North Carolina seniors better off than many other older Americans
Image source: Flickr User Jennier-O
We wrote last week about census data that showed that many in North Carolina are suffering under the yoke of low wages. But today, we have good news from the recent census that shows that seniors in North Carolina are actually doing quite well. Among adults age 65 and older, just 10% are living below the federal poverty level. Comparatively, California has a rate double this and Nevada and Louisiana at nearly double.
In fact, older adults in our state are better off than either the general state population or that of children in the state at 18% and 25% respectively. Social Security is a critical component in most seniors' incomes and their ability to live above the poverty level. Without this important program, the poverty level for seniors in NC would be closer to 53%. Despite this cushion, it's still important that seniors are mindful of their finances. Here are five tips to consider:
#1 Deal effectively with student loans
This has been in the news frequently – that seniors are dealing with student loans now more than ever – and that many are seeing their Social Security garnished by up to 15% per month by the federal government for delinquent loans. The good news is under Income Based Repayment programs, payments can be reduced drastically to as low as $0-$5 per month. Even for those that have loans in default, affordable rehabilitation with payments of just $5 a month is available to those living on lower fixed incomes which can save you tens of thousands on your student loans and end your garnishment. Read more on this here.
#2 Take advantage of tax breaks
In contrast to assumptions, income taxes don't always drop with age and property taxes certainly do not. For those that own their homes, their tax bills may even increase once their mortgage is paid off and mortgage interest deductions are no longer available. It's important to take advantage of all possible tax breaks to pay the least amount in taxes legally. Many libraries and senior centers around the state offer free tax counseling between January and April each year. Taking advantage of one of these free sessions is smart money.
#3 Be careful with support of adult children
Many older Americans aren't just footing the bill for their own expenses, but are being tasked by their grown children for financial support. No one wants to see their family suffer, but this is like when the pressure drops on an airplane. You should always see to your own oxygen before placing a mask over the child. This is true with finances. Seniors should not put themselves in the poorhouse supporting grown kids. This isn't good for anyone. Read more on this here.
#4 Don't fall prey to scams
Seniors are often the focus of malicious scams and may fall prey to them to an extent that causes serious financial damage. There are many scams intentionally designed to pull at the heart strings of seniors by fraudsters claiming to be relatives needing assistance, utility companies threatening cutoff and a host of other terrible programs created to steal from others. Keep an eye on our blog regularly for news on scams hitting North Carolina consumers and how to protect yourself.
#5 Seek debt relief before it's too late
Because seniors are a generation of hard workers, they're not ones to shirk their financial responsibilities even when they're short on money. But, in fact, this is often not the wisest financial strategy in the long run. Once on a fixed income, it's important to be double savvy about debt. For those that have a mountain of credit card bills, medical bills and other unsecured debt that's they're struggling to pay, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy may be the best way to get control of their finances. This can offer a clean slate on many types of debt and allow the senior to “reset” and get back to a place of stress-free financial comfort.
If you're a senior struggling with debt you can't afford, contact the law offices of John T Orcutt for a free consultation today. We can help you get a financial fresh start so you can enjoy your retirement with peace of mind.