Divorce During Retirement

A funny thing happens when you get busy with trying to achieve all the things you want out of life: You lose a few along the way. Unfortunately, some people lose their marriage.1 However, for those who are truly unhappy and can’t see a way back to blissful partnership, a “gray divorce” isn’t necessarily all negative. Even in retirement, leaving a spouse can open up new avenues to be explored, the chance to pursue activities perhaps not supported before and new opportunities to reinvent yourself.

With that said, you also must deal with a myriad of details when it comes to dividing assets to help ensure each ex-spouse has enough income to live comfortably during retirement. Just as it takes a village to raise children, it can take a team of experienced and qualified professionals to help you do this, from attorneys to financial advisors to tax planners and perhaps even a therapist. The goal is to emerge confident about your financial future, and we’re here to help both spouses on this journey should you need it.

When it comes to Social Security, there are certain rules that apply to benefits for a divorced spouse based on the ex’s earning history. For example, the marriage must have lasted for at least 10 years, the couple must be divorced for at least two years and the claiming ex must be currently unmarried – if the claimer gets remarried, the ex’s spousal benefits will stop. Furthermore, the ex-spouses must both be at least age 62 to begin drawing spousal benefits, and the spouse/divorcee must be full retirement age to be eligible for the full spousal benefit.2

Another important component to address is life insurance. If there are alimony payments involved, life insurance can help cover the loss of that income should the payer die first. Depending on their circumstances, divorcing couples may want to update their named beneficiaries on their respective policies. If a policy has a cash value, that money belongs to the owner. While the policy is active, the owner may forgo the death benefit and instead take the cash value, a process known as cashing out your life insurance policy.3

Research has found that divorce may be a reason why many people are working long past traditional retirement age.4 Because of this, it’s important to set aside animosity and work on an equitable agreement for both spouses’ retirement. Divorcing spouses should be cognizant that if one ends up struggling financially, their adult children may have to pick up the slack.5

 Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications

1 Linda Melone. Next Avenue. July 11, 2016. “Why Couples Divorce After Decades of Marriage.” http://www.nextavenue.org/slideshow/why-couples-divorce-after-decades-of-marriage/. Accessed June 6, 2017.

2 Social Security Administration. “Retirement Planner: If You Are Divorced.” https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/divspouse.html. Accessed June 6, 2017.

3 Greg DePersio. Investopedia. Nov. 25, 2015. “How Life Insurance Works in a Divorce.” http://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/112515/how-life-insurance-works-divorce.asp. Accessed June 6, 2017.

4 Ben Steverman. Bloomberg. Oct. 17, 2016. “Divorce Is Destroying Retirement.” https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-10-17/divorce-is-destroying-retirement. Accessed June 6, 2017.

5 Charlotte Cowles. The Cut. May 12, 2017. “My Mom Is Broke. How Can I Help Her?” https://www.thecut.com/2017/05/my-mom-is-bad-with-money-how-do-i-help-her.html. Accessed June 6, 2017.

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.

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.

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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Taxes and Retirement Planning

The White House recently introduced what it billed the “biggest tax cut” in U.S. history. While a presidential tax proposal is not likely to get passed without significant changes, the fact that Republicans dominate both chambers of Congress suggests 2017 may well be a year in which significant tax reform is engineered.1

One thing should be perfectly clear: The U.S. tax code is highly complicated.2 There may not be anyone who understands it all off the top of their head. CPAs and tax professionals must conduct thorough due diligence to tailor strategies and complete returns for taxpayers with complex situations.

Because of this, we recommend our clients who require tax advice work directly with an experienced and qualified tax professional. However, we also believe financial and tax professionals should not work in a vacuum, and therefore are more than happy to work in concert with our clients’ tax advisors to help align their financial strategy with their tax situation.

This is particularly important when it comes to retirement planning, because you want to save as much as possible before you retire, which may include tax-deferred financial vehicles such as a 401(k) or IRA, but you don’t want to get hit with a big tax bill on untaxed earnings once you’re in retirement.3 This is a delicate balance that requires experience and collaboration from both a financial professional and a tax professional.

One tax issue each of us deals with is the federal income tax rate. Our annual earnings determine which federal tax bracket we land in, but that tax bracket isn’t the tax rate applied to our entire income. Instead, we pay every tax rate on income blocks up to our individual bracket. Like many things about filing taxes, this can be highly confusing for many people.

It may be easier to understand this through a hypothetical example. Let’s say Joe, who is single, had $92,000 of taxable income in 2016, which landed him in the 28 percent tax bracket. This is how his total tax is calculated:4

  • He pays 10% on the first $9,275 (tax of $927.50)
  • He pays 15% on the next $28,375 (tax of $4,256.25)
  • He pays 25% on the next $53,500 (tax of $13,375)
  • He pays 28% on the final $850 (tax of $238)
  • Total tax bill of $18,796.75

As you can see, Joe doesn’t pay 28 percent on the full amount of his taxable income; his taxable amount progresses through each income bracket and their respective tax rates until it reaches his total taxable income for the year. Therefore, a person who falls in the highest tax bracket is only paying that higher tax rate on a portion of his or her income.

This is an important distinction to remember as the U.S. works toward tax reform. On one hand, reducing the number of tax rates from seven to three (Trump’s proposal: 10 percent, 25 percent, 35 percent)5 looks to simplify tax filings, but for many people, this could mean paying a higher tax rate on larger blocks of income. Let’s take the hypothetical example of Joe again, using the same income brackets (to date, no tax rate income brackets have been proposed). Here’s how Joe’s scenario might break down:

  • He pays 10% on the first $9,275 (tax of $927.50)
  • He pays 25% on the next $81,875 (tax of $20,468.75)
  • He pays 35% on the final $850 (tax of $297.50)
  • Total tax bill of $21,693.75

This example simply illustrates how a progressive income tax works. Obviously, it doesn’t take into consideration credits and deductions, which vary substantially among taxpayers. Nor does it include payroll taxes.6

Federal income brackets and their respective tax rates are the most fundamental issues Americans are subject to when filing taxes. But as you can see, there’s nothing straightforward about them. This is worth remembering as tax reforms continue to be proposed and debated moving forward: Nothing concerning taxes is simple, and there are usually layers that impact us that the average layperson isn’t likely to see.

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications

1 Fox News. April 26, 2017. “Mnuchin vows ‘biggest tax cut’ in US history, confirms plan to slash business rate.” http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/04/26/mnuchin-vows-biggest-tax-cut-in-us-history-confirms-plan-to-slash-corporate-rate.html. Accessed May 5, 2017.

2 Vanessa Williamson. The Atlantic. April 18, 2017. “How the Tax-Filing Process Confuses Americans about Tax Policy.” https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/04/paying-taxes-confusion-policy-1040/523287/. Accessed May 5, 2017.

3 Fidelity. March 1, 2017. “How to invest tax efficiently.” https://www.fidelity.com/viewpoints/investing-ideas/tax-strategy. Accessed May 5, 2017.

4 Tina Orem. Nerd Wallet. Sept. 8, 2016. “2016 Federal Income Tax Brackets.” https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/taxes/federal-income-tax-brackets/. Accessed May 5, 2017.

5 Martha C. White. NBC News. May 2, 2017. “Even Families Making $100K Won’t Be Better Off Under New Tax Plan.” http://www.nbcnews.com/business/taxes/even-families-making-100k-won-t-be-better-under-new-n753941. Accessed May 5, 2017.

6 NPR. 2017. “On Tax Day, an Economist Outlines How the Payroll Tax Works.” http://nhpr.org/post/tax-day-economist-outlines-how-payroll-tax-works#stream/0. Accessed May 5, 2017.

These hypothetical examples are for illustrative purposes only. This information is not intended to provide tax advice. Be sure to speak with qualified professionals about your unique situation.

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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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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