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.

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.

3 Common Questions About Social Security

While Social Security shouldn’t be relied upon to be the sole source of income during retirement, it can play an important role in your overall retirement income strategy. But making sense of the basic ins and outs of Social Security can be overwhelming. Here are three questions people commonly ask as they approach retirement age:

When can I start taking benefits?

While full retirement age is 66 for people born between 1943 and 1954 and gradually increases to age 67 for those born in 1960 or later, you can start receiving Social Security benefits at age 62.1 Keep in mind, however, that there is a cost to early distribution; your benefits are reduced by about 0.5 percent for each month you receive benefits before full retirement age.2 For example, those born in 1955 with a full retirement age of 66 and two months who start taking benefits at age 62 will receive about 75 percent of the full benefit.3

On the flip side, delaying benefits past full retirement age, up to age 70, increases your distribution amount. If the same individual in the previous example waits until age 68 to take benefits, his or her benefit will increase 8 percent each year after full retirement age. This increase continues until you reach age 70 or you start taking benefits, whichever comes first.4

 What happens to my benefits when I die?

It depends. If you are married and your spouse is age 60 or older, he or she may be eligible to collect a survivor’s benefit. The benefit amount remains the same as the deceased’s amount, although that amount is reduced if benefits are started before the surviving spouse’s full retirement age.5 A spouse cannot collect both survivors benefits and retirement benefits based on their own work record. They will collect whichever benefit is higher.6

If you have a minor child or children, your surviving spouse (regardless of age) may also be eligible for a survivors benefit until the minor child turns age 16. If you have no surviving spouse or minor children, your benefit remains in the Social Security trust fund and is not paid out to any other named beneficiaries, unless they qualify under the Social Security survivors benefits eligibility rules.7

 Can I work while receiving benefits?

Yes. However, if you haven’t reached full retirement age, your benefit amount will be reduced if your earnings exceed the limit. Starting with the month you’ve reached full retirement age, your benefits will not be reduced no matter how much you earn.8 The earnings limit and reduced amount vary according to your age. To find out how much your benefits might be reduced, use the Social Security earnings calculator at https://www.ssa.gov/OACT/COLA/RTeffect.html.9

 Understanding Social Security can be challenging, but you don’t have to go it alone. Contact us today to learn more about how to incorporate your Social Security benefits into your complete retirement income strategy. We may be able to identify potential retirement income gaps and may introduce insurance products as a potential solution.

Content prepared by Amy Ragland.

 1 Social Security. January 2017. “Understanding the Benefits.” https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10024.pdf. Accessed June 21, 2017.

2 Ibid.

3 Social Security. “Retirement Planner: Benefits By Year of Birth.” https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/agereduction.html. Accessed June 21, 2017.

4 Social Security. “Retirement Planner: Delayed Retirement Credits.” https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/delayret.html. Accessed June 21, 2017.

5 Joseph L. Matthews. Caring.com. Dec. 24, 2016. “What happens to the rest of a person’s Social Security money after they die?” https://www.caring.com/questions/social-security-benefits-after-death. Accessed June 21, 2017.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

8 Social Security. June 15, 2017. “What happens if I work and get Social Security retirement benefits?” https://faq.ssa.gov/link/portal/34011/34019/Article/3739/What-happens-if-I-work-and-get-Social-Security-retirement-benefits. Accessed June 21, 2017.

9 Social Security. “Retirement Earnings Test Calculator.” https://www.ssa.gov/OACT/COLA/RTeffect.html. Accessed June 21, 2017.

 Financial professionals are able to provide you with information but not guidance or advice related to Social Security benefits. We are 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.

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Expenses That Come With Caring

We spend our lives caring for others — at least if we’re lucky. One of the greatest treasures in life is having people, causes and pets to care for. Unfortunately, caring for others can have its challenges, including additional stress and financial burdens.

Sometimes we get so caught up in making money that we don’t pay attention to how much we spend. Some of the money we spend may not really register because we use it to take care of others’ needs; what we may deem to be a necessary expense certainly doesn’t feel like discretionary spending.

But spending is spending, and we all need to take a careful look at how much of our money we use on caring for others, or “care management.” These expenses could include the money we spend raising our children, or helping them out when they’re older and nearly independent, but still need extra cash now and then.

We also should consider the amount of money we spend on elder care, whether for ourselves or loved ones. One recent study found that it costs families more to care for a frail older adult than to raise a child in the first 17 years of life.1 Many families are taking care of seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at home for as long as possible, given the increasing price tag of providing full-time care.2  Some insurance products, such as life insurance and annuities, provide various options you may want to considerto help cover the potential costs of some of these care needs. If you’d like to find out more, please give us a call toll-free at 1-888-272-1099. We’d be happy to discuss options based on your unique situation.

Charitable donations are also a care management item, and going forward, there may be a greater call for private donations if the government cuts the budget in areas like the cultural arts. There is also concern that reduced funding on the environment could have long-ranging impacts on care issues. For example, scientists note climate change can impact the spread of infectious diseases carried by animals and insects, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, West Nile virus, Lyme disease, Zika and dengue. Further, compromised water systems can lead to waterborne infections like cholera and other gastrointestinal conditions.3

To end on a brighter note, here’s a heartwarming story related to caring and making someone’s day. Students of White Bear Lake Area High School in Minnesota have an annual tradition of staging a runway march through a local senior center in their fancy dress on the way to prom night.4 Just imagine the post-march chats among seniors about their high school days! It’s an engaging idea that demonstrates it doesn’t take a lot of money to stage a caring moment between generations.

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Howard Gleckman. Forbes. Jan. 18, 2017. “Families Spend More to Care for Their Aging Parents Than To Raise Their Kids.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/howardgleckman/2017/01/18/families-spend-more-to-care-for-their-aging-parents-than-to-raise-their-kids/#924f7e6f4a50. Accessed May 12, 2017.

2 Bruce Jaspen. Forbes. March 7, 2017. “Alzheimer’s Staggering $259B Cost Could Break Medicare.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2017/03/07/u-s-cost-of-alzheimers-eclipses-250-billion/#294c3f5471e5. Accessed May 12, 2017.

3 Peter Grinspoon. Harvard Medical School. March 29, 2017. “Our planet, ourselves: Climate change and health.” http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/planet-climate-change-health-2017032911481. Accessed May 12, 2017.
4 White Bear Press. May 10, 2017. “Students take a prom march through Cerenity Senior Care Center.” http://www.presspubs.com/white_bear/article_67400d02-35a8-11e7-b749-731700102e0f.html. Accessed May 12, 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.

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Savings and Investment Updates

The American College of Financial Services recently posted some surprising results from its Retirement Income Literacy Quiz. Nearly three-quarters of respondents ages 60 to 75 failed the test with a score of 60 percent or less.1

The quiz included topics such as which expenses are covered by Medicare and long-term care insurance and what age people should start drawing benefits from Social Security. If you’re not familiar with the answers to questions such as these, we invite you to schedule a consultation so we can help you delve into retirement planning. There are many factors to consider beyond where to invest and how much you’ve saved. Retirement is about preserving and distributing assets, as well as understanding the impact of longevity.

Let’s take a look at some other retirement-oriented questions that are important to answer. For example, do you know how long you have to work for your company before you can keep matched contributions to your 401(k) plan? Some companies that sponsor a 401(k) require employees to work around two to three years before employer-matching contributions are vested. If you leave the company before then, those matches won’t be added to your account balance — even if you maintain the plan with that employer after you go to work for another one.2

It’s worth noting that 401(k) and other employer-sponsored retirement plans may be considered for tax reform. Recent discussions have included eliminating the tax-deferred status of retirement plan contributions, which represent a four-year tab of $583.6 billion that Congress could spend elsewhere. The discussions are in the very early stages, but things can happen quickly in Washington these days, so it’s an issue worth watching.3

For those in the military, on Jan. 1, 2018, the military’s new Blended Retirement System goes into effect. Starting that day, all military personnel whose length of service spans one to 12 years will have one year to make an irrevocable choice between the old and new retirement plans. Service members who started before 2006 will automatically remain in the old plan, which offers a generous pension complete with inflation adjustments. However, anyone joining the military starting next year gets enrolled automatically in the new program, which combines reduced pension benefits with up to a 5 percent match of personal contributions to the government’s Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).4

If you haven’t saved enough money to retire yet, you may be thinking you’ll just keep working until you have enough. However, according to a recent survey of 1,002 retirees, 60 percent said the timing of their retirement was unexpected, citing reasons such as health issues, job loss or the need to care for a loved one.5 While working longer is a worthy goal, it’s good to develop a financial plan that helps provide for possible contingencies just in case you have to pivot to “Plan B.”

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Walter Updegrave. Money. May 12, 2017. “Most Seniors Flunked a New Retirement Quiz. Could You Do Better?” http://time.com/money/4771461/retirement-quiz-pass-or-flunk/. Accessed May 12, 2017.

2 Emily Brandon. US News & World Report. May 8, 2017. “How Long Does It Take to Vest in a 401(k) Plan?” http://money.usnews.com/money/retirement/401ks/articles/2017-05-08/how-long-does-it-take-to-vest-in-a-401-k-plan. Accessed May 12, 2017.

3 Suzanne Woolley. Bloomberg. May 3, 2017. “What Is Washington Doing to My 401(k) Tax Break?” https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-05-03/what-is-washington-doing-to-my-401-k-tax-break. Accessed May 12, 2017.

4 Dan Kadlec. Money. May 10, 2017. “What U.S. Military Need to Know About Their New Retirement Plan.”  http://time.com/money/4767777/military-blended-retirement-system-tips-new-calculator/. Accessed May 12, 2017.

5 Charisse Jones. USA Today. June 2, 2015. “60% of Americans Have to Retire Sooner Than They’d Planned.” https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2015/06/02/majority-of-americans-have-to-retire-sooner-than-theyd-planned/28371099/. Accessed June 2, 2017.

Our firm is not affiliated with the U.S. government or any governmental agency and does not provide federal benefits advice.

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.

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Considerations for Retiring Couples

Retirement is another chapter in your life; one that requires not only planning but day-to-day maintenance once you get there. And if you have a partner in life, it’s important to remember that your retirement, like a tandem bike, is built for two.

Planning for your own retirement is complicated enough, but doing so at the same time as your spouse can be daunting, with additional details to consider.

For starters, you and your spouse may have two completely different sets of needs in retirement.1 One may have health problems requiring expensive medications and frequent visits to the doctor. The other may live 20 years or more after the first spouse dies. Two people. Two different income needs.

When most people plan for retirement, they figure out how much household income they need. Their income sources may include two Social Security checks, a pension or other employer-sponsored plan, and withdrawals from personal savings accounts. But have you thought about how much income would be lost when one spouse passes away?

In some cases, the household income may go down to one Social Security check, less pension income and reduced personal savings once lingering medical bills and funeral expenses have been paid. In this situation, it’s helpful to know that a surviving spouse may be eligible for a lump sum death payment of $255 from Social Security to help pay for funeral or burial costs.2

Married couples frequently enjoy savings from shared costs by living in one house with one set of utility and cable bills. However, when one spouse passes away, those costs usually remain static; it’s not as if they’re reduced by half because only one spouse lives there going forward.

Consider this situation and ask yourself — will the surviving spouse need less money to maintain the household? In many cases, that person will likely need more money to hire someone to do some of the chores previously handled by the deceased spouse. Will the survivor have lower medical bills? Not likely if he or she lives into their 90s or beyond. What about housing? Will there be enough money should the survivor need living assistance or full-time nursing care down the road?

With all these questions to consider, it may be worth exploring various ways to help protect a surviving spouse’s financial situation, such as buying life insurance3 and/or working with a qualified attorney to establish a trust. Please keep us in mind if you and your spouse could use some help planning for retirement income. 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.

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications

1 Jeff Brown. U.S. News & World Report. May 17, 2017. “Investing Advice for May-December Marriages.” http://money.usnews.com/investing/articles/2017-05-17/investing-advice-for-may-december-marriages. Accessed May 26, 2017.

2 Wesley E. Wright, Molly Dear Abshire. Laredo Morning Times. May 18, 2017. “Elder law: Social Security – Many fail to apply for death benefit.” http://www.lmtonline.com/news/article/Elder-law-Social-Security-Many-fail-to-apply-11156931.php. Accessed May 26, 2017.

3 Jamie Hopkins. Forbes. April 27, 2017. “Why Life Insurance Is Essential for Retirement Planning.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamiehopkins/2017/04/27/why-life-insurance-is-essential-for-retirement-planning/#4b15989b31cd. Accessed May 26, 2017.

Life insurance policies are contracts between you and an insurance company. Life insurance product guarantees rely on the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurer.

 This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice. 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 Social Security Administration or any governmental agency.

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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