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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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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