Medicare benefits – outside of voting or running for public office – but you are in control over the amount you save and how you invest those savings.

As we face an uncertain future, we advocate that you take these three steps:

  1. Increase your savings rate.
  2. Prepare a retirement plan.
  3. Invest your retirement assets wisely.

If you need help with these steps, give us a call.  It’s what we do.

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Exploding health care costs

Here are some scary projections about the cost of health care for retirees:

 The average lifetime retirement health care premium costs for a 65-year-old healthy couple retiring this year and covered by Medicare Parts B, D, and a supplemental insurance policy will be $266,589. (It is assumed in this report that Medicare subscribers paid Medicare taxes while employed, and therefore will not be responsible for Medicare Part A premiums.)

If we were to include the couple’s total health care (dental, vision, co-pays, and all out-of-pockets), their costs would rise to $394,954. For a 55-year-old couple retiring in 10 years, total lifetime health care costs would be $463,849.

These projections come from Health View Services.

“Obamacare” enrollment has just begun for the coming year and premiums are increasing an average of 22% even as deductibles have increased to $6,000 for the “Bronze” plan before insurance actually pays anything.   The number of companies offering health insurance to individuals is shrinking and some of the larger companies have stopped offering individual policies altogether.

Many people tell us that health care is one of their top concerns in retirement, right up there with running out of money.  Unfortunately the majority has not even begun to put money aside for retirement and those who have underestimate the cost of doctors, hospitals and drugs during their retirement years.

No matter where you are in your life cycle, you should take action now to get to know a knowledgeable financial advisor, preferable a fee-only Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) who specializes in retirement and who can provide guidance on these issues.

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Retirement statistics

  • 65 – The age at which the average American expects to retire, up from 63 in 2002.
  • 26 – Percentage of baby boomers who expect to retire at age 70 or later.
  • $265,000 – the estimated amount a couple, both age 65, should expect to spend on health care.
  • 22 – Percentage of couples who factor health care costs into retirement.
  • 30 – Percentage of adults born in the 1940s and 1950s who have traditional pension plans.
  • 11 – Percentage of adults born in the 1980s who are expected to have a traditional pension plan.
  • 60 – Percentage of medical expenses that Medicare by itself covers.

If some of these statistics don’t scare you read them again.

For others, we may be able to help.

And read the first three chapters of Before I Go.

 

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Getting Financial Help

When people have financial questions, what do they look for?  According to a recent survey most people are looking for someone with experience.  We want to take advice from people who are familiar with the issues we face and know what to do about them.  We all know people with experience, but financial problems, like medical problems, are personal.  Most people we know would rather not go into detail about their personal finances with family or friends.  They are more comfortable sitting down with a financial professional to discuss their finances, their debts, their financial concerns, and their financial goals in both the short and long term. Professionals will provide advice without being judgmental and are required by their code of ethics to keep your information confidential.

Once people find someone who has a track record of giving good, professional advice, they want personalized advice and “holistic” planning.

No two people have exactly the same problems.  A good financial advisor listens attentively to learn the goals, the concerns and personal history of the people who come to him for advice.

People have specific issues and questions.  For example: a couple, aged 39, is seeking advice about their path to retirement.  They give their financial advisor a laundry list of their assets, their investments, their savings rate, their debts, and the ages of their children and ask if they should be doing something different or are they on the right path.  That’s a very specific question and the advisor’s response is going to be personalized for them.

The plan that the advisor comes up with is going to involve much more than money.  It’s going to take their personal characteristics into account.  This includes personal experience with investing, their risk tolerance, and their closely held beliefs and ethical values.  This is what is referred to as “holistic” planning; taking personal characteristics into consideration.

There is a fairly big difference in the advice sought by

  • “Millennials” (those born after 1980 and the first generation to come of age in the current century),
  • “Generation X” (the children of the Baby Boomers) and the
  • “Baby Boomers” (children of the soldiers returning from World War 2)

“Millenials” say that among their top three concerns are saving for a large expense such as a car or a wedding.  Too many are saddled by debt acquired to pay for higher education and are finding that their degrees are not necessarily an entry into high paying professional jobs.  Their next largest concerns are saving for their kids’ education and putting money aside for retirement.

“Generation X” is primarily focused on saving for retirement.  They are married, own their own home and may have children in college.  Concerns two and three are tax reduction and paying for their children’s education.

“Baby Boomers” have finally reached retirement age.  More than a quarter million turn 65 each month.  As a group they are a large and wealthy generation, but a vast number have not saved enough for a comfortable retirement.  Many are forced to continue to work to supplement Social Security income.  Their number one concern is the cost of health care.  Concerns two and three are protecting their assets and having enough income for retirement.  The three concerns for Baby Boomers are inter-connected.  For many Boomers, Medicare helps them with the costs associated with most medical issues.  However, as people live longer, there comes a time when they are unable to care for themselves and live independently.  Long-term-care insurance was once believed to be the answer but insurance companies found that costs were much greater than anticipated.  The result is that many insurers have stopped offering the policies and those remaining have hiked premiums beyond the ability of many to pay.  The cost of long term care is so high that many Boomers are afraid that their savings will soon be exhausted if they are forced into assisted living facilities or nursing homes.

Each generation has its own problems and at a time when the world has gotten much more complicated.  Getting experienced, personalized and holistic financial advice is more important than ever.

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8 Common Reasons for Retirement Failure

1. Overspending.

-You won’t spend less in retirement.  The old saw that retirees only spend 80% of their pre-retirement income is a myth.

2. Elder Fraud.

-Seniors are becoming the favored victims of swindlers.

3. Health care.

-As we age the cost of medical care goes up.  Medicare is covering less and premiums are going up.

4. Starting a business.

-Investing capital in a business that fails can devastate retirement finances.

5. Adult children.

-Helping your children through a “rough patch” can become is one of the most common ways of ending up broke.

6. Second homes.

-The cost of maintaining that vacation home when you’re no longer working can drain your resources when your income drops.

7. Divorce.

-Couples sometimes wait until the children leave home to divorce.  When assets are split 50/50, retirement becomes a problem for both parties.

8. Investment mistakes.

-Making poor investment choices is one of the most common ways of ruining your retirement lifestyle.

If you are nearing retirement, don’t enter into it without a plan.

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Delaying Medicare Part B

When you turn 65 you become eligible for Medicare and are asked to sign up. Medicare has a number of parts.

Medicare Part A primarily covers hospital care as well as skilled nursing facilities, nursing homes, hospice and some other services. There is no cost to the individual for Part A.

Medicare Part B primarily covers services (like lab tests, surgeries, and doctor visits) and supplies (like wheelchairs and walkers) to treat a disease or condition. There is a monthly charge for Part B.

If people choose to continue working after age 65 and if they are covered by a group health plan they may not sign up for Part B.

If they do not sign up for Part B at age a 65, they may be subject to a “late enrollment penalty.” According to Medicare.gov

Your monthly premium for Part B may go up 10% for each full 12-month period that you could have had Part B, but didn’t sign up for it.”

However, this penalty does not apply of you can prove that you had medical insurance coverage for the time you declined the Part B.

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GE Retirees health insurance

GE is one of the companies that are working hard to reduce the amount it must spend on retiree health care. As people live longer, the cost of lifetime health care coverage for retired employees becomes a larger part of a company’s bottom line. GE recently offloaded the supplemental insurance coverage for salaried retirees to another company that specializes in employee benefits.

With that in mind, here is what a member of the GE employee family had to say about this. Even if you are not a GE retiree, the analysis is very worthwhile.  (edited)

When you turn 65, Medicare becomes your primary health insurance even (I think) if you are still working for GE, and definitely if you are retired from GE. … [But] one needs to sign up for Medicare within 3 months before or after their 65th birthday month, or face a lifetime late enrollment penalty.

You can either purchase a Medigap plan on the open market using Medicare.gov to search the available plans, or you can use OneExchange the same way. Or, if you’re feeling lucky/healthy, one can just use the 80% coverage of Medicare Part B and go without a Medigap plan – after all, Medicare Part B pays 80% of Dr. visits…The Medigap plans basically cover the 20% of OV’s that Medicare doesn’t – plus a few other things, but that’s their primary role. A person could do a simple break-even analysis and figure out how many OV’s they would have to have in a year to equate to the premiums they will pay for a Medigap plan. A healthy person would actually be better off financially (in the short term anyway) without a Medigap plan, as most people are paying at least $100 per month per person for that coverage, I believe. Of course, it is insurance, so what you really hope for is that you pay the premiums and don’t need it, right?

Since you also would be losing your GE drug coverage, you very much would want to enroll in Medicare Part D, drug coverage, or you will be paying the retail price for drugs, without the coverage of the Part D plan, and also without the negotiated drug prices the insurance carriers receive – a bad proposition all around. If one’s prescription drug needs are modest, there are very low-cost plans available like Humana/Walmart, which provide good protection at very low cost. If one’s prescription drug needs are a little more exotic, then it would pay to explore which plan would be best, using the plan selector engine at Medicare.gov or OneExchange. My experience using both plan selector engines was they came up with a very closely matching answer. In my case, even with one Tier 3 drug that costs $250 per month retail, Humana/Walmart was the least costly plan, but several others were very close.

Or, if this person was OK with using a managed care plan, there is also the option of going with a Medicare Advantage Plan, or a managed care plan, aka Medicare Part C. Those are the plans for which we get the flyers every Annual Enrollment period. I think generally these are very cost effective, often covering Medicare Parts A, B and D with a premium of zero dollars, but you have to be prepared for the restrictions on where you can go and who you can use, you generally need a visit with a Primary Care Physician (PCP) in the HMO before seeing a specialist, etc. My view on these plans is that you give up some choice and control in exchange for saving quite a bit of money on premiums. But watch out for the geographical and network restrictions.

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Financial Planning in the Shadow of Dementia

Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, is an epidemic. More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. It’s irreversible and fatal although some may linger for up to 20 years. And the number is expected to soar.

The Alzheimer’s Association has created a list of the 10 warning signs. These range from memory loss, through confusion to severe mood changes.

Because of the widespread nature of this disease, for people with Alzheimer’s and their families there are a number of things that should be done. Plans should be in place well before the onset of the symptoms.

• Review your insurance policies, especially your Long Term Care policies.
• Talk with your family and your financial advisor to make your wishes known.
• Review your wills and trusts.
• Appoint an advocate who has the legal authority to act on your behalf.
• Make sure you have provided for an appropriate Power of Attorney.

Research shows that declining financial skills is one of the first symptoms of the early stages of Alzheimer’s. This includes anything from difficulty in balancing a checkbook to being victimized by criminals who prey on the elderly. This usually leaves family members to take responsibility for the individual’s finances.

In some cases, people assume these responsibilities without having experience handling money or dealing with financial issues. This is the time to bring in a trusted financial advisor. We can provide practical guidance on both day-to-day and long-term financial decisions.

For a report on this subject, contact Korving & Company – the Financial Planning and Investment Management experts.

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The Cost of Getting Older

Maureen E. Hook at the Hook Law Center has a good article on Long Term Care insurance.

There is a definite appeal about long-term care insurance, especially since Medicare does not pay for things like extended stays in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. It only pays for skilled nursing care. Medicare also does not pay for in-home care like personal assistants who assist with dressing or cooking. The downside is that premiums can be extremely high, and everyone may not need that level of care. There are a few lucky ones who escape lengthy long-term illnesses.

Read the whole thing. 

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Over There!

From the Financial Planning.

Living abroad seems like an inexpensive option for some prospective retirees, and even some younger people who are not tied by a job to a specific location. 

But there are a number of issues that need to be considered before buying a ticket and pulling up stakes.  Without getting into details, here are the items that should be researched:

  • Tax Issues – first consult a tax lawyer. and see what the taxes will be and to whom you will pay them.
  • Health Insurance – no one living permanently outside the US can receive Medicare benefits.
  • Working Abroad – if you’re going to be running a small business abroad, be sure to know what the taxes, labor regulations and wage scales are.
  • Social Networking – it may be difficult to create a circle of friends in a new country unless you build a social network before you move.
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