Closing a Retirement Income Gap

bridge-builders2bWhen you determine how much income you’ll need in retirement, you may base your projection on the type of lifestyle you plan to have and when you want to retire. However, as you grow closer to retirement, you may discover that your income won’t be enough to meet your needs. If you find yourself in this situation, you’ll need to adopt a plan to bridge this projected income gap.

  

Delay retirement: 65 is just a number

One way of dealing with a projected income shortfall is to stay in the workforce longer than you had planned. This will allow you to continue supporting yourself with a salary rather than dipping into your retirement savings. Depending on your income, this could also increase your Social Security retirement benefit. You’ll also be able to delay taking your Social Security benefit or distributions from retirement accounts.

At normal retirement age (which varies, depending on the year you were born), you will receive your full Social Security retirement benefit. You can elect to receive your Social Security retirement benefit as early as age 62, but if you begin receiving your benefit before your normal retirement age, your benefit will be reduced. Conversely, if you delay retirement, you can increase your Social Security benefit.

Remember, too, that income from a job may affect the amount of Social Security retirement benefit you receive if you are under normal retirement age. Your benefit will be reduced by $1 for every $2 you earn over a certain earnings limit ($15,720 in 2015, $15,480 in 2014). But once you reach normal retirement age, you can earn as much as you want without affecting your Social Security retirement benefit.

Another advantage of delaying retirement is that you can continue to build tax-deferred (or in the case of Roth accounts, tax-free) funds in your IRA or employer-sponsored retirement plan. Keep in mind, though, that you may be required to start taking minimum distributions from your qualified retirement plan or traditional IRA once you reach age 70½, if you want to avoid harsh penalties.

And if you’re covered by a pension plan at work, you could also consider retiring and then seeking employment elsewhere. This way you can receive a salary and your pension benefit at the same time. Some employers, to avoid losing talented employees this way, are beginning to offer “phased retirement” programs that allow you to receive all or part of your pension benefit while you’re still working. Make sure you understand your pension plan options.

 

 Spend less, save more

You may be able to deal with an income shortfall by adjusting your spending habits. If you’re still years away from retirement, you may be able to get by with a few minor changes. However, if retirement is just around the corner, you may need to drastically change your spending and saving habits. Saving even a little money can really add up if you do it consistently and earn a reasonable rate of return. Make permanent changes to your spending habits and you’ll find that your savings will last even longer. Start by preparing a budget to see where your money is going. Here are some suggested ways to stretch your retirement dollars:

 

  • Refinance your home mortgage if interest rates have dropped since you took the loan.
  • Reduce your housing expenses by moving to a less expensive home or apartment.
  • Sell one of your cars if you have two. When your remaining car needs to be replaced, consider buying a used one.
  • Access the equity in your home. Use the proceeds from a second mortgage or home equity line of credit to pay off higher-interest-rate debts.
  • Transfer credit card balances from higher-interest cards to a low- or no-interest card, and then cancel the old accounts.
  • Ask about insurance discounts and review your insurance needs (e.g., your need for life insurance may have lessened).
  • Reduce discretionary expenses such as lunches and dinners out.

Earmark the money you save for retirement and invest it immediately. If you can take advantage of an IRA, 401(k), or other tax-deferred retirement plan, you should do so. Funds invested in a tax-deferred account may grow more rapidly than funds invested in a non-tax-deferred account.

 

 Reallocate your assets: consider investing more aggressively

Some people make the mistake of investing too conservatively to achieve their retirement goals. That’s not surprising, because as you take on more risk, your potential for loss grows as well. But greater risk also generally entails potentially greater reward. And with life expectancies rising and people retiring earlier, retirement funds need to last a long time.

That’s why if you are facing a projected income shortfall, you should consider shifting some of your assets to investments that have the potential to substantially outpace inflation. The amount of investment dollars you should keep in growth-oriented investments depends on your time horizon (how long you have to save) and your tolerance for risk. In general, the longer you have until retirement, the more aggressive you can afford to be. Still, if you are at or near retirement, you may want to keep some of your funds in growth-oriented investments, even if you decide to keep the bulk of your funds in more conservative, fixed-income investments. Get advice from a financial professional if you need help deciding how your assets should be allocated.

And remember, no matter how you decide to allocate your money, rebalance your portfolio now and again. Your needs will change over time, and so should your investment strategy. Note: Rebalancing may carry tax consequences. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.

 

Accept reality: lower your standard of living

If your projected income shortfall is severe enough or if you’re already close to retirement, you may realize that no matter what measures you take, you will not be able to afford the retirement lifestyle you’ve dreamed of. In other words, you will have to lower your expectations and accept a lower standard of living.

Fortunately, this may be easier to do than when you were younger. Although some expenses, like health care, generally increase in retirement, other expenses, like housing costs and automobile expenses, tend to decrease. And it’s likely that your days of paying college bills and growing-family expenses are over.

Once you are within a few years of retirement, you can prepare a realistic budget that will help you manage your money in retirement. Think long term: Retirees frequently get into budget trouble in the early years of retirement, when they are adjusting to their new lifestyles. Remember that when you are retired, every day is Saturday, so it’s easy to start overspending.

 

Clifford Cadle is a Registered Representative with and, Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC

Wealth Due to Inheritance

estate planningWhat is it?

Introduction

If you’re the beneficiary of a large inheritance, you may find yourself suddenly wealthy. Even if you expected the inheritance, you may be surprised by the size of the bequest or the diverse assets you’ve inherited. You’ll need to evaluate your new financial position, learn to manage your sizable assets, and consider the tax consequences of your inheritance, among other issues.

Issues that arise in connection with an inheritance

If you’ve recently received a bequest, consider the possibility that the will may be contested if your inheritance was large in comparison with that received by other beneficiaries. Or, you may decide to contest the will if you feel slighted. If you’re the spouse of the decedent, you may elect to take against the will. Taking against the will means that you’re exercising your right under probate law (governed by the statutes of your state) to take a share of your spouse’s estate, rather than what your spouse left you in the will, because this is more beneficial to you. Another possibility is that you may disclaim the bequest if you’re in a high income or estate tax bracket, or don’t need or want the bequest.

Caution: Some states allow no-contest clauses to be included in wills. If a will has such a clause and someone contests the will and loses, he or she gets nothing.

Evaluating your new financial position

Introduction

It’s important to determine how wealthy you are once you receive your inheritance. Before you spend or give away any money or assets, decide to move, or leave your job, you should do a cash flow analysis and determine your net worth as a first step toward planning your financial strategy. Your strategy will partly depend on whether you have immediate access to, and total control over, the assets, or if they’re being held in trust for you. In addition, you need to know what types of assets you’ve inherited (e.g., cash, property, or a portfolio of stocks).

Inheriting assets through a trust vs. inheriting assets outright

When you inherit money and assets through a trust, you’ll receive distributions according to the terms of the trust. This means that you won’t have total control over your inheritance as you would if you inherited the assets outright. With a trust, a trustee will be in charge of the trust. A trustee is the person who manages the trust for the benefit of the beneficiary or beneficiaries. The initial trustee was named by the individual who set up the trust. The trustee will likely be your parent or other family member, a close family friend or advisor, an attorney, or a bank representative. The trust document may spell out how the trust assets will be managed and how and when trust income and assets will be paid to you, and it will outline the duties of the trustee.

Know the terms of the trust

If you’re the beneficiary of a trust, the following should be done to ensure that your interests are protected:

  • Read the trust document carefully. You have the right to see the document, so if you can’t get a copy, hire an attorney to get it. Go over the document yourself or with the help of a legal or financial professional, making sure you understand the language of the trust and how its income and principal will be distributed to you. You may be the beneficiary of an irrevocable trust (can’t be changed), or you may be the beneficiary of a revocable trust (can be changed). In addition, determine whether certain practices are allowed or prohibited. For example, one common trust provision prohibits a beneficiary from borrowing against the trust. Another can prevent the beneficiary from paying creditors with assets of the trust. An additional provision usually prohibits creditors from attaching a beneficiary’s share of the trust.
  • Determine if the trust income is sufficient to meet your needs. Is the trust heavily invested in long-term growth stocks or nonrental real estate? Or, is the trust invested in things that provide income to you now, such as rental real estate or money market funds? From your agent (e.g., attorney, accountant) or trustee, get the income statements used to calculate how much income will be distributed to you.
  • Get to know your trust officers (if any) and find out how much the trustee fees are. Then, compare the fee with the average in your state or county (you might ask your local bank for this information). You may be able to negotiate the fee if it is too high, especially if the estate is large.

Working with a trustee

In some trusts, the trustee must distribute all of the income to the beneficiary every year. This type of trust may be simple to administer and relatively conflict free. You may want to work with the trustee or other professionals to ensure that the annual trust distribution is adequate to meet your needs.

In other trusts, the trustee may decide when to distribute trust income and how much to distribute. If this is the case, open communication with the trustee is important. You’ll need to set up a sound budget or financial plan and carefully prepare your request for a trust distribution if it is out of the ordinary. It’s in your best interests to find a way to work with the trustee. In most states, trustees are difficult to replace, and although they’re not supposed to lose money on investments, they’re not usually penalized if the trust performs poorly. If you decide to sue the trustee for mismanaging the trust, his or her legal fees may be paid for from the trust.

Caution: No matter how trust funds are distributed, pay close attention to how the trustee handles the trust investments. Have your lawyer, accountant, or financial advisor look over the trustee’s investment strategy. If your advisor determines that the trustee’s investment strategy doesn’t meet your needs or, worse, is unsound, discuss this strategy with the trustee or possibly ask the trustee to change his or her strategy.

Inheriting a lump sum of cash

When you inherit a large lump sum of cash, you’ll be responsible for managing the money yourself (or hiring professionals to do so). Even if you’re used to handling your own finances, becoming suddenly wealthy can turn even the most cautious individual into a spendthrift, at least in the short run. Carefully watch your spending. Although you may want to quit your job, move, gift assets to family members or to charity, or buy a car, a house, or luxury items, this may not be in your best interest. You must consider your future needs, as well, if you want your wealth to last. It’s a good idea to wait a few months or a year after inheriting money to formulate a financial plan. You’ll want to consider your current lifestyle, consider your future goals, formulate a financial strategy to meet those goals, and determine how taxes may reduce your estate.

Inheriting stock

You may inherit stock either through a trust or outright. The major question to consider is whether you should sell the stock. This depends on your overall investment strategy and what type of stock you’ve acquired. If you acquire stock in a company, for example, and you now own a controlling interest, you’ll need to look at how actively you want to be involved in the company or how much you know about the company. If you inherit stock and find that it doesn’t fit your portfolio, you may consider selling it, depending on the market conditions.

Inheriting real estate

If you inherit real estate, such as a house or land, you’ll probably have to decide whether to keep it or sell it. If you keep it, will you live there or rent it out? Do you hope that the house will appreciate in value, or are you keeping it for sentimental reasons? If you decide to sell or rent the house, you’ll need to consider the tax consequences, as well.

Tip: It’s possible that you may inherit real estate or other assets together with others, and sales may require the other owners’ assent or court action to sever the property.

Short-term and long-term needs and goals

Once you’ve done a cash flow analysis and determined what type of assets you’ve inherited, you need to evaluate your short-term and long-term needs and goals. For example, in the short term, you may want to pay off consumer debt such as high-interest loans or credit cards. Your long-term planning needs and goals may be more complex. You may want to fund your child’s college education, put more money into a retirement account, invest, plan to minimize taxes, or travel.

Use the following questions to begin evaluating your financial needs and goals, then seek advice on implementing your own financial strategy:

  • Do you have outstanding consumer debt that you would like to pay off?
  • Do you have children you need to put through college?
  • Do you need to bolster your retirement savings?
  • Do you want to buy a home?
  • Are there charities that are important to you and whom you wish to benefit?
  • Would you like to give money to your friends and family?
  • Do you need more income currently?
  • Do you need to find ways to minimize income and estate taxes?

Tax consequences of an inheritance

Income tax considerations

In general, you won’t directly owe income tax on assets you inherit. However, a large inheritance may mean that your income tax liability will eventually increase. Any income that is generated by those assets may be subject to income tax, and if the inherited assets produce a substantial amount of income, your tax bracket may increase. Once you increase your wealth, you should look at ways to minimize your overall tax liability, such as shifting income, giving money to individuals or charity, utilizing other income tax reduction strategies, and investing for growth rather than income. You may also need to re-evaluate your income tax withholding or begin paying estimated tax.

Transfer tax considerations

If you’re wealthy, you’ll need to consider not only your current income tax obligations but also the amount of potential transfer taxes that may be owed. You may need to consider ways to minimize these potential taxes. Four common ways to do so are to (1) set up a marital trust, (2) set up an irrevocable life insurance trust, (3) set up a charitable trust, or (4) make gifts to individuals and/or to charities.

Impact on investing

Inheriting an estate can completely change your investment strategy. You will need to figure out what to do with your new assets. In doing so, you’ll need to ask yourself several questions:

  • Is your cash flow OK? Do you have enough money to pay your bills and your taxes? If not, consider investments that can increase your cash flow.
  • Have you considered how the assets you’ve inherited may increase or decrease your taxes?
  • Do you have enough liquidity? If you need money in a hurry, do you have assets you could quickly sell? If not, you may want to consider having at least some short-term, rather than long-term, investments.
  • Are your investments growing enough to keep up with or beat inflation? Will you have enough money to meet your retirement needs and other long-term goals?
  • What is your tolerance for risk? All investments carry some risk, including the potential loss of principal, but some carry more than others. How well can you handle market ups and downs? Are you willing to accept a higher degree of risk in exchange for the opportunity to earn a higher rate of return?
  • How diversified are your investments? Because asset classes often perform differently from one another in a given market situation, 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 at least partially offset by a gain in another, though diversification can’t guarantee a profit or eliminate the possibility of market loss.

Once you’ve considered these questions, you can formulate a new investment strategy. However, if you’ve just inherited money, remember that there’s no rush. If you want to let your head clear, put your funds in an accessible interest-bearing account such as a savings account, money market account, or a short-term certificate of deposit until you can make a wise decision with the help of advisors.

Impact on insurance

When you inherit wealth, you’ll need to re-evaluate your insurance coverage. Now, you may be able to self-insure against risk and potentially reduce your property/casualty, disability, and medical insurance coverage. (However, you might actually consider increasing your coverages to protect all that you’ve inherited.) You may want to keep your insurance policies in force, however, to protect yourself by sharing risk with the insurance company. In addition, your additional wealth results in your having more at risk in the event of a lawsuit, and you may want to purchase an umbrella liability policy that will protect you against actual loss, large judgments, and the cost of legal representation. If you purchase expensive items such as jewelry or artwork, you may need more property/casualty insurance to protect yourself in the event these items are stolen. You may also need to recalculate the amount of life insurance you need. You may need more life insurance to cover your estate tax liability, so your beneficiaries receive more of your estate after taxes.

Impact on estate planning

Re-evaluating your estate plan

When you increase your wealth, it’s probably time to re-evaluate your estate plan. Estate planning involves conserving your money and putting it to work so that it best fulfills your goals. It also means minimizing your exposure to potential taxes and creating financial security for your family and other intended beneficiaries.

Passing along your assets

If you have a will, it is the document that determines how your assets will be distributed after your death. You’ll want to make sure that your current will reflects your wishes. If your inheritance makes it necessary to significantly change your will, you should meet with your attorney. You may want to make a new will and destroy the old one instead of adding codicils. Some things you should consider are whom your estate will be distributed to, whether the beneficiary(ies) of your estate are capable of managing the inheritance on their own, and how you can best shield your estate from estate taxes. If you have minor children, you may want to protect them from asset mismanagement by nominating an appropriate guardian or setting up a trust for them.

Using trusts to ensure proper management of your estate and minimize taxes

If you feel that your beneficiaries will be unable to manage their inheritance, you may want to set up trusts for them. You can also use trusts for tax planning purposes. For example, setting up an irrevocable life insurance trust may minimize federal and state transfer taxes on the proceeds.

Impact on education planning

You may want to use part of your inheritance to pay off your student loans or to pay for the education of someone else (e.g., a child or grandchild). Before you do so, consider the following points:

  • Pay off outstanding consumer debt first if the interest rate on your consumer debt is higher than it is on your student loans (interest rates on student loans are often relatively low)
  • Paying part of the cost of someone else’s education may impact his or her ability to get financial aid
  • You can make gifts to pay for tuition expenses without having to pay federal transfer taxes if you pay the school directly

Giving all or part of your inheritance away

Giving money or property to individuals

Once you claim your inheritance, you may want to give gifts of cash or property to your children, friends, or other family members. Or, they may come to you asking for a loan or a cash gift. It’s a good idea to wait until you’ve come up with a financial plan before giving or lending money to anyone, even family members. If you decide to loan money, make sure that the loan agreement is in writing to protect your legal rights to seek repayment and to avoid hurt feelings down the road, even if this is uncomfortable. If you end up forgiving the debt, you may owe gift taxes on the transaction. Gift taxes may also affect you if you give someone a gift of money or property or a loan with a below-market interest rate. The general rule for federal gift tax purposes is that you can give a certain amount ($14,000 in 2014) each calendar year to an unlimited number of individuals without incurring any tax liability. If you’re married, you and your spouse can make a split gift, doubling the annual gift tax exclusion amount (to $28,000) per recipient per year without incurring tax liability, as long as all requirements are met. Giving gifts to individuals can also be a useful estate planning strategy.

Tip: The annual gift tax exclusion is indexed for inflation, so the amount may change in future years.

Caution: This is just a brief discussion of making gifts and gift taxes. There are many other things you will need to know, so be sure to consult an experienced estate planning attorney.

Giving money or property to charity

If you make a gift to charity during your lifetime, you may be able to deduct the amount of the charitable gift on your income tax return. Income tax deductions for gifts to charities are limited to 50 percent of your contribution base (generally equal to adjusted gross income) and may be further limited if the gift you make consists of certain appreciated property or if the gift is given to certain charities and private foundations. However, excess deductions can usually be carried over for five years, subject to the same limitations. For estate planning purposes, you may want to make a charitable gift that can minimize the amount of transfer taxes your estate may owe. There are many arrangements you can make to reach that goal. Be sure to consult an experienced estate planning attorney.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investment(s) may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly.The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax planning or legal advice. We suggest that you consult with a qualified tax or legal advisor.LPL Financial Representatives offer access to Trust Services through The Private Trust Company N.A., an affiliate of LPL Financial.

This communication is strictly intended for individuals residing in the state(s) of AZ, CO, FL, IL, IN, MI, OH and WI. No offers may be made or accepted from any resident outside the specific states referenced.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2014.

Pay Down Debt or Save for Retirement?

The most important decision you can make is to take action and get started now. The sooner you decide on a plan, the sooner you can begin to make progress.

If you decide to prioritize paying down debt, make sure you put in place a mechanism that automatically directs money toward the debt so you won’t be tempted to skip or reduce payments.

Pay Down Debt or Save for Retirement?

You can use a variety of strategies to pay off debt, many of which can cut not only the amount of time it will take to pay off the debt but also the total interest paid. But like many people, you may be torn between paying off debt and the need to save for retirement. Both are important; both can help give you a more secure future. If you’re not sure you can afford to tackle both at the same time, which should you choose?

There’s no one answer that’s right for everyone, but here are some of the factors you should consider when making your decision.

Rate of investment return versus interest rate on debt

Probably the most common way to decide whether to pay off debt or to make investments is to consider whether you could earn a higher after-tax rate of return by investing than the after-tax interest rate you pay on the debt. For example, say you have a credit card with a $10,000 balance on which you pay nondeductible interest of 18%. By getting rid of those interest payments, you’re effectively getting an 18% return on your money. That means your money would generally need to earn an after-tax return greater than 18% to make investing a smarter choice than paying off debt. That’s a pretty tough challenge even for professional investors.

And bear in mind that investment returns are anything but guaranteed. In general, the higher the rate of return, the greater the risk. If you make investments rather than pay off debt and your investments incur losses, you may still have debts to pay, but you won’t have had the benefit of any gains. By contrast, the return that comes from eliminating high-interest-rate debt is a sure thing.

An employer’s match may change the equation

If your employer matches a portion of your workplace retirement account contributions, that can make the debt versus savings decision more difficult. Let’s say your company matches 50% of your contributions up to 6% of your salary. That means that you’re earning a 50% return on that portion of your retirement account contributions.

If surpassing an 18% return from paying off debt is a challenge, getting a 50% return on your money simply through investing is even tougher. The old saying about a bird in the hand being worth two in the bush applies here. Assuming you conform to your plan’s requirements and your company meets its plan obligations, you know in advance what your return from the match will be; very few investments can offer the same degree of certainty. That’s why many financial experts argue that saving at least enough to get any employer match for your contributions may make more sense than focusing on debt.

And don’t forget the tax benefits of contributions to a workplace savings plan. By contributing pretax dollars to your plan account, you’re deferring anywhere from 10% to 39.6% in taxes, depending on your federal tax rate. You’re able to put money that would ordinarily go toward taxes to work immediately.

Your choice doesn’t have to be all or nothing

The decision about whether to save for retirement or pay off debt can sometimes be affected by the type of debt you have. For example, if you itemize deductions, the interest you pay on a mortgage is generally deductible on your federal tax return. Let’s say you’re paying 6% on your mortgage and 18% on your credit card debt, and your employer matches 50% of your retirement account contributions. You might consider directing some of your available resources to paying off the credit card debt and some toward your retirement account in order to get the full company match, and continuing to pay the tax-deductible mortgage interest.

There’s another good reason to explore ways to address both goals. Time is your best ally when saving for retirement. If you say to yourself, “I’ll wait to start saving until my debts are completely paid off,” you run the risk that you’ll never get to that point, because your good intentions about paying off your debt may falter at some point. Putting off saving also reduces the number of years you have left to save for retirement.

It might also be easier to address both goals if you can cut your interest payments by refinancing that debt. For example, you might be able to consolidate multiple credit card payments by rolling them over to a new credit card or a debt consolidation loan that has a lower interest rate.

Bear in mind that even if you decide to focus on retirement savings, you should make sure that you’re able to make at least the monthly minimum payments owed on your debt. Failure to make those minimum payments can result in penalties and increased interest rates; those will only make your debt situation worse.

Other considerations

When deciding whether to pay down debt or to save for retirement, make sure you take into account the following factors:

  • Having retirement plan contributions automatically deducted from your paycheck eliminates the temptation to spend that money on things that might make your debt dilemma even worse. If you decide to prioritize paying down debt, make sure you put in place a mechanism that automatically directs money toward the debt–for example, having money deducted automatically from your checking account–so you won’t be tempted to skip or reduce payments.
  • Do you have an emergency fund or other resources that you can tap in case you lose your job or have a medical emergency? Remember that if your workplace savings plan allows loans, contributing to the plan not only means you’re helping to provide for a more secure retirement but also building savings that could potentially be used as a last resort in an emergency. Some employer-sponsored retirement plans also allow hardship withdrawals in certain situations–for example, payments necessary to prevent an eviction from or foreclosure of your principal residence–if you have no other resources to tap. (However, remember that the amount of any hardship withdrawal becomes taxable income, and if you aren’t at least age 59½, you also may owe a 10% premature distribution tax on that money.)
  • If you do need to borrow from your plan, make sure you compare the cost of using that money with other financing options, such as loans from banks, credit unions, friends, or family. Although interest rates on plan loans may be favorable, the amount you can borrow is limited, and you generally must repay the loan within five years. In addition, some plans require you to repay the loan immediately if you leave your job. Your retirement earnings will also suffer as a result of removing funds from a tax-deferred investment.
  • If you focus on retirement savings rather than paying down debt, make sure you’re invested so that your return has a chance of exceeding the interest you owe on that debt. While your investments should be appropriate for your risk tolerance, if you invest too conservatively, the rate of return may not be high enough to offset the interest rate you’ll continue to pay.

Regardless of your choice, perhaps the most important decision you can make is to take action and get started now. The sooner you decide on a plan for both your debt and your need for retirement savings, the sooner you’ll start to make progress toward achieving both goals.

Retirement Income Investing: Beyond Annuities

 

Retirement-incomeRetirement Income Investing: Beyond Annuities

One of the challenges of investing during retirement is providing for annual income while balancing that need with other considerations, such as liquidity, how long you need your funds to last, your risk tolerance, and anticipated rates of return for various types of investments. Annuities may be seen as a full or partial solution, since they can offer stable income or guaranteed lifetime payments (subject to the claims-paying ability of the issuer). However, they’re not right for everyone.

A well-thought-out asset allocation in retirement is essential. While income investments alone are unlikely to meet all your needs, it’s important to understand some of the most common non-annuity investments that can provide income as part of your overall investment strategy.

Bonds: retirement’s traditional backbone

A bond portfolio can help you address investment goals in multiple ways. Buying individual bonds (which are essentially IOUs) at their face values and holding them to maturity can provide a predictable income stream and the assurance that unless a bond issuer defaults, you’ll receive the principal when the bond matures. (Bear in mind that if a bond is callable, it may be redeemed early, and you would have to replace that income.) You also can buy bonds through mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Depending on your circumstances, funds may provide greater diversification at a lower cost than individual bonds. However, a bond fund has no specific maturity date and therefore behaves differently from an individual bond, though like an individual bond, its price typically moves in the opposite direction from interest rates.

Consider the issuer

Bonds are available from many types of issuers, including corporations, the U.S. Treasury, local and state governments, governmental agencies, and foreign governments. Each type is taxed differently. For example, the income from Treasury securities (unlike corporate bonds) is exempt from state and local taxes but not from federal taxes.

Bonds issued by state and local governments, commonly called municipal bonds or munis, are just the opposite. Often a staple for retirees in a high tax bracket, munis generally are exempt from federal income tax (though specific issues may be taxable), but may be subject to state or local taxes. Largely because of that tax advantage, a tax-free bond typically yields less than a corporate bond with the same maturity. You’ll need to compare a muni’s tax-equivalent yield to know whether it makes sense on an after-tax basis.

Think about bond maturities

Bond prices can drop when interest rates and/or inflation rise, because their fixed income will buy less over time. Inflation affects prices of long-term bonds–those with maturities of 10 or more years–the most. One way to keep a bond portfolio flexible is to use so-called laddering: buying bonds with various maturities. As each matures, its proceeds can be reinvested. If bond yields are up, you benefit from higher rates; if yields are down, you have the option of choosing a different maturity or investment.

Certificates of deposit/savings accounts

Certificates of deposit (CDs), which offer a fixed interest rate for a specific time period, usually pay higher interest than a regular savings account, and you typically can have interest paid at regularly scheduled intervals. A CD can be rolled over to a new CD or another investment when it matures, though you may not get the same interest rate, and you’ll pay a penalty if you cash it in early. A high-yield savings account also pays interest, and, like a CD, is FDIC-insured up to $250,000.

Stocks offering dividends

Dividend-paying stocks, as well as mutual funds and ETFs that invest in them, also can provide income. Because dividends on common stock are subject to the company’s performance and a decision by its board of directors each quarter, they may not be as predictable as income from a bond.

However, dividends on preferred stock are different; the rate is fixed and they’re paid before any dividend is available for common stockholders. That fixed payment means that prices of preferred stocks tend to behave somewhat like bonds. Preferred shares usually pay a higher dividend rate than common shares, and though most preferred stockholders do not have voting rights, their claims on the company’s assets will be satisfied before those of common stockholders if the company has financial difficulties. However, a company is often permitted to call in preferred shares at a predetermined future date, and preferred stockholders do not participate in a company’s growth as fully as common shareholders would.

Pass-through securities/REITs

Some investments are designed to act as a conduit for income from underlying assets. For example, mortgage-related securities represent an ownership interest in mortgage loans made by financial institutions. The most basic of these, known as pass-throughs, represent a direct ownership interest in a trust that consists of a pool of mortgages. Examples of pass-throughs include securities issued by the Government National Mortgage Association, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, and the Federal National Mortgage Association.

Certain types of investment trusts–for example, REITs that buy, develop, manage, or sell real estate–don’t owe taxes as long as they pay out at least 90% of their net income to investors. That payout has traditionally made them popular as an income vehicle and portfolio diversifier (though diversification alone does not guarantee a profit or ensure against a loss). There are many types of REITs, so be sure you understand how the one you choose functions before investing.

Automated inflation fighting

Some investments are designed to fight inflation for you. Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS) pay a slightly lower fixed interest rate than regular Treasuries. However, your principal is automatically adjusted twice a year to match changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Those adjusted amounts are used to calculate your interest payments.

That inflation adjustment means that if you hold a TIPS until it matures, your repaid principal will likely be higher than when you bought it (the government guarantees it will not be less). However, you can still lose money if you sell a TIPS before maturity. Inflation rates change, and other interest rates can affect the value of a TIPS. If inflation is lower than expected, the total return on a TIPS could actually be less than that of a comparable non-indexed Treasury. Also, federal taxes on the interest and increases in your principal are owed yearly even though additions to principal aren’t paid until a TIPS matures. Inflation-linked CDs function much like TIPS, but you’ll generally owe federal, state, and local taxes each year.

Some mutual funds are managed with an eye toward inflation. A mutual fund that invests in inflation-protected securities pays out not only the interest but also any annual inflation adjustments, which are taxable each year as short-term capital gains. Some funds target inflation by mixing TIPS with floating rate loans, commodity-linked notes, real estate-related investments, stocks, and bonds.

Distribution funds

Some mutual funds are designed to provide an income stream from year to year. Available as part of a series, each fund designates a percentage of your assets to be distributed each year as scheduled payments, usually monthly or quarterly. Some funds are designed to last over a specific time period and plan to distribute all your assets by the end of that time; others focus on capital preservation, make payments only from earnings, and have no end date. You may withdraw money at any time from a distribution fund; however, that may reduce future returns. Also, payments may vary, and there is no guarantee a fund will achieve the desired return.

Many choices

New ways to help you translate savings into income are constantly being created. These are only a few of the many possibilities, and there’s more to understand about each.

A Retirement Income Roadmap for Women

 

aretirmentincomeroadmanforwomen3More women are working and taking charge of their own retirement planning than ever before. What does retirement mean to you? Do you dream of traveling? Pursuing a hobby? Volunteering your time, or starting a new career or business? Simply enjoying more time with your grandchildren? Whatever your goal, you’ll need a retirement income plan that’s designed to support the retirement lifestyle that you envision, and minimize the risk that you’ll outlive your savings.
When will you retire?

Establishing a target age is important, because when

you retire will significantly affect how much you need

to save. For example, if you retire early at age 55 as

opposed to waiting until age 67, you’ll shorten the

time you have to accumulate funds by 12 years, and

you’ll increase the number of years that you’ll be living

off of your retirement savings. Also consider:

  • The longer you delay retirement, the longer you

can build up tax-deferred funds in your IRAs and

employer-sponsored plans like 401(k)s, or accrue

benefits in a traditional pension plan if you’re lucky

enough to be covered by one.

  • Medicare generally doesn’t start until you’re 65.

Does your employer provide post-retirement

medical benefits? Are you eligible for the coverage

if you retire early? Do you have health insurance

coverage through your spouse’s employer? If not,

you may have to look into COBRA or a private

individual policy–which could be expensive.

  • You can begin receiving your Social Security

retirement benefit as early as age 62. However,

your benefit may be 25% to 30% less than if you

waited until full retirement age. Conversely, if you

delay retirement past full retirement age, you may

be able to increase your Social Security retirement

benefit.

  • If you work part-time during retirement, you’ll be

earning money and relying less on your retirement

savings, leaving more of your savings to potentially

grow for the future (and you may also have access

to affordable health care).

If you’re married, and you and your spouse are

both employed and nearing retirement age, think

about staggering your retirements. If one spouse is

earning significantly more than the other, then it

usually makes sense for that spouse to continue to

work in order to maximize current income and

ease the financial transition into retirement.

How long will retirement last?

We all hope to live to an old age, but a longer life

means that you’ll have even more years of retirement

to fund. The problem is particularly acute for women,

who generally live longer than men. To guard against

the risk of outliving your savings, you’ll need to

estimate your life expectancy. You can use

government statistics, life insurance tables, or life

expectancy calculators to get a reasonable estimate

of how long you’ll live. Experts base these estimates

on your age, gender, race, health, lifestyle,

occupation, and family history. But remember, these

are just estimates. There’s no way to predict how long

you’ll actually live, but with life expectancies on the

rise, it’s probably best to assume you’ll live longer

than you expect.

Project your retirement expenses

Once you know when your retirement will likely start,

how long it may last, and the type of retirement

lifestyle you want, it’s time to estimate the amount of

money you’ll need to make it all happen. One of the

biggest retirement planning mistakes you can make is

to underestimate the amount you’ll need to save by

the time you retire. It’s often repeated that you’ll need

70% to 80% of your pre-retirement income after you

retire. However, the problem with this approach is that

it doesn’t account for your specific situation.

Focus on your actual expenses today and think about

whether they’ll stay the same, increase, decrease, or

even disappear by the time you retire. While some

expenses may disappear, like a mortgage or costs for

commuting to and from work, other expenses, such

as health care and insurance, may increase as you

age. If travel or hobby activities are going to be part of

your retirement, be sure to factor in these costs as

well. And don’t forget to take into account the

potential impact of inflation and taxes.

Identify your sources of income

Once you have an idea of your retirement income

needs, your next step is to assess how prepared you

(or you and your spouse) are to meet those needs. In

other words, what sources of retirement income will

be available to you? Your employer may offer a

traditional pension that will pay you monthly benefits.

In addition, you can likely count on Social Security to

provide a portion of your retirement income. Other

sources of retirement income may include a 401(k) or

other retirement plan, IRAs, annuities, and other

investments. The amount of income you receive from

those sources will depend on the amount you invest,

the rate of investment return, and other factors.

Finally, if you plan to work during retirement, your

earnings will be another source of income.

When you compare your projected expenses to your

anticipated sources of retirement income, you may

find that you won’t have enough income to meet your

needs and goals. Closing this difference, or “gap,” is

an important part of your retirement income plan. In

general, if you face a shortfall, you’ll have five options:

save more now, delay retirement or work during

retirement, try to increase the earnings on your

retirement assets, find new sources of retirement

income, or plan to spend less during retirement.

Transitioning into retirement

Even after that special day comes, you’ll still have

work to do. You’ll need to carefully manage your

assets so that your retirement savings will last as long

as you need them to.

  • Review your portfolio regularly. Traditional wisdom

holds that retirees should value the safety of their

principal above all else. For this reason, some

people shift their investment portfolio to fixed

income investments, such as bonds and money

market accounts, as they enter retirement. The

problem with this approach is that you’ll effectively

lose purchasing power if the return on your

investments doesn’t keep up with inflation. While it

generally makes sense for your portfolio to

become progressively more conservative as you

grow older, it may be wise to consider maintaining

at least a portion in growth investments.
* Spend wisely. You want to be careful not to spend

too much too soon. This can be a great temptation,

particularly early in retirement. A good guideline is

to make sure your annual withdrawal rate isn’t

greater than 4% to 6% of your portfolio. (The

appropriate percentage for you will depend on a

number of factors, including the length of your

payout period and your portfolio’s asset allocation.)

Remember that if you whittle away your principal

too quickly, you may not be able to earn enough

on the remaining principal to carry you through the

later years.

  • Understand your retirement plan distribution

options. Most pension plans pay benefits in the

form of an annuity. If you’re married, you generally

must choose between a higher retirement benefit

that ends when your spouse dies, or a smaller

benefit that continues in whole or in part to the

surviving spouse. A financial professional can help

you with this difficult, but important, decision.

  • Consider which assets to use first. For many

retirees, the answer is simple in theory: withdraw

money from taxable accounts first, then

tax-deferred accounts, and lastly, tax-free

accounts. By using your tax-favored accounts last

and avoiding taxes as long as possible, you’ll keep

more of your retirement dollars working for you.

However, this approach isn’t right for everyone.

And don’t forget to plan for required distributions.

You must generally begin taking minimum

distributions from employer retirement plans and

traditional IRAs when you reach age 70½, whether

you need them or not. Plan to spend these dollars

first in retirement.

  • Consider purchasing an immediate annuity.

Annuities are able to offer something unique–a

guaranteed income stream for the rest of your life

or for the combined lives of you and your spouse

(although that guarantee is subject to the

claims-paying ability and financial strength of the

issuer). The obvious advantage in the context of

retirement income planning is that you can use an

annuity to lock in a predictable annual income

stream, not subject to investment risk, that you

can’t outlive.

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it

comes to retirement income planning. A financial

professional can review your circumstances, help you

sort through your options, and help develop a plan

that’s right for you.

 

Which is better? Single Life Annuity For My Pension or a Joint Survivor Annuity?

I can choose a single life annuity for my pension or a joint and survivor annuity that makes payments to my spouse when I die. Which is better?

Making money and good investments conceptAnswer:

It depends on your circumstances.

If you’re not married, the single life annuity is clearly the best choice (and may be your only option). You’ll receive the maximum payout from your pension during your life, and all benefits will cease when you die. This option may even make sense if you’re married (assuming that you have other ways to take care of your surviving spouse, such as investments or retirement plan assets), and the difference between the higher-paying single life annuity and the joint and survivor annuity is very great. (The joint and survivor annuity benefits paid to you during your life will be smaller than if you elected a single life annuity, because they are payable as long as either person is alive.)

One common strategy is to choose the single life annuity and buy life insurance to protect your spouse, using some or all of the difference in benefits between the higher-paying single life annuity and the joint and survivor annuity to pay the premiums. That way, you may maximize your pension benefits while you are alive, and your spouse will receive insurance proceeds when you die that may be more valuable than what he or she would get under the joint and survivor annuity option. You may need a financial professional to help you assess whether this strategy is right for you.

But you may be better off choosing the joint and survivor annuity. This might be the case if your assets are insufficient to meet your surviving spouse’s needs, if you can’t obtain the insurance coverage you need (or that coverage is too expensive), or if the difference between the higher-paying single life annuity and the joint and survivor annuity is small. This option would enable your spouse to receive pension survivor benefits after you die (usually a percentage of your full retirement benefit), as well as provide your spouse with guaranteed income until his or her death. Electing a joint and survivor annuity may also enable your surviving spouse to continue to receive medical coverage from your former employer after your death, if the plan allows.

One final note: If you’re married, most plans will only allow you to choose a single life annuity if your spouse waives the joint and survivor annuity. You and your spouse should discuss your options and agree on the one that will best meet the needs of both of you. This is a complicated decision, so get professional guidance before you make your choice.

 

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2014.

Social Security: What Should You Do at Age 62?

Even if you start collecting Social Security benefits at age 62, keep in mind that you still won't be eligible for Medicare until you reach age 65. So unless you're eligible for retiree health benefits through your former employer or your spouse's health plan at work, you may need to pay for a private health policy until Medicare kicks in.
Even if you start collecting Social Security benefits at age 62, keep in mind that you still won’t be eligible for Medicare until you reach age 65. So unless you’re eligible for retiree health benefits through your former employer or your spouse’s health plan at work, you may need to pay for a private health policy until Medicare kicks in.

Is 62 your lucky number? If you’re eligible, that’s the earliest age you can start receiving Social Security retirement benefits. If you decide to start collecting benefits before your full retirement age, you’ll have company. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), approximately 74% of Americans elect to receive their Social Security benefits early. (Source: SSA Annual Statistical Supplement, 2012)Although collecting early retirement benefits makes sense for some people, there’s a major drawback to consider: if you start collecting benefits early, your monthly retirement benefit will be permanently reduced. So before you put down the tools of your trade and pick up your first Social Security check, there are some factors you’ll need to weigh before deciding whether to start collecting benefits early.

What will your retirement benefit be?

Your Social Security retirement benefit is based on the number of years you’ve been working and the amount you’ve earned. Your benefit is calculated using a formula that takes into account your 35 highest earnings years. If you earned little or nothing in several of those years (if you left the workforce to raise a family, for instance), it may be to your advantage to work as long as possible, because you’ll have the opportunity to replace a year of lower earnings with a higher one, potentially resulting in a higher retirement benefit.

If you begin collecting retirement benefits at age 62, each monthly benefit check will be 25% to 30% less than it would be at full retirement age. The exact amount of the reduction will depend on the year you were born. (Conversely, you can get a higher payout by delaying retirement past your full retirement age–the government increases your payout every month that you delay retirement, up to age 70.)

However, even though your monthly benefit will be 25% to 30% less if you begin collecting retirement benefits at age 62, you might receive the same or more total lifetime Social Security benefits as you would have had you waited until full retirement age to start collecting benefits. That’s because even though you’ll receive less money per month, you might receive more benefit checks.

The following chart shows how much an estimated $1,000 monthly benefit at full retirement age would be worth if you started taking a reduced benefit at age 62.

Birth Year Full Retirement Age Benefit
1943-1954 66 years $750
1955 66 years, 2 months $741
1956 66 years, 4 months $733
1957 66 years, 6 months $725
1958 66 years, 8 months $716
1959 66 years, 10 months $708
1960 or later 67 years $700

Source: Social Security Administration

If you want to estimate the amount of Social Security benefits you will be eligible to receive in the future under current law (based on your earnings record) you can use the SSA’s Retirement Estimator. It’s available at the SSA website at www.socialsecurity.gov. You can also sign up to view your online Social Security Statement at the SSA website. Your statement contains a detailed record of your earnings, as well as estimates of retirement, survivor’s, and disability benefits, and other information about Social Security.

Have you thought about your longevity?

Is it better to take reduced benefits at age 62 or full benefits later? The answer depends, in part, on how long you live. If you live longer than your “break-even age,” the overall value of your retirement benefits taken at full retirement age will begin to outweigh the value of reduced benefits taken at age 62.

You’ll generally reach your break-even age about 12 years from your full retirement age. For example, if your full retirement age is 66, you should reach your break-even age at 78. If you live past this age, you’ll end up with higher total lifetime benefits by waiting until full retirement age to start collecting. However, unless you’re able to invest your benefits rather than use them for living expenses, your break-even age is probably not the most important part of the equation. For many people, what really counts is how much they’ll receive each month, rather than how much they’ll accumulate over many years.

Of course, no one can predict exactly how long they’ll live. But by taking into account your current health, diet, exercise level, access to quality medical care, and family health history, you might be able to make a reasonable assumption.

How much income will you need?

Another important piece of the puzzle is to look at how much retirement income you’ll need, based partly on an estimate of your retirement expenses. If there is a large gap between your projected expenses and your anticipated income, waiting a few years to retire and start collecting Social Security benefits may improve your financial outlook.

If you continue to work and wait until your full retirement age to start collecting benefits, your Social Security monthly benefit will be larger. What’s more, the longer you stay in the workforce, the greater the amount of money you will earn and have available to put into your overall retirement savings. Another plus is that Social Security’s annual cost-of-living increases are calculated using your initial year’s benefits as a base–the higher the base, the greater your annual increase.

Will your spouse be affected?

When to begin receiving Social Security is more complicated when you’re married. The age at which you begin receiving benefits may significantly affect the amount of lifetime income you and your spouse receive, as well as the benefit the surviving spouse will be entitled to, so you’ll need to consider how your decision will affect your joint retirement plan.

Do you plan on working after age 62?

Another key factor in your decision is whether or not you plan to continue working after you start collecting Social Security benefits at age 62. That’s because income you earn before full retirement age may reduce your Social Security retirement benefit. Specifically, if you are under full retirement age for the entire year, $1 in benefits will be withheld for every $2 you earn over the annual earnings limit ($15,120 in 2013).

Example:                 You start collecting Social Security benefits at age 62. You continue working, and your job pays $30,000 in 2013. Your annual benefit would be reduced by $7,440 ($30,000 minus $15,120, divided by 2).

Note:                 If your monthly benefit is reduced in the short term due to your earnings, you’ll receive a higher monthly benefit later. That’s because the SSA recalculates your benefit when you reach full retirement age, and omits the months in which your benefit was reduced.

Other considerations

In addition to the factors discussed here, other financial considerations may influence whether you start collecting Social Security benefits at age 62. How do other sources of retirement income factor in? Have you considered how your income taxes will be affected?

What about personal considerations? Do you plan on traveling, volunteering, going back to school, starting your own business, pursuing hobbies, or moving to a new location? Do you have grandchildren or elderly parents whom you want to help take care of? Every person’s situation is different.

For more information

Social Security rules can be complex. For more information about Social Security benefits, visit the SSA website at www.socialsecurity.gov, or call (800) 772-1213 to speak with a representative. You may also call or visit your local Social Security office.

Insurance Needs in Retirement

 

 

 Your goals and priorities will probably change as you plan to retire. Along with them, your insurance needs may change as well. Retirement is typically a good time to review the different parts of your insurance program and make any changes that might be needed.

 

 

Stay well with good health insurance

 

After you retire, you’ll probably focus more on your health than ever before. Staying healthy is your goal, and that may require more visits to the doctor for preventive tests and routine checkups. There’s also a chance that your health will decline as you grow older, increasing your need for costly prescription drugs and medical treatments. All of this can add up to substantial medical bills after you’ve left the workforce (and probably lost your employer’s health benefits). You need health insurance that meets both your needs and your budget.

 

Fortunately, you’ll get some help from Uncle Sam. You typically become eligible for Medicare coverage at the same time you become eligible for Social Security retirement benefits. Premium-free Medicare Part A covers inpatient hospital care, while Medicare Part B (for which you’ll pay a premium) covers physician care, laboratory tests, physical therapy, and other medical expenses. But don’t expect Medicare to cover everything after you retire. For instance, you’ll have to pay a large deductible and make co-payments for certain types of care. Medicare prescription drug coverage is only available through a managed care plan (a Medicare Advantage plan), or through a Medicare prescription drug plan offered by a private company or insurer (premiums apply).

 

To supplement Medicare, you may want to purchase a Medigap policy. These policies are specifically designed to fill the holes in Medicare’s coverage. Though Medigap policies are sold by private insurance companies, they’re regulated by the federal government. There are 12 standard Medigap plans, but not all of them are offered in every state. All of these plans provide certain core benefits, and all but one offer combinations of additional benefits. Be sure to look at both cost and benefits when choosing a plan.

 

What if you’re retiring early and won’t be eligible for Medicare for a number of years? If you’re lucky, your employer may give you a retirement package that includes health benefits at least until Medicare kicks in. If not, you may be able to continue your employer’s coverage at your own expense through COBRA. But this is only a short-term solution, because COBRA coverage typically lasts only 18 months. Another option is to buy an individual policy, though you may not be insurable if you’re in poor health. Even if you are insurable, the coverage may be very expensive.

 

 

Don’t overlook long-term care insurance

 

If you’re able to stay healthy and active throughout your life, you may never need to enter a nursing home or receive at-home care. But the fact is, many people aged 65 and older will require some type of long-term care during their lives. And that number is likely to go up in future years because people are increasingly living longer. On top of that, long-term care is expensive. You should be prepared in case you do need long-term care at some point.

 

Unfortunately, Medicare provides very limited coverage for long-term care. You may be covered for a short-term nursing home stay immediately following hospitalization, but that’s about it. Other government and military-sponsored programs may help foot the bill, but generally only if you meet strict eligibility requirements. For example, Medicaid requires that you exhaust most of your assets before you can qualify for long-term care benefits. Even a good private health insurance policy will not offer much coverage for long-term care. But most long-term care insurance (LTCI) policies will.

 

LTCI is sold by private insurance companies and typically covers skilled, intermediate, and custodial care in a nursing home. Most policies also cover home care services and care in a community-based setting (e.g., an assisted-living facility). This type of insurance can be a cost-effective way to protect yourself against long-term care costs–the key is to buy a policy when you’re still relatively young (most companies won’t sell you a policy if you’re under age 40). If you wait until you’re older or ill, LTCI may be unavailable or much more expensive.

 

 

Weigh your need for life insurance

 

If you’re married, you want to make sure that your spouse will have enough money when you die. You may also have children and other heirs you want to take care of. Life insurance can be one way to accomplish these goals, but several questions arise as you near retirement. Should you keep that existing policy in place? If so, should you change the coverage amount? What if you don’t have any life insurance because you lost your group coverage at work (though some employers let you keep the coverage at your own expense)? Should you go out and buy some? The answers depend largely on your particular circumstances.

 

Your life insurance needs may not be as great during retirement because your financial picture may have improved. When you’re working and raising a family, the loss of your job income could be devastating. You often need life insurance to replace that income, meet your outstanding debts (e.g., your mortgage, car loans, credit cards), and fund your kids’ college education in case something happens to you. But after you retire, there’s usually no significant job income to protect. Plus, your kids may be grown and most of your debts paid off. You may even be financially secure enough to provide for your loved ones without insurance.

 

It may make sense to go without life insurance in these cases, especially if you have term life insurance and your premium has increased dramatically. But what if you still have financial obligations and few assets of your own? Or what if you’re looking for a way to pay your estate tax bill? Then you may want to keep your coverage in force (or buy coverage, if you have none). If you need life insurance but not as much as you have now, you can always lower your coverage amount. It’s best to talk to a professional before making any decisions. He or she can help you weigh your needs against the cost of coverage.

 

 

Take a look at your auto and homeowners policies

 

If you stay in your home after you retire, your homeowners insurance needs may not change much. But you should still review your liability coverage to make sure it’s sufficient to protect your assets. If you’re liable for an accident on or off your premises, claims against you for medical bills and other expenses can be substantial. For additional protection, you might consider buying an umbrella liability policy. It’s also a good idea to review the coverage you have on your home itself and the property inside it. Finally, if you plan to buy a second home, find out if your insurer will cover both homes and give you a discount on your premium.

 

Auto insurance raises some similar issues. Review your policy to make sure your coverage limits are high enough in each area. Again, having the right amount of liability coverage is especially important–you don’t want your assets to be put at risk if you cause an auto accident that injures other people or damages property. Weigh your need for any coverages that are optional in your state. Finally, look into ways to save on your premium now that you’re retired (e.g., discounts for low annual mileage or senior driving courses).

Healthcare in Retirement

What health care benefits are available in retirement?

Health care in retirement is available from many sources. Government programs (such as Medicaid and Medicare) offer numerous health care benefits. However, you may need to purchase supplemental health insurance or Medigap, as well. Most Americans are eligible to begin receiving Medicare benefits at age 65, but qualifying for Medicaid may require some planning on your part. In addition to these resources, you may also be entitled to military health care benefits if you are a veteran, retired servicemember, or the spouse or widow of a veteran or retired servicemember. Continuing care retirement communities and nursing homes also offer health care services for older individuals. Depending on your specific needs and circumstances, you may use any number of these resources during your retirement years.

Medicare

In general

Medicare is a federal health insurance program created in 1965. Medicare primarily assists those who are 65 or older, but if you are disabled or have kidney disease, you may be eligible for Medicare coverage no matter what your age. Medicare currently consists of Part A (hospital insurance), Part B (medical insurance), Part C (which allows private insurance companies to offer Medicare benefits), and Part D (which covers the costs of prescription drugs), with each part having its own eligibility requirements. You may qualify for one or more parts, or you may choose to accept or decline coverage if you are eligible. Many health policies limit coverage for Medicare-eligible individuals regardless of whether they have accepted Medicare coverage.

Medicare benefits for disabled individuals

Under certain conditions, the disabled are eligible to enroll in Medicare before age 65. If you have been receiving (or have been entitled to receive) Social Security disability benefits for at least 24 months (not necessarily consecutively), you may be eligible to enroll in Medicare. To enroll, you must be entitled to benefits in one of the following categories: 

  • A disabled individual of any age receiving worker’s disability benefits
  • A disabled widow or widower age 50 or older
  • A disabled beneficiary who is older than age 18 and receives benefits based on a disability that occurred before age 22

 In addition, Medicare may be available at any age if you are disabled as a result of chronic kidney failure requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Qualified Medicare Beneficiary program

If you have limited means, you may be eligible for the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) program. Here, your state’s Medicaid program may pay for your Medicare Part B premium, Part A and Part B deductibles, and coinsurance requirements. Eligibility rules may vary from state to state, but in general, you must meet the following three criteria:

  • You must be entitled to Medicare Part A
  • Your income must be at or below the national poverty level
  • The value of your assets must be below a certain level

There are also other related programs that have somewhat less restrictive eligibility requirements.

Medigap

In general

Medigap is supplemental insurance specifically designed to cover some of the gaps in Medicare coverage. Although the name might lead you to believe otherwise, Medigap is provided by private health insurance companies, not the government. However, Medigap is strictly regulated by the federal government.

There are 10 standard Medigap policies available (Plans E, H, I, and J are no longer available for sale, however, if you already have one of these plans you can keep that plan). All plans may not be offered in your state, yet all are standardized and certified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services so that each plan provides exactly the same kind of coverage no matter what state you live in (except for Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, which have their own standardized plans). Every Medigap policy offers certain basic core benefits, such as coverage of certain Medicare Part A and B coinsurance and co-payments. Other plans offer additional benefits, such as coverage of Medicare Part A and B deductibles, and charges that result when a provider bills more than the Medicare-approved amount for a service.

Medicaid

In general

Medicaid provides medical assistance to aged, disabled, or blind individuals, or to needy, dependent children who could not otherwise afford the necessary medical care. Medicaid pays for a number of medical costs, including hospital bills, physician services, home health care, and long-term nursing home care. Each state administers its own Medicaid programs based on broad federal guidelines and regulations. Within these guidelines, each state performs the following: (1) determines its own eligibility requirements; (2) prescribes the amount, duration, and types of services; (3) chooses the rate of reimbursement for services; and (4) oversees its own program.

Applying for benefits

To apply for Medicaid, you must use a written application on a form prescribed by your state and signed under penalties of perjury. Give the application to your state Medicaid office. Typically, you will need to provide proof of age, marital status, residence, and citizenship, along with your Social Security number, verification of receipt of government benefits, and verification of your income and assets. A responsible individual can complete the application on behalf of an incompetent or incapacitated individual.

Eligibility

To qualify for Medicaid, you must meet two basic eligibility requirements. First, you must be considered categorically needy because of blindness, disability, old age, or by virtue of being the parent of a minor child. Next, you must be financially needy, which is determined by income and asset limitation tests. States have much discretion in determining which groups their Medicaid programs will cover, but as participants in Medicaid, they must provide coverage for all residents who are considered categorically needy.

Caution:   State and federal rules regarding Medicaid eligibility change frequently.

Transfer of assets

Because Medicaid eligibility is based on your income and other resources, state Medicaid authorities are interested in knowing whether you have tried to transfer assets out of your name in order to qualify for Medicaid. When you apply for Medicaid, the state has the right to examine your finances and those of your spouse as far back as 60 months from the date you are eligible for medical assistance under the State plan. Only certain transfers are prohibited. Fair market transactions will typically be considered legitimate, but if you transfer assets for less than fair market value around the time you apply for Medicaid, the state will presume that the transfer was made solely to help you qualify for Medicaid.

Planning goals and strategies

As mentioned earlier, the state has the right to look into your financial transactions to determine whether you have transferred assets solely to qualify for Medicaid. However, the state may count only the income and assets that are legally available to you for paying your bills. Consequently, several methods have been developed to help you shelter your assets from the state and facilitate Medicaid qualification. Proper planning can help you to qualify for Medicaid, shelter “countable” assets, preserve assets (including the family home) for loved ones, and protect the healthy spouse (if any).

Medicaid qualifying trusts

To qualify for Medicaid, both your income and the value of your other assets must fall below certain limits (which vary from state to state). A trust helps you to qualify for Medicaid because it can shelter your income and assets, making them unavailable to you. The state Medicaid authorities cannot consider assets that are truly inaccessible to the Medicaid applicant. Therefore, anything that stays in an irrevocable trust will lie outside of your financial picture for Medicaid eligibility purposes. If you are looking for a strategy to shelter your resources, one of the following may be appropriate: (1) an irrevocable income-only trust, (2) an irrevocable trust in which the creator of the trust is not a beneficiary, (3) a Miller trust, or (4) a special needs trust.

Protection of principal residence

In certain cases, the state may be entitled to seek reimbursement for Medicaid payments by forcing the sale of your principal residence if you are a Medicaid recipient. Medicaid planning tools have been devised to protect your home, but their effectiveness varies. Therefore, it is important to weigh the costs and benefits of each device carefully. If you are looking for a strategy to preserve your home for loved ones, one of the following four methods may be appropriate: (1) an outright transfer or gift of the home, (2) a transfer subject to life estate, (3) a transfer subject to special power of appointment, or (4) a transfer in trust.

Medicaid and long-term care insurance

Long-term care (LTC) insurance can be useful as part of your Medicaid planning strategy. Your LTC policy can subsidize your nursing home bills during the Medicaid ineligibility period caused by your transfer of assets to third parties. Thus, it may be possible for you to give your assets away to loved ones, have the security of paid nursing home bills during the ineligibility period, and qualify for Medicaid when the LTC policy runs out.

Medicaid liens and estate recoveries

Federal law requires states to seek reimbursement from Medicaid recipients for Medicaid payments made on their behalf. Cost-recovery actions against the assets of Medicaid recipients may come in two forms: (1) real or personal property liens and (2) recovery from decedents’ estates. A Medicaid lien makes it impossible for you to sell or refinance your house without the state’s knowledge and ability to collect what it is owed. As for recovery from decedents’ estates, states also can seek reimbursement from your probate estate after you die. States have the option to expand the definition of estate to include all nonprobate assets as well.

Divorce and Medicaid

From a purely financial perspective, divorce can be a practical move and may actually be used as a Medicaid planning tool. When a spouse enters a nursing home and applies for Medicaid, the couple’s assets must be pooled together and totaled to determine what portion the healthy spouse may keep. After this Spousal Resource Allowance has been determined, the Medicaid applicant must transfer assets representing the amount of the allowance to the healthy spouse. The remaining assets must be spent on the institutionalized partner’s medical care. A divorce court order can supersede the normal Spousal Resource Allowance rules prescribed under state Medicaid regulations. You should consult your legal advisor for further information.

Military benefits

Disability benefits, health-care benefits, and long-term care benefits are available through various military programs sponsored by the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), formerly known as the Veterans Administration. Health care for veterans is typically available at VA hospitals and health-care facilities. In general, active service members, retirees, and veterans other than those who were dishonorably discharged are eligible for military benefits. Survivors of servicemembers and veterans are also generally eligible for some of the same benefits. However, the rules surrounding these benefits can be complex and may change frequently. It is best to check with your military personnel office or local VA office if you have questions about any of these benefits.

Choosing a continuing care retirement community

Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) are retirement facilities that offer housing, meals, activities, and health care to their residents. These communities appeal to people who are currently in good health but who worry that they may need nursing care later on. The CCRC and the resident sign a contract guaranteeing that the CCRC will provide housing and nursing home care throughout the resident’s life and that, in return, the resident pays an entrance fee and a monthly fee. In choosing a CCRC, you should consider factors such as the entrance fee and monthly fees, insurance requirements, the financial stability of the CCRC, its facilities and activities, and the quality of medical care provided to residents.

Choosing a nursing home

A nursing home is a licensed facility that provides skilled nursing care, intermediate care, and custodial care. Although you may prefer in-home care, you may have to enter a nursing home if you need round-the-clock care, especially if you can’t get help from family or an in-home caregiver. When choosing a nursing home, you should consider factors such as the cost of the home, the quality of medical care provided, the appearance and the safety of the facilities, the ratio of staff to residents, and recreational opportunities.

Paying for nursing home care

Nursing home care can be extremely expensive, and paying for this care is a problem that weighs heavily on the minds of older Americans and their families. There are several resources you can use in planning for this expense, including self-insurance, long-term care insurance, Medicare (limited benefits), Medicaid, and military benefits.

Clifford Cadle is a Registered Representative with and, Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC