Mark's Feed
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

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.

May 10, 2012

New online Social Security statements don’t cut it

CHICAGO, May 10 (Reuters) – Your annual Social Security
benefit statement, which provides an important annual reminder
and explanation of benefits, has moved online.

Paper statements were eliminated last year for most
participating workers in a budget-cutting move, which saves $70
million annually in printing and postage. Last week, the Social
Security Administration (SSA) introduced the replacement – an
online statement accessible to anyone who sets up an account at
the agency’s website (here).
So far 130,000 Americans have signed up.

May 8, 2012

Uncle Sam gives workplace Roths a big push

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Roth workplace accounts, which have grown more popular in recent years, are about to get a shot in the arm from Uncle Sam. This week the federal government started rolling out a Roth option to 3.3 million employees who participate in its main retirement program.

Unlike tax-deferred retirement accounts, Roth contributions are made with after-tax dollars. Contributions and investment returns can be withdrawn tax-free as long as the account holder is over age 59-1/2 and the account has been established for at least five years.

May 3, 2012

When should workers take a pension buyout?

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Ford Motor Company is making an offer it hopes 90,000 former employees can’t refuse: a lump sum buyout of their pensions.

The auto giant plans to offer a voluntary buyout of defined benefit pensions to salaried retirees and former employees, with payouts to start later this year.

May 1, 2012

How seniors can get needed primary care

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

By Mark Miller

CHICAGO, May 1(Reuters) – When older patients experience
memory loss or confusion, it’s not uncommon for doctors to
suspect dementia. But for Dr. Roseann Leipzig, her first thought
is to check the patient’s medications, including
over-the-counter meds, to make sure none are causing trouble.

“For example, Benadryl can cause confusion in older people,
even in very low dosages” says Leipzig, a professor of
geriatrics and palliative medicine at the Mount Sinai School of
Medicine in New York City.

    • 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."
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