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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Financial Help During COVID-19

Many older adults need some extra help during these trying times. Here’s where to get it.

Retirement insecurity is a thing. As recently as 2019, a quarter of all older adults in the U.S. had less than $9,650 in savings, and about one out of ten had none at all. Even for those who have much more, the recent fall in stock prices has likely been a disconcerting blow. Retirees who depend on dividends have watched as many companies, worried about the economy, cut theirs. And many older adults continue to work in “retirement.”

Last year, one out of five older adults were still working. Some are supporting children and grandchildren or stretching a Social Security check for rent and food. Research shows that older adults have a harder time getting back in the workforce after losing a job or may simply give up looking for work. Many have lost a position in retail work or find their Uber income has vaporized as customers disappear. 

Negotiating with Creditors

Many types of monthly payments can be negotiated if your income has taken a hit during the pandemic. Mortgages, home equity lines of credit, auto loans, personal loans and credit card debt are prime examples. Some companies have set up relief programs - but you have to contact them to take advantage. How should you approach the call?

Take stock of your situation, says Bruce McClary, vice president of communications for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Research terms you may not understand, and check on current lending rates, for example. Write out the basics of what you need to say to keep the call professional: how the coronavirus affected your income, and that you would like to work something out on payments.

You may want to politely refuse the first offer. If one customer service representative is unhelpful, call back on another day, says McClary. Ask if you can speak to a manager or the customer loyalty department. Ask what discounts and promotions are available, and what other callers have been offered. Remain calm, polite, and businesslike to have the greatest chance of success. 

Get the agreement in writing and ask about a negative report on your credit rating. Don’t agree to a balloon payment; instead, negotiate installment payments, or ask to have current payments tacked on to the end of the loan. 

Older adults who never thought they would have to ask for a little help are realizing that the world has changed. Luckily, there are things you can do to get by. We’ve gathered a list to help retirees all over the country make it through the COVID-19 season, however long it lasts.

  • You may qualify for a $1,200 stimulus payment from the federal government. If you get Social Security or file a tax return and earn less than $75,000 (single), $112,500 (head of household) or $150,000 for a married couple, the full amount should be available. There have been glitches reported in the system, which is not surprising considering the archaic hardware and rushed nature of the payments, but most people who expect the funds are getting them. Those who get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) should see the cash by early May, as should those collecting Veterans Affairs benefits. People who do not get their Social Security or tax refunds direct deposited, but instead count on getting a check in the mail, will have to wait longest: up to five months. You can track where your payment is at the government Get My Payment page
  • If you are having trouble making house payments, contact your mortgage servicer (whoever you pay your mortgage to) immediately. Don’t wait until you are months behind. You have options, such as suspending payments for a while or reducing your payment. Options may vary with loan types and your personal situation. Prepare for the call by gathering your loan number, the reason for your hardship, all income and contributing sources for the mortgage, and assets. Contact the Homeowners HOPE Hotline at 1-888-995-4673 for help avoiding foreclosure or get housing counseling using HUD’s online locator tool
  • You can find general resources available in your community by dialing 211. It will connect you to a hotline that can give you information about a local food bank, clothing bank, shelters, rent assistance and help paying utilities. Remember that you should make the call for any resources. If someone calls you, it may be a scam.
  • If you need meals, contact Meals on Wheels and Feeding America to find help available in your community.
  • Need help with utility payments, prescription drug charges, and more? Find options available in your state at Benefits CheckUp
  • Getting around may be harder now, too. Find help with transportation at Eldercare Locator

One thing older adults have going for them is experience. We have been through a lot before and survived. But this time, ingenuity and a good work ethic may not be enough. It is alright to ask for help. The pandemic won’t last forever, even though it seems endless right now. Reach out for yourself or a loved one or neighbor who needs a boost. We’ll all get through this, together. 

Click below for the other articles in the May 2020 Senior Spirit


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors