By Janet Groene, F47166
Looking to save a little money this year? Here are some tips that can help you keep more of what you have in your pocket.
Not yet the age of 59-1/2, but you need your IRA money right now? According to a column in the April 2006 issue of Entrepreneur magazine, you can tap into the funds without penalty for outlays such as disability, medical bills, buying your first home, converting to a Roth IRA, or paying for higher education. But there are so many rules, limits, and exceptions, it’s best to work with an IRA expert at your bank or brokerage to make sure you’re not hit with unexpected taxes or penalties.
Our first stop at a new destination is always the visitors center, chamber of commerce, or tourist information center. These facilities usually have plenty of parking for large motorhomes; free maps; and discount coupons for dining, campgrounds, and shopping. Now Orlando makes its free discount card available online. Go to www.orlandoinfo.com/magicard to download or request a card; or call (800) 551-0181 to receive a discount card valid for up to six people at restaurants, shops, and shows.
Harvest life’s best
Do you seek out organic foods, farmers markets, and local cuisine as you travel? Go to www.localharvest.org, enter the zip code of your location or the next place you plan to visit, and see a list of small farms, restaurants, and farmers markets that specialize in regional foods and other information of interest to traveling foodies.
Health insurance for humans gets more complicated when you’re on the go full-time. The same is true for pet insurance, which is increasingly important to full-timers as the price of veterinary care rises. The policy sold in a local vet’s office may not be right for you unless it applies to a wide network that has providers everywhere you travel. Favor a policy that allows treatment from any licensed vet.
The least expensive pet policies cost about $10 a month but cover only some accidents, no illnesses, and have a high deductible. The higher the monthly cost, more is covered, and the deductible is lower. Also available are policies for emergencies only, and policies designed for older pets. For senior pets, the deductible for illness is higher, but accident coverage is the same as for younger cats or dogs. In addition to shopping for the best rate, here are several other things to ask about when looking into a pet insurance policy:
- What is the co-payment for accidents? Sickness? Routine care?
- Can you get a discount for insuring more than one pet? Is there a discount available if your pet has had a microchip inserted under its skin? Can you reduce overall costs by paying premiums annually rather than monthly or quarterly?
- What are the benefits, limits, and exclusions for a pet with pre-existing conditions?
- Does the policy cover routine exams, shots and medications, and dental care?
- Are boarding fees covered if you become incapacitated and you need to place your pet in a kennel until you can care for it again?
Incidentally, some prescriptions for pets, such as certain heartburn remedies, are the same as those taken by humans. First, ask your vet if a generic is available. Second, comparison-shop not just at veterinary pharmacies but at high-volume drugstore chains. Prices may be only a fraction of what your vet charges for the same dosage.
The mortgage shuffle
If the mortgage for your coach is sold by one lending company to another, read the fine print that comes with notification. In addition to the new address and perhaps new remittance forms, there may be important new requirements such as a higher or lower insurance deductible.
When dining out, especially at chain restaurants, do you remember to ask for a senior discount? Price breaks begin as early as age 50 (at Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede Dinner Show, for instance) and can be found nearly everywhere once you hit 55. Among fast-food chains that offer a discount (or some other perk such as a free beverage) to people 55 and older are Long John Silver’s, Wendy’s, Arby’s, Hardee’s, and IHOP. More chains chime in for those who are 60, and at 65 you’ll find even more companies willing to give you a break.
Rules vary and you can’t count on all franchisees to offer the same deal even under the same brand name. You may have to sign up for a card or club, and sometimes you may be asked for identification. The single and most important thing to do is to ASK. Why? Because most counter clerks aren’t going to risk insulting you by offering a senior discount, even if you’re 105 and look it.
Looking forward to receiving Social Security benefits to help support your full-timing years? Only people born in 1937 or earlier can begin receiving full benefits at age 65. Those born between 1943 and 1954 can begin collecting full benefits at age 66; people born in 1960 and after can begin receiving full benefits at age 67. In between each age increase is a sliding scale that varies by two months. By law you can begin receiving Social Security at age 62, but if you start receiving benefits at that age or at any time before your full retirement age, the amount of the monthly benefit will be permanently reduced by a certain percentage for each month you receive Social Security before full retirement age.
In the April 2006 issue of Gourmet magazine, famous “road food” experts Jane and Michael Stern wrote about their early years as impoverished young newlyweds with their first book contract. They bought camping gear and set out in a battered station wagon, but they swore off camping after one night in a campground. The next day, they sold their camping equipment. “They hated us and we hated them,” they wrote about RVers. To see their lengthy diatribe against motorhome campers in a prestigious magazine saddened me. Clearly, opportunities were missed on both sides. Some of the most interesting folks we have met in campgrounds have been those with non-standard camping arrangements. We probably would have invited the Sterns to dinner.
For information about FMCA’s Full Timers chapter, contact the Chapter Services Department at the FMCA national office, (800) 543-3622, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.