Making a Retirement Budget

Believe it or not, a retirement budget leads to more fun in retirement! In addition, making a retirement budget helps you avoid one of the biggest retirement mistakes people make – which is spending too much too soon.”

Quoted above is an except from an about.com, Money over 55, article. (View full article here- http://moneyover55.about.com/od/budgetingsaving/a/How-To-Make-A-Retirement-Budget.htm)

Why is making a retirement budget so important? There are many factors that you may end up having no control over when it comes to retirement income, such as when you retire, your Social Security, and the rate of inflation. The one thing you CAN control is your personal spending.

It seems as though many retirees throw the budget out the window when they finally have that retirement check coming in, and unwise or excessive spending can end up being a huge detriment if the retirement funds are not covering what is leaving your bank account.

Others haven’t had to budget in many years and are used to living comfortably without much worry for the balance on their credit card. This can all change when you are suddenly on a fixed income.

The wise course of action is to look at your spending habits now and see where you can start adjusting and adapting to make a smooth transition into retired life.

This type of planning is not difficult and can be started with only a few hours of time, but it’s easy to put off. Why not start working on it today?

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Your last 6 to 12 months worth of bank account statements
  • Your last 6 to 12 months worth of credit card statements
  • Last two paystubs for you (and your spouse if you are married)
  • 10-12 colored highlighters
  • Last year’s tax return

Use the information on the items above to see where your money has been going and use the highlighters to group expenses into categories.

Above referenced article gives 5 steps to using this information to create your retirement budget.

STEP 1 – Make a list of all your fixed or required monthly obligations.

To make a super effective retirement budget, break this list down into three parts:

  • Essentials: This includes expenses that cover food, clothing, housing, transportation and health care.
  • Non-essential monthly obligations: Although we all may think of cable TV as an essential, it is not. Non-essentials are things like cable, cell phone, gym memberships, subscriptions and other items you receive bills for.
  • Required non-monthly expenses: Items like property taxes, insurance premiums, auto registration and home warranties may come up once a year. Be sure to take these periodic expenses and calculate their cost on a monthly basis and include it in your retirement budget.

STEP 2 – Research your costs for health care before and after retirement.

  • Get estimates from your employer, from AARP sponsored health plans, for from an independent health insurance agent (Cornerstone has over 75 Licensed Representatives across the Nation) so you have accurate idea of these costs by expected retirement age. Account for these costs on your after-retirement budget.

STEP 3 – List all your flexible or optional expenses.

  • This all the fun stuff, like travel, hobbies, sports and entertainment.

STEP 4 – Write down some thoughts on how you want to spend your time in retirement.

  • Ask your spouse to do this also. Think about the things you want to be able to spend money on in retirement. Begin to think about changes you may be willing to make that would reallocate money from items that are less important to items that are more important.

STEP 5 – Calculate Fixed verses Flex

  • Total all your expenses.
  • Total all your fixed expenses separately.
  • Divide your fixed expenses into your total expenses.

How much of your retirement income will go toward fixed expenses? Does this align with your thoughts in Step 4 on how you want to spend your time in retirement?

The About.com article concludes with the following thought: “As a general rule of thumb, if you want more fun in retirement, find ways to lower fixed expenses so you can have more flex to spend on the hobbies and interests you most enjoy!”

Cornerstone Representatives are trained to help you make the most of your retirement in a number of different ways. Are you possibly paying too much for your health or life insurance as mentioned in step 2? Are your investments giving you all the earnings they could? Our agents are available, free of charge to answer these types of questions for you. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like help in planning your retirement budget!

Protect Yourself From Fraud!

Throughout history, those looking to do harm to others tend to prey on the weak and naïve, or those who lack a strong support system. Sadly, in our day, this often ends up being our Senior Citizens. Because of this, we live in a world where Seniors are often the target of financial fraud.

As a mature American, or the child of one, what can be done to make sure you or your relative does not become the subject of such abuse?

An article on MSN Money * focuses on steps that individuals and their families can take and emphasizes the importance the individual participating in the policing of his or her own finances if possible.

One important step is to consider WHY many Senior Citizens are targeted. “According to the FBI,” the article states, “seniors are targeted because they often have nest eggs, they come from a generation that was more trusting, and they’re often too proud to report the fraud. Another reason the elderly sometimes hesitate to report they’ve been ripped off? They’re concerned their relatives might see this as a sign of declining mental capacity and they don’t want to lose their independence. Smart and unscrupulous thieves know all this and try to exploit it.”

When fraud is detected, it can be frightening and confusing for the parties involved. For this reason, the FBI has come out with a comprehensive, yet easy-to-read, list detailing the different types of fraud and how to prevent them. Click here to view the information on the FBI’s Website. http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud/seniors.

With all this in mind, it can be daunting to bring someone new into your financial life. At Cornerstone, we understand those fears and do our best to make your experience in dealing with us as reassuring as possible.

Feel free to take a look at this article to see more steps YOU can take to protect yourself from fraud and scams when working with a retirement planner. Protect Yourself from Fraud During Financial Review.

Information for Those Concerned With Protecting Elderly Relatives

As brought out in the article, Credit Card Fraud is one of the most common types that seniors face today. Here are a few steps that can be taken to help elderly relatives avoid becoming a victim!

Talk to your relative about email scams. You can’t be around your relative constantly, so take the time to explain why he or she should never give a credit card number by email to buy a product. These scams often promise a great product — anti-aging products, for example — but scammers need your credit card information. This type of scam also happens over the phone. Seniors get a call and are offered a new product that promises, say, youthful energy. Once scammers get your loved one interested, they ask for a credit card number to seal the deal.

Keep an eye on caregivers. Maybe your parent is still at home and has home health care a few days a week. Or maybe in a nursing facility with nurses and various medical assistants always present. Hopefully, they are dealing with professionals who are trustworthy. Just keep in mind that there are many reports of caregivers using a credit card belonging to people they’re taking care of. It’s awful that someone could stoop so low. But it happens all the time.

If you can, it’s best to visit your elderly relative frequently and shred any mail with personal information on it. If your loved one has credit card accounts, you can view account activity online with them. You can even opt out of paper statements altogether. That way, credit card account numbers won’t be within easy reach of whoever is in the room. Credit card fraud can still occur, of course, but by frequently checking your parent’s accounts online, you’ll notice if something suspicious pops up on their statement.

Even if you can’t visit often, you can still check their credit card accounts online every week from your home. But ask for permission so they don’t feel as if you’re invading their privacy.

Keep an eye on other family members. Unfortunately, family members are often the ones who rob their parents or grandparents. If you have a family member with a problem such as drug addiction or gambling debt, that’s a red flag and warrants additional caution. When people are desperate for money, they can justify taking it from anyone. They’re counting on the fact that no one will notice. You can prove them wrong by keeping on top of your relative’s credit card account activity.

Check the mail. You can learn a lot from the mail. Is your loved one getting letters from “charities” asking for a donation via her credit card? If she’s getting letters from organizations, she may have sent money to them previously. Looking at credit card accounts online is a good way to make sure she isn’t authorizing payments to fraudulent entities.

Pay attention to new friends. The National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse recommends keeping track of any new “best friends.” The relationship may be innocent, but if it’s sudden and there’s an age difference, this may be a red flag that someone is planning to commit fraud.

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* http://money.msn.com/credit-cards/protect-grandma-from-credit-fraud

Lost Life Insurance Policies

Did you know that in the last few decades an estimated $1 BILLION dollars in life insurance benefits remain unclaimed? How is this possible? The answer is simple. Lost Life Insurance Policies. In this week’s post, we’d like to reference a recent article found on Yahoo Finance entitled “Life Insurers Pressed on Lost Policies.”*

The article begins by mentioning a woman, named Mary Lou, who was surprised to receive a check for $7,000 more than a decade after the death of her father. The check was from unclaimed life insurance policies her father had taken out previously, that his family had no knowledge of.

At the time of her father’s death, Mary Lou inquired with the insurance company with whom she knew he had policies, to see if there were any other accounts. She was told at the time that they didn’t owe her anything else. As it turns out, that $7,000 check was for three policies that she didn’t have a policy number for.

Mary Lou voices her concern for the situation as it may affect others, “Can you imagine all the millions or billions of dollars that belong to other people and they don’t know to claim it,” she says, in Yahoo’s article?

Backing up Mary Lou’s statement, state regulators estimate that over the decades life insurance companies have failed to pay well over $1 Billion in death benefits. The reason? Because it’s up to the beneficiaries to file a claim following death.  One industry official says that whatever the amount is, it’s a “very small percentage” of total claims paid. “We know the percentages represent real people and we’ve been working with policy makers on ways to ensure all policyholders get the benefits they deserve,” said the official, Bruce Ferguson of the American Council of Life Insurers.

Recognizing that new technology can help alleviate this problem, insurance companies in many states are being required to check old unclaimed policies against death databases, and to make payouts to those they owe.

Most insurance companies will probably not fight these regulations. Yahoo’s article went on to state that opposing a requirement to check the databases would be particularly difficult given that many insurance companies already check them when it’s in their interest- for example, to learn about the deaths of annuity customers because such deaths usually end the insurers duty to make payments under retirement-income contracts.

As many such modern systems are slowly being implemented into this industry, the process of handling insurance claims is no doubt going to undergo some changes. The article mentioned above referenced a number of such changes that are already taking place.

Of course we all look forward to a time when this process has been completely ironed out and everyone has a perfect way to keep track of all of the policies they and their family have. But in the mean time, the monetary figures mentioned most likely only strengthen your resolve not to be one of the many whose unclaimed benefits make up that staggering $1 Billion.

Taking advantage of free help which can keep you from becoming part of that statistic is definitely a wise course.

At Cornerstone, your advisor becomes your advisor for LIFE. They work with you to put together a portfolio with all of your information which we keep on file and make available to your beneficiaries when you pass away. This ensures that any policies you have are processed properly and your legacy is paid out to those you left it to.

Contact us today to set up an appointment where we can help you manage all of your insurance policies and investments in one place. Our services are always provided at NO COST to you!

*http://finance.yahoo.com/news/life-insurers-pressed-lost-policies-030100774.html

The Future of Social Security

Social Security taxes- They’re taken out of every paycheck. We all see the figures every few weeks on our stub and although a small part of us wishes we could hold onto that money, we know that it’s going towards a good cause, so we let it slide. We are appreciative of a system that is supposed to take care of us after we retire. At least, that’s how it used to be.

When Social Security was enacted in the 1930’s it was a great bargain for its recipients because payroll taxes were very low.

“For the early generations, it was an incredibly good deal,” said Andrew Biggs, a former deputy Social Security commissioner as quoted in a Fox News article.* “The government gave you free money and getting free money is popular.”

The article says that if you retired in 1960, you could expect to get back seven times more in benefits than you paid in Social Security taxes and more if you were a low-income worker, as long as you made it to age 78 for men and 81 for women.

However, in recent years those numbers have changed drastically. According to a 2011 study by the Urban Institute, the average married couple retiring last year paid $598,000 in Social Security taxes during their careers and can only expect to collect about $556,000 in benefits if they live into their 80’s.

Fox’s article explains why the decrease is happening.

“The shift among middle-income workers is happening just as millions of baby boomers are reaching retirement, leaving relatively fewer workers behind to pay into the system. It’s coming at a critical time for Social Security, the federal government’s largest program.

“The trustees who oversee Social security say its funds, which have been built up over the past 30 years with surplus payroll taxes, will run dry in 2033 unless Congress acts. At that point, payroll taxes would provide enough revenue each year to pay about 75 percent of benefits.”

This leaves future generations either getting fewer benefits or paying higher taxes, and individuals who fall into this bracket are less than pleased. One recent college graduate states that she recognizes the money she pays in now, isn’t going to be waiting for her when she retires. “If I wanted Social Security 50 years from now I would have to hope that someone else is still working and putting money aside in their paychecks to pay for my Social Security at that point,” she says.

Some have taken a more aggressive approach and opened their own private retirement accounts to ease their worry that Social Security won’t provide adequate benefits in the future.

David Armbruster, Investment Advisor Representative in South Carolina, sees more and more clients of the younger generation, who are interested in finding the best place to invest their funds.

“They know that although their parents and grandparents have been able to rely on Social Security, it may not be there, or be sufficient when their turn rolls around, and they don’t want to take any chances,” he says.  “The biggest problem that we see overall when it comes to retirement funding is that costs are going up and benefits are going down. For our younger generations, it is imperative, more so now than ever before, that they be involved in their own retirement planning. IRA, 401K, Roth IRA and other retirement vehicles are becoming more and more important. These younger generations will be responsible for their own retirements. Gone are the days of waiting for Uncle Sam to pass out a paycheck. Self sufficiency is a must.

“There are a lot of wonderful investment vehicles out there. Some of the best programs around right now are annuities. Inside annuities we can find protection from market risk, guaranteed growth moving towards retirement, and guaranteed income once we get to retirement. For many folks, annuities will be the tool that can be used to create their own “social security” checks. Pensions are a thing of the past. Social security is moving that direction quickly. People are going to have to get smarter about their planning or plan on working for a lot longer.”

For more information on the types of products discussed above visit www.cswta.com.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/08/07/new-retirees-receiving-less-in-social-security-than-paid-in-marking-historic/

the future of social security

The future of social security