Who Needs Your Social Security Number? (And When to Refuse to Give it Out)

Recently, as my daughter was deciding which college she will attend next fall, I was looking over the various schools’ acceptance forms. Many asked for her Social Security number.  I told Gabriella not to give the school her number. “Why?” she asked. “Because they have no legal right to it,” I said.

Your Social Security number is a golden key. With it, thieves can take out credit and commit other identify theft in your name. The best protection we have is to give our Social Security numbers only when absolutely necessary.

When are you required to give your number? There are essentially two situations:

  • You are doing something that is reportable to the IRS or your state’s tax department; and/or
  • You are engaged in a financial transaction that is subject to the Customer Identification Program. This is a provision of the USA Patriot Act which requires financial institutions to verify your identity.

You do need to give your Social Security number (SSN) to:

  • Companies from which you are applying for credit: credit cards, loans of any type, cell phone service
  • Your department of motor vehicles
  • Employers
  • The three main credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion
  • Federal and state agencies when applying for benefits: Social Security, Medicare, disability, Medicaid, and other aid programs`
  • Investment advisors and brokerage houses
  • Banks
  • Companies with which you have a cash transaction of $10,000 or more: car dealerships, RV and boat dealerships, etc.
  • Companies facilitating real estate transactions

Many organizations ask for your Social Security numbers out of habit. Some want to use it as your identification number or to be able to collect if you don’t pay them. I have heard some medical providers want your number in case you die. (If this happens, your emergency contact can provide it.)

Most places are not required to collect, and, therefore, should not have possession of your Social Security number. These include:

  • Colleges and universities
  • The College Board
  • Hospitals
  • Medical offices
  • Health insurers
  • Other medical businesses
  • Primary and secondary schools
  • Summer camps
  • Retailers and grocery stores (some want to write it on checks presented for payment)
  • Government agencies at all levels except when they are required to obtain it
  • Charities (Some may want your number to run a background check. You have to decide whether it is worth the risk.)
  • Service providers (I recently helped a client call her trash hauling service. They wanted her SSN in case she doesn’t pay. With her SSN they can turn her over to a collection agency.)
  • Anyone who contacts you by phone, official looking mail, or text asking (or demanding) your Social Security number. Only give it out when you initiate the contact and only when it is necessary.

We need to be vigilant about giving out our numbers. Don’t automatically give it out when asked. Instead, stop and think. If in doubt, you can:

  • Ask the name of the law which requires the organization to collect it and for an explanation of that law.
  • Request an identification number that is not your SSN.
  • Ask to have your identity verified by another means.
  • Inquire what measures and procedures are in place to keep your number safe. Is it stored on portable devices, especially ones that leave the office? Is it encrypted? Which staff members have access to it, and do they need access to perform their duties? If the SSN is on paper, is the paper shredded and how secure is that paper before it is shredded?
  • Refuse to give it out. Be aware, however, companies and other organizations can elect to not provide you service if you refuse.

Finally, don’t automatically fill in your SSN on forms. My daughter skipped this on the form for the college she will be attending. Nobody from the school said a word.

This blog is published to provide you with general information only, and is not intended to provide specific or comprehensive advice.  Money Care, LLC encourages individuals to seek advice from competent professionals when appropriate.

 

 

Your Eighteen-Year-Old Needs a Will (and Other Legal Documents)

I am getting ready to “launch” my daughter as she heads off to college next fall. She is an adult. Although my husband and I will still support her, we no longer have any legal authority to access her financial accounts, health information, and even her grades. It does not matter that we are her parents. Our legal right to make decisions for her or obtain her information – be it financial, health or anything else – terminated when she turned 18.

Legal Documents

All adults aged 18 and older need to have key legal documents in place. These allow another responsible adult to act on their behalf should they not be able. Your child could be traveling abroad or simply be too busy. Unfortunately, some young people experience incapacitating injuries or die.

While we hope this never happens to our children, every adult regardless of their age should have these documents in place:

  • Durable financial power of attorney

In this document your child names an “agent” to act on her behalf for financial, legal or other personal matters.  With such a document in place, the agent can sign checks, transfer money, file tax returns, manage student loans, and take care of other financial tasks on your child’s behalf.  A financial power of attorney does not cover medical matters.

  • Living will, also called a health care directive or medical power of attorney

Different states have different names for this document. In it your child names one or more people to make medical decisions on his behalf should he be unable. He should state in this document what type of medical interventions and treatments he wants and does not want. Without such a document in place, should he become severely ill, you would need to go to court to get permission to gain access to his medical information and to make decisions for your adult child.  It is important your child name an agent who he trusts to carry out his wishes, not the agent’s wishes.

  • HIPPA release

The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act prevents medical providers from sharing a patient’s health information, even with her parents, without the patient’s written consent. This means, unless your child has signed a HIPPA release authorizing medical practitioners to give you her health information, you won’t have access. If your child wants you to be able to receive this information, she should sign the release.

  • Will

Your child may not have any assets now beyond a bank account, but he may acquire some over the next few years. A will “catches” any assets or property without named beneficiaries, and leaves instructions on to how your child wants this property to be distributed.  Any assets distributed under a will go through the court probate process. To close even a single bank account with a small balance, his account would need to go through probate.

Avoiding Probate

Probate costs money and takes a few, if not many, months. It is also public record. There are ways to avoid probate. When titled in certain ways, property can pass directly to your child’s chosen heir:

  • Joint bank accounts

If your child has a bank account for day-to-day expenses, a parent or another trusted adult can be a joint owner on the account. This makes it easier to write checks on your child’s behalf, deposit funds, and monitor the account balance. If your child should die, the co-owner immediately owns the account. There are drawbacks to joint bank accounts. To read about these click here.

  • Transferable on Death accounts and property

If your child does not want a joint owner, she can make the account TOD – transferable upon death, which names a direct beneficiary for the account. The same can be done for cars, provided your child holds the title to the car. The beneficiary needs to be named on the title. Contact your department of motor vehicles to learn how to do this.

  • Mutual funds and retirement accounts

Direct beneficiaries can be named for these assets.

Social Media

Have your child write down the logins and passwords for all his social media, e-mail and other digital accounts, and store the list in a safe place. He should tell a trusted person where to locate this information. Otherwise, should the accounts need to be close and he can’t do it himself, it will be a hassle to shut them down.

Access to Grades

If your child is over 18, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPS) prevents other people, including parents, from seeing her grades. If your child wants you to have access to them, she will need to sign a waiver.

All these documents will need to be updated as your child’s situation changes: moves to another state, gets a job, acquires more assets, gets married, etc.

Preparing legal documents for an eighteen-year-old may seem extreme. If the worse should happen, however, you will be glad they are in place. I have witnessed parents become angry with disbelief when they learn they can’t just go to the bank and access their child’s account or are told by a healthcare provider they can’t have the results of their child’s doctor visit.

Have a talk with your child about these documents. Have her meet with an attorney. Remember, it isn’t just about death and serious illness. Young people are mobile. They go to school in other states, they travel, and they study abroad. Even in this day of swift electronic communication, having someone at home who can act on their behalf when a student loan agreement needs to be signed can save a lot of expense and logistical hassle.

This blog is published to provide you with general information only and is not intended to provide specific or comprehensive advice.  Money Care, LLC encourages individuals to seek advice from competent professionals when appropriate.

 

Teach Your Kids About Money: Advice from an 18-Year-Old

When thinking about a blog topic for this month, I decided to focus on April 20th, National Teach Children to Save Day. As I began to write, it occurred to me I should consult my in-house expert, my daughter, Gabriella. She, after all, has been the recipient of her parents’ attempt to teach her financial literacy. She was more than willing to give me her opinion.

Gabriella and her friends, most of whom are high school seniors, compare notes about how their parents handle money – especially as it relates to them. Gabriella has observed that every family has their own approach. Drawing on what she has learned from her friends and from her own experience, here is Gabriella’s advice to parents: 

“Talk about money. But, don’t sit your kids down and say, ‘Let’s talk about money.’  And don’t lecture.” Gabriella said my husband and I talk about money around the house, and, while she may not be part of the conversation, she is listening. “I hear you talk about the budget or the 401(K),” she said. “And sometimes money things come up at dinner.” 

“Give your kids money regularly. Don’t just give them money when they ask.”  I learned in a parenting class years ago to give your child a weekly allowance untied to chores. The amount was one dollar for each year the child is old until they turn twelve. At twelve the allowance is cut in half; the child is now old enough to earn money from pet sitting, babysitting, mowing lawns, and other teenage jobs. We implemented this plan.

My husband and I give Gabriella a regular allowance the same day each week, like a pay check. And, we make the effort to give her cash. I think it is important to have children start with cash before moving them to debit cards and other “invisible” forms of electronic payment. Having cash provides your child with the opportunity to hold, feel and use bills and coins. Money then becomes real. There is a greater sense of gain when receiving cash, and there is a greater sense of loss when handing it over to buy something. Only when she was older and understood the concept of exchanging money did we help Gabriella get a bank debit card. 

“Younger kids are more receptive than older kids.” In other words, if you have young children, don’t wait. Take advantage of the ages when your kids willingly listen to your advice. Children as young as five can receive an allowance and start learning basic financial concepts.

When she was younger, I talked to Gabriella about money “in the moment.” In the grocery store we discussed how to compare prices and products. At the mall I explained, in simple terms, why I turned down store charge card offers.

Teach your kids how to use their money and require them to buy stuff themselves.” My husband and I have two rules:

Rule 1: Allowance and money earned is divided into three jars: Spending, Savings and Share.

  • Gabriella can spend her spending money as she chooses. We do not set restrictions and we let her make mistakes.
  • Savings is reserved for larger, planned purchases. Gabriella’s savings grew to the point where we helped her open a savings account. A few years ago, we bought her a horse. We paid for the horse and she bought the saddles and other equipment. Gabriella had the money saved, and she carefully shopped around for the best used equipment she could find. (It was her money, after all.)
  • Gabriella is able to choose to which charities she wants to give her share funds. We match her gift.

Now that Gabriella is, 18 we no longer oversee her money. I asked her whether this system worked. She said, “Yes. I still divide my money into parts. If I had all my money in one big pile, I would spend it all.”

Rule 2: Gabriella pays for her own “stuff.”

“Stuff” is fun, discretionary, personal spending. Gabriella also uses her own money when going out with friends, and she pays for birthday gifts for her friends.

“My friends always have to ask their parents for money,” She said. “I always have my own. This amazes them.”

The financial skills young people learn early in life stay with them forever. Most children learn how to handle money from their parents. It is never too early to teach good money habits.

As parents, we don’t always know everything about money. There are some excellent books available to help you increase your knowledge and to help teach your children financial literacy. Titles to consider are:

  • The Money Savvy Student by Adam Carroll
  • Not Your Parents’ Money Book by Jean Chatzky
  • Money Rules: The Simple Path to Lifelong Security by Jean Chatzky
  • The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason
  • Save Wisely Spend Happily by Sharon L. Lechter, CPA
  • Loaded: Money, Psychology, and How to Get Ahead Without Leaving Your Values Behind by Sarah Newcomb
  • What All Kids Should Know About Saving and Investing by Rob Pivnick
  • Smart Money, Smart Kids by Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze
  • The Giving Book: Open the Door to a Lifetime of Giving by Ellen Sabin

This blog is published to provide you with general information only, and is not intended to provide specific or comprehensive advice. Money Care, LLC encourages individuals to seek advice from competent professionals when appropriate.

 

Medicare. Medicaid. What’s the Difference?

Medicare and Medicaid are both government-sponsored medical insurance programs funded by taxes. They sound almost the same and are easily confused. They differ, however, by several factors:

Eligibility

Medicare is a medical insurance program with eligibility to enroll based primarily on age. It is available to individuals aged 65-years and older of any income level. People younger than 65 with certain government-defined disabilities can also qualify for coverage.

Medicaid provides insurance for low income individuals and families of any age. People who qualify for Medicaid often are allowed only a few thousand dollars in assets.

Coverage

Medicare is strictly medical insurance. It helps pay the costs of hospitalization, skilled nursing facilities, hospice, doctors’ visits, outpatient care, home health care, and prescriptions. Medicare does not pay for long-term custodial care and it does not cover non-medical assistance at home, in a nursing home, or in an assisted-living facility. For more information on Medicare insurance, see my blog post “Decoding the Language of Medicare.”

Medicaid has two basic types of coverage:
• Insurance to cover medical services including services labeled “medically necessary” by the federal government
• Long-term custodial care

Administration and Funding

Medicare is administered by the United States government. It has several parts which are funded by payroll taxes on current workers, deductions from enrolled participants’ Social Security benefits, and premiums paid by program participants.

Medicaid is a joint federal and state program funded by tax payers. Each state currently receives up to 50 percent of its Medicaid funding from the federal government. The amount varies by state. The rest is funded by state budgets. Each state administers its Medicaid program resulting in differing eligibility requirements. Common to all, however, is a lack of resources.

Dual coverage
Many low income seniors are enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid. When low income seniors reach age 65, they enroll in Medicare for their primary medical insurance. If they also qualify for Medicaid, this insurance program functions as secondary insurance covering Medicare’s out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles, co-payments, and premiums. Should a low income senior need long-term custodial care, Medicaid will pay for that, too. Many seniors use all their assets paying privately for long-term care. When they run out of money, they apply for Medicaid.

This is a general overview of these two complex social insurance programs. Key points are:
• Medicare is the primary health insurance for most people age 65 and older. Eligibility is based principally on age or disability, not income.
• Medicaid provides both health insurance and long-term care coverage. Eligibility is based on income and resources. It is often a program of last resort, especially for those needing expensive long-term care.
• Medicare and Medicaid often work together to provide medical coverage for low income seniors and people with certain disabilities.

Resources
If you would like to read more about this topic, visit:
Medicare.gov
Medicaid.gov

A great book on this topic is:
Social Security, Medicare & Government Pensions: Get the Most out of Your Retirement & Medical Benefits, by Joseph Matthews. This book was most recently updated in February 2018.

This blog is published to provide you with general information only, and is not intended to provide specific or comprehensive advice. Money Care, LLC encourages individuals to seek advice from competent professionals when appropriate.

Act Now to Protect Your Standard of Living in Retirement

When I perused a USA Today newspaper recently, I read a statistic* that stuck in my mind: “66% of adults 45 and older are concerned about not being able to maintain a reasonable standard of living in retirement.”

Sixty-six percent is significant! This led me to think about two expenses which have greatly impacted some of my retired clients. As you prepare for retirement, you may want to end these financial obligations before you stop receiving regular paychecks. 

1. Home Mortgage

Before I met Bill, he had remarried and moved out of a continuing care retirement community. Bill was in his 80’s, and he and his wife had purchased a beautiful condominium. This condo was expensive, however, and as Bill’s health declined and he needed care, the large monthly mortgage payment became a huge financial drag. Bill had some hard choices to make. He and his wife ended up selling the condo to free up money to pay for his care.

If you are heading into retirement with a mortgage, you can work towards paying it off.

  • Every month you can make an extra payment towards your principal. The Extra Mortgage Payment Calculator at www.mortgagecalculator.org can help you determine an amount for your extra payments.
  • Another approach is to sell your current house and use the proceeds to purchase a smaller one with cash.

2. Credit Cards

Credit card interest is higher than most other forms of debt. When paid over several years, the interest becomes expensive. Marjorie retired with a $10,000 credit card balance. When she realized the burden of carrying this debt, she decided to pay it off as quickly as she can. It will take her three years, and she will pay $2,500 in interest. Marjorie said she wished she hadn’t charged up her card when she was working. She didn’t need the things she purchased, and now she has this debt hanging over her head. Making regular $350 payments takes a significant chunk of her monthly income, but she is determined to be debt free.

If you would like help to pay down credit card debit, you can work with a consumer debt counseling service.

For a comprehensive review of your financial situation, consider consulting a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). You can find a professional with this credential at the CFP Board website, https://www.cfp.net. Certified Financial Planners are held to strict ethical standards and have passed a rigorous examination.

If you are concerned about being able to maintain a reasonable standard of living in retirement, I urge you to review your finances, and do what you can do now to reduce your financial obligations when you are no longer working.

 

This blog is published to provide you with general information only, and is not intended to provide specific or comprehensive advice.  Money Care, LLC encourages individuals to seek advice from competent professionals when appropriate.

The names of the individuals in this article have been changed to protect their privacy.

*“USA Snapshots.” USA Today 26 Feb. 2018:B1.Print.

 

Find Free Resources for Your Parents’ Care

As our parents need for care increases, so do the costs. What if your parent can’t afford to pay for the care he or she needs?

Two helpful websites can help you locate affordable and subsidized senior housing, resources and services.

PayingforSeniorCare.com is maintained by the American Elder Care Research Organization, which aims to help people plan and implement long term care.

The website:

  • Explains the types of senior care available, the costs, and different ways to pay for the care.
  • Has a free Eldercare Financial Resource Locator Tool which you can use to locate financial assistance for senior care in your parent’s community.
  • Provides information on paid caregiver programs and cost savings technology such as medication management.

Benefitscheckup.org is maintained by the National Council on Aging. It maintains and regularly updates information on 2,500 federal, state and private benefits programs available nationwide.

The website:

  • Provides information on different types of benefits including medications, income assistance, tax relief, food and nutrition, and more.
  • Has a free tool that connects seniors to benefit programs for which they may qualify.

If your parent needs additional help to pay for long term care, consider applying for Medicaid. An elder law attorney can help you review all of your parent’s available resources and develop a plan to qualify your parent for this program. To find an elder law attorney visit the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys website, naela.org.

I encourage you to explore these resources before committing to pay for your parent’s care with your own money. While we love our parents and want or feel obligated to help, quitting jobs to provide care or paying care expenses out of our own pockets can be a slippery and dangerous slope, greatly impacting our own ability to retire. 

This blog is published to provide you with general information only, and is not intended to provide specific or comprehensive advice.  Money Care, LLC encourages individuals to seek advice from competent professionals when appropriate.

Save Money in 2018

Are you looking to save money or spend less this year? Here are five ideas I have implemented.

1. Ditch Cable

Last year my family cut the cord and ditched cable. We have no regrets. We purchased an HDTV antenna which hangs in an unnoticed place on a basement wall. We discovered we have access to many more free channels than we expected. (I can even watch re-runs of Gun Smoke, a favorite TV program from my childhood.) We supplement with an online streaming service. We have saved significant money each month by not paying for an expensive cable package with many channels we never watched.

2. Frequent the Library

My local library is an amazing place. I stopped purchasing most books, and instead patronize the library for books, movies, e-books, and audio books. Audio books are available both on disk and via free downloads. When I do want to purchase a book, I borrow it from the library first to determine whether I do, in fact, want spend the money.  At the library’s annual book sale, I can pick up books inexpensively for travel reading. If I finish the book on the road, I will leave it behind for another traveler.

3. Haul Your Own Trash

Many people prefer to have the local garbage company pick up their trash at the curb. In my area, most towns do not provide this service to its residents and homeowners have to pay private companies. By taking our trash and recyclables to the local transfer station ourselves, we pay about a sixth of what we would pay a trash hauling company each month.

As with every do-it-yourself task, you need to weigh the time spent doing the chore against the cost of paying for this service. For every person, the trade-off for each task is different. My family chose trash. You may find a different paid service you can drop and reap significant savings.

4. Join Rewards Programs

When you sign up for rewards with retailers, you earn free merchandise, money off purchases, and other perks. I focus on vendors I use on a regular basis.  (If an e-mail address is required, I give an email address I set up for this purpose to reduce the amount of junk in my main inbox.) I recently received $10 off my grocery bill for rewards earned from last quarter’s purchases. I fill my car with gas on the day my local station offers 5 cents off the posted price. Combined with the five cents per gallon rewards program, I get ten cents off per gallon when I fill up on sale days.

Some retailers and service providers have created rewards programs where rewards can be earned and used at any of the participating companies. In one such program, I can use points earned through my cell phone company to purchase items at my local pharmacy.

Where do you frequently shop? Do those vendors have rewards programs?

5. Choose a Rewards Credit Card that Matches Your Spending Patterns

My family recently took a trip to Vienna where we were able to use credit card rewards to pay for the hotel. Credit card reward programs have been around for many years. There are as many credit card rewards programs as there are credit cards.

To choose the best program for you, identify the spending categories for which you use your credit card (i.e. groceries, gas, restaurants, travel, etc.), and focus on cards that give rewards for your most used categories.

When selecting a credit card with rewards programs consider:

  • Interest rates. If you do not pay your balance in full each month, a high interest rate could negate any earned rewards.
  • Annual fees, if any. Will you earn more in rewards than the annual cost of the card?
  • Method of receiving your rewards. How do you want to receive your rewards? Will the company give you cash back? Are the rewards redeemed through gift cards, merchandise or travel?

These are just a few ideas to save money. How do you save? Do you use any particular apps? I’d like to hear about, and possibility share, your favorite methods.

This blog is published to provide you with general information only, and is not intended to provide specific or comprehensive advice.  Money Care, LLC encourages individuals to seek advice from competent professionals when appropriate.

Did You Earn $66,000 or Less Last year? File Your Taxes for Free

If your income is $66,000 or less, you can file your tax returns online for free.

The IRS Free File program  is a partnership between the IRS and the Free File Alliance, offering do-it-yourself tax preparation software at no charge.

The Free File Alliance  is a group of a dozen major tax preparation software companies, including H&R Block and Intuit, that have agreed to provide free access to its online tax preparation and electronic filing software.

Generally, taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes of $66,000 or less for the 2017 tax year qualify to use the software through the IRS Free File program. You answer a few questions on the IRS Free File website and the IRS matches you with a software program.

The IRS Free File program is not well known. It is estimated that 100 million US taxpayers qualify for the IRS Free File program, yet only about three million use it each year.

Several members of the Free File Alliance also offer free versions of their tax preparation software through their own websites. However, each company sets its own guidelines on who qualifies to use the free version (income requirements may be lower), and they may set limits on the complexity of the returns that can be filed.

Thus, when using the IRS Free File program, be certain to start at and consistently return to work on your return via the IRS Free File website.

If your income is greater than $66,000 you can use Free Fillable Forms at IRS.gov.

These are electronic versions of the paper forms which you can fill out online. Limited guidance is available, however.

Three In-Person Tax Assistance Programs

If you prefer to work with a live person and you meet the qualifications, community-based, free personal tax return assistance is also available.

The IRS sponsors two in-person tax assistance programs. With both programs, the help is provided by IRS-certified volunteers who are associated with non-profit organizations receiving grants from the IRS.

1.  The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program provides free basic income tax return preparation. This service is available to people who typically make $54,000 or less, persons with disabilities, and people with limited English speaking skills who need help to complete the tax forms.

2. Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) offers tax help for all taxpayers, but gives priority to people aged 60 and above. It specializes in retirement-related issues unique to seniors.

Both the VITA and TCE programs focus on basic tax returns. If you have more complicated tax matters, such as Schedule C with losses or Schedule D with capital gains and losses, and want in-person assistance, you should consult with a professional tax preparer. The services available at each VITA and TCE site vary in accordance with the level of the volunteers’ certification.

For more information about the VITA and TCE programs and to locate a visit IRS.gov.

3. The AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Program offers free tax preparation assistance provided by IRS-certified volunteers. It serves low to moderate income taxpayers, particularly people 50 and older who can’t afford a tax preparation service. To locate an AARP Tax-Aid Program site, visit AARP.org.

 

This blog is published to provide you with general information only, and is not intended to provide specific or comprehensive advice.  Money Care, LLC encourages individuals to seek advice from competent professionals when appropriate.

Social Security Numbers to be Jettisoned from Medicare Cards

At long last, Medicare is removing Social Security numbers from all Medicare cards.

For any years the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which administers the Medicare health insurance program, resisted pressure to make this change. In 2015, however, Congress passed the Medicare Access and ChiP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) requiring CMS to replace the existing Medicare claim numbers, which are currently based on individuals’ Social Security numbers.

This move is expected to reduce medical identity theft for Medicare beneficiaries. It is also expected to decrease the amount of Medicare fraud, saving the government and tax payers money.

All Medicare beneficiaries are required to have new Medicare numbers by April 2019.

There are two terms to know:

1. Health Insurance Claim Numbers (HICNs) are the current numbers on Medicare cards. They are usually the beneficiary’s Social Security number plus a letter.

2. Medicare Beneficiary Identifiers (MBIs) are the new claim numbers. The new number will consist of 11 characters – randomly generated numbers and uppercase letters. Each MBI will be unique and “non-intelligent,” meaning they won’t have any hidden or special meaning. The MBIs will be used for Medicare transactions such as billing, eligibility status, and claim status.

CMS will begin mailing the new Medicare cards with the new MBIs in April of this year. It will randomize the mailings by geographic location. All beneficiaries should have their new card by April 2019.

The period from April 1, 2018 to December 31, 2019 will be a transition period during which medical providers and patients with Medicare can use either the HICNs or the MBIs to submit claims. Following the transition period, the old HICNs can still be used to appeal or check the status of a claim made prior to January 1, 2020. Beginning January 1, 2020, all new claims will need to be made with the new MBIs.

As with Social Security numbers each MBI will be confidential. Both beneficiaries and medical providers will need to safeguard these numbers.

To see an image of the new Medicare card design, click here. 

*Medicare Cards will have a new design beginning April 2018.*

This blog is published to provide you with general information only, and is not intended to provide specific or comprehensive advice.  Money Care, LLC encourages individuals to seek advice from competent professionals when appropriate.

 

MemoryBanc: A Comprehensive Place to Store and Locate Your Information

If you were unexpectedly incapacitated, would your loved ones know which of your bills to pay?  Would they know how to contact your accountant or insurance agent, or even know who they are? Would they be able to give your health insurance information to your medical providers? Be able to check your e-mail?

We all carry this information in our heads or have it stored somewhere in our homes, phones and computers. No one expects others to need this detail, but if you can’t act for yourself, your personal representative will need to have access. On the flip side, you may need someone else’s information to assist him.

This is a lot of information to gather and compile. How do you record it all? Exactly what information should you document?

One useful tool is MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life by Kay H. Bransford. MemoryBanc provides one place to record all your key personal information.  Chronicling this information can be overwhelming. Bransford breaks it into manageable sections: personal, financial, online, medical, household, and “etcetera” (to include such information as birthdays and pet care).

While there are other record-keeping systems on the market, I like MemoryBanc for several reasons:

The workbook is available in three formats: a paperback book, a binder with dividers and loose leaf pages, and, for individuals who want a portable paperless system, a flash drive with editable PDFs. For security, Bransford recommends not storing your sensitive personal information in your computer unless your documents have very strong encryption. This, however, could make it difficult for your representative to access your data when they are needed.

The workbook can be used by individuals or couples as there are separate pages for each person’s information.

Emphasis is placed on the importance of recording online usernames and passwords for electronic accounts. It is easy to forget online access, including social media, shopping sites, and even your highway toll pass. Yet, we use these every day. Bransford writes, “Even mundane situations can arise that require you to know the basics of your accounts. For example, if your spouse or partner were unavailable, would you be able to make changes to your mobile account or request services for an item under warranty? Many of these accounts include PINs or security questions.”

The workbook can easily be handed over to loved ones should the information ever be needed to help them navigate your medical care and finances.

There is ample room to document information. The book edition has large spaces to record information which is important for people who have difficulty writing. Additionally, there are plenty of entries. There is space to enter 12 credit cards, for example.

The financial section is comprehensive. It includes income sources, bank and investment accounts, trusts and securities, retirement accounts, insurance policies, real-estate, loans, credit cards, and utilities.

Consider MemoryBanc not only for yourself, but for others for whom you are currently assisting or may assist in the future. And, while we may think chronicling this information is for “older” adults, don’t forget our youth. If something should happen to your twenty-year-old college student, for example, would you be able to access his bank or social media accounts?

We live in the Information Age. We have plenty of information relating to all aspects of our lives. The MemoryBanc workbook provides one comprehensive go-to place to store and locate your important information.

MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life by Kay H. Bransford in paperback lists for $19.95 and is available from book retailers. To order multiple copies of the book, the binder or flash drive, visit www.memorybanc.com.

This blog is published to provide you with general information only, and is not intended to provide specific or comprehensive advice.  Money Care, LLC encourages individuals to seek advice from competent professionals when appropriate.

Photo by Robyn Young, Money Care, LLC