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Jun 26, 2012

How high fees for mutual funds whack retirees

CHICAGO, June 26 (Reuters) – Mutual fund costs will be Topic
A this fall around many kitchen tables when workplace retirement
savers start receiving the new government-mandated quarterly
statements spelling out exactly what they are paying for their
401(k)s. But a kitchen table chat is also in order for retirees.

After all, smart portfolio management is important in
retirement, too. Retirees draw down assets to pay living
expenses. Fees are still being levied on those accounts – and
they can have a much larger impact on retirement lifestyles and
portfolio longevity than most people understand.

Jun 21, 2012

Retirement planning checklist for LGBT Americans

CHICAGO (Reuters) – June is Gay Pride Month in the United States. And you can tell the times they are a changing when U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta salutes the event by taping a video personally thanking gay members of the military for their service.

But when it comes to retirement security, LGBT Americans still have a long way to go. The federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is a core obstacle to equality for a range of important benefits and legal protections, because it defines the word “spouse” as applying only to different-sex married couples for any purpose involving interpretation of federal law.

Jun 20, 2012

Five things to consider before cutting pension benefits

(The writer is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are
his own.)

By Mark Miller

CHICAGO, June 20(Reuters) – The message from voters about
public pension plans is clear: They’re ready to cut the
retirement benefits of police, firefighters, teachers and other
state and municipal workers.

The latest indicators include the failed recall of Gov.
Scott Walker in Wisconsin – which started with his efforts to
cut pensions – and referendums in San Jose and San Diego, where
voters overwhelmingly backed pension reform measures.

Jun 14, 2012

Young savers face Social Security misdirection

CHICAGO, Date (Reuters) – Kathryn Anne Edwards doesn’t look at Social Security like most 26-year-olds.

Her cohort takes a dim view of the program’s prospects, according to a slew of surveys. Some 76 percent of young Americans don’t think Social Security will be able to pay them a benefit when they retire (Gallup); 86 percent would like to divert the taxes they pay to Social Security into private accounts (Pew Research Center); 48 percent of Americans under 40 think the system is in crisis and about to go bankrupt (Lake Research Partners).

Jun 7, 2012

Time to let your retirement fly out the window?

CHICAGO, June 7 (Reuters) – Can you fly the coop on your
company’s 401(k) plan if you don’t like its investment choices?
A growing number of plans offer a “brokerage window” that lets
retirement savers sidestep the standard investment menu and
access a much larger number of mutual funds or stocks offered by
their plan providers.

But plan providers are complaining after the U.S. Department
of Labor (DOL) released unexpected new rules for plan sponsors
that cover brokerage window. The regulatory “guidance” is part
of a broader document dealing with important new rules that take
effect this summer requiring greater transparency of the fees
that participants are charged.

Jun 5, 2012

Health care court ruling could paralyze Medicare

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Opponents of President Barack Obama’s health care law have been predicting dire consequences for seniors on Medicare ever since the legislation was signed last year. The warnings are mostly political spin, but there could be real problems if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the Affordable Care Act this month.

The ACA, a cornerstone of President Obama’s health care plan, would extend health insurance to an additional 23 million Americans by 2019. But it’s run into significant roadblocks as opponents argue that key components are un-Constitutional.

Jun 1, 2012

Should we scrap the 401(k) system and start over?

CHICAGO, June 1 (Reuters) – Retirement savers will get an
eyeful when 401(k) account statements hit their mailboxes this
summer.

A new format mandated by federal regulators will give
investors a more transparent view of the fees they pay and a
study released this week suggests many will be shocked by what
they see.

May 24, 2012

Get personalized help to max out Social Security

CHICAGO, May 24 (Reuters) – As a retirement columnist, I
know it makes sense to wait at least until my full retirement
age to file for Social Security. Here’s what I didn’t know: My
wife and I could boost our combined lifetime benefits nearly 15
percent through a coordinated series of delayed and spousal
benefit filings.

I figured this out using one of several useful tools that
have sprung up in recent years to help people maximize Social
Security benefits. The options vary from basic free online tools
to more robust fee-based services.

May 22, 2012

A program for keeping older workers employed

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Career change often begins with a jolting disruption, like a job loss, a health problem or family issues.

For Becky Loyacano, 57, change began with one of the worst disasters in U.S. history. When Hurricane Katrina destroyed Loyacano’s home in Slidell, Louisiana in 2005, it also crushed the New Orleans native’s work selling disability insurance.

May 15, 2012

Gay couples can’t bank Obama’s blessings yet

CHICAGO (Reuters) – When President Obama embraced same-sex marriage last week, he tried to frame it as an issue for the states to resolve. But federal laws and policies are very much front and center in the battle for a level financial playing field for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans – especially seniors. And the Obama administration is taking a more active role in that battle than the president let on in his historic interview.

One of the key pocketbook issues is that it is impossible for LGBT couples to access the valuable spousal, survivor and death benefits from Social Security, although they pay the same FICA taxes as heterosexual workers, and are nearly twice as likely to live in poverty than heterosexual seniors. Average Social Security benefits are 32 percent lower for LGBT couples than for heterosexual couples, according to The Williams Institute, a think tank focused on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy at the UCLA School of Law.

    • 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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