Paying for life during a pandemic

Seniors face special challenges

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
Posted 8/19/20

If you’re a senior—well, a person of any age, really—and are worried about how you’ll pay your bills, there are resources out there to help. 

Seniors are in a …

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Paying for life during a pandemic

Seniors face special challenges

Posted

If you’re a senior—well, a person of any age, really—and are worried about how you’ll pay your bills, there are resources out there to help. 

Seniors are in a particular bind because not only are they more susceptible to COVID-19, write Tricia Neuman and Wyatt Koma at the Kaiser Family Foundation, but they’re “financially vulnerable if the pandemic leads to a sustained drop in their income and retirement savings.”

Neuman and Koma point out that Medicare demands significant out-of-pocket payments, which hurt more if you’re on a fixed income. 

Even if you worked, and Neuman and Koma say 12 million seniors did, that doesn’t mean you have a job now. Plus, “more than four million adults ages 65 or older who worked at some time during the year were in families with incomes below 400 percent of poverty*, including a disproportionate share of Black and Hispanic seniors, according to an unpublished KFF analysis,” they write. 

As Priscilla Bassett pointed out in this month’s senior profile on page 10, cutting payroll taxes means the loss of income to the Social Security trust fund. Right now that money has to be paid back, but if payroll taxes are cut permanently, it will hurt both “seniors and future seniors,” she said. In other words, everyone.

People rely on that money. 

If you’re having trouble paying your bills, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (yes, it’s still around) suggests contacting your lenders to tell them there’s a problem. You are not alone; don’t be ashamed. 

Here’s what you should know before you call, according to the CFPB:

• Your financial and employment situation

• How much you can afford to pay

• When you’re likely to be able to restart regular payments

• Be prepared to discuss your income, expenses and assets

Although the benefits from the CARES Act have expired, seniors have other resources. The CFPB says, “Older adults may be impacted by the coronavirus and quarantine procedures in different ways than the general public. There may be government benefits available to older adults who need financial help. Visit www.benefitscheckup.org for more information and to see if you qualify for any state or local assistance.”

Be very careful of scams, the CFPB says, because they target older adults.

For those seniors with investments, the market’s ups and downs are especially worrying. They don’t have time to recover lost money. Yes, stocks have rocketed back to pre-pandemic levels after March’s horrifying drop, but the past, as investment advisers say, is no guarantee of the future. 

Seniors with investments should talk to their financial adviser.

It all matters because coronavirus has highlighted not only the inequities in health care, but also the problems in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Policy discussions, Neuman and Koma say, are needed. And, one gathers, they need to happen soon.

www.bit.ly/RR34kff

www.bit.ly/RR34consumerfinance

www.benefitscheckup.org

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