Author: Dan Hoelscher

Dan Hoelscher founded Seniormark in 2007 in an effort to help individuals make a successful transition into retirement. Dan is a Certified Financial Planner™ Practitioner and holds Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)© and Certified Kingdom Advisor™ certifications. Since founding Seniormark, Dan has helped thousands of retirees throughout Ohio.

Inflation Rewind: 7 Items That Cost an Arm and a Leg Less in 1972

Inflation Rewind: 7 Items That Cost an Arm and a Leg Less in 1972

Breaking news. People everywhere are hobbling out of grocery stores, theatres, post offices, and colleges with fewer limbs than ever before.  We’ve got hoppers.  We’ve got crawlers.  We’ve got consumers who have no choice but to roll.

 

To cope with this tragedy, we shall look fondly upon a time when prices were a third, a half, or even 25 times less than they are today.  Pine.  Lament.  Gasp.  Laugh.   Your reaction is your choice, as long as you have a little fun reminiscing in the process.  Here are 7 items and their prices in 1970.

 

  1. Sugar—$0.65 for a five pound bag

Many Americans have a relentless sweet tooth, but now that sweet tooth is going to cost them more than ever.  Not only has the bag size been reduced to 4 pounds, but that smaller bag costs over $2 more as well.

 

  1. Ground Coffee – $.99 per pound

Starbucks has changed the coffee prices forever.   I’d be happy to get a cup for $.99 let alone a pound.

 

  1. Ground Beef—$0.64 per pound

Nothing like enjoying a still-sizzling burger hot of the grill …for almost 4 times the price, that is!

 

  1. Movie Ticket—$1.75

Let’s not even consider the financial impact of the inhumanely large tub of popcorn and 5-gallon bucket of soda.  Even if you manage to escape the gravitational pull of those buttery, sugary aromas, the ticket is still hard on the wallet.

 

  1. Postage Stamp—$0.12

No wonder why people send so few letters today.  At almost 50 cents a pop with a lot more hassle, it’s hard to resist the convenience of clicking and typing your birthday wishes and personal notes.

 

  1. Gasoline—$0.55 per gallon

Who hasn’t complained about the price of gas a few times in their life?  I certainly understand the frustration.  For those who grew up in a time when gas cost little more than a pack of gum costs now, it can seem like a major rip off to pay well over $2 for one measly gallon.  Thank God for fuel efficiency.

 

  1. Tuition to Harvard—$2,800 per year

This one hits home with me.  Going to a private Christian school, I’m starting to feel the student debt itch that refuses to be scratched by even the most lucrative of summer jobs.  Can you imagine attending one of the most prestigious schools in America for $2,400 a year?  It just about makes me light headed.  Today?  Try $67,580—almost 25 times as much.  Geesh.

 

With the cost of college, I may run out of limbs to sell…I only need one of my kidneys, right?

 

Noticed any other items that would deserve a spot on this list?  Share them in the comments.  We love to hear from you.  It’s always a good time to think about how different life was 48 years ago!

 

Turning 65 soon and not sure what to do?  Need Medicare questions answered?  Call Seniormark at 937-492-8800 or click here to schedule a free consultation!

 

1972 price information courtesy of Seek Publishing, Inc – Birmingham AL

The #1 Reason Why You Should Enroll in Medicare Part A (Even If You’re Still Working)

The #1 Reason Why You Should Enroll in Medicare Part A

(Even If You’re Still Working)

Whether or not you should sign up for Part B while still actively employed is a little more questionable.  I mean, why pay that $134 a month premium if you’re employer plan is doing a fine job at a cheaper price?  (Call our office if you would like advice on whether or not to take Part B.)  But Part A is not like that.  There are basically no downsides to enrolling once you’ve turned 65.  Why, you ask?

 

Because It’s Free!

Of course, that is neglecting the fact that you’ve paid into social security for about 40 years and—therefore—have earned it.  But—wherever you stand on the proverbial “free lunch” debate— this does not change the fact that Medicare Part A has no associated premium.  If you are approaching 65 and have paid into Social Security for at least 10 years, there is no reason to delay.

 

There is only one reason why you would want to opt out of Part A…

 

Health Savings Accounts

If you have an HSA and wish to continue contributing to it, you may want to delay Part A.  Of course, you can still have an HSA.  And you can still use it to pay medical expenses.  But you cannot put any money into it after you enroll in Medicare.  There are some people who do, of course—whether unknowingly or purposefully—but this is not a wise choice.  If the IRS audits you, you will be subject to a stiff penalty.  According to IRS publication 969, the penalty is 6% of your contribution and its interest until you remove the funds from your HSA.

 

But other than that, you should definitely enroll in Part A if you are approaching 65.  All those years of the government dipping into your earnings have paid off—if only in a small way.  There may not be such a thing as a “free lunch”, but there is such a thing as taking advantage of what you’ve so rightfully earned.

 

We know.  Medicare is confusing.  But we can help make sense of it all by mapping out a plan that fits your needs and your budget.  Just contact Seniormark at 937-492-8800 or click here to schedule a free consultation!

A Little Known Reason Why Medicare Will Deny Coverage For Your Nursing Home Stay

A Little Known Reason Why Medicare Will Deny Coverage For Your Nursing Home Stay

There are few things more wrinkle-inducing than the stress of any unexpected bill, let alone a $6000-8000 nursing home expense left uninsured by Medicare.

 

But it happens everyday. If you receive only custodial care at the nursing home, Medicare will not cover you.  (Read this blog for a few answers.)   And even if you are receiving skilled nursing care, there is still a chance you won’t be insured.

 

Here’s the reason: Many people don’t receive 3 days of inpatient care before moving onto the nursing home. This is a requirement for coverage!

 

Check Your Status!

What really throws people for a loop is that not all hospital stays qualify as the required inpatient care. So even if you stay a week in the hospital’s luxurious half-room with a moaning mystery patient on the other side of the curtain, that doesn’t mean you satisfied the requirement (even though you definitely earned it, in my opinion).

 

Why, you ask?

 

It has to do with your official status. Some people are formally checked-in, but others are filed under “observation status”. In other words, they are not receiving any specific treatment but are rather checked in for the purpose of evaluation, testing, and monitoring. In almost all respects, they receive similar care to those who are formally checked in, but these patients are billed and covered like they are receiving outpatient services. They don’t fulfill the 3-day inpatient requirement and—when they move on to a skilled nursing facility like a nursing home—they are denied coverage when they need it most.

 

Sounds a bit unfair, right? I agree wholeheartedly. Luckily, the government is aware of the issue and is taking steps to resolve it.

 

Baby Steps

One of these small steps occurred in August of 2015 when Obama signed the Notice of Observation Treatment and Implication for Care Eligibility Act. I know—legislators have a knack for snappy titles. But in all seriousness: What the article lacks in creativity, it makes up for in functionality. This Act requires hospitals to alert you of your observation status and how it will affect your Medicare coverage in both writing and in person.

 

Potential Strides

The Notice Act doesn’t solve the whole issue, of course. It would be better to just allow all hospital stays to count toward the 3-day inpatient requirement. The good news is—yet again—politicians are working toward this.

 

But until then, be aware and ask about your status.  It pays to be educated. And it can save you an arm and a leg to know what others don’t and what hospitals neglect to tell you.

 

Turning 65 soon and confused about Medicare?  Call Seniormark at 937-492-8800 or click here to sign up for a free consultation!

Think Poor Health Will Stop You From Getting Medicare Supplement Insurance? Think Again.

Think Poor Health Will Stop You From Getting Medicare Supplement Insurance? Think Again.

Insurance companies can’t refuse you coverage for having cancer or being on an expensive chemo-treatment. They can’t deny you a policy for having diabetes or (Burger King-induced) sky-scraping cholesterol or any other pre-existing condition for that matter. These companies are federally mandated to grant you coverage as long as you enroll within the Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period. This is good news for you!

 

The Open Enrollment Period

The Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period is a 6-month window beginning the day you both turn 65 and are enrolled in Part B of Medicare. During this time frame, you have all the privileges of someone who doesn’t have poor health, including:

  • Access to all 11 Supplement plans (A, B, C, D, F, HDF, G, K, L, M, and N)
  • No premium hikes due to health conditions
  • No medical underwriting

 

You’ve Got Another Shot.

And then there’s guaranteed issue. Although this is based on very specific circumstances (such as coming off of employer insurance or your current plan discontinuing service), it still offers many people with pre-existing conditions another shot at getting on a plan. It is important to note, though, that some plans may not be available under guaranteed issue. It isn’t an all-access pass like the Open Enrollment Period, but it does give you the assurance to know you will not be denied.

 

 

It’s Not the End of the World!

But don’t sweat if you are no longer within the Open Enrollment Period. This definitely does not mean you won’t be able to get Medicare Supplement Insurance. It just means you will have to answer questions about your health, where they might look at your whopper addiction with a more critical eye.  You may have to pay more, but (depending on your specific conditions) they won’t automatically deny you coverage.

 

Of course, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t still circumstances where you will be unable to receive coverage. But—because of open enrollment and guaranteed issue—this doesn’t happen nearly as much. The government is making strides to ensure that health coverage is available to those who need it most: those who are unhealthy.

 

Need help picking out one of the 11 Medicare Supplement Plans? Want somewhere to start? Call Seniormark at 937-492-8800 or click here to set up a free consultation.

Why Dental Plans Aren’t Worth Their Weight in Premium For Retirees

Why Dental Plans Aren’t Worth Their Weight in Premium For Retirees

If you’re coming off your employer plan and onto Medicare, you might have been surprised to find out that neither Medicare nor Medicare Supplements cover most routine dental services. So I understand why you might find it quite attractive to get on a dental plan in addition to Medicare.   After all, who else will insure your million-dollar smile?

 

But allow me to reason with you. Because I believe that—in most cases—a dental plan just isn’t worth it.  Don’t believe me?  Using the pictured plan as an example, give me a few minutes to explain.

 

Scaling Benefits, Depleting Value

Way back when, Dental Plans had much better benefits. Their maximum benefits started on day one and continued until you dropped the plan.  But people abused it.  They got on a plan when they found out they needed a major surgery, let the insurance company foot the bill, and then cancelled the plan, getting away with no more than $30-40 in out-of-pocket costs.

 

The insurance companies needed to get smart if they were going to make any money.  So what did they do?  They fought fire with fire, and introduced scaling benefits.  Now most plans do not grant you full benefits until much later, after you paid your dues in premiums.  In the example below, the full benefits aren’t granted until 2 years.  In other words, not until you spend $800 in premiums!  The only thing the plan pays in full on day one is preventative services such as cleanings and exams.

 

Maximum Benefits

Here’s where a dental plan can really get you: the maximum benefits per calendar year is $1000.  This means you will never squeeze anymore than one grand out of them per year, no matter how long you’ve paid into the plan.

 

So what do you pay in premiums per year for this plan?  Let’s crunch the numbers.  $33.71/ month X 12 months per year = $404.52.  So, for all intents and purposes,  you pay about $400.  Consider this:  if you put the money you would’ve paid in premiums into a savings account, you would cover the maximum benefits in 2.5 years.  So—as long as you don’t expect to spend well over $1000 in 2.5 years—why would you bother with a dental plan?  For most people, it is just not reasonable.

 

You might’ve notice that you can upgrade your maximum benefits to $2000 dollars for an extra $7.61 in monthly premium.  But did you notice the fine print?  Without squinting, you probably didn’t.  So let me help you out with the gist: despite the upgrade, major services will still not exceed $1000.  In other words, for the services that actually have a chance of exceeding $1000 like dentures and oral surgery, the benefit limit is the same.

 

What to Do Instead

If you are still concerned about paying for routine checks, I would recommend telling the dentist you don’t have insurance and asking about “network pricing.”  A lot of times they are willing to cut the price (as much as 50% for exams and cleanings).

 

And if you are still concerned about major services that are going to cost up to $1000 or more, I recommend saving up what you would’ve paid in premium to put into a savings account.  In 2.5 years, you will have a thousand dollars of self-insurance for that million- dollar smile.

 

Need help with your retirement transition? Seniormark is here to help! Call us at 937-492-8800 for a free consultation.

Seniormark welcomes new member to their team!

Seniormark welcomes new member to their team!

 

Please help us welcome Renee Homan to our Seniormark team.  Renee comes to Seniormark with 8 years of healthcare and Medicare experience in the long-term care industry, 5 years of experience in banking and has also served as an OSHIIP volunteer through the Ohio Department of Insurance from 2012-2018.  With her passion to assist and educate the senior population, she will be an asset to the Seniormark team.  Renee has seen the aftermath of poor decisions and misinformation in her past positions so she is excited to inform retirees of their options and help them to make the right choices on the front end.  She resides in New Bremen with her husband, Shane, two children, Alex and Chloe and their dog, Lucy.  Outside of work, Renee enjoys spending time with family & friends, watching sports (especially watching her kids play sports) and traveling.  We are excited to have her on-board and just in time for annual enrollment!

Q&A: What You Need to Know about the New Medicare Cards and Numbers

Q&A: What You Need to Know about the New Medicare Cards and Numbers

I’m sure you’ve heard about it on the news or from a friend. If you haven’t, I would like to inform you now: As a part of the Social Security Number Removal Initiative, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will be issuing new Medicare cards with a new number gracing the front. Unlike the old HICN number that is on all the old cards, this new number is not based on your Social Security number. Rather, it is a randomly generated 11-character identifier.

 

I anticipated a little bit of  “buzz” surrounding this topic, so I thought I would provide quick, simple answers to some of the questions you might be asking out of curiosity or general concern. Let’s get started.

 

How Much Will It Cost?

It won’t cost you anything. However, the government has set aside $320 million over five years to fund the initiative. It’s amazing how something as simple as changing numbers and letters on a card can end up costing so much!

 

Why Are They Doing It?

Think $320 million is a lot of money? How about $60 billion? As it turns out, that is one estimate of the amount of money Medicare loses every year due to fraud, according to AARP. The government hopes taking everyone’s Social Security numbers off the cards will help prevent identity theft and put a dent in that multi-billion dollar problem.

 

How Is My Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) Generated?

Unlike the old Health Insurance Claim Number (the number on your current card), which is based on your Social Security Number, your new Medicare number (the MBI) is a completely randomly generated 11-character identifier. It does not have any special meaning whatsoever.

 

For more information on the MBI, how it will look on the card, and each of the characters, see this helpful explanation.

 

When Will I Receive Mine?

They began the transition in April of 2018. Their goal is to have a new Medicare card in the hands of every active Medicare beneficiary by April of 2019.  You can also sign up at medicare.gov to receive an email when your state mails their new cards.

 

What Does This Mean for My Healthcare Provider?

Your doctors and care facilities will likely need to update their software and information systems to recognize the new number. Issues and challenges may arise as the transition takes place, but all the kinks should be worked out before you get your new card in the mail.

 

Do I Need to Do Anything?

Be sure to destroy your old card (it has your social security number on it), start using your new card as soon as you get it, keep the new number safe, and also check out our blog post about potential scams that may arise throughout this transition.

 

Do You Have Other Medicare Questions?

At Seniormark, we’re always here to help. If you have any questions about when and how to sign up for supplements, Medicare Advantage or drug plans, give us a call at 937-492-8800 or click here to sign up for a free consultation!

Watch Out for Medicare Scammers as New Medicare Cards are Issued

Watch Out for Medicare Scammers as New Medicare Cards are Issued

If you have read any of my other blog posts detailing the evils of Medicare fraud, then you know what a pervasive and serious problem it is. Not only does it cost Medicare recipients and taxpayers such as yourself millions in false claims, it can also cost lives in some rare cases due to malpractice and misdiagnosis.

 

This is why the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) launched an initiative to help tackle this complex problem. It is called the Social Security Number Removal Initiative (SSNRI), which accomplishes almost exactly what it sounds like it does. The measure ensures that Medicare will issue new Medicare cards to over 57 million enrollees with (you guessed it) the Social Security numbers removed. Instead the card will proudly display a new identification number called the Member Beneficiary Identifier (MBI). Medicare hopes that, with such an important number replaced on the card, it will make it more difficult for the bad guys to steal your precious identity.

 

However, the reason why I am alerting you of such a change is because the Better Business Bureau predicts that, scammers will prey on the uncertainty of this transition in the form of phone scams, and I do not want you to be a victim. Over the period of April 1, 2018 to December 31, 2019, be on special guard against these kinds of attacks. Knowing how this initiative will take place will help keep you safe. Therefore, keep the following things in mind about the SSNRI:

  1. You will not need to pay for your new card. If someone claims you have to, it’s a scam.
  2. You will not need to share your Social Security Number over the phone either. Reminder: Medicare will not call you or ask for personal information over the phone.
  3. You will not lose your Medicare Coverage in this transition. If anyone threatens this if you do not give them your information, it is a scam as well.
  4. This process is entirely automatic! Your new card will just show up in the mail sometime between April 1, 2018 and December 31, 2019.

 

It’s certainly frustrating that scammers can take an initiative designed to stop them and use the process as an opportunity to trick even more people. However, once you have your new Medicare card in hand, it will make it even more difficult on them. And, as long as you remember those four points, you will keep yourself safe in the transition as well.

 

Did you know that if you have been in the same Medicare Supplement for 4-5 years, you are likely overpaying for your coverage?  Click here to find out how much you could be paying:  https://seniormark.com/resources/#medicare-rate.

 

Want more information?  Contact our office at 937-492-8800 or via e-mail at admin@seniormark.com.  We are here to help!

4 People You Need to See Before Retiring

4 People You Need to See Before Retiring

Retirement is an exciting transition, of course, but it is also a nerve-racking one. Information is flooding your inbox and mail, and weighty decisions are heaping on your fatigued shoulders.

 

But think back to previous life transitions: from elementary to high school and from high school (or college) to the workplace. These transitions were stressful as well.  But what made them manageable were the people.

 

The transition to retirement is no different. You need people to assist and advise you throughout this complex process. The following people may not be as involved as a personal mentor or teacher, but they can and will serve as guideposts throughout your journey.

 

A Social Security Office Representative

So…not exactly your BFF. I realize that. But this person has one vital piece of information to give you: your social security statement. This document details how much monthly benefit you qualify for from the federal government. It contains information you need to consider when planning for retirement. If you already have this filed away, then great! You can move on to guidepost #2.

 

Employer and/or Human Resource Department Employee

Depending on the size of your employer, you may not be very chummy with these people either, but hear me out because some employers provide retiree benefits such as health care or a pension. You need to find out more about these benefits (if they exist) in order to effectively plan for retirement. One important question to ask is how the benefits will interact with Medicare. For example, in the case of health insurance, who pays first—the employer or Medicare?

 

Your Doctor

I hope we’re getting a little bit closer to the heart! No? Well here’s the value: you may already have an idea of your overall health and prescription drugs, but if you don’t, your doctor will explain it thoroughly. This information comes in handy throughout the Medicare planning process, especially when shopping for a Part D prescription drug plan.

 

A Retirement Advisor

If this guy or gal is not your friend beforehand, there is a good chance he will be after all of this is over. A retirement advisor is a person who puts all of the pieces together.  He takes the information you gathered from the other 3 people and uses it to develop a retirement plan tailored to your unique needs. This covers planning for expenses (medical and otherwise), social security benefits, and Medicare planning.

 

As a bonus, the last people I would tell you to visit are your friends and family. Although I wouldn’t necessarily trust them with shopping your drug plan or determining your social security benefits, they are wonderful moral support as you approach this overwhelming milestone. So visit your kids, your grandkids, your siblings, and your lifelong friends. Nothing relieves stress more than knowing you don’t have to handle it all alone.

 

Looking for a retirement advisor ready to help you transition from work to play? Call Seniormark at 937-492-8800 for personal help at no cost to you!

 

I’m Retiring Soon—What Do I Do with My 401(k)?

I’m Retiring Soon—What Do I Do with My 401(k)?

As you may have realized, when you reach retirement age, you can pack up all your pictures and favorite fountain pens and desk knick-knacks, but you can’t just toss your 401(k) in a cardboard box, kick open the door, and journey off to new, work-free horizons.

 

You have to decide what to do with the hard-earned money you’ve saved at your employer, a decision that should be thought out carefully, so you can avoid mistakes that may hack away at your retirement livelihood.

 

To get you thinking in the right direction, I’d like to outline all of your options for what to do with your 401(k). Some are much better than others for most people, so I think it will be beneficial to run you through the four common choices retirees make and the potential strengths and weaknesses of each.

 

  1. Do Nothing

That’s right, you could take the path of least resistance and just leave it with your employer. And, surprisingly, there are viable reasons for doing so. For a small one, a 401(k) usually has good protection from creditors. But here’s the big one: keeping your money in a 401(k) will allow you to withdraw without penalty at age 55. Other options are not so friendly to early takers, socking you with penalties if you withdraw before 59 and a half. So, if you are retiring before 59 and a half, this is an important point to consider.

 

However, aside from that, there aren’t too many reasons you’d want to keep your 401(k) with your employer. It limits your investment options. Oftentimes, you can’t get good, individualized management help. And, if you’ve had a string of employers and left a pot of money with each, you’ve probably got a trail of 401(k) accounts following behind you, making your money difficult to manage. Scattered money leads to a scattered brain.

 

In other words, sticking with your employer is not your worst option, but it may be not your best.

 

  1. Take a Lump Sum Distribution—Cash It Out!

To fling us all the way over to the dark side, this is the worst option. In fact, this choice can cause you to loose a third of your 401(k) value in one foul swoop. How? I’ll give you a hint. It has something to do one of life’s two certainties.

 

No, not death…but taxes.

 

When you cash it all out at once, that money becomes part of your income for the year. This will often make you soar into higher tax brackets, and—next thing you know—Uncle Sam can snag tens of thousands of dollars from your hard earned money.

 

 

To take an example, let’s say your yearly income (as a couple filing jointly) is in the 15% bracket ($18,651 to 75,900 in 2017). If you take out a 401(k) with, let’s say, $200,000 in it, this will catapult you up 3 tax brackets to 33%! That’s $66,000 gone, in just one transaction.

 

To put it bluntly, this 401(k) strategy should only be used in emergencies. Even if you want to buy a big-ticket item like a car or a boat or a house, only cash out what you need and, if possible, cash it out in chunks to rein in the tax hikes.

 

  1. Transfer It to a Roth IRA

A Roth IRA is a phenomenal option for 20-somethings wanting to save money for their retirement. However, for the soon-to-be retiree, it usually isn’t. Why? Well, you run into the same tax problem that you do with the second option. Remember the 33% hit?

 

You see, unlike with a traditional IRA, with a Roth IRA, you pay taxes on your money up front. Then, you can withdraw the money tax-free later on. Therefore, the only time it makes sense to convert to a Roth IRA is if you know you will be in a higher tax bracket in the future, when you take it out. For retirees, this is rarely the case.

 

Perhaps a Roth IRA would be a good option if you knew you didn’t need the money, planned to let it grow tax-free until you die and pass it on to your kids. But I’m speaking in extreme rarities now. Most retirees are counting on their 401(k) to live.

 

  1. Transfer It to a Traditional IRA.

The last option is the most popular, and for good reason, too. As far as taxes go, you can transfer it electronically, avoiding all taxes up front. Then you can pay the taxes as you withdraw it, in a reasonable bracket for your income.

 

And, it also wins on many other fronts, fronts that the decision to leave it at your employer doesn’t.

 

For one, you are free to choose from the world of investment options. Like a talent scout seeks out the best players for his team, you can seek out the best performing investments to develop a killer portfolio that is both diversified and matched to your unique risk tolerance.

 

For another, you can consolidate any and all retirement accounts in one, so it is easier to manage.

 

And finally, you can get personalized help. The kind of help that isn’t from a representative to a crowd of employees or from a recording on your phone telling you to “press one to hear more options.” When you rollover your 401(k) to a traditional IRA, you have the option to sit down face-to-face with a professional, certified financial planner and develop that aforementioned killer portfolio together.

Now, it’s important to note that there is a fee involved with working with a financial planner, which is usually 1-2% of the assets he or she manages. Whether or not the fees are higher than the fees you currently pay at your employer is a toss up, so that is something to consider.

 

 

The point is, the decision of what to do with your 401(k) is an important and complicated one. Making the wrong choice can lead to major losses or lost opportunities. That is why we offer a 401(k) planning workshop to help you sort through it all and come to decision you can be confident about. Click here to discover more about our 401(k) workshop as well as our other workshop offerings.