Just how gloomy does its future look?
Will Social Security run out of money in the 2030s? For years, Americans have been warned about that possibility. Those warnings, however, assume that no action will be taken to address Social Security’s financial challenges.
Social Security is being strained by a giant demographic shift. In 2030, more than 20% of the U.S. population will be 65 or older. In 2010, only 13% of the nation was that old. In 1970, less than 10% of Americans were in that age group.1
Demand for Social Security benefits has increased, and the ratio of retirees to working-age adults has changed. In 2010, the Census Bureau determined that there were about 21 seniors (people aged 65 or older) for every 100 workers. By 2030, the Bureau projects that there will be 35 seniors for every 100 workers.1
As payroll taxes fund Social Security, the program faces a major dilemma. Actually, it faces two.
Social Security maintains two trust funds. When you read a sentence stating that “Social Security could run out of money by 2035,” that statement refers to the projected shortfall of the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust. The OASDI is the main reservoir of Social Security benefits, from which monthly payments are made to seniors. The latest Social Security Trustees report indeed concludes that the OASDI Trust could be exhausted by 2035 from years of cash outflows exceeding cash inflows.2,3
Congress just put a patch on Social Security’s other, arguably more pressing problem. Social Security's Disability Insurance (SSDI) Trust Fund risked being unable to pay out 100% of scheduled benefits to SSDI recipients this year, but the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 directed a slightly greater proportion of payroll taxes funding Social Security into the DI trust for the short term. This should give the DI Trust enough revenue to pay out 100% of benefits through 2022. Funding it adequately after 2022 remains an issue.4
If the OASDI Trust is exhausted in 2035, what would happen to retirement benefits? They would decrease. Imagine Social Security payments shrinking 21%. If Congress does not act to remedy Social Security’s cash flow situation before then, Social Security Trustees forecast that a 21% cut may be necessary in 2035 to ensure payment of benefits through 2087.3
No one wants to see that happen, so what might Congress do to address the crisis? Three ideas in particular have gathered support.
*Raise the cap on Social Security taxes. Currently, employers and employees each pay a 6.2% payroll tax to fund Social Security (the self-employed pay 12.4% of their earnings into the program). The earnings cap on the tax in 2016 is $118,500, so any earned income above that level is not subject to payroll tax. Lifting (or even abolishing) that cap would bring Social Security more payroll tax revenue, specifically from higher-income Americans.3
*Adjust the full retirement age. Should it be raised to 68? How about 70? Some people see merit in this, as many baby boomers may work and live longer than their parents did. In theory, it could promote longer careers and shorter retirements, and thereby lessen demand for Social Security benefits. Healthier and wealthier baby boomers might find the idea acceptable, but poorer and less healthy boomers might not.3
*Calculate COLAs differently. Social Security uses the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Workers and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) in figuring cost-of-living adjustments. Many senior advocates argue that the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E) should be used instead. The CPI-E often gives more weight to health care expenses and housing costs than the CPI-W. Not only that, the CPI-E only considers the cost of living for people 62 and older. That last feature may also be its biggest drawback. Since it only includes some of the American population in its calculations, its detractors argue that it may not measure inflation as well as the broader CPI-W.3
Social Security could still face a shortfall even if all of these ideas were adopted. The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College estimates that if all of these “fixes” were put into play today, the OASDI Trust would still face a revenue shortage in 2035.3
In future decades, Social Security may not be able to offer retirees what it does now, unless dramatic moves are made on Capitol Hill. In the worst-case scenario, monthly benefits would be cut to keep the program solvent. A depressing thought, but one worth remembering as you plan for the future.
This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.
1 - money.usnews.com/money/retirement/articles/2014/06/16/the-youngest-baby-boomers-turn-50 [6/16/14]
2 - fool.com/retirement/general/2016/03/20/the-most-important-social-security-chart-youll-eve.aspx [3/20/16]
3 - fool.com/retirement/general/2016/03/19/1-big-problem-with-the-3-most-popular-social-secur.aspx [3/19/16]
4 - marketwatch.com/story/crisis-in-social-security-disability-insurance-averted-but-not-gone-2015-11-30 [11/30/15]
Today’s retirees must be more self-reliant than their predecessors.
Decades ago, retirement was fairly predictable: Social Security and a pension provided much of your income, you moved to the Sun Belt, played tennis or golf, and you lived to age 70 or 75.
To varying degrees, this was the American retirement experience during the last few decades of the previous century. Those days are gone; retirees must now assume greater degrees of financial self-reliance.
There is no private-pension safety net today. At one time, when Social Security was paired with a pension from a lifelong employer, a retiree could potentially enjoy a middle-class lifestyle. In January, the average monthly Social Security benefit was $1,341. The highest possible monthly benefit for someone retiring at Social Security’s full retirement age in 2016 is $2,787.80, or $33,453.60 a year. So in many areas of this country, living only on Social Security does not afford you the same lifestyle you may have had when you were working. Elders who thought they could rely on Social Security to get by have learned a bitter truth, one we should note. We must supplement Social Security with other income streams or sources.1,2,3,4
We carry more debt than our parents and grandparents did. It is much easier to borrow money (and live on margin) than it was decades ago. Some people face the prospect of retiring with outstanding student loans, car loans, and business loans, in addition to home loans.3
Some of us are retiring unmarried. With the divorce rate being where it is, some baby boomers will retire alone. Perhaps they will share a residence with a sibling, child, or friends; that may give them something of an economic cushion in terms of meeting daily living costs. Then again, some married households were single-income households in the 1970s and 1980s, but retirees managed.3
We will probably live longer than our parents did. In 1985, the average life expectancy for a 65-year-old man in this country was 79; the average life expectancy for a 65-year-old woman was 84. Today, the average 65-year-old man is projected to live to 91, the average 65-year-old woman to 94. Our parents could depend on the combination of Social Security, pension income, and fixed-income vehicles for a 10-year or 15-year retirement. In contrast, many of us will have to try some growth investing to keep our money growing across a probable 20-year or 30-year retirement.4
We will likely have to insure ourselves if we retire before age 65. The national average retirement age (according to a SmartAsset study of Census Bureau data) is now 63. With private health insurance becoming the new normal, that means many of us will have to find some kind of private health coverage if we retire too young to be eligible for Medicare. Furthermore, the cost of many out-of-pocket medical expenses not covered by Medicare is certainly greater than it once was.5
We must rise to the financial challenge retirement presents. During the 1980s, more than 40% of U.S. private sector employees participated in a pension plan designed to bring them eventual retirement income. In the middle of that decade, Social Security accounted for 65% of U.S. retiree income. Right now, 19% of private firms offer traditional pension plan programs and Social Security represents but 27% of retiree income.4
Our retirement will differ from that of our parents. It will likely be longer and arguably feature a better quality of life. Every aspect of our later years may become more comfortable, more bearable for ourselves and our loved ones. Retirement planning is one of the most valuable tools to assist you in realizing that goal.
1 - faq.ssa.gov/link/portal/34011/34019/Article/3736/What-is-the-average-monthly-benefit-for-a-retired-worker [2/17/16]
2 - faq.ssa.gov/link/portal/34011/34019/Article/3735/What-is-the-maximum-Social-Security-retirement-benefit-payable [2/18/16]
3 - blog.nsbank.com/retirement-planning-3/ [12/14/15]
4 - marketwatch.com/story/how-retirement-has-changed-in-the-last-30-years-2016-02-16 [2/16/16]
5 - smartasset.com/retirement/average-retirement-age-in-every-state [10/28/15]
What steps might help you sustain and grow your retirement savings?
“What is your greatest retirement fear?” If you ask retirees that question, “outliving my money” may likely be one of the top answers. Retirees and pre-retirees alike share this anxiety. In a 2014 Wells Fargo/Gallup survey of more than 1,000 investors, 46% of respondents cited that very fear; 42% of the respondents to that poll were making $90,000 a year or more.1
Retirees face greater “longevity risk” today. According to an analysis of Census Bureau data by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, the average retirement age in this country is 65 for men and 63 for women. Many of us will probably live into our eighties and nineties; indeed, many of our parents have already lived that long. In 2014 (the most recent year for which Census Bureau data is available), over 72,000 Americans were centenarians, representing a 44% increase since 2000.2,3
If your retirement lasts 20, 30, or even 40 years, how well do you think your retirement savings will hold up? What financial steps could you take in your retirement to prevent those savings from eroding? As you think ahead, consider the following possibilities and realities.
Realize that Social Security benefits might shrink in the future. Today, there are three workers funding Social Security for every retiree. By federal estimates, there will be only two workers funding Social Security for every retiree in 2030. That does not bode well for the health of the program, especially since nearly one-fifth of Americans will be 65 or older in 2030.4
Social Security’s trust fund is projected to run dry by 2034, and it is quite possible Congress may intervene to rescue it before then. Still, the strain on Social Security will mount over the next 20 years as more and more baby boomers retire. With this in mind, there’s no reason not to investigate other potential retirement income sources now.3
Understand that you may need to work part-time in your sixties and seventies. The income from part-time work can be an economic lifesaver for retirees. Suppose you walk away from your career with $500,000 in retirement savings. In your first year of retirement, you decide to withdraw 4% of that for income, or $20,000. At that withdrawal rate, not even adjusting for inflation, that money will be gone in 21 years. What if you worked part-time and earned $20,000-30,000 a year? If you can do that for five or ten years, you effectively give your retirement savings five or ten more years to last and grow.3
Retire with health insurance and prepare adequately for out-of-pocket costs. Financially speaking, this may be the most frustrating part of retirement. We can enroll in Medicare at age 65, but how do we handle the premiums for private health insurance if we retire before then? Striving to work until you are eligible for Medicare makes economic sense. So does building some kind of health care emergency fund for out-of-pocket costs. According to data from Health Affairs, those costs approached $16,000 a year in 2014 for Americans aged 65-84, and $35,000 a year for Americans aged 85 or older.4
Many people may retire unaware of these financial factors. With luck and a favorable investing climate, their retirement savings may last a long time. Luck is not a plan, however, and hope is not a strategy. Those who are retiring unaware of these factors may risk outliving their money.
1 - usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2014/09/24/investors-fear-outliving-retirement-savings/16095591/ [9/24/14]
2 - thestreet.com/story/13468811/1/here-rsquo-s-how-to-make-your-money-last-in-retirement.html [2/23/16]
3 - marketwatch.com/story/so-whos-going-to-pay-for-you-to-live-to-be-100-2016-02-17/ [2/17/16]
4 - thinkadvisor.com/2016/02/22/6-ways-to-prevent-going-broke-in-retirement [2/22/16]
Examining a long-held retirement planning assumption.
A classic retirement planning rule states that you should retire on 80% of the income you earned in your last year of work. Is this old axiom still true, or does it need reconsidering?
Some new research suggests that retirees may not need that much annual income to keep up their standard of living.
The 80% rule is really just a guideline. It refers to 80% of a retiree’s final yearly gross income, rather than his or her net pay. The difference between gross income and wages after withholdings and taxes is significant to say the least.1
The major financial challenge for the new retiree is how to replace his or her paycheck, not his or her gross income.
So concluded Texas Tech University professor Michael Finke, who analyzed the 80% rule last year and published his conclusions in Research, a magazine for financial services industry professionals. Finke noted four factors that the 80% rule does not recognize. One, retirees no longer need to direct part of their incomes into retirement accounts. Two, they no longer involuntarily contribute to Social Security and Medicare, as they did while working. Three, most retirees do not have a daily commute, nor the daily expenses that accompany it. Four, people often retire into a lower income tax bracket.1
Given all these factors, Finke concluded that the typical retiree could probably sustain their lifestyle with no more than 77% of an end salary, or 60% of his or her average annual lifetime income.1
Retirees need to determine the expenses that will diminish in retirement. That determination, rather than a simple rule of thumb, will help them realize the level of income they need.
Imagine two 60-year-old workers, both earning identical salaries at the same firm. One currently directs 25% of her pay into a workplace retirement plan. The other directs just 5% of her pay into that plan. The worker deferring 25% of her salary into retirement savings needs to replace a lower percentage of their pay in retirement than the worker deferring only 5% of hers. Relatively speaking, the more avid retirement saver is already used to living on less.
New retirees may not necessarily find themselves living on less. The retirement experience differs for everyone, and so does retiree personal spending.
As a recent Employee Benefit Research Institute study noted, household spending typically declines 6% in the first two years of retirement, with additional declines thereafter. This is not the story for all retirees; EBRI also found that almost 46% of retiree households increased their spending in the initial two years of retirement. On the other side of the scale, nearly 40% of the retiree households EBRI studied saw their expenses fall by at least 20% within two years of retiring.2
A timeline of typical retiree spending resembles a “smile.” A 2013 study from investment research firm Morningstar noted that a retiree household’s inflation-adjusted spending usually dips at the start of retirement, bottoms out in the middle of the retirement experience, and then increases toward the very end.2
A retirement budget is a very good idea. There will be some out-of-budget costs, of course, ranging from the pleasant to the unpleasant. Those financial exceptions aside, abiding by a monthly budget (with or without the use of free online tools) may help you to rein in any questionable spending.
Any retirement income strategy should be personalized. Your own strategy should be based on an accurate, detailed assessment of your income needs and your available income resources. That information will help you discern just how much income you will need when retired.
1 - marketwatch.com/story/you-may-need-less-retirement-income-than-you-think-2015-11-30 [12/24/15]
2 - money.cnn.com/2015/12/02/retirement/retirement-income/ [12/2/15]
If you want a tax break and want to help a non-profit, this may be a good move.
Have you ever wanted to make a major charitable gift? Would you like a significant federal tax break in acknowledgment of that gift? If so, an IRA charitable rollover may be a good financial step to take.
If you are age 70½ or older and have one or more traditional IRAs, you may want to explore the potential of this tax provision, first introduced in 2006 and recently made permanent by Congress. In the language of federal tax law, it is called a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) – a direct transfer of up to $100,000 from the IRA to a qualified charity.1,2
An IRA charitable rollover may help you lower your adjusted gross income. That may be a goal in your tax strategy, especially if your AGI is large enough to position you for increased Medicare premiums, greater taxation of your Social Security benefits, or exposure to the 3.8% investment income tax and the 0.9% Medicare surtax. If your AGI passes a certain threshold, you also lose the ability to itemize deductions.2
Up to $100,000 may be excluded from your gross income in the year in which you make the gift. The gifted amount also counts toward your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD).1,2
By the way, this $100,000 annual QCD limit is per individual. If you are married, you and your spouse may gift up to $200,000 in a year through IRA charitable rollovers. Imagine lowering your household’s AGI by as much as $200,000 in a tax year.2
A QCD will not afford you an opportunity for a charitable deduction. That would amount to a double benefit for the taxpayer making the gift, which is not something federal tax law allows.3
You need not be rich to do this. When many people first learn about the IRA charitable rollover, they think it is only for multi-millionaires. That is a misconception. Even if you do not think of yourself as wealthy, a QCD could prove a significant element in your tax strategy.
How does it work? Logistically speaking, an IRA charitable rollover is a trustee-to-trustee transfer: the IRA owner does not take possession of the money as the gift is arranged. Rather, the custodian or trustee overseeing the IRA writes a check for the amount of the gift payable to the charity. It is a direct transfer of funds, not a withdrawal.2
An IRA owner must be age 70½ or older to do this, and he or she must be the original owner of the IRA (an inherited IRA may not be used). The gifted assets must come from an IRA (or multiple IRAs) subject to RMD rules. SEPs and SIMPLE IRAs are ineligible if an employer contribution has been made for the particular year.4,5
Can you gift appreciated securities as well as cash? You can. Securities held within an IRA may be directly transferred from an IRA to a qualified charity in a QCD. You can claim an income tax deduction for the full fair market value of those securities.4,5
The charity or non-profit involved must pass muster with the IRS. It must be an entity that qualifies for a charitable income tax deduction of an individual taxpayer, and it cannot be a donor-advised fund, a private foundation that makes grants, or a supporting organization under Internal Revenue Code Section 509(a)(3). The charity must provide you with a letter of acknowledgement denoting that you received no goods, services, or benefits of any kind in exchange for your gift, and that you shall not receive any in the future as a consequence of your gift. If that letter is not quickly sent to you, be firm in requesting it.4,5
In case you are wondering, you can actually contribute more than your IRA RMD amount for a particular year through an IRA charitable rollover, as long as the gifted amount does not exceed $100,000. If you pledge a donation to a qualified charity or non-profit, an IRA charitable rollover can be used to satisfy your pledge.5
This tax break has been a boon to charities and IRA owners alike. Correctly performed, a charitable IRA rollover may help to lessen tax issues while benefiting qualified non-profit organizations.
1 - marketwatch.com/story/ira-charitable-rollover-provision-made-permanent-2015-12-25 [12/25/15]
2 - forbes.com/sites/jamiehopkins/2016/01/20/why-retirees-need-to-stop-writing-checks-to-charities/ [1/20/16]
3 - cof.org/content/analysis-ira-charitable-rollover-extension [12/22/15]
4 - wealthmanagement.com/retirement-planning/ira-qualified-charitable-contributions-reinstated-made-permanent [12/21/15]
5 - forbes.com/sites/berniekent/2015/12/20/should-you-make-a-charitable-contribution-from-your-ira/ [12/20/15]
One Federal Reserve official says we should rethink our financial system.
The newest Federal Reserve policymaker just put forth a radical proposal. Neel Kashkari thinks America’s big banks should be broken up, the sooner the better.
This opinion comes from the man who once directed TARP, the Troubled Asset Relief Program that bailed out giant banks in the Great Recession. Kashkari was assistant secretary of the Treasury at that time. This year, he became president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, two years after running for governor of California.1
On February 16, Kashkari spoke at the Brookings Institution and delivered, as one Bloomberg article put it, “a speech that [read] like a cover letter on a resume sent to the White House c/o Bernie Sanders.” Specifically, he called for “serious consideration” of three ideas.1
The first: “Breaking up large banks into smaller, less connected, less important entities.” The second: “Turning large banks into public utilities by forcing them to hold so much capital that they virtually can’t fail (with regulation akin to that of a nuclear power plant).” The third: “Taxing leverage throughout the financial system to reduce systemic risks wherever they lie.”1
While the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 increased regulation of behemoth banks, Kashkari is hardly satisfied with it. As he told the Washington Post recently, “Policymakers have been telling Congress, or maybe Congress has been telling the American people, that Dodd-Frank has solved too big to fail. And I’m saying I don’t believe it.”2
The above reforms would require the approval of Congress. So Kashkari wants to deliver a proposal to Capitol Hill, with input from “leaders from policy and regulatory institutions [and] the financial industry.” All of these parties would convene to “offer their views and to test one another’s assumptions” pursuant to a bill.1
Is this kind of reform necessary? Many voices on Wall Street contend that Dodd-Frank was actually unnecessary, that the credit crisis of the late 2000s never would have occurred if markets, regulators, and Congress had simply abided by existing rules.1,2,3,4
Others have called for big bank downsizing before this, including some Fed officials. In 2012, the Dallas Fed put out an annual report entitled Choosing the Road to Prosperity: Why We Must End Too Big to Fail – Now. Its president, Richard Fisher, has talked of restructuring large banks into “multiple business entities.” St. Louis Fed president James Bullard once introduced the idea of limiting the size of individual U.S. banks to a percentage of annualized GDP.3,4
Of course, not too long ago the federal government helped make the biggest banks even bigger. As it decided certain financial institutions were “too big to fail” during the credit crisis, it also brokered some deals: Bank of America bought up Merrill Lynch and JPMorgan acquired Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns. JPMorgan and Bank of America both received significant help from TARP as a consequence. Taxpayers made a profit on TARP, and Kashkari says TARP was the right move at the right time. However, he prefers that history not repeat.1,5
The “too big to fail” idea contends that the nation’s largest banks need a federal backstop if threatened with collapse, because their failure would wreck the economy. Its adherents argue that a giant bank is a better bank, providing more services here and in emerging markets, benefiting from economies of scale that make their services cheaper than services of smaller banks. These banks, the thinking goes, deserve a safety net in a catastrophe.1,2,3,4
To other observers, the top U.S. banks have grown frighteningly large. An analysis conducted by SNL Financial last year found that just five banks held almost 45% of the U.S. banking industry’s total assets in 2014, about $7 trillion. To put this in perspective, World Bank data shows the entire 2014 U.S. GDP at $17.4 trillion.6,7
In time, market forces may actually accomplish what Kashkari would prefer to see. With TARP long gone, the largest banks have had to bolster their capital ratios, a potential disadvantage as they compete with smaller banks and online lenders. So new competitors (and new lending and financial services platforms) could soon emerge to take away some of their business.1
Kashkari does not want to wait. With the economy in comparatively good health, “the time has come to move past parochial interests and solve this problem,” Kashkari said in his February 16 speech. “The risks of not doing so are just too great.”5
1 - bloomberg.com/gadfly/articles/2016-02-17/let-s-make-sure-neel-kashkari-s-right-before-splitting-up-banks [2/17/16]
2 - washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/02/17/neel-kashkari-oversaw-the-bailout-of-the-big-banks-now-he-wants-to-break-them-up/ [2/17/16]
3 - business.time.com/2012/03/22/break-up-the-banks-dallas-fed-president-calls-for-the-end-of-too-big-to-fail/ [3/22/12]
4 - bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-02-16/fed-s-kashkari-floats-breaking-up-big-banks-to-avert-melt-down [2/16/16]
5 - money.cnn.com/2016/02/17/news/economy/neel-kashkari-breaking-up-too-big-to-fail-banks/ [2/17/16]
6 - cnbc.com/2015/04/15/5-biggest-banks-now-own-almost-half-the-industry.html [4/15/15]
7 - data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD [2/18/16]