The Great Debate over Social Security
A large part of retirement planning is the great unknown. I even stress about whether I'm "guessing" right and making the best decisions.
One of the most common questions I hear from clients is about when to take their Social Security. Most experts recommend waiting as long as possible to start and collect your maximum benefits. Choose this option and you'll get more money. This choice makes sense if you guess correctly and live a long life well into your 90's. But some of us will not live that long. In that case, you'll leave a significant amount of money on the table. When you pay into a system your entire working career, the possibility of not collecting what you put in leaves you feeling cheated.
As women, we are living longer and Social Security checks can make a difference. Healthcare is often the biggest expense in our budget that we will face in the future. Even the best insurance plan can leave a gap. Should you become frail and unable to feed, bathe, dress or stay in your own home alone, you'll need help. You may be blessed to have children who can help assist you, but at some point, they may need help assisting you. Seeing the cost of my own mother's care in a nursing home was enough to make me feel like I've been punched in the gut.
This is the reality of growing old in our country. So, to try and make sure you have enough money to stretch throughout retirement, you have to guess if you're going to get sick enough to need long-term care. You have to guess when you are going to pass away.
I'll be faced with the decision in a couple of years. At that time, I'll ask myself if should I take Social Security benefits early or do I wait? My full retirement is 66 and 4 months. Unless I don't expect to make it into my late 70's, I sure wouldn't take it at age 62, which would also require that I not have a meaningful employment income because that would reduce my benefits $1 for every $2 that I earn.
In the case of this great debate, there's a lot to consider - income needs, health status, family longevity, taxes and working status. Though you will have to guess on some things, if you take the time now to review your overall financial situation, you can make it an educated guess.
Medicare is an intricate program with many rules and options that can cause confusion. Here are 9 areas of Medicare to consider.
1. There are options to choose
First, you can go the traditional Medicare route, which includes Medicare Parts A and B that cover hospital care and provide access to hospitals and doctors that accept Medicare. Or you can choose a Medicare Advantage plan, which you buy from a private insurer that provides Medicare benefits.
If you choose Medicare Parts A and B, in order to cover prescription drugs, you'll want to also select a Part D plan. You may also want to consider buying a supplemental policy known as a Medigap plan. It can help with your out-of-pocket costs, such as deductibles. Some Medigap plans also have an out-of-pocket maximum, too, meaning there's an annual limit to what you'd have to pay.
If you instead choose a Medicare Advantage plan, it includes prescription drug coverage so you don't have to sign up for a separate Part D plan. It may also offer additional coverage. But you'll be limited to that insurer's network of providers, and it may cost more. If you chose a Medicare Advantage plan, you can't buy a supplemental Medigap plan.
2. There Are Several Parts to It
Unlike the health insurance you've probably had so far, Medicare isn't one-stop shopping.
In addition to signing up with Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan, you may need to enroll in Medicare Parts B and D -- which cover medical care and prescription drugs -- or you risk paying a penalty later. And you may need a supplemental plan for additional coverage, or to help you pay for out-of-pocket costs.
3. It Might Cost More Than You Think
With a traditional Medicare plan, there is no out-of-pocket maximum. That means that if you have a serious health issue, there's no limit to what you might have to spend for your co-insurance, which is the percentage of your medical charges that are your responsibility.
Medicare Part D (remember, that's the part for prescription medicines) does have a catastrophic threshold. That means that after you spend a certain amount out-of-pocket, its catastrophic coverage kicks in. But you'll still pay 5% of the cost of any prescription drugs over that amount. If you take a high-priced drug, that could add up. Supplemental policies can help you bridge the cost gap.
4. If You Delay, You May Have to Pay
You have 7 months to sign up for Medicare. That time starts 3 months before you turn 65, the month of your birthday, and 3 months following your birthday.
If you don't enroll in Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan during your open enrollment period, you will pay a penalty for enrolling at a later date. This penalty will occur every month you have Medicare.
The same is true if you delay enrollment in a Part D plan for prescription drugs. So don't wait until you're sick or need costly medicine before you sign up.
This penalty doesn't apply if you have coverage through your job. But since some employers may require you to enroll in Medicare, check with your HR department before you turn 65.
5. You Can't Always Get a Medigap Plan
If you enroll in an original Medicare plan, a Medigap policy acts as supplemental insurance. It pays some of the costs that Medicare doesn't, such as copayments and deductibles.
During your Medigap open enrollment period you can buy any Medigap policy that's available to you, regardless of your health.
But after that, you may not be able to get one, and that may be a major disadvantage if something serious comes up and you need expensive services. If you chose a Medicare Advantage plan instead of original Medicare but decide you are not happy with it, you can leave the program within the first 12 months to join or return to original Medicare (known as a "trial right"). If you had a Medigap policy before buying a Medicare Advantage plan or you bought the Medicare Advantage plan when you first turned 65, you will still be eligible to buy a Medigap policy.
6. Dental and Vision Coverage Is Limited
Medicare doesn't cover most dental care, unless you get dental services or have an emergency dental procedure while you're staying in a hospital.
It also doesn't cover eye exams related to prescribing glasses. But it does cover eye exams for certain conditions, such as glaucoma and macular degeneration.
Hearing aids also aren't covered. You'll need supplemental insurance or a Medicare Advantage plan to help with those costs.
7. There Is No Long-Term Care Coverage
One of the biggest surprises for many people is that Medicare doesn't cover long-term care unless it's associated with a hospital stay and is "rehabilitative," such as therapy to help you walk again after knee surgery.
But if you simply need help with the activities of daily living, such as dressing and bathing, Medicare doesn't cover in-home care or nursing home care.
8. Marketplace Plans Can Complicate Things
If you're insured with a Marketplace plan when you become eligible for Medicare, you might think you should just keep your Marketplace plan. You'd be wrong.
For one thing, if you're getting a subsidy to help pay your premiums, most people won't be eligible for the subsidy once they're eligible for Medicare. (This means you could face tax penalties if you keep it.)
If you delay enrolling in Medicare Parts B or D, you'll pay a late enrollment penalty the entire time you're on Medicare.
And if you miss your Medicare enrollment window the first time, you risk a gap in coverage while you wait for the sign-up window to roll around again.
In most cases, you'll want to cancel your Marketplace plan and enroll in Medicare.
Many people don't realize that each state has a State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) with counselors who can answer all of your Medicare questions. Visit shiptacenter.org to find your state SHIP.
Go Red for Women
With the arrival of February comes Valentine's Day and Go Red for Women month, which is an ideal time to highlight the importance of heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, more women die of heart disease than all forms of cancer combined.
Coronary heart disease can hit at any age. Thought it's most common in women 40 years and older, says the American Heart Association. It's important for not only caregivers to take note of this for their elderly mothers, but also for themselves.
Dr. Jason Freeman, Interventional Cardiologist, South Nassau Communities Hospital addresses why more women die from cardiovascular disease than men in the United States. Dr. Freeman says that the most important reason is that women do not typically experience the same symptoms as men.
Interestingly, the typical chest pain that alarms someone that they're having a heart attack doesn't occur in most women. In fact, less than 50% of women experience chest tightness. The typical symptoms that women experience are fatigue, indigestion, shortness of breath and nausea, explains Dr. Freeman. Because these symptoms don't seem too alarming, women tend to wait longer to get checked out. Which of course lessens their chance for catching a heart attack early enough to be treatable.
It only takes 12 to 24 hours after a heart attack for extensive damage to be done. Dr. Freeman explains that heart muscle dies, which increases the risk of death. Even if death doesn't occur, damage to a woman's heart can cause a medical condition that reduces her quality of life. Getting to the doctor as soon as early results occur is the best solution for fighting the risk of a heart attack.
There are many risk factors that can help to reduce the threat of a heart attack. In men and women, these include smoking, high cholesterol, family history, diabetes and high blood pressure. For women-only, there are additional risk factors such as menopause, stress, obesity and pregnancy. The most important factor of all is to quit smoking. Though family history and other genetic factors can't be controlled; thankfully, smoking can be. And the benefits to kicking the habit expand beyond heart disease.
Finally, Dr. Freeman offers some tips for women to help in their fight against heart disease. He recommends that every woman be careful to take medicine as prescribed. Also, he says to lower salt intake, exercise, control blood pressure, reduce alcohol consumption and watch total caloric intake.
Adapted from agingcare.com
Coming in at under 250 calories per serving-there's a delicious sweetness from the coconut milk that accompanies a well-rounded and full flavor from all the spices. Throw in some red pepper flakes (or don't, your choice) and marvel at what you've created! Then go back for seconds, because you don't have to feel guilty for one second for enjoying this yummy dish!
- 8 chicken boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into
- 2 limes, juiced and zested
- 1 cup light coconut milk
- 1 1/2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon shallots, chopped
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
- freshly ground pepper, to taste
- fresh cilantro, garnish
- In a large bowl, whisk together coconut milk, cumin, coriander, brown sugar, garlic powder, chili flakes, shallots, curry powder, soy sauce, ginger, lime juice and zest, salt and pepper (if using) until smooth.
- Transfer mixture to a large, re-sealable plastic bag and add cubed chicken.
- Seal bag and refrigerate for 2-4 hours, or overnight.
- Once chicken has had a chance to marinate, thread meat onto skewers and set remaining marinade aside.
- Heat your grill or griddle to medium-high heat and cook skewers, rotating frequently and brushing with marinade, until completely cooked through.
- Transfer skewers to serving plates, garnish with fresh cilantro and serve immediately!
- Calories: 220
- Carbs: 6.4 g
- Fat: 5.4 g
- Protein: 26.8
- Sodium: 761.2 mg
- Sugar: 2.6 g
Grumpy Cat Video That Will Make You Smile
Grumpy Cat, who's real name is Tardar Sauce, is an internet sensation. Her photo was taken on Reddit in 2012 which had people all over watching and smiling. Unfortunately, her owners were accused of photoshopping a grumpy look on Tardar Sauce's face to make her look grumpy. In order to counter and prove that the grumpy look is real, the owners posted a video showing the cat's permanent scowl.
The grumpy cat is small in size as it is believed to have feline dwarfism. She's seen all over as she has a Facebook page, many memes and her own website. She won Meme of the Year at the 17th Annual Webby Awards. This Grumpy Cat sure is an inspiration on how to turn a frown upside down.
Adapted from sparkpeople.com
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