As he campaigned for the presidency, Donald Trump promised he wouldn’t cut Medicare benefits. (John Locher/AP)

On the campaign trail, Trump promised — repeatedly — he wouldn’t cut Medicare benefits.

That was then: Trump promised over and over to ‘save’ Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Will he?

This is now: Seniors will pay the price for Trump’s Medicare cuts

Trump released his 2019 budget last week, and it included $266 billion in cuts to Medicare, which provides health insurance to 58 million Americans 65 and older and people with certain disabilities.

Howard Gleckman, a contributor for Forbes, breaks down the proposed changes: What Trump’s Budget Would Mean For Seniors

— Medicare drug benefit would be restructured to reduce costs for some beneficiaries but raise them for others.

“Trump has proposed eliminating cost-sharing for seniors with very high prescription drug costs, but at the same time he’d increase out-of-pocket expenses for many others, especially those who have significant costs but have not quite reached the threshold where medicine would be free ($8,418 this year).”

— A freeze on most funding under the Older Americans Act, which provides money for social and nutrition services for seniors including Meals on Wheels. While the proposal has a small increase for food programs, it would cut funding for disability programs by about 30 percent, Gleckman reports.

— Gets rid of federal block grants that states use to fund programs for seniors.

— A new six-week family leave program would be created. But it would exclude people caring for frail parents or other relatives with disabilities.

“Each time this proposal surfaces, it focuses only on parents of newborns (and sometimes adoptees) but ignores the needs of families caring for aging parents and other relatives with disabilities,” Gleckman writes. “Families are not just parents and babies. There are millions of adult children — usually daughters — who put their paid jobs at risk by taking time off to help frail parents or disabled siblings.”

— The elimination of the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which provides job training to low-income job seekers ages 55 and older.

It’s more of the same from his first budget introduced last year: In his first budget, Trump to struggling seniors: You’ll be on your own

Nancy Altman, president of Social Security Works, wrote this in response to Trump’s FY19 budget proposal: “Despite Donald Trump’s numerous promises during his presidential campaign to not cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid, he proposes to cut all three in his just-released budget. And not just by a little. He proposes cuts of over $1.8 trillion to the three programs. On top of that, he proposes to slash Meals on Wheels, home heating assistance, and other programs on which seniors rely. It is noteworthy that Republicans just passed, for almost the same price tag, a huge tax giveaway to their donors. So that’s the Republican plan: save money by gutting programs for the elderly and transfer the savings to the billionaire class.”

Here are the times Trump swore he’d save Medicaid

In a 2015 speech Trump said: “Save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without cuts. Have to do it. Get rid of the fraud. Get rid of the waste and abuse, but save it.”

Since Congress just passed a two-year spending plan, it’s highly unlikely Trump’s budget will go anywhere. Still this budget says a lot about the administration’s stand on social programs.

“Despite having become the governing party, Republicans still show little interest or competence in governing with a broad-based vision of what quaintly used to be called the ‘public good,’ ” wrote The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin, who writes the Right Turn blog, which offers a conservative perspective. “The GOP no longer objects to big government but, by the same token, it is not providing a lot of services or outlays that help a broad swath of Americans.”

The big problem with Trump’s budget

Your thoughts welcomed
What do you think of the proposed cuts to Medicare and other social programs? Send your comment to

Retirement rants and raves
I’m interested in your experiences or concerns about retirement or aging. What do you like about retirement? What came as a surprise.

If you haven’t retired, what concerns you financially? You can rant or rave. This space is yours. It’s a chance for you to express what’s on your mind. Send your comments to Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “Retirement Rants and Raves.”

Last week I asked: Are you scared about the stock market gyrations? Have you made any moves to shift your investments?

Linda from Virginia wrote, “I am 15 years retired and have less than $400,000 in the market, heavily invested in equities. Thanks to a 34 percent gain in 2017, I decided to move about 20 percent into fixed income in January. When the market went down, I followed your New Year’s resolution and didn’t even look at my account balances on Thursday, Friday or Monday. I said to myself, ‘You did absolutely nothing to earn that money.’ On Tuesday, I looked and saw my largest ever one-day gain. As of today, I am only $5,000 below my all-time high. For the past eight months, I have been saving aggressively in my online account. I was pleased to note that at the market’s lowest point, I had as much in ‘real savings’ as I had lost in paper profits.”

Ryk McDorman of Denver wrote, “If the best fund managers and advisers can’t beat the market consistently, why would I think that I can successfully time the market? Since stock prices have risen so much, we did shift our daughter’s 529 funds from an aggressive portfolio to a moderate one in January, considering that she’ll be starting college in a year and a half. When your timeline to needing the funds is relatively short, as in this case or when nearing retirement, I think taking some money off the table is prudent, but otherwise we leave it alone.”

Susan Siegler of Glenwood, Md., 66, has a strategy to weather the stock market storms.

“Like many baby boomers I do not have a pension and my retirement funds are invested in the stock market,” Siegler said. “About 18 months ago I decided to invest my current retirement contributions in a money-market fund while keeping the balance of my retirement funds in the stock market. Over the past year, I have moved only my stock market ‘gains’ into that same money-market fund. The stock market has its ups and downs. I wanted enough money in my money-market fund to help fund retirement years when the market is down but leave enough in stocks and bonds to capture the gains when the stock market bounces back. My approach is to have sufficient cash to buffer the bad years but continue to allow my investments to grow over time. At my age, while my timeline for investing is short, I know that the only way to win is to stay in the game. In the meantime, I am saving as much as I can so that I don’t have to look back in a few years and say. ‘Oops, I should have saved more when I had the chance.’ I don’t know if my approach is a good one, but it’s the best I can do. It helps alleviate my uncertainty for the next few years and provides a foundation for growth. I’ll know in about 10 years (or possibly sooner) if this was a good decision.”

Dave, a reader who retired from federal service in 2016, has been moving money around to manage stock market swings.

“I have most of my retirement savings in the Thrift Savings Plan or TSP — essentially, the Federal version of a 401(k),” he wrote. “I put a small amount in stocks last year, and that small portion grew phenomenally, of course. Overall, the gain was modest. Meanwhile, I also have 401(k) rollovers from two previous jobs in the private sector. Both mutual funds, they also did well last year. When the market gyrated two weeks ago, I pulled all my stock-market money out of the TSP. My rationale is that the money I’ve got in the old 401(k) rollover accounts is still invested in stocks, so I use the TSP to adjust my exposure. If a retiree has multiple accounts (hopefully), then at least part of them should be flexible to allow reallocation. This also avoids the danger of making an all-or-nothing decision: In my case, I still have a portion of my savings in the stock market, but smaller than before two weeks ago to limit my exposure to a big downturn.”

Anthony is from central Florida. He and his wife are 70 and retired. His pension and their Social Security benefits cover their living expenses.

“We have weathered prior corrections, while we were working, by staying the course in diversified U.S. and foreign investments with appropriate, for us, age and risk allocations,” he wrote. “Due to strong 2017 performance, the equity position in my IRA grew beyond planning percentages. Based on recommendations from our financial adviser, we did a re-balance in early January to get our IRA back in sync with our retirement plan. Our other investments are in balanced funds, with equity/fixed allocations consistent with our risk tolerance and goals. Now that we are both fully retired, we are certainly more concerned with any correction. Since we do not have an immediate need for any retirement funds withdrawal, other than the mandatory IRA RMD [Required Minimum Distribution], we are not planning on any changes. However, we will continue to review our allocations and overall performance as well as tracking to our retirement plan to determine if any changes are required.”

Read: Over 70? Here’s Your RMD Guide for 2018

Here’s some advice from two readers:

Alan Homer of Mesa, Ariz. wrote: “If you are retired, you should have enough money in a checking/savings account equal to 12 to 18 months’ worth of expenses. This allows plenty of time for the individual to decide if there need to be any adjustments to their long-term investment strategy. I have five years before retiring, but could continue to work longer if needed.
My plan is to continue to invest in my 401(k), which is mostly growth stocks allocated between U.S. & international funds/indexes, with about 20 percent in more conservative funds/indexes.”

“I like the ‘3 bucket’ rule,” wrote Mary Wilson of Bethel, Maine. “Keep one year of expenses in cash. Keep five more years [of funds] in money market, CD or other readily accessible insured accounts. Keep the balance in a mix of stocks, bonds and Treasurys consistent with your future income requirements, age and risk tolerance. This way you can weather any downturns in markets without worrying too much about when they will recover and also avoid taking money for current expenses from accounts when they are ‘down.’ ”

Newsletter comments policy

Please note it is my personal policy to identify readers who respond to questions I ask in my newsletters. I find it encourages thoughtful and civil conversation. I want my newsletters to be a safe place to express your opinion. On sensitive matters or upon request, I’m happy to include just your first name and/or last initial. But I prefer not to post anonymous comments (I do make exceptions when I’m asking questions that might reveal sensitive information or cause conflict.)

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