New tools for tax-efficient retirement draw-downs coming into view


Control the things you can control. We’ve all heard the mantra when it comes to personal financial planning, and it usually refers to the accumulation side of a retirement plan—factors such as investment cost, contribution amounts and timing. But a growing body of research points to an under-utilized point of control on the decumulation side […]

2017 Social Security COLA likely to lack fizz


Retirees will receive a paltry increase in their Social Security checks in 2017 – the second consecutive year of flat or near-flat benefits, and the fifth year of inflation adjustments below 2 percent. Next year’s cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will be just two-tenths of 1 percent, according to predictions in the annual report of the trustees […]

Is the fiduciary rule fight really about the little guy?


The U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants you to believe it is looking out for the little guy in its fight against new government regulation of the retirement investment advice industry. But that is a facade – as one consumer advocacy group found out when it checked the Chamber’s claims of grassroots support for its battle […]

Push to expand Social Security gains momentum


A coalition of progressive politicians, policy experts and grassroots advocates started a campaign three years ago facing very long odds. They proposed expanding Social Security retirement benefits for millions of Americans. Mainstream thinking in Washington at the time ran in the opposite direction: Social Security benefits should be cut as part of a “grand bargain” to get the federal deficit under control. […]

How couples can get the most from Social Security’s survivor benefit


How about this idea for a new reality TV show: “Survivor: Maximize your Social Security.” Rather than getting voted off the island, contestants lose when they fail to get the most out of Social Security’s survivor benefit – one of the government program’s most important features for married couples. Here is how our reality show works. When one spouse dies, the […]

Threatened Teamster pensions safe for now – but what comes next?


Should the pension of a retired truck driver – or his widow – be cut by one-third or more because the plan is in trouble? Doing no harm to current retirees is a basic tenet of sound retirement policy, as well as basic fairness. But legislation passed in 2014 opened the door to the possibility […]

Social Security after file-and-suspend: Brave new world began this week


The Social Security file-ocalypse came and went, and the system is still standing. Benefits are being paid and workers still are  claiming their benefits. The big event? The closing of a legal loophole last month that permitted married couples to game the system of spousal retirement benefits through joint claiming strategies. So-called “file and suspend” […]

Tapping retirement accounts early: the ins and outs


401(k) accounts aren’t designed as piggy banks to be tapped for non-retirement expenses. But stuff happens. Since the Great Recession, loans from 401(k) accounts have been rising. Some 17.6 percent of plan participants had loans outstanding last year, compared with 15.3 percent in 2008, according to the Investment Company Institute (ICI). A much smaller number […]

The best-interest rule is a game-changer for IRA rollovers


A friend called recently looking for advice about her 401(k). Kate had decided to leave her job to pursue new career options, and money was tight during the transition. Should she roll over her $250,000 nest egg and withdraw some of the funds to help her through the career transition? An adviser at a brokerage […]

Five questions for Emily Brandon


In the days when defined benefit pensions roamed the land, retirement income was automatic: you worked for a company, the company contributed to the pension fund. Checks started arriving when you retired, and didn’t stop until you did. End of story, for the most part. Plenty retirees still have traditional pensions, but they are on […]

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