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Best laid Social Security-claiming plans gone awry

November 26, 2013

The other day, I received a frantic e-mail from a reader desperate to undo a Social Security claiming decision that was turning out all wrong. Gary, a reader from South Carolina, said he heard me talking about the “file and suspend” strategy...

Retirement planning is now a family affair

November 24, 2013

In the years before the Great Recession, it wasn't unusual to see a happy couple tooling down the highway in a luxury recreational vehicle with a bumper sticker that joyfully proclaimed: “We're spending our kids' inheritance.” Fast forward...

How returning to work affects Social Security benefits

November 21, 2013

I received a great question from a reader today asking how his Social Security retirement benefits might be affected if he returns to work next year. Peter, who retired early and began collecting reduced benefits, will reach his full retirement...

Last-minute tips for Medicare annual enrollment

November 19, 2013

People who want to switch their Medicare coverage for 2014 have just a few weeks left in the annual open-enrollment period, which ends Dec. 7. The choices can be overwhelming, but there are practical steps your clients can take now to make sure...

Social Security's 50 shades of gray

November 14, 2013

I have received a slew of questions lately asking how rules for Social Security retirement benefits and survivor benefits interact. “If a spouse who never worked begins her spousal benefits at 62, will her survivor benefit amount be forever...

Mary Beth Franklin's CFP challenge: Exam tips from the pros

November 11, 2013

When I was in New York a few weeks ago to attend an InvestmentNews staff meeting, one of my colleagues referred to me as “the Dear Abby of Social Security.” I was flattered. Like that legendary advice columnist, I have developed a rapport...

Changes to Part D prescription drug plans in 2014 that every adviser should know

November 7, 2013

Want to give your retired clients a reason to count you among their blessings this Thanksgiving? Offer them a few tips on how they could save money on their prescription drugs next year by shopping for a new Medicare Part D plan now. Although...

Beyond the automatic 401(K)

November 3, 2013

There is no denying that recent 401(k) plan innovations of automatic enrollment, auto-escalation features and qualified default investment alternatives have gone a long way to improve retirement plan participation and savings rates. Using “nudge...

What I learned about Social Security in my CFP review course

October 23, 2013

Last week, I attended an intensive four-day, in-classroom review for next month's Certified Financial Planner Board of Standard Inc.'s certification exam. Going into the Dalton Review program, I was afraid I would be tripped up by complicated...

Unraveling mystery of lump-sum payments

October 20, 2013

Quite a number of retirees are receiving a lump-sum payment when they apply for Social Security benefits, and that led one financial adviser in San Leandro, Calif., to ask me to explain these mystery payments. “I have been hearing from clients...

Health care exchanges aren't meant for retirees

October 20, 2013

The new health insurance exchanges have dominated headlines in recent weeks, with tales ranging from computer glitches that have prevented millions of uninsured Americans from signing up for coverage to a federal government shutdown triggered...

Preparing for the next Bronze Age

October 6, 2013

Do you hear the drumbeats warning of an impending retirement crisis growing louder? I do. You can tell that a situation has reached a tipping point when traditional opponents agree that something must be done. A few months ago, two powerhouses...

CFP exam is a test of mettle, too

September 29, 2013

Last month, my colleague Mark Schoeff Jr. filed a story about a recent survey showing that more than half of college students who had completed financial planning coursework at three universities had decided not to sit for the national exam...

Two options to 'super-size' Social Security benefits

September 22, 2013

I often write about how financial advisers can help their clients who claim reduced Social Security benefits early and regret it later take steps to reset their benefits. Sometimes it means repaying benefits that they have received over the...

Over the border

September 8, 2013

It seems that interest in retiring overseas is growing as some aging baby boomers review their often-inadequate nest eggs and contemplate creative alternatives to live the good life. Ironic, isn't it? For some people, the only way to live out...

Rethinking retirement planning

August 25, 2013

One of the key elements of traditional financial planning is to prepare for a secure retirement. But the idea of accumulating sufficient savings to finance a comfortable lifestyle for 30 years may be an impossible dream for many Americans. For...

Pensions can offset benefits

August 18, 2013

Donald Klaas, a financial adviser with The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. in St. Louis, sent me an important question the other day. He wrote that he has a 64-year-old client who has been a teacher at various schools during her career,...

The trick of Social Security in the first year of retirement

August 11, 2013

Often, people who retire midyear have already earned more than Social Security's annual earnings limit that applies to those who collect benefits before their full retirement age. Normally, people who collect Social Security benefits before...

Parsing Social Security rules for spouses

July 28, 2013

Recently, I participated in a three-hour All Star Tax training video sponsored by Edward Jones to bring accountants, tax attorneys and enrolled agents up to speed on Social Security rules and claiming strategies. I have been flooded with questions...

Replacement rates fall as women's earnings rise

July 21, 2013

Here is a stunning statement: Although an increase in women's workforce participation and average earnings has boosted the income of many American families, it also has reduced household retirement income replacement rates from Social Security....

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