Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Camper and RV Travel Jobs - How to Survive Financially on the Road

While most Americans managed to survive the last recession and move on with their lives, there are still many people, especially senior citizens, who never recovered.  A large number of Americans in their 50s, 60s or older are leading nomadic lives in RVs, trailers or vans, moving from place to place, just trying to survive by working in temporary jobs around the country.

As these older Americans approach the age when they can collect Social Security, it is likely many of them will continue to work in low-paying, temporary jobs in order to supplement their benefits. Most of them do not have home equity, retirement savings, pensions or other assets which they can use to supplement their Social Security as they age. However, even though their situation is difficult, at least many of these people have found a way to survive in their own RV, travel trailer or camper.  If you are struggling to get by, one of the suggestions listed below may help you or someone you know survive, as well.

Financial Survival in an RV or Camper

If you are considering living in an RV or a similar vehicle in order to survive, or even if you just want to live a nomadic life during retirement, there are companies which will hire you and, in many cases, provide a free place for you to park your RV.  In some cases, the hours are long and the work is hard.  In other cases, you can have fun by volunteering or working part-time in a national park in exchange for free camper parking. If you are looking for a way to survive financially in your RV until you can begin to collect your Social Security (or even after you are collecting your benefits), one of these jobs might help you bridge the financial gap. This website can connect you with a wide variety of jobs which are available to people who are willing to travel to different locations for work.  They have jobs available in all 50 states, so you may not have to move very far in order to be hired for a job as a campground host, RV Park groundskeeper, campground maintenance worker, housekeeper, or doing office work and making reservations for campgrounds and RV Parks.  Both part-time and full-time jobs are available.

AGS Guest Services Guides: Get paid to travel and earn a living.  You are not stuck living in one campground.  Whenever you change assignments, you have the opportunity to travel the country and do a little sightseeing along the way. 

U.S. Forest Service, Fish & Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and the Army Corp of Engineers:  If all you need is a free place to park your RV and you are willing to do volunteer work in exchange for your RV parking, then volunteering for one of these agencies could be fun and rewarding.  You may work in daily operations, camp hosting, or maintenance at one of our majestic national parks. In addition to free RV parking, you may eventually find a paid position as well, especially after you have gained experience as a volunteer. These positions may be the perfect gig for someone who loves the great outdoors.  You may also find similar opportunities in the state parks in your area, so be sure to contact the state department of recreation in the state which interests you.

Amazon CamperForce: According to an article on MarketWatch titled "Many Older Americans are Living a Desperate, Nomadic Life," Amazon hires "seasonal employees who can walk the equivalent of 15 miles a day during Christmas season pulling items off warehouse shelves." The article goes on to describe harsh working and living conditions, saying the workers return "to frigid campgrounds at night. Living on less than $1,000 a month, in certain cases, some (of the campgrounds) have no hot showers."  These are not easy jobs.  However, if you are in good health and you are looking for a free place to legally park your camper and earn an hourly wage, you may want to apply for one of these temporary Amazon CamperForce positions.

Life in free Safe Parking Lots:  This may not seem very romantic, but there are communities which provide free overnight parking for low-income people who are living in their vehicles.  These arrangements are called Safe Parking programs.  In an L.A. Times article titled "Living in a Parking Lot Amid Santa Barbara's Wealth is a Kind of Middle-Class Homelessness," this lifestyle is becoming more common in expensive areas, such as you might find in parts of California.  Under the program, people are allowed to sleep overnight in the parking lots of churches, nonprofits and government offices, as long as they do not arrive until after 7 pm and will leave early in the morning, often by 6 am. 

Why do people stay in these expensive communities?  Often they feel connected to the community because of other family members and relationships, or they have low-paying jobs which provide them with a basic income.  If you are interested in seeing if there is a Safe Parking program in your area, call the local police department and ask if there is a safe place where you can park and sleep in your vehicle overnight. 

In one story I saw on our local California news station, they reported how one woman was working in Santa Barbara, but could not afford to rent an apartment there.  She slept each night in her car in a Safe Parking Lot.  In her case, she could still afford the monthly dues to be a member of a local gym where she would go each morning, work out, shower, dress and apply her makeup.  No one she worked with knew she was living in her car.

Other Types of Jobs for People Traveling and/or Living in an RV:  With a little creativity, there are other types of jobs for people who want to travel or live in an RV, although in some cases you may need to be able to promote yourself, either in person or on the internet.  Among the types of jobs you might consider are:  festival and amusement park workers, artists, musicians, other types of entertainers, tattoo artists, photographers, tour guides, tax preparers, farm workers, temp workers and those who are interested in teaching English as a second language (for those who would like to live for awhile in other countries.)

For more ideas on where to retire, financial survival, Social Security, Medicare, common health problems and more, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

SSI Supplemental Security Income - Do You Qualify?

If you do not qualify for Social Security benefits, or if your benefits are exceptionally low, and you do not have other sources of income such as a pension, it is possible you may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  This program makes small monthly payments to you if you are age 65 or older, you are legally blind, or you are disabled.   For many people, this extra income can help them survive, especially when combined with food stamps, energy assistance, Medicaid and other forms of public assistance.

What are the Income Limits to Qualify for SSI?

Income limits for SSI vary slightly from state to state.  However, you can call the Social Security Administration office in your area to find out the exact income limit for your state.  They do NOT count the following in determining your income limits:

*  The first $20 of income each month;
*  The first $65 a month in earned income and only half the amount of earned income over $65;
*  The value of your SNAP or food stamps
*  The value of shelter provided by a nonprofit organization
*  The value of your home energy assistance

If you are married, they will consider your spouse's income and resources.  If you are under age 18, they will consider your parents' income and resources.  If you are a sponsored non-citizen, they will include some of the income and resources of your sponsor.

On the other hand, if you are a student, some of your wages and scholarships will NOT be counted.

They also will not consider some of the expenses you may have, such as the portion of wages a blind person uses for transportation, or the value of a wheelchair if you are disabled.

Asset Limits to Qualify for SSI

The Social Security Administration does consider your assets and other resources when deciding if you qualify for SSI.  This includes the value of your real estate (other than your home), bank accounts, cash, stocks and bonds.  The total value of those assets must be $2,000 or less.  A couple may still qualify if their total assets are valued at $3,000 or less.

In most cases, the Social Security Administration does not count the value of your home, your car (within reason), burial plots or up to $1,500 in burial funds.  They also do not count life insurance policies with a face value of $1,500 or less.

Other Requirements to Qualify for SSI

*If you are eligible for Social Security or other benefits, you must apply for them before applying for SSI.

*  If you live in a city or county halfway house, jail, prison or similar public facilities, you usually will not qualify for SSI, although there are exceptions for places such as educational or job training facilities, emergency shelters, etc.

*  You may qualify if you live in a facility and more than half of your expenses are being paid by Medicaid.

How to Apply for SSI Supplemental Security Income or Disability

If you believe that you or a family member would qualify for SSI, below are the ways you can apply for SSI by yourself:

Call 1-800-772-1213 and ask to speak to a Social Security representative

You May Need Professional Help Getting Benefits

Unfortunately, many people have discovered that they need to repeatedly apply for Social Security Supplemental Income benefits before they are approved.  It is very common to be turned down when you first apply.

If this happens to you and you are convinced you qualify, it may be worth it to you to hire a special disability attorney or advocate.  According to the Disability Benefits Center:

"You should approach the application process with the full understanding that your initial application is likely to be denied, even if you have everything in order. Having a disability advocate help you file can give you a bit of an edge in this process, since they know what it takes to qualify for disability benefits under SSA guidelines and how to best present the evidence of your disability. A disability advocate will even work directly with your doctor regarding the verbiage to use in order to best present your medical condition to the SSA. Additionally, should you need to go through the appeals process your disability advocates will already be familiar with the details of your case."

Learn more from these websites:

If you want to know about about how to qualify for SSI or disability, you will want to check out the following sources:

file:///C:/Users/Deborah/AppData/Local/Temp/EN-05-11000.pdf  (This is a brochure from the Social Security Administration)  (The website for the Disability Benefits Center).

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

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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Medical Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Did you know medical mistakes are the third leading cause of death in the United States, after cancer and heart disease?  According to a report on the WebMD site, Johns Hopkins researchers estimate that medical errors cause over 250,000 deaths each year.  Fortunately, they also learned there are a number of steps which patients can take to reduce their risk of becoming a victim.

While there are no guarantees your physician will never make a life-threatening error while treating you, the more you do to reduce your risk, the safer you will be.  As a result, it is important you learn everything you can about your health conditions and any procedures which could be involved in treating them.

How to Reduce Your Risk of Medical Errors


Ask Questions About the Medications You are Prescribed:  You do not want to be given the wrong medication or the wrong dosage, so double-check your prescription every time you fill it. Ask questions about any change.  Does it look or taste differently?  Has the pill size or color changed?  It is possible you were given the wrong dosage.  In addition, any time you visit a doctor take a list of your current medications with you, so your doctor will know what you are already taking.  Repeat this process every time you go.  You cannot assume your doctor will remember what you are taking, nor can you assume everything written in your record is 100% correct.

Do Not Ask For Unneeded Antibiotics:  Antibiotics are only useful against bacteria, not the viruses which cause colds and the flu.  Do not press your doctor to prescribe an antibiotic if you do not absolutely need it.  You want to make sure antibiotics will work for you when they are really necessary.

Stay in the Hospital a Reasonable Length of Time:  Researchers have discovered that people who stay in the hospital either too long or too short a time are more likely to become ill again.  Do not rush your doctor to send you home and do not beg to stay longer than necessary.  If you are going to be transferred to a rehab facility, such as after hip replacement surgery, you may need to stay in the hospital for at least three nights before Medicare will pay for the rehabilitation.  Discuss this with hospital staff so your stay in the hospital is the optimal length of time, both for your health and your wallet.

Mark the Spot Before a Surgery:  The last thing either you or your doctor wants to happen is for you to have surgery in the wrong place or on the wrong organ.  Before you are given anesthesia, you or your doctor should mark the exact spot where they will be operating.  Try to confirm what is happening with the surgical assistants as often as possible while you are still conscious.  In well-run facilities, the nurses and other staff will often repeat to you several times the location and type of procedure they will be performing.  Do not get impatient with this repetition.  It is for your protection.

Pay Attention to How You Feel After the Surgery:  Of course it is normal to feel weak, tired and have some pain after surgery.  You may also be groggy from the anesthesia.  However, if the pain is severe, there is unusual swelling, you have a high fever, nausea or bowel problems, let your doctor know.  You could have an infection and it is even possible the surgeon left a sponge or instrument in your body.  That might seem impossible, but it does happen more often than you realize!

Be a Responsible Patient:  Follow your doctor's instructions.  Schedule tests, take your medications, get rest, go to physical therapy, get back on your feet and walk when asked, and carefully follow the medical advice your physician recommends.  By doing your part, your outcome is likely to be better.

Be an Educated Patient:  Choose a physician and, when possible, a hospital which has the best possible record for treating your condition.  Learn everything you can about your illness or injury and the different types of treatment. Use reliable sites such as, or the official organization for your disease to learn everything you can.  After learning all you can online, follow-up with any specific questions you have by talking to your doctor.  If your physician contradicts what you have read, do not be afraid to ask why.  Be sure you get your questions answered and, if you still have concerns, get a second opinion.

Ask for Help:  If you are receiving treatment from a specialist, be sure to keep your primary care doctor in the loop.  They will know about your other medical conditions and can help coordinate your care. For example, when my husband had a heart attack, the hospital and surgeon had to take special precautions because of my husband's kidney disease. The heart surgeon discussed my husband's treatment with his nephrologist (kidney doctor) before the surgery.  This was very reassuring to us. The more different health issues you have, the more you will need the help of a primary care doctor to coordinate your care.

In addition, ask a family member or a friend to be nearby when you have surgery and to keep track of what is going on during a hospital stay.  If you are under anesthesia, in a medically induced coma, or sleeping continually, you will be much safer if there is someone else who can speak to the doctors and make sure their instructions are being carried out by the hospital staff.

While it may be impossible for patients to avoid all the possible causes of medical errors, it is their responsibility to make sure they do not contribute to any mistakes.

If you are interested in learning more about common medical issues as you age, Medicare, Social Security, financial planning, or where to retire, 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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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

How Medicare-for-All Would Work

One topic which nearly all of us have heard about over the past few years has been Medicare for All.  Opinions about it vary widely, with some people believing it would be the simplest, lowest cost, and most efficient way to provide healthcare to everyone in our country; other people fear that it will cost too much and take away benefits from the senior citizens who have paid into the system during decades of working. 

Both the enthusiasm about potential cost savings and the concern about potential risks are valid.  Because of the confusion around this topic, I asked our Medicare expert, Danielle Roberts, to explain to our readers how Medicare currently works, how a Medicare for All plan might potentially work, and why some people have legitimate concerns about the plan.

It is important to remember that NO final decision has been made about whether our federal government will consider such a program, let alone how the final plan might actually work.  Although the currently proposed plan, as described in the guest post below, calls for zero co-pays, premiums and deductibles, I personally feel this is unlikely to be the final decision, should some version of Medicare-for-All be implemented.  Under our current Medicare program, the government has been trending towards Medicare supplement plans which combine private insurance, co-pays and deductibles with the government backed medical isurance program. They want patients to "have some skin in the game" so they do not run to the doctor for every splinter or sore throat.  As a result, it is likely the final Medicare-for-All plan would require at least some private insurance company involvement, premiums, minimal co-pays, and possible other costs to the consumers.

I also wanted to mention that a recent study, paid for by conservative Republican donors, the Koch brothers, estimated that even without consumers paying deductibles and co-pays, the state, local and federal governments together would save trillions of dollars with Medicare-for-All.  This does not mean that the plan will be cheap for the government to administer; but it does mean it would be much less costly than the current system in which various government agencies reimburse hospitals and other providers for some of the costs they incur when sick people cannot pay.  In addition, other studies have indicated that hospitals are more likely to remain open in poor and rural communities when virtually everyone in those communities has some insurance coverage.

Change is hard and rarely goes smoothly.  Even positive changes, such as a new baby, job or home, can create stress, confusion and fear.  We can expect the same to be true with any major change to our medical care system, whether it is Medicare-for-All or something else.  

Keeping those thoughts in mind, below is the fair and balanced report by Danielle Roberts, explaining both the pros and cons of the Medicare for All plan which is currently proposed ... the one in which patients would have no co-pays or deductibles. She does an excellent job of covering the details and issues more thoroughly than I have, since she is a Medicare expert, licensed to practice in nearly every state in the U.S.

Medicare for All 


The Medicare for All movement may have been on the back burner for a bit, but it is certainly not forgotten. The idea and terminology became popular during presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' campaign and his subsequent legislative bill which was filed in September of 2017. 

You can expect it to be a particularly hot topic in the upcoming November elections. Democrats recently launched a Medicare for All congressional caucus made up of 70 founding members.
But what does it mean really? And is there a chance it is actually going to be in our future?

Universal Health Coverage

Many Americans may not realize it, but we already have a form of national health insurance in place here in America and that’s Medicare. It is a health insurance program financed and overseen by the federal government. So, the term Medicare-for-all began with the idea of expanding our current Medicare system to all Americans.

Medicare-for-All is another term, albeit more positive-sounding, for national health insurance or a single-payer health care system. Proponents of Medicare for All point out that most other free-market countries, like Canada and Britain, all have some sort of universal health care system in place.
In these countries, citizens have access to healthcare regardless of their age. Supporters say that such a system would be more efficient and result in lower costs for health care and prescriptions for all Americans. They believe that better healthcare would be the result and therefore it would improve life-expectancy. In its purest form, it would eliminate the role of private insurance carriers in health coverage, although some versions call for both private and public insurance to be an option.

The Medicare for All movement calls for coverage of all medically necessary services as a basic right, instead of as a privilege. Medically necessary services would include preventive care, physician’s services, inpatient care, outpatient care, emergency care, prescription drugs, durable medical equipment, palliative care, mental health services, substance abuse services and approved dietary and nutritional therapies.

It would also extend beyond our current healthcare system to cover long-term care, dental, vision, hearing, and chiropractic care. The government would also be able to negotiate with drug manufacturers to lower prices on the nation’s behalf, and this is certainly important to many people as costs of prescriptions in the United States are some of the highest in the world.

All U.S. residents would be able to access at least all of these services with no cost-sharing. This means that at the time of service there would be no deductibles, co-pays or coinsurance of any kind due by the patient.

Supporters envision a world where there would be no major medical bills, no medical bankruptcies and a simpler healthcare system with less bureaucracy. People could get their healthcare without fear of creditors or bills which later show up in their mailbox.

Medicare as it is Now

It is important to note that our current form of Medicare does NOT offer this feature. Medicare beneficiaries pay monthly premiums for their Part B and D coverage, and they also are responsible for paying considerable cost-sharing in the form of deductibles and coinsurance. 

Even in this format, with Medicare collecting premiums and cost-sharing, trustees this year warned in their annual report that the current Medicare fund will begin to fall short in 2026. This outlook is even worse than it was last year when the fund was projected to fall short in 2029. If Medicare is already unsustainable, how could it bear the burden of all Americans joining Medicare and paying no premiums, deductibles, co-pays, or coinsurance?

There are Different Potential Versions of Medicare-for-All

While the idea of Medicare-for-All is noble, Congressional members may have a long way to go in structuring the type of program that would be sustainable and affordable for our nation. The National Review reported recently a study which projected that Sanders’ version of Medicare-for-All would cost the nation $32.6 trillion over the next 10 years. Medicare-for-All caucus members must look at how other countries finance their single-payer systems and how the United States might do the same.
In Bernie Sanders’ version of Medicare-for-All, health insurance would be permanently separated from employment. Americans’ eligibility for Medicare would initially drop from age 65 down to age 55 and also cover children up to age 18. Over the following four years, the age of Medicare eligibility would continue to drop until all Americans became eligible for Medicare. Out-of-pocket costs would be eliminated, and benefits would be expanded. 

The plan would be financed by employers, an income-based premium paid by households, and progressive income tax rates. Under Sanders' plan, capital gains and dividends would be taxed as ordinary income, there would be limited tax deductions for wealthy people, as well as an increase in estate taxes for the wealthiest Americans.

Opponents of the program, however, say that Medicare for All would be so expensive that it would quickly become Medicare for None. They claim it would also divert the focus of Medicare from seniors, ultimately hurting them and moving them to the back of the line for care behind younger persons. Cuts to pay for doctors and hospitals might, they say, make it harder for seniors to find doctors who accept their coverage. They have also argued that if millions of new beneficiaries are brought into the program, there would be fewer doctor appointments to go around because Medicare already faces shortages of primary care physicians.

Supporters have responded that while the program would surely be costly, Medicare-for-All would make that up by streamlining operations to reduce high administrative costs and to lower prescription drug costs. Would the savings from new efficiencies in care be enough to take on the extra expense? This remains to be seen, but it’s a step in the right direction that Congress is still talking about health care solutions and recognizes that what we have done thus far is not enough.

The key may lie in finding the happy medium between private and public-sector insurance. There are varying iterations of how a Medicare for All program might ultimately look. Some versions of Medicare for All call for a mixture of private and public insurance rather than a single-payer plan, and this might be very important if they hope to eventually gain the support of insurers and insurance industry lobbyists.

We can only hope that both parties will come together to find one solution that works for the good of all Americans.

About this Guest Post Author:  This guest post was written by our Medicare expert, Danielle Roberts, one of the co-founders of Boomer Benefits and a frequent contributor to this blog.  As always, we greatly appreciate her willingness to share her expertise and her ability to calmly explain difficult to understand issues in plain English.

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