Finding the best retirement calculators

Figuring out how much to save for retirement and when you can safely stop working can be difficult. A growing number of online retirement calculators, many of them free, are available to help. Although these calculators can yield vastly different results, they can be useful tools. Based on information about you and your finances, calculators try to predict how much you need to save to achieve your retirement goals. Some calculators are web-based, and others require you to download a program or an app. Retirement calculators can be useful, but you need to keep in mind that results can diverge significantly and they are not always accurate. It may be a…..

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When can you delay taking Medicare?

Although you’re eligible for Medicare at 65, there are circumstances in which you might not want to apply, particularly if you’re working for a larger employer or contributing to a health savings account (HSA). However, you may face penalties if you don’t sign up at the right time, so it’s important to know when you can delay signing up without a penalty. You can first sign up for Medicare during your Initial Enrollment Period, which is the seven-month period that includes the three months before the month you become eligible (usually age 65), the month you are eligible and the following three months. If you don’t sign up for Medicare Part…..

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It’s now harder for veterans to qualify for long-term care benefits

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has put in place new rules that make it more difficult to qualify for long-term care benefits. The rules, similar to those already in force for Medicaid, establish an asset limit, a look-back period, and asset transfer penalties for claimants applying for pension benefits that require a showing of financial need. The main VA benefit for those needing long-term care is Aid and Attendance, which offers money to low-income veterans (or their spouses) who are in nursing homes or need help at home with everyday tasks. Currently, to be eligible for Aid and Attendance, a veteran (or surviving spouse) must meet certain income and asset limits. The asset limits aren’t specified,…..

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The new tax law means it’s now time to review your estate plan

The tax law signed in 2017 doubled the federal estate tax exemption, meaning the vast majority of estates won’t have to pay federal estate tax. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore its impact on your estate plan. The law doubled the federal estate tax exemption to $11.18 million for individuals and $22.36 million for couples. (These figures are indexed for inflation, so in 2019 they are $11.4 million and $22.8 million, respectively.) The tax rate for the few estates still subject to taxation is 40 percent. Although most estates won’t pay any federal estate tax, you should review your estate…..

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Long-term care insurance policyholder wins breach of contract suit over increased premiums

A long-term care policyholder has successfully sued her insurance company for breach of contract after the company raised her premiums. At age 56, Margery Newman bought a long-term care insurance policy from Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. She chose an option called “Reduced-Pay at 65” in which she paid higher premiums until she reached age 65, after which the premium would drop to half the original amount. The long-term care insurance contract set out the terms of the reduced-pay option. It also stated that the company could increase premiums on policyholders in the same “class.” When Newman was 67 years old, the…..

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Be on the lookout for new Medicare cards (and new related scams)

The federal government is issuing new Medicare cards to all Medicare beneficiaries. To prevent fraud and fight identity theft, the new cards will no longer have beneficiaries’ Social Security numbers on them. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency that oversees the Medicare program, is replacing each beneficiary’s Social Security number with a unique identification number, called a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI). Each MBI will consist of a combination of 11 randomly generated numbers and upper-case letters. The characters are “non-intelligent,” which means they don’t have any hidden or special meaning. An MBI is confidential like a…..

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How to appeal a Medicare prescription drug denial

If your Medicare drug (Part D) plan denies coverage for a drug you need, you don’t have to simply accept it. There are several steps you can take to fight the decision. The insurers offering Medicare drug plans choose both brand-name and generic medicines that they will include in a plan’s “formulary.” This is the roster of drugs the plan covers and will pay for, and it changes year-to-year. If a drug you need is not in the plan’s formulary or has been dropped, the plan can deny coverage. Plans may also charge more for a drug than you think…..

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Proving a transfer was not made in order to qualify for Medicaid

Medicaid law imposes a penalty period if you transferred assets within five years of applying, but what if the transfers had nothing to do with Medicaid? It is difficult to do, but if you can prove you made the transfers for a purpose other than to qualify for Medicaid, you can avoid a penalty. You are not supposed to move into a nursing home on Monday, give all your money away on Tuesday, and qualify for Medicaid on Wednesday. So the government looks back five years for any asset transfers, and levies a penalty on people who transferred assets without…..

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Be aware of housing protections for tenants with support animals

While everyone gets some level of comfort and companionship from their pets, some people get extra support that improves their mental well-being on a daily basis. Emotional support animals help people with life-limiting disabilities, including mental health issues, feel more comfortable functioning in the world. If you have an emotional support animal, you are entitled to certain housing protections. Landlords and property managers are governed by the Fair Housing Act (FHA), a federal law that prevents discrimination against tenants and requires accommodations for all assistance animals, including those who provide emotional support. Different designations, different rules By definition, assistance animals…..

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Buying long term care insurance for your parents

Are your parents adequately prepared for retirement? If not, are you planning to help them out? In many families, one or more adult children will step up to help Mom and Dad when they can no longer safely take care of themselves. That could mean time away from your family and job or pitching in financially to cover a variety of expenses. Your parents will inevitably need some care in their retirement years. If they’re not prepared to pay for it on their own, you might consider it as part of your own estate plan — particularly if you have…..

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