The government at state, federal, and local levels offers a range of financial services for the elderly, and charitable institutions also sometimes have programs designed to assist senior citizens with their financial needs.
Financial Help for Seniors: Work at Home and Web Giveaways
Now before we get into the “guts” of the article, one way of helping yourself out of a financial slump is to get your hands on as much “free stuff” as you can. This includes things like food, goods, and even education. The web offers quite a few means of getting Free Stuff as a Senior Citizen.
Free Stuff for Seniors
You can look at this free stuff for seniors guide which does a pretty good job at showing you how to take advantage of all the various freebies out there.
Need a Job? Apply for a Job Seniors Can Do Online
Here are some online promotions where you fill out a survey and get free stuff or a chance of winning something:
Make Money as a Senior Filling Out Surveys
Another way to get financial assistance is to…work. Yes, you heard me right, by working. Now you might say that you can’t find work as a senior citizen because you are too old, there are no jobs in your area, etc. Maybe 20 years ago this would have been a barrier to getting a job, but in this day and age of the internet, it is possible for you to work from the comfort of your home, no matter your age and location. If you are internet-savey enough to read this article and to have found it on the web, then you should can work.
There are a couple options.
Filling out surveys is not some get rich quick scheme. You are going to have to put in time filling out surveys, but it can bring in some extra money.
Make Money Writing Articles
Another job for seniors that can actually bring in decent money is to write articles. This involves basically writing content for websites. Believe it or not, there are a lot of website owners who need articles written — if you are fluent in English and can write half decently (and chances are you can), then there is money for you. The going rate is around 3-5 dollars per article. How can you get a job?
There is one good place that you can sign up with and apply for a writing job:
- RealWritingJobs.com — a website that helps set you up with a writing job
- Fiverr— create an account and you can do odd jobs online for $5 bucks a peice
Financial Help for Senior Citizens
There are several programs that can provide financial help to the senior citizen. These vary in availability according to age and other factors, and benefit formulations can be quite complex, so it is recommended that interested senior citizens do further research on one of the below programs if they feel it may meet their needs.
Social Security Old Age Pensions
This is the oldest social welfare program in the United States, begun back in the 1930s by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Unlike some programs, you must have paid into it in order to be eligible for benefits. The current requirement, which has been in effect for many years, is that you have 40 quarters of work on your record.
This work must have been in a job that paid into the Social Security system; teaching, for examples, is exempt in many states. 40 quarters equals 10 years of work, but if you worked a little bit each year for 40 years, you will have 40 quarters; the quarters do not have to be contiguous. Since this is a government program, words don’t always mean what they would usually suggest. A “quarter” in this case is not ¼ of a calendar year; it is a sum of money you have earned. Currently, you must earn about $1100 in a year to qualify for one “quarter.” This number scales with inflation. You cannot earn more than 4 “quarters” in any single calendar year.
People can begin receiving Social Security benefits when they are 67 and these will continue until death. They must be paid directly into a bank account; paper checks in this regard have become a thing of the past.
Medicare and Prescription Drug Coverage Assistance
Another program for senior citizen financial help is Medicare, which was recently expanded to cover prescription drugs as well. Medicare uses very complex formulas and consists of both a Part A and a Part B, which cover different items; in addition, seniors now must elect a prescription drug coverage from one of the many companies that work with the government to offer this benefit to seniors.
Though the system is complex, the advantages of it are not. Senior citizens can be assured that during their golden years, health care will still be affordable for them because major medical expenses will be paid for by the government.
Unlike Social Security, the benefit level received under Medicare does not depend on the total amount of money paid in, though you must have enough quarters to qualify. Currently you must have earned 12 quarters over your lifetime in order to be eligible for Medicare when you retire.
Senior Citizen Discounts
Most retail establishments that sell food and drink have some kind of discount program for senior citizens. Usually this takes the form of a “senior menu” which is a short offering of specials that provides a smaller meal more suited to the caloric requirements of the senior citizen.
Movie theatres will also often offer senior discount tickets, generally available to those aged 65 and older.
Grants for Senior Citizens
In most cases, individuals who are having making ends meet must use family based or private resources to solve their problems. While the U.S. government does provide many grants to help people with activities like starting a business or going to college, free money in order to repay debt or meet normal living expenses is almost non-existent. However, the one class of Americans who can rely on government assistance in this situation is the senior citizen.
Grants are very different from loan based assistance because they do not have to be paid back. They can therefore be regarded as “free” money.
1. Natural Disaster Relief Grant
Most government grants to help seniors are restricted to providing aid in certain specific situations. One such situation is in the case of a natural disaster. If you are aged 62 or above and you can demonstrate that you will most likely be unable to repay a loan, you may be eligible for housing relief in the case of a natural disaster such as a hurricane, earthquake, or regional flood. You can use the funds to repair your property or replace it entirely if the scale of damages from the disaster would warrant that. Requirements for this program include:
- You must exhaust FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration) aid first.
- You must prove you own the home in the disaster area.
- You must prove that repairs or replacement of housing is needed.
- Your home must be in an officially designated “disaster area.” The President of the United States is in charge of declaring disaster areas; in some cases state governors can also make such declarations.
2. Housing Improvement Assistance Grant
Another variety of government grant money for seniors can be found in programs to help citizens improve or modernize their homes. The goal of such programs is to help assure that senior citizens live in dwellings free of safety hazards. Requirements for this program include:
- You must be at least 62 years old (younger citizens can obtain a loan instead of a grant).
- Your home must be in a rural location.
- Your income must be within the qualifying range; this program is designed to assist low-income seniors. The qualifying range is usually the median income for the local area.
If you meet some but not all of the qualifications, you may be eligible for a partial grant, with the balance of the assistance being made up of a loan that you must repay.
3. Non-Profit Organizations: Grants for Senior Citizens
Another source of assistance for the elderly American comes from non-profit organizations, which often fund grants directly or do so through local governments or community organizations. Contact the senior center in your community to find out about non-profits in the local area. They often provide assistance in the following forms:
- rent subsidies
- low-cost apartments for seniors only
- monthly food assistance
- debt relief
In some cases, senior citizens who receive aid through charitable organizations are required to repay the grant “in kind,” which means through service. Helping to serve meals at the senior center or volunteering to visit those who are shut-in are some of the activities that are usually regarded as “in kind” payments.
However, senior citizens who need assistance and are unable to provide any services due to ill health or infirmity are can usually be exempted from any service requirement.
Housing Assistance for Senior Citizens
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has a great deal of advice for seniors seeking housing assistance. One of the most common methods for seniors to stay in their own homes as they age involves the reverse mortgage.
What is a Reverse Mortgage?
A reverse mortgage is a financial instrument that allows a senior citizen to slowly sell his or her home to a bank. Each month, the bank makes a payment to the senior; this in effect provides an income stream. During this process, which can last a set number of years or can last until death, the senior citizen is allowed to stay in his or her home. Upon death or at the expiration of the reverse mortgage, the house is not inherited by any heirs. Instead, the bank takes it since they have paid for it over time.
This is a type of assistance that most seniors who own a home free and clear can take advantage of. There are no income eligibility requirements since a reverse mortgage is taken out with a private lending bank rather than with a government institution. A reverse mortgage qualifies as housing assistance because it can let a senior citizen stay in his or her own home with it would otherwise not be feasible. Consider, for example, the elderly woman on a fixed income who owns her house free and clear but finds herself unable to pay the property taxes. A reverse mortgage can provide her with a monthly income that makes this obligation possible to fund.
Consult the Better Business Bureau and seek credit counseling if you are considering a reverse mortgage as some unscrupulous companies do exist. They may seek to scam a senior citizen into signing paperwork that gives away the home without any sort of benefit accruing to the senior citizen in question.
Property Tax Relief as Housing Assistance for Seniors
In some states, seniors do not need to worry about property taxes that they cannot pay. Many states have programs that will defer property taxes until after the owner’s death. At that time, the property is sold and all unpaid taxes and interests are funded from the sale; the balance of the monies will be disbursed to heirs in accordance with probate.
In order to qualify for this type of housing assistance, which of course allows seniors to retain and live in their homes when it would otherwise be unaffordable, citizens must meet certain eligibility requirements. These vary by state but they generally involve a minimum age. The programs are intended to assist senior citizens who can be presumed in many cases to live on a fixed income. Younger people who are working cannot usually take advantage of property tax deferment programs.
Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher
Funded by the federal government but distributed through state and local governments, Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers are designed to assist seniors and others meet their rent obligations. For more information on housing assistance programs for senior citizens, an excellent place to start is the HUD Portal online.
Asset Protection as Financial Assistance
Financial assistance means more than simply whether grants or loans are available. Sometimes senior citizens can improve their financial picture simply by doing a better job at protecting what assets they already possess. The U.S. Government offers several resources to help in this regard, most of them available through the Consumer Protection Agency.
Programs available from the Consumer Protection Agency will help Americans in every age bracket, but the ones most targeted toward the needs of seniors are:
- Abuse of the Elderly
- Advocates for Residents of Nursing Homes, by State
- Commission on Law and Aging
- Elder Rights Protection
- Financial Crimes Against the Elderly
- H.E.L.P. – Helping People Meet Aging-Related Legal and Care Challenges
- How To File a Nursing Home Complaint
- Long Term Care Ombudsman Program (Administration on Aging)
- Medicare Fraud: Detection and Prevention
- Social Security – Protect Your Social Security Number
- Social Security – Report Fraud
Tax Credit Help for the Elderly or Disabled
Some seniors can receive financial assistance in the form of a tax credit from the federal government. To qualify for the credit for the elderly, you must be a U.S. citizen or resident alien aged 65 or older and your income must meet certain guidelines. Single senior citizens earning less than $17,500 per year or married couples earning less than $20,000 per year will generally meet these guidelines, though exact eligibility requirements can be complex. For more information, see U.S. Government publication 524, which fully explains all the rules and regulations related to the tax credit for the elderly.
If you are not yet 65 but you are disabled, you may still qualify for the same credit. See the publication linked above for full information on that tax credit, also. Both of these tax credits provide financial assistance by lowering the total amount of taxes that an individual or married couple must pay each year. In some cases, the tax credit will do more than lower tax liability; it will result in a net profit such that you will pay no taxes at all and the federal government will send you “free” money back.
Other Tax Information for Senior Citizens
There are other federal tax programs and strategies that can assist senior citizens financially. These are fully explained in the following government publications:
For senior citizens who feel that navigating official government publications is too much of a challenging, the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) offers free tax advice, including free preparation of forms when needed. This non-profit organization is dedicated to meeting the needs of seniors and helping them utilize government and other resources to the maximum. They can be reached through their online tax assistance web page. Those who take advantage of the AARP’s “tax aide” program can be sure that they are getting access to all financial assistance programs for which they qualify.
Financial Assistance to Help Seniors Pay their Medical Bills
The following government programs provide financial assistance targeted at helping senior citizens meet their expenses for medical care:
- Medicare Savings Programs
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits
- Extra Help
Full information on all of these is available in a government guidebook available online, but the most important thing to know is that they generally include income eligibility requirements. As such, they are designed to assist low income senior citizens, the group most in need of this kind of support.
Homecare and Transportation Help for Seniors
Finding Your Local Agency for Financial Assistance with Meals and Transportation
The federal government’s Administration on Aging has a helpful web site which simplifies the process of finding the local agency responsible for assisting senior citizens with financial and other needs. Simply point your internet browser to the Elder Care Locater Web Page and type in your zip code. You will instantly be supplied a list of the local agency or agencies responsible for assisting senior citizens in that local area.
A search of “90210,” which is the zip code for Beverly Hills, California, for example, returned results for several local and state agencies responsible for financial assistance, meals and nutrition for seniors, and elder care abuse. The main agency was the Los Angeles County Community and Senior Services Area Agency on Aging; the Elder Care Locater provided the phone number, address, email and web site so that contacting the agency is possible in several different ways.
Help with Senior Care
If you are looking for someone qualified to assist with elderly care, there are a number of website which will line you up with an elderly care provider at a price you can afford.
Financial Assistance for Recreation: The Fun Stuff
When it comes to financial assistance for seniors, it’s not all about taxes and medical care. Help is also available to assist seniors to attain a high quality of life, including recreation and vacations. This kind of help usually comes in the form of discounts rather than grants or loans offering direct funding.
The national railroad of the United States, Amtrack, has a senior citizens discount program. Those who are 62 years of age or older qualify for it and will receive 15% off the lowest available fare, simply for the asking. Some limitations do apply; for example, the senior discount is not available on the auto train. For more information, click the link at the bottom of this article.
Many airlines may also offer senior discounts. The best advice is simply to ask – the worst case scenario will be that you get told no, but in many cases you may find that you save money.
In addition, the national park system offers a senior discount program that enables senior citizens to purchase an annual and sometimes a lifetime pass that will get them into all national parks free of charge. For those that like the outdoors, this can represent a significant savings over time.
Most states operate a state park system that also offers a senior discount pass.
More information on travel discounts is available at the following web sites: