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Ask a care manager: Money matters

I believe I have sufficient funds to see me through my retirement but am bored. I am 68 years old and have good skills. A part-time job would get me out of the house, give me socialization and help with some extra money. If I go back to work, what happens to my monthly Social Security payments?

Once a person reaches the full Social Security age* there are no limits on earnings. There are, however, earnings limits on individuals who elect to receive Social Security benefits early (62 — full retirement age) and return to work. Currently this earnings limit is $14,160/year. *Born 1943-1954 — full social security at age 66; born 1950 and later — full social security at age 67. Visit .ssa.gov for more details.

I am concerned about having enough funds to last through my old age. I see free luncheons advertised that are held locally to hear presentations about Medicaid (Medi-Cal) and annuities. Is this a good way to invest funds and have money for my older years?

There’s an old saying: “there is no free lunch.” This may very well be the case when these types of presentations are given. It’s important to understand the product you’re being asked to consider. An annuity is an insurance product that usually requires a lump sum payment and guarantees a certain percentage income to you for a number of years. If you don’t need this money for the period of time and are sure you can get along without it, you may want to consider the purchase. However, it can affect a person’s eligibility for certain public programs such as Medi-Cal. It’s certainly fine to go to the lunch and presentation; just get a good second opinion before you commit a large sum of money for the next 10 to 12 years. Visit sec.gov for more on annuities.

My husband and I own our own home and rely on Social Security for our income each month. We are having increasing difficulty paying our bills and buying groceries. How can we afford to remain in our home as we age and our needs increase?

So many older adults have a great resource in their home, want to remain at home but see the value decrease as maintenance needs are left undone. There are several choices that may help.

  • Talk to your bank about applying for a line of credit using your house as collateral. Use the funds as needed to keep up the house and give you additional monthly funds as you need them. Talk to the banker about interest rates so you’ll understand how much the monthly payments will be and what limits you may have with this loan.
  • If your monthly income is very limited and you can’t afford a loan payment, you may want to look into a Reverse Annuity Mortgage which will give you funds like the line of credit above or a lump sum. The fees for this type of mortgage can be pricey but the funds do not have to be paid back until you either sell the property or die. Your bank should have information about this type of loan.
  • If the property is just too much to keep up, you may want to consider selling your home and moving into something more affordable and easier to keep up. Take your time when making these types of decisions to ensure you’re aware of all the pros and cons, including monthly space rent in mobile home parks, homeowner fees when there’s a homeowners association, taxes and maintenance/repairs at the home you’re moving to.

I pay the bills in our family and am concerned that with my current health issues I may be unable to continue being in charge of the finances one day soon. My wife has memory problems and is willing to take this over but I’m worried that it will be too much for her. What should I do?

Most banks offer electronic banking these days that is free or with a minimal fee. Setting up an electronic checking account takes a bit of time but is quite easy to do. Regular payments i.e., utilities, car insurance, taxes, etc. can be set up to be paid from your checking account. If new bills come in, the bill can be added to the electronic list. If there are recurring payments made each month, these checks can be set up to automatically recur at the date you specify. You can receive e-mail notifications when bills are past due or paid and can check your account at any time to make sure payments were sent timely. You can even run reports (called history) that will give you a report of monthly payments to the utility company with the amount and date paid. Once you’ve taken the time to set this up, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. It’s a great service and should be helpful to anyone who has bills and a checking account. Note: It’s also secure with password protection for each bank customer. You may also want to enlist a family member to assist your wife or consider hiring a private fiduciary to take over the finances.

I would like to buy a new car but am concerned about trying to do this on my own. I will also have to sell my current car and am unsure whether I should do this on my own or just ask them to take it in trade. How should I go about this?

It’s good you recognize your uncomfortable feelings about doing this on your own. Start by thinking about what you want to buy or at least what’s important to you in a new car. Do you need a four-wheel/all-wheel drive for the snow? Are you concerned about gas mileage, leg room, room for the dog in the back, etc.? Make those decisions before you go to the car dealer. Look at the newspaper or online to see what new cars are selling for. You can also check to see what you think your current car is worth. Will you pay cash or need to take out a loan? If you’re going to finance the new car, check with your local bank or credit union for the best rates. They can pre-approve you ahead of time. Once you’ve done a bit of homework, find someone you trust who knows cars, knows what you want and can help you negotiate the deal with or without your car in trade. Take your time on this too. You want to be satisfied and feel you were treated fairly.

We have moderate savings that these days is not earning any interest to speak of. We’d like to invest the funds to earn more money but are concerned about risk and loss of our cushion. Where can we get some good advice about what to do?

It’s true that banks and credit unions are not offering much in the way of interest. There are other ways to invest i.e., new savings bonds (talk to your bank), T bills and CDs with a longer term i.e., 36 to 48 months. Read all you can about saving and investing as retirees i.e., Money Magazine, Kliplinger’s Personal Finance magazine or the Motley Fool newsletter. Talk to friends and family for a referral to a financial advisor who preferably charges by the hour not a percentage of the products they sell you. Do not put all your eggs in one basket and learn to be a more savvy consumer.

Carol S. Heape, MSW, CMC, Fellow is executive director/CEO of Elder Options Inc., serving the Sacramento Region since 1988; elderoptionsca.com. Do you have questions? Send questions to: carol@elderoptionsca.com to be included in future columns.

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Posted by on Feb 17 2013.
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