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A Social Security Taxation Synopsis

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By Vanguard Services

Infographic on Social Security Taxation

***

social_security_infographic_112016

***

Conclusion

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***

Women Retirement Confidence

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Financial Preparation

By Rick Kahler MS CFP® http://www.KahlerFinancial.com

Rick Kahler MS CFPWhen it comes to being financially prepared for retirement, Chinese women are the most confident women in the world. In fact, they are almost twice as confident as their US counterparts.

The Survery

This conclusion comes from a 2014 global survey, the Aegon Retirement Readiness Index. It found that the percentage of women saying they are very confident or extremely confident about retirement is 42% in China, 35% in India, 29% in Brazil, 22% in the US, and 18% in Canada.

The survey included responses from 16,000 employees and retirees in 15 countries, half of whom were women. About 62% of the women were married, 52% had some higher education, and 80% took an active role in managing the household finances.

The Insights

Several aspects of this survey really caught my attention:

  • I was puzzled that only two developed countries—the US and Canada—made the top five. The first three—China, India, and Brazil—were  emerging markets with little or no social safety nets in place.
  • Even more notable is that, in the US and Canada, the number of women who do not feel prepared to retire (38% in the US and 36% in Canada) is almost twice as high as the number that are confident about retirement.
  • And more notable yet is that the bottom five includes three developed countries with strong social safety nets. In France, Japan, and Spain, less than 6% of women reported retirement confidence, while 60% or higher said they had no confidence.

It seems puzzling that the countries with large social safety nets spawned less retirement confidence than did developed countries with little or no safety net. Why isn’t it the opposite? Why aren’t women in countries where government plays a big part in retirement income more confident?

The Answer?

Therein may lay the answer. Possibly because of the lack of government retirement programs, people in the emerging market countries like China, India, and Brazil realize they cannot count on anyone but themselves in retirement. They know they must begin saving a significant amount of their income, starting early in life, to be able to sustain themselves in retirement. A failure to do so will result in them literally being “thrown out onto the street” or into the “poor house.” As harsh as that may sound to our Western ears, the reality must be a powerful motivator.

***

Depression

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The Reality

This reality was brought home to me by two people I met on visits to China and India. One Chinese woman in her 20’s told me she saved a third of her income. She said, “People in America don’t need to save. China doesn’t have the social safety nets you have.” Part of surviving in their society is to learn money skills and how to save early in life for emergencies and retirement. A man I met in India told me much the same story; he had his retirement fully funded by age 45.

In the US and most other developed countries, government programs like Social Security have become the retirement plan of the masses. Yet the majority of women in developed countries don’t seem to find comfort in those programs.

However, neither do they save like their emerging market counterparts. In fact, 56% of Americans live hand to mouth, according to a 2005 survey of retirement savings for baby boomers and others, by Sharon A. Devaney and Sophia T. Chiremba, reported at the US Bureau of Labor Statistics [USBLS].

Assessment

What might motivate women globally to gain confidence in their retirement preparedness? I don’t know. But based on the results of this survey, the answer won’t be found in more government programs.

Conclusion

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How Much Social Security Is Actually Taxed?

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As much as 85 percent may be taxable

By Lon Jefferies  MBA CFP®

Lon Jefferies

If Social Security is your only source of income, it is unlikely that your monthly benefit is subject to taxation.

However, people like doctors and other medical professionals with substantial income outside of Social Security may have to pay federal income taxes on their benefits. In fact, it is possible that as much as 85 percent of your Social Security payout is taxable.

The Determination

To determine whether you are required to pay taxes on your benefit, the first step is to determine what the federal government deems your “combined income.” Your “combined income” is one-half of your Social Security benefit, plus all other income received during the year. Other income might include wages earned, capital gains recognized, dividends and interest collected, pension benefits received, and IRA funds distributed during the year.

Example:

For instance, consider a retired couple that receives an annual pension benefit of $20,000, takes an IRA distribution in the amount of $10,000, and receives $15,000 in Social Security benefits. This couple’s other income would total $30,000 (the pension and the IRA distribution). One-half of the Social Security benefit, or $7,500 would then be added to the other income to create a “combined income” of $37,500.

If a couple filing a joint tax return has a “combined income” of less than $32,000 ($25,000 for individuals), then all Social Security benefits are free of taxation. However, if the figure is between $32,000 and $44,000 ($25,000 and $34,000 for individuals), then as much as 50 percent of the Social Security benefit may be taxable. Further, if the “combined income” is greater than $44,000 ($34,000 for individuals), than as much as 85 percent of the Social Security payout may be taxable.

The “Combined Income” Threshold

So should couples do everything necessary to keep their “combined income” below $32,000 (the 50 percent threshold), or even $44,000 (the 85 percent threshold)? Fortunately, the tax system is progressive, meaning that just because a couple might fall in the bracket causing as much as 50 percent of their Social Security benefit to be taxable, not all of their benefit is necessarily taxed as such.

Example:

For instance, our sample couple with a “combined income” of $37,500 might be concerned that they are paying taxes on 50 percent of their Social Security benefit because that is the bracket they fall in. This would cause half of their $15,000 Social Security benefit, or $7,500, to be taxable. Fortunately, it is only the $5,500 of benefits received that pushes the couple’s “combined income” over and above the $32,000 threshold that is actually considered 50 percent taxable. As a result, only $2,750 (half of the $5,500 of “combined income” over the $32,000 threshold) of Social Security benefits is taxable. In this instance, the taxpayers are only paying taxes on 18 percent ($2,750/$15,000) of their Social Security benefits.

Getting Granular

Now suppose our imaginary couple received not $15,000 in total Social Security benefits, but $15,000 each, leading to a total benefit of $30,000. Assuming the same $20,000 pension benefit and $10,000 IRA distribution, the couple’s “combined income” would now be $45,000 (half of the $30,000 in Social Security benefits received plus the $30,000 of other income).

This provides another illustration of how the progressive tax system prevents higher-income taxpayers from feeling the need to do everything they can to get their “combined income” under the $44,000 threshold just to avoid the 85 percent bracket. First, a “combined income” of $45,000 clearly fills the entire 50 percent bracket of $32,000 – $44,000. Consequently, the entire $12,000 of Social Security benefits received within that range will be 50 percent taxable (or $6,000 of benefits received will be taxable). Additionally, another $1,000 of benefits over and above the $44,000 threshold will be 85 percent taxable, meaning another $850 of benefits are taxed. This means a total of $6,850 ($6,000 from the 50 percent taxable bracket, and $850 from the 85 percent taxable bracket) of Social Security benefits received will be taxable. Still, however, of the $30,000 of Social Security payments received by our couple, only 23 percent ($6,850/$30,000) ends up being taxable.

Taking this one step further, we can deduce that income outside of a Social Security benefit (the combination of pension benefits, IRA distributions, capital gains, etc) must be greater than $44,000 for there to even be a possibility that as much as 85% of a Social Security benefit would be taxable. If this other income portion of the “combined income” is less than $44,000, then at least some of our Social Security benefit will fall in the 50 percent threshold, if not the 0 percent threshold.

Benefits

The Calculations

Here is a useful calculator to determine the taxability of your Social Security benefit.

The point of this exercise is twofold. First, understanding the factors that may cause a Social Security benefit to be more or less taxable provides us with an advantage from a financial planning perspective. Second, it is important to realize that just because our “combined income” passes a threshold causing some of our Social Security benefit to be taxable doesn’t mean that the resulting tax liability is catastrophic.

Assessment

In fact, once realizing that the increase in tax liability from having some additional income is so inconsequential, some retirees may be more likely to spend and enjoy their retirement, which is the point of financial planning in the first place.

Conclusion

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Some US Federal Budget Proposals

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Government Shutdown Hoopla for Retirees, Inheritors and Savers

By Rick Kahler CFP® http://www.KahlerFinancial.com

Rick Kahler CFPLost in the hoopla over the government shutdown, defunding Obamacare, and raising the debt ceiling are some proposals contained in President Obama’s budget that will have a significant impact on retirees, inheritors, and savers.

Most of the President’s proposals are aimed at enforcing higher taxes on savers who maximize their retirement plans. This is a way to raise revenue for government entitlement programs, like subsidies for health insurance, Medicare, and Social Security.

Retirement and Retirees

Back from last year is his proposal to cap contributions to IRA’s and 401(k)’s when the balance reaches a level determined by a set formula which is tied to interest rates. The proposal sets the cap at $3.4 million initially. As interest rates rise, the cap will lower. When a saver’s IRA balance hits the cap, he or she will not be allowed to make further contributions to any retirement plan.

This will mostly affect savers who terminate employment and roll large accumulations from profit-sharing plans and lump-sum distributions from defined benefit plans into their IRA’s. It will shut down their ability to save into the future.

Taxes and Inheritors

The President has yet another plan to end tax-deductible contributions for upper income earners. Only 28% of a contribution would be deductible for any taxpayer whose bracket exceeds 28%. For a taxpayer in the highest bracket, this means a tax increase of about 50%.

Another of the President’s proposals would end the ability of anyone other than a spouse to inherit a tax-deferred IRA. Under the proposal, all non-spouses inheriting an IRA would have five years to terminate the IRA and pay income taxes on the distributions. This proposal really impacts Roth IRA conversions, as most parents convert traditional IRA’s to Roths with the intention of leaving their children a non-taxable sum of money that can continue to grow tax free during their lifetime. If the President’s proposal passes, many older savers will discover that the intentions behind their Roth conversions have been nullified.

Forced Savings and Savers

While President Obama wants to cap what successful savers can stash away in retirement plans, he also wants to force employees to save for retirement. Employers will be required to open IRA’s for every employee and to fund the plan at a minimum of 3% of the employee’s pay, unless the employee specifically opts out. The employee can contribute more than 3%, up to the $5,000 cap for those under 50 and $6,000 for those over 50.

Of course, savvy savers and ME-P readers know most of us need to be saving 20% to 50% of our salaries, depending on our ages, so saving just 3% of pay won’t amount to much in the way of retirement income.

Good News

On the positive side, the President wants to end required minimum distributions on IRA balances under $75,000. This will reduce some paperwork for savers with smaller IRA’s who are not making withdrawals.

Typically, most retirees with small IRA’s are those with less savings anyway, who need to take withdrawals from their IRA’s to make ends meet. So it’s doubtful this rule change will have much impact.

Finally, the President proposes letting inherited non-spousal IRA’s enjoy the same benefit of a 60-day rollover window on any distribution, similar to what they can do with a non-inherited IRA. This will simply eliminate a lot of confusion, as most people don’t understand the 60-day rollover provision does not include inherited IRA’s.

Shutdown[US Federal Government Shut-Down]

Assessment

Of course, whether any or all of these proposals make it into law is anyone’s guess. Anyone whose retirement and estate planning includes saving in IRA’s will want to keep an eye on these provisions as the budget moves through Congress.

Conclusion

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Social Security as an Asset Class?

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A High Guaranteed Return!

By Rick Kahler CFP® http://www.KahlerFinancial.com

Rick Kahler CFPOnce you hit age 62, what’s an investment class that can give you a high guaranteed return with almost no risk; Bonds, Equities, or Commodities?

Nope; it’s social security.

There’s just one catch. You can’t actually get your hands on the money until you’re 70.

The Catch

One of the most common issues for those approaching retirement age is determining the right time to file for Social Security. If you file at age 62, you will receive benefits longer. Yet your monthly benefit for the rest of your life will only be about 75% of the monthly amount you will receive if you file at your full retirement age of 66 to 67. If you wait even longer, the benefit amount is higher still.

Those who are unable to work and don’t have sufficient retirement savings may not have a choice about filing for Social Security early. Those who don’t have a compelling need for early Social Security income may still consider early filing as an option, with the idea of investing the money for their later retirement.

Recent Thoughts

According to a recent article by Karen DeMasters in Financial Advisor magazine, this is not a good choice. She cites research done by William Meyer and William Reichenstein of Social Security Solutions Inc (www.ssanalyzer.com) in Leawood, Kansas.

One big drawback to investing your Social Security benefits is the penalty you pay if you are still working. If, between age 62 and your full retirement age, you earn more than $15,120 a year, your benefits are reduced. So you’d start with a smaller benefit amount, have it cut even further, and not be left with a whole lot to invest.

Even more important, however, is a number that Meyer and Reichenstein emphasize: 8%. This is the amount that your Social Security benefit increases every year between age 62 and 70 that you delay filing. In essence, if you leave your Social Security benefits in the government’s hands instead of investing them yourself, you are guaranteed an 8% annual return on that part of your retirement portfolio. This doesn’t include cost-of-living increases.

Taking early benefits and investing them is only a good idea if you are sure you can get more than an 8% return. Any investment likely to produce a return higher than 8% would come with risks that are unacceptably high for a retirement-age portfolio.

Mature Woman

Social Security Risks

There are only two real risks associated with letting your Social Security benefits accumulate until later than age 62.

One is the possibility that Social Security won’t be there when you do retire. Given that the delay is only a few years and that Social Security is now the retirement plan of most Americans, this is extremely unlikely.

The second risk is that you won’t live long enough to collect an amount equal to what you would get if you started benefits early. Unless you are facing a terminal illness, however, chances are that waiting until at least full retirement age is still the wisest option.

Assessment

If your health is good and you don’t need retirement cash immediately, you are far better off to delay filing. Even if you are facing circumstances that might make early retirement a necessity, it’s a good idea to look at all your options and try to find creative ways to put off filing as long as possible.

Once you reach age 62, Social Security is always an option. It gives you a doorway out of the working world any time you really need to take it. But for every year you can delay walking through that door, you gain 8%. That’s an investment return well worth waiting for.

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Are Social Security Benefits Taxed?

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And … By How Much?
By Lon Jefferies, MBA CFP™  www.NetWorthAdvice.com

Lon JeffriesDoctor – Ever wondered if your Social Security benefit is subject to federal tax?

The answer depends on your annual household income.

The first step is to calculate your “provisional income,” which is a combination of all your taxable income plus half your Social Security benefit.

Then, comparing your provisional income to the following chart tells you how much of your Social Security benefit is taxed at various income levels.

###

Social Security Tax

Assessment:

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