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With advances in medical treatment and technology, many people now survive critical illnesses that would have been fatal in the past.  As a result of this increased life expectancy senior Americans have the opportunity to watch grandkids grow into adulthood and start families of their own.  Enjoying some great grandkids is a real possibility.

Some unhappy news; many retirees will at some point become critically ill as the following statistics demonstrate.  The need for planning in order to avoid becoming destitute is more important than ever.

Cancer:

  • Men have a slightly less than 1 in 2 lifetime risk of developing some form of cancer. For women, the lifetime risk is a little more than 1 in 3.
  • Between 2002 and 2008, the 5-year relative survival rate for all cancers was 68%, up from 49% in 1975 – 1977.
  • It is estimated that over 1.6 million new cancer cases were diagnosed in 2013.

(Source: Cancer Facts and Figures 2013; American Cancer Society)

Heart Disease:

  • An estimated 80 million Americans have one or more types of heart disease.
  • Each year, an American will suffer a heart attack about every 34 seconds.
  • The lifetime risk for cardiovascular disease at age 40 is 2 in 3 for men and more than 1 in 2 for women.
  • It is estimated that the total costs of cardiovascular diseases in the U.S. was over $448 billion in 2008.

(Source: Heart Disease Facts, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, July 2013)

Stroke:

  • Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds.
  • Stroke is a leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the U.S.
  • It is estimated that Americans paid about $38.6 billion in 2010 for stroke-related medical costs and lost productivity.

(Source: Stroke Fact Sheet, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, July 2013)

Will you have sufficient funds available to pay for:

  • Any insurance co-payments and deductibles;
  • Alterations to your home and/or automobile to meet any special needs;
  • Out-of-town transportation and lodging for medical treatment;
  • Treatments not covered by traditional health insurance; and/or
  • Shorter-term home health care during your recuperation?

Surviving critical illnesses increase our life expectancies, we will live longer than ever before.  At the same time, fortunately annuity ownership is rising  An annuity is the only guaranteed financial  hedge against longevity.  More than ever a retiree’s goal should be lifetime income not just income for 20-30 years.

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At retirement, if you have a pension, you have to make a difficult decision that could negatively impact your future financial security and that of your spouse.  Most people with company pension plans give this decision little thought and simply select the first payout option listed on their pension estimate; Joint and Equal Survivor Option.

For example, assume your maximum lifetime pension benefit is $2,000 monthly.

With the joint and equal survivor option, you’ll receive a significantly lower lifetime pension payment. Your surviving spouse, however, will continue to receive 100% of your pension benefit if you die first.

  • For as long as you live, you receive 75% of $2,000 the maximum life income option benefit.  Your benefit is reduced to $1,500 per month, for life.
  • If you die first, your spouse will receive a lifetime monthly pension benefit equal to 100% of your benefit, or $1,500 per month.
  • If your spouse dies first you will continue to receive $1500 per month.  There is generally no going back to the maximum $2,000 benefit. 

Second choice is  – Joint and One-Half Survivor Option:

If you elect the joint and one-half survivor option, you’ll receive a lower lifetime pension payment. On the other hand, if you die first, your surviving spouse will continue to receive a lifetime pension benefit equal to 50% of your pension benefit prior to your death. For example:

  • For as long as you live, you receive a monthly pension benefit of $1,700 or about 85% of the maximum life income option benefit.
  • If you die first, your spouse will receive a lifetime monthly pension benefit equal to 50% of your benefit, or $850 per month.
  • If your spouse dies first, however, your monthly pension benefit remains at $1,700.

Next choice is – Life Income Option:

If you receive your pension benefit under the life income option, you receive the maximum lifetime pension payment. If you die first however, your surviving spouse receives nothing after your death. For example

  • For as long as you live, you receive a monthly pension benefit of $2,000.
  • If you die first, however, your spouse will receive a monthly pension benefit of $0.
  • If your spouse dies first, your monthly pension benefit remains unchanged at $2,000.

At retirement, you will have to decide how your pension benefit will be paid out for the rest of your life:

  • If you elect to receive the maximum retirement check each month for as long as you live, with the condition that upon your death, your spouse gets nothing.
  • If you elect to receive a reduced retirement check each month, with the condition that upon your death, your spouse will continue to receive an income.
  • This pension decision is permanent.
  • The decision you make will determine the amount of pension income you receive for the rest of your life.
  • The decision is generally irreversible.
  • In making this decision, many people unknowingly purchase the largest death benefit (life insurance) they will ever buy and one over which they have no control.

How Can Retirement Income Protection Help Solve the Pension Benefit Dilemma?

Federal law allows a pension plan participant to waive the “joint and survivor” annuity payout requirement, with the written consent of his or her spouse.  This means that, with your spouse’s consent, you can elect to receive the MAXIMUM life income annuity payout at your retirement.

  • However, what happens to your surviving spouse’s income and lifestyle if you should die first?

The solution, you maintain sufficient life insurance to replace the pension income lost at your death, assuring that your spouse will have an adequate source of income after your death.  This is a death benefit you control and if your spouse predeceases you the life insurance can be surrendered paying you back part or all of your premiums;  Depending on when death occurred.

In making this important decision, you should evaluate the risks associated with retirement income protection funded with life insurance:

  • Your income after retirement must be sufficient to ensure that the life insurance policy premiums can be paid and coverage stay in force for your lifetime. Otherwise, your spouse may be without sufficient income after your death.
  • If your pension plan provides cost-of-living adjustments, will upward adjustments in the amount of life insurance be needed to replace lost cost-of-living adjustments after your death?
  • Does your company pension plan continue health insurance benefits to a surviving spouse and, if so, will it do so if you elect the life income option?
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The Estate Tax Bill

February 25, 2014 by

The federal government will not accept a percentage of your estate as payment for your estate tax bill. Instead, your estate tax bill must be paid in cash, and it must be paid within nine months after your death.

If your estate is subject to the federal estate tax, there are FOUR ways to provide your estate with the cash needed to pay your estate tax bill:

100% METHOD

  • You could accumulate enough cash in your estate to pay your estate tax bill outright. Rarely, however, does a successful person accumulate such large sums of cash. Instead, the reason for financial success is usually due to the investment of cash in appreciating assets, rather than accumulating it in a bank.

100% PLUS METHOD

  • Your estate could borrow the cash needed to pay your estate tax bill. This, however, only defers the problem, since the money will then have to be repaid with interest.

ASSET LIQUIDATION METHOD

  • Your estate could liquidate sufficient assets to pay your estate tax bill. This choice may make sense if your estate owns considerable assets that can be readily sold for a gain following your death. Keep in mind, however, that if a forced liquidation is necessary, it may bring only a small fraction of the true value of your assets. In addition, sales expenses are bound to be incurred.

DISCOUNT METHOD

  • Assuming you qualify, you can arrange now to pay your estate tax bill with life insurance dollars. For every dollar your estate needs, you can give an insurance company from approximately one to seven cents a year, depending on your age and health. No matter how long you live, it is unlikely you will ever give the insurance company more than 100 cents on the dollar. In addition, the life insurance policy can frequently be structured to accommodate your unique premium payment requirements.
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Do you own fixed annuities?

Do you wonder why so many retirees own fixed annuities?

The Top 3 Reasons to Own Annuities

46% own annuities to Supplement Social Security and Pension Income

  • Planning Tip

Do you receive interest earnings that you’re not using for income? Not only are you paying unnecessary taxes on this money, but those earnings may increase the amount of your taxable Social Security benefit. Repositioning certain assets into a tax-deferred annuity can reduce or eliminate excessive taxes

 34% own annuities to Accumulate Assets for Retirement

  • Planning Tip

One common way is to move assets into a tax-deferred annuity. This approach works because annuity earnings are excluded from provisional income until withdrawn, reducing provisional income — and taxes due — in the meantime. Remember, the real value of your Social Security benefit isn’t the amount you receive, it’s what remains after taxes.

27% own annuities to Receive Guaranteed  Lifetime Income

  • Planning Tip

Immediate annuities can offer retirement income for life.

 

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How Can an Income Annuity Protect Against the
Risk of Living Too Long?

The purpose of an annuity is to protect against the financial risk of living too long…the risk of outliving retirement income…by providing an income guaranteed* for life.

In fact, an annuity is the ONLY financial vehicle that can systematically liquidate a sum of money in such a way that income can be guaranteed for as long as you live!

Here’s How an Income Annuity Works:

The annuity owner pays a single premium to an insurance company.

  • Beginning immediately or shortly after the single premium is paid, the insurance company pays the owner/ annuitant an income guaranteed to continue for as long as the annuitant is alive. There are other payout options also available.
  • With a cash refund provision the insurance company pays any remaining funds to the designated beneficiary after the annuitant’s death.

Seeking a secure life long retirement income?  Click the video box to left of this post.

 

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You better pay attention because there is going to be a quiz and you might have to take it.  This quiz  must be  passed before some tax refunds are sent out.  In order to protect taxpayers expecting refunds some of them  will be sent a letter from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue directing them to take a 4 question multiple choice quiz.  This quiz should confirm the taxpayers identity.

 

What if the taxpayer fails the quiz?

  • They get one do over.
  • If the second quiz fails then the taxpayer must send identification proof to verify their identity.
  • A taxpayer who refuses to take the quiz  must  send proof of identity.

Why a Quiz?

  • The IRS estimates the current earned income tax credit fraud is about 23-28%.
  • According the latest stats from the IRS identity theft is up 78% for tax years 2011 to 2012.

Wisconsin does not anticipate any more fraud prosecutions instead they hope for a reduction in identity theft and refund fraud.

Wisconsin Department of Revenue http://www.revenue.wi.gov/individuals/id_verification.html

I wonder how many state revenue departments will pick up on this idea.  Or other government departments.  Perhaps a quiz for a driver license, hunting or fishing license, dog license…

Identity theft is a growing problem so on a more serious note I hope this quiz helps.  In meantime while you’re waiting for your tax refund if you think of any good one liners post them in the comments.

 

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8FACEBOOK PROFILES RAISE USERS’ SELF-ESTEEM AND AFFECT BEHAVIORa study by UW-Madison

Facebook profiles are a version of self; it is tailored for the eyes of family and acquaintances through the use of photos and posts. A new study by UW-Madison assistant professor  Catalina Toma finds beneficial psychological effects and influenced behavior. Ms. Toma used the Implicit Association Test to measure Facebook users’ self-esteem.   The test showed in 5 minutes of viewing their own Facebook profile participants experienced a significant boost in self-esteem.  This is the first time this test has been

done on Facebook users.

Catalina Toma said-

“If you have high self-esteem, then you can very quickly associate words related to yourself with positive evaluations but have a difficult time associating words related to yourself with negative evaluations. But if you have low self-esteem, the opposite is true.”

“Our culture places great value on having high self-esteem. For this reason, people typically inflate their level of self-esteem in self-report questionnaires,” she says. “The Implicit Association Test removes this bias.”

In addition, Ms. Toma studied whether or not exposure to one’s own Facebook profile affects behavior.

“We wanted to know if there are any additional psychological effects that stem from viewing your own self-enhancing profile,” says Toma, whose work will be published in the June issue of Media Psychology. “Does engaging with your own Facebook profile affect behavior?”

After the subjects spent time viewing their own profile they attempted fewer answers during the allotted time than people in a control group, but their error rate was not any worse. Toma says the results are consistent with self-affirmation theory, which claims that people constantly try to manage their feelings of self-worth.

“Performing well in a task can boost feelings of self-worth,” Toma says. “However, if you already feel good about yourself because you looked at your Facebook profile, there is no psychological need to increase your self-worth by doing well in a laboratory task.”

Assistant Professor Toma discourages drawing broad conclusions about Facebook’s impact on motivation and performance based on this particular study because it examines only one facet of Facebook use.

“This study shows that exposure to your own Facebook profile reduces motivation to perform well in a simple, hypothetical task,” she says. “It does not show that Facebook use negatively affects college students’ grades, for example. Future work is necessary to investigate the psychological effects of other Facebook activities, such as examining others’ profiles or reading the newsfeed.”

Gerontology professionals have been concerned for a long time about the negative effects of senior’s feelings of isolation and consider social media a good health improving endeavor.  This study seems to support this view.  Also consider that medical staffs usually do whatever they can to keep a  patience’s attitude and self esteem high in order  to promote healing.

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Why would anyone want to restrict their Social Security payments? 

Well, it’s not the payments being restricted it is the type of application that is filed.  The restricted application is filed when, for example,  a wife wants to receive her husband’s spousal benefit instead of her own Social Security benefit.  The idea here is to allow the possibly still working wife or early retired wife to receive monthly SS payments from the spousal benefit of her retired husband. This allows her own SS benefit to accrue credits each year until age 70 when she would then stop the spousal benefit from her husband’s SS  and begin drawing from her own benefit.  For a middle income couple this could increase total Social Security payments by $40,000 to $50,000 depending on earnings during their working years.

This is one of many combinations of Social Security planning and these options have been around for a longtime, some of them since the very beginning of the program.  What is different now?  Retirees are coming to understand Social Security is a life income annuity with a cost of living feature built in requiring understanding and planning to maximize the benefits.

There at least 81 different Social Security combinations and options to consider when signing up for retirement benefits and it takes a computer program to calculate them all to determine the best one in an individual situation.

If you would like to explore your Social Security benefit options contact Tim Barton, ChFC for an analysis.  List your SS estimated monthly benefit for both spouses and current age in the comment section.

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While most anything can be given to charity, these are the more common forms of donated property:

Cash:  Cash gifts are the easiest to give to a charity, both in terms of substantiating the deduction and in determining the value of the gift.

Real Estate: Real estate that is owned outright and which has appreciated in value can be given to a charity. The donor can generally deduct the fair market value of the property, up to an adjusted gross income (AGI) percentage limitation. When a charity sells donated appreciated property, the capital gain then escapes taxation, up to AGI percentage limits.

Securities: The best securities to donate tend to be those that have increased substantially in value. As with real estate, the donor can generally deduct the fair market value of the security and the capital gain escapes taxation when the security is sold by the charity.

Charitable Gift Tax Implications:

  • Gifts of cash and ordinary income property are generally deductible up to 50% of the donor’s adjusted gross income (AGI).
  • The fair market value of gifts of long-term capital gains property (e.g., real estate, stock) is deductible up to 30% of AGI. There is, however, a special election through which a donor may deduct up to 50% of AGI if the donor values the property at the lesser of fair market value or adjusted cost basis.
  • Charitable contributions in excess of the percentage limitations can be carried over and deducted for up to five succeeding years.
  • The donor must itemize income tax deductions in order to claim a charitable deduction. A portion of itemized deductions is phased out for taxpayers with an AGI above certain limits.

Life Insurance: If a charitable organization is made the owner and beneficiary of an existing life insurance policy, the donor can deduct the value of the policy as of the date of the transfer of ownership. The donor may then deduct all future amounts given to the charity to pay the premiums. If a charity is named just the beneficiary of an insurance policy on the donor’s life, no current income tax deduction is available. At the donor’s death, however, the donor’s estate receives an estate tax charitable deduction for the full amount of the policy death benefit.

For help you may ask questions in the comments

Or contact me privately: Tim Barton Chartered Financial Consultant

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Americans are uncomfortable with their financial situation and don’t want to talk about it.

According to AVIVA USA and the Mayo Clinic wellness survey.  Aviva and Mayo Clinic surveyed 2,000 U.S. adults on their financial preparations and health habits to determine the affects on their overall well being.

 

“Many people choose to ignore rather than address their financial wellness” said Mike Miller, Aviva vice president.

Key Wellness Survey results:

  • 2 in 3 are uncomfortable with their financial situation
  • Only 1 of 3 think they are or will be prepared of retirement
  • Only 1 out of 5 work with a financial advisor
  • Twice as many who consult with a financial advisor feel comfortable with their finances

Survey results

Why two thirds of American feel so much stress and choose silence rather than seeking help on one hand is a  mystery and on the other a little understandable.   This survey clearly finds that those who discuss their financial situation with a professional feel much better and this makes the rest of their lives more enjoyable too; some even lose weight.

For help you may ask questions in the comments

Or contact me privately: Tim Barton Chartered Financial Consultant

 

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Despite Growing Status as Primary Breadwinner and Household CFO, Women Still Fear Becoming “Bag Lady” a new  2013 Allianz Life Women, Money & Power Study Reveals.  

This is a surprise considering 60% of women say they are the primary breadwinner in their household

  • 54% of respondents describe themselves as the household CFO.
  • 49% sometimes fear becoming a “bag lady”.
  • 27% of those earning more than $200,000 per year share that fear.

Inside the study

  • More than 2,200 women ages 25-75
  • Minimum household income of $30,000 a year
  • “Bag Lady” fear extends to all corners of life and affluence
  • Was highest among single respondents at 56%
  • Significant concern for divorced women 54%
  • Widows 47%
  • Married women 43%

Despite feeling more empowered about financial planning

  •  Forty-two percent said they believe financially independent women are intimidating to men and often end up alone
  • (31%) said those women are hard to relate to and often don’t have many friends.
  •  This feeling was even higher among single women at 47% and 32%, respectively.

Allianz Life Vice President of Consumer Insights Katie Libbe comments-

“When Allianz Life conducted the initial wave of the Women, Money & Power Study seven years ago, we discovered that women everywhere – even well-educated, successful, financially independent women – have major gaps and unmet needs when it comes to achieving comfort and confidence with money,”  “Today, women clearly feel more invested in financial planning, however, fears of fiscal failure still persist. The real message here is that the financial services industry needs to help women learn about money and prepare for their retirement.”

In the Age of the Financially Empowered Woman

  •  57% of all women surveyed said they both “have more earning power than ever before” and also “handle major investment decisions and retirement planning.”
  • 55%  noted they take the lead in suggesting new investing or retirement ideas.
  •  60% said they were responsible for handling tax preparation and planning.
  • 90%  of women surveyed agreed that in today’s world, women need to be significantly more involved in financial planning than in the past
  • 96% of divorced women felt this way.
  • 67% of women surveyed said that becoming more knowledgeable and involved in managing their finances has improved the quality of their life, 71% of  single women agreed.

“Allianz Life is dedicated to the mission of achieving financial literacy and independence for every American, so we’re especially keen to design solutions that are relevant, responsive, and sensitive to helping women accomplish greater financial security,” noted Libbe.

Financial Crisis of 2008-2009 Drives Behavior Change

  •  68% say they have increased their financial involvement since the crisis
  • Women ages 45-54 (72%) and widows (75%).
  •  43% of women surveyed said they don’t feel any smarter about how to manage their money than before the crash. That feeling was shared by 36% of women with the highest income (household income of $200,000+).

When asked what key issues will have the greatest effect on their retirement outlook

  • “lack of adequate retirement savings”
  •  ”the future of Social Security,”
  •  ”rising health care costs,”
  •  ”unemployment,”
  • “tax changes.”

Retirement is the worry that keeps most women up at night.

Second only to loss of spouse/significant other. “Running out of money in retirement” is a worry that keeps 57% of women up at night and is the number one worry for single and divorced women.

 Full study available here.

For help you may ask questions in the comments

Or click here to contact me privately: Tim Barton Chartered Financial Consultant

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At one time, there were only two ways to tap into the value of your home:

Sell your home

BUT… then you would have to move somewhere else.

Borrow against the equity in your home

BUT… then you would have to make monthly loan repayments.

Many people have retired with what they assumed would be a comfortable retirement income into the future, only to find that inflation, rising health care costs and unexpected expenses have worked to make their retirement less secure. These people may have substantial equity in their homes…equity they would like to convert to cash without having to move or assume debt that has to be repaid.

A reverse mortgage, which converts a portion of a home’s equity into cash without requiring that the home be sold or that the equity be repaid currently, may provide the answer.

What Is a Reverse Mortgage?

A reverse mortgage is a loan against the value of your home that does not have to be paid back for as long as you live in the home. Simply put, a reverse mortgage converts some of the equity in your home into income.

The proceeds from a reverse mortgage can be paid to you:
•In a single lump sum;
•As a regularly monthly income; or
•At times and in amounts of your choosing.

While reverse mortgages typically require no repayment while you are living in your home, they must be repaid in full, including interest and any other charges, at the earliest of:
•The death of the last living borrower (meaning that a surviving spouse may continue to live in the home without repaying the reverse mortgage);
•The sale of the home; or
•The last living borrower moves permanently away from the home, such as to an assisted living facility or nursing home.

Think long and hard before moving forward on a reverse mortgage while exploring other options such as an out right sale or finding a less expensive place to live.

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Roth IRA Enhancement

March 17, 2013 by

The Roth IRA may be one of the most under used retirement income strategies.  Due to the deductibility of other retirement saving plans like Traditional IRAs and the 401(k); Roth IRAs are usually just an afterthought. After all who does not want to pay as little income tax as possible?  It seems a very simple rational decision. Initially a Roth has no effect on the amount of income tax due because the taxpayer receives no immediate tax deduction.   

Today one of the most relevant retirement/tax planning question is –

Do you think tax rates are headed down, stay the same or will they go up in the future? 

Clearly if you feel tax rates are going rise at some point then the decision is to pay a smaller tax now or a bigger tax on a larger sum later.  A Roth IRA is worth serious consideration, especially if you consider an enhancement by utilizing available lifetime income options.  

The new generations of annuities offered today either have income options built in or offer the option to purchase a guaranteed lifetime income rider. Using either of these options the annuity owner has the ability to start lifetime income at a specified age. 

If retirement planning is being done correctly income points are identified.  These are points in time when a retiree needs to start an income stream.  

To help understand the magnitude of the enhanced Roth advantage let’s use a simple example.  A future retiree is currently 49, they start contributing to a Roth annuity with lifetime income available as early as age 59 ½. The Roth’s income benefit base has grown to $100,000 with an annual tax free lifetime payout of 5% available ($5,000).  Whether or not they actually plan to retire at this early date they should start the lifetime income payout.  Why?  Because the income is for life, the earlier it is started the greater chance they will live long enough to get into company money.  In other words they would receive all of their money, interest earned and then they receive company money for as long as they live.  If cost of living increases are built onto our $5,000 yearly income example so much the better.   

Besides, even if still working, who wouldn’t appreciate some additional tax free income every year after age 59 ½?

For help you may ask questions in the comments

Or click here to contact me privately: Tim Barton Chartered Financial Consultant

 

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Americans in retirement and those soon to be retirees have serious concerns. According to the Reclaiming the Future Study conducted in 2011-2012 by Allianz Life:

Fear # 1American Retirement Crisis/Unprepared:

  • 92% of Americans believe there is a retirement crisis and fear they are unprepared

When asked “Do you believe there is a retirement crisis in this country?”

  • 92% answered absolutely or somewhat.

In the age group 44-54

  • 54% said they feel unprepared for retirement.
  • 57% of all respondents worry about their nest egg safety and it may not be large enough.
  • 47% fear they will not be able to cover basic living expenses.

 Fear #2Americans fear outliving money more than they fear death

  • Increasing longevity mean more people are spending more years in retirement.  
  • 77% of all age groups worry about living too long.  So much so a shocking 61% feared outliving their assets more than they feared death. 

The market meltdown of 2008-2009 caused a profound financial rethinking for Americans. 

  • 53% reported their net worth was significantly eroded in a very short period of time.
  • 43% had their home values drop
  • 41% realized they were not “in control” of their financial futures as they’d thought.

 As a result of this financial turmoil many research participants said they changed their behaviors.

  • Cut back on spending
  • More interest in financial news and studying the markets

The majority agreed- “That the safety of my money matters more.” 

“Asked to consider the features that would be most important to them if they could build the ideal financial product?”

  • 69% of survey respondents said they would prefer a product that was “guaranteed not to lose value”
  • Only 31% would choose a product that is not guaranteed with the goal of “providing a high return.”

Annuity-like solutions are gaining relevance and appeal.

For help you may ask questions in the comments

Or click here to contact me privately: Tim Barton Chartered Financial Consultant

 

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Throughout history many of the greatest discoveries and inventions happened by accident, someone trying to solve an unrelated problem.

Imagine if we had a battery in all of our devices that charged in seconds rather than hours or days. Well actually its a capacitor not a battery but I’ll let the video explain the difference.

 

Think of the freedom you’d have to travel and explore if a car powered by a capacitor could be charged back up within a couple minutes.

If this graphene capacitor can be developed for a broad spectrum of applications we are looking at a real lifestyle changer.

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Snow in Arizona?!

February 21, 2013 by

Last night large sections of Arizona received significant snowfall.  What the heck?  My Arizona clients were expressing at the start of our conversations this morning; some used a slightly stronger version of that expression.  After all, we should feel sympathy for those who pulled up their Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota roots choosing to move to Arizona in order to enjoy their endless sunny days of retirement.

Here is a news video from an Arizona news station.

The definition of “significant snow” differs by region. Arizonians apparently define it as .30 to 1.26 inches.

When many of us are feeling the pangs of spring fever while staring at snow outside our doors measured in feet rather than inches and the wind howling out a sub-zero windchill…

How much sympathy do you feel?

Do you know anyone in Arizona?  What will say to them?

Anyway, try and be polite when you speak with your friends in Arizona.

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The horse (Mariska) in this video has been dubbed “Houdini Horse”. What’s not like about a horse or anyone else’s desire for freedom?

The lust for freedom is a natural yearning programmed right into the core of our DNA. Over time life experiences such as raising a family and career may have dulled this desire. However, I don’t think the desire to be free and do what you want on your own schedule ever goes away.

When I am asked “What is number one motivation to retire?” The soon to be retirees I work with express a desire to get off the treadmill, stop producing for someone else, travel when they want or to simply reassert control of their daily schedule. Everyone who works has a vision of their perfect retirement which almost always includes maximum personal freedom.

Apparently Mariska A.K.A. Houdini Horse not only wants personal freedom she wants freedom for all her companion horses as well.

The market crashes and low interest rates during the last decade have put serious crimps in many retirees’ personal retirement freedom. Some have had to work part time jobs others have had to cut back their spending in order to keep the household budget balanced, crimps to retirement freedom.

Unfortunately many financial planners are still using outdated retirement income models from the 90’s and because these models do not work in the “new normal” they are exposing their client’s retirement freedom to unnecessary risk. As I have written in several posts it does not have to be this way. The tools are available to help retirees maintain retirement freedom.

Comment below or privately Contact Tim Barton

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Most people perceive the items they place in bank safety deposit boxes as valuable, hard to replace documents or that are significant part of family history, money, jewels, you name it.  

Safety deposit boxes are safe right? 

Certainly the items sealed in the boxes are safe from hazards such as theft, rain, fire, etc.  But what happens when the owner forgets about the box and its contents? 

In WI as with all states there are laws regarding the disposition of abandoned property.  In WI the Office of State Treasurer has the responsibility to return property to its rightful owner after 5 years of missed rental payments.  Last year they returned about $35,000,000 to the owners.  So far the 2013 total is at $4,188,844 and counting.

Sometimes they cannot find the owners or heirs to return the property.  In other cases the contents of the safety deposit box is not worth the back rent payments to the person so the State Treasurer will destroy and dispose of documents such as insurance policies, marriage licenses, birth certificates, passports, etc. 

Search for unclaimed property here 

Items that have value will be sold at auction; this is where EBay enters the process.  Kurt Scheller State Treasurer has setup an EBay account for the state of Wisconsin and auctions off unclaimed items monthly.

Right now there is a “Be My Valentine” auction.  All things related to Valentine’s day are being auctioned.  Bids start at a penny.

Here some photos of other items sold at previous EBay auctions.

 

   

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The Social Security Administration estimates that 96% of American workers are covered by Social Security. Many Americans, however, don’t have a full understanding of Social Security and the benefits it provides.

For example, many people are not aware that:

  • Social Security is currently the largest social insurance program in the U.S., funded through dedicated payroll taxes called Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA).
  • The Social Security retirement benefit is designed to replace a percentage of earnings at retirement and the amount received will depend primarily on two factors…lifetime earnings history and retirement age.
  • Depending on year of birth, taking Social Security retirement benefits early can result in as much as a 30% reduction in the retirement benefit that would be payable at full retirement age.
  • On the other hand, deferring Social Security retirement benefits to age 70 can result in as much as a 32% higher retirement benefit as compared to the benefit available at full retirement age.
  • A portion of the Social Security retirement benefit may be subject to income tax.
  • There are a variety of strategies that can be used to enhance the value of Social Security retirement benefits.

For most people, their monthly Social Security check will form an important part of their retirement income.

 My free “Retirement and Social Security” Life Guide can help you understand what you can expect to receive from Social Security when you retire. To have a copy emailed to you  contact me privately here: Tim Barton Chartered Financial Consultant and request “Retirement and Social Security” in the message section.

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Advance Directives are a way to “have your say” about the type of care you receive (or don’t receive) in the event you suffer a catastrophic medical event, such as a stroke or an accident, that leaves you unable to communicate your wishes. Every adult should plan ahead by completing an Advance Directive that specifies his or her personal preferences in regard to acceptable and unacceptable medical treatments.

There are two types of Advance Directives:

Living Will

A Living Will states your preferences regarding the type of medical care you want to receive (or don’t want to receive) if you are incapacitated and cannot communicate. You specify the treatment you want to receive or not receive in different scenarios.

Medical Power of Attorney

Also known as a durable power of attorney for health care or a health care proxy, a Medical Power of Attorney names another person, such as your spouse, daughter or son, to make medical decisions for you if you are no longer able to make medical decisions for yourself, or you are unable to communicate your preferences.

Note that a Medical Power of Attorney is not the same as a Power of Attorney, which gives another person the authority to act on your behalf on matters you specify, such as handling your financial affairs.

Important Points to Remember

  • Each state regulates Advance Directives differently. As a result, you may wish to involve an attorney in the preparation of your Advance Directive
  • You can modify, update or cancel an Advance Directive at any time, in accordance with state law.
  • If you spend a good deal of time in several states, you may want to have an Advance Directive for each state.
  • Make sure that the person you name to act for you – your health care proxy – has current copies of your Advance Directive.
  • Give a copy of your Advance Directive to your physician and, if appropriate, your long-term care facility.

For help you may ask questions in the comments

Or contact me privately here: Tim Barton Chartered Financial Consultant

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