Monday, January 17, 2022

Medicare Costs are Rising - How Can You Control Them?

Despite the fact that Social Security beneficiaries will receive a 5.9 percent increase in 2022, a large part of this increase will be offset by rising Medicare premiums and other healthcare costs.  The premiums for Medicare Part B, the part which covers doctor visits and other outpatient care, is increasing by 14.55% or $21.60 a month.  This will impact lower income retirees more dramatically than their wealthier peers. 

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, approximately one-third of retirees are spending at least 20% of their per capita income on healthcare costs.  In 2018, the average person with traditional Medicare spent $6,150 out-of-pocket. That amount was much higher for some people with large medical bills and expensive medications, and has caused many retirees to have to choose between buying food and paying for necessary medications. 

Deductibles are increasing, too. The annual deductible for Part A, which covers hospitalizations, is increasing 5 percent to $1,556.  The deductible for Part B, which covers doctor visits and outpatient care, is increasing 14.77 percent to $233.  These are not the only rising costs which Medicare recipients can expect.

What About the Cost of Medicare Supplements or Medigap Plans?

Many people purchase a Medicare Supplement plan (often called Medigap policies) to cover all or most of the cost of their deductibles and co-pays. However, the premiums can amount to several hundred dollars a month per person, so many couples and individuals are unable to handle this additional expense over their basic Medicare premiums.  About 20 percent of Medicare beneficiaries choose not to have a Medigap policy, which means they have to pay their deductibles out-of-pocket.  These unexpected bills can be devastating for some retirees who are barely surviving.

High Cost of Drugs and Drug Plans

Drug prices continue to be a major issue for many retirees, too.  You can purchase a Medicare Part D plan to help with the cost of your medication.  However, you will have to pay additional premiums for your drug plan, and they DO NOT cap the total amount that an enrollee must pay out-of-pocket each year for drugs. In 2022, a patient will pay a deductible of $480 until the insurance company and the enrollee have spent a combined total of $4,430 for medications. After that, the patient will pay a percentage of their drug costs, which could be a substantial amount if you have a serious, chronic illness.

Can The Government Help Control Medicare Costs?

There are some actions being proposed which could help with these rising costs, especially the cost of medications. The Build Back Better Plan, currently under consideration in Congress, would cap out-of-pocket Part D drug costs at $2,000 a year, beginning in 2024.  

Build Back Better would also allow Medicare to negotiate prices with drug companies for some of the most expensive drugs, starting in 2025 for Part D drugs, and starting in 2027 for Part B drugs.  The bill would also limit the cost of insulin to no more than $35 a month.

Of course, all this depends on the passage of the Build Back Better bill, or a similar bill designed to help people on Medicare. If no bill is passed, then drug prices will continue to rise, without a cap, for senior citizens. One action retirees can take is to write or call their Congressman and Senators and ask them to support this legislation. Since most of our representatives in Congress are not on Medicare, but on a special Congressional health insurance plan, many of them do not understand how serious the problem is for the average retiree.

What Can Individuals do to Control Their Medicare Costs?

In addition, there are several actions which individuals can take to help control their Medicare costs.

First, make sure you are following all the correct rules so you obtain your Medicare coverage at the lowest possible cost, and do not pay an extra large premium because of a mistake.  The handy book, "10 Costly Medicare Mistakes You Can't Afford to Make," (Ad) will help you make sure you follow all their rules. One mistake, such as signing up at the wrong time, can cause you to pay higher premiums for the rest of your life.

Next, if you have a low income, see if you qualify for both Medicaid as well as Medicare.  Medicaid pays most of the out-of-pocket expenses for low-income retirees, and replaces the need for them to have a supplement or a drug plan.  This can be a substantial savings.  In addition, if you need long-term care in the future, Medicare will not cover it, but Medicaid will.   Applying for both can be very beneficial, if you qualify.

Another tip is to do comparison shopping every year during the open enrollment period to see if you are on the best and most affordable Medicare Supplement and Part D drug plan for you.  Talk to an agent and check the prices of the different plans, taking into consideration your current health problems.  There is a wide variety of plans and premiums available, including both HMO and PPO supplement plans.  Many pharmacies will help you compare different Part D plans to make sure you have one which will cover the largest number of your medications with the lowest possible co-pays.

Finally, you may want to consider switching from traditional Medicare, plus a supplement, plus a drug plan and move to an all-inclusive Medicare Advantage plan, instead. You may want to read my article, "Medicare Supplements vs. Medicare Advantage Plans: What are the Differences?" Medicare Advantage plans must cover everything that is covered under original Medicare, plus many of the same things you would get with a supplement and a drug plan, but with no additional premiums.  Sometimes, Medicare Advantage Plans have a small premium, but typically it is less than $50 a month. In other words, it is like getting an HMO supplement and drug plan for free or at a very low cost. Medicare Advantage plans can save you thousands of dollars a year in premiums.  The disadvantage is that you can only use the doctors and facilities which are part of their plan, except in an emergency.

With a little planning on your part and, hopefully, some help from government legislation and programs, many people have found that they are able to keep their Medicare expenses under control, despite the recent price increases.

Remember to pick up a copy of the cheap book, "10 Costly Medicare Mistakes You Can't Afford to Make," (Ad) to learn how to avoid mistakes and keep your Medicare costs as low as possible. 

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If you are interested in learning more about financial planning, Social Security, Medicare, where to retire, common medical issues as you age, travel and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

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Photo credits: Amazon book cover, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Google Images

Friday, January 7, 2022

WW - Weight Watchers Personal Points Program - My Review

Like many people, I have dropped in and out of Weight Watchers several times over the past couple of decades. During that time, I have seen many changes as the organization made improvements to their program. The older I have gotten, the more I realize how much I benefit from their weight loss plans.  A couple of years ago, they changed from calling themselves Weight Watchers and switched to simply being known as WW.  They did this in order to stress more overall health and wellness, and not just weight loss. I like the new wellness approach.

Recently, WW also made a bold move to give everyone an individualized eating plan, based on each person's personal food preferences.  After using a variety of WW programs over the years, I have found this one to be the most effective plan, yet.  

Over the past year, I lost about 10 pounds on the old WW plan.  Since beginning the WW Personal Points Program, I lost an additional 10 pounds in just a couple of months, and lost it more easily than I have ever been able to before.  I even managed to lose weight during the Christmas and New Year's holiday, despite the fact that there were a couple of days when I definitely overate. No wonder I like this new plan!

You can sign up for WW, or look over the program choices, by clicking on the link below. Or, read more about the program, below, to see how the new program works. (Ad)

What Everyone Has in Common on the WW Personal Points Program

For the first time in my experience, users are able to earn extra food points by doing things such as drinking 60 ounces of water a day, or eating a cup of non-starchy vegetables.  Increasing the amount of plain water and vegetables we consume seems to be making a huge difference.  If we fill up on water and vegetables, we are less likely to want to fill ourselves up with sweetened beverages and unhealthy, high caloric foods.  

The program also allows us to earn extra food points by getting exercise.  If you wear a fitness tracker, like a Fitbit, (Ad) you can also link the WW App on your smartphone to your Fitbit or similar fitness app.  The exercise you get will automatically allow you to receive extra points so you can indulge in your favorite foods.  The more you walk, run, swim, or participate in other exercises, the more you can eat!

If you sign up to receive their emails, you will also get frequent ideas for wonderful recipes which are delicious and low in points.  Check out the recipes on their app for foods such as low-point chili, and crustless pumpkin pie.  I have made and enjoyed both. I have even served the pie to people who are not going to WW, and they loved it, too. 

I also like the fact that air-popped popcorn is now a zero point food.  Even if you dress it up with some toppings, it is generally a very low point, satisfying snack.

The app can also tell you your personal points for thousands of items from the grocery store or in popular restaurants.  It also has a scanner, so you can check out the number of points in an item while you are still in the grocery store!  They have made it easier than ever to find ways to eat the foods you love, while still losing weight.

How the WW Personal Points Program is Personalized for You

As soon as you download the WW app, it will ask you a few questions and help you set up your personalized food and activity plan, including your very own ZeroPoint foods list. 

For example, the app will ask if you are a diabetic. If you are, you will have a couple of points assigned to fruits you eat, to keep you from consuming too many sugary fruits in a single day.  You can still eat fruit, of course.  You will just have to count the points.  This is part of their wellness plan, to help you keep your blood sugar at appropriate levels.

The app will also ask you to choose the proteins and carbs which you would like to be able to eat as zero point foods. Yes, you get to choose your own zero point foods, from their approved list, of course! In my case, I chose oatmeal, chicken or turkey breast meat, and eggs as my zero point foods.  If you don't like the choices you made the first time, you can always take the quiz, again, and make different choices. In this way, everyone is able to eat foods they enjoy, without worrying about the points.  Everyone's plan is unique.

The app will also suggest a reasonable exercise goal for you, and help you keep track of it.  Learn more about the new WW Personal Point Plan on their site at: (Ad)

What About WW Workshops?

During the worst of the Covid pandemic, when most businesses were closed down, I used the WW app Digital Plan only and did not attend any virtual workshops, although they had a number of choices available.  

However, now that my local WW site has opened up again, I have begun attending the workshops once a week. I find them inspirational and encouraging. 

Whichever choice you make, you can participate in WW and use the app in whatever way works best for you.

Whether you stay at home or attend meetings, you will still get encouraging emails, opportunities to purchase low point snacks and cooking tools which you can buy either at a workshop or online.  Often, they have sales. 

What Other Incentives do they Have?

As you earn points, you will see a little "gift box" at the bottom of your app. If you click on it, you will discover that you can earn a wide variety of gifts.  I have earned jewelry, socks, water bottles, a bluetooth speaker, and other fun items from the WW App.  I also used some of my points to donate meals to a charity.  

In addition, you can find daily workouts, meditations, and suggestions on how to change your habits on your app. It is truly a wellness program for your whole body!

How Can You Get Started?

You can join me at WW by clicking on the link below! (Ad)

Once you click on the link, you will have your choice of whether you want a simple Digital Plan (which I used during the pandemic), or Digital 360 which gives you extra support, or Unlimited Workshops + Digital, which is what I currently use.   All of the choices include the invaluable WW app.  Most of the time, you get a discount when you first join ... a free month or a lower price for the first few months.

Good luck to you. I hope you enjoy the program as much as I do!

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Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.  If you use my link to sign up for Weight Watchers, we may both receive a discount.  However, my review is NOT based on this benefit.  I truly have belonged to Weight Watchers for years, and love the program.

If you are interested in learning more about our health as we age, financial planning for retirement, where to retire, Social Security, Medicare, common medical issues as you age, and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

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Photo credit: Google Images: Weight Watchers

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Top Retirement Posts in 2021 - What Interested Baby Boomers the Most?

 At the end of each year, we post a collection of the posts which interested Baby Boomers the most during the year.  The subjects can change annually.  For example, in 2020, anything related to Covid was viewed frequently. In 2021, most readers were satisfied with what they had already learned about Covid, although they still wanted to know what to expect when they received their first Covid vaccines.  After that, they moved on this year to read more articles related to traditional retirement topics, such as the articles we posted on financial planning, and working after retirement.  Other topics which interested them included dental implants, rehab facilities, condo insurance, and how to find a good Memory Care facility.

You'll find a summary of the top posts below, along with direct links so you can find them easily and read the ones you missed. 

Top Posts of 2021

Amazon Savings Tips - How to Save Money Shopping Online - Did you know there are many ways to get a better deal, even when shopping online at major sites?  Sometimes on Amazon and the websites of other major companies, you can find coupons or other ways to get a better deal.  Check out these tips before you make your next purchase! 

Dental Implants - Which Kind do You Need? - More and more people are getting implants rather than the types of dentures which our parents received.  There are a lot of advantages to implants, but did you know there is more than one kind?  Learn about the types of implants and decide which one will work best for you. 

Covid 19 Vaccines: What to Expect Before and After You Get the Vaccine - If you are getting a Covid vaccine for the first time, what can you expect?  What side-effects are common?  What can you do to minimize these effects?  Although this article was written in the spring, when the vaccines first became available, the information is still relevant. 

Financial Planning Tips for Retirement - What the Experts Recommend - Are you financially ready for retirement?  If not, what can you do to reach your goals and have the comfortable retirement you hope for?  This article will help you make practical plans. 

Retirement Heaven or Hell - Which Will You Choose - What will your retirement look like?  This book will help you make the necessary plans to increase the likelihood that your retirement will look more like Heaven than Hell.  Even after all the material I have read about retirement, I found great tips in this book.  Read my review. 

Rehab Facilities: How to Choose the Best One for Your Situation - Many American families include at least one person with a substance abuse problem.  Alcoholism and drug addiction affect people of all ages.  This article will help you find the best rehab facility for your family situation.

Semi-Retirement - The New Retirement Model for Baby-Boomers - Many Baby Boomers have discovered that completely stopping work is not realistic for them.  They may want to continue working for financial, emotional or mental reasons. Learn more about how this could be the right retirement plan for you. 

HO-6 Condominium Insurance - What is it and What does it Cover? - Many retirees downsize and purchase a condominium for the first time in their lives as they prepare to simplify their lives.  One of the confusing choices they have to make is purchasing HO-6 Condo Insurance.  This article explains the various choices you may have, depending on the coverage already provided by your Homeowner's Association. 

Memory Care Communities: Part of Retirement Planning - None of us like to think about the time when we may not be able to handle our own affairs any longer. However, it is a reality we need to prepare for.  This article has some practical solutions for dealing for the problem, whether for yourself or a beloved family member.

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If you are interested in learning more about financial planning, Social Security, Medicare, where to retire, common medical issues as you age, travel and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

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Photo credits:Pixabay - geralt

Friday, December 17, 2021

Safely Travel Alone - Solo Vacation Tips

Solo travel is becoming more popular in the over-50 age group, particularly for women. According to Overseas Adventure Travel, traveling alone has been the fastest growing segment of the travel business.  In 2010, women traveling by themselves made up 27 percent of their business; today solo female travelers make up 50 percent of their bookings.  The Tauck travel company has also seen an increase in solo riverboat cruisers over the age of 50, with 75 percent of the solo travelers being women.  Single travelers may be divorced, widowed, never-married, or married people whose spouses stayed at home while they went on a trip by themselves.  However, before you book your first solo trip, there are a few things you should know.

Traveling Alone Can Be Expensive

Most travel accommodations are priced for double occupancy.  This works well for people who have a travel companion, whether it is a spouse or friend.  For people who want to book rooms alone, the cost can be exorbitant. For example, a river cruise priced at under $2,000 per person for a double occupancy room, could cost over $3,300 for a single person occupying the same cabin alone.  This makes it too expensive for many people to travel alone.  However, some specialty tour companies, such as Wild Women Expeditions, Intrepid Travel, Exodus Travels and Adventure Travel, are helping single travelers by pairing them with other travelers who want to share a cabin, or by offering single accommodations for only a small additional fee.

Sign Up for a Tour or Cruise

While it can be exciting to travel completely alone, doing it through a tour company or on a cruise ship will give you more security and connect you with a group of other travelers to eat and chat with.  This can help you feel more comfortable and less lonely.  It can also be fun to share your adventures with other like-minded people. 

Choose Safe Destinations

All travelers need to recognize the importance of checking the State Department website for travel advisories and warnings.  We are fortunate, today, that we are able to find out important travel warnings with just a click on our computers. 

Years ago, my husband and I took our family on a trip to Cancun, although we had no idea that a hurricane was approaching.  On another occasion we went to Jamaica during a time of violent unrest, when several tourists at our hotel were killed by revolutionaries.  In both cases, we wish we had been able to easily find out about the danger before we left for these destinations.  

It is very helpful to read up on potential destinations before you choose one.  It is worthwhile to read travel guides (Ad), which are available for almost any destination in the world.  It is smart to know a little about what to expect before you head off on your adventure, and it could help your enjoy your trip even more!

Today, we also have the ability to check in advance to see if there are health, political, or weather related reasons why you might want to avoid certain locations, even if something comes up at the last minute.

The state department website can be found at:

Tell Other People Where You are Going

Remember when you had teenagers and you asked them to let you know where they were going and how to reach them in an emergency?  Today, your adult children or other family members will also worry if they do not know where you are or how to reach you.  Give your itinerary to your family. Check in with them periodically by email or by using a free app on your phone such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messaging.  These are free ways to send texts and you can also use WhatsApp to make video calls.  Of course, you have to make sure you will have WiFi available during your trip.

If you register your trip with the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, they will notify you if something new comes up, such as a local political uprising, an approaching storm, or a serious increase in an epidemic, such as Covid.  Make sure they know how to reach you.

Get Medical Emergency Travel Insurance

We have had several friends who had to end their trips prematurely because of an unexpected illness or injury.  In each case, they had to spend time in a foreign hospital, and then arrange their own travel home.   Before they were allowed to leave the foreign country, they had to pay the hospital bill in full.  Typically, your Medicare plan will not cover any of these costs.  Consequently, you will want to purchase a medical emergency travel plan which covers preexisting conditions, as well as the cost of having a friend or relative meet you at the foreign hospital, if possible.  You will also want the insurance to cover the cost of evacuating you back to the United States as soon as you are able to travel. 

Be Extra Careful About Venturing Out Alone at Night

While it is important to be vigilant and stick with your tour group during the day, it is especially important at night.  Avoid getting drunk, which could make you much more vulnerable.  Watch your drinks carefully, to minimize your risk of being drugged by a friendly stranger.  Sign up for planned group trips to local night spots, restaurants, clubs and theaters.   The tour group leaders will know the fun places to go, will have no trouble getting the necessary reservations or tickets, and will minimize the danger.

Get a Few Safety Travel Accessories

If you are traveling, it could be helpful to purchase a few inexpensive travel accessories such as a secure, hidden, travel belt  (ad) for your money and ID.   If you are concerned about your safety in your hotel room, you can also purchase a portable door lock (Ad) for added security.  Another option is a portable door or window alarm which will awaken you if there is an intruder.  Taking along a few items like these will help you feel more secure wherever you go, although it doesn't replace remaining vigilant whenever you venture out on your own. 

Look for Opportunities to Meet Local People

There are ways to protect yourself while still taking advantage of opportunities to meet local people.  You may want to stay in a B&B or small hotel where you can meet other travelers.  You can also arrange visits with local people through some of the websites listed below:
Women Welcome Women World Wide

The last two sites allow you to book a meal with local hosts in their own homes in a number of countries around the world.  You will get a home cooked meal and have the opportunity to meet local people. 

Even when using these websites, it is a good idea to see if you can join a tour or put together a group of people who want to go together, so you are not traveling alone or spending time by yourself with strangers.  Many tour companies can include an evening in the home of a local as part of their package.  Ask about it when you book your tour.

It may also help if you take the time to learn a little of the language before you go.  Using a program like Babbel (Ad) could help you learn enough of a language to be able to get around more easily while traveling.  It will help you feel more confident about striking up a conversation or asking for directions, and increase the fun you will have.

Most importantly, do not give up on travel simply because you do not have a companion to go with you.  Do some research, find a tour or cruise, keep an open mind, and have the time of your life!

What About Safety on Road Trips?

You may also decide to take a road trip by yourself.  Some of the above advice will still apply.  According to Nicole Jordon, a young woman who has traveled in her Subaru Forester for two years by herself, below are some things she does to keep herself safe on the road.  Many of these tips are good to follow, no matter what mode of transportation you are using.

Stay in touch with family and friends. Let them know where you are and where you are going.

Take a satellite phone, so you are always in touch, you are able to send your coordinates to your contacts, and you can check for weather updates.  Most satellite phones also have an SOS feature, in case of an emergency.

Download offline maps and take along paper maps, so you can find the location you are headed towards, even if your GPS does not work.

If you are camping, choose sites with good reviews, near towns.  (I would add that they should not be too isolated. Park near a ranger station, if that is an option.)

If you are stuck in a city overnight, be careful about where you park. (This might be a good time to find an actual trailer park or other site which allows overnight camping.) 

Wherever you park, make sure you orient your car toward the exit and prepare yourself for the night, so you can take off quickly, without the need to get out of your car to gather belongings.  Always be prepared to leave quickly in an emergency.

Keep some kind of self-defense weapon with you, such as bear spray. (Ad)  (Nicole also suggests keeping a knife nearby.  The weapon you choose is a personal matter, but the bear spray tip is a good one, and they are available in a variety of price ranges and multi-packs. In addition to being able to use it on human predators, the spray can also be used on animals, especially if you camp in remote areas.) 

Maintain your car so it is less likely to break down in an isolated area.

Install curtains in your vehicle, so you can have privacy at night.

Stay well supplied, with extra food and water, and keep your gas tank full.

Don't share too much personal information with people you meet.  In particular do not tell them that you are traveling alone.  Suggest that you are on your way to meet friends, and be vague about where you are going.  With the same security concerns in mind, do not post exactly where you are on social media, because you do not want strange people to try to locate you.  If you want to post photos, post them a few days after you have left the place.

If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, act on it.  As Nicole says, "trust your gut."  Leave.

(Source: - Article by Nicole Jordon)

Most important of all, be a little adventurous and have fun traveling.  There are so many interesting places, both in our country and all around the world.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.  You will receive a weekly email with the most current post.
Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.  

If you are interested in learning more about traveling after retirement, financial planning for retirement, where to retire, Social Security, Medicare, common medical issues as you age, and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

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Source of websites and statistics:  AARP Bulletin, December 2019

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