Tag Archives: Social Security

2015 White House Conference on Aging

logo-WHCOA2015This is the year for the decennial White House Conference on Aging.  However, the Older Americans Act, which traditionally has outlined the Conference process, has not been reauthorized and the President’s budget has not been approved.  As a result, there are very little structure and no additional funds for the 2015 Conference.

nora-super-140Ms. Nora Super is the Executive Director of the Conference.  Her background includes more than twenty years experience in aging policy and community outreach.  The four themes that have emerged from community input, so far, are Retirement Security, Healthy Aging, Long-Term Services and Supports, and Elder Justice.  There is a blog for the Conference at  http://www.whitehouseconferenceonaging.gov/blog/   A number of regional forums are also scheduled.  The closest one to SE Michigan is the conference in Cleveland, OH on April 27th.

The Administration is using social and electronic media as much as possible to receive grass roots input and conduct informational meetings.  Everyone can participate by going to the web site and signing up to receive notices of events, such as webinars, and opportunities to participate.  You can also provide your thoughts and/or a story about your experience with aging or aging services, such as Medicare, Social Security, or in-home services, by submitting them through the following link:  http://www.whitehouseconferenceonaging.gov/submissions/register.aspx

Here’s the contact information if you have specific questions:

White House Conference on Aging
200 Independence Avenue SW, Suite 637D
Hubert H. Humphrey Building
Washington, DC  20201
(202) 619-3636
info@whaging.gov
www.whitehouseconferenceonaging.gov

Aging touches everyone.  I encourage you to participate in this opportunity for civic engagement at a time when our society includes the greatest proportion of older adults in history.

Sue Sweeney, Chair, Department of Aging Studies, Madonna University

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Resources for Tax Time

IRSlogoFiling an income tax return can evoke anxiety.  A person’s income can be a sensitive topic, and all the different forms, rules, and documents can be overwhelming.  Perhaps for these reasons, many people don’t benefit from the tax breaks that are available to them.  Or they pay a professional to prepare their tax returns for them, even for uncomplicated filings.

The IRS has organized two volunteer programs for free tax return assistance.  The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program is aimed at people earning $52,000 or less per year.  These volunteers file taxes electronically, and can assist with several tax credit programs.    There is an online locator tool to help qualifying tax payers find VITA services.  The second program, called the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Program, is coordinated with the Tax-Aide Program through the AARP Foundation.  This service is open to all, but targeted to older adults.  The tax counselors through TCE are better versed in retirement, Social Security, and pension issues.  They can be located through another search engine hosted by the AARP Foundation.

Low income Social Security recipients probably won’t have to pay taxes on their benefits, but moderate income persons may have to pay taxes on up to 85% of the benefits received during the tax year, depending on the amount they receive along with other income they may have.

Adults who work, are moderate to low income, and are between the ages of 25 and 64 may be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EIC).  The credit amount is larger if the person is caring for a child in his or her home.  Grandparents raising grandchildren or other kinship care can especially benefit from the EIC, as well as the Child Tax Credit (CTC).  To receive the CTC, the person must have earned at least $3,000 during the year.  EIC and TCT credit refunds don’t count as income for federal benefit purposes.

Low income individuals 65 and older or permanently and totally disabled persons under 65 may be eligible to take the Credit for the Elderly and Disabled.   The rules and calculation are somewhat complicated, so getting help from one of the free services listed above may be advisable.

If you have a constituency to whom you can publicize these resources, the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities has a very rich website on EIC and CTC outreach, including outreach materials, tools, and strategies.  Sue Sweeney, Chair, Department of Aging Studies, Madonna University

Planning for Retirement

A lot of people, whether younger or older, are anxious about retirement because of the various proposals to change Social Security and because of the number of businesses and governmental entities that are curtailing retiree benefits and eliminating pensions.  With these uncertainties, it makes sense to take advantage of any retirement accumulation programs each of us can manage, and to plan for the future.  The AARP has a Retirement Calculator that I found to be easy to use.  Included is a tool that allows you to make changes to your assumptions and plans to see how they will affect your income in retirement.  For example, the amount of a likely shortfall is adjusted if you elect to retire later, work part time in retirement, put aside a larger proportion of your current salary, or reduce your lifestyle in retirement.

The Social Security Administration has a Retirement Estimator that will work for many individuals.  It assumes that you already have enough work credits to qualify for benefits and that certain other conditions do not pertain, such as already collecting Social Security benefits.  You have to enter identifying information, then you can see what your monthly benefit will be depending on the age that you choose to retire.  The same page has links to other calculators, but they are not derived from your earnings record, as the Retirement Estimator is.  There’s also a link to a document that discusses when to start taking your benefits.

Bankrate, an aggregator and publisher of bank rate information, has made a number of calculators available that allow a person to compare their retirement prospects depending on the retirement instrument he or she uses, such as traditional IRA, Roth IRA, 401(k), 403(b), or annuities.

It may be scary to see what would be needed to have a comfortable retirement, but I think it’s better to know what one’s prospects are rather than be painfully surprised when it’s too late to do anything about it.  Sue Sweeney, Chair, Gerontology Department, Madonna University