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Know your mortgage assistance options

While fears of foreclosure are understandable, the reality is that "Your mortgage company does not want your home, they want to explore all options to avoid foreclosure." So says Freddie Mac, the U.S. government-sponsored home loan mortgage corporation. Instead, a lender may agree to forbearance, which means they will suspend or reduce monthly mortgage payments for a specified time. Freddie Mac also suggests options such as refinancing to lower mortgage payments or working with Balance, an affiliated non-profit that provides borrowers with foreclosure prevention and loan modification services.

Kiss Your Credit Card Debt Goodbye

Millions of Americans are struggling to crawl out of debt in the face of record-high interest rates. A personal loan offers lower interest rates and fixed payments, making it a smart choice to consolidate high-interest credit card debt. It helps save money, simplifies payments, and accelerates debt payoff. Credible is a free online service that shows you the best lending options to pay off your credit card debt fast — and save a ton in interest.

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Examine the Social Security picture

Seniors who haven’t filed for Social Security because they’re waiting for increased benefits may want to reconsider in the face of financial woes. While pulling benefits at the earliest age of eligibility, which is 62, would reduce payments up to 30% compared to doing so at full retirement age (67 if you were born in 1960 or later), the smaller check could tip the balance in favor of keeping up with expenses. If you’re unsure how much you’d be entitled to receive, the Social Security Administration provides a benefits calculator to check the numbers.

Reduce high-interest debt drag

Not all debt is created equal, and credit card debt ranks among the worst seniors can carry in terms of interest rates. In 2022, 46% of American households held credit card debt, and by 2023 they were paying $126 per month in interest alone, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. That’s money thrown away. Meanwhile, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, citing Fed data, reports that credit card interest rates hit an all-time high in late 2023 at 22.8%. If you have cash tucked in a money market fund or bank account, consider using a chunk of that low-interest savings to pay off any high-interest debt.

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Overhaul health care coverage

The ill prognosis is that 65 year olds can expect to spend $157,500 toward health care and medical expenses throughout retirement, according to the Fidelity's 2023 Retiree Health Care Cost Estimate. That said, Medicare is your greatest ally. In this government program, Part A covers inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing facility, hospice, lab tests, surgery and home health care; Part B covers doctor and other health care providers' services and outpatient care, durable medical equipment, home health care and some preventive services.

Part A is usually premium-free if you’ve paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years; you can also buy it at either $278 or $505 a month, depending on how long you or your spouse worked and paid Medicare taxes. Part B carries a minimum monthly premium of $175, depending on your income, and is subject to change. Beware, there is a window to sign up for Medicare when you turn 65, and if you miss it you could be subject to a lifetime penalty if you sign up at a later time.

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Lou Carlozo Freelance writer

Lou Carlozo is a freelance contributor to Moneywise.

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The content provided on Moneywise is information to help users become financially literate. It is neither tax nor legal advice, is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. Tax, investment and all other decisions should be made, as appropriate, only with guidance from a qualified professional. We make no representation or warranty of any kind, either express or implied, with respect to the data provided, the timeliness thereof, the results to be obtained by the use thereof or any other matter.