Retirement Insights

News and information for current and future retirees.

still no plan? knowing what you need to know whenever you retire

Research has shown that people who are successfully aging in place have four major ways to make it happen, namely:

First, 78% of those recently surveyed wish they had saved more.

Many also regret not creating a plan for how they wanted to spend their retired years and what it would cost to fund that life. Fewer than 1 out of 5 retirees made such a plan (18%).

Know your sources of income ahead of time

Sources range from “secure income”— such as Social Security benefits and traditional pensions—to lump-sum income, such as workplace savings and investment accounts. The latter requires knowing what taxes are involved and when and how to draw down those funds – remember RMD’s – Required Minimum Distributions. So, even if retirement is years away, learn about the system and how to claim Social Security so you get the most out of your benefit. That action will vary depending on the age you apply and whether you decide to receive your own worker benefit or a spouse’s, if eligible. Start by registering for an SSA account .

If you have lost track of a retirement account you had with a previous employer, Make sure you know how to find it.

Have you neglected to fund an ‘emergency’ account for unexpected expenses? Start now—even if you are paying off debt – everyone needs a flexible account – start small but start soon. One advantage is not having to draw down from your retirement accounts when the markets tank – think 2022!

Every day our nonprofit office receives calls from women who are unhappily surprised by rules they were not aware of after learning that they will not receive a spouse’s retirement benefit leaving them with an unexpected financial shortfall. Remember, both spouses in a couple need to familiarize themselves with all these financials. And women, single or married, need to make sure they know what to know. About 67% of women 85 plus live alone, and will need more income since women tend to live longer.

Understand your healthcare costs—and the ways to pay for them

These costs can vary hugely, but many people underestimate potential costs. Average lifetime medical expenses for couples 65 plus are $315,000—that’s out-of-pocket, beyond what Medicare Part A, B and D cover. Medicare doesn’t, for instance, cover most long-term care, such as nursing home stays or home health workers who come to your home. Once you’re aware of such costs, you may decide to purchase a newer version of long-term care insurance — but research it first.

Realize there’s a network of support out there for you, but know what you will need to pay for it

As you reach an advanced age – or if you or your spouse decline in health earlier than expected — you will likely need others to help. The Administration for Community Living (ACL)’s Eldercare Index for services exists to provide Americans with help with needs like medical transportation and caregiving—and how to do so within your zip code. You or perhaps a caregiver can access help through the U.S. Administration on Aging’s local Network of Area Agencies on Aging .

You should also have all your important documents in order and legal agreements drawn up, so that a designated person or persons can act on your behalf in regard to your finances and wishes for medical care. These resources become essential if, of course, your physical or mental health declines.

And in case you aren’t familiar with the costs of caregiving now is a good time to point out that if an adult family member lives nearby and will likely step up and become your caregiver, it’s vital for the whole family to realize how much that job may demand. It’s estimated that 53 million Americans are caregivers, and that on average they spend $7,242 of their own money each year on the person they’re caring for. That’s not counting lost wages and retirement income if they need to step back from their own job. Families can learn about ways to fairly compensate the caregiver among them, often by drawing up a Personal Care Agreement (PCA) .

If your expenses become too great — or if you weren’t able to save as much as you had hoped – you may have further options, such as downsizing to a smaller home, or considering a reverse mortgage line of credit, so consider the pros and cons. But with a plan in place adapting to the various stages of aging will be easier to handle for everyone involved.

Have a network of unpaid support (i.e., family or friends)

One of the reasons people want to age in place is to stay connected to the community they’ve known and to the multiple programs designed to support independence. Typical programs include benefits counseling, meals transportation resources and assistance navigating Medicare and Medicaid. Fortunately, you can also stay connected virtually as well as in-person.

Now that you have a clearer picture of the consequences of aging, if you are too young to retire, why don’t you check in with older family members – your parents, an aunt or uncle who lives on their own – to make sure they too understand the big picture issues and have the necessary directives and paperwork that will help it go smoothly. Ask them, ‘Where do you want to be living as you age, and do you have a plan worked out to help you get there?’

READ MORE @FORBES.COM

7 wAYS YOU'RE BLOWING YOUR RETIREMENT SAVINGS

If these actions sound familiar, you may want to make some changes

You can’t control inflation and gas prices, but you can take steps to control how long your money lasts in retirement. If any of the actions below sound familiar, it may be time for a reset.

1. Too much spending in the early days of retirement

Your entire working life was spent amassing money for retirement, so who can blame you if you want to spend it early on. But do too much of that and you may run into problems down the road. “One of the big things we see is as soon as people retire, they treat every day like it’s Saturday,” says Kuderna. “They go into retirement projecting their expenses today will stay that way the rest of their lives. A few extra vacations and trips with family and friends, and before they know it, they spent their retirement account in year one or two.”

How to fix it? Rein in your expenses or get a part-time job to supplement your income. Not sure where to begin, AARP’s Money Map helps you create a budget and build emergency savings.

2. Gifting too quickly

It’s natural to want to help your children and grandchildren out, but too much of a good thing can leave you penniless. Before you book that cruise for the entire family or give your child the down payment for a home, make sure you can afford to. “The rule of thumb I tell my clients is first make sure you’re taking care of yourself financially,” says Matthew Curfman, a certified financial planner and president and co-owner of Richmond Brothers. “If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t help others financially.”

How to fix it: Learn to say no, at least for now. Make sure you have enough cash in the bank to live comfortably in retirement, and then lend a helping hand.

3. Upsizing instead of downsizing

Some people go into retirement with the intention of downsizing to a smaller home, but then end up doing the opposite. Instead of saving on housing, they spend more. “They think they will downsize and will have all this equity from the house, so they buy a little condo up north and a little condo down south to do the snowbird thing. And all of sudden they didn’t downsize, they changed the situation,” says Kuderna.​

How to fix it: Don’t treat the equity in your home as a windfall. Count it as an income stream you can live off of in retirement.

4. No long-term care plan to speak of

Close to 70 percent of Americans 65 and older will need long-term care in their lifetime, according to the Urban Institute and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Some have family members to rely on, but close to half will need to pay for long-term care on their own, and many have no plan to do so. “It’s a pretty expensive proposition to need a full-time nursing home or at-home care,” says Curfman. “If you do nothing and something happens, you’ll have to pay for it somehow.”

How to fix it: Add long-term care coverage to your retirement savings plan. Depending on your situation, it may mean setting aside money, getting a long-term care insurance policy, or working with a financial adviser to devise another tax-efficient strategy.​ More the DIY type, check out Ace Your Retirement a chatbot that asks you questions and offers up retirement advice.

5. You have a lot of debt

Lingering or new debt can be a big blow to your retirement savings. It may have been easy to manage when you were collecting a paycheck, but it can hurt your cash flow and lifestyle when you’re on a fixed income.

How to fix it: Try not to bring any debt with you into retirement. If you do, work on paying it off and resist accruing new debt.

6. You’re living on pretax income

Taxes are a big consideration when you begin withdrawing money from your retirement savings account. If it’s a traditional 401(k) or IRA, withdrawals are taxed as ordinary income. “It has a ripple effect on your overall tax situation and cash flow,” says Kuderna. “That $1 million is suddenly $700,000. It’s not going to last as long.”

How to fix it: Move some of your retirement savings into a Roth IRA or convert your traditional 401(k) into a Roth 401(k). With both investment vehicles, you don’t pay taxes on withdrawals once you’ve had the account for five years and are 59 1/2 or older. Keep in mind that the conversion is a taxable event.

7. Investments aren’t keeping up with inflation

The great wealth-eroding factor has always been inflation. That’s worse in 2022, with inflation running at a 40-year high of 8.6 percent. Diminishing purchasing power isn’t the only problem in high inflationary environments. Your investments have to work harder to hold their value over the long haul.

“People entering retirement at 65 think they should be all cash or fixed income,” says Kuderna. “That money is for when they are 80. It can be in the markets and keeping pace with inflation.”

How to fix it: With inflation soaring, a portfolio checkup may be in order to ensure your investments are allocated properly. The goal is a well-diversified portfolio that has just the right amount of risk.

READ MORE @AARP.ORG

SOCIAL SECURITY MYTHS THAT REFUSE TO DIE

The program is going broke, the retirement age is 65, and other common misconceptions

Myth #1: Social Security is going broke

The facts: As long as workers and employers pay payroll taxes, Social Security will not run out of money. It’s a pay-as-you-go system: Revenue coming in from FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) and SECA (Self-Employed Contributions Act) taxes largely cover the benefits going out.

Social Security does face funding challenges. For decades it collected more than it paid out, building a surplus that stood at $2.85 trillion at the end of 2021. But the system is starting to pay out more than it takes in, largely because the retiree population is growing faster than the working population, and living longer. Without changes in how Social Security is financed, the surplus is projected to run out in 2035, according to the latest annual report from the program’s trustees.

Even then, Social Security won’t be broke. It will still collect tax revenue and pay benefits. But it will only bring in enough to pay 80 percent of scheduled benefits, according to the latest estimate. To avoid that outcome, Congress would need to take steps to shore up Social Security’s finances, as it did in 1983, the last time the program nearly depleted its reserves. The steps then included raising the full retirement age (see Myth #2), increasing the payroll tax rate and introducing an income tax on benefits (see Myth #8).

Myth #2: The Social Security retirement age is 65

The facts: Full retirement age, or FRA — the age when a worker qualifies to file for 100 percent of the benefit calculated from lifetime earnings history — is 66 and 2 months for people born in 1955 and 66 and 4 months for people born in 1956. Over the next several years it will increase by two months at a time, settling at 67 for those born in 1960 and after.

The 65 threshold is a longtime Social Security truth that became a myth. When Social Security was created in 1935, 65 was set as the age of eligibility. In later decades the minimum eligibility age was lowered to 62, when people could claim a reduced benefit, but 65 remained the standard for full retirement.

That changed with the 1983 overhaul, which raised the retirement age to reduce Social Security’s costs. The increase is being phased in over time; 2002 was the last year in which people turning 65 could claim their full benefit.

Myth #3: The annual COLA is guaranteed

The facts: Since 1975, Social Security law has mandated that benefit amounts be adjusted annually to keep pace with inflation. But there is no requirement that this cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) produce a yearly increase.

The COLA is tied to a federal index of prices for select consumer goods and services called the CPI-W. Benefits are adjusted annually based on changes in the CPI-W from the third quarter of one year to the third quarter of the next. In 2021, the index showed a 5.9 percent increase in prices, so benefits are 5.9 percent higher in 2022.

But if the index doesn’t show a statistically measurable rise in prices — if there’s effectively no inflation — then there’s no adjustment to benefits. This has happened three times since the current formula was adopted, in 2010, 2011 and 2016. Whether or not it produces a benefit increase, this process is automatic; it does not involve the president or Congress. They would have to take separate action to change the COLA.

Myth #4: Members of Congress don’t pay into Social Security

The facts: A common complaint about Social Security is that members of Congress don’t bother fixing the program because it doesn’t cover them. Actually, it does. Members of Congress came under the Social Security umbrella in 1984, along with the rest of the federal workforce, as part of the sweeping changes to the program enacted the previous year.

Before that, senators and representatives did not pay into Social Security and were instead fully covered by a pension plan called the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). Those in office on Jan. 1, 1984, were allowed to remain in CSRS, but only in conjunction with Social Security. (If you’re curious, two senators and four House members remain from those days.)

Those elected since are covered by Social Security as well as a pension program that replaced CSRS. Either way, members of Congress pay into Social Security just like most American workers.

Myth #5: The government raids Social Security to pay for other programs

The facts: The two trust funds that pay out Social Security benefits — one for retirees and their survivors, the other for people with disabilities — have never been part of the federal government’s general fund. Social Security is a separate, self-funded program. The federal government does, however, borrow from Social Security.

Here’s how: Social Security’s tax revenue is, by law, invested in special U.S. Treasury securities. As with all Treasury bonds, the federal government can spend the proceeds on a variety of programs. But as with all bondholders, Treasury has to pay the money back, with interest. Social Security redeems the securities to pay benefits.

This borrowing fuels the notion that the government is raiding or even stealing from Social Security and leaving it with nothing but IOUs. But the government has always made full repayment, and the interest increases Social Security’s assets, to the tune of $76.1 billion in 2020.

READ MORE @AARP.ORG

10 BEST BEACHES IN THE U.S.

The best beaches in the US—that’s what everyone is looking for now that summer is finally here. The man with the prescription: Dr. Beach, a.k.a. Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, who is professor and director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University

From North Carolina to Florida, here are Dr. Beach’s 10 best beaches for 2022.

1. Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach – Outer Banks of North Carolina

Why it made the list: “Ocracoke, once the home of Blackbeard the pirate, is still a special place—it is my favorite getaway beach,” says Leatherman. “Here you will find some of the wildest beaches in the country.

A tip: “Big surf dominates in late summer so families with children may want to come earlier in the year,” says Leatherman. “My personal favorite time to come here is in the fall, when there’s less people and there’s still warm water into late September. It’s really a beach for all seasons.”

 

2. Caladesi Island State Park – Dunedin/Clearwater, Florida

Why it made the list: “The white beach is composed of crystalline quartz sand, which is soft and cushy at the water’s edge,” says Leatherman.

A tip: “Caladesi is reached by pedestrian ferry boat, private boats or a long walk north from Clearwater Beach; the inlet is closed so Caladesi is no longer a true island, but still a great getaway,” says Leatherman.

 

3. Coopers Beach – Southampton, New York

Why it made the list: “Coopers Beach is located on the south shore of Long Island, New York, shielded from the cold Labrador currents in the beautiful village of Southampton,” says Leatherman. “Some of the best beach access in the Hamptons exists on Coopers Beach.”

A tip: “A snack bar serving lunch and drinks can be found here,” says Leatherman.

 

4. St. George Island State Park – Florida Panhandle

Why it made the list: “While St. George Island suffered a big hit in 2018 by Hurricane Michael, the area has substantially recovered, especially the sugary fine, white sand beach,” says Leatherman.

A tip: “There is much to explore on this serene 2,023-acre park,” says Leatherman.

 

5. Duke Kahanamoku Beach – Oahu, Hawaii

Why it made the list: “Kahanamoku Beach is located on the west end of Waikiki Beach, far from the large crowds elsewhere,” says Leatherman.

A tip: “It is the widest beach on this world-famous stretch of sand and protected by an offshore coral reef, making it a good beach for families with children,” says Leatherman.

 

6. Lighthouse Beach – Buxton, Outer Banks of North Carolina

Why it made the list: “Lighthouse Beach is where the old spiral-striped Cape Hatteras Lighthouse once stood until it was moved landward in 1999 because of beach erosion,” says Leatherman.

A tip: “This lifeguarded beach is the number one surfing spot on the U.S. Atlantic Coast,” says Leatherman.

 

7. Coronado Beach – San Diego, California

Why it made the list: “Coronado Beach is the toast of Southern California; it is a veritable oasis by the sea that is hundreds of yards wide,” says Leatherman.

A tip: “The local landmark, Hotel del Coronado, was built over a hundred years ago; kings, sheiks, actors, and actresses have stayed at this iconic hotel,” says Leatherman.

READ MORE @FORBES.COM

Some large employers suspended matching contributions to retirement plans last year, but this was only temporary for many of them. Studying 260 such companies, consulting firm Towers Watson reports that 75% have already restored employer matches, with 74% matching at the same level they did before the arrival of the pandemic.*

Source: MarketWatch, December , 2020

Did you know?

Looking for the tallest mountain on earth? Try Hawaii.

Mt. Everest, at the border of Nepal and Tibet, is generally ranked as the world’s highest peak, towering more than 29,000′ above sea level. Hawaii’s Mauna Kea volcano, however, is in one sense even grander. While Mauna Kea rises 13,796′ from the shoreline, it actually measures 32,808′ from its base on the floor of the Pacific Ocean.*

Source: FarandWide.com, December 15, 2020

On the Bright Side

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