Mark's Feed
Mar 25, 2014

‘File-and-suspend': A Social Security strategy under fire

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Are high-income Americans gaming Social Security? The Obama administration wants to go after the wealthy for “aggressive” moves to “manipulate” their Social Security claiming decisions, according to the fiscal 2015 budget released by the White House earlier this month.

The administration hasn’t offered much elaboration, but a White House official, speaking on background, confirmed to me that the target is a benefit claiming strategy known as file-and-suspend – a twist on the more straightforward strategy of delayed filing to earn a higher monthly benefit down the road. Although it’s technically available to anyone, the White House thinks the strategy is being used to unfair advantage by high-income seniors and wants to shut it down because of the added benefit cost it imposes on the Social Security program.

Mar 20, 2014

The other Social Security battle: the squeeze on customer service

CHICAGO (Reuters) – If you want to understand the fight over Social Security’s future, look no further than your annual benefit statement – if you can find one.

The Social Security Administration stopped mailing annual statements in 2011 in a budget-cutting move that saves $70 million annually. The SSA rolled out an online statement the following year, but only 10 million American wage earners have signed up. That’s a paltry 6 percent of all workers.

Mar 18, 2014

Retirement confidence bounces back, but only among wealthy savers

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Americans who owned stocks in 2013 are feeling better about their retirement prospects than they did just a few years ago. For everyone else, not so much.

The longest-running survey of American retirement sentiment shows confidence rose in 2013, the first increase since sentiment plunged following the Great Recession of 2008-2009.

Mar 11, 2014

Why employers are shifting retiree health into insurance exchanges

CHICAGO (Reuters) – A dwindling number of retirees get supplemental health insurance coverage from their former employers. But for those who do, big changes are afoot.

A growing number of companies are dropping single-employer group insurance plans in favor of privately run insurance exchanges, where a third party sets up a marketplace offering Medicare coverage offered by dozens of carriers, with costs subsidized by their former employers.

Mar 6, 2014

Why a Roth IRA for the baby would be a blessed event

CHICAGO (Reuters) – When an infant is born, the hospital paperwork for parents includes birth certificate and Social Security number applications. Soon, though, there could be another document to fill out: a Roth IRA account setup form.

That’s the thrust of the Roth Account for Youths Savings Act, or RAYS Act, introduced last week in the U.S. House of Representatives by Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas).

Feb 27, 2014

Your Medicare card: Go ahead, leave home without it

CHICAGO (Reuters) – What’s in seniors’ wallets? Most likely, a Medicare card that leaves them vulnerable to scams and fraud.

It’s a peculiar anachronism in this era of digital insecurity: Social Security numbers are printed on every Medicare card, and the back of the card instructs seniors to carry it with them at all times. (Medicare’s identification number is called the Health Insurance Claim Number, but your HICN is your Social Security number.)

Feb 25, 2014

Medicare cost shifting: The next big worry for seniors

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Seniors can breathe a little easier now that Social Security benefit cuts are no longer part of this year’s federal budget debate. But the other shoe hasn’t dropped in Washington. That would be Medicare cost shifting.

Last week, President Barack Obama’s administration ditched one of its worst retirement policy ideas, the “chained CPI” for Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs). But we still don’t know if the president or lawmakers will renew efforts to shift a higher share of Medicare costs to seniors as part of budget talks this year.

Feb 20, 2014

Wanted: Financial advisers who aren’t about to hang it up

CHICAGO (Reuters) – If you’ve ever thought about getting some professional help with your retirement plan, this would be a great time to get going. Financial advisers may be in short supply in the years ahead.

A brain drain is about to hit the world of financial planning, according to Cerulli Associates, a financial services consulting firm. Cerulli reports that 32 percent of all advisers will retire in the next 10 years. At the same time, the industry isn’t hiring nearly enough new blood to replace them, let alone expand the ranks to handle the anticipated surge in demand.

Feb 18, 2014

How scary is an older America? Americans aren’t sweating it

18 (Reuters) – America is aging, and it’s
supposed to be a big downer. Pensions are crushing government
budgets, Social Security is in trouble and Medicare costs are
going through the roof.

But someone must be putting Prozac in our water supply,
because we don’t seem to be fretting. A recent Pew Research
Center study of attitudes about aging in 21 countries finds
Americans far less worried about the aging trend than others.
Just 26 percent say aging is a problem in our country, compared
with 43 percent of the British, 55 percent of Germans, 67
percent of Chinese and 87 percent of Japanese.

Feb 13, 2014

The 401(k) cash-out: A brewing retirement savings crisis?

CHICAGO (Reuters) – When you change jobs, do you take the money and run? A large and growing number of young and low-income workers do just that with their 401(k)s, and it’s damaging their chances of building adequate retirement savings down the road.

Data released today by Fidelity Investments shows that 35 percent of all participants in plans it administers cashed out their 401(k) balances when leaving their jobs last year, and the trend was even worse for young and lower-income workers. Four out of 10 workers (41 percent) age 20 to 39 cashed out, and 51 percent of workers who left jobs grossing under $30,000 cashed out.

    • 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 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."
    • More from Mark

    • Follow Mark