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3 Things That Could Save Social Security

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

November 28, 2017 — As if there wasn’t enough bad news to go around, your Social Security retirement check is in trouble. If Congress doesn’t act soon, retirement benefits will probably have to be cut by 23% in 2034 – when someone who is 66 years old now will be 83. Most everybody knows the two major reasons driving this – too many baby boomers getting benefits compared to the number of younger folks paying into the system, and our ever-increasing life spans. Combine that with the fact that 60% of Americans rely almost entirely on Social Security for their income, and we have a disaster in the works.

Recently we saw a very practical article in MarketWatch by Paul Brandus, “3 things that could help put Social Security back in the black“. His common sense approach so simply gets to the bottom of the issue that we thought we would repeat it:

1. Raise the retirement age. Brandus suggests that we start raising the normal retirement age for full benefits by a month a year. It wouldn’t take too long to raise it to age 68, which would do a lot to help stabilize the fund.

2. Raise payroll taxes. This one might hurt a bit. Currently employees pay 6.2% in FICA – the SS trustees recommend increasing that by another 2.83%. So if you make $50,000, your FICA share would go from $3100 to $4650 – ouch!

3. Raise — or eliminate — the cap on taxable wages. In 2018 if you make more than $128,700 you and your employer would stop paying into Social Security at the point when you earned that much (there is no limit on Medicare). SS misses a lot of potential revenue from CEOs who get those nice $50 million paychecks. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan group, estimates are that from a quarter to as much as 90% of the SS shortfall could be solved with this idea alone.

Seems simple enough, right?
We have to do something, as every month of inaction makes the problem harder to fix. Yet neither party is talking about it. Neither is the guy who signed the rather dire Audit Report, Steve Mnuchin. It is a national embarrassment, in our opinion. Next time you talk with an elected official, ask them what their plan is to save your Social Security.

For further reading:
Full Social Security Trustees 2016 Report
Social Security: The Can That Keeps Getting Kicked Down the Road

Posted by Admin on November 27th, 2017

How Will Tax Reform Affect Your Retirement?

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

Update Dec 2, 2017: The Senate passed their tax proposal early this morning. It is anticipated that the reconciliation between the Senate and House versions of the bill will go smoothly and it will be signed by the President soon. As soon as the final details emerge we will either update this article or create a new one, so that you can see how tax reform might affect your retirement.
November 23, 2017 — Recently we had some Comments made to other posts that touched on how the proposed tax bills approved by the House and being considered by the Senate might affect retirees. While the bills and different how they might be reconciled in the end is very fluid, it is worth considering how they impact your retirement. Just about everyone agrees that the concept of simplifying our overly complex tax code is a good thing in principle. But it also certain that any tax reform always produces winners and losers. In this article we will give our opinions on how different groups of retirees would fare on tax reform. Let us hope for your sake you are among the winners!

Tax Reform and Roth Conversions
Here is the Comment by Peder: “If the tax reform/cut/whatever gets through and they raise the 25% bracket all the way to $200K, I’m seriously going to consider converting (more…)

Posted by Admin on November 23rd, 2017

2018 Medicare Parts A & B Premiums and Deductibles Announced

Category: Health Issues

November 21, 2017 — The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced the 2018 premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance amounts for the Medicare Part A and Part B programs. Note that the Medicare Open Enrollment period ends Dec. 7 – make sure your choices are up to date.

Medicare Part B Premiums/Deductibles
The standard monthly premium for Medicare Part B enrollees will be $134 for 2018, the same amount as in 2017. Some beneficiaries who were held harmless against Part B premium increases in prior years will have a Part B premium increase in 2018, but the premium increase will be offset by the increase (COLA) in their Social Security benefits next year. Individuals with income over $85,000 or couples earning more than $170,000 pay more for Part B, and those premiums will increase about 5% in 2018. Medicare Part B covers physician services, outpatient hospital services, certain home health services, durable medical equipment, and other items.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma commented: “Next year, no beneficiary protected by the hold-harmless provision will see a Part B premium increase that is greater than the increase in their Social Security benefits. We encourage Medicare beneficiaries to explore (more…)

Posted by Admin on November 21st, 2017

Social Security Cost-of-Living (COLA) for 2018 – Up 2%

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

November 20, 2017 — Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for more than 66 million Americans will increase 2.0 percent in 2018.

The 2.0 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits payable to more than 61 million Social Security beneficiaries in January 2018. Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 29, 2017. (Note: some people receive both Social Security and SSI benefits)

The maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $128,700.

The earnings limit for workers who are younger than “full” retirement age (age 66 for people born in 1943 through 1954) will increase to $17,040. (We deduct $1 from benefits for each $2 earned over $17,040.)

The earnings limit for people turning 66 in 2018 will increase to $45,360. (We deduct $1 from benefits for each $3 earned over $45,360 until the month the worker turns age 66.)

There is no limit on earnings for workers who are “full” retirement age or older for the entire year. Here is a SS Fact Sheet with more.

For further reading
It’s 2017: What You Thought You Knew About Social Security

Posted by Admin on November 20th, 2017

10 Retirement Tools You Really Need!

Category: Retirement Planning

November 18, 2017 — Anybody who has spent any time preparing for their retirement quickly realizes that it isn’t that easy. Sure, you can retire one day and just float along, but it probably won’t work out too well. For one thing, you might not realize until too late that you can’t afford to retire. Or you retire somewhere, not knowing that there is actually a much better place for you to retire. And even if you are wealthy, you might retire unhappily, woefully unprepared for how to stay busy and fulfilled.

In this article we have assembled our top 10 retirement tools for your consideration. They are tools we have used and know to be helpful. We have grouped them into categories for your convenience. As always, please share (more…)

Posted by Admin on November 18th, 2017

Medicare Continued: What You Need to Know About Medigap Insurance

Category: Health Issues

November , 2017 — This installment on Medigap (supplemental) insurance is the latest in our 5 Part Medicare series, which has important implications for everyone as they reach age 65. Don’t miss Part 1: So You’re Turning 65: Here Is Your Guide to Medicare 101, and Part 2: Which Is Better, Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage (Links to Parts 3 and 4 at end of article).

In this article we will first explain what Medigap insurance is, and then how to find, compare, and buy a plan. Then we will reprint many of the Medigap comments that Members have posted to our other Medicare articles. We think you will find their collective wisdom useful.

Medicare BasicsAs a refresher, original Medicare includes Part A (hospital coverage) and Part B (doctor services). Almost everyone eligible for Medicare (more…)

Posted by Admin on November 13th, 2017

Thank You Our Veterans: And the Tale of My Father’s Dogtag

Category: Family and Retirement

November 10, 2017 — Today is the official celebration of Veterans Day because the actual date, Nov. 11, falls on a Saturday this year. Veterans Day remembers the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, when the Armistice to end WWI, “the war to end all wars”, was signed and hostilities ended. We know that many of our Topretirements members are veterans, and that virtually everyone has a relative who served to defend our wonderful country. We are in debt to you, and especially those killed in action and their families; your sacrifices have made our freedom possible.

The timing this year is propitious, as I just came into possession of my father’s WWII dog tags (pictured). My dad, like so many of our baby boomer fathers, served in this world changing war. A newly minted dentist, he volunteered in the US Public Health Service and Coast Guard as the war broke out. According to the legend my father, who didn’t clear 5’5”, had to hang from a bar so he was tall enough to get his naval commission. His first assignment was to British Columbia in Canada, where he provided dental services for the workers building the Alaskan (Alcan) Highway, that amazing project to shore up the defenses of vulnerable (more…)

Posted by Admin on November 10th, 2017

10 Places to Retire That Offer Great Downtown Living

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

November 5, 2017 — There is a certain kind of person for whom a great place to retire means being right in the thick of it. Not stuck out of town in an active community, where every trip to anything beyond the clubhouse or golf course means climbing in your car. Nor the suburbs or a distant lake, which have the same transportation problems. For the kind of person we are thinking of, the perfect place to retire is one where your home is a comfortable walk, bike, or transit away from a vital downtown teeming with restaurants, shops, and cultural opportunities. We’ve reported on the best walkable places to retire before (see Further Reading below); here are ten more excellent places to consider.

Just about any big city has some wonderful neighborhoods where you can enjoy the urban experience. The same goes for very small towns. In this selection of 10 towns with great downtowns we concentrate on finding smaller cities for retirement, usually somewhere between 25,000 and 100,000 people. We’ve chosen places with interesting downtowns where there is a lot to do, and that feature nice neighborhoods with easy access to all these (more…)

Posted by Admin on November 5th, 2017