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This is Not Your Father’s Retirement

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This is Not Your Father’s Retirement

In 1988, when most Baby Boomers were focused on starting families and advancing their careers, Oldsmobile came out with the ad slogan, “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile.” Thirty years later, this same generation is facing a retirement that will probably look a lot different than their parents’. The generation that was once ridiculed for driving outdated Oldsmobile Cutlasses typically enjoyed more stability when they retired. They were more likely to retire at 65 and generate most of the income they needed from a pension plan and Social Security.  This may not be the case for their children. Here are some of the new challenges that retirees face:

 

Longer Retirements- The good news is that we are living longer lives. The average life expectancy has been increasing over the past several decades (For women it’s 81.2 years and men it’s 76.3 years).[1] For those age 65 today, the average life expectancy continues to increase. The downside to living longer lives is the increased potential of outliving our money. With fewer people having defined benefits (i.e., pensions), it’s crucial to have a strong investment plan with a conservative spending policy. This “longevity” risk that retirees face is causing more Baby Boomers to remain in the workforce.

 

Social (In)Security- The retirement of Baby Boomers has led to a demographic shift in our workforce and the ratio of workers to beneficiaries is declining[2]. This trend is likely to continue. The Social Security Administration projects that the trust fund that pays retirees may not be able to meet its obligations by 2034. There have been several proposals by Congress to fix the problem but there is uncertainty around who will carry the burden of reform[3]. Changes to retirement age and payroll taxes would impact the existing workforce, while reducing benefits to above-average earners and reductions to cost of living increases would impact current retirees.

 

Losing Purchasing Power- Although inflation has been manageable over the last several decades, it can be particularly damaging to retirees when you consider the impact it has on purchasing power, the value of our money in terms of purchasing goods and services, over long periods of time. Keeping most of your money in fixed investments may seem prudent, but given the low interest rate environment, investments with the potential for capital appreciation are necessary if we are to stay ahead of inflation.

 

Rising Health Care Costs- As health care costs continue to outpace inflation, fewer retirees have employer or union sponsored health benefits. According to Fidelity Investments[4], an average retired couple age 65 in 2018 may need approximately $280,000 saved (after tax) to cover health care costs in retirement. These costs need to be factored in to a retirement plan and for those still working who are in a high deductible plan, a health savings account (HSA) could be a valuable savings vehicle.

 

Growing Need for Long-Term Care- According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, slightly more than half (52%) of individuals turning age 65 will have a high need for long term care over their lifetime[5]. So, who is paying the bill? In 2014, Medicaid and Medicare accounted for 63% of all long-term care spending[6]. As more retirees are faced with these costs our public programs could face challenges in funding quality care. When possible, a plan to fund these potential costs out of pocket or through insurance should be considered.

 

Regardless of where you are in the financial planning process, working with a professional can help you make the most of your days in retirement. The Oldsmobile slogan may have been short lived, but these challenges are not going away any time soon.

 

Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results.

Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member of FINRA/SIPC and investment advice offered through Stratos Wealth Partners Ltd., a Registered Investment Advisor. Stratos Wealth Partners, Ltd. and Lob Planning Group are separate entities from LPL Financial.

 

[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Mortality in the United States, 2015,” December 2016

[2] Social Security Administration, Fast Facts & Figures About Social Security, 2016

[3] Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Social Security’s Financial Outlook: The 2017 Update in Perspective, 2017

[4] Fidelity Investments, How to Plan for Rising Health Care Costs, 2018

[5] National Association of Insurance Commissioners, The State of Long-Term Care Insurance: The Market, Challenges and Future Innovations, 2016

[6] The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, National Health Expenditures Survey, 2014

Should I downsize or move in retirement?

Housing Decisions in Retirement

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How Housing Figures Into Planning For A Longer Retirement

As featured in the Winter 2017 issue of Westchester Senior Voice magazine

In my work as a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, I always discuss the topic of housing with my clients as they plan for retirement. Since, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics*, housing costs are the single largest expense for every age group – whether you’re 50, 60, 70 or older, we need to consider what makes sense as we approach, or are already in, the retirement years.

Evaluating housing costs is especially important given the fact that we are living longer and we may need to support an extended retirement. In Westchester County, we are also subject to the higher insurance costs, maintenance costs, and property taxes that come with higher home values. Certainly, if you’re still in your working years, paying off any remaining mortgage debt should be a priority.

Most people want to stay in their homes throughout retirement, but haven’t thought about all the costs involved. We may need to renovate to maintain our home’s value, household tasks may become more difficult – requiring the need to hire outside help, and we also have to consider modifications to keep our homes safe and compatible with our changing needs as we age.

Reevaluating your priorities may help you create the means to support a more fulfilling retirement. If you’re concerned about maintaining your lifestyle in retirement, given the potentially increasing costs of staying in your home, the rest of this article is for you.

The good news is there are plenty of options, especially when you consider that lowering your monthly expenses in retirement can be just as effective as an increase in income. One possibility, which may be difficult – but necessary – to consider is selling the family home.

For most of us, it’s not an easy decision to sell the home where we’ve created a lifetime of memories. But if you can get past that, the financial benefits could be considerable. Start with trading in those heating and lawn maintenance bills…and how about property taxes!

Selling your home and downsizing to a smaller one may not only lower your expenses, but could actually increase your income: the added liquidity from the home sale could be reinvested into a portfolio that could provide additional income.

Another option that may enable you to better afford your housing costs is to rent out extra space. Also, consider that home ownership is not always the best option for empty nesters. Housing decisions should take into account other factors: perhaps a move to a better climate or being closer to adult children and grandkids. Renting, for instance, allows you to test out a new community before you decide to purchase, and can save you unwanted costs in the future if you realize you made the wrong choice.

Whether you decide to buy or rent your next home, your objective should be to do it on your own terms: before a financial situation dictates the move. When choosing your next home, consider how you will maintain or build a strong social network and be able to do the things you enjoy. Having easy access to health care, dining, and the activities you enjoy are all important considerations. If a car is a necessity, what will you do if driving is no longer an option? The Westchester County legislature’s recent decision to allow ride hailing services, like Uber and Lyft, may make getting around easier and less expensive.

Being able to envision what will be important to you in a home during retirement and having a better idea of what your housing expenses might be is an important first step in planning for a successful retirement. Take the initiative and speak with a qualified professional who can assist you with your plan.

 

*Consumer Expenditure Survey, 2014, https://www.bls.gov/opub/btn/volume-5/spending-patterns-of-older-americans.htm

Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member of FINRA/SIPC and investment advice offered through Stratos Wealth Partners Ltd., a Registered Investment Advisor. Stratos Wealth Partners, Ltd. and Lob Planning Group are separate entities from LPL Financial.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly.

 

Paul Tramontozzi was invited to the Federal Reserve Bank to discuss elder fraud in financial services

My Day at the Fed

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My Day at the Fed

As many of you know, cognitive impairment is an issue that is very important to me. I lost my father earlier this year to Lewy Body dementia. The experience gave me a new perspective on managing a family’s finances. Without a plan and the right advice, it can be like walking through a minefield.

I was recently asked by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia to share my personal and professional experiences working with retirees with diminished capacity. The Fed was hosting a conference on Aging, Cognition, and Financial Health. The purpose was to bring thought leaders in the financial services community together to combat financial exploitation instead of waiting for regulation from above. At this event, I was able to meet with many federal regulators, advocacy groups, and executive leadership within the financial services industry. These individuals can shape policy, increase awareness, and influence the financial professionals that work with retirees. Here are some of the points that I made when given the opportunity:

New FINRA Rules 4512 and 2165 are a good start

Effective February 5th, 2018, two new FINRA regulations will go into effect that are a step in the right direction to combat potential financial abuse of the elderly. An amendment was made to FINRA Rule 4512 that:

“require members to make reasonable efforts to obtain the name of and contact information for a trusted contact person for a customer’s account; and (2) adopt new FINRA Rule 2165 (Financial Exploitation of Specified Adults) to permit members to place temporary holds on disbursements of funds or securities from the accounts of specified customers where there is a reasonable belief of financial exploitation of these customers.”*

Although many financial service professionals are already making an effort to discover trusted persons in a client’s life, this amendment will make it a requirement. The ability given by Rule 2165 to slow down a transaction if there is suspicion of financial exploitation will also be a useful tool. However, there is still more that needs to be done. The reality is that a large percentage of financial abuse comes from one of the “trusted” persons in a victim’s life. Compliance departments at financial institutions need more leeway to address financial exploitation when it involves a trusted person.

POA isn’t foolproof

Although a power of attorney (POA) is an important legal document for a retiree, they aren’t always enough to prevent financial exploitation. Most POAs are durable which means the chosen agent has the power to make financial, legal or health decisions on someone else’s behalf regardless of the mental capacity of the person who drafted the POA. In the case where the agent is the “trusted” person committing financial fraud, this document can actually make it easier for them to exploit their victim.

Another potential shortcoming of a POA involves the inclusion of a springing provision. Instead of giving an agent the power to make decisions immediately, this provision makes the agent’s power effective at some point in the future. It is usually when the person who appointed the agent is diagnosed with a cognitive impairment by a doctor. Even if the agent has the best intentions, a diagnosis may come well after the point of actual cognitive decline. The damage may be done by the time the POA goes into effect.

Know your client

In some cases, financial exploitation can be uncovered by a financial professional simply knowing their client, the people in their life, their spending habits, and their lifestyle. This will require more training for employees of financial institutions that work directly with clients. There is also optimism that advances in data gathering technology will make it easier to spot any abnormalities in transactions that could be a sign of financial abuse.

It’s also important to remember that the issue of financial exploitation with the elderly is not limited to persons with a mental incapacity. It’s an issue for all retirees. Those in the financial services industry that work with the public are on the front lines and have an opportunity to get ahead of it.

More That Can Be Done

It’s not uncommon for me to meet with a retiree for the first time and learn that they have little understanding of the mechanics of certain financial products that they own. They could be unclear about what is actually guaranteed or what a reasonable expectation should be for investment returns. Marketing material for variable annuities, market linked CDs, and permanent insurance products can be very difficult for many to understand, let alone someone whose cognition is in decline. The material that is used to market many of these products should be appropriate given the prospective audience is typically older individuals.

I suggested basic product questionnaires be used during the sales process to assess the prospective buyer’s understanding of what they are getting into. I emphasize the word “basic”, because, in my opinion, most prospectuses and applications of financial products have pages of disclosures that do very little to assess the client’s capacity to understand how the product will function.

Over the years our retirement system has transitioned from one of defined benefits (pensions), which took a lot of the decision making out of the hands of retirees, to one of defined contributions (retirement accounts) which puts the onus on the retiree to manage their finances. As retirees continue to live longer lives due to medical advancements, the need to put a better system in place to service their finances will continue to grow. It was a great experience to be in a room with those that recognize the need for this change and are acting on it.

*Source: FINRA.org

Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member of FINRA/SIPC and investment advice offered through Stratos Wealth Partners Ltd., a Registered Investment Advisor. Stratos Wealth Partners, Ltd. and Lob Planning Group are separate entities from LPL Financial.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly.

Stratos Wealth Partners, Lob Planning Group and LPL Financial do not provide legal and/or tax advice or services. Please consult your legal and/or tax advisor regarding your specific situation.

charitable giving with a donor advised fund

Giving Through a Donor Advised Fund

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How Your Charitable Giving Can Benefit From a Donor Advised Fund

It’s not easy keeping up with the proposals by the GOP regarding tax reform. However, two common goals that keep coming up are to decrease income tax rates and increase the standard deduction. This could effectively decrease the benefit of charitable deductions. A decrease in income tax rates could ultimately decrease the value of a deduction. Raising the standard deduction, would mean less people itemizing their deductions. This could lead to less charitable deductions altogether.

Why not a Donor Advised Fund?

An overlooked tool for charitable giving in 2017 is a donor advised fund. By putting money into a donor advised fund (DAF), you could take the charitable deduction this year, but direct that money to charitable organizations later on. A donor advised fund is an account that is held with a sponsoring charity where a donor can make a charitable gift. If you are charitably inclined, it is a way to set up a vehicle to manage these funds with ease. Once the gift is made, the donor retains the ability to recommend how the sponsoring charity directs that gift over time.  A successor can even be named to the DAF to continue directing gifts from the fund after the donor passes away.

Still take the Charitable Deduction

The tax benefits are similar to a gift that is made directly to a public charity. It may qualify for a charitable income tax deduction equal to the fair market value of the gift in the year that it was made. It would be subject to the same income limitations as charitable donations. Currently no more than 50% or adjusted gross income can be deducted for cash gifts and 30% for property with a long term capital gain. Unused deductions can be carried forward for up to 5 years.

Taking some gains without paying Uncle Sam

With equity markets at all-time highs, many investors find themselves holding assets with large capital gains. These assets can be donated to a DAF, and once in the fund, can be sold without incurring a capital gain tax. This makes it a great strategy for highly appreciated stock. It can also reduce a concentrated position in your portfolio. The funds can then be professionally managed until they are granted to a charity.

DAF in Action

Let’s say you purchased a stock position with a fair market value of $2,000 and it has increased in value to $10,000. If your intention is to donate $10,000 to a charity, you may want to consider putting the stock position in a DAF now, and direct that money to various charities over time. This way you may receive the $10,000 income tax deduction immediately subject to your income and you will not be obligated to pay a capital gain tax on the $8,000.

You should always consult an accountant before making tax planning decisions and work with a trusted financial advisor to see how your charitable giving may benefit from the use of a donor advised fund.

Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member of FINRA/SIPC and investment advice offered through Stratos Wealth Partners Ltd., a Registered Investment Advisor. Stratos Wealth Partners, Ltd. and Lob Planning Group are separate entities from LPL Financial.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly.

While donor advised funds have many advantages, some disadvantages to be aware of include but are not limited to possible account minimums, strict limits on grant allocations, management fees and the potential that future tax laws may change at any time that may impact the tax treatment and benefits of donor advised funds.

Stratos Wealth Partners, Lob Planning Group and LPL Financial do not provide legal and/or tax advice or services. Please consult your legal and/or tax advisor regarding your specific situation.