By Bernard Freeman
‘Un-Retiring’ and Your Benefits
There’s a renewed sense of purpose, but also financial considerations.
Previous generations looked at retirement as a destination, but more recently seniors have begun returning to some form of work. These so-called “encore careers” take advantage of special skills and a long-term knowledge base to keep us active and engaged. But the money you make is subject to IRS-imposed rules and limits on benefits.
A GROWING TREND
As many as 40% of workers over 65 have recently reported retiring and then rejoining the workforce. Some are simply bored with sitting idly by, while others might have experienced a financial need.
In all, the number of seniors currently working or seeking employment has doubled in the last 30 years. But the extra income associated with these jobs can impact your Social Security and Medicare benefits, as well as pension payouts and other associated retirement accounts.
“Un-retiring” shouldn’t involve jobs with wages that jeopardize your benefits. Many choose to begin drawing on their Social Security at age 62, rather than the full retirement age — and that has a direct impact on how much you can earn in an encore career. Early retirees can only take home around $19,500 before their benefits change. Social Security checks go down $1 for every $2 earned after that threshold is met. So a person who began drawing Social Security at 62, then got a part-time job making $25,000 a year will see their annual benefits reduced by $2,720. If you wait until full retirement, which is 66 for those born before 1960, allowable outside earnings rise to around $52,000. Benefits are only reduced $1 for each $3 earned.
MEDICARE AND PENSIONS
If you find lucrative work after age 65 but choose to keep Medicare, you might face surcharges by moving into a different income bracket. By law, high earners pay more for Part B and D coverage. Certain tax rules also apply to your pension or retirement accounts. Retirement accounts like 401(k)s and IRA require a minimum distribution of funds beginning at age 72, whether you “un-retire” or not. Those who don’t could incur a potential tax penalty of 50%. Roth IRAs are an exception. Some businesses suspend benefits if you return to work; check with the human-resources department at your former employer to find out more.
Avoiding Senior Scams
Here’s how to keep yourself safe in the internet age.
Senior scams are an increasing problem, whether it’s health care fraud, counterfeit prescriptions or extortion schemes. Here’s how to guard against, and what to do if it happens to you or someone you love.
HEALTH CARE FRAUD
Scam artists can easily target those over 65 for health care fraud, since all Americans and permanent residents of that age are eligible for Medicare. Information about the government-backed insurance program is also readily available, allowing them to pose as Medicare representatives while sounding completely knowledgeable. The National Council on Aging warns seniors to be wary of anyone seeking personal information on the phone or over the internet. Ask anyone who asks for confidential information for their credentials, then contact a local agency to confirm their identity.
Beware of those who try to upsell you on expensive caskets or package deals. The FTC confirms that there’s no law requiring one. Neither are you forced to embalm your loved one, unless the body isn’t buried or cremated within a certain timeframe. Scammers have also begun to take advantage of the grieving. They often extort money from relatives by claiming to hold fake debts, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Some have been known to attend funeral services of strangers based on published obituaries in order to find unknowing victims.
As seniors seek out better prices on their medications, online drug scams have become an increasing issue. The Food and Drug Administration now investigates dozens of cases per year, when there were only a handful annually a few decades ago. Seniors risk losing their precious savings to these scammers, and may also be at risk of serious health issues if they receive fraudulent or incorrect medications. Use trusted websites with long histories of sales when purchasing any medications. If you’re unsure, consult your personal physician. They can help direct you to the safest online options.
WHAT TO DO
Have you or someone you know been the victim of a senior scam? Immediately report it via the toll-free number for the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Elder Fraud Hotline at (833) 372-8311. The AARP also hosts a Fraud Watch Network Helpline at (877) 908-3360. You can also keep up with all of the latest news through the AARP Fraud Watch Network’s scam-tracking map, which includes nationwide reports.
Keeping Safe as a Senior
There is help if you’ve become part of a growing statistic.
As many as five million older Americans are abused annually, according to the National Council on Aging. That’s one in 10 Americans over the age of 60. The good news is, a broad spectrum of advisors, caregivers and law-enforcement personnel stand ready to come to your aid.
DEFINING ELDER ABUSE
Elder abuse may be perpetrated by children, spouses or other family members, along with staff members at assisted living facilities, nursing homes or hospitals. It may include emotional or physical abuse, exploitation and neglect, sexual abuse or abandonment. The first steps in keeping safe as a senior involve self-care: Stay active and connected, since social isolation can put you at risk. Familiarize yourself with the rights you hold, and the resources at your disposal. There’s help available, both locally and nationally, if you’ve been verbally assaulted, willfully deprived of needed assistance or financially exploited.
Federal law enforcement agencies are designed to investigate, detect, and apprehend alleged offenders, including those who have committed elder abuse. Find out more here: https://ovc.ojp.gov/pro-gram/elder-fraud-abuse/over-view. The U.S. Department of Justice hosts a searchable index for helpful agencies in your area, along with special hotline numbers depending on the situation: https://www. justice.gov/elderjustice/find-support-elder-abuse. The National Adult Protective Services Association provides a state-by-state map of care providers: https://www.nap-sa-now.org/aps-program-list/. Unsure of your rights? Head to the National Center on Law and Elder Rights to find out more: https://ncler.acl.gov/. The Elder Justice Coalition is also a valuable resource for those in need of help: http://www.elderjusticecoalition. com/.
FINDING LOCAL HELP
Area agencies on aging are designed to address a range of needs for those age 60 and older, providing services to help seniors remain at home into their golden years. Local domestic violence organizations focus on securing your safety, holding abusers accountable and promoting public awareness. Legal aid services provide courtroom assistance to those in need by offering advice and representing seniors in individual cases. You may also be able to rely on local arms of national agencies meant to combat Medicaid fraud, sexual abuse and other issues specific to aging. Long-term care ombudsmen work as your advocate in finding a facility and getting the best care, but also in filing local complaints.