Articles tagged with: Social Security benefits

Could Social Security Really Go Away?

Just how gloomy does its future look?

Will Social Security run out of money in the 2030s? For years, Americans have been warned about that possibility. Those warnings, however, assume that no action will be taken to address Social Security’s financial challenges.

Social Security is being strained by a giant demographic shift. In 2030, more than 20% of the U.S. population will be 65 or older. In 2010, only 13% of the nation was that old. In 1970, less than 10% of Americans were in that age group.1

Demand for Social Security benefits has increased, and the ratio of retirees to working-age adults has changed. In 2010, the Census Bureau determined that there were about 21 seniors (people aged 65 or older) for every 100 workers. By 2030, the Bureau projects that there will be 35 seniors for every 100 workers.1

As payroll taxes fund Social Security, the program faces a major dilemma. Actually, it faces two.

Social Security maintains two trust funds. When you read a sentence stating that “Social Security could run out of money by 2035,” that statement refers to the projected shortfall of the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust. The OASDI is the main reservoir of Social Security benefits, from which monthly payments are made to seniors. The latest Social Security Trustees report indeed concludes that the OASDI Trust could be exhausted by 2035 from years of cash outflows exceeding cash inflows.2,3

Congress just put a patch on Social Security’s other, arguably more pressing problem. Social Security’s Disability Insurance (SSDI) Trust Fund risked being unable to pay out 100% of scheduled benefits to SSDI recipients this year, but the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 directed a slightly greater proportion of payroll taxes funding Social Security into the DI trust for the short term. This should give the DI Trust enough revenue to pay out 100% of benefits through 2022. Funding it adequately after 2022 remains an issue.4

If the OASDI Trust is exhausted in 2035, what would happen to retirement benefits? They would decrease. Imagine Social Security payments shrinking 21%. If Congress does not act to remedy Social Security’s cash flow situation before then, Social Security Trustees forecast that a 21% cut may be necessary in 2035 to ensure payment of benefits through 2087.3

No one wants to see that happen, so what might Congress do to address the crisis? Three ideas in particular have gathered support.

*Raise the cap on Social Security taxes. Currently, employers and employees each pay a 6.2% payroll tax to fund Social Security (the self-employed pay 12.4% of their earnings into the program). The earnings cap on the tax in 2016 is $118,500, so any earned income above that level is not subject to payroll tax. Lifting (or even abolishing) that cap would bring Social Security more payroll tax revenue, specifically from higher-income Americans.3

*Adjust the full retirement age. Should it be raised to 68? How about 70? Some people see merit in this, as many baby boomers may work and live longer than their parents did. In theory, it could promote longer careers and shorter retirements, and thereby lessen demand for Social Security benefits. Healthier and wealthier baby boomers might find the idea acceptable, but poorer and less healthy boomers might not.3

*Calculate COLAs differently. Social Security uses the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Workers and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) in figuring cost-of-living adjustments. Many senior advocates argue that the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E) should be used instead. The CPI-E often gives more weight to health care expenses and housing costs than the CPI-W. Not only that, the CPI-E only considers the cost of living for people 62 and older. That last feature may also be its biggest drawback. Since it only includes some of the American population in its calculations, its detractors argue that it may not measure inflation as well as the broader CPI-W.3

Social Security could still face a shortfall even if all of these ideas were adopted. The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College estimates that if all of these “fixes” were put into play today, the OASDI Trust would still face a revenue shortage in 2035.3

In future decades, Social Security may not be able to offer retirees what it does now, unless dramatic moves are made on Capitol Hill. In the worst-case scenario, monthly benefits would be cut to keep the program solvent. A depressing thought, but one worth remembering as you plan for the future.

Michael 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 – money.usnews.com/money/retirement/articles/2014/06/16/the-youngest-baby-boomers-turn-50 [6/16/14]
2 – fool.com/retirement/general/2016/03/20/the-most-important-social-security-chart-youll-eve.aspx [3/20/16]
3 – fool.com/retirement/general/2016/03/19/1-big-problem-with-the-3-most-popular-social-secur.aspx [3/19/16]
4 – marketwatch.com/story/crisis-in-social-security-disability-insurance-averted-but-not-gone-2015-11-30 [11/30/15]

Reducing the Risk of Outliving Your Money

What steps might help you sustain and grow your retirement savings?

“What is your greatest retirement fear?” If you ask retirees that question, “outliving my money” may likely be one of the top answers. Retirees and pre-retirees alike share this anxiety. In a 2014 Wells Fargo/Gallup survey of more than 1,000 investors, 46% of respondents cited that very fear; 42% of the respondents to that poll were making $90,000 a year or more.1

Retirees face greater “longevity risk” today. According to an analysis of Census Bureau data by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, the average retirement age in this country is 65 for men and 63 for women. Many of us will probably live into our eighties and nineties; indeed, many of our parents have already lived that long. In 2014 (the most recent year for which Census Bureau data is available), over 72,000 Americans were centenarians, representing a 44% increase since 2000.2,3

If your retirement lasts 20, 30, or even 40 years, how well do you think your retirement savings will hold up? What financial steps could you take in your retirement to prevent those savings from eroding? As you think ahead, consider the following possibilities and realities.

Realize that Social Security benefits might shrink in the future. Today, there are three workers funding Social Security for every retiree. By federal estimates, there will be only two workers funding Social Security for every retiree in 2030. That does not bode well for the health of the program, especially since nearly one-fifth of Americans will be 65 or older in 2030.4

Social Security’s trust fund is projected to run dry by 2034, and it is quite possible Congress may intervene to rescue it before then. Still, the strain on Social Security will mount over the next 20 years as more and more baby boomers retire. With this in mind, there’s no reason not to investigate other potential retirement income sources now.3

Understand that you may need to work part-time in your sixties and seventies. The income from part-time work can be an economic lifesaver for retirees. Suppose you walk away from your career with $500,000 in retirement savings. In your first year of retirement, you decide to withdraw 4% of that for income, or $20,000. At that withdrawal rate, not even adjusting for inflation, that money will be gone in 21 years. What if you worked part-time and earned $20,000-30,000 a year? If you can do that for five or ten years, you effectively give your retirement savings five or ten more years to last and grow.3

Retire with health insurance and prepare adequately for out-of-pocket costs. Financially speaking, this may be the most frustrating part of retirement. We can enroll in Medicare at age 65, but how do we handle the premiums for private health insurance if we retire before then? Striving to work until you are eligible for Medicare makes economic sense. So does building some kind of health care emergency fund for out-of-pocket costs. According to data from Health Affairs, those costs approached $16,000 a year in 2014 for Americans aged 65-84, and $35,000 a year for Americans aged 85 or older.4

Many people may retire unaware of these financial factors. With luck and a favorable investing climate, their retirement savings may last a long time. Luck is not a plan, however, and hope is not a strategy. Those who are retiring unaware of these factors may risk outliving their money.

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 – usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2014/09/24/investors-fear-outliving-retirement-savings/16095591/ [9/24/14]
2 – thestreet.com/story/13468811/1/here-rsquo-s-how-to-make-your-money-last-in-retirement.html [2/23/16]
3 – marketwatch.com/story/so-whos-going-to-pay-for-you-to-live-to-be-100-2016-02-17/ [2/17/16]
4 – thinkadvisor.com/2016/02/22/6-ways-to-prevent-going-broke-in-retirement [2/22/16]

The End of File & Suspend for Married Couples

A great claiming strategy to try & optimize Social Security benefits disappears.

Congress just changed the Social Security benefit rules. On October 30, Capitol Hill lawmakers approved a two-year federal budget deal. As part of that agreement, they authorized the most significant change to Social Security policy seen in this century, disallowing two popular strategies people have used to try and maximize retirement benefits.1

The file-and-suspend claiming strategy will soon be eliminated for married couples. It will be phased out within six months after the budget bill is signed into law by President Obama. The restricted application claiming tactic that has been so useful for divorcees will also sunset.2

This is aggravating news for people who have structured their retirement plans – and the very timing of their retirements – around these strategies.

Until the phase-out period ends, couples can still file and suspend. The bottom line here is simply stated: if you have reached full retirement age (FRA) or will reach FRA in the next six months, your chance to file and suspend for full spousal benefits disappears in Spring of 2016.3

Spouses and children who currently get Social Security benefits based on the work record of a husband, wife, or parent who filed-and-suspended will still be able to receive those benefits.3

How exactly did the new federal budget deal get rid of these two claiming strategies? It made substantial revisions to Social Security’s rulebook.

One, “deemed filing” will only be allowed after an individual’s full retirement age. Previously, it only applied before a person reached FRA. That effectively removes the restricted application claiming strategy, in which an individual could file for spousal benefits only at FRA while their own retirement benefit kept increasing.2

The restricted application claiming strategy will not disappear for everyone, however, because the language of the budget bill allows some seniors grandfather rights. Individuals who will be 62 or older as of December 31, 2015 will still have the option to file a restricted application for spousal benefits when they reach Full Retirement Age (FRA) during the next four years.2

Widows and widowers can breathe a sigh of relief here, because deemed filing has no bearing on Social Security survivor benefits. A widowed person may still file a restricted application for survivor benefits while their own benefit accumulates delayed retirement credits.2

Two, the file-and-suspend option will soon only apply for individuals. A person will still be allowed to file for Social Security benefits and voluntarily suspend them to amass delayed retirement credits until age 70. This was actually the original definition of file-and-suspend.2

Married couples commonly use the file-and-suspend approach like so: the higher-earning spouse files for Social Security benefits at FRA, then suspends them, allowing the lower-earning spouse to take spousal benefits at his or her FRA while the higher-earning spouse stays in the workforce until 70. When the higher-earning spouse turns 70, he/she claims Social Security benefits made larger by delayed retirement credits while the other spouse trades spousal benefits for his/her own retirement benefits.4

No more. The new law says that beginning six months from now, no one may receive benefits based on anyone else’s work history while their own benefits are suspended. In addition, no one may “unsuspend” their suspended Social Security benefits to get a lump sum payment.2

To some lawmakers, file-and-suspend amounted to exploiting a loophole. Retirees disagreed, and a kind of cottage industry evolved around the strategy with articles, books, and seminars showing seniors how to generate larger retirement benefits. It was too good to last, perhaps. The White House has wanted to end the file-and-suspend option since 2014, when even Alicia Munnell, the director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, wrote that “eliminating this option is an easy call … when to claim Social Security shouldn’t be a question of gamesmanship for those with the resources to figure out clever claiming strategies.”4

Gamesmanship or not, the employment of those strategies could make a significant financial difference for spouses. Lawrence Kotlikoff, the economist and PBS NewsHour columnist who has been a huge advocate of file-and-suspend, estimates that their absence could cause a middle-class retired couple to leave as much as $70,000 in Social Security income on the table.3

What should you do now? If you have been counting on using file-and-suspend or a restricted application strategy, it is time to review and maybe even reassess your retirement plan. Talk with a financial professional to discern how this affects your retirement planning picture.

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 – thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/258629-senate-approves-budget-deal-in-overnight-vote [10/30/15]

2 – marketwatch.com/story/key-social-security-strategies-hit-by-budget-deal-2015-10-30 [11/2/15]

3 – pbs.org/newshour/making-sense/column-congress-pulling-rug-peoples-retirement-decisions/ [11/1/15]

4 – slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2015/10/budget_deal_closed_social_security_loophole_known_as_file_and_suspend.html [10/30/15]

Retirement Planning With Health Care Expenses in Mind

It is only wise to consider what Medicare won’t cover in the future.

As you save for retirement, you also recognize the possibility of having to pay major health care costs in the future. Is there some way to plan for these expenses years in advance?

Just how great might those expenses be? There’s no rote answer, of course, but recent surveys from AARP and Fidelity Investments reveal that too many baby boomers might be taking this subject too lightly.

For the last eight years, Fidelity has projected average retirement health care expenses for a couple (assuming that retirement begins at age 65 and that one spouse or partner lives about seven years longer than the other). In 2013, Fidelity estimated that a couple retiring at age 65 would require about $220,000 to absorb those future costs.1

When it asked Americans aged 55-64 how much money they thought they would spend on health care in retirement, 48% of the respondents figured they would need about $50,000 apiece, or about $100,000 per couple. That pales next to Fidelity’s projection and it also falls short of the estimates made back in 2010 by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. EBRI figured that a couple with median prescription drug expenses would pay $151,000 of their own retirement health care costs.1

AARP posed this question to Americans aged 50-64 in the fall of 2013. The results: 16% of those polled thought their out-of-pocket retirement health care expenses would run less than $50,000 and 42% figured needing less than $100,000. Another 15% admitted they had no idea how much they might eventually spend for health care. Unsurprisingly, just 52% of those surveyed felt confident that they could financially handle such expenses.1

Prescription drugs may be your #1 cost. In fact, EBRI currently says that a 65-year-old couple with median drug costs would need $227,000 to have a 75% probability of paying off 100% of their medical bills in retirement. That figure is in line with Fidelity’s big-picture estimate.2

What might happen if you don’t save enough for these expenses? As Medicare premiums come out of Social Security benefits, your monthly Social Security payments could grow smaller. The greater your reliance on Social Security, the bigger the ensuing financial strain.2

A positive note: EBRI and Fidelity both reduced their estimates of total average retirement health care expenses from 2012 to 2013. (Who knows, maybe they will do so again this year.)1

The main message: save more, save now. Do you have about $200,000 (after tax) saved up for the future? If you don’t, you have another compelling reason to save more money for retirement.

Medicare, after all, will not pay for everything. In 2010, EBRI analyzed how much it did pay for, and it found that Medicare covered about 62% of retiree health care expenses. While private insurance picked up another 13% and military benefits or similar programs another 13%, that still left retirees on the hook for 12% out of pocket.1

Consider what Medicare doesn’t cover, and budget accordingly. Medicare pays for much, but it doesn’t cover things like glasses and contacts, dentures and hearing aids – and it certainly doesn’t pay for extended long term care.2

 Medicare’s yearly Part B deductible is $147 for 2014. Once you exceed it, you will have to pick up 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for most medical services. That’s a good argument for a Medigap or Medicare Advantage plan, even considering the potentially high premiums. The standard monthly Part B premium is at $104.90 this year, which comes out of your Social Security. If you are retired and earn income of more than $85,000, your monthly Part B premium will be larger (the threshold for a couple is $170,000). Part D premiums (drug coverage) can also vary greatly; the greater your income, the larger they get. Reviewing your Part D coverage vis-à-vis your premiums is only wise each year.2,3

 Underlying message: stay healthy. It may save you a good deal of money. EBRI projects that someone retiring from an $80,000 job in poor health may need to live on as much as 96% of that end salary annually, or roughly $76,800. If that retiree is in excellent health instead, EBRI estimates that he or she may need only 77% of that end salary – about $61,600 – to cover 100% of annual retirement expenses.1

Michael Moffitt may be reached at 1-800-827-5577 or email:  mikem@cfgiowa.com

website:  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 – washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2014/03/31/guess-how-much-you-need-to-save-for-health-care-in-retirement-wrong-its-much-more/ [3/31/14]

2 – money.usnews.com/money/retirement/articles/2013/06/17/how-to-budget-for-health-costs-in-retirement [6/17/13]

3 – medicare.gov/your-medicare-costs/costs-at-a-glance/costs-at-glance.html [4/30/14]