Articles for November 2018

Social Security Gets Its Biggest Boost in Years

Seniors will see their retirement benefits increase by an average of 2.8% in 2019.

Social Security will soon give seniors their largest “raise” since 2012. In view of inflation, the Social Security Administration has authorized a 2.8% increase for retirement benefits in 2019.1

This is especially welcome, as annual Social Security cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, have been irregular in recent years. There were no COLAs at all in 2010, 2011, and 2016, and the 2017 COLA was 0.3%. This marks the second year in a row in which the COLA has been at least 2%.2

Not every retiree will see their benefits grow 2.8% next year. While affluent seniors will probably get the full COLA, more than 5 million comparatively poorer seniors may not, according to the Senior Citizens League, a lobbying group active in the nation’s capital.1

Why, exactly? It has to do with Medicare’s “hold harmless” provision, which held down the cost of Part B premiums for select Medicare recipients earlier in this decade. That rule prevents Medicare Part B premiums, which are automatically deducted from monthly Social Security benefits, from increasing more than a Social Security COLA in a given year. (Without this provision in place, some retirees might see their Social Security benefits effectively shrink from one year to the next.)1

After years of Part B premium inflation being held in check, the “hold harmless” provision is likely fading for the above-mentioned 5+ million Social Security recipients. They may not see much of the 2019 COLA at all.1

Even so, the average Social Security beneficiary will see a difference. The increase will take the average individual monthly Social Security payment from $1,422 to $1,461, meaning $468 more in retirement benefits for the year. An average couple receiving Social Security is projected to receive $2,448 per month, which will give them $804 more for 2019 than they would get without the COLA. How about a widower living alone? The average monthly benefit is set to rise $38 per month to $1,386, which implies an improvement of $456 in total benefits for 2019.1

Lastly, it should be noted that some disabled workers also receive Social Security benefits. Payments to their households will also grow larger next year. Right now, the average disabled worker enrolled in Social Security gets $1,200 per month in benefits. That will rise to $1,234 per month in 2019. The increase for the year will be $408.1

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

www.cfgiowa.com

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 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.

Securities and Registered Investment Advisory Services offered through Silver Oak Securities, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. Silver Oak Securities, Inc. and Cornerstone Financial Group are separate entities.

Citations.

1 – fool.com/retirement/2018/10/26/heres-what-the-average-social-security-beneficiary.aspx [10/26/18]

2 – tinyurl.com/y9spspqe [8/31/18]

 

How Medigap Choices Are Changing

Plan F is fading away, and Plan G may become the most selected option.                   

Soon, the most popular Medigap policy will no longer be sold. Seniors will lose the chance to buy Plan F in 2020 as well as the less popular Plan C.1,2

These policies cover Medicare’s Part B deductible, which is currently $183. A new federal law prevents the sale of any Medigap policies that cover this deductible once the 2020s begin.2

Be assured, if you already have Plan F (or Plan C) coverage, you can stick with it after 2020. You just cannot buy a new Plan F (or C) policy after that date.2

What does this mean if you are considering a Plan F policy? The short answer is that if you want to buy Plan F coverage, you have until the end of 2019 to do so. That said, you could be better off with Plan G in the next decade, barring a big jump in Medigap premiums.1,2

Why do people like Plan F? It is basically a “Cadillac plan”: it lets you see any doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare patients, and the upfront cost is the total cost. With Plan F, you are not surprised by subsequent requests to pay a deductible, a copayment, or coinsurance.1

How does Plan G differ from Plan F? While both plans provide similar coverage, the major differences are about dollars and cents. Plan G asks you for the $183 Part B deductible; Plan F does not. Premiums also differ notably. Coming into the fourth quarter of 2018, monthly payments on a Plan F policy averaged $185.96. Average monthly premiums on a Plan G policy? Just $155.70.1,2

Plan G appears to be gaining popularity. CSG Actuarial, a firm that provides data to insurance companies, reports that 37% of new Medigap enrollees are choosing Plan G (although 53% still choose Plan F).1

What will happen to Plan F and Plan G premiums in the 2020s is hard to say. Plan F premiums may jump because the supply of 65-year-olds buying Plan F will be abruptly cut, leaving an older and less healthy population to cover. Plan G premiums could rise also because a Medigap plan must accept new enrollees by the terms of Medicare regardless of how healthy or ill they may be. The current $183 Plan G deductible might significantly increase as well.1

Do you think you might switch out of one Medigap policy to another? That move may be harder to make once 2020 rolls around. If it has been more than six months since you enrolled in Medicare Part B and you want to switch Medigap plans or supplement traditional Medicare with one, some Medigap insurers in certain states may exercise their right to charge you more in view of pre-existing health conditions and even turn you down. It is possible that states may intervene and pass new regulations to prevent this in the coming years.1,2

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

www.cfgiowa.com

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 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.

Securities and Registered Investment Advisory Services offered through Silver Oak Securities, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. Silver Oak Securities, Inc. and Cornerstone Financial Group are separate entities.

Citations.

1 – reuters.com/article/us-column-marksjarvis-medigap/medicare-supplement-plans-are-changing-what-you-need-to-know-idUSKCN1LZ18F [9/19/18]

2 – kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T039-C001-S001-two-medigap-plans-to-be-phased-out.html [8/10/18]

When You Retire Without Enough

Start your “second act” with inadequate assets, and your vision of the future may be revised.

How much have you saved for retirement? Are you on pace to amass a retirement fund of $1 million by age 65? More than a few retirement counselors urge pre-retirees to strive for that goal. If you have $1 million in invested assets when you retire, you can withdraw 4% a year from your retirement funds and receive $40,000 in annual income to go along with Social Security benefits (in ballpark terms, about $30,000 per year for someone retiring from a long career). If your investment portfolio is properly diversified, you may be able to do this for 25-30 years without delving into assets elsewhere.1

Perhaps you are 20-25 years away from retiring. Factoring in inflation and medical costs, maybe you would prefer $80,000 in annual income plus Social Security at the time you retire. Strictly adhering to the 4% rule, you will need to save $2 million in retirement funds to satisfy that preference.1

There are many variables in retirement planning, but there are also two realities that are hard to dismiss. One, retiring with $1 million in invested assets may suffice in 2018, but not in the 2030s or 2040s, given how even moderate inflation whittles away purchasing power over time. Two, most Americans are saving too little for retirement: about 5% of their pay, according to research from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Fifteen percent is a better goal.1

Fifteen percent? Really? Yes. Imagine a 30-year-old earning $40,000 annually who starts saving for retirement. She gets 3.8% raises each year until age 67; her investment portfolio earns 6% a year during that time frame. At a 5% savings rate, she would have close to $424,000 in her retirement account 37 years later; at a 15% savings rate, she would have about $1.3 million by age 67. From boosting her savings rate 10%, she ends up with three times as much in retirement assets.1

Now, what if you save too little for retirement? That implies some degree of compromise to your lifestyle, your dreams, or both. You may have seen your parents, grandparents, or neighbors make such compromises.

There is the 75-year-old who takes any job he can, no matter how unsatisfying or awkward, because he realizes he is within a few years of outliving his money. There is the small business owner entering her sixties with little or no savings (and no exit strategy) who doggedly resolves to work until she dies.

Perhaps you have seen the widow in her seventies who moves in with her son and his spouse out of financial desperation, exhibiting early signs of dementia and receiving only minimal Social Security benefits. Or the healthy and active couple in their sixties who retire years before their savings really allow, and who are chagrined to learn that their only solid hope of funding their retirement comes down to selling the home they have always loved and moving to a cheaper and less cosmopolitan area or a tiny condominium.

When you think of retirement, you probably do not think of “just getting by.” That is no one’s retirement dream. Sadly, that risks becoming reality for those who save too little for the future. Talk to a financial professional about what you have in mind for retirement: what you want your life to look like, what your living expenses could be like. From that conversation, you might get a glimpse of just how much you should be saving today for tomorrow.

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

www.cfgiowa.com

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 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.

Securities and Registered Investment Advisory Services offered through Silver Oak Securities, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. Silver Oak Securities, Inc. and Cornerstone Financial Group are separate entities.

Citations.

1 – investopedia.com/retirement/retirement-income-planning/ [6/7/18]

 

No, That Is Not the I.R.S. Calling

Watch out for crooks impersonating I.R.S. agents (and financial industry professionals).

Do you know how the Internal Revenue Service contacts taxpayers to resolve a problem? The first step is almost always to send a letter through the U.S. Postal Service to the taxpayer.1

It is very rare for the I.R.S. to make the first contact through a call or a personal visit. This happens in two circumstances: when taxes are notably delinquent or overdue or when the agency feels an audit or criminal investigation is necessary. Furthermore, the I.R.S. does not send initial requests for taxpayer information via email or social media.1

Now that you know all of this, you should also know about some of the phone scams being perpetrated by criminals claiming to be the I.R.S. (or representatives of investment firms).

Scam #1: “You owe back taxes. Pay them immediately, or you will be arrested.” Here, someone calls you posing as an I.R.S. agent, claiming that you owe thousands of dollars in federal taxes. If the caller does not reach you in person, a voice mail message conveys the same threat, urging you to call back quickly.1

Can this terrible (fake) problem be solved? Yes, perhaps with the help of your Social Security number. Or, maybe with some specific information about your checking account, maybe even your online banking password. Or, they may tell you that this will all go away if you wire the money to an account or buy a pre-paid debit card. These are all efforts to steal your money.

This is over-the-phone extortion, plain and simple. The demand for immediate payment gives it away. The I.R.S. does not call up taxpayers and threaten them with arrest if they cannot pay back taxes by midnight. The preferred method of notification is to send a bill, with instructions to pay the amount owed to the U.S. Treasury (never some third party).1

Sometimes the phone number on your caller I.D. may appear to be legitimate because more sophisticated crooks have found ways to manipulate caller I.D. systems. Asking for a callback number is not enough. The crook may readily supply you with a number to call, and when you dial it someone may pick up immediately and claim to be a representative of the I.R.S., but it’s likely a co-conspirator – someone else assisting in the scam. For reference, the I.R.S. tax help line for individuals is 1-800-829-1040. Another telltale sign; if you ever call the real I.R.S., you probably wouldn’t speak to a live person so quickly – hold times can be long.1

Scam #2: “This is a special offer to help seniors manage their investments.” Yes, a special offer to become your investment advisor, made by a total stranger over the phone. Of course, this offer of help is under the condition that you provide your user I.D. and password for your brokerage account or your IRA.2

No matter how polite and sweet the caller seems, this is criminal activity. Licensed financial services industry professionals do not randomly call senior citizens and ask them for financial account information and passwords – unless they want to go to jail or end their careers.

Scam #3: “I made a terrible mistake; you must help me.” In this scam, a caller politely informs you that the U.S. government is issuing supplemental Social Security payments to seniors next year. Do you have a bank account? You could enroll in this program by providing your account information and your Social Security number.

Oh no, wait! The caller now tells you that they’ve made a huge mistake while inputting your account information – and your account was accidentally credited with a full payment even though you were not enrolled. The distraught caller will now attempt to convince you that they will lose their job unless you send over an amount equal to the lump sum they claim was mistakenly deposited. If you refuse, the caller may have a conversation with a “boss” who demands that money be withdrawn from your account.

Scam #4: “The I.R.S. accidentally gave you a refund.” In this sophisticated double-cross, thieves steal your data, then file a phony federal tax return with your information and deposit a false refund in your bank account. Then, they attempt to convince you to pay them the money, claiming they are debt collectors working for the I.R.S. or I.R.S. agents.

Should anyone call and try to trap you with one of these scams, hang up. Next, report the caller ID and/or callback number to the I.R.S. at phishing@irs.gov with the subject line “I.R.S. Phone Scam.” You can also notify the Department of the Treasury (treasury.gov) and the Federal Trade Commission (ftccomplaintassistant.gov); list “I.R.S. Telephone Scam” in the notes. Regarding scam #4, if you really do receive an erroneous federal (or state) tax refund, you should notify your tax professional about it as soon as you can and arrange its return. You may also need to close the involved bank account if you sense you have been victimized.1,3

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

www.cfgiowa.com

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 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.

Securities and Registered Investment Advisory Services offered through Silver Oak Securities, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. Silver Oak Securities, Inc. and Cornerstone Financial Group are separate entities.

Citations.

1 – irs.gov/newsroom/irs-continues-warning-on-impersonation-scams-reminds-people-to-remain-alert-to-other-scams-schemes-this-summer [5/31/18]

2 – money.usnews.com/money/retirement/aging/articles/2018-05-09/10-financial-scams-to-avoid-in-retirement [5/9/18]

3 – forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2018/02/13/irs-issues-urgent-warning-on-new-tax-refund-scam-and-its-not-what-youd-expect [2/13/18]