Mary Beth Franklin

Retirement 2.0blog

Mary Beth Franklin - also known as the 'client whisperer' - on what your clients really want when they talk about retirement.

Jul 16, 2014, 3:51 PM EST

Widower asks why he didn't get survivor benefits

By Mary Beth Franklin

I received an e-mail from a widowed dad who asked why he didn't receive Social Security survivor benefits when his wife died eight years ago.“When my wife died in 2006, we had children who were 14 and 16 years old,” he wrote. “The children received survivor benefits until they were out of high school.”The reader asked the Social Security Administration why he, too, didn't receive survivor benefits. He was told he was not eligible at the time, but he could begin collecting them once he turned 60.“In this age of political correctness, why is it a wife can collect survivor benefits but a husband cannot?” he asked me.I assured the reader that he was not the victim of a sexist plot.Social Security benefits are gender neutral. Surviving spouses of either sex are eligible for survivor benefits of their deceased mate as early as age 60 and, in some cases, at younger ages if they are caring for the deceased... Read full post

Jul 15, 2014, 2:48 PM EST

Retirement: From theory to practice

By Mary Beth Franklin

After decades of writing about retirement planning, I finally get to eat my own cooking — at least the appetizer course. My husband, Mike, retired June 30 after more than 20 years as a federal government employee. On July 1, we began a new phase of married life — one where we share our home 24/7. It's not unusual for one spouse to retire while the other continues to work. But as I work from home, I am curious how our newfound togetherness will evolve and wonder if our big house is big enough for both of us.Mike assures me that he is merely retiring from his government job, not from work in general. He says he just wants to take a break to recharge his batteries before he figures out what he wants to do next. He might revive the one-man public relations shop that he successfully ran for 10 years. Thanks to his exceptional promotional skills, he propelled me from an obscure newspaper columnist working in my basement office to ... Read full post

Jul 4, 2014, 1:39 PM EST

Updated book is an essential guide to Social Security

By Mary Beth Franklin

How do you like to do your research — with an encyclopedia or Cliff's Notes?If you prefer to have all the facts at your fingertips, you would be wise to pick up the 2014 edition of Social Security: The Inside Story by Andy Landis.Mr. Landis is a veteran employee of the Social Security Administration and has been publishing this bible of Social Security rules and benefits for more than 20 years. I bow to his expertise.But if you like a quick and to-the-point resource, the downloadable PDF of my guidebook Maximizing Your Clients' Social Security Retirement Benefits should be your first choice. Even Mr. Landis admits it packs a powerful punch in 25 pages.“Your PDF on filing strategies completely blows my mind — and teaches me a few new tricks,” Mr. Landis wrote to me in an email. “Your ability to put so many complex filing strategies in so brief a document — and so clearly — amazes me,” he ... Read full post

Jul 1, 2014, 12:07 PM EST

Reduced earnings late in career might not reduce Social Security benefit

By Mary Beth Franklin

I received a letter from a financial adviser the other day asking about a client who is still working at 63 years old, but who has significantly scaled back his work hours and earnings. She wondered what impact that might have on his future Social Security benefits. I'm sure other advisers have similar questions.“His estimated benefits statement says that if he continues working until full retirement age, he will receive about $2,500 per month in benefits,” the adviser wrote to me in an e-mail. “But that assumes he will make full salary for the next three years, which he will not,” she wrote. “How can he arrive at a more accurate estimate of his benefits?” His estimated benefits are close to this year's maximum retirement benefit of $2,642 per month for a worker retiring at age 66 in 2014. That suggests the client is a high earner. Remember, Social Security only counts earnings up to the taxable wage ... Read full post

Jun 25, 2014, 3:22 PM EST

Undoing a hasty Social Security claiming decision

By Mary Beth Franklin

Does this sound familiar? You have a new client in their late 60s who recently learned about the benefits of delaying Social Security benefits, and they come to you for advice. The problem: they have already started collecting Social Security benefits. The new clients want to know if they can reverse their decision and, if so, at what price.That's the situation that Kevin Thompson, a retirement specialist with Mariner Wealth Advisers in Omaha, Neb., faced recently.“I have a new client who is 68 years old and who has been taking Social Security since age 66,” Mr. Thompson wrote to me in an e-mail. “His benefit is $2,000 per month. His wife, who will be 67 in July, has been taking Social Security since age 66 — not quite a year. Her benefit is $1,400 per month.”Mr. Thompson's goal was to find a way to increase the husband's benefit, since it is the larger of the two and is the one the wife will inherit as a ... Read full post

Jun 23, 2014, 3:20 PM EST

Women closing financial literacy gender gap

By Mary Beth Franklin

It may come as no surprise that women are better than men at asking for directions when they are lost — whether on a busy highway or the road to retirement. But it can still be a long, arduous journey.Women are approaching their finances more proactively and using financial wellness programs at work more often and more regularly than men, according to a new survey by Financial Finesse, a provider of workplace financial wellness programs. In 2013, women made up 63% of financial wellness program participants, a steady increase from 60% in 2012 and 52% in 2011 when the company first started tracking this data.In spite of these rising numbers, there is still a significant knowledge gap between men and women in nearly every key area of financial planning, particularly investing and cash management, which are essential to building long-term wealth.Don't miss: Three steps to greater gender diversity in the RIA industry)The study found... Read full post

Jun 19, 2014, 3:32 PM EST

How gay couples can act on Social Security benefits now

By Mary Beth Franklin

As the number of states that recognize gay marriage continues to grow, it is important for financial advisers to be aware of the Social Security benefits that may be available to clients now or in the future.Since the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act in June 2013, 19 states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage. (Mary Beth Franklin on how same-sex couples can protect their Social Security)Those jurisdictions encompass every state along the Eastern seaboard from Maryland to Maine — including Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware —as well as the West Coast states of California, Oregon and Washington. In addition, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and New Mexico permit same-sex couples to legally marry.In another 12 states, judges have issued rulings in favor of the freedom to marry, with many... Read full post

Jun 18, 2014, 11:06 AM EST

Social Security planning comes to the workplace

By Mary Beth Franklin

Social Security planning has taken a giant step into the workplace, and retirement planning may never be the same.Financial Engines announced Wednesday that it is now offering integrated Social Security and income planning to help near-retirees maximize their household income in retirement.With more than $88 billion of assets under management, Financial Engines is the nation's largest independent adviser, working with more than 550 employers and providing investment help to more than 9 million employees.“Social Security is incredibly complex and most people miss out on tens of thousands of dollars in benefits because they don't have anyone to help them figure out the way to claim,” Financial Engines chief investment officer Christopher Jones said. “By considering Social Security in combination with your 401(k), you can unlock hidden value and dramatically increase your retirement income.”Financial Engines is... Read full post

Jun 12, 2014, 11:04 AM EST

Delayed retirement reduces health care costs

By Mary Beth Franklin

I know I must sound like a broken record (or an iPod in permanent shuffle mode), but delaying retirement by even a few years can have a big impact on a client's retirement income plan, thanks to higher Social Security benefits and by allowing their savings to continue to grow untapped.But here's another reason to defer a retirement date by a few years: lower out-of-pocket health care costs.Couples retiring at age 65 are expected to incur $220,000 in health care costs on average during their retirement years, according to the 2014 Retiree Health Care Cost Estimate released Thursday by Fidelity Investments. The estimate, which is unchanged from 2013, does not include the added expenses of nursing home or long-term care.But couples who decide to retire at 62 — before they are eligible for Medicare —are likely to spend an extra $17,000 per year for a total of $271,000 during retirement, the Fidelity survey found. The extra... Read full post

Jun 2, 2014, 4:00 PM EST

Social Security support tools a big hit with financial advisers

By Mary Beth Franklin

Financial product manufacturers and distributors have found that one of the best ways to win the hearts and minds of financial advisers is to provide Social Security support tools ranging from educational brochures to sophisticated software.That was the finding of a report examining the types of programs that asset managers, insurance companies and broker-dealers typically provide to financial advisers. Programs focused on Social Security, as well as adapting portfolios to a low-interest rate environment, were the most widely used during the past year, according to the report, “Value Add Support to Financial Advisors — Insights and Opportunities 2014,” released Monday by Practical Perspectives, an independent consulting and research firm.Based on input from 600 financial advisers gathered through an online survey in May, the report analyzes how these programs influence advisers' perceptions and behaviors. Those... Read full post

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