Big Variation In Part D Costs Means Most Medicare Beneficiaries Overpay for Prescriptions

July 29, 2019  
Filed under Money, News

A new analysis  from The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) of 12 frequently – prescribed drugs illustrates that Medicare recipients frequently overpay for their medications.  “Because Medicare doesn’t negotiate drug prices there are wild swings in prices between Part D drug plans,” says Mary Johnson, The Senior Citizens League’s Medicare and Social Security policy analyst.  The difference in cost for the same drug between drug plans can be in the thousands of dollars for the most expensive drugs, and hundreds of dollars for more common prescriptions. Since the start of Medicare Part D in 2006, Johnson has volunteered to help friends and acquaintances shop for Part D plans.

Although Medicare has an annual Open Enrollment period, when beneficiaries can compare drug plans and switch to lower costing drug plans, few retirees actually do so.  “In most areas of the country, the Medicare beneficiaries have more than two dozen Part D plans to sort through, and the average person just don’t know where to begin, or that free, unbiased help is available,” Johnson says.  “Consequently, Medicare beneficiaries winds up overpaying for prescriptions that could be obtained for a lower cost from a different drug plan.”

Johnson compared the lowest and highest cost between drug plans for a list of 12 frequently – prescribed drugs.  The list includes commonly prescribed brand name and specialty drugs, as well as two widely – used generics.  The analysis found: 

  1. The difference in drug prices between the lowest and highest costing plans, can be in the hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars.  For brand name and specialty drugs, the most frequent reason that the drug costs so much more in the highest costing plan is lack of coverage.  The drug is not listed on the high cost plan’s formulary.  For example, the lowest cost plan for Sovaldi, a drug used to treat Hepatitis C, charges $5,600 in co-insurance (for a one-year treatment).  The highest cost drug plan charges $100,800, the full cost of the drug, because Sovaldi is not on the plan’s formulary.
  2. New Part D plan drug pricing programs may lower costs for those who seek out the savings.  Recent Congressional scrutiny on drug pricing may be spurring some drug plans to drop prices.  One of the biggest cost-savings found is a new drug plan pricing program that lowers the cost of insulin.  In the 2018, the lowest cost Part D plan charged an $80 copay for a 100/ML of Lantus Solostar.  In 2019, a different plan had lowest cost copays charging as little as $6.00 – $11.00 for Lantus Solostar, in the Cigna-HealthSpring Rx Secure — Extra Part D plan.  The highest cost plan, which does not cover Lantus, charges the full price, $383.18 per 100/ML.
  3. High premiums don’t necessarily purchase better coverage.  The generic blood pressure medication, Lisinopril, is one of the most commonly used prescriptions by Medicare beneficiaries.  The least expensive Part D plan charges $0 copay for the drug, and the plan’s monthly premium is just $14.50 in the zip code used in the analysis.  The most expensive plan charges a co-pay of $9.19, and the plan has a monthly premium of $93.30.   Counting premiums, that’s a difference of $1,055.88 for the entire year.

“To avoid overpaying for prescriptions, and to find the most affordable coverage, the importance of comparing drug plans during one’s initial enrollment in Medicare, and during Medicare’s annual Fall Open Enrollment period October 15th -December 7th can’t be overstated,” Johnson says.  Most people 65 and over take more than one prescription drug, and to get the best plan, consumers need to compare plans based on all the drugs they actually take.  In addition, consumers should compare prices between pharmacies, including mail order, which can also vary.

Free one-on-one assistance is available to help compare and select plans through state health insurance assistance programs.  Many of these programs operate through Area Agencies on Aging, or senior centers.  Local program contact info can be found at: https://www.shiptacenter.org.

The Senior Citizens League is working for enactment of legislative measures that would lower prescription drug costs.  To learn how to get involved, visit www.SeniorsLeague.org.

 

How Credit Scores Still Matter in Retirement

July 23, 2019  
Filed under Aging Parents, Money

 

By Jim Akin

 

Retirement doesn’t affect your credit scores directly, but how you manage your finances during retirement can impact your credit and borrowing power.

Does Retirement Show on Your Credit Report?

Credit reports used to calculate your scores do not contain any information about employment status or income level. (Likewise, credit reports contain no information about your age, marital status, ethnicity, religion or race.)

What your credit reports do track is your personal history of borrowing and repaying money, including loans and credit card accounts. Credit reports reflect your history of making payments on loans and accounts that have been active in the past 10 years, even if the loans are now paid off in full or the accounts have been closed. They also record major negative financial events including foreclosures, repossessions and bankruptcies. These entries in your credit report are the raw material credit scoring systems analyze to generate your credit scores.

Retirement Can Affect Your Borrowing Power

While your credit scores won’t change just because you retire, your ability to borrow money could decline somewhat because your income is likely to drop at least incrementally as you shift from collecting paychecks to drawing Social Security and tapping retirement savings.

Lenders often want to see evidence of steady income when considering loan applications, and the concern over having a smaller income is its role in increasing your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. DTI ratio, which you can calculate by dividing your monthly bill payments by your monthly income, is a measure lenders often consider (along with credit score, employment history and other assets you may have) when deciding whether to lend you money.

People often dial back credit usage as retirement approaches—mortgages may be paid off, cars accumulate fewer miles and get replaced less frequently, and household spending winds down as the nest empties—so odds are good the debt portion of your DTI ratio has shrunken. But unless you have zero debt, any drop in income will mean an increase in DTI ratio. Lenders typically look for DTI ratios below 43% when considering loan applications, so as long as you’re below that level, you probably don’t have much to worry about.

Why Credit Scores Still Matter When You’re Retired

Cutting back on borrowing as retirement nears is far from a universal situation (lots of retirees take out new mortgages on condos or vacation homes), and some retirees whose days of big-ticket financing are behind them make the mistake of concluding they can forget about their credit scores. But your credit scores can affect your finances even if you’re done applying for loans and credit cards. Here are a few ways low credit scores can cost retirees money:

  • Higher interest rates on existing debts. Many credit card issuers routinely monitor your credit scores for purposes known in the industry as “account management.” This practice gives card issuers a heads-up of changes in your creditworthiness, and many issuers reserve the right to change the terms of your cardholder agreement if your credit score declines significantly. They may lower your borrowing limit, increase the interest rate they charge or even close your account.
  • Lower rates on insurance. Auto and homeowners insurance companies often use information in your credit report to generate a type of specialized insurance score, which helps them decide what rates to charge you. Reductions in your credit score could mean higher insurance premiums.
  • Security deposits. If you want to rent construction gear or other equipment for a DIY project, or if you just want to get a Wi-Fi router or DVR from the cable company serving your new retirement community, you’ll likely be subjected to a credit check. A fair to good credit score might not prevent you from getting the rental, but it might mean you’ll need to put down a higher security deposit than you would if your score were higher.

How to Keep Your Credit Score High During Retirement

So how do you maintain a high credit score (or build up a score that could stand to be higher) once you’ve entered retirement? The same way you keep up your score at any other phase of life: Understand the factors that promote strong credit scores and avoid decisions that can bring your score down.

The most important steps you can take to avoid hurting your credit score are:

  • Pay your bills on time. Do this every month without fail. If your retirement will include a lot of travel, or if you’ll be dividing time between two homes during the year, this may take some extra care. Schedule automatic payments for as many services as you can, and consider working with creditors, utilities and other vendors to keep all your payment due dates around the same time of the month to make it easier to organize your payments. Plus, you can get credit for paying cell phone and utility bills on time by adding these accounts to your Experian credit report with Experian Boost™. Once they’re in your report, your on-time payments may improve your credit history and increase your credit scores.
  • Avoid excessive credit balances. Pay your credit card balances in full as often as possible (this also saves you from paying interest charges). When you must carry a balance from month to month, do your best to keep it below 30% of your borrowing limit. Experts agree that utilization rates in excess of 30% tend to lower your credit scores.
  • Resist the urge to close older credit card accounts. Even if you’re not using the cards regularly, unless you’re paying fees for them, hang on to cards you’ve had a long time, particularly if you maintained a record of on-time payments for them. Why? Longstanding accounts help boost a credit scoring factor known as age of accounts.
  • Stay active. It won’t mean any major credit score increase, but active credit card accounts—those you use regularly—tend to elevate credit scores slightly more than disused cards. So consider using an idle card to make a small payment each month—for your video streaming service, perhaps. If you set up an automatic payment through your checking account to pay the credit card bill, this will keep the card account active without adding to your monthly activity.
  • Be vigilant. Identity thieves can wreak havoc on your credit by hijacking your credit cards or opening new cards in your name, and senior citizens and children are among the most frequent targets. Review all your bank and credit statements carefully each month, check your credit reports at least annually, and report any unauthorized activity immediately. Consider using a credit monitoring or identity protection service.

Retirement is the time to relax, savor your free time, and enjoy the fruits of your life’s labors and savings. Making just a little effort to keep up your credit scores can help ensure you have the flexibility to get the goods and services you want when you want them, make big or small purchases whenever the time is right, and pay for it all in whatever way is most convenient. You’ve earned that privilege.

So You’re Not The Boss? Here’s How You Can Still Be A Leader

July 23, 2019  
Filed under Feature Stories, Money

Are leaders born or are they developed? It’s a subject that’s long been debated.

 

And in the workplace, can an employee who holds no supervisory job title be an effective leader — before being entrusted with managing people?

 

Grant Parr, a mental sports performance coach, says yes — and adds that it’s almost mandatory if someone hopes to be ready as a leader when promoted to a bigger role in an organization.

 

“Leadership is a choice,” says Parr (www.gameperformance.com), author of The Next One Up Mindset: How To Prepare For The Unknown. “It’s not a title, position, or rank. You don’t have to be a department head, manager or CEO to be a leader.”

 

“Leadership is a group of characteristics, and you can acquire them even if you’re not the boss. You’ll never be a leader when you assume that primetime role unless you have developed the qualities of leadership as part of your preparation for the next big step.”

 

Parr offers five ways to become a leader at a company without holding a leadership-type position:

 

Listen to others’ ideas. “Leadership is about others, not about the self, and it starts with listening,” Parr says. “Being a leader isn’t putting yourself above others, interrupting them, or acting like your ideas are more important than anyone else’s. True leadership brings out the best in others and your culture, and you do that by making them feel valued and giving them a voice.”

 

Be accountable for mistakes. “Own your errors,” Parr says. “It sets an example of accountability that is good for the culture. Too many people, when told of a mistake, assign blame and make excuses. A leader corrects constructively and surveys for solutions. As a subordinate, staying positive and offering ways to fix your mistake, and showing the humility of asking for help, is a path toward being a leader people can trust.”

 

Learn flexibility. “This applies in so many ways,” Parr says. “If you’re stuck on doing something one certain way, you’re headed toward being a micromanager who few would like and fewer would want to work under. Leadership is about tapping into your broad base of workplace talent, expanding knowledge, improving systems and raising the ceiling.”

 

Interact and network. Networking isn’t only about finding jobs, it’s about connecting with people in a way that enhances important relationships and the work environment. “As you learn to interact with different types in the workplace,” Parr says, “you’ll learn which relationships are most effective, how to help those people with their career, and show your ability to direct and lead.”

 

Develop a thick skin. To become a leader, Parr says it’s vital to rise above annoyances and petty slights from others and let them roll off your back. “HR isn’t the principal’s office,” he says, “and if you vent every time about someone doing something irritating, you’ll get the reputation of being a whiner. Don’t complain behind closed doors, gossip, or criticize people behind their backs. No one who does those things can be viewed as a leader.”

 

“People want to be led,” Parr says. “But they don’t want to be bossed around. Great leaders can learn this as underlings on their way to a management position. Then when they get there, they’re ahead of the game — and everyone’s in step with them.”

 

Legislative Changes Will Impact the Sale of Capital Assets and Real Estate

July 2, 2019  
Filed under Money, News

 

MONTPELIER, Vt.— In late May, the Vermont legislature made two significant changes for 2019 which will affect the sale of capital assets and real estate. Both changes were in Act 71 and will take effect July 1, 2019.

The first change is in the treatment of capital gains as it relates to a taxpayer’s personal income taxes. Under current law there is a 40 percent exclusion for capital gains which will be soon capped at $350,000 as of July 1. This means that any gain above $875,000 will be taxed at standard income tax rates beginning on July 1, 2019.

“If you are currently considering the sale of a large capital asset such as a business or investment property that you have owned for more than three years, the Department of Taxes suggests you contact your tax preparer for guidance immediately,” said Acting Tax Commissioner Craig Bolio.

The second change is related to the transfer of real estate or real property in Vermont. Under current law, the Property Transfer Tax only applies to the transfer of ownership of real property by deed.

Effective July 1, the purchase of a controlling interest in an entity holding title to real property in the state of Vermont will trigger a property transfer tax liability. Generally, a controlling interest means 50 percent or more of stock, capital, profits or beneficial interest in an entity. The tax due from the purchaser is calculated based on the fair market value of the property.

The department will issue additional guidance and links on its website as soon as possible. Taxpayers who have questions about these changes should contact their tax preparers. A tax preparer who is most familiar the taxpayer’s circumstances will be able to provide the most relevant and beneficial guidance.

More Older Americans Are Starting Their Own Business

September 19, 2018  
Filed under Business, Money

By Robert Yaniz Jr.

 

Traditionally, we tend to think of aspiring entrepreneurs as young professionals with decades of potential ahead of them and energy to spare. However, judging by current trends, perhaps it’s time for this outdated notion to be refreshed.

According to recent estimates, nearly a quarter of new entrepreneurs fall between the ages of 55 and 64. Given the rise in technology and the accessibility it provides, it makes sense that more workforce veterans might decide to start an LLC of their own. But while they certainly have plenty of knowledge, starting a business after retirement has its own set of challenges. Thankfully, finding your way doesn’t have to be so difficult. So strap in: Let’s discuss what you bring to the startup world and the first steps you can take now to bring your vision to life.

Advantages of Starting a Business After Retirement

No matter what stage of life you’re in, it’s never too late to pursue your passions. Such is definitely the case for retirees looking into the startup space. Age, after all, isn’t only a number — it’s an indication of a life lived and lessons learned. With that in mind, let’s explore some of the ways late-in-life business owners can leverage their circumstances to fuel the success and promise of their latest endeavor.

Experience Is Still Key

Retired entrepreneurs may initially feel in over their heads. But despite the appearance of insurmountable odds, don’t overlook everything you’ve accomplished up to this point. Your experience — both in business and in life — can often inform your decision-making. Don’t forget that you have the invaluable assets of intuition and savvy that simply can’t be won any way other than through the rigors of time. So rather than lamenting your age, harness everything you’ve absorbed and weaponize it instead.

Financial Flexibility

Although many young and hungry entrepreneurs may have big dreams and high hopes of where they want to take their business, one thing that few have on their side is a reliable source of funds. By the time you reach retirement age, you may have developed significant savings you can use to infuse your new business with some startup funds. The financial standing of your business when you start out has a huge impact on its potential; this is another advantage older entrepreneurs are likely to have in their back pocket (literally).

Solid Support System

Often, young aspiring entrepreneurs dream of the startup they want to leap into after college, only to encounter a ton of resistance. Why risk your future when you could embrace the comfort of a cushy corporate gig?, they’re told. But it’s an entirely different story for retired entrepreneurs. At this stage in your life, you may already have a family of your own, longtime friends and trustworthy colleagues who can give you honest feedback. Moreover, knowing that your social life is beyond stable allows you to relax and take your startup one measured step at a time.

How to Get Started

Now that you have a better sense of how your business can benefit from your age and experience, you’re probably wondering what you should do to actually put it into action. As you brace for the next stage of your professional life, be sure to keep the following tips in mind to maximize your chances of achieving your startup goals.

Know Yourself and Your Limits

One reason your age is such a critical ingredient in your business is that it helps you gauge the terrain ahead. Carefully consider all your options before investing your time and money in a new business venture; if something doesn’t add up, doggedly pursue the answers you need and the level of risk involved. Regardless of what business you’re getting into, you’re certain to face a variety of setbacks as you get your bearings. Use your experience to keep you ready for them before they’re upon you.

Outsource and Assemble Greatness

Even the most heralded professional minds of our time can only accomplish so much as single individuals. Remember that — and don’t burden yourself with the notion that you need to wear all hats indefinitely. The most successful companies got that way because of their leadership…but also because of the team that leader assembled to execute their vision on a grander scale. No one knows your goals better than you do, but you need other passionate team members who can contribute to them and complement your own role in the process.

Practice Self-Care Above All Else

This is a critical point for all aspiring entrepreneurs, but especially for those of advanced age. In the early days of your new business, you may be obliged to drive ceaselessly toward your next objective. While this persistence is a testament to your passion, don’t let it run your life. In other words, know when to disconnect from your work and connect with loved ones, have some fun or just get some rest. Most retired entrepreneurs will need to consider their health more seriously than their younger counterparts. In the end, remember that you won’t be able to push your business forward if you’re feeling run down.

It’s Never Too Late

With any luck, we’ve helped you feel empowered to more confidently move in the direction of your startup dreams. Now we want to help you take the next steps to make your business a reality.

Incfile has already developed easy-to-use guides for businesses across a wide range of industries, and there’s no time like the present to begin exploring your options and plotting out your startup strategy. Are you ready to get your business up and running in three simple steps? We can help you form your company and manage it as it grows, too.

This article was originally published on the Incfile Blog.

Robert Yaniz Jr. has been a professional writer since 2004, including print and online publications. Much of his experience centers on the business world, including work for a major regional business newspaper and a global law firm.

 

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED FOR AARP FOUNDATION TAX-AIDE PROGRAM

September 12, 2018  
Filed under Money, News

 

AARP Tax-Aide Wants You!

 

Want to volunteer to help neighbors in your community?  Want to be engaged in a meaningful way?  Want to give back?  AARP Tax-Aide is looking for volunteers for the upcoming tax season. Tax-Aide volunteers make a difference in their communities by assisting many older, lower-income taxpayers who might otherwise miss out on the credits and deductions they’ve earned. Volunteers receive training and support in a welcoming environment.

 

In addition to tax preparers, there are several important positions that help the program run successfully that don’t require tax knowledge:

-Technology Coordinator

– Site Coordinator

– Electronic Returns Originator

-Volunteer Recruiting Specialist

-Communications Specialist

 

Following the training most positions require 4-8 hours a week during the tax season but most schedules can be accommodated. There are tax sites throughout Vermont.

 

In Vermont last year, 187 AARP Tax-Aide volunteers helped more than 14,400 people file their federal and state tax returns. The program is offered at approximately 35 sites in Vermont, including senior centers, libraries and other convenient locations. Older Vermonters received some $4.4 million in tax refunds as a resulted of this program.

 

To learn about our volunteer opportunities, contact kathiebtv@comcast.net or visit www.aarpfoundation.org/taxaide . AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is offered in coordination with the IRS.

 

New Consumer Brochure from National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association Helps Seniors Spot and Stop Financial Abuse

June 19, 2018  
Filed under Money, News

The National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association is proud to participate in World Elder Abuse Awareness Day today with the release of a new consumer brochure, Recognize & Report Elder Financial Abuse.  The free tri-fold brochure, available for download from NRMLA’s consumer education website athttps://www.reversemortgage.org/ReportFraud, helps seniors, and their loved ones, avoid common scams, spot signs of elder fraud and exploitation, and stop and report wrongdoing.

“As professionals who serve older homeowners, we have a special responsibility to ensure the safety and fair treatment of seniors,” said NRMLA Executive Vice President Steve Irwin. “NRMLA’s new brochure, which we encourage all members to print and share widely, is another example of our work to raise awareness about the increasing number of financial crimes perpetrated against seniors and steps we can all take to report mistreatment.”

Each year, an estimated five million, or one in ten, older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect or exploitation. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, the annual financial loss by victims of elder financial exploitation was estimated to be $2.9 billion in 2009, a 12 percent increase from 2008.

Common signs highlighted in NRMLA’s Recognize & Report Elder Financial Abuse brochure include unpaid bills, eviction notices, or notices to discontinue utilities; withdrawals from bank accounts or transfers between accounts that the older person cannot explain; new “best friends;” legal documents, such as powers of attorney, which the older person didn’t understand at the time he or she signed them; and a caregiver who expresses excessive interest in the amount of money being spent on the older person.

If the situation appears threatening or dangerous, NRMLA advises readers to call 911 or the local police for immediate help.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was launched on June 15, 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations. WEAAD aims to provide an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic, and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect.

 

A 3-Point Check-Up for Your Retirement Plan

June 14, 2018  
Filed under Money

By Pamela Yellen

Your financial goals and objectives have likely changed dramatically since you started a retirement account like a 401(k) or IRA. Now is a good time to put your retirement plan through a 3-point checkup to see if it still makes sense: Read more

4 Common Retirement  Planning Mistakes

June 14, 2018  
Filed under Aging Parents, Health & Wellness, Money

And How to Avoid Them

Constructing a smart retirement income plan isn’t easy. Throughout the working years there are many factors to consider, such as salary, expenses – monthly and unforeseen – debt and college for the kids, just to name a few. Read more

Burlington Edible History Tour 2018 Season Opens June 14

May 31, 2018  
Filed under Food, Money, News

Burlington Edible History tours, rated five stars on Trip Advisor, begin June 14 for its fourth full season.

 

Over a 1.5-mile walk, participants discover the local history and food traditions of 11 immigrant groups that built Burlington: Abenaki, African Americans, French Canadians, Germans, Greeks, Irish, Italians, Chinese, Jews, Lebanese, and Yankees.

 

Tour groups sample food at five restaurants that serve local foods. This year we are delighted to welcome two new restaurants – The Gryphon and Deli 126. They join Penny Cluse, Sugarsnap Catering at ECHO, and Monarch and the Milkweed at Maglianero.

The Gryphon is located in the first Hotel Vermont, once Burlington’s largest and most prestigious hotel, and the Deli 126 is a New York-style deli combined with a 1920s style jazz cocktail lounge.

Deli 126 Bar General Manager Emily Morton enthuses, “We are a great match with Burlington Edible History. We’re both excited to let people experience our local food and drink history. Elise and Gail discovered the existence of the Good Templars and Vermont Anti-Saloon League offices on this block and the next, two groups that pushed to prohibit the sale of liquor.”

 

Tours run Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, 1:00 – 4:15pm, through October 13. Tickets must be purchased in advance through Seven Days Tickets via their website at www.sevendaystickets.com or through the Tour’s website at www.burlingtonediblehistory.com.

 

The tour donates 10% of profits to New Farms for New Americans to help new immigrants and refugees stay connected to their culinary traditions. Burlington Edible History Tour is the only Vermont destination in the tourism blog Roaming the Americas on “How to Support Immigrants and Refugees Through Travel in the United States.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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