Didn’t Sign Up for Part D Medicare – Double Ouch!

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

November 24, 2015 — There are many classic examples of the kind of mistake made by your Topretirements.com editor. They include: the cobbler with holes in his soles, the doctor who still smokes, the plumber with a leaky faucet – you get the picture. We’re sharing our mistake – the kind you wouldn’t think someone who has a good grip on retirement matters wouldn’t make – so it doesn’t happen to you. Our mistake was not to sign up for Part D, prescription drug coverage, when we originally enrolled in Medicare. If you don’t currently have prescription drug coverage, consider yourself forewarned: you still have time to take corrective action during the current Medicare enrollment period, which ends December 7, if that is what you decide after reading this article.

2 very serious consequences
Failing to sign up for Part D insurance when you first become eligible can have two serious, even disastrous consequences:
1. You pay a penalty of 1% a month for every month you do not have “creditable” prescription drug coverage. In our case, it means a 30% penalty on our monthly premiums – forever!

2. Inability to get coverage immediately. There is an open enrollment period every year from Oct. 15 – Dec. 7 where you have the option to sign up for Part D insurance (or change your Part B or C plans). But let’s say you don’t take that option, and next February you are diagnosed with a serious medical condition that requires $25,000 worth of drugs, taken immediately, to treat it. Even if you register for Part D on Oct. 15 you are out of luck until January 1 – that’s the earliest your new plan can kick in. Although the odds are low of this (or something worse) happening – it is possible!

To Part D – Or Not
When you hit age 65 and sign up for Medicare you have many choices. Part A is the hospital component, Part B or C cover doctor and outpatient type claims, and then there is Part D – prescription drugs. Part C programs typically include prescription drug coverage, so you don’t need Part D if it is included there. In our case, at age 65 we signed up for Part A, Part B, and an commercially available Medigap policy from Anthem. When it came to Part D, we were like a lot of people we know – we don’t currently take any prescription drugs, and our insurance agent didn’t (more…)

Posted by Admin on November 24th, 2015

Our Members Speak: A Blue Ridge Mountains Retirement

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

November 22, 2015 — Over the years we have heard from many of our Members who were considering retirement in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We know there are many more who are tempted by the amazing scenery, mild 4 season climate, and outstanding recreational opportunities in this area. So it seems like this might be an ideal time to put together a compilation of comments that we have received from people who have either lived in the area, or explored it for possible retirement. We look forward to hearing from other folks who have an interest or experience in retiring to this area – please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

All about the Blue Ridge Mountains
The Blue Ridge Mountains are a chain of mountains running northeast from Georgia to (more…)

Posted by Admin on November 21st, 2015

How the New Social Security Claiming Rules Affect You

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

November 16, 2015 — The biggest change affecting Social Security benefits in at least 15 years is about to go into effect on April 30, 2016. It is a change that could cost certain beneficiaries $50,000 over a lifetime. As with any major change to a benefit program there has been a lot of confusion over who is affected and how – this article will explain how it will affect you.

We were fortunate to have Kurt Czarnowski, a 34 year veteran employee of the Social Security Administration and leading expert on the subject, explain the changes to us in practical terms. Here is what we learned from Kurt about how various groups are affected.

File and Suspend and Restricted Benefit
The Budget Bill passed by Congress and signed by the President in early November included changes to (more…)

Posted by Admin on November 16th, 2015

Final 2016 Medicare Part B Premiums and Deductibles Announced

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

November 12, 2015 — The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced the 2016 premiums and deductibles for the Medicare inpatient hospital (Part A) and physician and outpatient hospital services (Part B) programs.

Part B Premiums/Deductibles
Most people with Medicare Part B will not see any increase in their premiums in 2016, which will remain at $104.90/month. Since there will be no Social Security cost of living increase for 2016, the law requires that most beneficiaries must be “held harmless” from premium increases.

Beneficiaries not subject to the “hold harmless” provision will pay $121.80, (more…)

Posted by Admin on November 12th, 2015

Dueling Retirement States: Sun and Lower Cost of Living on the Gulf Coast

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

November 7, 2015 — In this installment of our “Dueling Retirement States” we compare and analyze retirement in the warm states that surround the Gulf of Mexico. Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas are better known and appreciated by residents of the South, while Florida is popular with retirees from all over the nation and Canada. See Further Reading at end for links to the other comparisons in the series.

Do warm sandy beaches call to mind your dream retirement lifestyle? The states that border the Gulf of Mexico – Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas – offer many advantages for retirement living. For one, they are almost always much less expensive than either the West or East Coasts. They have some of the warmest winters in the U.S. They represent 5 of the lowest tax states in the nation. And they are generally uncrowded and less congested than many other retirement locations.

The attraction for many folks is the opportunity to enjoy beautiful beaches that go from the West Coast of Florida all the way to southern Texas, where the Lone Star State runs into Mexico. In this article we will compare and contrast these 5 Gulf Coast states: Alabama and Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana,and Texas. (links go to our mini-retirement guides to each state). Population and income data is from American Fact Finder-U.S. Census Bureau.

A Few Facts
Texas, with its close to 27 million population, is by far the more populous of the 5 states. Florida’s total estimated 2014 population increased to just under 19.9 million, adding 1 million people from 2010. Its West Coast is not as crowded as its East Coast, where more of the population lives. There were an estimated 4.8 million people in Alabama, 4.6 million in Louisiana, and 3 million in Mississippi during 2014. (more…)

Posted by Admin on November 7th, 2015

Is an Active Adult Community Right For You

Category: Active adult communities

November 3, 2015 — Where do you stand on active adult communities – are you a person who can’t wait to move into one, or do they represent the type of place where you wouldn’t want to be caught dead? This article will talk about the advantages, disadvantages, and peculiarities of this type of retirement lifestyle. But mostly we hope you, our Members, will share your thoughts in the Comments section at the end of the article. Your insights will help the rest of us learn how different people feel about them, especially those who have actually resided in an active community.

The original active community was Sun City, located northwest of Phoenix, Arizona. Founded by Del Webb, it is still going strong, 55 years after it opened. The one that most people in the eastern part of the U.S. know about is The Villages, a community of over 100,000 with 33 golf courses and 3 town centers, and that sprawls over 3 counties in Central Florida. Active communities range from other ultra large communities like California’sLaguna Woods Village with its 230 clubs, to very small communities like the thousands listed in our Directory of Active Adult Communities.

What is an Active Adult Community
The common denominator is that the term “active adult communities” describes a very (more…)

Posted by Admin on November 2nd, 2015

Budget Bill Ends File and Suspend Strategies for SS Benefits

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

Update 1. See our new File and Suspend article that explains how the law affects this and other claiming issues for people of different ages.
Update2 Nov, 3, 2015: The Budget Bill was approved by the Senate and then was signed by the President into law.
October 29, 2015 — The budget bill just passed by the House, if approved by the Senate and signed by the President, might keep the country from entering a government shutdown and budget chaos. But one of its provisions would have a profound effect on anyone considering or currently taking advantage of the popular File and Suspend strategies. The bill is far from passing the Senate at this point, but if it does hundreds of thousands of retirees are going to have to rethink a claiming strategy that is worth about $50,000 for many who take advantage of it. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, about 100,000 people are now taking advantage of this strategy.

File and Suspend
This popular strategy goes something like this: A couple retires at full retirement age (66 for most baby boomers) and both file for Social Security. The higher earning member immediately suspends his or her benefits, planning to claim again at the age with the maximum benefit, 70. Meanwhile their spouse claims a spousal benefit, 50% of what (more…)

Posted by Admin on October 28th, 2015

No 2016 Social Security COLA – But Some Medicare Premiums Will Increase

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

Note on Nov. 12: Final Medicare costs have been announced, which ended up slightly different than the preliminary predictions discussed in this article. See Final Medicare Part Premiums and Deductibles article. See also related article on how current Congressional bill ends the popular Social Security “File and Suspend” strategy for most people not already using this strategy.
October 28, 2015 – It hasn’t happened many times, but it is coming in 2016: there will be no Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for those receiving Social Security. That is due to the fact that the cost of living in the U.S. went down, “fueled” by falling energy and commodity prices. This is only the 3rd time in history there has been no COLA. The COLA in 2015 was 1.7%.

This news will undoubtedly disappoint many folks who look forward to a small increase in their monthly Social Security deposit, something they might view as a pay raise every year, although it is really only an adjustment to keep on pace with inflation (which seems to be in check, at least for the present).

Most will dodge a Medicare increase
Meanwhile in the Medicare world, most people will escape a Medicare bullet. Had there been (more…)

Posted by Admin on October 27th, 2015

Many Reasons to Act Now: Open Enrollment for Medicare and Obamacare Is Here

Category: Health Issues

November 12 Update: Final Medicare Part B Premiums and Deductibles Announced
October 27, 2015 — This is the open enrollment period for both Medicare and Obamacare. If you are retired and need health care before age 65, or you are 65 or over and eligible for Medicare, you need to pay attention, as these are, with some exceptions, the only times you can enroll or change your coverage. And there are many good reasons why you might want to change it.

Two different enrollment periods
Which open enrollment period you need to worry about depends on whether you are talking about Medicare or the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
Medicare enrollment started on October 15 and runs through December 7. If you are 65 or over you need to enroll/make your changes by then or wait until next year (with some exceptions). The changes you make go into effect on Jan. 1, 2016.
Affordable Care Act enrollment for those not eligible for Medicare goes from November 1 to December 15 (much less time than last year). Changes go into effect Jan. 1, 2016.

What is an Open Enrollment Period
An open enrollment period is the time during which you can sign up for coverage for the upcoming year if you don’t have it now. You can also change (more…)

Posted by Admin on October 26th, 2015

Downsizing – Don’t Forget Your Dog

Category: Family and Retirement

October 21, 2105 — Many of us baby boomers are talking a lot about downsizing, in fact some of our most popular and commented upon articles are on that topic (see further reading below). But there is one aspect of downsizing that doesn’t get mentioned as often – your dog.

Americans love their pets, especially their dogs. But as we enter retirement it is worth some time thinking about whether or not you want to have a dog when your current one goes on to Fido heaven, and if you do, what type and particularly, size. We know that many people, including your editor’s wife, could not face living without a (more…)

Posted by Admin on October 21st, 2015
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