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Money July 2015

Dollar Sense

June Potpourri: Stuff You Need to Know About Your House, Your Money, Other Stuff

By Teresa Ambord

It’s a common thing. You work for an employer for a while, then leave, and forget that you had a pension plan there. Even if the company was sold or went bust, the pension might still be sitting somewhere with your name on it, but don’t expect anybody to contact you (though they might).

Do You Need Home Modifications That You Can’t Afford? There Might Be Help

Jim Miller, the author of Savvy Living and a regular contributor on NBC’s “Today Show” says there is help for eligible seniors who want or need to age-in-place. Naturally the available help depends in part on a senior’s finances, and on where he or she lives. Suppose your elderly parent is low income and eligible for Medicaid. Contact your Medicaid office (by logging onto to ask if your state has Medicaid Home and Community Based Services. Most states do have these programs, which issue waivers to help qualifying seniors continue to live independently, and ideally, avoid nursing homes by making their homes more accessible.

In addition, some states and local agencies have “nursing home diversion programs” which include grants and loans and some combination of both which help moderate income seniors and disabled persons to continue living at home. Other states have deferred payment loans for the same purpose. What types of modifications do they cover? Grab bars, handrails, wheelchair ramps are typical examples. But some programs also help with heating and cooling, roofing, insulation, storm windows, and weather stripping. You can call your local Area Aging Agency at 1-800-677-1116 or log onto to find out if there is a program in your area.

Then there are federal programs, through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD insures loans through private lenders for the purpose of home improvement and building projects. Call 1-800-569-4287 to find a local HUD approved counselor.

You can also contact your local U.S. Department of Agriculture service center (at to find out if there is a Rural Development program. This program provides grants and loans to low-income, elderly or disabled, rural homeowners to be used for home repairs and improvements.

  • Veterans in Need of Home Repairs/Improvements. If your elderly parent is a disabled veteran, there are several grants which pay for home modifications. For details and eligibility, log onto: Veterans who are enrolled in the Medical Benefits Package may be able to use Veterans-Directed Home and Community Based Services, which provides funds to help them remain living in their own homes. Recipients have some discretion in how to use the funds. Call them at 1-800-827-1000 or log onto
  • Check at or call 1-800-473-4429 to see if there are not-for-profit agencies where you dad lives, which help with home repair and modification. These agencies provide service to veterans and military families, low-income seniors, the disabled, victims of disaster, and some families with children.
  • Also check your Area Aging Agency, found in the phone book to see what else might be available where your dad lives.


Did You Lose Track of a Pension from a Long-Ago Job?

It’s a common thing. You work for an employer for a while, then leave, and forget that you had a pension plan there. Even if the company was sold or went bust, the pension might still be sitting somewhere with your name on it, but don’t expect anybody to contact you (though they might).    

According to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), the average unclaimed benefit held with them is about $6,500.

Free resources to help you find the pension:

  • Start by contacting the employer if it is still in business. Ask for the human resources department, and then ask how to contact the pension plan administrator. The administrator will be able to tell you if there is a pension, how much it is worth, and how you can claim it. You might have to prove you once worked there and that you are eligible for a pension.

How can you prove that you worked there 30 years ago? If you still have your old tax returns or W-2s that’s proof. If you don’t have them contact the Social Security Administration and ask for earnings records. The records should show how much you were paid each calendar year by employer.

There are two ways to contact the SSA to ask for information, but you should know, it’s not free or cheap. The information will cost you $136. Assuming you are still interested, call SSA at 800-772-213 and ask for Form SSA-7050 (Request for Social Security Earnings Information) or download it at .


What if the company is defunct or the pension plan is defunct?

  • Contact the PBGC, which guarantees pensions for private employers if the pension failed. You’ll find there a searchable online database at where you can enter your last name at:
  • If you can’t find that old employer for whatever reason, contact the Pension Rights Center, a not-for-profit consumer agency that provides free help in 30 states. Visit or call 888-420-6550. If you find you are not in one of the 30 states they serve, or if the pension is federal or military, try Pension Help America This organization can help you connect with the agencies that can assist your search.


More Birthday Freebies

Every month I post a few birthday freebies. But you can view the whole list here: Someone has gone to a lot of trouble to keep these freebies updated. But just to be sure you don’t waste a trip, you might want to check with the restaurant before you go to make sure the deal is still offered. Many of these require that you print a coupon. Just think… if you have a ton of friends or a slew of grandkids, you can treat each one to a freebie on his or her birthday.



Signup Freebie: Free slice of pizza with a drink purchase.

Birthday Freebie: Free slice of pizza with a drink purchase.


Souper Salad

Signup Freebie: 20% off coupon for lunch or dinner buffet.

Birthday Freebie: Free lunch or dinner buffet.


Steak and Shake

Birthday Freebie: Free Double Steakburger with Cheese ‘n Fries


Teresa Ambord is a former accountant and Enrolled Agent with the IRS. Now she writes full time from her home, mostly for business, and about family when the inspiration strikes.

Meet Teresa