Finances

Secure Your Money Secure Your Future!

I stare at the credit card bill, then look at my bank balance on the screen in front of me. How could this be? Again, I cannot make the minimum payment. My pay shows in the transaction list. Is it the right amount? I don’t know. I’d worked overtime recently, but my pay doesn’t’ seem much more than usual. I sigh, feeling defeated. Every month I vow to pay the credit card bill in full, but never do. Each month more interest and late fees accumulate. At this rate, I will never be able to stop working.

Rent was paid, thank goodness. But we need to eat, and gas the car. I still haven’t made last month’s car payment. I worry that someday the car will be repossessed. Then how would I get to work? And the kids to soccer practice? Reaching into my pocket to check for cash, I remember I’d spent it last night taking the kids and their friends out for pizza and a movie. I shake my head in frustration. Why were we always out of money at the end of the month?

FINANCIAL AND RETIREMENT PLANNING 

Financial worries can affect anyone. The cost of civilian life might be higher than expected. Post-service income might be lower than expected. Both can cause financial worries. Financial and retirement planning can help address these worries.  

Set Goals 

Setting goals helps you see where you want to be financially. Common financial goals include reducing debt, saving to buy a home, and saving for retirement.  Click here (https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/finance/how-to-set-financial-goals) for goal setting guidance from NerdWallet or here (https://www.clevergirlfinance.com/blog/examples-of-financial-goals/) from Clever Girl Finance.

Budget 

A budget is a spending plan for how you will achieve your financial goals. Start by identifying all your income and expenses. Review your budget to see if you can find unnecessary costs. Be sure to include all sources of income. For help, watch the below budgeting video from the Department of Labor’s financial planning series.

Click here for budgeting tips, video, and template from the Navy Federal Credit Union MakingCents website, www.navyfederal.org/makingcents

Manage Debt 

Many people have some form of financial debt such as a home mortgage, student loan, or unpaid credit card balances. How you manage debt determines whether debt is helpful or harmful. High interest rates and late-payment fees can impede reaching financial goals. Click here (https://militarysaves.org/images/stories/pdf/materialstepbystep.pdf)for steps to managing problem debt from Military Saves, and here from Investopedia (https://www.investopedia.com/personal-finance/digging-out-of-debt/). 

Save & Invest 

The Balance.com defines saving as “the intentional act of setting money aside for a specific goal or purpose”. Common savings goals are an emergency fund, homeownership, and retirement nest eggs. Finding money to save may require a different job, a second job, or less spending. For some saving strategies visit the MilitarySaves Make a Plan: How to Save page (https://militarysaves.org/for-savers/make-a-plan-how-to-save), or the American Savings Education Council Savings Resources — ASEC page (https://www.asec.org/services-5). 

Investopedia says, “savings can be used to increase income through investing”.  The military Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) and civilian 401(K) are retirement savings methods that allow for investment growth. Both plans have legal requirements regarding contributions, taxation and withdrawals. Clickhere (https://themilitarywallet.com/tsp-leave-military-civil-service/) for suggestions from The Military Wallet and here from tsp.gov (https://www.tsp.gov/living-in-retirement/ ) on managing your TSP once you leave service. Click here for 401(k) basics from The Motley Fool (https://www.fool.com/retirement/plans/401k/).  

Other retirement plans like IRAs (Individual Retirement Account) are also options for saving and investing. You can also invest outside a retirement plan. Read 9 Steps to Begin Retirement Planning | Military.com (https://www.military.com/money/retirement/second-retirement/9-steps-for-retirement-planning.html) and Save and Invest | Investor.gov (https://www.investor.gov/introduction-investing/investing-basics/save-and-invest) for more information. Visit this site, Retirement Savings Toolkit | U.S. Department of Labor (dol.gov) (https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/about-ebsa/our-activities/resource-center/publications/retirement-savings-toolkit ) for a variety of saving and retirement planning guides.  

Financial worries can seem overwhelming. Financial and retirement planning resources and support can help sort things out. Click here to listen at the Know A Vet? website to veterans sharing their financial issues and how they tackled them.  

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES 

Article Sources

Alexander, F. (2021, January 9). Creating a financial planning process for yourself. Clever girl finance. Retrieved January 22, 2020 https://www.clevergirlfinance.com/blog/financial-planning-process/  

American Savings Education Council (n.d.) Savings resources. ASEC. https://www.asec.org/services-5  

Cusson, M.P. (2020, November 11). Financial planning for veterans. Investopedia. Retrieved January 20, 2021 from https://www.investopedia.com/articles/financial-advisors/011415/financial-planning-veterans.asp#:~:text=Key%20Takeaways%201%20When%20military%20veterans%20separate%20from,in%20which%20vets%20are%20likely%20to%20need%20help 

Employee Benefits Security Administration (n.d.). Retirement savings toolkit. U.S. Department of Labor. https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/about-ebsa/our-activities/resource-center/publications/retirement-savings-toolkit  

Guina, R. (2018, September 12). What should you do with your TSP when you leave the service? The Military Wallet. https://themilitarywallet.com/tsp-leave-military-civil-service/  

Hagen, K. (2020, December 11). 401(k) basics: everything you need to know. The Motley Fool. https://www.fool.com/retirement/plans/401k/  

Lewis, M.R. (2020, June 12). How to do your own financial planning. wikiHow. https://www.wikihow.com/Do-Your-Own-Financial-Planning  

Military.com (n.d.) 9 steps to begin retirement planninghttps://www.military.com/money/retirement/second-retirement/9-steps-for-retirement-planning.html  

Military Consumer (n.d.). Military consumer, your tool for financial readiness.  Retrieved January 20, 2021 from  https://www.militaryconsumer.gov/ 

Military Saves (n.d.).  For savers. Retrieved January 20, 2021 from  https://militarysaves.org/for-savers  

Navy Federal Credit Union (n.d.). Improving personal finances. MakingCents. https://www.navyfederal.org/makingcents/knowledge-center/financial-literacy.html  

Principal (n.d.). Build your own financial plan: a step-by-step guidehttps://www.principal.com/individuals/build-your-knowledge/build-your-own-financial-plan-step-step-guide  

Securities and Exchange Commission Office of Investor Education and Advocacy (n.d.). Save and invest. Investor.gov. https://www.investor.gov/introduction-investing/investing-basics/save-and-invest 

The Balance (n.d.) Budgeting and personal finance.  https://www.thebalance.com/budgeting-4074043  

Thrift Savings Plan (n.d.). Living in retirementhttps://www.tsp.gov/living-in-retirement/  

Uyeno, J. (2019, January 26). Why is a personal budget important? The Nest. https://budgeting.thenest.com/importance-roles-budget-24912.html  

Voight, K., Benson, A. (2020, December 11). What is a financial plan, and how can I make one? Nerdwallet. https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/investing/what-is-a-financial-plan 

Read more

Veteran’s Benefits Are Changing! How Are You Affected?

January 5, 2021, a new federal law was enacted that creates change for many veterans. These improvements to the VA system will affect women veterans, surviving spouses, student veterans, homeless veterans, burial benefits, copays, education, retraining, VA institutional changes and other items.  Check with your local VSO for how benefits will change for you and watch our future newsletters for additional information. 

Below is the press release issued by the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.  It states the following key provisions under the new law, click here to read the entire press release. 

Education 

  • This section would make a number of changes to VA education programs to improve benefits for surviving family members, sunset the outdated Montgomery GI Bill, Rep. Brownley’s provision to increase VA work-study options, Rep. Underwood’s provision to allow STEM scholarships for clinical health training programs, and Rep. Wexton’s provision to allow Yellow Ribbon Program participation by foreign schools. 
  • The bill would also improve oversight of educational programs by State Approving Agencies and codify the Principles of Excellence for schools receiving GI Bill funding to follow building on 2019 Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity hearings and legislation from Rep. Levin.    
  • COVID-19 Pandemic Relief 
  • This section would grant the Secretary authority to continue to pay benefits to veterans impacted by the pandemic and allow them to preserve entitlement to benefits when they are unable to complete courses due to the pandemic. This section includes provisions sponsored by Reps. Cunningham, Levin, Bilirakis, Roe, Takano, and Lamb. 

Benefits 

  • Benefits: These provisions would expand benefits to pre-Vietnam war era advisors, increase special pension for Medal of Honor surviving spouses, protect servicemembers claims for Traumatic Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance, required publication of VA’s Disability Benefit Questionnaires, and mandated research to help Agent Orange-exposed veterans who develop chloracne and porphyria cutanea tarda. Based on legislation introduced by Reps. Cox , Lamb, Kildee, Barr & Luria, and Courtney. 
  • Housing: These provisions would expand eligibility for VA Home Loan Guaranty Program to more members of the National Guard and Reserves, reduce the home loan funding fee for veterans impacted by disasters, and extend home loan funding fee rates through 2030. This includes provisions sponsored by Reps. Cunningham, Mast, and Correa. 
  • Reform collections of overpayments to beneficiaries: Requires new rules for VA collections of debts owed by beneficiaries to avoid unnecessary harm to veterans’ credit ratings, as well as prevent many overpayments from happening due to eligibility changes. This includes provisions sponsored by Reps. Pappas and Bost, and Senator Tester. 
  • Burial Matters: These provisions expand federal aid to counties for veterans’ cemeteries; increases funds for State, county, and tribal veterans’ cemeteries operating and maintenance expenses; and provides urns and commemorative plaques for deceased veterans.  This includes legislation sponsored by Reps. Delgado, Sablan, and Brindisi. 

 Healthcare 

  • Long Term Care 
    • Enhanced oversight for state veterans’ homes regarding COVID-19 infections, response capacity, and staffing levels. 
    • Waiver of VA requirements for receipt of per diem payments for domiciliary care at state veterans’ homes and modification of eligibility for such payments based on legislation from Rep. Golden.  
    • Expansion of modifications to Veteran Directed Care program. 
  • Native Veterans 
    • Prohibition on collection of a health care copayment by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs from a veteran who is a member of an Indian tribe based on legislation from Rep. Gallego.  
  • Women Veterans 
    • Authority for Secretary of Veterans Affairs to furnish medically necessary transportation for newborn children of certain women veterans based on legislation from Rep. Allred. 
    • Continuation of Women’s Health Transition Training program of Department of Veterans Affairs based on legislation from Rep. Cisneros. 
  • Scheduling and Consult Management 
    • Provisions included establish a process for scheduling internal VA appointments and community care appointments, require VA to provide for an initial audit of appointment scheduling, require VA to review its staffing and training, and require VA to determine whether health care positions involved in the consultation and scheduling process are accurately graded. 
  • Other: VA pilot program for clinical observation by undergraduate students based on legislation from Rep. Kaptur.  

Navy Seal Bill Mulder  

  • Service-connection and COVID-19 
    • Specify the circumstances under which a servicemember, including a member of the National Guard or reserves, is considered service-connected for a disability or death from COVID-19. This includes a provision from Chairmen Takano and Moran and Ranking Members Roe and Tester 
  • Assistance for Homeless Veterans 
    • Improves VA’s ability to award grant and per diem program funding to qualified providers of homelessness assistance services, expand HUD-VASH vouchers to veterans with other than honorable discharges, provide legal services for homeless veterans, and extend the coordination of case management services for homeless veterans based on provisions introduced by Reps. Levin and McCarthy in the Reducing Homelessness Veterans Act. 
  • Retraining Assistance for Veterans
    • The legislation provides VA and Labor Secretaries access to the Federal directory of new hires to assist in veterans’ employment, expand the VET TEC training program for more veterans, extend the Off-Base Transition Training program, and direct VA to provide grants to community organizations for veteran transition assistance programs. This includes provisions introduced by Rep. Levin. 

Deborah Sampson Act – Based on the House Passed Deborah Sampson Act led by Chairwoman Brownley, this title would eliminate barriers to care and services that many women veterans face and would help ensure the VA can address the needs of women veterans– who are more likely to face hardships and go without needed health care. By expanding access to care for women veterans, combatting sexual harassment and assault, increasing cultural competency for all VA staff, and improving data collection, this is the most comprehensive legislative package for women veterans in a decade.  

Servicemember Civil Relief Act 

  • This title would extend Servicemember Civil Relief Act protections to catastrophically injured service members and their spouses, members of the US Coast Guard, and Gold Star Spouses based on legislation from Rep. Bustos. 

Other – This title establishes certain administrative protocols not covered in the other titles and clarifies matters relating to the Chief Financial Officer of the VA. 

  • Rep Rice’s provision would authorize the Secretary to give preference to offerors that employ veterans, in awarding a VA contract for the procurement of goods or services. 
  • Included is a provision from Rep. Rose to extend USERRA protections to National Guardsmen responding to natural disasters, serving on State Active-Duty orders, or during a National Emergency as designated by the President.  
  • Administrative and Other Matters 
    • This would establish an Advisory Committee on Tribal and Indian Veteran Affairs based on legislation from Rep. Haaland. 
    • Extend Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) benefits to National Guardsman that meet certain criteria, extend beneficiary protections for fiduciary misuse of a benefit, make changes to how the VA must respond to standard form 95, require the VA to implement steps addressing “high risk” problems and submit several reports to Congress regarding GAO concerns and recommendations. Includes provisions sponsored by Senator Tester and Reps. Roe, Levin, and Pappas. 
    • Protects veterans from fraud at the hands of their fiduciary by closing a loophole that prevented some veterans from recovering misused funds based on a provision sponsored by Rep. Brownley. 
  • Matters Relating to the Chief Financial Officer of the Department of Veterans Affairs 
  • This subtitle would require the VA CFO to improve internal financial controls and be more involved in the performance of subordinate financial officers. Includes provisions sponsored by Reps. Lee and Bergman. 

Visit Know A Vet? (www.KnowAVet.org) for a list of resources for a wide range of issues and resources by zip code. Your local VSO can help connect you to other veteran or civilian organizations. To find your local VSO visit Know A Vet? and put your zip code in the box toward the top of the home page for your local Federal, State and County resources.  

Watch for future articles from Know A Vet? that will discuss details on how this new law will affect current benefits, provide new benefits, and change the structure and procedures of the VA. 

If this information would help someone you know, show them you are thinking of them by forwarding this email.  If you received this email from someone and would like to receive your own FREE newsletter click here to sign up. 

Sources: 

The United States, The House Committee on Veteran Affairs, Chairman Takano, VA Committee Secure Major Provisions for Veterans in End of Year Package. (December 16, 2020) Retrieved from, https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/chairman-takano-va-committee-secure-major-provisions-for-veterans-in-end-of-year-package 

Read more

What To Do When You Have Post Holiday Blues

I turn the corner and see more Christmas lights being stuffed in a box and my heart breaks a little more. My steps slow down trying to grasp the last bits of the holidays that remain.

Juggling the takeout and keys I finally get my apartment door open.

“Hello?” I say to my empty apartment.

Feeling silly I set the takeout down and get a tray. Flipping on the TV the news anchor continues with the next unwelcome news story.

Squeezing between the Christmas tree and the couch the tray knocks dry needles to the floor. I stand there staring at the needles changing colors on my socks from the blinking lights and reminding me of the kids rushing over to the tree to see which gift was theirs.

Settling down with my dinner I start flipping through the channels hoping to find something to take me somewhere other than my thoughts.

Holiday Blues

The holidays have passed but the stress of the holiday bills and loneliness can make the next few months depressing. Psychology Today gives more information on what causes post-holiday blues and some ways to combat it, click here to read their article. 

With overindulging at holiday parties or because you were home alone, now is the time to start looking at self-care. You can begin with one of these easy self-care ideas from Healthline.com, click here to read the article. 

Other ideas that could help you get over the post-holiday blues include: 

  • Start a new hobby, click here to read Huffington Post’s article. 
  • Start a new exercise routine, watch for local gyms, and online classes for New Year discounts. 
  • Re-read holiday cards and write thank you notes to reconnect to your loved ones. 
  • Call loved ones and friends 
  • Volunteer, click here to volunteer with Know a Vet? 

Seasonal Affective Disorder (shorter days) may be adding to your feeling of depression, click here to read an article from the Mayo Clinic to learn about symptoms and treatments for this disorder.

Dealing with Post-Holiday Debt 

Holiday bills add up from the last-minute gifts, the special toys for the kids, holiday food, and postage to get presents to family members on time when you sit down and add up how much you spent could be a shock.  

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), American consumer planned to purchase an average of $998 for 2020 Holiday Season, click here to read the press release. You may have spent more of your savings or went into more debt than you planned, click here to read how to get back on track financially from thebalance.com. 

Starting a second job or side hustle could help you stay connected and earn some additional money to pay down debt, US New and World Report has steps to help you get out of debt, click hereClick here to read our previous article “Act II: Starting a New Career After Retirement”. 

If you find yourself in a financial emergency click here to read the previous article from Know A Vet? Or visit Free Grants for Vets to see what additional resources are available to you Grants for veterans (freegrantsforveterans.org)

Visit Know A Vet? for a list of resources for a wide range of issues and resources by zip code. Your local VSO can help connect you to other veteran or civilian organizations. To find your local VSO visit Know A Vet? and put your zip code in the box toward the top of the home page for your local Federal, State and County resources.  

Watch for future articles from Know A Vet? that will discuss education options for Veterans and their families. 

If this information would help someone you know, show them you are thinking of them by forwarding this email.  If you received this email from someone and would like to receive your own FREE newsletter click here to sign up. 

Sources

Wehrenber, M., (2020, January 4) Psychology Today. Tips to Beat the Post-Holiday Blues. Retrieved from  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/depression-management-techniques/202001/7-tips-beat-the-post-holiday-blues 

Marlow, A., (2019, April 18) Healthline. 10 Self-Care Strategies That Help Me Manage My Depression, Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/self-care-for-depression#9.-I-developed-a-relaxing-bedtime-routine  

Gonzalez, D., (2020, December 30) Huff Post. Everything You Need To Take Up A New Hobby This Year. Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/everything-you-need-to-take-up-a-new-hobby_l_5fd8dc87c5b690d5d30798f8  
 
Mayo Clinic. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20364722  

National Retail Federation, (2020, October 21) Consumers Prioritize Spending on Family, Friends Ahead of Holiday Season. Retrieved from https://nrf.com/media-center/press-releases/consumers-prioritize-spending-family-friends-ahead-holiday-season  

Papandrea, D., (2020, December 31) The Balance. How to Quickly Pay Down Holiday Debt. Retrieved from https://www.thebalance.com/quickly-pay-down-holiday-debt-5093806  

Steinberg, S., & Snider, S., (2019, June 13) U.S. News and World Report. 10 Easy Ways to Pay Off Debt. Retrieved from https://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/debt/articles/easy-ways-to-pay-off-debt  

Read more

When Family Life Gets Turned Upside Down

Researched and Written by Andrea Bowling

What is a family emergency? Your family emergency will be as unique as your family and what you consider an emergency may not be considered an emergency by someone else.  Cake has an article showing the large range of family emergencies click here.  Someday you will receive a call or notification that will make you stomach drop and your world turn upside down. Your family will have an emergency and will need your help.  

Having open communication with your family about emergency situations before they happen is one of the best ways to start a plan. For example, if you have a family member that has pre-existing medical conditions, struggles with addiction, or has a high-risk job would all have different plans.  If your family does want to talk about the situations you can create a list of questions and items, you would need if an emergency does happen. 

Illness/Hospitalization, Death and Injury 

Consider what pre-existing conditions or upcoming procedures that your family may have will help prepare mentally, emotionally and financially. Depending on the severity and the condition you may want to discuss scenarios and work plans with your manager or human resource department. Click here, to read an article from Forbes on how to address a family emergency at work. 

Family emergencies are covered under FMLA, click here for additional information, each state has different criteria. Contact your local Veteran Service Office (VSO) to get connected to free legal advice through the VA. Find your local VSO by entering your zip code at the top of the Know A Vet? Web page, click here.  

Some situations will not be classified as a family emergency and will not be covered under FMLA. If this is the case for your situation, you should still talk to your manager or human resource department for additional benefits or resources that may be available to you. Care.com outlines how to address issues at work, click here, to read their article. 

Job loss  

Losing a job can set your family member back emotionally and financially.  Be prepared to offer support.  Click here to read advice from Real Simple on how to support them. If the family member is not part of your immediate household keep contact open with them and watch for signs of other issues. These issues could include need for help with food, housing, bills, or addiction.  

Be aware that some people may not be open to direct help until they have no other place to turn. Provide resources your family member can access can help them keep their independence and may be easier than asking for help directly from family. Visit Know A Vet? To find resources for your loved one in their zip code. 

Visit Know A Vet? for a list of resources for a wide range of issues and resources by zip code. Your local VSO can help connect you to other veteran or civilian organizations. To find your local VSO visit Know A Vet? and put your zip code in the box toward the top of the home page for your local Federal, State and County resources. 

If this information would help someone you know, show them you are thinking of them by forwarding this email.  If you received this email from someone and would like to receive your own FREE newsletter click here to sign up.

Read more

Home Sweet Home

Preparing for a Housing Emergency 

Researched and Written By Andrea Bowling

Whether your home is a sprawling home in North Dakota, or a small studio apartment in New York City, a housing emergency would be stressful to downright devastating.  

Housing emergencies range from a broken window to being evicted from your home. The first step in preparing for a housing emergency is understanding legal documents.

Some of these include: 

  • Rental and Lease Agreements 
  • Mortgage and Loan Documents 
  • Insurance Coverage 
  • State and County Requirements and Laws  

Review your documents with an attorney through free resources provided by the VA, click here for a list of resources. 

Other documents and information you should have on file include: 

  • Home Warranty Information 
  • Contact Information for Landlords 
  • Insurance contact information,  
  • Plumber 
  • Electrician 
  • Handyman 
  • HVAC Technician 

When getting contact information include normal business hour contacts and after hour emergency contacts.

If the housing emergency includes something such as a broken pipe or grease fire there are some steps that you can do to help minimize the damage and ensure your family is safe. Read the article from The Family Handyman for 12 Common Home Emergencies and How to Deal With Them.  

If you know you are going to be evicted reach out for legal and financial assistance as soon as you know there is a problem, click here to find your local VSO to get connected to housing resources. Local counties and non-profits can also provide resources to help with housing bills, rent, or mortgage payments, click here to find organizations in your area. Check your utility provider for programs to help with utility bills.  

A housing emergency can cause you to temporarily leave your home. Your housing plan should take this into account and have a plan of where you and your family can go such as, family and friends that you can stay with, hotel, or reach out to a local church or nonprofits.

Talk to your insurance agent about what temporary housing will be provided in the case of an emergency, click here to read an article by NeedHelpPayingBills.com for additional options for emergency housing. If you do have to leave your house due to safety make sure to secure the house and take pictures to document damage and how you secured your property.  

If you are in urgent need of housing or are currently displaced there are many organizations that can help you and your family get temporary emergency housing and help you find a permanent solution, click here to look up housing assistance in your area.   

Read more

Financial Help for Seniors

Written by Natalie Schroeder, Andrea Bowling, and Esther Abass
Researched by Esther Abass and Natalie Schroder

I pull on my extra sweater as I look outside and watch the postman walking through the leaves covering the sidewalk.

I open the door before he gets up the steps.

“Hi, Mr. Sylva how are you doing today?” he asks handing me my mail.

“Pretty well, I think we might get snow next week,” I say hoping to draw out the conversation.

We talk for a minute and then he is back crunching leaves under his feet as he continues his route. I flip through the few pieces of mail and see the utility bill and my heart sinks a little. I put the other mail on the table and open the bill to see how much it will be. Before I can unfold the paper my mind starts going through things I can cut out this next month, I can skip some of my medicine and that will help, and maybe if I just have toast for breakfast.

After legal challenges, they found support

My eyes scan down the bill to the total due and my heart skips a beat.

This can’t be right. I start looking at the detail and my usage is the same as last month, but then I look at the rate, it is down 3 cents per hour. What a relief my bill went down by $20.00, that should be enough to cover my medicine.

If you are having money problems, you are not alone. Over 25 million Americans ages 60 and over are facing financial insecurity. As people retire, their income declines and they begin to live primarily off their retirement savings and Social Security income.  Rising housing and health care bills, diminished savings, and job loss in recent years have made older Americans especially vulnerable to financial struggle and falling into debt.

In the past five years, the share of households having debt, as well as the amount of debt, has increased among people ages 65 to 74 years old. For many elderly households that are in debt, the debt payments make up over 40% of their household income, which doesn’t leave much left to live on. Having debt during retirement can also eat up the assets you’ve accumulated during your life such as your earnings, savings, and the equity in your property, as well as affect the timing of your retirement and Social Security claiming.

Housing debt has been major financial problem for people ages 55 or older, with bankruptcies and foreclosures significantly increasing for this group in the past 20 years. Homeowners threatened with foreclosure should seek legal help immediately. You have the legal rights to try and save your home and an attorney can help you navigate the legal process. However, if you are not able to save your home and it is sold at foreclosure auction to cover your debt, in most states, you are entitled to any excess proceeds from the foreclosure sale. So, if you owed $100,000 against your property, and it sold for $180,000, then you are entitled to $80,000! Lenders do not like to give up this money easily, so this is another reason why getting legal help is important.

Possible sources of legal help are the neighborhood legal services office, a bar association panel of pro bono attorneys, or a program providing legal assistance for the elderly. But BE CAREFUL, there are many predatory law firms out there that will charge you large contingency fees in exchange for their services. Do your research on the legal help you seek out. For a list of free legal clinics in VA Facilities across the country, click here. For more steps on how to avoid foreclosure, click here.

High medical expenses are one reason many people over the age of 65 go into debt. Despite Medicare coverage, older adults still pay high out-of-pocket costs for certain medical services. Individuals with functional or cognitive impairment, for example, often require long-term services and supports that Medicare does not cover.  Due to the lack of coverage, people who have higher out-of-pocket spending for medical care are more likely to report that medical care has increased their credit card debt. In addition, many senior citizens are targets of scam and fraud, especially when it comes to health care, medical bills, and prescriptions. Senior Medical Patrol (SMP) helps individuals detect billing errors and fraud when it comes to Medicare. Access this resource by clicking here.

Providing financial support to children and grandchildren has also increased the likelihood of having debt at older ages. Many states offer kinship care payments to blood relatives who care for children in the foster care system and includes grandparents who care for grandchildren. Click here to see a factsheet of information that will help you navigate the child welfare system and click here for a list of kinship care contacts and programs in your state. Click here to see all of your all of state’s available contacts, support groups, public benefits, educational assistance, and relevant laws for grandparents who care for grandchildren.

Predatory lending practices are another reason why the elderly might find themselves struggling financially. Regulations that once reduced access to loans for people whose financial standing put them at risk of defaulting have been removed, and some lenders have taken advantage of this by granting loans at high interest rates to people who can’t afford them. These predatory lenders are known to target the elderly because they have often amassed a lot of equity in their homes and because they usually live on fixed incomes. According to an article published in The Elder Law Journal, “incidents of debt-collection agencies subjecting elderly Americans to harassing and abusive practices have the potential to occur at an alarming rate.” Click here for tips on how to spot and avoid predatory lenders, as well as what to do if you find yourself a victim of predatory lending.

If you are over the age of 65 and facing financial hardship, check out these great resources!

The Nation Council on Aging (NCOA) has a free service called Benefits Checkup that will give you a report on the financial help available in your area. All you have to do is enter your zip code and answer 8 easy questions. This service has over 2,500 federal, private, and state benefit programs that help seniors, ranging from medication, transportation, housing, food, health care, and income assistance. To access this resource, click here.  

There are many different programs that give financial advice and assistance to people over the age of 65. The website, needhelppayingbills.com, lists programs that are offered by the federal government, the state, the Area Agency on Aging offices, as well as charities or social service organizations. The exact type of senior citizens resources available near you will vary by state, county, and agency. Some of the programsthat are offered for low-income senior citizens and the elderly include government benefit programs, Medicare and health insurance assistance, financial help, home care, food programs, and grants for paying for medications or other bills. To see resources available to you, click here

There are many government income, health, and care programs for seniors, but finding the right one for you can be tricky. The H.E.L.P website offers a guide to eight different monthly income and healthcare programs to help ease some of the confusion. This website offers more information on programs such as Social Security Retirement, Social Security Disability, and Supplemental Security Income, as well as Nursing Home Medi-Cal, In-Home Supportive Services, and the Veterans Aid & Attendance Pension. To access this guide, click here

Senior Discounts

To see a list of companies that offer different discounts to senior citizens for dining, retail, prescription medications, travel, and more, click here! For a list of discounts for Veterans, click here

Verizon Wireless offers lower phone rate plans nationally for subscribers 55 years of age and older! To learn more, click here

There are many city and state programs that offer lower utility rates to people with low-income, as well as seniors. The National Council on Aging has information on energy assistance programs for low-income seniors and adults with disabilities, such as the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) which provides grants to states that are used to help with energy costs. To learn more about this program, and others like it, click here.  Many states also offer assistance to help low-income households avoid having their utilities shut off. To learn about the programs offered in your area, call the National Energy Assistance Referral Project at 1-866-674-6327 or TTY 1-866-367-6228.  The California CARE program offers a 30-35% discount on electric bills and a 20% discount on natural gas bills for low-income households, to learn more click here. Utility discounts and programs vary by state, so make sure to speak to your utility providers about any discounts you may qualify for. 

Tax Breaks For Seniors

There are also many tax breaks that are offered to people 65 and older, such as bigger standard deductions, a higher tax-filing threshold, property tax breaks, credit for the elderly and disabled, additional IRA deductions, 401(k) catch-up contributions, no early withdrawal penalties, and more! For a list different tax breaks for senior citizens, click here and here. These breaks can vary by state, so consulting with a tax professional is a good idea.  

The Tax Counseling for the Elderly program provides free tax assistance to people ages 60 and older. Every year between January 1st and April 15th, IRS-certified volunteers are available assist with basic tax return preparation and electronic filing. To learn more, click here

The AARP Foundation’s website offers a list of available benefits, by state, for people over the age of 50. To check out the different benefits available in your state, click here. In addition, elderly Veterans may be eligible for a wide range of benefits through the VA, including disability compensation, pension, education and training, health care, home loans, insurance, vocational rehabilitation and employment, and help with funeral expenses. Click here to learn more or contact your local Veterans Service Office (VSO) to find out what benefits you qualify for. Find a local VSO by clicking here! Also, check out the KnowAVet article on discovering your benefits through the VSO

If you found this information helpful, make sure to sign up at KnowAVet for FREE to get notifications for our upcoming articles! 

Read more

Are You Prepared For A Financial Emergency?

The feeling of dread when you hear your car making a strange noise or sitting in the Emergency Room with your kid and possible broken arm wondering how you are going to pay for the bill that is coming. When you have steady employment, these bumps in the road are stressful but are usually not tragic. Add loss of a job or several of these unplanned expenses and you can find yourself in a financial emergency. According to CNN Money you may be like 1 in 4 Americans that have no emergency fund to help cover these unexpected expenses and consequently you will end up taking on more debt or filing for bankruptcy because of a financial emergency.

Like planning for natural disasters, a financial plan is essential to help smooth out these bumps when they happen. The first step is to identify what life events could cause a financial emergency in your life. Below is a list of possible life events that could cause a financial emergency.

  • Loss of a Job or Pay Cut
  • Medical Emergency
  • Identity Theft or Fraudulent Activity
  • Housing Crisis
  • Vehicle Emergency
  • Unexpected Travel
  • Death in the Family
  • Sudden Move
  • Incarceration
  • Divorce
  • Birth or Adoption of a Child
  • Natural Disaster
Financial Preparedness – Are You Prepared?

Once you have identified items that could cause you to have a financial emergency, . Iidentify what tool(s) are available to help you for that situation. Tools that can be in place to help in a financial emergency include:

  • Emergency Fund (recommended three to six months of expenses click here for more information from TheBalance.com)
  • Insurance (House, Car, Renters, Disability, Identity, Life, Homeowner Loan)
  • Legal Documents (Will, Living Will, Power of Attorney)
  • Non-Profit Organizations (Know A Vet?, Salvation Army, VFW, Red Cross, 211.org, Local Nonprofits)
  • Employer Assistance Plans/Human Resource Department

These tools can offer peace of mind when financial emergencies come up but take time and planning to implement, reach out to a financial planner or financial coach to help you create your financial emergency plan. Click here to find a financial planner or click here to find financial coach.  

Action Steps when an Emergency happens:

The first step is to review your financial plan and tools that are available for your specific emergency. After reviewing your financial plan, review or a create a budget to help cut expenses to free up income and identify other sources of income such as insurance policies or side hustles. For additional information on budgeting during a financial emergency, read Dave Ramsey’s article Budgeting After a Job Loss that walks you through the steps of budgeting after a job loss. Some of these steps can also be applied to other financial emergencies.

If the emergency could be covered or partially covered by an insurance policy review the claim section of your policy or contact your insurance agent to review what is required and what is covered before submitting a claim.

Other people and organizations that can offer help are your human resource or benefits department where you work, unemployment office, financial planner or coach, and religious leaders.  

Help keep the stress under control by talking to a family member or close friend. They can help keep you grounded and may provide you a solution you did not see or just a place to vent. Keeping kids appropriately informed and secure during an emergency can bring your family together and teach your children how to handle emergencies. Click here to read the article from SmartAboutMoney.org on how to include and teach kids during a financial emergency.

Watch for future articles from Know A Vet? that will discuss financial options specific to Senior Veterans, spouses and dependents.

Read more