Sat, Dec 1, 2018

Retirement Strategies for Low Income Seniors

If you or a loved one doesn’t have enough money to meet basic needs, you need to know about programs that can help. When the most immediate needs have been met, it also makes sense to look at your next steps.

The financial crisis, now called the Great Recession, is fading from the minds of Americans, but many households are still feeling its effects. People reaching retirement age thought they were set until the investment market crashed, wiping out much of their retirement fund. Many have recovered, but for some the timing was disastrous.

Others, for any number of reasons, reached retirement age without enough of a nest egg and now find themselves low on money. None of this was helped by the decision that there will be no COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) raising Social Security payments in 2015.

The Programs You Know

Let’s start with the programs you may already know.

Social Security. Throughout your working years you paid into Social Security. The average retiree receives about $1,294 in benefits as of 2014. If your spouse passed away or you’re disabled, you may qualify for benefits, too. For many, Social Security is the cornerstone of their income, but it’s not meant to be the primary income source.

Medicare. You paid into Medicare during your working years, just as you did with Social Security. You should be receiving Part A benefits at zero cost (see Medicare 101: Do You Need All 4 Parts? ). Part D, better known as the prescription coverage has a low income subsidy called Extra Help (see below).

Extra Help. Seniors receiving Part D coverage may receive assistance from the Extra Help plan worth about $4,000 annually. If your combined worth is less than $26,860 as a married couple, or $13,440 as a single, you may qualify.

Medicaid. Medicaid, not Medicare, is where you go if you need assistance with medical costs. The program provides coverage if you’re “aged, blind, and disabled,” providing you are under certain income limits. You can receive Medicare and Medicaid benefits at the same time.

Food Stamps. Seniors are eligible for the food stamp program, also call the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP.) Go to the SNAP website to learn more.

Supplemental Security Income. SSI is not Social Security. Instead, it’s a public assistance program that provides aid to the aged and/or disabled. You can learn more about eligibility and how to apply at the Social Security website.

Other Programs

The first place to go is This is a website sponsored by the National Council on Aging that includes information on more than 1,700 public and private assistance programs for adults over 55, including nutrition, legal, housing and education. Simply complete the short form and the site will list any programs that may apply to you.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sponsors eldercare, a website similar to the above. Enter your city or zip code and the site returns local assistance programs available to you.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture administers The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP). Similar to food stamps, this program is available to seniors at least 60 years old and is administered at the state level. More information is here.

Tax Relief. Seniors may be eligible for tax relief—often property or real estate taxes, vehicle license fees, and solid waste fees. Certain income caps may apply and each state has varying laws and eligibility requirements.

You may also apply for a federal tax credit if you fall below certain income limits. See IRS publication 524 for more information.

Legal Services. Many attorneys and practices will provide legal services to seniors for free or at a discounted rate. Look at the AARP attorney search tool to find people in your area.

Job Training. The United States Department of Labor administers The Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), a program that provides training and part-time job placement for seniors under certain income limits. Jobs pay minimum wage but serve as a way to provide training that may lead to a better job in the future. Learn more about this program here. Also see The Best Jobs For Retirees and Impact Of Continuing To Work In Retirement.

Housing Vouchers. The Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP) offers assistance for anybody living in certain properties run by local public housing agencies. Vouchers are income based and often have a long waiting list (2 to 5 years). For more information contact your local government office.

Help with Utilities. Many utilities companies around the nation provide assistance programs to senior who can’t afford to pay their utility bills. Contact your utility company and ask if it has an assistance program.

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