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10 Things You May Not Know About Your Finances

10 Things You May Not Know About Your Finances

By Stephanie Armour, Anna Bahney, Sandra Block, Kathy Chu, Christine Dugas and John Waggoner, USA TODAY

1: Medicare doesn’t cover nursing home care.

Nearly 60% of Americans think Medicare pays for nursing care, and 52% assume that it covers assisted living, according to a 2006 survey by AARP.

Not so. Medicare’s coverage of long-term care is extremely limited. It’ll cover part of the cost of a skilled nursing facility while you recover from an injury or illness. But this coverage lasts just 100 days.

Medicare doesn’t cover custodial care, such as help with bathing and dressing. Need to enter a nursing home because you’re no longer able to take care of yourself? Medicare won’t cover any of your costs. Medicaid, by contrast, will cover nursing home costs — but only for people with little or no assets.

2: The way banks process checks and debit-card transactions can cost you big.

Banks tend to process transactions from the largest to the smallest dollar amount, rather than in the order they’re received. This policy is another way for banks to boost profits, says Ellen Cannon, managing editor of Bankrate.com. That’s because processing first high, then low, dollar amounts makes it easier for banks to hit consumers with multiple overdraft fees.

Say you have $100 in your account, and you have four transactions processed one day, for, in order, $20, $45, $30 and $90. The bank will process the $90 transaction first, so it can charge you a fee — of up to $39 — for each of the three transactions that will then bounce. If the transactions had been processed in the order in which they’d been received, you’d face only one fee. Most banks charge more than $30 each time you overdraw. Some also charge a fee of $5 or more for each day that your account remains overdrawn.

3: Once you turn 50, you can put away more pretax money for retirement than younger workers can.

Many older workers fail to exploit the 401(k) “catch-up” rule, which lets people 50 and older contribute an additional $5,000 a year to their 401(k) accounts.

At some companies, higher-paid workers aren’t allowed to contribute this year’s full $15,500 maximum to a 401(k) if not enough lower-paid workers at their company invest in the plan. But the catch-up rule lets all older workers — even the higher-paid ones — boost their annual contribution by $5,000. This is especially beneficial if only one member of a couple has access to a 401(k) plan, and the couple would like to boost their family retirement savings. It’s also helpful to women who return to work after an extended absence.


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