Don’t Get Painful Shingles: New Vaccine Is 90% Effective!

Category: Health Issues

April 25, 2018 — Have you known someone who contracted shingles, a painful disease related to the chicken pox? If so you understand why this is a disease you don’t want. Our brother came down with shingles in early March and is still battling it. He described the pain in his head, where his shingles was located, as like being jammed up against a cactus – not fun! But there is good news for everyone (because you can get shingles more than once). You can prevent shingles with a new vaccine, Shingrix, that was approved by the FDA last October.

Up until recently there was a shingles vaccine, Zostavax, that people over (more…)

Posted by Admin on April 24th, 2018

Take the Quiz: What Is Your Social Security IQ

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

April 21, 2018 — For most Americans, their Social Security retirement benefits are a critical part of retirement. So here is an important thing to remember about Social Security – IT IS NOT ONE SIZE FITS ALL – YOU HAVE OPTIONS – AND YOU HAVE TO MAKE SOME IMPORTANT DECISIONS. Those mostly revolve around when to take it – the way you decide that question will have a significant effect on on the rest of your financial life.

We find there is a fairly shocking lack of knowledge about Social Security. People tend not to know how their benefits are calculated, and they don’t realize how big a difference there is in the benefits, depending on when you take it. To help you get the most out of your benefit we have prepared a 13 question quiz on Social Security. The quiz is pretty challenging. The good news is that even if you don’t ace it, going through the process of taking the quiz, and then using our point by point explanation of each answer will be very educational. You’ll get pretty much all the knowledge you need about your benefits and options.

Note: We developed a similar quiz in 2014 and over 7500 people took it. Most did pretty well. But since then there have been some important changes to Social Security, hence this new quiz. We developed it ourselves; it does not represent anything official from the Social Security Administration, which is the ultimate arbiter of the rules concerning your benefits.

Here is the link to the Social Security quiz

Test prep: To maximize your learning experience, we strongly recommend that you read one of these articles first, then take the quiz, then look at the answers. (After you take the quiz you will see a link to the answers).

Social Security Overview
What You Don’t Know About Social Security Could Hurt You

Take the Quiz!

Comments? Let us know what you think about this quiz. Should we do more, and on what subject(s) – was it too hard? Any of the questions unfair? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below. We will also report on the results in next week’s newsletter.

Note: The answers and commentary are hard to get back to once you go off that page – so if you want to go back to them, here is the answers/comments link (no cheating!).

Posted by Admin on April 21st, 2018

Your Results: How Did You Do on Our Social Security IQ Test

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

Thanks for taking our Social Security Quiz. (If you haven’t taken it already, here is the link to the Quiz). To make sure you don’t miss out on useful tools and information like this, sign up for our Free weekly Best Places enewsletter.

Here is more information about the correct answers. There is a Y in front of the correct answer.

Q.1. Assuming you were born between 1943 and 1954, what is considered your Full Retirement Age for Social Security benefit purposes? (The rest of the questions in this quiz assume you were born between 1943-1954, unless otherwise noted)

Y 66

Comment: There is always some confusion over what “Full Retirement Age” means. SS assumes 66 is the full retirement age for folks born between these years. But you can actually qualify for “more than full” and get a larger benefit at any age up to 70. (See Full Retirement Age Chart).

Q.2. The Full Retirement Age (FRA) starts gradually increasing for people born in 1955 and later. In what birth year does the FRA go to age 67?

Y 1960

Comment: The full retirement age for people born between 1955 and 1959 ranges from 66 and 2 months to 66 and 10 months. It is age 67 for those born in 1960 and later.

Q.3. How does the Social Security Administration calculate your benefit?

– Social Security calculates your average indexed monthly earnings during the 20 years in which you earned the most.
– Social Security calculates your average indexed monthly earnings during the 25 years in which you earned the most.
– Social Security calculates your average indexed monthly earnings during the 30 years in which you earned the most.
Y Social Security calculates your average indexed monthly earnings during the 35 years in which you earned the most.

Comment: Most people tend to get this question wrong, usually underestimating the number of years in the calculation. The point is, the more years you can maximize your earnings, the higher your benefit. By the way, to qualify for any benefit the minimum number of earning quarters is 40.

Q.4. Assuming you claim your SS retirement benefits at age 62, what % of your Full Retirement Age benefit will you receive?

Y 75%

Comment: You will only get 75% of your Full Retirement Age benefit if you take it at age 62. The closer you get to your FRA, the closer to 100% you receive.

Q. 5. Assuming you wait to claim Social Security until age 70, which of these statements is most correct?

– Your benefit will be the same as at your Full Retirement Age
– Your benefit will be 120% of what you would get at age 66
Y – Your benefit will be 132% of what you would get at age 66
– You should wait until age 72 and get an even higher benefit for delaying

Comment: Your benefit increases by 8% a year if you claim after age 66 (up to age 70). Most experts believe that age 77-78 is the breakeven point for claiming early vs. later – in other words if you or your spouse live past that age you are better off delaying. The average life expectancy for a female aged 62 is 85.

Q. 6. In 2018 what is the average monthly Social Security benefit, AND the highest available monthly benefit?

Y – $1400 average and $3680 maximum
– $1200 average and $3020 maximum
– $1600 average and $3840 maximum
– $1500 average and $2950 maximum

Comment: The average SS benefit is quite low. But for people who have maximized their earnings over 35 years and who delay to age 70, the benefit becomes quite meaningful.

Q. 7. Which of these is the most accurate statement about working after you start taking Social Security?

– Once you start taking social security your benefits will be reduced if you work for pay.
Y – Once you start social taking security your benefits will not be reduced if you work for pay, as long as you have reached your full retirement age.
– Once you start social taking social security your benefits will not be reduced if you work for pay.

Comment: If you are younger than full retirement age during all of 2018, SS will deduct $1 from your benefits for each $2 you earn. In the year you reach full retirement age they will deduct $1 for every $3 you earn. After that there are no deductions. BUT, if some of your retirement benefits are withheld because of your earnings, your monthly benefit will increase starting at your full retirement age to take into account those months in which benefits were withheld.

Q.8. Do you have to pay federal income tax on your social security benefits?
– Yes, all of it is taxable
– No, none of it is taxable
Y – Yes, you will have to pay taxes on your SS benefits if your (filing separately) “adjusted” income is over $25,000/year.
– Yes, you must pay taxes on your SS benefits if your (filing separately) income is over $32,000/year.

Comment: Individuals start to pay taxes on their SS benefits if their adjusted income is over $25,000; for couples filing jointly the threshold is $32,000. Individual states vary in their tax treatment of social security benefits. Most do not, whereas others exempt a certain amount. See this SSA document for more about SS and taxes.

Q.9. How much can you receive as as a spousal benefit based on your spouse’s Social Security record?

Y – 50% if you start collecting at your Full Retirement Age
– 50% as long as you are at least age 62
– You cannot receive a spousal benefit unless you qualify on your own contribution record

Comment: We created this question to emphasize that it is usually worthwhile to wait until you are at full retirement age to start collecting a spousal benefit. If you begin collecting spousal benefits before your full retirement age, the benefit is reduced by a percentage based on the number of months before you reach full retirement age. You do not have to have qualified on your own contribution record to receive a spousal benefit.

Q. 10. As the surviving spouse of someone who qualified for Social Security benefits, what are your benefits?

– 50% of the spouse’s benefit, regardless of your age
– 75% of your spouse’s benefit upon his or her death, assuming you are at your Full Retirement Age
Y – 100% of your spouse’s retirement benefit upon his/her death, assuming you are at full retirement age

Comment: Because your surviving spouse gets 100% of your benefit, this is one of the most overlooked aspects when it comes to when to start taking your SS benefit. If you start collecting at 62 but your spouse lives to 95, they have a lot of years collecting a relatively low benefit.

The deceased worker whose benefit you are collecting on does not have started collecting their benefit (but if they were not at full retirement age your benefit will be reduced). If you start collecting as a survivor you have to be at least 60 years old, and you will receive a reduction if you are not at full retirement age. See Social Security – Survivor Benefits.

Q. 11. Assume that you are divorced from someone who qualifies for social security benefits. You are at least 62, and have not remarried. Can you collect benefits as a divorced spouse on the record of your former spouse?

– Yes – but only if your former spouse has not remarried
Y – Yes – but only if you were married to that person for 10 years or more
– Yes – but only if you were married to that person for 5 years or more

Comment: As long as you were married at least 10 years and haven’t remarried you can collect SS on your ex’s record.

Q. 12. Which one of these statements about filing strategies is TRUE?

– Anyone born before Jan. 1, 1957 can take the “File and Suspend” option (file so a spouse can collect spousal benefit, then suspend your own benefit until later)
Y – People born before Jan. 2, 1954 can take a Restricted Benefit (spouse can collect spousal benefit but can wait to claim own benefit)
– The File and Suspend and the Restricted Benefits are available to anyone when they reach their Full Retirement Age
– None of the above

Comment: The File and Suspend strategy is no longer available, unless you are already taking it. Restricted Benefit is available, but only to people who were born before Jan. 2, 1954. It can be a good strategy, particularly in the case where the person collecting the spousal benefit (and delaying collecting on their own) has a strong earning history.

Q. 13. Which of these statements from the Social Security Trustees about the financial health of Social Security is TRUE?

Y – In 2035 only 75% of promised retirement benefits will be available to be paid.
– The system is healthy and will be able to pay promised benefits for the foreseeable future
– In 2025 only 85% of promised retirement benefits will be available to be paid.
– In the next 20 years Social Security will be bankrupt and no benefits will be paid

Comment: The Trustees reported late last year that all SS retirement reserves will be depleted by 2035 – unless something is done soon. In that year the only money available to pay benefits will come from SS taxes coming in from current workers, which is why only 75% of promised benefits can be paid.

Bottom line:
We hope you learned from this quiz, and you are now prepared to make the most of your Social Security benefit.

For further reference:
How Social Security calculates your benefit
How work affects your benefits
SSA Retirement Info Summary
What You Don’t Know About Social Security Could Hurt You (3 part series)

Disclaimer: We have tried to provide the most accurate information available. However note that in matters as important and complex as your social security benefit you should do careful research on your own, consult the SS Administration, and rely on your financial or other adviser before making important decisions.

Comments? How did you do on the quiz? Should we have more quizzes on Social Security and other subjects? What has been your Social Security claiming strategy? Anything we should explore in greater detail? Please let us know in the Comments section below.

Posted by Admin on April 20th, 2018

North Carolina’s 10 Most Popular Active Adult and 55+ Communities

Category: Active adult communities

April 17, 2018 — The allure of North Carolina for retirement seems to be gaining momentum every day. It is considered fairly tax-friendly for retirees and offers a milder winter climate than states in the Midwest and Northeast (see our Retirement Guide to North Carolina). A big draw is attractive real estate prices and cost of living. When it comes to finding a place to live, it offers an amazing array of towns, cities, and active adult and 55+ communities. North Carolina has also gained attention for attracting “halfbacks”, the so-called retirees who moved from the north to Florida, only to become disillusioned and move “halfway back” home to the Carolinas. This article highlights the 10 most popular active adult and 55+ communities in North Carolina, as measured by visitor interest at In the next few weeks we will produce the list of the 10 most popular active communities in South Carolina.

Posted by Admin on April 17th, 2018

Finding a Purpose in Retirement

Category: Retirement Planning

By Craig Blouin
April 13, 2018 — The warm, inviting glow of retirement on the horizon motivated me as I moved toward it during my last years in the workaday world. I’d put a good many miles on the roadway of life up to this point and now there was a sweeping curve up ahead. I sure wanted to have a look at what was around the other side.

Those last few miles seemed to take an inordinately long time to get through. But then I was there, the promised land: Retirement! After a rousing send-off by my work colleagues — either sad or delighted to see me go — finally it’s the first day of the rest of my life. Great! … So now what?

I’m not usually a goal-oriented sort of person, even though many years ago I’d attended a Covey Institute intensive workshop at the Sundance (more…)

Posted by Admin on April 12th, 2018

10 Things Your Retirement Town Needs to Offer

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

Does Your Retirement Town Deserve You?
April 11, 2018 — When it comes to finding the right retirement town, remember this – you are the customer! After all, even a moderate income couple brings a lot to the party. If you move to a new location to retire you strengthen the local economy by buying or renting a home. Even if you decide not to move and stay where you live now, you add stability to the local real estate market. Wherever you live you (or your landlord) pay sizable property taxes. In many locales you might have to pay local income taxes, which boost the local economy. And, your Social Security, pension, and 401(k) distributions will pump money into local stores and businesses (the so-called mailbox economy) every month.

Rating towns for retirement
Various outfits try to rate towns on the basis of retirement-friendliness. For example, states including Texas (about 50 towns) and Louisiana (8 towns) have “Certified Retirement Community” programs. To qualify as certified, the towns have to pass muster on a variety of criteria. For example (more…)

Posted by Admin on April 10th, 2018

Want to Travel, But Not Sure Where? Check Out These 10 Offbeat Ideas

Category: Travel

April 7, 2018 — The majority of people say they would like to do some traveling once they retire. There are plenty of destinations that immediately come to mind. Paris, the Grand Canyon, London, New York City – these are on many people’s lists. Beyond that, evaluating and planning exciting places to visit can be a really fun part of the process. To help stimulate your thinking this article will give you some creative and offbeat ideas that will, hopefully, get your travel juices really going.

Out of the box travel ideas
Not that it is a competition, but who ever said you had to go to the same places that everybody else has. So consider these travel themes, which in many cases involve exploring all (or many) of the locations in certain categories.

Detail from The Temple of Bulguksa (built in 774) South Korea. World Heritage site

1. UNESCO – World Heritage sites – Worldwide there are 1,073 World Heritage sites, so it is improbable anyone could visit more than a few hundred or so. According to Wikipedia, “To be selected, a World Heritage Site must be an (more…)

Posted by Admin on April 6th, 2018

Should You Retire – Or Not?

Category: Retirement Planning

Some people really want to retire – but there are reasons why they can’t.
Other folks want to keep on working – but there are pressures on them to retire.

April 4, 2018 — Assuming you are lucky enough not to have found yourself unexpectedly retired, as so many baby boomers have, you might be wondering if this is the right time to retire. Unfortunately, there are so many different and unique situations that it is hard to assign a one-size-fits-all answer. In this article we will lay out some common situations where there is either pressure to retire or pressure against, and then some possible solutions. At the end what we are really hoping for is Member input for ideas on the best way to handle these situations. And, if you are looking for more articles on this topic, including case studies about actual people’s retirement experiences, check out the Retirement Planning section of our Blog (67 articles).

Not just a number
Retirement shouldn’t be just about a number – such as “I’m 65 so I better retire”. Obviously the best time to retire is when you want to, and when you think you can afford to. Many people dream of retiring as soon as they can – even in their 30s. But others hope never to stop working. But sometimes there are other factors that force the issue. That is what we will talk about here.

Some different situations:

A basic consideration about when to retire is if you love your job or not. Another big one is, can you afford to retire? Not being in a financial position to call it quits adds extra pressure. Sometimes there might be multiple factors that affect your decision to retire or not.

Let’s assume first (more…)

Posted by Admin on April 3rd, 2018