You Are Turning 65: Must Do Checklist

Life Transitions Planning

If you’re about to turn age 65 (or know someone who is) it’s wise to start taking care of a few personal “house keeping” tasks that can significantly impact your future finances and healthcare. Here is a short list (not meant to be all-inclusive) of some of the more important tasks that you should complete shortly before or after your 65th birthday.

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.

Consider a Medicare Part C managed care plan. Many people age 65 and older enroll in a Medicare Part C Medicare Advantage HMO or other managed care plan. These plans replace and provide broader coverage than traditional Medicare Parts A and B. They can be cheaper than the combination of regular Medicare plus a private Medigap supplemental insurance policy, but they limit the health providers you may use. Some Part C plans include prescription drug coverage. We can refer you to a Medicare/health care agent/specialist to help you with this important decision.

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.

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. 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. We can refer you to a long term care agent to help you with this important decision.

Plan your Social Security benefits claim. Age 66 is now Social Security’s “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 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. For more information about this program click here.

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, an advance medical directive (also called a living will), and perhaps a living trust.

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