Social Security has new, easier to use website

Published in RINewsToday on January 30, 2023

Over a month ago, the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) launched a redesigned website to assist beneficiaries to find what they need more easily. New pages and improvements based on public feedback will continue to be unveiled in the coming months. You may have already received an email to check out your new personal account page, though not everyone has yet.

SSA.gov is visited by over 180 million people per year and it is one of our most important tools for providing efficient and equitable access to service,” said Kilolo Kijakazi, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, in a December. 6, 2022 statement announcing this redesign. “Whether providing service in person or online, our goal is to help people understand what they may qualify for and seamlessly transition them to an application process.” Improved self-service capability allows people to skip calling or visiting an office, which helps Social Security staff focus on those visitors who need in-person assistance,” she says.

Kijakazi noted that the redesign will make it easier to do business with the federal agency. “Its redesign is intended to provide a clear path to the tasks customers need to accomplish,” she said, noting that many of the most visited sections of SSA.gov are now live with a more user-friendly and task-based approach.

According to SSA, visitors to SSA.gov can use interactive tools to check eligibility for benefits.  The screener is a convenient and simple way for people to learn if they might be eligible for benefits.

Beneficiaries can also save time on Social Security Number (SSN) and card online services, too.  If a beneficiary loses their SSN card, they may not need a replacement. In most cases, simply knowing their SSN is enough. If a person does need a replacement card, they may be able to request a replacement online by visiting www.ssa.gov/ssnumber.

Individuals can also start an application for an updated card or request an SSN for the first time. People may never need to visit an office and, if they do need to visit an office to complete the application, they will save a lot of time by starting online.

People can also apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits on line by starting an application and requesting an appointment to apply for SSI benefits by just answering a few questions at www.ssa.gov/benefits/ssi/.

Finally, for most benefits, people can apply online or start an application online. In many cases, there are no forms to sign. The agency will review the application and reach out with questions or for more information. Visit www.ssa.gov/onlineservices to apply for retirement, disability, or Medicare.

Many Social Security services do not require the public to take time to visit an office. Using a my Social Security account, a personalized online service, people can start or change direct deposit, or request a replacement SSA-1099. For individuals already receiving Social Security benefits, they can print or download a current Benefit Verification Letter if they need proof of their benefits.

People not yet receiving benefits can use their online account to get a personalized Social Security Statement, which provides their earnings information as well as estimates of their future benefits. The portal also includes a retirement calculator and links to information about other online services. SSA encourages people without a my Social Security account to create one today at www.ssa.gov/myaccount/. This part of the site is operational 5am to 1am, Monday through Friday – 5am to 11pm on Saturday – 8am to 11:30pm on Sunday.

One thing pandemic times have done is make us more proficient in the computer and using online services, and those who run official sites have focused on making them simpler, and easier to use.

Inflation less of an issue for seniors in Assisted Living

Published in RINewsToday o December 5, 2022

A report released TODAY by PayingforSeniorCare.com finds that inflation of goods and services has severely impacted seniors, but inflation of senior living is much softer by comparison. 

The two-part report shares findings based on a survey of 1,000 U.S. adults aged 55+, and data showing the best and worst states for senior living inflation in the United States. Researchers say that this aims to both highlight seniors’ inflation concerns, and provide informational resources for those who need financial assistance.

According to the survey findings, 4 in 10 seniors worry that they won’t be able to afford food and groceries in the future due to inflation, and 1 in 5 say that inflation has caused their grocery bill to increase by more than $250 per month. Overall, 1 in 4 seniors say that they’ve had to make drastic changes to their lifestyle to cope with inflation. For example, more than 1 in 10 seniors say they’ve had to skip meals or by delaying needed medical procedures to save money.

However, researchers say that inflation for senior living is not as extreme. According to data from Caring.com, the nation’s leading senior living referral services, senior living in the U.S. has not experienced the inflation that other sectors of the economy have. Average assisted living costs have only increased 3.7 percent since 2019, while the Consumer Price Index (CPI), a measure of consumer goods and services, has risen by 15.6 percent during the same time period.

“Some may find it surprising to know that since 2019, average inflation for the cost of senior living in the U.S. is less than 1/4th the cost of general inflation (3.7% vs. 15.6%). Many don’t also realize that many of the essential expenses rising in cost — food, energy, gas — are included in the rate of a senior living community,” says Han Hwang, Caring.com’s EVP of Partnerships. 

“While inflation remains a serious concern for seniors and the population in general, relatively low occupancy rates in senior living communities driven by COVID-19 has largely kept inflation at bay,” notes Hwang, “However, we are hearing from operators that rates will continue to increase over time – those prices just haven’t caught up yet with inflation in general,” he says. 

Hwang adds: “For those not yet living in senior living, the report’s insights on the alarmingly high number of seniors skipping meals, medicines and medical procedures due to inflationary pressures should be concerning to everyone. These are essentials for seniors’ well-being, and shouldn’t be skipped. We hope this report will help direct seniors and their families to support resources as soon as possible.

This report finds that not all states have enjoyed the same low inflation of senior living. Several, including North Dakota and Hawaii, have inflation rates of over 20% since 2019 – significantly outpacing the 15.6% inflation rate of the CPI.

Over age 65 seniors comprise 17.7% of Rhode Island’s population. This percentage is expected to grow to 25% by 2030. From the Paying for Senior Care report: Rhode Island is ranked 7th in this study for states with lowest inflation rates for senior living. Rhode Island is among the states that saw a decrease in the average cost of assisted living since 2019, averaging $108 less per month and $1,301 annually in rent and care costs for assisted living. 

This report is made up of two parts: an online survey conducted in October of 2022 of 1,000 U.S. seniors, and data and analysis based on the cost of senior living between 2019 and 2022 according to data provided by Caring.com.

For those who need specific help and guidance on coping with the cost of inflation,  PayingForSeniorCare.com offers a free service – Senior Care Experts who can guide seniors or their loved ones through the decision making process, and provide personalized advice based on their budget and care needs. This service is available by calling (855) 481-6777.

For a copy of this report, go to www.payingforseniorcare.com/2022-inflation-and-seniors-impact-report.Herb Weiss, LRI’12, a Pawtucket writer covering aging, health care and medical issues. To purchase his books, Taking Charge: Collected Stories on Aging Boldly, and a sequel, go to herbweiss.com

More retirees choose to un-retire, and re-enter the workforce – Herb Weiss

Published in RINewsToday on August 29, 2022

Retirees are rethinking their decision to leave their jobs to travel, to pursue leisure activities and hobbies, and to spend time with their family and friends. After the surge of retirements in the early months of the pandemic in late spring 2022, retirees are now returning to work in droves, as they see the value of their stocks and bonds decline and a soaring inflation rate impacting their purchasing power. 

A recent AARP web article, “5 Unexpected Reasons Retirees are Returning to Work,” cited data from the Indeed employment website, found that “of those who retired a year earlier, 1.7 million, or 3.3 percent, are employed again. The majority of these so-called un-retirees are working part time.​”

Researchers are now following, and taking a closer look, at this employment trend.  

According to website-based Resume Builder, a recently released survey revealed that one in five retirees say they are likely to return to work this year. Sixty nine percent of these respondents say they are un-retiring in order to combat rising costs of living. While nearly 60 percent were still concerned about going back to work during the ongoing pandemic, they say they may go back to work. 

This survey was conducted online by the survey platform Pollfish, on March 29, 2022. In total, 800 participants in the U.S. were surveyed. All participants had to pass through demographic filters to ensure they were currently over the age of 54 and retired.

Continuing to Work in the Era of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Resume Builder’s survey findings found that 12 percent of the respondents stated that they were somewhat likely to un-retire this year, while an additional 8 percent say they are very likely. When asked where exactly they plan to go back to work, 19 percent said they will go back to work for their previous employer, 23 percent will stay in the same industry but work for a new employer, while the largest group, at 58 percent, will go to a different industry.

“There is no longer a retirement age and people want to be engaged longer,” stated career consultant Stacie Haller in a statement released on May 2, 2022, announcing the survey’s results.  “Others are returning to the workplace for financial reasons, and in this new work world, there are now more options for them to return with the advent of remote work [and] more part-time work for older workers who cannot commit to a full work week,” she says.

The researchers say that many un-retirees want to take advantage of the flexibility of remote work, given the shifts in being based in a commercial building to remote work over the last 2 years. Thirty one percent of the respondents say they would prefer a remote position but will work in person if need be.

“Remote work is a priority of older workers returning to the workforce and a very welcome way to continue working past the age where they may have previously felt their only option was retirement,” said Haller. “Many no longer want the heavy travel schedule they may have had to endure, especially now that work/life balance is such a big part of workplace conversations.”

“So many candidates have shared with me that they want more of a life, but still want to work and contribute,” she added. “Remote work is important for those with aging physical challenges who can now continue to work and be productive from home. Remote work is also more financially viable for older workers as the cost of commuting has climbed and remote work becomes a huge way to save on costs,” she said.

The survey found that over 69 percent of the respondents cited rising costs and supply chain issues as a motivation for making a decision to reenter the workforce. The most common answer given by the retiree respondent as to why, as a retiree, they were considering un-retiring, eighty-three percent of the respondents expressed concern about their financial situation. Specifically, 44 percent of this group say they are somewhat concerned about the state of their finances, while 39 percent are highly concerned.

Additionally, the survey findings revealed that 39 percent say their daily expenses have increased somewhat over the past three months, while another 39 percent say their expenses have increased greatly. Nineteen percent expressed concern their retirement savings won’t cover their costs of living.

The researchers also found that six-in-ten of the survey’s respondents say they are still concerned about the pandemic. But the majority say they are likely to unretire this year and are open to in-person work. Specifically, 35 percent stated they are still somewhat concerned about the pandemic, while 24 percent noted they were highly concerned. 

Employers Encourages to Return to Workforce 

In addition to these safety concerns of returning to the office during this ongoing pandemic, 44 percent stated they are somewhat worried about age bias affecting their job prospects, while 28 percent were highly worried. But Haller says that older workers need not worry, stressing that today’s labor shortage is an excellent time for retirees to seek employment.  

“The current war for talent has encouraged older workers to return as they are more welcomed than in the past and can find work to fit their needs and alleviate some or all of their financial struggles,” says Haller. 

“Recruiters are reaching out to this cohort more than before on the hunt for talent. Those who have talents and skills in areas where they have not previously worked can have the opportunity to use those skills now as employers can see their years of work experience to speak to their candidacy,” adds Haller. 

With the backdrop of the ongoing pandemic, the unretirement trend has become the new normal as retirees continue to enter the nation’s workforce in greater numbers. The returning retirees bring their technical skills, knowledge and work experience into a job market hit by a shortage of qualified. workers. Hiring the returning retirees allows a company to access their life-long skill set and experiences with younger workers also benefiting from being able to learn from these individuals. A stronger worker culture is created by bringing back older workers building ties between young and old employees. Retirees returning to work also benefit from a job market where employees receive increased wages and enhanced benefits. They also can continue to keep their minds more active at work reducing the incidents of being afflicted by Alzheimer’s and dementias. 

As 2023 approaches, our image of retirement must change. With the growing number of unretired returning to their jobs, images of retirement won’t be of senior sitting on rocking chair on the porch, gardening, traveling, or fixing up the house.  It will be tied to being employed.