Best Social Security Claiming Strategies For Working Spouses?

By: Michelle Buonincontri, CFP®, CDFA

Q: My husband retired from the military after 30 years of service. He turned 72 November 24, 2018. He receives his Social Security check, a check from the Veterans Affairs, and he also receives multiple pensions. I still work but I don't make a lot of money. Am I entitled to early Social Security on his behalf?

A: There's some information we need to answer your question specifically, said Michelle Buonincontri, a certified financial planner with and founder of Being Mindful in Divorce.

For instance, you didn't mention your age and there are many nuances that apply around Social Security eligibility and benefits, said Buonincontri.

In general, however, there are two "retirement" benefits available to you as a "married working" person (depending on your age):

  1. A benefit based on your own earning record, called a retirement insurance benefit (RIB)

  2. A spousal benefit based on your husband's earning record, called a disability insurance benefit (DIB)

There are two other Social Security benefits known as Retroactivity for widow(er)'s insurance benefits (WIB) and Retroactivity for Disability Insurance Benefit (DIB), which are outside the scope of this question.

According to Buonincontri, the rule for a spousal Insurance benefit (SIB), states that if you are at least age 62 and your spouse is already receiving retirement benefits or disability insurance benefits (DIB), you can receive a spousal benefit of "up to" 50% of your spouse's eligible full retirement age (FRA) "base" Social Security benefit, or primary insurance amount (PIA) at their (FRA). A spousal benefit will not include any delayed retirement benefit credits (DRCs) your husband may be receiving or entitled to (See considerations below.)

"In your scenario, your husband is already receiving benefits and you would be 'deemed' to be applying for both a 'spousal benefit' (SIB) and your own 'retirement benefit' at the same time," said Buonincontri. "This means that Social Security will always pay your benefit first based on your earnings record, and then if your spousal benefit is higher, you will get a combination of funds equaling the higher amount of the spousal benefit."

Buonincontri gave this example: If your retirement benefit was $1,000, and your spousal benefit was $1500 (50% of your spouse's $3,000 based benefit), you would receive $1,500. This is $1,000 based on your record and a spousal benefit of $500

Note, however, had your spouse not already filed for benefits, you would not be deemed as filing for a spousal benefit (SIB) at this time - just a retirement benefit (RIB) of $1,000 based on your earning record, said Buonincontri. Then in the future when your spouse applied for benefits, the spousal benefit rules would apply and if that spousal amount was larger than your own benefit ($1,500 is greater than $1,000), your benefit would automatically be increased to ($1,500 in this example) to cover that additional money, she said.

Note too, said Buonincontri, this consideration that may reduce your benefit: If you begin receiving benefits at least age 62 and file before your FRA, your spousal benefit will be "permanently" reduced for each month you are filing early and your benefit will not increase when you reach your FRA; making your spousal benefit less than 50% of your spouse's full retirement "base" benefit or PIA. "Additionally, if your husband delayed receiving Social Security benefits past his FRA, for example to age 69 or 70, so that he would get a bigger check, you are not entitled to a spousal benefit based on his delayed retirement credits or DRCs, said Buonincontri. "So, his base benefit at his FRA will be less than what he is receiving and your percentage will be based on a lower amount, meaning a smaller benefit for you."

Buonincontri also issued a caution: Filing for early benefits "before" your FRA, will prevent you from utilizing claiming strategies that might allow you to switch between benefits. "For example, as a widow you could take a Widow Insurance Benefit (WIB) and later switch to your own retirement benefit or RIB in the future if that benefit was larger," she said. "You lose this option if you choose to receive a spousal benefit before your FRA."

  • At FRA - a spousal benefit cannot exceed 50% of your spouse's full retirement benefit

    • If you were born before Nov. 1, 1954, then after your FRA you can choose a "restrict and suspend" strategy, said Buonincontri. "This would allow you to file a restricted application to receive only a spousal benefit now and delay receiving a retirement benefit based on your own earnings record until a future date - maybe age 70, when you benefit is larger due to delayed retirement credits or DRCs," she said.

    • Unfortunately, due to Social Security changes that went into effect Nov. 2, 2015 - those born on or after Jan. 2, 1954 cannot file a "restricted" application to only receive spousal benefits, said Buonincontri. "Instead you will automatically be filing for 'all' benefits that you are eligible for and don't have the opportunity for your retirement benefit based on your earnings record to grow," she said.

Your spousal benefit may be reduced for other reasons as well, said Buonincontri. "For instance, you mentioned that you are working," she said. "The amount of Social Security benefit based on your spouse's earning record or PIA may be reduced if you are entitled to a pension from previous work, not covered by Social Security under the Government Pension Offset or GPO. Additionally, she said, your benefit can be reduced if you have a child eligible for benefits under your spouse's earning record as there is a "maximum amount" that can be paid to family members.

"As you can see this is complicated," said Buonincontri. "There are too many opportunities to make an uninformed decision and in turn not maximize your benefit," she said. "This decision is irreversible and applying online limits your options, as the restricted application option is not available."

Buonincontri's best advice: Make an appointment at your local Social Security office and explore all options at your age, any benefits of delaying and receiving at a different time, as well as inquiring and understanding if the "restrict and suspend/defer" option under a "restricted" application is available and makes sense for you.

Got questions about the new tax law, Social Security, Medicare, retirement, investments, or money in general? Want to be considered for a Money Makeover? Email: Robert.Powell@TheStreet.com. Kim McSheridan assisted with this report.

This article originally appeared as Ask Bob: Best Social Security Claiming Strategies For Working Spouses? on The Street.


Michelle Buonincontri Circle Headshot.png

Michelle Buonincontri is the Founder of Being Mindful in Divorce. She’s a divorced single mom, passionate about using her professional experience as a CFP® & CDFA™ and personal journey to support women in transition; creating confidence through education so they can make financial choices with peace of mind. Bringing together a background in investment management, tax prep and retirement planning, to provide Divorce planning (with singles or couples) and Financial Coaching services, financial literacy workshops and writings.

3 Tips to Reduce Later Life Divorce from Wreaking Havoc on your Retirement Plan

By: Michelle Buonincontri, CFP®, CDFA

A laterlife divorce can wreak havoc on even the most well-thought out retirement plan -  as there is little time to amass assets and recover from the loss of previously anticipated retirement income.

"Gray" divorces — among couples 50 and up, or "Boomers" – have been on the rise, with about 25% (one in every four divorces) occurring to people over the age of 50 according to a study by the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University . It has been said that 50% of first marriages end in divorce, and the numbers are even higher for second and third marriages

So what can you do?

Manage Expectations

During this time, managing expectations is paramount. The income that once supported one household, is most likely now supporting two. A spouse may need to consider working longer (delaying retirement), modifying living expenses and discretionary spending. Many times, one spouse may be entering the workforce – either again after many years or even for the first-time. Life will be different post-divorce. This can be scary and stressful, and decisions tend to me made on emotions rather than facts. Ensure you have others in your life to help support you during this difficult time. Consider Mediation as a resolution alternative, maybe join a support group or yoga, be "mindful" of emotions, and try to keep "healing" as a central theme as you weigh choices.

Create an Asset Inventory

Unfortunately, the spouse that was non-working, “less-monied” or the care-taker - suffers the most financially in a divorce, as they have less saved for retirement. Understand that all marital assets can become "potential" retirement assets; even ambiguous employment benefits such as bonuses, stock options, deferred compensation, health benefits, the future income stream of pensions, and Health Savings Accounts (H.S.A.’s). If these assets aren't specifically identified, or you don't understand them, the success of a retirement plan may even be compromised - as there is no "re-do" in divorce.

Understand the Value of What you Are Really Entitled to

Decisions regarding the identification of marital & separate property (and their growth during the marriage), retirement asset valuation, asset division and tax implications become so important as pension benefits and social security will be less in a single household, and health-care costs may now become a concern (whereas before they may not have been due to spousal benefits). Pensions and Social Security benefits increase the likelihood of successfully meeting your needs in retirement and are considered "safer streams of income", so they are an important part of your plan after divorce. All these need to be considered in the Divorce planning process as they have a large impact on the success of your new post-divorce retirement plan.

Working with ac CDFA™ (Certified Divorce Financial Analyst) can help with understanding the short and long term cash-flow and net-worth effects of various options and settlement scenarios -  so that decisions can be made that minimize the financial impact on a retirement plan and provide longer term peace of mind.  

Both the IDFA (Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts)  and the ADFP (Association of Divorce Financial Planners) can be resources for finding a CDFA™ (Certified Divorce Financial Analyst)  professional to support you during this time of transition.

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.


Michelle Buonincontri Circle Headshot.png

Michelle Buonincontri is the Founder of Being Mindful in Divorce. She’s a divorced single mom, passionate about using her professional experience as a CFP® & CDFA™ and personal journey to support women in transition; creating confidence through education so they can make financial choices with peace of mind. Bringing together a background in investment management, tax prep and retirement planning, to provide Divorce planning (with singles or couples) and Financial Coaching services, financial literacy workshops and writings.

How Women Can Help Fill the Retirement Savings Gap

By: Michelle Buonincontri, CFP®, CDFA

There is certainly a gender gap issue that women face in pay, but there is also a larger one they face in retirement. Having left the workforce to raise families or care for aging parents, possibly having gone through a divorce and the longevity issue that brings with it higher medical costs in retirement all contribute to less lifetime retirement savings and higher expenses.

According to a report, released by the National Institute on Retirement Security on March 1, 2016 “women were 80% more likely than men to be impoverished at age 65 and older, while women age 75 to 79 were three times more likely to fall below the poverty level as compared to their males counterparts.” These findings are contained in Shortchanged in Retirement, The Continuing Challenges to Women’s Financial Future. Consequently, lower retirement savings and increased retirement expenses can create the perfect storm for a retirement crisis for women, if nothing changes.

Develop a spending plan/savings plan. It all starts with cash flow. In order to know how much you can save, you have to know what is coming in and what is going out (your spending). So track your expenses and set an initial savings amount. Remember no amount is too small - just start somewhere, stick with it and have a plan to increase the amount!

Four Ways Women Can Help Fill Retirement Savings Gap

Roth IRAs/Roth 401(k)s

When eligible, maximize your annual Roth IRA contribution and utilize Roth conversion strategies when appropriate. A Roth account allows tax-free compounding and paying tax on retirement savings now, while in a lower-tax bracket, saves money in the long-run. When withdrawals rules are followed the withdrawals, including earnings, will be tax free in retirement and since she can withdraw her original contributions at any time without a penalty, her money is not tied up. Being in a lower tax bracket may be the case for many women due to the gender pay gap, a single lifestyle or supporting single parent households.

Health Savings Accounts

As women we live longer, will most likely be single without a partner to take care for us and will have the added concern of higher medical costs for a longer time period in retirement.  When covered by a high deductible healthcare plan, a Healthcare Savings Account can offer four benefits to women looking to reduce the retirement gap. Contributions are tax-deductible, so taxes are reduced now. It allows savings for future costs, while the earnings grow tax free. HSAs allow tax-free withdrawals for qualified medical expenses - this is particularly important in retirement when healthcare costs will be higher. Lastly, HSAs are portable even if you leave your job or the workforce, so you do not have to “use it or lose it” in a single year.

Employer Plans

Tax-deferred accounts, like a 401(k), also allow money to grow tax free and the employer match is “free money” that helps a nest egg grow quicker. So contribute the minimum needed to take advantage of an available employer match so that you are not “leaving money on the table.”

Saver’s Credit

There is a tax credit specifically for low-income workers who save for retirement. So if a woman contributes to a retirement account such as an IRA, Roth IRA or 401(k) and her modified adjusted gross income is less than $30,750 in 2016, she may be able to claim the Saver's Credit on her tax return. This credit is worth up to $2,000 for individuals and can be used to reduce the federal income tax she pays.

Consult a Certified Financial Planner for comprehensive advice on these and other strategies that address your retirement planning needs.

This article originally appeared on Investopedia.


Michelle Buonincontri Circle Headshot.png

Michelle Buonincontri is the Founder of Being Mindful in Divorce. She’s a divorced single mom, passionate about using her professional experience as a CFP® & CDFA™ and personal journey to support women in transition; creating confidence through education so they can make financial choices with peace of mind. Bringing together a background in investment management, tax prep and retirement planning, to provide Divorce planning (with singles or couples) and Financial Coaching services, financial literacy workshops and writings.

Rebuilding Your Financial Future After Divorce

By: Michelle Buonincontri, CFP®, CDFA

If you are like most, your divorce ends with debt, and the last thing we are thinking about is retirement. I know, I've been there; nothing kills a retirement plan like a divorce. There are no student loans or government bailouts to help us.

According to a report released by the National Institute on Retirement Security on March 1, 2016, 80% of women over 64 are already more likely to live an impoverished life than men.

So what’s a gal to do?

Cut Discretionary Spending

This might sound obvious, but life is not the same. The income that once supported one household may now be supporting two, and you may be entering the workforce again or for the first time. Things will need to change, and you are the catalyst for that change!

For example, renting instead of owning a home may make more sense, even if just in the interim to keep expenses down. We need to remove the emotion from our financial decisions and take a longer range view.

Take Advantage of Any Employer Retirement Match

Many employers offer workplace savings plans that match employee contributions—often up to 6% of your salary. Execute the strategy above so you may contribute enough to your tax-deferred employer plan to earn 100% of the employer match in a 401(k), 401(b) or 457 plan. Earning the match is like receiving a 100% return on your investment. Where can you find a 100% return? This will help your nest egg grow and boost your retirement security. Not contributing enough to utilize the employer match is like leaving free money on the table.

View Your Divorce Debt Like An Investment

Like a what? I know that intuitively does not make sense. But there are competing resources for paying off debt and saving. Start by comparing the interest rate on the debt to that of an expected investment return and the power of compounding of retirement savings.

If, for example, your student loan or mortgage has a before-tax interest rate of 3–5 % (which may be even less after a tax deduction) and you can reasonably earn 5% with compounding over a longer time horizon in retirement, it may make more sense to put money in your retirement account than pay off that debt early—always considering cash flow and remembering that market returns are not certain. 

But if your credit card is charging 10%, put more money there. Once you stop paying that 10% it’s like earning 10%, because it is no longer being spent and is available in your budget for other items. Look at the interest rates you are paying like market returns that are leaving your pocket, and try to consolidate debt into a lower interest rate whenever possible.

Get in Touch With Where You Are in Your Story

What is going on for you right now, in this moment? Are you living in the past with regret, bringing the past into the present, or maybe even living in the future with fear?  What messages have you taken in and believe about yourself? This can be scary. For me, being grateful for what I have, acknowledging a point of view or a set of expectations I have of a situation, or others that are coloring my perspective, is freeing. Once done, I can choose to see things differently and I can choose to take actions so that I may be the architect of my life.

When we are not blaming and we are choosing, it can be very empowering!

Yes, these are the basics. We need to lay the foundation before we can move onto planning strategies. Consult a certified financial planner for comprehensive advice on strategies that address your retirement planning needs.

This article originally appeared on Investopedia.


Michelle Buonincontri Circle Headshot.png

Michelle Buonincontri is the Founder of Being Mindful in Divorce. She’s a divorced single mom, passionate about using her professional experience as a CFP® & CDFA™ and personal journey to support women in transition; creating confidence through education so they can make financial choices with peace of mind. Bringing together a background in investment management, tax prep and retirement planning, to provide Divorce planning (with singles or couples) and Financial Coaching services, financial literacy workshops and writings.

5 Retirement Assumptions You Can't Make Anymore

By: Michelle Buonincontri, CFP®, CDFA

We've all heard the adage "nothing can be certain, except death and taxes." This line of thought also applies to retirement, as society and financial markets change.

Here are a few assumptions many Americans used to be able to make about retirement, and why they can't rely on them anymore.

1. I’ll Be Married When I Retire

Times are changing. We have all heard the statistics that 50% of first marriages end in divorce, and the numbers are even higher for second and third marriages. "Gray" divorces — among couples 50 and up, or "Boomers" – have been on the rise, according to a study by the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University, with about one in every four divorces (25%) occurring to people over the age of 50.

Divorce can wreak havoc on the retirement plan of married couples, as assets now need to be divided. Typically, the "less monied" earning spouse has less saved for retirement (401(k), pension, annuities) and a lower Social Security benefit than their higher-earning spouse. With the retirement strategy no longer based on two incomes (even if only Social Security) as originally planned, income is cut in half or less, and expenses as a single person rise. Consequently, divorced couples face unanticipated financial constraints and decisions.

Retirement assets may not be split 50/50 – only the "marital" portion will be divided and they are not automatically split in a divorce — substantially reducing what you will receive after a divorce versus at widowhood. Get financially literate and know what you have ahead of time. Understand all the marital assets, as they all become "potential" retirement assets; even more esoteric employment benefits such as stock options, deferred compensation, bonuses, HSA accounts and the value of pensions (their future income stream). If these assets aren't explicitly accounted for, or you don't understand them, the success of your retirement plan may be been compromised and you could be out of luck – there is no "re-do" in divorce.

Divorce may be out of our control, just like an accident or illness, but it's important to plan for the things we can control – like saving more. Since divorce is forever, perhaps it may be prudent to run retirement projections if you were to divorce — treat it like a "long-term care event," even if you are not considering it — just to test the success rate of the modified scenario and understand the potential financial impact on your retirement plan.

Pensions and Social Security are an important part of your plan after divorce, as they are considered the "safer streams of income," and increase the likelihood of successfully meeting your needs in retirement. After divorce, you may still be eligible to collect larger spousal or survivor Social Security benefits using your spouse's higher earning record under certain circumstances; even if he/she is remarried. You can speak with a Financial Planning (FP) professional to test your plan as a "single" and to understand how to maximize your monthly Social Security benefit before filing for benefits. Most FP's have special software used to determine the best age and withdrawal strategy for you to begin collecting benefits based on your "individual" situation, something that the Social Security department cannot do as effectively.

2. My Assets ‘Conservatively’ Need to Last for 30 Years

As we live longer, a 30-year conservative assumption for retirement assets to last for an average 65-year-old becomes more the "norm," rather than the conservative assumption it was meant to be in 1994 when first introduced as part of the 4% safe withdrawal rule, according to Wade Pfau, economist and professor at The American College of Financial Services. At that time, a 30-year number was outside the "normal" lifespan for an adult.

According to the Social Security website, approximately 25% of 65-year-olds today will live past age 90, and 10% will live past age 95. These numbers are generally lower for an individual versus a married couple, but these statistics negate a "30-year time horizon" for a plan as a "conservative" assumption for how long assets need to last in a retirement plan. If you are retiring earlier, assets need to last longer, but as we live longer and heath costs in retirement increase (more on this in item #5 on this list), the chances of outliving our money increases. Although age 95 is now used as the common age for "last to live for couples," a more "conservative" number may have the last in a couple living until age 100 since 10% of individuals will live past age 95. Then you need to factor in "planned" years in retirement (as some retire earlier than 65), marital status, sex, personal and family health issues. You may get a more accurate number by working with a planner, and to get a better idea of whether your plan will be successful.

3. I Won’t Outlive My Money If I Have a Safe Annual 4% Withdrawal Rate

How cliché can I get? Well when science proves something out, it should be shouted from the rooftops beyond facial blueness. The 4% safe withdrawal rate rule was introduced in 1994 by financial adviser Bill Bengen. It has been used by planners to help retirees spend their retirement funds and suggests that if retirees withdraw 4% of their portfolio in their first year of retirement, and adjust that amount for inflation each year, they'll have a low risk of running out of money in 30 years. This rule is affected by several parameters such as; interest rates/income generation, how long folks live (longevity), asset allocation & income source types (stocks, bonds, guaranteed annuity stream, pension etc.).

However, several articles have been written challenging this 4% withdrawal assumption. Pfau wrote a research paper showing that this rule would not work when retiring in a market downturn or in a period with historically low interest rates.

In 1994, when this rule was introduced, portfolios were generally earning 8% annually, and these days we are looking at earnings more like 3-4%, with safe investment such as bonds not earning nearly what they did historically, and if interest rates did rise, folks would face a loss in bond values since prices fall when yields rise.

When interest rates are low, retirement savings are not earning the same income and people are spending principle, retirement savings becomes more dependent on market upside (if they are invested in stocks and bonds) to provide the earnings needed rather than stable rates of return. This makes retirement savings more susceptible to swings in the market when money is being withdrawn and that can have a dramatic impact of savings, which increases the risk that funds won't last through retirement.

Add the fact that we are living longer, and the money needs to last even longer — creating further risk in the original 4% withdrawal rule.

The bottom line is there is no easy answer.

4. A Home Is a Good Retirement Asset

A home is probably the largest and most valuable asset that consumers own, though it may not be as appreciable as you think it is. Owning a home is no guarantee of profit. In fact, even if you sell your home for more than you bought it, that doesn't mean you necessarily made a profit. You need to determine the inflation-adjusted dollar amount of what it would cost to buy that home in the future when you want to sell it.

Going backwards: For example, if you spent $800,000 in 2005 to buy your home, and wanted to sell it 10 years later in 2015, that same $800,000 in 2005 would cost you $974,111 in today's dollars due to inflation. So then you may think you need to sell that house for more than $974,111 to break even – but owning a home has related expenses that are much higher than renting. You need to also subtract any money you spent on upgrades and maintenance over the past 10 years, and 3-6% in sales commission, closing costs and moving costs to get a more accurate picture of your profit. Chances are you really didn't make very much on that asset you held for 10 years.

Additionally, the housing market is volatile, and if you don't sell at the height of market, you could be facing a flat market or prices declining for many years. The financial crisis taught us that the real estate market can be affected by things outside our control. This, and the fact that you can't sell unless there's a buyer with your price at the time you want to sell, makes real estate illiquid and creates undue risk in your retirement plan at a chosen time that you need cash flow.

Making a profit also depends on where you buy and when you sell and where you wind up living after the sale. You will need to spend money on a place to live, and unless you are planning to live in an area with a substantially lower cost of living, that "windfall" may not seem so big or last so long. (This free calculator can show you how much house you can afford.)

We cannot predict the market climate when you retire, so remember your home is a home, buy it with that intent, and plan on not needing it in retirement you will have a higher degree of certainty that you plan will work.

5. Spending Always Decreases in Retirement

Maybe, maybe not. Just as we were individuals while working, the same goes for retirement. Sure, certain expenses like clothing, transportation and other business expenses tend to go down, and maybe your house is paid off, but with 8-10 hours extra a day, socializing, entertainment and eating out can take up a bigger part of your retirement budget. Many retirees want to travel more in the early retirement years and believe these costs drop later, but those travel costs are most likely offset by rising medical costs. Medical expenses can even consume a larger portion of a post-retirement budget right away because health insurance costs may no longer be subsidized by employers. So you may need to pay out of pocket; if you are 65, Medicare part B premiums can be pretty high, depending on your income level.

As we live longer, the likelihood of increased medical expenses also increases with diseases such as Dementia & Alzheimer's. Seventy percent of individuals over 65 have a long-term care event at some point in their life, which is not covered by Medicare. According to the Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI), Medicare covered roughly 62% of an individual's medical expenses, and it may decrease in the future – increasing a retiree's share of health care costs. EBRI estimates that a 65-year-old couple should save between $241,000 and $326,000 to cover medical and drug costs (excluding long-term care) in addition to the amount required by a retirement plan to cover basic annual needs. Also, another EBRI study stated that 20% of retirees reported that, in addition to supporting the immediate household, they also provided financial support to relatives and friends.

Between high retirement lifestyle goals, rising health care costs, increased longevity and costs related to supporting family members in retirement, don't assume that expenses in retirement are always less. Instead, you need to take this all into consideration to help improve the success of your retirement plan.

This article originally appeared on Yahoo Finance.


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Michelle Buonincontri is the Founder of Being Mindful in Divorce. She’s a divorced single mom, passionate about using her professional experience as a CFP® & CDFA™ and personal journey to support women in transition; creating confidence through education so they can make financial choices with peace of mind. Bringing together a background in investment management, tax prep and retirement planning, to provide Divorce planning (with singles or couples) and Financial Coaching services, financial literacy workshops and writings.

The ‘stretch’ option for maximizing IRAs

By: Elliot Raphaelson

Because most employers have eliminated defined-benefit retirement plans, future retirees will depend more than ever on 401(k) plans, traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs.

To plan for a successful retirement, you must understand the fundamentals and nuances of these plans. The regulations are complex, and you cannot afford to make any mistakes. Not every financial planner is well-educated in this field. If you depend on a financial planner, make sure he/she has the required expertise. Don’t be afraid to ask a prospective planner to demonstrate it.

Before you do that, you need to educate yourself. I recommend Ed Slott’s “Retirement Decisions Guide” for 2018, available for $13 through IRAHELP.COM (or by calling 1-800-663-1340).

Regular readers of this column will recognize Slott’s name. He’s a leading expert on IRA planning, and I cite him frequently. Recently, I attended a two-day seminar for financial advisers sponsored by his company. One of the insights I came away with is the importance of designating the IRA’s beneficiaries.

One of the most important features of an IRA is the ability to extend its life as long as possible to take advantage of the associated tax advantages. Many choose to include children as beneficiaries as a way to create a “stretch” IRA.

A beneficiary who inherits and IRA will be required to make age-related withdrawals. The older an individual is, the greater the required mandatory withdrawal. Accordingly, children who are beneficiaries can stretch out the required withdrawals for a longer time frame than a spouse. If your children are in a lower tax bracket than your spouse, that would be another advantage.

A major reason why attempts to create a stretch IRA fail is that the individuals who set them up fail to name a living beneficiary. It’s that simple.

Too many people believe that IRA succession is taken care of or covered in the will or estate plan. It isn’t. Wills do not cover IRAs! The IRA passes outside the will by beneficiary designation. That designation is retained by the financial institution that maintains your IRA account.

If the financial institution you established your IRA with merged with another financial institution, your initial form establishing beneficiary designation may not have been retained by the new firm. It is your responsibility to ensure that the new financial institution has an up-to-date beneficiary designation form. If your financial institution does not have a written designation, then your estate will be the beneficiary, and your beneficiaries would lose the stretch option.

If a life event occurs that alters your choice of beneficiary, you must update your beneficiary designation forms. Changing your will is not sufficient! If you go through a divorce, and you don’t want your ex-spouse to be a beneficiary, you must update the designations. If one of your beneficiaries dies, it is likely you will want to update the designations. Again, these changes have to be made via the beneficiary form, not your will.

After you die, how can your beneficiaries maximize the use of the stretch option? Only spouse beneficiaries have the option of rolling over the inherited IRA into their own IRA. Your spouse also has the option of initially establishing an inherited IRA and subsequently rolling it over into his/her own IRA. This makes sense for beneficiaries who inherit before age 59 1/2.

Suppose a widow inherits her deceased husband’s IRA before age 59 1/2 and rolls it immediately into her own IRA. If she withdraws funds, she will be subject to a 10 percent penalty. However, if she maintains it as an inherited IRA and withdraws funds from it, the 10 percent penalty is avoided. At 59 1/2, she can roll the account over to her own IRA. Withdrawals from traditional IRAs will be subject to income taxes on both inherited IRAs and individually owned IRAs.

Inform your beneficiaries, preferably in writing, of the steps they should take to transfer the assets to their accounts, or specify a financial planner they should be communicating with. If your beneficiaries don’t transfer the accounts in a timely manner, thousands of dollars will be lost.


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A retired executive of Chase Manhattan bank, Elliot Raphaelson joined The Savings Game after decades of experience as an advisor, teacher and author in the field of personal finance. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Town & Country, Vogue, Self, Savvy and Working Woman magazines. For ten years he has worked as a certified mediator and trainer in a Florida county court.

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Elliot Raphaelson

A retired executive of Chase Manhattan Bank, Elliot Raphaelson joined The Savings Game after decades of experience as an advisor, teacher and author in the field of personal finance. He has taught courses in personal financial planning at The New School for Social Research and at the Military Academy at West Point, as well conducting seminars for Chase, Dow Jones & Co. and other corporations.

Past publications include Planning Your Financial Future (Wiley, 1982), and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, Town & Country, Vogue, Self, Savvy and Working Woman magazines. For ten years he has worked as a certified mediator and trainer in a Florida county court, where he helps resolve personal financial problems of every description.

Your indispensable guide to Social Security

By: Elliot Raphaelson

There is no question that Social Security issues are important to the American public. It is not unusual for me to receive more than 100 responses from readers when I write a Social Security-related column.

Regular readers know that I frequently reference Andy Landis as a source. He has just updated his book, "Social Security: The Inside Story" (www.andylandis.biz), which I consider an indispensable resource on the topic. His book is up-to-date, comprehensive, well-organized and easy to understand. He provides numerous helpful examples. In each chapter, he includes Social Security references so readers can read the associated regulations that were discussed.

The book provides a useful overview of Social Security and chapters on retirement benefits, family benefits, survivor benefits, disability benefits and Medicare. There are references to available calculators for estimating your benefits, hints on effective filing, and a very important chapter on maximizing your benefits.

The chapter on maximizing Social Security benefits is particularly useful. Landis discusses the advantages of postponing filing for benefits up to age 70, which increases your benefits by 8 percent for every year you wait past full retirement age (FRA). Another advantage in doing so is that widow/widowers might be entitled to a larger benefit if you choose this option. Filing for widow/widower benefits only does not preclude filing for benefits based on your work record at a later time.

The chapter also discusses restricted application for "spousal only" payments. This option allows you to file for your spousal benefit after you reach your FRA, and then to file for your benefits based on your work record up to age 70. Unfortunately, many Social Security representatives do not understand this option. When I have written about this option, I have been amazed at the number of readers who write complaining about the ignorance of many Social Security Administration representatives.

Note that this option is available only to individuals who were born before January 2, 1954. And to qualify, your spouse would have to have already filed for his/her benefits. You must not have received a reduced retirement benefit or spousal payment before.

It would make sense to use this option only if your payment at age 70 is higher than your spousal payment at FRA. If you meet these qualifications, it can be a valuable tool.

Many of the options and tools discussed in this book will help you make the right decisions. You cannot depend on advice from SSA representatives. Many financial planners are far from experts in Social Security as well. I recommend that it is in your best interests to become an expert in Social Security before it is time to apply for benefits. Making the right decision can provide you with hundreds of thousands of additional benefits.

Many divorced individuals do not understand their Social Security options. If your previous marriage lasted at least 10 years, and you either have not remarried or remarried after age 60, you may have benefits you are not aware of. You can't depend on the SSA to inform you. For example, many individuals believe that because their ex-spouse remarried, it affects their benefits. This is false; it has no impact.

If your ex predeceases you, it is possible that you are entitled to larger benefits than you previously were receiving. For example, assume your ex worked until age 70 and was receiving $2,000 per month in Social Security benefits, and he/she died. If you are single, or remarried after age 60, you are entitled to whichever is greater, your ex-spouse's benefit or the benefit you are now receiving.

Landis' book covers this and other topics in great detail.

If you have any relatives approaching retirement age, one of the best gifts you can provide is a copy of this book. It can make their retirement much more prosperous. Making the right Social Security choices is critical. Making the wrong choices is expensive and difficult to undo.


Raphaelson-Elliot-savvy-ladies-blog-author.png

A retired executive of Chase Manhattan bank, Elliot Raphaelson joined The Savings Game after decades of experience as an advisor, teacher and author in the field of personal finance. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Town & Country, Vogue, Self, Savvy and Working Woman magazines. For ten years he has worked as a certified mediator and trainer in a Florida county court.

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Elliot Raphaelson

A retired executive of Chase Manhattan Bank, Elliot Raphaelson joined The Savings Game after decades of experience as an advisor, teacher and author in the field of personal finance. He has taught courses in personal financial planning at The New School for Social Research and at the Military Academy at West Point, as well conducting seminars for Chase, Dow Jones & Co. and other corporations.

Past publications include Planning Your Financial Future (Wiley, 1982), and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, Town & Country, Vogue, Self, Savvy and Working Woman magazines. For ten years he has worked as a certified mediator and trainer in a Florida county court, where he helps resolve personal financial problems of every description.

How to Not Go Broke Supporting Adult Children

by David Ragland

You’ve worked hard, you’ve saved, you’ve downsized, and the nest is finally empty. Life is good. But then one of your kids loses his job. Or she starts falling further into debt. Or decides to send your grandchild to a private school he can’t afford.
Now what do you do? Is your only choice to dip into retirement to support an adult child? How do you manage the feelings of guilt and obligation versus your own needs?

Your Retirement Reality

Once the nest is empty, the kids are off the payroll, right? Or just theoretically? Because your retirement may depend on it, know that it is never too late to talk to your kids about money. Even if that “kid” is approaching middle age.
This is particularly true because during your last ten years in the workforce when you’ll most likely reach your maximum wealth-building potential and accumulate a significant portion of what you need for retirement. This is the time to put more into your 401K, downsize and reduce expenses, and really focus on reaching your retirement goals. Sure, there will be unexpected expenses, but ongoing unexpected expenses from your children shouldn’t be one of them.

Build Your Financial Support Team

But I know. You love your kids. You’ve made sacrifices for them since they were born. Shifting the dynamic can be hard when children become adults and their financial footing is still wobbly.
“These can be really difficult situations,” says Wendy Dickinson, PhD and licensed psychologist at GROW counseling in Atlanta. “When we have parents who are in a crisis because of a failure-to-launch young adult, or an adult child in a health crisis, or perhaps an adult child dealing with an addiction that becomes a bottomless money pit, one of the first things that we do is a thorough assessment. We need to determine 1) what is the goal 2) what would the parents not be able to live with and 3) to what extent the parents are willing to learn to set boundaries.”
Dickinson says that setting a goal is extremely important because it will guide the rest of the process:

  • Does the parent unit want to require the young adult to be responsible for their decisions?

  • Do they want to appropriately financially support them during a difficult time?

  • Do they want to provide for some but not all of their needs?

Essential to the process of goal setting is clear communication and a willingness for the parents to be open and vulnerable about what they are feeling and what they need.
“I always spend some time talking to parents about what they could NOT live with – it’s really helpful in establishing a threshold of behavior. For example, would they not be able to live with their grandchildren being hungry? Or their kids/grandchildren not having the medical attention they need? Sometimes parents will say they are not going to pay for anything, except unlimited counseling if their son/daughter is willing to participate with a goal of getting better. I find there are usually exceptions to what parents are willing to pay for, and in the process of setting boundaries it’s important to be clear about these exceptions upfront if possible.”
Finally, Dickinson says, the parent unit needs to learn to set boundaries. This can be a challenging because boundary setting has most likely been difficult for these parents during their child-rearing years. “Much could be written about navigating the process of boundary setting, but regarding the topic of money, I specifically think it’s important to be clear, consistent and compassionate,” says Dickinson.
“Clear and consistent relate to the goal-setting process and learning how to have difficult money conversations. The compassion that is critical is in separating the feeling from the behavior. It’s OK to empathize with your child even if you are standing firm on the financial support. Often parents interpret ‘boundary setting’ to mean they have to be cold, stoic, or disconnected. Rather you, as the parent, are the biggest cheerleaders for your kids – your encouragement can be the very thing that pushes them to take a risk and realize that with a little work they are able to achieve financial autonomy.”

Rounding out the Team

In addition to finding a counselor who can provide guidance and recommend strategies, you can also lean on your financial planner, accountant and/or attorney. You want a team that has your back especially as you get older. They need to understand your goals and your challenges — including your children’s financial situations — and be there to help you draw the line. They may need to play the bad guy and that’s OK.
You may also want to talk to your financial planner about including your adult child in a meeting so they can see the realities of your budget, as well as the benefits of a financial plan. And unless you can really afford it, don’t distribute an inheritance before you die. We’re all living longer and the expenses associated with aging continue to rise. You may need that money.
The challenges of family and money are nothing new, but how you deal with it can be. Communication is key as is finding the support you need to stay focused on what’s best for your situation. And know that regardless of how old your children are, it’s never too late.

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David Ragland

David Ragland is a Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®), Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®) and Chief Executive Officer of IRC Wealth, a private asset management company based in Atlanta. Holding both a BBA and a Master’s degree in Accounting from the University of Georgia, David began his career in the tax division of Ernst & Young. He then served as CFO for several companies, gaining experience in taking companies public and propelling them on to the INC 500 List of Fastest Growing Companies. A vibrant, energetic speaker, best-selling author of Wealth Made Simple (yes, really), businessman and Ironman triathlete, David Ragland understands and articulates the core ingredients that motivate, energize and push people across their personal finish lines.

Happy, Birthday, Barbie!

On March 9th, Barbie celebrates her 58th birthday. Whether you loved Barbie as a little girl or thought she was a negative role model for women, there is no denying her part in women’s toy history. Ruth Handler created the Barbie doll and co-founded Mattel, Inc. with her husband when she saw her daughter choose paper dolls of grown-up women over baby dolls. Ruth developed a toy that allowed little girls to imagine the future. Barbie has had a lot of success as well as controversy over the years. In the 90’s, Barbie-related merchandise sales reached $1 billion annually and Mattel estimates three Barbie dolls are sold every second. Some women believe that Barbie’s various careers broke down gender barriers and served as inspiration to girls showing them they could be whatever they want. Others thought that her clothing and “Dream Houses” would encourage girls to be materialistic. In 1992, a women’s group criticized a talking Barbie doll for the phrase “math class is tough.” Barbie’s physical appearance has perhaps been the most controversial, with some claiming she set unrealistic expectations for girls. In 2016, Mattel released a new range of Barbie dolls that included three new body shapes and a variety of skin tones. Barbie has been working full time for 3 decades and she has had a number of fascinating careers from teacher to astronaut. As she nears retirement, let's take a look at her retirement plan.

Barbie nears retirement

Barbie knew to begin investing early. She established her 401k and put away a little bit each month. She eventually increased her contribution to the maximum of $18,000 a year. She has accumulated $420,000 (her 401k took a big hit in the 2008 financial meltdown).

401k accumulation = $420,000

According to her my Social Security Account, she can begin collecting at her Full Retirement Age of 66 years and 10 months.

Social Security = $2,613 per month

Current Salary = $95,000

Barbie used the T.Rowe Price Retirement Calculator to see if she was on track.

Here are her results:

Barbie t rowe price retirement

Barbie t rowe price retirement

Barbie will need to make some adjustments to meet her goals

  1. To replace her income at 75% she will actually need $5,938 per month. If Barbie waits until age 70 years to collect her social security, her monthly benefit will increase to $3,337 ($724.00 more per month).

  2. She may consider working a couple more years or increasing her 401k contribution (after the age of 50, the maximum is $24,000)

  3. Barbie used the T.Rowe Price Retirement Calculator to see if she was on track. See if you are on track!

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Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

Stacy Francis is the Founder, CEO and President of Francis Financial, Inc., a Wealth Management and Financial Planning firm. With over 18 years of experience in the financial industry, she is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®), a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ (CDFA™), and a Certified Estate Planning Specialist (CES™). She is the Co-Director of the Association of Divorce Financial Planners’ (ADFP) Greater New York Metro Chapter and a member of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) and an honoree member of the Private Risk Management Association (PRMA). A nationally recognized financial expert, Stacy has appeared on ABC News, CNBC, CNN, PBS Nightly Business Report, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fine Living Network, and The O’Reilly Factor. Stacy attended the New York University Center for Finance, Law and Taxation.

Top IRA Trouble Spots

by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) now hold more assets than any other retirement savings vehicles, but many people do not understand how they work and many IRA owners make critical mistakes that can cost them money. Here are some ways you can ensure that your IRA works for you.

1. Begin your required minimum distributions on time. Regardless of whether you are still working, you must begin taking an annual minimum required distribution from your traditional IRA no later than April 1 following the year you turn 70 1/2. You have much more flexibility with a Roth IRA and are not required to take distributions. However, for a Traditional IRA you will have still penalties if you don’t withdraw enough or you don’t withdraw it on time. You will owe up to 50 percent of the difference between the amount you took out and the amount you should have taken out. Why is the IRS so strict about taking distributions from a Traditional IRA and not a Roth IRA? The IRS wants your tax dollars. You must pay taxes on your distributions from a Traditional IRA while distributions from Roth IRAs are generally tax-free.

2. Don’t wait until the last moment. Don’t wait until the April 1 deadline to take out your initial minimum withdrawal. Don’t forget that you’ll have to make another withdrawal by December 31 of the same year. Watch out because these withdrawals in the same year could bump you into a higher tax bracket and increase your tax liability. Don’t let this happen.

3. Name a “real” beneficiary. One of the biggest mistakes is not naming a real (human) beneficiary. If you do not name a person, your assets will most likely go to your estate and this will cost you more money. That’s because if you hadn’t already started taking distributions yourself by the time of your death, the IRA assets must be distributed to your estate’s heirs within five years of death. Or if you had started, distributions must be paid out to the heirs over what would have been your remaining life expectancy. Either way, leaving your IRA to your estate deprives your heirs from “stretching out” the tax-deferred assets over their own lives and creates a bigger tax bill.

4. Name a contingent beneficiary. This allows the primary beneficiary to “disclaim” (reject) the IRA inheritance if he or she doesn’t need the money so that it automatically passes to the contingent, who typically is younger and can stretch out the inheritance longer.

5. Name the right beneficiary. Your spouse or parent isn’t always the best choice to name as the primary IRA beneficiary. An adult child might be a better choice. If you choose a young child you will want to consult a professional to find out if you need to set up a trust in their name to control the assets and distributions.

6. Changing your beneficiary. Don’t forget to change, in writing, your beneficiary in the event of a marriage, divorce, birth of a child, death of a beneficiary or similar circumstances.

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Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

Stacy Francis is the Founder, CEO and President of Francis Financial, Inc., a Wealth Management and Financial Planning firm. With over 18 years of experience in the financial industry, she is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®), a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ (CDFA™), and a Certified Estate Planning Specialist (CES™). She is the Co-Director of the Association of Divorce Financial Planners’ (ADFP) Greater New York Metro Chapter and a member of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) and an honoree member of the Private Risk Management Association (PRMA). A nationally recognized financial expert, Stacy has appeared on ABC News, CNBC, CNN, PBS Nightly Business Report, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fine Living Network, and The O’Reilly Factor. Stacy attended the New York University Center for Finance, Law and Taxation.

How To Increase Your Retirement Confidence

by Manisha Thakor

How are we Americans collectively feeling about our retirement prospects? Survey says (and most financial advisors would concur), not so great.

Consider this comparative data from an annual study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute:

  • In 2007, the EBRI study found that 27% of wage earners felt “very confident” their retirement plans were on track. Another 43% felt at least “somewhat confident” they were making their desired progress.

  • By 2013, those numbers had dropped to 13% and 38%, respectively.

Importantly, in 2013 a whopping 28% felt “not at all confident” that they would have enough money to retire, up from a mere 10% who gave that gloomy assessment in 2007. Ouch.

What’s the key to an investor’s confidence?

The number “$250,000” provides one indication. That’s the amount in long-term savings quoted by a 2012 Wells Fargo Retirement Survey as a clear dividing point on the confidence front. 88% of those surveyed with more than $250,000 in savings felt confident they were on track to retire. Only 57% of workers below that mark believed they’d enjoy a secure retirement.

Importantly, 61% of those with $250,000 in assets earned $150,000 – or less – a year.

Point being, this study suggests financial confidence doesn’t stem from outrageous compensation or blind luck. Rather, confident responders were methodical, disciplined and big on planning, according to the leaders of the study. Those with savings above $250,000 contributed a median 12% to their 401(k)s; below that, it was a median 7%.

Unfortunately, not enough of us are placing serious emphasis on retirement planning. In a recent survey by Aegon, employees ranked retirement saving plans lower on the perk desirability scale than flexibility, vacation and compensation. In other words, we’d rather bargain for today’s quality of life than tomorrow’s security.

Next question: how do those “confident” folks know $250,000 (or more) in long-term retirement savings is enough?

Likely, they have explored the relationship between their desired level of spending in retirement and their current level of savings, relative to their current age. If you haven’t used a retirement calculator before, a great starter is Choose To Save’s “BallPark Estimator.” It takes less than 15 minutes to complete and will give you a solid starting point for how much to target in ultimate retirement savings. After doing this exercise, you may be surprised how much more calm and in control a few hard numbers make you feel!

Alternatively, the chart below, from Fidelity Investments, gives a rough starting point for how much a person should have in targeted savings at different stages of her working lifetime. Find your current age to determine your target savings, as a multiple of current earnings:

Source: Fidelity Investments

Source: Fidelity Investments

If a review of this chart indicates you’re behind schedule in your retirement savings, don’t despair. Get motivated instead. Look over your current levels of saving and spending to see where rejiggering is possible. By identifying a concrete retirement savings target and then taking small daily steps towards it, your confidence can grow commensurately with your increased savings.

[For more MoneyZen in your life, follow Manisha on Twitter at @ManishaThakor, on Facebook at /MThakor, or visit MoneyZen.com.]

Comment /Source

Manisha Thakor

From Manisha's linkedin profile page:

Manisha Thakor is the Director of Wealth Strategies for Women at Buckingham Strategic Wealth and The BAM Alliance. 

Manisha and her colleagues provide both evidence-based wealth advisory services for high-net-worth households and core asset management solutions for women and families nationwide with $80,000 or more in investible assets. 

An ardent financial literacy advocate for women, Manisha is the co-author of two critically acclaimed personal finance books: ON MY OWN TWO FEET: a modern girl’s guide to personal finance and GET FINANCIALLY NAKED: how to talk money with your honey. She is on Faculty at The Omega Institute and serves as a Financial Fellow at Wellesley College. Manisha is also a member of The Wall Street Journal’s Wealth Experts Panel, a member of the 2015 CNBC Financial Advisor’s Council, and wearing her financial educator’s hat serves as a part of TIAA-CREF’s Women’s Initiative. 

Manisha's financial advice has been featured in a wide range of national media outlets including CNN, PBS, NPR, The Today Show, Rachel Ray, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The LA Times, Real Simple, Women’s Day, Glamour, Essence, and MORE magazine.

Prior to joining the Buckingham team, Manisha spent over twenty years working in financial services. On the institutional side she worked as an analyst, portfolio manager and client relations executive at SG Warburg, Atalanta/Sosnoff Capital, Fayez Sarofim & Co., and Sands Capital Management. After this she moved to the retail side and ran her own independent registered investment advisory firm, MoneyZen Wealth Management. 

Manisha earned her MBA from Harvard Business School in 1997, her BA from Wellesley College in 1992 and is a CFA charterholder. She lives in Portland, OR where she delights in the amazing Third Wave coffee scene and stunning natural beauty of the Pacific NorthWest. Manisha’s website is MoneyZen.com.

How to Make Your Retirement Dream a Reality

by Manisha Thakor

For entirely too many hard-working folks, there is a significant gap between the retirement life they desire and the one they will be able to afford if they do not adequately prepare for the future. Traditional goals such as living in an inviting home and devoting time to adventurous travel may not be realistic for individuals who haven’t calculated how much retirement money they will have and how much money they will need to support their ideal lifestyle.

This need for financial literacy is particularly acute for women, who face strong institutional financial headwinds in the form of lower pay and more years out of the paid workforce than men on average (for more on this read my blog post on “The 77/11 Effect”).

According to The Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, many well-intentioned women are not prepared for the future. Their recent study on Women and Retirement reveals some sobering statistics:

  • 48 percent of women do not have any retirement strategy at all, despite the fact that 56 percent of women expect to self-fund their retirement through 401(k)s, retirement accounts, or other savings and investments.

  • 53 percent of women plan to retire after age 65 or do not plan to retire at all; most of these women cite reasons related to income or health benefits as the reason for this.

  • 54 percent of women are “not too confident” or “not at all confident,” compared to only 44 percent of men who share that sentiment; only seven percent of women are “very confident” in their ability to fully retire with a comfortable lifestyle.

Given the statistical reality that women live longer and earn less than men over the course of their lifetime, it is vital that we both develop a clear strategy for a comfortable retirement and take action on it.

The first step is to use a retirement calculator to determine how much money will be available to you at your current rate of savings. I like the “Ballpark E$timator” retirement calculator from Choose To Save.

The next step is to identify how much money you will need to live your ideal lifestyle. You may need to consult with a financial advisor to determine how the rate of inflation will impact what you can afford. A rough rule of thumb is 70-90% of your current income (ouch, I know).

Last but not least, you will need to compare the two numbers to see if you need to start saving more aggressively to meet your target. If you feel that you don’t have enough money to maximize your retirement account each month, you should also take a look at current expenditures that are not essential to your joy and livelihood. Using a digital tracking tool such as Mint or Hello Wallet can help you find hidden money, so you can channel more resources toward creating the future of your dreams.

These three steps are basic, but not easy. Investing a bit of time to calculate these figures can pay rich dividends in the future in terms of your ability to make the mid-course corrections to get your dream retirement back on track. Although it may be challenging to practice mindful spending, when you stay connected to what is truly fulfilling in the present as well as your hopes for the future, you will be more motivated to set aside money to sustain your ideal life.


[For more MoneyZen in your life, follow Manisha on Twitter at @ManishaThakor, on Facebook at /MThakor, or visit MoneyZen.com.]

Comment /Source

Manisha Thakor

From Manisha's linkedin profile page:

Manisha Thakor is the Director of Wealth Strategies for Women at Buckingham Strategic Wealth and The BAM Alliance. 

Manisha and her colleagues provide both evidence-based wealth advisory services for high-net-worth households and core asset management solutions for women and families nationwide with $80,000 or more in investible assets. 

An ardent financial literacy advocate for women, Manisha is the co-author of two critically acclaimed personal finance books: ON MY OWN TWO FEET: a modern girl’s guide to personal finance and GET FINANCIALLY NAKED: how to talk money with your honey. She is on Faculty at The Omega Institute and serves as a Financial Fellow at Wellesley College. Manisha is also a member of The Wall Street Journal’s Wealth Experts Panel, a member of the 2015 CNBC Financial Advisor’s Council, and wearing her financial educator’s hat serves as a part of TIAA-CREF’s Women’s Initiative. 

Manisha's financial advice has been featured in a wide range of national media outlets including CNN, PBS, NPR, The Today Show, Rachel Ray, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The LA Times, Real Simple, Women’s Day, Glamour, Essence, and MORE magazine.

Prior to joining the Buckingham team, Manisha spent over twenty years working in financial services. On the institutional side she worked as an analyst, portfolio manager and client relations executive at SG Warburg, Atalanta/Sosnoff Capital, Fayez Sarofim & Co., and Sands Capital Management. After this she moved to the retail side and ran her own independent registered investment advisory firm, MoneyZen Wealth Management. 

Manisha earned her MBA from Harvard Business School in 1997, her BA from Wellesley College in 1992 and is a CFA charterholder. She lives in Portland, OR where she delights in the amazing Third Wave coffee scene and stunning natural beauty of the Pacific NorthWest. Manisha’s website is MoneyZen.com.

Could Your 401K Plan Be The Chink In Your Financial Armor?

by Teresa Kuhn, JD, RFC, CSA, Authorized Bank on Yourself Advisor and President, Living Wealthy Financial Group

If you have a 401 K plan, you might be able to relate to this:

A friend of mine's dad used to live for the time when he got his plan statement.  It was the highlight of his month, validating the good decision he made to put his whole nest egg into one safe, secure basket.  He couldn't wait to see how much he had accumulated since the previous month...

Fast forward a couple of years and my, how things have changed.  My friend’s father doesn’t even open his statements anymore, because he is afraid to. He knows that like millions of other Americans, he has had thousands of his 401 K dollars hijacked by the economic crisis.  Gone... vanished... POOF!

Two years away from retirement, this hard-working, thrifty man who thought he was doing everything right  is now faced with the very real possibility that he may have to work a lot longer that he planned.  All because of one ugly truth that no one bothered to tell him:

401K’s are not necessarily the safe vehicle they were marketed to be.

When the current economic crisis hit, millions of ordinary Americans saw their "safe and secure" 401K accounts losing hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, a lot of those people were at or near retirement and had little time to recoup that lost money.  Then, to add insult to injury, many of them also discovered another dirty secret:

Many 401 K plans contain hidden, but very costly fees.

According to an article on thestreet.com:

"A 25-year-old employee who currently has around $25,000 in his or her retirement account, and whose annual contributions (and employer matches) total only $2,500, in a plan that is allocated 80% to stocks and 20% to bonds, could forfeit more than $660,000 by age 65 - if the plan charges excess fees totaling just 1% a year."

Just 1% in excessive fees can hurt you... big time! And, if your fee is charged based on a percentage of your balance.then becoming a diligent saver actually hurts you.

What if there was something you could do to help you avoid paying unnecessary fees and help you get back some of the thousands of dollars you've been giving away simply because you don't know the alternatives?  Would knowing this information help you reach your goal of having a safe, prosperous retirement? I believe it would.

That's why I sponsor webinars and workshops to educate ordinary people on how they can become their own sources of financing for major purchases, business expansion, college tuition, etc.

Using this simple, but effective system, you can accumulate wealth more quickly and safely than you ever thought possible, and accelerate the process of getting out of debt.

One of the ways I assist people in securing their wealth is to sponsor live workshops and online webinars. These information-packed one hour sessions are designed to provide you an introduction to the system I personally use to safeguard and grow my wealth without incurring unnecessary risk.

I know not everyone will qualify to use my system, and the purpose of these presentations is not to persuade you to do so.  I simply believe that everyone can benefit from learning as much as possible about how money really works.

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Teresa Kuhn

Financial life designer and educator, Teresa Kuhn, JD, RFC, CSA, has a passion for formulating innovative blueprints that help her clients grow and preserve their wealth.

A respected financial educator, best-selling author, and strategist, Teresa Kuhn is the president and CEO of Austin, Texas-based Living Wealthy Financial Group. Through her radio show, Living Wealthy Radio, she is able to share her passion for learning the real truth about how money works with others. She has counseled thousands of ordinary Americans across the nation, helping them avoid exposing their wealth to eroding factors such as: Taxes, Inflation, Wall Street losses.

Using the unique cornerstone of Bank On Yourself, Teresa enables clients to take charge of their own money and liberate themselves from bondage to conventional financial wisdom that no longer works in the modern economy. Through proven and time-tested safe money strategies, Teresa and her team provide creative solutions that enable clients to remain financially sound through every life event including: College planning, Retirement income, Major purchases financing, Vacation funds, Emergency funds.

Shocking Statistics on Women & Retirement

by Manisha Thakor

"Do you ever worry about ending up old and poor?"

For many women, becoming the proverbial "bag lady under the bridge" is one of their worst nightmares. Myself included. I literally sit down with my husband and our financial planner twice a year to re-confirm that we are doing everything we can to make sure we do not outlive our retirement savings!

Unfortunately, this fear of ending up old and poor is actually a very rational one for a high percentage of women. 

Recently, I had the chance to hear Karen Wimbish, Head of Wells Fargo Retail Retirement Group, and personal finance guru Jean Chatzky present powerful data collected in a Harris Interactive poll in conjunction with the launch of a new website to help women prepare for retirement, Beyond Today. I'm always looking for useful resources to direct women to, and I think this site can help a lot of folks.

First up, the data: (Put your seatbelts on. The numbers are stark.)                

  • Nearly 1/3 of women between the ages of 40 and 69 are “can’t estimate” how much money they can withdraw annually from their retirement accounts and about 32% of women in their 40s and 50s estimate they will withdraw between 11% – 30% of their savings annually. These are unrealistically high annual withdrawal rates - leaving them vulnerable to outliving their savings.

  • While both men and women are under saved for their retirements, the women polled had saved less than men - with a median retirement savings accumulated to date of $20,000 for women surveyed versus $25,000 for men.

  • Worse still, despite longer expected life spans, when asked how much they were aiming for in retirement savings women aimed lower with a median goal of $200,000 versus $400,000 for men.

    A savvy, 30-year industry veteran, Karen was kind enough to speak with me about some of the factors driving this dreary data - and what women can do to improve the odds that their golden years really will be golden. 

    A couple of key themes kept coming up during out chart. First, while many women are absolutely at the table on a day-to-day basis for bill payment and major household expenditures, when it comes to financial planning or investing – women are more likely to report ourselves as a “joint decision maker” than are married men who are asked this question.  Men are more likely to see themselves as “the primary“ decision maker in financial matters – so there is a disconnect between men and women in terms of the role they see themselves playing.  The survey data also showed women to have less confidence in the stock market as a long-term tool for retirement planning.

What does all this potentially mind-numbing data mean for your life? 

  • If you are in your 20s and 30s: The best action step is to max out your tax advantaged retirement plans (401k type plans and IRAs). Karen points out a great way to do this is to commit to saving a set percentage of your income, rather than a fixed dollar amount, so as your income rises, so too do your contributions.

  • If you are in your 40s: That data shows that this group, which I'm a part of, are the most stressed-out set, sandwiched between entering our peak earnings years while trying to juggle family and elder care responsibilities. In this life stage, the key action step is not to put our heads in the financial sands.

  • If you are in your 50s, and 60s: You are heading into the "red zone" the critical years leading up to retirement where small shifts in how much you save and what you invest in can make the difference. Understanding the gravity of this period is key.

The key takeaway:  At all three stages making sure you are actively engaged with your finances and seeking to self-educate yourself is key. Reading blogs, visiting websites like Beyond Today, and engaging the services of a trusted financial advisor to meet with you on an annual or semi-annual basis can go a VERY long way towards increasing your financial confidence, sense of optimism for the future, and even household harmony.  Just as with your health, no one will ever care about your financial fitness as much as you do. 

What steps are you taking right now to plan for your retirement?   


Want more financial love? You can follow Women's Financial Literacy Initiative founder, Manisha Thakor, on Twitter at @ManishaThakor or on Facebook at /MThakor, and enroll in her innovative new online personal finance course called “Money Rules.”

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Manisha Thakor

From Manisha's linkedin profile page:

Manisha Thakor is the Director of Wealth Strategies for Women at Buckingham Strategic Wealth and The BAM Alliance. 

Manisha and her colleagues provide both evidence-based wealth advisory services for high-net-worth households and core asset management solutions for women and families nationwide with $80,000 or more in investible assets. 

An ardent financial literacy advocate for women, Manisha is the co-author of two critically acclaimed personal finance books: ON MY OWN TWO FEET: a modern girl’s guide to personal finance and GET FINANCIALLY NAKED: how to talk money with your honey. She is on Faculty at The Omega Institute and serves as a Financial Fellow at Wellesley College. Manisha is also a member of The Wall Street Journal’s Wealth Experts Panel, a member of the 2015 CNBC Financial Advisor’s Council, and wearing her financial educator’s hat serves as a part of TIAA-CREF’s Women’s Initiative. 

Manisha's financial advice has been featured in a wide range of national media outlets including CNN, PBS, NPR, The Today Show, Rachel Ray, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The LA Times, Real Simple, Women’s Day, Glamour, Essence, and MORE magazine.

Prior to joining the Buckingham team, Manisha spent over twenty years working in financial services. On the institutional side she worked as an analyst, portfolio manager and client relations executive at SG Warburg, Atalanta/Sosnoff Capital, Fayez Sarofim & Co., and Sands Capital Management. After this she moved to the retail side and ran her own independent registered investment advisory firm, MoneyZen Wealth Management. 

Manisha earned her MBA from Harvard Business School in 1997, her BA from Wellesley College in 1992 and is a CFA charterholder. She lives in Portland, OR where she delights in the amazing Third Wave coffee scene and stunning natural beauty of the Pacific NorthWest. Manisha’s website is MoneyZen.com.