The ABC’s of Medicare

The ABC’s of Medicare

Trying to figure out Medicare can be one of the most frustrating aspects of retirement.  Even the savviest of retirees struggle with figuring out when to enroll and which parts to enroll in – there’s Part A, Part B, Part C, Part D, Medigap plans and so on. And, what in the world is a donut hole, anyway?

What is Medicare?

Medicare is the government health care program for people 65 and over as well as some younger people with disabilities.  Medicare’s coverage plays an important role in containing medical costs as you age. Medicare is a different program than Medicaid, which offers health and other services to eligible low-income people of all ages.

Types of Medicare

  • Part A covers inpatient hospital stays, skilled nursing facility stays, some home health visits, and hospice care. Generally, you don’t have to pay premiums if you or your spouse paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years.
  • Part B covers doctor visits and other medically necessary services and supplies. That includes preventive services or health care to prevent illness, as well as ambulance services, durable medical equipment and mental health coverage. Part B comes with a monthly price tag – the standard premium was $148.50 in 2021.
  • Part C or Medicare Advantage is a type of health plan offered by private insurance companies that provides the benefits of Part A and Part B and often Part D as well. These bundles plans may have additional coverage such as vision, hearing, dental care and may even include perks such as gym memberships or transportation to doctor’s appointments. Medicare Advantage plans have an annual limit on out-of-pocket costs.  Medicare Advantage plans are typically HMOs or PPOs.
  • Part D is the prescription drug benefit that covers most outpatient prescription drugs. It is a separate plan provided by private Medicare approved companies, and you must pay a monthly premium.  Unless you have creditable drug coverage and will have a Special Enrollment Period, you should enroll in Part D when you first get Medicare. If you delay enrollment, you may face gaps in coverage and enrollment penalties.  Most plans with Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D) have a coverage gap (called a “donut hole”).  That means that after you and your drug plan have spent a certain  amount of money for covered drugs, you have to pay all costs out-of-pocket for your prescriptions up to a yearly limit.  Once you have spent up to the yearly limit, your coverage gap ends and your drug plan helps pay for covered drugs again.
  • Medigap or Medicare Supplement Insurance is an additional health insurance policy you can buy from a private insurer to help pay some of the costs not covered by Medicare Part A and Part B, including deductibles, coinsurance and health care if you travel outside the U.S. Medigap policies do not cover prescription drugs, dental, vision, hearing aids, private nursing care or long-term care. There are 10 types of Medigap plans available in most states.

When to Sign Up for Medicare

For most people, signing up for Medicare occurs during a 7 month initial enrollment period(IEP).   The IEP starts 3 months before you turn age 65 and continues for 3 months after your birthday. You may be eligible sooner if you have a disability, End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), or ALS (also called Lou Gehrig’s disease).

During the IEP, you can sign up for Medicare Part A.  Even if you are still working after you turn 65, you should consider signing up for Part A now.  If you’ve worked and paid Medicare taxes, it comes at no cost to you and covers hospital services.

You can join, switch, or drop a Medicare Health Plan or a Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C) with or without drug coverage during these times:

  • Initial Enrollment Period – When you first become eligible for Medicare, you can join a plan.
  • Open Enrollment Period – From October 15 – December 7 each year, you can join, switch, or drop a plan.
  • Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period – From January 1 – March 31 each year, if you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can switch to a different Medicare Advantage Plan or switch to Original Medicare (and join a separate Medicare drug plan) once during this time.

Let’s be honest, no one gets too excited about enrolling in Medicare, but the more you know, the easier it is.  Being prepared for life’s unexpected twist and turns and keeping up with your health care is more important than ever.  By understanding the ABC’s of Medicare, you are empowering yourself for your future!

Other Helpful Resources Include:

Understanding Medicare’s Options: Parts A, B, C and D

What is Medicare?

An Overview of Medicare

No Gym Required for These (Financial) Fitness Tips

No Gym Required for These (Financial) Fitness Tips

If you’re like me, your social-media feeds are jammed with headlines about getting “healthy and fit” in the new year. Of course, they’re referring to diet and exercise and common resolutions to drop pounds and work out more often.
But it’s just as important to be concerned about your financial fitness—where you can also drop some baggage and get some strength training without going near a gym. (In fact, if you have a subscription to a gym membership but aren’t going, that’s one financial fix you can make right now.)
Here are some tips to consider for any age:
IN YOUR 20s:
Workout: Have a portion of each paycheck deposited into your savings account, or take advantage of bank programs that “round up” or have other automated savings features. Trust me, you won’t feel this burn.
Diet: Start making coffee at home or at the office instead of going for expensive lattes. Fewer calories, and more money in your pocket. This is a good time to consider getting life insurance (whether you are single or attached) as it is less expensive the younger and healthier you are.
You also need to consider disability insurance, which pays you a portion of your salary if you are sick or injured and unable to work—because who would pay your bills if you couldn’t? Your work may offer this as an employee benefit, so check with your HR department to find out if you have it and what it covers (short-term, long-term disability, etc.)
IN YOUR 30s:
Workout: You probably have a retirement program at work or some other preliminary retirement planning in place. If you don’t, start.
If you do, why not increase the amount you divert into retirement by a percentage point each year—equaling your company match percentage, if they have it, is a good target.
Diet: You may not have gotten life insurance beyond what you have through your workplace, but now is the time to consider an individual policy that you own. Remember, when you leave a job, you typically lose that life insurance offered through your workplace. And, given that life insurance through the workplace usually equals one or two times you salary (or a set amount like $50,000), it’s no longer going to cut it if you have a growing family.
If money’s tight, as it often is with a growing family, lingering student loans, and perhaps a mortgage, a term life insurance policy can protect you through the lean years. But don’t overlook the long-term benefits of a permanent life insurance policy. The cash value can be tapped later for needs that may arise. Plus, there’s nothing that says you can’t have a combination of both.
Also, consider an individual disability insurance policy that you personally own and follows you throughout your career. If you’re relying on work coverage, know that it goes away when you leave that job, and often these policies have bare-bones coverage.
IN YOUR 40s:
Workout: Do you have a financial professional helping you out? Navigating the ins and outs of a growing investment portfolio can be tricky as you move through your career and want to use traditional or Roth IRAs, and the tax benefits of various planning strategies. This may also be the time that you can add a permanent life insurance policy, if you haven’t before, which allows you to accrue cash value and obtain benefits that extend later into your life.
Diet: If you’re still carrying extra debt at this point, it’s time to get that paid down. Tackle higher-interest debts first, and celebrate each paid-off card or loan with … a bigger payment to the next one on the list.
IN YOUR 50s:
Workout: Max out your retirement contributions, especially once your kids are through college. This is also a good time to start researching things like long-term care insurance, and to make sure that your investment portfolio is built in such a way that you can reach your goals.
Diet: It may be very tempting to take on a new debt now: some folks want a vacation home, or the time may be right to start a business. But beware of any super-risky moves that can spell catastrophe with limited time to recoup losses, or that leave you with unexpected bills.
IN YOUR 60s and beyond:
Workout: Evaluate your Social Security situation against your retirement portfolio to determine the best time to retire. Understand the “living benefits” of your life insurance policies and how annuities may help you create a retirement income stream that you can’t outlive.
Diet: Is it time to downsize? It can be hard letting go of “stuff” so that you can go from that four-bedroom house to a two-bedroom condo. But the financial benefit of doing so may surprise you—plus there is less to clean and take care of (not to mention the ease of jetting off at a moment’s notice with no need for someone to look after your home.)
A lot depends on factors like your relationship status, your career path, whether you have kids or not, and what your long-term goals are, and these can change at any time in our lives.
The long and short of it is that just as when it comes to “health and fitness” goals, you’d get an annual physical. Need to know if you’re financially fit? Talk to an insurance professional or financial advisor today.
By Helen Mosher
Originally posted on lifehappens.org

Who Can I Name as a Beneficiary on My Life Insurance Policy?

Who Can I Name as a Beneficiary on My Life Insurance Policy?

First off, great job on buying life insurance! You took an important step by protecting the ones you love.
Every life insurance policy requires you to name a beneficiary. A life insurance beneficiary is typically the person or people who get the payout on your life insurance policy after you die; it may also be a trust, charity or your estate.
You can also name more than one beneficiary, as well as the percentage of the payout you want to go to each one—for instance, you could designate 50% to a spouse and 50% to an adult child.
You’ll typically be asked to pick two kinds of beneficiaries: a primary and a secondary. The secondary beneficiary (also called a “contingent beneficiary”) receives the payout if the primary beneficiary is deceased.
Providing for Kids
A big reason why people buy life insurance is to provide for children left behind. Usually this is done by making the surviving spouse or partner who cares for and is raising the kids the beneficiary. But what if you’re widowed or—God forbid—-both you and your partner pass away at the same time?
First, know that it’s not a good idea to name a minor as a beneficiary. That’s because the law forbids life insurance payouts to anyone who has not reached the age of majority, which is 18 to 21 depending on your state. If a child were to be named, then it would be turned over to probate court. The court will name a guardian who has oversight of the money/estate until the child comes of age.
Fortunately, there are two options. The first is to name an adult custodian. The custodian should be someone you can trust to use the money for things like housing, health care, and education until the child reaches the age of majority. At that point, any remaining money gets turned over the child and they can spend it any way they want.
The second option is to work with an attorney to set up a trust. In this scenario, the trust is the beneficiary and a trustee is named to manage and distribute the funds. The main advantage of a trust over naming a custodian is having more control.
A trust lets you specify how you want the money distributed—and it lets you do so even when your kids are adults. (One quick word of caution: Definitely consult with an attorney if you’re setting up a trust for a special needs child. They can help you create one that doesn’t impact your child’s eligibility for government assistance like Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income.)
Naming a Charity
Do you have a cause that’s near and dear to your heart? If so, you might consider naming a charitable organization as the beneficiary of your life insurance.
There are several ways to do this. They include naming the charity as a beneficiary on a new or existing life insurance policy, making the charity both the owner and the beneficiary of a life insurance policy, adding a charitable-giving rider to a life insurance policy, or working with a community foundation to figure out the best way to distribute a payout.
Final Tips
Think carefully about naming your estate as a beneficiary. This can trigger a long and costly legal process known as probate. A faster and more efficient solution is to name specific individuals or organizations as beneficiaries.
1. Get specific. Instead of naming “my spouse” or “my children” as beneficiaries, list their names along with their addresses and Social Security numbers. This saves a lot of time since the insurance company doesn’t have to track down information.
2. Always name a contingent beneficiary. Passing away and leaving behind life insurance without a living beneficiary could mean the payout goes to someone you never wanted your policy to benefit. It could also require a court-appointed administrator to sort things out.
3. Pick trustworthy custodians and trustees. Really consider who’d you trust your child’s financial well-being with if you weren’t in the picture. Your kids may love their uncle or aunt, but is he or she mature and responsible with money? If not, pick someone else who is.
4. Regularly review your beneficiaries. It’s a good idea to review your beneficiaries about once a year and after major life events like a marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or a death in the family.
5. Communicate your wishes. Let your beneficiaries know your intentions and how to find the policy.
6. Be aware of special situations. There are some situations that could trigger a tax on the life insurance benefit—for instance, when the policyholder and the insured aren’t the same person. Likewise, things can get sticky if you live in a community property state and don’t name your spouse as a beneficiary. An insurance agent can give you life insurance advice on this and much more.
By Amanda Austin
Originally posted on lifehappens.org

DOL Fiduciary Rule Overturned

DOL Fiduciary Rule Overturned

In its March 15, 2018, decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit overturned the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Fiduciary Rule that expanded the definition of an investment advice fiduciary under the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Under the Fiduciary Rule, investment brokers were going to be required to put the interest of their clients before their own when advising about individual retirement accounts (IRA) and 401(k) plans. Read our blog post on the rule from April 11, 2016.
According to the Fifth Circuit’s decision, “[t]he Fiduciary Rule … bears hallmarks of ‘unreasonableness’ … and arbitrary and capricious exercises of administrative power.” In other words, the court found that the DOL exceeded its authority with the Fiduciary Rule. Additionally, through its ruling, the court agreed with the plaintiffs’ claims that “the Rule is inconsistent with the governing statutes, the DOL overreached to regulate services and providers beyond its authority, the DOL’s imposed legally unauthorized contract terms to enforce the new regulations, the Rule violates the First Amendment, and it is arbitrary and capricious in the treatment of variable and fixed indexed annuities.”
For the time being, the Fiduciary Rule has been overturned, but the issue may be pursued in the U.S. Supreme Court, which has the authority to overturn the Fifth Circuit’s decision.
Originally Published ThinkHR.com

Are you addressing your employee’s financial health?

Are you addressing your employee’s financial health?

The importance of health and wellness in the workplace is more apparent than ever. It’s obvious why healthy individuals make better employees and the positive impact this has on your bottom line. When thinking about building a program to improve the well-being of your employees, don’t forget about the importance of their financial health.
In recent years, studies show that employees have a wide range of financial concerns that affect their work. Some financial issues are widespread, impacting a large number of employees, while others may be more unique based on an employee’s specific circumstances.
Financial stress in the workplace influences productivity, absenteeism, physical health, emotional well-being, and the overall happiness of employees. Nearly 25 percent of employees confirm personal finance issues are a distraction at work and 39 percent say they spend three hours or more each week at work dealing with personal financial issues.1
Some of the biggest financial stressors impacting employees today include:

  • Student loan debt – 2 million Americans collectively owe $1.3 trillion in student loans – that’s more than credit card and auto loan debt, and second only to mortgage debt 2
  • Retirement savings – 56 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 in retirement savings 3
  • Emergency funds – 46 percent are unable to cover a $400 emergency 4
  • Other debt – 48 percent of Americans have more credit card debt than savings 5

Unfortunately, financial stress can go unnoticed because it is usually not as openly discussed or addressed. Discussing personal finance with co-workers and even family members is still considered difficult for many. This makes it even more important to have a program in place to educate and empower your employees to make positive financial decisions.
There are a wide variety of financial wellness programs and services available. When developing a program, be sure that you include both educational resources and tools that support behavioral change.

  • Educational resources – Education is the backbone to any financial wellness program. Remember, financial issues can impact anyone in your company and not everyone learns the same way. Offer a variety of resources including workshops, seminars, books, online courses and access to financial consultations. It’s important to assure employees that they are in a safe environment where they can learn and feel comfortable asking questions and seeking more information.
  • Empowering behavioral change – Financial wellness doesn’t stop with education. Worksheets, budgeting tools, financial consultants, loan repayment plans and retirement savings plans are all tools that aid employees in making long-term behavioral changes that improve their financial health. Celebrating the small successes early on will help employees commit to making more long-term changes. Be sure to have programs in place that offer the tools and resources needed for employees to set goals, change their behavior and celebrate their success.

Consult with your Employee Assistance Program about resources they may have to help you develop a financial wellness program and empower your employees to get on the path to financial health.
1 PricewaterhouseCoopers, “Employee Financial Wellness Survey,” 2014, page 11
2  Friedman, Zack, “Student Loan Debt in 2017: A $1.3 Trillion Crisis,” Forbes.com, February, 21, 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackfriedman/2017/02/21/student-loan-debt-statistics-2017/#6d7983a05dab
3 GOBankingRates, “How Much Americans Have Saved for Retirement Survey,” 2016
4 Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, “Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2015,” May 2016, p. 22.
5 Bankrate, “Bankrate Financial Security Index,” 2017

By Nancy Cannon
Originally Published By United Benefit Advisors

FINANCIAL WELLNESS BENEFITS – ADAPTING THEM IN THE NEW WORKFORCE

Over the past few years, we’ve seen tremendous growth in Financial Wellness Programs. Actually, as indicated in a recent report by Aon Hewitt, 77% of mid- to large-size companies will provide at least one financial wellness service in 2017; with 52% of employers providing services in more than 3 financial categories. So what are the advantages of these programs and how can the current workforce make the most out of them?
Program Advantages

  • They educate employees on financial management. It’s no doubt, poor income management and cash-flow decisions increase financial stress. This stress has a direct impact on an employee’s physical, mental and emotional state—all which can lead to productivity issues, increased absenteeism, and rising healthcare costs. Financial wellness tools in the workplace can not only support employees in various areas of their finances by expanding income capacity, but can create long-lasting changes in their financial habits as well.
  • They give a foothold to the employer. As more employers are recognizing the effect financial stress has on their employees in the workplace, they’re jumping on board with these programs. As people are extending the length of their careers, benefits like these are an attractive feature to the workforce and new job seekers alike. In fact, according to a recent survey by TIAA, respondents were more likely to consider employment with companies who provide free financial advice as part of their benefit package.

Program Credentials
While financial wellness benefits may differ among companies, one thing is certain—there are key factors employers should consider when establishing a successful program. They should:

  • Give sound, unbiased advice. Financial wellness benefits should be free to the employee—no strings attached. Employees should not be solicited by financial institutions or financial companies that only want to seek a profit for services. Employers should research companies when shopping these programs to determine the right fit for their culture.
  • Encompass all facets. A successful program should cover all aspects of financial planning, and target all demographics. These programs should run the gamut, providing resources for those with serious debt issues to those who seek advanced estate planning and asset protection. Services should include both short-term to long-term options that fit with the company’s size and culture. Popular programs implement a variety of tools. Employers should integrate these tools with other benefits to make it as seamless as possible for their employees to use.
  • Detail financial wellness as a process, not an event. Strengthening financial prosperity is a process. When determining the right fit for your company, continued coaching and support is a must. This may require evaluating the program and services offered every year. Employees need to know that while they have the initial benefit of making a one-time change, additional tools are at their disposal to shift their financial mindset; strengthening their financial habits and behaviors down the road.

Employees must understand the value Financial Wellness Programs can provide to them as well. If your company offers these benefits, keep a few things in mind:

  • Maximize the program’s services. Utilize your financial workplace benefits to tackle life’s financial challenges. Most programs offer financial mentoring through various mediums. Seek advice on your financial issues and allow a coach/mentor to provide you with practical strategies, alternatives and actionable steps to reduce your financial stress.
  • Take advantage of other employee benefits. Incorporate other benefits into your financial wellness program. Use financial resources to help you run projections and monitor your 401k. Budget your healthcare costs with these tools. Research indicates those who tap into these financial wellness programs often are more likely to stay on track than those who don’t.
  • Evaluate your progress. Strengthening your financial well-being is a process. If your employer’s financial wellness program provides various tools to monitor your finances, use them. Weigh your progress yearly and take advantage of any support groups, webinars, or individual one-on-one counseling sessions offered by these programs.

As the workforce continues to evolve, managing these programs and resources effectively is an important aspect for both parties. Providing and utilizing a strong, effective Financial Wellness Benefits Program will set the foundation for a lifetime of financial well-being.