8 Insurance Products You May Not Need

These days, it seems like every other television commercial is for yet another insurance product. While consumer choice can be a good thing, not all insurance is as essential as the ads make it seem. “There’s a lot of sales and marketing based on fear that especially targets retirees,” says Jonathan Howard, a certified financial planner with SeaCure Advisors in Lexington, Ky., as well as a former insurance salesman. “People end up buying because they’re terrified of a loss rather than to cover an actual insurance need.”

Although Howard believes insurance plays an important role in anyone’s financial plan, some products are more about protecting the insurance company’s bottom line rather than yours. Insurance decisions shouldn’t be made in a vacuum. They should consider your entire financial picture. That way, you can identify the gaps and figure out the coverage you truly need, along with any you could do without. Above all, never buy insurance hastily based on fear, especially if it involves the products on this list.

1 of 8

Long-Term Disability

If you’re still working but nearing retirement, consider whether your long-term disability coverage is worth keeping. The premium for an employer group plan typically increases with age, says Greg Klingler, director of wealth management at the Government Employees’ Benefit Association in Fort Meade, Md. 

The policy also will limit the payout period until a particular age, such as 65. As this age nears, your maximum possible benefit shrinks. This is especially true for someone who could have retired earlier but is still working. “You’re no longer dependent on your salary, so weigh the value of protecting this extra income versus the high insurance cost,” says Klingler.

2 of 8

Product Warranties

A woman standing next to a broken dishwasher A woman standing next to a broken dishwasher

When you buy merchandise like computers, televisions, smartphones, and home appliances, chances are the vendor will try to sell you an additional warranty to replace or repair the item after you buy it. Ask yourself whether you have enough savings to replace the product yourself.

By design, insurance must collect more in premiums than it pays out, making it a net negative for the average policyholder. Most policyholders collect nothing. 

For major assets like a house or vehicle, most people would find it difficult, if not impossible, to replace them out-of-pocket, so insuring these assets with a home or auto policy makes sense. But for smaller things that you could easily replace yourself, like a $700 laptop, skip the warranty and self-insure instead.

3 of 8

Critical Illness Insurance

Doctors wheeling a patient on a gurneyDoctors wheeling a patient on a gurney

A stroke, heart attack, life-threatening cancer and an organ transplant are just some of the serious health issues that critical illness insurance covers. If you develop one of these conditions, the insurer sends you a lump sum cash payment, ranging between $10,000 and $50,000, that can be spent however you want. 

Despite this flexibility, Howard isn’t crazy about this type of insurance, “where unless a specific situation happens, you don’t get anything back.” He suggests reviewing your potential out-of-pocket costs for health insurance to see whether you need critical illness insurance or if you could manage the bills with savings.

4 of 8

Social Security Insurance

All the dysfunction and uncertainty in Washington has led to a new product: Social Security insurance. It’s a type of annuity, an insurance contract that turns part of your savings into future income. When you add this insurance to an annuity, the insurer promises your annuity payment will increase to cover any government shortfall that results in a smaller Social Security benefit.

Howard doesn’t think this is a good return on your money. “Retirees vote, and they predominantly live in swing states,” he says. “If the government ever reduced Social Security for people already claiming it, they’d never hear the end of it.”

Perhaps benefits will be cut for future generations, but Howard doesn’t expect those already collecting benefits to have a problem.

5 of 8

Individual Dental and Vision Policies

A woman undergoing an eye examA woman undergoing an eye exam

Travis Price, a Medicare insurance agent in Traverse City, Mich., does not think individual dental and vision policies are worth buying in retirement. “When people are working and get group dental/vision, the insurance coverage is heavily subsidized in the group and by their employer. When they get into the individual marketplace, the coverage costs can increase 10-fold for less coverage.”

Not only are premiums higher for individual plans, but they could also have high out-of-pocket costs for care, an exclusion of major services for the first year of coverage, and a limited annual coverage limit. Price says an entry level plan meant to cover both dental and vision can be capped at $1,500 per year. “Often, seniors are better off simply being a cash patient and negotiating cash costs with their provider,” says Price. Another alternative, he says, is finding a Medicare Advantage plan that includes dental and vision coverage.

6 of 8

Long-Term Care Insurance

A doctor shaking hands with a patientA doctor shaking hands with a patient

No one disputes that long-term care in the United States is an expensive risk. A private room in a nursing home costs more than $90,000 a year, on average, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

Still, both Howard and Klingler dislike traditional long-term care insurance policies because of their high premiums. “The cost varies based on the carrier, the amount of coverage and the applicant’s health, but I’ve seen [premiums] around $5,000 a year for a couple in their 60s, $10,000 a year when they’re in their 70s,” says Howard. He also notes that premiums rise over time based on age even after you sign up. 

Howard says traditional long-term care insurance is another example of insurance that only applies under such narrow, specific circumstances that it’s not worthwhile, particularly given its hefty cost. As an alternative, he prefers an LTC-hybrid life insurance policy because that way, if someone doesn’t need long-term care, the heirs receive the death benefit instead.

Klingler suggests considering other resources before buying any long-term care policy. “In almost all cases, you don’t need to cover the full cost [of care],” he says, because some expenses, like food, housing and utilities, would be provided by the long-term care facility.

Even when one spouse enters long-term care while the other remains in the couple’s home, some daily living expenses are still reduced. If you’re considering long-term care insurance, ask yourself whether you need to cover the full cost of a nursing facility or if you could go with a partial benefit that’s more affordable.

7 of 8

Rental Car and Travel Insurance

It happens in a flash. You’re at the rental car counter at the start of a trip, when the agent asks if you want insurance. Well, why not get it? It’s only another $12 to $15 a day. The thing is you might already have rental car insurance through your credit cards, auto policy and membership in an organization like AAA. 

Your credit card may provide other types of travel insurance as well, such as coverage for lost bags, trip cancelation, emergency evacuation, and emergency medical and dental insurance during the trip. Your health insurance may cover you for medical emergencies, too. Before buying any travel insurance, study what you already have through your existing benefits.

8 of 8

Any Redundant Insurance Coverage

File folders with different financial products written on them, including insuranceFile folders with different financial products written on them, including insurance

Although the classic example is rental car insurance, there’s often a fair amount of overlap with the insurance people have. Your auto insurance covers medical bills after a car accident, but so could your health insurance. Your homeowners insurance covers liability for an injury on your property and so does an umbrella policy, which should offer enough supplementary coverage, if needed, to protect your net worth. 

But don’t go overboard buying insurance. Given this overlap, it’s possible that the limits on your existing policies are higher than necessary because they cover the same risk. It’s also possible that the coverage provided by even one of those policies exceeds what you truly need. Howard recently found that his homeowner’s coverage was for $100,000 more than the replacement cost of his home. 

Source: kiplinger.com

Long-Term Care Options and How to Plan for the Costs

Think for a minute about all the things you did when you woke up this morning. You probably got out of bed, walked to the bathroom, cleaned yourself up, brushed your teeth, got dressed, made yourself some breakfast, and headed out the door to go to work. These activities of daily living are so routine, you likely did them without even thinking about it.

Now imagine that you couldn’t do these things on your own. It could be because you’ve had an accident, you’re recovering from an operation, or you have an illness that limits your mobility. Whatever the reason, you now need help from another person to do many or even most of your basic daily activities — and you’ll continue to need it for weeks, months, or even years.

This kind of help is called long-term care, and there’s a good chance you or a close loved one will need it at some point in your life. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), a person who turned 65 today has almost a 70% chance of needing some form of long-term care in the future.

Needing long-term care isn’t just a physical burden; it’s a financial one too. According to the 2020 Cost of Care Survey by Genworth Financial, professional long-term care can cost anywhere from $1,603 to $8,821 per month. Most employer-sponsored health insurance plans don’t cover these costs, and even Medicare provides only limited coverage.

If you don’t want to risk being bankrupted by long-term care costs in the future, you need to do some planning now. Even if you don’t think you’ll need long-term care for many years to come — or at all — it’s better to think about it ahead of time than to take a chance on having to deal with both a health crisis and a financial crisis at once.

Options for Long-Term Care

When many people hear “long-term care,” they immediately picture a nursing home. However, it’s possible to receive long-term care in a variety of settings, which differ widely in terms of both comfort and cost.

The main forms of long-term care are:

1. In-Home Care From Relatives

Dealing with a long-term injury or illness can be a lot less stressful in your own home with familiar things and people around you. Thus, one common type of long-term care is to have a relative or friend tend to your needs at home.

While unpaid in-home care is easiest on the person receiving care, it can be difficult for the caregiver, both emotionally and financially. A 2018 Genworth study found that more than half of family caregivers had high levels of stress, and roughly one-third said their careers had suffered on account of their caregiving duties.

2. Home Health Aides

If you want to receive care at home without putting a burden on your relatives, you can hire someone to help you. A home health aide doesn’t provide medical care but can help with such daily tasks as bathing, dressing, and eating. The 2020 Genworth survey found that the median cost of a home health aide in 2020 was $24 per hour, or $4,756 per month.

3. Homemaker Services

Some people don’t need help with bathing or dressing, but they still need someone to handle daily chores they can’t manage on their own, such as cooking, cleaning, and running errands. For this, you can hire a homemaker service, which costs a bit less than a home health aide. Genworth put the median cost of homemaker services for 2020 at $23.50 per hour, or $4,481 per month.

4. Adult Day Care

Some older people can still get up and about, but they can’t be on their own for long periods of time. An adult day care program is a place where adults can go during the day and spend time with others, with a caregiver there to keep an eye on them. Adult day care programs can offer structured activities, meals, transportation, and sometimes health services. They’re cheaper than most long-term care options, at around $74 per day or $1,603 per month, according to Genworth.

5. Assisted Living

Home health aides can help with daily activities, but they can’t provide actual medical care. People who need regular medical supervision are better off moving to an assisted living facility. This is a place where people can live on their own in private apartments and have access to both personal care and medical care on site. The median cost for an assisted living facility was $4,300 per month in 2020, according to Genworth.

6. Nursing Home

Nursing homes provide the highest level of supervision and care. These all-inclusive facilities offer room and board, personal care, supervision, activities, medication, rehabilitation, and full-time nursing care. This level of care comes with a high price tag, however. Genworth found that in 2020, a semi-private room in a nursing home cost $7,756 per month, and a private room cost $8,821 per month.


Government Programs

Most Americans can’t afford to pay for professional long-term care out of their own pockets. A 2020 survey by The Ascent found that over half of Americans have less than $5,000 in savings. Roughly one-third have less than $1,000 — not enough to pay for even a single month of long-term care.

Government programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, can help you meet some of the costs. However, these programs offer only limited aid. Each one has specific rules about who qualifies for benefits, what services it covers, how long you can receive aid, and how much you must pay for on your own. If you need long-term care, it’s certainly a good idea to look at these programs first to see what they cover, but it’s a mistake to rely on them to pick up the whole tab.

Medicare

In most cases, Medicare does not include any long-term care benefits. However, there are several specific exceptions:

  • Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) Care. If you come out of the hospital after a stay of at least three days, Medicare provides partial coverage for up to 100 days’ worth of medically necessary care while you recover. To receive this coverage, you must enter a Medicare-certified SNF or nursing home within 30 days after you leave the hospital. Medicare covers all of your treatment there for the first 20 days of your stay. Beginning on day 21, you must pay a daily copayment, which is set at $185.50 in 2021. Medicare covers any cost beyond this copayment up through day 100. If you still need care after that, you’re on your own.
  • Rehabilitation. If you have a condition that requires ongoing medical care to help you recover, Medicare provides partial coverage for a stay in an inpatient rehabilitation facility. It covers the cost of treatments such as physical therapy, meals, drugs, nursing services, and a semi-private room. However, you must pay an out-of-pocket cost for this care that depends on the length of your stay. For the first 60 days, you pay a $1,364 deductible. This cost is waived if you’ve already paid for a hospital stay for the same condition. For days 61 through 90, you pay $341 per day. After day 90, you start using up your “lifetime reserve days.” You have only 60 of these days over your lifetime, and each one costs you $682. If you still need care after your 60 days are used up, you must pay the full cost. Also, any extra costs during your stay — such as a private room, private duty nursing, or a phone or television in your room — are your own responsibility.
  • Home Health Services. You can also use Medicare to pay for in-home care for a specific illness or injury. This includes part-time or intermittent skilled nursing care, physical or occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology. To qualify as part-time, your care must cover less than eight hours per day, or less than seven days per week, over a total of three weeks or less. If you are receiving this type of in-home care, Medicare also pays for additional, basic care from a home health aide. Medicare does not cover care from a home health aide if that’s the only care you need, and it does not cover homemaker services under any circumstances.
  • Hospice Care. People who are terminally ill sometimes choose to spend their last days in hospice care. Hospice treatment focuses on relieving the patient’s pain, rather than trying to cure them. Medicare covers hospice care for patients who are terminally ill, are not seeking a cure, and do not expect to live more than six months. Patients can receive this kind of care in their own homes, a hospital, or another inpatient care facility.

For more details about what Medicare covers, see the Medicare website.

Medicaid

Unlike Medicare, Medicaid covers all types of long-term care. This includes both in-home care — such as a visiting nurse or a home health aide — and care in facilities such as nursing homes. You can get home health aide services from Medicaid even if you don’t need skilled care as well, and you can get care in a facility even if you aren’t recovering from a hospital visit.

However, Medicaid has strict limits on eligibility. You can’t receive Medicaid benefits if your income is above a certain level, which varies from state to state. Also, in some states, you cannot qualify unless you have dependent children. You can find the limits for your state through your state’s Medicaid website.

Veterans’ Benefits

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) covers the full cost of long-term care for veterans who have disabilities resulting from their military service. It also covers costs for veterans who can’t afford to pay for their own care. Other veterans receive some coverage, but they must pay a copayment. According to the VA site, the current copayments for long-term care are:

  • $97 per day for inpatient care, such as nursing home care
  • $15 per day for outpatient care, such as home health care or adult day care
  • $5 per day for domiciliary care in a special facility for homeless veterans

The VA site has more information about the health benefits available to veterans and how to qualify for them.

OAA Programs

Some states have their own separate programs to help provide care for adults over age 60. These programs get funding from the federal government under the OIder Americans Act (OAA). The OAA supports a wide network of state, local, and tribal agencies called the Aging Network. It works with tens of thousands of service providers and volunteers to deliver various types of care, including:

  • Meal delivery
  • Transportation
  • Home health services
  • Home health aide and homemaker services
  • Adult day care
  • “Respite care,” which gives family caregivers some time off from taking care of an older relative
  • Help using other government benefits

You can find programs in your area through Eldercare.gov.


Products to Help You Pay for Long-Term Care

Government programs don’t cover everybody, and the coverage they offer isn’t always enough to pay for the full cost of long-term care. To make up the difference, some people carry long-term care insurance, which provides coverage for this specific type of care. Others rely on other financial products designed for senior citizens, such as annuities and reverse mortgages, to cover their costs.

Long-Term Care Insurance

Long-term care insurance, or LTC insurance, works like other types of insurance. You pay a premium each month to the insurer, and if you ever need long-term care, it covers the cost. However, one big difference between this and most other types of insurance is that you have to qualify to buy a policy. If you’re already in poor health, there’s a chance you won’t be able to get a policy — and if you do, you’ll have to pay a steep price for it.

There are several ways to buy a long-term care insurance policy. The most common sources for policies are:

  • Insurance Specialists. You can buy LTC insurance through financial professionals such as insurance agents, brokers, and financial planners. To find insurance companies that offer LTC insurance, visit your state insurance department or do an Internet search for “long-term care insurance” plus the name of your state.
  • Employers. Although standard employer-sponsored health care plans don’t cover long-term care, many employers — including the federal government, many state governments, and some private companies — offer LTC insurance as an add-on that employees can purchase separately. To find out whether your employer offers this coverage, check with your pensions or benefits office.
  • Organizations. Some labor unions and other professional or trade organizations, such as the National Education Association, offer LTC insurance as a benefit to their workers. Membership organizations such as alumni associations or service clubs like the Lions and Elks can also take part in group plans.
  • State Partnerships. In some states, you can purchase LTC coverage through a State Partnership Program. These programs provide benefits partly through private long-term care insurers and partly through Medicaid. You can learn more details about these programs from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Although long-term care coverage can protect you from devastating long-term care costs, most Americans don’t carry it because of its high cost. According to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance (AALTCI), the typical annual premium for an LTC policy ranges from $1,400 to $3,100. This annual cost varies based on factors such as age, health, gender, location, and amount of coverage.

Financial planner David Demming, speaking with Policygenius, says LTC insurance is most likely to be a good deal for people aged 50 to 55 with a net worth between $1 million and $3 million. That’s enough money to afford the premiums, but not enough to cover the full cost of long-term care. To get a clearer idea of what LTC policy pricing could be for you, check out online calculators like this one from Genworth.

Annuities

Some people choose to fund their long-term care through an annuity, a financial product that pays out a fixed sum every year over a specific period. There are three kinds of annuities you can use for this purpose:

  • Immediate Annuities. With an immediate annuity, you pay a one-time premium, and in exchange the company pays you a fixed monthly benefit. This benefit can last for a specific period of time or the rest of your life. One advantage of an immediate annuity is that anyone can buy one, regardless of health status. This makes it a good option for people who no longer qualify for LTC insurance due to poor health. However, the fixed monthly sum you get might not be enough to meet your long-term care costs, and inflation can eat into its value.
  • Deferred Annuities. You can buy a deferred annuity with either a one-time payment, like an immediate annuity, or a series of regular payments. The money you pay into the annuity earns interest and grows tax-free. It doesn’t start paying out a monthly benefit until a specific date, such as your 65th birthday.
  • Long-Term Care Annuities. A long-term care annuity is a deferred annuity with a long-term care rider. This type of annuity doesn’t pay out until you need the money for long-term care costs. To collect the monthly payment, you must be diagnosed with a medical condition that requires long-term care, such as Alzheimer’s disease. According to HHS, this type of annuity is usually available only to people age 85 or younger who meet certain health requirements. However, according to SmartAsset, it’s sometimes easier to get approved for a long-term care annuity than for LTC insurance.

Depending on your situation, an annuity can be a cheaper way to cover long-term care costs than LTC insurance. However, it typically requires a large up-front payment, which is even higher if you already have health issues. Also, annuities can have a complicated effect on your taxes — HHS recommends consulting a tax professional before you buy one.

Reverse Mortgages

Another way to pay for long-term care services is with a reverse mortgage through LendingTree. This is a special type of home equity loan available only to homeowners age 62 and up, which allows you to get cash out of your home without giving up your title to it.

The house remains your property until you die. At that time, it goes to the bank unless your heirs choose to pay off the amount you’ve borrowed and keep the house. Otherwise, the bank sells the house and keeps the amount you owed at the time of your death. Any cash beyond that balance goes to your heirs.

There are several ways to get cash from a reverse mortgage. You can get one large lump-sum payment, a regular monthly payment, or a line of credit you can draw on as needed. The second two options are most useful for paying long-term care expenses. As long as you spend the payments in the same month you receive them, the money is not taxable income and doesn’t affect any government benefits, such as Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid.


Long-Term Care Planning

Dealing with long-term care can be an emotional and financial burden, both for you and for your family. The best way to lighten that load is to plan ahead. By making your plans early, you’ll have plenty of time to do research, make decisions, and buy traditional long-term care insurance or any other products you need to cover the costs.

1. Research Your Options

Start by looking into the options for advanced care in your area. Check the phone book or do an online search to find out what choices you’re likely to have for assisted living and nursing homes, as well as home health aide and homemaking services. The Genworth Cost of Care Survey tool can help you estimate what these services cost now and what they’re likely to cost in the future. You can also check the costs for services in other areas to figure out whether relocating would save you money.

2. Talk to Your Family

Once you have some idea of available options, talk to your family members and get their input. Set aside a time when you can talk everything over in person without having to rush. Here are some points to discuss:

  • Your Lifestyle. Discuss the way you live now and how you expect to live in the future. For instance, if it’s important to you to stay at home and live independently, let your family know that. Tell them about your priorities, and find out what’s important to them, as well.
  • Your Care Options. Show your family the research you’ve done on care options in your area. Tell them how you’d prefer to receive care and whether you have a specific provider in mind. Also, find out how much of your care your loved ones are able and willing to take on themselves. If you have several relatives who could help you, talk about which specific responsibilities each of them could handle.
  • Your Finances. Once you’ve considered what kind of care you want, talk about what it’s likely to cost. Let your family know how much money you can set aside now toward your future care needs, and find out if any of them are willing to contribute.
  • Medical Care. Make sure your family knows your health history in detail so they can supply it to a doctor if they need to. Also, make sure they know how to contact all of your current medical providers.
  • Legal Issues. Decide who should be responsible for making medical decisions for you if you can’t make them yourself. Use this information to set up a durable power of attorney for the future. Also, talk to your loved ones about your wishes for end-of-life care. If you already have a living will, tell them what it says and where to find it; if you don’t have one, make plans to set one up.

3. Calculate the Cost

Now that you have some idea who will provide care for you when you need it, the next step is to figure out how much it will cost. Even if your family has offered to provide unpaid care for you when you need it, there could still be some cost involved. For instance, you could choose to hire a house cleaning service so your loved ones won’t be responsible for all the housekeeping chores in addition to your care.

If you’re planning to pay for professional long-term care services, think about how long you’re likely to need them. According to the HHS, people who require long-term care use it for an average of three years. This includes an average of two years of in-home care and one year in a long-term care facility. About one in five people need care for more than five years.

To figure out the total amount you’ll need for long-term care costs, multiply the cost by the expected length of care. For instance, suppose a home health aide costs $60,000 per year and assisted living costs $90,000 per year. If you expect to need two years of home health care and one year in assisted living, you must save up a total of $250,000.

If the total cost looks like more than you can possibly afford, look for ways to save on long-term care. This could include relying on family care, negotiating prices, getting help from government programs, or relocating to a cheaper area.

4. Make a Plan to Cover the Costs

Once you have an idea of how much money you’ll need for long-term care, you can start figuring out how to pay for it. If your income and assets are low enough, you can look to Medicaid for help when you need care. State government programs could also provide some help.

By contrast, if you have a lot of liquid assets — that is, cash, retirement savings, and other assets you can easily convert to cash — you might be able to pay for your care out of pocket. Financial planners interviewed by Policygenius say this is most practical for people with a net worth of at least $3 million.

If you’re somewhere in between those two extremes, you’ll need some other way to meet the costs of long-term care. That could mean buying long-term care insurance, investing in an annuity, or taking out a reverse mortgage. A financial planner can help you compare these options and decide which one is best for you.

5. Put Your Plan in Writing

After you’ve come up with a plan to meet your long-term care needs, the final step is to put it in writing. Having a written plan gives your family something to consult if there’s ever any confusion or uncertainty about your wishes.

If you’ve decided to make a living will or set up a durable power of attorney, these documents should be part of your written care plan. Consult a lawyer to help you set these up. Give a copy of the entire plan, including the legal documents, to any relatives it could affect.

Putting your plan in writing doesn’t mean it’s set in stone. If your health or financial situation changes in the future, your long-term plans might need to change too. Update your plan as needed, and make sure your relatives always have the latest version.


Final Word

If you’re young and healthy, you may feel like it’s too soon to start thinking about long-term care. Since you probably won’t need it for many years, you figure you can just wait and deal with it when the time comes.

However, there are several good reasons why now is exactly the right time to think about it. First of all, the future is unpredictable. Even young people can suffer injuries or develop illnesses that keep them off their feet for months.

Also, LTC insurance gets more expensive and harder to obtain as you age. If you decide to wait until you’re 65 before buying a policy, it could already be too late to qualify. And even if you can get one, you’ll pay a much steeper rate for it than you would if you’d bought it 10 years earlier. So it makes sense to start thinking about this type of insurance and decide whether it’s for you before you hit age 55.

Finally, if you put off thinking about long-term care until you actually need it, you’ll have to make a whole lot of important decisions in a hurry. You could end up making choices that aren’t best for you because you don’t have time to weigh the options. By avoiding procrastination and thinking it through now, you can ensure that when — or if — you finally need long-term care, it will be as easy as possible for you and your family.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Northwestern Mutual Expands New York City Presence

MILWAUKEE, Feb. 17, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Northwestern Mutual, a financial security company focused on comprehensive financial planning through both insurance and investments, is announcing the opening of two new offices within the New York City area in Harlem and Cedarhurst.

Northwestern Mutual. (PRNewsFoto/Northwestern Mutual)

“This exciting expansion is an opportunity to deliver financial planning solutions to historically underserved communities,” said Tim Gerend, chief distribution officer, Northwestern Mutual. “We’re looking forward to developing deep community relationships in both Harlem and Cedarhurst – providing meaningful financial guidance to clients and offering rewarding career opportunities to current and future advisors.”

Financial Advisor Anthony Williams will oversee the Harlem office, comprised of several financial professionals who grew up in the neighborhood or nearby in the Bronx. The group plans to draw on their understanding of area residents to identify opportunities for financial education and support for businesses owned by Black, Latinx and other historically underrepresented groups. As the team works to grow its presence in the area, they will focus recruiting efforts locally and within Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Financial Advisor Moshe Alpert will lead the Cedarhurst office in the predominately Orthodox Jewish community of Five Towns Long Island.

Williams and Alpert will work in close partnership with Managing Partner Steve Abbass, who collaborated with Northwestern Mutual’s new Distribution Growth Ventures group to identify the opportunities in Harlem and Cedarhurst. Northwestern Mutual Distribution Growth Ventures is focused on underpenetrated market expansion, competitive recruitment and other innovation within the company’s distribution system.

About Northwestern Mutual
Northwestern Mutual has been helping people and businesses achieve financial security for more than 160 years. Through a holistic planning approach, Northwestern Mutual combines the expertise of its financial professionals with a personalized digital experience and industry-leading products to help its clients plan for what’s most important. With $290.3 billion in total assets, $29.9 billion in revenues, and $1.9 trillion worth of life insurance protection in force, Northwestern Mutual delivers financial security to more than 4.6 million people with life, disability income and long-term care insurance, annuities, and brokerage and advisory services. The company manages more than $161 billion of investments owned by its clients and held or managed through its wealth management and investment services businesses. Northwestern Mutual ranks 102 on the 2020 FORTUNE 500 and is recognized by FORTUNE® as one of the “World’s Most Admired” life insurance companies in 2021.

Northwestern Mutual is the marketing name for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company (NM)(life and disability insurance, annuities, and life insurance with long-term care benefits) and its subsidiaries in Milwaukee, WI. Subsidiaries include Northwestern Mutual Investment Services, LLC (investment brokerage services), broker-dealer, registered investment adviser, member FINRA and SIPC; the Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Company® (investment advisory and trust services), a federal savings bank; and Northwestern Long Term Care Insurance Company.

SOURCE Northwestern Mutual

For further information: William Polk, 1-800-323-7033, mediarelations@northwesternmutual.com

Source: news.northwesternmutual.com

Are You Prepared for Health Care Costs While in Retirement?

There is a simple and unsettling reality in the United States. Many Americans don’t feel financially prepared for health care costs in retirement. In a recent study of U.S. adults ages 50 to 64, nearly 45% had low confidence in their ability to afford health insurance during retirement. We’ve all heard these costs are rising faster than inflation, but how do we plan for something that feels so uncertain?  

So, how much is health care likely to cost during retirement? The average 65-year-old couple in 2020 will need $295,000 in today’s dollars during their retirement, excluding long-term care, to cover health care expenses, according to Fidelity. But depending on your age, income, health, location and Medicare eligibility, that number could be much different. When long-term care is factored in, the expense for health care can increase considerably. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a person turning 65 today has almost a 70% chance of needing long-term care services in their remaining years. Currently, the national average median cost is $8,821 for a private room in a nursing facility and $4,576 for a home health aide, according to the Genworth Cost of Care survey.

While these high figures may seem alarming, it is not all doom and gloom and there are some ways to proactively prepare for the costs of health care while in retirement. So, what can you do if your retirement and health care savings need a shot in the arm?   

Save in a tax-free account for health care expenses

One great way to begin budgeting for your health expenses is by contributing to a Health Savings Account (HSA). If you currently have a high-deductible health care plan, your employer may offer an HSA. This type of account allows you to contribute while receiving a tax deduction, the money can get invested and grows tax-deferred, and if the money is eventually used for qualified medical expenses the withdrawal is tax-free. In 2021 the IRS allows individuals to contribute $3,600 and families to contribute $7,200.

Over several years this contribution can add up to a significant sum, which can be a ready source of health care funds when needed.

Prepare for long-term care

Even sound retirement plans can be disrupted by rising health care costs and catastrophic illness. Medicare Part A covers skilled nursing care for a specific period after hospitalization. It does not pay for custodial care for Alzheimer’s or other cognitive illnesses. This is why many people protect themselves with a long-term care (LTC) insurance policy. The benefits of LTC insurance go beyond what your health insurance may cover by reimbursing you for services needed to help you maintain your lifestyle if age, injury, illness or a cognitive impairment makes it challenging for you to take care of yourself.

By planning with long-term care insurance, you can prevent your retirement and savings from being devastated if this type of care is needed in the future. In addition, by owning an LTC insurance policy, you provide your loved ones with greater options for providing care while relieving them from full-time caregiver responsibilities.

Where you live makes a difference

Another factor that will have a big impact on how much you spend on health care is where you are living while you are retired. Traditional Medicare coverage is the same all over, but prescription coverage (Part D), Medicare Advantage (Part C), “Medigap” supplemental plans and private insurance vary depending on where you live. The costs of long-term care can vary by thousands of dollars depending on the state you live in. If you are currently living in a state where health care costs are higher, you can consider moving somewhere different while in retirement.

Consider your age when you retire

While you are eligible to begin collecting Social Security at age 62 you are not able to begin Medicare until age 65. If you choose to retire earlier than 65 there are some options that you can explore for health insurance. When you retire, you may choose to continue your employer’s coverage under COBRA for up to 18 months. However, your premiums will increase significantly since you will now be paying the full premium yourself. If your spouse is still working and eligible for health insurance, you may be able to move to their plan relatively easily. Another option is buying an Affordable Care Act plan on a federal or state health insurance marketplace. You may also qualify for a subsidy if your household income is below a certain level.

It is relatively unsurprising to learn people who are most confident about retiring have spoken with a professional financial adviser about retirement planning. Will you be able to retire comfortably? The answer can be equally complicated. It is a complicated question. Financial planning is not a static activity. Retirement goals, income needs and projected expenses may change significantly over a lifetime. As a result, it is important to review retirement plans often and revise as needed.

The good news is that whatever your health care costs end up being, those costs will usually be over the course of several years. This gives someone with a well-developed plan the ability to feel confident and prepared for what’s ahead.  

Financial Adviser, Western International Securities

Matt Stratman is a financial adviser at Western International Securities in Southern California. His focus is helping business owners and entrepreneurs who are planning for retirement. With a strong, client-centered approach he creates personalized investment strategies to help them reach their financial goals. Matt is extremely passionate about retirement planning, believing the better prepared a person is, the more fulfilling their retirement will be.

Source: kiplinger.com

7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook

Happy senior getting income tax breaks
Photo by buritora / Shutterstock.com

How does the adage go? With age comes … new ways to save on taxes.

While you can’t stop filing taxes just because you retire, being a retiree often means you can claim some worthwhile tax credits and deductions.

In some cases, these tax breaks are available to both workers and retirees, so the latter often don’t realize they might be eligible. In other cases, these tax breaks are effectively reserved for older taxpayers, meaning taxpayers may not hear about them until later in life.

Following are several examples of federal income tax breaks that retirees often overlook.

1. Bigger standard deduction

For seniors who don’t itemize their tax deductions, a higher standard deduction is a free potential reduction in your tax bill.

Seniors generally get an increase of $1,300 per married person or $1,650 per single person from the usual standard deduction. For the 2020 tax year — meaning the return that’s due in April — the IRS defines “senior” as someone born before Jan. 2, 1956.

For two married seniors, for example, that’s an extra $2,600 they get to subtract from their taxable income — without doing any work or keeping any receipts. What savings that actually translates into will depend on their income, but it means a lower starting figure for Uncle Sam to tax them on.

2. Saver’s credit

What’s better than a tax deduction? A tax credit! A deduction lowers your taxable income, but a credit reduces your tax bill dollar for dollar.

The saver’s credit isn’t specifically for retirees, so they might easily overlook it. But it’s for any eligible taxpayer who is saving money in a retirement account. That means it’s available to retirees who are still able to stash cash in a retirement account — assuming they otherwise qualify for the credit.

So, for as long as you’re contributing to a retirement plan, you should be checking your eligibility for the saver’s credit each year. If you’re eligible, it could reduce your taxes by up to $1,000 — or $2,000 for married taxpayers filing a joint return.

The main eligibility requirement, besides saving money in a retirement account, is having an income below a certain threshold, as we detail in “This Overlooked Retirement Tax Credit Gets Better in 2021.”

3. Health insurance premium deduction

If you are self-employed, you may be able to deduct your premiums for Medicare or other health insurance plans as a business expense. According to the IRS:

“You may be able to deduct the amount you paid for medical and dental insurance and qualified long-term care insurance for yourself, your spouse, and your dependents. … Medicare premiums you voluntarily pay to obtain insurance in your name that is similar to qualifying private health insurance can be used to figure the deduction.”

For example, the Medicare Part B standard monthly premium for 2020 was $144.60 per month — a potential write-off of $1,735.

4. Contributions to traditional IRAs

A federal law known as the Secure Act of 2019 repealed the maximum age for contributing to a traditional individual retirement account (IRA).

So as of the 2020 tax year, retirees who still are bringing in earned income, such as from a part-time job, can save money in this type of account no matter how old they are — and thus write off that contribution on their taxes.

There is no maximum age for contributing to a Roth IRA, either, although contributions to this type of account are deductible on your tax return. Instead, you instead get to withdraw the money tax-free, provided that you otherwise follow the IRS rules for Roth accounts. (With a traditional IRA, withdrawals are considered taxable income.)

To learn more about these two types of accounts, check out “Which Is Better — a Traditional or Roth Retirement Plan?”

5. Spousal contributions to traditional IRAs

While you can contribute to an individual retirement account (IRA) only if you have earned income such as wages, that can be your spouse’s income.

This means a working spouse can help a non-working spouse save money in a retirement account, as we detail in “7 Secret Perks of Individual Retirement Accounts.”

Spousal contributions to a traditional IRA also qualify you for a tax deduction, assuming you meet income and other eligibility requirements.

6. Qualified charitable distribution

Generally, taxpayers have to itemize their deductions — as opposed to claiming the standard deduction — if they want credit for donating to charity. And after the enactment of the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, standard deductions got bigger, meaning fewer people benefit from itemizing.

Some retirees may effectively be able to get around this, however.

After age 70½, you can transfer money from an IRA to a charity and have the amount count toward your required minimum distribution (RMD) without counting as taxable income for you. The IRS calls it a “qualified charitable distribution.”

This isn’t a true tax credit or deduction but still has the effect of lowering your taxable income and thus possibly your tax bill, because your RMDs would usually otherwise count as taxable income.

Note that while the Secure Act changed the age at which you must begin taking RMDs from 70½ to 72, that change did not apply to qualified charitable distributions. So, they still can be made at age 70½, according to Ed Slott & Co.

7. Charitable write-off without itemizing

For the 2020 and 2021 tax years, there is another type of charitable deduction available to taxpayers who do not itemize their deductions.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020 temporarily changed the federal tax code such that people who claim the standard deduction can write off up to $300 in monetary donations to charity in 2020. So retirees who donated to charities last year now can claim that break on their return.

Then, a separate law enacted in December last year extended and expanded this charitable write-off for 2021, as we report in “2 Charitable Tax Breaks Have Been Extended for 2021.”

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

What Is Medicaid Estate Recovery?

What Is Medicaid Estate Recovery? – SmartAsset

Tap on the profile icon to edit
your financial details.

Medicaid is a government program that can help eligible seniors pay for nursing home care. If you’re helping an aging parent navigate Medicaid because they don’t have long-term care insurance or you think you’ll need it yourself someday, it’s important to understand how the program works. For instance, you should be aware that the Medicaid Estate Recovery Program (MERP) may be used to recoup costs paid toward long-term care. Medicaid estate recovery is intended to help make the program affordable for the government, but it can financially impact the beneficiaries of Medicaid recipients. Make sure you’re handling this kind of situation in the wisest possible way by consulting a financial advisor.

Medicaid Estate Recovery, Explained

Medicare is designed to help pay for healthcare costs for seniors once they turn 65. While it covers a number of healthcare expenses, it doesn’t apply to costs associated with long-term care in a nursing home.

That’s where Medicaid can help fill the gap. Medicaid can help with paying the costs of long-term care for aging seniors. It can be used in situations where someone lacks long-term care insurance coverage or they don’t have sufficient assets to pay for long-term care out of pocket. You may also use Medicaid to pay for nursing home care if you’ve taken steps to protect assets using a trust or other estate planning tools.

But the benefits you or an aging parent receives from Medicaid aren’t necessarily free. The Medicaid Estate Recovery Program allows Medicaid to recoup money spent on behalf of an aging senior to cover long-term care costs. The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 requires states to attempt to seek reimbursement from a Medicaid beneficiary’s estate when they pass away.

How Medicaid Estate Recovery Works

The Medicaid Estate Recovery Program allows Medicaid to seek recompense for a variety of costs, including:

  • Expenses related to nursing home or other long-term care facility stays
  • Home- and community-based services
  • Medical services received through a hospital (when the recipient is a long-term care patient)
  • Prescription drug services for long-term care recipients

If you or an aging parent passes away after receiving long-term care or other benefits through Medicaid, the recovery program allows Medicaid to pursue any eligible assets held by your estate. What that includes can depend on where you live, but generally, it means any assets that would be subject to the probate process after you pass away.

So that may include:

  • Bank accounts owned by you
  • Your home or other real estate
  • Vehicles or other real property

Some states also allow Medicaid estate recovery to include assets that aren’t subject to probate. That can include jointly owned bank accounts between spouses, Payable on death bank accounts, real estate that’s owned in joint tenancy with right of survivorship, living trusts and any other assets that a Medicaid recipient has a legal interest in. It’s important to understand the laws in your state regarding what can and cannot be used to recover Medicaid benefits when you or an aging parent passes away.

It’s also worth noting that while Medicaid can’t take someone’s home or assets before they pass away, it is possible for a lien to be placed upon the property. For example, if your mother has to move into a nursing home then Medicaid could place a lien on the property. If your mother passes away and you inherit the home, you wouldn’t be able to sell it without first satisfying the lien.

What Medicaid Estate Recovery Means for Heirs

The most significant impact of Medicaid estate recovery for heirs of Medicaid recipients is the possibility of inheriting a reduced estate. Medicaid eligibility assumes that recipients are low-income or have few assets to pay for long-term care. But if your parents are able to leave some assets behind when they pass away, the recovery program could shrink the estate that passes on to you.

It’s also important to note that while Medicaid estate recovery rules disavow you personally from paying for your parents’ long-term care costs, filial responsibility laws do not. These laws, though rarely enforced, allow healthcare providers to sue the children of long-term care recipients to recover nursing care costs.

So even if Medicaid doesn’t take anything away from your parents’ estate after they pass away, a nursing home could still sue you personally to recover money paid toward the cost of their care. The care facility has to be able to prove that you have the means to pay but this could add a wrinkle to your financial picture if you’re responsible for wrapping up a deceased parent’s estate.

How to Avoid Medicaid Estate Recovery

Strategic planning can help you or your loved ones avoid financial impacts from Medicaid estate recovery.

For example, you may consider purchasing long-term care insurance for yourself for encouraging your parents to do so. A long-term care insurance policy can pay for the costs of nursing home care so you can avoid the need for Medicaid altogether.

If you’re interested in long-term care insurance for yourself or an aging parent, compare the cost for premiums against the benefits the policy pays out. If you’re unsure whether you or a parent may need long-term care at all, you might consider a hybrid policy that includes both long-term care coverage and a life insurance death benefit.

Another option for avoiding Medicaid estate recovery is removing as many assets as possible from the probate process. Married couples, for example, can accomplish that by making sure all assets are jointly owned with right of survivorship or using assets to purchase an annuity that transfers benefits to the surviving spouse when the other spouse passes away.

It’s important to understand which assets are and are not subject to probate in your state and whether your state allows for an expanded definition of recoverable assets for Medicaid. Talking to an estate planning attorney or an elder law expert can help you to shape a plan for protecting assets.

The Bottom Line

Medicaid estate recovery may not be something you have to worry about if your aging parents leave little or no assets behind. But it’s something you should still be aware of if you expect to inherit anything from your parents when they pass away. If you’re targeted for estate recovery, you may be able to avoid it if you can prove that it would cause you an undue financial hardship. Again, this is where talking to an estate planning professional can help you avoid any unexpected surprises.

Tips for Estate Planning

  • Consider talking to a financial advisor about Medicaid and how to plan for long-term care costs. If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, finding one doesn’t have to be difficult. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool makes it easy to connect with professional advisors online. It takes just a few minutes to get personalized recommendations for financial advisors in your local area. If you’re ready, get started now.
  • Consider a living trust. It will let you transfer assets to the control of a trustee, who will manage them according to your wishes on behalf of your beneficiaries. Trust assets aren’t necessarily exempt from Medicaid recovery, but this could still be a useful estate planning tool for minimizing taxes and ensuring a smooth transition of assets to your beneficiaries.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/FatCamera, ©iStock.com/FatCamera, ©iStock.com/Dennis Gross

Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake is a retirement, investing and estate planning expert who has been writing about personal finance for a decade. Her expertise in the finance niche also extends to home buying, credit cards, banking and small business. She’s worked directly with several major financial and insurance brands, including Citibank, Discover and AIG and her writing has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, CreditCards.com and Investopedia. Rebecca is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and she also attended Charleston Southern University as a graduate student. Originally from central Virginia, she now lives on the North Carolina coast along with her two children.
Read next article

Categories

Source: smartasset.com

Northwestern Mutual Appoints Laura Deaner to Chief Information Security Officer

Deaner is the first woman to hold this leadership position at Northwestern Mutual

MILWAUKEE, Feb. 2, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Northwestern Mutual today announced the appointment of Laura Deaner to Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), where she will lead the Enterprise Information Risk & Cybersecurity team and be responsible for spearheading Northwestern Mutual’s information security strategy.

Northwestern Mutual. (PRNewsFoto/Northwestern Mutual)

“Information security, risk management, and protecting information continues to be a top priority and allows us to deepen our relationships with clients, financial representatives, and employees,” said Neal Sample, Chief Information Officer, Northwestern Mutual. “Laura’s information security experience, technical skillset, and leadership within the cybersecurity industry positions her to advance our security strategy, while continuing our focus on securing our data and protecting clients’ personal information.”

Deaner has more than 21 years of experience working in cybersecurity for multi-national Fortune 500 companies to build effective and robust information security programs by aligning deep technical expertise with executive business vision and support. Her expertise includes risk management, data security, regulatory compliance, incident response, data integrity, and information security in multiple industries, including financial services and media. Most recently, Laura served as the CISO at S&P Global. Prior to that, she held numerous leadership roles at Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and PR Newswire. She previously served as the co-chair of the Global Futures Council at the World Economic Forum.

Deaner holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Old Dominion University. She is also a member of several information security and technology societies including OWASP, WiCyS, ISC2, and Society of Women Engineers (SWE). She currently serves as a Board member for the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC). 

About Northwestern Mutual
Northwestern Mutual has been helping people and businesses achieve financial security for more than 160 years. Through a holistic planning approach, Northwestern Mutual combines the expertise of its financial professionals with a personalized digital experience and industry-leading products to help its clients plan for what’s most important. With $290.3 billion in total assets, $29.9 billion in revenues, and $1.9 trillion worth of life insurance protection in force, Northwestern Mutual delivers financial security to more than 4.6 million people with life, disability income and long-term care insurance, annuities, and brokerage and advisory services. The company manages more than $161 billion of investments owned by its clients and held or managed through its wealth management and investment services businesses. Northwestern Mutual ranks 102 on the 2020 FORTUNE 500 and is recognized by FORTUNE® as one of the “World’s Most Admired” life insurance companies in 2021.

Northwestern Mutual is the marketing name for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company (NM)(life and disability insurance, annuities, and life insurance with long-term care benefits) and its subsidiaries in Milwaukee, WI. Subsidiaries include Northwestern Mutual Investment Services, LLC (investment brokerage services), broker-dealer, registered investment adviser, member FINRA and SIPC; the Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Company® (investment advisory and trust services), a federal savings bank; and Northwestern Long Term Care Insurance Company.

SOURCE Northwestern Mutual

For further information: Meghan Greco, 1-800-323-7033, mediarelations@northwesternmutual.com

Source: news.northwesternmutual.com

Northwestern Mutual Named One of FORTUNE Magazine’s World’s Most Admired Companies

Northwestern Mutual Named One of FORTUNE Magazine’s World’s Most Admired Companies

Company honored for the 38th year with top ranking in the financial soundness, long-term investment value, people management, and use of corporate assets categories

MILWAUKEE, Feb. 1, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Northwestern Mutual, a leading financial security company, announced today it has been named one of the World’s Most Admired Companies in its industry according to FORTUNE’s annual survey for the 38th year. Since 1983, top executives and directors from eligible companies, as well as financial analysts, have determined the companies with the strongest reputations within and across industries.

Northwestern Mutual. (PRNewsFoto/Northwestern Mutual)

Northwestern Mutual secured the number one ranking for the financial soundness, long-term investment value, people management, and use of corporate assets categories. The company also ranked highly in the quality of products/services, social responsibility, and quality of management categories.

“Northwestern Mutual is proud of our exceptional financial strength – which ensured we were prepared to navigate the uncertainties of 2020,” said John Schlifske, Northwestern Mutual chairman, president and CEO. “Our company and advisors have remained focused on our clients to help them become more financially secure – with the confidence that Northwestern Mutual will continue to grow and thrive in the years ahead. We’re proud to once again be named one of the most admired companies in our industry by FORTUNE, which was made possible because of  the hard work of our employees and advisors nationwide.”

To determine the best-regarded companies in more than 50 industries, FORTUNE asked executives, directors, and analysts to rate enterprises in their own industry on nine criteria, from investment value and quality of management and products to social responsibility and ability to attract talent.

About Northwestern Mutual
Northwestern Mutual has been helping people and businesses achieve financial security for more than 160 years. Through a holistic planning approach, Northwestern Mutual combines the expertise of its financial professionals with a personalized digital experience and industry-leading products to help its clients plan for what’s most important. With $290.3 billion in total assets, $29.9 billion in revenues, and $1.9 trillion worth of life insurance protection in force, Northwestern Mutual delivers financial security to more than 4.6 million people with life, disability income and long-term care insurance, annuities, and brokerage and advisory services. The company manages more than $161 billion of investments owned by its clients and held or managed through its wealth management and investment services businesses. Northwestern Mutual ranks 102 on the 2020 FORTUNE 500 and is recognized by FORTUNE® as one of the “World’s Most Admired” life insurance companies in 2021.

Northwestern Mutual is the marketing name for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company (NM)(life and disability insurance, annuities, and life insurance with long-term care benefits) and its subsidiaries in Milwaukee, WI. Subsidiaries include Northwestern Mutual Investment Services, LLC (investment brokerage services), broker-dealer, registered investment adviser, member FINRA and SIPC; the Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Company® (investment advisory and trust services), a federal savings bank; and Northwestern Long Term Care Insurance Company.

SOURCE Northwestern Mutual

For further information: Meghan Greco, 1-800-323-7033, mediarelations@northwesternmutual.com

Source: news.northwesternmutual.com

5 Steps to Ensure Your Money Lasts Through Retirement

If you’re reading this, you’re likely someone who: saves money, has built up some assets, and is starting to think about how to create a retirement drawdown strategy – a plan for how to turn your assets into income that will last for life.

Retirement Drawdown StrategyHaving a sound retirement drawdown strategy and keeping to it is crucial if you want to be able to live comfortably in retirement and not spend time worrying about outliving your savings. Most of the financial services industry has been focused on helping people accumulate or save and invest (and their business models are built on this).

How to decumulate, or drawdown, and generate retirement income in a tax efficient way is a complex topic that is starting to get more attention. Here are five steps to decumulation – a retirement drawdown strategy:

In order to set your withdrawal plan you first need to know how much you’ll need and want. From a risk management perspective – try to get the “need to live on” amount as low as possible.

Optimize Your Lifestyle & Expenses

Take a hard look at your expenses and find ways to get as efficient as possible – this is a huge driver of how much you need in retirement. Build a budget, go through all of your expenses – especially recurring expenses. Get rid of bad debt (credit card, car payments, student loans – ideally pay off your mortgage). Consider where you want to live, since that is a huge driver of taxes and expenses in retirement – here are some lower cost/higher quality of life places in the US, and here are some places to retire abroad.

Consider health care and insurance costs. Out of pocket healthcare costs for a 65 year old couple are more than double what the average household has saved. Read up on how Medicare and Medicare Supplemental Insurance work

There is an interesting movement called Financial Independence Retirement Early (FIRE) – the FIRE Community has some great lessons for traditional retirement people around being frugal/efficient and mindful.

What you are spending today. Is not what you’ll be spending next year or in 10 years.  The reality is that for most people their expenses drop by ~ 10% per decade in retirement.

Here are 9 tips for estimating future expenses.

The more income you have in retirement, the less you need to draw down from your assets, so think carefully about this one.

Factor in Part-Time Work

When many people think of retirement they think “no more work” – the reality is that part-time work is part of many people’s retirement – for income, for engagement, to give back, or for social reasons.

It can be a way of breaking down the problem of retirement income into smaller pieces – for example, if you were making $100K a year and think you only need $75K in retirement, then Social Security ($25K) + part-time work ($25K) + drawdown savings ($25K) sounds like a more achievable plan.

Working part time also gives you a hedge if there’s a big market correction – you’ll give yourself more time for your investments to rebound and you might be able to dollar cost average into the lower market prices. Here are some ideas to find a new chapter for yourself by working in retirement.

Maximize Social Security

Recently more people have started getting smarter and are delaying the start of Social Security benefits.

However, about 33% claim Social Security at 62 – which is generally a bad idea. Basically – if you think you’ll have a long life – then you should delay as long as possible since you’re effectively “buying” an inflation adjusted lifetime annuity backed by the US government at a lower rate than you could buy it on the private market. You can explore your breakeven age Social Security here. If you’re married, have the highest earner delay until 70 – here’s why.

Explore Income-Generating Investments

Originally, most equity investments were made with an eye towards how much income they would pay to the stock holder; today dividend paying stocks (or ETFs or mutual funds) play that role along with fixed income (bond/debt) investments, and increasingly more sophisticated investors are looking into alternative investments (“alts” include private equity, hedge funds, managed futures, real estate, commodities, and derivatives contracts). In an ideal world, your investments generate enough income to cover your expenses, but very few people achieve that.

Consider Whether You Want to Buy an Annuity

Annuities are contracts with insurance companies that allow you to “buy” guaranteed income – they can be purchased with qualified or non-qualified money. Qualified Lifetime Annuity Contracts (QLACs) are growing in popularity. These allow you to use qualified savings to buy an annuity for guaranteed income, and as an added bonus, they allow you to delay RMDs until 85.

There are a lot of types of annuities and you need to be careful to make sure you buy one efficiently if you go down this path. See how much lifetime income you can buy with a lifetime annuity calculator.

Many people have some other big levers that they could potentially pull which could significantly impact their retirement drawdown strategy, so it’s worth considering them before they execute their drawdown plan.

Manage Longevity Risk

The single biggest risk that everyone worries about is outliving their money, because no one knows how long they will live. There are a couple of ways to manage this risk:

  • Set your own planning timeline by buying Longevity insurance via a deferred annuity – this effectively lets you set a specific planning time horizon vs. having an open-ended timeline. The basic idea is that you buy an annuity today that doesn’t start until close to your expected mortality date – the cost is cheaper since the insurance company doesn’t think you’ll be around to collect. However, if you are going strong you’ve got income for life. You can get an annuity estimate here if you want.
  • Limit your withdrawals so that your portfolio will last a very long time – otherwise known as the “The 4% Rule.” Limiting withdrawals from your retirement account to be four percent annually in retirement age was thought of as a safe way to ensure that you will not outlive your retirement savings. The concept of limiting your withdrawals has merit (the idea being you mainly draw from expected returns and not principle), but realistically the “four percent rule” must be considered in conjunction with projected life expectancy, taxes, and actual portfolio returns.

Consider Home Equity

For most homeowners, their home equity is about half of their net worth – it ranks within the top ten retirement income tips on NewRetirement for good reason. There are several ways you can access this asset:

  • Downsize – Have property values increased since the time you moved to your current neighborhood? Connect with a residential real estate broker and have a conversation about downsizing, pocketing the equity your home has gained over the years, and potentially slashing more than the cost of your mortgage but of utilities and expenses as well.
  • Co-housing/renting out part of your home – if your home or property is large enough, you could rent out a room or portion of your house to collect a steady flow of rental income.
  • Rent out your entire home and move to a lower cost area or country.
  • Consider getting a reverse mortgage with a line of credit or lifetime income stream of payments.

Stay Healthy and Hedge Healthcare Risk

The main part of enjoying and getting the most out of your retirement is being healthy. Eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, don’t stress out, be mindful, stay social with your friends, and get out for some nice long walks in the woods – preferably with your dog.

If your health is compromised, you’re much more likely to burn up your hard earned savings. Consider different ways to hedge the risk you’ll need Long Term Care – many people can self insure or buy an annuity or hybrid annuity/LTC product vs. pure long-term care insurance which is being offered by fewer insurers each year.

There are two key parts to a tax efficient retirement drawdown strategy.

Understand How Drawing Assets Impacts Taxes

Drawing assets from different kinds of accounts will impact the taxes you’ll need to pay when you draw down in retirement. There are essentially three places to hold your retirement savings, which are covered below. Ideally, prepare for your drawdown by positioning your savings and investments into the appropriate accounts so they can can be drawn down tax efficiently. The reality for most people is that most of their savings are in qualified accounts. How this money is held goes to the next item – tax efficient drawdowns of these assets.

  1. Pre tax/Qualified (401(k), IRA, HSA) – This is where most people have accumulated their savings since they were able to deduct it from their income when saving it. You save on income taxes now, but will pay income taxes (not lower long-term capital gains taxes) when you draw it out later. The hope is that income taxes are lower in retirement (which may not be the case). Note: if you have a bunch of company stock in your 401K, then read this.
  2. Post Tax /Non-Qualified (normal savings/brokerage accounts) – Some people that are good savers/investors have built up money here. You’ve already paid income taxes and you’ll only be subject to short- or long-term capital gains taxes (which are significantly lower than income taxes; for example, 15% long term capital gains vs. 25% income tax for married people making between $75K to $150K).
  3. Roth IRA – This is an IRA that is subject to the rules applying to a traditional IRA, except that it is post tax money that is invested in a Roth IRA where the savings grow tax free and are also not taxed when you withdraw the money. Note: Roths are not simple, but if you can manage to get more of your money into the Roth vehicle, it can be worth it for you and your heirs since it is not subject to required minimum distributions (RMDs) and it can be inherited.

Tax Efficiently Draw Down Assets

Tax efficiently drawdown these assets by managing how you draw the assets from each one. The order in which you approach your retirement matters greatly and can have a huge impact on your retirement income. If you have enough assets, you’ll need to plan your drawdown in a way to try to avoid being pushed into higher tax brackets. The rule of thumb for tax efficient drawdown is the following:

  1. Deplete assets that are already tax effected (non-qualified money above) since it buys you more time for your qualified money to grow.
  2. Use tax-deferred (qualified money) since it allows your tax free (Roth) money to grow. Note that your qualified money will be subject RMDs after age 70 ½ – the IRS has required minimum distributions from traditional IRAs and 401(k)s.
  3. Use Roth tax free money.

Otherwise known as “don’t be forced to sell during a downturn.” A huge risk that anyone living off of their investments faces is being forced to sell assets during a downturn in order to create income to cover living expenses. There are a few big levers to manage this risk:

  • Limit the amount of money you need to generate from selling assets (see expenses, Social Security, and part-time work above).
  • Many people use a “bucket strategy” to divide your retirement savings into “buckets” so your mind can be at ease knowing that you likely won’t need to immediately sell in a downturn. For example:
    • Keep two to five years of retirement income in cash, or cash equivalents like Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS).
    • Keep 25–50% of your retirement savings in a medium risk portfolio with a 5–10 year timeframe.
    • Keep the remainder in a longer term higher risk higher return portfolio.
  • Use some kind of low interest revolving credit facility that you can tap into and payback – for example a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) or a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), also known as a reverse mortgage line of credit.

It is always interesting to see how other people are planning. Here is my retirement drawdown strategy: I’m still under 50 years old and more on the accumulation side of things and also facing more than 10 years of college tuition, but here’s how I look at our situation.

Savings

  • Continue to monitor our spending and try to stay as efficient as is practicable .
  • Keep working hard and saving into qualified savings vehicles.
  • Develop a plan to migrate assets into a Roth for tax efficiency.

Investing

  • Like many risk averse investors, I’ve got too high a cash allocation, but I’m invested across a mix of roboadvisor, alts (commercial real estate, hedge fund, Angel investments), home equity, business, and cash.
  • Continue to work hard to make NewRetirement all that it can be and thus more valuable.

Life and Health

  • Continue to try to balance work and life and family and health. 
  • Keep Climbing Mt Tamalpaias on my mountain bike. Plus, other stuff like surfing, hiking, soccer, and skiing.

Drawdown

  • Maximize Social Security for myself and my wife by delaying my claim date until age 70.
  • Work part-time deep into “traditional retirement,” since I like working and find it engaging and rewarding.
  • Over time, shift our investments into income producing, lower volatility, inflation hedged vehicles. For example, commercial real estate.
  • Consider longevity insurance (deferred annuity) and leveraging our home equity (renting and relocating, maybe a HECM line of credit).
  • Continuous tax optimization as the tax regime evolves.

Retirement planning and decumulation is complex and involves big, sometimes long-term decisions. It can pay to have experts in your corner to review your plan or to help you take action to get it implemented. I have a CPA to help me with taxes and sometimes talk with expert legal or financial advisors who act as a fiduciary.

Today, you can find experts who you can pay for a specific service if you need or want help. The NewRetirement Planner is a comprehensive online tool that enables you to model and document most of the ideas and strategies outlined here. It’s a great way to build a free DIY retirement plan that is personalized for your situation. 

Source: newretirement.com