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Dec 18, 2014

After the new federal pension rules: What retirees need to know

CHICAGO (Reuters) – The last-minute deal to allow retiree pension benefit cuts as part of the federal spending bill for 2015 passed by Congress last week has set off shock waves in the U.S. retirement system.

Buried in the $1.1 trillion “Cromnibus” legislation signed this week by President Barack Obama was a provision that aims to head off a looming implosion of multiemployer pension plans – traditional defined benefit plans jointly funded by groups of employers. The pension reforms affect only retirees in struggling multiemployer pension plans, but any retiree living on a defined benefit pension could rightly wonder: Am I next?

Dec 11, 2014

Congress’ no-bailout pension plan is no solution for retirees

11 (Reuters) – Wall Street banks, automakers
and insurance giants got bailouts during the economic meltdown
that started in 2008. But when it comes to the pensions of
retired truck drivers, construction workers and mine workers, it
seems that enough is enough.

The $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill moving through
Congress this week adopts “Solutions Not Bailouts,” a plan to
shore up struggling multiemployer pension funds – traditional
defined benefit plans jointly funded by groups of employers in
industries like construction, trucking, mining and food
retailing.

Dec 4, 2014

Flunking retirement readiness, and what to do about it

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Imagine boarding a jet and heading for your seat, only to be told you’re needed in the cockpit to fly the plane.

Investing expert William Bernstein argued in a recent interview that what has happened in our workplace retirement system over the past 30 years is analogous. We’ve shifted from defined benefit pension plans managed by professional financial pilots to 401(k) plans controlled by passengers.

Nov 25, 2014

Year-end tips for retirement savers young and not-so-young

CHICAGO (Reuters) – It’s year-end, and retirement savers of all ages need to check their to-do lists. Here are some suggestions for current retirees, near-retirees and younger savers just getting started.

ALREADY RETIRED: TAKE YOUR DISTRIBUTION

Unfortunately, the “deferred” part of tax-deferred retirement accounts doesn’t last forever. Required minimum distributions (RMDs) must be taken from individual retirement accounts (IRAs) starting in the year you turn 70 1/2 and from 401(k)s at the same age, unless you’re still working for the employer that sponsors the plan.

Nov 20, 2014

Medicare, ACA care and how to navigate during enrollment

CHICAGO (Reuters) – This is enrollment season for two huge public health insurance programs: Medicare and the Affordable Care Act health insurance exchanges. For older Americans, the overlapping sign-up periods can lead to confusion and enrollment errors.

Insurers offering Medicare and ACA policies have big money at stake, and consumers are subject to a blizzard of marketing messages. Annual enrollment for Medicare prescription drug (Part D) and Advantage (Part C) plans began Oct. 15 and runs until Dec. 7; shopping for healthcare policies in the marketplace exchanges created under the ACA began Nov. 15 and ends Feb. 15.

Nov 13, 2014

Five takeaways on retirement from the midterm elections

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Retirement policy wasn’t on the ballot in last week’s midterm elections. But the new political landscape could threaten the retirement security of middle-class households.

With Republicans in full control of Congress, expect efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits. And more Republican-controlled statehouses mean more efforts to curtail state and local workers’ pension plans. One positive note: Congress and the White House could find common ground on some promising ideas to encourage retirement saving.

Nov 6, 2014

The biggest surprises in retirement? The experts weigh in

CHICAGO (Reuters) – The Great Recession served up some nasty financial surprises to people approaching retirement – the housing crash, job loss and shrunken 401(k)s, for starters.

But retirement can bring lifestyle surprises, too. It’s one of life’s biggest transitions, and a major leap into the unknown. Hoping to lessen the guesswork for people who aren’t there yet, I asked experts who work with people transitioning to retirement about the surprises they hear about most often.

Oct 30, 2014

Conquering fear, finding purpose: The secrets of an encore career

PHOENIX (Reuters) – “You must do the thing you cannot do,” Eleanor Roosevelt once wrote. It’s the only way to overcome the fears we all face in doing something new, she thought, and take a leap into the unknown.

Kate Williams quoted Roosevelt earlier this week here when she accepted a $25,000 Purpose Prize, one of the awards given annually by Encore.org, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that works to engage baby boomers in “encore careers” with a social impact. The awards, now in their ninth year, recognize trailblazers over age 60 who have tackled social problems creatively and effectively. Cash prizes range from $25,000 to $100,000.

Oct 23, 2014

The COLA crunch: Why Social Security isn’t keeping up with seniors’ costs

CHICAGO, Oct 23 (Reuters) – Social Security’s annual
inflation adjustment is one of the program’s most valuable
features. But it’s time to adjust the adjustment.

Retirees will get a 1.7 percent bump in their Social
Security benefit next year, according to the Social Security
Administration, which announced the annual cost-of-living
adjustment (COLA) on Wednesday. Recipients of disability
benefits and Supplemental Security Income also will receive the
COLA.

Oct 16, 2014

Beware: Some Medicare Advantage plans have plenty of disadvantages

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Seniors have flocked to Medicare Advantage in recent years, attracted by savings on premiums and the convenience of one-stop shopping. But as the annual Medicare enrollment season began this week, a memorandum from federal officials to plan providers surfaced that serves as a big red warning flag.

The upshot: Assess the quality of any Advantage plan before you sign up.

The memorandum, first reported by the New York Times, described ongoing compliance problems uncovered in federal audits of Advantage and prescription drug plans. These include inadequate rationales for denial of coverage, failure to consider clinical information from doctors and failure to notify patients of their rights to appeal decisions. The audits also uncovered problems with inappropriate rejection of prescription drug claims.

    • About Mark

      "Mark Miller is a journalist and author who writes about trends in retirement and aging. He has a special focus on how the baby boomer generation is revising its approach to careers, money and lifestyle after age 50. Mark is the author of The Hard Times Guide to Retirement Security: Practical Strategies for Money, Work and Living (John Wiley & Sons/Bloomberg Press, 2010) and edits RetirementRevised.com. Mark is the former editor of Crain’s Chicago Business, and former Sunday editor of the Chicago Sun-Times. The opinions expressed here are his own."
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