Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: The checks that could change your financial life. Also in the news: Should you sign up for Medicare if you’re 65 and still working, 6 signs you’re about to overpay for life insurance, and 7 products being slammed by inflation.

The Checks That Could Change Your Financial Life
A temporary boost to the child tax credit can help fuel emergency savings, cut debt and build financial stability.

Should You Sign Up for Medicare If You’re 65 and Still Working?
Signing up for Medicare at 65 may make sense even if you have private insurance through your or your spouse’s job.

6 Signs You’re About to Overpay for Life Insurance
If you focus on convenience or a policy’s extra benefits, you might pay too much. Here’s what to look out for.

7 Products Being Slammed by Inflation (and How to Avoid Spending More)
From computer chips to steaks.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How 3 entrepreneurs overcame credit struggles. Also in the news: 4 best ways to redeem your choice privileges points, Medicare and hospice, and how to spot a predatory lender.

These 3 Entrepreneurs Overcame Credit Struggles; Here’s Their Advice
Credit unions, credit counseling and even credit cards helped — but so did their resolve to ask questions and put in the hard work.

4 Best Ways to Redeem Your Choice Privileges Points
These sweet spots don’t cost a lot of Choice Privileges points, even in pricey destinations like New York or Tokyo.

Does Medicare Cover Hospice?
The answer is yes, but you must qualify and use a Medicare-approved hospice provider.

How to Spot a Predatory Lender
If it sounds too good to be true, it is.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Can I deduct Medicare costs on my income tax? Also in the news: Is a personal loan or home equity loan right for your reno, the high price of money shame, and steps to take before you go to a car dealership if your credit score isn’t great.

Can I Deduct Medicare Costs on My Income Tax?
If you itemize, premiums, copayments, and certain other expenses may be deductible.

Is a Personal Loan or Home Equity Loan Right for Your Reno?
The best financing depends on your financial situation, including your income, credit and how much equity you have.

The High Price of Money Shame
Simply naming the emotions you feel about financial mistakes is a step toward breaking the cycle and taking control.

If Your Credit Score Isn’t Great, Take These Steps Before You Go To A Dealership
Walk in fully prepared.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Does Medicare cover COVID testing and vaccines? Also in the news: A new episode of the Smart Money podcast on procrastination and paying student loans vs investing, 3 ways COVID has reshuffled our finances, and how the car you drive can raise your auto insurance rates.

Does Medicare Cover COVID Testing and Vaccines?
In general, Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans cover COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines.

Smart Money Podcast: Procrastination, and Paying Student Loans vs. Investing
How to stop procrastinating on big money tasks.

3 Ways COVID-19 Reshuffled Our Finances
Three financial trends we can chalk up to the coronavirus pandemic.

How the Car You Drive Can Raise Your Auto Insurance Rates
The cost of your car isn’t the only way your vehicle affects your auto insurance bill.

Q&A: Future home sale affects Medicare

Dear Liz: I am 65 and have a very low income but will be selling my home of 25 years soon to downsize. How will the one-time capital gains affect my Medicare payments, which are currently at the minimum? Can I share with the Social Security office that this is a one-time event and that the following years will all have a very low income stream? Will they adjust my payments up one year and back down the next?

Answer: You can exempt up to $250,000 per person of home sale profit from capital gains, so only profit above that amount would be added into your modified adjusted gross income to determine your Medicare premiums. There’s a two-year lag, so if you sell your home this year and report it on the tax return that’s due next year, your premiums will increase the following year (in your case, in 2023).

As noted in a previous column, you can appeal the increase if your income was affected by certain life-changing events including marriage, divorce, death of a spouse, work stoppage or reduction, loss of income-producing property (because of a disaster or other event beyond your control), loss of pension income or an employer settlement payment because of an employer bankruptcy or reorganization. If you don’t qualify to appeal, the increase would only be for one year and your premiums would return to normal afterward.

Another option is to structure the deal so you receive the payout over time, rather than all at once, but consult an accountant or financial planner before proceeding.

Q&A: Windfall creates Medicare headache

Dear Liz: A couple of years ago, I was forced to receive a windfall by the sale of a company in which I held stock. Besides taking a huge tax hit, I just got my Social Security estimate for 2021 in which my Medicare bill went up by 47%. This year my income will go back down to normal levels. Is there any way to convince Social Security that this was a one-time event and it shouldn’t adjust my Medicare premiums?

Answer: There’s typically a two-year lag between receiving a windfall and potentially having your Medicare premiums raised because of IRMAA (Medicare’s income-related monthly adjustment amount). You can appeal the increase if your income dropped in the meantime because of one of the following life-changing events:

Marriage
Divorce or annulment
Death of a spouse
Work stoppage
Work reduction
Loss of income-producing property (because of a disaster or other event beyond your control, not due to a sale or transfer of the property)
Loss of pension income
Employer settlement payment (due to employer’s bankruptcy or reorganization)
If any of those circumstances apply, you can call Social Security at (800) 772-1213 to arrange an interview. Alternatively, you can download form SSA-44 from the web and mail it in. You will need to provide proof of the event, such as a death certificate, divorce decree or documents from an employer.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Financial advice that rarely fits all. Also in the news: Telehealth gets a boost among Medicare recipients in the pandemic, things to keep your holiday packages safe, and when you should transfer your credit card balance to a low-interest card.

Financial Advice That Rarely Fits All
One size doesn’t always work.

Telehealth Gets a Boost Among Medicare Recipients in Pandemic
Medicare dramatically expanded benefits for remote health care in response to COVID-19. Here’s what you need to know.

Do These Things to Keep Your Holiday Packages Safe
You can invest in a security camera or send packages to a secure location, like the post office.

Should You Transfer Your Credit Card Balance to a Low-Interest Card?
Look out for the introductory period.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Grace period over? Refinance these student loans ASAP. Also in the news: smart tactics for Millennials flocking to buy life insurance, how senior insulin users may benefit from Medicare savings model, and how to stay on track with a budget calendar.

Grace Period Over? Refinance These Student Loans ASAP
New graduates shouldn’t wait to see if they can refinance their private student loans.

Smart Tactics for Millennials Flocking to Buy Life Insurance
Millennials applying for life insurance can skip medical exams, simplify the process and pay less than they expect

Insulin Users May Benefit From Medicare Senior Savings Model
Seniors with diabetes may pay less for insulin with this program, which debuts in some Medicare drug plans in 2021.

Stay on Track With a Budget Calendar
One day at a time.

Are Medicare Advantage plans worth the risk?

About 1 in 3 people 65 and older in the U.S. enroll in Medicare Advantage, the private insurance alternative to traditional Medicare. It’s not hard to see why: Medicare Advantage plans often cover stuff that Medicare doesn’t, and most people don’t pay extra for it.

But Medicare Advantage can be more expensive if you get sick because copays and other costs can be higher, says Katy Votava, president of Goodcare.com, a health care consultant for financial advisors and consumers.

Unhappy customers who want to switch back to traditional Medicare may find they no longer qualify for the supplemental policies to help pay their medical bills, or that they would face prohibitively high premiums.

“These are complicated products,” says Votava, author of “Making the Most of Medicare.” “They’re like nothing else, no other insurance that people encounter anywhere until they get to Medicare.”

In my latest for the Associated Press, making sense of the Medicare alphabet soup.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Why missing college this fall is a bad idea. Also in the news: Why you should get your finances in top shape now to refi your student loans, choosing the Medigap plan that’s right for you, and how to apply for a $1,000 grant if you’re a freelancer or gig economy worker.

Why Missing College This Fall Is a Bad Idea
You could be wasting time and money.

Get your finances in top shape now to refi your student loans
Get the best deal possible when the grace period ends.

‘Medigap’ insurance covers some Medicare costs. How to choose a plan that’s right for you
Covering some of your Medicare costs.

How to Apply for a $1,000 Grant if You’re a Freelancer or Gig Economy Worker
Apply for an EIDL.