Top 10 “Worries” of Older Americans Part 2: Cutting Costs, Staying in Your Own Home, Sudden Bills and Financial Security

Aging Happy - Part 2, 3-part series

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Part 2: Cutting Costs, Staying in Your Own Home, Sudden Bills and Financial Security
Part 2: Cutting Costs, Staying in Your Own Home, Sudden Bills and Financial Security

Let’s address 4 more issues on the Top 10 “Worries” of Older Americans: Cutting Costs, Staying in Your Own Home, Sudden Bills, and Financial Security. As a nation, we are getting older! Data from the US Census Bureau notes that the population is expected to become much older, with nearly one in five U.S. residents aged 65 and older in 2030. What is significant for our discussion here is that the number of people in the oldest old age group is projected to grow from 5.8 million in 2010 to 8.7 million in 2030 and projected to reach 19 million in 2050. This changing age structure of the population will have an impact on families, communities, and society as a whole. On a more personal level it begs the questions: Will I be able to stay in my home? How will I handle sudden bills on a fixed income? Will I run out of money?

Living more frugally can be done in any income bracket and can provide greater control over how you spend your time. Cutting costs is not a one-size-fits-all conversation though many strategies apply to all of us. Much is written about how to cut costs and here is a Top 20 list of tips that can help make it happen:

  1. Know what you spend every dollar of your money on
  2. Eliminate unnecessary routine expenses
  3. Be truly mindful of where you are spending your money
  4. Reduce debt
  5. Calculate monthly AND yearly expenses
  6. Invest in staying healthy; More fruits and vegetables, movement and sleep, stress less
  7. Eliminate budget busting vices
  8. Avoid retirement penalties; know important deadlines
  9. Consider doing home maintenance/repairs yourself or barter
  10. Negotiate/avoid fees for banking and investment services
  11. Eliminate or reduce your mortgage; consider right-sizing, lower cost of living
  12. Evaluate electric and gas utilities; thermostat settings
  13. Evaluate water usage and opportunities to cut cost; no partial loads
  14. Do an insurance review of your health, auto and homeowner’s policies
  15. Determine phone and media needs vs wants
  16. Alternatives to car ownership?
  17. Get senior discounts; Travel off-peak season; Group travel
  18. Make “living the more frugal life” your hobby
  19. Explore opportunities for free entertainment ex. public library, local events
  20. Plug into a retirement budget calculator to be able to see your results

I spoke with Todd Myers, at Mutual of Omaha and he shared that “running out of money is the greatest fear” he often hears from his clients. Throughout our conversation, I was reminded of the quote often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. I felt a call to action as he shared the stories of not planning for long-term care, for example. Todd noted the importance of being in the business of listening. He shared several strategies to address common concerns to create a plan that would guarantee income in the later years. When asked “Who would be an ideal candidate and ideal timing to have these conversations he replied, “Bottomline is getting to help sooner, a plan in place sooner”. Ideally, these conversations will have been started prior to the 3rd decade so that a plan can be in place by age 59½. “Retirement is about retirement, not about figuring out how to put a new roof on or how to buy a new car”.

Where will you be living as time goes by? With choices that range from independent or retirement living to assisted living, continuing care, nursing home care and more what factors will need to be addressed to make the decision? With a multitude of options, which of these will even be possible?

Staying in your own home, a.k.a. aging in place is often the desired option. The opportunity to do this requires a safe environment to minimize falls and injury and the ability to make structural changes to navigate the layout with mobility equipment as needed. Aging in place also requires the ability to manage activities of daily living; personal care, shopping, cooking, cleaning and pet care. When assistance is needed a home care assistant or in-home companion that is not medically based may be an option to assist with purchasing and preparation of healthy, well-balanced meals, assistance with personal hygiene, driving, cleaning, medication scheduling and more. Though they do not provide medical care these professionals, licensed and insured individuals greatly contribute to the health and well-being of seniors and their families.

When specialized home medical equipment and supplies are required an investment in the planning, environment, and education to support an optimal level of health, comfort, and safety is essential. Home health care is often indicated when specialized equipment is needed for seniors with advanced medical issues, trouble breathing, little to no mobility, or pre-diagnosed medical disorders. Home Health Care is advanced care within the home provided by licensed medical professionals. It is conducted by home health aides and home health care nurses, sometimes one of each, who have the required medical abilities and equipment knowledge.

Oftentimes when discharged from the hospital or after a temporary stay in a rehabilitation facility or nursing home, you are eligible for home health care assistance paid for by Medicare. If you decide on home health care for a loved one, with or without a physician’s order, be sure to check your options regarding insurance for both short and long-term care. Private home care is typically not covered by Medicaid or insurance.

When staying in the home is the goal, how do you truly know what will be the safest and most logical approach in the event care needs change? Will in-home assistance or out of the home care be the best option? Can you afford it? Can you afford not to? Every situation is unique and there are a variety of resources available to help us come to the best solution for our individual situation. My interview with Florida Reverse Mortgage Specialist, John Reardon, provided a wealth of information about the Reverse Mortgage option that allows a homeowner, age 62 and older, to borrow money from their home. You may even be able to borrow enough money to pay off the existing mortgage on your home resulting in a significant monthly budget savings. This type of loan product could be a good financial choice to support staying in your own home. John shared the challenges of living on a fixed income and described a few needs the reverse mortgage option could address including:

  • Pay for medical bills, prescriptions, home health care
  • Provide an emergency fund account
  • Opportunity for travel
  • Ability to visit family/grandchildren
  • Connect with friends, social activities on a regular basis
  • Avoid spending down retirement accounts

There are several rules for this type of loan to protect the consumer and to assure that the requirements are fully understood. Participation in a consumer information session given by a third-party HUD-approved HECM counselor is one such rule.

Be encouraged that there is expert professional help to navigate the care and financial issues that impact our options for that vision of aging gracefully. As a clinician, health coach and caregiver, I am truly grateful to the Aging Tree Family of Services and Business Network for their commitment to excellence in helping us navigate the process. As Benjamin Franklin so wisely stated, “You may delay, but time will not.” “Never leave till tomorrow that which you can do today.”

Thank you to Todd Myers and John Reardon for their assistance with the financial aspects of this article. If you have any questions feel free to reach out to Aging Tree or any of their approved Business Partners by calling 1-866-320-8803.

Cheree Albert

Cheree M. Albert MSN, CRNP, CPNP is the owner of Integrity Health Source LLC. You can contact Cheree by phone: 407-902-8945 or email cheree@integrityhealthsource.com

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