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You're Turning 65: A Must-Do Checklist

If you're about to turn age 65 (or know someone who is) it's time to consider some things that can greatly affect your finances and healthcare. In the months leading up to - or in the months immediately following, if you've been a little slow -your 65th birthday, do the following:

Health-Related Matters

  • Enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B. Almost everyone age 65 and older is eligible to enroll in Medicare Part A (inpatient care) and Medicare Part B (outpatient care). You may sign up as early as three months before your 65th birthday to ensure that your coverage begins on the day you turn 65.

  • Penalties may apply if you sign up more than 3 months after your 65th birthday. Your first chance to sign up for Medicare is called your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). It happens around your 65th birthday and lasts a total of 7 months. It includes your birthday month plus the 3 months before and the 3 months after. It’s best to sign up early to avoid gaps in coverage and late enrollment penalties.

  • Consider a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. The high cost of prescription drugs leads the majority of people age 65 and over to enroll in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, which provides some reduction in yearly drug costs.

  • Shop for a Medigap insurance policy to supplement Medicare. Medicare leaves unpaid a large portion of most people's medical bills. To fill in the gaps in Medicare payments, many people buy a private Medigap supplemental insurance policy. Your right to buy the policy of your choice only lasts until six months after you enroll in Medicare Part B.

Legal and Money Matters

  • Consider long-term care insurance. A private long-term care insurance policy can help pay for long-term home care or residence in an assisted-living facility or nursing home -- things that Medicare doesn't cover. The policies can be expensive, however, and are something of a financial gamble. If you haven't bought long-term care insurance but think you might be interested, now -- when you're in your mid-60s -- is the last age at which buying a new policy is affordable for most people.

  • Plan your Social Security benefits claim. Do you know your Social Security "full retirement age" -- when you can claim your full Social Security retirement benefits without any penalty for continuing to earn an income. But some people claim reduced benefits as early as age 62, while others wait until after full retirement age (up to age 70) to claim higher benefits. Deciding when it's best for you to claim Social Security benefits for yourself, your dependents, and your survivors takes a little planning.

  • Find out about extra help if you have a low income and few assets. There is both full medical coverage and direct financial help available to people 65 and over who have low income and few assets other than their homes. Medicaid can pay the full cost not only for medical care but also for long-term home care and nursing home residence. Supplemental Security Income can provide small monthly cash assistance in addition to Social Security benefits.

  • Get your legal documents in order. Although most 65-year-olds still have many years to live, a sudden illness or accident could make decision-making difficult if not impossible. Getting legal documents in order can make sure your wishes are followed with regard to healthcare, including end-of-life care, your ongoing finances, and your estate. These documents include a will, a power of attorney for finances, and an advance medical directive (also called a living will).

For most of these checklist items, our team can help. Contact us at 616-233-9050 and pass this article along to someone you know approaching 65, we're here to help!

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