Free Online Learning

Whether you’re retired and looking for ways to challenge your mind, or you’re seeking a new career, free online college classes give you the opportunity to explore new subjects without having to spend any money. They are also a great way for students to investigate career paths or for parents staying home with young children to keep up to date on any number of topics.

These classes are available from a variety of sources. Some may require a textbook, but other than a high speed internet connection, that is the only thing you need. Note that the classes do not lead to a degree, but they can still teach you a skill that may be beneficial in your job.

A good place to start looking for classes is the Open Culture website at: http://www.openculture.com/freeonlinecourses. It collects information about courses available from numerous universities, and posts them on its website.

For suggestions of other e-learning sites, check out this very informative article on the AARP website – http://www.aarp.org/personal-growth/life-long-learning/info-01-2010/learn_anything_online_for_free.1.html.

Do You Still Need Life Insurance?

Deciding when to drop life insurance is an individual matter and varies depending on your circumstances. As you age, the cost of life insurance increases so that paying the premium every year can become a burden if you are on a fixed income. Some of the things to consider include the following:

  1. Are your children grown and on their own with sufficient income that they don’t require any money from you?
  2. Are your funeral and burial costs prepaid, or will there at least be enough money in your estate to cover them?
  3. If you are married, and you die first, will your spouse have enough income to live comfortably?
  4. If you give up the policy, it will be more expensive to buy another one when you are older. In addition, if you develop health issues in the meantime, it may be impossible to get another policy.
  5. If you decide to keep your policy, perhaps you could reduce the coverage as you get older.
  6. Do you or someone in your family have serious medical problems which may cut into your savings?
  7. If you have a whole life policy, instead of a term policy and you are getting a good interest rate, it may still have value as a savings plan.
  8. If you need advice, try to meet with an independent financial adviser, even if you have to pay a fee. No matter how much you like your insurance agent, his job is to sell insurance, and therefore he may not give you an impartial opinion.
  9. One more aspect of this is your estimated life span.  Face it, some families die young so it might make sense to keep the policy.  Other families live a long time, so maybe it might make sense to let it go.  It is a little like a bet on how long you will live.  Die young, you win.

Where’s My Pension?

As mentioned in an earlier blog, missingmoney.com is a great site for searching for money you may have coming to you from such things as forgotten bank accounts, retirement accounts or insurance policies. But what about a pension from a company you worked for that went bankrupt, or that you worked for years ago and had forgotten about?

A government agency called Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation or PBGC is a good place to start your search. It was established in 1974 to protect pension benefits, and receives a portion of its funding from companies that pay insurance premiums to them. Their home page at http://www.pbgc.gov/ has a missing participant search box in which you may be able to find information about that long lost pension.

In addition, this site is a good source of information if you have questions or concerns about your current pension. They can also be contacted by telephone at 1-800-400-7242.

Medicare Extra Help Program

In addition to Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage, there is more help available to pay for prescriptions and premiums to those who qualify. This is called the Extra Help Program. Many people are not aware that this help exists, and therefore don’t apply for it.

Information about this program can be found at the Social Security website located here: http://ssa.gov/pubs/10525.html. It lists the eligibility requirements and gives directions for filling out an online application. It also directs you to help that may be available through your state, called the Medicare Savings Program. If you need assistance with the application or would like to talk to someone, they can be reached at 1-800-772-1213.

This is worth looking into even if you don’t think you qualify or have been turned downed before.

Medicare Part D Savings

If you are currently enrolled in the Medicare Part D prescription program, you may or may not know that the deadline for enrollment this year ends on December 7th. That means that if you want to change your plan, you must do so by that date. However, if you don’t make any changes, you don’t need to do anything.

The Medicare Part D drug program is complex, and once people are enrolled, they find it easier to keep the same plan rather than researching the options to see if they can save money. According to the November AARP bulletin, many people are paying more for their prescriptions than necessary because they fail to investigate alternative plans.

In order to determine the best plan for you, go to the website for Medicare at http://www.medicare.gov/default.aspx. It asks for your zip code and then tells you what plans are available in your area. You then put in the prescriptions you take and their dosages, and it will tell you which plan would charge you the least for those drugs. That site also rates the various plans as well as giving information about the services and tests Medicare covers. If you would prefer to discuss your options with someone, you may call Medicare at 1-800-633-4227.

Wait for Social Security Benefit?

There are lots of variables to consider when you are trying to determine when to apply for social security. As most people know, you can begin receiving benefits at the age of 62. If you do so, your benefit will be lower than if you waited until the age of 66 or 67, which depending on your birth date, is the time when you can receive the full benefit.

  1. How long are you going to live? If you have health issues or a family history of health problems, you may want to begin receiving payments at the earliest possible date.
  2. Do you need the money? Waiting isn’t always an option.
  3. Are you still working? For every $2 you make over the limit of $14,160, the government keeps back $1 of your benefit. Note however, that this amount is added back to your benefit when you reach full retirement age. Remember, also that your taxes may be higher due to the increased income.
  4. Are you married? One good option is to have the spouse with the lowest benefit begin taking it at age 62. Then the other one would begin at normal retirement age or even wait until age 70 when the amount received would be even greater.

The Social Security administration has numerous calculators to help you in making a decision. You can find these and other helpful information here: http://www.ssa.gov/retire2/index.htm

Senior Learning Opportunities

If you are one of those people who never tires of learning something new, or regret that you didn’t have time in college to take all the classes you were interested in, it’s not too late. Many colleges offer free or reduced tuition to seniors 60 or older. Some restrictions may apply and not all schools participate, so you need to check with the individual college.

If you don’t want the hassle of worrying about grades, you can choose to audit the class. You may find that this allows you to relax and enjoy learning, unlike when you were younger. On the other hand, if you are looking to stay in the job market and update your skills, or change professions, you may wish to receive credit.

Other colleges offer lecture series for senior citizens on different subjects. These are not usually free, but provide an opportunity to learn something new and interact with other like-minded adults.

They say that if you don’t use it, you lose it, so returning to school is a way to keep your mind sharp. And you may find that you enjoy being around the younger generation, with their enthusiasm and fresh ideas.

Make Money While Traveling

Just because you’re retired and have limited financial resources doesn’t mean that you can’t travel. If you are in good health, you can often find temporary jobs in your selected destination. They might not always be ideal jobs, but they’re temporary, and during your time off you’ll have a little money to spend exploring the area.

Those who like to camp might consider working as a host at a state or city park. They don’t get paid a great deal if at all, but their site rental is free. Duties might include greeting new visitors, answering questions, picking up litter, and just keeping an eye on the campground.

National parks also are in need of temporary workers. The job could be as basic as working in the gift shop or for someone with more experience, acting as a guide.

Any tourist area where retirees migrate also needs temporary workers during their busy seasons. Maybe you’ve always wondered what it would be like to work in a restaurant or you have maintenance skills and can help out at the apartment complex or condo where you’re staying.

Tour companies are often in need of guides who have the freedom to travel. They also sometimes need people who can just make sure everyone gets on the bus on time, has their health forms, and help make the tour run smoothly.

Do you like to ski? Check out jobs at ski resorts. Want to take a cruise? Cruise lines often welcome guest lecturers or entertainers, or need men as dance partners. As you can see, the possibilities are endless.

Is it Time to Downsize?

When you retire and no longer have income from your job, you may need to find ways to save money. One thing to consider would be to downsize and move into a smaller house. Sometimes it isn’t easy to sell your house, and if you were counting on it for retirement income, you may have to wait a while. However, if you have the opportunity to sell it at a good price, it may be worth your while.

There are many benefits to be gained by this move. First, you would have a smaller house payment, or if your house was already paid off, some extra cash. Your taxes and home insurance would probably be less. Your utilities would be less. If you have a smaller yard, the upkeep would be cheaper. You could have a yard sale or living estate sale and get rid of some of the excess furniture that you would no longer need. In addition, you could sell all of that stuff that you’ve been collecting for years and never use.

It may be difficult at first to get used to a smaller home, but you may grow to like it. It might simplify your life and free up some money to use for basic expenses or for something you’ve always wanted to do. And, you’ll have more time because you won’t have to spend every spare minute cleaning your house or working in your yard.

What is the purpose of a 401k plan?

The purpose of 401k plan is to help you save for retirement. If your company has such a plan and you choose to join it, you get certain tax advantages, and your employer may even contribute to your account. It works like this: You pick how much much you wish to contribute, and this amount is deducted from your paycheck before taxes. That’s right, you don’t have to pay income taxes on your contribution until later. The money sits in your account and any growth is also tax deferred. Then when you take the money out, you pay your income taxes at that time. Many people find it a convenient way to save and reduce their tax bill.