March 2018 Columns

Savvy Senior – March Columns

  1. How to Get Cash For Your Life Insurance Policy
  2. Could You Have Diabetes?
  3. Tips and Resources for Older Job Seekers
  4. How to Choose a Memory Care Unit

How to Get Cash For Your Life Insurance Policy

Dear Savvy Senior,
I have a life insurance policy that I’ve been paying on for years that I really don’t need any longer. I’ve been thinking about letting it lapse, but I’ve heard that I can actually sell it for a nice payout. What can you tell me about this?
Interested In Selling

Dear Interested,
Selling a life insurance policy, even a term life policy that you don’t want or need any longer – a transaction known as a “life settlement” – has become a popular option among retirees in recent years that could use some extra cash. Here’s how it works.

A life settlement is the sale of an existing life insurance policy to a third party company for cash. Life settlements are typically best suited for people over age 65 who own a policy with a face value of $100,000 or more or someone younger who has experienced a significant change in health.

Historically, if an owner of a life insurance policy decided they no longer needed it, they would either let the policy lapse or turn it in for a meager cash surrender value. But now, with the life settlement option, you can actually sell your policy for more than the cash surrender value would be, but less than its net death benefit.

Once you sell it, the life settlement company then becomes the new owner of the policy, pays the future premiums and collects the death benefit.

How much money you can expect to get with a life settlement will depend on your age, health and life expectancy, the type of insurance policy, the premium costs and the cash value of your policy. You may be able to receive four to eight times more than the policy cash surrender value.

If you’re interested in a life settlement here are some things you should know:

Shop around: Because payout can vary, to ensure you get the best price for your policy get quotes from several companies. Also, find out what broker and transaction fees you’ll be required to pay. Coventry, the nation’s first and largest provider of life settlements, offers some of the highest cash payouts for life insurance policies. To get started, visit CoventryDirect.com or call 888-858-9344. To search for other providers or brokers, the Life Insurance Settlement Association provides a directory at LISA.org.

Be prudent: Life settlements are regulated in most states. Find out from your state insurance commissioner (see NAIC.org for contact information) if the life settlement company you’re interested in is properly licensed.

Protect your privacy: When you sell your life insurance policy, you will have to sign a waiver authorizing the release of medical and other personal information so that the buyer can determine how much to offer for your policy. Before accepting any offer, make sure that the company has procedures in place to protect the confidentiality of your information.

Understand the tax implications: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act recently updated the tax treatment of a life settlement to be treated the same as the surrender of a policy back to the insurance company. This can be complicated, so be sure to consult a tax advisor.

Other Options
If you want to keep your life insurance policy but could use some extra cash, you may have some other options. For example, some life settlement companies may allow you to keep part of the policy’s death benefit while eliminating your premium obligations. You can also ask your life insurer if you can borrow against your policy, or if you’re in poor health, see if you’re eligible for accelerated death benefits. You should also find out if you’re able to convert the cash value of your policy into an immediate annuity (through a 1035 Exchange), which would make regular payments to you for a set number of years or for the rest of your life.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

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Could You Have Diabetes?

Dear Savvy Senior,
My brother and his wife, who are ages 60 and 56, were recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and prediabetes, and neither one had a clue. Could I have it too?
Concerned Sibling

Dear Concerned,
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nearly 115 million Americans have diabetes or prediabetes today, but most of them don’t even know they have it. Here’s how to know if you’re at risk.

The problem with diabetes is that most people don’t start thinking about it until they’re diagnosed, and that’s too late. Diabetes is a disease that develops over decades. Most people have prediabetes for a long time before the disease becomes full-blown type 2 diabetes, and even then it progresses gradually. That leaves a big window in which to stop, slow or reverse the disease.

Diabetes occurs when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin to remove sugar from the bloodstream. Excess blood sugar damages blood vessels and affects circulation, putting you at risk for a host of ailments, from heart attack and stroke to blindness, kidney failure and nerve damage.

Are You At Risk?
If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, your odds of developing diabetes increases.

  • Are you over age 45?
  • Are you overweight?
  • Do you have high blood pressure – 140/90 or higher?
  • Do you have a parent or sibling with diabetes?
  • Are you sedentary?
  • Are you African American, Hispanic/Latino American, Native American, Asian American, Pacific Islander, or Alaska native?
  • Did you develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy?

To help you determine your risk of developing diabetes, take the free online quiz at Diabetes.org/risk-test.jsp.

Get Tested
If you find that you’re at risk for diabetes, there are three different tests your doctor can give you to diagnosis it. The most common is the “fasting plasma glucose test,” which requires an eight-hour fast before you take it. There’s also the “oral glucose tolerance test” to see how your body processes sugar, and the “hemoglobin A1C test” that measures your average blood sugar over the past three months. It can be taken anytime regardless of when you ate.

Most private health insurance plans and Medicare cover diabetes tests, however, if you’re reluctant to visit your doctor to get tested, an alternative is to go to the drug store, buy a blood glucose meter and test yourself at home.

Some top options, recommended by Consumer Reports, include FreeStyle Freedom Lite, Bayer Contour Next, True Metrix Blood Glucose Meter, OneTouch UltraMini, and the ReliOn (Wal-Mart) Micro, which all cost under $25.

If you find that you are prediabetic or diabetic, you need to see your doctor to develop a plan to get it under control.

In many cases lifestyle changes like losing weight, exercising, eating a healthy diet and cutting back on carbohydrates may be all you need to do to get your diabetes under control. For others who need more help, many medications are available.

For more information on diabetes or to find help, join a lifestyle change program recognized by the CDC (see CDC.gov/diabetes/prevention) that offers in-person and online programs in more than 1,400 locations throughout the U.S. Over the course of a year, a coach will help you eat healthy, increase your physical activity and develop new habits.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

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Tips and Resources for Older Job Seekers

Dear Savvy Senior,
What resources can you recommend to help older job seekers? I’m 60 and have been out of work for nearly a year now and need some help.
Seeking Employment

Dear Seeking,
While the U.S. job market has improved dramatically over the past few years, challenges still persist for many older workers. To help you find employment, there are job resource centers and a wide variety of online tools specifically created for older job seekers. Here’s where you can find help.

Job Centers
Depending on where you live, there are career service centers located throughout the U.S. that can help you find a job. One of the best is the American Job Center (AJC) that has around 2,500 centers nationwide. Funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, AJCs are free-to-use resource centers that can help you explore your career options, search for jobs, find training, write a resume, prepare for an interview and much more. To find a center near you, call 877-872-5627 or go to CareerOneStop.org.

Some other good programs for older workers include the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), and AARP’s Back To Work 50+ program.

The SCSEP – sponsored by the Department of Labor – helps place income-eligible workers over age 55 in part-time, temporary community service positions where they can learn job skills. To learn more or locate a program in your area visit DOLETA.gov/seniors or call 877-872-5627.

AARP’s Back To Work 50+ program currently offers workshops in 19 locations around the U.S. that provide career counseling, job coaching and skills development for 50-plus job seekers. Or, if you can’t attend their workshop, they also offer an excellent guide called “7 Smart Strategies for 50+ Jobseekers.” To get a free copy, or see if there’s a workshop in your area call 855-850-2525.

If none of the above programs are available in your area, check with your local public library or nearby community college to see if they provide career services. 

Job Search Sites
There are also a number of online job search sites that can help you connect with companies that are looking for mature, experienced workers.

Some good sites for 50 and older job seekers include: WhatsNext.com, which offers a job search site and has online assessment tools, calculators, career guides and career coaches to help you; RetiredBrains.com that provides information on finding temporary or seasonal jobs, as well as starting your own business, working from home, writing your resume, finding full-time work, and continuing your education; RetirementJobs.com that lets you post your resume and search for full-time or part-time jobs online; and Workforce50.com, which has job search functions and a list of favorite age-friendly employers by industry. It also gives you the ability to sign up for job alerts.

Work at Home
If you’re interested in working at home, there are many opportunities depending on your skills, but be careful of work-at-home scams that offer big paydays without much effort.

Some popular work-at-home jobs include sales and marketing, customer service, teaching and tutoring, writing and editing, Web development and design, consulting, interpreting and medical coding just to name a few.

To find these types of jobs, a good place to start is FlexJobs.com, which filters out the job scams and lists thousands of legitimate work-at-home jobs in dozens of categories. You can gain access to their listings for $15 for one month, $30 for three months or $50 for a year.  

Start a Business
If you’re interested in starting a small business but could use some help getting started, the U.S. Small Business Administration offers tips, tools and free online courses that you can access at SBA.gov.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

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How to Choose a Memory Care Unit

Dear Savvy Senior,
My mom has Alzheimer’s disease and has gotten to the point that she can’t live at home any longer. I need to find a good memory care residential unit for her but could use some help. Any suggestions?
Exhausted Daughter

Dear Exhausted,
Choosing a good memory care residential unit for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease is a very important decision that requires careful evaluation and some homework.

Most memory care units, sometimes called special care units, are housed within assisted living or nursing home facilities. At their best, they offer staff extensively trained in caring for people with dementia, individualized care that minimizes the use of dangerous psychotropic drugs, a home-like environment and activities that improve residents quality of life. But at their worst, they can offer little more than a locked door. Here are some steps that can help you find a good facility and avoid a bad one.

Make a list: To identify some good memory care residential units in your area ask your mom’s doctor for a referral, and use the Alzheimer’s Association online tool at CommunityResourceFinder.org. Make sure the facilities on your list are close to family members and friends who can visit often, because residents with frequent visitors usually get better care.

Research your options: Once you’ve made a list, contact your local long-term care ombudsman (see LTCombudsman.org). This is a government official who investigates assisted living and nursing home complaints and can tell you which facilities have had problems in the past.

If you’re looking at a memory care unit within a nursing home facility, use Medicare’s nursing home compare tool (Medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare), which provides a 5-star rating system.

Call the facilities: Once you’ve identified a few facilities, call them to find out if they have any vacancies, if they provide the types of services your mother needs, what they charge and if they accept Medicaid.

Tour your top choices: During your tour, notice the cleanness and smell of the facility. Is it homey and inviting? Does the staff seem responsive and kind to its residents? Also be sure to taste the food, and talk to the current resident’s family members, if available.

Also, find out about staff screening and training procedures, their turnover rate, and the staff-to-resident ratio. They should have at least one staff member for every five residents.

Make sure the facility offers quality activities that can keep your mom engaged, even at night when she may be awake. Ask how they respond to residents who may wander or become aggressive. If the answer is locked doors and antipsychotic drugs, that’s a red flag.

Because transitions can be unsettling for dementia suffers, make sure that your mom will be able to remain at the facility for the foreseeable future. And find out what, if any, health conditions might require your mom to leave the facility or move to a higher and more expansive level of care.

It’s also a good idea to make multiple visits to the facility including an unscheduled visit at night or on weekends when the staff is more likely to be stretched thin.

To help you evaluate your visit, the Alzheimer’s Association offers a checklist that you can access at ALZ.org/residentialfacilities.

Paying for care: The national average costs for memory care within an assisted living facility is over $5,000 per month, and over $7,500/month for nursing home care, but costs can vary widely depending on your location. Since Medicare does not cover long-term care, most residents pay for care from either personal savings, a long-term care insurance policy, or through Medicaid (if available) once their savings are depleted.

To help you research your financial options, visit the National Clearinghouse for Long-Term Care Information website at LongTermCare.gov.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

1 Comment

  1. miajaveed on March 14, 2019 at 11:22 am

    Great article.Thank you very much for sharing this awesome post with us.

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