2017 Social Security COLA likely to lack fizz

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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 […]

Push to expand Social Security gains momentum

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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

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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 […]

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

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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” […]

Retirement planning 101 for young people

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I am asked often what young people can do now to start building for a secure retirement. The question itself is a great start – frankly, I never gave this much of a thought until I was well past 40. I have five short answers. First: start saving as soon as you can – even […]

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Five questions for Emily Brandon

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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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How your tax burden lightens when you retire

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Tax day is April 18th this year, and it will be an unpleasant day for millions of American working households. But cheer up: your tax situation likely will lighten up a bit when you retire. The Internal Revenue Service takes it easy when it comes to taxation of Social Security, and many retirees drop into […]

The ins and outs of Social Security benefits and taxes

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It’s an unpleasant fact of life: The taxman can take a bite out of your Social Security benefits. The federal tax formula was crafted to initially target higher-income households, but the share of benefits taxed has risen over the years, because the income thresholds for taxation aren’t indexed for inflation or real income growth. Meanwhile, […]

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Is a mandatory U.S. retirement saving plan in your future?

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Make a list of the most toxic words in American politics, and “employer mandate” certainly would be in the top 10. Requiring employers to provide health insurance to workers is one of the most controversial features of the Affordable Care Act – along with the requirement that individuals buy insurance. But a mandatory retirement savings […]

Is Social Security too generous? Conservatives want us to think so

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Just how much pre-retirement income does Social Security replace? It’s an important question for workers planning for retirement, and the standard answer – for quite some time – has been “about 40 percent, depending on your income history.” But for the past two years, a battle has been waged inside the Beltway by conservatives to […]

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