I keep telling myself that I've simply rejected the idea of growing older. Unfortunately, my body never seems to follow suit!
Like it or not, we're all growing older -- and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we're growing older than ever before. Its latest data from 2013 shows that Americans live an average of 78.8 years, up from a life expectancy of about 70 back in 1963. That's a substantial improvement in just 50 years.
As we live longer, we get to spend more time with family and friends and experience more of what life has to offer. However, we're also likely to need more money to see us through retirement than we had planned for. Therefore as we age, it's important that we save money in order to make our nest egg last as long as possible.
Last week, two of my Foolish colleagues and I examined a number of discounts available to senior citizens. Today, I'll go a step further and offer suggestions on what senior citizens can actually get for free! Yes, free! Keep in mind that in many instances, the following deals have a number of exclusions or may in fact be offered as discounts, but it's still possible to get these products or services for free as a senior.
Here are 13 things senior citizens may be able to get for free.
1. Tax counseling
Forget forking over hundreds to your accountant! Tax Counseling for the Elderly, or TCE, offers seniors aged 60 and up IRS-certified volunteers who will assist them in preparing their taxes. Because a number of TCE volunteers are also seniors, they're often in tune with many of the financial concerns seniors citizens may have. Curious what you'll need to bring to your local TCE site? The IRS has a handy-dandy list to guide you.
2. Hearing aids
As you age, you may discover that your hearing isn't what it used to be. The good news is there are ways to potentially receive free hearing aids. In some states, Medicaid will completely cover the cost a hearing aid, while other agencies, including March of Dimes, Rotary clubs, Kiwanis clubs, and Lions Clubs International, may be able to help you obtain new or reconditioned hearing aids free of charge based on your income. Also, if you've previously served in the armed forces and at least 50% of your hearing loss is related to your service, the U.S. Veterans Administration may be able to procure free hearing aids for you.
As we age, our teeth may need some TLC. If you require dentures and are considered a low-income senior, you can contact the Office for the Aging in your state and receive advice on agencies that may be able to get you dentures free of charge. Not sure how to contact your state's Office for the Aging? Just find your state on this list.
4. College courses
Thinking of going back to work? Simply eager to exercise your brain? Good news: There are more than 20 U.S. states that offer tuition waivers or discounts for seniors who go back to college. I know what you're thinking, and no, these waivers aren't offered solely by community colleges. Big-name academic institutions including UCLA and Florida, for example, offer select free programs for seniors.
Although it's wholly dependent on the city and state you live in, public transportation or medical transportation may be available to seniors for free or for a minimal cost. For instance, in San Francisco, low- and moderate-income seniors, as well as disabled persons, can get free rides on the Muni.
Qualifying low-income seniors have a number of ways to receive free or subsidized food or meals. The federal government's Commodity Supplemental Food Program, or CSFP, can help by delivering nutritious foods courtesy of the U.S. Agricultural Department to seniors' homes each month, while home delivery volunteer program Meals on Wheels can set seniors up with discounted or free meals.
There are a handful of restaurants that will give seniors a free drink with the purchase of a meal or grant them a percentage off their purchase. Most Yum! Brands (NYSE: YUM)-owned Taco Bell locations allow seniors 65 and up to receive a drink free of charge whether or not they purchase food as well.
8. Credit report
OK, so this one is open to all adults, but the ability to check your credit report from all three credit bureaus for inaccuracies, for free, is essential regardless of your age. Your credit score can affect your ability to borrow money or receive credit, and knowing what's on your report also helps prevent identity theft. Thus heading to AnnualCreditReport.com once annually for your free report is a must.
9. Landline or cell phone service
Reaching out and touching someone via the telephone continues to get more expensive as wireless technology is improved. However, low-income seniors in select states may qualify for a program known as Lifeline. If you're a senior on some form of government-sponsored low-income program, and your income falls below 135% of the federal poverty line, then your landline or cell service may be discounted or even 100% subsidized. Safelink Wireless is one company that works with the government-sponsored Lifeline program, and it's typically a good place to start to see whether you qualify.
10. Health insurance counseling
The Senior Health Insurance Assistance Program, better known as SHIP, is a free counseling service that helps Medicare beneficiaries understand their health insurance benefits, the plan options available to them, and the ins and outs of any medical bills they might have. SHIP counselors can also answer questions on what legal rights they may have and help seniors set up assistance programs they may qualify for to help lower their medical costs.
11. Prescription drugs
Before you get too excited about this one, I want to be up front: A vast majority of prescription drugs will cost seniors something out of pocket. Although Medicare Part D usually covers a substantial percentage of prescription drug costs, and low-income assistance may also be available for seniors, a small co-pay will often still be required. In order to get potentially free prescription drugs, seniors can turn to Patient Assistance Programs, or PAPs, offered directly by pharmaceutical companies. PAPs can work with or without insurance, and they're offered by practically all of the major pharmaceutical companies, giving you the opportunity to secure your prescription for free!
12. Adult day care
Just like prescription drugs, not all adult day care facilities will be free, but for qualified low-income seniors in select states, adult day care may in fact be free. For seniors who don't need specialized nursing care needs but could benefit from medication management assistance, adult day care might be an option.
13. Tax-free income from investments
As the old saying goes, "It takes money to make money!" However, if you invest your money in a municipal bond, you can avoid paying federal tax on the interest earned. In addition, if you invest in muni bonds from your own state or locality, you may qualify to avoid state income taxes as well (assuming your state levies an income tax). These investments aren't risk-free, but they're potentially tax-free if you play your cards right.
Lastly, along the same lines as a muni bond, a Roth IRA allows an individual, regardless of age, to invest for the long term and pay absolutely no taxes on capital gains earned in the account. Best of all, unlike a traditional IRA, a Roth IRA does not require you to start making minimum withdrawals at the age of 70-1/2, and seniors can continue making an annual contribution every year (including the "catch-up" contribution, which is currently an additional $1,000 per year). Since we're living longer than ever, why not continue to invest and avoid paying Uncle Sam a dime on what you earn?
Make your golden years shine
Ultimately, free services for seniors will vary on a state-by-state, or even city-by-city basis. But what this list shows is that there are opportunities for seniors to save money and extend their nest egg for the long term. The only thing left to do is for you to take those first steps to keep more of your hard-earned money.
Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.
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