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Retirement Planning Blog

on 06 December, 2018

10 most tax friendly states for retirees

While Uncle Sam plays a part in your retirement, he isn’t the only tax man. All 50 states are also partners to some extent.

Many state governments depend on income taxes for public revenues, and in some, city governments take a piece of the income tax pie as well. And what about the states that don’t have an income tax? They rely on other revenues, like gas, property, and sales tax collections.

If you are among the growing numbers of Americans who wish to retire elsewhere than your current community, take note. Many variables play into people’s choice of retirement relocation: the cost of living, unemployment rate, work possibilities, social opportunities, and closeness to people and causes that you hold dear.

However, they aren’t the only factors, as taxes can take a bite out of retirement income. It’s important to see how your tax situation might affect your bottom-line in any places you may be considering. 

Every year, Kiplinger publishes an updated, annual guide to state taxes. Their findings show how state and local government taxes are “all over the map” – and how living in different states can be a difference of thousands of dollars in income, depending on your retirement tax situation.

Just as importantly, the guide includes an analysis of each state’s “tax friendliness” for retirees. Those judgments are based, in large part, on taxability of Social Security payments, exemptions for other retirement income, and property tax rates.    

Here’s a look at the top 10 most tax-friendly states for retirees in the U.S., as ranked by Kiplinger.

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on 08 November, 2018

retirement planning options for small business owners

As a small business owner or an entrepreneur, you are used to taking the lead. But there is one frontier you may still need to master… the future of your retirement. That is a matter of doing what you can to ensure all your hard work leads to your ideal retirement lifestyle.

While a 401(k) plan is the dominant retirement bedrock for employed Americans, small business owners are in a different boat. You are your own employer.

So whether you have zero or 100 employees, you must make the choice to act toward building a strong financial future for yourself. Depending on the workplace benefits of your organization, you may also impact those aiding you in your entrepreneurial dream.   

And Social Security benefits can help, but only to a point. A motivating factor for building up retirement savings is the fact that, as an entrepreneur, you bring home a certain level of income. Portfolio holdings, personal assets, and savings most likely will play into your needs as a high-income household, as Social Security can only go so far.    

Not only that, chances are you make more than the income limit placed by Social Security. For 2019, the maximum amount of taxable earnings is $132,900, up from $128,400 in 2018.

And what is another focal point for small business owners? An overreliance on their business as their retirement safety net. But time and again, historical data has shown this to be true: It’s risky to put all of your eggs – namely, your retirement and financial comfort – into one basket.

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on 29 November, 2018

year end financial checklist

With the holidays upon us, many demands compete for our time. It can be hard to sit down and organize our financial lives as the year draws to a close. Indeed, it might appear easier to put off financial planning and review until the New Year.

That being said, there are still money moves you can think about doing before the year ends. After all, life doesn’t take a straight path. People’s needs, goals, and situations change.

Making these moves before year-end can help with managing money-related stress in the upcoming year. Not only that, it can help you get started on the right foot. And if by chance you could meet with a financial professional for your annual review, you could measure progress, see where to improve, and set new goals.

Here are some savvy money moves to consider making before the New Year rolls in, so you can improve your financial wellness, your peace of mind, and your bottom-line.

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in 401(k)
on 02 November, 2018

401k in service withdrawal img 1

If you have contributed for a long time to a 401(k) plan, chances are you have built up considerable assets. You are to be commended for this effort. It takes discipline and focus to accumulate wealth over time.

Having reached this point, you may now want to explore options outside of your plan. If you are past your late 50s, you might have an opportunity with an in-service withdrawal. Many people with 401(k) accounts assume that their funds are locked tight until they retire.

What they don’t know is that they might be able to access their funds while still working at their employer. This mechanism is formally called an in-service withdrawal.

But what exactly is an 401(k) in-service withdrawal, under what conditions can you take one, and what consequences are there for doing so?

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on 20 November, 2018

steps to financial wellness

Buckle up, everyone. The holidays are just around the corner. And while they bring a spirit of joy and cheer, they can also be a stressful time for many Americans.

From Thanksgiving dinners and holiday shopping to seasonal parties and family get-togethers, there is no shortage of events in which folks participate.

Aside from the festivity, fellowship, and merriment, however, people can “feel the heat” in their money matters in a number of ways. And how might that be?

The pressure to overspend, for one. According to a recent survey by NerdWallet, a little over half of all Americans (51%) say they "typically overspend" on gifts.

Meanwhile, 39.4 million Americans are still paying off debt from last year’s holiday spending spree. And gift shopping is just one of many seasonal expenses that can keep the holiday cash register ringing.

Expenditures such as these can put the strain on retirees, who are more likely to have fixed incomes than other age groups. Not only that, the pressure of growing debt loads can have an impact on people’s retirement goals, not to mention any other financial objectives they may have.

But there is good news. Taking the right steps can go a long way toward achieving more financial security. If you, and your partner, are in your 50s or 60s, it’s good to start laying out your goals, mapping out a strategy for your future, and taking action so your money can work hard for you.

Here are some steps you can take to improve your financial wellness and potentially be more confident for the years ahead. 

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on 29 October, 2018

market down effects retirement income

For skiing enthusiasts, the concept of ups-and-downs is quite exhilarating. Just the thought of cutting powder on tall, sloping moguls can make even the “hard cores” blush.

But as recent market volatility reminds us, the goodwill doesn’t apply to ups-and-downs in every situation. Sometimes it can bring just the opposite.    

Earlier this month on Morningstar, Director of Personal Finance Christine Benz observed how equity market down-spurts can disrupt a retirement portfolio.

Portfolio losses might not matter as much as when people are younger, as they have time to recover – and to grow past the point when portfolio asset values dipped. In fact, Benz writes, for those with many years to retirement (or under age 50), "not taking full advantage of the historical outperformance of riskier asset classes is a bigger risk than being too conservative."

But as retirement draws near, some flight to safety may well be a prudent course of action. Benz explains: "At that life stage, you're much more vulnerable to what retirement planners call sequence of return risk. That means that if you encounter a calamitous equity market early on in retirement and need to spend from the declining equity portfolio, that much less of your investments will be left to recover when stocks finally do."

And what if a portfolio has gone into reverse mode? "Your only choice to mitigate sequence of return risk--assuming your stock portfolio is in the dumps and you don't have enough safe investments to spend from--will be to dramatically ratchet down your spending," Benz says. "Needless to say, that's not something most young retirees are in the mood to do."     

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on 19 November, 2018

retirees struggle with taxes

Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda.

That is how a surprising number of retirees feel about their tax planning. In a recent study by Nationwide Retirement Institute, staggering proportions of retired Americans wished they had done more to prepare for their sometimes-surprising tax bills.

Over the course of the "Retirement Income and Tax Planning Consumer Survey," researchers asked people in different life stages about their preparedness for paying taxes in retirement.

The survey was revealing. An estimated 60% of future retirees, 70% of recent retirees, and 75% of those retired for more than 10 years said they are only “somewhat knowledgeable" or "not at all knowledgeable" about tax planning in retirement.

That’s right. Three of every four people retired for at least a decade still admit to feeling less than certain about planning for taxes in retirement.

The Impact of Ignoring Planning for Taxes

Counting those in all stages of retirement, 37% admitted they hadn’t considered how taxes would impact their retirement income. As a result, the report concludes, these people may have lost the opportunity to save an amount that could equal an additional six years of retirement income.

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on 19 October, 2018

stock market interest rates hike

Earlier this year, equity analysts started reaching for the Motrin again as market volatility came back to town. After a prolonged period of growth, U.S. stocks began charting a new path of ups and downs.

Scores of commentators observed the change in market winds. Even Jack Bogle, founder of Vanguard, said the newfound market swings were unlike anything he had ever seen in his 60-plus years of investing. "I have never seen a market this volatile to this extent in my career," he said in an appearance on the CNBC show "Power Lunch."

And now, this volatility trend seems to have continued. Last week, on October 10, the Dow Jones fell more than 800 points. It was the largest drop since February 2018. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 declined 3.3% and the Nasdaq fell 4%, according to CNBC reporter Fred Imbert.

Then on Wednesday, October 17, the market took a slight stumble as the Federal Reserve released the minutes from its September meeting. A month earlier, Fed board members approved a quarter-point hike to the central bank’s benchmark rate, setting a new rate range of 2% to 2.25%.

The minutes indicate that future rate hikes may be ahead. According to meeting records, Fed officials believe that "further gradual increases in the target range for the federal funds rate would be most likely consistent with a sustained economic expansion, strong labor market conditions, and inflation near 2 percent over the medium term." 

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on 13 November, 2018

social security benefits cola increase 2019

Good news, Social Security beneficiaries! Every year in mid-October, the Social Security Administration announces any cost-of-living adjustments to benefits – or “COLAs.” On October 12, the agency said that Social Security recipients would see a 2.8% COLA in 2019.

Until now, the 2018 cost-of-living adjustment had been the largest bump-up in benefits since 2012. What accounted for the heftier increase this year?

A rise in the cost of energy products, not to mention an increasing cost of shelter, were big inflationary contributors, according to experts. Both of those cost categories have heavy weightings within the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), the Department of Labor index on which COLAs are based.   

For Social Security beneficiaries, the increased benefit payouts will start in January 2019. People receiving SSI benefits will see the increase on December 31, 2018.

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on 10 October, 2018

lederman photo edited
Photo Credit: Associated Press. All rights reserved, source link.

Nobel laureates are certainly top achievers. In 1988, Leon Lederman won a Nobel Prize for his work in physics. Apart from award-winning research into subatomic particles, he is famous for coining the infamous name of the Higgs bosin: the "God particle."

Lederman passed away in a nursing home in Idaho on October 4. He was 96, according to the Associated Press. The AP describes him as a “giant in his field who also had a passion for sharing science.”

While Lederman’s contributions to science speak volumes, another striking story of him emerges from a past headline by NBC News.

And what happened? In 2015, the physicist was forced to auction his Nobel medal so he and his family could cover healthcare expenses. The medal sold for $765,000. It was a winning bid of $633,335 plus a buyer’s premium that drove the medal to its $765k sell price.

It’s yet another example of how high-cost retiree healthcare needs can change the financial situation of any of us.

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