Consider Having a Backup Plan

When looking ahead in anticipation of Social Security benefits, many people expect to wait until an average age of 66 to make a claim.1

However, Nationwide Retirement Institute’s fifth annual Social Security survey found many retirees start drawing Social Security at the earliest possible age of 622 — frequently the result of being laid off or health issues.

Thirty-six percent of respondents reported health problems got in the way of living the retirement they expected, and of those, 80 percent say health problems occurred as many as five or more years earlier than expected.3

This tells us something we already know but are constantly reminded of: Life does not always go as planned. Many financial professionals tell their clients one of the most effective ways to help ensure enough income throughout retirement is to continue working through their 60s. This may not be preferable, but it’s an option.

Others may plan to work longer but end up retiring for reasons beyond their control. It’s good to have a contingency plan. As an independent financial services firm, we help people create retirement income strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. Give us a call if you’re interested in finding out more.

It’s important to have a backup plan because there are many challenges for people working longer. For example, as jobs move further into technology, artificial intelligence and automation, new job skills are constantly required. It’s good to challenge the brain, but young college graduates typically have a firmer grasp on today and tomorrow’s technology — it’s a steep learning curve.4

A Washington Post article recently referred to the “gray ceiling.” As women have faced the “glass ceiling” as an obstacle to career advancement, age discrimination is sometimes manifested in the hiring, continued employment, development and advancement of older workers.5

Fortunately, recent workforce trends have made it easier for older workers to continue earning income past traditional retirement age. Many employers have embraced the work model of the “gig economy,” staffing up (and down) as needed with independent contractors. Older workers have proven to be well-suited for this type of employment due to their laser-like experience in certain roles, reliability and stability. A recent study suggests older white-collar professionals are driving the growing demand for gig workers among businesses in certain industries.6

While employers may embrace the gig economy to add and drop staff as needed, remember workers can do the same. Establishing yourself as a freelancer or independent contractor gives you the freedom to work as much or as little as needed.7 You can take off a month to go on vacation, or six months to fly south for the winter. You can also take on work only when you have big bills coming up, like homeowner’s insurance or property taxes.

A 2017 survey found one-third of future retirees are planning part-time work to provide at least 25 percent of their household income. Besides income, many gig workers ages 51 to 70 say a primary reason for freelancing is simply to stay active in retirement.8

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Nationwide Retirement Institute. April 2018. “Social Security 5th Annual Consumer Survey.” https://nationwidefinancial.com/media/pdf/NFM-17422AO.pdf. Accessed May 10, 2018.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 James Manyika, Susan Lund, Michael Chui, Jacques Bughin, Jonathan Woetzel, Parul Batra, Ryan Ko and Saurabh Sanghvi. McKinsey Global Institute. November 2017. “What the future of work will mean for jobs, skills, and wages.” https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-organizations-and-work/what-the-future-of-work-will-mean-for-jobs-skills-and-wages#part%205. Accessed May 1, 2018.

5 Susan Williams. Booming Encore. March 2018. “Older Workers Watch Your Head – Breaking Through the Gray Ceiling.” http://www.boomingencore.com/older-workers-watch-head-breaking-gray-ceiling/. Accessed May 1, 2018.

6 Valerie Bolden-Barrett. HR Dive. Oct. 3, 2017. “Older workers — not millennials — are driving the gig economy.” https://www.hrdive.com/news/older-workers-not-millennials-are-driving-the-gig-economy/506349/. Accessed May 1, 2018.

7 Elaine Pofeldt. Forbes. Aug. 30, 2017. “Why Older Workers Are Embracing the Gig Economy.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/elainepofeldt/2017/08/30/why-older-workers-are-embracing-the-gig-economy/#642f904a42ce. Accessed May 1, 2018.

Ibid.

This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

The Psychology of Economics

Countries with a longstanding track record of economic stability and security tend to have the happiest citizens, reports journalist Dan Buettner, who has studied what makes people happy. Education and health care are two primary reasons why, combining to create an upwardly mobile lifecycle.1

Mothers with higher education levels tend to have fewer children, and those children tend to be healthier and more productive adults, Buettner says. In turn, they often become successful parents and make more well-informed voting decisions. This enables the next generation to make even higher social and economic gains.2

With this in mind, it’s worth considering how we can make education and health care more affordable within our own households. College tuition is expected to continue experiencing higher inflation levels than most other household expenses.3 Health insurance and medical inflation is expected to outpace overall economic inflation this year for the first time since 2010.4 If you’re looking for ways to help prepare for future health care and higher education costs for you and your loved ones, please set up a time to visit with us.

Another interesting, emerging economic trend is that of human workers versus automation. While we can debate the merits of cost savings versus human judgment, there’s an underlying theory that technology is not necessarily the key to future economic growth. In fact, in a departure from encouraging more students to study the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and math), there’s a new movement to better understand the drivers of human behavior and how we might interact with technology in the future.5

If you look at recent trends in consumer-driven technology, there is a discernible shift away from high-tech products and services. For example, independent bookstores and print books are experiencing a revival after years of competing with the rising popularity of online bookstores and eReaders.6 And, remarkably, instant-print cameras have become fashionable again and experienced a 30 percent growth in sales in 2017.7

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Knowledge@Wharton. March 2, 2018. “What Can We Learn from the World’s Happiest People?” http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/blue-zones-happiness/. Accessed May 18, 2018.

2 Ibid.

3 Venessa Wong. CNBC. March 17, 2017. “In 18 years, a college degree could cost about $500,000.” https://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/17/in-18-years-a-college-degree-could-cost-about-500000.html. Accessed June 7, 2018.

4 Fortune. Feb. 15, 2018. “Healthcare Prices to Outpace Inflation for the First Time Since 2010.” http://fortune.com/2018/02/15/healthcare-prices/. Accessed May 18, 2018.

5 Shon Burton. MarketWatch. May 31, 2018. “Opinion: Coding skills won’t save your job – but the humanities will.” https://www.marketwatch.com/story/coding-skills-wont-save-your-job-but-the-humanities-will-2018-05-17. Accessed May 18, 2018.

6 Alex Preston. The Guardian. May 14, 2018. “How real books have trumped ebooks.” https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/may/14/how-real-books-trumped-ebooks-publishing-revival. Accessed June 4, 2018.

7 Chaim Pikarski. Twice. Feb. 20, 2018. “What’s driving the instant photo revival?” https://www.twice.com/blog/whats-driving-instant-print-photo-revival. Accessed May 18, 2018.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

Various Types of “Economies”

As recently as five years ago, few people had heard of emerging businesses like Airbnb and Uber that allow proprietors to share their personal residences and cars to generate income. This business model is now commonly referred to as the “sharing economy.” 1

However, just as capitalism morphs, so does the concept of sharing. For example, some Uber drivers actually lease an upscale car to charge higher fares that compete with luxury driving services.2

The Great Recession played a hand in encouraging unemployed workers to find innovative sources of income when jobs were scarce, and the sharing economy has been seen as influential in our overall economy’s recovery. It’s worth considering how we can better prepare ourselves for potential economic declines via job innovation, vigilant savings habits and protecting a portion of our retirement assets through guaranteed insurance products. If you’d like help devising a strategy using a variety of insurance products to help you work toward your long-term retirement income goals, please call us to schedule a meeting.

In addition to the sharing economy, today’s world is home to a wide array of economic varieties, including:

Sharing Economy

As mentioned, this model focuses on sharing or renting under-utilized assets. One of the primary concerns with this model is trusting others to take care of your personal assets. Some proprietors require an upfront deposit to help defray the cost of breakage or stolen goods. Insurance companies also have gotten into this business by developing policies for reimbursement.3

On-Demand Economy

This model focuses on providing goods and services on an as-needed basis. For example, in situations where a short-term rental is cheaper than buying — such as owning a car in a large metropolitan city — it can be more cost effective and convenient to use Uber transportation rather than own a car. This is true in expensive cities including New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and others, particularly when including expenses like gas and insurance. 4

Peer Economy

This economic model is based on the creation of products, delivery of services, funding and more by peer-to-peer (P2P) networks. These peer-lending platforms can help bolster economic progress, particularly in a rising interest-rate environment. For example, a small business seeking capital may be able to use an online P2P lending platform that matches borrowers to lenders. This can help a business owner acquire a less expensive loan more quickly than through a traditional financial institution.5

Crowd Economy

The crowd economy enlists the larger population or a subset to generate funding, information, resources and more. This particularly interesting phenomenon has infinite applications. For example, the city of Akron, Ohio, is providing CPR training to the general public in hopes that crowd-sourcing certain emergency service skills will lead to more victims getting immediate help until paramedics arrive.6 Crowd-sourcing also is a good way to find undiscovered talent. Instead of hiring an advertising agency to produce promotional artwork for an annual film festival, the organizers may hold an open competition for the public, tapping local artists whose talent may otherwise go unnoticed.7

Statistics indicate that the sharing economy and its various iterations are producing big revenues. A recent U.S. study found that on-demand workers generated more than $110 billion in the 15 largest metropolitan areas, including New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.8

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 April Rinne. World Economic Forum. Dec. 13, 2017. “What exactly is the sharing economy?” https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/12/when-is-sharing-not-really-sharing/. Accessed June 2, 2018.

Ibid.

Matthew Wall. BBC News. June 1, 2018. “’I bought my mum a flat just by renting out my camera kit.’” https://www.bbc.com/news/business-44301183. Accessed June 2, 2018.

4 Megan Rose Dickey. TechCrunch.com. May 30, 2018. “Here’s where it’s cheaper to take an Uber than to own a car.” https://techcrunch.com/2018/05/30/heres-where-its-cheaper-to-take-an-uber-than-to-own-a-car/. Accessed June 2, 2018.

5 Craig Asano and Michael King. The Globe and Mail. May 30, 2018. “Peer-to-peer lending will help small businesses stay afloat.” https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/commentary/article-peer-to-peer-lending-will-help-small-businesses-stay-afloat/. Accessed June 2, 2018.

6 Doug Livingston. Akron Beacon Journal. May 31, 2018. “Akron is ‘crowd-sourcing’ CPR.” https://www.ohio.com/akron/news/akron-is-crowd-sourcing-cpr. Accessed June 2, 2018.

7 Michael Beiermeister. WBKB11.com. June 1, 2018. “Thunder Bay Film Society Crowdsourcing Cover Art for 2018 Sunrise 45 Film Festival.” http://www.wbkb11.com/thunder-bay-film-society-crowdsourcing-cover-art-for-2018-sunrise-45-film-festival. Accessed June 2, 2018.

8 Benjamin Mann. JD Supra. May 24, 2018. “The Gigs Get Bigger: Recent Data Shows the On-Demand Economy is Growing Into New Areas.” https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/the-gigs-get-bigger-recent-data-shows-85361/. Accessed June 2, 2018.

Guarantees and protections provided by insurance products including annuities are backed by the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurer.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

For Some Retirees, Home is Where the Debt is

Today’s pre-retirees and retirees tend to have far more debt than those in years past. In addition to factors like credit card payments and medical expenses, this generation is seeing the effects of higher home prices and easily obtained low down-payment mortgages in the early 2000s.1

Between 2003 and 2016, Americans 60 and older nearly tripled their household debt — composed of mortgages, home equity loans, auto loans, student loans and credit cards.2 According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, households headed by a person age 75 or older held an average debt load of $36,757 in 2016.3

If you’re still carrying a fair amount of debt and nearing retirement, we can help you review your household budget to help plan for a more confident retirement. Please give us a call if you’d like to schedule a meeting.

One of the challenges in the new tax law is the interest-cap deduction on mortgage loan payments, meaning homeowners with high mortgage balances may be required under the new law to deduct less mortgage interest. The mortgage limit on new homes purchased is $750,000, while the limit on mortgages purchased before Dec. 15, 2017, remains $1 million. These numbers are important if downsizing is part of your debt-reduction strategy.4

Another major contributor to debt is the rising cost of sending children to college. Of the 3.5 million Americans who owe an average of $24,000 in Parent PLUS student loan debt, about half of them are parents older than age 50. Worse yet, the number of parents with student loans is rising at a faster rate than students.5 Unfortunately, all those debt payments could be used to save for retirement.

The No. 1 reason individuals file for bankruptcy is medical debt.6 Whether nearing retirement or already there, unexpected health care costs can seriously curtail retirement funds. It’s a good idea to work with a financial professional to develop a strategy for paying potential health care costs down the road.

Content created by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Rebecca Moore. PlanAdvisor. Jan. 10, 2018. “Debt Causing Financial Vulnerability for Pre-Retirees.” https://www.planadviser.com/debt-causing-financial-vulnerability-pre-retirees/. Accessed May 11, 2018.

2 Michelle Singletary. The Washington Post. Feb. 26, 2018. “Should you retire your debt before retiring?” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/get-there/wp/2018/02/26/should-you-retire-your-debt-before-retiring/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.d3d26dc8cda2. Accessed May 11, 2018.

3 Annie Nova. CNBC. May 9, 2018. “Almost half of Americans don’t expect to have enough money to retire comfortably — but there’s some good news.” https://www.cnbc.com/2018/05/09/almost-half-of-americans-dont-expect-to-have-enough-money-to-retire-comfortably–but-theres-some-good-news.html. Accessed May 11, 2018.

4 Anthony P. Curatola. MarketWatch. May 10, 2018. “Watch for these pitfalls if you want to deduct mortgage interest under the new tax law.” https://www.marketwatch.com/story/watch-out-for-these-pitfalls-if-you-want-to-deduct-mortgage-interest-under-the-new-tax-law-2018-05-09. Accessed May 11, 2018.

5 Kathy A. Bolten. Des Moines Register. April 2, 2018. “Thousands of Iowa parents are going into debt to pay for their kids’ college (and they probably shouldn’t).” https://features.desmoinesregister.com/news/parent-plus-student-loans-college-debt/. Accessed May 11, 2018.

6 Sharon Epperson. CNBC. Nov. 16, 2017. “Don’t let surprise medical bills drain your retirement.” https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/15/dont-let-surprise-medical-bills-drain-your-retirement.html. Accessed May 11, 2018.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

Medicare News

Earlier this year, Congress passed a last-minute budget deal that included provisions affecting Medicare benefits. Specifically, one provision will permit certain therapies to continue beyond the previous caps, subject to conditions. All therapy (physical, speech and occupational) must continue to be classified as “reasonable and necessary to treat the individual’s illness or injury.” 1

There had been ambiguity in the past as to whether Medicare would continue paying for sessions without measurable improvement. Now, however, therapy sessions may continue per the provider’s recommendation. Retroactive for this year, once therapy billing has reached $2,010 (about 20 sessions at $100 per visit), a provider must add an extra billing code to ensure payment. However, if total expenses subsequently pass a $3,000 threshold, they may be subject to medical reviews and audits.2

The federal budget agreement also accelerated the share-cost reduction during the so-called “doughnut hole” period in Medicare drug plans. Starting one year earlier — in 2019 — Medicare beneficiaries will pay 25 percent (instead of 35 percent) of drug expenses once they reach the stated annual limit (currently $3,750 in 2018).3

Medicare rules are always changing. It’s a lot like trying to make retirement planning decisions throughout your career — the bar is a moving target. One potential solution is to over-plan and overfund your share of expected health care expenses in retirement. If you’re looking for ways to help plan for possible increased health care expenses in the future, contact us.  We’d be happy to discuss your options based on your unique situation.

In April, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final ruling with updates for Medicare Advantage (MA) plans to provide more choices. Specifically, the rule expands the definition of “primarily health-related” benefits to cover products and services not considered direct medical treatments. Examples include air conditioners for people with asthma, healthy groceries, rides to medical appointments and home-delivered meals. Paid benefits also may include home modifications for mobility and balance, such as installing a wheelchair ramp or bathroom grab bars. Plans may offer benefits to help pay home aides who help with dressing, eating and other personal, daily-living care. MA plans must submit their bids for CMS approval by June 4 to begin offering these benefits in 2019.4

The new CMS rule also includes initiatives to address the national prescription opioid epidemic. Specifically, Medicare Part D plans now limit new opioid prescriptions for acute pain management to no more than a seven-day supply. The Overutilization Monitoring System (OMS) is expanding, increasing pharmacist accountability for patients already taking opioids.5

The CMS rule is part of a hardline approach to combating the opioid crisis. The White House has established a Safer Prescribing Plan initiative with specific goals that include cutting nationwide opioid prescription fills by one-third within three years.6

Content created by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Judith Graham. Kaiser Health News. March 29, 2018. “Scrutinizing Medicare Coverage For Physical, Occupational And Speech Therapy.” https://khn.org/news/scrutinizing-medicare-coverage-for-physical-occupational-and-speech-therapy/. Accessed May 4, 2018.

Ibid.

3 Susan Jaffe. Kaiser Health News. March 14, 2018. “Lifting Therapy Caps Is A Load Off Medicare Patients’ Shoulders.” https://khn.org/news/lifting-therapy-caps-proves-a-load-off-medicare-patients-shoulders/. Accessed May 4, 2018.

4 Bruce Japsen. Forbes. April 5, 2018. “How Trump’s New Medicare Rules Boost Amazon And Walmart.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2018/04/05/how-trumps-new-medicare-rules-boost-amazon-and-walmart/#600a42d6786c. Accessed May 4, 2018.

CMS. Fact Sheets. April 2, 2018. “2019 Medicare Advantage and Part D Rate Announcement and Call Letter.” https://www.cms.gov/Newsroom/MediaReleaseDatabase/Fact-sheets/2018-Fact-sheets-items/2018-04-02-2.html. Accessed May 4, 2018.

6 The White House. Fact Sheets. March 19, 2018. “President Donald J. Trump’s Initiative to Stop Opioid Abuse and Reduce Drug Supply and Demand.” https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/president-donald-j-trumps-initiative-stop-opioid-abuse-reduce-drug-supply-demand/. Accessed May 4, 2018.

We are able to provide you with information but not guidance or advice related to Medicare. Our firm is not affiliated with the U.S. government or any governmental agency.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

Generation Fun

When we talk about planning for retirement, we’re usually referring to financial objectives and income strategies. These things are important, but they’re not the only ways to adequately prepare for retirement. In addition to creating an income strategy, consider developing a specific plan for what you want to do — day in and day out — for a retirement that could last 20 to 30 years.

After all, knowing what you want to do in retirement can help put a number on how much money you’ll need to save. For example, a retiree with big travel plans will likely need a larger nest egg than someone cultivating a vegetable garden. Give us a call; we’d love to meet with you to discuss your specific goals and begin drafting a detailed retirement income strategy.

For many people, retirement is a time to do all the things they never had time to do before. Merrill Lynch found that people between ages 65 and 74 reported having more fun than any other age group. However, it’s easy to sink into daily routines that can lead to boredom and lethargy.1

To help maximize your enjoyment in retirement, plan to have a plan. For example, carve out time for your passions or develop a new interest. Get out of the house regularly to discover places you’ve always wanted to visit — a local museum or restaurant, a neighboring city or a far-flung exotic locale. The top criteria retirees use when seeking new adventures are the arts, fine dining, learning, volunteering, outdoor water activities, outdoor land activities and — in its own category — golf.2


1 William P. Barrett. Forbes. July 14, 2017. “25 Great Places To Follow Your Passions In Retirement In 2017.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/williampbarrett/2017/07/14/great-places-to-follow-your-passions-in-retirement-in-2017/#3d003f0c92df.

Accessed May 10, 2018.

Ibid.

Strategies for Optimal Social Security Payouts

Social Security benefits are typically synonymous with retirement income. It would be inefficient to create a retirement plan without first estimating how much you will receive from the government.1 According to a 2018 report, Social Security benefits represent approximately:2

  • 33% of elderly income
  • 50% or more of income for about half of elderly married couples
  • At least 50% of income for 71% of elderly singles
  • At least 90% of income for 23% of married couples and 43% of singles

In a recent survey, more than half of pre-retirees said they expect Social Security to be their primary source of retirement income.3 With so many people relying on Social Security payouts, it makes sense to explore strategies to receive the largest possible distribution. In some cases, this could mean tapping into your personal investment portfolio to delay drawing Social Security.

If you’d like to discuss various insurance and investment strategies to help supplement part-time income or bridge the gap between retirement and Social Security, please come talk to us.

The earlier you start drawing benefits, the lower the payout will be — and your payout level is locked in for life (with the exception of periodic cost of living adjustments). Unfortunately, the most common age that people start taking benefits is the first year they are eligible. If possible, it often makes sense to wait longer so that benefits can accrue.4

If you can wait until age 70, benefits will earn an additional 8 percent a year past full retirement age for a maximum boost of up to 32 percent. Delayed retirement credits are technically accrued on a monthly basis, so even if you don’t wait until age 70, every month you delay past full retirement age will increase your payout.5

Delayed retirement credits also apply toward surviving spouse benefits. In other words, should you pass away before drawing benefits, your spouse will receive the amount you qualified for as of the month of your death.6

Social Security benefit strategies are complex, but considering the importance this income is to most retiree households, it’s a good idea to learn as much as possible to help optimize benefits for your particular situation. This Social Security quiz is a good place to start.7

Content provided by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Social Security Administration. 2018. “Retirement Estimator.” https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/estimator.html Accessed May 1, 2018.

2 Social Security Administration. 2018. “Fact Sheet.” https://www.ssa.gov/news/press/factsheets/basicfact-alt.pdf.

Accessed May 1, 2018.

Mary Beth Franklin. Investment News. April 25, 2018. “Future retirees expect Social Security to be main source of income.” http://www.investmentnews.com/article/20180425/BLOG05/180429953/future-retirees-expect-social-security-to-be-main-source-of-income. Accessed May 1, 2018.

Ray Martin. CBS News. April 30, 2018. “How to claim your Social Security benefits wisely.” https://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-to-claim-your-social-security-benefits-wisely/. Accessed May 1, 2018.

5 Rachel L. Sheedy. Kiplinger. February 2017. “Why Your First Social Security Check May Be Smaller Than Expected.” https://www.kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T051-C000-S004-when-delayed-social-security-credits-get-delayed.html. May 1, 2018.

6 Laurence Kotlikoff. Forbes. April 27, 2018. “Ask Larry: ​​​​​​What If Either Of Us Dies Before 70?”

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kotlikoff/2018/04/27/ask-larry-%E2%80%8B%E2%80%8B%E2%80%8B%E2%80%8B%E2%80%8B%E2%80%8Bwhat-either-of-us-dies-before-70/#6f18b1ea4081. Accessed May 1, 2018.

Mary Kane. Kiplinger. April 18, 2018. “Do You Really Understand Social Security?” https://www.kiplinger.com/quiz/retirement/T051-S009-do-you-really-understand-social-security/index.html.

Accessed May 1, 2018.

We are able to provide you with information but not guidance or advice related to Social Security benefits. Our firm is not affiliated with the U.S. government or any governmental agency.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values. 

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

Music Plays Instrumental Role in Healing Ailments

Hearing a familiar song from a happy period in your life, such as childhood, can instantly make you feel joyful. It’s as if you’re right back there — toe tapping, head bopping and singing along. Just as with our sight, smell and taste senses, positive auditory memories can enhance mood and transport us back to a happier time.

The power of music has led researchers to study various applications of music therapy to help people overcome the pain of health conditions, emotional challenges and even the cognitive decline that often accompanies old age.1

It’s not enough to believe we will all grow old gracefully. This usually doesn’t happen without planning. A big part of planning for retirement isn’t just how to provide enough income for the rest of our life, but how to help ensure we still enjoy a high quality of life no matter our age.

As an independent financial services firm, we help people create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives; just give us a call. As for creating a plan to help enhance quality of life, consider some of these music therapy applications.

Music therapy is now a board-certified health profession. With approximately 7,500 practitioners throughout the country, the practice has become prevalent in nursing homes and hospices. The American Music Therapy Association reports about 10 percent of musical therapists work with terminally ill patients in a new discipline called end-of-life music therapy.2

 A growing body of research indicates music therapy can help improve cognitive function in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.3 It also can be used to aid in stress and pain management, memory enhancement, communication and physical rehabilitation.4

Further, the discipline has been found to help people with psychiatric problems, such as depression, trauma and schizophrenia. Music can help calm patients as well as help them process emotions, trauma and grief.5

Interestingly, the military has used forms of music therapy since the post-World War I era. Trained musical therapists use it as a tool to help wounded, injured or ill soldiers express their thoughts nonverbally. Research also shows music can be effective at increasing neuroplasticity in the brain, which is an important role in helping veterans address symptoms of PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.6

 Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Sharon Otterman. The New York Times. Jan. 15, 2018. “Music Therapy Offers an End-of-Life Grace Note.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/15/nyregion/music-therapy-nursing-home-hospice.html. Accessed April 13, 2018.

2 Ibid.

3 Sherry Christiansen. Alzheimer’s Universe. July 24, 2017. “Quick Alzheimer’s Prevention Pearl: Studies Show Music Improves Cognition in People with Alzheimer’s Disease.” https://www.alzu.org/blog/2017/07/24/how-music-helps-with-alzheimers-prevention/. Accessed April 18, 2018.

4 American Music Therapy Association. 2018. “What is Music Therapy?” https://www.musictherapy.org. Accessed April 13, 2018.

5 Molly Warren. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Dec. 19, 2016. “The Impact of Music Therapy on Mental Health.” https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/December-2016/The-Impact-of-Music-Therapy-on-Mental-Health. Accessed April 18, 2018.

6 Frank Otto. Drexel University News Blog. March 20, 2018. “3 Things to Keep in Mind About Music Therapy in the Military.” https://newsblog.drexel.edu/2018/03/20/3-things-to-keep-in-mind-about-music-therapy-in-the-military/. Accessed April 13, 2018.

This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Retirement Conversations: What Do You Do?

We spend a lifetime working, building a career, raising a family, etc. Then we retire, and some unsuspecting acquaintance asks, “What do you do?” It’s a whole new ballgame now.

This can be a difficult question for new retirees. Our gut instinct is to identify ourselves by our occupations — “I’m a lawyer,” I’m an office manager,” “a teacher” or a “stay-at-home mom.” When you spend that much time in one role, it becomes a part of who you are. But is that still who you are once you retire? Some people might say, “I used to be a lawyer.” After a while, they may get used to simply saying, “I’m retired.” Yet this process of figuring out how to respond may be directly correlated to how long it takes to figure out who we are in retirement.1

Some people spend years dreaming about what they’ll do when they retire, so they might answer, “I’m now an amateur golfer.” Or gardener. Or grandchild-babysitter. It’s worth taking some time to build a retirement identity for yourself; not just to answer that question, but to establish your own purpose for getting up in the morning. One of the keys to the retirement you desire is aligning your lifestyle goals with your retirement income.  Please feel free to contact us to discuss creating retirement strategies through the use of insurance products that can help you work toward your long-term retirement income goals.

A recent study conducted by Humana found that the more optimistic people are by nature, the younger they feel. In fact, the most optimistic retirees also rated high in areas of good health, getting enough sleep, feeling confident and overall happiness. The study concluded that working on a more positive attitude is important to retirees’ overall health and well-being.2

But what if you aren’t naturally optimistic? One tip for achieving optimism is to practice. Work on identifying negative thoughts and replacing them with positive ones. The general idea is to “fake it until you make it.”3

Researchers at Stanford University analyzed a longevity study of 60,000 diverse U.S. adults between 1990 and 2011 in areas such as demographics, medical history, physical exam and physical activity data. One of the more interesting findings was that people who perceived themselves as “a lot less active” than peers had a higher risk of death — regardless of how much they exercised or other health risk factors such as smoking or obesity. Apparently, it’s not just our health that matters, but also how we feel about ourselves.4

If we believe we are less active than everyone else — and are stressed and depressed about that — it can negatively impact our health. This is an important issue for physicians to consider, because warning about dangerous behaviors such as smoking, inactivity or overeating apparently can actually worsen the problem.5

Perhaps one way to foster optimism is to create a plan for how to spend your days. For example, start a new venture. It doesn’t matter if it’s for profit or not; the main incentive is to provide a purpose. Maybe follow up on a good idea that no one in your area is doing or find a need you can fulfill. When people retire, they often find they have time to do things that they never got to do before, and they also may have time to do things that need to get done — that no one else has time to do.

For the first time in history, there are about to be more people over age 65 than under age five.6 Furthermore, we have a shortage of care providers. Of course, not everyone will need a full-time caregiver; some may just need a little help — perhaps with remembering to turn off appliances or going to doctor appointments. Companies are currently looking at artificial intelligence for more ways — more gadgetry — to help address these issues and allow people to age longer at home.7

But for now, small, kind and oh-so-helpful gestures may be all some people need. Life is full of these types of opportunities — ways to feel good, help others and get the exercise we need without going to a gym. Here’s one idea: Some elderly people have a hard time getting their trash can to the curb for pickup, so perhaps that’s a volunteer job that provides purpose and exercise for a younger retiree while helping others.

Look around. See how you can contribute. And the next time someone asks you what you do, create yourself a brand-new identity title.

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Joe Casey. Booming Encore. “Answering in Retirement: So, What Do You Do?” http://www.boomingencore.com/retirement-what-do-you-do. Accessed Nov. 13, 2017.

2 Humana. Oct. 4, 2017. “Survey: Sense of Optimism Linked to the Perceived Mental and Physical Health of Seniors.” http://press.humana.com/press-release/current-releases/survey-sense-optimism-linked-perceived-mental-and-physical-health-sen. Accessed Dec. 5, 2017.

3 Susan Williams. Booming Encore. “The Relationship Between Optimism, Health and Aging.” http://www.boomingencore.com/relationship-optimism-health-aging/. Accessed Nov. 13, 2017.

4 Monique Tello. Harvard Health Publishing. Aug. 14, 2017. “Mind over matter? How fit you think you are versus actual fitness.” https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mind-over-matter-how-fit-you-think-you-are-versus-actual-fitness-2017081412282. Accessed Nov. 13, 2017.

5 Ibid.

6 Elena Holodny. Business Insider. May 16, 2016. “We’re about to see a mind-blowing demographic shift unprecedented in human history.” http://www.businessinsider.com/demographics-shift-first-time-in-human-history-2016-5. Accessed Dec. 5, 2017.

7 Ian C. Schafer. Software Development Times. Nov. 7, 2017. “IBM expands AI research to support an aging population.” https://sdtimes.com/ibm-expands-ai-research-support-aging-population/. Accessed Nov. 13, 2017.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

Innovating to Solve Problems

The 2017 hurricane season was one of the most active of the new century, and scientists are predicting hurricanes will likely get more intense in the decades to come.1 But these predictions for worsening conditions in the future may pave the way for stronger innovation.

For example, the governor of Puerto Rico, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria in September, suggested the island rebuild its power resources into a microgrid. This strategy means that power outages caused by storms would be more localized so a huge area isn’t impacted when one system goes down. It also would accurately pinpoint which grids need repair and better assign resources so that power can be restored more quickly.2

The microgrids could be powered by alternate and renewable resources such as wind and solar energy, which would be better for the environment and less expensive for residents. This type of innovation could avoid the need to completely rebuild infrastructure the next time a major hurricane hits the region.3

There are two issues when considering the catastrophic nature of a disaster like a hurricane. The first is societal – how do we restore power and other infrastructure after a crisis? The second is personal – how do we recover when our homes are damaged or demolished? While we seek and embrace innovations that can lessen the damage caused and hasten our recovery, the current solution is to insure against losses that can devastate us financially.

Other issues that are cropping up in today’s society are spurring innovation. For example, researchers say the U.S. workforce participation rate is declining. In fact, a recent analysis found that one-third of prime-age men not in the labor force have a disability. Rising incarceration rates have impeded the workforce even after release, due to criminal records.3

Furthermore, increasing numbers of baby boomers are retiring each day, and younger generations might not have, at this point, the skills and experience to take their place.4 With so many critical issues converging, who will work America’s jobs?

Enter robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning. Today’s technology not only has robots and computers performing a wide range of routine physical work activities better and more cheaply than humans, but they are increasingly capable of providing cognitive insights that were once considered too difficult to automate. This includes sensing emotion, driving vehicles and even making decisions.5 Scientists project that automation is poised to change the daily work responsibilities for a spectrum of jobs, including miners, landscapers, commercial bankers, fashion designers, welders and even CEOs.6

It’s worth considering both the pros and cons of automated labor. While this type of innovation may create a less expensive workforce for American companies, it also reduces the overall tax base. Which leads us to the question: Will the remaining human workers have to pay higher taxes to cover government programs and expenses, or will companies need to pay taxes on robot workers?7

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Michael Greshko. National Geographic. Sept. 22, 2017. “Why This Hurricane Season Has Been So Catastrophic.” https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/09/hurricane-irma-harvey-season-climate-change-weather/. Accessed Nov. 9, 2017.

2 Brad Jones. World Economic Forum. Oct. 6, 2017. “Puerto Rico is using an unusual method to restore power after the hurricane.” https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/10/puerto-rico-is-using-an-unusual-method-to-restore-power-after-the-hurricane. Accessed Nov. 9, 2017.

3 Eleanor Krause and Isabel V. Sawhill. The Brookings Institution. Feb. 3, 2017. “What we know – and don’t know – about the declining labor force participation rate.” https://www.brookings.edu/blog/social-mobility-memos/2017/02/03/what-we-know-and-dont-know-about-the-declining-labor-force-participation-rate/. Accessed Nov. 9, 2017.

4 Dona DeZube. Monster.com. “Bye Bye Boomers: Who Will Fill your Workforce Gap?” https://hiring.monster.com/hr/hr-best-practices/recruiting-hiring-advice/strategic-workforce-planning/baby-boomer-workforce-gap.aspx. Accessed Nov. 9, 2017.

5 James Manyika, Michael Chui, Mehdi Miremadi, Jacques Bughin, Katy George, Paul Willmott and Martin Dewhurst. McKinsey Global Institute. January 2017. “Harnessing automation for a future that works.” https://www.mckinsey.com/global-themes/digital-disruption/harnessing-automation-for-a-future-that-works. Accessed Nov. 9, 2017.

6 Ibid.

7 Kari Paul. MarketWatch. Sept. 28, 2017. “Why robots should pay taxes.” https://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-robots-should-pay-taxes-2017-09-12. Accessed Nov. 9, 2017.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.