Are Your Children Financially Literate?

New Approaches to a Changing Problem.

How bad is financial illiteracy today? So bad that your children may be at risk of making some serious financial mistakes. Some are finding that talking to children about finances has become less about the nuts and bolts of money and more about putting money’s importance to our daily lives in the correct context.

Women at particular risk. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that only 45% of working women ages 21-64 have a retirement plan. The DOL also notes that more women work in part-time jobs, and are more likely to interrupt their careers to take care of family, whether that be raising children or looking after parents. Some of these patterns are just luck of the draw, but others may come from what parents teach children about money, and how they teach it.1

Start at a young age. New York Times money columnist Ron Lieber’s book The Opposite of Spoiled discusses ways to prepare children for dealing with financial issues. The title refers to the author’s search for an antonym to the word “spoiled” in the context of an entitled and demanding personality. Lieber suggests focusing on values like graciousness in communication, which can lead to more openness in discussing money. Money can be frightening or mysterious to many, even well into adulthood, and Lieber encourages approaching the topic with fewer facts and figures and more as an emotional issue. The reasoning for this is that money is, for children and adults, an emotional topic.2

The emotional toll of money issues. While most people have experienced money worries at one time or another, the science surrounding this phenomenon is compelling. Many mental health organizations have special literature dealing with the emotions that surround money troubles, including Duke University’s Personal Assistance Service. They cite an American Psychological Association survey asserting that 80% of Americans experience genuine stress related to money, and that half of Americans worry about their ability to provide for their family. While money is always an uncertain and fluid factor in our lives, how we deal with these stresses may be strengthened through early experiences and developing good emotional habits early on. Frank talk about these emotions may demystify money and, in the process, boost financial literacy.3

Education is still needed. Of course, money is far more than an emotional issue; being comfortable with a topic doesn’t guarantee proficiency, it merely makes it easier to learn.

In 2014, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development tested 29,000 students aged 15 from 18 member countries or economic regions. Students in top-scoring Shanghai had the highest average score at 605, while the lowest average score belonged to 15-year-olds from Colombia at 375; the average score for U.S. students was a mediocre 490.4

While a number of factors may contribute to the lower scores, there were few obvious indicators, beyond a simple lack of financial sophistication. For example, while those with better math and reading skills were more likely to demonstrate financial literacy, not all with high proficiencies were demonstrably better with money. However, those who indicated that they enjoyed solving complex problems earned higher scores. This may be key. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan indicated that teens needed to be more financially proficient, and in ways that their parents and grandparents never had to be.4

Prescriptions in progress. There are a number of online sources for financial education, helpful to both teens and young adults. The Ad Council and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants have a national campaign, Feed the Pig™, to try and correct this dilemma (learn more by visiting http://www.feedthepig.org). The National Council on Economic Education has also helped launch http://www.TheMint.org to acquaint young adults with vital financial principles.

Citations.

1 – dol.gov/ebsa/publications/women.html [2/26/15]

2 – wealthmanagement.com/careers/cobbler-s-kids-have-no-shoes [2/17/15]

3 – hr.duke.edu/pas/money_emotion.html [2/26/15]

4 – pbs.org/newshour/making-sense/u-s-teens-rank-between-latvia-and-russia-on-financial-literacy-far-below-shanghai/ [7/10/14]

This material was prepared by Peter Montoya Inc, and does not necessarily represent the views of Linda Bullwinkle, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, Northrop Grumman, Qwest, AT&T, Hughes, access.att.com, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, ING Retirement, Chevron, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Pfizer, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

Linda Bullwinkle is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at http://www.theretirementgroup.com.

Protecting Your Savings and Investments

In the wake of turbulence in the financial markets, it’s worth reviewing the legal protections available for assets held by banks, credit unions, and securities dealers.

Bank/savings and loan deposit accounts

Generally, deposit accounts at banks and savings and loans insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) are insured up to $250,000 per depositor per bank. FDIC insurance covers both demand deposits (those that provide immediate access to cash, such as checking, NOW, and savings accounts as well as money market deposit accounts) and time deposits, such as certificates of deposit (CDs). It covers both principal and any interest accrued as of the date that an insured bank closes.

FDIC insurance does not cover mutual funds, stocks, bonds, life insurance policies, annuities, or other securities, even if they were bought through an FDIC-insured bank. It also does not cover U.S. Treasury securities (because they are backed separately by the full faith and credit of the federal government) or safe deposit boxes.

You can’t increase your protection simply by opening more than one account in your name at the same bank. For example, splitting the money between a checking and a savings account or opening accounts at different branches of the same bank do not increase your coverage.

However, deposits that represent different categories of ownership may be independently insured. For example, a joint account qualifies for up to $250,000 of coverage for each person named as a joint owner. That coverage is in addition to the $250,000 maximum coverage for each person’s aggregated single-owner accounts at that bank. For example, a married couple with three accounts at one bank–they each have $250,000 in an individual account, and they also have $200,000 in a joint account–would qualify for FDIC insurance on the entire $700,000. The limit on the amount protected in one or more retirement accounts at one bank also is $250,000; this is separate from the $250,000 coverage of individual accounts. (Remember, however, that FDIC insurance applies only to deposit accounts, not to any securities held in an IRA or other retirement account.)

There also may be additional safety nets. In some states, a state-chartered savings bank is required to have additional insurance to cover any losses beyond the FDIC limits. Some banks also may participate in the Certificate of Deposit Account Registry Service (CDARS), which enables a bank to spread large CD deposits among multiple banks while keeping the amount at each individual bank, including the original bank, within FDIC insurance limits.

You do not have to be a U.S. citizen or resident for your account to receive FDIC protection. According to the FDIC, no depositor has ever lost a penny of funds that were covered by FDIC insurance. An online calculator at the FDIC’s website, http://www.fdic.gov, can help you estimate the total FDIC coverage on your deposit accounts.

Credit unions

Member share accounts at most credit unions are insured by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF). It is administered by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), which like the FDIC is an independent agency of the federal government and is backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. Treasury. (Some credit unions are not federally insured but are overseen by state regulators; they typically have private credit insurance.)

NCUSIF insurance is similar to FDIC insurance; it covers share accounts, share certificates, and share draft accounts but not investment products sold through a credit union. It covers single-owner accounts up to $250,000 per customer per institution. Retirement accounts such as IRAs and Keoghs have separate coverage up to $250,000. As with bank deposit accounts, independent coverage may be available for different categories of ownership. You can estimate your existing coverage by using the calculator at the NCUA’s website www.ncua.gov.

Brokerage accounts and SIPC

Most brokerage accounts are covered by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC). Unlike the FDIC, the SIPC is not a government agency but a nonprofit corporation funded by broker-dealers registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. (A non-SIPC member must disclose that fact.)

SIPC was created by Congress in 1970 to help return customer property if a broker-dealer or clearing firm experiences insolvency, unauthorized trading, or securities that are lost or missing from a customer’s account. Many brokerages also extend protection beyond the SIPC limits with additional private insurance. If a member firm became insolvent, SIPC would typically either act as trustee or ask a court to appoint a trustee to supervise transfer of customer securities and cash. The SEC requires brokerages and clearing firms to segregate customer accounts from their proprietary assets and funds.

 

What’s Covered Where
  What’s covered? Limit for single-owner accounts Limit for retirement accounts Limit for joint accounts
FDIC (banks) Checking/NOW/savings accounts; money market deposit accounts; time deposits (e.g., CDs) $250,000 (includes all such accounts owned by the same person) $250,000 (includes all retirement accounts owned by the same person) $250,000 per joint owner (includes all joint accounts owned by the same person)
SIPC (brokers) Investments registered with the SEC, and cash $500,000, including up to $250,000 in cash $500,000 per customer, including up to $250,000 cash $500,000 per customer
NCUSIF (credit unions) Regular share accounts, share draft accounts, share certificates $250,000 (includes all such accounts owned by the same person) $250,000 (includes all traditional and Roth IRAs; Keoghs covered separately up to $250,000) $250,000 per joint owner (includes all joint accounts owned by the same person)
These are some of the most common accounts; additional categories of ownership, such as trusts, may offer additional protection and use category-specific ways of determining protection limits. All limits apply to accounts at a single institution; if you have accounts at more than one protected institution, you qualify for protection up to the full amount at each one.

 

SIPC covers a maximum of $500,000 per customer (including up to $250,000 in cash) at a given firm. SIPC doesn’t protect against market risk or price fluctuations. If shares lose value before a trustee is appointed, that loss of value is not protected by SIPC. In general, SIPC covers notes, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other shares in investment companies. It does not cover investments that are not registered with the SEC, such as certain investment contracts, limited partnerships, fixed annuity contracts, currency, gold, silver, commodity futures contracts, or commodities options. Additional information about SIPC protection and an explanatory brochure are available at www.sipc.org.

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of Linda Bullwinkle, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Raytheon, Merck, Glaxosmithkline, Pfizer, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

Linda Bullwinkle is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

Common Factors Affecting Retirement Income

When it comes to planning for your retirement income, it’s easy to overlook some of the common factors that can affect how much you’ll have available to spend. If you don’t consider how your retirement income can be impacted by investment risk, inflation risk, catastrophic illness or long-term care, and taxes, you may not be able to enjoy the retirement you envision.

Investment risk

Different types of investments carry with them different risks. Sound retirement income planning involves understanding these risks and how they can influence your available income in retirement.

Investment or market risk is the risk that fluctuations in the securities market may result in the reduction and/or depletion of the value of your retirement savings. If you need to withdraw from your investments to supplement your retirement income, two important factors in determining how long your investments will last are the amount of the withdrawals you take and the growth and/or earnings your investments experience. You might base the anticipated rate of return of your investments on the presumption that market fluctuations will average out over time, and estimate how long your savings will last based on an anticipated, average rate of return.

Unfortunately, the market doesn’t always generate positive returns. Sometimes there are periods lasting for a few years or longer when the market provides negative returns. During these periods, constant withdrawals from your savings combined with prolonged negative market returns can result in the depletion of your savings far sooner than planned.

Reinvestment risk is the risk that proceeds available for reinvestment must be reinvested at an interest rate that’s lower than the rate of the instrument that generated the proceeds. This could mean that you have to reinvest at a lower rate of return, or take on additional risk to achieve the same level of return. This type of risk is often associated with fixed interest savings instruments such as bonds or bank certificates of deposit. When the instrument matures, comparable instruments may not be paying the same return or a better return as the matured investment.

Interest rate risk occurs when interest rates rise and the prices of some existing investments drop. For example, during periods of rising interest rates, newer bond issues will likely yield higher coupon rates than older bonds issued during periods of lower interest rates, thus decreasing the market value of the older bonds. You also might see the market value of some stocks and mutual funds drop due to interest rate hikes because some investors will shift their money from these stocks and mutual funds to lower-risk fixed investments paying higher interest rates compared to prior years.

Inflation risk

Inflation is the risk that the purchasing power of a dollar will decline over time, due to the rising cost of goods and services. If inflation runs at its historical long term average of about 3%, the purchasing power of a given sum of money will be cut in half in 23 years. If it jumps to 4%, the purchasing power is cut in half in 18 years.

A simple example illustrates the impact of inflation on retirement income. Assuming a consistent annual inflation rate of 3%, and excluding taxes and investment returns in general, if $50,000 satisfies your retirement income needs this year, you’ll need $51,500 of income next year to meet the same income needs. In 10 years, you’ll need about $67,195 to equal the purchasing power of $50,000 this year. Therefore, to outpace inflation, you should try to have some strategy in place that allows your income stream to grow throughout retirement.

Long-term care expenses

Long-term care may be needed when physical or mental disabilities impair your capacity to perform everyday basic tasks. As life expectancies increase, so does the potential need for long-term care.

Paying for long-term care can have a significant impact on retirement income and savings, especially for the healthy spouse. While not everyone needs long-term care during their lives, ignoring the possibility of such care and failing to plan for it can leave you or your spouse with little or no income or savings if such care is needed. Even if you decide to buy long-term care insurance, don’t forget to factor the premium cost into your retirement income needs.

A complete statement of coverage, including exclusions, exceptions, and limitations, is found only in the long-term care policy. It should be noted that carriers have the discretion to raise their rates and remove their products from the marketplace.

The costs of catastrophic care

As the number of employers providing retirement health-care benefits dwindles and the cost of medical care continues to spiral upward, planning for catastrophic health-care costs in retirement is becoming more important. If you recently retired from a job that provided health insurance, you may not fully appreciate how much health care really costs.

Despite the availability of Medicare coverage, you’ll likely have to pay for additional health-related expenses out-of-pocket. You may have to pay the rising premium costs of Medicare optional Part B coverage (which helps pay for outpatient services) and/or Part D prescription drug coverage. You may also want to buy supplemental Medigap insurance, which is used to pay Medicare deductibles and co-payments and to provide protection against catastrophic expenses that either exceed Medicare benefits or are not covered by Medicare at all. Otherwise, you may need to cover Medicare deductibles, co-payments, and other costs out-of-pocket.

Taxes

The effect of taxes on your retirement savings and income is an often overlooked but significant aspect of retirement income planning. Taxes can eat into your income, significantly reducing the amount you have available to spend in retirement.

It’s important to understand how your investments are taxed. Some income, like interest, is taxed at ordinary income tax rates. Other income, like long-term capital gains and qualifying dividends, currently benefit from special–generally lower–maximum tax rates. Some specific investments, like certain municipal bonds,* generate income that is exempt from federal income tax altogether. You should understand how the income generated by your investments is taxed, so that you can factor the tax into your overall projection.

Taxes can impact your available retirement income, especially if a significant portion of your savings and/or income comes from tax-qualified accounts such as pensions, 401(k)s, and traditional IRAs, since most, if not all, of the income from these accounts is subject to income taxes. Understanding the tax consequences of these investments is important when making retirement income projections.

Have you planned for these factors?

When planning for your retirement, consider these common factors that can affect your income and savings. While many of these same issues can affect your income during your working years, you may not notice their influence because you’re not depending on your savings as a major source of income. However, investment risk, inflation, taxes, and health-related expenses can greatly affect your retirement income.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, Chevron, Glaxosmithkline, AT&T, Qwest, Merck, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Pfizer, Verizon, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of Linda Bullwinkle, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

Linda Bullwinkle is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

Reining in Your Debt

Americans are spending freely again. That has a downside.

As the Great Recession faded, American household debt gradually decreased. In fact, it declined by $1 trillion between mid-2008 and mid-2014, according to the Federal Reserve.1

Now household debt is increasing once more. The Fed found it climbing by $78 billion (0.7%) during Q3 2014.1

On the macroeconomic level, that can be interpreted as a positive: it hints at greater consumer spending, easier credit, and more lending taking place to accommodate consumer borrowers. On a microeconomic level, it is more troublesome. It may mean a change in perception, with debt not seeming as onerous as it once did.

If households really are looking at debt through rosier-colored glasses, they might do well to remember an inescapable fact. When they use a credit card or take out a consumer loan, they are borrowing money they do not have for things they do not absolutely need. The average indebted U.S. household was carrying $15,611 in credit card debt alone in December, the Fed notes. Even if Mom or Dad is a business owner or self-employed entrepreneur, that is an awful lot of revolving debt for a couple or family.2

There are only two ways to reduce debt. One is spending less, the other paying it down. The first tactic requires a change in habits; the second usually requires more income.   

How about not buying 20% of what you want? Or alternately, paying for everything in cash? Either strategy might reduce your household debt significantly in a given month.   

Where can you find more income? Life may allow you to take on an additional, part-time job – or a higher-paying one. Most people do not have either option at their disposal, so they must look for additional short-term or recurring income derived from consumer savings: they stop eating out or drinking lattes, they stop subscribing to cable or keeping up health club memberships they seldom use, they elect not to buy any clothing for a few months, vacation locally or drive the same car for a decade. All that can put more money in a family’s pockets.

Most households lack budgets. Rather than being old-fashioned or bothersome, they are instrumental in determining spending patterns and opportunities for savings. What is mysterious about your personal finances can clear up with a budget, and you get the sense of being on top of your financial life.

Debt can be managed. When you look at your spending habits, ideas to reduce it, control it and defeat it will surface.

Citations.

1 – news.investors.com/investing-personal-finance/010215-732937-cut-debt-and-manage-household-spending-and-budget-in-2015.htm [1/2/15]

2 – nerdwallet.com/blog/credit-card-data/average-credit-card-debt-household/ [3/19/15]

This material was prepared by Peter Montoya Inc, and does not necessarily represent the views of Linda Bullwinkle, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Merck, Pfizer, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

Linda Bullwinkle is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at http://www.theretirementgroup.com.

The Strong Dollar: Good or Bad?

What is dollar strength & who invests in it?

You may have heard that the dollar is “strong” right now. You may have also heard that a strong dollar amounts to a headwind against commodities and stocks.

While there is some truth to that, there is more to the story. A strong dollar does not necessarily rein in the bulls, and dollar strength can work for the economy and the markets.

The U.S. Dollar Index has soared lately. Across July 2014-February 2015, the USDX (which measures the value of the greenback against key foreign currencies) rose an eyebrow-raising 19.44%.1

On March 9, the European Central Bank initiated its quantitative easing program. The dollar hit a 12-year high against the euro a day later, with the USDX jumping north more than 3% in five trading days ending March 10. Remarkable, yes, but the USDX has the potential to climb even higher.2,3

Before this dollar bull market, we had a weak dollar for some time. A dollar bear market occurred from 2001-11, partly resulting from the monetary policy that the Federal Reserve adopted in the Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke years. As U.S. interest rates descended to historic lows in the late 2000s, the dollar became more attractive as a funding currency and demand for dollar-denominated debt increased.4

In Q1 2015, private sector dollar-denominated debt hit $9 trillion globally. Asian corporations have relied notably on foreign currency borrowing, though their domestic currency borrowing is also significant; Morgan Stanley recently researched 625 of these firms and found that dollar-denominated debt amounted to 28% of their total debt.4,5

So why has the dollar strengthened? The quick, easy explanation is twofold. One, the Fed is poised to tighten while other central banks have eased, promoting expectations of a mightier U.S. currency. Two, our economy is healthy versus those of many other nations. The greenback gained on every other major currency in 2014 – a development unseen since the 1980s.4

This explanation for dollar strength aside, attention must also be paid to two other critical factors emerging which could stoke the dollar bull market to even greater degree.

At some point, liabilities will increase for the issuers of all that dollar-denominated debt. That will ramp up demand for dollars, because they will want to hedge.

Will the dollar supply meet the demand? The account deficit has been slimming for the U.S., and the slimmer it gets, the fewer new dollars become available. It could take a few years to unwind $9 trillion of dollar-denominated debt, and when you factor in a probable rate hike from our central bank, things get really interesting. The dollar bull may be just getting started.

If the dollar keeps rallying, what happens to stocks & commodities? Earnings could be hurt, meaning bad news for Wall Street. A strong dollar can curb profits for multinational corporations and lower demand for U.S. exports, as it makes them more expensive. U.S. firms with the bulk of their business centered in America tend to cope better with a strong dollar than firms that are major exporters. Fixed-income investments invested in dollar-denominated assets (as is usually the case) may fare better in such an environment than those invested in other currencies. As dollar strength reduces the lure of gold, oil and other commodities mainly traded in dollars, they face a real headwind. So do the economies of countries that are big commodities producers, such as Brazil and South Africa.6

The economic upside is that U.S. households gain more purchasing power when the dollar strengthens, with prices of imported goods falling. Improved consumer spending could also give the Fed grounds to extend its accommodative monetary policy.6

How are people investing in the dollar? U.S. investors have dollar exposure now as an effect of being invested in the U.S. equities market. Those who want more exposure to the rally can turn to investment vehicles specifically oriented toward dollar investing. European investors are responding to the stronger greenback (and the strong probability of the Fed raising interest rates in the near future) by snapping up Treasuries and corporate bonds with longer maturities.

Stocks can still rally when the dollar is strong. As research from Charles Schwab indicates, the average annualized return for U.S. stocks when the dollar rises has been 12.8% since 1970. For bonds, it has been 8.5% in the years since 1976. A dollar rally amounts to a thumbs-up global vote for the U.S. economy, and that can certainly encourage and sustain a bull market.7

Citations.

1 – wsj.com/mdc/public/npage/2_3050.html?mod=mdc_curr_dtabnk&symb=DXY [3/9/15]

2 – reuters.com/article/2015/03/10/us-markets-stocks-idUSKBN0M612A20150310 [3/10/15]

3 – forbes.com/sites/maggiemcgrath/2015/03/10/u-s-equities-hammered-on-dollar-strength-and-oil-weakness/ [3/10/15]

4 – valuewalk.com/2015/02/us-dollar-bull-market/ [2/4/15]

5 – tinyurl.com/ptpolga [2/25/15]

6 – blogs.wsj.com/briefly/2014/12/24/how-a-strong-dollar-affects-investors-at-a-glance/ [12/24/14]

7 – time.com/money/3541584/dollar-rally-global-currencies/ [2/13/15]

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, Qwest, Chevron, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Glaxosmithkline, ExxonMobil, Hughes, Merck, Pfizer, Verizon, AT&T, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

This material was prepared by Peter Montoya Inc, and does not necessarily represent the views of Linda Bullwinkle, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

Linda Bullwinkle is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at http://www.theretirementgroup.com.

Paying the Bills: Potential Sources of Retirement Income.

Planning your retirement income is like putting together a puzzle with many different pieces. One of the first steps in the process is to identify all potential income sources and estimate how much you can expect each one to provide.

Social Security

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), almost 9 of 10 people aged 65 or older receive Social Security benefits. However, most retirees also rely on other sources of income.

For a rough estimate of the annual benefit to which you would be entitled at various retirement ages, you can use the calculator on the Social Security website, http://www.ssa.gov. Your Social Security retirement benefit is calculated using a formula that takes into account your 35 highest earnings years. How much you receive ultimately depends on a number of factors, including when you start taking benefits. You can begin doing so as early as age 62. However, your benefit may be 20% to 30% less than if you waited until full retirement age (65 to 67, depending on the year you were born). Benefits increase each year that you delay taking benefits until you reach age 70.

As you’re planning, remember that the question of how Social Security will meet its long-term obligations to both baby boomers and later generations has become a hot topic of discussion. Concerns about the system’s solvency indicate that there’s likely to be a change in how those benefits are funded, administered, and/or taxed over the next 20 or 30 years. That may introduce additional uncertainty about Social Security’s role as part of your overall long-term retirement income picture, and put additional emphasis on other potential income sources.

Pensions

If you are entitled to receive a traditional pension, you’re lucky; fewer Americans are covered by them every year. Be aware that even if you expect pension payments, many companies are changing their plan provisions. Ask your employer if your pension will increase with inflation, and if so, how that increase is calculated.

Your pension will most likely be offered as either a single or a joint and survivor annuity. A single annuity provides benefits until the worker’s death; a joint and survivor annuity provides reduced benefits that last until the survivor’s death. The law requires married couples to take a joint and survivor annuity unless the spouse signs away those rights. Consider rejecting it only if the surviving spouse will have income that equals at least 75% of the current joint income. Be sure to fully plan your retirement budget before you make this decision.

Work or other income-producing activities

Many retirees plan to work for at least a while in their retirement years at part-time work, a fulfilling second career, or consulting or freelance assignments. Obviously, while you’re continuing to earn, you’ll rely less on your savings, leaving more to accumulate for the future. Work also may provide access to affordable health care.

Be aware that if you’re receiving Social Security benefits before you reach your full retirement age, earned income may affect the amount of your benefit payments until you do reach full retirement age.

If you’re covered by a pension plan, you may be able to retire, then seek work elsewhere. This way, you might be able to receive both your new salary and your pension benefit from your previous employer at the same time. Also, some employers have begun to offer phased retirement programs, which allow you to receive all or part of your pension benefit once you’ve reached retirement age, while you continue to work part-time for the same employer.

Other possible resources include rental property income and royalties from existing assets, such as intellectual property.

Retirement savings/investments

Until now, you may have been saving through retirement accounts such as IRAs, 401(k)s, or other tax-advantaged plans, as well as in taxable accounts. Your challenge now is to convert your savings into ongoing income. There are many ways to do that, including periodic withdrawals, choosing an annuity if available, increasing your allocation to income-generating investments, or using some combination. Make sure you understand the tax consequences before you act.

Some of the factors you’ll need to consider when planning how to tap your retirement savings include:

  • How much you can afford to withdraw each year without exhausting your nest egg. You’ll need to take into account not only your projected expenses and other income sources, but also your asset allocation, your life expectancy, and whether you expect to use both principal and income, or income alone.
  • The order in which you will tap various accounts. Tax considerations can affect which account you should use first, and which you should defer using.
  • How you’ll deal with required minimum distributions (RMDs) from certain tax-advantaged accounts. After age 70½, if you withdraw less than your RMD, you’ll pay a penalty tax equal to 50% of the amount you failed to withdraw.

Some investments, such as certain types of annuities, are designed to provide a guaranteed monthly income (subject to the claims-paying ability of the issuer). Others may pay an amount that varies periodically, depending on how your investments perform. You also can choose to balance your investment choices to provide some of both types of income.

Inheritance

One widely cited study by economists John Havens and Paul Schervish forecasts that by 2052, at least $41 trillion will have been transferred from World War II’s Greatest Generation to their descendants. (Source: “Why the $41 Trillion Wealth Transfer Is Still Valid.”) An inheritance, whether anticipated or in hand, brings special challenges. If a potential inheritance has an impact on your anticipated retirement income, you might be able to help your parents investigate estate planning tools that can minimize the impact of taxes on their estate. Your retirement income also may be affected by whether you hope to leave an inheritance for your loved ones. If you do, you may benefit from specialized financial planning advice that can integrate your income needs with a future bequest.

Equity in your home or business

If you have built up substantial home equity, you may be able to tap it as a source of retirement income. Selling your home, then downsizing or buying in a lower-cost region, and investing that freed-up cash to produce income or to be used as needed is one possibility. Another is a reverse mortgage, which allows you to continue to live in your home while borrowing against its value. That loan and any accumulated interest is eventually repaid by the last surviving borrower when he or she eventually sells the home, permanently vacates the property, or dies. (However, you need to carefully consider the risks and costs before borrowing. A useful publication titled “Reverse Mortgages: Avoiding a Reversal of Fortune” is available online from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.)

If you’re hoping to convert an existing business into retirement income, you may benefit from careful financial planning to minimize the tax impact of a sale. Also, if you have partners, you’ll likely need to make sure you have a buy-sell agreement that specifies what will happen to the business when you retire and how you’ll be compensated for your interest.

With an expert to help you identify and analyze all your potential sources of retirement income, you may discover you have more options than you realize.

According to the Social Security Administration, more than 70% of Americans choose to take early Social Security benefits rather than wait until full retirement age.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Pfizer, Verizon, Hughes, Qwest, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Northrop Grumman, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of Linda Bullwinkle, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

Linda Bullwinkle is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

Social Security Survivor Benefits

How do you claim them? How much can you receive?

About 5 million widowed Americans get Social Security survivor benefits. If your spouse has passed, you may be eligible to collect them. This means that you could receive as much as 100% of your late spouse’s Social Security income.1,2

Some widows and widowers aren’t aware of these additional retirement benefits. That’s a shame, because they can provide significant financial help during a period of uncertainty.

You can file for survivor benefits at age 60. In fact, you can claim them as early as age 50 if you are disabled (per Social Security’s definition of disability) and if the condition that left you disabled began before or within seven years of your husband’s or wife’s death. In contrast, you can’t put in a claim for spousal Social Security benefits until age 62.1,3

You have to call Social Security to apply for these benefits. Dial 1-800-772-1213 to do that (or 1-800-325-0778 if you are deaf or have trouble hearing). The SSA doesn’t yet permit widows and widowers to apply for survivor benefits online.1

You are actually calling to make an appointment at your local Social Security office, where you can file your survivor benefits application. The SSA says that the process will be faster if you complete its Adult Disability Report beforehand and bring it with you. You can download this form; you will find a link to it at ssa.gov/survivorplan/onyourown2.htm.1

Are you eligible to receive all of your late spouse’s Social Security income, or less? That depends on a few factors. You can apply for the survivor benefits at full retirement age (66 or 67), and receive 100% of the monthly Social Security benefit of your late spouse. If you were to apply for survivor benefits somewhere between age 60 and full retirement age, you will receive between 71.5-99% of your late spouse’s monthly benefit.2

If you are disabled and file for survivor benefits in your fifties, then you will be poised to collect 71.5% of your late spouse’s monthly Social Security income.2

Are you caring for a child who is age 15 or younger? If so, you are eligible to collect a survivor benefit equaling 75% of your late spouse’s monthly Social Security income. In fact, that child is also in line to receive a 75% survivor benefit if he or she is a) younger than 18, b) a K-12 student younger than 19, or c) disabled. (In addition, it is also possible for a surviving spouse to collect a one-time $255 death payment if the spouse has already been getting benefits on the deceased worker’s Social Security record or became eligible for benefits upon that worker’s passing.)2,4

In rare cases, even parents of deceased Social Security recipients are eligible for survivor benefits. If a deceased worker has parents who qualify as his or her dependents, those parents may receive survivor benefits if they are age 62 or older. If there is a single surviving parent, he or she can collect an 82.5% survivor benefit; if the late Social Security recipient was caring for two dependent parents, they can each collect a 75% survivor benefit.2

Social Security does cap the benefit amount that a family can receive. A household can’t get survivor benefits exceeding 150-180% of those received by the late Social Security recipient.2

Divorce is no barrier to survivor benefits. Divorced widows and widowers are eligible for them as well.2

What if you marry again? If you have been widowed and marry again after age 60 (or age 50 if you are disabled), you will still qualify for Social Security survivor benefits. If you remarry prior to age 60, however, you can’t receive survivor benefits while married.2

In certain circumstances, you can “switch out” of survivor benefits. If you remarry and your new spouse gets Social Security, you can apply for spousal benefits based on his or her earnings. If the amount of the spousal benefit would be greater than your survivor benefit, you will get benefits equal to the higher amount.2

Also, you can switch from collecting a survivor benefit to your own retirement benefit starting at age 62 (if you are eligible to collect Social Security at that time and your own benefit would be greater than the survivor benefit).2

Could a pension reduce your survivor benefits? Yes, it could. If you worked at a federal, state or local government job at which you didn’t pay Social Security taxes, the Government Pension Offset, or GPO, kicks in (with rare exemptions). Any pension you receive as a byproduct of that job will lower the amount of your survivor benefit by two-thirds of the amount of your pension. As an example, if you get $600 a month from your state government retirement fund, your $500 monthly survivor benefit would thereby be reduced by $400, or cut to $100 a month.5

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.

1 – ssa.gov/survivorplan/onyourown2.htm [2/4/15]

2 – ssa.gov/survivorplan/ifyou5.htm [2/3/15]

3 – time.com/money/3638427/social-security-survivors-benefits-details/ [12/18/14]

4 – ssa.gov/survivorplan/ifyou7.htm [2/4/15]

5 – ssa.gov/retire2/gpo.htm [2/4/15]

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, Raytheon, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Verizon, Hughes, Qwest, Chevron, Pfizer, Northrop Grumman, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

This material was prepared by Peter Montoya Inc, and does not necessarily represent the views of Linda Bullwinkle, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

Linda Bullwinkle is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at http://www.theretirementgroup.com.