Showing posts with label retirement savings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label retirement savings. Show all posts

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Retirement Income: Making Your Money Last a Lifetime

Currently in the U.S., the typical Baby Boomer between the ages of 65 and 74 in the U.S. has financial assets with a median value of about $50,000 in 2019 values, according to the Federal Reserve.  This sum, in addition to your Social Security benefits and any other pensions you will receive, needs to last the rest of your life. How can you turn these assets and income sources into a comfortable retirement? Most retirees worry that they will spend their money too quickly, leaving them destitute at the end of their life. As a result, they are looking for a practical way to make sure their assets last as long as they do.

What can you do to reduce your risk of outliving your money, while still being able to benefit from the money you have managed to put aside for your retirement?

Compare Your Retirement Expenses to Income

Your first step is to total up how much it costs you to live each month, including occasional expenses such as the cost of travel, home repairs, medical bills, and property taxes.  

Then, total up the amount you will receive in Social Security benefits and other pensions, and compare the two figures.  Hopefully, the comparison of your income to your expenses will be very close. If not, you will either have to cut your cost of living, or make up the difference by increasing your income or retirement assets.  Even if the gap initially seems large, don't panic!  There are many ways to make up the difference.

How to Cut Your Expenses

Your first step is to cut your expenses, especially if you do not have a large amount of retirement savings. There are a number of ways to do this. Here are just a few suggestions:

Downsize to a less expensive home, OR, if possible, pay off your current mortgage, OR refinance the mortgage so your payments are much lower.  Any of these changes could save you hundreds of dollars a month.

Switch from original Medicare and an expensive Medicare Supplement plan and change to a Medicare Advantage plan, instead.  This could save you hundreds of dollars a month.

Get rid of your current landline phone service, and use your cell phone, only.

Look for the least expensive plans you can find for cell phone service, cable television, internet access and similar services you use. Eliminate rarely used streaming services and similar small expenses that have a way of adding up quickly. However, try not to eliminate services which you find useful, or that bring you pleasure, or that improve your safety and security.

Consider a Reverse Mortgage

If you want to remain in your current home, and have a large amount of equity in the house, you might consider getting a reverse mortgage which you could use to pay off your remaining mortgage without requiring you to make payments on the loan.  The downside of this is that the principal on the loan will remain, and interest on the loan will accumulate until you move out of the house.  By that time, the interest could have eaten up your equity, not leaving you anything to pass on to your heirs.  

You can avoid the accumulating interest by making small payments on the second mortgage, if you can afford to.  However, before entering into a reverse mortgage, you should thoroughly investigate how much interest would accumulate, how much the monthly payments would be if you wanted to pay the interest off each month, and any other questions you have.

While a reverse mortgage is not right for everyone, for some retirees it is a good way stay in their homes for the rest of their lives.  The older you are when you begin a reverse mortgage, the better choice this is, because there will be less time for the interest to accumulate and eat up your equity. 

How to Increase Your Income

Once you have reduced your expenses as much as you comfortably are able to, then you need to look at your options for increasing your income.

The longer you work before you begin to collect your Social Security and pension benefits, up until age 70 for a worker and the mid-60s for widow's benefits, the more money you will receive each month.  If you are concerned about having a shortfall in retirement income, wait as long as possible to begin collecting these benefits.

If you have already retired, another way to increase your income is to continue to work part-time after you leave your full-time pre-retirement job. There will be a cap on how much money you can earn, at first, if you are working and collecting Social Security simultaneously, prior to your full retirement age. However, this cap goes away once you are at your full retirement age.  This is another good reason to wait to collect your Social Security benefits.  

If you have not retired yet, check the specific age limits at the time of your planned retirement, so you know if you will have a temporary cap on your earnings.  Once you are able to get your Social Security benefits and work without an income cap at the same time, the extra money could make you much more comfortable.  It could also help you continue to build up your savings, so you will have more money available when you no longer are able to work.

Find an Easy Part-time Job

Consider part-time jobs you can do from home or which will not be too exhausting for you.  For example, you may be able to tutor people online or help neighborhood children with their homework, give lessons in some skill you have (music, art, cooking, etc.), or sell your crafts or artwork.  Depending on your life and work experience, you might also be able to help people prepare their taxes, or deal with common computer problems, or be a dog walker or pet sitter.  If you like to write, you could consider writing online articles for a site like TextBroker.

Do Not Get Scammed!

You should not have to pay anyone anything in order to get a part-time job from home.  If someone asks you to buy something, it is a scam.  Start your own little home business, or work for a reputable company.  Check it out carefully with the Better Business Bureau and by looking for online reviews. 

Decide How Much Money to Withdraw from Savings Each Year

If your Social Security Benefits and pension will not cover your expenses, you can further enhance your income by using a small portion of your savings each month to make up the difference.

The younger you are when you begin dipping into your savings to cover expenses, the less you will be able to use, so wait as long as you can before taking this step. 

If you are in your 60's, it is advisable that you begin by taking out no more than 3% a year from your savings.  Each year, you can take an additional .03% of the total remaining balance to help compensate for inflation. Doing this, the money should last as much as 33 years or more, depending on the interest, dividends and asset appreciation over the years.  If you have a 401(k) or an IRA, you will not be required to start taking minimum distributions from those accounts until you are in your 70s (they periodically increase the age of these required distributions).  However, if you want to begin to enjoy the benefits of your savings before that age, and you feel you can afford it, you are not required to wait that long.  

If you are able to wait until you are in your 70's before you start dipping into your financial assets, you could begin taking 4% a year, increasing it by .04% of the total remaining balance each year.  In this way, your money will last another 25 years or more.  Make sure you take out at least enough to meet the Required Minimum Distribution, so you do not get hit with a surprise tax bill on your assets. 

Finally, if you are in your late 70s or older before making withdrawals, or if you have a reason to believe you are nearing the end of your life, you can start removing 5% a year, increasing the amount by .05% a year of the total remaining balance.  In this way, your money could last 20 or more years, which will meet the lifetime needs of most people.

For a more detailed approach on how to make your money last during retirement, you will want to read, "How to Make Your Money Last: The Indispensable Retirement Guide." (Ad) It delves much deeper into the specifics of making sure you have a financially secure retirement.  

Don't Forget to Set Aside an Emergency Fund

Life comes with surprises, as we all know.  Over the years, you may need to purchase a new car or repair the old one, or you may have an adult child move in with you because of a setback in their life.  You may develop an expensive health problem, need to travel to see a sick relative, or decide to help a grandchild.  You may even need to hire a caregiver for a short time.  If you begin to dip excessively into your total assets to cover these expenses, you could face a major shortfall in the future, if you are not prepared.

As a result, it is good advice to continue to set aside a portion of your income in an emergency savings account.  In fact, if you have adequate financial assets at the beginning of your retirement, you may find it helpful to set aside at least $5,000 to $10,000 in an emergency fund from the very beginning, so you are not forced to sell stocks when they are down.  Add to this fund whenever you can, and only remove money from it in a true emergency.  This extra emergency account will reduce your fear that you might need to dramatically cut the amount you can safely remove from your retirement savings each month.

Interesting Statistics About Retirement Savings

About 75% of grandparents have admitted that they are willing to offer financial help to their families. (Make sure your own expenses are covered first, though. Supporting adult children is one of the most common drains on the finances of retirees.)

About one-third of retirees have more financial assets 17 to 18 years AFTER they retire than they did at the beginning.  This is because they often continue to save money and only use a small portion of their dividends to cover their expenses, which allows their assets to continue to grow.  This means that, with careful planning, you can become more financially secure the older you get. 

Many retirees overestimate what their expenses will be after they retire.  After the first few years, they may find that they are not traveling and entertaining as much as they did when they were younger.

Since the recession of 2008, there has been an increase in the purchase of multigenerational homes.  Because housing averages about 35 percent of the spending for people over age 65, sharing a home with an adult child can save a retiree a lot of money. 

Another helpful guide to financial planning for retirement is the book "The Ultimate Retirement Guide for 50+: Winning Strategies to Make Your Money Last a Lifetime." (Ad)  Good planning is essential in your quest to not outlive your savings.

Bottom Line:  If you cut your expenses, work as long as you can, build your pensions, and grow your savings, you can have a comfortable retirement.  Most of the recommendations in this article came from an AARP Magazine article dated April/May 2021.

After doing a good job of planning your retirement income, you can reward yourself with a gift for yourself or someone you care about.  

You can find great gifts for retirees and your family, at my Etsy Store, DeborahDianGifts.  Check it out here:

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If you are interested in learning more about retirement, Medicare, Social Security, common medical issues as we age, financial planning, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

How to Fix Your Retirement Savings Shortfall

Millions of Americans are not prepared to retire.  In fact, about one out of four Baby Boomers who are approaching retirement have saved absolutely nothing towards their retirement.  Millions more have saved less than $50,000 ... which will not last very long, unless they quickly make some drastic changes in their lifestyle.

However, for those Boomers who are still five or ten years away from retirement, it is not too late to take the necessary steps to have a comfortable retirement.  Below are some of the suggestions the experts make:

Start Saving the Maximum in Your 401(k) or IRA

If you are not maxing out your retirement accounts, you are not taking advantage of the tax savings these accounts can give you, nor are you using your last few working years to fully prepare for retirement.  Workers over the age of 50 are allowed to put $24,000 a year into a 401(k) and $6,500 a year into an IRA.  You may feel that putting $500 to $2500 a month into your retirement accounts is impossible, because your current lifestyle costs too much to support.  If this is the case, now is the time to dramatically and ruthlessly reduce your lifestyle.  If you can barely support your lifestyle while you are still working, it will become even more difficult for you to maintain your lifestyle after you stop working ... especially if you do not have much money saved.

There is no question that it will take hard work and discipline to start saving that much money.  However, you will appreciate the long-term benefits of having this much money saved when you are in your 80's and 90's.  Now is the time to make the necessary adjustments to your cost-of-living so that you start putting as much money as possible into your retirement accounts. 

Use the Equity in Your Home to Finance Your Retirement

If you own your home and have lived in it for a long time, you may have tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in home equity.  This money can be used to finance your retirement, if you are smart about how you use it.  Some people have found they do well if they sell their current home and use part of the equity to purchase a less expensive home, either in the same community or in a less expensive area.  Afterwards, they can invest the remaining equity in dividend paying stocks, an annuity, tax free bonds, or other investments that will provide them with a reliable source of retirement income.  The combination of lower expenses and increased income can help many people salvage their retirement.

Another way to use the equity in your home is by taking out a reverse mortgage.  However, there are a number of risks involved with this plan.  If people initiate a reverse mortgage when they are still in their 60's or early 70's, they may end up spending all the proceeds from the loan far too quickly ... leaving themselves destitute when they are in their 80's or 90's.  It is far wiser to wait to get a reverse mortgage until you are older and fairly confident that the proceeds will last you the rest of your life ... and the life of your spouse.  

Postpone Collecting Social Security Until Age 70

People who wait until age 70 to collect their Social Security benefits can significantly increase their monthly income compared to those to begin collecting between the ages of 62 and 67.  Your benefits increase by 8% for every year you wait after your full retirement age.   This means you will get 32% more than you would have at age 66, and 76% more than you would have at age 62.   By waiting, a retirement pension that might have been only $1500 a month at age 66 can be increased to almost $2000 a month at age 70.  That difference provides as much additional income as $100,000 in savings invested at 6% interest.

Continue Working After Retirement

There are significant advantages to working as long as you can in your 60's and, possibly, your 70's.  Even if you switch from working full-time to part-time, any money you earn equates to less money you will have to take out of your retirement savings.  This, in turn, will give you the time you need to continue to grow your nest egg.  By the time you are no longer able to work, your savings may have grown enough to provide you with a satisfactory lifestyle for the remainder of your life.

Many people also use these years to work part-time and enjoy encore careers that are fun ... as consultants, substitute teachers, writers, artists, photographers or employees of non-profits.  They keep busy, stimulate their brains, bring joy to their lives, increase their socialization and earn extra retirement income.  What better way to make your retirement savings last?

Bottom line:  It is never too late to do something about your retirement savings situation.  You just have to be willing to face reality and make the necessary changes.  You can do it!


Looking for more retirement information?   Use the tabs at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of other articles on this blog covering topics that include financial planning tips, where to retire, health concerns, and relationship issues.

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Keeping Track of New IRA Rules

Are you looking forward to a retirement that includes travel, playing golf, pursuing your hobbies and feeling comfortable about your financial situation?  If so, the sooner you start your retirement planning, the better off you will be.

There are a lot of different choices, however, and at first they may seem confusing.  In addition to deciding whether you need an IRA, a Roth IRA, a 401K or a combination of several retirement plans, you also have to decide which broker to use.  Even then, your retirement account decisions will not remain static.

It seems as if IRA rules are changing constantly, and 2013 was no exception.  The company that handles your IRA or Roth IRA for you should keep you up-to-date on all the annual changes and they should also let you know how the changes could affect the amounts you are depositing in your accounts each year.

Because of all the different choices that are available, I always encourage my readers to do their own research in order to have all the information they need to make wise decisions.   Having a good investment adviser is an important part of your retirement planning strategy.  Taking the time to compare their advice to what others are saying is just smart.

If you have not yet selected a broker to handle your IRA for you, the sooner you get started, the better off you will be when you are finally ready to stop working.  One website I have found that will help you compare brokers is IRA Success.  They have put together an excellent list of popular brokers including Charles Schwab, eTrade, Fidelity, Scottrade and others.  Their chart tells you the commissions rates, account minimums and IRA fees.  Using their chart is so much easier than contacting each company on your own, so I wanted everyone to have this direct link to the IRA Broker Comparison Chart.

I am also providing a link to an IRA contribution cheat-sheet that IRA Success also provides and updates annually.  The information they give on their cheat-sheet, as well as in some of their blog posts, is quite useful in helping you decide which type of retirement savings plan will best meet your needs.

You may also want to read a good book on investment savings so that you have a better understanding of the different types of retirement savings accounts and how to best take advantage of them.  I think the two books listed below are especially helpful and you can click on their titles to be taken directly to their Amazon page.  Read an excerpt from each book and their reviews and decide if one of these books would be helpful to you in dealing with your retirement planning:

Preparing for Retirement:  A Comprehensive Guide to Financial Planning
The AARP Retirement Survival Guide

If you have gone to the trouble to save money towards your retirement, you owe it to yourself to make sure you have a plan in place for maximizing your contributions, reduced your investment costs and increasing your principle.  Using the websites and books I have mentioned here are a great way to make certain you are on the right track!

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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Traditional IRA vs Roth IRA

As you save money for retirement, you may be confused about whether you would be better off sticking with a traditional IRA or moving your money to a Roth IRA, instead.  Both are great retirement tools, and there are advantages to each.  Recently, the April, 2013 edition of the AARP Bulletin addressed this very question (pg. 28). While there is no answer that is right for everyone, learning a few important facts about each type of retirement savings plan may help you make the decision that will work best for you. Here is some information that will help you compare the two.

Traditional IRA

The traditional IRA is what most of are are accustomed to using for our retirement savings.  They are a great way to save tax deferred income that you will be able to withdraw when you retire.  Here are some facts you should know about this type of savings:

You can put $5500 a year in an IRA or $6500 if you are age 50 or older.

When you initially invest the money in the IRA, that money is not subject to income taxes.  This reduces the amount of taxes you owe in the current year.  The taxes are deferred until you withdraw the money. This will reduce your tax liability during your working years, which can be a major benefit to families who want to save for retirement and reduce their taxes at the same time.

However, if you make early withdrawals, they may be subject to taxes and penalties (there are some exceptions).  When you die, any remaining money that is passed on to your heirs is also subject to income taxes.

You will not pay income taxes on the money until you begin to withdraw it when, presumably, you will be taxed at a lower tax rate than you currently pay.  On the other hand, once you do begin to withdraw your IRA savings, the additional income could increase the tax rate some people actually do pay on their retirement income.  In other words, if your Social Security income alone is low enough that you would not be required to pay taxes on it, adding annual disbursements from your IRA could mean that more of your income is subject to taxation.  This will not apply to everyone, but it could apply to people who will be withdrawing large amounts from their IRA's.

Mandatory withdrawals are required beginning at age 70 1/2.  You can no longer contribute to a traditional IRA after that time.

Roth IRA

The Roth IRA works quite differently and is an excellent retirement option for people who expect that their tax rate will be about the same after retirement as it is now.  However, the taxes on the money that is invested in a Roth IRA are not deferred.  Savers must be willing to pay income taxes on the money during the year the money is earned.  Here are some additional facts you will want to know about a Roth IRA:

You can invest up to $17,500 this year, and $23,000 if you are age 50 or older.

As mentioned above, when you put the money in your Roth IRA account, you will still include it as part of your earnings on this year's tax return, and you will pay income taxes on it.

The Roth IRA has the advantage that you can make early withdrawals at any time, without penalty, so you can treat your Roth IRA as a savings account.  Since you already paid taxes on the principal, you do not owe taxes or penalties on your initial investment when you withdraw it.  In addition, if you hold the money in your IRA for at least five years and you reach the age of 59 1/2, the dividends and capital gains you earned  on the money over the preceding years will be also be tax free when you withdraw these funds.  

Paying the taxes up front can be a big advantage if you expect to hold the investment for a long time and you believe that your investments could increase substantially in value.  This can potentially give you the income you need in your later years while keeping your tax rate low.  In addition, your heirs can inherit the funds tax free.

You do not have to withdraw your money at age 70 1/2.  In fact, if you are still working at that age, you can continue to contribute to the Roth IRA.  

Can You Change Your IRA Designation?

If you have money in a traditional IRA and you want to put it into a Roth IRA, it is possible to make the change as long as you are willing to pay taxes on the money during the year when you make the transfer. 

If you don't want to pay taxes on all the money you have in your traditional IRA in one year, you can spread the transfer out over several years.  

Which IRA is right for you?  That depends on many factors.  As always, you would be wise to discuss this decision with your CPA and your investment adviser.  No one choice is right for everyone.

If you want to learn more about factors that could affect your retirement planning, you may also be interested in reading the information in the index articles listed below.  Each one contains links to a number of helpful articles on that topic.

Gifts, Travel and Family Relationships

Great Places for Boomers to Retire Overseas

Great Places to Retire in the United States

Health and Medical Topics for Baby Boomers

Money and Financial Planning for Retirement

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

What If You Can't Afford to Retire?

Once again a report on Yahoo! Finance relayed the grim message that the majority of Baby Boomers have so little savings that many of them believe they will never be able to retire.  In the article entitled "5 Things to Do When Retirement Savings Fall Short" by Lisa Scherzer,  the author reported that 57% of workers have less than $25,000 put aside in either investments or savings.  In her article, she focused on ways to cut your housing expenses in order to afford to retire.  However, while this is a major area where Baby Boomers may want to reduce their expenses, there are many other actions they can take, as well.

Despite the alarming numbers we keep hearing that indicate approximately three out of five Baby Boomers cannot afford to retire, the purpose of this blog is to help people explore their options and discover the many ways they actually can retire, no matter how bad the numbers sound.  I want to help people have a fun and fulfilling retirement, regardless of their financial situation.

In fact, many of us will have to retire whether we think we can afford to or not.  While a low savings rate may cause us to feel that we will never be able to stop working, the truth is that most of us will need to leave our current jobs sooner or later.  Some types of careers have mandatory retirement ages; in other cases, health issues may force us to stop working full-time earlier than we expected.  Most of us cannot rely on the idea that we will simply work until we drop.  We need to have some sort of a plan.  Fortunately, there are actions you can take that make it possible for nearly everyone to retire someday, even if they have very little money in savings.  You may not be able to stay in your current living situation or drive the types of cars you currently own, but most people have discovered that there are a number of ways they can simplify their lives and still have a happy retirement.

Where to Make Cuts

The first thing we all need to do is figure out where we can cut our expenses.  The Social Security Administration recently reported that people who are over 55 generally split up their expenses in the following ways:

35 % to Housing, Utilities and Related expenses
14 % to Transportation
13 % for out-of-pocket medical expenses
12 % for food
21 % for state income taxes, travel, debt servicing, insurance, clothing, and other expenses
05  % for entertainment

Your personal expenses may be a little different.  The first step you need to take is to list how much you currently spend in the same categories and see how your expenses compare.

Cut Your Housing Expenses

One of the suggestions that was made by Ms. Scherzer in her article was to move to a state with a lower cost of living.   In particular, she recommended Florida, Nevada, Texas and Washington because those states do not have a state income tax.  In comparison, California has a 9.3% tax on the incomes of single people who earn more than $46,766 a year.  She also suggested that some people may want to move to another country with a lower cost of living.  These suggestions are being followed by thousands of Americans, as we have discussed in this blog in the past.  At the end of this article, you will find links to a number of articles about many of these alternative retirement locations.

However, not everyone wants to move somewhere totally new. As I mentioned in my last blog post entitled "Age in Place Villages Provide Resources in Your Neighborhood," many people wish to stay close to their families when they retire.  Therefore, pulling up roots and moving to another location may not be a desirable option.  In fact, if you spend a lot of money traveling to see your loved ones, there may not be much savings at all in a distant move.

This does not mean that it would be impossible for you to cut your housing expenses.  Here are some other suggestions:

Move to a much smaller and cheaper home
Rent out a room in your current residence
Refinance your current home to a lower monthly payment
Get a roommate, particularly a close friend or relative
Move in with your adult children (preferably in your own attached apartment)
Apply for Section 8 subsidized senior housing, if your retirement income is exceptionally low.

This last choice benefits many low-income retirees every year.  A friend of mine recently moved his mother into a senior apartment complex here in Orange County.  While rents for one bedroom senior apartments in the complex typically run $1300 a month, she will be able to substantially reduce her costs by using Section 8 vouchers.  She qualifies for this help since her Social Security benefits only amount to $1400 a month. 

We have other friends who are also benefiting from Section 8 vouchers.  Two recently retired Baby Boomers we know were both successful businessmen in their younger days.  However, due to financial setbacks, they both lost most of their money just prior to reaching retirement age.  Both of them applied for and received subsidized senior apartments in a safe community where they feel comfortable, independent and able to remain near their families and friends.

If you are afraid you cannot retire due to financial setbacks, contact the state housing authority in your area to find out if you qualify for assistance.  In addition, contact you local Social Security office to see if you qualify for Supplemental Security Insurance, food stamps, assistance with your Medicare premiums, or other benefits.  If not, you may want to try one of the other options listed above in order to cut your housing expenses.  Once you have cut your housing expenses, you will also want to reduce your other expenses, as well.

Cut Your Transportation Expenses

If you are one of those people who spend 14% or more of your monthly income on transportation, this is an area where you may be able to make cuts.  If you are a couple, do you need two, large cars?  Is there reliable bus service in your area?  Can you get by with a Smart Car, a golf cart or another inexpensive vehicle to use as your primary vehicle or as a second car for your spouse?  If you are no longer commuting to a job, you may discover that you can easily get by with a much less expensive vehicle to own and maintain.

Cut Your Medical Expenses

One woman I know is married to a doctor and they have always chosen to use a PPO insurance plan.  Recently, she told me that they had switched to a low-cost HMO Medicare supplemental plan because all the doctors they saw through their PPO were also listed in the HMO.  She saw no reason to keep paying the higher premiums. 

In my case, I recently joined Kaiser Healthcare.   Kaiser's Medicare Advantage plan is listed as a 5-Star program, yet the premiums are quite low.

Cut Your Miscellaneous Expenses

As mentioned above, one way to lower your cost of living after retirement may be to move to another state where there are no state income taxes.  However, another big expense that falls into the miscellaneous expenses category is debt servicing.  Are you still paying off student loans to put your kids through college; do you have large credit card bills, or similar expenses?  If so, you will want to pay off or renegotiate these loans so that you can retire.

You'll notice that I have not mentioned cutting your entertainment expenses.  Most retirees spend a minimal amount of money in this area.  What is the point of retiring if you cannot spend any money at all for entertainment?  While you don't need to go overboard, everyone should budget a little money in this category, even if it is just for a movie with a friend once a month.

Some other miscellaneous expenses that fall into this category may include items such as life insurance or long-term care insurance.  If you are single and no one depends on you, you may decide that you no longer need the life insurance.  On the other hand, long-term care insurance is almost certainly worth keeping.  It will allow you to have your future expenses covered should you need a home health aide or skilled nursing care in the future.  If you have been fortunate enough to already have one of these policies, I would not let it lapse.  It could save you a substantial amount of money in the future.

Get a Part-time Job

As mentioned many times in the past on this blog, there are a number of ways to earn money after retirement.  You might want to work part-time, give lessons, write books and articles, babysit, or run errands for your elderly neighbors.  You may also want to work in your current field, but cut back on your hours.  Any money you earn can go a long way towards having a more comfortable retirement once you retire from your current, full-time career.

Your Personal Retirement Plan

The point of this article has been to encourage you to not to give up on your dream of retiring from your full-time job in your late 60's.  Look through the suggestions that have been made here and pick a few that you think will work for you.  Begin to implement them as soon as you can, even before you stop working.  In this way you will have the confidence to know that one of these days you can take that giant leap of faith and retire from your job one day one day soon.

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You can find additional retirement information ideas by clicking on the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page or checking out the information you will find in the index blog posts below.  Each of these articles contains an introduction followed by links to a number of articles related to that topic:

Gifts, Travel and Family Relationships

Great Places for Boomers to Retire Overseas

Great Places to Retire in the United States

Health and Medical Topics for Baby Boomers

Money and Financial Planning for Retirement

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Pros and Cons of Social Security Privatization

Social Security privatizaton has been under consideration since George Bush suggested it in 2005.  However, after the Great Recession hit in 2008, many people were shocked to see their stock portfolios and mutual funds crash.  Those who were forced to retire in 2009 were frequently left far worse off than they had ever anticipated.

Recently, the subject of Social Security privatization has resurfaced because of the nomination of Paul Ryan as the Republican candidate for Vice President.  In 2010, Mr. Ryan proposed in his work "Road Map for America's Future" that workers should be allowed to divert one-third of their Social Security taxes into private accounts that individuals could invest and control.

Politics aside, this is a subject that needs to be respectfully analyzed.  What are the pros and cons of Social Security privatization?

Pros of Social Security Privatization:

My husband has been an institutional stockbroker for 41 years.  He has pointed out to me that people in the investment business would stand to earn much more money, since billions of dollars would be invested in the stock market.  This would provide a huge influx of capital that would be invested in large corporations, mutual funds and financial markets.  This would raise incomes for people in the investment business.

In a bull market, successful investors could make more money than the guaranteed amount from Social Security. During those bull market years, people could retire with a large nest egg, which is what Mr. Ryan concluded in his analysis of the benefits of privatization.

Cons of Social Security Privatization:

If people could remove money from their Social Security investment accounts over the years for things like down payments on homes, medical costs or educational expenses, many people would raid their accounts regularly, just as they now raid their IRA's.

However, it is possible that raiding Social Security savings would be strictly forbidden.  Even so, not everyone would retire in a bull market.  Every few years, some people would be retiring in a bear market, which could mean that they would be worse off than if they had chosen to take traditional Social Security.  It would be a type of Russian roulette.

Some people would make investments that turned out to be disastrous.  Remember those who invested in Enron or put all their retirement savings with Bernie Madoff?  In both cases, they lost nearly everything.

For those people who did choose to invest one-third of their Social Security taxes into private accounts, and lost it, their traditional Social Security benefits would be cut by one-third.  Most retirees can barely survive on Social Security alone right now.  Losing one-third of their benefits would be devastating.

People can already put money in personal retirement accounts that they manage themselves.  Unfortunately, research shows that many of them spend that money during the first few years after they retire, rather than spreading it out over their lifetime.  Although investment planners recommend that people never withdraw more than 3% - 4% of their retirement savings in a single year, far too many people exceed this amount and run through their savings quickly. 

Would the government have to spend substantially more on low cost housing for the elderly, special supplemental payments and food stamps for all those who lost that portion of their Social Security taxes that they had managed and invested themselves?  Would the government be spending less on Social Security, only to spend more on providing supplemental income?  Although it is impossible to predict the future with absolute assurance, it is possible that what started out as a Christmas gift for people in the investment field could become the Grinch who stole Christmas for future generations of taxpayers and retirees.

Other Options for Saving Social Security

There are ways, other than privatization, that could help put Social Security on solid ground.  Social Security taxes could be collected on incomes above $110,000.  The retirement ages could all be raised by one year, including the age of early retirement, which is currently 62.  In fact, the age of early retirement could be raised to age 64.  If someone is disabled, they could still collect disability.  However, able-bodied people would be better off waiting to collect Social Security until age 64, at the very least.  These modest adjustments would insure that Social Security benefits could be paid in full for many decades.  (Disclosure:  I am 63, so these changes could affect me.  However, if they strengthened Social Security, they would be worth it.)

Another suggestion that could be made to Social Security is raising the tax from 15% (half paid by the employers and half paid by the employees) to 16%.  Some people have also suggesting reducing the Cost of Living Adjustments that retirees currently receive.  They would still receive a COLA, it would just be smaller.  Needless to say, theses ideas are not popular, but they would be effective in saving Social Security for future generations, and they may honestly be the changes that must be made.


There are certainly both pros and cons to the idea of Social Security privatization, and undoubtedly there would be both winners and losers with this change.  However, since it seems to be a topic of consideration again, it is important that we carefully discuss the advantages and disadvantages, as well as other options for saving Social Security.  What do you think?

Other articles that may interest you are:

Do You Need a Million Dollars to Retire?
Retirement Deferred by Parent Student Loans
Retirement Income from Annuities or Investment Income
Cheap Places to Retire

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

How to Save Money for Retirement

Look for Sales and Save Money
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In cased you missed them, there were some very scary statistics scattered throughout the October, 2011 AARP Bulletin.  In the years since then, things have not changed much.  Basically, they come down to the fact that people are not saving nearly enough money in order to retire.  Here is some of what they had to say:

Families that have a head of household who is between the ages of 60 and 70 have only saved about 25% of what they will need for retirement.  (p. 3)

About 53% of all families in the US do not think they have enough retirement savings in order to have a comfortable retirement.  (p. 28)

In addition, the AARP Bulletin showed the impact that inflation is having on family wealth.  Between 1989 and 2009, the full time income for a man increased only about 3%.  Meanwhile, the cost of a college education for a child increased 73%, the cost of health insurance premiums rose 182%, and the amount of debt being carried by the average middle class family rose 292%!  (p. 28)  No wonder many of us feel that we are working harder than ever, but have less to show for it.

What can we do?  As impossible as it may seem, we all need to learn how to save money before we retire.  Everyone who is 50 years old or older should sit down and take a realistic look at how much income they will have when they retire, and then begin living now as close to that amount of money as possible! At the very least, you should try to live on only 90% of your income and save the other 10%.  If you cannot live on 90% of your income now, how do you think that you will live on just half of it ... which is what is going to have to millions of Baby Boomers!?

For example, let's say the head of the household in your home will receive approximately $2,000 a month from Social Security when they turn 67.  Their spouse will be eligible for an additional $1,000 a month in spousal benefits from Social Security when they turn 67, too.  If you expect to have $100,000 in your IRA or 401K by the time you retire, that could consider investing in a 20 year annuity and you would receive $400 - $500 dollars extra a month, at today's rates.  This comes to $3,500 a month in potential retirement income, including Social Security and investment income.

What is your current cost of living?  If you spend a lot more than $3,500 a month, you should start making adjustments to your current expenses to see if you can bring them down.  What will you need to change?  Will you need to move to a less expensive home or apartment, buy a less expensive car, or pay off your loans?  Perhaps you need to shop more carefully, by buying less and purchasing what you need when it is on sale. 

If you simply cannot bring down your expenses after retirement, is it possible that you could increase the amount of money you are putting in your IRA or 401K, so that you will have more retirement savings to invest when you stop working? Where can you come up with the extra savings? Are there services you could eliminate or reduce now, such as cable TV or your house telephone line?  Whatever you decide to do, start making the changes now, while you are still working.  The longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to take the necessary steps to have a balanced budget after you retire. 

With the right retirement planning, you can turn things around and take control of your retirement years.  It really is possible for you to become part of the 25% of people who have adequately planned and are prepared to retire!

If you are interested in more detailed information about retirement financial planning, where to retire, possible health issues you might encounter, family relationships and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

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