As you plan for retirement, your primary goal is to set up a stream of income that will sustain you for the rest of your life. Social Security will play a part in this, as well as whatever savings, investments, and insurance options you choose. But while you're focusing on income, don't forget to pay careful attention to rising costs of things like housing, food, and health care.
Health care, in particular, appears to be the big variable for most people. While prices of most other goods and services rise very slowly over time, we have seen huge leaps in the cost of health care in just the past few years. What does this mean for retirees? Right now, the average retiree spends about $5,000 per year on out-of-pocket health care expenses, but that figure is estimated to rise to just under $25,000 per year in 2038. Ouch! It's easy to see how such a quickly-rising expense can put serious pressure on your income stream.
So what do the experts recommend for retirees who want to keep their health care spending in line? Remember these three rules.
Understand your Medicare coverage and limitations.Medicare doesn't actually pay for all of your health care needs, which is why you will incur so many expenses out of pocket. Seek to fully understand your coverage, and make plans to cover additional expenses. Some retirees find that a prescription insurance plan is necessary, while others invest in long-term care insurance.
Establish a health savings account, if you can. If you're eligible for a health savings account, then start contributing to it now! These accounts allow you to set aside pre-tax dollars for health care expenses, and any money left in the account after you retire can still be used toward that purpose. Essentially, it's another way to save for retirement while utilizing valuable tax advantages.
Take care of your health now. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Take care of your health now, and you can prevent or postpone some of the more expensive health concerns commonly seen in older folk. Stop smoking, cut back on alcohol, exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet. It's never too late to start making healthier decisions – for both your body, and your wallet.
15051 - 2015/11/16
Like most couples planning for retirement, the two of you are counting upon your Social Security benefits to provide part of the income you will need for the rest of your lives. And yet, the government program has grown so large, involving so many complicated decisions, that it can be difficult to know how to maximize your potential benefits. Many couples have planned to use the file-and-suspend option, but due to recent budget cuts that method of filing for your benefits will soon disappear!
As you might already know, your final benefit amount is not set in stone. You will receive your full scheduled benefits if you wait until your “full retirement age” to claim them (defined by the Administration according to your year of birth, and ranging between 65 and 67 years old.). However, you can also claim your benefits as early as age 62, if you're okay with receiving less than your full scheduled check amounts. Or, you can wait as late as age 70 to claim your benefits, and earn higher monthly checks for life.
Sound complicated enough? Well, here's where it gets even trickier: your spouse also has to decide when to claim their benefits, and when one spouse has lifetime earnings that are significantly greater than the other spouse, you face even more choices about your Social Security benefits.
Some couples have figured out a way to maximize their collective benefits, using a strategy called “file and suspend”. The higher-earning spouse files for their benefits at full retirement age, but suspends payments until a later date. This allows their benefits to grow at a rate of about 8 percent per year, and nets them a larger check when payments do begin later.
Meanwhile, the lower-earning spouse files for spousal benefits, which amount to about half of the higher-earning spouse's benefit. This allows the couple to receive some money from Social Security, while the higher-earning spouse continues to work and postpone their own payments.
As you might have imagined, this strategy can help you and your spouse maximize your retirement income. But there’s a catch: On November 2, Congress passed a budget deal that will bring an end to the file-and-suspend strategy. The new law won’t take effect for six months, giving you and your spouse time to file and suspend if you have both reached full retirement age. You might have a big decision to make, and very soon!
But here's the bottom line...
There are dozens of different strategies that can be used by married couples to claim their Social Security benefits. Selecting one strategy over another can make a significant difference in the amount of money you collect during your retirement years. However, not all options can be used by everyone, and sometimes one option is better than another, based on your situation. It is important to know that once you begin receiving Social Security payments, it can be extremely difficult to make any changes. Therefore, before making any decisions, call our office to schedule an appointment. We can review your retirement plan with you, and help you make the decisions that are best for your situation.
15050 - 2015/11/16
For years, you might dream of retirement. You can't wait until your days belong solely to you, and you're never chained to a desk again.
And yet, when the time arrives, many retirees find that they feel bored and restless. Some even desire extra income to fund vacations or holiday spending. The solution is fairly simple; each year, thousands of retirees seek temporary employment. Along with earning extra income, you can learn new skills and even have fun in the process!
But where should retirees look for seasonal or temporary work? Try the following sources for occasional employment opportunities.
Ask your former employer. Who is more suited to fill your old position than you? Your former employer would rather bring in someone who already knows how to do the job, rather than a newcomer who requires time-consuming training. Contact your old company and let them know you're available to fill in for employees who need to take extended leave, or to work one or two days a week during the busy season.
Sign up with a temp firm. These companies locate jobs for you, so all you have to do is answer the phone when they call! You will pay a commission in exchange for the positions they assign you, but the personalized approach of a temp firm often means you will be matched with well-paying jobs that are ideally suited to your skills.
Start your own business. Offer consulting services in your old field, and you can take on as much or as little work as you want.
Turn a hobby into a cash-producing enterprise. If you enjoy thrift shops and yard sales, you might be surprised to know that you can often resale items on websites like Ebay for a profit! The key is to do your research, carry a smart phone with you to check the going price of certain items, and find yourself a niche of products that is successful for you.
Hire yourself out. Many private individuals will hire seniors to house-sit, pet-sit, or even stay with their own elderly relatives. Check local listings such as your newspaper or Craigslist. Just remember to be careful about meeting up with strangers.
Apply for seasonal work. Businesses located in popular vacation spots often hire for part of the year only. Another option is to apply at local retailers during the fall season, just before the busy shopping season begins.
15049 - 2015/11/16
When you hear the words “fixed income”, you might picture retirees who subsist on oatmeal, keep the thermostat set at 60 in the winter, and entertain themselves with crossword puzzles from recycled newspapers. That's a bit melodramatic, but you get the point. You, and countless others planning for retirement, worry that a fixed income will translate into a meager lifestyle.
Luckily, in most cases, a fixed income just means you need to live on a budget. But that doesn't mean you can never treat yourself to something nice! Check out these five ways to enjoy a little luxury, even when you're trying to live frugally.
Do your research. Before buying a big-ticket item, research prices online to find the retailer offering the best deal. Look for coupon codes before checking out. Some consumers have discovered that putting items in their shopping cart, then failing to check out, will result in an email and coupon code from the retailer who hopes to nudge them into completing the purchase.
Buy at the right time. While you're doing all that research, learn the right times to purchase your favorite luxury items. Your local grocery store might offer deep discounts on steak early each Tuesday morning. Buying a car toward the end of the year will often save you thousands off the sticker price. Learn how seasonal sales work, and stock up on your favorite champagne or designer clothing then.
Don't forget your credit card rewards. Credit card users average about 25 dollars per month in rewards, but many of us forget to use our accumulated points! Log into your credit card account online, and check the rewards area (if you have this type of card). You might be able to redeem points for cash back, gift cards, or other promotional offers.
Treat yourself to small items. Often we crave the feeling of doing something nice for ourselves, more so than the item we think we want. Treating yourself doesn't always have to mean a fancy vacation or a new flat-screen TV. Sometimes a bar of handmade soap, a bag of gourmet coffee, or any other upgrade to an everyday item will do the trick.
Purchase experiences, not things. Most of us are happier when we create new experiences, than we are when we purchase more “stuff”. Check out nearby art museums, have lunch at a French cafe, go see a foreign film with your partner, or sign up for a class to learn a new skill. New experiences, even frugal ones, are often more rewarding than material items.
15048 - 2015/11/16
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