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Nov 21, 2013

A plea for ‘slow medicine’ and ‘good deaths’ for the elderly

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Katy Butler wanted her elderly father’s pacemaker turned off, but she couldn’t get a doctor to do it.

In 2001, Butler’s father, Jeffrey, suffered a debilitating stroke at age 79. Two years later, his doctor recommended installation of a pacemaker that would help him survive hernia surgery – a decision that seemed harmless at the time but one that ultimately “helped his heart outlive his brain,” as Katy puts it in her new book, “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” (Scribner).

Nov 19, 2013

When your pension sponsor talks ‘de-risking’ – watch out

CHICAGO (Reuters) – A growing number of employers are making plans to “de-risk” their pension plans. That’s jargon for reducing the financial risk posed to corporate balance sheets by pension plans – but if you have a defined-benefit pension and you start hearing that term tossed around, pay careful attention. Less risk for employers can mean more risk for you.

A survey of 180 pension plan sponsors by Towers Watson, the benefits consulting firm, found that 75 percent have implemented or are planning de-risking maneuvers. Their motive is to reduce risk posed by unfunded pension liabilities, which must be carried on the books as debt and hurt a company’s ratings from debt agencies.

Nov 14, 2013

With stock markets up, your 401(k) may need a tune-up

CHICAGO, Nov 14 (Reuters) – Stocks are in record territory,
which probably is great news for your 401(k). Fidelity
Investments reported Thursday that average account balances hit
a new high in the third quarter, propelled mainly by surging
equities markets.

This might be news to you if you don’t track the market
closely and rarely check your account balance. In any case, now
is a good time to take a peek – to pat yourself on the back, but
also, perhaps, to do some rebalancing to keep your plan on
track.

Nov 11, 2013

Column: U.S. woman finds encore career providing homes to disabled vets

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Vicki Thomas was at an age where many people look forward to retirement. She had enjoyed a successful career in public relations and marketing, including stints at a financial services trade group, a major television network, and running her own Connecticut-based marketing company.

But Thomas flipped on the television one day in 2009 and saw something that launched her on to a new career at age 64.

Nov 11, 2013

U.S. woman finds encore career providing homes to disabled vets

11 (Reuters) – Vicki Thomas was at an age
where many people look forward to retirement. She had enjoyed a
successful career in public relations and marketing, including
stints at a financial services trade group, a major television
network, and running her own Connecticut-based marketing
company.

But Thomas flipped on the television one day in 2009 and saw
something that launched her on to a new career at age 64.

Nov 7, 2013

Column: Three tax reforms that could fortify retirees

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Congress probably won’t produce a broad overhaul of the U.S. tax code anytime soon. But if and when it does, lawmakers shouldn’t overlook some of the oddities of the way we tax retirement income. Many Americans are stressed out about their economic security in old age, and tax code writers could ease their pain.

Here are three areas ripe for reform.

BOOST REQUIRED MINIMUM DISTRIBUTION AGE

Under current law, you must start drawing down funds accumulated in tax-deferred retirement accounts in the year you turn 70½. Required minimum distributions (RMDs) must be taken from individual retirement accounts and 401(k)s starting at that point, unless you still work for the employer that sponsors your 401(k).

Nov 7, 2013

Three tax reforms that could fortify retirees

CHICAGO, Nov 7 (Reuters) – Congress probably won’t produce a
broad overhaul of the U.S. tax code anytime soon. But if and
when it does, lawmakers shouldn’t overlook some of the oddities
of the way we tax retirement income. Many Americans are stressed
out about their economic security in old age, and tax code
writers could ease their pain.

Here are three areas ripe for reform.

BOOST REQUIRED MINIMUM DISTRIBUTION AGE

Under current law, you must start drawing down funds
accumulated in tax-deferred retirement accounts in the year you
turn 70½. Required minimum distributions (RMDs) must be taken
from individual retirement accounts and 401(k)s starting at that
point, unless you still work for the employer that sponsors your
401(k).

Nov 5, 2013

U.S. retirees to get slim government benefits boost in 2014

CHICAGO (Reuters) – U.S. senior citizens and retirement savers finally got the word last week on three critical inflation adjustments for next year.

And the word is – not bad.

The announcements of cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for 2014 were delayed by the recent government shutdown. Now the COLA figures for Social Security, Medicare and limits on contributions to retirement savings accounts have been released. It will be a year of moderate Social Security benefit bumps, flat Medicare premiums and status quo for retirement savers.

Oct 31, 2013

Column: Can expanding Social Security solve the retirement crisis?

CHICAGO (Reuters) – I asked a financial services executive recently how our retirement saving system can be considered a success, considering that all but the highest-income households are approaching retirement with next to nothing saved.

His reply: “They don’t have any money while they’re working, so why would they have any money in retirement?”

Oct 24, 2013

Millions of seniors miss out on Medicare prescription drug savings

CHICAGO (Reuters) – More than 2 million people on Medicare could be getting their prescription drugs nearly for free, but don’t. That’s because they have not signed up for Extra Help, an important Medicare benefit that subsidizes drug costs for low-income senior citizens.

Extra Help can pay nearly all of the prescription drug costs a senior incurs in a Part D drug plan. It is provided automatically to seniors receiving Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income benefits. In some states, Extra Help also is automatic for people receiving benefits through the Medicare Savings Program, which helps subsidize Medicare Part A (hospitalization) and Part B (outpatient) premiums.

    • 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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