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Domestic Violence and Older Adults

Domestic Violence in Older Couple Relationships

When society talks about domestic violence (DV) the discussion normally focuses on couples that are young, dating or recently married. But, DV can happen in any relationship. DV is an pattern of violence or intimidation by an intimate partner, which is used to gain power and control. It is estimated that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will be victimized by a partner at some point in their lives.
Sometimes DV starts early in the relationship and just continues in various ways throughout the entire lifespan. For elderly victims there were few options to leave a violent relationship as DV only became recognized as a crime in Illinois in 1986. Prior to the passing of the Illinois Domestic Violence Act (IDVA) there was little that could be done to get the assistance that is needed to find safety from ongoing abuse.

Rarely though violence can begin in a relationship as they age where there were no indications of abuse earlier. Though no relationship is “perfect” some normal lifespan stressors may exacerbate personal issues. Retirement, increased time together, medical issues and other changing roles can make it necessary to learn new skills to weather the changes that naturally occur.
Widows and widowers may encounter an abusive partner if and when they begin a new relationship. If abuse was not present in their previous relationship they may be taken aback and not know what to do or where to find help. They may be embarrassed or fear being alone again if the relationship ends.

DV is a crime that is mostly committed by men, but women can be violent, also. All DV is wrong. Sometimes there is substance abuse, money stressors, or depression present in the abuser but none of these are excuses that justify hurting someone else. The longer the abuse goes on it may be more difficult for the victim to leave and the abuser often interprets that as their actions must be right. It is not about the abuser not being able to control themselves or their anger; they use their anger to control their victim and get their way.

What should you look for when you think DV may be present in a relationship?

You may have a friend or family member that you think may be in an unhealthy relationship or you may be wondering if you, yourself, are being abused. Do you recognize any of these characteristics?
• Intense jealousy
• Needing to keep the partner abreast of their whereabouts constantly
• Name calling
• Physical assaults like: grabbing, pushing, slapping, holding you down, threatening with a weapon
• Forcing sexual activity, including: intercourse, coercing you to watch pornography, inappropriate requests for unwanted activities
• Making financial decisions that put the families future at risk; refusing access to medical care or assistive equipment
• Isolating you from friends and family.
• The relationship seems “too good to be true”
• Past abuse. The best indicator of future DV is past DV. It may escalate over time or there may be long periods of time where the abuse seems to have ended. There may be a “cycle of violence” with periods of tension, explosions, apologies and even times that seem perfect.
Help is available and it is free!

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and it is an important time to learn the facts. To find your local resource contact AgeSmart Community Resources (800-326-3221) and they can share the closest agency. Together we can create peaceful lives, households and communities!

Information gathered from the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse

Author tag–Debby Mize, BS ICDVP
Director Peacework Consulting

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

 

 

 

Help Finish the Fight Against Breast Cancer
Join the American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk
Significant progress in the fight against breast cancer has been made in recent years, but more needs to be done. Breast cancer remains the most common cancer among women in the U.S. other than skin cancer, and is the second leading cause of cancer death after lung cancer. The chance of a woman developing invasive breast cancer at some time in her life is about 1 in 8 and in 2014, approximately 232,670 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,400 will die from the disease in the U.S.

To change these stats and the course of breast cancer forever, the American Cancer Society created Making Strides Against Breast Cancer community walks in 1993 as a rallying cry to build awareness and generate funds to fight the disease. In that time, 10 million walkers have collected more than $594 million and this year, hundreds of walkers will participate in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer of the Metro-East on October 11th at Rock Springs Park in O’Fallon, Illinois.

“Making Strides Against Breast Cancer brings communities together as the most powerful force to end breast cancer,” said Brett Schuette, Senior Representative of Community Engagement. “The progress we are making is remarkable, but more people are needed to help finish the fight.”

Making Strides proceeds are used by the American Cancer Society to fund breast cancer research grants, offer free patient/caregiver services, provide in-depth cancer information, and support legislative advocacy to make sure cancer patients have access to the care they need.

Call your local American Cancer Society office at 618.288.2320, #3 or visit makingstrideswalk.org to help continue saving lives.

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Simple tips for lowering fall risk in older adults

Simple tips for lowering fall risk in older adults.

According to the Centers for Disease Control each year, one in every three adults age 65 and older falls.  Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries among older adults.

How can older adults prevent these falls?  Environmental and health factors  can  both lead to falls.  Listed below are some preventative actions that older adults can take to decrease their chance of falling both in and out of the home.

Health Factors:

  • Exercise regularly. It is important that the exercises focus on increasing leg strength and improving balance, and that they get more challenging over time. Tai Chi programs are especially good.
  • Ask their doctor or pharmacist to review their medicines—both prescription and over-the counter—to identify medicines that may cause side effects or interactions such as dizziness or drowsiness.
  • Have their eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year and update their eyeglasses to maximize their vision.  Consider getting a pair with single vision distance lenses for some activities such as walking outside. Clean eyeglasses regularly.
  • Talk to their doctor about adequate calcium and vitamin D intake—from food and/or from supplements.
  • Do weight bearing exercise.
  • Get screened and, if needed, treated for osteoporosis.

Environmental Factors to consider (this list does not include all potential hazards, but is a good place to start.)

  • Place lamps and a cordless phone within easy reach of the bed or often-used chair.
  • Ensure there is a clear pathway between the bedroom and bathroom.
  • Set up nightlights in the bedroom and bathroom.
  • Keep a flashlight close to the bedside and another in the kitchen in case of emergencies.
  • Discard all throw rugs.
  • Ensure suitable chair heights, including tub and toilet seats.
  • Double check shoes for proper fit, preferably they are low heels and slippers with non-skid soles.
  • Ensure there is a long-handled shoehorn to assist putting on footwear.
  • Organize clothes and necessities so they are within easy reach.
  • Maintain assistive devices, such as walkers, canes, wheelchairs and others in good working order
  •  Add grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower and next to the toilet
  • Add railings on both sides of stairways
  • Improve the general  lighting in the home.
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Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program

Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program

The Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) provide eligible seniors with resources in the form of fresh, nutritious, unprepared, locally grown fruits, vegetables, and herbs from approved farmers’ markets.  The purpose of the SFMNP is to increase the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables with low income seniors and to expand the awareness, use of and sales at farmer’s markets.

Low-income seniors generally defined as individuals who are at least 60 years old and who have household incomes of not more than 185 percent of the Federal Income Poverty Guidelines (published each year by the Department of Health and Human Services), are the targeted recipients of SFMNP benefits.

In Illinois checks for seniors are distributed at local senior

Facilities through the cooperation of the Illinois Department on

Aging, Area Agencies on Aging and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago.  In Clinton, Madison, St. Clair and Washington Counties the checks are distributed at the local Farmers Markets only.

The Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program season begins July 1st and ends October 31st.

Applications are available at the Farmers markets listed below.

For a downloadable and printable copy of ‘Illinois…What’s in Season’  go to  http://www.agr.state.il.us/markets/WhatsInSeason.pdf

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Enough is Enough- Elder Abuse

 

June  15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

Why Should I Care About Elder Abuse? Elder abuse is an under recognized problem with devastating and even life threatening consequences.

Every day, headlines throughout the U.S. paint a grim picture of seniors who have been abused, neglected, and exploited, often by people they trust the most. Abusers may be spouses, family members, personal acquaintances, or professionals in positions of trust, or opportunistic strangers who prey on the vulnerable.

How big is the problem? Research indicates that more than one in ten elders may experience some type of abuse, but only one in 23 cases are reported. This means that very few seniors who have been abused get the help they need.

One thing is for certain: elder abuse can happen to any older individual –your neighbor, your loved one – it can even happen to you.

What is Elder Abuse?

In general, elder abuse refers to intentional or neglectful acts by

a caregiver or “trusted” individual that lead to, or may lead to,

harm of a vulnerable elder. Physical abuse; neglect; emotional

or psychological abuse; verbal abuse and threats; financial

abuse and exploitation; sexual abuse; and abandonment are

considered forms of elder abuse. In many states, self-neglect is

also considered mistreatment.

TYPES OF ELDER ABUSE

  • Physical abuse: Use of force to threaten or physically injure an elder
  • Emotional abuse: Verbal attacks, threats, rejection, isolation, or belittling acts that cause or could cause mental anguish, pain, or distress to a senior
  • Sexual abuse: Sexual contact that is forced, tricked, threatened, or otherwise coerced upon an elder, including anyone who is unable to grant consent
  • Exploitation: Theft, fraud, misuse or neglect of authority, and use of undue

influence as a lever to gain control over an older person’s money or property

  • Neglect: A caregiver’s failure or refusal to provide for a vulnerable elder’s safety, physical, or emotional needs
  • Abandonment: Desertion of a frail or vulnerable elder by anyone with a duty of care
  • Self-neglect: An inability to understand the consequences of one’s own actions or inaction, which leads to, or may lead to, harm or endangerment

Remember: You do not need to prove that

abuse is occurring; it is up to the professionals to

investigate the suspicions.

Who is at Risk?

Elder abuse can occur anywhere – in the home, in nursing homes,

or other institutions. It affects seniors across all socio-economic

groups, cultures, and races. Based on available information, women

and “older” elders are more likely to be victimized. Dementia is a

significant risk factor. Mental health and substance abuse issues

– of both abusers and victims – are risk factors. Isolation can also

contribute to risk.

 

WARNING SIGNS

•Physical Abuse: Slap marks, unexplained bruises, most pressure marks, and certain types of burns or blisters, such as cigarette burns

•Neglect: Pressure ulcers, filth, lack of medical care, malnutrition or dehydration

•Emotional Abuse: Withdrawal from normal activities, unexplained changes in alertness, or other unusual behavioral changes

•Sexual Abuse: Bruises around the breasts or genital area and unexplained sexually transmitted diseases

•Financial Abuse/Exploitation: Sudden change in finances and accounts, altered wills and trusts, unusual bank withdrawals, checks written as “loans” or

“gifts” and loss of property

 

What Should I Do if I Suspect Elder Abuse?

»REPORT YOUR CONCERNS

Remember: Most cases of elder abuse go undetected. Don’t assume that someone has already reported a suspicious situation. To report suspected abuse in the community, contact your local Adult Protective Services agency. For state reporting numbers, visit the NCEAwebsite at www.ncea.aoa.gov or call the Eldercare Locator at 1-8 0 0 – 67 7-1116.

»IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS IN A LIFE THREATENING SITUATION OR IMMEDIATE DANGER,contact 911or the local police or sheriff.

»TO REPORT SUSPECTED ABUSE IN A NURSING HOME OR LONG-TERM CARE FACILITY, contact your state specific agency. To find the listing, visit the Long Term Care Ombudsman website. www.ltcombudsman.org/ombudsman

For More information on Elder Abuse and Adult Protective Services in Illinois got to: http://www.illinois.gov/aging/ProtectionAdvocacy/Pages/abuse.aspx

For the Flyer from National Center on Elder Abuse “12 Things that Anyone Can Do to Prevent Elder Abuse, go to:

http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/Resources/Publication/docs/NCEA_12things_508.pdf

Together, we have the power to prevent elder abuse.

 

 

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May is National Arthritis Month

Arthritis Basics

Very Basic

 Arthritis impacts more than 50 million adults (1 in 5) and 300,000 (1 in every 250 under the age of 18) children and is an often misunderstood disease.

So what is arthritis?  It is not a single disease; it is a complex group of musculoskeletal disorders with many causes and no cures.  There are over 100 different types of arthritis and people of all ages, sexes and races are affected.  Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in America because it can destroy joints, bones, muscles, cartilage and other connective tissues, which then hamper or halt physical movement.   It is more common in women and as people age it occurs more frequently.  Arthritis is the second most frequently reported chronic condition in the US and a more frequent cause of activity limitation than heart disease, cancer, or diabetes.

Arthritis is not a disease of old age, two thirds of people are under the age of 65, this includes children under age 18.  According to the Arthritis Foundation, the three most common forms of arthritis are:

  • Osteoarthritis (OA): the most common form of arthritis is a progressive degenerative joint disease characterized by the breakdown of joint cartilage associated with risk factors, such as overweight/obesity, history of joint injury and age.  It affects nearly 27 million Americans, most over the age of 45. Read more about osteoarthritis.
  •  Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): a systemic disease characterized by the inflammation of the membrane lining the joint, which causes pain, stiffness, warmth, swelling and sometimes severe joint damage.  It causes inflammation throughout the body, affecting the heart and other organs.  In the United States, an estimated 1.5 million people have RA and there are 2.5 times as many women as men with the disease. Read more about rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Juvenile Arthritis (JA): is an umbrella term used to describe the many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can develop in children ages 16 and younger. Read more about juvenile arthritis.

Common symptoms of arthritis are: swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion.  Symptoms may come and go, can range from mild to severe, and may stay the same for years or progress and get worse over time.  Severe arthritis can include chronic pain, inability to preform daily activities and make mobility difficult.    In addition, it can cause permanent joint changes, some of which are visible (knobby finger joints) but often can only be seen on x-ray.  Arthritis can also affect soft tissue organs such as the heart, lungs, eyes, kidneys, and skin as well as joints.

Often diagnosis of arthritis starts with a person’s primary care physician.  The physician may perform a physical, run blood tests and imagining scans (such as x-rays) to determine the type of arthritis.  In some cases a person may choose to or be referred to an arthritis specialist called a rheumatologist.  An orthopedic doctor may be referred to if the arthritis is severe and may require joint surgery or replacement.

Many things can be done to preserve joint function, mobility and quality of life for someone with arthritis.  Learning about the disease and various treatment options available, physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight are essential components.  More information about the different types of arthritis and practical tips for daily living can be found at the Arthritis Foundation’s website listed below.  The Arthritis Foundation is the only non-profit organization dedicated to serving all people with arthritis.

Sources:

Arthritis Foundation:

  • Arthritis.org
  • The Heavy Burden of Arthritis in the U.S., http://www.arthritis.org/files/images/newsroom/Arthritis_Prevalence_Fact_Sheet_5-31-11.pdf
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Older Americans Month 2014 Safe Today. Healthy Tomorrow.

Older adults have made countless contributions and sacrifices to ensure a better life for future generations. Since 1963, communities across the country have shown their gratitude by celebrating Older Americans Month each May. This celebration recognizes older Americans for their contributions and demonstrates our nation’s commitment to helping them stay healthy and active.

This year’s theme for Older Americans Month is “Safe Today. Healthy Tomorrow.” The theme focuses on injury prevention and safety to encourage older adults to protect themselves and remain active and independent for as long as possible. Unintentional injuries to this population result in at least 6 million medically treated injuries and more than 30,000 deaths every year. With an emphasis on safety during Older Americans Month, we encourage older adults to learn about the variety of ways they can avoid the leading causes of injury, like falls.

While the Area Agency on Aging provides services, support, and resources to older adults year-round, Older Americans Month offers an opportunity for us to provide specialized information and services around the important topic of injury prevention. This information will help older adults take control of their safety and live longer, healthier lives.

Throughout the month, the Area Agency on Aging will be conducting activities and providing tips on how to avoid the leading causes of injury. The Next Snacks and Facts will talk about wellness and older adults and the Healthy Living Expo on May 22, 2014 will focus on staying safe in your home.  To learn more about Older Americans Month and how you can participate, contact the Area Agency on Aging at 1-800-326-3221 and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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What is an ADRC?

ADRC?  Great idea….but what is it exactly?  Well, ADRC stands for Aging and Disability Resource Center.  The idea started as a result of the complexity of services to both the aging and disability communities. There are agencies that serve people over 55 and under 60, there are agencies that serve people who have specific types of disabilities, those that serve people with a variety of disabilities, and a multitude of social services with qualifications of their own. So the idea came about that both the aging and disability communities would be best served if they didn’t have to navigate between all the different agencies that provided all the different kinds of services…and a “No Wrong Door” or “One Stop Shop” program was born: ADRC.

In 2003, the Administration on Community Living (including Area on Aging) and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid collaborated and began providing funding for states to develop ADRC’s. ADRC programs raise visibility about the full range of options that are available to consumers, provide objective information, advice, counseling and assistance, empower people to make informed decisions about their long term supports, and help people more easily access public and private long term supports and services programs.

About 6 years ago several aging and disability related agencies in the Metro East/Southern Illinois area came together to form our own ADRC:  Area Agency on Aging of S.W. Illinois, LINC & OFA Centers for Independent Living, local Case Coordination Units, Southwestern Illinois Visiting Nurses, and several other aging network Information and Assistance providers.

We cross trained our agency staff  so they would have a greater understanding of the programs and qualifying criteria of the other agencies and could avoid the “goose chase” referrals.  Goose chase referrals happen when the agency you call refers you to another who gives you the phone number of another…..and around and around you go!

The ADRC relationships we have formed have created a stronger network of services for those aging with and without disabilities.  So whether you need help with something fairly uncomplicated like completing an energy assistance application or as confusing as navigating Medicare information, your ADRC can help!  You have questions?  Just call Millie at LINC, Inc. ~ 618-235-9988 or Area Agency on Aging of Southwestern Illinois ~ 618-222-2561

The Area Agency on Aging would like to thank Lynn Hatfield for this week’s blog post. Lynn is the Assistant Executive Director at Living Independently Now Center (LINC, Inc) the Center for Independent living for St. Clair, Monroe and Randolph counties in Southern Illinois.  You can contact LINC at (618) 235-9988 Voice/TTY,  (618) 310-0054 Video Phone or visit their website at www.lincinc.org .

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Planning, Honeymoon, Disenchantment , Reoirentation and Legacy of Retirement Planning

I have a secret for you. I don’t blog. I was asked if I’d write one on the stages of financial planning, and given the constant nagging from my marketing director to start blogging, I agreed.  In this blog we’ll cover those stages and hopefully a few insights along the way.

Obviously there’s a 30,000 foot view stretching from adolescence to death, but I felt that folks reading this wouldn’t be too concerned with the youth of today, or paragraphs talking about the compounding effect for 20 year olds vs 30 year olds.  After all, most folks reading this were probably the youth of yesterday and you’re just now getting around to reading about this stuff yourselves.  So I thought I’d do a slightly more micro approach on the later stages. I’ll try to offer some ideas that I’ve come across in the 10 plus years I’ve helped clients navigate through their later years, in the hopes that you find some things useful or applicable to your own situations.  I’ll call these stages The Planning Time, Honeymoon Phase, Disenchantment, Reorientation, and Legacy.

Planning:

Our first stage ‘The Planning Time’ usually takes place somewhere around age 50. It’s when folks start looking at the balances of their 401K’s and begin wondering “Hmm, is that going to do it?”  People fortunate enough to have pensions start adding up their expenses and doing to math.  I cannot express how important these years are for your future.  The decisions you’ll make set the foundation for the rest of your life. I tell my teenagers that exact same line, but something tells me that you may be more receptive.

The general school of thought for retirement has been that you can safely pull 4% from your moderately invested savings with only a slight risk of your account hitting zero before your blood pressure does. (However, this has been under some scrutiny in the last 4-5 years due to volatile markets and low interest rate environment).  So keep in mind that it anything but a ‘rule’ when planning.  A few pointers for planning would be to ensure that your allocations haven’t gotten out of whack over the years of raising kids and not monitoring accounts.  Going over a detailed budget is going to be vital for you.  Notice I didn’t say create a budget, or to budget yourself.  I’ll leave telling you not to have a cup of coffee every day to the Suzie Orman’s of the world. Simply put, you need to know what your expenses will be once you retire to effectively plan for it. Common sense right? You’d be surprised at the amount of people that thought they just won’t spend as much during retirement. When in fact I’ve found that people often spend more than they did the years they were working (more on that later).  You also want to understand that diversification is more than just a healthy mix of stocks and bonds, it’s also understanding how having tax diversity can impact you.  The decision to invest money into tax free accounts or looking into Roth conversion strategies should involve more than, “Should I pay taxes now or later?” One important factor most everyone overlooks is the effect this has on their social security income. The difference between taking money from a taxable vs tax free account could mean paying tax on up to 85% of SSI. The bottom line for this stage, there are a lot of variables and you have to be diligent. Do your homework and lots of it.

Honeymoon:

The Honeymoon phase is where you allow 30+ years of stress to proverbially roll off your back. You did it! You’re the boss now, your time is yours again. Everything’s new, fresh, and exciting. Your dreams become possibilities and hobbies. You’re also the healthiest you’ll be throughout your retirement (assuming one of your hobbies isn’t a health make over). I encourage folks to plan for an increased budget during this initial phase because hopefully you’ll take advantage of it. Travel, start a new hobby or business, finish your bucket list because unfortunately there’s no telling just how long we have left.

For those that retire prior to social security or pension benefits, this can be a time when you pull significant amounts from your savings. I suggest allocating your accounts into 3 separate buckets (figuratively or literally depending). Funds you’ll use the first 1-6 years in retirement. Funds from 7-15, and money you’ll need 15 years and beyond.  The reason is of course you would invest these accounts in a very different manner.  If you have 15 or 20 years until you need to use a certain account, you may be able to tolerate a few more fluctuations with the goal of receiving higher average returns along the way.

Disenchantment:

I hope this phase doesn’t happen for you or at the very least that being aware of it will help to shorten its stay.  Disenchantment comes when we become stagnant.  Feelings of let down or uselessness can creep in.  For some, and I’ve seen it happen to my very own clients, unhealthy spending can occur here.  We may tend to impulse buy or depression shop to find our self-worth or to just flat out make us feel better.  It is vital to recognize this and stick to your plan…you know that one you created in the planning stage!

Reorientation:

Thankfully the letdown phase doesn’t last forever, at least not for you right?! You’re resilient, you’re a boomer for Pete’s sake! With the help of time, friends, family, or a combination thereof we ultimately discover our purpose of who we are now that we’re not working. We find and settle into routines. This may also be when we downsize our home if necessary, or simply start accepting a different outlook.  This is probably the truest test of our plan thus far and the best time to revisit its vitals and make sure it’s still healthy and preforming in a way that will support you.

Legacy:

This is something that comes naturally to some. “How do you want to be remembered?” Let that sit for a moment. If we’ve done a good job with other phases, chances are you have some tough decisions to make. How will you leave what you have in the simplest, most tax efficient way that will preserve your legacy?  There are so many ways to accomplish this that I could write posts for 6 weeks and still not cover them all.  Just know that you want your financial planner to have a good working relationship with an estate planning attorney so they can collaborate to identify all possible avenues for you to accomplish this. Whether it is charitable interests, passing wealth to your grandchildren, or meeting the maker with your last nickel, chances are the US government wouldn’t be a choice.

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The Area Agency on Aging would like to thank Jason Stroede , President of Clarus Wealth Management for this week’s blog.  Jason and his team specialize in retirement planning strategies in the St. Louis Metro East Region.  To contact Jason or one of his team you can call 618-398-6861 or 800-257-5046 or check out their website at www.claruswealthmanagement.com.

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Social Security: Know before you go

Social Security: Know before you go!

According to the Pew Research Center starting January 1st 2011 “Roughly 10,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65 today, and about 10,000 more will cross that threshold every day for the next 19 years.”  Most of those turning 65 and many more approaching that age are thinking about retirement.  The sad truth is that most retirees have very little understanding of Social Security benefits and can make decisions that will affect their income for the rest of their lives.  Retirement, retirement planning and strategies seem to be on the front page of Yahoo and other sites every day.  Some of the stories help; some of them are just confusing.

Fortunately, there are great tools available for free from Social Security to make the decision making process easier.  SSA offers publications and retirement tools on the www.ssa.gov website.  Make sure the page you are on is the .gov webpage, it is the official Social Security site, there are many predators on the web that will try and charge you for the information and filing of benefits.  Social Security does not charge a fee for filing for retirement benefits. If you are just beginning your plan for retirement SSA offers a great basic primer publication (www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10035.pdf).  The webpage also offers a variety of free tools that can be used to see the different monthly amounts based on your own earnings as you look at the difference between filing for early benefits at 62, 65, 67 or even 70 years old.  These tools are valuable for making the decisions for the rest of your life. You can also file for benefits on the SSA.gov webpage when you are ready. You can also file over the phone or in person at your Social Security office, but you will need to contact SSA and make an appointment well in advance. Appointments can be made by calling 1-800-772-1213.

Regardless of filing electronically or in person you are going to have to provide SSA with information and documentation to make the process go smoothly.  Using the tools SSA provides will make the process move very smoothly.

Documents you need to have in order to retire.

  • Your Social Security number;
  • Your birth certificate;
  • Your W-2 forms or self-employment tax return for last year;
  • Your military discharge papers if you had military service;
  • Your spouse’s birth certificate and Social Security number if he or she is applying for benefits;
  • Children’s birth certificates and Social Security numbers, if you are applying for children’s benefits;
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if you (or a spouse or child applying for benefits) were not born in the United States; and
  • The name of your financial institution, the routing number and your account number, so your benefits can be deposited directly into your account. If you do not have an account at a financial institution or prefer receiving your benefits on a prepaid debit card you can receive a Direct Express® card. For more information, visit www.GoDirect.org.

You will need to submit original documents or copies certified by the issuing office. You can mail or bring them to Social Security. They will make photocopies and return your documents.

Any time money and complex or confusing government programs are combined; there are people who will take advantage of the situation.  To avoid fraud many companies now offer retirement counseling as do many financial services firms.  It is important to understand that Social Security does not train or endorse anyone outside of SSA in retirement.  If you choose to use assistance in your retirement make sure you are dealing with a company or individual that at least is trained and certified is some type of financial planning recognized by major financial institutions.  By using the SSA webpage, publications and tools you will be more informed. You will know something about retirement, if the answers you are getting from your advisor do not sound like what you have read on Social Security’s documents you should be very cautious.  There are no secrets or tricks to getting the most from your retirement. No one can offer a “secret” to get more than you could on your own.  Remember you are providing very sensitive information, information that in the wrong hands could be used to steal your identity.

The key to a successful retirement is prior planning and education. SSA has made every effort to provide an easier to understand system.  Yes, it is still very complicated. Yes, it can be confusing. Yes, you can take charge of your retirement by spending some time with family or friends going over the information provided by the agency to make you better informed.  You are looking at a decision that will play a role in your life for decades, doing it fast and easy may not always be the best choice.

Resources

The Area Agency on Aging would like to thank Steve Fulton for contributing this blog.  Steve is a former Social Security Claims Representative, who is trained in both retirement and disability claims.  Steve can be reached at sfultonz72@gmail.com.

 

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