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Trusts, Wills, and Estates: War Stories from a Career Trust Officer

Category: Estate Planning

April 12, 2021 — Today we are fortunate to have an interview with Jim, a retired vice president and trust officer  at a large Pennsylvania bank, who spent his entire career administering estates of all kinds and sizes. We think you will find his real life examples of what to do – and what not to do – in estate planning very useful.

The tips, advice, and experience that Jim brings to this important  topic is critical, since inevitably, everyone needs an estate plan. Jim believes that only about 50-75% of people of retirement age have an estate plan of some kind. Most of those folks have wills, while a much smaller percentage have trusts. As he pointed out early on in our interview,  even if you think you don’t have an estate plan, you actually do. That is because in the event of no will or trust, the government has rules about how your assets will be divided after your death. The problem is that it probably won’t be distributed the way you wanted it to be done.

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Posted by Admin on April 12th, 2021

Overlooking Social Security Spousal Benefits Could Leave Him Clipping Coupons

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

April 5, 2021 – Naturally enough, most people concentrate their focus on their own Social Security retirement benefits. If they are careful, they compare the advantages of taking it early (as soon as age 62), waiting to Full Retirement Age (FRA, which is 67 for those born 1960 or later), or hanging in to get the maximum benefit at age 70. While it is great to know your own situation, most people overlook the importance of the benefits that might apply to their spouses. For some couples, particularly where one member earns much more than the other and Social Security will be the major source of income in old age, a bad decision can be disastrous down the road. This article will lay out the issues involved, so people can decide the best strategy for maximizing their Social Security spousal benefits.

There are two different scenarios to consider: spousal benefits while you are both alive, and survivor benefits when you depart this world. Let us take them one at a time.

  1. Spousal benefits while you are both alive.
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Posted by Admin on April 4th, 2021

Have You Taken Your 2021 RMD Yet: New Rules in Effect

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

March 16, 2021 — If you turned 72 in 2020 or before, you probably will have to take a Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) this year from your IRA and/or 401(k) type plans. That is unlike last year, when COVID relief in the SECURE Act gave everyone a pass on taking the RMD.

All of those years when you were deducting your 401(k) and IRA contributions from your pre-tax income, and enjoyed tax free accumulation of earnings and interest on those investments, come home to roost when you reach a certain age. The law requires that you take an RMD from those retirement funds by a percentage that grows every year. Every cent of those withdrawals is considered taxable as ordinary income. Inherited IRAs and 401(k)s have different rules. Roth IRAs generally do not require RMDs.

The age at which you must start taking your first RMD has changed. If you turned 70 ½ in 2019 or earlier, you need to have taken your first RMD by April 1 of the year after that, and keep making them for the rest of your life.  If your 70th birthday is July 1, 2019 or later, you do not have to take withdrawals until you reach age 72 (first one by April 1 of the following year and Dec. 31 thereafter). The idea for pushing out the requirement by 1½ years is to help retirees accumulate more savings before they have to start withdrawing them. Note if you delay the first one until April 1 the next one has to be paid by December 31. There is currently a bipartisan bill in congress that would extend the age when you have to take your first distribution to 75.

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Posted by Admin on March 15th, 2021

The Cheapest and Most Expensive Places to Retire in the World

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

February 16, 2021 — Last week on this Blog we posed the question, “How Much Is Enough for Retirement“. So when we came across this new study on the cheapest and most expensive places to retire from NetCredit, it seemed like the perfect follow-up.

As most retirees in the US or UK are figuring out, retiring in their own country means they are going to need over half a million dollars in the bank to do it comfortably. If that sounds unreasonable, then retiring abroad might be the next best option. NetCredit’s new study crunched the numbers to find out what it would cost to retire comfortably in (almost) every country around the world.

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Posted by Admin on February 15th, 2021

How Much Is Enough for Retirement?

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

February 8, 2021 — If there was ever a perplexing question it is this one – how much is enough for a comfortable retirement? The short answer is – more than you probably think! The long answer starts with the fact that most people haven’t thought enough about their own situation to come up with a reasonable answer. Once you understand how your expenses match up with your income, then you can start to know how much you need for retirement.

People tend to underestimate several key components of the expense side – like how long they will live and what their medical costs will be, and forget about unexpected expenses like replacement roofs, worn out cars and AC systems, and assistance to family members. They also tend to have a vague idea about their income sources, and overestimate how long their savings will last. Much also depends on your lifestyle – you can live within almost any budget if you match expenses to your income, although it might be hard and require lifestyle changes.

So the first thing to do when trying to calculate how much you need for retirement is get a realistic handle on your budget – matching income to expenses. Income is fairly easy for most people to calculate, while expenses are harder. The expense side of the equation can vary widely, depending on your lifestyle, which fortunately you can modify.

Step #1: Figure Out Your budget (this applies to everyone!).

Until you have a good idea of what your retirement expenses will be and how they match up to your income, you can’t really start planning. It is a critical step to head off what could be a disaster – running out of money way before you or your significant other check out of this world. This budget worksheet in csv format contains most of the items you need to consider when developing a budget, and you can customize it to fit your needs.

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Posted by Admin on February 8th, 2021

The 3 Critical Things About Social Security Most People Don’t Understand

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

January 9, 2020 – Most of the people who took the new version of our popular Social Security IQ Quiz were able to get a passing score of 60%. But there were 3 questions that many people had a lot of difficulty answering correctly. That lack of knowledge, unfortunately, could cost them significant amounts of money over their lifetimes.

Underestimating your Social Security benefits will cost you money

These were the Social Security questions that most people missed, along with the correct answers and more detailed explanations:

  1. How many earning years are used to calculate your Social Security retirement benefit.

Only 49% of quiz takers got this answer correct. The choices were 25, 30, or 35 years – the correct answer was 35 years. While that might not seem that important a detail, it is.

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Posted by Admin on January 9th, 2021

Which States Have No Income Tax – There Are Now 8

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

November 18, 2020 — Finding a state with no income tax can be a good reasons to choose it for retirement for many well-heeled retirees. Up until 2021, only 7 states could claim they have no state income tax. But coming in 2021 an 8th will join the list, Tennessee (the State previously taxed dividends and interest, but not other income). Other states have made moves to make their tax situation more favorable in 2021 as well, mainly by increasing standard deductions and personal exemptions.

These states have no income tax

Starting in 2021 the eight states with no income tax will be: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming. New Hampshire almost makes the list because it only taxes interest and dividends (up until 2021 Tennessee was in the same category).

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Posted by Admin on November 18th, 2020

Replacement Income from Social Security Falling, Might Get Worse

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

November 4, 2020 — Data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services predict that Social Security benefits will provide an ever smaller portion of replacement income for retirees in the years to come. This prediction takes into account the delay in the Full Retirement Age from 65 to 67, along with increases in Part B Medicare premiums and federal taxation. The Centers sees the replacement level of income after those deductions falling from 41% in 1995 to to 29% by 2035. All of which puts more pressure on retirees for other sources of retirement income.

Pandemic might accelerate this. Employees and their employers pay taxes on their wages to fund the Social Security Trust Fund. As people lose their jobs and unemployment rises in the pandemic, and if it that were to persist for a long time, the Trust Fund would be negatively impacted. Social Security currently predicts that it only be able to pay 75% of benefits in 2035, but if a bad economy persists that percentage might even be smaller.

404(k) Balances growing. For those fortunate to have one, 401(k) balances increased through 2019. The median 401(k)/IRA balance for working households nearing retirement rose from $135,000 in 2016 to $144,000 in 2019. Since the stock market has also generally been up in 2020, it stands to reason that those balances are a little higher as 2020 ends. This information comes from the Survey of Consumer Finances by the Federal Reserve and summarized by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College (CRR).

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Posted by Admin on November 2nd, 2020

Answers to the 2020 Social Security IQ Text

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

October 28, 2020 — Thank you for taking our 2020 Social Security IQ Test. We hope you found it useful. (If you haven’t taken it yet, here is the link). Please find below a detailed summary of all the questions and answers, along with an explanation of each correct response to this Social Security text. So far 500 people have taken the latest version; over 10,000 people have taken previous versions. We hope even more take it to advance their Social Security education.

Note: most of the links provided in these explanations about Social Security questions go to excellent advice on the SSA.gov website. The correct answer in each case is indicated in bold either by a ? or a check mark.

Conclusions – Underestimation most frequent kind of incorrect Social Security answer

Of the 500 people taking the Social Security IQ test so far the average score is 64% (we set 60% as the passing score). There were 3 questions that 80% or more folks got right: Full Retirement Age (#1), collecting on the benefits of a divorced spouse (#10), and withdrawing your application within 12 months (#11). There were 4 questions which most people could not answer correctly. Unfortunately, these were mostly questions that are important for Social Security recipients to know.

Underestimating your Social Security benefits will cost you money

The Social Security questions that most people missed had to do with:

-How many years are used to calculate your benefit

-How much your benefit will increase if you wait to claim past your Full Retirement Age (FRA) and the difference between claiming at age 62 vs. 70

-And when a spouse can collect their full spousal benefit.

Unfortunately, underestimating how much they could get by delaying their benefits instead of taking them at the first opportunity could cost them and their spouses a lot of money down the road.

  1. Assuming you were born in 1960 or later, what is considered your Full Retirement Age for Social Security benefit purposes? (The rest of the questions in this quiz assume you were born in 1960 or later, unless otherwise specified).
  •  62
  •  65
  •  66
  •  67?

Comment: “Full Retirement Age” is when you are eligible for your full Social Security benefits without penalty. For those born between 1943 and and 1954, it was age 66. For those born in 1955 and later the FRE increased 2 months per year, until for those born in 1960 and later, it became age 67. 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). 80% got this correct.

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Posted by Admin on October 28th, 2020

The Future of Social Security: Biden vs. Trump

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

October 28, 2020 — Perhaps you have already voted in the U.S. Presidential election. If so, congratulations on fulfilling an important responsibility of citizenship. But if you haven’t voted yet here are some facts, as best we can determine, to help you understand where the two presidential candidates stand on the future of Social Security, one of the most important issues for current and future retirees. For this article we have relied mainly on an excellent article on NextAvenue.org, “What Biden’s Plans Mean for Social Security“.

The nonpartisan Urban Institute think tank analyzed Biden’s plans for Social Security in that article. They concluded that his plan could “close about a quarter of Social Security’s long-term financial shortfall”, which as currently projected would reduce promised benefits by slightly more than 20% in 2035.

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Posted by Admin on October 27th, 2020