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Yes: Social Security Recipients Will Get Stimulus Check!

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

March 27, 2020 — The good news for people who get Social Security retirement or disability (SSI) benefits is that most of them are about to get a nice check as part of the stimulus package signed today. Social Security recipients are included in the bill to get $1200 (payable in the next month or so), provided they did not earn more than $75,000 on their latest tax return (a married couple gets $2400 with an income below $150,000). If a single person’s income is over $75,000 that benefit starts to be reduced, eventually going to $0 with an income of $99,000 or more (the limit is $198,000 for couples). This one time benefit is not taxable.

The payments will be made through the Treasury Department, not the SSA. Early indications are that if you receive your SS through direct deposit, that is how you will get the supplement. If you haven’t file any tax returns lately, you might have to apply for the benefit.

How to spend it?

This is certainly good news for retirees who don’t have a big income source, as most people won’t have any trouble spending a little windfall. We would be curious to see how you intend to spend yours – help out adult children who have lost their job or income, donate some of it to a charity, or spend it on something you have needed for a long time? Please let us know in the Comments section below.

We retirees in some ways are in better shape than those younger than us who are still working – at least most of don’t have to worry about losing our jobs! The point of the stimulus package is to get money back in circulation and rebuild the economy. So, if you will forgive a little editorialization, we hope you spend yours quickly in some way. Your local store owners and businesses are probably hurting. But most will probably deliver whatever you want, or have it waiting at their door. If we all spend the money quickly, it should help get things back to normal.

Posted by Admin on March 27th, 2020

The Corona Virus and Your Retirement Portfolio: Sell, Hold, Buy?

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

March 2, 2020 — Last week featured one of the biggest stock market sell-offs since the Great Depression. Panic set in as market professionals and plain old investors tried to sort out just how serious the impact of the Corona Virus – COVID 19 – will be on world trade and the economy. Could widespread shortages, school and factory closings, and forced quarantines throw the world into economic chaos? No one really knows, and that uncertainty was felt in the U.S. and world stock markets last week.

Some investors told their brokers to sell everything. Many advisors urged stay the course, particularly those who have the long view. Still others suggested maybe it was time to buy. Since this website is about retirement, our outlook is different from investors with a shorter time from. Last week we solicited Comments from several members on a related blog, and are reprinting them here. Please let us what you are thinking and doing about it.

Comments———-

I am sure on edge about my investments after the losses of this week. I wS told to stay the course, but at this point, I am not sure what to do. I have a gut feeling this is going to get worse before it gets better. I am very worried now. —- Maimi

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Posted by Admin on March 1st, 2020

So You Want to Change Your State Residency: Be Wary!

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

February 11, 2020 — More and more baby boomers in high tax states are tempted by the notion of retiring to greener pastures. The urge to move to a low tax, less expensive, and possibly warmer state has grown even stronger recently, because of the $10,000 limit on state and local tax deductions. But before you make the leap – make sure you do it right!

A domicile is where an individual maintains his or her permanent abode, and where that person intends to return from any absence. You can only have one domicile at a time. In “How to Become a Florida Resident” we outlined the basic steps you need to change your domicile and become a resident of a new state. Follow those and you are on a good path, but not necessarily free of all trouble. Snowbirds who continue to maintain a residence in their old state are particularly at risk. Here are some of the most basic steps to take:

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Posted by Admin on February 10th, 2020

Hackers Have a New Target: Your Retirement Accounts

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

January 28, 2020 — Having tried to cheat you out of your money in dozens of other ways, hackers are now targeting retirement accounts. Unfortunately it can be very easy for them, and even worse than that, you might not get your money back if they steal it.

With retirement funds being one of their biggest assets, the stakes are huge for retirees.  This article will review some of the best ideas for protecting your accounts.

Email is the way most hackers use to break into your accounts. The usual methods include tricking you into downloading something, asking you to provide personal information to “solve a problem” with your account, or leading you to a dangerous site. The email might seem real and alarming, telling you there is a problem with your account.

A big problems is that the scammer might already have some of your personal information, stolen from a compromised site and subsequently sold on the dark web.  They probably already have your username, email and password for one site. Betting that you reuse the same password or a close variant of it , they can keep plugging in various combinations and sooner or later hit pay dirt. 

4 things to protect your retirement account. 

Rule #1: If an email even looks even faintly suspicious, don’t open it up. Never reply with any personal information or click on a suspicious link.

#2: Read all your statements every month. Look for unusual activity and amounts or transactions you don’t recognize.  Call your provider immediately if you do.

#3: Have virus software on your computer. Inexpensive products such as those from Norton will alert you to suspicious web pages and block most malware and other dangers. Keep the software up to date.

#4: Use different passwords for different sites – never reuse the same one. That way if one of your accounts is compromised you can contain the damage. Use a password manager to generate and/or store your passwords – Roboform and Lastpass are two popular ones. The safest but also the clumsiest way is to write all of them down in a notebook that you hope doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. The worst plan is to try try to hide them somewhere on your computer. To simplify things you might combine nonsense words that you can remember easily, such as Catdogfish222. But you must mix things up or the hackers will figure out your system.

Comments?  Have you been hacked ?  If so, how bad was it, and what did you do to recover ?  What systems do you use to stay safe ?  Please share your experiences in the Comments section below.

For further reading: USA Today article by Paul Gores:  “Cybercrooks Targeting Retirement Accounts”

Posted by Admin on January 27th, 2020

3 Social Security Rules to Know and Live By

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

BULLETIN: SOFTWARE GLITCH MIGHT HAVE UNSUBSCRIBED ALL SUBSCRIBERS!

We are sorry to burden you with this, but it appears the company that sends out our newsletter might have accidentally UNSUBSCRIBED ALL of our Best Places Newsletter subscribers! If you would like to continue getting our free newsletter, please go to this signup form and resubscribe. Thanks so much!

December 28 , 2019 — Social Security is the single most important source of retirement income for most people. So it is crucial that you understand how the rules apply to your situation.  Here are three important things you need to understand about how Social Security works.

1. Know when to claim

The earliest you can claim is age 62.  Your Full Retirement Age (FRA) is somewhere between 66 and 67, depending on your birth year (if born before 1954 it is 66 and increases one month per year after that up to 67). Your benefit maxes out at age 70; there is no advantage in waiting past that.  if you file at age 62 you will only get 75% of what you would get if you wait to your FRA. If you claim between your FRA and 70 your benefit will increase by 8% a year.  You can file for your benefits online or in person.

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Posted by Admin on December 28th, 2019

SECURE Act for 401(k)s and IRAs Signed into Law: Good (mostly) and Bad News (for heirs):

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

December 22, 2019 – The SECURE Act has been passed by the Senate and House and signed by the President.  The bipartisan bill, Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement, has several key provisions that impact many of those who are currently retired as well as people planning for retirement. 

Good news. The bill allows for people over 70 and one half who are still working to continue to contribute to regular IRAs – there is no longer an age restriction for making such contributions.   Perhaps the most important provision is the one affecting people who will not have reached age 70 and 1/2 by December 31, 2019.  The new law raises the age for taking Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from 70 and 1/2 to 72. These two provisions allow people who have not yet reached the age of 70 and 1/2 to achieve higher IRA and 401(k) balances for retirement if they are currently working and/or have enough non-IRA investment assets to defer taking IRA minimum distributions for an additional two years.  This can provide for a higher likelihood of not outliving retirement savings. Unfortunately, if you were already 70 and 1/2 before 2020, you still have to take the RMDs required under the previous law.

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Posted by Admin on December 21st, 2019

Is Retirement Turning You Into a Cheapskate?

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

December 7, 2019 — We don’t know about your experience, but in ours we are starting to see signs that many of our retired friends and relatives are getting more and more frugal. Some have to cut back from necessity, but even many of our very well off friends seem to be pinching pennies, at least in some corners of their life. Folks that might fly business class to Australia on a luxury vacation, but hoard plastic bags from the supermarket to line their kitchen trash bin. Many like to save money for the sport of it. After all, who likes spending money on unimportant stuff. Snagging an inexpensive vacation, landing a great deal on a rental car, or getting a better internet deal is a lot more fun and exciting than paying top dollar!

If you search on the Internet for “live like a cheapskate” you will strike a frugality bonanza. There are authors like Jeff Yeager who have written best sellers on the subject (“The Cheapskate Next Door“). There’s even a show on TLC, “Extreme Cheapskates“. Not to mention all of the articles Topretirements has written on the subject over the years (see Further Reading at bottom). This article will roll up advice from all over into some of our top tips on how to live like a cheapskate, and have fun while doing it!

First of all, a little etymology – if you are going to be a cheapskate you might as well understand where the term came from. Although there is some uncertainty about the origin of the word, the main dictionary sites think that “skate” was a late 19th century slangy term for a worn-out horse, to which cheap was added to imply mean or miserly. One Wiki source claims it refers to inexpensive strap-on roller skates; while we acknowledge those were horrible to skate on back in the day, we doubt that is the term’s origin.

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Posted by Admin on December 6th, 2019

Windfall Elimination Provision Bill Introduced by Texas Congressman

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

October 30, 2019 — For years the curiously named Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) has frustrated countless workers in the public sector. The WEP was created to try to help protect Social Security as well as prevent so called “double-dipping” by public workers who are eligible for pensions as well as Social Security retirement. Most public workers feel that the WEP unfairly takes away some of the benefits they earned from Social Security. Now a Republican Congressman from Texas, Kevin Brady, has proposed its elimination and replacement with a new system. This is his statement:

“For years, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called for a permanent solution to fix WEP. This arbitrary Washington compromise has resulted in unfair treatment for our teachers, fire fighters, and police officers; and Texans simply cannot afford Congress to remain inactive and let this unfair policy be the law of the land.
Now is the time for Congress to put forth a solution that can actually be signed by the President. This legislation permanently repeals the current WEP, and instead uses a fairer formula that treats public servants like all other American workers. Democrats agree that this is a problem we must address now, and we hope they join us in fixing this long-standing problem this year. While I am introducing a bill today, I am committed to staying at the table to get a bill to the President’s desk.”

The WEP is complicated, and relies on a formula. Basically, if you have less than 30 years of substantial earnings subject to Social Security, you will give up a portion of benefit. For example, if you had less than 20 years of paying into the system and became 62 in 2019, you would forfeit $463 of your promised monthly benefit. If you had 25 years the forfeit $231, and $0 if you had 30 years. SSA has a WEP chart to help you figure this out (see below).

Comments: It is anyone’s guess if Brady’s bill will ever become law. Are you affected by it, and do you think the current system is unfair? Let us know in the Comments section below.

For further reading:

Windfall Elimination Factsheet

Posted by Admin on October 30th, 2019

Claiming Social Security: The Most Popular Questions

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

August 14, 2019 — Some of the questions about Social Security that come up most frequently concern claiming benefits. People are confused or unsure about when they can claim, how much they will receive, spousal benefits (including those for divorced people), special filing strategies, etc. This article will go over some of those questions and, hopefully, provide helpful answers.

When can I claim Social Security retirement benefits? Most people have a pretty good idea of the answer to this question – the earliest you can claim is age 62. The longer you wait to claim, the higher your benefit, up until age 70.

What is my “Full Retirement Age” (FRA)? This is the age when you fully qualify for your Social Security benefits. For people born between 1943 and 1954 the FRA is age 66. For those born in 1955 or after, it increases two month per year until it reaches age 67 for those born in 1960 or later. Note that “Full” is not a totally logical term, since if you delay collecting your benefits past your FRA you will get higher than “full” benefits anytime up to age 70.

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Posted by Admin on August 13th, 2019

Did You Hire the Right Financial Advisor?

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

July 15, 2019 — Hiring a good financial advisor is a difficult job for most people.  Although there is no shortage of solicitations that appear in the newspaper, come in the mail, or through a phone call – how do you know if the person who tells you they are so gifted is really that great? Someone who will look out for your interests, not cheat you, protect your hard earned savings, and actually make your savings grow.  After all, your money represents your financial security, which makes making this decision so important and so difficult.

Who Watches Your Account

A while back we profiled a number of tips for hiring a good financial advisor (see Further Reading at end). This feature will build on that and provide some tips for how to evaluate the person you hired, or the one(s) you might be considering for the job.

Seven things to look for

Trust your instincts.  Your intuitions and first impressions are always important. If you feel like you are being swept along into a decision and little voices tell you something might not be right – stop and listen. Further exploration might clear them up, but never dismiss your reservations.

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Posted by Admin on July 14th, 2019