Archive | Financial Planning For Women RSS feed for this section

Things to Consider Before You Claim Social Security

31 Jul

Whether you want to leave work at 62, 67, or 72, claiming the retirement benefits you are entitled to by federal law is no casual decision. You will want to consider a few key factors first.

How long do you think you will live? While no one knows the answer to this question, some common sense considerations of overall health and family history can help guide you as you plan. If you have a feeling you will live into your nineties, for example, it may be better to claim later. If you start receiving Social Security benefits at or after Full Retirement Age (which varies from age 66 to 67 for those born in 1943 or later), your monthly benefit will be larger than if you had claimed at 62. If you file for benefits at FRA or later, chances are you probably a) worked into your mid-sixties, b) are in fairly good health, and c) have sizable retirement savings.1

If you really need retirement income, then claiming at or close to 62 might make more sense. If you have an average lifespan, you will, theoretically, receive the average amount of lifetime benefits regardless of when you claim them. Essentially, the choice comes down to more lifetime payments that are smaller versus fewer lifetime payments that are larger. For the record, Social Security’s actuaries project that the average 65-year-old man to live 84.0 years, and the average 65-year-old woman, 86.5 years.2

Will you keep working? You might not want to work too much after claiming, since earning too much income may result in your Social Security being withheld or taxed.

Prior to Full Retirement Age, your benefits may be lessened if your income tops certain limits. In 2018, if you are aged 62 to 65, receive Social Security, and have an income over $17,040, $1 of your benefits will be withheld for every $2. If you receive Social Security and turn 66 later this year, then $1 of your benefits will be withheld for every $3 that you earn above $45,360.3

Social Security income may also be taxed above the program’s “combined income” threshold. (“Combined income” = adjusted gross income + nontaxable interest + 50% of Social Security benefits.) Single filers who have combined incomes from $25,000 to $34,000 may have to pay federal income tax on up to 50% of their Social Security benefits, and that also applies to joint filers with combined incomes of $32,000 to $44,000. Single filers with combined incomes above $34,000 and joint filers whose combined incomes surpass $44,000 may have to pay federal income taxes on up to 85% of their Social Security benefits.3

When does your spouse want to file? Timing does matter, especially for two-income couples. If the lower-earning spouse collects Social Security benefits first, and then the higher-earning spouse collects them later, that may result in greater lifetime benefits for the household.4

Finally, how much in benefits might be coming your way? Visit SSA.gov to find out, and keep in mind that Social Security calculates your monthly benefit using a formula based on your 35 highest-earning years. If you have worked for less than 35 years, Social Security fills in the “blank years” with zeros. If you have, say, just 33 years of work experience, working another couple years might translate to a slightly higher Social Security income.1

A claiming decision may be one of the most significant financial decisions of your life. Your choices should be evaluated years in advance – with insight from the financial professional who has helped you plan for retirement.

At BrioWealth, we believe that financial planning should be done for the purpose of giving your life greater confidence, security and joy. That’s why we work closely with our clients to understand their personal goals and passions and build a plan around that. As retirement income specialists, BrioWealth helps our clients build wealth and create smart strategies for secure, sustainable retirement income. Call us at 877-606-1484 or visit http://www.briowealth.com to start creating your life enhancing financial plan!

Sources:

1 – MarketWatch.com, November 2, 2019

2 – SSA.gov, May 28, 2020

3 – BlackRock.com, May 28, 2020

4 – MarketWatch.com, November 11, 2019

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

 

 

6 Characteristics of the Millionaire Next Door

26 Sep

shutterstock_355260554Just how many millionaires does America have? By the latest estimation of Spectrem Group, a research firm studying affluent and high net worth investors, it has more than ever before. In 2015, the U.S. had 10.4 million households with assets of $1 million or greater, aside from their homes. That represents a 3% increase from 2014. Impressively, 1.2 million of those households were worth between $5 million and $25 million.1

How did these people become rich? Did they come from money? In most cases, the answer is no. The 2016 edition of U.S. Trust’s Insights on Wealth and Worth survey shares characteristics of nearly 700 Americans with $3 million or more in investable assets. Seventy-seven percent of the survey respondents reported growing up in middle class or working class households. A slight majority (52%) said that the bulk of their wealth came from earned income; 32% credited investing.2

It appears most of these individuals benefited not from silver spoons in their mouths, but from taking a particular outlook on life and following sound financial principles. U.S. Trust asked these multi-millionaires to state the three values that were most emphasized to them by their parents. The top answers?

  • Educational achievement
  • Financial discipline
  • The importance of working.2

Are these people mostly entrepreneurs? No. The aforementioned Spectrem Group survey found that millionaires and multi-millionaires come from all kinds of career fields. The most commonly cited occupations? Manager (16%), professional (15%), and educator (13%).4 

Here are 6 Characteristics That a Majority of the Millionaires Share

  1. Education is a solid first step toward wealth. There may be a strong correlation. Ninety percent of those polled in a recent BMO Private Bank millionaire survey said that they had earned college degrees. (The National Center for Education Statistics notes that in 2015, only 36% of Americans aged 25-29 were college graduates.)3
  2. Interestingly, a lasting marriage may also help. Studies from Ohio State University and the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) both conclude that married people end up economically better off by the time they retire than singles who have never married. In fact, NBER finds that, on average, married people will have ten times the assets of single people by the start of retirement. Divorce, on the other hand, often wrecks finances. The OSU study found that the average divorced person loses 77% of the wealth he or she had while married.3
  3. Most of the multi-millionaires in the U.S. Trust study got off to an early start. On average, they began saving money at 14; held their first job at 15; and invested in equities by the time they were 25.
  4. Most of them have invested conventionally. Eighty-three percent of those polled by U.S. Trust credited buy-and-hold investment strategies for part of their wealth. Eighty-nine percent reported that equities and debt instruments had generated most of their portfolio gains.2
  5. Many of these millionaires keep a close eye on taxes & risk. Fifty-five percent agreed with the statement that it is “more important to minimize the impact of taxes when making investment decisions than it is to pursue the highest possible returns regardless of the tax consequences.” In a similar vein, 60% said that lessening their risk exposure is important, even if they end up with less yield as a consequence.2   
  6. Here is one last detail that is certainly worth noting. According to Spectrem Group, 78% of millionaires turn to financial professionals for help managing their investments.4

Julie Newcomb, a Certified Financial Planner™ in Orange County, CA, specializes in financial planning for women.  As a wife, mom and business owner, Julie understands the pressures and challenges most women feel on a daily basis as they juggle many important priorities. Julie’s favorite thing about her job is the ability to give women peace of mind when they entrust her with their finances. To learn more about Julie Newcomb Financial, go to julienewcomb.com.

Sources:

1 – cnbc.com/2016/03/07/record-number-of-millionaires-living-in-the-us.html [3/7/16]

2 – forbes.com/sites/maggiemcgrath/2016/05/23/the-6-most-important-wealth-building-lessons-from-multi-millionaires/ [5/23/16]

3 – businessinsider.com/ap-liz-weston-secrets-of-next-door-millionaires-2016-8 [8/22/16]

4 – cnbc.com/2016/05/05/are-you-a-millionaire-in-the-making.html [5/5/16]

 

Protecting Your Parents From Elder Financial Abuse  

30 Aug

 

shutterstock_204442552We are becoming more familiar with the notion of financial abuse targeting elders – scams and other exploitation targeting the savings of people aged 60 and older – but many may think, “it won’t happen to my family” or “my relative is too smart to be taken in by this.”

These assumptions are only wishful thinking; this sort of fraud is on the rise, so it’s important to talk to your loved ones about what to look for, and how they can protect their finances.

More common than you think. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Elder Justice Initiative offers a sobering statistic: in the United States alone, multiple studies have found that, every year, 3-5% of seniors endures financial abuse by family members. This form of exploitation is, typically, one of the top two most frequently reported means of elder abuse.1

Talk about money. It can be uncomfortable to talk with family about financial issues, but this is often the best first step toward guarding against financial abuse. Find out the information you would already need to know in the event of a sudden calamity.

Questions to ask include:

  • Where is the important paperwork kept – i.e. bills, deeds, and wills?
  • Who are the professionals they work with – accountants, lawyers, and those who assist with financial matters?2

It’s also important for you to have a clear idea in what sorts of accounts and investments your parents or loved ones keep their money. You will also want to have a conversation about when and under what circumstances they would like for you to step in and handle their finances for them.2

 Trouble takes many forms. Not all financial trouble that elders experience is necessarily a sign of abuse, but having open and clear communication can be a great help. Look for unpaid bills piling up, creditor notices, and suspicious activity on their bank accounts.2

There are a number of scams out there that target the elderly, in particular, and many of them come via telephone calls. There are scammers who pose as officials from a sweepstakes, lottery, or some other contest claiming that your parent or loved one is in line to receive a prize. Others will pretend to be from the Internal Revenue Service and threaten legal action over some long-forgotten overdue balance. The real IRS only sends notices via regular mail, of course, but that can be easily forgotten when dealing with a wily and confrontational con artist.2

Talk about these scams with your parents or loved ones. Make sure that they understand that they shouldn’t give out Medicare or Social Security numbers, and always be absolutely certain before signing anything, particularly legal documents, contracts, and anything to do with making an investment. For the latter, if you don’t already know the people who handle your financial matters for your parents or loved ones, suggest that a meeting be arranged and, if necessary, that they be instructed to work with you under certain circumstances.2

 Stay informed. There are a number of resources to keep you and your parents or loved ones aware of fraud, both in terms of new scams and even instances of elder financial abuse in your area. StopFraud.gov offers a number of resources and tips for identifying and reporting the financial exploitation of elders. The AARP website features a Fraud Watch program and offers and interactive national fraud map that can look at specific reports and alerts from law enforcement.2,3,4

With careful planning and communication, you can make a real effort to protect your parents and other elders in your family from an embarrassing and costly set of circumstances.

Julie Newcomb, a Certified Financial Planner™ in Orange County, CA, specializes in financial planning for women.  As a wife, mom and business owner, Julie understands the pressures and challenges most women feel on a daily basis as they juggle many important priorities. Julie’s favorite thing about her job is the ability to give women peace of mind when they entrust her with their finances. To learn more about Julie Newcomb Financial, go to julienewcomb.com.

Sources:

1 – justice.gov/elderjustice/research/prevalence-and-diversity.html [7/14/16]

2 – nbcnews.com/business/retirement/worried-about-elder-financial-abuse-how-protect-your-parents-n559151 [4/20/16]

3 – stopfraud.gov/protect.html [7/14/16]
4 – action.aarp.org/site/SPageNavigator/FraudMap.html [7/14/16]

How Millennials Can Get Off to a Good Financial Start

17 Jun

shutterstock_260209835You might be a millennial reading a practical article about your finances, but most likely, you are a concerned mom or dad thinking about your millennial son or daughter and their financial future. As you think about your own path, maybe you look back with confidence as you see the fruits of your discipline and saving, but maybe you look back with regret and don’t want your kids to make the same mistakes you did when it comes to saving for retirement.

Young or old, we all know the value of saving for retirement as early as possible, but how many of us do/did that?

Prudential Financial is currently running an ad campaign where they ask a group of young people to paint a line next to the age they think they should start saving for retirement. Next, they asked a group of older people to paint a line next to the age when they ACTUALLY started saving for retirement. They call this the “action gap.” Here are some practical steps to take and important habits to form to help close the action gap for the next generation.

Reduce your debt. You probably have some student loan debt to pay off. According to the Institute for College Access and Success, which tracks college costs, the average education debt owed by a college graduate is now $28,950. Hopefully, yours is not that high and you are paying off whatever education debt remains via an automatic monthly deduction from your checking account. If you are struggling to pay your student loan off, take a look at some of the income-driven repayment plans offered to federal student loan borrowers, and options for refinancing your loan into a lower-rate one (which could potentially save you thousands).1

You cannot build wealth simply by wiping out debt, but freeing yourself of major consumer debts frees you to build wealth like nothing else. The good news is that saving, investing, and reducing your debt are not mutually exclusive. As financially arduous as it may sound, you should strive to do all three at once. If you do, you may be surprised five or ten years from now at the transformation of your personal finances.

Save for retirement. If you are working full-time for a decently-sized employer, chances are a retirement plan is available to you. If you are not automatically enrolled in the plan, go ahead and sign up for it. You can contribute a little of each paycheck. Even if you start by contributing only $50 or $100 per pay period, you will start far ahead of many of your peers.1

Away from the workplace, traditional IRAs offer you the same perks. Roth IRAs and Roth workplace retirement plans are the exceptions – when you “go Roth,” your contributions are not tax-deductible, but you can eventually withdraw the earnings tax-free after age 59½ as long as you abide by IRS rules.1,2

Workplace retirement plans are not panaceas – they can charge administrative fees exceeding 1% and their investment choices can sometimes seem limited. Consumer pressure is driving these administrative fees down, however; in 2015, they were lower than they had been in a decade and they are expected to lessen further.3

Keep an eye on your credit score. Paying off your student loans and getting started saving for retirement are a great start, but what about your immediate future? You’re entitled to three free credit reports per year from TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. Take advantage of them and watch for unfamiliar charges and other suspicious entries. Be sure to get in touch with the company that issued your credit report if you find anything that shouldn’t be there. Maintaining good credit can mean a great deal to your long-term financial goals, so monitoring your credit reports is a good habit to get into.1

Do not fear Wall Street. We all remember the Great Recession and the wild ride investments took. The stock market plunged, but then it recovered – in fact, the S&P 500 index, the benchmark that is synonymous in investing shorthand for “the market,” gained back all the loss from that plunge in a little over four years. Two years later, it reached new record peaks, and it is only a short distance from those peaks today.

Equity investments – the kind Wall Street is built on – offer you the potential for double-digit returns in a good year. As interest rates are still near historic lows, many fixed-income investments are yielding very little right now, and cash just sits there. If you want to make your money grow faster than inflation – and you certainly do – then equity investing is the way to go. To avoid it is to risk falling behind and coming up short of retirement money, unless you accumulate it through other means. Some workplace retirement plans even feature investments that will direct a sizable portion of your periodic contribution into equities, then adjust it so that you are investing more conservatively as you age.

Invest regularly; stay invested. When you keep putting money toward your retirement effort and that money is invested, there can often be a snowball effect. In fact, if you invest $5,000 at age 25 and just watch it sit there for 35 years as it grows 6% a year, the math says you will have $38,430 with annual compounding at age 60. In contrast, if you invest $5,000 each year under the same conditions, with annual compounding you are looking at $596,050 at age 60. That is a great argument for saving and investing consistently through the years.5

It is never too early to start working with a financial advisor (and you don’t have to be wealthy) so you can set some realistic goals and a strategy for increasing your retirement savings as time goes on.

Julie Newcomb, a Certified Financial Planner™ in Orange County, CA, specializes in financial planning for women.  As a wife, mom and business owner, Julie understands the pressures and challenges most women feel on a daily basis as they juggle many important priorities. Julie’s favorite thing about her job is the ability to give women peace of mind when they entrust her with their finances. To learn more about Julie Newcomb Financial, go to julienewcomb.com.

Sources:

1 – gobankingrates.com/personal-finance/money-steps-need-after-graduating/ [5/20/16]

2 – usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2015/07/03/money-tips-gen-y-adviceiq/29624039/ [7/3/15]

3 – tinyurl.com/hgzgsw4 [12/2/15]

4 – marketwatch.com/story/bear-markets-can-be-shorter-than-you-think-2016-03-21 [3/21/16]

5 – investor.gov/tools/calculators/compound-interest-calculator [5/26/16]

5 Things to Consider When One Spouse Retires Before the Other

26 May

shutterstock_202991146While all couples talk about the big picture of saving for retirement, not all consider the ramifications of what happens when one spouse retires before the other. Sometimes that reality reflects an age difference, other times one person wants to keep working for income or health coverage reasons. If you retire years before your spouse or partner does, you may want to consider how your lifestyle might change as well as your household finances.

#1: How will retiring affect your identity?

If you are one of those people who derives a great deal of pride and sense of self from your profession, leaving that career for life around the house may feel odd. Who are you now? Who will you become next? Can you retire and still be who you were? Hopefully, your spouse recognizes that you may have to entertain these questions. They may prompt some soul-searching, even enough to affect a relationship.

#2: How much down time do you want?

That is worth discussing with your spouse or partner. If you absolutely hate your job, you may want weeks, months, or years of relaxation after leaving it. You can figure out what to do next in good time. Alternately, you may see every day of retirement as a day for achievement; a day to get something done or connect with someone new. Your significant other should know whether you prefer an active, ambitious retirement or a more relaxed one.

#3: How will household chores or caregiving be handled?

Picture your loved one arising at 6:30am on a January morning, bundling up, heading for work and navigating inclement weather, all as you sleep in. Your spouse or partner may grow a bit envious of your retirement freedom. One way to offset that envy is to assume more of the everyday chores around the house.

For many baby boomers, caregiving is also a daily event. When one spouse or partner retires, that can rebalance the caregiving “equation.” One or more individuals have to provide 100% of the eldercare needed, and retirement can make shared percentages more equitable or allow a greater role for a son or daughter in that caregiving. Some people even retire to become a caregiver to Mom or Dad.

#4: Do you have kids living at home?

Adult children? Right now, in this country, every fifth young adult is living with his or her parents. With so many new college graduates having to accept part-time or low-paying service industry jobs, and with education loan debt averaging roughly $30,000 per indebted graduate, this situation will persist for years and, perhaps, even become a new normal.1

#5: You and your loved ones may find yourself on different timetables.

Maybe your spouse or partner works from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in a high-stress job. Maybe your children attend school on roughly the same schedule. How do they get to and from those places? Probably through a rush-hour commute, either in a car or amid the crowds lined up for mass transit. If you have abandoned the daily grind, you may have an enthusiasm and a chattiness in the evening that they lack. Maybe they just want to unwind at 6:30pm, but you might be anxious to reconnect with them after a day alone at home.

Talk about retirement before you retire. What should your daily life look like? What are the most important things you want out of the retirement experience? How do your answers to those questions align or contrast with the answers of your best friend? As you retire, make sure that your spouse or partner knows your point of view, and be sure to respect his or hers in the bargain.

Julie Newcomb, a Certified Financial Planner™ in Orange County, CA, specializes in financial planning for women.  As a wife, mom and business owner, Julie understands the pressures and challenges most women feel on a daily basis as they juggle many important priorities. Julie’s favorite thing about her job is the ability to give women peace of mind when they entrust her with their finances. To learn more about Julie Newcomb Financial, go to julienewcomb.com.

  

Souces:

1 – chicagotribune.com/business/success/savingsgame/tca-boomerang-children-affecting-parents-retirement-plans-20160413-story.html [4/13/16]

 

Should You Plan to Retire on 80% of Your Income?

30 Apr

shutterstock_296967869A classic retirement planning rule states that you should retire on 80% of the income you earned in your last year of work. Is this old axiom still true, or does it need reconsidering? Some new research suggests that retirees may not need that much annual income to keep up their standard of living.

The 80% rule is really just a guideline. It refers to 80% of a retiree’s final yearly gross income, rather than his or her net pay. The difference between gross income and wages after withholdings and taxes is significant to say the least.1

The major financial challenge for the new retiree is how to replace his or her paycheck, not his or her gross income. So concluded Texas Tech University professor Michael Finke, who analyzed the 80% rule last year and published his conclusions in Research, a magazine for financial services industry professionals. Finke concluded that the typical retiree could probably sustain their lifestyle with no more than 77% of an end salary, or 60% of his or her average annual lifetime income.1

Retirees need to determine the expenses that will diminish in retirement. Some examples include:

  • You will no longer be deferring part of your income to retirement savings. This could range from as little as 5% up to 25% of your income.
  • Contributions to Social Security and Medicare.
  • Cost of your daily commute to work and the expenses that accompany it.
  • Most people retire into a lower income tax bracket.
  • You will no longer need to purchase work attire and incur the associated dry-cleaning expenses.

New retirees may not necessarily find themselves living on less. The retirement experience differs for everyone, and so does retiree personal spending. A timeline of typical retiree spending resembles a “smile.” A 2013 study from investment research firm Morningstar noted that a retiree household’s inflation-adjusted spending usually dips at the start of retirement, bottoms out in the middle of the retirement experience, and then increases toward the very end.2

A retirement budget is a very good idea. There will be some out-of-budget costs, of course, ranging from the pleasant to the unpleasant. Those financial exceptions aside, abiding by a monthly budget (with or without the use of free online tools) may help you to rein in any questionable spending.

Any retirement income strategy should be personalized. Your own strategy should be based on an accurate, detailed assessment of your income needs and your available income resources. That information will help you discern just how much income you will need when retired.

Julie Newcomb, a Certified Financial Planner™ in Orange County, CA, specializes in financial planning for women.  As a wife, mom and business owner, Julie understands the pressures and challenges most women feel on a daily basis as they juggle many important priorities. Julie’s favorite thing about her job is the ability to give women peace of mind when they entrust her with their finances. To learn more about Julie Newcomb Financial, go to julienewcomb.com.

Sources:

1 – marketwatch.com/story/you-may-need-less-retirement-income-than-you-think-2015-11-30 [12/24/15]

2 – money.cnn.com/2015/12/02/retirement/retirement-income/ [12/2/15]

 

Could Social Security Really Go Away?

1 Apr

shutterstock_226983016 copy 2As we continue to hear warnings that Americans are not adequately saving for retirement, we hear similarly dire news about the future of Social Security funds. But will Social Security actually run out of money in the 2030s? The reality is that the extreme versions of the warnings assume that no action will be taken to address Social Security’s financial challenges.

So what’s causing the problem?

Social Security is being strained by a giant demographic shift. In 2030, more than 20% of the U.S. population will be 65 or older. In 2010, only 13% of the nation was that old. In 1970, less than 10% of Americans were in that age group.1

Demand for Social Security benefits has increased, and the ratio of retirees to working-age adults has changed. In 2010, the Census Bureau determined that there were about 21 seniors (people aged 65 or older) for every 100 workers. By 2030, the Bureau projects that there will be 35 seniors for every 100 workers.1

As payroll taxes fund Social Security, the program faces a major dilemma. Actually, it faces two.

Social Security maintains two trust funds. When you read a sentence stating that “Social Security could run out of money by 2035,” that statement refers to the projected shortfall of the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust. The OASDI is the main reservoir of Social Security benefits, from which monthly payments are made to seniors. The latest Social Security Trustees report indeed concludes that the OASDI Trust could be exhausted by 2035 from years of cash outflows exceeding cash inflows.2,3

Congress just put a patch on Social Security’s other, arguably more pressing problem. Social Security’s Disability Insurance (SSDI) Trust Fund risked being unable to pay out 100% of scheduled benefits to SSDI recipients this year, but the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 directed a slightly greater proportion of payroll taxes funding Social Security into the DI trust for the short term. This should give the DI Trust enough revenue to pay out 100% of benefits through 2022. Funding it adequately after 2022 remains an issue.4

If the OASDI Trust is exhausted in 2035, what would happen to retirement benefits? They would decrease. Imagine Social Security payments shrinking 21%. If Congress does not act to remedy Social Security’s cash flow situation before then, Social Security Trustees forecast that a 21% cut may be necessary in 2035 to ensure payment of benefits through 2087.3

No one wants to see that happen, so what might Congress do to address the crisis? Three ideas in particular have gathered support.

*Raise the cap on Social Security taxes. Currently, employers and employees each pay a 6.2% payroll tax to fund Social Security (the self-employed pay 12.4% of their earnings into the program). The earnings cap on the tax in 2016 is $118,500, so any earned income above that level is not subject to payroll tax. Lifting (or even abolishing) that cap would bring Social Security more payroll tax revenue, specifically from higher-income Americans.3

*Adjust the full retirement age. Should it be raised to 68? How about 70? Some people see merit in this, as many baby boomers may work and live longer than their parents did. In theory, it could promote longer careers and shorter retirements, and thereby lessen demand for Social Security benefits. Healthier and wealthier baby boomers might find the idea acceptable, but poorer and less healthy boomers might not.3

*Calculate COLAs differently. Social Security uses the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Workers and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) in figuring cost-of-living adjustments. Many senior advocates argue that the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E) should be used instead. The CPI-E often gives more weight to health care expenses and housing costs than the CPI-W. Not only that, the CPI-E only considers the cost of living for people 62 and older. That last feature may also be its biggest drawback. Since it only includes some of the American population in its calculations, its detractors argue that it may not measure inflation as well as the broader CPI-W.3

Social Security could still face a shortfall even if all of these ideas were adopted. The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College estimates that if all of these “fixes” were put into play today, the OASDI Trust would still face a revenue shortage in 2035.3

In future decades, Social Security may not be able to offer retirees what it does now, unless dramatic moves are made on Capitol Hill. In the worst-case scenario, monthly benefits would be cut to keep the program solvent. A depressing thought, but one worth remembering as you plan for the future.

Julie Newcomb, a Certified Financial Planner™ in Orange County, CA, specializes in financial planning for women.  As a wife, mom and business owner, Julie understands the pressures and challenges most women feel on a daily basis as they juggle many important priorities. Julie’s favorite thing about her job is the ability to give women peace of mind when they entrust her with their finances. To learn more about Julie Newcomb Financial, go to julienewcomb.com.

Sources:

1 – money.usnews.com/money/retirement/articles/2014/06/16/the-youngest-baby-boomers-turn-50 [6/16/14]

2 – fool.com/retirement/general/2016/03/20/the-most-important-social-security-chart-youll-eve.aspx [3/20/16]

3 – fool.com/retirement/general/2016/03/19/1-big-problem-with-the-3-most-popular-social-secur.aspx [3/19/16]

4 – marketwatch.com/story/crisis-in-social-security-disability-insurance-averted-but-not-gone-2015-11-30 [11/30/15]

4 Smart Financial Moves to Finish 2015

4 Dec

Decembe 2015There are just a few weeks left in December! And, while your mind might be filled with holiday parties and gift shopping, this is also the time of year to tie a neat little bow on your financial picture so that you’re not kicking yourself in 2016.

 You can start here: Consider the tax impact of 2015 transactions.

  • Did you sell real property this year?
  • Did you start a business?
  • Have you exercised a stock option?
  • Could any large commissions or bonuses come your way before January?
  • Did you sell an investment held outside of a tax-deferred account?

Any of this might significantly affect your 2015 taxes. So, here are some strategic ways to offset your earnings.

#1 Make a charitable gift before New Year’s Day. You can claim the deduction on your tax return, provided you itemize your 2015 tax year deductions with Schedule A. The paper trail is important here.1

If you give cash, you need to document it. Even small contributions need to be demonstrated by a bank record, payroll deduction record, credit card statement, or written communication from the charity with the date and amount. Incidentally, the IRS does not equate a pledge with a donation. If you pledge $2,000 to a charity in December but only end up gifting $500 before 2015 ends, you can only deduct $500.1

Are you gifting appreciated securities? If you have owned them for more than a year, you will be in line to take a deduction for 100% of their fair market value and avoid capital gains tax that would have resulted from simply selling the investment and then donating the proceeds. (Of course, if your investment is a loser, it might be better to sell it and donate the money so you can claim a loss on the sale and deduct a charitable contribution equal to the proceeds.)2

Does the value of your gift exceed $250? If you gift that amount or larger to a qualified charitable organization, you will need a receipt or a detailed verification form from the charity. You also have to file Form 8283 when your total deduction for non-cash contributions or property in a year exceeds $500.1

If you aren’t sure if an organization is eligible to receive charitable gifts, check it out at irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Exempt-Organizations-Select-Check.

#2 Contribute more to your retirement plan. If you haven’t turned 70½ this year and you participate in a traditional (i.e., non-Roth) qualified retirement plan or have a traditional IRA, you can cut your 2015 taxable income through a contribution. Should you be in the 35% federal tax bracket, you can save $1,925 in taxes as a byproduct of a $5,500 regular IRA contribution.3,4

If you are self-employed and don’t have a solo 401(k) or something similar, look into whether you can still establish and fund such a plan before the end of the year. For the tax year 2015, you can contribute up to $18,000 to any kind of 401(k), 403(b), or 457 plan, with a $6,000 catch-up contribution allowed if you are age 50 or older. Your 2015 contribution to a Roth or traditional IRA may be made as late as April 15, 2016. There is no merit in waiting, however, since delaying your contribution only delays tax-advantaged compounding of those dollars.4,5

#3 See if you can take a home office deduction. If your income is high and you find yourself in one of the upper tax brackets, look into this. You may be able to legitimately write off expenses linked to the portion of your home used to exclusively conduct your business. (The percentage of costs you may deduct depends on the percentage of the square footage of your residence you devote to your business activities.) If you qualify for this tax break, part of your rent, insurance, utilities and repairs may be deductible.6

#4 Practice tax loss harvesting. You could sell underperforming stocks in your portfolio – enough to rack up at least $3,000 in capital losses. In fact, you can use this tactic to offset all of your total capital gains for a given tax year. Losses that exceed the $3,000 yearly limit may be rolled over into 2016 (and future tax years) to offset ordinary income or capital gains again.8

Julie Newcomb, a Certified Financial Planner™ in Orange County, CA, specializes in financial planning for women.  As a wife, mom and business owner, Julie understands the pressures and challenges most women feel on a daily basis as they juggle many important priorities. Julie’s favorite thing about her job is the ability to give women peace of mind when they entrust her with their finances. To learn more about Julie Newcomb Financial, go to julienewcomb.com.

Sources:

1 – irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/Six-Tips-for-Charitable-Taxpayers [5/19/15]

2 – philanthropy.com/article/Donors-Often-Overlook-Benefits/148561/ [8/29/14]

3 – irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/Traditional-and-Roth-IRAs [3/18/15]

4 – turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tools/tax-tips/General-Tax-Tips/4-Last-Minute-Ways-to-Reduce-Your-Taxes/INF22115.html [10/20/15]

5 – forbes.com/sites/ashleaebeling/2015/10/21/irs-announces-2016-retirement-plans-contribution-limits-for-401ks-and-more/ [10/21/15]

6 – irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Home-Office-Deduction [10/16/15]

7 – bankrate.com/finance/insurance/health-savings-account-rules-and-regulations.aspx [10/7/15]

8 – fidelity.com/viewpoints/personal-finance/tax-loss-harvesting [9/9/15]

Which Financial Documents Should You Keep?

27 Feb

shutterstock_118108942When you feel like you are buried in paperwork, the idea of tossing out all your financial documents might sound wonderful yet incredibly frightening at the same time. What do I need to keep and how long do I need to keep it? Many people have the same concerns, so they end up keeping everything…everywhere – on the kitchen table, underneath old newspapers, in the hall closet, in the basement. If this describes your financial “filing system,” you may have a tough time keeping tabs on your financial life. 2015 is still young, start the year off right with an easy-to-follow list of what to keep and what to toss!

One large file cabinet may suffice. You might prefer a few storage boxes, or stackable units sold at your local big-box retailer. Whatever you choose, here is what should go inside:

Investment statements. Organize them by type: IRA statements, 401(k) statements, mutual fund statements. The annual statements are the ones that really matter; you may decide to forego filing the quarterlies or monthlies.

When it comes to your IRA or 401(k), is it wise to retain your Form 8606s (which report nondeductible contributions to traditional IRAs), your Form 5498s (the “Fair Market Value Information” statements that your IRA custodian sends you each May), and your Form 1099-Rs (which report IRA income distributions).1

In addition, you will want to retain any record of your original investment in a fund or a stock. (This will help you determine capital gains or losses. Your annual statement will show you the dividend or capital gains distribution.)

Bank statements. If you have any fear of being audited, keep the last three years’ worth of them on file. You may question whether the paper trail has to be that long, but under certain circumstances (lawsuit, divorce, past debts) it may be wise to keep more than three years of statements on file.

Credit card statements. These are less necessary to have around than many people think, but you might want to keep any statements detailing tax-related purchases for up to seven years.

Mortgage documents, mortgage statements and HELOC statements. As a rule, keep mortgage statements for the ownership period of the property plus seven years. As for your mortgage documents, you may wish to keep them for the ownership period of the property plus ten years (though your county recorder’s office likely has copies).

Your annual Social Security benefits statement. Keep the most recent one, as it shows your earnings record from the day you started working. Please note, however: if you see an error, you will want to have your W-2 or tax return for the particular year on hand to help Social Security correct it.2

Federal and state tax returns. The IRS wants you to hang onto your returns until the period of limitations runs out – that is, the time frame in which you can claim a credit or refund. Keep three years of federal (and state) tax records on hand, and up to seven years to be really safe. Tax records pertaining to real property or “real assets” should be kept for as long as you own the asset (and for at least seven years after you sell, exchange or liquidate it).3

Payroll statements. What if you own a business or are self-employed? Retain your payroll statements for seven years or longer, just in case the IRS comes knocking.

Employee benefits statements. Does your company issue these to you annually or quarterly? Keep at least the most recent year-end statement on file.

Insurances. Life, disability, health, auto, home … you want the policies on file, and you want policy information on hand for the life of the policy plus three years.

Medical records and health insurance. The consensus says you should keep these documents around for five years after the surgery or the end of treatment. If you think you can claim medical expenses on your federal return, keep them for seven years.

Warranties. You only need them until they expire. When they expire, toss them.

Utility bills. Do you need to keep these around for more than a month? No, you really don’t. Check last month’s statement against this month’s, then get rid of last month’s bill.

If this seems like too much paper to file, buy a sheet-fed scanner. If you want to get really sophisticated, you can buy one of these and use it to put financial records on your computer. You might want to have the hard copies on file just in case your hard drive and/or your flash drive go awry.

Julie Newcomb, a Certified Financial Planner™ in Orange County, CA, specializes in financial planning for women.  As a wife, mom and business owner, Julie understands the pressures and challenges most women feel on a daily basis as they juggle many important priorities. Julie’s favorite thing about her job is the ability to give women peace of mind when they entrust her with their finances. To learn more about Julie Newcomb Financial, go to julienewcomb.com.

Sources:

1 – foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2014/10/02/how-long-should-keep-my-tax-records/ [10/2/14]

2 – ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10081.pdf [9/13]

3 – irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/How-long-should-I-keep-records [1/27/15]

The Retirement Reality…

30 May

Retirement Couple

It May Be Better Than You Think!

If you’re like most Americans, your dreams about retirement quickly give way to the question: Am I saving enough? There’s no “one-size-fits-all” number to answer this question, but recent studies give some interesting insight into the spending habits of seniors and how it affects their happiness during retirement years. So, here’s your reality check.

Few retirees actually outlive their money. If this was truly a crisis, we would see federal and state governments and social services agencies addressing it relentlessly. The vast majority of retirees are wise about their savings and income: they don’t spend recklessly, and if they need to live on less at a certain point, they live on less. It isn’t an ideal choice, but it is a prudent one. Health crises can and do impoverish retirees and leave them dependent on Medicaid, but that tends to occur toward the very end of retirement rather than the start.

You may not need to retire on 70-80% of your end salary. This is a common guideline for new retirees, but according to some analysts, you may not need to withdraw that much for long.

In the initial phase of retirement, you will probably want to travel, explore new pursuits and hobbies and get around to some things you may have put on the back burner. So in the first few years away from work, you might spend roughly as much as you did before you retired. After that, you could spend less.

Bureau of Labor Statistics data is very revealing about this. JP Morgan Asset Management recently studied U.S. household spending and found that it peaks at age 48. The average U.S. household headed by people aged 65-74 spends only 63% as much as a household headed by people aged 55-64. Additionally, the average household headed by people 75 and older spends only 72% as much as the average household headed by people aged 65-74.1

In the big picture, households run by those 75 and older typically spend about half as much per year as households headed by people in their late forties.1

Further interesting analysis of BLS statistics and retirement spending patterns comes from David Blanchett,thehead of retirement research at Morningstar Investment Management. He sees a correlation between career earnings and retirement spending, one contrary to many presumptions. Comparatively speaking, he notes that higher-earning retirees commonly have to replace less of their income once their careers conclude. As he commented to Money Magazine, “the household that makes $40,000 a year might have an 85% replacement rate, and the household making $100,000 a year might need 60%.”2

Why, exactly? The upper-income household is watching its costs fall away in retirement. The home loan, the private school tuition, dining out due to convenience, the professional wardrobe, the car payment, the workplace retirement plan contribution – this is where the money goes. When these costs are reduced or absent, you spend less to live. Blanchett believes that the whole 70-80% guideline may “overestimate the true cost of retirement for many people by as much as 20%.”2

Your annual withdrawal rate could vary notably. Anything from healthcare expenses to a dream vacation to a new entrepreneurial venture could affect it. So could the performance of the stock or bond market.

You could retire before you anticipate. You may want to work well into your sixties or beyond – and the longer you wait to claim Social Security benefits after age 62, the greater your monthly payout. Reality, on the other hand, shows that most people don’t retire at age 66, 67 or 70: according to Gallup, the average retirement age in this country is 61. The aforementioned JP Morgan Asset Management study determined that less than 2% of Americans wait until age 70 to claim Social Security benefits. So if your assumption is that you will work to full retirement age (or later), you should keep in mind that you may find yourself electing to claim Social Security earlier, if only to avert drawing down your retirement savings too quickly.1

You don’t have to be a millionaire to have a happy retirement. In a 2011 Consumer Reports poll of U.S. retirees, 68% of respondents were “highly satisfied” with their lives irrespective of their financial standing. Backing that up, JP Morgan Asset Management found that retiree satisfaction increased only incrementally the more retirement spending surpassed $40,000 a year.1

The retirement you live may be slightly different than the retirement you have imagined. Fortunately, retirement planning and retirement income strategies may be revised in response.

Julie Newcomb, a Certified Financial Planner in Orange County, CA, specializes in financial planning for women.  As a wife, mom and business owner, Julie understands the pressures and challenges most women feel on a daily basis as they juggle many important priorities. Julie’s favorite thing about her job is the ability to give women peace of mind when they entrust her with their finances. To learn more about Julie Newcomb Financial, go to julienewcomb.com.

Sources:

1 – http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/12/us-column-stern-advice-idUSBREA2B1R020140312 [3/12/14]

2 – http://www.money.cnn.com/2014/02/26/retirement/retirement-spending.moneymag/index.html [2/26/14]