The Savvy Senior — May 2021 Columns

Savvy Senior – May Columns

  1. How Seniors Can Learn New Technology Skills Online
  2. Medicare Coverage Options for Retirees Eager to Travel
  3. How Much Will You Need to Save for Retirement? 
  4. Should You Be Screened for Lung Cancer?

How Seniors Can Learn New Technology Skills Online

Dear Savvy Senior,
Can you recommend some good technology classes or online learning resources for inexperienced seniors? I have a computer and a smartphone, but my knowledge and skills are pretty limited.
Tech Challenged Senior

Dear Senior,
There are many different technology teaching tools available to older adults that can help you learn new tech skills so you can better utilize your devices. Here are some good options to consider.

Local classes or workshops: Depending on where you live, there may be community resources that offer beginning computer and personal technology classes, be it online or in-person, for older adults that are new to technology. To find out what’s available in your area, contact your local public library, senior center, college or university, or local stores that sell computers. Your Area Agency on Aging may also be able to help you. Visit the Eldercare Locator at Eldercare.acl.gov or call 800-677-1116 to get your local number.

GetSetUp.io: This is one of the best online learning websites that partners with guides to provide training on tech tools for adults 50 and older. They provide more than 350 online classes taught in real-time by retired educators and tech industry experts in a way that lets older adults learn-by-doing, versus just watching a video.

Their technology classes – all taught via Zoom – cover things like learning how to use smartphones and tablets, how to set-up and use Zoom, how to utilize Gmail features, how to recognize online scams, how to sell your stuff online and so much more. Most of their classes are free, however some charge a small fee.

SeniorPlanet.org: Created and sponsored by national nonprofit OATS (Older Adults Technology Services) and recently joining forces with AARP, Senior Planet offers 60-and-older adults a wide variety of free online courses, programs, and activities that are taught in real-time to help seniors learn new technology skills, as well as save money, get in shape and make new friends.

Some of their more popular tech classes include “All Things Zoom,” “Everything Smartphones,” and an “Introduction to Social Media.” They even offer a “lunch & learn – tech discussion group” offered at various times throughout the year where you can ask questions as well as share your struggles and experiences.

And, if you ever have a technology question that pops up during the week, you can call their National Senior Planet Hotline for tech help at 920-666-1959 anytime Monday through Friday during working hours.

OasisEverywhere.org: This nonprofit educational organization for older adults provides more than 10 low-cost/free online computer, internet and mobile technology courses for beginners. And when the pandemic dies down, they will resume offering beginner tech classes in their 27 locations (located in nine states) throughout the country.

CandooTech.com: This company provides fee-based online tech support and training to help older adults feel more comfortable with phones, computers, tablets, home safety devices and more.

Their specially trained tech concierges will teach you how to use your technology, fix what’s not working and install software, as well as learn how set-up and use email, video chat, social media, online shopping and entertainment, ride sharing services and more.

They offer one-hour, one-on-one or small group sessions for $50, or you can become a member and get two 90-minute training sessions plus unlimited quick support (30 minutes or less) for $180 per year. They also provide device installation and set-up done remotely for $180.

TechBoomers.com: This is a free educational website that provides video and article tutorials that teach older adults and other inexperienced technology users how to use the most popular and trusted websites, apps and devices.

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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Medicare Coverage Options for Retirees Eager to Travel

Dear Savvy Senior,
What are the best Medicare coverage options for COVID-vaccinated retirees who are eager to travel? My wife and I will both turn 65 over the next few months and would like to know which Medicare plans are best for extensive travelers.
Almost 65

Dear Almost,
The best Medicare plans for retirees who plan to travel will vary depending on your destinations. But, before you book a trip make sure you know the current CDC COVID-19 travel recommendations (see CDC.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers), and research your destinations too so you can know if restrictions apply wherever you’re going.

Medicare Review
Before we dissect how Medicare works for travelers, let’s start with a quick review of your different Medicare options.

One option is original Medicare, which covers (Part A) hospital services and (Part B) doctor’s visits and other medical services.

If you choose original Medicare, you may also want to get a Medicare (Part D) prescription drug plan (if you don’t already have coverage) to cover your medications, and a Medicare supplemental (Medigap) policy to help pay for things that aren’t covered by Medicare like copayments, coinsurance and deductibles.

Or, you could get a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan instead, which is sold through private insurance companies, and covers everything original Medicare covers, plus many plans also offer prescription drug coverage and extra services like vision, hearing and dental care all in one plan.

To help you evaluate your options contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (see ShiptaCenter.org), which provides free Medicare counseling.

You can also shop and compare Medicare health and drug plans and Medigap policies at Medicare.gov/find-a-plan.

Also note that whatever Medicare plans you choose to enroll in, if you find that they are not meeting your needs or your needs change, you can always switch to a different plan during the open enrollment period, which is between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7.

U.S. Travel
If you and your husband are planning to travel domestically, original Medicare may be the better option because it provides coverage everywhere in the U.S. and its territories as long as the doctor or hospital accepts Medicare.

Medicare Advantage plans, on the other hand, which have become very popular among new enrollees may restrict your coverage when traveling throughout the U.S. This is because most Medicare Advantage plans are HMOs or PPOs and require you to use doctors, hospitals and pharmacies that are in the plan’s network within a service area or geographic region. So, if you’re traveling outside that area you may need to pay a higher fee, or your services may not be covered at all.

If you do decide to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, be sure you check the benefit details carefully to see what costs and rules apply when traveling outside your service area.

Traveling Abroad
If you’re planning to travel abroad much, a Medicare Advantage plan may be a better option because many Advantage plans today offer emergency care coverage outside the U.S. But be sure you check before you choose a plan because not all plans offer it.

Original Medicare, on the other hand does not provide coverage outside the U.S. and its territories except in rare circumstances (seeMedicare.gov/coverage/travel), and Medicare drug plans will not cover prescription drugs purchased outside the U.S. either.

But if you do choose original Medicare, you can still get some coverage abroad through a Medigap policy. Plans D, G, M and N plans will pay for 80 percent of medically necessary emergency care outside the U.S. to new enrollees, but only for the first 60 days of the trip, and you have to meet an annual $250 deductible first. There’s also a lifetime limit of $50,000, so you’d need to cover any costs above that amount.

Some beneficiaries, regardless of their Medicare coverage, purchase travel medical insurance for trips abroad, which you can shop for atInsureMyTrip.com or SquareMouth.com.

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 Much Will You Need to Save for Retirement? 

Dear Savvy Senior,
Is there an easy way to figure out how much I will need to save for retirement? My wife and I are both in our late fifties and want to figure out about how much we’ll need in order to retire comfortably.
Ready to Retire

Dear Ready,
How much money you need to retire comfortably is a great question that all working adults should ask themselves. Unfortunately, far too few ever bother thinking about it.

But calculating an approximate number of how much you’ll need to have saved for retirement is actually pretty easy and doesn’t take long to do. It’s a simple, three-step process that includes estimating your future living expenses, tallying up your retirement income and calculating the difference.

Estimate Living Expenses
The first step – estimating your future retirement living expenses – is the most difficult. If you want a quick ballpark estimate, figure around 75 to 85 percent of your current gross income. That’s what most people find they need to maintain their current lifestyle in retirement.

If you want a more precise estimate, track your current living expenses on a worksheet and deduct any costs you expect to go away or decline when you retire, and add whatever new ones you anticipate.

Costs you can scratch off your list include work-related expenses like commuting or lunches out, as well as the amount you’re socking away for retirement. You may also be able to deduct your mortgage if you expect to have it paid off by retirement, and your kid’s college expenses. Your income taxes should also be less.

On the other hand, some costs will probably go up when you retire, like health care, and depending on your interests you may spend a lot more on travel, golf or other hobbies. And, if you’re going to be retired for 20 or 30 years you also need to factor in some occasional big budget items like a new roof, heating/air conditioning system or vehicle.

Tally Retirement Income
Step two is to calculate your retirement income. If you and/or your wife contribute to Social Security, go to SSA.gov/MyAccount to get your personalized statement that estimates what your retirement benefits will be at age 62, full retirement age and when you turn 70.

In addition to Social Security, if you or your wife has a traditional pension plan from an employer, find out from the plan administrator how much you are likely to get when you retire. And figure in any other income from other sources you expect to have, such as rental properties, part-time work, etc.

Calculate the Difference
The final step is to do the calculations. Subtract your annual living expenses from your annual retirement income. If your income alone can cover your bills, you’re all set. If not, you’ll need to tap your savings, including your 401(k) plans, IRAs, or other investments to make up the difference.

So, let’s say for example you need around $60,000 a year to meet your living and retirement expenses and pay taxes, and you and your wife expect to receive $35,000 a year from Social Security and other income. That leaves a $25,000 shortfall that you’ll need to pull from your nest egg each year ($60,000 – $35,000 = $25,000).

Then, depending on what age you want to retire, you need to multiply your shortfall by at least 25 if you want to retire at 60, 20 to retire at 65, and 17 to retire at 70 – or in this case that would equate to $625,000, $500,000 and $425,000, respectively.

Why 25, 20 and 17? Because that would allow you to pull 4 percent a year from your savings, which is a safe withdrawal strategy that in most cases will let your money last as long as you do.

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 Be Screened for Lung Cancer?

Dear Savvy Senior,
What can you tell me about lung cancer screenings? I was a big smoker but quit years ago, so I’m wondering if I should be checked out.
Former Smoker

Dear Still,
Lung cancer screening is used to detect the presence of lung cancer in otherwise healthy people with a high risk of lung cancer. Should you be screened? It depends on your age and your smoking history. Here’s what you should know.

Screening Recommendations
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force – an independent panel of medical experts that advises the government on health policies – recently expanded their recommendations for lung cancer screenings. They are now recommending annual screenings for high-risk adults between the ages of 50 and 80 who have at least a 20-pack year history who currently smoke or who have quit within the past 15 years. This is a change from the 2013 recommendation that referred to patients ages 55 to 80 with 30-year pack histories.

A 20-pack year history is the equivalent of smoking one pack a day for 20 years or two packs a day for 10 years.

In 2020, lung cancer killed more than 135,000 Americans making it the deadliest of all possible cancers. In fact, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast and prostate cancers combined.

Lung cancer also occurs predominantly in older adults. About two out of every three people diagnosed with lung cancer are 65 or older.

You’ll also be happy to know that most health insurance plans cover lung cancer screenings to high-risk patients, as does Medicare up to age 77.

Screening Pros and Cons
Doctors use a low-dose computed tomography scan (also called a low-dose CT scan, or LDCT) of the lungs to look for lung cancer. If lung cancer is detected at an early stage, it’s more likely to be cured with treatment. But a LDCT isn’t recommended for every high-risk patient.

LDCT scans have a high rate of false positives, which means that many will undergo additional (and unnecessary) screening or medical procedures, such as another scan three, six, or even 12 months later to check for changes in the shape or size of the suspicious area (an indication of tumor growth). For some patients, the anxiety or worry that goes along with waiting can be a real issue.

Or you may need a biopsy (removal of a small amount of lung tissue), which has risks, especially for those with underlying health conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or emphysema. For example, in people with emphysema, there’s a chance of a lung collapsing during the procedure.

If you meet the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force criteria for high-risk lung cancer, the University of Michigan offers a free online tool (see ShouldIScreen.com) to help you decide if you should get an LDCT. It’s also important to discuss the benefits and risks with your primary care doctor before making a decision.

Tips for Testing
If you and your doctor determine that you should be screened, look for an imaging facility whose staff follows American College of Radiology requirements when performing low-dose CT scans. You can find accredited facilities at ACRaccreditation.org.

This can help to ensure an accurate read of your scans by a highly trained, board-certified or board-eligible radiologist.

You may need a referral from your primary care provider. Most insurance companies, including Medicare require this before they’ll cover the cost of screening.

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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