Tuesday, November 24, 2015

How Americans are Aging and Changing

The Baby Boomer generation is getting older and lifespans in general are increasing.  As a result  the United States is aging rapidly.  Recently, I attended "The State of Aging in Orange County," a seminar put on by the Office on Aging and other agencies in Orange County, California.  The speakers were outstanding and over the next few weeks this blog will contain posts on some of the information that was covered during the seminar.

In particular, most Baby Boomers will be interested in some of the general facts that were brought up by the speakers.

Redefining What it Means to be Old

Karen Roper, who is Director of OC Community Services and oversees the Office on Aging, the Veterans Service Bureau and several other agencies, said they are working to redefine what it means to be old.  Rather than basing it on someone's age, they want to define it based on a person's functional ability.  After all, she pointed out, some people can be in their 80's or 90's and still be able to live on their own and take care of their shopping, housework, cooking, etc.  On the other hand, a person who is in their 50's or 60's might be suffering from a number of medical conditions, including early onset dementia, which might make it difficult for them function independently at all.  Which person should be considered "old?"

The U.S. Population is Aging Rapidly

Michael Schrader, the Chief Executive Officer of CalOptima, presented fascinating statistics regarding how quickly the American population is aging.  In 2015, there are approximately 40 million people over the age of 65.  Over the next ten years, by 2025, the population of people over the age of 65 will increase by 50% to 60 million.

Social Security and Medicare Will Need to be Reformed

Mr. Schrader revealed that over that same ten year period, Social Security costs are expected to increase by 77% and Medicare costs by 89%.  This is unsustainable without some types of reforms. As was recently mentioned in this blog, one change has already been made in order to save the government money in Social Security expenditures. It was part of the 2015 budget agreement.  The SSA has now eliminated an option couples used to have for maximizing their benefits ... the file and suspend option. 

Among other changes that are being considered are:

* Raise the minimum ages to receive both Social Security and Medicare benefits
* Increase the co-pays and other forms of cost sharing for Medicare beneficiaries
* Change to a need based voucher system for Medicare benefits

New Approaches to Administering Medicare and Medicaid

CalOptima is also experimenting with a new system to make Medicare benefits more efficient, cost effective and easier to use for beneficiaries who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid (known as Medi-Cal in California).  Many of the people who qualify for both have to deal with four different programs ... Medicare Part A, Medicare part B, Medicare part D, and Medicaid.  Since these people frequently have dementia or other health issues, dealing with all these different  programs is overwhelming.  CalOptima is experimenting with combining all four of those programs into one, adding on dental and vision services, and providing case carriers to assist the recipients.  They believe that reducing the fragmentation will make the program operate more efficiently and less expensively.  In addition, beneficiaries will only have one phone number to call and one person to deal with, which should make things more manageable.

If the CalOptima program works here in Orange County, it will be spread to other parts of the United States.

In the coming weeks, this blog will contain additional information that was provided during the State of Aging seminar ... interspersed with other topics of interest to Baby Boomers.

If you are looking for additional information on retirement planning, coping with health issues, finding good places to retire, changing family relationships or more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of this article to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles on a variety of subjects.

You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credit: Morguefile.com

Monday, November 16, 2015

Charitable Deductions and U.S. Estate Taxes

Are you thinking about leaving money or property in your estate to your college or favorite charity?  If so, it is very important you discuss the best way to do this with your financial adviser.  You have several options, and you want to make sure you use the option that will allow you to use the charitable deduction to reduce the estate taxes on your estate, benefiting both your heirs and the charity.

In some cases, you can even arrange your charitable giving in such a way that you or a loved one can receive a stream of income from your charitable contribution.  By doing this, you can help yourself or an heir, as well as the charity.  Everyone wins!

Recently, I received an interesting brochure from the university which I attended.  It summarized some of the options donors have.  Below you will find some excerpts from that brochure, as well as additional comments.  If this is something you think you will want to do as part of your estate tax planning, you will want to be sure you carefully research the type of charitable gift that will be best for your circumstances.

How the Federal Estate Tax Rate Can Affect Your Charitable Donations

When you have large capital gains on some of your assets, the estate tax rate can be as much as 28 percent.  However, if you give the assets to a qualified charity, you can reduce or eliminate this portion of your estate taxes.

"Tax on capital gains property such as securities and real estate can sting tax payers in the highest brackets at a rate of more than 28 percent.  Not selling first, but giving appreciated assets directly to a charity allows a donor to avoid the capital gains tax." 

According to their explanation, the charity will get a stepped up basis on the donated property, and the donor or his estate is able to avoid paying taxes on the gain.

Create an Income from your Charitable Donations

What if you have valuable assets that do not currently produce an income for you?  An example of this might be a valuable art collection that you wish to donate after you die.  Another example would be stocks that do not pay a dividend.  There are ways you can gift this property to a charitable organization while you are still alive and they will provide you or the person of your choice with a stream of income for an agreed period of time.

"When a donor makes a gift of appreciated property to a charity in exchange for a life income arrangement, the donor is allowed to spread the capital gains tax over the life of the agreement, reducing the impact of the tax on the donor and creating a stream of payments over a period of years, or for a lifetime.  Donors can accomplish this through certain types of charitable trusts or charitable gift annuities."

Many charitable organizations are already familiar with this type of gift arrangement and can help you make the necessary arrangements.  Of course, you will want to discuss this with your financial advisor first, so you donate the appropriate assets.

Make a Charity a Beneficiary of All or a Portion of Your Retirement Account

When you receive a distribution from a retirement account, you usually must pay taxes on it.  However, when the distribution is donated to a charity, the charitable deduction may be used to offset all or part of the taxes.  This is true even when you have already died!

"The tax owed on a retirement plan does not go away at death.  The tax liability passes into the estate and onto heirs with some exceptions, such as when a charity is beneficiary of the account.  Charities are not taxable.... (When a charity is) the beneficiary of all or a portion of your retirement account, it removes a highly taxable asset from your estate."

You MIGHT Be Able to Make an IRA Charitable Rollover

In 2014, Congress made it possible for donors to roll over part of their IRA to a charity.  However, this has to be voted on each year, so it might not always be possible in the future, depending on what Congress decides.  If they keep the rules the same, the requirements currently are:

*  You must be 70 1/2 or older when you make the gift;
*  You cannot transfer more than $100,000 to a charity;
*  This only applies to IRAs and not other types of retirement plans;
*  The funds must go directly to a charity and NOT to a charitable trust, a charitable gift annuity or anything similar.

What Should You Do?

The best type of charitable giving arrangement will be different for each person.  This article is only intended to let you know about the different types of possible options so you can reduce your federal estate taxes.  You need to discuss the best option for you with your financial adviser, tax accountant, the lawyer handling your will and the charity involved.

If you are looking for more retirement advice, information about where to retire, medical concerns, or changing family relationships, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of this article.  They will link you to hundreds of additional articles.

You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credit:  Morguefile.com

Monday, November 9, 2015

Why Millennials Resent Baby Boomers

If you are active on Facebook and you are connected to younger adults, you may have seen a recent article that is being passed around and shared by thousands of Millennials and members of Generation X.  When I read it, I was shocked and saddened.  I am sure that this information is going to stun many other Baby Boomers, as well.

The title of the article is:  "Baby Boomers are What's Wrong with America's Economy."  This article was not written by an uneducated, ill-informed, resentful teen.  It is written by Jim Tankersley, a well-educated, highly regarded writer for the Washington Post ... and I am afraid he is speaking for many young adults in this country. 

While I do NOT agree with everything this author has to say, and I believe it only gives the viewpoint of his age group, I do believe that it is important for Baby Boomers to understand some of the backlash we are getting from members of the younger generations.  Many of them agree completely with the points made by this author, which is why they continue to spread it around through Social Media.

You will want to read the entire article for yourself.  Meanwhile, some of the main points are listed below.

Many Young Adults Believe Baby Boomers Have Stolen Their Future

*  As the author pointed out, Baby Boomers entered the economy at a time when good-paying jobs were plentiful for both high school and college graduate.  As we must admit, the economic situation has been much more difficult during the past decade, and it has taken a hard toll on young adults.

*  Because we benefited from a strong job market, many Baby Boomers were able to maintain a higher standard of living than is possible for a large number of our children and grandchildren.  In the words of the Jim Tankersley, "My generation, Gen X, is in far worse financial shape than our parents were at the same age. Millennials are even worse off than we are."

*  Despite having lower-paying jobs and less financial security, Jim Tankersley comments that "future generations will have to pay the costs of weaning the world from fossil fuels and/or adapting to warmer temperatures, rising seas and more extreme weather. (Estimates vary, but some projections suggest they could total trillions of dollars for America alone.) They will also have to shoulder the burden of keeping America’s retirement promises to the boomers."  It is obvious from his narrative that Mr. Tankersley and his peers resent this.

*  Tankersley also resents the fact that Baby Boomers expect to receive all the Social Security and Medicare benefits they have been promised, even though this will put an added burden on their children and grandchildren.  Many Millennials and members of Generation X apparently feel it is unfair, in their view, that Baby Boomers want benefits, but are unwilling to make the same sacrifices that are expected from their offspring.  Jim Tankersley goes on to say, "folks my father’s age like to say they’ve paid for those benefits, so they should get them in full. But they haven’t. The Urban Institute has estimated that a typical couple retiring in 2011, at the leading edge of the boomer wave, will end up drawing about $200,000 more from Medicare and Social Security than they paid in taxes to support those programs."  (Of course, Mr. Tankersley does not take into consideration the fact that the money Baby Boomers paid into Social Security and Medicare over the past 40 years should be worth more than we put in, because of the value of compound interest on the principal.)

*  The author then lists other "sins" that he feels have been committed by Baby Boomers.  He asserts that Baby Boomers could have prevented some of the problems that are being passed on to the younger generations, since Boomers have controlled Congress since the George W. Bush administration.  Despite the power that Boomers have held, they have failed to put money aside to protect Social Security.  Instead, as Jim Tankersley says, Boomers have cut their own taxes, deficit funded two wars, shipped manufacturing jobs to China, failed to invest in job training for younger people, and allowed college costs to more than double ... which creates more difficulty for the younger generations.

*  How can Baby Boomers convince younger generations that we do want to reduce the future strain on our offspring?  The author suggests that Boomers should begin to take more responsibility for the current problems.  He believes we should do everything we can to lower carbon emissions and head off a debt crisis.  Boomers should be more willing to pay higher taxes and accept lower retirement benefits.  Clean energy should be a top priority.

Jim Tankersley Made Some Thought-Provoking Points

I must admit that the author has put forth some thought-provoking assertions.  It would be impossible to guess his political affiliation based on what he has to say in this article.  On the liberal side, he wants more money spent on job training and to lower the cost of higher education.  He also wants both the government and individuals to invest in clean air and clean energy.  On the conservative side, he wants a balanced budget and reduced government debt ... and feels that all Americans, including retirees, should share in the cost of accomplishing this.

Other Complaints About Baby Boomers

The Jim Tankersley essay is not the first time I have heard complaints from younger adults about the burden being placed on them by Baby Boomers.  From time to time, I have also received very critical comments about Boomers on this blog ... and promptly removed them.

In one case, a young adult posted a comment on my blog that said, "Why don't all you Baby-Boomers just hurry up and die so there will be more jobs for people my age?"

Of course, I removed that comment as quickly as possible.  I assumed that it, and others I have received like it, were just left by malcontents. 

However, I am beginning to see that some of these comments are not being left by "mentally unstable" individuals.  Instead, they may be reflecting the beliefs of a large number of members of the younger generations.

And that is why I thought every older adult should know why Generation X and Millennials resent Baby Boomers.  We need to be prepared for some of the changes they may make once they are the generation in power ... and it currently looks as if we may not like the decisions they could make regarding our benefits and care.

If you want to read the full article, you can find it at:

"Baby Boomers are What's Wrong with America's Economy"

If you are interested in ideas about where to retire, financial planning, health issues as we age, changing family relationships and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credit:  morguefile.com

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Social Security Benefit Changes

From the beginning of 2016 and going forward, Social Security beneficiaries will see several major changes to the program.  More changes are likely to follow in the coming years.  Whether you are already receiving your Social Security benefits or expect to receive them in the coming years, many of these changes will affect you.

The End of the File and Suspend Option

File and Suspend is an option that first became available in 2000.  Under this strategy, a married couple could plan for one of the individuals to initially receive a smaller check based on one-half the income of their spouse, while letting their own benefits continue to grow until age 70.  At age 70, they were able to choose whichever benefit was greater.  File and Suspend will no longer be an option.  There is no point in explaining the finer points of this tactic, because it ends in a few weeks.  It is unavailable to anyone who reaches age 62 in 2015 or beyond.  Many people who were planning to use this option when they reached their retirement age will be disappointed.

Deemed Filing is Now the Option Chosen by Most Married Couples

Moving forward, when a person files for benefits anytime between the ages of 62 and 70, it will be considered a deemed filing.  At that point, the beneficiary will choose between the larger of their spousal and personal retirement benefits.  Up until now, retirees could only use deemed filing up until their full retirement age, at which time they had to choose between collecting benefits on their own earnings or taking the spousal benefit.  Now retirees will have a few years longer to make that choice. 
Because some of the rules around this are new, retirees should do more research about the deemed filing option as they get close to retirement.  In addition, I cannot stress enough the importance of purchasing one of the excellent books about Social Security that are available using this Amazon.com link.  It is important to realize that many of them will not be updated with the newest information for a few months.  Ebooks will probably be updated the most quickly.

Fixing the Social Security Trust Fund Shortfall

The elimination of File and Suspend will cost some couples tens of thousands of dollars during their lifetime.  However, this change is the first step in making sure that the trust fund does not run out of money as quickly as has been projected and it will improve its long-term financial stability.

In the future, taxpayers should expect additional changes to protect the Social Security Fund.  Although no final decisions have been made, the changes will probably include small increases in payroll tax withholding and a slight rise in the full retirement age.

Benefits Will Be Lower Than Expected for the Highest Income New Retirees

Some high income retirees will be surprised to discover that they will receive about $24 less per month than they expected.  According to a Social Security Administration statement, "A decrease in full maximum benefits occurs when there is no cost-of-living adjustment, but there is an increase in the national average wage index."  In 2016, the maximum amount that a 66 year-old worker will receive per month will be $2,639, reduced from $2,663 in 2015.

Online Changes

In an effort to save money in administrative costs, the Social Security Administration will offer more online services than they have in the past.  For example, beneficiaries will now be able to order a new Medicare card online, rather than being required to visit a Social Security office.

Longer Office Hours

Another change to expect at your local Social Security office is longer office hours.  Most offices will be open one hour longer each day, although they will still close at noon on Wednesdays to allow employees to reduce backlogs.  If you are planning to visit your local office, it is advised that you call and confirm the office hours before you show up.

If you want to learn more about your Social Security benefits, financial planning, where to retire, health issues and more, use the tabs or pull down menus at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

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