Archive for the ‘Finances’ Category

How to Age Well: Planning Your Path, Part 3: Money and Retirement

Thursday, May 16th, 2019

By Mason Crane-Bolton

Are you ready for your financial future? | Photo by Mathieu Turle via unsplash.com

 

There is no way to get aging “right”…

 

…But it does help to plan.

Something is happening each and every day across New Jersey. Across the United States. Across the entirety of the planet.

We are all getting older.

Like it or not, each and every one of us is on a journey of aging. From the moment we are born until the moment we die, we are aging.

We tend to think of aging as being something saved for an arbitrary age, like 50, 60, 65,…etc. We could list off the ages at which society (for one reason or another) has decided we’ve hit a certain benchmark in aging. Whether it’s Social Security benefits, Medicare enrollment, retirement, “senior citizen” discounts, or a screening your doctor now wants you to undergo, we tend to have these changes attached to specific ages or with “being of a certain age.” We think of them as being times in our life when a monumental change has occurred, a mark of “aging.”

But the truth is, regardless of what arbitrary number might be assigned to program enrollments or coupons, we don’t age in random, sudden leaps. We age constantly and gradually. While this might make it tempting to wait to plan for your later years, you should plan now. No one wants to be caught unawares by changes as you age or a sudden health crisis, so it makes sense to plan for your later years as early as possible. Think of planning now as training for becoming an older adult.

What if you already consider yourself an older adult? That’s not to say this blog doesn’t apply to you too! It absolutely does—no matter where you are or where you consider yourself to be in your path of aging, it makes sense to plan now for the road ahead, whether that road is two days or twenty years from now!

Having plans in place will mitigate much stress and bad decision-making in emergency situations. Much heartache and avoidable stressed is caused by being forced to make difficult decisions in the heat of the moment; time spent worrying about what the best decision is and then wondering if the right decision is the one you made.

What are some priorities to focus on? We’re so glad you asked. In this three-part series we’ll cover different aspects of how-to age well as we lead up to our 21st Annual Conference. If you’d like to register for the conference but haven’t yet, go to www.njfoundationforaging.org for more information.

This week, in the final chapter of our three-part series, we’ll cover: money and retirement.

 

Money

Do you have money saved for the future? Will it be enough for yourself and any care you might need? Have you enrolled or will you enroll in supplemental programs? Do you know your eligibility? Have you already retired? Are you about to retire? Do you have money saved up for retirement? Will money be coming in during your retirement or will it just be going out?

Suffice it to say there are many questions surrounding money throughout the course of our lives, particularly as we become older, possibly retire, and consider our long-term care needs. If you haven’t already, read Barbara O’Neill’s article on flipping financial switches later in life (Flipping a Switch: For Happiness and Financial Security in Later Life, pages 6-7) in the latest issue of Renaissance for some great insight into what financial changes you can anticipate facing as you age.

The sheer number of questions can be daunting, let alone the stress financial decisions and discussions can instill in people. But just having a plan for your financial future can save you from a load of future stressors and difficulties. If you’re facing a loss of income it may be necessary or helpful to consider what options you have: could you work a part-time job or are you eligible for Social Security or disability benefits? Would you be interested or able to live with a roommate or relative?

 

A note about programmatic assistance

As part of your financial discussions, investigate eligibility requirements for assistance programs—there are many different types of assistance programs across the state for services ranging from utilities, to property taxes, food and fresh produce, medication, and more! Learn more about each program and see which ones may best work for your own situation. You can learn more and apply to multiple assistance programs (though not all assistance programs) through the state’s new, simplified application NJSave.

Some programs include, but are not limited to, Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled (PADD), the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LiHEAP), and NJ SHARES. PADD is a prescription drug assistance program that can help you pay for your medications and LiHEAP and NJ SHARES are utility assistance programs that make it easier for older adults and others to pay their utilities throughout the year and may offer weatherization tips or tools. Whether you are eligible for one or all of these programs, each can make a significant difference and positive impact in your life. You may be eligible and not know it, so make sure to look into each of these programs.

It’s important to know that some of these programs, particularly the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), face chronic underenrollment—in NJ alone, only 48% of eligible older adults are receiving benefits, meaning that 52% of eligible older adults are facing additional food insecurity and financial strain and may not realize they qualify for this benefit. Learning more about SNAP and other assistance programs could help you today or in the future, depending on your eligibility status. Furthermore, signing up for these programs will help you save money and ensure you have access to basic necessities and a higher quality of life. Although you cannot apply to SNAP through NJSave, you can apply only through the NJ SNAP website.

Another way to help secure greater benefits later in life is to put off taking your Social Security benefits until you’re 70, if possible. Waiting until age 70 will maximize your benefits payout. If you plan on using Social Security benefits to supplement your income in a meaningful way you’ll want to have as much of your money as possible coming to you in each benefit check or deposit.

 

Retirement

Does the thought of retiring make you sweat or fill you with joy? What will you do with your newfound time? Will you have too much, too little, or none at all? How can you make this new phase of your life work best for you?

Retirement can be a joy for some and a great sorrow for others. Whether you’re looking forward to retirement or dreading it, it’s important to know what you’re going to do with this next phase of your life. Many people may choose not to retire or may not be able to for financial reasons, and in this case it’s equally important to choose how to spend this time when many friends may be retiring or health changes may make it necessary for you to cut back on hours spent working.

For those who are retiring, having a plan for your retirement can make the difference between remaining healthy and happy and declining physically and mentally. For many of us, even those who don’t love their jobs, having a regular work schedule can fill us with a sense of purpose or, at least, give us a predictable schedule and a way to pass the time. A newfound freedom in retirement may allow you to pursue a hobby or travel, spend time with friends and family, or relax in ways you didn’t think were possible. If this sounds good to you, try planning out at least a few days a week with activities that are meaningful to you and keep you engaged; this could be going out and socializing with friends, reading books, engaging in a craft or sport, or volunteering—anything that gives you pleasure and a sense of purpose.

If the above sounds boring and pointless to you, or at least unfulfilling and unwanted, consider working part-time as part of your retirement or semi-retirement. For many people fulltime retirement may not be enjoyable—it may seem dull, and could lead to depression, physical and mental decline. A volunteer role (fulltime or part-time) may work for some, but not for others. The work could be a passion of yours that’s been on the backburner, or could be something like office work, cashiering, or other positions that work for you and your schedule. Often it’s the set schedule of work that’s vital to keeping people happy and engaged more than the work itself. Moreover, people who have the luxury to choose to work past retirement instead of working out of necessity can enjoy the freedom of knowing they can leave their job if and when they choose to and can have greater flexibility in schedule and line of work.

However you decide to spend your later years, come up with a preliminary plan and a backup plan. Although your plans may change over the years, it will be helpful to have an initial plan in place now for how you’d like to spend your time and what activities will be meaningful to you in the future.

 

 

There is no one solution to deciding how you will cope with money, retirement, and other financial changes. Just as your life changes, so many the appropriate solution for you—having a plan, or even considering your current or future needs, is the first step to aging well.

Thank you for reading our three-part series on how to age well and how to plan for aging! We hope you learned something new, connected with a resource, tried one of our tips, or had thought-provoking discussions with loved ones. If you missed part one or part two in this series, you can read them here ( Part 1: Mobility and Transportation ) and here ( Part 2: Home, Health, and “After I’m Gone…” ?). As this series in our blog winds to a close the excitement for our June 4th, 2019, annual conference is just beginning! If you’d like to attend our 21st Annual Conference, “The ‘How-To’s’ for Aging Well,” go to njfoundationforaging.org for more information and to register! We hope to see you there on June 4th!

 

If you have feedback or would like to be part of the conversation, leave us a comment below or email us as [email protected].

Come back for our next blog! New posts are published on the first and third Thursdays of each month.


Mason Crane-Bolton is Communications Manager for the New Jersey Foundation for Aging. His writing has appeared in EpiphanyUU WorldTo Wake/To Rise, and others. 

Help for the Season: Tax Season

Thursday, April 4th, 2019

By Mason Crane-Bolton

Oh boy, it’s tax time! | photo by Mathieu Turle via unsplash.com

 

As April rolls around we prepare for one of the few certainties in life: Taxes.

 

If you’ve already filed your annual income taxes, congratulations! If filing your taxes is still on your “to-do” list, we have some suggested resources to assist you in preparing and filing your taxes. (Please note that we’re not certified or trained tax professionals; if you have questions about your taxes or finances it’s always best to consult an expert.)

 

Whether or not you’re an older adult, New Jersey has many resources available to you for tax preparation assistance. To see if your town offers local tax preparation services, call your town’s municipal center, public library (if one is available in your town), or your county Office on Aging (if you don’t know the phone number for your county’s office, you can call the toll-free number 1-877-222-3737 and you will be directed to your local office). For those who prefer to file their taxes on paper (as opposed to digitally), tax forms are also often available at municipal buildings and libraries. If you prefer, you can also download and print tax forms at home through the first link below.

 

…Did you know that there are FREE tax preparation services available to you? If you’re a taxpayer and over age 60, you’re eligible for (the unfortunately named) Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE). If you’re not age 60 or older, but are low- to moderate-income, have a disability, or are non-English speaking, you can get tax preparation assistance though Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). You can follow the link below to learn a little more about these services and how to find one near you.

Free Tax Preparation Services for Taxpayers https://www.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/vita_tce/freeservices.shtml

Free Tax Return Preparation for Qualifying Taxpayers

https://www.irs.gov/individuals/free-tax-return-preparation-for-you-by-volunteers

 

…As you might know, there have been several changes in the past few years which have affected your annual income taxes. Depending on your individual situation, you may have been greatly affected or not at all; although there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer, the link below will provide you with some information regarding changes to your NJ state income tax filings.

NJ Income Tax – Important Changes for 2018

https://www.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/new2018.shtml

 

…If you have some general questions about your taxes or filing, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has an FAQ section specifically for older adults and retirees. In addition, the IRS also has a guide of tips for older adults and retirees in preparing and filing their federal taxes. These may not answer more complex or idiosyncratic questions but can be a good place to start for general questions and help.

IRS “Seniors & Retirees”

https://www.irs.gov/individuals/seniors-retirees

Frequently Asked Questions for Seniors

https://www.irs.gov/individuals/seniors-retirees/frequently-asked-questions-for-seniors

Tips for Seniors in Preparing their Taxes

https://www.irs.gov/individuals/seniors-retirees/tips-for-seniors-in-preparing-their-taxes

 

…If you still need help with your federal taxes, you can find ways to contact the IRS online and via phone through the link below, as well as helpful information, such as contacting the IRS on behalf of someone else and what information and identification you should have ready. You can also call the NJ Division of Taxation through the second link below.

IRS “Let Us Help You”

https://www.irs.gov/help/telephone-assistance

NJ “Important Phone Numbers”

https://www.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/phonenos.shtml

 

…And, of course, you always need to be careful about tax collection scams. Just like we warned in our series on technology and scams, tax time is commonly used by scammers who claim to work with the IRS or other agencies. For more information on this and other tax collection scams you should watch out form, follow this link.

Watch Out for Tax Collection Scams

https://www.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/scamalert.shtml

 

…If you need to apply for property tax reimbursement, otherwise known as “Senior Freeze,” or learn more about the program and eligibility requirements, you can do so here through the link below:

2018 Senior Freeze (Property Tax Reimbursement)

https://www.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/ptr/index.shtml

 

Finally…If you’ve already applied for property tax reimbursement, otherwise known as “Senior Freeze,” you can check on the status of your application at this webpage.

Check the status of your New Jersey Senior Freeze (Property Tax Reimbursement)

https://www20.state.nj.us/TYTR_PTR_INQ/jsp/PTRLogin.jsp

 

 

Tax season is at its height and the deadline to file your taxes on April 15th, 2019, is rapidly approaching. Don’t be late on your taxes!—Use the resources above to make sure you file your taxes correctly and on time. If you have questions about your taxes make sure to consult a tax expert or call the IRS or NJ Division of Taxation to seek help with your taxes and filing.


Mason Crane-Bolton is Communications Manager for the New Jersey Foundation for Aging. His writing has appeared in EpiphanyUU WorldTo Wake/To Rise, and others.