Why dental healthcare matters as you age

Ten senior dental care issues and how to prevent them

As you may have noticed, maintaining your dental health can become more challenging as you age. You may not be surprised to learn that more than 70% of adults age 65 years and older have periodontal disease and almost 26% of U.S. adults in the same age bracket have eight teeth (or fewer) due to decay or gum disease. Clearly, focusing on senior dental care should be a top priority because dental procedures, especially those that are not planned for, can be costly and painful.

The most effective dental care for seniors starts with regular preventative care. Getting consistent check-ups, cleanings, and X-rays can minimize the need for involved procedures, like bridges, crowns, dentures, extractions, and root canals. Your dental health care provider will also monitor you for gum disease, which can become more prevalent as you age. You should aim to see a dentist every six months to maintain optimum dental health, but visit a dentist right away if you experience these symptoms:

Proper daily dental hygiene will also guard against needing additional senior dental care. Brushing your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, flossing, and rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash each day can keep your dental health in check even as you age. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends using a toothbrush with a larger handle or an electric toothbrush to making brushing easier, especially if you suffer from arthritis.

The ADA advises seeing your primary medical doctor regularly to monitor your dental health. That’s because other chronic health conditions, like heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and some cancers can increase the need for dental care for senior patients. Certain medications may cause side effects, like dry mouth, and a few can cause interactions with drugs required during dental procedures. Tell your medical doctor and dentist about prescription and over-the-counter medicines you are taking.

Seniors should pay special attention to these dental health issues:

1. Bad breath

Dry mouth, gum disease, and chronic illnesses, like kidney disease and diabetes, can cause this embarrassing condition. Proper daily dental care, whether you wear dentures or not, can diminish bad breath.

2. Tooth loss

Unchecked gum disease is the leading cause of seniors losing teeth and requiring dental help. Again, it’s strongly advised that you see your dentist on a regular basis to avoid tooth loss. Maintaining a healthy diet, including 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily will help your jawbone and teeth stay strong.

3. Dentures, partials, and bridges

Dentures for seniors and other dental implants require regular brushing and care, just like natural teeth. Maintaining proper dental health for your remaining natural teeth helps your implants and apparatuses fit and work properly.

4. Sensitive teeth

If you notice increased tooth sensitivity, you may have a cavity, gum disease, or worn enamel, so it’s important to see your dentist right away.

5. Dry mouth

This is one of the most common side effects of medications used to treat chronic health conditions. It can cause dental health issues, like cavities and gum disease. To combat this annoying and potentially problematic oral health issue, stay hydrated throughout the day and limit your intake of alcohol, sugary drinks, and caffeine.

6. Diminished sense of taste

Taking prescription medicines and wearing dentures may impact your sense of taste. Sensory loss is also a normal part of aging, and scientists are studying how loss of taste occurs so treatments can be developed.

7. Gum disease

Common causes of gum disease are plaque, food left on and in the teeth, smoking, chewing tobacco, poor nutrition, ill-fitting bridges and dentures, some cancers, and diabetes. Regular senior dental care is the best way to avoid developing gum disease.

8. Diabetes

According to the ADA, if you suffer from diabetes, you are more likely to also suffer from dry mouth, cavities, enflamed gums or gingivitis, periodontal disease, and diminished sense of taste. It’s important to keep your blood sugar in check and to visit your dentist regularly to monitor your oral health.

9. Smoking

This and the use of other tobacco products can cause dental health issues, like oral cancer, gum disease, change in tooth color, diminished sense of taste, bad breath, and other potential problems. The best way to prevent these issues is obviously to stop using tobacco products.

10. Oral cancer

Signs of oral cancer include swelling, lumps or rough spots in your mouth, bleeding, facial sores, spots or unusual textures, change in your voice, tooth pain, and numbness. See your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms. Smoking and heavy alcohol use can cause oral cancer. People over age 55, especially men, are more likely to develop oral cancer. To reduce your chances of developing the disease, limit your sun exposure, eat a well-balanced diet, make dental health a priority, and don’t smoke.

Given the many dental issues and care needs seniors face, it’s important to have good dental coverage. Unfortunately, Medicare doesn’t offer seniors dental care coverage, but an American Republic Insurance Services agent can help you find the right dental plan to cover costs for the care you need.

What is life insurance? A quick and simple guide

Get answers to common questions about life insurance and learn key terms

With a variety of types and plans, life insurance may seem confusing. Whole life insurance, term insurance, permanent life insurance, burial insurance — knowing the difference among these options can help you make informed purchasing and planning decisions. One way to get started is to break down commonly asked questions and define important terms. Then you can understand what life insurance is and choose which option is best for you and your family.

Life insurance FAQ

What is life insurance?

Life insurance is a legally binding contract that guarantees a benefit upon your death to named beneficiaries in exchange for premiums you pay. Types of life insurance include term and whole life insurance.

Which is better: Term or whole life insurance?

The better option between term or whole life insurance depends on what stage of life you’re in.

As you age, your needs for life insurance change. If you’re older, a whole life policy may be right for you. Whole life insurance is easier to obtain than term life insurance because you aren’t required to take a health exam. The premiums for whole life insurance are often higher than term policies, but whole life policies hold cash value that you have access to while you’re living.
Term life insurance offers lower premiums and a greater death benefit, but it holds no cash value, and your policy expires if you haven’t passed away before a given time. You may be able to renew your term insurance policy, but premiums typically increase to reflect your current age.

Is life insurance taxable?

Life insurance premiums are considered personal expenses, which are not tax deductible. This means the money you pay into your life insurance policy may be taxable income subject to standard tax rates.
According to the Internal Revenue Service, if someone else names you a beneficiary, the proceeds you receive from his or her life insurance are not taxable income.

Is burial insurance the same as life insurance?

Burial insurance is just one type of permanent life insurance, and it’s intended to cover funeral or cremation costs. Burial insurance can be purchased as a term or whole life policy, with benefits paid to your beneficiary. Since your beneficiary can use the benefit funds in any way, you could name a funeral home as your beneficiary to ensure the funds are used for death-related expenses.
Life insurance is a broader term that encompasses the total policy you pay into in exchange for a death benefit, not just funeral expense coverage.

Key life insurance terms

What is permanent life insurance?

Permanent life insurance often is called whole life insurance and refers to coverage that’s active for the duration of your life, with a benefit to be paid to your beneficiary after your passing. Different types of permanent life insurance include traditional, universal, and final expense.
These types of life insurance allow you to set aside money for any of your final expenses, from medical bills to your funeral, and your beneficiary decides how to allocate it.

What’s the difference between guaranteed assurance and guaranteed funeral plans?

Guaranteed assurance is the life insurance plan you qualify for without having to undergo a health assessment.
A guaranteed funeral plan refers to the cost of funeral services determined in a contract for permanent life insurance, which cannot increase due to inflation.

What’s a rider?

A rider is an addendum to a life insurance policy that either extends or limits its benefits.

What’s the difference between a death benefit and an accelerated death benefit?

A death benefit is awarded to a beneficiary after you, the policyholder, pass away.
An accelerated benefit can be paid out while you’re still living, but this will decrease the benefit paid to your beneficiary after your death.

Retirement planning for seniors: 10 mistakes to avoid

Retirement financial planning the smart way

Retirement financial planning is about more than electing to put part of your paycheck into a 401(k) account. Effective retirement planning for seniors requires a multi-pronged approach that is as focused on what you should do as what you shouldn’t. To be successful in your retirement planning, you should avoid these 10 mistakes:

1. Waiting to plan for retirement

Just because you aren’t making a salary that aligns with your ultimate earning goal, that doesn’t mean you should put off retirement planning. When it comes to investing for your retirement, it makes sense to start earlier rather than later.

2. Saving too much too soon

Planning for the future is never a bad idea, but don’t forget to plan for today. Unexpected big expenses, like home repairs and medical bills, will come up between now and the time you retire. You need to keep enough fluid funds to build up a savings account while also covering regular expenses, like your mortgage and car payments. Also, don’t make the mistake of focusing so much on pinching pennies for when you stop working that you regret not enjoying the journey along the way.

3. Forgetting 401(k)s and IRAs are tax-deferred, not tax-free

It can be a big wake-up call if you don’t plan for taxes in retirement. Just because you’re not paying taxes on your accounts now, doesn’t mean you never will. To fully understand the tax implications of your retirement savings accounts, consult a tax professional.

4. Not buying the right insurance at the right time

Some seniors may not know that Medicare doesn’t cover everything. For instance, dental care and long-term care are not covered. According to a Fidelity retiree health care cost estimate, a 65-year-old couple who retires in 2022 needs $315,000 (after tax) to cover health care costs in retirement.

Having a dental insurance plan and Medicare Supplement insurance can help you cover costs, like copayments, deductibles, and home health care, so you don’t deplete your retirement savings. When you explore all insurance plans available to you to find a policy tailored to your specific needs, you’ll have the peace of mind knowing that no matter what health hurdles come your way, you’ll be prepared.

5. Not planning for the unexpected

Besides unforeseen health issues, big life events can drastically affect your retirement funds. Adult children may return home, an elderly parent could require care, or you and your spouse may decide to separate. It’s hard to plan when you don’t know what you don’t know, but that’s where an American Republic Insurance Services agent comes in handy. They’re used to planning for the unexpected and can help you prepare for life’s twists and turns.

6. Over-relying on Social Security

A Social Security income will help you in your retirement years, but don’t expect to live on it alone. According to the Social Security Administration, the average benefit for a retired worker in 2022 is $1,669. Ask yourself: Would that cover all your expenses — housing, food, health care, leisure activities, and unexpected costs? Probably not. Senior financial and retirement planning should be more robust than simply believing, “I will have my Social Security.”

Learn more about annuities

7. Forgetting about inflation and life expectancy

Even though 2022 was an outlier and had the largest annual inflation rate increase since the early 1980s, it still illustrates how vital it is to factor inflation into your retirement plan. Its relevance increases significantly when you also consider life expectancy is on the rise for both men and women. An American Republic Insurance Services agent knows how to calculate these two variables and suggest ways to properly plan for them.

8. Not paying down debt

With the average credit card interest rate at 15.13% APR, your nest egg will diminish rapidly if you’re still paying down debt when you retire. Even if your mortgage interest rate is low and you receive a considerable tax deduction, it doesn’t replace a healthy cash flow throughout the year. Retiring debt-free should be your goal to stretch your retirement account as far as possible.

9. Procrastinating on end-of-life planning

Even if you haven’t accumulated a great deal of wealth, you still need to have a plan for what you’ll leave behind. A life insurance plan ensures your loved ones aren’t left with a financial burden after you’re gone. An American Republic Insurance Services agent can help you determine which type of life insurance policy best fits your wishes. And an estate planning professional can help you gather necessary documents, such as a financial power of attorney, trust contracts, and tax documents, and craft a will that ensures your family will be taken care of when you pass away. Remember to discuss your plans with your spouse and children, so they know what your plans are, and update your plans about every five years.

Learn more about types of life insurance

10. Forgetting to make a retirement “life” plan

Senior retirement planning is more than matching dollars and cents with interest rates and statistics. You want to make sure you have enough money to enjoy your retirement to the fullest. Ask yourself how you plan to fill your days after you stop working. Will you travel? Try a new hobby? Volunteer? Big expenses like traveling are easy to plan your savings around, but what about the little costs that add up? A new hobby could require a lot of equipment purchases, or a rewarding volunteer opportunity may be located a few towns away, which could rack up gas costs. Don’t forget to list granular details and prepare how to cover them. An American Republic Insurance Services agent can help you decide whether an annuity could help fund the retirement of your dreams.

Why pairing Hospital Indemnity with Medicare Supplement makes sense

Cover even more gaps with Medicare Supplement and Hospital Indemnity in your insurance portfolio

Medicare Supplement insurance is a cost-share plan that may help you pay for expenses that Medicare does not cover. Also called Medigap — because it fills in the gaps of Medicare coverage — this type of insurance helps you cover potentially expensive medical out-of-pocket costs, like coinsurance, copayments, and deductibles. But when you pair it with Hospital Indemnity insurance, you can cover even more gaps.
It’s easy to overlook the additional costs you can incur while you’re hospitalized. A Hospital Indemnity insurance plan can provide you with supplemental cash benefits to use as needed, even for indirect non-medical costs.

What does Hospital Indemnity cover?

Hospital Indemnity differs from regular health insurance because it has no deductible, no coinsurance, and no network, and the benefit is paid out directly to you tax-free.
“Each person’s needs are going to be different. If a catastrophic event occurs, you might not be able to cover all the costs with your current income or savings,” explains Erin Bueltel, product specialist for supplemental health insurance. “If you’re on Medicare and are interested in additional insurance but don’t want to pay a high premium, a simple add-on of Hospital Indemnity at a lower premium might help provide relief.”

Hospital Indemnity policies generally have similar base benefits, such as:

Depending on the carrier and which state you live in, you may also have access to riders that you can add to your policy to cover even more gaps. They usually cover services, such as:

The benefits of pairing Hospital Indemnity and Medicare Supplement

Hospital Indemnity insurance can offer protection in a variety of ways for Medicare Supplement policyholders:

Decoding 3 types of life insurance death benefits

Learn the differences between accelerated, level, and limited death benefits

Life insurance helps financially take care of your family and loved ones in the event of your death. Understanding the different types of life insurance and the death benefits they offer can help you choose which insurance plan is best for you.
A death benefit is the amount of money that will be paid upon the death of the insured, but it can be paid out in different ways. Here we explain accelerated death benefits, level death benefits, and limited death benefits.

What is an accelerated death benefit?

Also known as a living benefit or terminal illness benefit, an accelerated death benefit (ADB) allows you to receive a cash advance on your death benefit while you’re still alive. The money you receive from ADBs can be used for medical or living expenses or to help relieve your loved ones of financial burdens, such as paying off debt during your final years.
Accelerated death benefits give you a little bit of added security, knowing that if you have expenses prior to death, you can access some of your death benefits to pay for them.
Typically, you can become eligible for accelerated death benefits if you meet any of the following criteria:

Accelerated death benefits can be paid in a lump sum or in installments. The form of payment you receive matters, because receiving death benefits could impact your tax liability, affect your eligibility for Medicaid, or have other implications for you or your beneficiaries — the people you choose to receive your death benefits after you die.
Accelerated death benefits aren’t borrowed or loaned. Instead, the amount of money you receive is deducted from your death benefit, which reduces the amount of financial support your loved ones will have to cover your funeral or other expenses after you die.

What is a level death benefit?

Life insurance companies offer level death benefits that pay the same amount to your beneficiaries after your death, regardless of when you purchased the life insurance policy. The premiums for level death benefits are typically cheaper than life insurance policies with increasing — or graded — death benefits. If you’re over the age of 60, when premiums for life insurance policies typically increase, the lower premiums for a life insurance policy with level death benefits may make sense for you.
To qualify for level death benefits, you generally have to show you’re in good health by answering a few health questions and survive the first two policy years. If you don’t qualify for level death benefits with first-day coverage, you can still be issued you a life insurance policy, but it may have a limited death benefit.

What is a limited death benefit?

Limited death benefits restrict the amount of life insurance coverage you have for a certain period of time. If you’re not healthy, you can typically still purchase a life insurance policy with a limited death benefit, and if you survive a predetermined number of years, you may qualify for full coverage.

Which death benefit is best for you and your loved ones?

A lot of factors should be taken into consideration to determine what is best for you and the beneficiaries who will receive your death benefits. An American Republic Insurance Services agent will look at your situation to help find the best product that provides the death benefit you want at a price you can afford.

3 reasons why you should own life insurance

Hint: It not only covers funeral expenses

When you think about life insurance, you automatically think about the funeral expenses it will cover after you’re gone. But that’s not the only reason why you should own life insurance. When you’re contemplating whether to buy a plan, consider these three reasons why you should own life insurance:

1. Cover final expenses

A life insurance plan ensures your loved ones aren’t left with a financial burden after you’re gone. Funerals alone can average $7,000 to $8,000, so covering these costs will reduce financial stress on both you and your loved ones. Whole life, term, universal life, or final expense insurance can help further because they’re not limited to covering funeral costs. Depending on your policy, it can pay medical bills, mortgage payments, and more. Your family can dispense the money toward expenses as you advise or as they see fit.

2. Leave something to remember

Do you want to give money to your kids or grandkids after you pass? A life insurance policy allows you to leave behind money for whomever you choose. You can designate policy beneficiaries to receive the tax-free death benefit after your passing.

3. Replace lost income

If you have dependents who rely on your income, you want to make sure they’re taken care of when you’re gone. Depending on the amount of your life insurance policy, the death benefit can act as a replacement for your dependents’ lost income or even help your surviving spouse supplement Social Security.