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Changes to Social Security Claiming Strategies

Changes to Social Security Claiming Strategies  1

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 included a section titled "Closure of Unintended Loopholes" that ends two Social Security claiming strategies that have become increasingly popular over the last several years. These two strategies, known as "file and suspend" and "restricted application" for a spousal benefit, have often been used to optimize Social Security income for married couples.

If you have not yet filed for Social Security, it's important to understand how these new rules could affect your retirement strategy. Depending on your age, you may still be able to take advantage of the expiring claiming options. The changes should not affect current Social Security beneficiaries and do not apply to survivor benefits.

File and suspend

Under the previous rules, an individual who had reached full retirement age could file for retired worker benefits--typically to enable a spouse to file for spousal benefits--and then suspend his or her benefit. By doing so, the individual would earn delayed retirement credits (up to 8% annually) and claim a higher worker benefit at a later date, up to age 70. Meanwhile, his or her spouse could be receiving spousal benefits. For some married couples, especially those with dual incomes, this strategy increased their total combined lifetime benefits.

Under the new rules, which are effective as of April 30, 2016, a worker who reaches full retirement age can still file and suspend, but no one can collect benefits on the worker's earnings record during the suspension period. This strategy effectively ends the file-and-suspend strategy for couples and families.

The new rules also mean that a worker cannot later request a retroactive lump-sum payment for the entire period during which benefits were suspended. (This previously available claiming option was helpful to someone who faced a change of circumstances, such as a serious illness.)

Tip: If you are age 66 or older before the new rules take effect, you may still be able to take advantage of the combined file-and-suspend and spousal/dependent filing strategy.

Restricted application

Under the previous rules, a married person who had reached full retirement age could file a "restricted application" for spousal benefits after the other spouse had filed for Social Security worker benefits. This allowed the individual to collect spousal benefits while earning delayed retirement credits on his or her own work record. In combination with the file-and-suspend option, this enabled both spouses to earn delayed retirement credits while one spouse received a spousal benefit, a type of "double dipping" that was not intended by the original legislation.

Under the new rules, an individual eligible for both a spousal benefit and a worker benefit will be "deemed" to be filing for whichever benefit is higher and will not be able to change from one to the other later.

Tip: If you reached age 62 before the end of December 2015, you are grandfathered under the old rules. If your spouse has filed for Social Security worker benefits, you can still file a restricted application for spouse-only benefits at full retirement age and claim your own worker benefit at a later date.

Basic Social Security claiming options remain unchanged. You can file for a permanently reduced benefit starting at age 62, receive your full benefit at full retirement age, or postpone filing for benefits and earn delayed retirement credits, up to age 70.

Although some claiming options are going away, plenty of planning opportunities remain, and you may benefit from taking the time to make an informed decision about when to file for Social Security.

Call us at 949-216-8459 to request your personalized Social Security Report. Even if we have provided you with a report in the past these changes may impact the outcome of that report!

What Are ​Required Minimum Distributions3

Traditional IRAs and employer retirement plans such as 401(k)s and 403(b)s offer several tax advantages, including the ability to defer income taxes on both contributions and earnings until they're distributed from the plan.

But, unfortunately, you can't keep your money in these retirement accounts forever. The law requires that you begin taking distributions, called "required minimum distributions" or RMDs, when you reach age 70½ (or in some cases, when you retire), whether you need the money or not. (Minimum distributions are not required from Roth IRAs during your lifetime.)

Your IRA trustee or custodian must either tell you the required amount each year or offer to calculate it for you. For an employer plan, the plan administrator will generally calculate the RMD. But you're ultimately responsible for determining the correct amount. It's easy to do. The IRS, in Publication 590-B, provides a chart called the Uniform Lifetime Table. In most cases, you simply find the distribution period for your age and then divide your account balance as of the end of the prior year by the distribution period to arrive at your RMD for the year.

For example, if you turn 76 in 2016, your distribution period under the Uniform Lifetime Table is 22 years. You divide your account balance as of December 31, 2015, by 22 to arrive at your RMD for 2016.

The only exception is if you're married and your spouse is more than 10 years younger than you. If this special situation applies, use IRS Table II (also found in Publication 590-B) instead of the Uniform Lifetime Table. Table II provides a distribution period that's based on the joint life expectancy of you and your spouse.

Remember, you can always withdraw more than the required amount, but if you withdraw less you will be hit with a penalty tax equal to 50% of the amount you failed to withdraw.6

1 3 4Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2015.
2
http://mentalfloss.com/article/55599/15-delightful-facts-about-saint-patricks-day 5 http://www.pillsbury.com/recipes/bacon-and-cheese-quiche/19288cf4-0cdc-46cc-bc86-4c9bfa799695 
6 gradientfinancialgroup.com Newsletter  Insurance products and services are offered through Craig Colley | Coliday and is not affiliated with Gradient Securities, LLC. Some of these materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable—we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice.

Give Your Retirement Plan an Annual Checkup

Give Your Retirement Plan an Annual Checkup  1

At Coliday Insurance, Health & Financial, we recommend that you review your retirement savings plan annually and when major life changes occur. If you haven’t already revisited your plan, the beginning of a new year may be the ideal time to do so.

Re-examine your risk tolerance

This past year saw moments that would try even the most resilient investor's resolve. When you hear media reports about stock market volatility, is your immediate reaction to consider selling some of the stock investments in your plan? If that's the case, you might begin your annual review by re-examining your risk tolerance.

Risk tolerance refers to how well you can ride out fluctuations in the value of your investments while pursuing your long-term goals. An assessment of your risk tolerance considers, among other factors, your investment time horizon, your accumulation goal, and assets you may have outside of your plan account. Your retirement plan's educational materials likely include tools to help you evaluate your risk tolerance, typically worksheets that ask a series of questions. After answering the questions, you will likely be assigned a risk tolerance ranking from conservative to aggressive. In addition, suggested asset allocations are often provided for consideration.

Have you experienced any life changes?

Since your last retirement plan review, did you get married or divorced, buy or sell a house, have a baby, or send a child to college? Perhaps you or your spouse changed jobs, received a promotion, or left the workforce entirely. Has someone in your family experienced a change in health? Or maybe you inherited a sum of money that has had a material impact on your net worth. Any of these situations can affect both your current and future financial situation.

In addition, if your marital situation has changed, you may want to review the beneficiary designations in your plan account to make sure they reflect your current wishes. With many employer-sponsored plans, your spouse is automatically your plan beneficiary unless he or she waives that right in writing.

Re-assess your retirement income needs

After you evaluate your risk tolerance and consider any life changes, you may want to take another look at the future. Have your dreams for retirement changed at all? And if so, will those changes affect how much money you will need to live on? Maybe you've reconsidered plans to relocate or travel extensively, or now plan to start a business or work part-time during retirement.

All of these factors can affect your retirement income needs, which in turn affects how much you need to save and how you invest today.

Is your asset allocation still on track?

Once you have assessed your current situation related to your risk tolerance, life changes, and retirement income needs, a good next step is to revisit the asset allocation in your plan. Is your investment mix still appropriate? Should you aim for a higher or lower percentage of aggressive investments, such as stocks? Or maybe your original target is still on track, but your portfolio calls for a little rebalancing.

There are two ways to rebalance your retirement plan portfolio. The quickest way is to sell investments in which you are over-weighted and invest the proceeds in under-weighted assets until you hit your target. For example, if your target allocation is 75% stocks, 20% bonds, and 5% cash but your current allocation is 80% stocks, 15% bonds, and 5% cash, then you'd likely sell some stock investments and invest the proceeds in bonds. Another way to rebalance is to direct new investments into the under-weighted assets until the target is achieved. In the example above, you would direct new money into bond investments until you reach your 75/20/5 target allocation.

Revisit your plan rules and features

Finally, an annual review is also a good time to take a fresh look at your employer-sponsored plan documents and plan features. For example, if your plan offers a Roth account and you haven't investigated its potential benefits, you might consider whether directing a portion of your contributions into it might be a good idea. Also consider how much you're contributing in relation to plan maximums. Could you add a little more each pay period? If you're 50 or older, you might also review the rules for catch-up contributions, which allow those approaching retirement to contribute more than younger employees.

Although it's generally not a good idea to monitor your employer-sponsored retirement plan on a daily, or even monthly, basis, it's important to take a look at least once a year. With a little annual maintenance, you can help your plan keep working for you.

Organizing Important Records and Documents 3

A record keeping system is a systematic approach to retaining and filing documents in a way that makes them easy to find when needed, even if it's several years later. Record keeping systems range from simple to elaborate and from basic to comprehensive. The ideal system is designed to fit your personal and family situation and lifestyle.

Some record keeping is mandatory; good record keeping is important

The most important thing to know about record keeping is that doing it well will save you a lot of time and money during your lifetime. Conversely, poor record keeping is sure to cost you in terms of money, time, and aggravation, perhaps dearly. For instance, assuming that you've been generally honest with the IRS, the only reason to fear a tax audit is that your records are incomplete or in disarray. If so, the IRS could find that you owe more tax than you paid. Insurance and legal claims frequently require supporting documents as well.

Record keeping is also important for estate planning purposes. After you pass away, your family and the executor of your estate will be grateful to find your records complete and in a meaningful order.

It is up to you to decide what your record keeping system will include

The items you decide to retain in your record keeping system will depend on several factors, including:

  • Your personal and family situation
  • The nature of your assets and investments
  • Your household's number and type of income sources
  • Your tolerance for risk
  • The time you'll realistically devote to keeping records systematically

In addition to financial documents, you'll probably want your system to retain other types of important documents, such as insurance policies; health and employment records; property titles; certificates of birth, death, and citizenship; and product and service guarantees. Today, it is also common to videotape personal property for potential use as evidence in an insurance claim.

Create a record keeping system that works best for you

If throwing all your receipts, bills, and paycheck stubs into the proverbial shoe box until tax time is the best you can manage, then it will have to do. However, devising a systematic approach to retaining and filing your important documents will bring rewards you will appreciate in the future. If you can find little time for record keeping, then a simple system may be the answer. On the other hand, a more complex system that retains and files all potentially necessary documents on a weekly or monthly basis assures that when a need arises, you'll be able to retrieve whatever you need promptly and without fuss. You might view this as pay now or pay later.5

When it comes to a safe and secure method of storing your documents and records, we have the solution! Generational Vault is a virtual safe deposit box that allows you to store your important files, pictures and other items. Additionally, the Vault offers a comprehensive view of your financial picture. Better yet, your stored data is accessible anywhere you have an Internet connection – 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.

Call our office at 949-216-8459.


1 3Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2015.
2
http://list25.com/25-interesting-facts-valentines-day/  4 http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/cocoa-brownies-recipe.html?oc=linkback

 5 gradientfinancialgroup.com Newsletter  Insurance products and services are offered through Craig Colley | Coliday and is not affiliated with Gradient Securities, LLC. Some of these materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable—we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these 
materials may change at any time and without notice.


Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft

Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft  1

Whether they're snatching your purse, diving into your dumpster, stealing your mail, or hacking into your computer, they're out to get you. Who are they? Identity thieves.

Identity thieves can empty your bank account, max out your credit cards, open new accounts in your name, and purchase furniture, cars, and even homes using your credit history. If they give your personal information to the police during an arrest and then don't show up for a court date, you may be subsequently arrested and jailed.

And what will you get for their efforts? You'll get the headache and expense of cleaning up the mess they leave behind.

You may never be able to completely prevent your identity from being stolen, but here are some steps you can take to help protect yourself from becoming a victim.

Check yourself out
It's important to review your credit report periodically. Check to make sure that all the information contained in it is correct, and be on the lookout for any fraudulent activity.

You may get your credit report for free once a year. To do so, visit www.annualcreditreport.com.

If you need to correct any information or dispute any entries, contact the three national credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Secure your number
Your most important personal identifier is your Social Security number (SSN). Guard it carefully. Never carry your Social Security card with you unless you'll need it. The same goes for other forms of identification (for example, health insurance cards) that display your SSN. If your state uses your SSN as your driver's license number, request an alternate number. Don't have your SSN preprinted on your checks, and don't let merchants write it on your checks.

Don't give it out over the phone unless you initiate the call to an organization you trust. Ask the three major credit reporting agencies to truncate it on your credit reports. Try to avoid listing it on employment applications; offer instead to provide it during a job interview.

Don't leave home with it

Most of us carry our checkbooks and credit cards, debit cards, and telephone cards with us all the time. That's a bad idea; if your wallet or purse is stolen, the thief will have a treasure chest of new toys to play with.

Carry only the cards and/or checks you'll need for any one trip. And keep a written record of all your account numbers, credit card expiration dates, and the telephone numbers of the customer service and fraud departments in a secure place--at home.

Keep your receipts

When you make a purchase with a credit or debit card, you're given a receipt. Don't throw it away or leave it behind; it may contain your credit or debit card number. And don't leave it in the shopping bag inside your car while you continue shopping; if your car is broken into and the item you bought is stolen, your identity may be as well.

Save your receipts until you can check them against your monthly credit card and bank statements and watch your statements for purchases you didn't make.

When you toss it, shred it

Before you throw out any financial records such as credit or debit card receipts and statements, cancelled checks, or even offers for credit you receive in the mail, shred the documents, preferably with a cross-cut shredder. If you don't, you may find the panhandler going through your dumpster was looking for more than discarded leftovers.

Keep a low profile

The more your personal information is available to others, the more likely you are to be victimized by identity theft. While you don't need to become a hermit in a cave, there are steps you can take to help minimize your exposure:

  • To stop telephone calls from national telemarketers, list your telephone number with the Federal Trade Commission's National Do Not Call Registry by registering online at www.donotcall.gov
  • To remove your name from most national mailing and e-mailing lists, as well as most telemarketing lists register online with the Direct Marketing Association at www.dmachoice.org
  • To remove your name from marketing lists prepared by the three national consumer reporting agencies, register online at www.optoutprescreen.com
  • When given the opportunity to do so by your bank, investment firm, insurance company, and credit card companies, opt out of allowing them to share your financial information with other organizations
  • You may even want to consider having your name and address removed from the telephone book and reverse directories

Take a byte out of crime

Whatever else you may want your computer to do, you don't want it to inadvertently reveal your personal information to others. Take steps to help assure that this won't happen.

Install a firewall to prevent hackers from obtaining information from your hard drive or hijacking your computer to use it for committing other crimes. This is especially important if you use a high-speed connection that leaves you continuously connected to the Internet. Moreover, install virus protection software and update it on a regular basis.

Try to avoid storing personal and financial information on a laptop; if it's stolen, the thief may obtain more than your computer. If you must store such information on your laptop, make things as difficult as possible for a thief by protecting these files with a strong password--one that's six to eight characters long, and that contains letters (upper and lower case), numbers, and symbols.

"If a stranger calls don't answer." Opening e-mails from people you don't know, especially if you download attached files or click on hyperlinks within the message, can expose you to viruses, infect your computer with "spyware" that captures information by recording your keystrokes, or lead you to "spoofs" (websites that replicate legitimate business sites) designed to trick you into revealing personal information that can be used to steal your identity.

If you wish to visit a business's legitimate website, use your stored bookmark or type the URL address directly into the browser. If you provide personal or financial information about yourself over the Internet, do so only at secure websites; to determine if a site is secure, look for a URL that begins with "https" (instead of "http") or a lock icon on the browser's status bar.


And when it comes time to upgrade to a new computer, remove all your personal information from the old one before you dispose of it. Using the "delete" function isn't sufficient to do the job; overwrite the hard drive by using a "wipe" utility program. The minimal cost of investing in this software may save you from being wiped out later by an identity thief.5

1 3Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2015.
2http://www.newsday.com/news/nation/top-10-new-year-s-resolutions-for-2015-and-how-to-keep-them-1.9753461 
5 gradientfinancialgroup.com Newsletter  
Insurance products and services are offered through Craig Colley | Coliday and is not affiliated with Gradient Securities, LLC.

Handling Market Volatility

Conventional wisdom says that what goes up must come down. But even if you view market volatility as a normal occurrence, it can be tough to handle when your money is at stake. Though there's no foolproof way to handle the ups and downs of the stock market, the following common-sense tips can help.

Don't put your eggs all in one basket

Diversifying your investment portfolio is one of the key tools for trying to manage market volatility. Because asset classes often perform differently under different market conditions, spreading your assets across a variety of investments such as stocks, bonds, and cash alternatives has the potential to help reduce your overall risk. Ideally, a decline in one type of asset will be balanced out by a gain in another, though diversification can't eliminate the possibility of market loss. One way to diversify your portfolio is through asset allocation. Asset allocation involves identifying the asset classes that are appropriate for you and allocating a certain percentage of your investment dollars to each class (e.g., 70% to stocks, 20% to bonds, 10% to cash alternatives).

Focus on the forest, not on the trees

As the market goes up and down, it's easy to become too focused on day-to-day returns. Instead, keep your eyes on your long-term investing goals and your overall portfolio. Although only you can decide how much investment risk you can handle, if you still have years to invest, don't overestimate the effect of short-term price fluctuations on your portfolio.

Look before you leap

When the market goes down and investment losses pile up, you may be tempted to pull out of the stock market altogether and look for less volatile investments. The modest returns that typically accompany low-risk investments may seem attractive when more risky investments are posting negative returns. But before you leap into a different investment strategy, make sure you're doing it for the right reasons. How you choose to invest your money should be consistent with your goals and time horizon.

For instance, putting a larger percentage of your investment dollars into vehicles that offer asset preservation and liquidity (the opportunity to easily access your funds) may be the right strategy for you if your investment goals are short term and you'll need the money soon, or if you're growing close to reaching a long-term goal such as retirement. But if you still have years to invest, keep in mind that stocks have historically outperformed stable-value investments over time, although past performance is no guarantee of future results. If you move most or all of your investment dollars into conservative investments, you've not only locked in any losses you might have, but you've also sacrificed the potential for higher returns. Investments seeking to achieve higher rates of return also involve a higher degree of risk.

Look for the silver lining

A down market, like every cloud, has a silver lining. The silver lining of a down market is the opportunity to buy shares of stock at lower prices. One of the ways you can do this is by using dollar-cost averaging. With dollar-cost averaging, you don't try to "time the market" by buying shares at the moment when the price is lowest. In fact, you don't worry about price at all. Instead, you invest a specific amount of money at regular intervals over time. When the price is higher, your investment dollars buy fewer shares of an investment, but when the price is lower, the same dollar amount will buy you more shares. A workplace savings plan, such as a 401(k) plan in which the same amount is deducted from each paycheck and invested through the plan, is one of the most well-known examples of dollar cost averaging in action. For example, let's say that you decided to invest $300 each month. As the illustration shows, your regular monthly investment of $300 bought more shares when the price was low and fewer shares when the price was high:

(This hypothetical example is for illustrative purposes only and does not represent the performance of any particular investment. Actual results will vary.)

Although dollar-cost averaging can't guarantee you a profit or avoid a loss, a regular fixed dollar investment may result in a lower average price per share over time, assuming you continue to invest through all types of market conditions.

Making dollar-cost averaging work for you
  • Get started as soon as possible. The longer you have to ride out the ups and downs of the market, the more opportunity you have to build a sizable investment account over time.
  • Stick with it. Dollar-cost averaging is a long-term investment strategy. Make sure you have the financial resources and the discipline to invest continuously through all types of market conditions, regardless of price fluctuations.
  • Take advantage of automatic deductions. Having your investment contributions deducted and invested automatically makes the process easy and convenient.
Don't stick your head in the sand

While focusing too much on short-term gains or losses is unwise, so is ignoring your investments. You should check your portfolio at least once a year--more frequently if the market is particularly volatile or when there have been significant changes in your life. You may need to rebalance your portfolio to bring it back in line with your investment goals and risk tolerance. Rebalancing involves selling some investments in order to buy others. Investors should keep in mind that selling investments could result in a tax liability. Don't hesitate to get expert help if you need it to decide which investment options are right for you.

Don't count your chickens before they hatch
As the market recovers from a down cycle,elation quickly sets in. If the upswing lasts long enough, it's easy to believe that investing in the stock market is a sure thing. But, of course, it never is. As many investors have learned the hard way, becoming overly optimistic about investing during the good times can be as detrimental as worrying too much during the bad times. The right approach during all kinds of markets is to be realistic. Have a plan, stick with it, and strike a comfortable balance between risk and return. 

5 Article content

Insurance products and services are offered through Craig Colley | Coliday and is not affiliated with Gradient Securities, LLC.

Alternatives to Low Paying Bank CD’s

Guaranteed-income-Graph-1-400pxIn a time when many financial experts are predicting another major correction in the stock market, there is a safe alternative to seriously consider; Fixed-Indexed Annuities. Now before you make a snap judgement (as many do when they see the word annuity) take a moment and find out just how much this program can provide in retirement. If you are like most retiree’s, you probably share the number one fear which is running out of money. So let’s look at what a fixed-indexed annuity is and how it can benefit you.  

What is a fixed-index annuity?

A relatively new financial option offered by insurance companies, the fixed-index annuity was created in 1994 as an alternative financial product to CD’s, mutual funds, and stocks. Participating in a fixed-index annuity offers tax deferred growth and a guarantee against loss of principal and options for gains when the market does well.

Safe Money

Many life insurance companies that only offered variable annuities are now offering fixed-index annuities as a very attractive and safer option to their clients. Unlike variable annuities that invest in different mutual funds, the performance of fixed-index annuities are tied and mirror the performance of a single index such as the S&P 500.

CD alternative

A safe investment, but with today’s all time low interest rates certificates of deposit are paying less than half the amount of a percent 10-year Treasury Bills which is less than 3 percent. With a fixed-index annuity, there is usually a guaranteed minimum rate of return. You can also earn a substantially higher return if the index does well.

Mutual fund alternative

Diversifying through mutual funds does not protect you when the market declines. Mutual funds may be less risky than individual stocks but you can still lose money in a bear market as 401K plans dropped by more than 30% in 2008.

Stock market alternative

Older individuals do not have time on their side in a volatile stock market to recover from losses and are hesitant to put their hard earned retirement savings into the market. The bear market that existed from the end of 2007 and into early 2009 may have also affected those who are younger to think about other options.

Preserve capital

The goal is to preserve capital and a fixed-index annuity is an alternative to a risky stock market or mutual funds for anyone who cannot afford to lose money. Upon the purchase of this type of annuity the contractual agreement will guarantee that you will not lose any of your principal (and potential interest credits) and will usually have a minimum interest rate earned for every year while you hold the investment.

Looking for extra money you want and need?

An excellent feature of a fixed-index annuity (if you are tied to the S&P 500) is if the stock market and/or index should fall you do not lose any money in that year. Similar to a CD in a retirement account, a fixed-index annuity will not only earn you a base interest rate but also allows you to participate in the positive index returns.

Typically, you only receive approximately 75% of an increase on an annual basis, starting from the purchase date of the annuity, but a substantial difference in earnings can still be made in that year. Based on the performance of the index, there may be a cap on the maximum amount of extra interest earned.

Guaranteed income for life

Another great option of some fixed-indexed annuities are the Guaranteed Income for Life riders. For those individuals looking for income for life (similar to how social security benefits work), many programs offer a separate income growth option that is different from the cash value of the annuity, which can have a guaranteed interest rate of 7 to 10% on your initial premium or principle payment for up to 10 years. You then draw a guaranteed amount from that income growth (based on your age and if you have an individual or joint account) based on the percentage determined in your policy.

Market performance is always unknown

A fixed-interest annuity makes sense for people who want to participate at a lower level of risk in the stock market without  investing directly in the market.  You will not earn as much as an index fund outside of an annuity in good markets but your money will be safe if the markets turn bad or bearish.

In conclusion fixed-indexed annuities might be the best fit for anyone who is looking for financial gains from the upside of the market and cannot afford to lose a dime if the market has another major down turn (which many experts predict will happen). Life time income benefits are also very attractive in providing peace of mind in retirement.

Finding a reputable and trusted partner to assist you with your financial & insurance needs is of vital importance.  I will work hard to find the best programs, coverage and rates that fits your budget and your needs. Contact me at 949-216-8459 or ccolley@coliday.com

 

It’s not too late to maximize Social Security benefits

A look at how some couples can still use the ‘file and suspend’ strategy and other issues

Question: I will be 66 in April, and my wife will be turning 65 in July. Given the new Social Security rules, what would be the most effective strategy to optimize our benefits? My wife devoted herself to a career as a full-time mother, which unfortunately means that, in the eyes of the Social Security Administration, she doesn’t qualify for retirement benefits.

Answer: Given your ages, you can still take advantage of a claiming strategy that has largely been curtailed. But you would need to act quickly. First, some background.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, enacted in November, puts an end, in most instances, to two Social Security filing strategies: “file and suspend” and a “restricted application” for spousal benefits. You can find a summary of the changes at new Social Security rules change claiming strategies.

In the months since, we have heard from numerous readers who have asked, in effect, the same question: What do I do now?

Broadly speaking, there are still steps that would-be beneficiaries can take to “optimize,” or maximize, their benefits in retirement. (Example: Each year you delay collecting Social Security between ages 62 and 70, your payout increases about 7%.) The best way to do the math is to take advantage of the growing number of tools and online advisory services that help identify an individual’s (or couple’s) optimal claiming strategy.

At this point, most services have updated their computer coding to account for the new rules. Among them: SSAnalyze!; and MaximizeMySocialSecurity.com, SocialSecurityChoices.com and SocialSecuritySolutions.com. The latter three all charge a fee.

As for this specific question, the Budget Act has several grandfather clauses, one of which allows a person who has reached full retirement age to file and suspend—as long as the request to do so is received before April 30.

If you turn 66 before that date, you could file and suspend, which would allow your wife to begin collecting a spousal benefit. (If you plan to do this, I would book an appointment immediately with your local Social Security office, or apply online. You can do so four months before turning 66.) Meanwhile, your benefit, when you eventually claim it, will have grown in size, thanks to “delayed retirement credits.”

But again — and without knowing the specifics of your financial situation — I would urge you to run the numbers through an advisory service. Social Security remains far too complicated to try this on your own.

Q: In an earlier column and question about Social Security, you mentioned a “restricted application.” My wife and I are both 63 years old. She is planning to retire at 66, her full retirement age, and I plan to continue to work for an indeterminate amount of time, possibly until I turn 70. Is a restricted application still available in our situation?

A: Yes, you can still take advantage of this strategy—but only because you have already passed your 62nd birthday.

Under the changes in Social Security claiming strategies, workers who reached age 62 before the end of 2015 are still able to file a restricted application when they reach full retirement age. This means a person could file for just a spousal benefit, instead of his or her own benefit.

Let’s say your wife claims a benefit of $2,000 a month at her full retirement age. When you reach your full retirement age, you could claim a spousal benefit of $1,000 (half of your wife’s benefit) and defer claiming your own benefit to, say, age 70.

 

The article “A strategy to maximize social security benefits” first appeared on WSJ.com.

It’s Easy to Find Life Insurance

Finding the right life insurance policy can seem like a daunting and pricey task. 80% of Americans overestimate the cost of life insurance according to a 2015 Insurance barometer study by Life Happens and LIMRA (a research, learning and development organization for financial services companies). The reality is that it is fairly easy to get a policy that fits your needs and your budget.

The Sooner the Better!

Most young people don’t consider life insurance an important investment for their future. But, one of the benefits of obtaining life insurance at a younger age is cost. Lower rates can be locked in so if there are health issues in the future, lower rates can remain in place as long as the premium payments are made.

Good Health Benefits

Maintaining good health habits are important and can help in the affordability of life insurance options. Life insurance rates are based on several factors, especially health and lifestyle. An example of this is if you are maintaining a healthy weight and don’t smoke, insurance options will be more affordable. If health issues do arise such as with blood pressure or diabetes and you can show you are active in managing these concerns, you may be able to negotiate a lower premium rate. Be wary of policies that offer insurance without a medical exam as these do not go through a full underwriting process which means higher premiums for you.

Options for Layering Policies

Life changes. Having children and college educations may be a consideration when building a responsible financial future. Consider layering life insurance options. Start early with an affordable plan to cover short term goals and then add long term options to cover long term goals.

Finding the Right Provider

Finding a reputable and trusted company is important. Coliday will work hard to find the best policy with the best coverage and rates that fit your needs. Contact us at 949-216-8459 or ccolley@coliday.com

Focus on Women’s Needs

How different are we?
Studies reveal stark differences when making financial decisions.

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Women have different needs than men when it comes to making financial, insurance and retirement decisions. A 2011 study from Prudential, "Financial Experience and Behaviors Among Women," revealed that some 95 percent of women are directly involved in their households’ financial decisions and 25 percent stated that they were the primary decision-maker.

While an increasing number of women are making the financial decisions, many are doing so uneasily. Roughly 82 percent of those surveyed by Prudential said they needed “some” or “a lot of” help in making those decisions, and nine out of 10 weren’t confident they knew how to choose the appropriate financial products needed to meet their needs.

When making an investment decision, women are most likely to gather information from their spouse (64 percent), printed materials (62 percent) and the Internet (42 percent).

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Only one-third of women stated that they had a detailed financial plan in place. Why so few? The most common barriers cited include: lack of time, the pull to meet shorter-term financial obligations, lack of knowledge and an unmet desire for assistance.

What’s their top priority? Some 74 percent of women rank "concern about their children, grandchildren" as their top financial planning priority. Reuters reports this frames their financial discussions in terms of the end goal.

"They don’t want to hear about the growth or comparative performance of different funds; they want information about reaching their long-term goals, like putting a kid through college," a recent article from The Wall Street Journal said.

A study from Hearts and Wallets found that women demand more than men from their financial services firms. Some important qualities women look for are that the advisor "explains things in understandable terms" and "clearly and understandably presented fees." They also prefer to have a collaborative relationship with their advisor.

At Coliday we offer free consultation (women to women if desired) to help identify those concerns and strategies to help. Statistics show a national average of women out-living men by 2 to 7 years with many living 10 to 20 years longer. Having a solid plan for retirement is crucial. So whether you're single, married, separated or widowed, we can help. Call us at (949) 216-8459 or email at ccolley@coliday.com

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