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Five questions to help couples get on the same retirement page

It’s common for couples to have very different ideas about what retirement would be like – and the cost of providing those different lifestyles may vary significantly. For example, a career-oriented husband may be thinking he’d like to continue working in some capacity, while his wife could be counting the days until the two of them can spend more time together. If these two don’t share their ideas about the future, their visions could easily conflict. Reconciling your perceptions, wants and needs for retirement – and how you’ll pay for them – is essential to enjoying this new stage of your life. To help set the stage, schedule periodic “pre-retirement dates” in which you share, dream and plan together. The conversation may seem awkward at first, so try to answer some of the following questions: These days, retirement age can range anywhere from 55 to 85 (and up). For some, continuing to work may be a financial imperative, while others just want to stay active and mentally sharp. On the beach or on a golf course? Near your children or near a major airport? Should you move to a community with peers your own age or to a college town filled with cultural events? Many couples assume they’ll continue living right where they are, but never consider other options. Choosing to retire elsewhere can have financial advantages, such as downsizing from the family home or moving to a less expensive locale. Talk about what activities you want to engage in when you retire, as that might help pinpoint where to live. You retire, but your best friends stay on...

Older, but not wiser to fraud

Nine common scams older Americans fall for As people age, they may experience insecurities with the unfamiliar or simply become overwhelmed, and that may make them anxious. It also makes them more susceptible to the kind of people who make a living preying on the elderly – especially widows and widowers, who no longer have a partner with whom to discuss challenges and opportunities and who may be particularly inclined to trust strangers who offer help or friendship. In order to protect those we love as well as ourselves, it’s important to be aware of the most common scams to which older Americans fall victim. You get an unsolicited phone call or email that says you’ve won a large prize. All you need to do is send money to pay for shipping, taxes or some ancillary fee. Your grandchild calls to confess her troubles. Or so you think. It’s not at all uncommon for someone posing as your grandchild to call and, preying on your compassion, claim to be in a crisis situation and need money urgently. She may also beg you not to call her parents (which could give the scam away). You donate to one charity and end up being on every charity list. That’s because they sell your name, phone number and email to other nonprofit and commercial organizations. These could include companies with similar names to charities you support – but they exist solely to scam donations. Someone calls pretending to be from a major company, such as Microsoft, and says he can see that your computer has a virus. He offers to help you...

Red flags of memory loss

Pre-emptive moves to help maintain your independence Who hasn’t left the TV remote control by the front door before? After all, teenage boys leave it in the refrigerator all the time. But how do you know the difference between everyday absentmindedness and progressive memory loss? It’s a good idea to know the red flags so you and your family can take measures to mitigate negative consequences. First of all, when forgetfulness happens more often – like several times a day – that should get your attention. If you forget how to do something you’ve done for years – like cook lasagna, write a check or drive home from the grocery store – that’s another red flag. The more you recognize these behaviors for what they are – and take pre-emptive moves to counter them – the better you’ll be able to maintain your independence. Here are a few suggestions: Leave yourself notes. Post a sample completed check above your desk. Leave directions to your home in your car. Always have a friend, neighbor or family member’s phone number with you when you leave the house. Whatever things you tend to forget, leave yourself a prominent reminder note, in case it happens again. Learn new activities to keep your mind sharp. Play games like Sudoku and crossword puzzles, read or learn a new language. There are also various online “brain training” games that could help. Engage with others. It’s important for you to have daily social interaction with others to help ward off depression and isolation. This also helps your family from worrying about you – knowing others are aware...

The Scoop on Social Security

Smart ways to claim benefits after a divorce or the loss of a loved one Social Security has been in place since 1935 and many rely on it to bolster their retirement resources. If you’re divorced or widowed, you may have extra options to boost your Social Security paycheck by strategically claiming spousal or survivor’s benefits. Many divorced women do not realize that they have the option to claim Social Security benefits on their former spouses’ work record. If you were to start receiving benefits at your full retirement age (FRA), your benefit as a divorced spouse could be equal to one-half of your ex-spouse’s full retirement amount (or disability benefit). This could prove to be even more advantageous when there is a significant difference between your incomes. To claim that spousal benefit on your ex, there are some requirements you must meet: have been married at least 10 years; be unmarried; be 62 or older; be entitled to Social Security. And if you’ve been divorced for at least two years, you can collect on your ex’s record regardless of whether or not he has applied for retirement benefits. This holds true even if he has remarried. And another thing: Your ex won’t know whether you have claimed a spousal benefit because the amount you receive has no effect on the benefits the worker and current spouse can receive. If you have reached full retirement age and you are eligible for both a spouse’s benefit and your own retirement benefit, you have choices. One of which is to start receiving the divorced spouse’s benefits now but delay taking your...

Your financial plan: What role does your business play?

Assess the value of your business and how it contributes to your overall net worth If you’re like most small business owners, you’re focused on day-to-day operations and have little time to think about long-term plans. But there may come a day when you realize you won’t be able to continue working forever, and that’s often a little late to start planning where your income will come from and how your business can fit into your overall financial plan. Failing to properly plan for the future of the business – and yourself – could affect your retirement. Sure you could sell your company and retire on the proceeds. But there are many other options, including partial retirement or retaining a percentage of ownership, that could offer a better solution. If and when you decide to step away from the business, you need to know your options, and that means truly understanding the value of your business as it relates to financial and retirement planning. Working with the appropriate insurance, tax, financial and valuation professionals can help bring your professional and personal finances into alignment so that you have a clearer picture of the future. This is frequently the small business owner’s retirement dilemma: How to leverage what you do every day as an asset. For a successful retirement, you need a plan for reliable income, so consider your options – whether it’s gifting the business, a partial sale or full sale – and the implications for each to create a steady income flow. To get started, you’ll need to determine the value of your business. Your financial and tax...

Surviving retirement quicksand

Four challenges women face and strategies to help overcome them Despite what you’ve seen in adventure films, quicksand won’t kill you – it just trips you up. The same can be said of common problems women face in saving for retirement. They may suck you in and slow you down, but they can be overcome. Predicting how long you’ll spend in retirement is tricky, especially since women tend to live longer than men. Overcome it by: Being realistic about retirement. Work with your advisor to create savings goals for the life you envision instead of fixating on a specific retirement age. And take care of yourself to avoid spending more on healthcare costs. Delaying your benefits. If you delay the collection of Social Security beyond full retirement age (which varies based on birth year), your benefits may increase. Downsizing. If you’ll want a smaller home in retirement, you can estimate the savings as part of your plan. But don’t forget to factor in associated costs, like selling your current place and moving. Despite increasing education and greater professional success, women continue to make less than men. Overcome it by: Asking for a raise. Whether you’re getting a new job, moving up in the workplace or coming up on your annual review, don’t be afraid to emphasize the value you bring to your workplace by showing proof of your accomplishments. Maximizing the match. Contribute enough to get the full employer match for your 401(k) or 403(b) account, if one is offered. Saving your windfall. The best way to boost savings? Trick yourself. When you receive a raise or a bonus, put it...
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