Articles for March 2015

Will Baby Boomers Ever Truly Retire?

Many may keep working out of interest rather than need.

Baby boomers realize that their retirements may not unfold like those of their parents. New survey data from The Pew Charitable Trusts highlights how perceptions of retirement have changed for this generation. A majority of boomers expect to work in their sixties and seventies, and that expectation may reflect their desire for engagement rather than any economic desperation.

Instead of an “endless Saturday,” the future may include some 8-to-5. Pew asked heads of 7,000 U.S. households how they envisioned retirement and also added survey responses from focus groups in Phoenix, Orlando and Boston. Just 26% of respondents felt their retirements would be work-free. A slight majority (53%) told Pew they would probably work in some context in the next act of their lives, possibly at a different type of job; 21% said they had no intention to retire at all.1

Working longer may help boomers settle debts. A study published by the Employee Benefit Research Institute in January (Debt of the Elderly and Near Elderly, 1992-2013) shows a 2.0% increase in the percentage of indebted households in the U.S. headed by breadwinners 55 and older from 2010-13 (reaching 65.4% at the end of that period). EBRI says median indebtedness for such households hit $47,900 in 2013 compared to $17,879 in 1992. It notes that larger mortgage balances have been a major factor in this.1

Debts aside, some people just like to work. Those presently on the job expect to stay in the workforce longer than their parents did. Additional EBRI data affirms this – last year, 33% of U.S. workers believed that they would leave their careers after age 65. That compares to just 11% in 1991.2

How many boomers will manage to work past 65? This is one of the major unknowns in retirement planning today. We are watching a reasonably healthy generation age into seniority, one that can access more knowledge about being healthy than ever before – yet obesity rates have climbed even as advances have been made in treating so many illnesses.

Working past 65 probably means easing into part-time work – and not every employer permits such transitions for full-time employees. The federal government now has a training program in which FTEs can make such a transition while training new workers and some larger companies do allow phased retirements, but this is not exactly the norm.3

Working less than a 40-hour week may also negatively impact a worker’s retirement account and employer-sponsored health care coverage. EBRI finds that only about a third of small firms let part-time employees stay on their health plans; even fewer than half of large employers (200 or more workers) do. The Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies says part-time workers get to participate in 401(k) plans at only half of the companies that sponsor them.3

Boomers who work after 65 have to keep an eye on Medicare and Social Security. They will qualify for Medicare Part A (hospital coverage) at 65, but they should sign up for Part B (doctor visits) within the appropriate enrollment window and either a Part C plan or Medigap coverage plus Medicare Part D.3

Believe it or not, company size also influences when Medicare coverage starts for some 65-year-olds. Medicare will become the primary insurance for employees at firms with less than 20 workers when they turn 65, even if that company sponsors a health plan. At firms with 20 or more workers, the workplace health plan takes precedence over Medicare coverage, with 65-year-olds maintaining their eligibility for that employer-sponsored health coverage provided they work sufficient hours. Boomers who work for these larger employers may sign up for Part A and then enroll in Part B and optionally a Part C plan or Part D with Medigap coverage within eight months of retiring – they do not have to wait for the next open enrollment period.3

Prior to age 66, federal retirement benefits may be lessened if retirement income tops certain limits. In 2015, if you are 62-65 and receive Social Security, $1 of your benefits will be withheld for every $2 that you earn above $15,720. If you receive Social Security and turn 66, this year, then $1 of your benefits will be withheld for every $3 that you earn above $41,880.4

Social Security income may also be taxed above the program’s “combined income” threshold. (“Combined income” is defined as adjusted gross income + non-taxable interest + 50% of Social Security benefits.) Single filers with combined incomes from $25,000-34,000 may have to pay federal income tax on up to 50% of their Social Security benefits in 2015, and that also applies to joint filers with combined incomes of $32,000-44,000. Single filers with combined incomes above $34,000 and joint filers whose combined incomes top $44,000 may have to pay federal income tax on up to 85% of their Social Security benefits.5

Are boomers really the retiring type? Given the amazing accomplishments and vitality of the baby boom generation, a wave of boomers working past 65 seems more like a probability than a possibility. Life is still exciting; there is so much more to be done.

Mike Moffitt may be reached at  ph# 641-782-5577 or email:  mikem@cfgiowa.com.

website:  www.cfgiowa.com

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.

1 – marketwatch.com/story/only-one-quarter-of-americans-plan-to-retire-2015-02-26 [2/26/15]

2 – usatoday.com/story/money/columnist/brooks/2015/02/17/baby-boomer-retire/23168003/ [2/17/15]

3 – tinyurl.com/qdm5ddq [3/4/15]

4 – forbes.com/sites/janetnovack/2014/10/22/social-security-benefits-rising-1-7-for-2015-top-tax-up-just-1-3/ [10/22/14]

5 – ssa.gov/planners/taxes.htm [3/4/15]

Welcome Jeremy Lyons, CRPC®

Lyons photo (2)

Cornerstone Financial Group is happy to welcome Jeremy Lyons to the firm. Jeremy has come on board as part of the growth and evolution of our financial services practice. He was with Ameriprise Financial Services for 6 years and comes to us from Trend Financial in Ames, Iowa where he served as an Investment Advisor Representative. Jeremy is a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor® and has a keen eye for investment research and analysis. He retains the Series 7, 63 and 65 securities registrations held with LPL Financial, and a thorough understanding of investments.

Mike Moffitt, Cornerstone Financial Group owner and president, “Jeremy I feel is the best choice to help me to continue to expand Cornerstone Financial Group in the coming years. I think when you have a chance to meet him you will agree.”

Jeremy graduated from Iowa State University where he was a four year letter winner and Captain of the Iowa State Golf Team. After college, he continued his golf career by turning professional and competing on mini-tours for three years. Jeremy has continued his relationship with Iowa State University by serving as a board member for the ISU Letterwinners Club. Jeremy and his wife Elizabeth reside in Polk City with their two small children Lydia and Adam.

Join us in welcoming Jeremy!

The Strong Dollar: Good or Bad?

What is dollar strength and who invests in it?

You may have heard that the dollar is “strong” right now. You may have also heard that a strong dollar amounts to a headwind against commodities and stocks.

While there is some truth to that, there is more to the story. A strong dollar does not necessarily rein in the bulls, and dollar strength can work for the economy and the markets.

The U.S. Dollar Index has soared lately. Across July 2014-February 2015, the USDX (which measures the value of the greenback against key foreign currencies) rose an eyebrow-raising 19.44%.1

On March 9, the European Central Bank initiated its quantitative easing program. The dollar hit a 12-year high against the euro a day later, with the USDX jumping north more than 3% in five trading days ending March 10. Remarkable, yes, but the USDX has the potential to climb even higher.2,3

Before this dollar bull market, we had a weak dollar for some time. A dollar bear market occurred from 2001-11, partly resulting from the monetary policy that the Federal Reserve adopted in the Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke years. As U.S. interest rates descended to historic lows in the late 2000s, the dollar became more attractive as a funding currency and demand for dollar-denominated debt increased.4

In Q1 2015, private sector dollar-denominated debt hit $9 trillion globally. Asian corporations have relied notably on foreign currency borrowing, though their domestic currency borrowing is also significant; Morgan Stanley recently researched 625 of these firms and found that dollar-denominated debt amounted to 28% of their total debt.4,5

So why has the dollar strengthened? The quick, easy explanation is twofold. One, the Fed is poised to tighten while other central banks have eased, promoting expectations of a mightier U.S. currency. Two, our economy is healthy versus those of many other nations. The greenback gained on every other major currency in 2014 – a development unseen since the 1980s.4

This explanation for dollar strength aside, attention must also be paid to two other critical factors emerging which could stoke the dollar bull market to even greater degree.

At some point, liabilities will increase for the issuers of all that dollar-denominated debt. That will ramp up demand for dollars, because they will want to hedge.

Will the dollar supply meet the demand? The account deficit has been slimming for the U.S., and the slimmer it gets, the fewer new dollars become available. It could take a few years to unwind $9 trillion of dollar-denominated debt, and when you factor in a probable rate hike from our central bank, things get really interesting. The dollar bull may be just getting started.

If the dollar keeps rallying, what happens to stocks & commodities? Earnings could be hurt, meaning bad news for Wall Street. A strong dollar can curb profits for multinational corporations and lower demand for U.S. exports, as it makes them more expensive. U.S. firms with the bulk of their business centered in America tend to cope better with a strong dollar than firms that are major exporters. Fixed-income investments invested in dollar-denominated assets (as is usually the case) may fare better in such an environment than those invested in other currencies. As dollar strength reduces the lure of gold, oil and other commodities mainly traded in dollars, they face a real headwind. So do the economies of countries that are big commodities producers, such as Brazil and South Africa.6

The economic upside is that U.S. households gain more purchasing power when the dollar strengthens, with prices of imported goods falling. Improved consumer spending could also give the Fed grounds to extend its accommodative monetary policy.6

How are people investing in the dollar? U.S. investors have dollar exposure now as an effect of being invested in the U.S. equities market. Those who want more exposure to the rally can turn to investment vehicles specifically oriented toward dollar investing. European investors are responding to the stronger greenback (and the strong probability of the Fed raising interest rates in the near future) by snapping up Treasuries and corporate bonds with longer maturities.

Stocks can still rally when the dollar is strong. As research from Charles Schwab indicates, the average annualized return for U.S. stocks when the dollar rises has been 12.8% since 1970. For bonds, it has been 8.5% in the years since 1976. A dollar rally amounts to a thumbs-up global vote for the U.S. economy, and that can certainly encourage and sustain a bull market.7

Mike Moffitt may be reached at ph# 641-782-5577 or email:  mikem@cfgiowa.com

website:  www.cfgiowa.com

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Economic forecasts set forth may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful.

There is a potential for fast price swings in commodities and currencies that will result in significant volatility in an investor’s holdings.

Citations.

1 – wsj.com/mdc/public/npage/2_3050.html?mod=mdc_curr_dtabnk&symb=DXY [3/9/15]

2 – reuters.com/article/2015/03/10/us-markets-stocks-idUSKBN0M612A20150310 [3/10/15]

3 – forbes.com/sites/maggiemcgrath/2015/03/10/u-s-equities-hammered-on-dollar-strength-and-oil-weakness/ [3/10/15]

4 – valuewalk.com/2015/02/us-dollar-bull-market/ [2/4/15]

5 – tinyurl.com/ptpolga [2/25/15]

6 – blogs.wsj.com/briefly/2014/12/24/how-a-strong-dollar-affects-investors-at-a-glance/ [12/24/14]

7 – time.com/money/3541584/dollar-rally-global-currencies/ [2/13/15]

 

Tax Season Phone Scams

Beware of crooks calling you up & claiming to be the IRS.

Every year, con artists posing as the Internal Revenue Service perpetrate scams on taxpayers. Their weapon is a telephone, and they use it to leave thousands of households poorer. These gambits can seem very convincing, but you need not fall prey to them if you are informed.

The IRS will never call you up & demand money. Nor will the IRS contact you by phone to discuss your refund. In addition, it will not use social media, text messages or emails out of the blue to talk about tax matters with you.1

Not everyone knows this, and these criminals exploit that fact. In particular, these crooks target immigrants and elders. They presume that these demographic groups do not understand tax law and tax collection proceedings as well as others. Sometimes the caller ID will even suggest the “IRS” to further the scam.1

Since December 2013, federal investigators have detected about 290,000 fraudulent IRS calls made to homes and businesses. About 3,000 people succumbed to these scams during that period, forking over a total of $14 million in “back taxes” – roughly $5,000 per taxpayer.2

What are the telltale signs of a bogus IRS call? The classic sign is the demand for an immediate payment of “taxes” when no bill for delinquent taxes has been sent to you by the IRS to begin with. The IRS nearly always makes initial contact with taxpayers by mail.2

Another common move is asking for a credit or debit card number. In one common scam, the caller alleges that you have unpaid back taxes that can only be settled by buying a prepaid debit card (and by supplying the card number to the caller).1

Bullying is another red flag. In another prevalent scam, a message may be left saying that this is a “final notice from the Internal Revenue Service” and tell you that the IRS is filing a lawsuit against you on a business or personal tax issue. Threats of arrest, deportation or losing your driver’s license may be made. The caller may also tell you that you have no way to appeal, no chance to plead innocence – you are guilty and must pay taxes owed now.1,2

How can you report frauds like this? If you know for a fact that you do not owe any back taxes, call up the office of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1-800-366-4484 and report what happened to you. (TIGTA is on the Web at tigta.gov.) Alternately, go to FTC Complaint Assistant website maintained by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and file a complaint there (click on “Other” in the right-side menu, and then click on “Imposter Scams”). Start your notes with the phrase “IRS Telephone Scam.”1

If you think you actually might owe some back taxes, call the IRS instead at IRS at 1-800-829-1040 as that really should be resolved; IRS staffers can assist you with such a matter.1

Watch out for these crooks, and let others know about their tactics so that they may avoid becoming victims.

Mike Moffitt may be reached at ph. 641-782-5577 or email:  mikem@cfgiowa.com

website:  www.cfgiowa.com

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

Citations.

1 – irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/Scam-Phone-Calls-Continue;-IRS-Identifies-Five-Easy-Ways-to-Spot-Suspicious-Calls [10/29/14]

2 – cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2015/01/nearly_3000_people_in_us_have.html [1/23/15]