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Archives for June 2018

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.

Consider Having a Backup Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

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

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

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

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

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

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

Ibid.

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

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

The Income Gap and the Economy

The income gap between the wealthy and the poor is widening in the U.S.1 Why does that matter? Because there are studies that indicate a wide swathe of income differentiation is not good for economic growth.

In the years following the Great Recession, we often heard how slowly the economy was recovering. That was true for most Americans, but not for the wealthiest 10 percent. A recent analysis of wealth distribution finds that the richest Americans saw their net worth rise 27 percent between 2007 and 2016. However, the rest of the population saw a decline in net worth, from an average of 5 percent for those in the 80 to 89.9 income percentile to 29 percent for those in the lowest fifth of wealth.2

Perhaps one way to join the group of people who can thrive during economic declines is to be financially prepared ahead of time. That may not be easy to do if your prospects for a good education and a good job are poor. But even for those who don’t come from affluent households, there are ways to help put yourself on the path toward long-term wealth. Start investing early — preferably in an employer-sponsored retirement plan that offers a contribution match. Establish an emergency fund so that an unexpected expense does not drain your investments and savings, taking away the opportunity for compounded interest earnings and potentially adding an extra tax liability. Avoid credit card debt like the plague.

For people who barely earn enough to live on, this can take great sacrifice. Even for people who have ample disposable income, it’s important to learn discipline in order to help maintain one’s financial situation in times of economic decline. If you would like help to establish savings and investment strategies, as well as asset protection strategies using insurance products, please give us a call.

One way to look at the issue of income differentiation is to evaluate where it currently exists, including, for example, between men and women. A recent survey found that 64 percent of women say their top financial priority is meeting daily living costs, compared to 60 percent of men who say that saving for retirement is their top financial priority.3 It seems unlikely that women are less concerned with how to provide for themselves in retirement. Instead, it would appear that many women, whose median annual earnings are $10,086 less than men’s, have more immediate concerns.4

Income disparity during earning years can create a big problem during retirement years. Retirees who were born during the Great Depression and World War II need to supplement only 27 percent of their retirement income with their own savings. However, that situation is expected to change dramatically by the time Generation X (those age 37 to 53) retires. Many will be without the “safety net” of employer pension plans, and they are expected to need to provide about 42 percent of their retirement income from their own savings.5 That means they must save a larger percentage of their pre-retirement income, which is easier to do if you’re financially stable, but it can be difficult when you live paycheck to paycheck.

There’s no question that the income gap has grown since the days when blue-collar workers could earn a good living at U.S. manufacturing jobs. In fact, from the end of World War II through the early 1970s, the U.S. experienced substantial economic growth and prosperity across all income levels. However, economic growth slowed after that, and the income gap widened, with lower- and middle-income families having sharply slower wage growth but top earners continuing to have strong growth.6

Some economists are coming to the conclusion that income inequality hurts growth. Researchers at the International Monetary Fund recently wrote, “If the income share of the top 20 percent (the rich) increases, then GDP growth actually declines over a medium term.” Possible solutions, however, such as welfare programs, higher taxes on the rich and redistribution of wealth, are controversial. Others believe the studies failed to prove the relationship between inequality and lower growth.7

There is a bright spot for lower- and middle-class workers: U.S. manufacturing jobs have increased by almost a million since 2010, although there still are 6 million fewer such jobs than in 1980. However, factories are increasing automation — which may threaten the jobs of humans.8

And although the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” gives most Americans a tax decrease, it’s still the wealthy who may benefit the most. A household making $40,000 a year will receive an average $330 tax cut in 2019, while Americans making more than $3.6 million a year will average an $85,640 tax reduction.9

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

Ryan Vlastelica. MarketWatch. April 6, 2018. “Why income inequality is holding back economic growth, in one chart.” https://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-income-inequality-is-holding-back-economic-growth-in-one-chart-2018-04-05. Accessed April 16, 2018.

2 Ibid.

Lee Barney. PlanSponsor. March 28, 2018. “Retirement Saving More of a Priority for Men than Women.” https://www.plansponsor.com/retirement-savings-priority-men-women/. Accessed April 16, 2018.

4 Sonam Sheth, Shayanne Gal and Skye Gould. Business Insider. April 10, 2018. “6 charts show how much more men make than women.” http://www.businessinsider.com/gender-wage-pay-gap-charts-2017-3. Accessed April 18, 2018.

5 Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. March 29, 2018. “Future Retirees Financially Fragile.” http://squaredawayblog.bc.edu/squared-away/future-retirees-financially-fragile/. Accessed April 16, 2018.

Chad Stone, Danilo Trisi, Arloc Sherman and Roderick Taylor. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Feb. 16, 2018. “A Guide to Statistics on Historical Trends in Income Inequality.” https://www.cbpp.org/research/poverty-and-inequality/a-guide-to-statistics-on-historical-trends-in-income-inequality. Accessed April 16, 2018.

7 Andreas Becker. Deutsche Welle. April 16, 2018. “Is inequality good or bad for the economy?” http://www.dw.com/en/is-inequality-good-or-bad-for-the-economy/a-43324466. Accessed April 18, 2018.

8 April Glaser. Recode. May 26, 2017. “Why manufacturing jobs are coming back to the U.S. — even as companies buy more robots.” https://www.recode.net/2017/5/26/15656120/manufacturing-jobs-automation-ai-us-increase-robot-sales-reshoring-offshoring. Accessed April 18, 2018.

9 Reuben Fischer-Baum, Kim Soffen and Heather Long. The Washington Post. Jan. 30, 2018. “Republicans say it’s a tax cut for the middle class. The biggest winners are the rich.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/business/what-republican-tax-plans-could-mean-for-you/?utm_term=.cb6748a783ac. Accessed April 18, 2018.

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

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance 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. 

Pros and Cons: Fewer Regulations in the U.S.

One of the current administration’s persistent themes has been deregulation — cutting through the red tape in the rules of doing business. In one instance, Donald Trump was filmed standing beside mounds of paperwork to symbolize the amount of regulation the government has implemented since 1960.1

Perhaps the same can be said for the paperwork associated with our financial accounts, from bank statements to investment prospectuses to insurance policies. It’s important to recognize regulations often have two goals: To protect the consumer, and to protect the company providing the product or service.

We understand that sometimes the paperwork associated with your investments and insurance policies can be overwhelming, so please don’t hesitate to ask questions. We are here to help you fully understand your financial choices.

One such controversial regulation — currently being debated in Congress — is a rollback of the Dodd-Frank Act that was passed in 2010 to tighten rules on the banking system. Now that the economy has recovered from the recession, many legislators are in favor of loosening the banking rules, especially those affecting small community banks. Those who oppose reducing regulations fear the country will fall into the same bad practices and history will repeat itself. 2

Some regulations are so imbedded in our society that the affected industries now believe repealing them could cause more problems than keeping them. The most recent example was the EPA’s announcement to roll back emission standards for U.S. cars. However, the initiative has fallen flat with at least one auto manufacturer, stating it plans to implement the vehicle-emissions rules enacted under Barack Obama to continue addressing global warming considerations. Others think rolling back these regulations would increase their costs, especially if California implements its own emissions standards, which could lead to court battles.3

U.S. farmers are closely watching some of the regulations that have added extensive costs and delays to their businesses. They’re particularly interested in the Waters of the U.S. rule, although the EPA has postponed that rollback for two years. However, the Secretary of Agriculture announced that the USDA has identified 27 final rules that it plans to eliminate, saving $56 million per year.4

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Michael Kranz. Business Insider. Dec. 17, 2017. “Trump cut literal red tape while standing next to a massive pile of paper to make a point about big government.” http://www.businessinsider.com/trump-stood-next-to-a-huge-pile-of-paper-showing-big-government-2017-12. Accessed April 27, 2018.

Sylvan Lane. The Hill. April 26, 2018. “House chairman eases demands on Dodd-Frank rollback.” http://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/385066-house-chairman-eases-demands-on-dodd-frank-rollback. Accessed April 27, 2018.

Justin Worland. Time. April 5, 2018. “Scott Pruitt’s Rollback of Emissions Standards Is a Big Deal. Here’s Why the Rollout Fell Flat.” http://time.com/5228979/why-scott-pruitt-rollback-of-emissions-standards-fell-flat/. Accessed April 27, 2018.

4 Jacqui Fatka. Farm Futures. March 1, 2018. “Trump keeping regulatory rollback promises.” http://www.farmfutures.com/farm-policy/trump-keeping-regulatory-rollback-promises. Accessed April 27, 2018.

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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