Older Americans on Medicare have become the focus of criminals. According to government officials, they are now utilizing various fraud schemes associated with the coronavirus pandemic. The common goal of these criminals is to get an older person’s money or Medicare number. In recent months, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General has received over 1,400 fraud complaints associated with Covid-19. The office also acknowledges that many frauds often go unreported. This is because the victims are too embarrassed or they may not know how or where to report what happened to them.
Avoid Getting Ripped Off
There are two things older Americans need to remember to avoid being ripped off.
*Medicare does not contact its clients and ask them for their Medicare number. It already has their Medicare number. They won’t ask for any other sensitive information like a credit card number.
*Medicare won’t contact a client out of the blue with a social media post, text message, phone call, or email. Any unsolicited communications from Medicare is a sign of a scammer.
Script By Phone
It is recommended for individuals to have a script near their phone. This is an important tool that can be used to shut down scammers. It could be a simple statement that a person doesn’t give out their personal information to any type of unsolicited call. Should the caller claim to be from a doctor’s office, a person should contact their doctor’s office with a phone number they know is real.
Older Americans need to realize that Medicare works in many ways like a private-sector insurer. It will commonly contact its clients by mail. If a person has not initiated contact with a Medicare representative, they should realize that getting a random phone call from Medicare just won’t happen. If anyone believes they are experiencing Medicare fraud involving Covid-19 they can report it online. They can also call 800-447-8477.
Data that someone can use to identify a person is known as Personally Identifiable Information (PII). This includes such things as email addresses, Social Security numbers, financial account numbers, driver’s license numbers, and more. One of the most effective ways to avoid being scammed when contacted by a person claiming to be from Medicare is to hang up on them.
There are various scams associated with Covid-19 that focus on older Americans.
*Facebook Accounts – Older Americans are having their Facebook accounts hijacked. When this is done, another person will pose as someone who has received an HHS grant because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The amounts could be up to $15,000. The HHS does issue grants but only to researchers.
*Scammers have contacted older Americans and told them they are eligible for a Covid-19 Wellness Kit. It would have face masks, hand sanitizer, and more. Some were promised a Covid-19 test kit they could use in their home. Others were offered additional Medicare coverage. All of these items came with a price and nothing was delivered.
*Scammers have gone to the home of older Americans and administered Covid-19 tests that are fake. Some have also had fake drive-through test sites. There have also been fake cures and treatments provided.
*Scammers have called and posed as hospital or medical employees. They then tell older Americans their doctor wants to test them for Covid-19. These scammers will claim to be setting up an appointment that is fake and will require a copay be given in advance by credit card.
Older Americans should be suspicious of any unexpected visitors or callers. They should never respond to a text message about Covid-19 or open any hyperlinks. On social media, any sites that provide offers or ads about Covid-19 testing should be ignored. Ignore anyone pretending to be a Covid-19 contract tracer. Real contact tracers never request a person’s financial information or Medicare number. Following these suggestions is a big step toward avoiding being scammed by a criminal.
The world of COVID-19 is, at least for the foreseeable future, the new normal of society. That means that there’s no time to slow down on retirement investing, as those same deadlines are coming up as quickly as ever. Below are some of the most important things to keep in mind during this unusual era.
Look at Your Estate Plan
With the uncertainty of the times, it does make sense that many would start thinking about what could happen with their families if a worst-case scenario was to occur. While you may not need to panic, taking the time to update your estate plan is a sensible way to deal with the current state of the world. Take a look at your current plan, determine if it makes sense for the current atmosphere, and then make the changes that will help you to feel the most comfortable going forward.
Fund What You Can, When You Can
The IRS has once again increased the amount of money you can put into your retirement account each year, with the total contribution limit raised to $19,500 (insert hyperlink https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/401k-contribution-limit-increases-to-19500-for-2020-catch-up-limit-rises-to-6500) for 2020. This may only be an increase of five hundred dollars for the year, but it’s a good reminder to invest money in your retirement while you have the ability to do so. Things are less certain than ever before, so funding your retirement account while you’re still financially stable simply makes sense.
Let Your Money Work
Not only can you fund your retirement more easily than ever before, but you may now avoid some of the required distributions that may have been required of you. If you can afford to avoid the distribution, try to let your money go to work for as long as you can. Keeping your money in your retirement account is going to allow you to keep it safer for a long period of time, which should in turn allow you to get more from your overall retirement investments. Now that you’ve got the choice, you can keep your money working instead of pulling it out.
Understand Market Volatility
While putting your money to work makes sense, it’s important to remember that the markets are poised to be quite volatile. As such, it would be wise to avoid taking those steps that would lead to reducing your current investing power if at all possible. Don’t pull money out of the market right now if you can help it – you may not be able to replace it as quickly as you might like. Though you should make the market moves that make the most sense for your situation, you should also be prepared for things to get a bit less certain than they may have been in years past.
Finally, try to remember that a huge part of retirement planning today still involves working with professionals. If at all possible, try to meet with your various advisors remotely to help reduce the odds of contracting the virus and to adhere to your area’s social distancing requirements. While meeting virtually may feel unusual, it’s vital that you don’t let your accounts go without management. Virtual meetings will give you a chance to ensure that your retirement plans remain on the path that you’d discussed before COVID-19.
COVID-19 has derailed many plans but it doesn’t have to derail your retirement. Continue to invest wisely, take advantage of new rules and regulations, and work with your advisor to ensure that you are on the right path. With the right guidance and attitude, you can adapt to this new normal.
The time is finally here. It’s when the chickens come home to roost. In most of the financial blogs of late concerning Social Security, it’s been nothing but doom and gloom. Everyone is scared the trust fund will run out of money, and suddenly, Social Security will go away.
We’ve been reading about this for a long time. Economists have sounded the alarm many times over the years about the imminent insolvency of Social Security if fixes aren’t put into place to shore up the deficiencies.
If you allow the media to guide your thinking, you might be in this train of thought – and you would be very wrong. Let me explain. Social Security will indeed see a first in 2021. It is the first year it will outlay more than it brings in from payroll taxes. It was not unexpected.
Contrary to popular opinion, Social Security will never go bankrupt as long as people work and pay taxes. The real problem is not enough money is flowing back into the trust fund, causing the shortfall and leading to the cuts in benefits.
According to the fool.com, 2020 is the year Social Security should break even, but at some point during the year, it will start running in the red. That means Social Security has been running a surplus until this year. A far cry from the death knell of the plan forecasted by so many.
Time for Some Truth and Good News
Make no mistake. If we expect Social Security to perform as designed, it needs some help. But, the truth is the program is not broke and won’t go broke. The worst-case scenario for the foreseeable future is reduced benefits if no changes to the system happen at all.
Even with all the bad news about Social Security, Congress has the power to fix it for good. That is the most significant sticking point in this whole mess. Republicans and Democrats don’t show any sign of a willingness to come to the table and talk it out.
It looks like some drastic changes will come about to force the issue. Congress can’t keep kicking the proverbial can down the road. The end of the road is here and now. Many wonder how the Coronavirus will play into all of this.
Coronavirus and Social Security
More doomsayers joined in the chorus of using the pandemic as convincing evidence of the demise of Social Security. While it’s true that fewer people working means a drop in payroll taxes to pay benefits, more pressure on Congress to act should be a good thing.
Pointing fingers of blame at high earners or baby-boomers for the funding shortfall of Social Security proves no one yet has the right answer to advance an agenda to address this elephant-in-the-room scenario we find ourselves dealing with every election cycle.
Whenever this gets settled, higher taxes will be front-and-center, with many willing to fight to keep the changes and those to challenge them. The magic bullet is higher taxes, raising the retirement age, or both, and everyone knows it’s the only way to fortify the system for the coming years substantially. Of course, with an easy answer like raising taxes, people wonder why it took years to fix a years-old problem.
Except in some rare cases, we all need to have a plan for our retirement years. Each person has individual financial goals along with their personal savings situation. Hopefully, you have a personal financial advisor to help manage the savings you have accumulated. However, your healthcare is a “wildcard” during your retirement years, and you need to plan for it. Planning for retirement is one of the smartest things you can do, not only for you but your loved ones, too. Here are five helpful tips to keep your retirement plans on track.
Let’s look at the upcoming important dates for Medicare Open Enrollment
The next open enrollment period will run from October 15, 2020 to December 7, 2020, for coverage effective in 2021.
Do Not Underestimate Your Costs of Healthcare
Most people think they can cover their health expenses during retirement. 64 percent of people believe they will have enough money to cover their medical expenses during retirement. This could be a case of not looking at facts. Estimates show that an average couple needs $270,000 for retirement to cover their healthcare cost. This figure is just an average, so you may need more money in retirement to cover your healthcare cost. No matter what your situation is, you may need more money in retirement than you have available to you now.
Pre-Retirement Income Helps Determine How Much Medicare Will Cost
In fact, your pre-retirement income is a big factor in determining the cost of Medicare. The longer you remain in the workforce and contribute to Social Security, the more you can expect to receive during retirement. There are admittedly many other factors that contribute to how long one can remain in the workforce, including catastrophic illnesses and/or divorce and or death.
Do Not Overestimate Your Medicare Coverage
Keep in mind that Medicare, while very valuable, was not designed to cover all of a retirees health care expenses. There are four principal parts to Medicare coverage: Part A, Part B, Part C, and Part D. However, do not let the fact that there are four available parts to your healthcare coverage fool you into thinking everything is covered. These gaps in Medicare coverage can be covered with Medicare advantage or perhaps a Medigap plan. Medigap policies can help with some healthcare costs Medicare does not cover. An example of this would be a Medigap policy that covers deductibles and copayments.
Retirement Age is an Important Factor
Although not always possible, one needs to have a plan regarding at what age they will retire. Whether you retire before the age of 65 or after the age of 65 can make a difference in how much Social Security money one receives. Because this can be important day to day living or just as a supplement for other saved money, it is important to know what you will receive. When to retire also can be determined by factors such as health, desire to work longer, health or spouse’s health, offspring’s financial situation, or related matters.
Retirement: Current and Future
As of 2019, the odds of most American’s having security in their retirement has not improved. Retirement in America reflects distinct realities depending on affluence. The cost of Medicare keeps going up while the value of Social Security benefits continues to decline. However, a successful retirement for the affluent has improved. The lowest income households do not have as good of retirement prospects. In fact, baby boomers who are approaching retirement have seen their odds of a successful retirement fall from 26 percent, down to 11 percent.
Does your plan meet all your retirement needs? Schedule an appointment now with one of our advisors for a complimentary review of your retirement plan.
Doug Ybema- Grand Rapids Office
Randy Knapp- Okemos Office