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.

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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Cultural Influences From Abroad

They say variety is the spice of life. A variety of cultural experiences may even contribute to a longer life and cognitive sharpness. A new study links cultural activities, including exposure to other languages, as a strong influence in the way we learn, amass and assimilate new information.1

Some cultural influences may well impact longer lifespans. In Japan, which has one of the world’s oldest populations, people live with a philosophy of “ikigai.” Roughly translated, this phrase means “a reason to live,” or identifying one’s purpose in life. To discover one’s ikigai, start by answering the following questions:2

  • What do you love?
  • What are you good at?
  • What does the world need from you?
  • What can you get paid for?

This idea of living for something more spiritual than, say, a job or material possessions is also practiced by the people of Costa Rica. Ticos, as Costa Ricans are called, use the term “Pura Vida” to convey a range of greetings, from hello and goodbye to “everything’s cool.” The real value of the phrase, however, is that Pura Vida reflects the way many Ticos live: relaxed and appreciative of the simpler things in life. This attitude toward life has gained the country recognition as one of the happiest places in the world. To live “Pura Vida” means you’re thankful for what you have and do not dwell on what you lack.3

Whether finding your ikigai or living a Pura Vida lifestyle, these influences may be able to enrich an American’s retirement, even if we don’t have the means to travel extensively. Reading, watching documentaries and movies, and listening to foreign music all can help expose us to other cultures and expand our mind and thought processes. Ultimately, this may help us appreciate the lifestyle we’ve created for our retirement years. If you’d like help creating a retirement income strategy to help you pursue your retirement lifestyle goals, please call us for ideas.

In the U.S., perhaps the most influential culture is that of the Hispanic or Latino population, which the U.S. Census Bureau describes as people of “Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.” At an estimated 54 million people, Hispanics are the largest minority in the U.S., and the Census Bureau expects that number to rise to 119 million by 2060.Their impact can be felt in all aspects of U.S. culture, including language, food and entertainment.

While the U.S. is influenced by other cultures, it also wields cultural power of its own. In a 2017 survey by U.S. News & World Report, the U.S. was ranked as having the third most influential culture in the world, largely due to popular contributions in music, movies and television. In first place was Italy, followed by France, with Spain and the United Kingdom rounding out the top five.5 In a separate portion of the survey that ranked overall influence, the U.S. ranked first, followed by Russia.6

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Science Daily. Aug. 4, 2017. “Cultural activities may influence the way we think.” https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170804103911.htm. Accessed Oct. 17, 2017.

2 Laura Oliver. World Economic Forum. Aug. 9, 2017. “Is this Japanese concept the secret to a long, happy, meaningful life?” https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/08/is-this-japanese-concept-the-secret-to-a-long-life/. Accessed Oct. 17, 2017.

3 Vacations Costa Rica. 2017. “Pura Vida! Costa Rica Lifestyle.” https://www.vacationscostarica.com/travel-guide/pura-vida/. Accessed Oct. 17, 2017.

4 CNN. March 31, 2017. “Hispanics in the US Fast Facts.” http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/20/us/hispanics-in-the-u-s-/index.html. Accessed Oct. 27, 2017.

5 U.S. News & World Report. 2017. “Cultural Influence.” https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/influence-rankings. Accessed Oct. 17, 2017.

6 U.S. News & World Report. March 7, 2017. “Most Influential Countries.” https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/international-influence-full-list. Accessed Oct. 17, 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.

Anticipated Changes in Workplace Demographics

Online shopping has become the norm in the Western part of the world. Experts say mature economies adopted e-commerce quickly because of its strong infrastructure and a trusting financial landscape.1

In other words, consumers could count on receiving goods ordered, vendors knew they would get paid and any conflicts were protected by a reputable credit and court system. These things weren’t true in many developing countries, thus e-commerce was slower to gain traction there.

However, now that emerging markets have put a secure infrastructure in place, many expect online sales to soar — which could help bolster those waning economies. The global online market offers new prospects for struggling brick-and-mortar retailers in the U.S. Just about any retailer, large or small, that can adapt its sales model to a global e-commerce market could be poised for massive opportunity.2

That’s one of the interesting parallels between life and commerce — where some doors close, others open; we just need to see where opportunity awaits. The same can be true when planning for retirement. 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.

Interestingly, one of the biggest economic issues of the day comes from a social phenomenon: As older people are living longer, younger people are having less children. To be exact, the first of the baby boomer generation turned 70 last year while, at the same time, the fertility rate in the United States reached its lowest point since records began in 1909.3

The ramifications of this population shift will likely be widespread and long lasting. For example, retirees tend to contribute less to the consumer economy, with an average reduction of 37.5 percent in household spending. This, in turn, affects company revenues and, subsequently, returns in the investment market.At the same time, retirees may be drawing down invested assets for income, further reducing available capital.

The elderly population boom also is expected to cause economic drains in targeted areas of the country. For example, states that have long been popular retirement havens, such as Florida, Arizona, Oregon and South Carolina, are among at least 14 states where the cost of elderly care is rising.5

In Florida alone, 20 percent of the population is over the age of 65; more than 40 percent is over 50. While it’s easy to write this off as the result of Florida being a retirement haven, that is no longer the case. Within about 10 years, the entire country will have a similar demographic composition — we will become “a nation of Floridas.”6

Another problem with the sizable gap between retirees and babies is an anticipated drop in the number of workers. The workforce may not be large enough to support the government programs older people are entitled to after years of contributing into the system. This issue is hardly isolated to America. Between 2025 and 2050, the number of people age 65 and older is projected to nearly double worldwide.7

To help mitigate the drain on resources, many are raising the eligible age for government-sponsored pensions and encouraging people to work well past traditional retirement age. Whether due to lack of retirement savings or the desire to work longer, the share of people working longer has grown during the past decade: a 6 percent increase in Germany, 10 percent in the U.K. and 18 percent in the U.S.8

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Knowledge@Wharton. Nov. 1, 2017. “Why Emerging Markets Are the Next E-commerce Frontier.” http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/why-emerging-markets-are-the-next-e-commerce-frontier/. Accessed Nov. 22, 2017.

2 Ibid.

3 Stephen McBride. World Economic Forum. Sept. 14, 2017. “Retiring baby boomers are going to have a huge impact on the economy.” https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/09/retiring-baby-boomers-are-going-to-have-a-huge-impact-on-the-economy. Accessed Nov. 22, 2017.

4 Ibid.

5 Sue Chang. Marketwatch. Nov. 8, 2017. “These maps show just how crazy fast the world is aging.” https://www.marketwatch.com/story/these-maps-show-just-how-crazy-fast-the-world-is-aging-2017-11-08?link=sfmw_tw. Accessed Nov. 22, 2017.

6 Joseph F. Coughlin. Time. Nov. 8, 2017. “There’s No Such Thing As ‘Old Age’ Anymore.” https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/other/theres-no-such-thing-as-old-age-anymore/ar-BBEJG0u. Accessed Nov. 22, 2017.

7 Suzanne Woolley. Bloomberg. Sept. 17, 2017. “Retirement, Delayed.” https://www.bloomberg.com/quicktake/retirement-redesigned?cmpid%253D. Accessed Nov. 22, 2017.

Ibid.

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.

Why It’s Important to Care for the Caregivers

If you picture yourself receiving long-term care at some point, you likely envision a medical professional sitting bedside, tending to your needs. However, the bulk of long-term care in the U.S. is actually provided by family caregivers.1

According to a recent Merrill Lynch study, 20 million Americans become caregivers each year. Moreover, family caregivers collectively spend $190 billion a year of their own money on adult care recipients. And the toll doesn’t end there. In addition to 92 percent of caregivers using their own money and/or coordinating or managing finances to aid loved ones:2

  • 98% provide emotional support
  • 92% provide household support
  • 79% provide care coordination
  • 64% provide physical care

Women usually do more caregiving than men, the study found, averaging six years of caregiving in their lifetime compared to four for men. As a result, caregiving can bring more of a financial burden for women because of the time they may need to take away from their careers to care for loved ones.3

The financial burden of caregiving, for both men and women, should not be underestimated. The study shows 53 percent of respondents have made financial sacrifices as caregivers, and 21 percent have dipped into their savings.4

If you’re in a similar situation and are concerned about having enough income in retirement, please contact us. We work with clients to create retirement strategies through the use of insurance products that help them work toward their long-term retirement income goals.

Increasing attention is also being given to the psychosocial burden experienced by family caregivers. The responsibility and stress can contribute to their own physical conditions, including chronic diseases caused by unhealthy eating habits, sleeping poorly and not getting enough physical activity.5

Caregivers have twice the incidence of heart attack, arthritis, heart disease and diabetes compared to non-caregivers. Their chronic stress can even lead to cognitive reduction such as short-term memory loss and attention deficits. To cope with their complex lives, caregivers also may be prone to develop dependence on alcohol, smoking, prescription drugs and psychotropic drugs for mood enhancement. Caregivers also tend to have higher obesity rates.6

To help family members who are caring for a loved one with cancer, the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York developed a support program that included webcasts with staged therapeutic interactions between therapists and informal caregivers, and a message board where study participants could post responses to experiential exercise questions. Initial results found that program participants experienced reduced symptoms of depression.7

Technological advances may also help ease caregiving challenges. For example, wearable devices can monitor heart rate and blood pressure, among other vitals. These devices can be linked to mobile phone apps, alerting a caregiver of any changes that might trigger a serious health issue.8

Some wearable devices use GPS and geofencing technologies to track patients, allowing them more mobility while also helping caregivers monitor patients’ locations. Newer devices use artificial intelligence to recognize trends in vital signs or movement that can lead to health or injury concerns.9

Regardless of what innovations the technology industry creates to aid caregivers, there is some comfort in knowing that the primary skills necessary in a caregiver cannot be replicated by artificial intelligence or a robot. Human caregivers not only offer compassion, empathy and the ability to meet retirees’ emotional needs, but these soft skills can be learned and improved — which will prove to be a critical sector of our workforce in years to come.10

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Advisor News. Nov. 1, 2017. “92% Of Caregivers Are Financial Caregivers.” https://insurancenewsnet.com/oarticle/92-caregivers-financial-caregivers#.WgOptLaZOfU. Accessed Dec. 4, 2017.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 Kathy Birkett. Senior Care Corner. “How Are YOU, Family Caregiver — Are You Caring for Yourself?” http://seniorcarecorner.com/family-caregiver-caring-for-yourself. Accessed Dec. 4, 2017.

6 Ibid.

7 Meg Barbor. The ASCO Post. April 25, 2017. “Attrition High but Positive Trends Observed in Web-Based Intervention Addressing Caregiver Burden.” http://www.ascopost.com/issues/april-25-2017/attrition-high-but-positive-trends-observed-in-web-based-intervention-addressing-caregiver-burden/. Accessed Dec. 4, 2017.

8 1-800-HomeCare. Oct. 12, 2017. “What Are the Top Emerging Tech Trends for Home Care In 2017?” https://www.1800homecare.com/homecare/new-tech/. Accessed Dec. 4, 2017.

9 Ibid.

10 Harry Welchel. ChirpyHire. July 31, 2017. “Senior Care and The Future of Work.” http://blog.chirpyhire.com/senior-care-and-the-future-of-work/. Accessed Dec. 4, 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.

Best Places to Live in Retirement

Many retirees believe the best place to live in retirement is right in their own home. Let’s explore some of the “best places” where that home might be located and what it might look like.

It’s worth noting that the retirement experience varies widely. Some people have the money to relocate or buy a second home. Some people have plenty of retirement funds but choose to remain where they are. Come talk to us if you’d like help in creating a retirement income plan to assist you with figuring out what you may be able to afford.

According to a study by U.S. News & World Report on the top states for people 65 and older, Colorado is the best place in America to spend your retirement years. The study evaluated which states are most effective at helping retirees meet their health care, financial and community involvement needs.1

If you have a specific retirement haven in mind, be sure to do some research about it. For health care services, for example, U.S. News publishes a guide to the best hospitals with a searchable database. To learn about a locale’s cost of living, consider the Council for Community and Economic Research’s Cost of Living Index. To get a feel for an area’s year-round climate, check out the interactive climate data tools at the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information.2

Relocating after retirement can be difficult for some people, especially those with close friends and family ties to an area. If this is a concern for you, consider a short-distance move. Perhaps move to a nearby town that has less hustle and bustle, and more outdoor and cultural activities. If your motivation is to downsize, you may even be able to do that in your own community. In this case, you can get rid of the big house and accompanying maintenance chores and expenses, but stay close to family and friends.

Consider where you might be able to access personal help as you age, and the best way to procure that help. For example, you could relocate to a neighborhood near a nursing or medical school, and hire a student to help you if needed. If you have an extra bedroom, consider offering free or low-cost accommodations in exchange for personal aid. Even when we don’t need help with health care needs, as we age it never hurts to have someone we know and trust around to help maintain the house and lawn, drive or run errands, or just check in for conversation.

Think long term – not what your health is like right now, but what it could be like 20 years from now. In other words, having stairs may increase your chances of a fall. They also will be difficult to use if mobility is an issue. For some, the solution may be to buy a single-story home with the idea of avoiding those potential problems.

Another option to consider may be to sell your home and rent a smaller home. This could allow a retiree to pocket equity from the home sale and keep expenses low enough for current income sources. Renting also may eliminate the risk of a large maintenance cost or unanticipated repair.3

These are all long-term considerations people should think about with regard to the “best place to live in retirement.”

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 U.S. News & World Report. “Best States: Aging in America Ranking.” https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/rankings/aging. Accessed Nov. 21, 2017.

2 Melissa Phipps. The Balance. Sept. 4, 2017. “Find out Where You Should Retire.” https://www.thebalance.com/where-should-i-retire-2894254. Accessed Oct. 31, 2017.

3 Eric Petroff. Investopedia. March 17, 2017. “Retirement Living: Renting Vs. Home Ownership.” https://www.investopedia.com/articles/retirement/07/buy-rent.asp. Accessed Nov. 29, 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.

Retirement Matters 

If you’re wondering how much of a Social Security payout you may receive, one number to keep in mind is 35.

Your benefit is based on your 35 highest years of earnings. If you work less than 35 years, the calculation uses zero for your annual income in the years you’re short. Here is an article that provides a description of how Social Security benefits are calculated.1

Social Security benefits were established during the Great Depression to help ensure Americans would not retire in poverty.2 However, they’re not meant to be the “end-all” retirement income plan. If you haven’t taken a good, hard look at all of the savings and assets that you’ve acquired to create a financial strategy for retirement, that’s where we can help. We can help identify potential retirement income gaps and create a financial strategy using a variety of investment and insurance products to help you pursue your financial goals.

It’s also important to assess your current financial strategy and determine what assets to draw from first, particularly in light of their tax status during retirement and the option to delay taking Social Security to potentially optimize your benefit. You should talk to a financial advisor and tax advisor about how to create a tax-efficient retirement income withdrawal strategy.

A common mistake in retirement planning is underestimating your life expectancy — maybe based on your parents’ or grandparents’ age — and not saving as much as you need. However, it’s more likely for people to live longer than previous generations, and also have higher medical bills.3 Even if one spouse dies young, it doesn’t mean the other won’t live late into their 90s.

Women who took time out of the workforce to care for dependents can be particularly vulnerable during retirement. One recent study found that, in a 10-year break early in their career, the shortage of contributions to Social Security and a retirement plan could result in a loss of up to $1.3 million in retirement savings.4

You also should consider the impact of inflation throughout retirement. Even though the inflation rate has been low in recent years, it can still make an impact over the long term. For example, an average 2 percent inflation rate over a 20-year timeframe can reduce the buying power of a dollar to just 67 cents.5

Also investigate the investment fees associated with your retirement account, as they can have a tremendous impact. A recent analysis revealed that many teachers who invested in 403(b) retirement plans could have account balances 20 to 50 percent higher had they invested in lower-cost holdings over their savings period.6

The same issues can be found with company-sponsored 401(k) plans. A plan that offers funds from only one fund family may not give you enough choices. It is also important to understand the fees you are paying.7

Our firm is not affiliated with or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any governmental agency and does not provide tax or legal advice.

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications. 

Squared-Away Blog. Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. Oct. 20, 2016. “Your Social Security: 35 Years of Work.” http://squaredawayblog.bc.edu/squared-away/your-social-security-35-years-of-work/. Accessed Oct 23, 2016.
2 Ibid.
3 Jeff Brown. U.S. News & World Report. Aug. 3, 2016. “What’s Your Plan B for Retirement?” http://money.usnews.com/investing/articles/2016-08-03/whats-your-plan-b-for-retirement. Accessed Oct. 23, 2016.
4 Financial Planning. Oct. 9, 2016. “How retired clients can deal with small COLA: Retirement Scan.” http://www.financial-planning.com/news/how-retired-clients-can-deal-with-small-cola-retirement-scan. Accessed Oct. 23, 2016.
5 Jeff Brown. U.S. News & World Report. Oct. 13, 2016. “Pros and Cons in Investing with TIPS.” http://money.usnews.com/investing/articles/2016-10-13/pros-and-cons-in-investing-with-tips. Accessed Oct. 23, 2016.
6 Tara Siegel Bernard. The New York Times. Oct. 21, 2016. “Think Your Retirement Plan Is Bad? Talk to a Teacher.” http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/23/your-money/403-b-retirement-plans-fees-teachers.html?_r=0. Accessed Oct. 23, 2016.
7 Jill Cornfield. Bankrate.com. Sept. 27, 2016. “Q&A: Fees and Your Retirement Plan.” http://www.bankrate.com/one-to-million/qa-fees-and-your-retirement-plan/. Accessed Oct. 23, 2016.

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 complete 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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Global Trade: Problems and Potential Solutions

Global trade and investment have increased dramatically over the past 30 years.1 On one hand, importing lower-cost goods from other countries has saved Americans money. On the other, it has cost American jobs.

How many jobs? About 6 million from the manufacturing sector alone between 1999 and 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, while outsourced jobs to China explains 44 percent of the decline in U.S. jobs from 1990 to 2007, automation and more efficient processes have also played a role.2

Some experts claim innovation, automation and new technology are responsible for up to 80 percent of manufacturing job losses over the past two decades.3 There are also economists who believe global trade is crucial to American prosperity and disagree with Donald Trump’s plans to implement tariffs or cut down trade with countries like China and Mexico.4

Thanks to the digital revolution, smaller companies have the capacity to compete on a global level, but comparatively few are doing so. It is estimated that fewer than 1 percent of the nearly 30 million U.S. companies registered to sell abroad actually engage in global sales.5 This means more U.S. firms have the potential to expand growth and productivity to global markets.

Digitization makes it easier for small startups to reach global customers; consider how eBay and Amazon got their start.6

Global expansion advocates say the U.S. government could play a role in connecting individual cities and smaller companies with foreign investors. It also could introduce more policies and funding to help job losses with reinvestment in affected communities.7

In one of his first acts as president, Trump signed an executive order to withdraw the U.S. from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. This withdrawal gives China — not a participant in the TPP — the opportunity to forge leadership in Asian trade agreements. The president has indicated that he is interested in negotiating individual trade deals with TPP countries in order to procure better terms for the U.S.8

Some analysts believe the U.S. should renegotiate agreements to lower tariffs and other regulatory barriers to encourage various nations to specialize in certain exports in which they have operational expertise.9

Presently, the U.S. imports about $500 billion more than it exports.10 However, the U.S. remains the world’s largest economy and, despite the loss of manufacturing jobs to other countries, its share of global gross domestic product has remained relatively consistent over the past 36 years, ranging from 26 percent in 1980 to 25 percent in 2016.11

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications

1 Gary Pinkus, James Manyika and Sree Ramaswamy. Harvard Business Review. Jan. 10, 2017. “We Can’t Undo Globalization, but We Can Improve It.” https://hbr.org/2017/01/we-cant-undo-globalization-but-we-can-improve-it. Accessed Feb. 12, 2017.

2 Mark Broad. BBC. Jan. 25, 2017. “Will Donald Trump mean the end of global trade?” http://www.bbc.com/news/business-38731812. Accessed Feb. 5, 2017.

3 Kirtika Suneja. Economic Times. Feb. 8, 2017. “WTO provides the means to deal with trade concerns: Roberto Azevedo.” http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/opinion/interviews/wto-provides-the-means-to-deal-with-trade-concerns-roberto-azevedo/articleshow/57033349.cms. Accessed Feb. 12, 2017.

4 Jason Margolis. PRI. July 21, 2016. “Trump’s trade policies are worrying economists.” https://www.pri.org/stories/2016-07-21/trump-s-trade-policies-are-worrying-economists. Accessed March 9, 2017.

5 Gary Pinkus, James Manyika and Sree Ramaswamy. Harvard Business Review. Jan. 10, 2017. “We Can’t Undo Globalization, but We Can Improve It.” https://hbr.org/2017/01/we-cant-undo-globalization-but-we-can-improve-it. Accessed Feb. 12, 2017.

6 Ibid.

7 James Manyika, Gary Pinkus, Sree Ramaswamy, Scott Nyquist, Jonathan Woetzel and Arvind Sohoni. McKinsey Global Institute. November 2016. “Can the US economy return to dynamic and inclusive growth?” http://www.mckinsey.com/global-themes/employment-and-growth/can-the-us-economy-return-to-dynamic-and-inclusive-growth. Accessed Feb. 12, 2017.

8 Fox News. Jan. 24, 2017. “What Trump’s trade and geopolitical moves mean for China.” http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/01/24/what-trump-trade-and-geopolitical-moves-mean-for-china.html. Accessed Feb. 12, 2017.

9 Peter Morici. Fox News. April 25, 2016. “How to fix free trade.” http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2016/04/25/how-to-fix-free-trade.html. Accessed Feb. 12, 2017.

10 Ibid.

11 Bob Davins. Fox Business. Nov. 9, 2016. “Trump Will Need to Leverage Power of U.S. Economy to Remake Global Trade.” http://www.foxbusiness.com/politics/2016/11/09/trump-will-need-to-leverage-power-u-s-economy-to-remake-global-trade.html. Accessed Feb. 12, 2017.

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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Checking Up on Health Care Expenses

If there’s one thing every adult demographic in America values, it’s maintaining good health.

People with medical conditions may be interested in topics like new medical technology, pharmacology or national changes to health care insurance. Meanwhile, those without serious medical issues want to know how they can stay that way, through nutrition, exercise, weight loss and preventive screenings. It’s a national conversation, and not one that’s likely to diminish any time soon.

The 6.5 percent growth rate in medical expenses has plateaued recently, according to business consulting firm PwC, but the company’s researchers see signs the rate will increase again in the near future.1

This isn’t just a reflection of the cost of health care insurance, but also the prices charged by facilities, physicians and specialists for the drugs and therapies necessary to treat medical conditions. Escalating health care usage and prices contribute to the increase of insurance premiums, deductibles, copays and coinsurance.2

Whether you’re working or retired, the issues of finances and health care are inextricably interwoven. You can’t really think or plan about one without considering the other. This is true whether you’re covered under employer-sponsored insurance, a plan from the individual market or a government-sponsored plan. As financial professionals, we work with clients in each of these situations to help ensure their retirement income plan takes into consideration current and potential medical expenses in the future. If you need help assessing your retirement income needs, please contact us for help.

Ultimately, the message the health care industry is promoting is that people need to take better care of themselves. They need to research and understand their health care options, and also work on improving their overall health now to prevent problems — and related expenses — in the future.

When it comes to individuals taking responsibility for their own health, there’s no need to wait for the government to step in and pass legislation. There’s plenty of knowledge available at our fingertips to help maintain health, from advice on healthy eating away from home3 to using diet to manage indigestion problems like acid reflux.4

For older Americans, taking on new fitness activities may be worrisome since they can increase the likelihood of injury. On the other hand, when done correctly, moderately and consistently, exercise can also help decrease the likelihood of injury.

Plus, it may be easier than you think to catch up on today’s fitness trends. Many are simply rejuvenated from the workouts of yesteryear.5 Like today’s trendy Pilates exercises, which were quite popular in the 1950s and 60s,6 one thing that will never go out of style is taking strides to maintain health.

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications

 1 PwC. 2017. “Medical Cost Trend.” https://www.pwc.com/us/en/health-industries/health-research-institute/behind-the-numbers.html. Accessed May 5, 2017.

2 NBC News. Nov. 4, 2016. “Why Health Care Eats More Of Your Paycheck Every Year.” http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/why-health-care-eats-more-your-paycheck-every-year-n678051. Accessed May 5, 2017.

3 Harvard Medical School. 2017. “Tips for healthy eating away from home.” http://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/tips-for-healthy-eating-away-from-home. Accessed May 5, 2017.

4 Jane E. Brody. The New York Times. Mar. 20, 2017. “Pop a Pill for Heartburn? Try Diet and Exercise Instead.” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/20/well/pop-a-pill-for-heartburn-try-diet-and-exercise-instead.html?_r=0. Accessed May 5, 2017.

5 Jessica Smith. Shape.com. 2017. “Then & Now: 7 Retro Workouts That Still Get Results.” http://www.shape.com/fitness/workouts/then-now-7-retro-workouts-still-get-results. Accessed May 5, 2017.

6 Balanced Bodies. 2017. “Pilates Origins.” http://www.pilates.com/BBAPP/V/pilates/origins-of-pilates.html. Accessed May 5, 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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