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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.


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. 

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

Focus on Women’s Needs

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

women-1

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).

InvestDecision

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