woman with senior money blues
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Senior Money Blues

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By Heidi Schloss

Folks say how lucky we are now that we have reached senior age and are retired. We collect Social Security (SSA) and receive our health care through Medicare. But I am here to vent and give you some truths.

Yup, I love being retired! I don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn! I discovered that when I was working, I was chronically sleep-deprived!

What’s not to love about making my own schedule? The exception is doctors’ appointments, which with my health issues means more of them.

Let’s talk about SSA. You don’t get everything back you put into it. If you are married, you get a composite of both incomes into one—not more. I am divorced, and if I was vindictive, I could hit my ex for a portion of his SSA check!

Yup, we get a cost-of-living increase! I am laughing! It’s a tiny increment, usually just enough to cover the Medicare increase.

Of course, that brings me to Medicare. If you don’t know by now, Medicare pays for Part A, but we pay for Part B and Part D—the bazillion medications we now need. But Parts B & D don’t cover everything. Fancy terms like Medigap and Supplemental ring in our ears and can be confusing. I was a Baltimore City school teacher for 30 years and have been retired for almost the last 12. In that time, the City has changed our healthcare benefits multiple times. Currently, I am on an Advantage plan, which includes B and D. I still have copays, though, especially for meds.

Now, I want to discuss everyone’s favorite: bills. Here’s where it gets really tricky. Your SSA benefits are paid according to your birth date (you can look this up and print it out). Let’s say your birthday is the first part of the month. SSA will send you your check the second Wednesday of the month. (It’s always on a Wednesday.) And all payments now are direct deposit. I cannot stress that enough! That means, unless you have another source of income, you will have to make that money strrreetccchhh all month!

What do you do if you have a bill due in between checks? Well, you can try and change the date. My experience is the answer is anywhere between, “We’ll have to charge you for that,” or, “We’ll have to prorate it,” or, “No.”

Prepare to be frustrated. Sometimes you get bounced from one office to another only to get the same answer. If you create a new bill, sometimes you have a little more wiggle room to make changes in dates.

Even if you have extra income, such as my pension, it still may not be enough. You will probably not bring in as much as you did before when you were working.

Don’t be tempted to dip extravagantly into 401Ks and other tax shelters. As soon as you withdraw funds, they become taxable. Take too much and you’re in a higher tax bracket.

Well, my friends, I hope this helps a bit! Good luck and age wisely.

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