Social Security Wait Times Increased In the Past Decade

Aug 4, 2020 /

Millions of Americans are waiting in line longer at Social Security Administration field offices than they were 10 years ago despite fewer people using the agency’s in-person services. According to a July audit by the SSA inspector general, 43 million Americans waited an average 24.8 minutes to see a customer service representative at the agency’s 1,200-plus field offices during fiscal 2019, compared to 45.4 million Americans waiting about 19 minutes on average in 2010. Auditors found 4.2 million Americans waited an hour or longer to meet with a representative in 2019, nearly double the 2.3 million Americans who waited that long in 2010.

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Researchers Probe How Men and Women Age Differently

Jul 31, 2020 /

It has long been known that women tend to outlive men, and their longevity streak will likely continue. Life expectancy for women is expected to reach 87.3 years, and 83.9 years for men, by 2060, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Researchers—including those in the emerging field of geroscience, the study of aging and age-related disease—are trying to piece together why. By examining gender-based distinctions in the immune system, cell structure, brain and other systems, researchers are discovering how and why men and women grow older in clearly different ways.

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Covid-19 Pushes Medicare Trust Closer to Insolvency

Jul 28, 2020 /

Government projections show Medicare’s expenditures will continue to outpace revenue growth. This reflects the increasing demand for healthcare services not being fully offset by payroll tax revenues. The most recent projections for the Medicare program show funding for the program to be depleted by 2026. This latest projection, prepared by Board of the Federal Health Insurance Trust, was submitted to Congress on April 22, 2020, utilizing data through calendar year 2019. That was all before Covid-19 hit. Therefore the data used in these Congressional reports was examined prior to the impact of the pandemic. With the recent downturn of the economy, and subsequent job losses, contributions to the Medicare Hospital Trust Fund from payroll taxes will be significantly reduced.

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Working Longer Benefits Employers and Employees

Jul 24, 2020

Research on making it easier for people to work longer has tended to focus on economic security. This paper links working longer to health and longevity. Purely age-based retirement policies have led to complications and unintended consequences including insufficient retirement resources, possible depletion of Social Security, and flawed perceptions of older workers. By working longer, older adults are better able to support themselves, remain healthier, and live longer. New data show that, when employed, older adults are as much as four times more socially engaged, offsetting deepening concerns worldwide about the adverse effects of loneliness, particularly on older populations. The very definition of retirement should be reconsidered in light of increasing data suggesting that traditional retirement can be detrimental to financial, mental and physical health.

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SSA Still Shortchanging Retirement Beneficiaries With Widow(er)’s Benefits

Jul 21, 2020 /

SSA administers the Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance (OASDI) program to provide monthly benefits to retired and disabled workers, including their dependents and survivors. An individual may be entitled to more than one benefit at the same time. For example, an individual can be dually entitled to retirement benefits based on his/her own earnings and widow(er)’s benefits based on the earnings of his/her deceased spouse. SSA conducted a recent survey with the objective of determining whether there were individuals receiving retirement benefits who may have been eligible for, but not receiving, higher widow(er)’s benefits.

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How Widespread Unemployment Might Affect Retirement Security

Jul 17, 2020 /

The National Retirement Risk Index (NRRI) measures the share of working-age households that are at risk of being unable to maintain their pre-retirement standard of living. The NRRI, which is constructed by comparing households’ projected replacement rates—retirement income as a percentage of pre-retirement income—with target rates, has recently shown about half are at risk. A new study shows that the pandemic is likely to have increased the NRRI by 5 percentage points—with a 7-percentage-point increase for older households and a 3-percentage-point increase for younger ones. The pandemic has worsened an already bleak outlook for retirement security.

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The Challenge for Older Workers

Jul 14, 2020 /

In anticipation of rambunctious children returning to the classroom in the fall, older teachers are sounding alarms about how challenging it will be to make the schools safe for themselves, as well as the children and families. Their fears about going back to work in a pandemic are shared by older workers around the country with chronic conditions, which increase the mortality rate for people who contract COVID-19.

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Survey: COVID-19 Impact Reveals Desire for Retirement Tax Planning Help

Jul 10, 2020 /

Considering the financial impact of COVID-19, many Americans are reevaluating their plans for retirement and are interested in learning more about how to use income sources to maximize retirement income and minimize taxes, according to new survey results. Findings in Nationwide Retirement Institute’s 2019 Tax-Efficient Retirement Income survey reveal that a third of current retirees (35%) did not consider how taxes would affect their retirement income when planning for retirement. As a result, many express regrets, with nearly a third of retirees (32%) reporting they wish they had done more to prepare.

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Maintaining Retiree Spending Levels

Jul 7, 2020 /

The first years in retirement are, on average, retirees’ most expensive years. Furthermore, a growing number of retirees are not experiencing the expected gradual reduction in spending after they retire. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau commissioned a study to identify ways to increase retirement preparedness and protect retirees from overspending their savings in early retirement. The study examined the financial resources and expenses of people who retired between 1992 and 2014 to assess whether they were able to maintain the same spending level on key categories for five consecutive years after retiring.

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CMS Issues Call to Action Based on New Data Detailing COVID-19 Impacts on Medicare Beneficiaries

Jul 3, 2020 /

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is calling for a renewed national commitment to value-based care based on Medicare claims data that provides an early snapshot of the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on the Medicare population. The data shows that older Americans and those with chronic health conditions are at the highest risk for COVID-19 and confirms long-understood disparities in health outcomes for racial and ethnic minority groups and among low-income populations.

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Social Security Agency Launches Redesigned Online Portal

Jun 30, 2020 /

The Social Security Administration announced the first of several steps the agency is taking to improve the public’s experience on its website. The newly redesigned retirement benefits portal, at ssa.gov/benefits/retirement, will help millions of people prepare for and apply for retirement.

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Building Better Retirement Systems

Jun 26, 2020 /

In the wake of the global pandemic known as COVID-19, retirees, along with those hoping to retire someday, have been shocked into a new awareness of the need for better risk management tools to handle longevity and aging. This paper offers an assessment of the status quo prior to the spread of the coronavirus, evaluates how retirement systems are faring in the wake of the shock. Next we examine insurance and financial market products that may render retirement systems more resilient for the world’s aging population. Finally, potential roles for policymakers are evaluated.

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Will Stimulus Checks Increase Social Security Taxation?

Jun 23, 2020 /

It sure was nice getting that stimulus check in the mail (or deposited directly into your bank account)! Hopefully, your clients put the money to good use. But after getting that much money unexpectedly, retirees might be wondering how it could impact their taxes for the year—especially the tax on Social Security benefits. The short answer: Stimulus checks are really just advanced payments of a new “recovery rebate” tax credit for the 2020 tax year. As such, they aren’t included in taxable income.

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Social Security Administration Expands Online Medicare Enrollment Process

Jun 19, 2020 /

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) recently expanded the functionality of the Medicare enrollment process to accommodate more online applications during the coronavirus pandemic. Previously, only people applying for Medicare Parts A and B at the same time could use the online portal. People who were already enrolled in Part A and were using a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) or seeking Equitable Relief to enroll in Part B had to submit documentation to SSA in person or via fax—an option made available during the current public health emergency.

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Half of Retirees Report Paying Taxes on Social Security Benefits

Jun 16, 2020 /

Half of retirees participating in a new survey by The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) say they paid income taxes on a portion of their Social Security benefit income for the 2019 tax year. “There was no change from previous years in the 50 percent of retiree households who report that they pay tax on a portion of their benefits, despite the 2017 tax reform law,” says Mary Johnson, a Social Security and Medicare policy analyst for The Senior Citizens League. The revenues from taxation of benefits are earmarked for funding Social Security and Medicare benefits. “Those revenues take on new importance in 2020, as the coronavirus takes a significant toll on Social Security and Medicare payroll tax revenues with more than 40 million people out of work,” Johnson says.

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Value of Social Security Benefits Even Higher Now

Jun 12, 2020 /

The stock market has been erratic, real estate is hurting, bond yields are painfully low and dividends are shrinking. In the coronavirus recession, most financial assets have been disturbingly volatile. But one widely held financial asset, perhaps the most important one for the vast majority of Americans, has performed splendidly: their stake in Social Security. It hasn’t merely been a solid support for millions of people in a difficult time. While the income-producing power of so many other assets has been sapped by economic weakness and low interest rates, Social Security payments have held steady. And thanks to those rock-bottom interest rates, the market value of the Social Security income stream has soared in a measurable way.

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How Has COVID-19 Impacted Retirement Plans?

Jun 9, 2020 /

For those hoping to retire soon, the pandemic’s financial repercussions may delay their plans. Even mid-career professionals are anxiously eyeing their accounts. Among those who have already retired, the crisis may have decimated their savings, possibly requiring a return to the workforce. A new report from Personal Capital covers the results of a survey where over 1,000 Americans shared how COVID-19 was affecting their plans for retirement, surveying individuals in various age groups and stages in their careers. The results reveal a mix of anxiety and optimism and a range of reactions to economic uncertainty.

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Social Security Fraud Boosted by COVID-19 Fears

Jun 5, 2020 /

Social Security fraud was already a problem when the global COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States early this spring. But now fraudsters have added brand-new ploys involving the public health crisis to exploit unsuspecting victims. Financial advisors can help their clients, and the public, by using their esteemed positions in the community to distribute information about the prevalence and occurrence of these types of frauds.

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The Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Social Security Finances

Jun 2, 2020 /

The coronavirus pandemic has had human and economic costs, with nearly 100,000 total deaths in the United States and more than 36 million new claims for unemployment benefits. The pandemic and policy responses to it will have long-term consequences for the federal budget and economy. The annual Social Security Trustees Report, released on April 22, 2020 relied on a pre-pandemic baseline. This post presents Penn Wharton Budget Model (PWBM) projections of how the coronavirus pandemic will affect the finances of the Social Security program.

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Americans Take a Dim View of Raiding Their Social Security to Cover Pandemic Expenses

May 29, 2020 /

Americans could use a financial boost. How to get that money into people’s hands has been a hot topic of debate. Democrats have proposed expanding unemployment insurance and giving Americans as much as $2,000 per month to get back on their feet. Meanwhile, one Republican proposal has called for giving Americans $11,000 now in exchange for every year they agree to delay their Social Security benefits and Medicare coverage. Now, a poll conducted by Data For Progress and Social Security Works, an advocacy organization, asked Americans which of those two options they would pick. They also asked if people think the government has already done enough.

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