Ask Terry Questions Best way to contribute to Mother’s care: early social security or withdrawals from retirement account

Best way to contribute to Mother’s care: early social security or withdrawals from retirement account

By Terry Savage on November 21, 2015 | Financial Planning / Retirement

My 98 year old mother’s savings are depleted and her pension is not enough to cover her assisted living costs. My sister and I are committed to keeping her where she is well taken care of and are trying to make up the difference. My husband and I are still supporting our son in college so my husband’s regular income, although decent, won’t cover this added expense. I will be 64 next month and am not currently working due to chronic illness, but have a retirement account and am eligible for social security. Is it better for me to go ahead and take my social security earlier than 67 at a lesser amount, or should I raid my retirement account? I need about $950 a month. I am perplexed.

Terry Says:  Oh I know exactly how you feel.  I paid for my grandmother’s nursing home care at the same time my son was in college! Quite a drain!  But there may be another alternative.  You need to discuss the issue with the facility where she has been living.  It’s possible that they accept a limited number of Medicaid patients, and she would not have to move out.  (She might have to move to a semi-private room. )  They may accept state reimbursement, along with her pension and any Social Security benefits she receives.  It’s definitely worth asking — especially if she has been a resident there for a while.  If you get a negative response, do write back to me with details and perhaps I can let them know that it would make a great newspaper story — I can just see the headline:  XYZ Facility Kicks out 98 year old Resident!!  Maybe that will do the trick!

Please don’t take money out of your retirement account, or take SS early (before full retirement age).  That could just put you in the same situation in a few years.  Have you applied for SS disability — which could bridge you until full retirement age?  That’s harder to get now.  Or have you figured out any way to earn some extra money — even if not at a full-time job.

And is your husband eligible for full SS yet?  If so,  and he starts taking his benefits (even though still working)  you could take a spousal benefit on his work record until you are ready to claim your own full benefit. This is a trick called “file and suspend” that will be outlawed soon.  However, there is a window of opportunity to file and suspend between now and May 1, 2016, for people born on or before April 30, 1950.  So maybe you can get in under the wire.  It’s worth contacting Social Security to find out.

So there you have some possible solutions.  Please write back and let me know how this works out.

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