When you become eligible for Medicare, you’ll have to make some very important decisions. Taking the time to shop around for plans can save you a lot of money on prescription drugs and other healthcare expenses. However, it’s easy to get caught up in complicated terms, misconceptions, and marketing material. If all the complexities of Medicare have you scratching your head, don’t worry! Here are some quick tips to help you make the right choice.

 

Learn About Your Options

People signing up for Medicare have two basic options for coverage: Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan. If you go with Original Medicare, you can add prescription drug coverage and/or supplement with a Medigap plan to reduce your out-of-pocket expenses. Alternatively, most Medicare Advantage plans include dental, vision, and hearing coverage and offer services not covered by Original Medicare.

There are several online resources that can help you understand Medicare a little better. For example, it’s a good idea to look for information on the sign-up process before enrolling, especially if you’re not very tech-savvy. Medicare.org details everything you need to know about signing up for a Medicare Advantage plan. As you navigate the maze of Medicare, use resources like these if you ever need help.

 

Be Aware of Medicare Myths

One of the most common myths surrounding Medicare is that the program is free. Original Medicare, the federal government program, is broken into Part A and Part B. It’s true that Part A is free for most Americans, but Part B requires a monthly premium. On top of this, you will face costs for deductibles and copayments with Original Medicare.

Many people also think that Medicare covers all areas of healthcare. While Original Medicare does cover many expenses, which you can read about here, it does not cover everything. For example, Medicare does not pay for hearing, dental, or vision care. You will also have to pay for an additional plan — called Medicare Part D — if you want prescription drug coverage.

 

 Make a List of Your Healthcare Criteria

Many seniors choose to supplement Medicare with a Medigap or Medicare Advantage plan. Read this for help understanding the difference between the two. Original Medicare with a supplementary Medigap plan may give you more flexibility regarding which healthcare providers you can visit. On the other hand, Medicare Advantage plans usually include a wider range of benefits. Many Medicare Advantage plans cover preventive services and wellness programs. According to Forbes, this may encourage seniors to follow a healthier lifestyle.

Compare Medicare plans against a list of your personal criteria for help picking out a plan that’s well-suited to your needs. Note any specialists you visit, such as chiropractors, physical therapists, or acupuncturists. If you have preferred local doctors, pharmacists, or hospitals, include these on your list as well. It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about any upcoming medical needs that you may need to have covered in the future. Also, you can use this guide from Kiplinger to find a Medicare drug plan that will cover your medications and dosages. As you’re comparing plans, don’t forget to look at the premiums and co-payments associated with each. Plans with lower premiums usually require higher co-payments and vice versa.

 

Be Cautious to Avoid Scams

As you shop around for coverage, be alert to common Medicare scams. In general, an unsolicited caller claiming to be an “official Medicare agent” is likely a scammer. These people may threaten seniors with penalties or offer deals to sign up for their special plan. Remember, the government will never call you about your healthcare coverage! While there are many reputable, licensed insurance agents selling Medicare plans, they cannot contact you in any way without your permission — this includes cold calling, leaving flyers, and visiting your home.

Choosing the right Medicare plan will lay the groundwork for your future health. Shop around, compare plans, and make an educated decision. A great plan that meets your personal criteria and covers valuable services will help you prevent health problems and maintain your general wellness as you embark into retirement.

 

Guest post by Karen Weeks: Karen created Elder Wellness as a resource for seniors who wish to keep their minds, bodies, and spirits well. 

Photo via Unsplash

Would you appreciate the stability of having the same health insurance plan for up to three years? Do you want coverage for preventive care, office visits and prescriptions but need a more affordable option than what has been available up to this point?

There have been some exciting developments in the past year when it comes to private health insurance plans. Insurance companies continue to offer low-cost health plans that cover only the Essentials – injuries, illnesses, and sickness – but the loosening of restrictions has helped matters. Insurers have responded by offering benefits, calling these new plans Enhanced.

How, exactly, are they enhanced? Insurers now have plans that offer:

  • More copay benefits.
  • Greater preventive care benefits.
  • Tiered prescription benefits.
  • Guaranteed renewal for up to 3 years instead of 1.

*Enhanced plans are not available in all states.

**Enhanced plans are being offered by Golden Rule (United Healthcare PPO) and National General (Aetna & Cigna PPOs).

Call the Rhoads Insurance Agency today to learn more.

Entering our seniors years brings with it a number of complications that can make you feel as if things are beyond your control.  While there is no denying our bodies and minds simply aren’t what they used to be, there are decisions you can make which can improve your quality of life as you grow older.  Here’s how you can grab life by the horns instead of letting circumstances get the better of you.

 

Get enough exercise

Sometimes, there are misconceptions about getting older, and many people think we should become more sedentary as we tack on years.  In fact, the need to stay physically active never ebbs. Some experts indicate there are vital benefits seniors gain from exercise.  Staying fit can lower your risk of a stroke or heart attack, keep your bones and muscles strong, and help you avoid falls.  Exercise can delay or prevent issues like diabetes, arthritis, and dementia. You might even extend your life through exercise. 

If you’re new to exercise, it’s important to discuss your situation with your doctor before you start.  However, there are ample senior-friendly fitness activities to consider. Walking is an inexpensive and easy way to ease into exercise.  Or you can start with some simple stress-reducing stretches, such as neck rolls, calf raises, and standing thigh stretches. If you’re more advanced or looking for something new, consider adding boxing, suspension training, or tai chi to your repertoire.  You’ll be amazed how much fun you have participating in a whole new sport!

 

Ease up on non-essentials

We sometimes need to step back and reevaluate where our priorities lie.  It’s important to set aside time and energy for things that matter, and with that in mind, it could be in your best interest to pare back on certain obligations, like landscaping.  Bob Vila suggests installing some low-maintenance landscaping options, and for some of the excess chores, consider hiring help with trimming and mowing (a lawn-mowing service usually charges $30 – $45).  The same goes for inside your home.  Every now and then, consider hiring someone to do a deep cleaning so you can just tidy up in between.  The average cost for house cleaning in Pennsburg tallies between $135 and $193.

 

Do some decluttering

You might be surprised to learn that a great way to feel more in control of your life is by cutting down on clutter.  As LaserAway explains, clutter is hard on our minds and bodies, causing us to feel distracted, stressed, depressed, and anxious.  It’s more difficult to be productive, and on top of that, when you look around, you see reminders of all your unfinished projects.  It can even lead to feeling fatigued, overeating, and impaired sleep. 

For the sake of feeling better, decide to part ways with things you no longer need or use.  You can sell things in a garage sale, donate items to charities, do some recycling, or even sell things online. Giving things to those less fortunate is a bonus in the health department, as it can encourage a more positive outlook, lower stress levels, and help you feel happier.  If you elect to sell some items, take that spending money and do something fun! 

 

Spend time with friends

Staying socially connected is an often underrated health concern for seniors.  In fact, some experts state the potential health damage seniors experience from loneliness is on par with smoking.  Interacting with friends stimulates your mind, helping you to remain sharp and retain your faculties.  People who stay socially engaged are more apt to be active and enjoy better physical health. Why not make plans with your friends on a routine basis?  Take a class, grab lunch, or go for a walk in the park. Take good care of your friendships, as it’s a boon to both your health and theirs.

Even if things feel out of control, you still have choices.  Stay active, avoid excess projects and clutter, and make time for friends.  You’ll feel better, thanks to your decision to grab life by the horns!

 

Guest post by Karen Weeks: Karen created Elder Wellness as a resource for seniors who wish to keep their minds, bodies, and spirits well. 

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

The HealthiestYou telehealth app from Teladoc® has always offered individuals and families access to 24/7 virtual care from a nationwide network of doctors – all for the cost of a small monthly membership fee. Beginning October 1, 2019, for an additional per-use charge, that access will extend to Behavioral Health Care and Dermatology Services.

NEW! Behavioral Health Care – Your clients can receive support for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, family problems, and other issues. Care from a licensed psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist is available by phone or video 7 days a week.

NEW! Dermatology Services – Your clients can share photos of their skin condition or infection with a board-certified dermatologist and receive a diagnosis and treatment plan within two business days (typically within 8 hours).2 Free follow-up is included for a week after the session.

Included with Membership – Your clients will still have access to doctors ready to diagnose, treat, and prescribe medication for many of the most common ailments, right over the phone. They can use the app to find a doctor, dentist or other provider in their area, and comparison shop to get the best price on a procedure or prescription.

HealthiestYou can be a great add-on to insurance products! Call us today to add coverage.

As your parents grow older, you start to worry about them. You certainly don’t want to encourage them to enter a nursing home, but you want to acknowledge that they’re getting older. Perhaps they’re not as fit as they used to be, or maybe they’re a bit more forgetful, and that old home they bought 40 years ago is becoming more work than it’s worth. You might be trying to figure out how to help them while not infringing on their need to maintain independence. 

For today’s seniors, there are a variety of options that make living independently easier to do than it was even 10 years ago. Some seniors opt to move into retirement communities, condos, apartments or smaller homes that are a better fit for their lifestyle. Aging-in-place is also a possibility, depending on whether their home can be modified to accommodate their mobility and senses as both start to fade. Regardless of which option is best for your senior parent, you can help them find the best living situation that enables them to stay independent as long as possible.

 

Helping With Mobility 

When planning on the mobility of a senior, you can’t just think of how things are right now. You have to anticipate future scenarios and needs. That means planning for walkers, wheelchairs, or general problems getting around. 

Take a good look at the floors in the house. If there are any throw rugs, either remove them or make sure they’re securely attached to the floor, especially around the edges. Likewise, make sure carpeting is properly installed. 

Hallways and doorways should be at least 36” wide to accommodate most walkers and wheelchairs. It might not be possible to widen a hall, but you can either find an alternate path through the house or you can look into buying a new home. Homes in Pennsburg currently have a median listing price of $260,000

If you and your parent opt to look at a new living space, keep a checklist of accessibility needs now and in the future. In addition, if downsizing becomes the main goal, look into best practices for minimizing possessions and simplifying their living situation. Having a home that’s easier to manage will enable your senior parent to spend more time doing the things they love. 

 

Two Special Cases: Bathrooms And Kitchens

Regardless of where your senior decides to live, safety is crucial. When it comes to hazards in the home, there are two rooms that stand out for seniors: the bathroom and the kitchen. Both can be problematic, and they deserve special attention:

For the bathroom: 

  • Make sure the entry doorway is wide enough. 
  • Install grab bars and maybe a bench in the shower. 
  • Keep shelving at arm’s level. 
  • Install another grab bar by the toilet. 
  • Consider an elevated, padded toilet seat. 
  • Make sure the lighting is bright without being overly glaring. 

 

For the kitchen: 

  • Replace tile flooring with something softer like wood, cork, or linoleum. 
  • Add places that make it easy to prep food while sitting. 
  • Use contrasting colors for countertops, especially around the edges. 
  • Don’t use an over-the-oven microwave that requires lifting plates of hot food. 
  • Use lighting under cabinets to limit glare. 
  • Install cabinet shelving that pulls out for easily reaching pots and pans.

 

Building Their Independence

Helping seniors stay independent involves more than a new living space or remodeling a home. It also means changing lifestyles and activities. 

One way to help is to research different services in the area. These days, you can get much more than pizza delivered. Pharmacies, grocery stores, dog walkers (an hour-long walk can cost up to $27), and cleaners are just a few of the services that will come right to your front door. While there’s usually a fee, it’s a small price to pay to help a senior remain in control of their life. And, if your senior parent is tech savvy, they can do a lot of this through their smartphone. 

Doctor visits and medications also play an increasingly important and common role in many seniors’ lives. That’s why you should speak to their physicians and make sure you’re listed as another contact. Also, check to see if your parent’s medications are clearly explained and labeled. Many pharmacies can use large print or color-coding to make drug identification easier. There are also mobile and smart health monitors so seniors can keep track of their own medical needs. 

 

Estate Planning

While helping your senior parent find the best way to enjoy their independence, it doesn’t hurt to make sure they have an estate plan in place. Have a conversation to find out whether they have a will, a plan for end-of-life care, funeral arrangement preferences, where they store important papers, and whether they need to give you or another relative power of attorney. Having these plans in place will give your senior parent, and you, peace of mind should anything happen. 

It’s not easy to watch your parents age, especially when their limitations become more apparent. Help your senior parent maintain their independence by discussing which lifestyle choices will serve them best in the coming years. Is it a new living space or home modifications? Maybe it’s finding new ways to shop for groceries or get help with their dog. Or maybe it’s helping them finally put that estate plan in place so they can sleep better at night. Whatever it is, by offering the support and reassurance they need, you can help them stay independent for years to come. 

 

Guest post by Karen Weeks: Karen created Elder Wellness as a resource for seniors who wish to keep their minds, bodies, and spirits well. 

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Are you confused by Life Insurance? Can’t decide which plan to go with? Or maybe you think you just don’t need it? Well here’s a Hint: You’re thinking about it all wrong.

As an agent, I actually get angry when I hear about people who have children, but they have no, or very little, life insurance. I’m angry at the person, I’m judging them hardcore, and I think:

“You’re a #$!# adult, with people depending on you, and you don’t have the $&%# sense to make sure that if you die they’ll be okay?! You work your butt off, you work that way to provide for them. So if you’re not there to provide for them, then what happens to them?”

It makes me angry that people learn things the hard way, when they don’t have to. They get a mortgage, take care of their family, and think that they don’t need life insurance. Then, one day, something happens – they die, or can’t work anymore, or have out-of-control medical bills. These people come to me and ask for help, when it’s too late. Their only resort then is a damn GoFundMe campaign!!

And don’t over-complicate it. If you die, do you know what the ONLY question your spouse will ask your insurance agent is? Your spouse won’t ask whether it is Term or Permanent Life Insurance. The only question they will ask is, “How much is it?”

As an agent, I don’t even care whether you get the life insurance with me or not. If you’re not asking this simple question, “Do I have enough Life Insurance,” then you’re setting your family up for financial loss.

Enjoying a good life at any age requires some financial planning. Sadly, studies show that more than half of all Americans don’t know how much money they’ll need during retirement. Financial planning ensures you’re able to afford the lifestyle you enjoy throughout your senior years. As a senior, that will mean being realistic about potential healthcare costs, inflation rates, and your budget.

Here are some ways you can manage your money so you can enjoy your golden years.

 

Healthcare Concerns

One of the most significant costs during retirement is healthcare, according to US News. Even if you feel healthy today, it’s wise to plan for whatever the future might hold. 

Spending a few extra dollars on healthcare can save you money by reducing your medical costs in the long run. For instance, an alternative Medicare Advantage plan like those offered by UnitedHealthcare can supplement your healthcare. Medicare Advantage plans provide coverage you can’t get through Medicare Parts A or B. That includes medications, vision, hearing, and some senior-friendly gym memberships or wellness programs. You can also save money on preventative services with a $0 copay through your primary care doctor.

Another important aspect of healthcare is treating your body right. Regardless of age, it’s essential to eat a balanced, nutritious diet. Mayo Clinic reports that malnutrition is a common problem among aging adults. By eating the right foods and caring for your body, you’ll reduce your chances of developing debilitating conditions like compromised immunity and muscle weakness, and be less prone to increased risks of injury, hospitalization, or death.

 

Downsizing

Another way many seniors save money during retirement is through downsizing. If your home is bigger than needed, moving into a smaller space can be helpful. By carefully researching your desired housing market, you may be able to find a home that’s more affordable and easier for you to manage. 

Downsizing can make it easier for you to age in place. As with any move, however, planning is required. How much can you afford to spend, and what’s desired location? Will you move closer to loved ones? Do you need a home closer to public transportation?

According to Forbes, some of the best parts of the country for seniors include Sarasota and Savannah. In addition to having a warmer climate, these areas are surprisingly affordable with a low cost of living and more affordable property values.

After deciding where you’d like to move, you’ll need to declutter and pack your belongings. You’ll also want to determine how you’ll safely transport your furniture and possessions to your new home. To avoid injuries or broken items, it’s usually wise to ask for or hire help for your move. If you don’t have loved ones who can assist, hiring movers can be less expensive than the costs of repairing anything damaged during the move.

 

Living on a Fixed Income

With proper budgeting, you can master the art of living on a fixed income. By tweaking your monthly finances, you can stretch each dollar and still live life to the fullest. Stick to a monthly budget and cut unnecessary spending or nonessential expenses. It also pays to look into senior discounts on housing, insurance, and utilities.

You might also consider hiring an accountant to help prepare your taxes. Seniors who don’t itemize deductions often save money with the highest possible standardized deduction, notes the AARP. You’ll pay a little extra each April for your accountant’s services. Luckily, the potential money you’ll earn back on your tax return could be well worth the cost.

Although many seniors spend less money during retirement, two in five still spend more than they’d anticipated. That’s why it’s essential to have a plan in place. Inflation is expected to rise in the coming years, so account for higher costs in your budget. Budgeting and financial planning are crucial at any age and can better prepare you for the future as a senior. By carefully planning, you can maintain a high quality of life and still participate in many of your favorite activities.

 

Guest post by Karen Weeks: Karen created Elder Wellness as a resource for seniors who wish to keep their minds, bodies, and spirits well. 

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Many Americans could not afford an unexpected $1,000+ medical bill, and deductibles are often even higher than that. So just imagine needing $10,000 a month for chemo, or needing open heart surgery! That’s what happens if you’re diagnosed with cancer, heart attack, or other critical illness. You may need help with your deductible.

A critical illness (CI) insurance policy can fill that gap in coverage and keep you afloat. CI pays you a lump sum that you can use however you like – to pay what your health insurance didn’t cover, or to pay household bills while you take time off work to recover.

 

Did you know that there are 2 ways to get CI coverage?

Stand-alone CI policies larger than $50,000 are not avaiable though. That would help with deductibles.

Another, better way to get CI benefits is to get life insurance with living benefits. Living benefits bundles critical illness benefits together with chronic and terminal illness benefits, into a life insurance policy. This isn’t available with all life insurance policies, so talk to your agent about it.

With this type of policy, you can convert 75-95% of your life insurance’s death benefit into something you can receive while you’re still living.

If you need life insurance, this is a much more economical way to plan your benefits. Call us to learn more.

Vision insurance easily gets overlooked. It’s about the least expensive type of insurance that exists — and maybe you can do without a new pair of glasses this year, right? So it’s okay to ignore or push off to next year, am I right?

We disagree. Vision insurance will make a big impact on your appearance and lifestyle. And all for just a few dollars a month. Consider the following:

  • Seeing clearly will ensure you’re productive and successful in your work life and your home life.
  • Glasses need to be replaced from time to time, just due to normal wear and tear.
  • You feel better about yourself when you buy nice-looking new clothes. It’s the same when you get new glasses. You feel good and look great.
  • Vision benefits can be used every calendar year. But most plans offer so much savings that you’re still saving if you only get a new pair of glasses every 24 months!

So don’t put off getting new glasses, and don’t pay full retail price.

The sad fact is that more than half of Americans fail to prepare for retirement. They don’t save enough, and end up almost entirely dependent upon Social Security after retirement.

Then they spend through their savings and have nothing left, living on just a fixed income.

It’s a rough situation. You see it all the time – seniors who need to go back to work while in their 70’s, just to make ends meet.

The good news is that there are resources to help Americans create and protect their retirement funds.

 

Step #1 is awareness.

In 2010, the National Association for Fixed Annuities (NAFA) designated June as National Annuity Awareness Month (NAAM) to help educate Americans on the important role of annuities as part of a secure retirement savings plan. In 2014, with a common desire to serve consumers by helping them understand annuity products, NAFA and several other industry associations came together to establish the Coalition for Annuity Awareness.

Creating National Annuity Awareness Month started the conversation. But that’s all it did. Annuities and retirement remained confusing, and the average American still didn’t have an unbiased source to turn to.

That’s where AnnuRetirement came into the picture.

 

AnnuRetirement

In 2015, the Coalition for Annuity Awareness launched AnnuRetirement, an impartial, informative website consisting of positive and accurate messages regarding the features and benefits of annuities available free to the public. As the official home of NAAM, this website serves as a foundation for the event’s mission.

Now, American consumers have an impartial, informative website that’s available for free. Educate yourself, so that when you speak with financial companies and agents, you understand what’s happening.

 

Why is this important?

It’s easy to run out of money in retirement. Especially when 51% of Americans have less than $50,000 in retirement savings at the time of retirement.

Currently, there is approximately $430 billion of in-force premium serving roughly 4.2 million Americans. More than nine in 10 consumers believe guaranteed lifetime income is an appealing characteristic of annuities[1] and 72 percent of retirees receiving income from an annuity were satisfied with their investment[2]. In 2017, life insurance companies paid $82 billion in annuity benefit payments providing crucial retirement security to contract holders[3]. In addition, more than 90 million Americans rely on annuities and other insurance products for financial and retirement security, and nearly 16 percent of Americans’ long-term savings is in life insurance and annuities.

[1] It’s All About Income: Inaugural Study on the American Retirement Experience, Insured Retirement Institute, 2016
[2] The Language of Retirement: Advisor and Consumer Attitudes Toward Income in Retirement, Insured Retirement Institute and Jackson, 2017
[3] Life Insurers and Your State, The American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI), 2018

Image Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute 2019 Retirement Confidence Survey, issued April 2019.