Volunteerism

Volunteering in Retirement Offers Tangible Benefits

Volunteerism among retirees is popular these days and the activity seems to help them live longer. Studies from the Corporation for National and Community Service show people who volunteer “report lower mortality rates, lower rates of depression, fewer physical limitations and lower levels of stress than those who don’t volunteer.” Data from the 2014 study shows 20 million older adults 55 and up average more than 3 billion hours of service in their communities annually. The value of this time is estimated at $75 billion.

Tax Deductible

Volunteering has some tax saving benefits, too. Though you can’t deduct anything for the time you spend volunteering, you can deduct the cost of gas and oil for your automobile while driving to the activity, or simply deduct 14 cents per mile. Other deductions can include uniforms and attending conventions.

Finding the Right Activity

Like a job, volunteering requires the right fit. It may seem logical to offer the experience and skills you developed while working but doing something completely different may be more rewarding. Make sure the activity offers the flexibility to fit your schedule and that it’s something you feel passionate about.

You’ve heard of foster parent programs, but did you know there are programs that pair children in need with foster grandparents? This is just one of the volunteer opportunities available through America’s Senior Corp program. Learn more at https://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/senior-corps/get-involved

There are plenty of resources to find the right activity. The federal government offers Serve.gov. Another great place to look is AARP’s Create the Good program.

Your community needs your talents and your commitment. And with the positive benefits of volunteering, this is truly a win-win situation.

 

Sources:

https://www.nationalservice.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2015/value-senior-volunteers-us-economy-estimated-75-billion

https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p526.pdf

 

“Longevity Risk” in Retirement

When you hear your financial advisor mention “risk of longevity,” what exactly are we talking about here at JG Financial Consulting? Longevity refers to “long life” or “length of life.” Simply put, longevity risk is the risk that someone will outlive their wealth and available income.

It’s a fact that people are living longer. Not only has the average life expectancy increased, but one out of every four 65-year-olds living today will live past the age of 90. One out of 10 will live past 95–the number of people living to age 100 increased more than 43% from 2000 to 2014!

From a financial point of view, living a long time can drastically affect many of your retirement costs, impacting and presenting a “risk” to many different items in your budget—right when you will be living on a fixed income.

Let’s examine some of the issues affected by longevity:

  1. Health Care

 

Health care expenses are a huge chunk of any retirement budget—even with Medicare. A healthy 65-year-old couple can expect to spend approximately $266,589 to cover health care expenses not covered by Medicare Part A during their retirement for Medicare Parts B, D and a supplemental insurance policy (sometimes called Part C). This assumes at least one of them worked and paid Medicare taxes and so their Medicare Part A premiums are covered.

 

And that total doesn’t even include dental, vision, co-pays, deductibles and out-of-pockets. When you add those in, a couple’s costs rise to $394,954 throughout retirement. Living longer not only increases yearly health care outlays, but your chances of developing a serious health issue increase as you get older.

 

  1. Incapacitation

 

Your odds of becoming incapacitated also increase with age, which could lead to the need for nursing care. In fact, 70% of people over 65 end will up needing some form of assistance. The average yearly cost of a semi-private room in a nursing facility is $80,300.

 

Yes, you can qualify for Medicaid to cover your nursing home stay—if you spend down all of your assets to poverty level. There are options to this scenario that you definitely want to consider.

 

  1. Inflation

 

Prices will continue to get higher through the years—in fact, inflation is part of the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy. Inflation undermines your purchasing power over time. While it’s true that if the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rises in a given year, retirees sometimes get a COLA (Cost-of-Living Adjustment) increase on their Social Security benefit check, you’d best not count on that. For the last few years, there has been no COLA, primarily because of low oil/gasoline prices. It goes without saying that the longer you live, the more you will spend on consumer goods and living expenses.

 

  1. Excess Withdrawal / Inadequate Income

 

If your portfolio isn’t structured properly to provide enough income for a long life, you really are at risk of running out of money. Unexpected family expenses or needing to withdraw money during a market downturn can affect your nest egg negatively for the long term (kind of like compound interest in reverse). The death of a spouse is also a risk to your income, as Social Security benefits will likely decrease and taxes will increase due to fewer household exemptions.

The point of this article is not to inspire fear, but to inspire early, realistic retirement planning. Don’t worry about the future–let’s make some solid plans!

How to live longer and better: Find your purpose, keep working

Finding meaning / purpose can extend your life

A recent British study led by Andrew Steptoe, Director of the Institute of Epidemiology and Health care at University College London found that after taking other factors into account “people with the highest levels of ‘purpose in life’ were 30% less likely to die during the study period, living an average of two years longer than those with the lowest levels.” The study involved 9,000 people averaging 65 years old.1

James Maddux, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, reviewed the study and his team agreed that the findings make sense. Maddux noted that “people who actively search for meaning in life may be generally better at setting goals and making plans, including health care decisions.” The study review said there is good news for people who lack a sense of purpose—“it can be increased”—for instance, other studies have found that meditation, group therapy, taking classes or volunteering can help.

Work longer, live longer

In another study in 2016 conducted by Oregon State University,2 research indicates that working past age 65 could lead to a longer life, while retiring early may be a risk factor for an earlier death. Chenkai Wu, lead author and currently a doctoral student in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences, did the original research as part of his master’s thesis.

The researchers found that healthy adults who retired one year past age 65 had an 11 percent lower risk of death from all causes, even when taking into account demographic, lifestyle and health issues. They also found that even adults who described themselves as unhealthy were likely to live longer if they kept working.

“It may not apply to everybody, but we think work brings people a lot of economic and social benefits that could impact the length of their lives,” said Wu. He became interested in the topic due to much debated mandatory retirement ages in China, which in 2015 were 50 for men and 60 for women and men in labor-intensive jobs, and 55 and 65 respectively for white-collar women and men.3

“Most research in this area has focused on the economic impacts of delaying retirement. I thought it might be good to look at the health impacts,” Wu said. “People in the U.S. have more flexibility about when they retire compared to other countries, so it made sense to look at data from the U.S.” He examined data collected from 1992 through 2010, focusing on 2,956 U.S. adults.2

Planning for a longer life

With the start of a new year, there is no better time to put a plan in place which accounts for the longer years you may live, and encompasses your deepest desires as well as your current and future financial resources. Be sure to contact your financial advisor at JG Financial Consulting to get 2017 off to a productive start.

 

Sources:

1 Pfizer, Get Old, “A ‘Purpose in Life’ May Extend Yours,” by Robert Preidt, HealthDay, July 15, 2016. getold.com. https://www.getold.com/a-purpose-in-life-may-extend-yours (accessed January 17, 2017).

2 OSU, Oregon State University, News and Research Communications “Working Longer May Lead to a Longer Life, New OSU Research Shows,” 04/27/2016. oregonstate.edu. http://oregonstate.edu/ua/ncs/archives/2016/apr/working-longer-may-lead-longer-life-new-osu-research-shows (accessed January 17, 2017).

3 USCBC, The US-China Business Council, “China’s Mandatory Retirement Age Changes: Impact for Foreign Companies,” by Owen Haacke, April 1, 2015. uschina.org. https://www.uschina.org/china%E2%80%99s-mandatory-retirement-age-changes-impact-foreign-companies (accessed January 17, 2017).

 

 

5 Facts about College You Need to Know

Whether you have children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews headed to college when they turn 18, it’s always best to put anticipated higher education expenses into your financial plan–the sooner/younger the better.

Call us to discuss. And read here to learn more:

  1. FAFSA dates have just changed

For students college-bound in the 2017-2018 school year, there is an important FAFSA date change: the application date was just changed from January 1, 2017 to October 1, 2016—three months earlier. Details here.

Even if you think your family makes too much money to qualify for aid, most experts say you should apply for FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) anyway, because colleges, state scholarship agencies, and foundations use the FAFSA when deciding who gets their scholarships, as well as how much each student will receive.

Students already on campus should also apply every year. And remember that school deadlines may be different from FAFSA deadlines.

  1. In terms of job prospects, a college degree is more necessary than ever.

According to the Department of Education,“a postsecondary credential has never been more important” because:

  • The average bachelor’s degree recipient will earn about $1 million more in their lifetime than those without a postsecondary education.
  • By 2020, an estimated two-thirds of job openings will require postsecondary education or training.
  • College graduates with a bachelor’s degree typically earn 66% more than those with just a high school diploma and are less likely to face unemployment.

The Wall Street Journal says salaries are rising for new college graduates. “Americans who earned a bachelor’s degree in 2015 landed a job with an average starting salary of $50,651, 5% above the average starting salary for 2014 grads.” Unemployment for recent college grads from 22- to 27-years-old was cited at 4.6% in the article.

  1. The cost of a college degree is high…second only to a home mortgage.

It’s no secret that college costs have skyrocketed. “College has never been more expensive…over the last three decades, tuition at four-year colleges has more than doubled, even after adjusting for inflation,” according to the Department of Education.

For the 2015-16 school year, the College Board estimated the average tuition and fees to be $9,410 per year at four-year, in-state public institutions. Room and board was about $10,000 annually. When you total various scenarios, the average cost of a bachelor’s degree ranges from $52,000-$130,000, depending on whether your child attends in-state or out-of-state, public vs. private university, attends community college first, and whether or not they have housing and food provided.

Chart from CollegeBoard.org

 

In fact, these days, paying for a college education is one of the biggest outlays any family will ever make, after their home mortgage.

Why so much? According to a Center for American Progress report, it was “the Great Recession and resultant state budget cuts that led to the public college tuition hikes which have unduly burdened low- and moderate-income families.”

  1. Student debt is the highest in history

Student debt is a $140 billion-a-year industry, with 42 million Americans bearing $1.3 trillion in student debt. The federal government holds 93% of these outstanding student loans, making the Department of Education, in essence, one of the world’s largest banks. The average class of 2016 graduate with a student loan will owe more than $37,172, the highest level of debt yet. Almost 71% of bachelor degree recipients will graduate with a student loan, compared with less than 50% two decades ago.

Wall Street Journal

  1. Try NOT to sacrifice retirement for college

A recent survey of parents by HSBC Group found that 98% of U.S. parents are considering a college education for their child—and 60% would be willing to go into debt to fund it. Although parents say this makes it difficult to keep up with other financial commitments, they still think it’s more important than long-term savings or credit card repayment. And 37% of U.S. parents say their children’s education is more important than their own retirement savings.

Commenting on the findings, HSBC’s Global Head of Wealth Management said:

“The financial sacrifices that parents are willing to make to fund their children’s education are proof of the unquestioning support they will give to help them achieve their ambitions. However, parents need to make sure that this financial investment is not made to the detriment of their own future wellbeing.

“By having a financial plan to meet their family’s overall needs and reviewing it regularly, parents will be better placed to support their children’s studies without compromising on their own long-term financial goals.”

A recent segment on CNBC agrees that sacrificing your retirement is not the best decision in the long run, and urges people to plan early: Watch here.

Let’s discuss ways you can plan ahead to fund both college tuition and your retirement. Call us today.

 

17 Ideas for 2017

If you find yourself making the same old, same old resolutions every year, we wanted to help change things up by offering you some new ideas you might want to add to your list of goals for 2017.

  1. Schedule checkups. Schedule your yearly physical and your two dentist visits at the beginning of the year. Your health is your most valuable and irreplaceable attribute—make it a priority.
  2. Learn something new. Whether it’s learning how to play the piano, learning another language or reading about your favorite historical figure, put aside some time to learn something new this year.
  3. Monitor your credit. Vow to check your credit score regularly to guard against fraud. Credit cards with free FICO scores include: Discover, Chase, Bank of America, Barclaycard, Commerce Bank, American Express, First Bankcard, and the Walmart credit card. You can get a free credit check once a year from www.annualcreditreport.com.
  4. Say “no” more. Let’s face it, we’re all busy. If there are things on your schedule that don’t edify you in any way, consider saying no to the next invitation. If that committee never really gets anything done or your friends just want to sit around and complain, give yourself permission to say “no” and do something else with that time.
  5. Pay off a debt. If you still owe money on something, commit to paying an extra amount every month toward principal; for instance, an extra $100 a month on your credit card, car or house payment. Even a small amount can make a big difference in the long run.
  6. Sell stuff. If you have items in your home that are valuable but simply taking up space because you don’t use them, consider selling them, or donate them to a charity as a tax write-off. Some ideas: that fancy china pattern you really don’t like anymore, a piece of artwork not to your current taste, or the fitness machine you’ve never used. You’ll feel better without the clutter.
  7. Make a budget. Take a look at what you spent last year on everything, and create a new budget that includes your priorities. Think outside the box. For instance, you might be spending money on groceries that go bad because you actually hate to cook. Maybe you’d save money by eating out when restaurants offer discounts.
  8. Keep a journal. Even if you’re “not a writer” you can benefit from keeping notes to yourself on a daily, weekly or monthly basis—perhaps even as a way to hold yourself accountable. If you date each entry, you’ll have a written timeline you can refer to when creating next year’s resolutions. If you consider yourself creative, a journal is imperative to explore your most profound ideas.
  9. Eat healthier. If the goal of “losing weight” is a losing proposition (because that one has been on your resolution list for years!), decide instead to replace a few meals with something healthier. For instance, have a salad night once per week which includes all your favorite vegetable toppings. Or commit to purchasing and eating seasonal local fruit every month (apples in fall, strawberries in spring, cantaloupe in summer, etc.)
  10. Earn more. Whether it’s asking for a raise at work, taking a side job or starting a new business, find a way to earn more money this year. Keep in mind that tax brackets matter, and if you are required to take an RMD (Required Minimum Distribution) from a qualified plan, this adds to your income for the tax year.

New tax brackets for 2017 (taxes due April 15, 2018) here.

 

  1. Move more. Along the same lines as #9, if you hate to exercise, find something that you do You could take up salsa dancing, or just dance around the living room. Or create a family game by having everyone do 10 jumping jacks each time there’s a commercial on TV.
  2. Categorize savings. If you’re like most people, you probably have short- and long-term goals. Put a monthly dollar amount aside for each objective—vacation, new car, house down payment, wedding, retirement.
  3. Categorize spending. If you have a budget, this should be easy. Here are some suggested categories: monthly fixed expenses (housing, utilities, auto), variable expenses (hair/grooming, gifts, clothing, entertainment), yearly expenses (accountant, insurance premiums, tag/license renewals.)
  4. Max out your retirement savings. In today’s economy, it’s imperative to take care of yourself and your personal future. If your employer offers a plan like a 401(k), consider contributing as much as possible. If not, consider contributing the maximum amount to your own IRA or other retirement investment.
  5. Build an emergency fund. Most experts now recommend that you keep an emergency fund on hand equal to at least six months (or more!) of your monthly income.
  6. Have more fun. Make it a point to watch a comedy once a week, go to the park, tickle your children until they giggle, or play fetch with the dog every weekend. Whatever it is that makes you smile, do it more.
  7. Meet with your financial advisor regularly. Not only can we help you review your overall financial plan and make sure it’s on track to meet your goals, but we will also review all of your accounts and make sure that your loved ones are all properly included as your family grows and changes through the years. Why is this important? Because your beneficiary designations actually take precedence over your will.