Archive for the ‘Retirement Planning’ Category

5 Best States for Retirement

Friday, April 17th, 2015

You have saved and planned and are looking forward to retirement. And now comes the million-dollar question: Where should I retire? Deciding where to retire might be simple, but no location fits every dream.

According to a recent report, Wyoming is the best state for retirement. Bankrate ranked all 50 states based on cost of living, taxes, health-care quality, crime rate, well-being and climate.

“Deciding where to live in the golden years is still a very personal decision,” said research and statistics analyst Chris Kahn. “This list is meant to help inform, rather than choose a state for you. For example, if you want to retire on the beach and need top-notch health care, this can help narrow down your choices.”

These are the top 5 states to retire — and here’s why, according to Bankrate.

No. 1: Wyoming

  • Taxes: Wyoming is the lowest-taxing state in the country when you combine income, sales, property and other taxes.
  • Weather: Yes, the winters are frigid. But Wyoming also can boast better-than-average levels of sunshine. Cheyenne, for example, enjoys an average 68% of its maximum possible sunshine, according to government records from 1981 to 2010. That compares with a national average of 60%. Wyoming’s climate is relatively dry. Its humidity levels in the morning and afternoon are both below the national average at 67.8 and 45.5 percent.

No. 2: Colorado

  • Weather: Good weather isn’t only about the warmth. What Colorado lacks in heat, it makes up in low humidity (67.4% in the afternoon vs. a national average of 77.7%), and it’s very sunny. Pueblo, Colo. gets as much sun as Key West, Fla., and it’s actually sunnier than Honolulu or Miami.
  • Community pride/satisfaction: National surveys of individual wellness show that seniors (65 and older) in Colorado are exceptionally satisfied with their community. The surveys, sponsored by the Healthways well-being company, ask questions such as “are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the city or area where you live” and “did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday.” Given the responses, Colorado is ranked as the sixth best in the country when it comes to personal well-being.

No. 3: Utah

  • Health care: The federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality gives each state an annual scorecard on how well its health care system is operating. It tracks more than 150 different quality indicators in every state. This year, AHRQ says that Utah’s health care system is the seventh best in the country.
  • Weather: Just like other Rocky Mountain states, Utah makes up for its cold winters with mild summers, lots of sunshine and low humidity. Milford, Utah, for example, gets more sunshine than Tampa, Fla.

No. 4: Idaho

  • Crime: Idaho has the second-lowest crime rate in the country, just behind Vermont, with 217 violent crimes and 1,864 property crimes per 100,000 people recorded in 2013.
  • Cost of living: Idaho has the third-lowest cost of living in the U.S., ranking behind Mississippi and Tennessee.

No. 5: Virginia

  • Crime: Virginia has the fourth-lowest crime rate in the country, with 196 violent crimes and 2,066 property crimes per 100,000 people recorded in 2013.
  • Health care: Virginia’s health care system is among the best in the country.

The Coming Nationalization of Retirement

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — More than 200 years ago, our country was founded under the concept of self-government. No longer would a “holier than thou” benefactor dictate how the masses should live their lives. The king had been replaced by the individual. Every single citizen was guaranteed the natural right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The government ceased controlling the people. Instead, the people controlled the government.

This concept was new. It was vastly different from other nations of the time. But the codification of this new-found freedom was not guaranteed. In fact, the first attempt failed, and a new constitution would be required. Nothing more shows the concern of the everyday inhabitants than the story of the woman who asked Benjamin Franklin, as he exited Independence Hall, “Sir, what type of government do we have?”

“A republic, if you can keep it,” replied the aged statesmen.

If the Founding Fathers returned today, would they agree whether or not we have “kept it”?

It seems as though the voters, over the years, have been slowly giving it away. Now, I’m no expert in medical services, so I can’t comment on the nationalization of health care that many others have vociferously complained about. I am, however, knowledgeable enough about the retirement services industry to know the ultimate nationalization of that industry will have devastating consequences – not only to the industry itself, but to the average American worker.

Marcia Wagner spoke eloquently on the topic at the CFDD conference here (“A multitude of threats to retirement system“) and she painted a picture that might startle our Founding Fathers.

How and why have we gotten this far? And is the nationalization of retirement as crazy as it sounds?

The bashing of the retirement industry, and 401(k) plans in particular, began in earnest shortly after the market drop of 2008-09. This drip-drip-drip campaign soon merged with the (successful) class warfare strategy of the last election. Empowered by this shift in public discussion, opportunistic politicians saw an avenue to reverse perhaps the greatest legacy of the 1980s – the 401(k) plan.

Much has been said about the amount of people who are currently not covered by retirement plans. The blame has been placed on the shoulders of the 401(k). That this overstates the amount of employees (or the lack thereof) covered prior to the advent of the 401(k) is a truth conveniently ignored. Yes, there may be too few people covered by retirement plans, but the fault lies not with the 401(k). Yet we now see government-based solutions, both those coming from the Senate as well as those offered by the states, that appear to address a problem that doesn’t exist while ignoring a problem that does exist.

The real retirement problem isn’t lack of coverage, it’s over-coverage, or, more appropriately, over-promising.

We’re seeing this in the City of Detroit and select cities in California today. The mainstream press reports the future may feature similar problems in New York City, Los Angeles, as well as the entire state of Illinois. I refer, of course, to the problem of public-sector retirement plans. Local politicians, in hopes of gaining re-election, pledged ever-higher benefits to key public employee constituencies. In exchange for those current-day votes, they mortgaged their municipality’s future. As in the case of Detroit and Stockton, California, the impact has been shattering.

Despite this knowledge, the electoral success of vilifying “the rich” has moved from salaries to retirement plans. The term “Romney-Sized IRA” was not created out of endearment.

Ironically, rather than generating jealousy among the typical retirement saver, it has sparked interest in learning the answer to “How can I Romney-Size my IRA?”

This “can-do” zest – a.k.a. “The American Spirit” – goes unnoticed by Washington and the various state capitals.

As a result, we have proposals from Senate Democrats to outright takeover the private retirement plan industry. Rather than offer a knee-jerk response, Senate Republicans have countered with offers that only slightly tone down the extremes of the opposition.

Even (former?) Tea Party darling Marco Rubio (naively?)  proposed a government-based retirement solution. And let’s not forget the states, who seek to override ERISA and create their own hodge-podge set of rules for allowing private parties to join the state retirement system. (Hmm, isn’t that why they created ERISA in the first place and, by the way, how well do you understand all those state-based 529 rules?)

It goes without saying the unintended consequence of these proposals will have a disastrous impact on the ability for Americans to save for retirement. Just look at the results the last time we fiddled with cutting back retirement savings incentives in the 1986 tax reform.

Annual contributions dropped dramatically. This hurt (and will again hurt) everyone, especially the low-wage employees it’s purported to help. Worse, it sacrifices future government revenues in exchange for buying votes – er – reducing the budget deficit today (sound familiar?).

One must seriously question the motives of any politician willing to take such a large risk with the future retirement of millions of workers when there’s a much safer and proven alternative available (401(k) MEPs).

Sure, laugh at me. Say it’ll never happen. But remember this – didn’t you laugh eight years ago at the idea of anyone seriously considering nationalizing the nation’s health care industry? Not only did Washington pass this legislation, but key industry players, having found a way to profit from it, are enabling it. Why can’t the same thing happen to our retirement?

There is, however, reason to hope. Notice the one component of government left out of this discussion – the House. Nothing gets passed without the House. As long as we still have a bastion of die-hard Tea Party representatives influencing the majority’s leadership, it’s doubtful we will be nationalizing anything very soon.

Besides that, there’s an election in a couple of weeks. And we all have an opportunity to make our own individual choice. Let’s hope America hasn’t lost the spirit of self-responsibility.

After all, we don’t want to upset our Founding Fathers, do we?


The article was written By:  of Benefitspro which was published: October 16, 2014

How Safe is Your “Safe Money”?

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

With the equity markets setting record highs, many security conscious retirees and aspiring retirees are wisely repositioning a portion of their portfolios into “safer” types of investments in order to lock in some of their profits. It’s no secret that it’s difficult for these conservatively minded investors to find places to protect their principal while earning interest above money market funds. The choices are slim (there are only 3) and many may be wondering, how safe is my safe money?

Since “safe money” is only as safe as the company or entity backing their promise it’s worth examining exactly how does FDIC, insurance companies, and the Federal Government “guarantee” the safety of your money.

Read the rest of the article by clicking here.
This article was written by Rob Russell, a contributor for Forbes

The Intolerance Behind Elizabeth Warren’s 11 Commandments of Progressivism

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

In a recent speech of which Politico claims absolutely energized the “Progressive” left, Elizabeth Warren laid out her so-called 11 Commandments of Progressivism.

In what follows, I will first give Warren’s “commandment,” and then explain how each so-called commandment cannot be implemented without official state violence and coercion. I emphasize that I am not going to use hyperbole or paint Warren in a false light. I’m sure she is a nice person when one meets her. My point is not that Warren is nice or nasty, but rather that she espouses a political economy that is based on political favors for some coupled with fierce intolerance toward many.

The 11 Commandments:

1. We believe that Wall Street needs stronger rules and tougher enforcement, and we’re willing to fight for it.

For all of the financial misconduct that we have seen from Wall Street, the problem isn’t a lack of regulation or a dearth of enforcement. No, the problem is that Wall Street is linked at the hip to the federal government and to the Federal Reserve System, which then uses Wall Street as a mechanism to pump cheap money into the system. At the same time, the state then protects Wall Street firms from the consequences that occur when investments in the financial bubbles the Fed creates fail.

Progressive Populists like Warren claim to abhor the tax-funded bailouts, but they don’t object to the inflationary actions of the Fed, nor do they call for a halt to the symbiotic relationship between Wall Street and K Street. Yes, they might complain about the relationship, but at no time has Warren or any of her ilk ever called for a severing of the ties between Washington and Wall Street.

What Warren actually is saying is this: We want the state to have an even greater role in directing investments and determining the outcomes, and when the outcomes invariably fail — as we can expect central planning to do — then we demand ever more of the same. The results may be economically disastrous, but they provide marvelous political theater.

Warren never will endorse free markets on Wall Street — and neither will Wall Street, which I believe to be instructive. Nothing would provide better discipline for the markets than free markets, but Warren is not interested in market discipline; she is interested in the markets being forced to provide outcomes that violate economic laws, and then demanding even more government coercion when disasters inevitably occur.

2. We believe in science, and that means that we have a responsibility to protect this Earth.

Warren obviously is referring to the fact that not all scientists believe we are in the middle of catastrophic global warming — and that makes her mad. In fact, it makes Warren so angry that she wants the state to intimidate scientists that don’t go along with Washington’s pre-determined “scientific” outcomes.

One does not “believe in” or “not believe in” science. Science is not — or should not be — a deity. Science is about using certain consistent methods to ascertain and test various theories about the natural world. It also is about determining probabilities for certain, repeatable events and it should never be hijacked by politicians for their own uses.

If Warren truly did “believe” in science, then she would have no objection to scientists like Roy Spencer and Judith Curry explaining in public forums — without harassment — why they believe the current fears that Warren promotes about “climate change” are overblown. You see, in real science, the “discussion” never is over. Skepticism is the very heart of the scientific method, something that the “discussion-is-over” people like Warren refuse to hear.

What Warren means is that governments should fund scientific research, and that the research should reflect what politicians like Warren want it to reflect. America’s current obesity crisis, for example, is linked directly to government bullying of scientists almost forty years ago, forcing them to accept the government’s “new” nutrition standards, including the government’s “war on fat,” which has been disastrous.

3. We believe that the Internet shouldn’t be rigged to benefit big corporations, and that means real net neutrality.

I am no expert on “net neutrality,” but I don’t think that Warren is much interested in protecting the interests and rights of ordinary individuals who use the Internet, as she remains strangely silent on illegal spying done by the CIA and NSA which does absolutely nothing to protect ordinary citizens.

4. We believe that no one should work full-time and still live in poverty, and that means raising the minimum wage.

Translation: If you are willing to work for pay that is below what the government demands you be given, then you are breaking the law. And what about those people whose productivity does not match what Warren believes the minimum wage should be? They are out of luck.

What Warren does not say is that the original purpose for imposing the minimum wage was never about getting people out of poverty. Instead, Progressives wanted to ensure that certain groups of people, blacks and Eastern Europeans living in the USA, would be priced out of the labor market. Given the unemployment rate for black teenagers in this country is at an all-time-high, one just might think that the Progressive strategy has worked very well.

It is the business owners that Warren so despises who have to foot the bill of increased labor costs, and if they cannot, then the business closes, but Warren would of course not lose a dime. Lest one thinks she has any respect for entrepreneurs and people who have invested, worked, and risked their own finances in order to start and maintain businesses, Warren has this to say, according to Progressive columnist E.J. Dionne:

“There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own,” she said. “Nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.” It was all part of “the underlying social contract,” she said, a phrase politicians don’t typically use.

Entrepreneurs, in Warren-speak, are social and economic parasites that should get no credit at all for anything. They just take advantage of government services and business success comes almost automatically and the entrepreneurs then extract wealth from the community via profits.


5. We believe that fast-food workers deserve a livable wage, and that means that when they take to the picket line, we are proud to fight alongside them.

When I was fifteen years old, I worked at a tourist attraction near Chattanooga called Rock City. No one — including the politicians — believed that I should have been making enough to live on my own. Likewise, the vast majority of fast food workers are not people trying to live independently; they are earning money to help pay for their expenses, save for college, make car payments, and the like.

First, Warren does not even understand what we mean by jobs and wages. A “job” is the application of labor to the creation of either a producer’s good or a consumer’s good. A wage is the payment given to the owner of the labor services for that particular service. It is nothing more than that.

Second, by insisting wrongly that employment is essentially a welfare scheme, Warren disconnects labor from production. To use a Marxian term, she endorses alienation as a labor doctrine in which the worker is alienated from any realities regarding his or her job. According to Warren, the job is nothing more than an income stream to the worker, with the stream having no connection at all with the value of what the worker produces.

If we were to take the reality — based upon laws of economics — of Warren’s statement, we get this: “If you are willing to work for less than what the state declares to be a ‘living wage,’ you will not be permitted to work at all, and should you seek employment without permission from the state, we will treat you like a criminal.” Unfortunately, in Warren’s new order, there would be lots of labor criminals, people working off-the-books and ultimately marginalized people turning toward the fringe occupations that the state declares to be illegal.

6. We believe that students are entitled to get an education without being crushed by debt.

Student loan burdens are becoming greater, but perhaps we need to ask why that is so instead of telling students that someone else — often someone not privileged to have had a college education — will foot their bills. If pushed hard enough, I suspect that Warren would agree with fellow leftists that college should be both tuition-free and relatively open-accessed. Furthermore, in their minds, that should be no problem. (I have spoken to enough faculty members where I teach to know that a lot of leftist Democrats believe that colleges should not charge tuition or anything else, period.)

At the very least, it would seem, Warren believes that individuals that rack up large education debts should not fully have to pay those debts, with the payments, instead, falling to the taxpayers, and even though it is quite clear that the personal “profits” from a college education tend to be privatized. Like the Wall Street firms and other crony capitalist outfits, Warren now wants an entire country in which certain politically-favored groups (and firms) find their profits privatized, but their losses socialized, and paid for by everyone else.

7. We believe that after a lifetime of work, people are entitled to retire with dignity, and that means protecting Social Security, Medicare, and pensions.

Interestingly, while shilling for increases in these things (which, as always, are covered fully by taxpayers who will be forced to supply the “dignity” to others), Warren is not willing to afford “dignity” to entrepreneurs who saved, took big risks, and took chances with their lives to provide goods and services for the benefit of consumers.

8. We believe — I can’t believe I have to say this in 2014 — we believe in equal pay for equal work.

Warren is not speaking of payment for men and women who do the same job in a market setting. In fact, there is a lot of evidence that shows that single women tend to outearn single men.

No, Warren is speaking of a term called “comparable worth,” in which government authorities determine the “equality” of jobs. Such a process is utterly politicized, so what Warren really means is that the state will determine the so-called worth of a job, and then force employers to pay accordingly.

9. We believe that equal means equal, and that’s true in marriage, it’s true in the workplace, it’s true in all of America.

If Warren meant getting the state out of the marriage business, I would support her point here. However, judging from all of her rhetoric, what she means is that everyone else should be forced to accept her definition of marriage, and anyone who does not will be fined or even arrested for holding onto dissenting views.

Warren constantly agitates for a thoroughly politicized society in which the state decides what is valuable, what is “legitimate,” and what kind of thinking should be permitted. When former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich this year was forced out because he had contributed some money to a “man-and-woman” marriage initiative in California in 2008, it sent a clear and chilling message to workplaces everywhere in the US: the only thing that matters is politics.

It didn’t matter that Eich was a major player in helping develop the Internet and his skills will be sorely missed. No, the Elizabeth Warrens of this world care only about a person’s political views. (Maybe that is one reason Warren has expressed such hatred of successful entrepreneurs: they succeed outside of political ideology.)

10. We believe that immigration has made this country strong and vibrant, and that means reform.

Because the current immigration situation is a hot-button item that I would prefer not to touch, given I can see arguments on both sides, I only will say that Warren’s vision of unlimited immigration into an absolute welfare state would be a disaster. Warren has shown no proclivity to putting any limits on welfarism, and given her political record, I believe she sees new immigrants as a source of political support exchanged for welfare benefits.

11. And we believe that corporations are not people, that women have a right to their bodies. We will overturn Hobby Lobby and we will fight for it. We will fight for it!

The Hobby Lobby decision was quite limited, and the implications of the decision certainly did not call for the totally unhinged reaction Warren and others had. The US Supreme Court did not preventanyone from receiving birth control devices or anything else. All it said was that there were four kinds of devices or chemical compounds which abortion opponents call abortifacients that certain employers could be exempt from providing free of charge for employees.

It does not prohibit Hobby Lobby employees from purchasing those particular chemicals or devices; the decision only says that Hobby Lobby does not have to pay for them, given the religious nature of the company’s owners and the fact that it is a tightly-held corporation.

Please understand what Warren is saying: the owners of Hobby Lobby have no rights. They are not people; only those with views similar to Elizabeth Warren have rights.

Original Article can be found at:

Note: The views expressed in Daily Articles on are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.

William Anderson is an associated scholar of the Mises Institute and teaches economics at Frostburg State University. Send him mail. See William L. Anderson’s article archives.

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The Retirement Crisis: A Statistical Mirage?

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

On February 21st Andrew Biggs was the moderator at the American Enterprise Institute in D.C. where they discussed policy changes for Social Security.

About the event:

Andrew Biggs

There is a widespread perception that many Americans are inadequately prepared for retirement. Some even call this a crisis. Policymakers have responded with proposals to expand the Social Security program and reduce or eliminate tax incentives for 401(k) and Individual Retirement Account (IRA) plans that many believe have served Americans poorly.

But some analysts question this perceived retirement crisis, arguing that official statistics significantly understate the benefits that retirees receive from 401(k) plans and IRAs. At this event, retirement experts discussed how proposed policy changes to Social Security or private pensions may be ill-considered.

Please join me Saturday morning, April 5th @ 8am on AM 930 WFMD by logging onto WFMD and clicking the listen live button! Can’t make it? Don’t worry, our shows are recorded and you can listen to them here (shows are generally posted several days after airing)

Also, check out his recent article: “Retirees aren’ t headed for the poor house


About our Guest:

Andrew G. Biggs is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he studies Social Security reform, state and local government pensions, and public sector pay and benefits.

Before joining AEI, Biggs was the principal deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA), where he oversaw SSA’s policy research efforts. In 2005, as an associate director of the White House National Economic Council, he worked on Social Security reform. In 2001, he joined the staff of the President’s Commission to Strengthen Social Security. Biggs has been interviewed on radio and television as an expert on retirement issues and on public vs. private sector compensation. He has published widely in academic publications as well as in daily newspapers such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. He has also testified before Congress on numerous occasions. In 2013, the Society of Actuaries appointed Biggs co-vice chair of a blue ribbon panel tasked with analyzing the causes of underfunding in public pension plans and how governments can securely fund plans in the future.

Biggs holds a bachelor’s degree from Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland, master’s degrees from Cambridge University and the University of London, and a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics.


  • Principal Deputy Commissioner, 2007; Deputy Commissioner for Policy, 2006-2007; Associate Commissioner for Retirement Policy, 2003-2006, Social Security Administration
  • Associate Director, National Economic Council, White House, 2005
  • Social Security Analyst, Cato Institute, 1999-2003
  • Staff Member, President’s Commission to Strengthen Social Security, 2001
  • Director of Research, Congressional Institute, 1998-99


  • Ph.D., government, London School of Economics
  • M.Sc., financial economics, University of London
  • M.Phil., social and political theory, Cambridge University
  • B.A., philosophy, Queen’s University of Belfast


5 key questions to maximize your Social Security benefits

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

Social Security is often in the headlines and is an important area of concern for our country.  The system is in need of reform, and the how’s and why’s of that are the subject of many debates.


In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act.  It was created in response to the ending of the Great Depression and numerous aging Americans were struggling.  Financing would come from workers and employers and be distributed to retirees.  After years of paying into Social Security, it is approaching the time that the largest generation ever will begin reaping their benefits…



A more detailed and extensive history can be found here.

So what do you need to know about Social Security for your own, personal situation?  Everyone has different factors and needs to consider when making decisions about their benefits.  Here are 5 key areas/questions to consider when planning for your Social Security benefits:


  to play Understanding the Challenges of Social Security video

1.) When should I apply for my Social Security benefits (now vs. later)?

  • First, you should consider “Do I need the money”?  If you need it, then it’s a simple answer, but if you are not in immediate need, delaying may be more beneficial in the long run.
  • Secondly, you should consider your health and life expectancy.  Poor health may mean that it makes sense or is a necessity to begin taking your benefits as soon as you are eligible.
  • If you delay receiving benefits until age 70, your payment will increase for each delayed year.

2.) How do spousal benefits work?

  • If you are married and have little to no earnings, Social Security can be received through spousal benefits
  • Two high income-earning spouses can also utilize spousal benefits.  The one claiming spousal benefits can receive Social Security payments while allowing his/her own benefit to continue increasing until the age of 70 (must then forfeit spousal benefit and receive their own).
  • Divorced, unremarried people may also receive spousal benefits based on the ex-spouse’s work history if they were married for at least 10 years and can produce documents to verify the marriage.
  • Widowed people may also receive survivor benefits as early as age 60 (before your full retirement age (FRA), you will receive reduced benefits, and after FRA, you will receive 100%).  There are other factors that may affect the amounts and what you are eligible to receive.

3.) Can I work in retirement and still receive benefits?

  • You can work and still receive benefits, but there regulations as to how much income you can earn before seeing a reduction in your benefit amount when you are working between age 62 and your full retirement age.
  • Once you have reached your full retirement age, there is no limit to the amount of income you can earn, and you will not have reduced benefits.

4.) Will I pay taxes on my Social Security income?

  • Depending on how much income you earn in retirement, your Social Security benefit may be taxable.
  • Income that counts toward your limits include: pensions, dividends and interest, and tax-free interest from municipal bonds.
  • There are two ways to reduce the amount of tax you pay on your Social Security:
    1. Reduce the amount of other income you are receiving.
    2. Change the type of investments you have that are paying dividends and interest.

5.) What is my plan to fill in the “income gap” if my benefits are not enough to meet my needs?

  • Go to the Social Security Administration’s website and click the link that will allow you to estimate your retirement benefits (you will have to enter personal information to verify your identity.  There are step-by-step instructions to walk you through the process.
  • Work with your financial professional to analyze your current financial situation and your future needs and goals.  It is never to early to begin to plan for retirement, and if you are already retired, it is not too late to take a look at your financial picture and plans.
  • There are a lot of things you can do on the SSA website, including applying for benefits, getting your statement, appealing a decision, finding out if you qualify for benefits, and changing your information and delivery options.

To find out more, listen to this Saturday’s Your Personal Economy segment on Your Financial Editor on AM 930 WFMD @ 8am.  You can also go to the MFG homepage and download the “Guide to Social Security”.


The Fiscal Cliff Deal…what it means to you.

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

What a huge disappointment.
Not only did Obama and Congress NOT reduce spending and the deficit, they increased taxes and will continue to pile on the debt!  In all the media hyped “noise” and grand standing by politicians one important component was left out…the American peoples’ desire for fiscal responsibility. Here’s a rundown of what politicians enacted, when they had the opportunity to achieve some very positive things for the United States and its citizens:

•    Taxes on income, capital gains and dividends on high earners increased

•     A 3.8% surcharge (tax) from the Affordable Care Act

•    Every American who works will see their payroll taxes increase by about 2%
 (See the Tax Foundation’s Tax Policy Calculator)  Once you’ve filled out the information, there are three columns showing your 2012 tax liability, what you will pay in 2013 (provided President Obama signs the compromise bill), and what you would have paid if we had gone fully “over the cliff.” Nearly everyone will see a slight increase from 2012 to 2013 because of the expiration of the payroll tax holiday, but everyone will pay less than if Congress had done nothing. The Tax Foundation’s Tax Policy Calculator is available here.

•    5% increase in the Estate Tax to 40%


Originally, the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction committee (also known as the Super Committee) had a target of reducing the federal government’s deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years. Instead, the new legislation will increase America’s federal deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade according the congressional budget office.

Is something backwards about this, or is it just me?

In any event, as my previous email stated after the November elections, Obama and Congress ran out of time and still have to deal with the mandatory spending cuts that were suppose to go into effect on 1.1.13 (that was pushed out 2 months), and agree on whether to raise the government’s debt ceiling (we top out at about $14.6 trillion and are due to hit that level in one to two months.) Obviously, since politicians are against fiscal prudence, the debt ceiling will have to be raised, and we will have to borrow even more money from foreign governments to finance our spending.
Here are three things you can do to protect your personal economy now and going forward:

1.)    Make sure you have confidence in your wealth advisor, tax advisor and estate planning advisor and communicate with them regularly.
(A good resource to use to check out a new advisor is )

2.)    Vote smarter – check your representatives’ voting records and what their visions are for how our country should run and what government’s  role should be.

3.)    Avoid the media “noise”.  Limit your exposure to over-dramatic headlines and lead stories.  Instead, focus on the facts and the fact that you (and your advisor) have taken all necessary measures to put you in the best possible position to ride out volatility and uncertainty. (See this Forbes article for 8 good tips to protect your finances).

As always, our investment models will focus on our clients’ risk tolerance, time horizon, quality and diversification. It’s amazing just how well the best run companies have done whatever is necessary to focus on their earnings, cash positions, management team, dividends, etc.  Rest assured that at Murray Financial Group, we always strive to provide authentic leadership and knowledge resulting in conservative wealth strategies.

This columnist makes a great point…

The United States has now acquired an electorally powerful liberal bourgeoisie who are convinced, as their European counterparts have been for several generations, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, that public spending is inherently virtuous, and that poverty can be cured by penalizing wealth creation. and that government intervention can engineer social ‘social fairness.’ but just when some of Europe’s political class has begun to appreciate the dangers of this philosophy-that taken to its logical conclusion, it leads to economic stagnation and social division-America seems to have decided that it is the quintessence of enlightened sophistication.”
                                                                                                                                                         -Columnist Janet Daley, writing in the London Telegraph, 11/10/12

Now Money, Later Money, and Never Money…how do the three money types impact your life?

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

The way you relate to your money has a very real and tangible impact on your life, and the lives of your loved ones.  There are three “money types” that people tend to deal with:

1.) NOW Money – the money that is for your current and everyday needs.

2.) LATER Money – money that you save and invest for future income needs (child’s college tuition, retirement, vacation home, etc).

3.) NEVER Money – money that you don’t think you will ever have to touch.  In other words, money/assets that you would like to leave to children, grandchildren, charity, etc).

This post is going to focus primarily on your NEVER Money.  Never Money can take a variety of forms – stock portfolios, IRA’s that you and your spouse created and grew over the years, real estate investments, and many more.  Whatever it is, it is critical to take steps to ensure that it goes to the right person or organization, and in the right way.  Below are 10 common legacy/estate planning mistakes that people often make:

10 Common Estate Planning Mistakes

1. Procrastination.  Simply failing to get around to it.

2. Believing that estate planning is only for the wealthy.  When taking into account the people are often surprised at the size of their “estate.”

3. Not reviewing or updating your beneficiaries and will.  Life changing events such as births, deaths of family members, divorces, and changes in general in your family structure can have a significant impact on how your assets are distributed.

4. Not having a tax-planning strategy in place.  Current tax laws are complex and ever changing.  There are strategies available to help you minimize taxes and avoid estate tax penalties.  Sit down with your tax professional to implement advanced tax and estate planning strategies.

5. Take advantage of gifting.  The government allows tax-free annual gifting of $13,000 per individual or $26,000 per couple annually to as many individuals as you choose.  This is a means of giving away some of your estate tax free to family members.

6. Joint titling of assets.  It is true that joint titling of assets may allow you to avoid probate, but do not overlook the additional risks; misappropriation of assets by the joint title holder, exposing of assets to a divorcing spouse of the joint account holder, exposing assets to creditors of the joint account holder.

7. Failure to provide someone you trust with the location of important documents.  All of the work you have gone through in planning the distribution of your assets is worthless if nobody can find the documents.

8. Leaving everything to your spouse.  The government offers an estate tax credit (repealed for 2010) by leaving all of your assets to your spouse you are sacrificing their share of estate tax credit.

9. Doing it yourself.  Not seeking out expert advice.

10. Naming your estate as the beneficiary.  By directing your assets to be paid to your estate   “pursuant to the terms of your will” assets that would normally avoid probate-will become subject to probate which can be both time consuming and expensive.

As you can see, tax issues are mentioned in several of these 10 mistakes.  With a proper tax strategy, there are ways to leave money in a legacy that doesn’t include a huge tax bill for your heirs.  Life insurance is one option to consider when planning your legacy.  It is unique because it is designed to create a lump sum benefit when you pass away that is paid to your beneficiaries, and they don’t pay income tax on the benefit.  Properly designed and structured, it can be one of the most flexible and efficient financial tools you can use.

Ask these 6 questions before purchasing a term life insurance policy:

What are your income needs?
It’s important to consider your family’s income needs over the course of your policy, including expenses such as mortgages, college tuition, medical bills and funeral costs.

What length of term do you want?
The length of your term will depend on your long-term income outlook. For example, if you’re working for 10 more years and then have retirement benefits and Social Security, a 10-year term may work for you.

Can you convert the policy?
If you outlive your term life insurance policy, you may want to convert it near the end of the term without needing another medical exam. Be sure to read the fine print on the conversion option, as there can be time limitations for conversion.

What other benefits do you want?
Riders – such as disability waivers that pay your premiums if you become disabled – are more common on whole life insurance policies than on term life insurance policies. But they are available, so look into them.

How applicable are advertised rates?
Even if you’re relatively healthy for your age, the rates promoted in online or newspaper ads may be based on an applicant with exceptional health. The price quoted may not be applicable to you.

Is the insurance company stable?
Life insurance companies are usually in excellent financial health, but you should still check out their rating. Agencies that rate life insurance companies include A.M. Best Company, Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services.

My last point relates to mistake #3 – not making sure beneficiary information is up-to-date.  A periodic beneficiary review  (video) is a critical tool to ensure that you leave the legacy that you want to the people you want to leave it to.

If you want to learn more about the three money types and how they impact your life, tune in to Your Financial Editor – this Saturday morning @ 8 on AM 930 WFMD.  Listen live


Don’t Blink!

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Have you ever heard the song “Don’t Blink” by Kenny Chesney?  It really sums up life’s timeline.

All I can say is Don’t blink, just like that you’re six years old
And you take a nap
And you wake up and you’re twenty-five
And your high school sweetheart becomes your wife
 Don’t blink, you just might miss
Your babies growing up like mine did
Turning into moms and dads
Next thing you know your better half
Of fifty years is there in bed
And your praying God takes you instead
Trust me friend a hundred years
Goes faster than you think, so don’t blink

Life goes by fast. You go to school, get a job (or 10), work hard, provide for your family and hopefully build your nest egg.  Before you know it, it’s time to retire and enjoy the things you love the most.

Sounds like a good idea to me.  However, there’s a lot of important planning that goes along with the “Golden Years.”  Lets take income planning for example.  The first and most important question I suggest you ask yourself is, “”Retirement Income, Will I Have Enough”?   If you know the answer is yes, retirement will be much more enjoyable.  If you don’t know if your investments, IRAs, pension, social security, etc will allow you to sustain the lifestyle you desire, your anxiety level may be elevated.

Income planning in retirement is affected by many factors – here a few that should be at the top of your list to consider:

1.)    The landscape of retirement has changed – people are living longer and many people are not just sitting on their front porch, but starting    new businesses, traveling, spending time with children and grandchildren.

2.)    Uncertainty about the future of Social Security – will it be around?  When should I start take it?  How do I maximize my benefits?

3.)    Flexibility – the ability to adjust income to fit changing needs during retirement is critical.  Make sure your advisor re-evaluates your strategy periodically and that your strategy is flexible and offers choices.  In other words, don’t put all of your  “eggs in one basket”.

The fact is even if you think your retirement is going to be spending 10 or 15 years sitting on the front porch watching traffic go by (versus the 30+ years of retirement skydiving, traveling, volunteering or reading to your grandchildren) you have to be confident that your income planning is what it needs to be.
So if you haven’t done so yet, I would suggest having an investment model and strategy in place that will provide the retirement income and confidence you need and want.

“Don’t Blink.” 

This week on our monthly Your Personal Economy segment on Your Financial Editor, I’ll be talking in depth about income planning for your retirement.  To learn more, tune in Saturday morning at 8 on AM 930 WFMD, or click here to listen from your pc.

Women and Retirement

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Last week on “Your Financial Editor”, I covered some of the pitfalls women face with their retirement planning.  It’s apparent that menand women have some very similar circumstances, both “pre” and “post” retirement date.  However, some of the issues that women face, if not taken into consideration and planned for properly, could wreak havoc on their golden years.

The Urban Institute is a think tank organization in Washington D.C. and I recently read their latest report about retirement issues for Baby Boomers and found it to be very interesting and informative.  The issue talked about:

  • Boomer women have worked more than ever before, boosting family incomes and retirement wealth.
  • The shift from pensions paying regular retirement income for life to 401(k) plans subject to market volatility adds uncertainty to Boomer’s retirement income.
  • 30 t0 40 percent of the youngest Boomers will replace 75 percent of earnings received in their early fifties, making it difficult to maintain pre-retirement living standards.

I hope you find time to peruse the report.  I continually find it amazing to see how much health, wealth and family are intertwined with our clients’ retirement planning and wealth planning.