Making Ends Meet
What is Social Security?
It is a government program that provides regular benefits to eligible workers and their families after the worker retires, becomes severely disabled or dies. Social Security taxes from employees, employers and self-employed workers help fund the program. If you have paid into the program long enough — about 10 years — you will be eligible for full benefits sometime between the ages of 65 and 67 (depending on your date of birth). What you receive will be based on your earnings.

making ends meetYou have choices. You may qualify for reduced benefits at age 62. If you take those benefits at 62, your benefit will remain at that lower level permanently. Or, you can put off collecting any benefits until age 70. Then, you will receive delayed retirement credit and wind up with a larger monthly check — as much as 8 percent more for each year you waited beyond your retirement age.

To find out more about how employment income might affect your benefits, see the section Staying on the Job. For information on how your marital status affects you Social Security, see Getting Divorced or Remarried.

Traveling or living in most foreign countries will not affect your eligibility for benefits. However, you should contact Social Security if you plan to leave the country for 30 days or longer.

To check your earnings and benefit status, call 1-800-772-1213 (www.socialsecurity.gov) for a free personal statement from the Social Security Administration. To find out what other types of benefits might be available to you, you can also check the National Council on the Aging’s “benefits checkup” website (www.benefitscheckup.org).

What is a Representative Payee?
A representative payee is someone who is authorized to receive your Social Security checks for you. If you have trouble managing your checks, for example, the Social Security Administration might appoint a relative or friend of yours to receive the payments for you. (A power of attorney is not sufficient for cashing such checks). By law, a representative payee can only spend the funds on your needs — and could be convicted of misusing the funds if he or she were to do otherwise.

Veterans can contact the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs. (See Resources)

What is a Reverse Mortgage?
If you are 62 years old or older a reverse mortgage allows you to receive cash advances based on the equity you have in your home, There are many good reasons to get a reverse mortgage but there are also good reasons not to get one. A reverse mortgage usually has large front end costs so it is not recommended for those who intend to move soon. On the other hand a reverse mortgage makes sense if you want to continue to live in your home and you need a larger income or simply want to pay off the last of your current mortgage. The reverse mortgage has to be paid off when you sell or move from your home or die. You must receive counseling from an independent housing counselor who will discuss the pros and cons of reverse mortgages and help you decide if a reverse mortgage is appropriate for you.

(See Resources for Northern Nevada Housing Counseling Agencies)

Is there any special tax relief for seniors?
Yes, if you are 62 or older you may qualify for the state’s property tax and renter rebate program. If you have lived in Nevada for one year, the amount of money you are eligible to receive depends on the amount of your income and the assessed value of your house or the amount of your rent. You may apply for this rebate between February 1 and April 30 of each year with your local County Assessor, who will have the current requirements. The maximum rebate is $500.

Can I get help paying my gas, oil or electric bill?
If you have very little income, you may qualify for the Low Income Energy Assistance Program. For information, contact your local energy company. If you own or rent your home and your income is low, you may also qualify for free conservation/weatherization services from the State’s Housing Division (775-687-2040) and the state’s electric utility companies. These weatherization services should reduce your energy use by up to 25%.

What can I do if I can’t afford to eat?
Senior Centers are nutrition sites where seniors can get noontime meals for free or a small donation. If you are homebound you may qualify to have hot meals delivered to you.

Senior Centers may also distribute free food through the federal surplus commodity program and other programs. Contact your local Senior Center for more information.

If you are low income, you may qualify for food stamps to help you buy groceries. Contact the local office of the State Division of Welfare and Supportive Services.775-684-7200.

What if I can’t afford to pay rent?
There is a large variety of affordable housing that is paid for by state or federal funding. The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher run by the local housing authority allows you to live in any apartment you choose and pay only 30% of your income for rent and utilities. You can take your Section 8 voucher with you and use it when you move to a new apartment. This program is popular so you should expect a waiting list when you apply. Other affordable housing providers offer apartments that are paid for by various federal and state funds. See Resources for assistance to learn more about the various affordable housing providers.

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