How Unpaid Debt Reduces Social Security Payments

Aug 23, 2019 /

As a group, older Americans’ debt burden continues climbing. In the 60–69 age group, total consumer debt—i.e., mortgages, loans, credit cards—is nearly $2.2 trillion, compared with $380 billion in 1999, according to the latest data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Among those age 70 and older, it’s close to $1.2 trillion, up from $180 billion in 1999. At the same time, people in their 60s are typically transitioning to retirement and going on Social Security. Social Security promises guaranteed monthly income, except for those who have certain kinds of unpaid debt.

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Social Security Works for America

Aug 20, 2019 /

As we celebrate the 84th anniversary of the enactment of Social Security—and the 63rd anniversary of the addition of its vital disability protections—it is time to recall the contributions that our Social Security system has made to American economic security. Social Security Works for America is a series of reports that provides information about Social Security’s history, character and vitality, as well as relating compelling, real-life stories. The report includes statistics about the number of people who receive benefits, the types of benefits they receive, and the total amount of funds flowing from Social Security into each state, including its congressional districts. These are just a few of the statistics. Find the full report here and the state reports here.

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SSA Admits to Some Wrong Statements

Aug 16, 2019 / 1 Comments

Who would imagine that you could get a wrong estimate of your Social Security benefits from the Social Security Administration? The story is yet another reminder about how you need to double-check your numbers, take a hard look at what you’re being told, and keep good records of previous Social Security statements. In an odd quirk, Social Security finally acknowledged in early August that a glitch caused the agency to send out some incorrect “On Request” statements. The troubled reports were triggered if you asked for information on your Social Security account via a paper form, known as an SSA-7004.

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The Reality of Spending in Retirement

Aug 13, 2019 /

Our ability to avoid outliving our money is, in large part, due to our expenses in retirement. Turns out, a new study reveals, we’re pretty lousy at predicting how much we’ll actually spend on housing and health care when we retire. And another study shows our spending just before retirement and in the first years of retirement is often wildly volatile.

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Nine Charts About the Future of Retirement

Aug 9, 2019 /

Social Security cuts, shrinking employer-sponsored pensions, low savings rates, and longer life spans have raised fears of a looming retirement crisis. But other trends point to better retirement outcomes, such as women’s increased employment and earnings, longer working lives, and economic growth that raises wages. How will these conflicting trends play out? How will the next generations of older Americans fare in retirement relative to those who came before? And what will happen to retirees if Congress cuts Social Security benefits to address the program’s long-term financing gap? These nine charts and commentary, based on projections from the Urban Institute’s Dynamic Simulation of Income Model 4 (DYNASIM4), provide some answers.

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Eight Numbers About the Social Security 2100 Act

Aug 2, 2019 /

Advocates of Social Security expansion have declared their intention to move the “Social Security 2100 Act” through the House of Representatives quickly. The bill, introduced by Rep. John Larson (D., Conn.), has more than 200 co-sponsors. Its sponsors deserve credit for putting forth a comprehensive Social Security plan that is specific, scored by the Social Security Administration Chief Actuary, and doesn’t shy away from difficult policy and political choices. Rather than debate the subjective value judgments made in the legislation, this article presents key facts and figures that highlight some of its problematic features.

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Retirees Abroad Face Health Care Challenges

Jul 30, 2019 /

As the number of American retirees living overseas grows, more of them are confronting choices about medical care. Medicare doesn’t pay for care outside the country, except in limited circumstances. Expatriate retirees might find private insurance policies and national health plans in other countries. But these may not provide the high-quality, comprehensive care at an affordable price that retirees expect through Medicare. Faced with imperfect choices, some retirees cobble together different types of insurance, a mix that includes Medicare.

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Why the Discovery of LATE Dementia Is Important

Jul 26, 2019 /

Researchers recently pinpointed another form of cognitive decline with many of the same hallmarks as Alzheimer’s, but which actually involves different brain processes. This newly discovered dementia may partly explain why some people haven’t been helped by current Alzheimer’s drugs or why some drugs being tested haven’t been as successful as scientists have hoped.

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Social Security Statements Have an Impact

Jul 23, 2019 /

This paper from the Michican Retirement and Disability Research Center examines how the 2014 reintroduction of the Social Security statement, staggered by every fifth birth year, affected Americans’ Social Security expectations, savings behavior, and labor supply. You might think the statement would be one more piece of mail opened then thrown away, but that is not the case. The majority of individuals who were sent a statement recall receiving one, and highly valued them. Here are the key findings.

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Women in Two-Income Households Face Greatest Retirement Risk

Jul 19, 2019 /

For women, the road to retirement security has become more challenging over the course of just a few generations. As recently as the 1950s and 1960s, young women could expect to spend most of their adult lives married. Husbands worked outside the home while wives, in many cases, managed the household and child care. For retirement income, women could typically rely on spousal and survivor benefits from the Social Security program, and perhaps survivor benefits from their husband’s pension. Today the landscape looks much different. Combine the declining availability of pensions with Social Security spousal benefits that become less relevant when both spouses work, women today simply cannot look to the experience of previous generations, when more financial safeguards were in place, and assume their own retirement will work out as well financially.

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How to Present Claiming Decisions to Risk-Averse Clients

Jul 16, 2019 /

It has become standard practice that risk tolerance questionnaires are completed for almost every client during a financial planning or investment planning process. But risk tolerance isn’t just insightful for investing, it could be helpful with Social Security decisions, too. Advisers can use risk tolerance for guidance on how to approach Social Security planning with their clients.

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Social Security Statements May Be Coming Back to Mailboxes

Jul 12, 2019 /

Since 2012, the Social Security Administration has scaled back the mailing of paper statements after it established a website, My Social Security, that offered access to that information online. The agency was able to save on the costs of mailing paper records—in 2018, the total cost was $7.6 million, compared to $24 million in 2016. During those years, the cost per statement was 52 cents. But a new bill, called the Beneficiary Education Tools, Telehealth, and Extenders Reauthorization Act of 2019, or BETTER Act, includes a provision that would reinstate mailed Social Security statements.

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Americans Confident About Retirement, But Reality Differs

Jul 9, 2019 /

Several weeks ago Gallup released the surprising but positive news that fewer people than ever are worried about Social Security. New details show that nonretired Americans’ expectations that they will live comfortably in retirement are more positive than they have been since 2004. However, expected and actual retirement age and income sources differ, suggesting the pre-retirees might be overconfident.

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Only 4% of Beneficiaries Wait Until Age 70 to Claim SS

Jul 5, 2019 /

Social Security now accounts for about one-third of all income annually received by U.S. retirees, amounting to $1 trillion in annual benefits. While impactful, research consistently finds that the financial effect of Social Security could be even greater if more people waited to enroll, since monthly benefits can increase in value if retirees delay claiming. But, we don’t know how much is annually lost from households making the sub-optimal decision about when to claim Social Security, how many are making mistakes, or who is making those wrong decisions. To explore these questions, we utilize new technology invented by United Income and data sponsored by the Social Security Administration:

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Divorce Rate Down, Except for Older Generations

Jul 1, 2019 /

In 2017, around one million couples in the U.S. called it quits. That may sound like a lot of busted unions, but the rate of divorce—just like the rate of marriage—is down. Today, younger married couples are less likely to split up than they once were, driving the trend. But, at the same time, the rate of divorce for older generations has increased in a phenomenon known as “gray” divorce.

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Why So Many Older Americans Rate Their Health as Good or Even Excellent

Jun 28, 2019 /

A common myth about aging is that older adults are burdened by illness and feel lousy much of the time. In fact, the opposite is usually true. Most seniors report feeling distinctly positive about their health, according to data from the 2017 National Health Interview Survey.

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Survey: Seniors Worry About Health and Finances

Jun 24, 2019 /

A survey of U.S. adults aged 60 and older on behalf of the National Council on Aging shows that, unsurprisingly, seniors are especially concerned by health and finance-related matters. Specifically, 56% say they are worried about health care costs exceeding their retirement income and 54% are worried about losing their independence. 48% worry about outliving their savings, 46% about becoming a burden to their family or others, and 43% that prescription drug costs will exceed their retirement income.

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Video Vignettes Improve Social Security Comprehension

Jun 21, 2019 /

There’s an informal rule in journalism: put too many numbers in an article, and readers will drop like flies. A similar phenomenon might also be at work when someone looks at a Social Security statement filled with numbers. In a recent experiment, a friendlier approach proved effective in helping people process this information: tell a story.

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Beware the Social Security Tax Torpedo

Jun 18, 2019 /

For most people, federal income taxes are straightforward during their working years because income is primarily from a paycheck. However, in retirement it can become much more complicated because income may come from multiple sources with different tax characteristics. Even Social Security benefits might be taxed, and the consequences can be complicated.

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Former SSA Commissioners Propose Budget Reforms

Jun 14, 2019 /

A worsening customer service crisis at the Social Security Administration has prompted three of its former commissioners to urge the U.S. Congress to fix the annual budgeting process that has starved the agency of the resources it needs to do its job. A letter calling for administrative budget reforms signed by the former commissioners—two appointed by Democratic presidents, and one by a Republican—was delivered to congressional leadership last week.

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