Start the New Year right with this comprehensive financial help program that covers everything from how to get out of debt, tips for reducing costs, and how to boost your income--even if that’s just social security.
One-third of households headed by an older adult has no money left over at the end of the month or is in debt after meeting essential expenses, according to the Institute on Assets and Social Policy. If you’re one of these seniors, it may seem impossible to ever feel financially secure or to put away a nest egg for emergencies. But there is a simple way to start making steps toward these goals, and you won’t have to do it alone.
Savvy Saving Seniors Program
Savvy Saving Seniors is a program developed by the National Council on Aging. Savvy Saving Seniors covers those on the mid- to lower-end of the economic scale from about the age of 50 on up. Specifically aimed at older adults who may lack economic security, the program provides a three-step guide, or toolkit, to build a solid financial foundation.
Toolkit One features lots of free financial resources, Toolkit Two offers tips for avoiding scams that plague seniors, and Toolkit Three covers debit cards. The materials are presented as a training guide for a speaker to deliver to community members, but the guide is equally useful for an individual seeking advice.
Many Ways to Save
Seniors are asked to make a list of their expenses, including supplemental health insurance, life insurance, and prescription drug insurance. Check around to see if your insurance is the best deal for your current situation. Your State Health Insurance Assistance Program can help assess your current drug plan.
Savings, even on necessary expenses, abound. Medicare enrollees may be entitled to more than $100 back on their Social Security check by using Medicare Savings Programs. Hundreds or even thousands of dollars can come off your property tax bill with help from local abate, work-off, or circuit rider programs.
You may qualify for a free cell phone via a state program. If you need extra income, don’t overlook paid volunteer positions. The following organizations offer a stipend for older adults: Senior Corps, Retired Senior Volunteer Program, and Senior Community Service Employment Program.
If you’re a homeowner, a reverse mortgage may provide the financial means to keep you in your home. There are many pros and cons to consider before you sign on the dotted line. To gain a better understanding of reverse mortgages for condo owners, check out this Senior Spirit article.
Many stores, including thrift stores, offer discounts to seniors on certain days of the week. Try and shop only on those days to save extra money.
Federal and nationwide programs offer a range of benefits, depending on your income. Money to pay for food is available through SNAP. Find your local food bank on Feed America. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program offers free help with your return. The Low Income Energy Home Assistance Program subsidizes utility bills. The Weatherization Assistance Program can help defray the cost of weatherizing your home.
You may qualify for other benefits. Find out by visiting Benefits Checkup. This wonderful resource takes your zip code and displays assistance programs for food, health, housing, medications, utilities, veterans, tax relief and more available locally. It’s easy and quick. If you don’t do anything else, check out this tool!
Financial Literacy Homework
The essentials of making a budget are covered in Toolkit One. While homework is never fun, it’s a lot easier when you start working on it in a group, and you have a workbook to guide you. Budgeting introduces the concepts of fixed expenses, flexible expenses, monthly expenses, periodic expenses, and discretionary expenses.
The program stresses the need for an emergency fund, even for older adults who are in debt. The first step is to make a plan for getting out of debt, month by month. Think payday loans are the answer? The program discusses how much cheaper an overdrawn bank account is versus payday loan fees. How about setting up automatic payments for fixed expenses to avoid overdraft charges?
Do you know what your financial net worth is? Having a firm grasp of your fiscal situation provides the groundwork for setting goals and achieving them in the future. You’ll be encouraged to make an action plan with prioritized goals and time frames for achieving them.
You may use a bank for checking, but did you what else it offers? A bank or credit union may hold the key to establishing credit, even after a bankruptcy. Interest rates vary, depending on the type of account your money is in and the going rate. You can set up an account just to save for emergencies or an annual expense. The Social Security Administration can automatically deposit your monthly check, ensuring timely and dependable arrival of funds.
Top Budget Busters
Why does it seem like your money disappears every month? It’s always tricky to stretch a dollar, but your money may be prey to your own bad habits. The good news is, habits can be broken. Check to see if any of your greenbacks are disappearing in ways you can prevent:
- ATM and bank fees
- Misusing balance transfers
- Credit card balances
- Late payments
- Handouts to family members or friends
- Getting scammed
- Poor credit rating
- Buying fast food
If you still have questions, or want to dig into financial literacy on a piecemeal basis, visit Bank of America’s Better Money Habits website. Developed in partnership with Khan Academy, the site is easy to navigate, and built to offer users as little, or as much, information as they want to consume in a sitting. While topics don’t target the senior community alone, most of them will apply to all ages. Information is presented in quick bites with accompanying graphics that make the site fun and engaging.
“Savvy Saving Seniors® Financial Education Tools,” NCOA: National Council on Aging.
“Savvy Saving Seniors: Becoming ResourceFULL Facilitator’s Guide,” NCOA: National Council on Aging.
“Saving & Budgeting,” Bank of America.
Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors