Financial Planning for Blended Families: 3 Stages of Life

Financial Planning and Blended Families: Three Stages of LifeThe idea of a “traditional” family is ever evolving, and the United States Census Bureau has the research available that clearly outlines the profound shift in family formation. The reports show that families made up of two married heterosexual parents raising their biological children under age 18 now comprises only 20% of households, down from 40% in 1970.

As the traditional family reforms into modern day living, the financial challenges felt by blended families continue to increase. Although there are many definitions of blended families, we are focusing on second marriages and parents sharing custody of children from previous marriages for the purposes of this article.

There is no clear cut “right or wrong” way of managing household finances. Each family needs to find the method that works best for them. We have helped many blended families organize their financial lives, and here are a few themes we find in three different general stages of life.

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Boosting your Social Security Beyond Age 70

SHJ061416_Sharkey_Howes_Javer_Working_Beyond_70Did you know that you can increase your Social Security benefits beyond age 70? Many are now familiar with the delayed retirement credits that individuals earn by delaying collecting their Social Security benefit until age 70. A delayed retirement credit is an 8% increase in your monthly benefit for each year you delay collecting benefits after your “normal retirement age”. Although delayed retirement credits do not continue to accrue beyond age 70, there actually is a way that you can continue to increase your benefits. While many people may not find it feasible to work beyond age 70, those who enjoy their job and continue to work could see an increase to their monthly benefits. Continue reading

Watch those Medicare Part B & Part D (Prescription Drug Coverage) Premiums: You May be Paying Higher Premiums than you Should!

Sharkey_Howes_Javer_Glasses_Monthly_Adjusted_BlogFor our seniors 65+ and those caring for seniors…

Did you know that if your income has dropped significantly you may be eligible for a reduction of your Medicare Part B & and Part D (Prescription Drug Coverage) premiums?

If you’ve ever received a letter from Social Security telling you that your income level causes you to pay extra premiums on your Medicare Part B and Part D, then you should be aware of these rules.

The Social Security Administration receives data that is two-years old, specifically your Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI), each year from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and uses this information to determine the amount of your monthly premiums. If your income has dropped below specific thresholds, your premiums will decrease and vice versa. See the chart below for a breakdown of income levels and premiums required in 2016.

SHJ Tax Return Comparison Chart(source)

The important thing to note is that you don’t have to wait for two years for Social Security to get updated information from the IRS. Instead, if you know your MAGI has dropped below the income threshold on which your current premiums are based, then you can file an appeal along with some required documentation of your current MAGI and request a review.

Required documentation is:

  • A copy of your filed tax return and an IRS transcript;
  • A letter or statement from the IRS stating they have corrected your tax information and explaining the correction;
  • Your amended tax return, along with a letter from the IRS accepting your amended return or an IRS transcript; Your copy of your tax return that shows an obvious IRS transcription error in tax-exempt interest income; or
  • Your declaration under penalty of perjury that you lived apart from your spouse for the entire year when you filed your income tax return as “married Filing separately”. (source)

If the Social Security Administration finds that you’ve been paying a higher premium than you should have been, then they will refund the excess within 30 days of notifying you of their findings. So don’t wait, keep an eye on your income level and if you’re due a reduced premium, get filing!

For additional information read publications, Medicare Premiums: rules for Higher-Income Beneficiaries (SSA Publication No. 05-10536) and Medicare Premiums: What You Can Do If you Think Your Income-Related Premium Is Incorrect (SSA Publication No. 05-10125).

Tips to Protect Your Social Security Number

As the number of identity theft cases and hacking scams increase, it is becoming more and more important to be aware of where and how you are releasing your personal information. Announced by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 17.6 million U.S. residents experienced some type of identity theft in 2014 (source). The most critical piece of information to protect is the master key to your identity – your Social Security Number (SSN)!

Below are 6 tips to help protect your Social Security Number:

1. Offer Alternate Identification
It is important to be aware of who really needs to know your Social Security number and who does not. Often times financial institutions, employers, and the IRS will require the use of your Social Security number to open a new account, run a background check, or file your taxes. If you are prompted to provide your SSN, ask if an alternate ID such as your driver’s license will work instead. For example, your SSN is not always needed to run a credit report. (source) Continue reading

Making Sense of the Social Security Kill Bill

Retirement Concept Social Security BenefitsEarly this November, Congress surprised many when they introduced the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 causing Financial Advisors to revisit ways to maximize cumulative Social Security benefits for their clients. With the passing of this budget deal, we see the end to two Social Security claiming strategies that have benefited many individuals – File and Suspend and the Restricted Application.

The new rules for File and Suspend will take effect with all applications filed after April 30, 2016. We will see the end of filing a Restricted Application for anyone who is turning 62 after December 31, 2015. This leaves a 6 month window for clients to review their situation with their financial advisor to determine how the changes will affect them, and if they can still take advantage of these strategies before they go away.

The File and Suspend strategy was commonly used by married couples to allow one spouse to begin collecting their spousal benefit at full retirement age while allowing the higher earning spouse to delay and then maximize their own benefit at age 70. Under the new rules, any suspension application filed after April 30, 2016 will also suspend all dependent and/or spousal benefits that would have been paid off of the suspended record. In other words, a worker must now collect their own benefit in order to trigger benefits for their spouse or dependents.

Restricted Applications for spousal benefits were often filed by couples who both wanted to delay collecting their own benefits while taking advantage of a spousal benefit in the meantime. The new rules now state that anyone turning 62 in 2016 or later will no longer be eligible to file a restricted application when they reach full retirement age. Individuals who will be 62 by the end of 2015 will remain eligible to file a restricted application when full retirement age is attained. The caveat – if this strategy depends on one spouse filing and suspending after April 30, 2016, the strategy will not work and further planning with your advisor may be beneficial.

For Example: Mark and Mary are both 63 and remain eligible to file a restricted application for spousal benefits at full retirement age. Mark wants to delay collecting his benefits until age 70. However, he will turn 66 after April 30, 2016 at which point the option to file and suspend is no longer available and spousal benefits will no longer be paid off a suspended benefit. Mark will either have to take his own benefit at age 66 to give Mary the option to file a restricted application for spousal benefits, or Mary will have to forego her spousal benefit allowing Mark to delay his own benefit and vice versa.

Individuals fortunate enough to have already implemented these strategies will not see a change to their current benefits. On the other hand, individuals born after 1953 will be unable to take advantage of either claiming strategy and are encouraged along with anyone who will be 62 by the end of 2015 or 66 before April 30, 2016 to meet with their financial advisor to determine the most optimal claiming strategy before the window closes.

Source: Savvy Social Security Planning for Boomers, Social Security ‘Loopholes’ Closing