Six Tips for Working Beyond Retirement Age

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Two-thirds of the Baby Boomer generation are now working or plan to work beyond age 65, according to a recent Transamerica Institute study. Some report they need to work because their savings declined during the financial crisis, while others say they choose to work because of the greater sense of purpose and engagement that working provides.

 

 

Whatever your reason for continuing to work into your golden years, here are some tips to make sure you get the greatest benefit from your efforts.

Bullet Point Consider delaying Social Security. You can start receiving Social Security retirement benefits as early as age 62, but if you continue to work it may make sense to delay taking it until as late as age 70. This is because your Social Security benefit may be reduced or be subject to income tax due to your other income. In addition, your Social Security monthly benefit increases when you delay starting the retirement benefit. These increases in monthly benefits stop when you reach age 70.
Bullet Point Don’t get bracket-bumped. Keep in mind that you may have multiple income streams during retirement that can bump you into a higher tax bracket and make other income taxable if you’re not careful. For instance, Social Security benefits are only tax-free if you have less than a certain amount of adjusted gross income ($25,000 for individuals and $32,000 for married filing jointly in 2017), otherwise as much as 85 percent of your benefits are taxable.

Required distributions from pensions and retirement accounts can also add to your taxable income. Be aware of how close you are to the next tax bracket and adjust your plans accordingly.

Bullet Point Be smart about health care. When you reach age 65, you’ll have the option of making Medicare your primary health insurance. If you continue to work, you may be able to stay on your employer’s health care plan, switch to Medicare, or adopt a two-plan hybrid option that includes Medicare and a supplemental employer care plan.

Look over each option closely. You may find that you’re giving up important coverage if you switch to Medicare prematurely while you still have the option of sticking with your employer plan.

Bullet Point Consider your expenses. If you’re reducing your working hours or taking a part-time job, you also have to consider the cost of your extra income stream. Calculate how much it costs to commute and park every day, as well as the expense of meals, clothing, dry cleaning and any other expenses. Now consider how much all those expenses amount to in pre-tax income. Be aware whether the benefits you get from working a little extra are worth the extra financial cost.
Bullet Point Time to downsize or relocate? Where and how you live can be an important factor determining the kind of work you can do while you’re retired. Downsizing to a smaller residence or moving to a new locale may be a good strategy to pursue a new kind of work and a different lifestyle.
Bullet Point Focus on your deeper purpose. Use your retirement as an opportunity to find work you enjoy and that adds value to your life. Choose a job that expresses your talents and interests, and that provides a place where your experiences are valued by others.

 

Marriage Tax Tips

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If you recently got married, plan to get married, or know someone taking the matrimonial plunge, here are some important tax tips every new bride and groom should know.

 

 

 

 

 

1 Notify Social Security. Notify the Social Security Administration (SSA) of any name changes by filling out Form SS-5. The IRS matches names with the SSA and may reject your joint tax return if the names don’t match what the SSA has on file.
1 Address change notification. If either of you are moving, update your address with your employer as well as the Postal Service. This will ensure your W-2s are correctly stated and delivered to you at the end of the year. You will also need to update the IRS with your new address using Form 8822.
1 Review your benefits. Getting married allows you to make mid-year changes to employer benefit plans. Take the time to review health, dental, auto, and home insurance plans and update your coverage. If both of you have employer health plans, you need to decide whether it makes sense for each of you to keep your plans or whether it’s better for one to join the other’s plan as a spouse. Pay special attention to the tax implication of changes in health savings accounts, dependent childcare benefits and other employer pre-tax benefits.
1 Update your withholdings. You will need to recalculate your payroll withholdings and file new W-4s reflecting your new status. If both of you work, your combined income could put you in a higher tax bracket. This can result in reduced and phased-out benefits. This phenomenon is known as the “marriage penalty.”
1 Update beneficiaries and other legal documents. Review your legal documents to make sure the names and addresses reflect your new marital status. This includes bank accounts, credit cards, property titles, insurance policies and living wills. Even more importantly, review and update beneficiaries on each of your retirement savings accounts and pensions.
1 Understand the tax impact of your residence. If you are selling one or two residences, review how capital gains tax laws apply to your situation. This is especially important if one of you has been in your home for only a short time or if either home has appreciated in value. This review should be done prior to getting married to maximize your tax benefits.
1 Sit down with an expert. It is natural for newlyweds to focus their attention on the big day. There are so many decisions to be made from selecting a venue to planning the honeymoon. Because of this, reviewing your tax situation often is an afterthought. Do not make this mistake. A simple tax and financial planning session prior to the big day can save on future headaches and avoid potentially expensive tax mistakes.

If you’d like a review of how marriage will affect your tax and financial situation, call at your earliest opportunity.

 

 

Breaking News: 2017 Retirement Contribution & Social Security Limits

If you have not already done so, now is the time to plan for contributions into your retirement accounts in 2017.

Retirement Contribution Limits

Retirement Program 2017 2016 Change Age 50 or over catch up
IRA: Traditional $5,500 $5,500 none add: $1,000
IRA: Roth $5,500 $5,500 none add: $1,000
IRA: SIMPLE $12,500 $12,500 none add: $3,000
401(k), 403(b), 457 plans $18,000 $18,000 none add: $6,000

Social Security

Item 2017 2016 Change Comment
Wages Subject to Social Security $127,200 $118,500 +$8,700 Annual Social Security employee tax: $7,886.40
Average Estimated Monthly Retirement Benefit $1,360 $1,355 +$5 Change in estimated amount

Don’t forget to account for any matching programs offered by your employer as you determine your various funding levels for next year.

What to Do With Your Social Security Statement

Social Security Statement

The Social Security Administration is now doing a better job in sending out earnings reports by mailing paper statements to workers every five years beginning at age 25. The reports are also available online. These reports recap historic earnings and contain an estimate of potential benefits. When you receive your report, spend a few minutes reviewing the statement. Here are some suggestions on how to do this.

Bullet Item 1 Review your earnings history. Towards the back of the report is a recap of your earnings record. This should accurately reflect reported earnings on your tax return. This number is a summary of all your earnings subject to Social Security as reported by your employer on your W-2 forms. But if you are self-employed or have many employers, you must make sure that the income properly reflects what you earned.<

Action:

Employees: Pull out your W-2s and make sure the totals match
Self-employed: Pull out your tax return and confirm totals match
Review history: Review historic figures as well. Your Social Security benefits use your full work history to calculate future benefits.

Action: Consider these monthly benefit amounts in terms of your retirement plan to help create a realistic picture of what you will have available to you when you retire.

Bullet Item 2 Review your potential retirement benefits. The Social Security statement will provide you with an estimate of your benefit amount using current dollars and current work history. The value of your benefit will show three benefit amounts. One for the minimum retirement age of 62, one for the maximum amount if you start your benefits at age 70, and one for your full retirement age between the ages of 65 and 67.
Bullet Item 3 Note other benefits. Remember, Social Security is not just about your retirement benefits. There are also estimates presented for disability and surviving family benefits. Please review these estimates to understand the potential benefits these programs may provide.
Bullet Item 4 Remember current benefits are just estimates. The benefits noted on this statement are estimates. Actual benefit amounts rise with inflation, change with tax laws, and adjust with your future earnings. Your benefit statement will show you the assumptions used in creating your estimated amounts.

Action: Review the assumptions used by the Social Security Administration. Pay special attention to the future earnings used by them to create the benefit amounts. If you do not think they are accurate, you may need to create revised estimates with more accurate assumptions.

Should you find any errors in the statement correct them immediately. The last page of the statement provides a means for doing this.

 

 

Protecting Your Social Security Number

Social Security card

Very few things in life can create a higher degree of stress and hassle than having your Social Security Number (SSN) stolen. This is because, unlike other forms of ID, the SSN is virtually permanent. While most instances of SSN theft are outside your control, there are some things that you can do to minimize the risk of this ever happening to you.

Bullet Item

Never carry your card. Place your SSN card in a safe place. That place is never your wallet or purse. Only take the card with you when you need it.
Bullet Item Know who needs it. As identity theft becomes more of a problem, there are fewer who really need to know your Social Security Number. Here is that list.

Bullet Item The government. The federal and state governments use this number to keep track of your earnings for retirement benefits and to ensure you pay proper taxes.
Bullet Item Your employer. The SSN is used to keep track of your wages and withholdings. It also is used to prove citizenship and to contribute to your Social Security and Medicare accounts.
Bullet Item Certain financial institutions. Your SSN is used by various financial institutions to prove citizenship, open bank accounts, provide loans, establish other forms of credit, and report on your credit history.
Bullet Item Know who really does not need it. Many other vendors may ask for your Social Security Number, but having it is not an essential requirement. The most common requests come from health care providers and insurance companies. But the request for your number may come from anyone who wishes to collect an unpaid bill. When asked on a form for your number, leave it blank. Challenge the provider if it is requested.
Bullet Item Destroy and distort. Shred any documents that have your SSN listed. When providing copies of your tax return to anyone, distort or cover your SSN. Remember your SSN is printed on the top of each page of Form 1040. If the government requests your SSN on a check payment, only place the last four digits on the check. Prefill the first five digits with X’s.
Bullet Item Keep your scammer alert on high. Never give out your SSN over the phone or via e-mail. Do not even confirm your SSN to someone who happens to read it back to you on the phone. If this happens to you, file a police report and report the theft to the IRS and Federal Trade Commission.
Bullet Item Proactively check for use. Periodically check your credit reports for potential use of your SSN. If suspicious activity is found, have the credit agencies place a fraud alert on your account. Remember, everyone is entitled to a free credit report once a year. You can obtain yours at www.annualcreditreport.com

Replacing a stolen SSN is not only hard to do, it can create problems. You will need to re-establish your credit history, reassign your SSN benefits history, and realign your tax records. Your best defense is to stop the theft before it happens.

 

2016 Retirement Contribution & Social Security Limits

As the end of the year rolls around, if you have not already done so, now is the time to plan for contributions into your retirement accounts in 2016.

Retirement Contribution Limits

Retirement Program 2016 2015 Change Age 50 or over catch up
IRA: Traditional $5,500 $5,500 none add: $1,000
IRA: Roth $5,500 $5,500 none add: $1,000
IRA: SIMPLE $12,500 $12,500 none add: $3,000
401(k), 403(b), 457 plans $18,000 $18,000 none add: $6,000

Social Security

Item 2016 2015 Change Comment
Wages Subject to Social Security $118,500 $118,500 none Annual Social Security employee tax: $7,347
Average Estimated Monthly Retirement Benefit

Don’t forget to account for any matching programs offered by your employer as you determine your various funding levels for next year.

Know Someone Getting Married?

Tips for every bride and groom

Summer is a popular time to tie the knot. Planning for the event takes hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars. Often overlooked in the craziness of the event are important tax and financial topics. If you are planning to get married in the near future or know of someone who is, here are some things to consider.

Wedding proposalNotify Social Security. Notify the Social Security Administration (SSA) with any name changes. The IRS has a name match program with the SSA and will potentially reject deductions and joint filing status if the name change is not made timely. You do this by filing Form SS-5.

Selling a home? If selling one or two residences, review the impact of capital gain tax laws and how they apply to your situation. This is important if one of you has only been in a home for a short time or if the home has appreciated in value.

Update your address. Update your address with the IRS if either of you is moving. You do this with IRS form 8822. Also change your address at the postal service.

Notify your employers. Also change your name and addresses with your employer to ensure your W-2s are correctly stated. Recalculate your payroll withholdings and file a new Form W-4.

Beware the marriage penalty. If both newlyweds work, your combined income could put you into a higher tax bracket. This phenomenon is referred to as “the marriage penalty”. On the other hand, marriage could also reduce your tax burden. Because of this, now is a good time to conduct a tax forecast.

Review legal documents. Ensure legal titles are as you wish them after you are married. This includes bank accounts, titles on property, credit cards, insurance, and wills.

Beneficiary statement update. Also check any retirement savings plans like 401(k)s and IRAs. The beneficiaries on these accounts must also be updated.

Review employee benefits. Review your employee benefits and make the necessary changes in health care, insurance, employee retirement accounts, pensions, and tax-preferred spending accounts. Marriage is a qualified event for most employers to allow you to make mid-year changes.

Talk about it. If you have not already done so, spend some time talking about how you will be managing your financial affairs. Who will be paying the bills? Who will be managing retirement accounts and investments? How will spending be managed? What bills and debt exist? Developing a plan and understanding how this will be handled can help reduce misunderstandings and future disagreements.

In the News:

Severance Pay is Subject to Employment Taxes

In a recent Supreme Court decision, pay received as severance is subject to Social Security and Medicare tax. The case involved an employer who went out of business but paid severance checks to employees based on their seniority and pay. The company’s position was that this pay was not wages.

In the unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the severance payments were deemed wages and the employment taxes were owed. The impact of this ruling is far reaching. It is estimated that there are pending claims for refunds of over $1 billion from similar tax cases.

What you need to know

While you may never find yourself in this situation, should you receive a severance check please pay special attention to how the payment is treated. If you receive a Form 1099, or receive a W-2 without Social Security and Medicare withheld you could have a problem. Should this happen to you, immediately ask your former employer why they believe Social Security and Medicare payments are not required. Seek advice as soon as possible. If you delay you might be required to pay the employer’s portion of this tax as well as your own.

As always, should you have any questions or concerns regarding your situation please feel free to call.

2014 Social Security Benefits Announced

poolThe Social Security Administration recently announced monthly social security and supplemental security income benefits (SSI) will increase in 2014 by 1.5%. This increase is based upon the Consumer Price Index over the past 12 months ending in September 2013. In addition, other figures based on the national average wage index will also be changed. A recap of the key amounts is outlined here:

2014 Key Social Security Benefits

2013 Social Security Benefits

What does it mean for you?

  • Up to $117,000 in wages will be subject to Social Security Taxes (up $3,300 or $205 in additional Social Security tax per employee and per employer)
  • The average Social Security retirement beneficiary will receive an additional $228 in 2014.
  • For all retired workers receiving Social Security retirement benefits the average monthly benefit of $1,275/mo. in 2013 will become $1,294/mo. in 2014.
  • SSI (Supplemental Security Income) is the standard payment for people in need. To qualify for this payment you must have little income and few resources ($2,000 if single/$3,000 if married).
  • A full-time student who is blind or disabled can still receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits as long as earned income does not exceed the student exclusion amounts listed above.

Social Security & Medicare Rates

After temporary payroll tax rate cuts that ended in 2012, the rates do not change from 2013 to 2014.

2013 Withholding Limits

Note: The above tax rates are a combination of 6.20% Social Security and 1.45% for Medicare. There is also a Medicare .9% wages surtax that began in 2013 for those with wages above $200,000 single ($250,000 joint filers) that is not reflected in these figures. Please recall that your employer also pays Social Security and Medicare taxes on your behalf. These figures are reflected in the self-employed tax rates, as self-employed individuals pay both halves of the tax.

Tax Surprises for Newly Retired

5 surprises to know about

You’ve got it all planned out. Your retirement savings plans are full, you have started receiving Social Security benefits, and your Pension is ready to go. Everything is planned, what could go wrong? Here are five surprises that can turn your plan on a dime.

1. Health emergency and Long-term Care. When a simple procedure could cost thousands, health care costs can put a huge dent in your plan. Long-term care can cost thousands per month. Have you planned for this? If your health insurance is not adequate you may need to pull money out of your retirement plan to pay the bills. While this withdrawal may not be subject to a penalty, it might be subject to income tax if the funds are from a pre-tax account.

Tip: Look into creative ways to enhance your health insurance coverage including supplemental health insurance and prescription drug cost coverage. Consider long-term care insurance and other alternative ways to reduce your potential living needs.

2. Taxability of Social Security benefits. If you have excess earnings, your Social Security benefits could be reduced. Even worse, if you are still working, your benefits could be subject to income tax.

Tip: If this impacts you, consider conducting a tax planning session to better understand your options including the possibility of delaying the receipt of Social Security benefits.

3. Your pension plan. Understand if your pension is in good financial health. Often pensions will offer a lump-sum payout option for you. Should you take it?

Tip: Review your pension plan’s annual statement. How solid is it? If there are risks, consider cash out alternatives and planning for the potential drop in future income.

4. Minimum Required Distribution (RMD). Forgot to take your minimum required distribution from your retirement plans this year? The tax bite could be quite a surprise as the penalty on the amount not withdrawn is 50%!

Tip: Select a memorable date (like your birthday) to review your RMD and take action so this tax surprise does not impact you.

5. Future Tax Rates. The federal government is spending over $1 trillion more than it brings in each year. Cash starved states are looking for new tax revenue. Don’t be surprised when future tax rates continue to rise during your retirement.

Tips:

  • Create a retirement plan with higher state and federal tax rates
  • Plan for increases in health care costs through Medicare
  • Plan for more tax on Social Security benefits
  • Plan for higher capital gain and dividend taxes (now 20% versus 15%)