What financial help is available to American seniors?

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Photo by Alexandre Debiève on Unsplash

By Jessica Walter

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

As we approach retirement, we hope financial strains will be a thing of the past and that we’ll be able to enjoy our senior years by focusing on the things that make us happiest. However, the reality for many of us in North America is quite different.

According to SeniorLiving, nine out of ten Americans who are 65 and older, receive Social Security and the average senior citizen, aged 65-74, has an income of just $36,320 [all figures $US]; a figure that drops to $25,417 for those aged 74 and over. As confirmed by the most recent U.S. Census Bureau, 9.3% of Americans aged 65 and older are living in poverty; an increase from 4.2 million to 4.6 million between 2015 and 2016.

With such worrying circumstances to contend with, many senior citizens will want to find out what kind of financial assistance is available to them in order to better plan for the years ahead.

Housing

Meeting mortgage payments or having enough money to cover rising rental costs can be one of the most pressing financial concerns for senior Americans. The U.S. Department for Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers financial assistance and resources related to reverse mortgages, federal housing programs, affordable rents and units for the elderly.

Healthcare

A second financial concern to place on the list would have to be reliable healthcare. As we get older, we become more susceptible to falls, long-term health conditions and other ailments. Now, more than ever, we need healthcare we can rely on and, more importantly, pay for. Medicare is the U.S.’s health insurance program for citizens aged 65 or older. Anyone with Medicare is entitled to prescription drug coverage, a particularly useful benefit for seniors having to cope with unforeseen financial problems.

Medicaid, the U.S.’s single largest source of health coverage, is a joint federal and state program, providing health coverage to more than 72.5 million Americans, including seniors. In particular, Medicaid offers coverage for inpatient and outpatient care and helps with costs that aren’t attended to through the Medicare system. These include nursing home care and personal care services.

Another benefit worth looking into is PACE, a Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly. It’s a joint venture shared by Medicare and Medicaid, which takes care of all health requirements that seniors might have at home. Examples of this kind of care could include meals, emergency services, home care and nutritional counseling.

Food

While it’s true that since President Trump took office in January 2017, there are more than 1.1 million Americans less on the food stamp rolls, the cost of food remains a financial concern for senior Americans and can force the aging population to cut back on necessary nutritional requirements. BenefitsCheckUp is a free service provided by the National Council on Aging that helps seniors find food assistance programs in their state. Failing that, low-income seniors also have the opportunity to apply to the federal program, Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). It’s a resource designed to provide seniors with emergency food and nutrition help for free.

Senior tax credits

There’s also an elderly tax credit that few people know about, designed to help senior citizens with medical particular expenses and assisted living expenses. For more information on the details of this tax credit and to find out whether or not you are eligible, you can contact an IRS-certified volunteer who can provide free tax advice via both the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs.

While this article hasn’t exhausted the options available to support senior Americans as they make the transition from full-time work into retirement, and adjust to the costs and expenses of retired life, the items discussed here in this post are without a doubt some of the most pressing concerns. For further advice, take the time to read the information outlined in this article related to common senior financial traps and how to avoid them.

Jess Walter  is a freelance writer and mother. She loves the freedom that comes with freelance life and the additional time it means she gets to spend with her family and pets. 

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