Social Security in Four Parts

Image 2Part 4: Effective Claiming Strategies

Social Security benefits serve as a foundation that many Americans will rely heavily on in retirement. Program benefits provide one-third of total income for the elderly population and more than half of the income for a staggering 48% of those over age 65. Yet, despite this heavy reliance, 90% of Americans begin collecting Social Security benefits (at a steep reduction) before attaining their full retirement age. Early filing is linked to an increase in poverty and income inequality among the elderly, which in some cases may be remedied through more informed benefit-claiming decisions. Continue reading

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Social Security in Four Parts

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Part 3: Benefit Categories

The Social Security Act of 1935 and its amendments created four categories of benefits, each based on the earnings records of a covered worker, and each designed to provide a basic level of economic security. In the third segment of our four-part series, we’ll focus on retirement benefits that are linked to the earnings of an individual worker. Continue reading

Social Security in four parts

Social Security ImagePart 2: Eligibility and benefits

In part two of our summary of the Social Security program, we’ll discuss the qualification requirements for retirement benefits, how they are calculated and adjusted, the point at which beneficiaries attain their full retirement age (FRA), and important rules for early or delayed filing. Our final segments will provide a summary of the types of benefits available, and some simple strategies that can help readers maximize their benefits. Continue reading

Social Security in four parts

Social Security

Part 1: history and future

The Social Security Act was signed into law on August 14, 1935, creating a social insurance program to pay retired workers age 65 and older a stable income after retirement. Enacted in the midst of the Great Depression in response to crushing poverty and a shift from agrarian self-sufficiency to post-industrial urbanization, the original Act sought to provide Americans with protection against the “hazards and vicissitudes of life”.  Since its inception, millions of Americans have received benefits from the program, yet despite strong public support, the program has faced a series of funding challenges that continues to threaten its existence. Continue reading

Budgeting with Purpose: why a budget is important and how to make one

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Developing a budget may seem a near perfect manifestation of drudgery, which in turn may help explain why so few people expend their time and energy creating one. While budgeting is not an especially creative endeavor (after all, who wants a creative budget?), the effort can pay dividends by placing you more firmly in control of how your money is being allocated. A budget serves as the foundation of a good financial plan. It helps you make informed decisions related to savings, investments, and the trade-off between current and future consumption. Continue reading

What is a retirement income planner and why do you need one?

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Spend an hour in your local library reviewing digitized newspapers from recent decades and the conspicuous dearth of articles focusing on retirement planning may seem odd. Our focus on retirement planning is a relatively recent development and the Retirement Income Planner is a job that did not exist just a few decades ago. Unlike the Social Media Managers and App developers that emerged from nascent technology, the history of financial services predates the Greek Empire, and a modern stockbroker or insurance salesperson would be recognizable to someone alive in the early decades of the last century. Continue reading

A day in the life: how thinking about retirement today can help you down the road

imagesImagine that you’re playing a game of Charades and you’ve been assigned the task of communicating the process of retirement planning using only a series of gestures. Do you reach for your imaginary calculator and frantically punch numbers into thin air while transmuting the imaginary results onto your imaginary blackboard? Recognizing what a lousy hand that you’ve been dealt, do you secretly wish that you’d have drawn the stroke-victim card instead? Continue reading

10 Painless Financial Resolutions You Can Actually Keep

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A new year is a time for self-improvement and renewal. Where bad habits and regret are cast aside and replaced with virtuous activities that are intended to make us better human beings. Good intentions and optimism may carry the day and help some attain their goals of better health, greater wealth, or a host of other desirable outcomes. The odds, however, are stacked in favor of inertia with more than 80% of new year’s resolutions failing by mid-February. Continue reading

Planning for Required Minimum Distributions

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Tax deferral is a powerful wealth-building tool, enabling individuals to delay paying taxes on their investment earnings and allowing more of these earnings to compound over time. But unlike diamonds or that cast-iron skillet that you inherited from your grandmother, tax deferral doesn’t last forever. Planning for required minimum distributions (RMDs) is an important part of a sound retirement income plan. Continue reading

2018 Medicare Open Enrollment: a shopper’s guide

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It’s that time of year again. If you’re one of the roughly 44 million Americans enrolled in Medicare, get ready for some year-end shopping. Medicare’s annual open enrollment period runs from October 15th until December 7th and presents seniors with a great opportunity to manage their health care costs for the coming year. Any changes or new enrollment will become effective on January 1, 2019.

There are several important changes to the Medicare program for 2019, including the elimination of the coverage gap for certain prescription drugs and updates to the Medicare Plan Finder tool that will make it easier to use. Beneficiaries should note that Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans can and do make changes throughout the year that may affect their coverage. And even if you’re content with your existing plan, options with better coverage, fewer restrictions, and lower costs may be available. Now is your chance to find them. Continue reading