Savvy Senior — April 2021 Columns

Savvy Senior – April Columns

  1. How to Search for Senior Discounts in 2021
  2. How to Help Your Elderly Parent with Their Finances
  3. The Most and Least Popular Ages to Claim Social Security
  4. Could You Have Prediabetes?
  5. Should You Prepay Your Funeral?

How to Search for Senior Discounts in 2021

Dear Savvy Senior,
I just turned 60 and would like to find out the best way to go about locating senior discounts.
Looking to Save

Dear Looking,
One of the best, yet underutilized perks of growing older in the United States is the many discounts that are available to older adults.

There are literally thousands of discounts on a wide variety of products and services including restaurants, grocery stores, travel and lodging, entertainment, retail and apparel, health and beauty, automotive services and much more. These discounts – typically ranging between 5 and 25 percent off – can add up to save you hundreds of dollars each year.

So, if you don’t mind admitting your age, here are some tips and tools to help you find the discounts you may be eligible for.

Ask!
The first thing to know is that most businesses don’t advertise them, but many give senior discounts just for the asking, so don’t be shy.

You also need to know that while some discounts are available as soon as you turn 50, most don’t kick in until you turn 55, 60, 62 or 65.

Search Online
Because senior discounts frequently change and can vary depending on where you live and the time of the year, the internet is the easiest way to locate them.

A good place to start is at TheSeniorList.com (click on the “Senior Discounts” tab), which provides a large list of discounts in categories, i.e., restaurant dining, grocery stores, retail stores, prescription medications, travel discounts and more.

You can also search for discounts by provider. Go to a search engine like Google and Yahoo and type in the business or organization you’re curious about, followed by “senior discount” or “senior discount tickets.”

If you use a smartphone, there are also apps you can use like the “Senior Discounts & Coupons” app (available on the App Store and Google Play), which categorizes discounts by age and type.

Join a Club
Another good avenue to senior discounts is through membership organizations like AARP, which offers its members age 50 and older a wide variety of discounts through affiliate businesses (see AARPdiscounts.com).

If, however, you don’t like or agree with AARP, there are other organizations you can join that also provide discounts like the American Seniors Association (AmericanSeniors.org), the American Automobile Association (AAA.com), or for retired federal workers, the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE.org).

Types of Discounts
Here’s an abbreviated rundown of some of the different types of discounts you can expect to find.

Restaurants: Senior discounts are common at restaurants and fast-food establishments – like Applebee’s, Arby’s, Burger King, Chili’s, Denny’s and IHOP – ranging from free/discounted drinks, to discounts off your total order.

Retailers: Many thrift stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army, and certain retailers like TJ Maxx, Banana Republic, Kohl’s, Michaels, Ross and Walgreens stores offer a break to seniors on certain days of the week.

Grocery stores: Many locally owned grocery stores offer senior discount programs, as do some chains like BI-LO, Piggly-Wiggly, Fry’s Food Stores, New Seasons, Fred Meyer, and Hy-Vee, which offer discounts on certain days of the week, but they vary by location.

Travel: American, United and Southwest Airlines provide limited senior fares in the U.S. to passengers 65 and older, while British Airlines offers AARP members discounts of up to $200. Amtrak provides a 15 percent discount to travelers over 62. Most car rental companies give discounts to 50-plus customers or those who belong to organizations like AARP. Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Celebrity and Carnival cruise lines offer discount rates to cruisers 55 and over. And, most hotels offer senior discounts, usually ranging from 10 to 20 percent.

Entertainment: Most movie theaters, museums, golf courses, ski slopes and other public entertainment venues provide reduced admission to seniors over 60 or 65. And the National Park Service offers a lifetime senior pass for those 62 and older for $80 (see nps.gov/planyourvisit/passes.htm).

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 Help Your Elderly Parent with Their Finances

Dear Savvy Senior,
What tips can you offer on helping an elderly parent with their finances? My 84-year-old father is having trouble keeping up with his bills and insurance, and I just found out that he’s been making contributions to a suspicious charity.
Reluctant Daughter

Dear Reluctant,
Many adult children serve as financial helpers to their elderly or ill parents. They provide services like paying bills, handling deposits and investments, filing insurance claims, preparing taxes and more. Here are some tips and resources that can help you help your dad.

Start with a Conversation
Taking on the task of helping an elderly parent with their finances can be a sensitive and difficult topic. The first step in helping your dad is to have a respectful talk with him expressing your concerns, as you stated in your question, and offering to help him with his financial chores. If you have siblings, it can be a good idea to get them involved too. This can help you head off any possible hard feelings, plus, with others involved, your dad will know everyone is concerned.

Get Organized
If your dad is willing to let you help manage, monitor or take over his financial affairs your first order of business is to get organized by making a list of his financial accounts and other important information. Your list should include his:

  • Contact list: Names and numbers of key contacts like insurance agents, financial advisor, tax preparer, family attorney, etc.
  • Monthly bills: Phone, cable, water and trash, gas, electric, credit card accounts, etc.
  • Financial accounts: Including bank accounts, brokerage and mutual fund accounts, safe-deposit boxes and any other financial assets he has. Also get usernames and passwords for financial accounts that are set up online.
  • Company benefits: Any retirement plans, pensions or health benefits from his current or former employer.
  • Insurance policies: Life, home, auto, long-term care, Medicare, etc.
  • Taxes: Copies of your dad’s income tax returns over the past few years.

Locate Important Documents
This is also the ideal time to find out if your dad has the following essential legal documents: A will; an advance directive that includes a living will and health-care proxy, which allows you or another family member or friend to make medical decisions on his behalf if he becomes incapacitated; and a durable power of attorney, which gives you or a designated person similar legal authority for financial decisions, if needed.

If he doesn’t have these important documents prepared, now is the time to do it. And if they are prepared, make sure they’re updated, and you know where they’re located.

Simplify Financial Tasks
The quickest way to help your dad simplify his monthly financial chores is to set up automatic payments for his utilities and other routine bills and arrange for direct deposit of his income sources.

If your dad has savings and investments scattered in many different accounts, you should consider consolidating them. You can also set up your dad’s bank system and investment accounts online, so you can pay bills and monitor his accounts anytime.

Set Up Protections
To guard against scams and risky financial behaviors, consider getting your dad a True Link Visa Prepaid Card (TrueLinkFinancial.com/card). Designed for older adults with cognitive issues this card would provide your dad access to his money but with restrictions that you set on how funds can be spent. Or check out EverSafe.com, a web-based service that will automatically monitor your dad’s accounts, track suspicious activity and alert you when a problem is detected.

Seek Help
If you need help or live far away, consider hiring a daily money manager (see AADMM.com) who can come in once or twice a month to pay bills, make deposits, decipher health insurance statements and balance his checkbook. Fees range between $60 and $150 per hour.

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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The Most and Least Popular Ages to Claim Social Security

Dear Savvy Senior,
How much does your claiming age affect your Social Security benefits, and what are the most popular ages people start taking their retirement benefits?
Nearing Retirement

Dear Nearing,
You can sign up for Social Security at any time after age 62. However, your monthly payments will be larger for each month you delay claiming them up until age 70. This adds up to around 6 to 8 percent higher payments every year you delay.

To get a breakdown on exactly how much your claiming age affects your benefits, visit Social Security’s Retirement Age Calculator atSSA.gov/benefits/retirement/planner/ageincrease.html. This tool provides your official full retirement age (FRA) – which is between 66 and 67 depending on your birth year – and shows how much your benefits will be reduced by taking early payments or increased by delaying them.

In the meantime, here’s the rundown of when most people start receiving retirement benefits (according to 2019 SSA statistics), and how signing up at each age impacts your payout.

Age 62: This is the earliest you can sign up for Social Security and the most popular age. Around 34 percent of women and 31 percent of men signed up for Social Security at 62. But if you sign up at this age, you’ll get 25 percent smaller Social Security payments if your FRA is 66, and 30 percent lower payments if your FRA is 67.

Age 63: About 7 percent of all workers start drawing their benefits at this age. Monthly payments are reduced if you sign up at age 63, but by less than if you claim at 62. A worker with a FRA of 66 will get a 20 percent pay cut by signing up at 63. And workers with a FRA of 67 will get 25 percent less.

Age 64: Around 8 percent of women and about 7 percent of men claim benefits at 64. Social Security payments are reduced by 13.3 percent for those with a FRA of 66, and 20 percent for people whose FRA is 67.

Age 65: This use to be FRA for people born before 1938, but it’s still enrollment age for Medicare. Around 12 percent of workers begin their retirement benefits at 65. By starting at this age, you’ll see you monthly payments reduced by 6.7 percent if your FRA is 66, and by 13.3 percent if it’s 67.

Age 66: This is FRA for people born between 1943 and 1954. If you fit into this age group, you’re eligible to claim unreduced Social Security benefits. Nearly 29 percent of men and 22 percent of women sign up for benefits at 66. But if your FRA is 67, you’ll get a 6.7 percent pay cut if you sign up here.

Age 67: People born in 1960 or later will be able to claim unreduced Social Security payments starting at age 67. Baby boomers born before 1955 will get an 8 percent increase if they wait to claim their benefits at 67. Less than 4 percent of men and 3 percent of women start their benefits at this age.

Age 68: Only about 2 percent of workers start claiming their retirement benefits at 68. Those with a FRA of 66 will get 16 percent more if they claim Social Security payments at age 68, while those with a FRA of 67 will get 8 percent increase.

Age 69: Less than 2 percent of workers start claiming their retirement benefits at this age. Those with a FRA of 66 will get a 24 percent boost in their benefit by waiting to 69. While those with a FRA of 67 will increase their benefits by 16 percent.

Age 70 and older: Waiting to age 70 offers the biggest possible payout. Nearly 9 percent of women and 6 percent of men held out until this age. Those with a FRA of 66 can increase their benefits by 32 percent, while those with a FRA of 67 will get a 24 percent increase. After age 70, there’s no additional increase for further delaying your payments.

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 Prediabetes?

Dear Savvy Senior,
What can you tell me about prediabetes, and how can you know if you have it? My 62-year-old husband, who’s in pretty good shape, was recently diagnosed with prediabetes and didn’t have clue. Could I have it too?
Wondering Spouse

Dear Wondering,
Underlying today’s growing epidemic of type 2 diabetes is a much larger epidemic called prediabetes, which is when the blood sugar levels are higher than they should be but not high enough to be called diabetes.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that as many as 84 million Americans today have prediabetes. Left untreated, it almost always turns into type 2 diabetes within 10 years. And, if you have prediabetes, the long-term damage it can cause – especially to your heart and circulatory system – may already be starting.

But the good news is that prediabetes doesn’t mean that you’re destined for full-blown diabetes. Prediabetes can actually be reversed, and diabetes prevented, by making some simple lifestyle changes like losing weight, exercising, eating a healthy diet and cutting back on carbohydrates. Or, if you need more help, oral medications may also be an option.

Get Tested
Because prediabetes typically causes no outward symptoms, most people that have it don’t realize it. The only way to know for sure if you have it is to get a blood test.

Everyone age 45 years or older should consider getting tested for prediabetes, especially if you are overweight with a body mass index (BMI) above 25. See CDC.gov/bmi to calculate your BMI.

If you are younger than 45 but are overweight, or have high blood pressure, a family history of diabetes, or belong to an ethnic group (Latino, Asian, African or Native American) at high risk for diabetes, you should get checked too.

To help you determine your risk of diabetes, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) has a quick, online risk test you can take for free at DoIHavePrediabetes.org.

Diabetes Tests
If you find that you’re at risk for prediabetes, 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. They cost around $20.

If you find that you are prediabetic or diabetic, you need to see your doctor to develop a plan to get it under control. The ADA recommends losing weight and doing moderate exercise – such as 150 minutes a week of brisk walking. And when lifestyle changes alone don’t work, medication might. The ADA recommends the generic drug metformin, especially for very overweight people younger than 60.

For more information on diabetes and prediabetes or to find help, join a lifestyle change program recognized by the CDC (seeCDC.gov/diabetes/prevention). These programs offer in-person and online classes in more than 1,500 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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Should You Prepay Your Funeral?

Dear Savvy Senior,
My wife and I have been thinking about preplanning our funerals now so our kids won’t have to later, but we would like to find out if it’s a good idea to prepay. What can you tell us?
Living on a Budget

Dear Living,
Planning your funerals in advance is definitely a smart move. Not only does it give you and your wife time to make a thoughtful decision on the type of service you want, it also allows you to shop around to find a good funeral provider, and it will spare your family members the burden of making these decisions at an emotional time.

But preplanning a funeral doesn’t mean you have to prepay too. In fact, the Funeral Consumer Alliance, a national nonprofit funeral consumer protection organization, doesn’t recommend it unless you need to spend down your financial resources so you can qualify for Medicaid. Here’s what you should know.

Preneed Arrangements
Most funeral homes today offer what is known as “preneed plans,” which allow you to prearrange for the type of funeral services you want and prepay with a lump sum or through installments. The funeral home either puts your money in a trust fund with the payout triggered by your death or buys an insurance policy naming itself as the beneficiary.

If you’re interested in this route, make sure you’re being guaranteed the services you specify at the contracted price. Some contracts call for additional payments for final expense funding, which means that if the funeral home’s charges increase between the time you sign up and the time you sign off, somebody will have to pay the difference. Here are some additional questions you should ask before committing:

  • Can you cancel the contract and get a full refund if you change your mind?
  • Will your money earn interest? If so, how much? Who gets it?
  • If there is an insurance policy involved, is there a waiting period before it takes effect? How long?
  • Are the prices locked in or will an additional payment be required at the time of death?
  • Are you protected if the funeral home goes out of business or if it’s bought out by another company?
  • What happens if you move? Can the plan be transferred to another funeral home in a different state?
  • If there’s money left over after your funeral, will your heirs get it, or does the home keep it?

If you decide to prepay, be sure to get all the details of the agreement in writing and give copies to your family so they know what’s expected. If your family isn’t aware that you’ve made plans, your wishes may not be carried out. And if family members don’t know that you’ve prepaid the funeral costs, they could end up paying for the same arrangements.

Other Payment Option
While prepaying your funerals may seem like a convenient way to go, from a financial point of view, there are better options available.

For example, if you have a life insurance policy, many policies will pay a lump sum when you die to your beneficiaries to be used for your funeral expenses. The payment is made soon after you die and doesn’t have to go through probate.

Or you could set up a payable-on-death (or POD) account at your bank or credit union, naming the person you want to handle your arrangements as the beneficiary. POD accounts also are called Totten Trusts. With this type of account, you maintain control of your money, so you can tap the funds in an emergency, collect the interest and change the beneficiary. When you die, your beneficiary collects the balance without the delay of probate.

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