Author: Jim Miller

Can a Debt Collector Take My Social Security Benefits?

Dear Savvy Senior, Can my Social Security benefits be garnished if I have some outstanding debts? I just turned 62 and would like to start collecting my retirement benefits, but want to find this out before I apply. Worried Retiree Dear Worried, Whether your Social Security benefits are garnishable or not depends on whom you owe. Banks and other financial creditors, for example, can’t touch your Social Security checks. But if Uncle Sam is collecting on a debt, some of your benefits are fair game. Here’s what you should know. Creditor Protections If you have credit card debts, medical bills, unpaid personal loans or pay day loans, you’ll be happy to know that your Social Security benefits are safe from your creditors. Section 207 of the Social Security Act prohibits debt collectors or a bankruptcy court from dipping into your bank account to take Social Security money for purposes of paying off what you owe. Supplemental Security Income (SSI), veterans benefits, federal employee and civil service retirement benefits, and benefits administered by the Railroad Retirement Board Administration can’t be touched either. But be aware that your creditors can still take legal action against you to recover what you owe them, and depending on your state’s law, they may be able to garnish your wages and tap into other allowable assets, if you have any. Government Garnishment If, however, you...

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What’s the Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Dementia?

Dear Savvy Senior, What’s the difference between Alzheimer’s disease and dementia? My aunt has dementia, but they don’t know if she has Alzheimer’s disease, which is very confusing to me. Trying To Understand Dear Trying, Many people use the words “Alzheimer’s disease” and “dementia” interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. In fact, you can have a form of dementia that is completely unrelated to Alzheimer’s disease. Here’s what you should know. Dementia versus Alzheimer’s Dementia is a general term for a set of symptoms that includes memory loss, impaired communication skills, a decline in reasoning and changes in behavior. It most commonly strikes elderly people and used to be referred to as senility. Alzheimer’s disease is a specific illness that is the most common cause of dementia. Though many diseases can cause dementia, Alzheimer’s – which affects 5.7 million Americans today – accounts for 60 percent to 80 percent of dementia cases, which is why you often hear the terms used interchangeably. But there are many other conditions that can cause symptoms of dementia like vascular dementia, which is the second most common cause, accounting for about 10 percent of dementia cases. Vascular dementia is caused by a stroke or poor blood flow to the brain. Other degenerative disorders that can cause dementia include Lewy body dementia, Parkinson’s disease, Frontotemporal dementia, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE),...

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Simple Gadgets That Can Help Older Drivers

Dear Savvy Senior, Are there any specific auto gadgets you can recommend that can help senior drivers? Both of my parents are in there eighties and still pretty good drivers, but due to arthritis and age they’re very stiff, which causes them some driving problems. Researching Daughter Dear Researching, To help keep senior drivers safe and prolong their driving years, there’s a plethora of inexpensive, aftermarket vehicle adaptions you can purchase that can easily be added to your parent’s vehicles to help with many different needs. Here are some good options. Entry and Exit Aids To help arthritic/mobility challenged seniors with getting into and out of their vehicle, there are a variety of portable support handles you can buy, like the “Emson Car Cane Portable Handle” ($12), which inserts into the U-shaped striker plate on the doorframe. And the “Standers CarCaddie” ($13) nylon support handle that hooks around the top of the door window frame. Another useful product is the “DMI Deluxe Swivel Seat Cushion” ($22), which is a round portable cushion that turns 360 degrees to help drivers and passengers rotate their body into and out of their vehicle. Enhanced Rear Vision To help seniors with limited upper body range of motion, which makes looking over their shoulder to back-up or merge into traffic difficult, there are special mirrors you can add as well as back-up cameras. For...

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How to Find Retiree Travel Perks

Dear Savvy Senior, What types of travel discounts are available to older travelers? I just retired and am interested in learning about travel deals for people over 60. Ready To Go Dear Ready, There are literally thousands of different travel-related discounts available to retirees that usually start anywhere between the ages 50 and 65. These discounts – typically ranging between 5 and 25 percent off – can add up to save you hundreds of dollars on your next trip. Here’s how you can find them. Ways to Save The first thing to know is that most businesses don’t advertise them, but many give senior discounts just for the asking, so don’t be shy. You also need to be aware that when it comes to senior travel bargains, the “senior discount,” if available, may not always be the best deal. Hotels, resorts, airlines and cruise lines, for example, offer advanced bookings along with special deals and promotions from time to time that may be a lower rate than what the senior discount is. Before you book, always ask about the lowest possible rate and the best deal available. Another way retirees with flexible schedules can save is to be flexible when you travel. Last minute travel deals can offer huge savings, as well as traveling during off-season or off-peak times, and avoiding holidays. Club memberships can also garner you a...

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What You Need to Know About Reverse Mortgages

Dear Savvy Senior, What can you tell me about reverse mortgages for retirees? My wife and I are contemplating getting one but want to make sure we know what we’re getting into. Running Short Dear Running, For retirees who own their home and want to stay living there, but could use some extra cash, a reverse mortgage is a viable financial tool, but there’s a lot to know and consider to be sure it’s a good option for you. Let’s start with the basics. A reverse mortgage is a unique type of loan that allows older homeowners to borrow money against the equity in their house (or condo) that doesn’t have to be repaid until the homeowner dies, sells the house or moves out for at least 12 months. At that point, you or your heirs will have to pay back the loan plus accrued interest and fees, but you will never owe more than the value of your home. It’s also important to understand that with a reverse mortgage, you, not the bank, own the house, so you’re still required to pay your property taxes and homeowners insurance. Not paying them can result in foreclosure. To be eligible, you must be 62 years of age or older, own your own home (or owe only a small balance) and currently be living there. You will also need to undergo...

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