2019 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 60 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, 2020. Continue reading

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2019 Medicare Mailings: culling for dollars

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A visit to the mailbox is an unrewarding chore for many of us, and retirees are no exception. Slogging through a mountain of credit card applications, donation requests, assorted fliers, catalogs and magazine offers are enough to make answering a robocall from a political super PAC seem like an attractive diversion. Continue reading

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

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

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

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

Navigating the long-term care planning labyrinth

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No one wants to think that they or someone they love will need long-term care services, but with the population of older Americans set to rapidly expand it is a reality that is difficult to ignore. A recent episode of the television news program 60 Minutes followed the progression of an Alzheimer’s disease patient, Carol Daly, and her husband Mike. Carol’s progressive deterioration and the physical and emotional toll that the disease takes on her caregiver husband is heartbreaking and serves as a poignant reminder of the need to plan for a long-term care event. Continue reading

Gifts that give back: Can the Qualified Charitable Distribution help fill a void in charitable giving?

Following the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December 2017, the law’s impact on charitable organizations has come to the fore. Although the law provides for an increase in cash gifts to public charities from 50% of the donor’s adjusted gross income (AGI) to 60% of AGI, the donor must itemize their deductions to realize a tax benefit for their gift. The new law’s increase in the standard deduction to $12,000 for single filers and $24,000 for married couples filing a joint return is expected to result in a sharp reduction in the number of households that itemize their deductions, reducing the marginal tax benefit of gifts to charity by more than 25%. The impact of the law on charities remains to be seen, but with an estimated 72% of charitable gifts coming from individual donors it may be profound. Fortunately, the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015 has made permanent a hitherto underutilized incentive for older Americans to give to charity. The Qualified Charitable Deduction (QCD) is in vogue once again. Continue reading