Plan For Tax Season and Avoid The Mess

Tax season is upon us and I can already see the stress that is overcoming many of my clients.  With only a month left to get your taxes taken care of, I continue to hear all sorts of questions.  Will I receive the amount on my tax returns that I am anticipating?  What should I do with my refund?  What are stealth taxes?  These are important questions that come about every year during this season.  Just like retirement planning, it’s important to have a plan for your taxes and to make sure you’re asking the right questions.

Adam Spiegel, a Miami-based certified public accountant and partner with Morrison, Brown, Argiz & Farra summed tax planning up with a very simple acronym, PLAN.

P stands for ‘prepare your records ahead of time.’

L stands for ‘list your issues and questions.’

A stands for ‘analyze your financial statements for accuracy.’

N stands for ‘note the changes in laws during the year and discuss them with your tax advisor.’
As a Retirement Income Specialist, planning and preparation are at the root of all of my clients’ strategies.  In this field of work, the better prepared you are, the more educated your decisions can be about future finances and investments.  Before you begin completing your taxes, complete a consultation with me, Warren Elkin, and get your finances in line so you’re ready for your CPA.  Don’t be a victim to the mistakes that many people make during tax season; learn what questions to ask your CPA to cut your taxes now and avoid tax problems in your future.

Call today! Speak with me now at 877-476-5051 or email me directly at warren@warrenelkin.com.  For more information go to www.warrenelkin.com and learn more about our unique process to make sure your financial decisions are made in your best interest.

Have a great day,
Warren Elkin

Sources:
http://www.inc.com/guides/2010/06/tax-season-planning.html

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Low savings? No problem, retirement is still possible!

Will I ever have enough to retire? Will I outlive my savings? How can I catch up if I haven’t been saving? As a Financial Advisor, these are questions I often hear when meeting with new clients, and it is my job to help my clients plan and prepare for their future retirement.

In general, my clients usually fall into two major categories, early-bird planners or fashionably late planners.  One situation is not necessarily better than the other, there is just a different strategy depending on your financial situation.  When my clients come to me early in their career, it gives us more time to layout a long-term strategy of investing and saving for when retirement does come. But just because you don’t have a large savings built up does not mean you can’t enjoy retirement; it simply means you must plan differently.

Planning for retirement may seem like a daunting task that is far off in the distance, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. If you seem to be hitting roadblocks, give me a call and let’s make sure you have all the facts necessary to make the right decision with your financial future. Speak with us now at 877-476-5051 or email Warren at warren@warrenelkin.com.

Some professional guidance will help make sure you have all the facts necessary to make correct decisions when designing your specific retirement plan. For more information about our company visit www.warrenelkin.com and learn all about our unique processes that help make sure your financial decisions are made in your best interest.

Have a great day,
Warren Elkin

 

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Getting Ready is the Secret to Success

Henry Ford once said, “Before everything else, getting ready is the secret to success.”  This is something that is most definitely relevant in the finance world today.  As a Retirement Income Specialist, I preach preparation.  The more you focus on situating your finances now, the better prepared for retirement you will be.  Retirement is designed to be a time in your life to relax, not a time to stress over your finances.

According to a 2012 report from the Center for Retirement Research, “at Social Security’s earliest retirement age of 62, only about 30 percent of households are prepared for retirement…By age 66, Social Security’s current Full Retirement Age, about 55 percent of house-holds are projected to be prepared for retirement (this figure includes the 30 percent already prepared by age 62).” Too often I run into clients who fall into this category, they are emotionally ready for retirement, however their finances are not in the same place. This is a significant part of planning for retirement as there are a variety of pitfalls to avoid and questions to ask before just waiting until you are the correct age and signing up. Planning early is key and that’s where I can help! Call me today at 877-476-5051.

Don’t be a statistic. It’s time you protect your money, receive a guaranteed income stream and retire with confidence.  The goal should be not to simply retire from something or some job, but to retire into a lifestyle that is pleasing to you!

If you have questions about your retirement call us today and make sure you have all the facts necessary to make the right decision with your financial future! Speak with us now at 877-476-5051, email Warren at warren@warrenelkin.com, or go to www.warrenelkin.com to learn more about Warren Elkin and his unique process to make sure your financial decisions are made in your best interest.

 

Have a great day,

Warren Elkin

 

Source:

Center for Retirement Research, Boston College. National Retirement Risk Index: How much longer do we need to work?  Retrieved from http://crr.bc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/IB_12-12-508.pdf

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Do you have all the pieces to retire?

The conversation about retirement brings a lot of different topics for discussion; it also brings about the controversy over many myths surrounding retirement planning.  It is not uncommon for me as a Retirement Income Specialist to see these financial “myths” scare retirees away or put off planning for their future.

I am here to tell you that while these myths make planning for retirement seem daunting, it is not as complex as it seems!  Having a well thought out financial plan will indeed make things less stressful and less confusing when retirement draws near.  There are a lot of pieces that go into planning for retirement and understanding each piece will help you put together the whole puzzle.  Annuities are often the most misunderstood and therefore overlooked piece, but they can play a vital role in your planning.  FoxBusiness.com illustrates this role perfectly when it makes the comparison that “annuities work exactly like a company pension or your Social Security benefits.” Take a look at annuities if you feel you’re missing that last piece of the retirement puzzle.

I have over three decades of experience working in the financial industry and would be delighted to guide you and clear up any misunderstandings about your retirement that you may have. If you are nearing or planning for retirement, don’t let the financial “myths” lead you astray.

If you have questions about your retirement call us today and make sure you have all the facts necessary to make the right decision with your financial future! Speak with us now at 877-476-5051, email Warren at warren@warrenelkin.com, or go to www.warrenelkin.com to learn more about Warren Elkin and his unique process to make sure your financial decisions are made in your best interest.

 

Have a great day,

Warren Elkin

 

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5 Life Insurance Myths to Free Yourself of Now

Life insurance may not sound all that exciting, but when you do stop to think about life insurance and you, it’s not uncommon to assume that since the concept of life insurance is simple enough, so too are the products. It’s also fairly easy to rationalize the things you really don’t understand about life insurance, and before you know it, you’re harboring potentially damaging life insurance myths.

In addition to your own edification, and frankly, for the safety of your loved ones’ financial futures, it’s important to understand exactly what life insurance is, what it does, and how — not to mention if — you should make a move either to purchase or upgrade your coverage. Read the myths below to see if you need to adjust your thinking when it comes to life insurance.

The coverage you get at work is enough.

While this may, in fact, be the case if you’re single, in good financial standing, have no dependents and aren’t worried about estate taxes, for most people, the term policy offered through their employer just won’t be enough to sustain their families’ needs. After all, your insurance payout must not only support your family financially, it must also pay off any debts, such as the mortgage or even the MasterCard, as well as settle up with Uncle Sam.

Only the working spouse needs life insurance.

This is a curious — and wildly inaccurate — belief, yet it somehow persists. Life insurance on the breadwinner is intended to fill in the gap left by the loss of a paycheck, but that discounts all the valuable work a stay-at-home partner contributes to the relationship. If you’re used to this arrangement, how would you pay for child care or the cleaning, or even manage the household without a little financial help in the event of such a loss? It can be easy to overlook the many contributions of the non-breadwinner, but to do so would be remiss.

The value of your life insurance coverage should equal two years’ salary.

Everyone’s financial circumstances are different, and so are their life insurance needs. You might require more coverage than two years’ salary if you incur medical bills or other debts, have a young family, a mortgage to pay, or any number of life obligations to meet. If your lifestyle is more modest and you’re not financially responsible for anyone, on the other hand, then two years’ salary may even be excessive.

Single people without dependents don’t need to own life insurance.

While it’s true you might not have a family to provide for, odds are you’ll still have to cover the cost of your funeral, pay off a few debts, and maybe leave a little bit behind for your parents. And as one MSNBC article on the topic suggests, using a life insurance policy to fund a gift to a favorite charity can be a wonderful legacy for a single person to leave behind.

You don’t need professional services to buy life insurance.

While this is, in fact true, as any consumer can go online and shop for, and even buy, term and permanent life policies, electing to go it on your own can be detrimental to your financial future. A professional life insurance agent advisor can help you identify the needs you have, what you must protect and how best to protect it. With the knowledge of myriad different policies, if you’re honest about your financial and life circumstances, a professional can not only help you determine how much coverage you need, but also help decide whether a term or permanent policy is right for you. They can even customize a plan to meet your unique needs.

The most powerful benefit of life insurance is transferring wealth to your heirs, so if you have substantial tax deferred wealth like annuities and qualified plan dollars then life insurance can be a wonderful gift to transfer your wealth to your heirs in a tax efficient manner.

To learn how Warren can help you make sound financial decisions based on facts and not emotions, misconceptions, or opinions, please call 877-476-5051 or email Warren at warren@arrenelkin.com today.

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Shattering the “Glass Ceiling” of Retirement

We have all heard of the “glass ceiling,” and in recent decades, society as a whole has worked toward shattering it.  Though many will argue that the ceiling is still intact, there is no question that women continue to approach it, and many have been able to break through.  Despite the focus on that effort, women are finding themselves with a new problem on their hands once they find their financial success: how to prolong that success into their retirement.

Studies upon studies upon studies have proven that women lag behind men in their retirement planning.  It’s easy to point fingers at various causes of this.  Some say that it’s because the male dominance in the financial industry causes women to shy away.   Others say that women lose their financial momentum when they take time away from their careers to raise a family.  Still others blame the mother’s instinct to put their family before themselves as the cause, pushing their own financial future toward the back burner.  The truth probably lies somewhere in a combination of them all.

While the causes for the lack of financial planning in women are still in the air, the effects are pretty obvious.  Women are living longer than men, but are saving less.  A recent report from the ING Retirement Research Institute found that women who are 50 to 69 have about 20% less in retirement savings than men in that age group.  This increase in life expectancy and lack of savings has left 9% of all women over the age of 65 living in poverty.  It’s a growing problem that needs to be addressed early and often if women are to shift the trend.  There are a few things that women can do now, in their working years, to prepare for their upcoming retirement.

Take advantage of your benefits-  All women, whether they are married, single, or divorced, need to take advantage of the benefits available to them through their employers.  Despite the fact that more and more women are becoming either the sole or leading breadwinner in the family, many of them are not focusing on the financial benefits that come with their careers.  It’s important that women are getting the full benefit of employer retirement programs, such as 401(k) matches, and invest all that they can.  In many households where both the man and women are working, the women’s income is often used for more discretionary purposes while the income from the men is used for their investments.  In the long run, women need to make sure that they are making the most of their money and their future.

Increase Survivor Benefits-  With the life expectancy of women continuing to rise past that of men, it’s important that women make note of the survivor benefits they will receive if their spouse is to pass away.  The most obvious of these situations is in defined-benefit pensions and Social Security payments.  In defined-benefit pensions, it can be tempting to take the single life offer that brings higher payments, but to help protect the future of the surviving spouse, the joint survivor benefit allows for partial payments to continue after the death of the retiree.  Also, applying for Social Security early will leave the surviving spouse with much lower payments later, so it’s important to delay application for Social Security benefits for as long as possible to ensure the largest payments later.

Learn About Your Finances Now, Not Later-  61% of men say they are most responsible for retirement and financial planning decisions in the household, while only 34% of women claim that responsibility.  It’s important for women to understand these decisions and learn the lessons of their financial planning now, so they can make more informed decisions later.  Because of increases in divorce, women remaining single, and life expectancy, the majority of females will, at some point, find themselves on their own, which means they need to be able to make critical decisions about their financial future for themselves.  Whether this means seeking out a financial professional for advice, or making smart decisions on their own, it’s critical that women learn the ins and outs of their financial portfolio now, or they will suffer the consequences later.

Women are continuing to make strides in terms of their professional and financial independence, and it’s important that as they reach those goals, they understand what to do when they get there.  By planning for their future, taking advantage of the opportunities around them, and taking the time to educate themselves, women can continue to make strides in their retirement as well.

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The Key to Solving Your Retirement Problems

“There are no guarantees in this life”. That’s what we have always been told, and many people have adopted that mantra into their retirement planning.

In recent years, it seems as if there are no guarantees in retirement investments and retirees are learning that lesson first hand. With pensions seemingly becoming a thing of the past, 401(k) fees rearing its ugly head, and the future of Social Security up in the air, the retirement landscape is becoming more and more questionable every day. With so many uncertainties, there seems to be one “safe” option surfacing more frequently: an annuity.

Annuities are a fundamentally different type of investment from many of the more traditional options. With rising insecurity about the ability to fund a happy and healthy retirement, people are turning to the security of annuities because annuities often solve the most pressing problems and fears that retirees face.

Afraid of Outliving Your Money?

It’s no question that people are beginning to live longer and healthier lives. This news should have people celebrating all the extra experiences they will have and additional memories they will be able to make, but instead they are worrying about how they will afford those extra golden years. The structure of an annuity eliminates worry and allows retirees to focus on how to spend their time instead of how to save their money. Annuity products can provide income to retirees for as long as they live, even if their account balance is zero. This is true even if they enter a nursing care facility; where often times the monthly payments from the annuity will double to help cover the costs of care. This means there is never a threat of outliving a life savings and that allows seniors to enjoy every minute of their retirement.

Afraid of the Market Crashing Again?

Market instability is a fear on the minds of nearly everyone approaching retirement, especially considering the recent beating that many portfolios endured. This is why more retirees are adopting the “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me,” mentality by protecting themselves from another market crash. How are they doing this? Annuities. Annuities are state regulated, so retirees can have security and confidence knowing their money is safe from anything the market will throw at them.

Afraid of Low Interest Rates Stalling Your Investments?

Interest rates have taken a downward tailspin in the past few years, and many retirees are unhappy with the new lower percentages. Annuities defy these depressing digits, giving retirees 6, 8, and even 10% return on their investments. Some people see those numbers and think that it’s not possible, or that pages of fine print are hidden behind those percentages, but more and more people are finding that 10% interest isn’t too good to be true. They can earn 10% interest on their annuity, and have that rate guaranteed for years to come. Gone are the days of having to settle with one or two percent interest on your hard earned money. Annuities offer a way to make your hard earned money work for you.

The anxieties surrounding funding a retirement lifestyle are an unnecessary evil for retirees. Annuities can give you the money, and the peace of mind, that you want so you can enjoy your retirement. The thought that there are no guarantees in retirement is a thing of the past and annuities seem to be the key to the future.

For more information on annuities, click here to receive a free informational booklet in the mail or call 1-877-476-5051 to learn how you can earn 10% interest toward your retirement future today!

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5 Things To Know About Your Parents Financial Future

Parents spend their entire lives planning for their children’s future but, as goes the circle of life, there comes a point when that responsibility starts to shift.  Many children take on the role of caretaker for their parents.  They do all the things that their parents once did for them: drive them to the store, make them their meals, and so on.  Well remember when you were a kid and your parents gave you an allowance, or only let you spend a certain amount of money at the store.  They were, in a small way, helping protect your finances.  Well, one of the most important aspects of becoming involved in your parents’ lives is understanding and managing their finances.  Of course your parents might not take well to you handling their allowances or expenditures, but it’s important that you get involved early and often in your parents financial planning.

More and more children are finding themselves either completely or partially financially responsible for their parents in their retirement.  In some cases, that situation is unavoidable, but there is a way to make sure your parents have financial stability as they age and make that transition from supported to supporter easier on you and them.  The main thing is to discuss the issue early.  It’s easier to plan for your parent’s financial future if you’re not planning out your own retirement at the same time.  Talk about it early, and talk about it often.

Some parents try to avoid discussing their personal finances with their kids, so it could be helpful to start the discussion by asking your parents for advice on your finances.  That gives you a window into the decisions they have made, and allows you to give them bits of advice you think they would find useful, without hurting any egos.  Once that window is open, there are a five different pieces of information you need to discuss about your parent’s financial situation and plans.

1.       Important documents-  All parents have their super clever secret hiding spots where they keep all their important files and documents.  If you are lucky enough that your parents remember where these super clever secret hiding spots are, than you are a step ahead of most of us. It’s important that you ask them where many of their important documents are located.  These are things like their will and living-will, life insurance policies, information on their financial accounts, financial power of attorney and more.   Knowing where these are kept is critical because a) you know your parents actually have the documents and b) you know where they are in the case of an emergency.

2.       Long-term care insurance-  It can seem like an uncomfortable subject, but the earlier you talk to your parents about their long term care, the less expensive it will be for both them and you.  Like any insurance, long-term care insurance is cheaper if you buy it when you’re younger and healthier.  Even with parents as young as 50-years-old, planning for the financial strain that long-term care can present is a conversation worth having.

3.       Social Security Planning-  Social Security is blanket that covers a lot of people in their retirement plans, but it’s important for your parents to determine when they should be tucked in.  The point at which a person should begin to collect Social Security benefits depends on a few details, details which you should ask your parents about.  It’s important that you ask how much they have saved in various contribution plans such as a 401(k) or IRA.  Also, find out how much they can expect to receive from a possible pension.  The funds available to them in these accounts can drastically affect the point at which they should apply for Social Security benefits.

4.       Investment Legitimacy-  We have all have that sweet old aunt who proudly told everyone how she received that letter in the mail informing her that she won the jackpot in some sweepstakes and will receive the prize money just as soon as she sends in her bank account information.  This is obviously a drastic example, but it’s important that you ask your parents about their investments that they have made and ensure that they aren’t involved in anything risky.  Older individuals are often targeted by scammers, so it’s an important conversation to have.  Even investments that are legitimate may involve too much risk to be worthwhile for them.

5.       Plan for their plans-  Trends have shifted to the point where the majority of young people expect to care for their elderly parents in the future.  In order to plan for this care it’s important to know their plans.  Ask them when they expect to retire, where they plan to live, and how much money they have saved.  These answers will allow you to better prepare your finances in way to give them the support they may need.

When it comes to your parents future there is a lot to discuss, and in order to get to all if it, you need to start the conversation early and revisit it often.  It may not be easy or fun, but your parents probably had a struggle or two with you back in the day trying to get you to comply with their conversations.  It’s the circle of life, and embracing your new role to clear up the essentials now can save your parents, and you, a lot of money later.

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The Road to Retirement: “Are We There Yet?”

Many people preparing for retirement feel like a kid on a road trip. “Are we there yet?” It’s the common feeling of anyone aiming for a destination. Unfortunately, for many future retirees it can feel like they are that cartoon character chasing after the sandwich hanging from the stick at their back. They keep running after it but they never get any closer. Well a new study by The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College brings both good and bad news for those perpetual chasers. The good news: you don’t have to work forever. The bad news: the benchmark age at which the majority of Americans will be prepared to retire at has been bumped back to 70.

It’s no secret that the longer that you work, the more financially secure you will find yourself in retirement. The age of reaching that financial security varies with the individual based on their circumstances, but the new study shows that 85% of Americans will be financially prepared to retire by age 70. Overall, the study found that American households fall into a variety of groups in terms of their age when they will be ready to retire.
· 23% will be ready between the ages of 66 and 68
· 17% will be ready between 69-71
· 9% will have to work until at least age 72
These numbers are determined by what are known as the National Retirement Risk Index measures. These portray the percentage of households that find themselves at risk of being unable to keep up their current standard of living throughout their retirement.
Age 70 provides an attainable goal for many Americans who have envisioned working well into their golden years in order to reach their financial goals. But if you have set your sights on lounging on the beaches of Boca well before that landmark age, there is hope for you yet. The study revealed that about half of Americans will be financially secure enough to enter retirement by 65. Many of you are sitting thinking, “How do I get to be part of that group?” Well, there are a few things that you can do to finagle your way into the “Sixty-Five Club.”
Cost Efficiency- It’s important to remember that the National Retirement Risk Index measures are based on maintaining your current lifestyle. A good way to drop your target retirement age is to drop some of your expenses as you enter retirement. Downsize to a smaller house, save on gas by driving less, buy fewer clothes… you know the drill. This can be hard for many people who find that their retirement brings more free time, which brings more activities and adventures, which costs more money. If you commit to being more cost efficient in your retirement, you can be more age efficient in your retirement plans.
Increase Your Savings-This doesn’t have to be a huge, life altering increase, but small increments can make a huge difference over time. Try to increase your savings by just one or two percent each year. You won’t notice the change now, but you certainly will notice it later. Ramping up your retirement contributions a little each year could have you living the good life sooner than you think!
Become a Part-Timer-This can be a good plan both financially and socially. Many retirees find it a shock to their system to go from working full time for their entire adult life, to suddenly having nothing but time. Picking up a stress-free part time job can help you work your way into retirement while keeping you busy and engaged. Your new job can simply be reduced hours at your current employer, or a completely new and fresh engagement somewhere else. This part time work can also be a huge boost to your finances, as you continue to bring in a bit of income for the first few years of your retirement.
The bottom line is that changing times have brought about changing circumstances for retirees. With longer life expectancies and healthier adult years, it can be expected that longer careers will follow suit. Just remember that the end is in sight, and your hard work and diligence will pay off. Soon when you ask “Are we there yet?” the answer will be a resounding and confident, “Yes!”

http://crr.bc.edu/briefs/national-retirement-risk-index-how-much-longer-do-we-need-to-work/

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The Cost of a Healthy Retirement

Ever since the 2008 presidential elections, America has been in whirlwind discussions over our healthcare system.  Any American that has paid attention has had healthcare in the forefront of their mind at some point over the past four years. But it’s becoming an increasingly important issue for a specific group of Americans: The retirees.  The estimated retirement healthcare costs are continuing the rising trend from the past decade. The latest estimate from Fidelity Investments puts this year’s figure at $240,000.  That figure, up 4% from last year, means that on average, a 65-year-old couple retiring in 2012 can expect to pay $240,000 for their healthcare costs over the remainder of their lifetimes. This figure is based on the average life expectancy of men living to 82 and women living to 85. To add insult to injury, that figure doesn’t include the cost of long-term-care, dental care, and any over the counter medication.

The figure cited for the 2011 cost expectancy broke a long term trend of rising costs as Fidelity cited effects from Obama’s plan for healthcare that would reduce many of the senior citizens out of pocket expenses as the reason for their estimation decrease.  That figure was $230,000, a $20,000 drop from 2010.  That break in costs has been overwhelmed by overall healthcare trends causing this year’s increase, which is a cause of concern for more and more people nearing retirement.

So the question is, what can we do about it?  Of course, a shorter lifetime would mean lower costs, but that’s not high on anyone’s investment goals.  Luckily there are a few ways to help manage what seems like a pretty intimidating number sitting in your future.  Here are a few suggestions..

  • Know it. Expect it. Plan for it.  It’s the most simple, but one of the hard to accept options.  Healthcare expenses in America are unpredictable on both an individual and societal level.  Legislation may or may not affect your future costs.  The figure for this year was based on current legislation, which we all know may, or may not remain in place.  If you are planning your retirement you might not take into account certain expenses (either consciously or subconsciously) such as hearing aids, dental work, the possibility of retirement homes and assisted living facilities.  45% of the total expenses estimated by Fidelity are out-of-pocket expenses.   Make sure when you are planning your investments and target figure for retirement you take these things into account.  Healthcare is something you don’t  want to have to skimp on later because you failed to address it now.
  • Understand Medicare- what it is and what it could be. If you are looking to retire now, or in the near future, the status of Medicare is somewhat up in air.  With each change in legislation, it’s important to know what it will cost you, what will be covered, and how to adjust your budget accordingly.  The costs associated with Medicare go beyond the copays, and it’s critical to understand which programs cover what.  Medicare Part A is the general program covering hospital services that most people are familiar with, which doesn’t carry a premium for most beneficiaries.  For almost $2,500 a year, a couple can spring for part B which covers many of the doctors and other services that A misses.  For an additional expense, you can buy Part D which covers prescription drugs.  32% of the total estimated cost of health care for retirees lies in the premiums for Medicare part B and D.  Then, to cover all things not covered by the various Medicare policies, for another $4,000 a year a couple can purchase a Medigap policy, cleverly named as it fills the gap in coverage of the previously purchased programs.  Take the time to figure out what programs you need and what those programs will cost you.  A little math now will save you a lot of time, energy, and money later.
  • Take care of yourself and your body. This might be the most obvious, but commonly overlooked piece of advice.  The fewer health problems you have in the future the less your healthcare will cost you.  Prescription drugs costs account for 23% of the total estimated figure for healthcare for retirees.  The need for many of those drugs can be reduced, if not completely avoided, by living a healthy lifestyle, starting today.  Schedule your checkups.  Eat healthy.  Get some exercise.  These are things that we have been told our entire lives, but now you have dollar signs as your motivation to do so.

The cost of healthcare for retirees is high, but that cost for not planning for it is even higher.  Do your homework, keep up with the changes, and add them into your budget.  Healthcare costs as a senior citizen doesn’t have to be a morbid subject, unless you forget about it.

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