The 2020 Presidential Candidates’ Proposed Changes to Social Security

Jan 21, 2020 /

Everyone can agree that the Social Security program is in trouble. By approximately 2035, the trust fund will run out and only 80% of benefits can be paid. But that’s still 15 years away, and Congress isn’t likely to do anything about it soon. That doesn’t stop the 2020 presidential candidates from having opinions about various changes to Social Security. The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College has rounded them all up in a helpful chart.

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Retiree Living Standards, Ranked State by State

Jan 17, 2020 /

How well you will live in retirement will depend on two things: your income and the local cost of living. A new study that ranks each state based on how many of its retirees can meet a basic standard of living comes up with an interesting combination of places that are financially friendly—or not—to people over 65. For example, who would expect Mississippi to be in the same company with California?

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OIG Warns of New Twist on Social Security Scam

Jan 14, 2020 /

The Inspector General of Social Security is warning the public that telephone scammers may send faked documents by email to convince victims to comply with their demands. The Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has received reports of victims who received emails with attached letters and reports that appeared to be from Social Security or Social Security OIG. The letters may use official letterhead and government “jargon” to convince victims they are legitimate; they may also contain misspellings and grammar mistakes.

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Will the SECURE Act Help More Americans Buy Annuities?

Jan 10, 2020 /

The most consequential retirement policy reforms in more than a decade was recently signed into law, including a key reform designed to make more annuities as an option in 401(k) plans. But will access to annuities be beneficial to consumers? Economists tend to favor annuities because they are one of the only ways to handle the greatest uncertainty in retirement: how long each retiree will live. But consumers have been far less enthusiastic. Indeed, economists have coined the term the “annuity puzzle” to describe the gap between expected and actual demand for the products.

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Why Claiming Social Security Early Could Be More Popular Than Ever This Decade

Jan 7, 2020 /

Data from the SSA shows that a vast majority of Social Security beneficiaries (around 3 in 5) claim their payouts prior to turning 66. This means most retirees are knowingly accepting a permanent reduction in their monthly payout for life. And the crazy thing is, this trend of filing early for Social Security benefits could actually accelerate throughout the 2020s. If you’re wondering why beneficiaries would purposefully take their payouts early knowing full well that their benefits would be reduced for life, look no further than the annually released Trustees report. Since 1985, the Trustees report has cautioned that long-term revenue generation would be insufficient to cover program expenditures.

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What Happens If Social Security’s Reserves Run Out?

Jan 3, 2020 /

A number of ongoing demographic changes such as increased longevity, the retirement of boomers, growing income inequality, declining net immigration, and lower birth rates are all taking their toll on the Social Security program. Whether in 2019 or perhaps 2020, the likelihood appears very high that Social Security’s nearly $2.9 trillion in asset reserves will shrink for the first time in close to four decades. The intermediate-cost model suggests that by 2035, a mere 15 years from now, persistent outflows will have completely the asset reserves. The question is: What happens then?

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Financial Planning Continues After Retirement

Dec 31, 2019 /

So much about retirement planning is about making smart money decisions to get you to the time when you’ll retire. But what about managing your money after you retire? Decisions like: When should I start claiming Social Security? How much should I withdraw from my retirement funds this year? Is this the time to downsize and move to a smaller, more affordable home with fewer stairs and less maintenance? The latest “Friends Talk Money” podcast episode has some advice on finanical planning after retirement.

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Expect a Little Better Service From Social Security Soon

Dec 27, 2019 /

If you’ve ever experienced a long wait to get help from the Social Security Administration, the agency has some good news for you: the pace is about to pick up a bit. Last week, Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul announced two steps that should help make a dent in the problem: Social Security will re-open field offices nationwide on Wednesday afternoons starting on January 8, restoring closings that were put in place in 2012. The agency also will hire 1,100 new employees to provide service on the national 800 number and in its processing centers, where paperwork is handled. The agency is currently bringing on board 100 new processing center employees and approximately 500 new teleservice representatives for the 800 number. Some additional hires will be made later in 2020.

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’Twas the Week Before Christmas

Dec 24, 2019 /
Holiday Special: With Christmas right around the corner, here is an advisor-themed take on the classic Christmas poem, “A Visit From St. Nicholas” to help you get into the spirit. Read more ...

The Decade in Retirement: Wealthy Americans Moved Further Ahead

Dec 20, 2019 /

Retirement in America has become a tale of two very different realities in the decade now drawing to a close. A robust economic rebound has put some Americans back on solid footing for retirement, but progress has been uneven. Despite the gains made in employment, wage growth has only recently begun to recover—and remained flat for older workers. Retirement wealth has accumulated almost exclusively among higher-income households, while middle- and lower-income households have only held steady or lost ground, Federal Reserve data shows. Trends in Social Security and Medicare also are troubling. The value of Social Security benefits—measured by the share of pre-retirement income they replace—is falling, and the cost of Medicare is rising.

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Know Your Social Security Act Passes Out of Committee

Dec 17, 2019 /

Chairman of the House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee John Larson (D-CT) released the following statement after the Know Your Social Security Act was reported favorably out of the Ways and Means Committee on December 11. Larson introduced the bipartisan, bicameral legislation alongside Ways and Means member Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL), Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Senate Finance Committee member Bill Cassidy (R-LA).

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6 Scams That Prey on the Elderly

Dec 13, 2019 /

Many scams are universal, from the IRS imposter who calls and threatens to arrest you if you don’t pay your taxes, to phishing emails that trick you into sending sensitive data or downloading malware onto your computer. But some types of fraud target older adults specifically or affect them disproportionately. Older adults may fall for certain scams because they are in the habit of answering calls from unknown callers, open junk mail rather than tossing it in the trash, or are not as practiced with the privacy settings on social media as younger generations. Here are six scams your clients need to watch out for.

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Are Social Security’s Actuarial Adjustments Still Correct?

Dec 10, 2019 /

The option to claim Social Security benefits at any age from 62 to 70—with actuarial adjustments designed to keep lifetime benefits constant for an individual with average life expectancy—is a key feature of the program. The option to claim early was introduced over 60 years ago, when Congress set 62 as the program’s Earliest Age of Eligibility. Much has changed since these actuarial adjustments were introduced: interest rates have declined; life expectancy has increased; and longevity improvements have been much greater for higher earners than lower earners. In the wake of these developments, this brief from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College explores whether the historical adjustments are still actuarially correct.

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4 Hazards of Raising the Retirement Age

Dec 6, 2019 /

According to a CNBC report, although Congress has done nothing substantive to address the need to secure better future funding for Social Security, there is the possibility that politicians may seek a familiar remedy: raising the retirement age. After all, lifespans have lengthened and health care, however inaccessible it may be to many, has improved in lots of ways. It might seem logical to compel workers to stay on the job longer before they can retire and start drawing on the Social Security benefits they’ve already spent many years paying into.

If the age is raised to 69, as is talked about currently, there will be consequences—and not just the ones politicians may be aiming for. Since the law of unintended consequences will undoubtedly weigh in on any such action, according to the report, here are four potential effects such a “solution” may have.

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Democratic Candidate Buttigieg Unveils Plans for Long-Term Care and Social Security

Dec 3, 2019 /

Last week, Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg released plans for long-term care, Social Security, and “public option” 401(k) plans. Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, released the plan shortly before a roundtable with people affected by long-term care. He described his own experience as his father neared the end of his life—Buttigieg and his mother sat down with a social worker, who encouraged them to consider spending all the money they could until his parents qualified for low-income benefits under Medicaid.

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Thank You, Social Security

Nov 29, 2019 /

In this holiday week, it’s only right to stop and take a moment to be thankful for Social Security (and its cousin, Medicare). It provides the foundation for retirement income for most Americans, and support for widows, families, and people with disabilities.

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SSA Launches Online Form to Report Scams

Nov 26, 2019 /

The Inspector General for the Social Security Administration and Commissioner of Social Security announced last week the launch of a dedicated online form at to receive reports from the public of Social Security-related scams. These scams—in which fraudulent callers mislead victims into making cash or gift card payments to avoid arrest for purported Social Security number problems—skyrocketed over the past year to become the #1 type of fraud reported to the Federal Trade Commission and the Social Security Administration.

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Does the Bridge Strategy Really Work?

Nov 22, 2019 /

Unless you can get a guaranteed annual return of 8% on your retirement savings, employing a Social Security “bridge” with 401(k) and other savings until age 70 is the right move for almost all Americans who can afford to forgo the income. This bridge strategy, laid out in a white paper by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College (see the last blog post), works for most people because retirees’ monthly Social Security checks increase 7% to 8% for every year they delay claiming up to age 70, when Social Security benefits max out. Following a Barron’s article last week on the strategy, skeptical readers had a number of questions regarding specific scenarios. Here, some answers:

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How Best to Annuitize Defined Contribution Assets?

Nov 19, 2019 /

Unlike defined benefit pensions that provide participants with steady benefits for as long as they live, 401(k) plans and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) provide little guidance on how to turn accumulated assets into income. As a result, retirees have to decide how much to withdraw each year and face the risk of either spending too quickly and outliving their resources or spending too conservatively and consuming too little. Surveys of individuals’ plans and several recent studies suggest that people will not draw down their accumulations for fear that they will exhaust their money and be unable to cover end-of-life health care costs. They also must consider how to invest their savings after retirement. These are difficult decisions.

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Why Do Estimates of the 2100 Act’s Impact Differ?

Nov 15, 2019 /

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Chief Actuary (OCACT) show the Social Security 2100 Act prposal having very different impacts on the financing of the program. OCACT says thelegislation would completely eliminate the shortfall and keep the program solvent for 75 years, while the latest from CBO has the trust fund hitting zero in 2036. How could it be that the same provisions produced such different outcomes?

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