Talking About Money – The Elephant In The Room

My parents taught me it wasn’t polite to talk about money. To this day, I have no idea how much my parents income was over the years nor what they have in savings. That’s not even getting into their wills, estate planning or types of insurance they may or may not have. Every day, I hear the same from peers – the bulk of people really don’t know what kind of future their parents are prepared for.

Generally, most families just chug along without transparency around Advanced Care Planning, Estate/Trust or wealth management. Talking about senior care and aging in place is entirely centered on the physical – accessibility, transportation, wearables, independent living, skilled nursing….. Not a word about Financial Caregiving. The challenges of Medicare, bill pay, savings and care spending are given little to no attention. Not to mention that our senior community is in the crosshairs of scammers at an alarming rate each & every day.

Seniors lose an estimated $2.9 billion annually from financial exploitation, according to the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

Impersonating the IRS was the number one scam targeting seniors in 2018.

One in 10 Americans age 65 or older who lives at home will become a victim of abuse, according to recent testimony from Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt.

How do most begin to understand their parents’ financial runway? When a crisis rears it’s ugly head – a fall, a hospitalization, a sudden illness. Then, it’s a mad dash to understand eldercare law, uncover if there a Power Of Attorney in place, what the money situation may be, does Medicare &/or the secondary even cover what is happening…. By the way, who is paying all the regular household bills during the crisis?

Financial trends show that a conversation around savings & assets is essential. The rate at which the senior population is filing for bankruptcy has more than 3x what it was in 1991.Far and away, the cost of health care is driving this scary statistic. It doesn’t matter what your net worth may be – the impact of health care spending affects all Americans.

So, why aren’t we having conversations with loved ones that lift the veil on finance and home so everyone can age as they wish? Believe it or not, parents don’t want to hear their offspring’s opinion on how they’ve accrued or plan to spend their life’s savings. From how much the landscaper costs to how much they have in cash reserves is deeply personal. Autonomy and preserving the parent-child dynamic is critical to a senior’s identity. Having to disclose this information can flip the script on who is in charge in the relationship & can be damaging. Maybe it’s best to leave sleeping dogs lie? No.

The key is not to TAKE OVER for your loved ones. INSTEAD empower them with the tools that create efficiencies around their household budget, inform them about their housing options and can forecast long term costs. From a place of love, your first inclination may be to step in to manage or advise. Therein, you’re disrupting the parent/child relationship that is even more sensitive at this stage of the game. Arming the senior population with resources and accredited advisors that allow them to maintain control over their checkbook and home is the best solution. It will not only create additional security around their savings & assets but will also extend their ability to self manage – an emotional must.

What tools & resources are available? Information is power. Your local senior center holds educational seminars every week that will arm you & your loved ones with the intricacies of senior finance & insurance. Take advantage of these resources. In home options are readily available as well in the form of Certified Senior Advisors. These are wonderful for the household that needs individualized attention and regular support. Having a go to professional that can verify the monthly spending, coordinate claims processing between insurances, help with general organization or just be a sounding board is the key to peace of mind for you & your loved ones.

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Client Study: Medicare D Penalties

Just this past week we helped a new client enroll in Medicare D for the first time. Unbeknownst to them, they were about to encounter two big penalties – Delayed Enrollment & Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amount (IRMAA).

“Sally” is a 73 year old widow in excellent health. Due to a combination of factors including with her solid financial status and not wanting to face the morass of Medicare enrollment, she had neglected to enroll during her initial enrollment period which was eight years ago. .

When we sat down to calculate the monthly penalty she would incur, she was shocked to learn the magnitude of the penalty she faced and that it would affect her premiums for the full duration of her enrollment. Anyone who delays or suspends enrollment in their Medicare product for more than 63 days is subject to this stinger.

To calculate a Delayed Enrollment Penalty, Medicare calculates the penalty by applying 1% of the National Premium Average ($33.19 for 2019 enrollments) times the number of full, uncovered months you didn’t have Part D or creditable coverage.

For Sally, this meant, 99 months (Oct 2018 minus June 2010 = 99 months) without coverage and a whopping $34.70 added to her monthly bill. Considering that her regular premium is $27.40 for her selected Medicare D product, this was a shocker.

To add to the dilemma, because her Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) is in excess of $125,000 this year, Sally classifies as a “High Earning Senior” . Based on this, she is also subject to “The Medicare Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amount” which is going to tack on an additional $31.90 per month to her premium.

2019 Medicare Part D IRMAA is shown below.
Beneficiaries who file individual tax returns with income that is: Beneficiaries who file joint tax returns with income that is: Medicare Part D Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amount
Less than or equal to $85,000 Less than or equal to $170,000 $0.00
Greater than $85,000 and less than or equal to $107,000 Greater than $170,000 and less than or equal to $214,000 $12.40
Greater than $107,000 and less than or equal to $133,500 Greater than $214,000 and less than or equal to $267,000 $31.90
Greater than $133,500 and less than or equal to $160,000 Greater than $267,000 and less than or equal to $320,000 $51.40
Greater than $160,000 and less than or equal to $214,000 Greater than $320,000 and less than or equal to $428,000 $70.90
Greater than $214,000 and less than or equal to $500,000 Greater than $428,000 and less than or equal to $750,000 $70.90
Greater than $500,000 Greater than $750,000 $77.40

In one hour, Sally learned that her monthly out of pocket cost, before seeing any benefits, is now $94.00 which is a dramatic increase from the $27.40 premium for her selected Medicare D product.

Is there any relief for Sally? Perhaps, filing an appeal on both of these penalties will be worth the trouble. Senior Checks and Balances can help her complete is a Request for Reconsideration as well as a Late Enrollment (LEP) Reconsideration Form.

 

Senior Security: Fraud & Identity Theft

When you consider fraud & identity theft, the first culprits that come to mind are telemarketers, when actually, those closest to the targeted victim are most likely the offender. This includes financial advisors, home health workers and even family members.

dreamstime_xxl_91269790According to The National Adult Protective Services Association:

  • 1 in 9 seniors reported being abused, neglected or exploited in the past twelve months; the rate of financial exploitation is extremely high, with 1 in 20 older adults indicating some form of perceived financial mistreatment having occurred in the recent past
  • Elder abuse is vastly under-reported with only 1 in 44 cases of financial abuse is ever reported
  • Abused seniors are 3 times more likely to die, and elder abuse victims are 4 times more likely to go into a nursing home
  • 90% of abusers are family members or trusted others
  • Almost 1 in 10 financial abuse victims will eventually rely on Medicaid as a direct result of their own monies being stolen from them
  • Cognitive impairment and the need for help with activities of daily living make victims more vulnerable to financial abuse.

The methods that can be used to cheat you or your loved one out of life savings and future financial security can be truly insidious. Recently, I received a call from a family seeking help for their father after he had shared his Social Security number with his new neighbor on the premise that he would be part of a mythical real estate investment.

What is the best course of action to create a wall around finances and your personal security?

  1. Put a freeze on your credit. By contacting TransUnion or Experian credit bureaus, you can put your credit on lock down, so  potential perpetrators can’t open an account. This is one of the few preventative steps you can take. With PIN access, credit can be “re-activated” for use as appropriate.
  2. Enrolling in Life Lock is where the internet works for you. You can scour the net for any of your information to if a new account is opened in your name or if there have been changes to your credit.
  3. Careful vetting of your “guardians” – your trusted circle that help maintain home, health and lifestyle. This group includes your CPA, estate lawyer, financial advisor, physicians, daily money manager and even your insurance agent. Each of these individuals should come from personal recommendations from friends and family but also bear endorsements from local and national organizations that you can verify directly.
  4. Do you have help within the home? Employing housekeepers to handymen to home health aides, while necessary, unfortunately, also carry an inherent risk. Following is a laundry list of security steps that everyone should take prior to employing regular help within the home. This includes but is not limited to:
    • Removal of any/all account or statement information including bank information, estate plans, utility bills, and real estate documentationThe list is extensive. This critical information can be stored with a loved one or kept in a lock box.
    • Depending on health status and other factors, forwarding mail to a PO Box or a trusted individual may be wise. Likewise, if your senior is comfortable not having paper records, activating paperless billing & statements is a safe bet.
    • PIN numbers and passwords must be activated on cable/internet access. Employees who run up Pay Per View charges and spend working hours surfing the web qualify as abusive.
    • Install a personal safe or rent a safety deposit box for valuables.
    • Conduct or ask for background checks: how and when were they last completed?
  5. Passwords. Each account needs security and must be guarded. It is a fact of life today that the financial world is digital; and the trail of logins, passwords, payment information, and other sensitive personal information can lead to abuse. Use a digital password keeper like LastPass or DashLane to keep your information accessible while still secure. Further, you can designate a POA or another trusted individual with access, so that in the case of emergency, you can be assured that bills are continually paid and finances stay on track.

What’s still at stake despite all these measures? Your Social Security number can still be used for medical and tax fraud.

Medical identity theft is on the rise as it enables the perpetrator to obtain drugs or submit fake bills in your name. Your best course of action is to keep a record of all Explanation of Benefits (EOBs) and immediately flag any unfamiliar charges.

Tax identity theft occurs when an individual files a false report under your name to obtain a refund. Filing early and quickly is the safest way to avoid this, because any subsequent attempts to file will be rejected by the IRS. Be organized throughout the year, so when January rolls around, you can swiftly hand off your tax package to your vetted and trusted CPA.

In summary, securing your identity and your finances requires ongoing attention and support. Incoming mail, email, statements and billing require scrutiny and evaluation. Engaging your Guardians and family to assist is the first step to creating your own firewall of safety.

Deductions: A quick guide to healthcare write offs

Get the most out of your dependent medical expenses…… money back!

Track your out of pocket expenses! Once out-of-pocket expenditures exceed 10% of adjusted gross income, you will qualify for deductions!   Are you keeping a running account of all the monies you have been spending on you and your dependents? This accounting exercise is well worth adopting Below, find is a list of some deductibles, but also refer to the IRS’s Publication 502 for greater detail.

  • Copays & deductibles
  • Accepted therapies that may not be covered by your insurer
  • Glasses
  • Ambulance charges
  • Acupuncture
  • Physical therapy
  • Memory care
  • Bandages / care supplies
  • Hearing aids
  • Activities for older people (dual eligibles)
  • Some required home and vehicle modifications for safety
  • Professional health assistance for respite care
  • Transportation for medical appts or services
  • Adult day care or in-home health assistance (if you are working)

How can one capture this information? It can be as simple as putting pen to paper with an envelope of receipts attached or setting up a digital spreadsheet. it’s critically important to keep all your receipts and charge details accounted for at the end of the year. Receipts must include the following information:

  • Patient Name
  • Date of Service
  • Diagnosis / Reason for Service
  •  Amount Paid Out of Pocket
    • This is important. Make sure the receipt reflects that the account has been paid or have the corresponding cancelled check or credit card receipt. to back the expenditure up.

The importance of a Certified Senior Advisor®️

The senior community is growing at an incredibly rapid pace, and the technology that runs our everyday life is growing just as quickly; however, the understanding of today’s paperless accounting and online management has created a vast divide between technology and user.

 

“Research has also shown that even cognitively normal people may reach a point where financial decision-making becomes more challenging.” (NYT, Bernard)  Making daily decisions about bills to be paid, marketing offers that pop up in snail mail and e-mail, the landmine of Medicare options and home management create stress and chip away at self-confidence. The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College did a study that had startling results, regarding one’s ability to understand credit card balance transfer offers for new cardholders. Essentially, this study tracked how long it would take the subject to uncover the hidden loophole on how the lower APR(what is this acronym?) would be applied. They called this the “Eureka Moment”.

 

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http://crr.bc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/IB_10-12-508.pdf

The startling results are that the “Eureka Moment” comes at the same time for the 18-24 year old group as the 65+ group.

Retirement years should be filled with the rewards of relaxation and earned leisure. Instead, many seniors find themselves spending significant time managing their cash flow, researching healthcare options and analyzing mountains of mail and paperwork that accumulate on their dining room table. hesitant to trouble family or friends and most importantly, not jeopardize their autonomy, most seek advice.

This is where a Certified Senior Advisor® comes in. A Certified Senior Advisor® is a professional who is trained and accredited in understanding and navigating the daily life of a senior. A Certified Senior Advisor® helps clients traverse the I byzantine path surrounding their financial security, personal independence, the fluid healthcare landscape while, maintaining respect for the individual. A Certified Senior Advisor® works alongside their client to insure that their wishes are precisely followed.

Money Management – Monitoring the household budget and cash flow is running efficiently

Healthcare claims & enrollments – Insuring that your benefits are being maximized to fit your healthcare needs

Taxes & Portfolio – Creating ease around the functions of tax prep, end of year distributions and charitable giving

Household – Assisting or managing projects to make your house work better for your needs

At Senior Checks & Balances, our goal is to create a individually tailored approach that create safety around the household and finances, and consequently, nurtures independence and individual empowerment.