Seniors and Homeownership: How to Save Big and Avoid Getting Scammed
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 54 million adults aged 65 and older live in the United States as of 2021. This figure accounts for about 16.5 percent of the country’s population.
By 2050, the number of senior citizens in the United States is projected to reach 85.7 million, nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population.
Although the number of senior citizens is growing across the country, some states have larger populations of senior citizens than others. For example, according to America’s Health Rankings, Florida, Maine, and West Virginia had the highest percentage of adults aged 65 and older as of 2019, while Utah had the lowest, with 11.4 percent.
As many older adults as there are in the country, many are unaware of the ways they can save on home expenses. Whether they’re buying home goods at the store, downsizing and moving, or paying for home modifications, there are a lot of ways to save. Here’s a comprehensive list, as well as an overview of common home scams aimed at seniors so you know how to avoid them.
Financial support for senior homeowners
Saving on home goods
Applying senior discounts also makes things more accessible and sometimes allows you to skip a downpayment. However, remember that businesses don’t have legal requirements to inform you about available senior perks, so always ask. Additionally, the definition of senior can differ from one business to another.
While the government agencies generally consider a person old when they hit the 65-year benchmark, some businesses start applying senior discounts as soon as you turn 55 or even 50. Always carry your ID to furnish proof of your age, whether you go shopping for groceries, buying furniture, or heading to a movie theater. Sometimes, you could be offered a senior discount where you least expect it.
Home retailers offering senior discounts
|Amazon||50% off Prime membership||Must receive government assistance (SSI, SNAP, etc.)||Always|
|Big Lots Big Rewards||Cash-back rewards, VIP shopping day discounts, and a birthday surprise||Must create a Big Lots account||Always|
|Home Depot||Price match guarantee||No age requirement||Always|
|Goodwill||10% off your purchase||60+ years||Tuesdays|
|Kohl’s||15% off your purchase||60+ years; must present a state-issued photo ID, which is required at checkout||Wednesdays|
|Lowe’s Veteran Program||10% off your purchase||Military veterans must first enroll online; a valid photo ID is required at checkout||Always|
|Michaels||10% off your purchase||55+ years; Must create a Michaels Rewards account||Always|
|Red, White, and Blue Thrift Stores Senior Citizen Day||50% off your purchase||55+ years||Wednesdays|
|Savers & Value Village||20-40% off||55+ years, days and amount of discount varies by location||Varies|
|Salvation Army||15-50%||Must be 55+||Always|
|TJ Maxx||10% off||Must be 55+; Not available at all locations||Always|
|Fred Meyer||10% off||Must be 55+||First Tuesday of every month|
|Harris Teeter||5% off||Must be 60+, excludes fuel, pharmacy, tickets, and gift cards||Thursdays|
|Belk||15% off||Must be 62+||First Tuesday of every month|
Saving on home services
Seniors with an AARP membership can save on their home insurance through The Hartford. Military members and veterans can also save by using USAA as their provider.
Many state-by-state programs offer discounted utility rates for older adults. Check with your city or state government to find programs that can offset your costs.
There are also federal programs designed to help support older adults. The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps with energy bills associated with heating and cooling your home. The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) offers support for making your home more energy efficient and thus, lowering your monthly bills.
AARP extends generous discounts on cell phones, plans, and activation fees for Sprint, Tmobile, Verizon, AT&T, and other providers.
Provider Consumer Cellular offers a 5% discount to all customers over 50 years of age.
AT&T provides a 25% discount on monthly plans to veterans.
Lastly, for those under the poverty line or who participate in Medicaid, SSI, Veterans and Survivors Pension, and other programs, LifeLine may provide you with free landline phone service.
Home improvement and remodeling
Some contractors and handyman services may provide senior discounts if you ask. There is also government assistance available to help with the cost of repairs and improvements.
- The Older Americans Act distributes funds for home repairs to local Area Agencies on Aging. Contact your nearest agency to ask about funds.
- Rebuilding Together provides assistance to low-income seniors through their network. Contact them through their website for more information.
- Homemods.org has extensive lists of state-specific funding options for seniors and people with disabilities. Find your state in their list and navigate to “Funding Sources.”
Be sure to review your benefits eligibility to ensure you have as much financial assistance as possible. You can quickly check available benefits thanks to Benefits Check-Up, a free tool that connects older people with disabilities with their benefits.
While funding may not specifically help with home service costs, taking advantage of all sources of financial assistance may free up your budget for other necessities.
Saving on real estate and moving
If you’re buying a new home later in life, there are programs designed to support you. Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have policies to help you use retirement assets in your mortgage negotiations. Some seniors also benefit from reverse mortgage loans, which allow homeowners to convert their home equity into cash with no monthly payments.
Home inspections don’t commonly qualify for senior discounts. However, you may be able to get a discount by asking, especially if you’re purchasing a specialty service like a septic inspection.
When it comes to paying for movers, there are some services that typically provide senior discounts. Before you book a mover, be sure you understand how movers charge for their services can help you avoid overpaying when you move. International Van Lines may provide a 15% discount for qualifying older adults. Allied Van Lines offers variable discounts between 10% and 15%. Lastly, North American Van Lines can offer up to a 65% discount on moving services.
Other Financial Benefits for Seniors Over 65
Aside from government-sponsored programs, senior citizens also enjoy a host of perks, including senior discounts, tax deductions, financial assistance for veterans, retirement help, and senior services like meal programs, travel deals, and passes.
People 65 and older are eligible for additional tax deductions and can claim more significant standard deductions than younger taxpayers. A person who is 65 or older can claim a standard tax deduction of $1,350, or if married, both can claim $2,700 if they meet the age requirements.
Beware of Financial Scams Targeting Older Adults
When looking for benefits, beware of scams targeting senior citizens. According to the National Council on Aging, scams targeting older citizens are rising, and criminals have become more sophisticated when approaching unsuspecting people.
In the five years ending December 31, 2020, the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging Fraud Hotline received more than 8,000 complaints nationwide.
Common scams that target senior homeowners
Unfortunately, owning a home makes older adults the target of many big-ticket scams. Here are important ones to be aware of the following
Door-to-door home improvement scams. Scammers may appear to be going door-to-door selling services to redo your concrete driveway, install a new septic system, provide pest control services, or install solar panels. Remember that you never have to answer your door for anyone, especially people you don’t know.
Landscaping service scams. Some small landscaping companies will offer too-good-to-be-true prices to cut out the competition in your area. Unfortunately, cheap prices typically mean cheap work or work that never gets done. Avoid signing up for service providers that use high-pressure sales tactics or unreasonably low prices.
Online shopping scams. Whether you’re buying home goods online or shopping for other items, be wary of entering your credit card information anywhere unfamiliar. Scammers can steal payment information or may even sell you stolen goods. We recommend seniors stick to reputable websites that they’ve used before and never buy from marketplaces or private sellers where anyone can sell anything to you.
If a salesperson tries to convince you that you need home improvements, you can always reach out to a certified home inspector. These are trained professionals who offer unbiased perspectives on the condition of your home and can help you avoid spending unnecessary money.
Top tips for avoiding home scams targeting seniors
- Don’t answer the door for people you don’t know. This may sound basic, but many home scammers attempt to lock you into high-pressure sales situations so you agree to a product or service. Simply ignoring the doorbell can avoid the situation entirely.
- Just say no to high-pressure sales situations. Most scammers succeed once they get your ear in person or on the phone. A good way to escape a high-pressure conversation is to tell them someone else handles your checkbook and credit cards. You can also tell them that you have a policy of waiting 24 hours before spending that kind of money. If you’re in a really tight spot, you can always refuse and tell them you’re calling the police.
- Never pay cash upfront. Some scams simply seek to take your cash and never deliver on their promises. Say no to any offer that requires you to give quick cash, even if they say they guarantee delivery on their promises.
- Get multiple bids. Before you agree to do business with any home professional, even one you contacted, plan to get 3 bids so you can compare costs. This provides some “cool down” time if a salesperson pressures you at your door. It can also prevent you from spending more than you need to in a legitimate sales situation.
If you or someone you know have received a scam phone call, email, or message, you may report it to the Federal Trade Commission online or by calling 877–FTC–HELP (877–382–4357). After reporting the incident to the FTC, contact the National elder Fraud Hotline at 833-372-8311.