How Social Security’s file-and-suspend feature works

Mstar-Investor-Conf-SS-blueprint

It’s not often that the federal budget deals with the nitty-gritty of personal-finance strategies for retirement. But this intriguing statement is buried deep inside the fiscal 2015 budget that President Obama released in March: “In addition, the Budget proposes to eliminate aggressive Social Security claiming strategies, which allow upper-income beneficiaries to manipulate the timing of […]

Seven questions to ask about annuities

annuity1

I wrote recently about the sales traction that insurance companies are getting with deferred income annuities, or DIAs. In this post, I’ll consider the pros and cons of using a DIA as part of a retirement portfolio plan, and expand the conversation to include the DIA’s first cousin: single premium income annuities, or SPIAs. We’ll […]

Getting a handle on health care in retirement

Morningstar-health-care-panel-blueprint

Health care is one of the largest expenses most Americans will face in retirement – and it’s among the most difficult to predict. At the recent Morningstar Individual Investor Conference, I joined a panel discussion of strategies for meeting health-care funding needs using Medicare, Medigap, long-term care insurance health savings accounts – and the Affordable Care Act. […]

Deferred annuities getting some traction

annuity1

You’ve probably seen this attention-grabbing advertising message on television or on a billboard: “The First Person To Live To 150 Is Alive Today.” Not surprisingly, the ad comes from an insurance company–Prudential–and the pitch is for annuities. You may find the message optimistic, unsettling, or just plain disturbing–but it does highlight the insurance industry’s core […]

Why boomer balance sheets are a mess

chart percent_change_total_debt_assets

Conversations about retirement readiness usually focus on portfolios–how much you’re saving, your investment mix, and whether you’ll accumulate assets sufficient to last a lifetime. But those conversations are missing a bigger-picture question about retirement readiness: How are household balance sheets shaping up as families approach retirement? Research by the AARP Public Policy Institute provides answers. […]

How new reverse mortgage rules affect retirement plans

House--blueprint

The federal government has clamped down on reverse mortgages, issuing a new set of rules that make some loan amounts smaller, fees higher, and drawdowns less flexible What will the changes mean from a retirement-planning perspective? We’ll get to that in a moment. But first, here are some basics on reverse mortgages. Reverse mortgages allow […]

What does the Affordable Care Act mean for retirees?

Obama-and-seniors---blueprint

After much fanfare and controversy, Obamacare’s health insurance exchanges are open for business. What does the Affordable Care Act mean for retirees? It all depends on your age. If you’re 65 or older and on Medicare, there are no big changes for you to worry about. But the ACA offers important new options for retirees […]

How delaying your Social Security filing can boost portfolio longevity

Morningstar-portfolio-lonvevity-blueprint

A delayed Social Security filing can boost your monthly benefit income substantially. But did you know that a smart Social Security strategy also can boost the longevity of your portfolio? My July column for Morningstar.com looked at an array of resources that can help individuals and couples optimize their benefits. That sparked a comment thread […]

Social Security: Finding your best filing strategy

Mstar-Investor-Conf-SS-blueprint

For most households, there’s no retirement resource more important than Social Security. And making smart decisions about when to file for benefits can make a difference of thousands of dollars during your lifetime–especially for married couples, who can take advantage of the program’s valuable spousal and survivor benefits. But many Americans don’t take the time […]

Half of all workers retire earlier than expected – and not by choice

Retired-Earlier-Slide1

Just under half of all workers retire earlier than they expected – and not by choice – according to new research by LIMRA, the insurance industry research firm. The most commonly cited reasons included health problems, job loss or burnout and negative work conditions. The LIMRA numbers confirm annual surveys by the Employee Benefit Research […]