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May 23rd, 2018 by

social security benefits

When did you last review your social security benefits?

Your Social Security Statement provides important information about your Social Security record and future benefits, including a projection of your retirement benefits at age 62, full retirement age, and age 70; projections of disability and survivor benefits; a detailed record of your earnings; and other information about the Social Security program.

To save money, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has stopped mailing Social Security Statements to individuals under age 60. Workers age 60 and older who aren’t receiving Social Security benefits will still receive paper statements. However, you can opt to sign up for online statements instead. If you’re age 60 or older, you should receive your statement every year, about three months before your birthday.

Finding Out What You Have

social security

If you’re under age 60, you can request a paper statement in the mail. However, the quickest way to get a copy of your Social Security Statement is to sign up for a “My Social Security” account on the SSA website, ssa.gov. After signing up, you’ll have immediate access to your statement, which you can view, download, or print.

The SSA has recently started to use a two-step identification method to help protect “My Social Security” accounts from unauthorized use and potential identity fraud. You will be prompted to add either your cell phone number or email address as a second identification method. Every time you enter your account username and password, you will then be prompted to request a unique security code via the identification method you’ve chosen, and you will need to enter that code to complete the log-in process.

Get The Most From Your Social Security Benefits!

Social Security is a big part of your retirement planning. Let me show you how to get the most from it. Contact me for a FREE retirement strategy consultation at my office in Upper Marlboro, MD. Contact me 1-833-313-7233.

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May 23rd, 2018 by

birthdays

Birthdays may seem less important as you grow older. They may not offer the impact of watershed moments such as getting a driver’s license at 16 and voting at 18. But beginning at age 50, there are several key birthdays that can affect your tax situation, health-care eligibility, and retirement benefits.

50 — Taxable distributions from IRAs and qualified employer retirement plans before age 59½ are generally subject to a 10% early distribution penalty (20% for certain SIMPLE plan distributions) on top of any federal income taxes due. But if you are a qualified public safety employee you can take penalty-free withdrawals from your qualified retirement plan after leaving your job if your employment ends during or after the year you reach age 50.

55 — If you’re not a qualified public safety employee, you can take penalty-free withdrawals from your qualified retirement plan after leaving your job if your employment ends during or after the year you reach age 55.

59½ — And all withdrawals from qualified retirement plans and IRAs are penalty-free after you reach age 59½, whether or not you’re still employed. Ordinary income taxes generally apply to these distributions. (Withdrawals taken prior to age 59½ may be subject to a 10% federal income tax penalty.) This is one of those key birthdays!

62 — You are eligible to start collecting Social Security benefits. However, your benefit will be decrease by up to 30%. To receive full benefits, you must wait until “full retirement age,” which ranges from 66 to 67 depending on the year you were born.

65 — You are eligible to enroll in Medicare. Medicare Part A hospital insurance benefits are automatic for those eligible for Social Security. Part B medical insurance ­ben­efits are voluntary and have a monthly premium. To obtain coverage at the ­earliest possible date, you should generally enroll about two to three months before turning 65.1

70½ — You must start taking minimum distributions from most tax-deferred retirement plans. Otherwise, there’s a 50% penalty on the amount that should have been withdrawn. Annual required minimum distributions are calculated according to life expectancies determined by the federal government. This birthday is forcing you to start taking minimum distributions, whether you need them or not. You don’t necessarily need to spend it if you don’t need it. I have solutions for you!

Source: 1) Medicare & You 2017, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Planning for retirement is like planning a birthday party.

You need a little foresight and knowledge to make the most of your retirement plan. So, contact me for a FREE retirement strategy consultation at my office in Upper Marlboro, MD. Contact me 1-833-313-7233.

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May 18th, 2018 by

spousal IRA

A spousal IRA — funded for a spouse who earns little or no income — offers an opportunity to help keep the retirement savings of both spouses on track. It also offers a larger potential tax deduction for a married couple.

Being a stay-at-home mom or dad, or working part-time to help take care of the children, can make a big contribution to the balance and well-being of a family. Unfortunately, time out of the workforce could put the caregiving spouse at a disadvantage when it comes to retirement savings.

Making Contributions to Spousal IRA

For 2018 tax years, an individual with earned income can contribute up to $5,500 to his or her own IRA. Also, you can contribute up to $5,500 more to a spouse’s IRA — regardless of whether the spouse works or not. There are a few rules. The couple’s combined earned income must exceed both contributions and the couple must file a joint tax return. You can make an additional $1,000 catch-up contribution a spouse who is age 50 or older.

If neither spouse actively participates in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, contributions to a traditional IRA are fully tax deductible. However, if one or both are active participants, tax deductibility for joint filers phases out at a modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) of $101,000 to $121,000 for a participating spouse and $189,000 to $199,000 for a nonparticipating spouse. Thus, some participants in workplace plans who earn too much to deduct an IRA contribution for themselves may still be able to deduct an IRA contribution for a nonparticipating spouse.

Contributions to a Roth IRA are not tax deductible regardless of participation in a workplace plan. However, eligibility to contribute to a Roth IRA phases out for joint filers with a MAGI of $189,000 to $199,000 in 2018.

Distributions from traditional IRAs are taxed as ordinary income. They may be subject to a 10% federal income tax penalty if withdrawn prior to age 59½. Roth IRA contributions can be withdrawn penalty-free and tax-free at any time. However, a Roth IRA distribution must meet the five-year holding requirement and take place after age 59½.

Smart Planning Starts Early!

Your family should be setting goals early for retirement. Let me show you how to get the most from your retirement planning. Contact me for a FREE retirement strategy consultation at my office in Upper Marlboro, MD. Contact me 1-833-313-7233.

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May 9th, 2018 by

student debt

Normally, it’s recent college graduates or young professionals that complain about the burden of student debt. However, the number of consumers age 60 and older with student loan debt quadrupled from 2005 to 2015 (see chart). During this period, the average amount owed by those 60 and older rose from $12,100 to $23,500.1

late life student debt

Repaying student debt can make it more difficult to save for retirement. Student loan borrowers who are 50 to 59 have lower retirement account balances than those without such loans. In 2015, 29% of loans by borrowers age 50 to 64 were in default, compared with just 17% for those under 50. For borrowers who are 65 or older, the default rate was even higher at 37%.2

If you have student debt or are considering a higher-education loan, here are some factors to keep in mind:

1. Federal Offsets

The federal government can withhold all or part of a tax refund and up to 15% of monthly Social Security benefits to pay back defaulted federal student loans.3(These federal “offsets” do not apply to private student loans, but private debt collectors may threaten to take such action.) Unlike some forms of loans, student debt is not dischargeable through standard bankruptcy proceedings.

2. Student Debt Payment Considerations

Federal student loans offer a variety of income-based repayment plans, but it’s important to make sure you are enrolled in the appropriate plan if your income changes, such as when you shift into retirement. Borrowers of Parent PLUS loans, designed specifically for parents, are eligible for a limited income-based repayment plan, but the student debt must be converted to a federal consolidation loan.

When making payments for a student who has multiple loans that have not been consolidated — for example, if you co-signed a loan for a student who has other loans under his or her name — make sure that your payments are being applied to the appropriate loan in order to preserve your own credit.

3. Think About Your Own Future

Although some older Americans still carry debt from their own education or a spouse’s education, almost three out of four student loan borrowers age 60 and older carry loans for children or grandchildren.4 Many parents feel a deep sense of responsibility to help put their children through college. But it’s also important to focus on your own financial future and maintain a consistent and realistic retirement strategy.

Sources:
1–2, 4) Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 2017
3) U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2016

There are no scholarships to help pay for retirement.

I know you may have strong feelings about putting your children or grandchildren through college. But, there may be other solutions available to you. Contact me for a FREE retirement strategy consultation at my office in Upper Marlboro, MD. Contact me 1-833-313-7233.

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May 2nd, 2018 by

Should you pay off debt or save for your employer-sponsored retirement fund?

That’s a very good question and one that does not have easy answers. For one person, they may need to pay off debt. Another may benefit from money in the employer sponsered retirement fund. So, the answer boils down to how your money can best be put to work for you.

pay off debt

1. Debt interest rate vs possible financial instrument growth

If you make extra payments on a specific debt, you are essentially earning a return on the interest rate of that debt. For example, if you’re paying a credit card with a 14% interest rate, you are basically getting the same benefit as if you put away that money & earned a 14% growth on it. That rate of return would be difficult to match in your retirement portfolio on a long-term steady basis. So, if you’re carrying a balance on a high-interest rate credit card, your money may be best put to work paying down that balance.

However, paying down a house debt could be important to you. But, if you pay off debt of your house in lieu of setting aside money for your retirement, you may be making a mistake. That’s because the house interest rate debt is low (maybe like 5%). But, the compounded interest increases your earning potential over a long period of time. Therefore, the time-value-of-money will bring more benefit to you than trying to shave off a couple years on your mortgage. But, yes, there may be a good reason to want to pay off your mortgage debt. Entering retirement age debt-free is strategic & wise move.  Therefore, the key is to think strategically & carefully about growth versus debt interest rates in relation to your overall goals & circumstances.

2. Do you get matching contributions?

If you get matching contributions from your employer for your 401K account, it’s free money. That free money can increase the growth potential of your retirement plan account. If your employer offers it, try to take full advantage of the matching program. However, if your company does not offer a match plan, there are still huge tax advantages & long-term growth potential of even small contributions.

Planning & money discipline.

With a little budgeting & financial discipline, you may be able to pay off debt and save for retirement through your employer-sponsored plan. Contact me for a FREE retirement strategy consultation at my office in Upper Marlboro, MD. Contact me  1-833-313-7233.

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