We’re Back!

We have decided to start blogging again and to use this platform to keep you informed of news in the industry and what new and exciting events are happening at Stateline. We will be blogging here on our website and will share the link to it on all our other social media sites. We hope to be able to put something on the site each week initially. If something comes up that we feel you should know about, we may post more than that but we are going to start small and easy. We hope that you will find the information that we are sharing to be helpful and to spark a conversation. We are fairly new to social media and using it to promote our business, but we have been told that it is the future and that more and more companies are utilizing it to reach their clients. We do hope that you will be patient with us as we learn how to blog and share our information, this is all new to us and we are bound to make a few mistakes along the way. If there is anything specific that you as our clients would like additional information on, please feel free to contact our office directly or send us an inquiry and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Medicare Part B Premiums Announced for 2017

Julie CarterNovember 17, 2016

Last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the Medicare Part B premiums for 2017. Starting January 1, most people with Medicare will see a small increase in their Part B premium, from $104.90 to an average of $109.00 per month. But about 30 percent of people covered by Medicare will see a minimum Part B premium of $134.00, a 10 percent increase from the minimum 2016 premium of $121.80.

This difference in premium amounts is due to a federal law which is commonly called the “hold harmless” provision. This provision prevents about 70 percent of beneficiaries from seeing major increases in Medicare Part B premiums when Social Security cost of living adjustments (COLAs) are nonexistent or very small. The announced COLA for 2017 is very small, 0.3 percent, triggering the hold harmless provision.

Those who are held harmless will not see their Part B premium increase by an amount that is greater than the dollar amount of their COLA increase. Because the COLA is a percentage of a person’s Social Security benefits, the exact dollar amount of the increase, and the premium, will vary. For example, someone who has a premium of 104.90 deducted from their full Social Security benefits of $1,000 in 2016 will see a COLA of $3 and will have $107.90 deducted from their check for the Part B premium in 2017. Someone who gets 2,000 in Social Security benefits, will see a COLA of $6 and will have a Part B premium of $110.90.

Not everyone is protected by the hold harmless provision. Because the protection is tied to Social Security benefits, people with Medicare who do not receive Social Security or do not have premiums deducted from their Social Security checks are not covered. Those people who are new to the Medicare program in 2017, those who pay income-adjusted premiums, and those whose premiums are paid by their states are also not covered.

While announcing the new premiums, CMS vowed that its parent agency, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), “will work with Congress as it explores budget-neutral solutions to challenges created by the ‘hold harmless’ provision.” Last year, the Medicare program faced an even larger premium increase for those not held harmless because the COLA for 2016 was zero. In response, Congress acted to reduce the increase in premiums for those not held harmless to the level that premiums would have gone up had the hold harmless provision not gone into effect.

In addition to the updated premium amounts, CMS announced an increase in the Medicare Part B annual deductible, from $166 in 2016 to $183 in 2017.

Read the CMS announcement.

Find the original article here.

6 Ways to Pay Down Your Debt

Older households have more than doubled their debt in a dozen years
by Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, AARP Bulletin, May 2016

The years leading up to retirement used to be the time when people paid off obligations like the mortgage, auto loans or credit card bills. These days, however, an increasing number of Americans in or approaching retirement are saddled by consumer debt that leaves them feeling cash strapped each month.

Cut out the extras
The first step in repaying unwanted debt is to take a realistic look at your spending, separate needs from wants and plug any leaks in your budget. For example, are you paying for premium cable service when basic would suffice? Are you signed up for a gym membership you don’t even use? To help minimize such unwanted spending, try a free service like Truebill.com, which finds and cancels recurring subscriptions you no longer want. “The average person using Truebill saves more than $500 a year just by canceling unwanted subscriptions,” says CEO Yahya Mokhtarzada. Put those savings toward your debts.

Double your payments
One reason many people stay locked in a cycle of debt for years is that they only make minimum payments. Experts say that’s unwise if you want to be debt-free during your golden years. “You always want to aggressively pay down the most expensive debt first,” says Kimberly Foss, a certified financial planner and founder of Empyrion Wealth Management in Roseville, Calif. She recommends initially attacking high-rate credit cards, preferably by at least doubling the minimum payment. “Do more if you can,” she says. But if you can’t, “even $5 extra is better than just making a minimum payment.”

Refinance credit card debt into personal loans
Another option to more quickly eliminate credit card debt or costly payday loans is to refinance those obligations into lower-cost personal loans, known as peer-to-peer loans. “They’re fast and easy to get online, and people typically get the money in two to five days,” explains Todd Albery, CEO of Quizzle, a credit information site. Albery says about 80 percent of personal loans are done to consolidate credit card debt. Consumer financial services company Bankrate has found personal-loan offers as low as 5.5 percent for people with good credit, but the average is 11.3 percent. That’s still better than rates from most credit cards, which now average 15.7 percent, Bankrate reports.

Sell stuff
After a lifetime of raising kids or moving from one household to another, many boomers and retirees have accumulated way more stuff than they currently need. To raise cash for debt elimination, unload unnecessary clothes, jewelry, furniture, electronics and household goods. You can have a garage sale, sell items on eBay or Craigslist, or take items to local consignment shops. If you have two or three cars, consider selling one and save on gas, insurance and maintenance.

Beware of debt-settlement pitfalls
Although TV and radio ads offer to help you settle your debt for pennies on the dollar, financial pros say debt settlement can create other problems. Settlement companies typically require consumers to set aside money each month—sometimes for years—into an account to be used later in negotiations with creditors. But, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns, many consumers can’t keep up with those deposits and drop out. And there’s no guarantee creditors will settle—so your debt woes could remain. The companies also sometimes advise consumers to stop paying creditors directly, which can trigger late payment penalties and ding your credit history, the FTC says.

Consider bankruptcy as a last resort
If you suffer a job loss or serious health issues later in life, research shows that you can easily slip into debt because of medical bills, which is the No. 1 cause of personal bankruptcy in the U.S. If you’re out of work, retired or simply can’t cover your monthly expenses—or if you racked up insurmountable medical bills due to an illness or injury—then bankruptcy may make sense. Just consider all your options first, and recognize the potential damage to your credit rating before you seek bankruptcy protection.

This article originally appeared here.