NCOA’s annual Boost Your Budget Week happens in April. The goal? To raise awareness about financial resources that can help older adults age well.
Millions of eligible individuals aren’t aware these money-savings programs even exist—or, if they are aware, wonder whether or how they should apply.
NCOA's free, anonymous Budget CheckUp tool helps uncover these programs and offers personalized tips for making a monthly spending and savings plan.
“It’s so pricey to buy produce and healthy foods,” lamented Nasreen Hydari on a recent NCOA Facebook post.
“I just paid $5 for a cantaloupe,” Susan Sweeney agreed, adding that “it’s getting harder to eat healthy.”
Given the ongoing pressures of inflation, these comments are sadly no surprise. According to the Consumer Price Index, the cost of food again rose by double digits in January 2023: up more than 10% over a year ago.1 And it doesn’t stop there. The same report shows that, compared to January 2022:
- Energy prices in general have risen nearly 9%.
- Fuel oil and piped gas now cost 27.7% and 26.7% more, respectively.
- Electricity is up 11.9%.
- Housing costs have risen nearly 8%.
And, while the costs for medical care have increased less rapidly, they, too, are more expensive this year than last: 3% more since January 2022.
“It’s disheartening,” said Brandy Bauer, director of NCOA’s MIPPA Resource Center. “These expenses can quickly spiral out of control even for the most budget-minded, meticulous older adults.”
While Social Security benefits increased by 8.7% for 20232—a historic cost-of-living raise not seen in more than 40 years—those extra dollars are “effectively already spent” before they show up in beneficiaries’ pockets, Bauer added.
How can older adults find relief from inflation and the right cost of living?
“One in four Americans who receive Social Security depend on it for 90% of their income,”3 she said. “When the costs of housing, medical care, prescription drugs, and food rise, it becomes harder and harder for these older adults to make ends meet, through no fault of their own.”
That’s why NCOA is committed to helping you find and access crucial financial programs that help bridge the gap between income and daily living expenses. Every year, $30 billion in these benefits go unclaimed—often because those who are eligible either don’t know about them or are unsure how to apply. “And many people mistakenly think they’d be taking money away from someone who needs it more,” added Bauer. “Fortunately, that isn’t the case.”
In honor of NCOA’s Boost Your Budget® Week, taking place April 10-14 this year, here are some key money-saving programs that can help you or an older adult you know breathe a little easier each month. Be sure to watch the brief, one-minute video that accompanies each benefit for more information on how and where to apply.
SNAP: Get help paying for food
Once called Food Stamps, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a vital lifeline for individuals and families who otherwise might face hunger, malnutrition, and the stress of not being able to put enough food on the table. As the largest anti-hunger program in the United States, SNAP helps many older adults stretch their budgets by providing a monthly stipend they can use at participating grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and other retail outlets that sell food. Each year, as many as 5 million older adults are missing out on $6.3 billion in SNAP assistance alone.
LIHEAP: Get help paying for utilities
If you can’t afford to heat or cool your living space, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) can offer relief—whether you own or rent. This federally sponsored, needs-based program helps millions of households across the country pay for home energy bills, certain energy-related repairs, and even some weatherization projects. LIHEAP also provides emergency financial assistance if you’re facing a shutoff.
Medicare Savings Programs: Get help paying for health care
Medicare isn’t free, and out-of-pocket costs can add up quickly—especially for older adults who live with chronic conditions. That’s where Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs) come in. Sometimes called Medicare Buy-In Programs or Medicare Premium Payment Programs, these state-administered benefits are designed to ease the burden of certain expenses such as monthly premiums, deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance. Eligibility varies depending on where you live, as do the specific benefits available. That said, if you’re enrolled in an MSP, you are automatically eligible for Extra Help (see below). Between 2-3 million older adults who are eligible for an MSP either don’t know it or haven’t applied, which leaves as much as $5.9 billion on the table every year.
Extra Help: Get assistance paying for prescription drugs
On average, Medicare beneficiaries spend as much as $500 of their own money each year on prescription medications. The Extra Help program, jointly administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), subsidizes the cost of these drugs for older adults with limited income and assets. Additional benefits may also include zero premiums on Medicare Part D prescription plans and limited out-of-pocket costs at the pharmacy.
Beyond benefits: More help for managing your finances
Have you heard about NCOA’s Budget CheckUp tool? Funded by Bank of America, this free online resource offers guidance on how to create a monthly budget, decrease expenses, and better manage your money. After you answer a brief anonymous quiz about your goals, Budget CheckUp provides a personalized plan of action.
Use NCOA's Benefits CheckUp to help you find benefits
Boost Your Budget Week is a reminder that the path towards financial resiliency can be achieved with help from NCOA’s BenefitsCheckUp®. This free, online tool connects millions of older adults with benefits programs that can help pay for health care, medicine, food, utilities, and more. Visit today to explore a variety savings opportunities for yourself, or for someone you know.
Have questions about BenefitsCheckUp? We're here to help. Call NCOA's helpline at 1-800-794-6559, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET.
1. Consumer Price Index – January 2023, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Found on the internet at https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cpi.pdf
2. Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) Information for 2023. The United States Social Security Administration (SSA). Found on the internet at https://www.ssa.gov/news/cola/
3. “The Importance of Social Security Benefits to the Income of the Aged Population,” Social Security Office of Retirement and Disability Policy. Found on the internet at https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/ssb/v77n2/v77n2p1.html