Life Events

Where Are You?

Life happens. Some things we can plan for, others we simply need to be prepared for. Whether it’s sending kids off to college or having the funds available to cover an unexpected expense, a little planning now could go a long way in making your tomorrow less stressful. No matter where you are in life, the tips below could help.

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96% of Americans face 4 or more “income shocks” (a 10% or greater decline in pay as the result of a job change, job loss, ill health, etc.) in their working years.

—Teresa Ghilarducci, The New School for Social Research
Education

Saving for college, like saving for retirement, is all about planning. Unfortunately, it’s on a much shorter timeframe than the typical retirement plan (18 years versus 30-40 years). So what can you do? Here are some tips to make the most of your time (and money).

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400000.00

The average private college tuition is expected to top $400,000 by the time today’s newborn turns 18.

Investing for college, cradle to classroom.

Take advantage of tax breaks

Almost every state has 529 plans. But shop around. They have different investment options and, in some cases, tax breaks that supplement federal tax benefits. You’ll want to weigh the quality of the investment options against the tax benefits you might earn by staying in state. The rule of thumb is if the tax benefit is worth more than 5% of your initial investment, it typically trumps the costs of even an expensive plan. In that case your best bet is to stay put.

If, however, you live in a state that offers no tax perks or has no income tax, you might as well shop around for a plan with a good slate of investment options and low costs. The same goes if you live in one of the six that delivers tax benefits no matter where you invest.

Your name, not your kid’s

When setting up your 529, title the account in your name. Only then will colleges count the money as a “parental asset,” meaning those dollars will lower your child’s potential financial aid by a maximum of 5.64% a year. Set it up in your child’s name and that amount rockets to 20% a year.

Start strong

If you start while the future student is still in diapers, you’ve got plenty of time to ride out market swings and take advantage of compounding. That’s why many experts recommend loading up on stocks and starting aggressive with an age-based approach. Today, the average age-based 529 plan starts off for newborns with about 80% invested in stocks.

The tween tweak

This is the time to shift gears. Sure, you may still need stocks for growth, but you’ll likely want to move some money into bonds for stability. How much? Well, that’s up to you. You can go autopilot with an age-based 529, but more than likely you’ll want to look at how your portfolio has been performing and tweak your allocations based on that. Whatever you do, remember that you’ll still need the stomach to ride out a bear market; those 20% declines take place almost every five years, on average. Of course, a 10-year-old has nearly a decade before most of the money needs to be spent, and while stocks can be volatile, they also have tended to snap back quickly. In the worst five-year stretch since the Depression, 1970-74, stocks finished down only about 2.4% a year. Over 10-year periods after the 1930s, they’ve never lost money.

Reduce your risk

Around your student’s sophomore year of high school, consider a much more conservative 529 portfolio (such as cutting equities to 20% or 30% with the balance moved into bonds and cash). Check your age-based account to make sure it’s in line. If it’s not, consider shifting a portion of your 529 funds to get a more conservative allocation or add a separate money-market or bond fund.

One strategy is to look two years ahead. That is, if your child is a junior in high school, have enough money in cash (not just bonds) to cover your expected withdrawals the first year of college. The following year, you’ll want to double that amount. Once your child is in college, you can move everything to cash and start spending down the balance.

College savings: Myths about 529 plans.
Myth #1: Contributing to a 529 will hurt my child’s changes for financial aid.

Not exactly. Your 529 is reported on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the savings reduces eligibility for need-based aid by a maximum of 5.64 % if the plan is in your name. That’s a $564 reduction with $10,000 in a 529 plan. And that leaves you with a tax-free $9,436 available to pay for college costs. Beware, though. If the plan is in your child’s name, the setback will be a more severe 20%.

Myth #2: A 529 plan limits my child to in-state schools.

Actually, you can use money saved in a 529 to pay for college costs at any college or university that is eligible for Title IV federal student aid. There are even a few hundred institutions outside the U.S. eligible for 529 plan money.

Myth #3: When it comes to returns, 529 plans underperform.

The truth is, nearly all 529 college savings plans include an S&P 500 investing option that will mimic the performance of the stock market as a whole. Of course, the stock market will drop by 10% at least two to three times in any 17-year period. Many manage that risk by using an age-based asset allocation that shifts the mix of investments from aggressive to conservative as college approaches.

Myth #4: You can only use money in a 529 plan for tuition.

Money in a 529 can be used to cover tuition, plus room and board, books, supplies, and equipment (including a computer, peripherals, software, and Internet access).

Myth #5: I’ll lose my money if my child doesn’t go to college.

The money is yours. You won’t lose it if the beneficiary doesn’t pursue a higher education—you just have very specific options. First, you can switch the beneficiary to someone else, including yourself. If you don’t have a suitable beneficiary that needs education funding, you can withdraw the funds. However, the will be subject to ordinary income taxes and a 10 percent tax penalty on the earnings portion of the distribution if the money isn’t used for qualified education expenses (the 10% penalty is waived if your child gets a scholarship).

Retirement vs. my child's college education.

You need to save for your child’s education. But you also need to save for retirement. Should you put your retirement savings on hold while you meet the more short-term goal of college? This depends entirely upon your unique situation and priorities. Unfortunately, while your child’s college education will come due sooner than your retirement, postponing saving for retirement may cost you years of tax-deferred growth. The ideal course is to save for both simultaneously…which means you may have to compromise. Here are some considerations:

College

  • Be realistic about your college choice. Is the pricey private college worth it, or is there a less expensive college that offers everything you need at a better value?
  • Have your child contribute money to their college expenses (the majority of college students finance a portion of their education with student loans).
  • Chase those scholarships. There are more out there than you know. Expect your child to be proactive in seeking out and applying for them.
  • Consider reducing your standard of living to free up more money to put toward college.

Retirement

  • If you delay your retirement and work longer, you’ll have more time to save.
  • Consider more aggressive investments (while being aware of the risks).
  • Consider reducing your standard of living now to free up more money for retirement. Or, think about a more conservative standard of living in retirement that will require less to fund.
Employment

Sometimes it appears out of nowhere. Sometimes you can see it coming. Either way, a job loss is a stressful and potentially devastating event. Here are some tips for dealing:

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Preparing for and surviving a job loss.

Be Prepared

If a job loss appears likely, it’s time to build up emergency savings, reduce your expenses and cut discretionary spending. Also consider applying for a home equity line of credit while still employed in case it is needed.

Cut Expenses

This is part of being prepared, but it warrants its own category. Trim whatever you can out of your spending, being honest about what is and what is not necessary. You can usually save money by lowering the quality of plans such as your cable TV subscription, insurance and cell phone plan. For instance, reduce your cell phone’s monthly minutes, raise your insurance deductibles or lower your Internet bandwidth for a lower monthly fee. What expenses can be lowered…or even eliminated?

Supplement Your Income

Of course you’ll be looking for a new job, but consider what you can do to bring in extra income from home. Could you sell stuff on eBay, work as a freelancer, get odd jobs around the neighborhood?

Severance

Study up on what is available, ask for it, then set aside 35-40% for income taxes.

Take Advantage of Benefits

There are many assistance programs available to the unemployed—employer-provided outplacement services, financial counseling and state unemployment benefits.

Resist Retirement Raiding

Do all you can to avoid cashing in tax-deferred retirement plan assets.

Health Insurance

This may seem like a good place to cut expenses, but you should do everything possible to maintain coverage. Squeeze in doctor and dental appointments while you are still covered by your employer's plan. Within 60 days of termination, extend coverage under COBRA law that allows departed employees to buy coverage at company's group rate for up to 18 months.

Contact Creditors

Believe it or not, some creditors will be helpful. Explain your job loss and request reduced payments or extension of time to pay bills while searching for new job. Request a forbearance agreement with your mortgage lender to eliminate or reduce payments for a set period of time.

Network

Often, people will hide their job loss from others out of embarrassment. However, those same people you are hiding it from could be the key to a new job. Spread the word. The more people you have looking out for you, the quicker that new opportunity could present itself.

Using your retirement savings to compensate for a job loss.

After a job loss, there is often a temptation to use your retirement savings accounts to replace the income you’re missing. In the short term, this seems like a logical choice, as these accounts typically have cash available. However, the long-term costs are significant.

A study by The New School for Social Research and supported by the National Endowment for Financial Education shows that a 10% setback (such as losing a job) typically results in as little as $1,166 less savings at retirement. But repeated setbacks add up. Four 10% income dips in a career could result in more than $10,000 in reduced savings. If you lose all your income for at least a year, retirement savings could be reduced by an average $6,218 per episode. That’s almost $25,000 after four no-income years.

Unfortunately, the study found this is more common than you might think. By age 70, 61% of workers went at least one year with no income. Worse, 25% suffered through at least four of these episodes.

Of course, affluent and two-earner households fare better than lower-income households do in such events. With few liquid assets, low-income households are most likely to dip into their 401(k) plan or other retirement savings for day-to-day expenses.

Preparation is the best defense. According to Teresa Ghilarducci, the lead researcher, “Only those with the most resources weather these storms with their retirement nest eggs intact.”

Financial tips to consider before changing jobs.

On the hunt for a new job? That could be the path to a pay raise. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, the wages of those who switched jobs grew at a faster rate on average than those who remained at their jobs. But salary is just one thing to consider when switching jobs. The following tips can help you prepare your finances and avoid costly mistakes.

Emergency Savings

An emergency fund provides a cushion should things not go exactly as planned. Experts say you should have enough in savings to cover three to six months’ worth of expenses. Will you get reimbursed for unused vacation or sick time at your current job? Consider putting that extra cash into your emergency fund. Trimming monthly bills can also provide cash to fund your emergency savings.

Maintain Your Health Insurance

Don’t be tempted. You cannot afford to be without health insurance—and in most states you’ll pay a penalty under the Affordable Care Act if you don’t have health coverage. Find a way to bridge the gap between coverage of your current job and your new one. Adding on to your spouse’s coverage or applying for COBRA coverage through your now-former employer are options.

Maintain Your Life and Disability Insurance

If you have a life insurance or disability insurance policy through your employer, check to see if it’s portable. If so, you can convert it to a personal policy instead of having to start the long process of getting insured.

Don’t Forget Your 401(k)

Many workers cash out their 401(k) plans when changing jobs, but this could cost you money. If you’re younger than 59 1/2, you’ll pay a 10% federal early withdrawal tax penalty, plus you’ll have to pay taxes on your withdrawal at your ordinary income tax rate. Leaving it where it is or rolling your old plan’s balance into your new employer’s plan, or into an IRA, may be a better option. Learn more about all four options here.

Think About Taxes

Will your new job bump you into a higher tax bracket? Or, will there be a gap in employment long enough to significantly lower your level of income for the year? If you lose income, it could create opportunities for tax savings. For example, dropping into a lower tax bracket may be a time to consider converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. You’ll have to pay taxes on the amount you convert, but that will be lower in the lower tax bracket. Plus, you won’t have to pay taxes on Roth IRA withdrawals in retirement—when your tax rate might be higher after years of income growth.

What to do if your employer doesn't offer retirement benefits.

Without an employer-sponsored plan to contribute to, you might want to consider contributing as much as you can each year to an IRA. Because of their tax-deferred, compounded earnings, they offer similar long-term growth opportunities. Your tax advisor can help in determining whether you’re eligible to contribute to an IRA.

Another option to consider is annuities. A typical annuity features tax-deferred growth and provides either fixed or variable payments beginning at some future time (usually retirement). Be sure you understand things such as the fees and expenses and consider when you’ll need access to the funds as withdrawals within the first several years of an annuity investment may be subject to surrender charges.

Traditional investments such as stocks, bonds and mutual funds—while taxable—can also provide an opportunity to earn money for retirement. The specific types of investments you select will depend on your risk tolerance, time horizons, liquidity needs, and goals for retirement.

There are a variety of things to consider when thinking about investment vehicles. A financial advisor can help you understand your choices and create a portfolio that makes sense for you.

Things to consider before taking early retirement.

It is becoming more common for employers to offer longer-term employees early retirement packages as an incentive to leave voluntarily. It helps the company avoid layoffs and acts a somewhat of a “reward” for the employee’s loyalty. But there are more things to consider than just what you’ll do with your extra free time.

Severance

Does your employer’s offer include a severance package that compares favorably with your projected job earnings (including future salary raises and bonuses) if you remained employed? How long can you live on that amount without using your retirement savings? If you can’t live on that amount, is your retirement fund large enough that you can start using it early? Will you be penalized for withdrawing from your retirement plans?

Insurance

Does your employer’s offer include medical insurance? If so, make sure it’s affordable and provides the coverage you need. Also, consider whether it lasts until you’re 65 (when Medicare starts). If their offer does not include medical insurance, you’ll need to look at COBRA or a private individual policy, which can be expensive.

Benefits

Will accepting early retirement negatively impact your retirement plan benefits? If you participate in a 401(k) plan, you’ll not only miss the opportunity to make additional contributions to the plan, you may forfeit employer contributions that you're not yet vested in. Also, if your employer has a traditional pension plan, leaving the company before normal retirement age (usually 65) may reduce the final payout you receive from the plan.

Family Changes

Planning a shared retirement is often one of the last things on a newlyweds to-do list—if it makes the list at all. Things like a starter house, vacations, a college fund, these all seem to push retirement planning to the back burner. But your golden years could be your best years together with a little planning.

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Approximately one-third of all weddings in America today form stepfamilies.

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76% of families have college funds by first grade.

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The majority of America's 73.7 million children under age 18 live in families with two parents.

Getting married? Talk retirement ASAP.

Talk about it

Share your ideal retirement with each other. You might be surprised to find they are different. One of you may be happy to work forever while the other one wants to retire at 50. You may dream of a loft in the city while your spouse pictures hitting the road in a motor home. The sooner you are aware of the other's goal, the more time you have to work toward a compromise and a plan.

Save together

Does your spouse have a 401(k)? If not, can you add more pre-tax income to your own plan to meet your mutual goals? If one spouse is not employed, you may want to consider a Spousal IRA. This allows you to put aside funds in a tax-deferred investment account for the benefit of an unemployed spouse.

Plan together

What are your shared income needs? You may think you could make a retirement budget work with half of your current income, but your spouse may want to keep the same lifestyle you enjoy today, which could require the same level of income you earn today. Align your expectations to build a more realistic plan.

Create a social security strategy

By timing your individual and spousal claims in just the right way, you can maximize your lifetime social security income. It all depends on you, your age, the age of your claim and your spouse, but some planning in the years before age 62 can make a difference in your social security income for life.

Update your beneficiaries

Changing beneficiaries on your 401(k) is easy. And it’s often necessary after major life events such as a marriage, the birth of a child, a divorce, or a family death. Make sure yours are up to date.

Divorce: How to split retirement plans.

The separation of marital assets includes more than the house, cars and savings accounts. If you or your spouse have money in retirement plans, you will most likely be required to share these assets as well. Understanding the rules that govern asset division in a divorce is vital to ensure that the right party is responsible for paying applicable taxes.

Qualified domestic relations order vs. transfer incident to divorce

IRAs are divided using a process known as "transfer incident to divorce." 403(b) and qualified plans, such as a 401(k), are split under the "Qualified Domestic Relations Order" (QDRO). Even if you are dividing the assets in your IRAs and qualified plans in exactly the same manner, you should delineate clearly the category into which each of your retirement assets falls when you submit your information to the judge or mediator. Doing so will help ensure they are listed correctly in the divorce or separation agreement (many courts will lump them all under QRDOs which can cause substantial problems in the future).

Dividing an IRA—transfer incident

Specify that your IRA division is to be treated as a transfer incident to divorce in your agreement and no tax will be assessed on the separation transaction. Depending on the circumstances of the division and how the decree is worded, the movement of funds may be classified as either a transfer or a rollover by the IRA custodian. Either way, the recipient will take legal ownership of the assets when the transfer is complete and then assume sole responsibility for the tax consequences of any future transactions or distributions. 

This is important. It means that if you are giving half of your IRA to your soon-to-be-ex in the form of a properly labeled transfer incident, your ex will have to pay the tax on any distributions they take out of the account after they receives the funds. You will not owe tax on the assets that were sent to your ex because you followed the IRS rules for transfer incidents. Fail to adequately label your division, though, and you will owe both tax and an early withdrawal penalty, if applicable, on the entire amount that your ex-spouse received.

You can avoid this by clearly listing both the division percentage breakdown and the dollar amount of IRA assets being transferred, as well as all the sending and receiving account numbers for all of the IRAs involved in the transfer.

It’s important to understand that the instructions you provide must satisfy both the sending and receiving IRA custodians, as well as the judge and state laws. If the division agreement is not approved by the courts, the IRS will require you to file an amended tax return that reports the entire amount you sent to your ex as ordinary income. In addition, the balance your ex received cannot be placed in an IRA because it was not an eligible transfer. They will then lose the benefit of tax deferral on that money and possibly sue you to be compensated for that loss.

Tracking basis of IRA assets

Has the IRA involved in the transfer incident been partially funded with nondeductible contributions? If so, both you and your ex will need to know the dollar amount of nondeductible contributions and file tax Form 8606 with the IRS in order to correctly calculate and report the apportionment of the nondeductible amounts. Sound tricky? It is. We recommend seeking professional help from your tax advisor in getting this form filed for both of you so you don’t pay unnecessary taxes on IRA distributions that came from contributions that were never deducted.

Dividing a qualified plan—QDRO

There are few exceptions to the protections from seizure or attachment by creditors or lawsuits that federal law accords to qualified retirement plans. Divorce is one of them. Divorce and separation decrees allow the attachment of qualified-plan assets by the ex-spouse of the plan owner if the spouse uses a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. This decree is used to divide qualified retirement-plan assets between the owner and their current or ex-spouse or child or other dependent.

QDROs are tax-free transactions as long as they have been reported correctly to the courts and the IRA custodians. The receiving spouse may roll QDRO assets into their own qualified plan or into a traditional or Roth IRA (in which case the transfer will be taxed as a conversion but not penalized). Any transfer from a qualified plan pursuant to a divorce settlement that is not deemed a QDRO by the IRS is subject to tax and penalty.

Beneficiary designations

Be sure to add or update your beneficiaries after you send or receive your IRA or qualified-plan assets. It would be wise to update the beneficiaries on all your other financial assets (annuities, life insurance, etc.) as well. If you are going to get remarried and/or your children are now going to be your primary beneficiaries, consider creating a revocable living trust and make the trust the primary or secondary beneficiary of your plan or account.

Financial tips for starting a blended family.

All couples should have the “finance talk” before they move in together or get married—especially when the union involves two previously established households with children and other complications. Other complications? How about parents who may need financial or physical support as they age, ex-spouses still in the financial picture, or braces and college for your spouse’s children.

While there is no right or wrong way to go about blending the family finances, there are certain things you need address:

Roles and responsibilities

Finances can be a source of friction in even the strongest relationships. Determine in advance who will pay the bills and how they'll get paid. You may want to keep separate accounts; you may want to merge them. As long as you both agree that the arrangement is fair, that’s what you should do. Consider putting your agreement in writing. This may seem cold, but it will help establish a process for making sure the agreement becomes a habit for each of you.

Discuss your style

Not clothes, but saving, spending and investing. If there are dramatic differences, decide now where you can and can't afford to compromise. Need help? Try "what if" scenarios where you ask your partner things like whether he or she would rather pay down debt or take a vacation or how much he or she would be willing to spend on a large purchase like a new vehicle.

Establish mutual financial goals

Once those goals are in place, then you can make a plan to achieve them. This can be harder than you think. Don’t hesitate to consult with a professional financial advisor who can provide an objective opinion.

Don’t forget the taxes

New living arrangements may change a parent's ability to claim a child as a dependent. Follow IRS rules and agree on who provides the primary support for each child.

Update beneficiary designations

As a blended family, you now have choices in deciding how assets will be distributed after you or your spouse pass away. Be sure to review beneficiary designations for personal savings, investment accounts, workplace retirement accounts, and life insurance policies. You don’t want to forget, only to find out his or her ex-spouse is still the beneficiary in your time of grief.

Protect your future

Go in with open eyes, making sure you are protecting yourself and your loved ones. Consider opening an emergency savings account with regular, automatic contributions.

New baby? Four ways to save for your child’s future.

Saving for your child’s college education by opening a savings account in their name may sound like a good plan. Unfortunately, choosing the wrong savings vehicle could cost them thousands in avoidable taxes and missed financial aid. Even saving for children who may not go to college takes careful planning to maximize their saving and earning potential.

First, the college savings. Financial aid is determined based on income and assets from the year prior to applying for aid—in most cases, the student's junior year in high school. Students with sizable savings in their name could end up losing a large sum of available college money. Here are options to avoid that trap.

529 College Plans

These popular college savings plans operate similar to IRA and 401(k) plans, allowing parents to save for a child's education tax-free through a variety of investment options. Savings in a 529 plan belong to the parent, not the child, and thus do not fall into the trap of sizeable savings in the child’s name working against them when it comes to financial aid. These savings can be used for undergraduate or graduate studies at any accredited two- or four-year campus in the United States. The gains on these accounts are tax-deferred, and once the funds are used to pay for qualified tuition expenses, parents will never pay taxes on those funds.

Alongside the advantage 529 savings plans offer come some restrictions as well. According to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission website, 529 college savings funds can be withdrawn tax-free only for qualified education expenses, including tuition, books, fees, supplies, and room and board. Money spent on unqualified expenses is subject to income tax and a 10% penalty on earnings.

Prepaid 529 Plans

Designed for parents who are sure their child will attend an in-state public university, prepaid 529 plans (also called prepaid tuition plans) allow parents to simply pay for tuition credits in advance at a predetermined price. Prepaid 529 plans offer the same tax, financial aid and parental protections as 529 college savings plans, but without being subject to swings in the stock market. The major limitation to a prepaid plan is losing out on the current value of tuition if the child decides to go to an out of state institution. You may have paid $12,000 for a year of education that’s now valued at $20,000. But if your child decides to go to school out of state, you won’t get the full $20,000 return to use for that tuition. Like the 529 college savings plans, prepaid plan holders can change beneficiaries at any time, but must pay a 10% penalty plus income tax on funds used for anything other than college tuition.

UGMA/UTMA Accounts

If your child doesn’t plan to attend college, they are not at risk of losing financial aid. Still, some early planning could benefit them greatly. For instance, UGMA (Uniform Gift to Minors Act) and UTMA (Uniform Transfer to Minors Act) custodial accounts offer tax breaks for children under 18. According to the IRS, the first $1,000 in gains is tax-free, the second $1,000 is taxed at the child's income tax rate, and the remainder is taxed at the parent's income tax rate. There are no restrictions on how the funds may be used as long as they directly benefit the child. With a UGMA or UTMA account, parents have less control over how the child eventually spends the money.

Roth IRA

Once your child begins earning income, you can open a Roth IRA in their name. If your child is over the age of 18, they will retain control of the account, but restrictions on Roth IRA withdrawals will keep them from taking earnings out penalty-free until the age of 59 ½. Of course, there are exceptions to that rule (hardships such as a disability or specific spending such as purchasing a first home or for qualified education expenses). Unlike a trust in a child’s name, Roth IRA’s don’t come with the legal and administrative fees.

Death of a spouse: a financial to-do list

It’s one of the most emotionally devastating events you can encounter. Unfortunately, the death of a spouse is also a stressful time financially. You are pressured to take care of many financial tasks requiring immediate attention, and often tempted to make major financial decisions. What’s a surviving spouse to do? Here’s a list:

Don’t make major financial decisions

Wait out the urge for six months to a year. Don’t sell the house, give everything to your children, buy more insurance, or sell your stocks and bonds. These things will have major consequences for you long-term, and you don’t want to do them in the emotion of the moment.

Assess your cash flow

While you should postpone major financial decisions, you should immediately assess your expenses and income. Make a list of your income sources (Social Security, pension payments, dividends, interest, job earnings and IRA distributions) and your fixed expenses (groceries, mortgage payments, utilities and insurance). Check the checkbook (yours and your spouse’s) to identify recurring payments on credits cards. Remember, some income will decline as will some expenses. You just need to be prepared.

Gather the documents

Gather Social Security numbers, birth and marriage certificates, military discharge papers, company benefits booklets, car titles, powers of attorney, and current statements for bank, brokerage and retirement accounts. Get 10 to 25 copies of your spouse's death certificate (the funeral director can help with this) as many financial institutions require a death certificate to close an account or to change ownership of investments. You'll also need the death certificate to transfer title on real estate and to claim life insurance and veterans benefits.

Pay your bills

Don’t forget to pay your bills for credit cards, utilities, car loans, property tax, insurance premiums, and the mortgage. You don’t need the hassle of late charges. If this happens, however, don’t hesitate to ask for a waiver due to the circumstances.

Notify

Let Medicare and other health insurance companies know that your spouse has passed away and that you will no longer pay your spouse's premiums. Don’t forget to cancel club memberships and magazine subscriptions that you don't need.

Collect life insurance benefits

Check your life insurance policy or talk to your agent. Go through checkbook registers and canceled checks to see if there were any checks written to an insurance company. Look to see if your spouse had a group policy through an employer or former employer or professional or fraternal organizations. When you file a claim, read the fine print on how you will receive the money. If the insurance company wants to place your funds into its own money-market funds and send you a checkbook turn them down. Instead, place the money in a federally insured bank account or a money-market fund.

Claim a Social Security benefit

As long as you wait until full retirement to collect, you are entitled to a survivor benefit that is equal to 100% of the deceased spouse's benefit. You can collect a survivor benefit as early as 60, but your benefit will be permanently reduced a bit for each month you claim before your full retirement age. (It's reduced by 28.5% if you claim at 60). If you were collecting a spousal benefit, you can "step up" to a survivor benefit and the spousal benefit will disappear. If you are younger than full retirement age and decide to wait to claim the full survivor benefit, you will stop receiving the spousal benefit. If your spouse dies before claiming a benefit, you will be eligible for a survivor benefit equal to the benefit he or she was entitled to at the time of his or her death.

Roll over an IRA

If you are the only beneficiary of your spouse's IRA, you can roll the retirement plan into your own IRA tax-free. If your spouse was 70 ½ or older, make sure they took their required minimum distribution before they died. If they didn't, you must take their RMD by December 31 in the year they died or pay a penalty. After you've rolled the plan into your own IRA, you can skip distributions until you're 70 ½, allowing the account to grow tax-free. Once you turn 70 ½, your required distributions will be based on your life expectancy. If you are younger than 59 ½ and need to access the cash, you could consider not rolling over the IRA. By leaving the account in your spouse's name and remaining as a "beneficiary," you won’t pay a 10% penalty on any withdrawals. Then, after you turn 59 ½, you can roll the account into your own. If your spouse left you a Roth IRA, you can claim the Roth IRA as your own, in which case distributions are never required during your lifetime.

Check with the employer

Was your spouse was employed at the time of his or her death? If so, call the benefits administrator to ask about benefits due to you. In addition to life insurance, these can include unpaid salary and bonuses, accrued vacation and sick pay, leftover funds in a medical flexible spending account, and stock options.

Ask about pension benefits

If your spouse was retired and you were both receiving monthly pension benefits in the form of a joint and survivor annuity, notify the plan administrator immediately. Depending on the type of annuity, you could be due 50%, 75% or 100% of what both of you were receiving before your spouse died.

Address the 401(k)

If your spouse had a 401(k), ask your estate lawyer about rolling the account into an IRA. If your spouse still had accounts from former employers, consolidating them into one IRA may be helpful. Note that the 401(k)-to-IRA rollover can be complicated. Ask the 401(k) administrator to make a direct transfer to the IRA. If the plan instead sends you a check, get it into the IRA within 60 days. If you miss the 60-day cutoff, the IRS will consider the money to be a withdrawal and you will pay tax on the entire amount.

Address your health coverage

If you were receiving health coverage under your spouse's employer plan, you may be able to continue on the group plan for 36 months through COBRA coverage. Ask the plan administrator if the company will continue picking up the employer's premium subsidy.

Prepare the estate

Hold off on placing your spouse's assets in your own name until you meet with your estate lawyer. They will tell you that if you touch assets in your spouse's name, you'll lose any opportunity to "disclaim" the property (allowing those assets to go directly to your children or other heirs). If you forgo these assets, they will not count against your federal or state estate-tax exemption when you die.

File a federal estate-tax return

You have nine months from the date of your spouse's death to file a federal estate-tax return. Remember that some states have earlier deadlines for filing returns for state estate and inheritance taxes, so check with your estate attorney.

Choose a new agent

If you named your spouse to make financial and healthcare decisions on your behalf in the event you became incapacitated, you will need to designate a new agent for your financial power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney and healthcare directive.

Keep a joint checking account for a year

It’s not uncommon for odd checks to arrive in your spouse’s name long after they pass away. If you close or retitle the account, there won't be a place to put them.

Large Expenses

Sometimes large expenses pop up out of the blue. More often, however, they are things you can plan for. It could be as fun as a new car. But it could also be something like a large home maintenance project (new roof, new air conditioner) that seems like an emergency, but should be predicted in general terms. Nothing lasts forever, and you can estimate the lifespan of most of your stuff. So why not prepare?

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5 tips to save up for that [fill in the blank].

The Sinking Fund

A sinking fund is a separate account or amount of money set aside to replace a big expensive item when it fails or for when you decide to get a new one. The best sinking fund strategy is to start one immediately after you make a purchase that will eventually need to be replaced. Take the amount you think you’ll need to cover the large expense, then divide it by the number of months (or years) you’ll have before you’ll need to replace it. Then, save that amount each month (or year) and you’ll be prepared for replacement.

For example, if you just bought a $30,000 car that you expect to last 10 years, you would need to start setting aside $3,000 per year to replace the car when your current car reaches the end of its life.

Don’t raid your raise

Get a raise at work? Congratulations. Now, set aside a part, or all, of it to save for a large expense. You’ve already been living on the amount without the raise, so this way you can be savings without feeling any pinch.

Stash the bonus

The same advice goes for bonuses you might get. While tempting to spend them right away, the smart move may be saving it.

Take advantage of “free money”

Gifts and unexpected money like a utility deposit refund can add to your sinking fund without cutting into your income.

Sell, sell, sell

Chances are, you have plenty of stuff around the house you don’t need. The good news is, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. So if your large expense is just about to happen and you don’t have enough money to pay for it, turning your stuff into cash on Craigslist or eBay could be your answer.

Look for large expenses and you’ll most often see them coming, rather than being surprised. With a little planning, you can be prepared for them without raiding your emergency fund.

Saving for a home.

When it comes to large expenses, your home is probably the biggest of them all. So saving for one can be daunting. Unlike saving for retirement, where the funds you stash away likely won’t be accessed for many years, a down payment is a large sum of money that you’ll need to access soon. That means slowly setting aside small amounts here and there won’t cut it. So here are some tips that will help:

1. Determine how much you’ll need to save

Before you start saving, know how much you need to save. Generally speaking, your housing expense should not exceed 28% of your stable monthly income. Sitting down with a mortgage lender will let you know how much of a mortgage you can qualify for (including mortgage principal and interest, real estate taxes, private mortgage insurance (PMI), homeowners insurance, and homeowners association (HOA) dues, if any), and how much of a down payment you should target.

2. Set a timeframe

When do you plan to buy a house? If you plan to buy a home in the next five years, divide your target down payment amount by five. That’s what you need to put away in your house fund each year. Naturally, the shorter your timeframe is, the higher your annual savings goal will be.

3. Find the best way to save for your down payment

This is a tough one. Risk-type of investment vehicles (stocks, real estate investment, trusts, etc.) are probably not good options since you are saving for a definite purpose that needs to be reached in a specific timeframe. You may be able to earn more in these types of vehicles rather than safer alternatives like savings accounts or certificates of deposit, but you also risk losing money in the process. When saving for a house, the worst-case scenario isn’t missing out on returns, it’s losing the money you need to buy your home.

4. Make room in your budget

We’re talking about saving thousands of dollars a year, so making room in your budget for this savings is vital. You may have to earn additional income. You may have to cut back on expenses. You may need to do both. Budgeting for this savings won’t only save you much-needed cash, it will help you practice managing a tighter budget, which you will definitely need once you are a homeowner.

5. Set up an automated savings plan

Make it automatic and make it easy. That usually means some kind of payroll savings plan. Like your 401(k) plan, you should allocate a certain percentage or dollar amount of your regular pay to go directly into a savings account or money market account dedicated to your down payment. Since you never see this money, you won’t be tempted to spend it.

6. Save those windfalls.

Saving for your down payment is easier (and quicker) when you bank any unexpected windfalls. Income-tax refunds, gifts, bonus or commission checks…they can all help your house fund without taking away from your everyday budget. Regularly depositing a few thousand dollars per year in windfalls can chop a couple of years off of your savings timeframe.

7. Be flexible

While you’re saving money, there will be demands on your finances. Car replacement or repair, uncovered medical expenses, even job loss. Make sure you have a well-stocked emergency fund to deal with these challenges…it will help you get back on the savings track as quickly as possible.

Buying a home is typically a long process, because the amount you need to save is relatively large. But the discipline you develop during this savings process will serve you well during homeownership. After all, you’ll have plenty of expenses once you’re a homeowner…so the more practiced you are at saving toward these, the better off you will be.

10 ways to save on your next car.

It’s definitely not a home purchase, but cars don’t come cheap, either. Here are 10 tips to help you get the best deal on this “large expense.”

1. Bargain over the Internet

Test drive in person, but negotiate price and financing via computer. (You can even have the vehicle delivered to your home or office and sign the paperwork there.) Why do this? Well, most Internet department salespeople are salaried and get extra bonuses based on volume rather than commissions based on the sales price. That means they’re incented to offer you the best price to move cars. The average savings when you deal over the Internet is $1,000 to $2,000. Internet dealing also means you get to avoid the financing and insurance office. This is where dealers throw add-ons and extra fees which threaten to negate the great deal you negotiated. Lastly, you can shop and and negotiate on your schedule, skipping the “let me talk to my manager” routine.

2. Pit dealers against each other

Once you’ve determined which make and model you want, contact several dealers via the Internet. Tell them what you want, when you want to buy, then ask for their best price. Oh, and let them know you are asking other dealers the same thing. The object is to start a bidding war for your business.

3. Bring your own financing

Get preapproved for your auto loan before you start car shopping by applying to a handful of banks and several credit unions to see who can give you the best rate and terms. If you keep the applications within a 14-day period, all the loan applications will only count as one inquiry, minimizing the impact on your credit. Once you settle on a lender, that preapproval should be good for about 60 days, giving you plenty of time to shop for a car. Once you find the right wheels and negotiate a price, ask the dealer if they can make you a better offer on the financing.

4. Negotiate the vehicle price first

Don’t talk about your trade-in, financing or incentives until you reach a deal on the car itself. In writing. Treat them as completely separate transactions. Otherwise, you’ll make a gain on the price of the car but lose it on the trade-in, without even realizing it.

5. Remember, everything is negotiable

Just because something is preprinted (like add-on fees on auto sales contracts) doesn’t mean it’s non-negotiable. Smart buyers know those numbers can be crossed out, or an equal amount can be subtracted elsewhere on the same form.

6. Study up

Car dealers must hate the Internet. There is absolutely no reason at all for a buyer to walk into a dealership without knowing what a good deal is. Sites like Edmunds.com, ConsumerReports.org, KBB.com, NADAguides.com, CarBuyingTips.com and JDPower.com will arm you with details you can use to get a better deal—from what incentives are available on the car you want to what other buyers have recently paid for cars just like yours in your area.

7. Time the market

Buying at the end of the model year is a great way to save (August through October is usually a really good time to buy if you want to get the current year at a discount). Dealers are getting the new models in and need to get rid of the existing inventory. Buying at the end of the month can be a good strategy as well, as many sales people are trying to make their quota.

8. Shop your trade-in

The dealership selling you a new vehicle isn’t necessarily the one that will offer you the highest price on your old one. Shop around to see who can offer the best price on a straight sale.

9. Think hard about your vehicle and dealer choice

Hold out for a great deal on a great car. Because a great deal on a car that doesn’t hold up or serve your needs well into the future isn’t a great deal at all.

The same goes for the dealership. Find one who makes you comfortable and one who is convenient for maintenance. You will be returning, so do business with someone you trust.

10. Pull a switch.

If the dealer you prefer doesn’t have the vehicle you want, try a switch. Many times, dealers can swap with other dealers. They want to make the deal work…and this way you get your vehicle and your dealer.

Business Exit Strategy

Many small business owners have no exit strategy for their businesses in the event of their disability, retirement, or death. They spend all their time, not surprisingly, on business survival and growth. A business exit strategy, however, is vital to plan for the unexpected (financial hardship, injury, disability and even death) and for the succession or transfer of ownership of your business when it comes time to retire. So what can you do? The U.S. Small Business Administration says this:

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Small businesses make up 99.7% of U.S. employers.

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Only 30% of all family-owned businesses survive into the second generation.

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Roughly 85% of business transitions fail due to a lack of communication, trust or next generation competency.

Planning your exit.

Develop a succession plan

There is no "one plan fits all" when it comes to developing a succession plan for your business. But following SCORE's recommended five steps to succession planning (including choosing and training a successor) can help provide some practical direction and deliver the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your life's achievement is in good hands. You can also read more from the SBA about succession planning for family-owned businesses here.

Invest in a retirement plan and insure your worth

As with career employees, you will want to ensure that you invest in a retirement plan, life insurance and even personal disability insurance—all of which will protect you and your family when it's time, forcibly or not, to step away from your business.

It's relatively easy to address retirement planning, because we all hope to get there and, more importantly, want to enjoy it. But life and disability insurance are equally important for the small business owners, because they protect you and your family, should the worst happen. Here are some tips for finding the right plans for you and your business:

  • Finding the right retirement plan: If you are a sole proprietor then you may want to talk to your bank about a setting up an IRA or other retirement solution. If you have employees, on the other hand, setting up a small business retirement plan for both you and your employees needn't be that difficult—and also offers a nice tax deduction.
  • Disability and Life Insurance Options: While some states require employers to provide partial wage replacement insurance coverage to their eligible employees for non-work related sickness or injury, most businesses opt to provide both disability and life insurance as part of an overall compensation or benefits plan.
The process of exiting your business

Whether you are selling your business, transferring ownership, seeking retirement, or facing a "forced-exit" such as bankruptcy or liquidation—planning your exit is a big undertaking that has implications on employees, your business structure, its assets, and your tax obligation. Before you embark on your exit strategy, be sure to engage your lawyer and even a business evaluation expert. That way, you will be sure that you have explored all the options available to you.

7 small business exit strategies.

When it’s time to move on from your small business, you have two questions. How are you going to get your money out of the business? And how much money are you going to get? Having a strategy worked out in advance will help you answer those questions. Here are seven strategies to consider.

1. Liquidation

Close up shop and sell it all. For small businesses, especially those that are dependent on the performance of a single individual, this could be your only option. If you're in this position, you may want to consider retooling your business so that it could be operated by someone else—making it a business someone might want to buy.

Pros

  • It’s simple
  • It’s fast

Cons

  • Liquidation has the lowest return on investment to the owner(s)—goodwill value from client lists or other business relationships is lost.
  • Values for second-hand business assets such as machinery and equipment can be very low.
  • Creditors (if any) have first claim on funds from asset sales.
2. Liquidation over time

Instead of reinvesting profits in the company for expansion, this strategy has you extract most or all of the profits out of the business over time (before eventually selling or closing the business). This is typically done by taking out large salary draws or dividends over a number of years before eventually winding up the business.

Pros

  • Maximizing cash withdrawal on an ongoing basis for personal use (rather than waiting for an eventual windfall from selling the company) lets you keep up your lifestyle.

Cons

  • Extracting profits diminishes your business’ growth potential and reduces the eventual sale value of the business.
  • While profits remaining in the company increase the value of the business and will be taxed as capital gains when the business is sold, salary is taxed as personal income.
3. Keep your business in the family

No explanation necessary, is there?

Pros

  • Ensures your legacy lives on.
  • Provides a living for your heirs.
  • May allow for you to keep a hand in the business.

Cons

  • Can lead to infighting among family members over ownership and/or participation in the business.
  • Family members may not actually have the skills to take over the business.
4. Sell your business to managers and/or employees

Often, current employees are interested in buying your business.

Pros

  • Employees are already familiar with (and enthusiastic about) the business.
  • Arranging a long-term buyout by employees can increase loyalty and motivate them.
  • May allow for you to keep a share of the business or stay on in an advisory capacity.

Cons

  • Employees, though familiar with the business, may not be qualified to run the business.
5. Sell the business in the open market

The most popular option for small businesses. When you’re ready to retire, put your business up for sale and hopefully walk away with your asking price.

Pros

  • If your business is profitable, it should be attractive to buyers and sell quickly.
  • In addition to assets, goodwill can be incorporated when valuing the business for sale, maximizing the return to the owner(s).

Cons

  • A marginally profitable business can be very difficult to sell.
  • Finding a buyer can be a long process.
  • Businesses can be difficult to value and the selling price may be much lower than expected.
6. Sell to another business

Businesses buy other businesses as a quick path to expansion, for synergies from complementary business activities, or simply to buy out the competition.

Pros

  • A competing business may be highly motivated to purchase your business for the reasons above. This would make for a quick sale and maximum profit.

Cons

  • Existing employees may lose their jobs if they are deemed redundant by the buyer or if the purchaser's only motivation is to reduce the competition and may fold your business.
  • Competitors may feign interest in order to access to your customer list and financial information.
7. The IPO

An IPO (Initial Public Offering) is not suitable for all small businesses, but in certain cases, it can be a viable exit strategy.

Pros 

  • IPOs can be extremely profitable.

Cons

  • Becoming a public company is a long process.
  • Becoming a public company is an expensive process.
  • You may or may not be able to withdraw any of your capital at the time you go public. It depends on how the IPO is structured. (Shareholders may want to see all the money raised by the IPO be used to expand the business.)
  • Public companies have much higher compliance and reporting standards than private companies. You may be personally liable or subject to prosecution for any prior accounting "irregularities" or failures in disclosure.

IRS closing a business checklist.

It’s finally time to hang up your hat and close the doors. But how do you actually go about closing a business? The IRS says this:

There are typical actions that are taken when closing a business. You must file an annual return for the year you go out of business. If you have employees, you must file the final employment tax returns, in addition to making final federal tax deposits of these taxes. Also attach a statement to your return showing the name of the person keeping the payroll records and the address where those records will be kept.

The annual tax return for a partnership, corporation, S corporation, limited liability company or trust includes check boxes near the top front page just below the entity information. For the tax year in which your business ceases to exist, check the box that indicates this tax return is a final return. If there are Schedule K-1s, repeat the same procedure on the Schedule K-1.

You will also need to file returns to report disposing of business property, reporting the exchange of like-kind property, and/or changing the form of your business. If you do not have a pre-printed envelope in which to send your taxes, refer to the Where To File page for a list of addresses. 

The IRS’ Guide to Closing A Business offers a list of typical actions to take when closing a business, along with PDF downloads for applicable forms.

Retirement savings tips for small business owners.

Everybody should plan for retirement, but as a small business owner, you have some specific options others don’t. These should be a part of your overall business exit strategy—not for the business, but for you personally.

So start a diversified retirement plan. Now. Doing this will help trim your current tax bill and the funds will grow tax-deferred until you make withdrawals in retirement. Typically, the cost of opening and administering a plan is minimal. Ask if your advisor sells retirement plans to small business owners. There are four main options you’ll have to choose from: a SEP-IRA, a SIMPLE IRA, a Solo 401(k), and a SIMPLE 401(k). For all but SEP-IRAs, a business can be a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a limited liability company, or a corporation.

  • SEP-IRA: This is a tax-deductible retirement plan like a traditional IRA. It’s ideal for companies with just one employee—you. For 2018 tax returns, you could contribute up to 25% of your compensation or $55,000. Note that if you have other employees, you generally must also fund SEP-IRAs for them.
  • SIMPLE IRA: For owners with 100 or fewer employees. Contributions are pre-tax and taken directly out of employee paychecks, similar to a 401(k). Your contribution can’t exceed $12,500 in 2018.
  • Solo 401(k): This is specifically for self-employed people without employees (except perhaps a spouse). Unlike a Traditional IRA, which only allows an individual to contribute $5,500 annually or $6,500 if the individual is over the age of 50 in 2018, a Solo 401(k) Plan offers the Plan participant the ability to contribute up to $55,000 each year ($60,000 if over age 50 in 2018).
  • SIMPLE 401(k): For businesses with 100 or fewer employees, you and your employees may contribute up to $12,500 for 2018. You, the employer, must make either a matching contribution up to 3% of each employee’s pay, or a non-elective contribution of 2% of each eligible employee’s pay.
Retirement

As a happy couple, you may do everything together. If that’s the case, you probably dream of retiring together as well. But when you compare the financial ramifications of joint retirement versus one spouse working longer than the other, retiring together loses a bit of its appeal.

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Is retiring together as a couple a good idea?

When one spouse works longer, the continued income from that spouse’s employment can build the couple’s retirement savings for a few more years. In addition, when one spouse continues working, the amount of social security benefits the couple is entitled to will increase and they will likely have a shorter period over which to draw on their retirement assets, allowing for larger withdrawal amounts each year.

Another major factor to consider is health insurance. If one spouse continues to work, they can keep the health coverage provided through their employer. This could save you years of higher health insurance premiums at an individual rate.

Finally, don’t underestimate the emotional changes retirement can bring. Losing your sense of identity through work is a struggle for some. Add that to the major change of being at home together with your spouse all the time (should you retire together) and the adjustment that brings, and you can see why it may be easier for couples if only one spouse goes through this process at a time, especially if either spouse expects to have difficulty adapting to the new lifestyle. This option gives the retiring spouse time alone to begin creating a new identity while keeping some elements of their relationship, including separation during the day, unchanged. If both spouses retire at the same time, the emotional impact on each partner—and on their relationship—can cause friction and spouses may end up taking their frustrations out on each other.

Retirement planning for your children.

The earlier you start to save for retirement, the easier it is to reach your financial target. Even though practically everyone agrees with that statement, most do not consider retirement planning or education for their children. But perhaps you should.

Eligibility

At the federal level, eligibility requirements are the same for minors and adults. Like adults, your child must have eligible compensation in order for an IRA contribution to be made on their behalf. Additionally, the contribution is limited to the lesser of (a) 100% of compensation or (b) $5,500 plus inflation adjustments in future years. For employer-sponsored plans such as SIMPLE IRAs, SEP IRAs, and qualified plans, the eligibility of a minor who is employed by the company that sponsors the retirement plan would be determined by the plan's established eligibility requirements.

Sources of Income

What is eligible income? If your child earns income from mowing lawns, a newspaper route, working at the mall, etc., it typically satisfies the “eligible compensation” requirement. The challenge is if the child works for a parent or other family member. If that’s the case, you’ve got a few hoops to jump through to prove eligibility. Money given for chores or allowance is not eligible compensation for funding an IRA.

Establishing A Retirement Account

While there is no minimum age for who can have a retirement account, state law may prevent minors from establishing one on their own. In that case, most financial institutions will allow a parent or legal guardian to establish a guardian IRA for a minor. All paperwork is completed with the minor's name, social security number and other personal data, but is signed by the parent or legal guardian. The parent or legal guardian is also required to sign any request for withdrawals.

Getting a late start on retirement.

Many point to your twenties as the ideal time to start saving toward retirement. But if you’re older and haven’t yet started, you can still make a plan and begin to build your nest egg. You’ll just have a shorter amount of time to accomplish your goals, which means you’ll probably have to make some tough choices. Typically this means shifting your investment strategy, adjusting your spending habits or considering retiring later.

If you’re getting a late start, you’ll want to save as much as possible. You can do this by maximizing your contributions to IRAs, 401(k)s and other tax-advantaged vehicles. Then consider supplementing your retirement savings through vehicles such as savings accounts and other non-retirement investment accounts.

Trimming expenses may also free up money you can use to invest in your retirement. Consider cutting back on non-essential expenses such as dining out often, entertainment, or that daily coffee run.

Consider investing more aggressively. But remember, while certain stocks and mutual funds may grow your savings more rapidly, they often carry more risk, which could lead to a possible loss of principal. Before you make any investment, carefully consider its investment objectives, risks, fees, and expenses, which are contained in the prospectus available from the fund. Review the prospectus carefully, including the discussion of fund classes and fees and how they apply to you.

Delaying your retirement is not often a popular strategy, but it may be a smart move in many situations. It will give you more time to save towards retirement, and shorten the length of retirement you’ll need to fund.

If you’re getting a late start, make sure you have realistic retirement goals. Then, make a plan considering the tips above and stick to it. If you’d like help creating that plan, or have questions about how to begin working towards your goals, consult a financial advisor.

Estimating your social security benefits.

Wondering how much you will receive from social security when you retire? It depends. There is no set amount social security sets aside for each individual. Instead, your retirement benefit is based on your average lifetime earnings, counting only your highest 35 years of earnings. The amount you receive will also be affected by other factors including:

  • When you start collecting benefits (you'll get less the early you start) 
  • Whether you work after you retire
  • Whether other family members receive benefits based on your earnings record
  • Whether you collect certain other government benefits
  • The cost of living 

The Social Security Administration's website, ssa.gov, features a Retirement Estimator calculator that allows you to estimate your retirement benefit based on your actual earnings record. You can also sign up for a my Social Security account so that you can view your online social security statement. This statement contains a detailed record of your earnings, as well as estimates of retirement, survivor and disability benefits.

If you're not registered for an online account and are not yet receiving benefits, you'll receive a statement in the mail every five years, from age 25 to age 60, and then annually thereafter.

BOK Financial Corporation (BOKF) offers wealth management and trust services through various affiliate companies and non-bank subsidiaries including advisory services offered by BOKF, NA and its subsidiaries BOK Financial Asset Management, Inc. and Cavanal Hill Investment Management, Inc. each an SEC registered investment adviser. BOKF offers additional investment services and products through its subsidiary BOK Financial Securities, Inc., a broker/dealer, member FINRA/SIPC, and an SEC registered investment adviser and The Milestone Group, also an SEC registered investment adviser.

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